If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Once again, I got the eye roll from Young One when I was taking pictures of my breakfast. He just thinks it's hysterical and more than a little bit weird that I take pictures of food. And, when you really think about it, it is.

This is one of my favorite breakfasts. It packs in a few serving of fruit, a dairy serving, and some fiber. Best of all, it takes seconds to throw together and it's delicious. The Weight Watchers Points value depends on what kind of fruit, yogurt, and granola you use, so I didn't include the calculation for the bowl of goodness I pictured above.
I'm not even going to create a formal recipe. You don't need it, right? It's just a big bowl of mixed, fresh fruit topped with your favorite yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farm Organic Fat Free Lotsa Lemon), and a sprinkle of low fat granola. I think it's a rule somewhere that every breakfast should be accompanied by a huge cup of coffee or two. I'm not a rule breaker, in fact, I'm a bit of an overachiever. I'm working on cup number three right now.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Wish the Scale Would Lie

I blabbed on and on about how when on vacation one should just enjoy oneself and forget about counting Points, etc. I still agree with that. Well, I'm paying for it. The scale was really depressing this morning. Nope, depressing is the wrong word. It was honest. Time to get back on track.

I did enjoy myself on vacation, including NOT counting Weight Watchers Points for everything that I put into my mouth. We were very active, walked miles and miles every day, but apparently not active enough.

Time for some tough love or better yet, honest appraisal. I have not been working the Weight Watchers program for a few weeks now. I'm not mad at myself. I'm not giving up, resigning myself to this weight, this body. I'm not sad. I really don't want to give into that feeling of failure that causes so many people just to say, the hell with it.

For over a year now, I've been trying a different approach. Self love sounds too New Age or pornographic to me. But, that's pretty much what it is. I'm not going to beat myself up for a number that a box of springs flashes at me. It's just not in me anymore to be hard on myself. I'm worth more than that.

Admitting the truth is so much easier. I haven't been measuring my food, I haven't been counting Points. I haven't been formally working out. Back on track, back on the wagon, whatever you want to call it, that's where I am right now.

I can't imagine a life of constantly measuring my food, but at this point, I can't imagine a life still at the size I am. So, I guess if I need to measure my food til the end of time, that's what I need to do.

On a related note, I would like to know why it is physically possible to gain a big number of pounds in a short time period, but that it takes three times as long to take that same number of pounds off. I don't want a scientific explanation for this, I'd just like to know, WHY? As in, kicking, screaming, three year old tantrum-like fit, drawn out, whining, WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEE?

The Bacon Explosion

I saw this on Good Morning America this morning. It actually made me a little sick just thinking about it. Pork sausage meatloaf stuffed with crispy bacon and rolled in bacon and then BBQ'd.

I think they forgot several pounds of cheese, some lard, and twenty seven egg yolks. I mean, if you're going to post the recipe for a heart attack, you might as well go all the way.

Great publicity stunt. I'm sure they're getting tons of hits and for that, I say kudos! But, the recipe--ew. I actually think my arteries have clogged just glancing at the recipe.

Read the details here, if you must.

Diary of a Portrait

We're terrible about taking pictures of each other and we hardly ever get the three of us in one frame. I love pictures and I'm usually the snapper, but having a kid that has hated (with a passion so deep, you can't imagine) his picture taken, it's been too much of a hassle to keep trying. Being overweight, I've rarely wanted myself captured for all eternity. D is the same way. I have more pictures of him with his tongue out than I could possibly want.

We're all working on it and mostly it's me insisting that I will not move one more step or allow anyone else to until a picture is taken. It's kind of a tantrum in a silent, tenacious mom way.

All of that said, we've had our camera for quite a few years now. It's been on many trips and we love it. For the price, it takes great pictures. It's a Kodak EasyShare Z740 if you must know. Extremely user friendly, which was so important to me, and it shoots stills in various settings and videos. We've rarely used the timer function (for all of the above mentioned reasons) and so I was determined to get a family picture somewhere on this trip, even if it meant using the timer.

Now, I took countless pictures of families while we were strolling the theme parks. They all looked so awkward, trying to use their timers without success. I just had to step in, but one thing amazed me about every one of these encounters. Not one family offered the favor returned. Not one. I won't go on and on here about their manners. I'm hoping that it was a cultural difference (in many cases the tourists were Japanese or Argentinian). I'm hoping that we haven't lost all sense of courtesy to each other in this country!

It was our turn to try using the camera timer. We had taken a much needed nature break. I couldn't handle the contrived perfectness of the theme parks anymore. We visited a 14,000 acre wildlife refuge, which, I found out once we got there was owned by DISNEY. Of course, I couldn't escape their reaches even for one minute. This park, however, only cost a few dollars to get in, and it was blissfully EMPTY. No whining kids with their rude parents trying to cut lines, no expensive concession stands, and best of all, no rides ending in gift shops. It was "old Florida", raw and untouched. We hiked for about an hour and came to this beautiful, quiet lake. I was hoping to see a gator in the wild, I've always had a fascination with them since my best friend from nursing school who was raised in Florida told me that occasionally a kid would get eaten by one when they went swimming. A part of me knows she was kidding, a part of me knows she was not. We joked that once we got home after all the craziness of taking these pictures, that there'd probably be half a dozen alligators in the background that we missed because we were so busy.

Here's the lake. Isn't it eerily beautiful? Spanish Moss would look so funny in Minnesota. Young One said, "You can just buy it at Michaels and hang it on our trees." Yes, we could, but then we'd be the weird family on the block.

Here's the first picture the camera timer caught. I think it's lovely. Yep, that's my shirt.

I think it's on! Let me look closer. Yes, the green light is flashing, I can see it with my piercing stare.

D: "You're never going to make it, run. It's flashing, the green light is flashing, hurry..."

Young One: "This is so dumb. I'm so embarrassed. Adults are so intimidated by technology. Is it over yet?"

There she is! It's the best we could do and, seriously, this is the only one that turned out. I look a bit like I'm hiding, but hey, everyone is smiling even though our legs are killing us from squatting and I'm out of breath from running back and forth to the camera about one hundred times. There are several more of my thumb, the sky, and the picnic table that we balanced the camera on, but I won't burden you with them.

No gators in the background! At least, none that I can see!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I AM an Athlete
Competive Mopping Anyone?

Why can't I get a cool injury? I mean, like a torn something or other from making the final goal in a playoff hockey game. I'd even take Tennis Elbow, whatever the heck that is. No, me, I pull some muscle in my butt while vacuuming. I'm in serious pain and yet, I'm laughing. This has to go away on it's own because I simply cannot go to the doctor and tell him what's hurting and how I did it.

If you must know, the pain started early this morning when I walked across our family room. Yep, I'm talented enough to injure myself just walking. I was rushing around looking for something to send with Young One to his class garage sale today. Yes, he knew all about it last night, and yes, we could have done this earlier, but we like to leave things for 4 minutes before the bus is coming, when lunch isn't made yet because I forgot about it last night, and Young One's stuff is scattered all over the house. I finally found a card game to send along and in my rush to stuff it in his backpack while he was trying to run out the door to the bus stop, I felt a little lurch. "I don't have time for this," I thought. I had errands to run and the house to clean, laundry to do, and a ton of paperwork to catch up on. There were library books that needed to be returned, a couple of letters to be sent, and I needed to drop off a donation at the food shelf.

I headed out to run my errands, hitting the grocery store last. It's funny how there's not much time in Minnesota that is ideal to leave your groceries in the car for any length of time. Summer is too hot, winter is too cold (frozen lettuce is not delightfully crisp). You've got to plan the timing on these errands and the grocery store is always last on my list. Anyway, I was picking up a few things, including a ginormous bag of dog food, when I felt another twinge. "Nope, not going to give in," I thought. As I sped through the rest of the aisles, it was getting more and more painful to walk. Crap.

Remember the good old days when they unloaded your cart for you, bagged your groceries, and carried them out to your car all for much cheaper prices than we're paying today? Well, I don't shop at a store that still does that. Yes, I'm a cheapskate and I guess I could have asked for help at the store because they will help you if you ask, but I was too embarrassed to admit that I hurt my butt. I can just imagine in the lawsuit happy society that we live in that if I would have admitted my injury, they would have called an ambulance. Imagining my red face when they overhead paged, "butt injury aisle 2". I soldiered on.

Groceries in the car, home again, and hauling everything in, putting everything away, sweating, cursing, but not because my butt hurt again. Sweating and cursing are part of my routine of getting the groceries home and put away. I figured it was just a passing pain because it was just a twinge at that point. Onward and upward!

I needed to get some laundry tumbling and vacuum the whole house. Down to the basement, then up two flights to the upper story to start vacuuming. Vacuum down the stairs and into the kitchen, breakfast area and family room. I'm in the home stretch. Alanis is screaming through the acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill on my iPod and I'm loving it. Thank you Alanis for giving me angry music to clean by, it gets me through. One last room and I'm done and can have a late lunch.

Snap. Rip. Burn. Howl. I broke my butt. I quit.

Now, I'm a RN. I know I didn't really break my butt and this has to be just a passing thing. But, grrrrrr. I have so much to do and it all involves moving. Right now, I can't do much of anything. It's funny how this works, right. Just when you think you've got it all planned out, WHAMMY, God hits you with a curve ball. I'm going to use it to my advantage and do some of my sit down jobs. Now please, God, clear this up for me so that I don't have to go show my doctor my butt. I don't think I could stand the humiliation!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Counting to Infinity

Grocery shopping this week had me mentally tallying Weight Watchers Points. I know that's the POINT (pun intended) of the program, but I found it irritating this week. I'm finding that I can almost calculate the Points without a handy dandy calculator and I'm beginning to think this is the beginning of a new obsession.

This isn't a bad behavior by any means. Being mindful about your dietary choices is important, but I'm missing the carefree days of our vacation when I wasn't keyed in on Points. I made relatively good choices on our vacation, although I caved in to a donut craving that seemed to have no end. I can't imagine traveling without nibbling my way through the region. In fact, that's one thing that I refuse to do.

Now, at Disney's Epcot, watching your Points might as well go out the window. Your choices at visiting Epcot's world are to either shop or eat your way around it. Being the cheapskate that I am, there's no way you'd catch me shopping with those prices. We snacked, alternating salty with sweet, through the countries. It was fun, I rationalized that the miles of walking we were doing was balancing it all out, but in reality, I know that I couldn't possibly work off the fish and chips from "Great Britain" and the pastries from "France" in a day's worth of walking.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm crabby. Maybe it's donut withdrawal. Maybe it's the fact that I came home to more laundry than one should be allowed to do in a week and dirty bathrooms (I just didn't get them done before leaving, although I wholehearted tried.) I have a hard time transitioning back into our real world. I'd love to figure out how to be on vacation for a living, but I haven't quite gotten that one sorted through yet. Sometimes, I just don't want to be a grown up and this is one of those times.

If I was a devout Weight Watcher, perhaps I would have counted and measured and played the game on our vacation. I should have, I know, since it's a "lifestyle change" as WW crams down our throats! I just don't think I'm ever going to change that part of my lifestyle that says, enjoy your vacation, run away from life for a while (including worrying about everything that you eat), and just relax.

No, there's no thinking about it. I'm positively, 100% sure that I will never count Points on vacation. Sorry, Weight Watchers, I just don't have it in me.

What's for Dinner?

I've always been a menu planner, but it's not something I've posted often on my blog. Menu planning helps me stay within budget, keeps us on track nutritionally, and stops those last minute runs to the grocery store. I also try to plan around the schedule of our week. If it's a busy week, there are less fussy recipes. I plan for leftovers. I always have meals from the freezer.

I've been more mindful lately of planning around what's on sale and what I already have on hand. All Recipes is a great website that will allow you to search by ingredient. Check it out if you have a few things in your pantry that you think you will never use up. You just might be surprised.

When we were newly married, money was really tight. I planned right down to the specific day just what we would eat. I had this great calendar that eventually ended up being on the computer. That was right around the birth of the Internet which, from what I remember was used for saying hi to people in chat rooms and asking "What are you doing?" This calendar was really slick and looked so organized. It actually made me feel like I knew what I was doing and that I was much more organized than I really was. The problem with the calendar was that we never felt like eating chicken on the day chicken was planned. It became a mess of crossed out meals and arrows pointing to the new day things were planned. I just knew Martha Stewart didn't have this problem. She'd probably eat something just because it was on the calendar for that day, right?

My planning is just a list now and I keep it in a big drawer in my kitchen where I also store recipes I've printed off the Internet or ripped out of magazines. Never take a used magazine from me. There's a guarantee that the calorie free fudge brownie recipe will be missing. If you get really into an article, I'll have torn out the last page. I wouldn't want you to miss the last four rules of the Ten Rules for a Blissful Marriage because there's a fabulous recipe for buttermilk pancakes on the the reverse side of the page.

Lunches are sandwiches, soup, fresh and frozen leftovers, salad, etc. I don't really plan for lunch except to make sure we have deli lunch meat, cheese slices, bread, salad fixins, etc. I always plan for treats, desserts, baking, etc. It helps me get a good picture of how many calories I'll be using during that week. I always keep a freezer drawer full of frozen vegetables and then just pick and choose from them when it's time to make dinner. I sometimes will eat a bag for lunch. I also always purchase whatever fresh vegetables that catch my eye at the grocery store (and are affordable).


Chicken Vegetable Stew (from the freezer)

Sesame Garlic Steak with sauteed baby bella mushrooms (Steak marinated in Bragg's Sesame and Ginger Dressing--you must keep a dressing like this on hand for stir fry, marinades, and of course salads!)
Baked Potatoes with Butter Buds, fat free sour cream, and dried chives
Steamed Veggies

Taco Soup
Fresh Fruit

Oven Fried Chicken
Honey Ginger Cooked Carrots
Wild Rice

French Toast
Frizzled Ham (deli ham, quick heated on the griddle)

Split Pea Soup (using the ham bone from Christmas from the freezer)
Biscuits or garlic bread

Coffee Roast (Eye of Round roast rubbed with Velvet Hammer Merlot Beef Rub I got to try these rubs when I owned my food business. They're phenomenal! You can make your own coffee rubs too, just search the Internet.)
Roasted Root Vegetables (drizzled with just a touch of maple syrup in the last 30 minutes of roasting)

Honey Mustard Chicken* served over Jasmine Rice or on buns (depending on my mood!)
Steamed veggies
Tossed salad

Fettuccine with Feta and Shrimp*
Tossed Salad
Baby Green Beans

Roast Sticky Chicken (If you didn't catch this one when it first stormed the Internet, you'd better try it now. I use this method every time I roast a chicken--just change the seasoning. I always stuff my Roast Sticky Chicken with quartered oranges and onions. Squeeze the orange juice over the bird before stuffing
Mashed Potatoes


Crustless Pumpkin Pie--just use a can of pumpkin pie mix (not plain pumpkin), add egg substitute according to can directions and fat free evaporated milk, bake in a 9x13 inch pan until set and chill. Serve with Cool Whip Free.
Black Bean Brownies--Young One ate 3 of these before I told him what was in them. Then he refused to eat any more. He LOVED them before I told him the secret ingredient. I'm just going to make them again and tell him that they're "normal" (as he put it, "I just want NORMAL food.")

*Starred items were recipes that were developed by my partner and me and sold as intellectual property when we sold the business. These recipes cannot be shared, although I've altered the titles. I wish I could share the Feta Fettuccine recipe--that one took me so many trials to get right!!! I added shrimp to my original recipe just to mix it up a bit.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Don't Like To Spin and Scream while Hurtling Through Space at 110 mph

I don't like fast amusement park rides. So, while the boys hit a few rides that would turn me inside out, I watched people and took pictures.
I was feelin' artistic on this day. Our Minnesota landscape is white this time of year. Everywhere you look there is snow and ice. It's beautiful in its own, stark way, don't get me wrong. To have flowers and foliage year round would be delightful. Or would I get bored? I do so love the change of seasons. When we lived in the South, there were still changes in season, but they weren't as dramatic as the Northland. We haven't had a chance to live in a tropical climate yet. At this point in the winter, I'd be willing to give the tropics a try for a year or two. Maybe I'd just get cabin fever in the summer when it was too hot to be out for very long!
Anyway, I'm rambling on, when what I meant to do was just post a few pictures and move on. I hope you enjoy!

Disney's New Childcare Program

With budget's tightening across the United States, Disney has had to make a few changes in their programs. Take their childcare program. It used to be you could hire a delightful Mary Poppins type person to care for your child(ren) if you and your spouse wanted some much needed alone time. Due to budget cuts, Disney has had to make some changes. Above you can see their new program. We thought it worked nicely and visited a gift shop to purchase the home version.

I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Honestly, I've never figured out why you'd take a family vacation just to pawn your kids off on some stranger so you can have time alone.

Stepping off soap box in three, two, one...

Young One has never liked to have his picture taken, but this trip, he asked for a few shots to be captured. So, of course we'd do everything we could to take a picture if he asked for one! We waited a long time for the manner-less brats that kept budding in front of us to get their own pictures taken. That's one thing about a theme park, you'll see all kinds of people from all kinds of places. It took everything in me not to try to teach some manners to the crowd at this moment. Anyway, we finally got the shot and Young One was happy.

I'm off to push/nag the child into doing more of his makeup homework. It really is too bad that they don't have a home version of this. It probably would be very motivating. Or add a short desk in front of it, clip them in, and let the homework happen.

Kidding again, really.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We're Home, We're Tired, We're Still Smiling

Makes me sad to think that we only have one more day of this togetherness and then it will be back to our regular routine.

We're back, we're tired, but I wanted to post a picture or two. More later.

Vitamin Water is a Rip Off

Those expensive bottles of so called Vitamin Water are a rip off. Yes, I like their convenience, but they're just as environmentally damaging as regular bottled water. (Even if you are a fanatic about recycling, some of them slip through to the landfills). Yes, they taste good. Yes, they have vitamins and minerals and are made with fruits that sound exotic and enticingly delicious.

But, you can make them yourself for much much cheaper. Simply splash 100%, no sugar added juice into your ice water. Yep, it's as simple as that.

And you've got a delicious, extremely low calorie, "Vitamin Water" without the guilt about purchasing the plastic and without the expense.

Make sure your juice is 100% and that there is no added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other additives. Avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague (I think they're the source of all sorts of problems). I love to use cranberry juice.

This makes getting in all those extra glasses of water, required by Weight Watchers, much easier for me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chicken Yum Yum

I found this recipe online and tweaked it a bit to suit my family's taste preferences.

Deliciously Sticky Chicky

Serves 6 at 4 WW Points per Serving

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup salsa (your choice hot or mild)
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Put the breasts in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Whisk remaining ingredients (except cornstarch) together until they are well blended. Pour over the breasts. Coat both sides of the breasts with the sauce. Bake in 400°F oven for approx 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Remove breasts, keep warm pour the sauce into a sauce pan stir in the cornstarch that has been mixed with a tbsp of water, bring to a boil and allow to thicken whisk constantly.
Pour over the chicken & serve.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"You Have to Make Yourself a Priority"

"Putting yourself back on your to do list."

These quotes are from Oprah. The Great One.

Her weight gains and losses have all been in the public eye. I've talked about how much I feel for her because of this, but that's not what I'm going to write about today.

Today, I want to talk about how so many of us have taken ourselves off our to do list. It's so true. And I don't think Oprah is enlightening or earth shattering in making this declaration. I did it. I did it for almost ten years.

I gave and gave and gave and self-sacrificed to the point that my well went dry. Oprah said that she is happiest when she is giving to others. That's me. Totally. And about 2 years ago I started to get really crabby and resentful and pissed off at the takers in my life. And a year and a half ago, I put myself back on my to do list and joined Weight Watchers.

I'm no longer resentful for giving of myself because I'm not doing it to the point of being self-sacrificing. I'm back on my list and I'm not taking myself off again.

I'm writing this on January 5th, the day that Oprah discussed her weight gain, scheduling this to post when I'm on vacation. So, it's probably old news. It's probably been blogged about endlessly. That's OK. It's still relevant now. In fact, it will always be relevant.

If you're reading this, I challenge you to put yourself on your list. Take a little time each day to take care of your body, your mind, and your spirit. You are worth it.

Find your bliss. Find your self. You can.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oven Baked Breakfast

There are many versions of baked oatmeal out there on the web. This is one of my favorites because it doesn't require making it the night before. Oatmeal is one of our favorite winter breakfasts. I especially love steel cut oats--think it's my Scottish heritage since they are also called Scottish oats.

Baked Oatmeal

Serves 6 at 5 WW Points per serving.

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan. Combine all ingredients together.
Spread in prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
Immediately spoon into a bowl. Top with warm milk, fresh fruit or brown sugar if desired.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Just Like Grandma Used to Make

Swiss Steak

Old fashioned Swiss steak, just like Grandma used to make. I've skipped the browning of the meat and vegetables and it's turned out just fine. Serves 6 at 5 WW Points per serving.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, shredded or chopped--I like them in bigger pieces
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste

In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Lightly coat the round steak pieces in the flour mixture.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the celery, onion, and carrots about 5 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, and set aside. Brown the round steak pieces, and cook until lightly browned.
Place the vegetables and steak in a slow cooker. Mix in the tomatoes with juice, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
Cover, and cook 8 to 10 hours on Low, until the round steak is very tender.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Winter Grilling

We use our grill year round. Now, yes, in Minnesota, that sometimes means pulling on our snow boots before heading out to the grill! I've been craving kabobs, so came up with this. I hope you enjoy!

Great served on a pita!

Greek Kabobs

Makes 12 kabobs at 4 WW Points per kabob.

1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 green bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces

In a large glass bowl, mix together lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, oregano, and garlic; add pork, onions, and green peppers, and stir to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat. Thread pork, peppers, and onions onto skewers.
Lightly oil grate. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or to desired doneness, turning skewers frequently for even cooking.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Open Sesame

Sesame Green Beans
I absolutely adore sesame oil so these green beans are my favorite. Serves 4 at 2 WW Points per serving.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Warm a large skillet or wok over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, pour in canola and sesame oils, then place whole green beans into the skillet. Stir the beans to coat with oil. Cook until the beans are bright green and slightly browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in soy sauce; cover, and let sit about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lovely Lemon Tilapia

Lemon Garlic Tilapia

I always have tilapia in the freezer. It's inexpensive, easy to cook, and delicious. Best of all Young One will eat it without complaint! Serves 4 at 3 WW Points per serving.

4 tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Rinse tilapia fillets under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.
Place fillets in baking dish. Pour lemon juice over fillets, then drizzle butter on top. Sprinkle with garlic, parsley, and pepper.
Bake in preheated oven until the fish is white and flakes when pulled apart with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Soup in a Hurry

Taco Soup

Serves 6 at 4 Weight Watchers Points per Serving

1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel
corn, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken
1 (10 ounce) can chunk chicken--I use cooked, chopped chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained

Open the cans of corn, chicken broth, chunk chicken, black beans, and diced tomatoes with green chilies. Pour everything into a large saucepan or stock pot. Simmer over medium heat until chicken is heated through.

Top with baked tortilla chips and fat free sour cream, but be sure to include any toppings as additional Points.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Citrus French Toast

Citrus French Toast

In honor of the Sunshine State that I'm currently visiting, I offer you this recipe. I absolutely love the orange marmalade glaze that accompanies it. Super easy, make it ahead and enjoy a simply fabulous breakfast.

1 loaf French baguette bread

1 1/2 cup Egg Beaters Egg Beaters

2 cup fat-free skim milk

3/4 cup fat-free half and half

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

9 Tbsp orange marmalade

Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut French bread into 9 slices and layer in pan. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.Preheat oven to 350.Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Heat marmalade in microwave until warm. Cut into 9 servings, top each with 1 Tbsp warm marmalade.1 serving = 4 points

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Black Bean Brownies?

This recipe makes the rounds at Weight Watchers Meetings and online on the message boards. I've avoided it because I just can't get around the fact that there are beans in the brownies. I'm all for pumpkin in my chocolate cake and zucchini squash in my muffins, but this one was a tough sell for me.

Little did I know they would be so delicious. Low in WW Points because the beans are so high in fiber, you won't notice there are legumes in your dessert.

Black Bean Brownies

1 can (15oz)black beans
1 box (16 oz) plain brownie mix
2 egg whites

Process black beans in food processor till smooth. Add to dry brownie mix with egg whites and stir till mixed. Bake in 9 x 13 pan sprayed with PAM. Bake at 350 for 15-18 min. minutes or as directed on the brownie box.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Great Snow Escape

Once a year we head out of the frozen North to somewhere sunny. It's an escape we look forward to and scrimp and save for all year.

Two years ago, we went to Orlando to escape the stress of our business and to make some very crucial decisions about it. It's hard to be anything, but a big smiling kid in that town! So, when planning our trip and looking at where we could get super cheap flights last fall, we ended up choosing Orlando again. We thought it would be nice to go back without the weight of the world on our shoulders!

We're looking forward to escaping the cold, escaping the stress of day to day life, and watching Young One grin. We take a very relaxed approach when it comes to exploring Disney World or any other theme park. We watch the harried families rush around and we just relax and enjoy whatever we're doing. We also like to escape from the theme parks and explore some of the other things that Florida has to offer. Last time we were there, the highlight of the trip, was watching manatees in their natural habitat.

I've scheduled some posts for when I'm gone.

We'll be home on the 24th!
(Below is one of my manatee friends. I named him Chuck. I would still be there watching if D and Young One hadn't pulled me away! Hope I get to see him again, or maybe his brother Larry and his sister Mabel.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Are you Excited?

I love going on vacation. I love the freedom, the no worries, the smiles. Who doesn't love it?

But, I want to go as a man.

I don't gripe about my husband. I don't like sitting with a group of women listening to them bash their husbands in a united front of naggy bitchiness. I would never do that to D. He's just too good to me for me to be so disrespectful of him.

So, this isn't a gripe aimed directly at him. I'm aiming it at the entire species, sorry, sex. Along with the ability to pee just about anywhere you wish, getting ready for a vacation as a guy is one of the things I most envy.

My lovely neighbor asked me if I was excited about heading to Florida next week and my answer was a hesitant, yes. But, then I quantified it. "There's too much to do standing between now and then." She's one of my kind, she got it completely.

You see we women have a lot on our plates and we can keep them up on those itty bitty sticks spinning in record numbers. Guys just can't do that. And I'm OK with that. If D and I traded jobs, I would fail monumentally and he'd most likely get everything done at home, although it would happen one task at a time (and my standards would have to change.) I'm not saying I couldn't bring home the bacon, I have. But he can bring home a bigger pig than I can, so he works outside the home.

I'm definitely fine with the roles that D and I have. We're very traditional in that respect. I take care of the home, he makes the money. I'm liberal, independent, and strong, in no way the "little woman". He's right there vacuuming, cleaning, helping around the house when specifically directed OR when I have a hissy fit or don't feel good. We're a team, but I'm definitely the team captain when it comes to our home.

That brings me to why I'm not quite excited yet for our vacation. If you're a woman, you're going to completely understand this. My to do list has spread like a virus to become several volumes. My to do lists have to do lists. I have sticky notes and reminders, packing lists and lists of errands. I've got the next few days planned out better than Patton planned his battles.

By the time we leave next Wednesday, I'll have cleaned the house (because who wants to come home to a mess), done the laundry, done the laundry again, done some more laundry, packed, repacked, and reorganized the repacking, purchased anything we need, stopped the mail and the paper, figured out the timers on the lights, and figured out who's going to babysit Young One's rodent (hamster) and the fish tanks. The thermostat timer will have been reset and the library books returned. I'll have helped Young One pack more than his iPod and two Legos for his in-flight entertainment. I'll have cleaned out the refrigerator, emptied all the garbage cans, and wound the grandmother clock. I'll have fed the birds (since the bird store lady told me that's a sure sign your not home) and made sure that the neighbors all know we're not going to be around. I'll have taken the dogs to the vet for their last minute vaccinations and picked up a new comfy outfit to wear on the plane (since I have none because my clothes are too big~ insert victory dance here). I'll have refilled prescriptions, cleaned the bathrooms again, and taken the dogs to the kennel. I'll also have visited my grandmother, gone to the middle school open house, and taken Young One to play dates, orchestra, and book club. I'll have asked someone to shovel the driveway or at least drive their car on it to look like someone's home in the event of snow. I'll have tried to fit in a lunch with my mom and maybe coffee with my friends. Somewhere in there, I will have tried to sleep, waking in the night to add things to the to do list!

D will throw some shorts and t-shirts in a bag, toss in his toothbrush and razor the morning we leave and wonder why I collapse into our plane seats with a People magazine and a stricken look on my face (WHAT DID I FORGET?)

No no no, it won't be like that. By then, I will have been lulled into vacation land, having wandered the airport buying the above mentioned People magazine at an inflated price that makes me feel GREAT that I'm on vacation and I'm spending a lot on a magazine that I could have purchased before to save a few bucks, but then it wouldn't be my traditional spend too much at the airport on a magazine and gum ritual.

I guess I'd be excited right now if I was a guy. Until then, I'm off to cross some things off the lists!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Soap Nuts

No, it's not a new snack food. No, you can't eat them with your oatmeal. They've been around for centuries and are finally catching on here in the States.

Chaotic Peace has detailed them, reviewed them, and is giving them away here.

Yes, I'm trying to win the sample, because I'd love to give them a try. But, I'd also like you to know about this blog that I stumbled upon. I really like it. So, throw your hat into the contest and check out Chaotic Peace. I think you'll like it too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck
Homemade Chicken Broth

Watching your pennies and your waistline? You've got to make your own chicken broth! You can freeze it in ice cube trays or larger containers. I like to use the ice cube trays that I've picked up in the free boxes at garage sales. That way, I can pop out a few cubes to add to cooking veggies. You won't believe how great they taste with this little addition!

I use chicken broth to cook wild or white rice in. I use it to start soup on a busy day. Cook potatoes in it or add to potatoes as you're mashing them and they taste great without additional fat.

Always a cheapskate, I have a hard time purchasing something that I can so easily make on my own. After we have roast chicken, I always make soup or broth from the carcass. If I don't have time that week, I'll throw the leftovers in the freezer for another time. The spices you've used to roast the bird taste great in the broth!

You can make broth in the crock pot too, which is great if you have to be away during the day.

Chicken or Turkey Broth

One chicken or turkey carcass
2 bay leaves
one chopped onion
garlic--lots or little, you decide
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
several stocks of celery cleaned and roughly chopped
water to cover

In a large stockpot or crock pot add all ingredients. Cover and simmer on low on the stove top several hours or on low in your crock pot for 8 hours. Strain and refrigerate until fat rises to the top--or use a gravy separator to remove fat. Label and freeze. If you're placing in ice cube trays, freeze until solid and then store cubes in zip bags.

So, Oprah is Still Fat

Poor Oprah. Watching her yesterday explaining how she, as the most visible woman in the world, just wanted to be invisible. I've been there.

When we owned our business, I had to make a lot of appearances. TV, radio (which wasn't painful), newspaper, and public speaking. I liked the appearances, but I hated mine. Seeing yourself in full glory with the additional pounds the camera adds (rationalization yes, I know), is painful.

You see, when you're overweight, you go through life in denial of your true self. And then when you see it, wham, it hurts. The biggest misconception about heavy people is that it's something we have in our control and that we're lazy and just won't do something about it.

It's bigger than that. As Oprah is finding out, it is about love and loving yourself. It is about putting yourself back on your to do list.

I'm tired of hearing, "If I had Oprah's trainer, chef, wealth, (or fill in the blank with whatever you think she has that is the secret of her weight loss), I would be thin too." Apparently, she's just like everyone else and all her riches, her privilege has nothing to do with her weight loss or gain. She's just like the rest of us.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Whining is Good for the Soul

"I don't want to go to school today."

"Um, kid, neither do I."

We were whiners this morning. That first day back to school after vacation is rough. Why is it you can continue to get up early throughout most of a vacation, but then the first day back, your alarm will jerk you awake? I swear, we could have slept until noon today.

Young One and I talked about how there isn't one kid that's just dying to go to school on this day. Sort of misery loves company. All uniting as one displeased crowd today. He found it astonishing when I told him that there isn't one adult that's just dying to get back into the routine today. (Like we're all just bounding out of bed saying, "Yes! I get to slog to work today." Or "Fantastic, the dirty bathrooms and mountain of laundry are calling my name!")

We were both better by the time we drove to school for early orchestra practice. Yes, of course, the first day back we have to get there EVEN earlier! (insert whining tone here) I truly believe that a little whining is good for you. Get it out there and over with. As long as you're not making a day long habit of it, whine away.

I was raised to hold it in, always paste a smile on your face, don't talk about it, and pretend everything is always OK. That can be so very damaging. I suppose that's why we talk and talk and talk in our family. I'm always pushing my guys to talk it out, talk to each other, let your feelings out. You feel better once you do.

Now, if I could just approve of procrastination and avoidance. Somehow, I just can't rationalize why I'm sitting here typing and not working out! All right, all right, I'm going!

Friday, January 2, 2009

She's not MY Mom

Aside from the fact that I walked around with my zipper down all morning today, I had a pretty good day. I'd like to think I did it intentionally, you know, sort of like spreading holiday cheer, making people laugh. But, I think it's because my pants are too big and the zipper doesn't lock well. Not a good combination.

These sort of things don't bother me. I can laugh things off pretty easily. Not so, my Young One. Perhaps it's just this age, but I feel as if we've entered a whole new planet. Pre-teen Pluto. Didn't they take away Pluto's planetary status, though? What a bummer that must have been for all those poor Pluto-ites.

I can't do much that doesn't embarrass him in public. I won't hug him, smile, tell jokes, or in any way show that I have a relationship with him. It's sort of an unwritten rule we have. Privately, at home, I'll tease him on ways that I could embarrass him if I chose to do so. Or, I'll reminisce about the time my dad picked me up from school wearing his 1957 letter jacket (ripped, torn, and worn to shreds), his pull on muck boots, complete with assorted muck, and his underwear showing through the tear in his pants (This, before that was the style. These were the Preppy years of plaid skirts and argyle). I was mortified.

At home, however, he still calls me Mommy. I love that.

I remember this age very well. Feeling so self conscious about everything. Your feet are too big for your body, it seems. You're awkward and trip or knock things over easily. Perhaps it's just that you're humiliated at the normal bumbling that comes with being a human being. Heck, I drop things, fall down, and am just generally clumsy and I'm almost forty! I don't know, though. It must be more like your body is growing disproportionately and just when you think you have your spacial relations figured out, you grow out of them.

Remember that age? When you start noticing people as more than just that guy in your math class, but he's THAT guy in your math class. Remember, after your health class on reproductive health, when you realize that your parents have had sex? It's about this age. Remember blushing at everything? Remember feeling like you walked around with a spotlight focused on you and that everything you did or said was under scrutiny by all your peers?

There's nothing easy about it. You just have to slog through and be mortified and embarrassed and sensitive. It's part of figuring out who you are. I have to admit, I'm both enjoying and sympathizing with Young One as he goes through this age. Every day that he gets older, the problems become bigger. A slight by a good friend at a party can wound deeply. Then in the next moment, he's trying to impress our neighbor's son (who's OLDER) by speaking with a deep voice.

A friend that I worked with long ago told me that your kids need you more as they grow older. She was so right. It's nice to know I'm still needed. Just please, give me wisdom to say and do the right things.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy 2009!
I have such big hopes for this New Year. A new president, a new chance to make this country great again.
I'm also so grateful for so many things. This time of year provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect. We're constantly blasted by the news on how many people have not and how horrible this recession is. Let's face it, though, compared to many other countries, even our very poor are rich by their standards. Whenever I'm feeling the "I wants", I want something, I think about an experience Young One and I had volunteering. We went to Feed My Starving Children. A fantastic organization that packages and ships life sustaining food to people who are starving. They show you a video before you begin working that talks about just how very hungry these people are. So hungry, in fact, that mothers make mud cakes to ease the hunger pains of their children. One of these mud cakes is framed on the wall. I can't imagine that hunger, nor can I imagine what these mothers feel when their children are crying out and they can do nothing.
As a young child, I spent some time with the Russian immigrants who owned the land we drove through to access our hunting land. I have two clear memories of time with them. One, being told not to drink the large glass of "water" that they would offer me as it was homemade vodka. And second, I remember complaining to my parents about how I was "starving" and could we please hurry up and GO! Very quietly, Fedor said, "Ah, but have you eaten grass?" I've never forgotten that moment.
My goal this year is to help the hungry. It's not a resolution. It's something I've always done, but something I feel I can do more of. Because I have so much, I have so much to give.
Happy New Year to You! May this be a time of good reflection and much happiness.
I have no idea why the spacing won't work on this post. I'm not going in to edit the HTML because I'm too tired and I don't think I should have too. Dang Blogger, get this error fixed, please!

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!