Saturday, January 31, 2009

Artificial Sweeteners

I've always avoided artificial sweeteners. I'm not sure why I initially rejected them, but I just don't feel I need them and I'm somewhat suspicious of them. Nutra Sweet gives me headaches, and the research is so conflicted- today they cause cancer, tomorrow they don't, that I just washed my hands of the lot of them. Now I'm finding out that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is also an artificial sweetener I want to avoid. It's not a low calorie sugar substitute but a high calorie, cheap-for-the-corporations sugar substitute. It's also really bad stuff, in spite of the ad campaigns they have out now. My new blog buddy Melinda wrote about it and included a link to a website with more information, and I'm spreading the word, too. It's so hard to avoid! Luckily we aren't big on sodas around my house so we weren't getting it that way, but it's in salad dressing, bagels, popsicles, and waaaaay more products that you would imagine- read your labels!

As far as dieting goes, a lot of people think the artificial sweeteners will help them lose weight. How wrong you are, Grasshopper! I'd figured out why myself, sort of, which I'll explain, but then I've also heard other sources verify what I'd already theorized about. When you eat/drink something with a sweet taste, which artificial sweeteners give you, your tongue sends a message to your brain- "hey, here's some sweet stuff for you", then your brain gets ready for nutrients. Only there aren't any nutrients in artificial sweeteners! So your brain kind of panics a little and says back to your body "we got sweet but no nutrients; must eat more, must eat more!", and you get hungry. When you get hungry, you eat more to get the nutrients you needed in the first place, and wind up over eating, and gain weight. When I'm a nutritionist the FIRST thing I'll tell people is NO MORE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!!! And they'll probably run screaming from the room, but oh well. ;) Now, as to what I figured out on my own. In a book I read about why diets fail and people have such a hard time maintaining weight loss, the author wrote about a study done during, I think it was one of the World Wars, where a bunch of service men were put on a super restrictive diet and lost weight to the point where they were underweight. They found that the men developed an obsession with cooking, cookbooks, and finding new recipes. The author came to the conclusion that this study was proof that the men were going to fail in their attempts to diet since they developed such an obsession with food, or something like that. (I was so disgusted with the obviously flawed conclusions throughout the book I threw it away, so I can't go look it up.) MY conclusion is different. I think that the men weren't looking for recipes and so forth in order to increase calories, but rather to increase NUTRITION. Our bodies need certain building blocks in order to survive and be healthy and if those soldiers were on restricted calorie diets then their brains wanted every calorie to count and be packed with the nutrients needed for survival, thus the interest in food preparation. I've heard variations on the same theme on Oprah, both from Dr. Oz and from her diet guru/personal trainer guy. It boils down to this- if you eat junk without the nutrients your body needs, then your body is going to crave more and more food just in hopes of getting some of the nutrients needed for health and survival. If you eat nutritious, healthy, minimally processed food, then you'll be able to feel quite full and content on far fewer calories. You can't just count calories without counting the quality of those calories!!


During my internet "stumbles" I ran across Design Sponge, and WOW! It's gorgeous! The photography is outstanding, especially the shots of the Christmas recipes. I'm hoping my girls will take a look at it and help me with my blog, so maybe I can post pictures of the food I cook soon. The Middle Child, age 8, has expressed interest in being a food stylist in the past (although now she wants to be a boat captain or a hair dresser) and The Eldest, age 15, is a pretty good photographer.

This will require more thought, but not now- I'm dashing off to another cookie booth!

The New Background

I went over to visit Melinda's blog "At Shore's End" and she had a cute new background! There was a link to "The Cutest Blog on the Block" and I had to go check it out. They had free backgrounds so I spent a few minutes looking through them all and came up with the background you see here. I checked to see if I could do anything with the header, but they charge for that! Yipes! I'll stick with the freebies, thanks. ;)

BTW, this makes the second cool thing on my blog that I have to thank Melinda for. I found the Shelfari widget on her blog, too, which I love, love, love. One can never have too many bookcases!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Creamy Chicken and Pasta Soup

This recipe is on page 80 of the Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook. I'll type in the recipe as is then tell you what I changed at the end.

Creamy Chicken and Pasta Soup

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

2 (14.5 ounce) cans ready to serve fat free chicken broth with 1/3 less sodium
5.25 ounces (2 cups) uncooked medium shell pasta
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups skim (fat free) milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup frozen sweet peas
1 (2 ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves
dash white pepper

1. In nonstick Dutch oven, bring broth to a boil. Add pasta and chicken. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 9 to 11 minutes or until pasta is of desired doneness.

2. In small bowl or jar with tight fitting lid, combine 1 cup of the milk and flour. Beat with a wire whisk or shake until well blended.

3. Add flour mixture, remaining 3 cups milk, peas, pimentos, basil and pepper to broth mixture; cook and stir over medium heat until soup is bubbly and thickened and chicken is no longer pink. If desired, add salt to taste.

Yield: 6 (1.5 cup) servings.
Calories: 280
Calories from fat: 20
Dietary Exchanges: 2.5 starch, 2 very lean meat OR 2.5 carbohydrate, 2 very lean meat

My changes: I put the 2 cans of chicken broth in the pot and decided that wasn't enough liquid, and besides I think the broth straight out of the can is too rich, so I added about 3 cups of water and a large chicken bouillon cube. (Then there was too much broth; next time I'll only put in one can of broth, the water, and the bouillon cube.) I also made the pasta in a separate pot. I've found that cooking pasta in with the soup lets it get way too mushy, especially if there are leftovers. If you make the pasta separately then add it to each individual bowl of soup you can avoid the congealed pasta syndrome later! It definitely needed some cubed potatoes, which I'll add next time. (We love our carbs around here.) I spiced up the seasonings a little bit too; I added dill because my family LOVES dill, used regular pepper out of a grinder instead of the white pepper, went heavy on the basil, and added a good hit of salt. I left off the pimentos; I didn't think the kids would go for red bits floating around in their soup. It was a moot point since they wouldn't even try it anyway, for Pete's sake. Well, The Eldest loved it; The Middle Child tried it and declared it "too spicy" (which it wasn't at all); The Youngest wouldn't have anything to do with it.

A note about changing recipes: I don't know when the realization hit that I was allowed to CHANGE recipes, and really, nothing bad would happen, except maybe the food wouldn't turn out to be something we like, but it might not turn out anyway so I might as well go for it. The Food Police haven't been by the house to check on my cooking or anything, go figure! Maybe it was all the Food Network shows I watched for a while. ??? Whatever the reason, I finally got it. I finally learned that if I didn't like every single ingredient in a recipe, but the recipe looked good generally, I could leave out the offending ingredient!!! Now I tweak my recipes all the time and rarely follow one to the letter. I probably wouldn't try changing recipes for baking, but for regular cooking- why not! The only problem is when I make changes and make something that turns out great, but I don't write down what I did and can't replicate it later. Unfortunately that happens all too often, much to DH's chagrin! ;)

The Week That Was...In Food

We mostly followed our menu plan this week, with a couple of exceptions. I can't remember what we ate Monday night but it wasn't the Spiced Chicken with Black Eyed Peas and Rice. We had take out for Tuesday lunch and the turkey Tuesday night. I bought a turkey breast roast to cook and it was...odd. I definitely like the real turkey breast better and will stick with that in the future, but the roast was worth a try. Since I was using the turkey for 2 meals I was worried a larger breast wouldn't fit in the crock pot (which I've had issues with in the past; I wish I had a deeper one) so I bought the roast. I made the soup with the leftover turkey the next night and it was...bland and boring. I probably won't make it again, even though it would be better with real turkey. Wednesday lunch didn't work out either (see comments after the recipe) and the recipe went in the garbage. I was out delivering The Niece to her job on Thursday around lunch and with all the lay offs I knew DH wouldn't feel like making his spaghetti for lunch, so I picked up sandwiches from the local bagel and sandwich shop and shifted spaghetti to Friday. We had the creamy chicken and pasta soup Friday night and it was pretty good! It's a new-to-me recipe from the Pillsbury Fast and Healthy cookbook and I tweaked it a little; I'll post the recipe with my changes separately. I picked up a loaf of whole wheat french bread from a local grocery store to go with it and it was the perfect meal for a chilly night. The only problem was portion control- it was so good I ate too much!!!

The Week That Was...

This was a crazy week! I started out the week worrying about Fungus, our ancient cat, who has been very ill. Thank heavens he seems to be doing well and responding to the treatments he received at the veterinary hospital. He had to have a kitty IV, poor thing, but it saved his life. Now he's on anti-biotics and he is NOT happy about the twice a day pills, but he's getting them anyway. ~:-P On top of that there were the cookie booths and driving my niece back and forth to her job. It's hard to get up so early to take her since we're nocturnal creatures, but she LOVES the job and I'm happy to see her doing so well so it's worth it. Then there was the job scare for DH- that has been very hard to deal with. He told me at the beginning of the week that his company announced plans to lay off 10 percent of their work force. He works nights and said the cleaning people were putting empty boxes in the break rooms before he left on Wednesday, then they started the lay offs on Thursday, one by one. Thursday was a white knuckle day for everyone at his company and it continued on Friday. Finally, finally towards the end of the work day he called and said it was done and his job was safe. Talk about a sigh of relief! We are fortunate in that we would be OK financially for a while if he were to lose his job, but it's still awful to have it happen that way. Probably the worst hit would be losing our health insurance. The feelings of security about his job are definitely gone now; it's hard to know something we depend on can be gone in the blink of an eye!

Well, enough dwelling on the negative. We're fine, and we're blessed, and now we move on. I'm going to try to be much more careful of our spending from here on out in favor of socking any money I can save away in case he does lose his job one day. The Eldest and I are still planning on our European vacation in the spring, but we'll be looking for travel bargains! We haven't arranged our flights or hotels yet, except for the Girl Scout World Center in London. I'm debating about extending the time we stay there if we can at this late date and hanging out in London a little longer since it will be less expensive that way, but we'll see. I have to get to our local AAA travel agent to see what we can do. No first class tickets; it's coach all the way! ;)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Please Comment!

If you stop by and read my blog, please leave a comment or two! :) It's kind of lonely to keep writing a blog without knowing if anyone is reading it.

Thank you to Melinda for your comments, they are very encouraging, and I really enjoy your lovely blog. (See link to "At Shore's End" over there on the right.)

How to comment:
At the bottom of each post on the right hand side is a little counter that usually says "0 comments", although sometimes it will have a number if anyone has commented already. Click on that and a comment window pops up! You may need a google account to comment; I'm not sure, but if you do they are free and easy to set up. You can also click on that to read the comments that others have written.


Fun Things on the Internet!

Well, it seems I've been tagged on Facebook! I'm not a big Facebook fan and I'm only on it because my best friend from college and two of my sister in laws have invited me to be friends. (Which I appreciate- thank you.) :) Today I was tagged twice for a 25 random things about me list which I'm posting here in lieu of Facebook. I'm much more invested in my blog than Facebook anyway, so it seems like a better place to post. (My blog is prettier than Facebook, I think.)

25 Random Things About Me:

1. I have 3 children plus my niece who is living with us while she finishes high school. (And we're all happy she's here; she's added a lot to our family.)

2. My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this past December. Yes, we were married in the 80’s, and yes, my dress had the “mutton chop” sleeves.

3. I have a very old cat that thinks I’m his mommy since we rescued him before he was weaned and we bottle fed him. We named him Fungus because we weren’t going to keep him but he grew on us like a… fungus. Ba dum bum. He’s been sick lately and I’m so worried we’re going to lose him soon, which makes me sad both because he’ll be gone and because we won’t be able to get a new pet for a long time.

4. I’m very involved in Girl Scouts; I’m a co-leader for my older daughter’s troop, a leader for my younger daughter’s troop, and a service unit volunteer recruitment manager, which is like having a job without the paycheck. (The service unit is the volunteer support network for the leaders in a given geographic area.) I think community service is vitally important and if I weren't active in Girl Scouts I would find some other way to give back. I also volunteered briefly for Big Brothers/Big Sisters after I finished college, a non-profit that promoted music education when I was a teenager, and I've sponsored children through Christian Children's Fund since I was 19 or 20. I hope to pass a belief in the importance of community service on to my children.

5. I am a family manager. Please do not call me a housewife; I don’t even really like the term “stay at home mom”, since staying at home is not often an option for my days! It’s the best gig I’ve ever had.

6. I want to go back to school to finish my Master’s degree eventually. I’ll have to start over since I’ve decided to change majors.

7. Instead of a Master’s in counseling (which is what I started working on) I want to switch to nutrition, which will also involve counseling but only about health and weight management.

8. I have a bucket list, but I didn’t call it a bucket list when I started it since it was WAY before the movie. It’s supposed to be a list of 100 things I want to do in my life. I’m only up to a list of 67 things, so one of the things on the list is to finish the list! I’ve completed a decent number of items; I’m happy with my progress so far.

9. I love to read. I read both fiction and non-fiction. I read magazines, the newspaper, novels, the internet, food labels, and cookbooks, among other things.

10. I am not picky about music and like a variety of genres: classical, cajun/zydeco, Christmas music, Latin rhythms, pop, alternative stuff my husband plays for me, oldies, African rhythms, show tunes, etc., etc., etc., but when I listen to the radio I mostly listen to NPR.

11. I am an introvert, but I’m not shy. I am somewhat awkward in social situations; my husband finds that endearing. (Which is one of the reasons I love him.)

12. I like to play games like Suduko, Tetris, FreeCell, (I once had a streak of 37 wins in a row), and a few of the on-line computer games on

13. I would love to be a writer but I’m not the storyteller my grandmother was or my daughter is. (She’ll write a bestseller someday.)

14. I am going to Europe in May, economy willing.

15. I’ve never been to Europe before. My only trips outside the U.S. were to Canada for one day, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands. I’ve never been west of Chicago.

16. I once heard that the average burn out rate for public school special ed teachers was 24 months. I taught elementary special ed in the public schools for 23 months. I was lousy, even though I tried really hard. That hurt.

17. I taught special ed in a private setting working with middle and high school students for 4 years. I was pretty good at it. That was healing.

18. My family keeps odd hours. My husband is nocturnal and we are all on his schedule, so please don’t call me before 1:00 p.m.!

19. One of the reasons we homeschool our kids is so they can see their nocturnal dad.

20. Oh, yeah- we homeschool our kids.

21. I only speak one language, darn it all. My kids have a Spanish tutor in hopes that they will be bilingual.

22. I took a Spanish course once and learned that I do not have an aptitude for learning new languages. (But I still made an A in the course because I worked hard.) I can count to 5 in Japanese.

23. I am an excellent student and take classes periodically to renew my teaching certificate, and for fun. I always make As in these classes.

24. I am a liberal Democrat. I believe government should protect the little guy from the big guy, whether the big guy is a terrorist, an enemy country, or a predatory corporate entity. Lead should not be in children’s toys. Cars and factories should not pollute the air we breathe or the water we drink. Individuals should not be victimized by the big and powerful. Individuals should not be forced to live by the religious beliefs of others that they do not share. Adults should be able to marry whomever they choose. Women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies and life begins at viability, not conception, even though I loved my children from the second we started trying to make them. Equal work should mean equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement. Everyone should have access to quality, affordable health care, and if that means some of us have to wait to see doctors, like in Canada, then we should train more doctors. We should pay our fair share of taxes but the taxes should also be used wisely and not wasted. I am delighted with our new, intelligent, thoughtful, wise president and I am confident he is going to do good things. But I'm worried about posting this because I don't want my conservative friends to be offended, and I understand where they are coming from and respect their views, but this is how I feel.

25. I sometimes get on soapboxes when I am passionate about things. But I still try to be respectful of other points of view.

Thanks to my friend Aimee and my sister in law Marjorie for tagging me, but I won’t be able to tag 25 people back! I don’t know that many people on Facebook. I know, umm, well, 5, and 2 of them have tagged me and 2 others have already been tagged by the 2 that tagged me. ;) I’m OK with that (see number 11 on my random things list). I’m posting this on my blog since I’m not very active on Facebook. Can I take the tag thing off Facebook and tag fellow bloggers? OK, I don’t know many fellow bloggers either since I’m new to this on-line social networking thing. Sigh…

It was fun to get tagged, though.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recipe: One Pan Potatoes & Chicken Dijon

4 medium potatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick and microwaved 8 to 10 minutes or until tender
1 pound boned and skinned chicken breast, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup prepared honey-Dijon BBQ sauce (I'm subbing regular BBQ; I don't like Dijon)
1 teaspoon tarragon

While potatoes cook, in large skillet toss and brown chicken in oil over high heat 5 minutes. Add potatoes; saute and toss until potatoes are lightly browned. Add BBQ sauce and tarragon; toss until heated through.

Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Per Serving: 270 calories, 9 g fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrates, 20 g protein

This recipe is from an add for potatoes in Weight Watchers Magazine from January of 1995. The recipe is from The Potato Board, which didn't have a web presence in 1995! They do now, though, but this recipe isn't on there.

It's Menu Plan Monday Again!

This week's menu plan came together easily. (Sometimes I really struggle with it, depending on our schedule. The busier our calendar is the harder it is for me to plan what I'll feel like cooking on a given day.) I'll post a few of the recipes in the next post and you can click on the underlined items for more info.

Monday Lunch: Healthy Sloppy Joes
Monday Dinner: Spiced Chicken with Black Eyed Peas and Rice, page 98 Cooking Light Weeknight Cookbook
Tuesday Lunch: Take Out (I have a dental apt. so I'll pick it up on the way home)
Tuesday Dinner: Slow Cooker Turkey (as in, throw in a turkey breast, season it a little, plug the thing in and walk away), baked potatoes, cranberry sauce from a can, Stove Top, and green beans *This is our most "processed" dinner with the Stove Top, canned cranberry sauce, and frozen green beans, but this is a busy, busy day for me so it's either that or take out again!
Wednesday Lunch: One Pan Potatoes and Chicken Dijon, only sub regular BBQ for the Dijon BBQ (I don't care for dijon) *I'll type up the recipe in the following post since it's from an advertisement for potatoes from 1995. I've kept it all that time and this is the first time I'm making it! I really need to clean out my recipe box...
Wednesday Dinner: Tuscan Bean Soup with Turkey, page 85 Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti (as usual) with garlic bread and bruschetta
Thursday Dinner: Meaty Calzones, page 66 Cooking Light Super Fast Suppers Cookbook
Friday Lunch: Eat Out after we run a family errand
Friday Dinner: Creamy Chicken and Pasta Soup, page 80 Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook
Saturday Lunch: Black Bean Cakes from Apocalypse Chow, Rice, Carrot Salad, Applesauce
Saturday Dinner: Pineapple Chicken over rice (DH's recipe with onions and fresh pineapple that he cubes and sautes in Mojo Criollo, then he cooks chicken tenderloins in more Mojo Criollo, then he throws it all together and it's done, or something like that)
Sunday Lunch: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloins with rice
Sunday Dinner: Date night! Pizza delivery for the kids and sitter while Mom and Dad go out to eat

Cookbooks for the week: Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook and my old favorites, Cooking Light Super Fast Suppers, Cooking Light Weeknight, and Apocalypse Chow (which are all on my Shelfari Book Shelf widget)

Please make sure to go over to Organizing Junkie's site to check out all of the other Menu Plan Monday posts!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I am up to my neck in cookies! It's that time of year- Girl Scout cookies, and with 3 girls in Girl Scouts we have a bunch of them floating around the house. At least this year The Youngest isn't just swiping them; he actually paid for a box with his own money! That's progress. :) I went with The Middle Child to sit at a cookie booth in front of a local supermarket for 2 hours and I have several more booths to go before it's all over. The little girls are earning money for a trip to NASA where they get to sleep under rockets! The big girls are earning money for...something. They decide after the fact. They've been to NASA already, a water park, a theme park, and one year when they didn't earn a lot of money they did a "trip" where they house-hopped and went to a bunch of local things like bowling, roller skating, etc. The troop earns a small portion of the price of each box, the bakery gets their share, and our local council gets the rest. The council uses the money to pay for council staff, camps, training, and programs for the girls. We've also started, as of the past couple of years, to collect money to buy cookies to send to the military. That's a good program- support Girl Scouts and the military all at the same time! People actually gave some donations towards that today; it was nice. I just have to get through cookie season without gaining any weight back! ~:-O

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

We have a new President and history was made today! I wish him blessings and wisdom and may he bring peace and prosperity back to our nation.

Happy Inauguration Day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

Our new President (as of tomorrow) has called for today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to be a National Day of Service. As an active Girl Scout Leader and service unit volunteer, service to others is something I believe in every day. Here's what I've written to two of the Girl Scout lists I belong to:

Hi All:
Our President (as of tomorrow) has put out a call to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a Day of Service. We can be proud of ourselves that as Girl Scout Leaders and volunteers we not only serve but we teach our girls to serve as well, instilling the value of helping others and making the world a better place into another generation. I'm always looking for ways to make the holidays meaningful for my family, but I've never paid particular attention to how I can honor Martin Luther King, Jr. day beyond telling my children about him. Now Barack Obama has provided the direction for this day and given me a meaningful point of focus- Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man who helped others, so to honor that memory I will talk to my children and my Girl Scout troops about what they can do to help others not just on this day but every day, and find a special community service project we can all participate in above and beyond what we would do regularly.

Have an Honored Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


What will you do to make today a special day? (If I knew how to get those memes going, what better meme than "how I helped others today"!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hamburgers, Waldorf Salad, and Delicious Beef Recipes

I like to use lean beef for my burgers but DH said he HATES how dry they are. A friend of mine added shredded veggies to her meatloaf (way before Mrs. Seinfeld did it), so for some reason I added shredded carrots to the ground beef for our burgers once. DH thought it was GREAT! He said they were fantastic and moist and delicious, and he would eat hamburgers again, Sam I Am, if only we always put shredded carrots in them. Well, of course! How could I resist, especially when he makes them! He shreds the carrots finely and throws them in with the very lean organic ground beef I buy, forms them into patties, then sautes them up. He plays around with it; he's made them like meatloaf by adding egg and bread crumbs but I didn't like that so much, so we're back to just beef and carrots. The ratio is...whatever. About a cup of carrots to a pound of beef, I'd guess? We serve them on whole wheat buns and I buy the lowest fat oven fries I can find. (I checked the labels and there is a big difference; I find steak fries to be lower in fat than other varieties.)
Waldorf Salad:
We ate waldorf salad at an organic restaurant once on Earth Day and it was yummy! They didn't use mayo; they used plain yogurt flavored with cinnamon and honey. I loved it so much I had to try to replicate it! We chop up apples (one red, one granny smith), banana, pear, celery, and walnuts, then add raisins and the dressing. I eyeball the dressing, maybe 3/4 of a small container of plain yogurt, about a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon or 2 of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Delish!
Delicious Beef and Potatoes:
I have this one already typed up so I'll cut and paste here: (I may have posted this already?)
I made this instead of the slow cooker beef stew I had originally planned. (It got way to late to try to cook something in the slow cooker- I needed something fast.) I had the ingredients for beef stew, but not the time so this is what I came up with. The beef was really tender and yummy. The younger two watched me and were just amazed that “Mommy was making up a recipe”. It turned out really well; everyone liked it, which is a rarity in this house! While we were eating I asked the kids what we should call it. The little ones were coming up with these long names that listed most of the ingredients; when I asked The Eldest what we should call it she said “Delicious”, so we compromised on Delicious Beef and Potatoes.

1 package organic beef (sirloin) for kabobs (apx. 1 pound) cut into bite sized pieces
24 oz bag baby dutch yellow potatoes, washed, trimmed, and sliced
(apx ¼ inch thick or less)
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 sweet onion, diced (I like a large dice for onions)
1 teaspoon minced jarred garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil

Prep onions and potatoes; cut beef into bite sized pieces. Salt and pepper the potatoes and beef. Heat a large sauté pan until very hot. Add canola oil (roughly 1 tbs) then onions; sauté until almost translucent; add garlic and sauté another minute, then add beef. Cook, turning beef, until it is seared and brown on all sides. Push the beef, onions, and garlic to the sides of the pan; add another tablespoon of canola oil, then add the potatoes. Cook without stirring for a minute or two, then stir until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the diced tomatoes and turn the heat down to a simmer and cook with the lid on until done, apx. 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve over rice or pasta, or with a loaf of crusty bread.

This recipe is quick and easy and the kids ALL loved it!!! (It’s a keeper.)

Menu Plan Monday: 3rd Entry!

Here's the plan for the week:
Monday Lunch: Make your own lunch day! ;)
Monday Dinner: Speedy Chicken Stir Fry
Tuesday Lunch: Hamburgers, Fries, Waldorf Salad
Tuesday Dinner: Roast Chicken, Pasta, Steamed Broccoli
Wednesday Lunch: Tacos
Wednesday Dinner: Turkey Philly Sandwiches made with chicken (using the leftover chicken from Tuesday)
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti
Thursday Dinner: Take Out (Cookie Booth Day!)
Friday Lunch: Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables with Rice
Friday Dinner: Delicious Beef and Potatoes (my recipe; will post at a later date)
Saturday Lunch: Eat out at our favorite salad place
Saturday Dinner: Chili (DH's recipe)
Sunday Lunch: Beat the Blahs Black Bean Cakes, Rice, Applesauce, and Carrot Salad

I posted the recipes for hamburgers (made with shredded carrots), Waldorf Salad (no mayo), and Delicious Beef and Potatoes following this post.

Please check out for more menu plan ideas!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I just got back from the opening for a new dance studio in the area with The Niece and The Eldest. It was fun! They mainly teach Latin dances but there are a few other things thrown in the mix like belly dancing and hip hop. There were performances by the instructors and students and then they opened it up for everyone to dance. It was fun watching, and oh, the memories! I dated a Cuban boy in high school for a year and he took me to a few of his family's parties, with the food and the music and the dancing! I didn't like the boy so much (he was kind of a jerk) but I loved his family and enjoyed learning about another culture. His grandmother's croquettes! Yum! Anyway, the night was a lot of fun, and the Zumba demo was something else. The teacher was ready-to-pop pregnant, but she was out there 90 to nothing leading that demo class. I had no idea Zumba was so FAST; I've never seen people move as fast as they did. Whew- I was burning calories just watching. The Eldest got up there and gave it a try and did a pretty passable job keeping up, actually! A good friend of mine was there with her daughters and that was a lot of fun, too. She is one of those people who can make anything fun so it turned out to be a great evening out. :)

Coping with Fibromyalgia

Sometimes fibromyalgia (FM) flares up. Sometimes it's when I let my schedule get away from me (as I have been doing a lot lately) and sometimes it just happens. I've been doing a lot better now that I've lost weight and I'm walking daily, but I still have days... The walking would seem like it would add to the problem but it's all about balance. If I walk too much or not enough, I get more flare ups. I've found around 30 minutes a day is just about right for me.

I was hoping my schedule would be more manageable now that the holidays are over but such is not to be; sigh. I love everything I take on so it's frustrating to know that it's really too much for me; I want to be able to do more. I'm just so thankful for my DH; he earns enough so that I don't have to work outside our home. A paying job on top of trying to raise the kids and run the house? I'd be exhausted all the time. I'd be lost; I don't think there would be much left of ME. I know there are people out there with FM who do work at paying jobs, but I don't see how they do it. My aunt told me about a fellow teacher she knew with FM. She would collapse on a couch in her classroom every day before she even had the strength to drive home. That's really bad.

Flare ups feel awful. When I get a bad one it's like having the flu. The worst of the flu is over but you're still sick; your body is weak and achy and you just don't want to get up out of bed. I feel drained and I don't want to do anything. Sometimes getting up and moving around helps; sometimes it doesn't. Those days are so hard because I still have my life to lead! If I'm lucky enough to have a "home day" when I get a flare up I try to at least make the best of it. I'll work on stuff while I'm laying down- looking through recipe books and making menu plans and grocery lists, updating my "to do" lists, journaling, and other quiet things. Sometimes one or more of the kids will come and cuddle with me and we can talk or watch an educational show I've recorded on the TV, which is the best way to spend that down time! I tend to "turtle" when I'm having bad days or feeling overwhelmed, too. I withdraw into the shell of my home and avoid the outside world as much as possible. I don't call anybody and pull back from as much as I can, including my friends, which isn't fair to them but it's a survival mechanism. I have to pull back in order to recharge and get through it! Fortunately I don't have the really bad flare ups too often. Sometimes I get mild flare ups, which are draining, too, and those cause me to pull back as well. I never know how long a flare up will last, either; sometimes it's just bad at the end of the day, sometimes it's all day for several days, sometimes it's off and on for a period of time.

Managing my schedule is a big part of managing FM. I tell my kids I have "energy units" and when I run out of units I'm done, so they have to help me conserve them for the important things. I let my schedule get out of control this past week, though. I try to keep a couple of home days each week for recovery purposes but I only had Thursday this time, and all of the other days were full of busy activities. We did so much, but other than my sore legs from picking strawberries I actually feel OK today. :) Yesterday I took the kids to a park to meet up with some old friends I pulled back from several years ago, which was wonderful, and we made plans to get together once a month. I mean I really pulled back from them, more than I wanted to, but I didn't realize at the time that we would lose touch for so long the way we did. They are all ladies from the homeschooling support group I was involved in when The Eldest was younger, probably for 4 years or so until The Youngest came along. I hauled The Middle Child to The Eldest's meetings and activities and managed OK when The Middle Child was a baby, but then trying to do the same with The Youngest AND The Middle Child was too much so we dropped out of the group. In the meantime the group fell apart and everyone went their separate ways. Since most of us still live in the area one of the former members decided we should have a reunion yesterday, which is why we all met at the park. It was so great to see them! Now we mamas are going to get together WITHOUT THE KIDS once a month, which I'm really looking forward to. :) The kids have grown so much, too; it was fun to see them all. The Eldest reconnected with one of the girls she was friends with when she was little and realized they have a lot in common since they are both artists, so they sat around drawing and talking the whole time we were there. It was a good day. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Country Sausage and Rice

I made the Country Sausage and Rice from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers today and it was pretty good, but I would make a few changes to it the next time I make it. First of all my kids didn't like the sausage; it was too spicy, so I'll switch to lean ground beef. That will have to be seasoned up with random spices from the spice cabinet, of course. I liked the veggies and the way they were cooked so that's the part of the recipe to keep. Since I can't find a link to the recipe on the Cooking Light web site, here's a summary for you: Brown some sausage (although I'll try the beef next time) until cooked through and remove from the pan. Throw some matchstick-cut carrots, celery, and onion, all cut small so they will cook quickly, along with a half cup of water and some seasoning (the recipe calls for salt and sage) into the pan, bring the water to a boil, cover and cook for 4 minutes or so until tender, add back in the cooked sausage/beef and some cooked rice, stir, and it's done! Oh, the recipe also calls for adding chopped fresh parsley at the last step, but I didn't care for it; I'll leave that out the next time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Chocolate covered strawberries...that should just about say it all. I'm eating them now; I may regret it when I get on the scale tomorrow, but for now I'm eating them anyway. Live in the moment!

Today was all about the strawberries. The 4 baskets I picked (at about a pound per basket) and the one The Middle Child picked are more than we would be able to just eat before they went bad. I've never made jam or preserves and I didn't pick the extras for that; I picked the extras to chop up and freeze. I rinse the berries, cut off the tops and any bad bits, then cut them up into bite sized pieces. I take the pieces and lay them out, not touching, on wax paper on a cookie sheet then flash freeze them for a couple of hours, then I can put them in a freezer bag for later use. They make my morning cereal a true cause for joy, those little bites of frozen deliciousness. It's a lot of work but so worth it every morning! I was ready to...implement dire when The Youngest decided he wanted to put some on a bowl of cereal THEN LEFT IT THERE TO SPOIL, UNEATEN. Sacrilege! All that hard work just left to float in the milk, then down the disposal. We had a SERIOUS discussion about the hard work that those berries represented and why we shouldn't be wasteful. I mean, even the milk is almost $7.00 a gallon, so that was a huge waste as well. (I buy organic milk; I can't stand the thoughts of them drinking all of the BGH and antibiotics and yuck in the regular milk. It's a splurge but the kids are worth it...except when they WASTE IT!)

And I was SORE today. I thought I would have a hard time with my back but it was the back of my thighs! Owie, owie, owie... I guess picking strawberries is a good workout. Goodness, every time I had to bend down to pick up something, or sitting down, or standing up, or any of the other things those muscles are used for...pain, the pain! I still went on my daily walk, though, although it took me a little longer than usual, so it's all good. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Linked!! :)

I'm linked, I'm linked! Melinda over at At Shore's End has a link to my blog, which is so exciting for me. And we're not even related or anything, which makes it extra fun. :)

Thanks Melinda! (And I'm linked to you so I'm following your blog, too, as you can see over there on my blog list.)


We have strawberries coming out of our ears!!! :) I'm such a happy girl. It's been a good day's work, but I'm so glad I don't have to do that for a living. I gave thanks for the farm workers who do that all day, every day so we can eat, because it's hard, and I only picked a few baskets full. I took all 4 kids and they were useless. The Niece filled the bottom of one basket, The Eldest picked a dozen or so, The Middle Child pitched in and actually filled most of a basket by herself, and The Youngest went running around like the wild child he is and didn't pick a thing. The Eldest and The Youngest were freaked out by the bees, conveniently. :-P Well, where there are strawberries, there are bees, and if there weren't bees, there wouldn't be strawberries, so I said thank you to the little bugs whenever I was picking berries near them. The kids, however, didn't share my view and went screaming in dire fear for their very lives whenever a bee got anywhere near them. Sheese- where did these kids come from?

After we (I) picked berries we bought milk shakes and ice cream and brought out our picnic lunch to eat right by the fields. (They have several picnic benches there.) It was lovely; the weather was gorgeous with just the hint of a chill in the air. After that we took a few minutes to pick some tomatoes then went shopping at the little produce store and bakery. Squash, zucchini, spinach and lettuce, fresh herbs, fresh bread, herb bread sticks, CINNAMON BUNS, fudge, chocolate chip cookies...there goes my diet! We'll have a veggie dinner tonight and LOTS of dessert. Time to go cook!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Garam Masala

My recipe for Chicken Biryani from Cooking Light magazine calls for garam masala. Sigh... I checked my local super market today for garam masala; no dice. A friend of mine was heading to a gourmet market tonight so I asked her if she would check there for me; I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I love chicken biryani and I'm eager to try the recipe to see if it's similar to the chicken biryani I've eaten in restaurants. The picture that accompanies the recipe actually looks better than the restaurant version, so I'm hopeful!

I'm actually very proud of myself today! I followed through on my menu plan to put dinner in the crock pot and it was truly wonderful to come home to the smell of food cooking. I only have 2 good crock pot recipes; I have to click on over to the blog that has the 365 days worth of recipes and find a few more. They are a lifesaver on busy days! My only problem is sometimes I schedule a crock pot dinner but then I forget to put it on. As The Eldest Child would say, "major fail". Once you've passed that window of time in which you can get the crock pot going, there's no recovering. Alternate plans HAVE to be made, and that usually involves driving somewhere. :-P

Monday, January 12, 2009

Buttery Herbed Chicken

Ohmygosh, this recipe is DELICIOUS! DH had to cook it since I was at a long running Girl Scout service unit team meeting (which didn't break up until after 1:00 a.m.) and he has a way with chicken, so it was perfect! Got that nice carmelized thing going on, flavorful, and the smell when I walked in the house...I'm hungry all over again just thinking about it. Another big bonus- he says it was trivial to make. I threw rice in the rice cooker before I went to my meeting so that and some grapes were the quick-and-easy side dishes. Some nights you just have to throw together whatever you can manage! ;)

Tomorrow is another one of those nights; cookie training. IloveGirlScoutsIloveGirlScoutsIloveGirlScouts...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shelfari Book Shelf Widget

I love my new widget! It's the shelfari down there towards the bottom on the right, with a list of some of my favorite books. You can see the covers of Cooking Light Superfast Suppers and Apocalypse Chow, two of my favorite cook books, along with the Sudoku book I JUST FINISHED, all 300 puzzles, thank you very much. ;)

I've been up way too long reading other Menu Plan Monday posts and playing with my new toys (as in, this blog and the new widget), so good night! (And thanks to At Shore's End, where I found said new widget.)

Menu Plan Monday: 2nd Entry!

Hot off the presses, my menu plan for the upcoming week!

It was challenging to put together the menu plan for this week since there are so many activities going on. The kids have an all day activity Monday, I have a Girl Scout Service Unit Team Meeting which will take up most of Monday evening, cookie training (also for Girl Scouts) Tuesday night, we're going on a field trip to pick strawberries on Wednesday, and we have a picnic with our homeschooling support group on Friday. ~:-P It's hard to have that many fully scheduled days with the fibromyalgia, but I'm diving in!

Monday Lunch: make your own sandwiches/breakfast sandwiches
Monday Dinner: Buttery herbed chicken from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, p.64, rice, fruit
Tuesday Lunch: Chicken soup with Matzoh balls (doctored up Manishevitz Matzoh Ball and Soup Mix with sliced carrots, celery, onion, a little olive oil, a tablespoon or so of dill, some salt, a few chicken legs with skin, and some chicken tenderloins)
Tuesday Dinner: Saucy Italian Style Chicken Thighs (only I'll use breasts since we have some in the freezer) from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, p. 159
Wednesday Lunch: Leftover chicken soup
Wednesday Dinner: Veggie meal based on what we purchase at the strawberry farm (they also sell baked goods and other produce)
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti (it's a Thursday staple)
Thursday Dinner: Chicken Biryani (from my current Cooking Light magazine)
Friday Lunch: Meaty Calzones from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, p. 66
Friday Dinner: Country Rice and Sausage from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, p. 287
Saturday Lunch: Black Bean Cakes from Apocalypse Chow, Rice, Carrot Salad, Applesauce
Saturday Dinner: Sloppy Joes from Ellie Kreiger on the Food Network website
Sunday Lunch: Balsamic Chicken from a Publix Aprons recipe card; we leave off the Montreal steak seasoning and balsamic vinegar and use the Seven Seas Italian dressing instead (it's yummy)
Sunday Dinner: Order pizza for the kids and sitter; parents eat out!

How I Menu Plan:
When I do my menu planning, I use a Prints Charming Collection Meal Planner, which I think is now out of print since I can't find it on their website. (I've used one; I have two left!) I can use anything, but a weekly planner page with the days of the week on it is the easiest, and the meal planner is set up for weekly entries. Plus it's cute; I wish I'd bought more of them!! I check my family calendar and pencil in activities in the margin of the meal planner so I know what's going on each day and I know if I'll (theoretically) have the energy to cook at night or not. (I've got to find more crock pot meals!) When I have a "home day" I plan more elaborate meals, on activity days I look for quick and easy. I fill in the standards- spaghetti for lunch on Thursday, pizza delivery for "date night", etc. I have a print out I made up of our "old standbys" that includes a section where I can write in new recipes we try out and like. I refer to that if I'm not feeling the need to try anything new; I pull out my cookbooks if I'm looking to experiment. (I had my Cooking Light Superfast Suppers out tonight!) I try not to have the same protein for too many meals in a row, but that's a low priority. I do try to have meals that need fresh ingredients that will spoil quickly right after I'm able to shop, and pantry meals later in the week, although I usually wind up going to the store at least twice a week anyway. Sometimes I get input from DH or the kids; the youngest has definite ideas about what we should eat! Unfortunately the children seem to favor the recipes that take the most work, so sometimes I don't ask their opinion! ;) That's about it, but wow, what a difference it makes! DH has even gotten used to it; he really complains when I don't plan the menus for the week. Oh- one last step; I write everything on a white board to post in the kitchen for everyone to see.

Works for us; I've been doing this for, oh, maybe 2 years now, and it's really helped me with maintaining my weight loss. :) I'm just tickled that I can share this great tool with others, and get ideas from the other menu planners on the fantastic orgjunkie website.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Recipes...With Links!!!

Now that I can do the linky thing, here's one for the recipe for Spiced Chicken With Black Eyed Peas and Rice.

Now another one for Grillades and Grits from Southern Living Magazine. (I thought that was where I got that one.)

Emeril's Shrimp Scampi which is really good and kid friendly since it uses chicken broth instead of wine.

Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin I made this recipe from the card I picked up in the store. I never went on the Publix/Aprons website, but now that I did to find this recipe, it's totally cool! I can't wait to explore and find more yummy recipes!

I didn't find the Black Bean Cake recipe but I found the link to the authors of Apocalypse Chow, one of my favorite cook books. The subtitle is "How To Eat Well When the Power Goes Out" and all of the recipes use non-perishable ingredients, which is great for our hurricane preparedness efforts. Plus the recipes are just yummy, and we like the Black Bean Cakes so well we usually make them once a week. Almost forgot- the recipes are all vegetarian. There are several that we like but the Black Bean Cakes are our favorite.

And last but not least, from this week, anyway, is Soy Marinated London Broil from the Real Simple magazine web site.



Now I have to figure this out. I clicked the little linky icon and pasted the link to IMDB in there, but when I published my post it was blank with nothing to click on. Hmmm...

Let me try something:


I typed the word Movie then highlighted it, then clicked on the linky thing, so now to publish and see what happens!

Ha! I did it! It works! Happy happy joy joy; I love it when I figure out new things. :) Now you can click on "movie" (up there, not here) and it will open the IMDB page for "Confessions of a Shopaholic". Yeah!


I'm on a reading binge! I just gobbled up Janet Evanovich's latest, "Plum Spooky", a Stephanie Plum "Between the Numbers" book. I'm not a big fan of the mystery genre, but I like this author and I LOVE this series! They are too funny- DH says I'm not allowed to read in bed when he's trying to sleep b/c my laughing shakes the bed and wakes him up. ;) I also polished off Sophie Kinsella's "Undomestic Goddess", a fantastically well written romantic comedy fluff of a book. It was delightful, and just the book to read if you need to do some de-stressing. I liked it so much I went out and bought several of her other books, including some from the "Shopaholic" series. "Shopaholic" is a movie now, due out February 13th. ( I've got to figure out how to do the link thing with the highlighted words. Oh, I know- I'll ask the eldest!

OK, she says she doesn't know, but she found the little icon of the link, so let me see what happens: OK, but how do I make it connected to what I've written? I'll see what happens when I post the message, and figure it out another day. :)

An Emergency!

I took the time to get my hair cut today (first time since 2007, as in I really did not darken the door of a hair salon for the entirety of 2008, shocking, I know!) and took the eldest child with me. She also got a new 'do, a SHORT one! She's brave. Her hair was long before, in a lovely layered cut that framed her face beautifully, but it's cute as a button now, too. She's very trendy. Anyway, while I'm there taking time for personal care for the first time in AGES, I get a panicked emergency call from DH. "Where's the cook book?" he yells. It's by my bedside table with all the others, I answer. No, it isn't. Well, check this other place...he checked there, no luck. How can he make the Shrimp Scampi from "There's a Chef in my World" if he can't find "There's a Chef in my World", he says? Well, make something else from the menu list- move tomorrow's lunch to today, since he knows that recipe. He doesn't want to, since that one is more involved and he doesn't feel like making that today. (OK, I can relate to that.) How about the Quick Chicken Stir Fry ( using the green beans in the freezer instead of broccoli? (We have beans, we don't have broccoli.) Oh, forget it, he'll do something. Sheese. I get home and he's made the Shrimp Scampi without the cook book, which was right where I said it would be, but he didn't listen to me! Men.

At least my hair looks cute. I told the hairdresser I look like a woman who takes time for herself!

And oh, yeah- that's why we have 2 cooked meals every day. DH makes lunch (he works part of the day from home then goes to the office later in the day) and I make dinner. He also does all the cooking over the weekend, unless we go out. I'm a lucky girl! :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Beef-a-roni Recipe

Beef-a-roni Recipe
Here's how I make beef-a-roni, which we had for Thursday's dinner. It's similar to the recipe that used to be on the side of the can of stewed tomatoes but I've tweaked it a little; my version is healthier!

Kim’s Beef-a-Roni Recipe

½ lb. super lean ground beef (I like Maverick Ranch organic beef)

1 cup soy crumbles (optional; I like them in this recipe but the Middle Child will pick out every little crumble, leaving them in a sad pile by the side of her bowl, so I gave up)

1 tbs olive oil

2 cans stewed tomatoes

2 cans niblet corn, drained

½ cup shredded cheese, either cheddar or a colby/jack mix

1 tbs brown sugar

2 tsp lemon juice (or half a lemon, squeezed just a little bit)

Salt and pepper to taste

5 tbs taco seasoning mix

2 tsp garlic powder (optional)

2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

Brown the ground beef in the olive oil and season it with the taco seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In the meantime, use either a blender or an immersion blender to puree one can of stewed tomatoes. When the beef is completely brown, add both cans of tomatoes and the corn and mix thoroughly. Stir in the lemon juice and brown sugar. Taste at this point and adjust seasonings as necessary. Allow mixture to simmer for 5 minutes so the flavors will marry. Stir in the macaroni and heat through. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the cheese so it will melt. Serves 4 to 6.

This is a quick and easy recipe but it gets me in trouble sometimes! If I'm really hungry when I'm cooking I'll graze on the pasta before I mix it in with the rest of the ingredients. (I always wind up making more pasta than I need.) The kids love it though, so I have to be careful to wash some fruit or have something else healthy on hand for snacking while I cook. ~:-P

Produce Rant

Since I set up this blog just to participate in Orgjunkie's Menu Plan Mondays, I thought I'd spend some time checking out the other blogs on the site. They are wonderful! Sigh...I wish I could figure out how to make my template that's for another day. Food wise, there were some great ideas! I looked over the blog where the author cooked in her crock pot EVERY DAY for an entire year! She was invited on Rachel Ray's show and has a book deal now- that's impressive. The only problem is reading about what everyone else is eating made me hungry. ;) What I really want, though, is STRAWBERRIES. I knew they were in season around now but I thought it was a little early, then I heard a report on the local public radio that they are ready to go, so I can't wait to take the kids down to our favorite U-pick place (unfortunately it's an hour drive, so we can't go more than once or twice per season) and load up. Nothing like strawberries fresh out of the field! I'm so spoiled now I won't even look at the supermarket strawberries. I mean, how can they call those things strawberries, anyway? They look good, but they taste like cardboard. They ship them from the other side of the country and that's where they lose any flavor they may have had to start with- on the truck. Why can't I get LOCALLY grown strawberries in the store? It's ridiculous. (Warning: soap box is present.) Then there's the peaches. We live ONE STATE away from Georgia, but do you think we can get Georgia peaches in the summer? No way; they have to come all the way from California and they taste like GARBAGE!!! Georgia peaches are yummy, drip down your chin delicious, but can we get them anymore? Nooooo. There are a few fruits that travel well, grapes, for instance, but there are others that just don't, yet there they are in the stores anyway. Last summer I stopped by a roadside truck selling watermelons. I asked the guy where the melons were grown and he told me about an hour away. I got that thing home and it was the best watermelon I've had...ever. Ever! It was delicious! My husband asked if I got the guy's name, and unfortunately I didn't. I've driven by his parking spot since then and he hasn't been there; I'm so sad, and craving that melon. :(

This always reminds me about a conversation I had with a hairdresser once. She said she hates produce- all of it, fruit, veggies, all of it, and I couldn't imagine anyone feeling that way, then I thought about it. She just doesn't know how good REAL, locally grown produce should taste! If she's only ever purchased the grocery store swill they pass off as produce, then how would she know?

This seems to be a recent phenomenon, too. It's only been over the past few years that they stopped bringing in the Georgia peaches over the summer, for instance. What happened? Someone once told me, or I read it somewhere, that it has to do with tax breaks for shipping produce, and it benefits someone or other to go ahead and transport food all the way from one side of the country to the other. So does that mean my state's yummy strawberries are going out to California, where they wind up as tasteless over there as the California strawberries are over here? Things I wish I knew...although if I knew for sure maybe it would make me angry, then I'd have to try to do something about it, and there just aren't enough hours in the day! ;)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Putting Away Christmas

The holidays were tough for me this year so I'm happy they're over (except for DH going back to work- that part's a bummer) but it's also difficult to get back into the swing of things. I managed to get my tree down and the house "de-Christmas-ed" already, and I think this is the earliest in the year that's ever happened! I put the last box of Christmas decorations away today. (Not counting the exterior stuff- that's a job for DH.) It's a process! Undecorate the tree, take off the lights, repair anything that broke, pack up all the Keepsake ornaments back in their boxes then into the larger storage box, take down all of the other decorations, (stockings, Advent calendar, etc.), pack those away, then put the boxes back in their places until time to do it all again. I also tried to weed out things to go to Goodwill so I can actually get everything back in the same amount of space that it all came out of, in spite of the new ornaments I purchased. I buy new ornaments every year; each child gets at least one, then when they move into their own house and have their own tree, they get to take their ornaments with them. I've been doing that since my oldest's first Christmas so I have quite a collection now! I can pretty much fill a good sized tree with all Keepsake ornaments. (I also buy at least a few for myself every year.)

The reason this Christmas was difficult for me is that my maternal grandmother died in June. Christmas was her favorite holiday and this is the first one without her. I felt like I was just going through the motions; my heart really wasn't in it. I skipped a lot of our usual traditions, like taking the kids to see Santa, because I just couldn't get into it. It was easier to let it go. I still haven't sent out Christmas cards, either; everyone's going to think I forgot them. I didn't; I'm thinking of sending out Inauguration Day cards, actually, but we'll see if I get around to it!

We got a away for a few days, which was lovely, and I didn't think about Christmas or my volunteer work with Girl Scouts or anything; I was able to live in the moment for those few days. The kids were with us even though we were celebrating our 20th anniversary. DH says he didn't enjoy the time away since we had them with us and he was always having to worry about something, which makes me sad, but we went to a lovely place and did a lot of fun things we never would have done at home. We even squeezed in some educational activities! I didn't mind having them with us. My feeling is that you get married to create a new family, which we've done, so why wouldn't we want to share our anniversary with them? I guess I'm in the minority on that opinion, though.

I'm hoping next Christmas will be easier.

Spiced Chicken w/ Black Eyed Peas and Rice

An update on tonight's dinner. I made the Spiced Chicken w/ Black Eyed Peas and Rice from the Cooking Light "Weeknights" cookbook and it turned out really well. I've made it before but I have a tendency to over cook the chicken, which makes it tough. Tonight it was perfection! I hit it just right. I also used chicken tenderloins instead of the breasts the recipe called for; my family likes that cut better. (I buy bags of the individually frozen tenders so we can take out just as many as we need; great time saver.) My oldest loved it; the younger ones wouldn't touch it, of course. I had my half cup of the rice/peas mixture and 2 of the tenderloins (portion control!), a sprinkling of green onions, (a must with this recipe since it gives it some bite) then some green grapes on the side. Quick, easy, nutritious, and delicious!

Introduction; First Menu Plan Mondays Post

I was inspired to set this blog up when I read some others with "Menu Mondays" posts. I like to see what other people are cooking and how they eat in their families, and since I plan my menus (almost) every week too, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Here's what we're eating this week, and you get 2 meals per day since we cook both lunch and dinner at home:
Monday Lunch: Jambalaya (using pork tenderloin, an onion and a bell pepper added to the Zatarain's mix and thrown in the rice cooker- easy, easy, easy.)
Monday Dinner: Bacon and Egg Pie (Modification of a recipe I found on, where you plug in the ingredients you have and they find you a recipe. I did a freezer inventory earlier in the day and found I had 2 frozen pie crusts left over from the holidays and a bunch of turkey bacon that I wanted to use up.)
Tuesday Lunch: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin (This is a recipe from the Publix Supermarket's Aprons recipe series. It uses the other half of the pork tenderloin we threw in the Jambalaya yesterday.)
Tuesday Dinner: Deli sandwiches (Made to order at the deli counter at Publix.)
Wednesday Lunch: Philly Steak Sandwiches
Wednesday Dinner: Spiced Chicken with Black Eye Peas and Rice (from "Cooking Light Weeknights" cookbook)
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti (hubby's recipe)
Thursday Dinner: Beef-A-Roni (my recipe)
Friday Lunch: Shrimp Scampi (from Emeril's "There's a Chef in my World" cookbook)
Friday Dinner: Saucy Italian Style Chicken Thighs (from one of my Cooking Light cookbooks- Superfast Suppers, I think)
Saturday Lunch: Black Bean Cakes (from "Apocolypse Chow" cookbook), rice, carrot salad, and applesauce
Sunday: Soy Marinated London Broil (from ???; I printed it out from the internet, but I can't remember the site)
Sunday: Grillades and Grits (from the internet, I think from Southern Living Magazine)
Sunday Lunch: order pizza for the kids and the babysitter; mom and dad dine out!

One thing about me- I lost over 45 pounds eating this way. Portion control and daily walks rule!!