Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meal and Exercise Plan

I am not doing very well with sticking to my exercise plan. For the last couple of weeks, I have made it to only two out of the three classes at the gym, and haven't really been doing any walking or other exercise. And I'm not quite sure how to find the time to do more since I have been picking up more hours at work, in addition to my other commitments which are currently cutting into my "free" time (as if there is such a thing when you have kids). I'm not complaining, I'm just wondering if it's realistic to think that I will do some physical activity every day. Or maybe I should just really make sure that I make it to at least three classes at the gym each week and not worry about anything more than that. I'm gonna have to think on that one a little more. For now, I'll stick with my original plan and see if I do any better this week.

Breakfasts: CEREAL- we're not making much progress here. I bought frozen waffles last week because they were on sale, but was going to store them for another week until we got through some of the cereal first. But then I forgot to bring them in from the car, and they defrosted. I didn't want to refreeze them, so they were put in the fridge and had to be eaten sooner. But this week is the week that we're really going to eat cereal. I mean it.

Lunches: Leftovers.

  • Dinner: Shepherd's Pie (I have a frozen one from Trader Joe's that I think should finally get eaten) and canned pears (yep, still clearing out the pantry)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day)
  • Dinner: Fusilli alla Caprese with chicken breast strips from the freezer and canned corn (I have the corn and fusilli pasta in the cabinet)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Spin class
  • Dinner: Leftovers
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (evening)
  • Dinner: Potato latkes (again, from the freezer) and feta, basil and cherry tomato omlettes
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Kickboxing class
  • Dinner: Out somewhere, anywhere. I have class all day, and will again tomorrow. No cooking for me.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day)
  • Dinner: Steak and fresh veggies- whatever I find that looks good at the store. Celebrating finishing what will be a long, busy week.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (evening)
  • Dinner: Leftovers
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Pilates

Friday, July 23, 2010


I had a bunch of parsley that I needed to use up, so I looked online to find a good recipe. Parsley salad? Yuck. Couscous? Not for me. But I did find this recipe for Pastetli (which is a Swiss meat pie) that sounded interesting. I mean, the actual recipe is a bit confusing (some mushrooms, some white wine, some brown gravy mix? Just how much is some? Oh, I see later on, 1-2 (to) dl of wine. How much is a dl again? I don't do metric. And the recipe ends with "Set everything aside to finish the rest of the meal." Um, what? How do I finish it when you just ended the instructions right there?). Apparently, the recipe was provided by someone's mother-in-law who is Swiss and did the translating (from what language, I'm not sure. What do they speak in Switzerland? German? French? Italian? Romansh?). So, I used the "recipe" as a starting point, and modified it to work with what I had in the house. Puff pastry? No, of course not, but I did have a package of Pillsbury crescent rolls in the fridge that expired recently. Time to use it up before I have to log it as food waste! Anyhow, dinner turned out pretty well, so here's my version:

Pastetli (Makes 5 servings, 7 WW points each)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley (I used almost a whole bunch and it was too much. But my parsley wasn't as fresh as it should have been, so you may want to use more than 1/2)
  • 2 cups of mushrooms
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • poultry seasoning (or paprika and garlic powder)
  • black pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic and don't believe there is such a thing as too much)
  • 1 package of brown gravy mix
  • 1 cup of water for the gravy mix (or white wine or half and half)
  • 1 package of Pillsbury crescent rolls (or similar)
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

-Chop the parsley leaves (try not to get too many stems). Dice the mushrooms. Place parsley and mushrooms in a small bowl, add the juice from one lemon, stir and set aside.

-Dice the raw chicken breasts. Season with poultry seasoning and black pepper. Place in skillet with onion and garlic. Cook until lightly browned on all sides.

-Make brown gravy mix according to the directions. Or substitute white wine for water if desired, or half and half if you want a richer creamier taste. (I just used water.) Add gravy to the chicken mixture, and add parsley/mushroom mixture. Stir to combine everything.

-Unroll crescent roll dough into one large rectangle on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press into a 13x8 inch rectangle, firmly pressing the perforations and seams to seal (or you could actually buy the seamless dough sheet. Yes, they do make such a thing, who knew?).

-(Okay, confession: this part I didn't really do. I tried to make these into 5 little rolled up chicken things, and although they tasted good, it really wasn't pretty. There's a reason why there's no picture posted with this recipe. So here's what I would do if I made this recipe again.) With the long side of the rectangle placed vertically, spoon the chicken mixture into a 4-inch-wide strip down the center of rectangle. With scissors or sharp knife, make cuts 1 inch apart on long sides of dough rectangle to within 1/2 inch of chicken mixture. Fold strips of dough up over chicken mixture to meet in center; pinch to seal. (To make it even fancier, you can kinda criss-cross the strips of dough, and let the chicken mixture peek out the top. Totally up to you.)

-Bake 18 to 24 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet; cut into crosswise slices. Serve warm. Apparently, peas are a traditional side dish with pastetli. We just heated up some frozen mixed veggies. Yum!

Food Waste Friday... Almost Perfect

It's Food Waste Friday (see The Frugal Girl for my inspiration), which means that it's time to post a picture of all of the food that I am throwing away this week. It's an effort to hold myself accountable for the food that I have wasted (while attempting to save money and do something better for the environment). View my first post on this topic to learn why this is important to me.
I was all set this morning to post about what a terrific job I did this week managing to have zero food waste, two weeks in a row! And I did do a terrific job using up the leftovers, celery, parsley, kalamata olives, and I've already forgotten what else, but it turns out it wasn't zero waste. But then I opened up the cabinet where we store Brody's baby food (which I actually don't use much since at 16-months old he eats almost anything now. Nice to have at least one kid who's not a super picky eater.). And I found tons of little black ants crawling everywhere. Ants, yuck! (You can kinda see them in the picture if you look closely and maybe squint.) So, I threw out all of the open snack-type foods. There really wasn't much, just banana crackers, some rice cereal (which he hasn't eaten in so long that he probably wasn't going to finish it anyhow), some teething biscuits, mini freeze dried fruits. Most everything was close to being finished already, so I am sorry to have to waste it, but it wasn't a lot, and not things that he's excited about eating anymore. But the good news is, finding the ants reminded me that I do still have some jars of baby food in the cabinet (sealed, of course, so totally ant-free). I guess I'll feed them to Brody, even though he hasn't had any baby food in quite a long time. But he does like feeding himself with a spoon, so I'm sure he'll enjoy them. Or at least have fun making a mess while trying.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meal and Exercise Plan... Lotsa Leftovers and the Things I Didn't Make Last Week

Last week, I didn't get to make everything that I had planned. Mostly for good reason, as I wanted to use up stuff that we had (and finally had a week with no food waste!). So, this week is all about making the stuff I planned to make last week, to use up stuff in the freezer and fridge.

Breakfasts: CEREAL (really!), yogurt, muffins we made over the weekend
Lunches: Leftovers. And Chris is going to be eating a lot of celery and peanut butter, otherwise we're never gonna finish off the celery.

  • Dinner: Leftover Chicken Salad on a bed of Romaine, Corn on the Cob
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day)
  • Dinner: Leftovers, again! (Chili and cornbread muffins)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Spin class
  • Dinner: I'm modifying this recipe for Pastetli Pie to use up some crescent rolls and the parsley from last week. I have no idea if it'll be good, but I'm going to give it a try!
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (evening)
  • Dinner: Chris and I have a meeting, and then are going to take advantage of having a babysitter by going out to dinner together.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Kickboxing class
  • Dinner: Peppery Potato Soup with homemade biscuits We had some FANTASTIC friends offer to watch the boys, so Chris and I got to go out AGAIN! FUN!
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day)
  • Dinner: Simply Delicious Pork (pork chops with apples made in the crock pot) and frozen veggies I used up some chicken breasts, potatoes, mushrooms, and a teriyaki marinade that's been in the fridge. Baked them all together, and it made for a pretty delicious meal.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Yoga or Farmer's Market
  • Dinner: Leftovers Bumped from yesterday: Simply Delicious Pork (pork chops with apples made in the crock pot) and fresh steamed broccoli
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Pilates Beach

Friday, July 16, 2010

Food Waste Friday... The Very First Perfect Week!!!

It's Food Waste Friday (see The Frugal Girl for my inspiration), which means that it's time to post all of the food that I am throwing away this week. It's an effort to hold myself accountable for the food that I have wasted (while attempting to save money and do something better for the environment). View my first post on this topic to learn why this is important.

Finally! No picture this week because no food waste! I don't think we did anything amazing this week to achieve this, but I have been packing some oddities in Chris's lunch lately to make sure that we get through everything. A not-so-fresh nectarine (I told Chris those should have been stored in the fridge), a big container of yogurt, a whole lot of celery (with peanut butter for dipping). The other day involved a small side of peas, which he initally considered rejecting. Instead, he ate them (cold) and reported they were actually quite tasty, to his surprise. Which makes me happy, because now I have a story to tell my five-year old Jake, the next time he tells me he doesn't like something before even taking a bite. "You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say." Okay, even that might not convince Jake to try green eggs and ham, but maybe a hotdog?

Just to be fair, packing things in Chris's lunch is not my only strategy for avoiding food waste. I also personally ate some strawberries that were starting to wither (not moldy, though), and tried to eat up other stuff. But mostly, I'm doing a better job of figuring out how to menu plan, be creative with foods, use up stuff that we have, and be flexible about meals. For example, I realized that I could hold off on cooking the pork chops with green apples, since those would keep a bit longer, and instead used up the red grapes and some of the celery in a yummy chicken salad.

Meanwhile, we have some serious work to do in order to get through everything else. Lots of parsley, celery, green grapes. (Perhaps the green stuff is less likely to get eaten? Or we just buy a lot of green foods?) I need to start menu planning for next week...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

I am reposting this recipe from Premeditated Leftovers because it's about the simplest dessert I could imagine. Cookies made with things I always have on hand- quick, easy, and they turned out yummy.

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • We added a handful of milk chocolate chips to about half the cookies, although I realize this totally destroys the 3-ingredient name
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the cookie sheets.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together until they are well blended.
3. Drop Tablespoon size balls on to the cookie sheet. Flatten the cookie dough with a fork.
4. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes or until golden brown. Place cookie sheet on a cooling rack for several minutes, then remove the cookies and let them finish cooling on the cookie rack. Makes 2 dozen.

Oh, and by the way, I used reduced fat Jif creamy peanut butter since that's what we happened to have in the cupboard. And  I really couldn't tell the difference, so I would call that a success!

Meal and Exercise Plan... Staying on Track

So, I've already mentioned (several times) that we went away for the long 4th of July holiday weekend. We left last Thursday night, and came back late Monday night. And those four days were a big part of the reason that I gained back 7 pounds over a week and a half. Seriously, SEVEN pounds. However, in the last four days that we've been home, I already lost four of those pounds. I don't think that's normal how my weight can fluctuate so much.

Anyhow, my point is, while I don't want to be obsessive about my weight, I also don't want to regain everything that I worked so hard to lose. So, I realize that I need to pay attention. And we can't eat out so often. Or eat my mom's delicious cooking too often. I'm not too worried about the type of food that I'll cook, just so long as I am cooking at home and eating reasonable portion sizes.

So, this week's focus in still on using up stuff in the freezer and fridge. (I'm happy to say that there's really not that much left.) And I've decided to combine that with some slow cooker recipes my mom found.

Breakfasts: CEREAL (we have six open boxes, it's time to get through some of them!), yogurt, fresh fruit (peaches, strawberries, plums, grapes, pineapple, apples), cherry chocolate chip bread from the Farmer's Market, banana nut bread

Lunches: leftovers, fresh fruit

  • Dinner: Herbed Artichoke Chicken with corn on the cob with rice (something needed to soak up all the sauce)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day)
  • Dinner: Simply Delicious Pork (pork chops with apples made in the crock pot) and frozen veggies I used the leftover meatballs (and vodka marinara) from last week, along with half a box of uncooked mini penne to make a nice little pasta dish.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Spin class
  • Dinner: Peppery Potato Soup with homemade biscuits and a green salad We ended up going to a last-minute meeting and just grabbed some fast food on the way home instead.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (evening)
  • Dinner: Leftovers Chicken Salad sandwiches on thin rolls (I bought some chicken super cheap, and originally planned to make this for lunch, but then decided it would be yummy for dinner and we'd just continue to have leftovers for lunches.)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Kickboxing class
  • Dinner: Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas I decided to modify slightly since Chris's parents are here, and turn it into Chicken Burritos with pico de gallo, Spanish rice, beans, guacamole (The last time I made this meat for tacos, it was so delicious! Oh, and I found some really great tortillas at Whole Foods by Tortillaland (yellow bag, refrigerator section). They're uncooked flour tortillas, that you just heat up for a minute in a frying pan. Yum!)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walk (mid-day), probably to the grocery store and/or Trader Joe's Cleaning- fast and furious, that counts for exercise, right? It was super hot here, so I was sweating!
  • Dinner: Chris and I are going out while his parents watch the kids :)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Yoga? Farmer's Market? Beach clean up? Not sure what the plans are yet. Park, walking
  • Dinner: Crowd Pleasing Chili with cornbread and a salad
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Pilates I forgot pilates class! I guess that's what happens when I stay out too late the night before. :) An evening walk with the family instead.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How to Make (Healthy and Delicious) Chicken Salad

So, I found yet another blog that I absolutely love. This one is called Life as MOM, and it's written by Jessica Getskow Fisher (a.k.a. FishMama), who is the mom of six kids ranging from about 1-13 years old. (BTW, her first FOUR kids are ALL BOYS, which is precisely the reason that I will not continue to have another kid just to "try for a girl.") What I love about her blog is that she posts several times a day, and has all kinds of useful advice for a mom like me. She is a big proponent of "freezer cooking"- i.e., making food ahead of time and storing it in the freezer for quick and easy meals (which makes a lot of sense if you're feeding eight people, three meals per day). She does batch cooking once a month, throws it in the freezer, and then has her entire menu planned for the month. She also "hosts" frequent recipe swaps on her blog, most recently with recipes for cool foods.

So, from the cool foods recipe swap, I came across a blog from Anne at Quick & Easy, Cheap & Healthy. She shared how she makes a delicious chicken salad using yogurt instead of mayo, and various other ingredients depending on her tastes and what she has on hand at the time. Which means, it's a totally adaptable recipe that anyone can make, and the possibilities are practically endless.

Anyhow, here's Anne's recipe: She has the same "starters" every time: chicken (cubed or shredded, could be substituted with turkey, tuna, or hard boiled eggs), plain yogurt, dill relish (or small finely chopped pickle), and occasionally a splash or two of ranch dressing.
After those main ingredients, here's some possibilities that can be added in:
*dried cranberries or raisins
*chopped or grated apples
*grated zucchini
*shredded or finely diced carrot
*walnuts, almonds or other nuts
*pumpkin or other seeds
*sweet peas
*fresh or dried herbs (parsley, basil, dill weed, etc.)
*spices (garlic salt, freshly ground pepper, etc.)
*possible toppings: lettuce, avocado, red onion, cheese, pickles
*can be served on lettuce, pita, sandwich bread, flat bread, as a wrap, with crackers

Chicken salad is one of my favorite things, but I've never made it before in my life. I'm not sure why- probably partially because I figured it wasn't very healthy for me, and partially because I didn't have a good recipe. But after reading Anne's blog, I figured I'd give it a try. So, here's a recipe for the chicken salad that I made.

Christy's Chicken Salad:
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into chunks (I used leftovers from the night before that I had marinated in Italian dressing and then grilled)
  • 4 ounces of vanilla yogurt (I would have used plain, but that's what was in the fridge. And it turned out to be really yummy)
  • Montreal chicken seasoning, reduced sodium (I use a lot of this seasoning- yum! But it's mostly a combo of garlic, onion, pepper and paprika)
  • Dill weed
  • Red grapes, halved
  • Dried cranberries
  • Roasted almonds, chopped (I would have used slivered, but again, this is what was on hand)
Of course, I should have taken a picture, but instead Chris and I just ate it all up before that occurred to me. But it was quite pretty with the colorful grapes and cranberries. And tasty!

What do you like in your chicken salad?

Grown Up Weekend

Last weekend was fantastic. We drove to Phoenix with both kids in the car, leaving late so that they would hopefully both sleep in the car. It only half worked, and we got there totally exhausted, at 3:30am. Not sounding fantastic so far? We spent a good portion of the weekend helping my parents to clean out their fridge and pantry, and packing up everything in their kitchen cabinets to get ready for their kitchen remodel which began this week. Still not sounding fantastic? Oh, and did I mention that it was about 113 degrees in Phoenix?

But, when I say that the weekend was fantastic, I am not being sarcastic. Because, there was a part in the middle where we left the boys with my parents, and Chris and I had about 28 hours (but hey, who's counting?) all to ourselves. A Grown Up Weekend, as in, grown-ups only (no kids allowed).

Boy, do I love my kids. They are freaking adorable and hilarious, and my life is so much richer because they are a part of it. And I can say that now because I got to have some time to myself where I didn't worry about them at all. And honestly, I didn't miss them one bit.

Toward the end of last week, before we headed to Phoenix, I was hitting melt down mode. The kids were trying my patience at almost every single moment. I was yelling, threatening, giving time outs, and all of those things that I hate doing with my kids because I was at the end of my rope. But I didn't know what else to do.

So, we got to Phoenix, and Chris and I BOTH slept in while my mom watched the boys. Then we went to a movie that night after putting the boys down to bed. The next morning, we left my parents' house and Chris and I both got massages. Finally, I was relaxing. We ate lunch at a restaurant without a kid's menu. We drank champagne in the middle of the day. I took a bath. We went out to dinner and a baseball game, without wondering how long the kids would be able to sit still. We watched fireworks without having to cover the kids' ears. We stayed up late listening to a live band, without worrying about having to wake up with the kids the next morning. We slept in a dark hotel room until 10am. We went out to another restaurant that didn't serve chicken nuggets. And when we saw the boys again, I was able to actually enjoy being with them. We played together in the pool. Oh, and I got to see another movie after they went to bed that night, too.

It's almost enough to make me want to move back to Arizona, to be closer to our families. Not just for the free childcare, although it really came at a time that I needed it the most. But also getting to see how much the boys love being around all of their family, it's a really special thing. And we are lucky to live close enough that we see each other frequently, but even once every month or two can be a long wait in between.

Can someone just move Phoenix a little closer to Los Angeles?

Food Waste Friday- How Do You Use Up Your Condiments?

It's Food Waste Friday (see The Frugal Girl for my inspiration), which means that it's time to post all of the food that I am throwing away this week. It's an effort to hold myself accountable for the food that I have wasted (while attempting to save money and do something better for the environment). See my first post on this topic to learn why this is important.

I could have had a perfect week, if I had chosen to ignore the condiments. But, as I spent last weekend helping to clear out my parents' fridge and pantry, and noticing how very long ago some of their stuff had expired, of course I had to check my own fridge. The worst offender: mustard that expired in 2008. Is it really bad? I don't know, but that was two years ago, so I think it's time to get rid of it. My problem is that we don't use a lot of condiments, so when I need a little something for a recipe, I'll buy the smallest/cheapest package, but we still can't get through them in time.

How do you use up all of your condiments before they've gone bad? Do you continue to use things that are past their expiration date? How far past?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Meal and Exercise Plan... Using Up the Stuff in the Fridge/Freezer/Cabinets

We were out of town for the holiday weekend, so I'm picking up the menu and exercise planning a little late this week. But last week, I made it to all three of my scheduled classes at the gym! Yay, now on to the harder part: continuing with the schedule.

This week, I am trying to focus on using up the stuff that we have in the house already. Not the stuff that goes bad quickly, but the stuff that lingers around here forever. (If you saw my Food Waste post on Friday, you know just how long things can linger around here.) My family that I was visiting over the weekend will think that this was inspired by them, as we spent a good chunk of time cleaning out the fridge, freezer, cabinets and pantry at my parents' place to prepare for their kitchen remodel that starts this week. But I swear, this post was already planned before that. (Although, I will say, finding spices in the pantry that expired in 1990 did remind me of just how old I am. That was 20 years ago!) Anyhow, here's the plan for this week:

Breakfasts: yogurt, granola, fresh fruit

Lunches: leftovers, fresh fruit

  • Dinner: Grilled chicken and Trader Joe's Organic Radiatore Pasta with Vodka Sauce frozen veggie mixture
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walking (Farmer's Market?) None. I have a hard time working it in on the days that I work.
  • Dinner: Leftovers (chicken and salad?) Chicken salad made with extra chicken from last night.
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Kickboxing class
  • Dinner: Tito's Tacos- since it didn't happen the other week
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Walking House cleaning, does that count? I did it quickly enough to work up a little sweat. :)
  • Dinner: Meatball sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Yoga? Farmer's Market
  • Dinner: Dinner out somewhere with my sweetie (we have a babysitter!)
  • Exercise/outdoor time: Pilates, playdate at the park

Friday, July 2, 2010

Food Waste Friday... But I'm Not Taking the Blame for the Milk

It's Food Waste Friday (see The Frugal Girl for my inspiration), which means that it's time to post all of the food that I am throwing away this week. It's an effort to hold myself accountable for the food that I have wasted (while attempting to save money and do something better for the environment). See my first post on this topic to learn why this is important.

This is bad... I thought we had a close-to-perfect week. And then I found these three steaks in the back of the freezer. They're from Dream Dinners, which is a place where you can go and do your meal prep, and take home some delicious, easy to put together meals. The problem is, I haven't been there in a very long time. If you look closely, the label says May 2007. Yes, those steaks have been in my freezer for MORE THAN THREE YEARS. They're well-sealed, but that just seems waaaaay to old. (Actually, this reminds me of an argument with a former roommate about when meat goes bad in the freezer. I don't remember how long it takes, but I know it was far less than three years.)

We almost wasted an avocado. Despite the fact that I am mildly allergic to them, and Jake refuses to eat them, and Brody only likes to mush them between his fingers, I bought one to serve with chicken tacos last week. I thought we were going to have guests in town, and it would be a nice addition. When I turned out to be just us, I honestly forgot about the avocado. Until I noticed it a couple of days later, and realized that it was extra, extra ripe. At that point, I was going to give it away, and had put it next to Jake's lunchbox so that we could bring it to school and ask which family wanted it. But then Jake noticed the avocado, and decided to play catch with it. Which I noticed after he dropped it (loudly) onto the floor. Figuring a slightly bruised avocado would still be okay to give away, I told him to put it back where he found it. Which I don't think he did, because a little while later, I found the same avocado in Brody's hands, along with some holes where he poked his fingers through the skin. That, I figured, would not be okay to give away, so instead it got packed in Chris's lunch to take with him to work. Yep, plain avocado, scooped out with a spoon. At least it didn't get wasted.

I did however dump some 2% milk down the drain. It still had three days left before the "Use By" date, but it was starting to look curdled and I am told that it didn't smell good. (Not being a big fan of milk myself, the idea of smelling possibly sour milk makes me nauseous, so I made Chris smell it instead. If Chris says it's bad, then it's definitely bad.) So, I wasted some milk. Sorry, cows, but I'm blaming the people stamping the "Use By" dates on the cartons.