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Hey Mom! She likes it! She really likes it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

(You may have to be of a certain age to understand the humor in the title of this blog. Search for Life Cereal Mikey on YouTube if you are terribly confused at the moment.)

I've been holding onto a free 3 month membership to SparkCoach since last Spring. It, along with a couple of Coach Nicole's workout DVDs, came with the purchase of SP's last book, The Spark Solution. I gave the diet in the book a real try, but the food was not for me. I also never got around to reading the book, period :) BUT, I love the DVDs and so far, love SparkCoach, so I feel I still got a steal on the combo. What I didn't know was when I logged into SparkCoach, I already had a free "to try" week sitting on my account. If you've been wondering about SparkCoach, click on it and likely you have a free week waiting on you too.

So, I've been not only on a plateau since the summer, but a slow uphill climb since about November. I had trained for a 5K in the fall and pretty much dropped it like it was hot after the race :) I KNEW I had to figure out something for this winter. It had to be cheap, preferably free, and easily accessible, preferably something I could do at home. This is before I even knew what a rough winter we were going to have. We live in the great wide open in the country and there have been several days this past month or so that we couldn't or wouldn't leave the yard. Not to mention, trouble getting our vehicles to start, and when they do start, giving them a good 20-30 minutes to warm up before leaving, cleaning snow/ice off the van, shoveling a path to the van. What a pain! Even if I could have afforded a gym membership and the gas money to get there, I'm not so sure how many times I would have went.

It took me until the end of January to remember that I had that free membership to SparkCoach. I saved it because I knew I was likely to have trouble through the winter. Although I will celebrate my 1st Sparkversary on St. Patty's Day, I've been a member since 2006, I believe. I struggle sometimes with the way SP is set up. It's not intuitive for me. I know there is something I want to find, but I can't remember how to get there. So here I was at the end of January, gaining back about 10-15# of the 20-25# I had lost at one point this year. I was frustrated with SP and myself.

I've always known that exercise was going to HAVE to be a part of my weight loss success and SparkCoach was going to demand it. I really enjoy food and honestly, I don't want to eat so perfect that I can skip exercise. My love for food is greater than my hate for exercise :)

I don't have pain in my knees on a daily basis, but certain movements make them "click" and it just feels weird. And I CANNOT do on the floor, on my knees. That DOES hurt! I can do flat on my back exercises though. I started searching SP for "easy on the knees workout" and "walking workout". I enjoy the walking segment on one of Coach Nicole's DVDs. I think it's the Cardio Blast DVD. I had heard of walking DVDs, but honestly, I thought they were something for people to do on treadmills! I had no idea. Come to find out, you couldn't do them on a treadmill if you wanted to.

Many people recommended Leslie Sansone's walking DVDs. I looked her up on YouTube. There are several videos for her on there. She has short 15 minute 1 mile videos to fast paced 1 hour 5mile workouts. I think I started with a 2 mile one last week AND. I. WAS. HOOKED!!!! I don't have enough internet allowance to do them everyday from YouTube (and I have to clean up my PC before I download any), so today I picked up a few at the library.

She must be from around Canada. She reminds me a lot of Tina Fey on SNL doing Sarah Palin! I don't think I'd be able to stand listening to her everyday, but her workouts are easy enough that you could turn her down and listen to your own music or even a podcast and keep up with her.

I've also tried Sweating to the Oldies on YouTube. It's probably the hardest video I've done this past week. Richard does some complicated moves and he moves quick! I'll try it again in a week or so. It's worth it just to see him sing "I Will Survive".

I didn't even know that The Biggest Loser had walking videos too (and they are on YouTube)! I found 4 of them. The first two were not bad, but that 3rd one was tough (and they are all about 15 minutes each). I'll wait to try the 4th when I can get through the 3rd a little easier. I love how Bob Harper barely breaks a sweat, because he doesn't do half the moves! He walks around correcting and encouraging the overweight participants while they are sweating away under the sun at the ranch :) (I gave up on that show years ago. I didn't feel I could relate to it and so many of the "winners" relapsed so badly when they came back to real life. I also felt the time I spent pining for something someone else had while I watched could have been better spent on exercising or being active. And I don't like verbal abuse. Period. After what I read happened this past week, that show should be cancelled anyway!)

What I need to find are more strengthening/toning videos. I know I'm not doing enough of that.

So, there it is. I didn't even think I liked workout videos. I hated them only second to a live group aerobics class at the health club! And there's no excuse not to do one. There's so many free ones online, in every ability range, in short to long duration.

As part of SparkCoach, I have committed to at least 10 minutes of training every day for the next month. I was gone all day doing my monthly grocery shopping (I'll blog about that someday), doctor appointment, tax appointment and a Dave Ramsey class! BUT, I still got home about 8 PM and did a quick 17 minute Leslie Sansone DVD that I picked up at the library today! And I loved it! I really loved it!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SPARKLINGHOPE 2/13/2014 11:35AM

    Best wishes!

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BIGREDANGEL 2/13/2014 10:40AM


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Money Saving Tips on Bananas and Milk That Have Gone "Down South"

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

I made Baked Banana Oatmeal this morning. Here's the link, if you want to take a peek:

My family loves bananas, but as everyone knows, they ripen quickly. If I have the choice, I try to buy a few green, a few kinda green and a few just right or "definitely need eaten today" bananas, to pace the ripening. Usually I don't have that luxury at one store, so I store bananas in our fridge to slow down the ripening. The skins will turn brown or black, but the fruit inside is still perfect. Every day, I'll pull a few out on the counter to ripen faster, if need be.

But a few bananas here and there will go too ripe and below I will tell you what I do with them. The following is pasted from my recipe above. I also give a tip on freezing sour milk. Because it is baked, you won't get sick, but I don't recommend drinking sour milk or making instant pudding with it :) With as much snow as we have been having this winter, it's hard to know how much to buy to last until the next time we will get out. I've just been buying too much on purpose and freeze what goes sour, but it's only happened once this winter.

"As our fresh bananas are taking a dark turn for the worse, I throw them into the freezer whole. Their thick skin will protect them for a good few months.

When ready for use, I wet them down quickly in the sink and microwave slowly, about 5 minutes at 10%. I wet them down to prevent the stem from getting too hot and sparking (it's happened!). I use a steak knife to cut open the skin, and the fruit slides right out, ready to mash easily.

When our milk is starting to sour, but not curdled (YUCK), I also freeze it in 1 cup portions in sandwich baggies to use for baking. Stack the baggies in the freezer flat until frozen. Then they can stand up easy and slide into freezer crevices until use.

When ready for use, thaw in the microwave on a larger plate or bowl. Sometimes the corners of the bags leak when they are thawing."

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SPARKLINGHOPE 2/5/2014 12:33PM


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Dinner ,the Final Frontier (And, a Little on Meal Planning)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I mentioned in the last blog that I would share with you what I do for dinner. For review, I make a soup or stew on Saturday and we have the leftovers in the crockpot while we are at church so we can come home to a hot lunch. The only other nights I cook are SUN, TUE and THU, with their leftovers the next day for dinner.

We get a hog butchered through my husband's work. I have never ate so much pork in my life until I married my husband! It has taken me years to learn how to cook it :) I try to make Sunday dinner a little more special, so we have some type of pork cut, as opposed to my usual casserole or skillet meal. (Using a starch like pasta, rice or beans stretches meat and makes the meal cheaper per serving). Right now, our freezer is bursting at the seams with pork and we certainly can't afford beef and the pork we already have is cheaper than buying chicken too! In the summer, we try to splurge a bit for beef and chicken and grill it. We've been eating cubed pork chops on Sundays. It's just like cubed steak (beef), it's just pork. Try it, you'll like it. I've been breading them in crushed Rice Chex (after a dip each in cornstarch & egg) and baking them. I save bacon grease, so I make a gravy out of that. I've also tried different sauces and marinades and putting the cubed chops in the crockpot. We eat that with rice usually. This week, I made them into pork scallopini (lemon mustard sauce). We also have quite a bit of bone in chops, but I'm saving those for the grill this summer, actually spring, because I crack open that grill as soon as I can.

For TUE and THU, I don't have a theme. We all love pasta. My family really likes rice; I think it's just OK, but I'll eat it with a sauce or heavy seasoning. But rice is cheaper than pasta, so I try to only have pasta once a week. Because we buy the corn tortillas in bulk from Sam's cheap, we will have some type of TexMex casserole that includes them. I've been trying to include more ethnic dishes. They tend to be frugal and full of flavor. I try to visit one continent a week with my mouth :) I've been collecting a small group of Asian dishes, which I was not raised on, so it's exotic to me. I'm still surprised that I never married an Italian, because I love their food :) I've also been on the look out for British food. It's not overly seasoned, but it's cheap!

So, tonight's dinner is an Italian cop out. If you are Italian, I am very sorry, because I know I just rednecked your national treasure, risotto. One time, I splurged for the arborio rice for it (and real parmesan, not the stuff in the can) and IT. WAS. HEAVEN. And that's coming from the gal who doesn't like rice! I bought a large bag of long grain white rice at Aldi's a long time ago. I have been struggling with preparing this bag correctly ever since I've opened it. I would follow the directions perfectly and the stuff always turned out to be mush. So, I thought it would be a good candidate for risotto, because arborio rice cooks up creamy; it's very different than any other rice. I have to say, this dish tonight turned out very good, although it tastes more like any chicken and rice that I have ever made. If I didn't know better, I would never say it was intended to be risotto. It was a good way to use up that nasty Aldi's rice though! If you want the recipe, look up "Chicken Risotto - Po' Boy Style" on SparkRecipes. Technically, this was Turkey Risotto. I used the last of my leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

And the plate (with what I think is my 6th quart of water today!)

The green beans and peaches were canned, but they were drained and rinsed thoroughly :)

Dinner's Nutrition:
495 calories
15 fat
60 carbs
28 protein
8 fiber

Nutritionally, I've had a great day. I've stayed within all of my goals. SparkPeople says I was a little low in carbs, but I think 212 for the day is fine. I track calcium too because I don't drink milk, at least not plain. I was a little short on that, but that's no surprise. I've been having trouble with being hungry at about 8 PM. I usually start with a banana and it always leads to another cup of chocolate milk. Those two together will add about 270 calories and put me over for the day, but I'm hoping all this water will help me with the staying full thing. We'll see :)

I bet you think I've spent all day cooking. Not really. I spent about 15-20 minutes with breakfast, 15 for lunch, maybe 5 for snack and 30 for dinner. An hour and ten minutes for the whole day. I already had the turkey cooked and shredded in the freezer waiting. When I buy onions, my hubs and I have an onion cutting party (it's very sexy with all the onion tears), then I lay them on a lined cookie sheet to freeze and pop them in a gallon ziplock when they are solid. A chunk of that 30 minute dinner prep was just waiting 10 minutes for the rice to cook too. Simple meals (READ: not complicated or gourmet with a million ingredients) are the key to at home cookin'.

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BIGREDANGEL 1/31/2014 9:45AM


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Lunch and a Snack

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In the winter, I like to have a hot lunch. It helps heat up our Great Room and warms my tummy. We eat the following lunch about 6 days a week, give or take. I don't very often get tired of it, but it does happen, and that's when I usually make some type of bad decision for lunch. During the summer, if we spend all morning outside and come in a little late for lunch, I usually make popcorn on the stove :) It's actually not too far off of this lunch nutritionally, minus the protein.

I have been trying to think of another hot lunch, made from scratch (for health and $ reasons), that's frugal, full of protein & fiber. I prefer to do a little prep just before eating, but if I had to make it in bulk and freeze, that could work. When you find that, let me know.

I love Dr. Oz's idea of automating eating. We tend to be obese because of the sheer variety of food available to us today. I've got breakfast nailed with 3 different ones that we rotate through the week. I just need to do the same for lunch. And when summer does finally come, I'll have to do it all over again with things I can cook outside :)

I've considered making a few soups and freezing them in portions, but we eat soup/stew for dinner Saturday, with the leftovers in the crockpot (while we are at church) for Sunday lunch. It is soooooo nice to come home from church and have a hot lunch ready. Maybe if we just had soup for lunch one more extra day a week, that would be fine.

We used to eat the previous night's leftovers for lunch all week long, but that makes for a lot of cooking each night. I'll share in a blog that I hope to write after dinner tonight on what I do for dinner.

So, here's today's lunch:

You'll notice that it looks a bit like my breakfast. My family loves eggs. It's a great frugal way to get protein and cooks quickly. Make sure you research both sides of the cholesterol debate. Eggs also contain good cholesterol, which is hard to come by. That egg mess is called a Miga. It's just crushed tortilla chips, slice of cheese and eggs. There's obviously an apple and carrots, but that blob on the plate is pine nut hummus. I get it cheap in a big tub at Sam's.

My daughter is very good at helping with lunch. She cuts the apples & doles out the carrots. I take care of the Migas. Start to finish, 15 minutes.

Basically that Miga mess is exactly like our breakfast burritos this morning. I just swapped crushed chips for the tortillas. The 2 cooked tortillas from breakfast have 22 more calories, 1 more gram of fat, 1 less gram of fiber and 70 less mg of sodium than the chips in the miga. These chips aren't overly salty. I get the chips at Save A Lot (we like this brand better than Aldi), so they don't cost much per serving, but I'm very sure the tortillas are cheaper, even cooked. It's something the geek in me wants to figure some day.

So my lunch totals are:
523 calories
28 fat
52 carbs
19 protein
9 fiber

I also have the following snack almost every day. And same thing, if I don't have this, I usually make some type of bad decision :) Quite often on Sundays, we have popcorn on the stove for a snack.

I make the chocolate milk from a homemade mix. I don't like milk, but I need the protein and chocolate milk takes me back to my childhood and my late father making it for me in my lunch box. I make it with plain protein powder, baking cocoa (Hershey's only, it makes a difference) and stevia. I've never found a flavored powder that I thought tasted like chocolate milk.

That banana may look brown, but I store bananas in the fridge to slow them down. The peel will turn brown, but the fruit inside was just perfect ripe. Oh, maybe someday I'll write a blog on how I buy & store bananas. It's a whole process :)

Snack totals:
318 calories
9 fat
52 carb
12 protein
4 fiber

Snacks are a tricky thing for me. Please make 200-300 calorie recommendations. They have to be a nice mix of protein and fiber too! And you know they have got to be cheap too. None of that pre-packaged stuff in my house :)

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BIGREDANGEL 1/31/2014 9:45AM

    Apples w melted PB

Celery w hummus or I make a Skinny Buffalo dip

String cheese and pretzels

to name a few of mine :)


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A Down Home Breakfast - And How to Make One Fast

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thought I'd share with you what a typical day looks to me. I hope I have the time to do a lunch and dinner post today :)

I've been having an ongoing conversation about packaged foods and sodium in particular. I am by far, not the perfect eater, and I'm fully aware of it, so don't read me like that. I do, however, cook almost everything from scratch using about a 90/10 pure ingredients/packaged ingredients. Most of that decision is based out of finances and how important it is to my family that I do not work outside the home. So, one of my many at home "jobs" is to cook as cheaply and healthy as possible.

This morning, my family ate breakfast burritos. I try to keep things simple, so we have this breakfast on THU, SAT and SUN. Yes, week after week. We love it and don't mind it at all.

We don't always make the veggie blend with it, but I'm looking for ways to increase my fiber. BIGREDANGEL got me going on it. I didn't even know it existed :) I recently bought it at Sam's Club for a good price, better than our small town grocery store. I can't seem to find something like it at Aldi's or Save A Lot. I never checked Walmart though. It seems like this Sam's brand has more corn in it than the brand our local grocery had. When this bag is gone (still got a couple pounds to go), I'm going to work on making my own mix in bulk. We grow or barter for all the veggies in this mix and I recently started canning my own dried beans, so I can make this stupid cheap, really for just the cost of the beans. Before I make it, I will play on the nutrition tracker with cutting back the corn and increasing everything else, especially the beans, for more protein and fiber.

I get help with plates, silverware, cutting the orange and grabbing other ingredients, IF I ASK, DAY AFTER DAY :) I don't know why I have to ask for that every day, but I do! If I have all my skillets going and the fam co-operates, I can make this in about 15 minutes. I could cut back a little time if I cooked a week's worth of veggies at a time. Since we only have this THU, SAT, SUN, the already cooked veggies stay fresh for that time period. If you are new to from scratch cooking, it will get easier the more you do it. I probably could cook in my sleep :) Especially the more you cook the same breakfast, in this case, the faster you will get, and the less you have to think about it too!

Here are my tips for making this breakfast fast:

1) Have the skillets and stove clean the night before. Overlook this if that's a no-brainer. The ones who need a reminder about starting the day with a clean kitchen know who they are...(we don't need to shame them).

2) Grab all your skillets, utensils and ingredients. This is a tip for any meal, not just this one. I put the ingredients in chronological order as I will need them.. First ingredients are closest to the stove. I start with tortillas, move to veggies and finish with eggs.

3) What takes the longest is cooking the tortillas. There are 3 of us in my family, with 2 tortillas each, so I heat up all 3 skillets. In assembly line order, I use my Pampered Chef oil sprayer to coat one side of a tortilla, place in skillet, spray other side. Then I move on to the next skillet and tortilla. While I am waiting on the tortillas to cook, I grab 3 slices of cheese, fold them in half to split them, and place 2 halves of cheese on each plate. As I plate each tortilla, the cheese is already on the plate to put on top of the hot tortilla. This residual heat will help the cheese melt. I also measure out my veggies while I am waiting on tortillas.

4) When the tortillas are plated, I move onto the veggies. I turn off two of the skillets because I don't need them now. Because I am using cast iron, I do give the veggie skillet a light spray of oil. I'm having a miserable time getting my skillets seasoned :) While the veggies are cooking, I move on to eggs, stirring the veggies occasionally.

5) Now I heat up the big skillet again. It's still warm from before, so it doesn't take long to get really hot. I pour some oil in the pan. (I splurged for the name brand oil jug that has the measuring cup in the cap and then refill it with my big jug of oil from Sam's.) Once the oil is rippling, it's time for the eggs to hit the pan. Eggs cook quick and as I've learned from Alton Brown, kill the heat when they are at the almost cooked, but still glossy stage. The residual heat will cook them the rest of the way, just keep stirring until they look creamy, but not "cooked". I slap them bad boys on top of the tortillas with the veggies to finish.

Here's a pic in the middle of the process:

And here is the final product:

My daughter splits an orange with me, but I'm thinking we need to start having each our own. I try to eat an orange, banana and apple, everyday. She already ate her half of an orange when I took the pic. She also doesn't care for that veggie mix on her eggs, yet she likes every single item in the veggies, and eats them altogether in a soup.

What you also see behind the plates is my cup of coffee (that's already gone), with 2 TBS. whole milk & stevia. The funny thing is, I really don't like coffee, but I like myself after I drink it. That Mason jar is my first quart of water for the day. I'm trying to up my water big time. As I type this, I'm on my 3rd quart this morning! And yes, my bladder knows!

Here's a screenshot of my nutrition for this meal:

I try to keep my meals around 500 calories. This one is more because I added the veggies. I think I might consider eating just one tortilla and eating the excess eggs, veggies and cheese on the side and see how that keeps me full. Then maybe I'll even drop the second tortilla :) I was raised on a hearty breakfast, and especially a hot one, in the winter. If I'm going to have a meal that's heavy on calories, it's going to be breakfast!

I just wish I could make the tortilla part go faster or in a way where I could make it in bulk for the week and reheat with the right texture.

What do you like to eat on a cold winter morning? I'm always on the lookout for more protein or fiber, so please share if you have any ideas.

EDIT: Since the screen shot of my nutrition won't show well, I'll tell you my totals. This doesn't include my coffee with 2 TBS. milk. I realize the fat may be alarming to some people, but fat keeps me satiated. It's a good 3 1/2 hours since I ate this and I'm just barely hungry with no snack in between. Not that I don't like snacking, but sometimes I don't have the time to snack, especially in the morning.

Cals: 614
Fat: 34
Protein: 31
Fiber: 7

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