Thursday, August 25, 2011

Will Being (slightly) Mean Help You Lose Weight?

I know this sounds a little harsh - bear with me.

I read this article at a time when I really, really needed to hear something exactly like this. I have become somewhat addicted to Self Magazine, a magazine dedicated to women's health and fitness. This article caught my eye when I was reading it at work, a place where, at the time, it seemed like people were walking all over me and rumors (untrue rumors) were flying and I even, somewhat desperately, tried to transfer out of the only job I have ever actually loved doing.
This was a low point for me at work, I was trying to lose weight and had lost around 25 lbs. Some people were (and are still) extremely supportive, giving me compliments and telling me that I've been doing a good job and to keep it up. However, there are those people who act like your friend and look like your friend, but inside them is just a mean little person trying to get out. Oh, they are nice enough usually, but there are those occasions where they let that side of their personality out. For instance, someone said to me one day, "don't worry about what everybody else thinks Ashley, I can tell that you've lost some weight." This is the one that has stuck out in my mind. We are not friends anymore. I decided to be a little mean and just stop being friends. It made me feel better knowing that I had one less person in my life that had the power to make me feel bad about myself.

This article struck a chord because it's about letting people walk all over you during the day - saying yes when you really want to say no, taking on a project when you don't have time, saying yes to going out when you really just want to stay home and take a bath and spend "me" time. Essentially, saying yes to the world, who is usually ungrateful, so to compensate for having your feelings hurt, you nurture yourself by indulging in food - comfort food. For me, it was letting people talk about me and say things to my face and behind my back, and just taking it and letting it hurt my feelings. This led to me eating a cookie (they are sooo available in a bakery!) and the brief sugar high would make me feel better, or I would go and buy a bag of candy, same thing, but they would only make me feel better while eating them, afterwards I would feel worse because I knew I shouldn't be eating that crap! SO I STOPPED. Lol, really, I read the part in the article that says "I won't take any crap and I won't eat any crap" and I was like this is me and it needs to stop. People gave me some surprised looks the next week or so as I spoke out and was really, actually a little mean and sarcastic, but it made me feel so good about myself knowing that I wasn't letting anyone take advantage of me or walk all over me. Self-empowerment! Lol, I happen to love Jillian Micheals (I listen to her podcasts religiously) and she is a big fan of the term "self-empowerment".

Everything is calmed down at work now (well for the most part lol - I work in a bakery full of women - there is no time when there isn't drama happening). I no longer want to transfer out, and I no longer feel as though I have to watch my back. (Of course, it helps that one of those people are gone)  It's an empowering feeling knowing that you are not going to let people walk all over you and that you have the ability to say no if you want to say no.

So, with all that being said, I don't think it has made me lose any of the Something that has, however, is remaking a few favorite recipes with fresh and healthy versions :)

 It's incredibly easy to make! There is no reason to buy that jar version of what they call spaghetti sauce EVER AGAIN!! Seriously, you will not want to buy that stuff ever again after making this! This time I actually made it from fresh tomatoes, but usually I will buy the canned crushed tomatoes - organic if you can find it - with no salt added (you don't need that extra salt!) Then add some diced fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil and you are good to go!! Delicious! Unfortunately, this is my weakness, the one food that I almost always go back for seconds on, so, I always try to eat it on a small plate (tonight was on one of the kids plates lol) so when I go back for seconds, I am still eating less than one serving on a regular plate :)

Fresh organic ingredients

fresh basil: roughly chop about 6 leaves

Organic tomato sauce!

Tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste with diced onion, garlic, basil and 2 bay leaves - turn on medium high to start a slow boil

Turkey meatballs: ground turkey, egg, diced onion, garlic, basil, and 100% whole wheat bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients for turkey meatballs and make them the size of golfballs

Turn burner down to low and simmer with cover on for 25 minutes

 Take cover off and let sit for about 5 minutes to let thicken up

Serve over 100% whole wheat noodles and enjoy!

My daughter is enjoying her plain spaghetti with bananas on the

Homemade Spaghetti (and meatballs if you want)

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes - no salt added - organic if you can find it
1 can of organic tomato paste
1 small onion - diced
3-4 garlic cloves - diced
5-6 fresh basil leaves
2 bay leaves (optional)
2 tomatoes - diced
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano 
2 tbsp olive oil

For Meatballs
1 lb turkey burger
1/2 cup 100% whole wheat bread crumbs
2-3 basil leaves
1 egg
1 garlic clove
handful of diced onions

*saute onions in olive oil for ~4-5 minutes or until soft
*add minced garlic and saute another minute or two
*add to a big pot with crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, basil and bay leaves and turn on med/high
*if you are not adding meatballs in - let sauce simmer for 10 minutes and your done :) when I don't add meat I like to put lentils in for protein - they do not add any flavor and you barely notice eating them!

For Meatballs
*mix all ingredients for meatballs together

*once sauce starts simmering, add golf ball sized meatballs to the sauce
*reduce heat to low and cover
*cook for 30 minutes
*when done take lid off and let sit 5 minute to let the sauce thicken up

Serve over wheat spaghetti noodles and garnish with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Read the full article here - trust me it's worth it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nature Trail Run and Leftover Chinese

I feel good. I'm sitting here at the computer eating my yummy leftover General Tso's chicken, feeling nicely sore (I'm sure tomorrow I will NOT be thinking "nicely sore") and smelling fresh and clean from my nice, cool shower. I went for a run after work today at the nature/fitness path at the school.

It's beautiful here! The trail takes you around the middle school, by a corn field, through this path of trees shown above, then as you go around, there are fitness stations where you can do sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and many other strength exercises. I am always a bit shy excersising around other people. I know, I know.....the last thing I should be thinking about is what other people are thinking of me, but hey it happens! It usually takes me a moment or two to realize that most everyone around is either quite old and walking to get some excersise, or young and riding thier bikes around, or walking their dog - at least when I have been there.

I didn't do any of the fitness stations the first time I was there - tonight, however, I managed to work up the courage to do some push-ups on the push-up bars.........a whole measly 5 - LOL! Did I mention I am TERRIBLE at doing push-ups?! I work out my arms with free weights and do pretty good - I do reps of 15-20 with 10 lb dumbbells - which I think is pretty good since I started out with reps of 10 with 5 lb dumbells. HOWEVER, push-ups are another story - no wonder I didn't want anybody to see me! I'll get better eventually, and hopefully I will get over my fear of people seeing me working out.

I made it 3 times around - I believe that it is a mile all the way around once. I didn't run the entire way - I did intervals where I ran basically as long as I could then at certain points I would sprint, then walk and catch my breath for about 2 minutes. I think I ran about 3/4 of the way and walked a 1/4. I really need to get one of those nifty watches that track your distance, time, and calories!

I also used mini goals and visualization to get motivated to run faster and further. My mini goals were something like "just get to the next station" or "I am going to run until the next bend in the path". And, you are probably going to laugh, but I visualized a pair of size 6 jeans up in front of me and pretended that I needed to catch up to them so I could put them's a little silly, I know, but it worked because I really don't remember the last time I could fit into a size 6  (middle school maybe?)  I wasn't big in high school - I was in really good shape because I was riding my horse almost everyday and training for the equestrian team and for 4-H. I stuck mostly to a size 8 because I had a lot of muscle in my legs and butt. So, a size 6 is my eventual goal and my motivator - I'm in a size 13/14 right now so I have a ways to go yet. I know that being healthy is suppose to be the biggest motivator, but, I am eating very healthy (well except for tonight with my leftover chinese - I only ate like a quarter of it though!) by completely changing the way that I eat and the kind of food that I eat. I'll take what works - I've lost 35 lbs so far, with another  30 to go - for now using my pant size is working for me - if it stops working than I'll figure out something else. The most important thing to me is not quitting.

P.S.     This is me being a bit more honest about myself - I don't usually share quite this much info - I  don't like share my failures, pant size and amount of weight I want to lose with just anybody - so enjoy (this is prolly my endorphins talking right now.....I may end up regretting this lol).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pondering My Daughter's First Day of School and a Fresh Salad

This is my beautiful daughter. She is 4 years old and will be starting preschool in a couple of weeks. On top of the normal anxiety that I'm sure every parent experiences when their child goes to school for the first time - mine is one-upped. For those of you who do not know, she has a sever tree-nut allergy. She is anaphylactic and carries two epi-pens with her at all times.

We found out about her allergy last year - January 1 actually. She had eaten 1/2 of a cashew then promptly threw it back up. She then started breaking out in hives all over her body, especially stomach, back, and face. My hubby gave her some benedryl and put her in a cool bath because of the hives and itching of the hives. This did not work. So starting to get more worried my hubby called me (I was on my way home from work) and told me that he thought we should take her to the ER. By the time I got home she was crying, itching, and her face was starting to swell up a bit. We took her the the ER and what followed was probably the worst night of my life. They rushed her to the back and put her on IV's to get her heart rate down. After she was stable, the doctor then told us that if we had waited just one hour to bring her in, we would have lost her. We were definitely being looked out for that day - that day we happened to be really slow at work so they let me go early - I was supposed to be home and hour later that day! It still gives me chills to think about it.
So after allergy tests and doctor visits - our life changed a bit. We promptly threw out all the food in our house that had nuts in it or on the label and I spent a lot more time grocery shopping because I check labels religiously (I still have to remind myself sometimes, and sometimes I don't remember checking the label so like a crazy person I dig through my whole cart and check every label again). We have it under control for now - no more episodes so far and I hope she never has another one! I know this isn't likely because as safe as you try to make it, accidents happen and you can't control everything. It was knowing this that had me freaking out and panicking the couple of months after. It even went so far that I had a couple of panic attacks when I would think about it. I spent hours researching her allergy on the internet - the FAAN website is a wonderful resource along with various blogs and forums. It is true - knowledge is power - I feel better about it knowing that I am well informed. However, now she is starting school................THIS FREAKS ME OUT!

We are sending her to a private school here in our little town. The ONE major thing that makes me feel so much better about trusting these people with her life is that they know how to manage her having an food allergy. I have talked to the secretary a couple of times and she has told me about her daughter who has the same food allergy my daughter has. They are willing to make her classroom completely nut free and have agreed to send notes home to all the parents of her classmates informing them of her allergy and making sure they know not to send their kids with any food that has nuts in it. I feel better, for sure, knowing this and knowing that they are very willing to do whatever it takes to keep it safe for her. Of course, I'm still a bit freaked out know that I'm trusting these strangers with her life, but there is a little bit of peace within that.

So, on to the recipe!!! This is a salad that I made the other day when I was thinking about sending her to school and doing some research on sending kids with food allergies to school - I needed a break from the computer and this is a involved recipe, plus I really wanted something super healthy :)

Southwest Organic Veggie Salad
(this is almost 100% organic :)

1/2 cucumber - sliced
handful of baby carrots
1 yellow summer squash - sliced
1 zucchini - sliced
1 garlic clove - minced
1/2 yellow onion - sliced in half moons (or diced)
1 small tomato - diced
1 small red pepper - sliced
handful of lettuce/spinich
3-4 leaves fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese - grated - to taste

1/4 cup salsa (I used homemade but you can use your favorite)
1 Tbsp ranch dressing
1 Tbsp BBQ sauce (here's the link to my recipe for homemade)

*heat skillet with olive oil then saute onion for about 5 minutes or until soft
*add garlic then the zucchini, summer squash, and peppers and saute about 5 minutes (I like the squash to get a bit browned on the edges)
*toss all veggies together and sprinkle parm cheese on top then add your dressing
* enjoy :)

*note - if you want to add a bit of protein add in a cup or so of diced chicken breast, steak, or black beans

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dinner, Movie and a Makeover

Tonight we decided to spend some good quality time with the kids. We don't get a lot of nights that we can do this because of our crazy schedule :( Sometimes by the time the weekend gets here we are just so burnt out and tired - and we miss the kids and the kids miss us.........sometimes we all just end up being crabby lol........those are not the good weekends as I'm sure you can imagine! HOWEVER, tonight we were determined to spend some quality time with the kids and have a good time (and cross our fingers for no tantrums) Dinner was not the recipe I am posting - sorry! Dinner was actually orange chicken stir-fry but I didn't get any good pictures of it and (gasp) I used a jar of non-organic sauce instead of making my own. I was tired - I usually am on Saturday's because I work an early shift (this is the reason we don't go to church every Sunday - by the time Sunday rolls around we are exhausted and we just want to get some sleep with a big family breakfast/brunch after, instead of getting up early yet another day and rush to get somewhere on time) Sometimes you have to make exceptions for your sanity lol. So the recipe is actually from a couple of days ago and is one of my favorites :) It has all of the qualities I like for a home cooked dinner - cheap, easy, quick, healthy, and delicious. (and the kids will eat it all!)

So, anyways, I need to tell you about the makeover! Emma got a makeup set for her birthday earlier this year and only used it a couple of times. Well she remembered it today and asked if we could do makeovers ( I have no idea how she even knows what a makeover is......) So after dinner we got everyone involved ( yes including daddy lol) Both kids had a lot of fun smearing it all over mine and daddy's faces.........did some hardcore washing of the faces after..........crossing my fingers that neither of us breaks out from the grease!

Then after we were done we did a photo shoot and settled down on the couch with some popcorn and blankets to watch Rio - which we all enjoyed :) So all in all it was a really good night and some quality family time that we all really needed. Now daddy's upstairs doing homework and I'm writing this drinking my iced latte wishing my sinuses would calm down - but enjoying my latte nevertheless.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

2 cups of my homemade BBQ sauce - or your favorite brand
2 large chicken breasts

*put the thawed chicken breasts in the crock pot
*pour in BBQ sauce saving about 1/4 jar
*turn on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours - when it is done it will shred itself when you stir it :)
*add the rest of BBQ sauce

This makes for awesome leftovers - great for pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches with some slaw on top, BBQ chicken quesadillas, BBQ chicken salads, BBQ chicken tacos, and whatever other combo you can come up with :)

Homemade BBQ Sauce
*adapted from thegalleygourmet Western Carolina Tomato-Based Barbecue Sauce

makes about 2 quarts

2 tsp onion powder
1 40-ounce bottle of ketchup (I use Simply Heinz)
2 1/2 cups water (20 ounces) to rinse the inside of the ketchup bottle
3 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
1/4 cup yellow mustard or Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
can add smoke flavoring to taste

*using a large pot - add the ketchup; rinse the bottle with the water and add to the pot.
*stir in the tomato sauce, vinegar, sugars, molasses, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper.
*bring to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 3-3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
*remove from the heat and allow to cool.
*store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to six months.
I used freezer safe canning jars - it made enough for 5 jars.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Farmers Market

Have you ever been to a farmer's market? It's great! We have a couple of small farmer's markets around here but I've read about big street markets elsewhere - where there are dozens of different stands with everything from fruits and veggies to fresh meat to organic beauty products - I dream about those......

Anyways, however big or small they are, they are a goldmine for wonderful fresh fruits and veggies. This time around I got yellow summer squash, zucchini, blueberries, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, and a dozen ears of corn. The prices are the same if not cheaper than going to the supermarket. Everybody always thinks that it's more expensive - fresh and organic fruits and veggies = more expensive right? Nope! Not at all! Not only is it better tasting and looking, it is better for you (organic = no chemical pesticides) and you are supporting your local farms! How can you beat that?!

This time I went to the farmer's market over by where I work. I must admit that I prefer the one closer to home. The one by my work is more convenient for sure (I can just pop over there after work or on my lunch break),  however, the one by where we live (actually about 15 min away) has more produce plus fish, baked goods, and raw, organic honey. But since we are usually on a time constraint, I have to go with the more convenient one for now.

Now all I have to do is figure out my menu for the next 2 weeks :) I used to make out a menu for 2 weeks and then make my grocery list accordingly, however, now I find that it is easier to go shopping first so I know what fresh produce I can get. I then make out my menu from what I bought - there is so many different meals to make from fresh veggies! All sorts of pasta, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and side dishes - lots of variety! My hubby is even ok with eating them vegetarian once or twice a week!

So the next time you are on your way to the grocery store, keep this in mind! You can even stop at one of those little roadside stands. I know you see them and probably pass them and wonder what they have. They can be just as good as the farmer's market, plus cheap and convenient. You will be eating healthier and supporting your local economy - how can you not feel good about that?!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My First Post!

Ok, so here it goes! I'm so excited to do my first blog post! I have been wanting to do a blog for quite a while now and I always had a variety of things stopping me, like I needed a good camera (which I got for my birthday! I LOVE it!), also I am just plain scared that people will look at me and think that it is ridiculous that I am doing my very own blog. I have decided to step past that and not care what everybody else thinks - it simply doesn't matter! I am doing this for myself, for accountability, and for anyone else who is interested along the way.

So, I went to the farmer's market the other day to pick up our veggies and fruit for the next couple of weeks. I love going grocery shopping! I go by myself - it's so much fun seeing what veggies and fruits they have for the day - there is always something different! I used to plan my meals then go grocery shopping with a big list - but now I go shopping first (at least at the farmer's market) then plan my meals around the fresh veggies and fruits. I will be so sad when winter comes and they are closed :( no more fresh produce! It's amazing what the difference in taste and texture is compared to supermarket produce! I used a melody of the fresh veggies for the pasta below - it is sooo customizable! You can use pretty much any fresh veggie you have on-hand and it will be just as good! You can also add meat to it if that's your thing - chicken, sausage, steak strips - are a few that would be great in it.

So here is my first recipe!  It is very easy and fresh - not to mention delicious!

Fresh Veggie Ratatouille Pasta

*you can substitute any of these veggies for what you have on hand or for your favorite - this is very adaptable!!!

1/2 box whole grain wheat noodles - whatever kind you like the best - i used spaghetti but would be great with penne, spiral, or linguine
1 red bell pepper - sliced lengthwise
1 yellow onion - roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves - minced (can use less if you want - i like garlic so I'm a bit heavy handed with it)
1 small zucchini - thinly sliced
1 small yellow summer squash - thinly sliced
6-7 stalks of asparagus - chopped into ~1 in pieces
1 small eggplant - thinly sliced
1 tomato - roughly chopped
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (either from store or homemade - i use the recipe from Carciofi Sott'Olio on the Food Network - recipe posted at the end - very easy!)
olive oil - either spray can of cooking olive oil or 2 tbsp
5-6 fresh basil leaves
1/3 c parmigiano-reggiano

heat olive oil in large-ish pan - i used my cast iron skillet - and add onion
saute onion until soft - about 3-4 minutes
add garlic and red bell pepper to pan and saute ~2 minutes
add the rest of veggies except tomatoes and include the marinade juice with the artichokes and simmer about 5 minutes
add cooked veggies and tomatoes to cooked spaghetti sauce including sauce from the pan
add freshly sliced basil
add freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
enjoy :)

Carciofi Sott'Olio's Marinated Artichoke Hearts

  • 10 globe artichokes, outer leaves and chokes removed
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon red chile flakes, plus 2 tablespoons, for layering
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 quart extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 quart
Trim the artichokes and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges and rub with a cut lemon. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the artichokes, garlic, chile flakes, and mint leaves and cover with the olive oil. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the center is boiling, remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool in the oil. Transfer the cooled artichokes to a clean jar, adding a pinch of chiles every cup of artichoke pieces, cover with the new oil and seal. To serve, drain the oil and serve at room temperature or re-heated in a saute pan, seasoned with salt and pepper.