Thursday, December 25, 2014

merry christmas!

At this time last year I was in my recliner watching A Christmas Story, unwrapping gifts, and sipping on my breakfast of Fuzzy Naval protein drink (BLECH!).  Oh, and suffering from a giant gas bubble from the CO2 they pumped into me during the surgery.  That was my whole day:  Christmas movies and protein drinks. No Christmas dinner and no family other than my husband and cats.

This year, I'm happy to report that I had one egg and two pieces of sausage for breakfast, I'll be able to eat Christmas dinner, and I'll see my family.  Bob has to work unfortunately, but we'll see each other later.

Max says, "Merry Christmas, everyone!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

happy one year surgiversary to me!

One year ago today I took a major step towards improving my health and well-being:  I had gastric bypass surgery.

At this time last year (around 7 am) I was in a hospital bed on the surgical floor waiting to be wheeled into surgery.  And I was STARVING!  I couldn't wait to be knocked out so I wouldn't be hungry anymore.   (I'm sure Bob couldn't wait either.)  Plus, I wanted to get going on the road to a thinner, healthier me.

Two weeks before surgery I had to do a pre-op diet.  The purpose was to help shrink my liver so they wouldn't have a problem getting to the organs underneath.  The first twelve days consisted of three protein shakes per day, one protein meal replacement bar, unlimited salad with fat-free dressing (whoopie! NOT!!), sugar-free Jello, sugar-free Popsicles, pickles, and fat-free broth.  The first few days were tough, but I quickly adapted to it.  Little did I know how tough the two-day pre-op liquid diet would be...

Surgery was on a Monday, so I had to spend the weekend before, the last two days of the pre-op diet, on a clear liquid diet:  sugar-free Jello, sugar-free Popsicles, fat-free broth, and disgusting protein drinks (not shakes).

Have you ever done a liquid diet before?  Do you know what it does to the mind?  Do you know what it does to your bathroom habits??  I was very hungry for most of the weekend .  Sunday morning I had a meltdown in the kitchen, because I was so hungry.  I felt bad afterwards, because Bob just didn't know what to do with me or for me.  What can you do when someone is that hungry, but can't eat, and is having a meltdown because of it?  He couldn't do the one thing that would make it better, which is to give me food.  I tried to keep busy, which is tough when food was my everything.  I went over my sister's house and drank a crap load of clear broth.  And remember I mentioned bathroom habits?  Let's just say that bowel movements don't cease just because you're not eating solid foods.  Imagine the other side of the 24-hour stomach bug, but everything down there is clear in color.  Yeah.  That was fun.  I was worried I wouldn't make it home from my sister's house without having to find a bathroom.  I made it just in time, though.  Anyway...

I went to my one-year post-surgery appointment last week.  A year later and I'm down 130 pounds so far.  I started at 343 lbs and I'm now 213 lbs.  My clothing sizes have gone from about 30/32 to 14/16.  4X down to XL.  Even my shoe size changed - I'm no longer a wide width.  I don't have sleep apnea anymore and I'm no longer pre-diabetic.  I can go all day, pretty much, and not get tired or have to sit down.  My knees don't bother me anymore.  I don't get winded going up the stairs.  I fit into a booth at a restaurant.  I don't have to scope out the whole room for a chair that I'll fit into.  I get full with one item from the dollar menu.  Actually, I couldn't even finish that one item last time I did that.

So, what kinds of problems have I had or do I have now?  No issues with any foods at all.  I don't ever throw up because a food doesn't agree.  Nitrates bothered me at first, but not anymore.  I've never gotten food stuck in my stomach.  I can only tolerate so much sugar, but that's probably a good thing.  I can't really tolerate alcohol, but that doesn't matter to me anyway.  I had some hair loss, but that's normal and it has stopped.  There were times when I cried because I couldn't have "just one more bite" of something.  (Weight loss surgery is really tough mentally.) I still struggle with taking too much food at one time.  Even though I know how much will fill me, I tend to load up my plate and waste a lot of it.  I have a lot of extra skin in my abdominal area.  I can exercise until the cows come home, but it's only going to help to a certain point.  Pants are a problem.  My waist is 14/16, but pants fit tightly because of the extra skin; if I buy a bigger size to accommodate the skin, the legs, hips and rear are too big. Unfortunately, that's the reality of what happens to the body when one loses weight and regains it several times over.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Why wouldn't I want to use all the tools available to me in order to be healthy and feel good?  And that's what this is:  a tool.  It's not a magic pill.  I still had to work and will continue to work the rest of my life.  Although, when the weight just flies right off it's hard not to feel like it's magic.

My next goal?  To be under 200 lbs.

Monday, December 22, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

Today I have a leftover boneless, skinless chicken thigh, which I made on Saturday.  Muenster cheese and peanuts for my snack.  And for breakfast I grabbed a couple sausage and goat cheese egg cups from the freezer.   I made a big batch of these a couple weekends ago and I grab a few when I want a quick breakfast.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

tonight's dinner

Tonight we had grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in teriyaki sauce (I used Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki).  On the side was Rice-a-Roni, Herb & Butter flavor (Oh how I miss having Rice-a-Roni all the time!).

I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Although my favorite is breast meat, the boneless thighs are usually the perfect serving size.  I don't have to weigh it out or cut it in half like I do when I make boneless breast meat.  I know that one medium-sized thigh will fill me.  I go for the smallest one if I want a little of the side dish.  I like to put them in a freezer bag, pour some marinade in, and then freeze them.  That way when you thaw them, you can use them right away.  The marinade seems to penetrate a little more, also.

I had one thigh with a small scoop of rice.  I finished it all, but was very full.

Note:  I'm still using small salad plates for my food.  This is not a full size dinner plate.

Friday, December 19, 2014

mommy's little helper

This is what I get when I try to wrap gifts. 

today's lunch

Today's lunch is leftovers from yesterday's catered lunch at work. 

They had caterers come in and the executives had to serve us. It was pretty cool to see them all dressed in aprons and welding serving spoons.  They served roast beef, huge shrimp and cocktail sauce, stuffed shells, Caesar salad, green beans, roasted potatoes and carrots,  potato pancakes, rolls, dessert, fruit and chicken Francese.  I took a sample of everything except the shells and the beans. No dessert, either. Everything was delicious.As usual I took enough for three meals.  I find I still eat with my eyes. Although I know how much I can comfortably eat,  I tend to load my plate still.

I was lucky to be in the cafeteria today when they were putting out the leftovers.  I quickly grabbed some shrimp and some fruit. I made sure to tell my team right away so they could get some before all the vultures descended. It was funny to see people walking very quickly in an attempt to get to the shrimp before everyone else. There's something about office food that attracts people like nothing else.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

I'm trying something different:  celery with chipotle hummus.

I've been in a rut.  I've been eating the same old thing for quite awhile and I need to stop.  I've been overloading on cheese, mostly.  It's a good snack, but it has a lot of calories and fat (I'm not a fat-free cheese kinda person).  Not to mention that it can be a little...binding..., if you know what I mean.

This week I bought some celery and hummus and I've been bringing it to snack on when I want something.  Mind you, I'm not hungry.  I just want to munch on something. Better this than cheese.  I wouldn't have thought of pairing the two had my good friend not served it to me during our visit.  (She made an awesome salad with grilled chicken and homemade dressing!)

So, here's my lunchbox for today:

  • Breakfast was a Dannon Light & Fit Greek blueberry yogurt.  I mixed in some dry roasted peanuts as usual. 
  • Lunch was some garlic & herb chicken breast and Virginia ham from Walmart.  I never thought I'd buy lunch meat at Walmart, but their Prima Della garlic & herb chicken breast is really good.  It doesn't bother my stomach either.
  • Snack was celery sticks and chipotle hummus.  The hummus has some zing!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

the week in review

Well, actually two weeks, but who's counting?

I started my new job on December 1.  I'm so happy to be done with my last job.  I was only there 10 months, but it was such a soul crushing experience.  I don't thing there's anything worse than having to get up and drive 45 minutes to a job you loathe and deal with a micromanaging boss.  When I went to see the psychologist shortly after I took the job, she said that I need to get out of that job because it would cause me to regain the weight I had lost.  I didn't regain, but I definitely stalled for a long.  I wanted to eat all the time while I was there.  Not only because I was trying to distract myself from the misery, but because that office was like a magnet for all kinds of food.  Bagels, Munchkins, chips, cookies, takeout, potlucks, pizza.  You name it, it made it's way to the office kitchen and into my mouth.  But at the new job, the cafeteria is down the hall and through two sets of doors.  I have to walk a fair distance just to get my lunch from the fridge.  So, I tend not to snack anymore.  Plus, I'm happy.  I don't feel the need to graze all day anymore.  As a result, my weight has started to go down again.

I visited my favorite cousin in Pennsylvania last weekend.  We saw an a cappella show, Straight No Chaser.  They were fantastic!  I strongly recommend seeing them if you like a cappella.  We also did some Christmas shopping and had a "jammies and movies" day.  That means we sat around in our pajamas all day and watched movies.  We watched The Notebook (my eyes were killing me for the rest of the day!), Slumdog Millionaire, Now You See Me, 42, and Chicago.  It was a great trip, but it went by way too fast.

My one year appointment with the bariatric surgeon is coming up next week.  I've lost 130 pounds in a year.  I wish I could have lost more than 30 pounds in the last six months, but it's still a a loss.  I have nothing to complain about:  I'm down to an XL/1X shirt size and a 14/16 pant/skirt size.  Now that I'm happier at work I will start losing again. In time I will make my goal.

Finally, we got our Christmas tree last night.  Apparently we don't know our way around yet, because we drove all over the place for a couple hours trying to find a place that sells trees.  We took one last chance and drove in the opposite direction.  Fifteen minutes later we had a tree!  Now it's time to drag out all the Christmas stuff...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

today's breakfast

Since it's the weekend, I decided to make an omelet with a side of MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage.

Omelets just aren't the same since I had the bypass.  It tastes the same, but a one-egg omelet is a very different animal from a three-egg omelet:  it doesn't fluff up as much, one has to be very careful when cooking it and flipping it, and it has to constantly be watched because it cooks very fast.  I also have to be careful about how much filling I put in it.  If I put too much cheese or meat in it, that means I don't have as much room in my stomach for a piece of veggie sausage.  And that's true with any meal; it's a balancing act.

I added a wedge of Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Garlic & Herb cheese.  I've started using the Laughing Cow cheese wedges more often:  they're only 35 calories a wedge and one wedge covers 5 Ritz crackers or fills a one-egg omelet.  There's also 2g of protein. I always need more protein.  And they taste great.

I had a breakfast companion today.  Max sat on the big Amazon box next to my desk, while I enjoyed my omelet.  He was a good boy and didn't try to snag a bite.  Unlike his brother...

Monday, December 8, 2014

dinner: ham and potato casserole

I made this casserole last week.  It was very easy and I had all the ingredients on-hand, something that almost never happens to me.  Actually, I had another recipe, but it called for a few things I didn't have, like sour cream and Velveeta cheese.  When I looked at the second recipe, it called for making a cheese sauce from scratch, but I had all the ingredients.  I decided that making a cheese sauce wasn't hard and it was probably not quite as caloric as the first recipe.

It came out really good and didn't take long at all.  It took longer to heat up than it did to make the cheese sauce and put it together.

I had just one scoop.  I try not to eat too many carbs, like potatoes and bread, but they're kind of hard to avoid with this casserole.  You just have to decide that one serving won't derail you and stick to it.

Recipe below.

Ham and Potato Casserole

1 32 oz. bag of frozen diced hash brown potatoes 
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped fully cooked ham
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 2% milk (or whatever you have)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp spicy brown mustard (more if you want a stronger flavor)
8 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs, optional
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the ham and onion.  Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir potatoes into ham mixture and then transfer to the baking dish.
  5. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk flour into melted butter until smooth. Cook for about 1 minute, whisking a couple times.  
  6. Gradually whisk milk into flour mixture.  Season with salt and black pepper. Add the mustard Continue cooking and whisking until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in Cheddar cheese until melted.
  8. Pour sauce over ham and potatoes.
  9. If desired, sprinkle bread crumbs and more cheddar cheese over the top.
  10. Bake uncovered until sauce is bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

cold protein plate

I've been running out of lunch and dinner ideas lately.  I'm getting pretty tired of cheese and crackers, egg cups, or Greek yogurt.  I can eat many different things, I just tend to always buy or make the same stuff because it's easy and fast.  But I decided to be different.

I made cracked pepper turkey tenderloins over the weekend and had a lot left over, so I figured I'd slice it up for dinner earlier this week and eat it cold .  The tenderloins came from Aldi and were pre-seasoned.  They were very good.  I added some cheddar and pepper jack cheeses (I always have tons of cheese in the house) and some dry roasted peanuts.  It was a nice easy dinner and it had lots of protein.  I finished most of it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

dinner: turkey tenderloins

Last weekend I made Fit & Active Cracked Pepper Turkey Breast Tenderloins.  I bought them from Aldi and they were pre-seasoned.  Best part is they were only $5.95 for a package of two.  If you've had turkey tenderloins before, you know they're big.  Not like chicken tenderloins.

I baked them in the oven and made a pasta dish for the side.  It was such an easy meal and the tenderloins were very good.  A tad on the spicy side because of the black pepper, but I was fine with that.

Have you ever bought meat at Aldi before?  I go there quite often now that I live closer to one.   I have no idea why, but they seem to have really good meat and the prices are almost always lower than most grocery stores. Their sirloin strip steaks I find to be much better than what I get at the regular grocery store, and it costs less. Plus, each steak in individually vacuum-packed.

This was my dinner.  I had about a 4 oz. portion of turkey with a little of the pasta.  I wasn't able to finish all the turkey.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

headed to amish country with banana cupcakes

Tomorrow I'm driving to Pennsylvania to visit my favorite cousin.  We're going to see an a cappella show, Straight No Chaser, and also plan to do some Christmas shopping.  There's also a pajama day in there somewhere.

I love going to my cousin's house.  I look forward to it months ahead of time, kind of like a kid at Christmas.  Not only because she's my favorite and she has lots of hotel shampoos I like to raid, but because it's like hanging out with my mom.  And I mean that as a huge compliment (hopefully she feels the same way when she reads this).  She's very much like my mom:  she has a great sense of humor, likes to have fun, always has something comforting to say, and is more like a friend with a bit of mom-ness mixed in.

Every time I go to visit I bring her favorite:  banana cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.  Although lately I make cupcakes instead.  It's easier and less time-consuming.  This time is no exception.  The cupcakes are traveling with me right now, actually.  As a matter of fact, I purposely timed this post so that she'll know the cupcakes are coming and her anticipation will build throughout the day. :)

Anyway, this is the recipe I use for banana cake.  No one has ever said anything bad about it.  Even people who don't usually like banana cake seem to like it.  I usually make them and then freeze them.  They freeze very well and they also travel well.  This buttercream really doesn't need refrigeration.  Obviously if it's a mega hot day, they should go in the fridge.  And I wouldn't keep them out for a week.  But a couple days is perfectly fine.

Dawn's Banana Cake
Makes 2 - 8 inch round layers (12 servings) or about 36 cupcakes 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pans.  (I use Wilton Cake Release.  Awesome stuff!  But it's NOT calorie-free.)
  6. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.  (Sorry, I forgot to time it!)  
Note:  For something really delicious, add a bag of chocolate chips.  Yum!  You could also add nuts if you want to.  

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (shortening-based)
This recipe frosts 2 – 10 inch cakes that have been torted into a total of 4 layers, plus some left over for decorating.  It generally will not melt or soften.  It holds up well.

1 2 lb bag of 10x confectioner’s sugar; sift if it's too lumpy
1 stick of salted butter, softened
2 ½ cups regular vegetable shortening 
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla (use clear vanilla from the craft store if pure white frosting is desired)
¾ cup milk

  1. Mix the salt and vanilla into the milk.  DO NOT ADD THE SALT AFTER MIXING THE FROSTING!  If you add it at the end, you will taste a sharp “bite”.
  2. Cream together the shortening and butter.
  3. Alternately add the milk mixture and confectioners' sugar into the shortening mixture.
  4. Mix until well combined and not lumpy.
If you want a stiffer frosting, add more confectioners' sugar or less liquid.  For the liquid you can use anything from skim milk to half and half.  I usually use 1% milk.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

pumpkin bites

This year for Thanksgiving I made something different for dessert:  pumpkin bites.  Normally I make stuffed mushrooms as a dinner side dish and brownies for dessert, but I was tired of making those things.  Plus, ever since King Arthur Flour stopped selling natural cocoa, my brownies recipe just isn't the same anymore.

I got the pumpkin bite recipe from a former coworker.  They're so easy, delicious, and moist.  You mix a box of yellow cake mix, a can of pumpkin (not the pie filling), and a bag of chocolate chips.  Bake in a mini muffin tin and that's it.  I Googled it to see where the recipe actually originated and found it's a Dunkin Hines recipes, although theirs called for spice cake mix instead of yellow.

Although these bites taste good as-is, I wanted to add something to give it a little more pumpkin flavor.  I decided to add some pumpkin pie spice.  The result was delicious!  I'm thinking that instead of a can of pumpkin, I could use a can of pumpkin pie filling, omit the pumpkin pie spice, and get the same result.  I haven't tried it though, so it's just a guess.

The recipe makes about 36 pumpkin bites using a mini muffin tin.

I can eat two of these without any issues from the sugar.

Pumpkin Bites

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 bag of chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Prepare a mini muffin tin.  I use either Pam butter flavored cooking spray or Wilton Cake Release.
  3. Mix the cake mix, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice until combined.  Batter will be thick.  
  4. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  5. Spoon about a tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a bites comes out clean.

Monday, December 1, 2014

skinny syrups: mocha flavor

I went out last weekend and stopped at Home Goods.  I had a gift card I needed to spend and after getting the few things I needed, I still had funds left over.  I visited the food section (I seem to have an obsession with looking at and shopping for gourmet and specialty foods) and found that they carry Torani Sugar Free Syrups.  But I also noticed another sugar-free brand for about $3.00 less per bottle:  Skinny Syrups.  They had Mocha and Peppermint Mocha flavors so I grabbed one of each.

I decided to make a Mocha protein shake.  I made my shake as usual:  4 oz. milk (2% this time), 4 oz. water, 2 scoops of chocolate Bariatric Advantage protein powder, and three ice cubes.  I also added about 1 tablespoon of the mocha Skinny Syrup.  I put it in my bullet blender.

I was expecting more mocha flavor and this just didn't deliver for me.  Really, all it did was make the shake sweet.  I tasted very little mocha.  I'm wondering if it would have worked better using the vanilla protein powder.  But mocha is chocolate and coffee flavors mixed, so I would expect it to taste like mocha when mixed into chocolate protein powder.  I'll try it again and see what happens.  If there's no improvement I'll have to toss this bottle of syrup.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

a new start this week

Tomorrow starts a new chapter in my career.  I'm excited to start the new job, but at the same time I worry that I won't like it.  It's not like me to be unsure of myself.  I normally just make up my mind and go without looking back.  I think the fact that I chose the wrong job earlier this year really shook my confidence and made me doubt my judgment; I was convinced it was the job I wanted.  Two weeks into the job, I realized it was NOT what I wanted and have spent the last ten months trying to get out.  I'm very hopeful and somewhat confident that it will be just what I've been looking for:  I'm back in Management, I don't have to punch a time clock, my boss seems laid back, and the company seems very employee-focused.

So, this weekend I'm preparing for the week to come:  I'm making sure all my laundry is done, I went shopping and bought some food for breakfasts and lunches, I made some sausage and goat cheese egg cups, and I made sure all my new hire paperwork is ready to go for tomorrow.

I'm working three days this week and then I'm off for three days (I got them to include the time off in my offer letter).  Later this week I'll be visiting my cousin in Pennsylvania.  The plan is to see an a cappella show, do some Christmas shopping, have a pajama day, and watch some movies.  I also plan to write out my Christmas cards and watch the Def Leppard Viva!  Hysteria DVD I bought last year and still haven't watched.  I also want to visit the big candy store (for baking supplies, not for candy!) and Kitchen Kettle Village, if I can fit it in.  Oh, and I want to visit a friend of mine, too.

It's going to be a busy week!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

happy thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

I woke up this morning to snow on the ground and it looks so pretty.  Its pretty unusual to have snow on the ground at Thanksgiving in this state.  It's the perfect amount:  the ground is covered, but it's not deep enough to require boots or shoveling.

I'm headed to my sisters house for Thanksgiving dinner today and have a few things to make, so this will be short.  I'll post the recipe later.

Things I'm thankful for:
  • I can eat a little more now than I could six months ago:  More turkey for me!
  • My new job:  Yesterday was my last day at my current job and Monday I start the new one.  Here's to ending 10 months of unhappiness!
  • My kitties:  Even though they like to leave "gifts" on the carpet literally five minutes after I've vacuumed; meow loudly at the bedroom door to get out five minutes after they came in, and after I've gotten all warm and comfy; and knock everything over on my desk.
  • My family and friends:  They're always supportive and have my back, no matter what.  I'm very lucky to have that.  I'm glad I don't have people that want to run my life.  
  • My husband:  He supports me no matter what and makes me feel like I'm the most beautiful person he's ever known.  Even though I love our new house, it wouldn't be "home" without him; it would be just a house.   I couldn't ask for a better husband. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

today's lunch

Today is my last day at my current job! I'm pretty happy about it. I'm headed to our office in another town so I can drop off my keys. I decided to stop at Wendy's for lunch as a treat. Plus I didn't pack lunch today and the weather is crappy.  I don't usually eat fast food anymore so I have no guilt about eating it today. 

I ordered a #1, which is a single patty with cheese,  medium fries, and a drink. I stuck with water since I no longer drink soda. The cheeseburger was good, but I should've ordered the junior cheeseburger.  I was able to eat the whole patty, 90% of the bottom bun, and a bite of the top bun. The bun was just too much bread for me. (Never thought I'd ever say that!) I ate maybe 10 fries and that was it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

mexican chocolate shake

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying to get back in the habit of having a protein shake everyday.  It should be easier now that I'm starting a new job and won't have to leave the house so early.  Instead of getting up at 6 am and leaving at 7 to be in by 8, I can now get up at 7, leave by 8 and be in by 8:30 am.  I know, some people are telling me to suck it up, that 6 isn't early, but it is when you've spent the last 17 years getting up around 7:30 and leaving at 8:20 to get in by 8:30.  It's a big adjustment to make.  But it won't be an issue anymore.  The new job starts on December 1 and I'm getting my protein shake mixes ready to go.

This is one of my favorite so far.  I love the taste of Mexican chocolate.  If you haven't had it, it's chocolate flavored with cinnamon at it's most basic.  It can also be flavored with spices or nuts.  I may experiment with that later.  I'm a fan of chocolate that has a hint of chili or other spices.  Not sure how that would taste in a shake, though.

I made this one yesterday and it was delicious.  It has a really rich cinnamon flavor.  You can use less cinnamon if it's not your thing, though.


Mexican Chocolate Protein Shake

4 oz. cold water
4 oz. fat-free milk (I use Simply Smart by Hood)
2 scoops chocolate protein powder, or whatever your protein container calls for (I use Bariatric Advantage)
1 TB almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB Sugar-Free Torani Chocolate Syrup
3 ice cubes

If you're using a Bullet Blender, Ninja, etc., put the ingredients into the cup in the order listed above.  Blend until smooth.  If you're using a standard blender, reverse the order and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

cinnamon vanilla protein shake

I've been really bad lately in terms of drinking my protein shakes.  I stopped buying the ready-to-drink shakes because I have a ton of protein powder in my cabinets.  For a few weeks I did good with getting up on time for work and had a few minutes to make a shake; however, I've been pushing it until the last minute in the morning and just don't have time to make a shake.  I'm starting a new job in a couple weeks, though, and since I'll be a lot closer to work and don't have to be in as early, I have absolutely no excuse not to have a shake.  

I've been trying to think of different flavors to put in my shakes, but I'm not that creative when it comes to concocting recipes.  What I usually do is scour the internet and then adapt recipes to my dietary needs or taste preferences or the ingredients I have on hand. (Sometimes I even combine recipes.)  This is what I did here with this shake.  I didn't have all the ingredients of the original recipe, so I changed it up a little.  I think this would work just as well with chocolate protein powder.  If you use chocolate powder, just substitute Sugar-Free Torani Chocolate Syrup, or stick with vanilla.  Your choice.

I think I need a smaller glass so my shakes look a little more substantial.

Cinnamon Vanilla Protein Shake

4 oz. cold water
4 oz. fat-free milk (I use Simply Smart by Hood)
2 scoops vanilla protein powder, or whatever your protein container calls for (I use Bariatric Advantage)
1 TB almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Sugar-Free Torani Vanilla Syrup
3 ice cubes

If you're using a Bullet Blender, Ninja, etc., put the ingredients into the cup in the order listed above.  Blend until smooth.  If you're using a standard blender, reverse the order and blend until smooth.

Monday, November 17, 2014

a favorite childhood snack

Well, to be honest, I had A LOT of favorite childhood snacks.  That's one reason why I eventually had weight loss surgery.  But anyway...

I've been trying to think of something different to eat.  I'm getting really bored with eating.  I'm at the point where I want something, I prepare it, then decide it's not what I want.  So I make something else and then decide I don't want that either.  It's driving me nuts.  I suspect a lot of it has to do with my unhappiness at work.  And the other part is that I really need to start eating different stuff. I just haven't made the effort lately to eat something different.

I've really been missing peanut butter and jam lately.  I've been avoiding both of these things ever since my surgery because of the calories, fat, and what I thought was a high sugar content in the peanut butter. I recently discovered that peanut butter isn't as high in sugar as I thought it was.  That got me excited so I decided to buy a jar.  I also bought a jar of sugar-free jam.   Jam is really high in sugar so I don't buy it anymore.  I also didn't like the low sugar and sugar-free jams last time I tried them.  But I found Sugar-free Smucker's Blackberry Jam that's made with Splenda. I thought I'd give it another shot.

Since I rarely eat bread, I decided to put the peanut butter and jam on crackers.  It was good, although not the pure ecstasy I thought it would be.  I think it was the jam.  Even though it's sweetened with Splenda, it just didn't taste as good as the regular jam.  Or it could just be the flavor I chose.  Maybe I should have grabbed strawberry or blueberry.  Either way, it was still a good snack.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

chocolate chip cookies...without the brown sugar

I've said before that I often make recipes without some of the ingredients called for.  Sometimes it's because 1.) I don't like certain ingredients; or 2.) I just don't have the ingredient on hand and I know it before going in; or 3.) I'm lazy and don't read the recipe all the way through and then realize halfway through cooking, "Crap!  I need chicken to make chicken Parmesan?  What is this lunacy??"  It's usually #3, but today it was #2.

I had nothing on the agenda today.  At all.  Nothing.  I was trying to figure out what to do to keep busy and decided I wanted to make cookie dough to freeze.  I was a good girl and checked first to make sure I had the ingredients.  Sugar:  check.  Eggs:  check.  Chocolate chips:  check.  Brown sugar:  nope.  I checked online for cookie recipes and realized all the chocolate chip cookie recipes call for brown sugar.  So then I Googled, "cookies without brown sugar."  I found a few recipes and decided on one to try.  I read through the comments and most people seemed to like the recipe.  I noticed a few people had substituted coconut oil for the butter.  That got me thinking:  I had nearly a whole jar of coconut oil in the cabinet and hadn't yet found a use for it.  I decided to make the recipe using half coconut oil and half butter.

I started getting everything ready and then mixed up the butter, oil, and sugar.  I started to put together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  And...guess what?  I hadn't checked to see if I had flour.  Of course.  There it is.  I looked and realized I had no all-purpose flour, but I did have cake flour.  I looked online and found I could make a small adjustment to the quantity and it would work just fine, so that's what I did.  The plan was to freeze the dough, but, since I hadn't made this recipe before, I wanted to make sure the finished product is edible.

I used parchment paper on my cookie sheets. It's fairly foolproof.   I find that I have a tough time using plain cookie sheets.  My cookies either stick or burn, or they're too crispy when they shouldn't be.  Plus, cookie sheets just never clean up very well.  This way I get evenly cooked cookies and there's no cleanup. :)  I also used the fabulous Silpat baking mat my favorite cousin gave me earlier this year.

These cookies baked up very light in color and didn't really spread at all.  The finished product was soft and chewy and had a hint of coconut flavor.  I will make these again, although I might add some cocoa powder next time.  Recipe below.

I ate only one cookie.  That's my limit when it comes to desserts.  Any more than that and I start with the dumping syndrome.

As you can see, they don't really spread much and they're very light.  I cooked them for the full 11 minutes.
(Raw dough on the left, baked cookies on the right.)

If you want to make the original recipe, go here.  The recipe that follows below is how I made my cookies.

Brown Sugar-less Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies, depending on how big you make them.

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened 
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I used Trader Joe's; it's much cheaper)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Note:  You don't have to buy parchment paper.  You can prepare the cookie sheets whatever way you normally do it.
  2. Cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Add the eggs and mix together. Pour in the vanilla and blend until combined.
  3. Pour the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until combined.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to form tablespoonful-sized balls of dough. Place the dough on the baking sheet two inches apart.
  6. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

last night's dinner

Last night was pork with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn.  Corn is supposed to be a no-no, I guess because of the starch.  But I rarely eat it, so I'm not going to worry about it.

I'm not a big pork eater.  It has to be cooked just right with the right kind of flavoring.  I typically buy pre-marinated pork loins so I don't have to think about what to do with it, but I find them to be pretty salty.  Last night's loin was no exception.  It had good flavor and was juicy, but was a little too salty for me.  I believe I bought it from Aldi.

Yes, I'm still eating on a small salad plate.  I was able to finish most of this plate.  I had one slice of pork, about 1/4 cup of corn and maybe 1/3 of a cup of potatoes.  (I need to get back to measuring, weighing, and tracking.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

the week in review

Last week/this week isn't much better than the last time I reported, although things seems to be looking up.  A little bit.

As you know, we had to say goodbye to Riley this past weekend.  We're very sad, but we're starting to feel better.  It's a relief that we can go to work and not have to worry what's happening to him while we're gone.  We've been so worried that we'll come home to blood everywhere and find him dead on the floor.  The not knowing and the uncertainty was awful.  At least he died in the animal hospital, where they were able to do everything they could to save him.  Riley is buried out by the little pond in the backyard.  I plan on buying some sort of grave marker for him.

The water pump decided to go on my car.  I was having some whacky issues with the heater and now I know why.  Bob will replace that for me tomorrow.

My dad and I celebrated our birthdays together as usual.  We always do that.  I was born on November 6 and he was born November 10.  I'm 40 and he's 80.  Spending time with the family this weekend was really the only high point of my 40th birthday since I had to cancel my birthday dinner.  Riley had to be brought to the emergency vet that night.

So, did anything great happen this week?  Why, yes.  Yes it did...I got a new job!! Finally!  It's been a very long nine months at my current job and I'm so happy I'm leaving.  It just wasn't the right fit for me.  It's an awful thing to not like your job and know that you made the wrong choice.  Soul-crushing, as a matter of fact.  I give notice tomorrow.  I'll be happy to be back managing a department again.  And what's nice is that the commute is half of what it is now.

Hopefully this is the end of the storm that has been pouring on me for the last four months.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

R.I.P. Riley (my special little snowflake)

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Riley today.  He was only with us for about a year and half, but he was very loved and will be sorely missed.

It started about two weeks ago when he started bleeding from the mouth.  We had a few vet visits that ultimately resulted in hospitalization last weekend, a blood transfusion, anesthesia, and stitches (cut under the tongue).  He was hospitalized two more times, one of which was last night.  Blood work looked a little weird so it was sent to a pathologist.  They were thinking possibly hemophilia.  He needed another transfusion last night so we did it.  Bob got call this morning that Riley wasn't doing well.  By the time he got there, Riley was already gone.  Apparently Riley had started bleeding again and they couldn't stop it.

Riley is buried out by the little pond.  I guess that's where the "pet cemetery" is going to go.  It's a nice spot.  The sun shines on it all day.

Goodbye, my special little snowflake.  I'm sure you're running free, over the Rainbow Bridge, with my mom and all the other cats we've said goodbye to over the years.  We love you and will miss you enormously.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

i'm an XL!

I've finally made it...I can wear an XL!

I went to LL Bean tonight to look for a gift for my dad.  When I was there I couldn't help but try some stuff on for myself since I'm in need of warm clothing.  I started trying on jackets.  I wandered around the racks and my first instinct was to go for a 3X.  Then I realized I'm not that size anymore; it's taking awhile for my mind to catch up to my body.  So, I looked at 2X and figured it MIGHT be a little big.  So, then I went to the 1X section of the rack, hoping it would fit, but thinking it just looks too small.  Guess what?  It fit!  So then I tried an XL and thought there's no way that's going to fit me.  That fit, too!

I ended up grabbing two fleece jackets for myself:  one is light-weight (cream) and the other is a little heavier (pink - I'm a purple girl, but it was an outlet store so you take what you can get).

Oh, and I got a gift for my dad, too.  It wasn't all about me.  But it should be. ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

mini muffins

Some more goodies for breakfast.  I took this recipe and changed it slightly to make mini muffins. Instead if using sugar-free caramel syrup, I used vanilla syrup.  And I used frozen fruit since that's what I had on hand.

Mini Muffins

1 cup multigrain pancake mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup Torani Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
Frozen fruit (I used frozen blueberries and raspberries)

Mix pancake mix, milk, and syrup together until combined. Pour batter into a non-stick 24 cup mini muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Fill about 3/4 way up.  Put pieces of frozen fruit on top. Bake at 350 for about 12-14 minutes.

Serve with butter or jam, whatever you prefer.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

mini pancake bites

Don't you just love when it's time to turn the clocks back?  Yeah, it gets dark later, but we gain an hour of sleep today and the day seems really long.

I took advantage of being awake earlier today and made a batch of mini pancake bites.  I'm getting bored of yogurt and peanuts on the weekdays, and one egg with a veggie sausage patty on the weekends.  I still enjoy it, but I need to mix it up a bit. Plus, I had bacon and sausage to use up.

I can eat about four of these.  I dip them in sugar-free maple syrup.  This is when I miss real maple syrup. It's just way too much sugar, though.

These freeze well, so now I'll have pancake bites whenever I want them.

You can find the recipe here.  I used Torani Sugar-Free Caramel Syrup.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

today's breakfast

Today I decided to have some hash browns with my egg and veggie sausage patty.  I was hoping I could finish it, but I couldn't.  I know it's a good thing, but I miss being able to clean my plate.  I know, it's all in my head.  It's just food.

I know, my food looks pretty dreary.  It really needs some color.

the week (month?) in review

It's been a rough month, so I figured it's time for a "week in review" post.

First, the good stuff:

I have FINALLY gone clothes shopping and discovered my pant size is a 16!!  I don't even remember the last time I was a 16.  Shirt size now ranges from 14/16 to 18/20, depending on the store.  I was going to shop online like usual, but then I figured I should try things on in the store because I might be wrong on my new size.  Boy, was I wrong!  So glad I went to the store. I'm happy to say I now own my very first pair of REAL skinny jeans.  And I look good...

I had an interview for a new job and it went well.  I am hoping I get an offer next week.  I'm so ready to move on from the current job.  It's really tough getting up at 6 am and driving 45 minutes for a job that is, at best, an "easy" paycheck.  An easy paycheck might sound great, but not when the work is boring and not very challenging.  Seems like a lot of my time is spent on admin-type stuff and I feel like I'm way underutilized.

I got to see my former coworkers from my old job.  It was so nice to have everyone together again.  It made me realize how much I miss working with them and getting to talk to them everyday.

I got to hang out with the ladies from the Stratford Cat Project.  We hung out with the kitties and had some great food and conversation.

The not-so-good stuff:

My mother-in-law had to have emergency exploratory surgery the other day and she's in ICU.  She seems to be doing well, though, so I'm happy about that.  It's a good thing she got to the hospital when she did, otherwise she might not be alive right now.

My white Persian, Riley, was admitted to the animal hospital last night.  Earlier in the week he had to go to the vet twice because he was bleeding from the mouth.  He had to wear a cone all week to stop him from excessively grooming (they thought it was a cut in the mouth or a loose tooth).  Then yesterday it started up again.  He was bleeding quite a bit.  Later on Bob got a call that he's anemic from the blood loss and they can't sedate him for a checkup until his red blood cell count is up.  Then we got a call at 4 am this morning that he had started bleeding again and lost a lot of blood, so they have to do a blood transfusion.  $800 for that!  But we want him around for long time and he needed it.  We'll figure out the money later.  Now we're waiting to hear what they find.

Something good and not-so-good:

We have an OLD house.  We're on well water.  We haven't been able to locate our well due to the age of the house.  We tried the town records, calling around to well drillers and plumbers to see if they've ever worked on the well, and the town even came out to try and trace the water lines.  Nothing.  One day a few weeks ago Bob was walking around in the family room and said that an area of the floor felt different, like there was a cutout or something.  We said we would pull back the carpet and check it out, but we never got to it.

Well, we lost our water again last week.  And then the power in the bedroom shut off at 4 am that same morning.  And then mysteriously went back on 20 minutes later.  Bob stayed home from work to deal with the water issue.  He decided to cut into the carpet in the family room to see if the well was under there.  Guess what?  It was!  It's a hand-dug well that's original to the house (see below).  Pretty cool.  The modern well head is there also...but it's about 8 feet under the surface of the well opening.  That means, in order to service it, it would have to be several people working on it so one could be lowered into the old well and the others can take care of the safety measures.  Plus, we would have to raise the well head.  And that means it will cost about $4,000 when the time comes to replace the pump, provided there are any plumbers or well people willing to do it.

The plumber came out that day for the water issue and it turned out the problem was a loose breaker in the electrical panel.  It was the one that controls the well pump and that's why we had no water.  Luckily that didn't cost us much.

Bob later went down to replace the breaker and discovered six breakers that were corroded or melted so he replaced them.  That explains why the power in the bedroom went out.

So, the good things in all this are that we found the well (nothing worse than the unknown) and we discovered a very dangerous electrical problem that Bob can fix.

Here's our well.  I had to buy a big area rug to cover the cutout in the floor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Today's lunch is a sushi roll. It's tempura shrimp wrapped in spicy crab meat with tobiko. I haven't had sushi since before my surgery last December so I decided to treat myself.


This roll had 8 pieces and I had already eaten three by the time I decided to post.

I'm getting a little full already!

Monday, October 27, 2014

last night's dinner

I made steak last night, one of my favorite dinners.  I actually hadn't planned on making it, but someone (I won't name any names) unplugged the deep freezer and didn't plug it back in.  I discovered it a couple days later. Luckily everything was either cold or frozen.  But I didn't want to refreeze the steak, so I cooked it.

I was able to eat about 2/3 of the steak, plus the rice and corn.  I had about a tablespoon of each.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

today's breakfast

Today I decided to make an omelet with some dill havarti cheese and a Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage Patty.

I don't usually make omelets anymore, mainly because I can still eat only one egg if I'm having something with it.  Plus, a one-egg omelet is pretty small, which means you have to be careful not to overcook it or to tear it when you flip it.  I started out making scrambled eggs for both me and my husband, but halfway through I decided I didn't want the bacon crumbles and shredded cheese I put in them.   I had some leftover dill havarti cheese from a party so that made up my mind.

I also treated myself to half a glass of 2% milk.  I don't drink milk anymore, mainly because it has a lot of sugar:  16g per 8 oz. glass.  I can probably handle that, but I don't like to chance it.  And I usually don't even remember that I have it in the fridge; I'm too busy drinking water and Crystal Light.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

Remember the Swiss Chard grilled cheeses I made over the weekend?  I had a half of one for lunch today. :) For dessert I had two coconut macaroons (leftover from my party).

Breakfast was two herbed goat cheese and sausage egg cups.

Snacks were dry roasted peanuts and some dill havarti cheese.  I'm really not supposed to snack, but I find it really tough not to snack, especially when I'm bored and unhappy at work.  Hopefully the job situation will change soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

swiss chard grilled cheese

I really wish I could take credit for thinking this up, but I can't.  I learned how to make this from our neighbors at Atkins Barnes Farm.  They open a small farm stand every weekend and offer free samples.  This is where I discovered the Swiss Chard Grilled Cheese.  It's delicious!  And it's "me"-sized. (They use mini ciabatta rolls.)

I bought some Swiss Chard from the guys last weekend in preparation for a gathering I had this weekend for some friends of mine.  It stored very well.  I simply wrapped it in some paper towel and kept it in the fridge.  It was a little less firm than it was last Sunday, but it held up very well.  It wasn't brown or wilted at all.

With all the preparation I had for the party, I decided to cook the Chard the night before and then put it in the fridge.  All I did was chop it up and saute with olive oil.  It cooks way down, just like spinach.

I made the grilled cheeses about an hour before eating.  I reheated the Chard in a small frying pan on low.  I then melted butter in another frying pan, put the bread in (I used 9 Grain from Stew Leonard's bakery), added some shredded sharp cheddar, put some chard on it, put more shredded cheese on top and then put another piece of bread on top.  I cooked until browned, flipped it over and finished browning.  I then put them in a warm oven on a cooling rack set in a cookie sheet so the bottoms wouldn't get soggy.  They kept warm and crispy.  I made four regular-sized grilled cheeses. I then cut each one into fours to make four mini grilled cheeses.

They were delicious and everyone seemed to like them.  I was smart enough to leave enough Chard and bread so I could make two more grilled cheeses the next day.  I ate half of one for lunch and I plan to save the other one and a half to eat during the week.

I know, I know.  I'm not supposed to eat bread.  But I eat bread maybe once a month, so I'm OK with it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

today's breakfast

I had some old friends from my former job over yesterday and we had a great time.  It was so nice seeing everyone again.  Makes me realize how much I miss my old job and the culture we had there.

Anyway, I made artichoke dip, among other things, and served it with crostini from Stew Leonard's.  I thought about making my own crostini, but I was already making a few other things, like those Swiss Chard grilled cheeses, and didn't want to add to the stress.

So, my breakfast today was three crostini topped with artichoke dip, which I warmed in the toaster oven.  Breakfast of champions.

Friday, October 17, 2014

protein balls: recipe fail?

A friend of mine tagged a protein ball recipe on Facebook and I decided to give it a try.  It was only three ingredients:  Vegan protein powder, rolled oats, and a banana.  Only three ingredients?  Right up my alley.  But I was skeptical of how it would taste with ONLY three ingredients.

I made two batches:  strawberry and chocolate.  Both came out identical, even though one had twice as much protein powder.

I used non-vegan protein powder and, on the first batch, added more than the stated amount.  I hadn't planned on adding more protein powder, but once I mixed it into the recipe, the dough seemed very sticky, like there wasn't enough dry ingredients.  And the recipe didn't state the amount of powder to use, actually.  It just said, "one serving of vegan protein powder."  Well, how much is a serving?  Half a cup, a full cup, a whole container?  I posted in the question in the Comments on the Facebook post, but the author didn't answer.  It could be that maybe I processed the dough too much.  The other change I made was to roll the balls in unsweetened coconut.

I then made a second batch with chocolate protein powder, but used what is considered "one serving" for the brand I use.  I also didn't process the dough as much.  I only processed until the ingredients came together.

As far as taste goes, they're pretty good.  But the primary taste is dry oats.  Not a bad thing, but I prefer the more complex taste of other recipes that use some sort of nut butter.

I wouldn't call this recipe a fail.  It's just not a recipe I'd used unless I was truly being lazy, or if I didn't have nut butter in the house, or maybe if I had to use up the last overripe banana.

Strawberry.  I was hoping for a nice pink color, but my husband says they look like meatballs with coconut.

Chocolate.  These look a little more normal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

I've decided to try something different for lunch:  shrimp.  I'm getting tired of the usual chicken, cheese, etc.  I had some in the freezer I forgot about so I defrosted them and there you go.  I also added some leftover stuffed mushrooms and extra stuffing from my get-together over the weekend.

Breakfast was the usual Greek yogurt with peanuts mixed in.  It's weird that I've become such a yogurt eater by choice.  I used to eat it a lot, but only when I was on yet another diet.  I got really sick of it.  But I like the Greek yogurt; it's thick and creamy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

something new to try: swiss chard

I visited the neighbor's farm stand this weekend and stocked up on some veggies.  They'll be away next weekend and therefore won't be open.  I bought some eggplant for a recipe I want to try.  It's kind of like eggplant parm without the sauce.  I also bought more tomatoes to make sauce, four heads of garlic, and some Swiss Chard.  

I have to say, I was quite shocked at how large the Swiss Chard leaves are.  I didn't think the guys would be able to get the bunch in the little bag for me, but they did.  They take up half a shelf in the fridge! I've never cooked with Swiss Chard before, but I'm told they cook down to almost nothing, similar to spinach.

My neighbors have been making samples with the Chard and it's delicious.  They make these awesome Swiss Chard grilled cheeses on ciabatta bread.  This weekend they used 9-grain bread and it was even better.  (I purposely walk down there for the samples, although I do buy something while I'm there.)  They also invented two desserts:  Swiss Chard Tarts and Swiss Chard Mini Pies.  So delicious!  You would never know it's made with a leafy green.  It's got brown sugar, raisins, and other yummy stuff.

So, they've convinced me that I need to make the grilled cheeses at home for some company I'm having next weekend.  I can't wait!  I'll be sure to post a pic of the finished product.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lily's No Sugar Added chocolate

Lily's has become my new go-to chocolate when I'm craving something sweet.  It's rare that I crave sweets nowadays, but it does happen occasionally.  

I'm one of the post-ops that can have sugar in small doses.  It's not totally off limits, but I can't eat as much of it as others can.  I'm somewhere in the middle.  Two bites of [insert sugary dessert here] and I'm done.  One more and it's usually too much.  I start dumping:  my stomach feels a little queasy and I get tired.  Four bites?  Forget it!  I did that twice and I won't do that again.  I felt nauseous, dizzy, very lethargic, and I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out or throw up.  It lasted about 20 minutes and then I was fine.  I guess if I'm willing to go through that for an extra bite of dessert I could, but who wants to feel like that for the sake of 30 seconds of pleasure?

Although I've found some low sugar or no sugar treats, I still have to be careful because there's often sugar alcohols, which can cause diarrhea and such.  But I don't have to worry about that with Lily's.  It's sweetened with Stevia, so any sugar alcohols are kept to a minimum.  Even though I don't have to worry as much about dumping, I still don't go overboard.  Three squares is about it for me.  It satisfies my craving with a minimum of calories.

The price tends to be abound $4.00 a bar.  I don't mind paying that, though, since it lasts me a long time.  I buy mine at Whole Foods.  

This chocolate tastes great and it's smooth.  I feel that it tastes the same as regular chocolate, but some people think it's a slightly different taste.  Could be.  Depends on your palate, I guess.  I think the texture is the same, too.  It's not crumbly or grainy.  It's nice and smooth like regular chocolate.

Monday, October 6, 2014

homemade tomato sauce

Last weekend I went to the farm stand up the street and bought some rather large heirloom tomatoes.  At first I was going to make some sort of dish in an effort to make raw tomatoes appeal to me, but then I decided to make homemade tomato sauce.  It's something I've always wanted to try.

I started looking at recipes online and quickly realized there are many different ways to make tomato sauce.  Some say to blanch the tomatoes and then peel them.  Some say just chop up the tomatoes and throw them in the pot.  Some say to puree the cooked tomatoes, others don't.  I even found one that said to roast the tomatoes in the oven.  Aside from the different cooking methods, how do I know which one has the taste I'm looking for?  I decided that I would take the elements I like from different recipes and make it my own.  One recipe had the seasoning I was looking for, while another had the cooking method I wanted.

The sauce came out really good, although I might reduce the oregano next time.  It just seemed a bit much.  But it might be fine for someone else.

Here are the pics:
(recipe follows)

My ingredients (not the bananas!).  Three heirloom tomatoes weighed more than three pounds!

After the tomatoes have been blanched, peeled, and chopped.  Look at that color!  
These tomatoes are the Kellogg's Breakfast heirloom variety.  I know, weird name.

Tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper, and cooked Italian sausage.

The cooked sauce.

Bob's dinner.

My dinner.  I didn't have the pasta.  I spooned the sauce over some ricotta cheese.  Yum!

Homemade Tomato Sauce

3 pounds tomatoes (whatever kind you like; I know nothing about tomato varieties)
1 pound cooked Italian sausage (or ground beef)
1/2 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
3 TB dried oregano
1 1/2 TB dried basil
3 bay leaves
salt to taste

  1. Brown the sausage or ground beef, then drain the excess fat.  Hold aside.
  2. Blanch and peel the tomatoes:  Cut an X in the bottom of each tomato.  Put into boiling water for about 45 seconds.  Pull them out with a slotted spoon and immediately put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Peel the skins off.  Very easy!
  3. Chop the tomatoes, removing any of the tough white parts.  This can get messy so make sure you use a big cutting board.  Put chopped tomatoes in a large pot along with the cooked meat, diced onion, pepper, and garlic cloves and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste to the cooked tomatoes and stir to incorporate.
  5. Add the seasonings and stir.
  6. Turn burner to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours.  This is to incorporate all the flavors into the sauce.
  7. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  8. Pull out the bay leaves.
  9. Sauce is finished!