Sunday, August 30, 2015

apples....delicious, but dangerous

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When we bought the house last year, we didn't realize we had apple trees in the back yard. I remember seeing "fruit trees" in the listing, but didn't think to ask about it. Last fall we discovered we have two apple trees behind the garage. We had no idea what kind of apples they were and we didn't try them. Thinking back, I don't even remember seeing apples all over the ground. I'm sure there were--I doubt the trees waited until this year to produce.

Anyway, we have lots of apples this year and they've started to drop from the trees. I decided to taste one, but since I haven't eaten many apples in my lifetime, I couldn't figure out what kind it was. I knew it wasn't Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, or Granny Smith; I know those varieties well.  I scoured the internet trying to figure out what kind of apples I have. I posted a picture on Facebook, too. It's been determined that I have Macintosh apples.

Now that I know what the variety, I've become a little...enamored...with the fact that I own apple trees and they actually produce edible fruit that tastes good and won't kill me.  I know, I didn't grow them myself. But I didn't kill them either (I'm a notorious plant killer). So, I have a lot of pride in the fact that I own apples trees, they're alive, and producing fruit.  And I love that I basically have breakfast, lunch, and dinner sitting right outside my back door, if I'm so inclined.

Everyday I go outside and scour the ground for good apples, since the ones still on the trees aren't ripe enough yet. (I'd love to know how I'm going to pick them all, since the trees are really tall.) I get home from work, drop my bags on the top of the recycling bin, and go out back to grab some apples. As I pick them up I check for bruises, holes, spots, and any kind of split.  If one has a few spots or a bruise, I just polish it on my shirt and take a few bites off the good side--I have to make sure they're ripe, of course. ;)  Then I toss it into the field for the deer to eat. I usually do this to at least five apples. By the time I'm done, I'm not hungry for dinner anymore.

The only thing I don't like is that the apples seem to drop fast. The other night I picked up six buckets full of apples that had dropped to the ground. They were either rotted, damaged, or half eaten (the deer like to munch on them).  I tossed them all into the field behind the house; I'm sure some animal will eat them.  Then I went back there the next night and it was as if I hadn't picked them all up the night before.

And these things drop without warning, too. It was like dodging bullets trying to pick up the apples while standing under the trees; one needs a hard hat for this job.  I bent over to grab one off the ground and then one hit me on the back.  I thought Bob had thrown one at me, but he hadn't. An apple fell from the tree I was under. Scary, because it could have hit me in the head. At one point, one started falling and it took ar lest six others with it. Luckily I wasn't standing in that spot anymore. When it comes time to harvest I think I need to invest in a hard hat or a bike helmet!

Friday, August 28, 2015

last night's dinner: mini pizza with goat cheese and tomatoes

Last night's dinner was a mini pizza made with a tortilla and topped with goat cheese and grape tomatoes.  I added a little Italian seasoning and some fresh ground pepper and tossed it in the toaster oven.

Fast, easy, and delicious.  Not too high in calories, either.  What's not to love about that?!  (Not to mention the WARM goat cheese!)

I'm thinking this same combination would work for a rice cake, also.  Maybe add a slice of ham.  I think I'll be trying that tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

rice cake du jour: cream cheese, turkey, and cranberry sauce

Another delicious suggestion from snoskred, although I don't think she uses cream cheese on this one.  But it was too late by the time I remembered. It was still yummy though.  Next time, however, I will be a little more picky about the turkey I use.  I used bistro-style turkey breast from the deli and it was the watery kind.  It was good, but I think the drier turkey breast would taste better.

I used some neufchatel cheese, a slice of deli turkey, and some whole berry cranberry sauce.

Monday, August 24, 2015

rice cake du jour: cream cheese, ham, and egg

Here's another rice cake meal I made--I could really get into this as a habit.  Serious deliciousness!

Thanks to suggestions from a fellow blogger, snoskred, I have new rice cake toppings to try.  This is one of hers and it's so delicious!  Thank you!!

I spread on some neufchatel cheese (low fat version of cream cheese), a little less than an ounce; a slice of ham from the deli, about 3/4 ounce; a sliced hard-boiled egg (I couldn't fit the whole thing so I ate half and put half on the cake); and some salt and ground pepper.

When I first heard this suggestion I'll admit I was skeptical, but it's really delicious.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

correction: what kind of cherry tree is this?

It turns out that what I have in my yard are not five cherry trees, as stated in this post:  what kind of cherry tree is this?.  I have five crab apple trees.  I'm disappointed, but I've read that crab apples can be used for pies and jam.  I think next year we need to plant a few cherry trees out back.

breakfast of champions

I'm headed to the store and don't feeling like cooking this morning, so I'm having my last protein bar and a bottle of water. It travels well. Plus I get 30g of protein to start the day.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

my new pepper grinder

Isn't it pretty?  It's my new pepper mill.

It's not the best picture. but you can see the grinder settings above the black band at the top.

I've been wanting a pepper grinder for a long time, but I haven't bought one because they're ridiculously expensive and I have no idea why.  When I lived at home, my parents had an old pepper mill (and they still have it!) made out of wood.  I always loved using it for some reason.  I think I liked to be copy my dad; he loves pepper.  Plus, it's just a cool thing to use.

Awhile back I bought the little bunny-shaped one that sticks on the side of the range hood, and it works just fine.  And it's a bunny.  C'mon.  I posted about wanting a better one, but didn't have the money to spend at the time, nor did I want to spend $30.00+ on a non-essential item. 

My cousin recently visited and what did she bring me?  A new pepper mill!  I like the little bunny, but this one is better.  It's from OXO Good Grips.  It grinds nice and smooth, and you actually get a decent amount of pepper out of it.  It's like a peppery snowfall coming down on my food.  It has five settings:  I can grind it really course for more peppery bite, or I can grind it really fine, or somewhere in between. I also like that it's not flimsy or too bulky. What I also like is that the grinder is on top so when you put it down it's upright and doesn't leave pepper all over the counter.

A big thanks to my favorite cousin!!

(When I post something on my blog that I want, it has a habit of showing up when she visits. I wonder what I should post about next?  Hmmm....maybe kittens.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dannon Light & Fit Greek Chocolate on Top

Dannon recently came out with a new take on Greek yogurt:  Greek yogurt with chocolate sauce on top

It doesn't have any more sugar than the regular Light & Fit Greek I usually buy, although it has about 20 more calories.  It was only $1.00 so I grabbed a few:  cherry, strawberry, and banana.  It looked delicious.  And what can be bad about yogurt with chocolate on top, right?

I tried the cherry flavor.  I opened it up and it just looked like a pool of chocolate.  I guess I was expecting the chocolate sauce to be a little thicker, but it wasn't.  It was similar to Hershey's syrup.  I was going to mix it all up, but decided to try it as-is.

It didn't taste like Hershey's syrup. At all. I didn't really get any chocolate flavor from it.  I was expecting a chocolate covered cherry flavor, but that's not what I got.  I can't even describe what it tasted like other than to say the whole thing was just really sweet and overpowering.

This is not something I would buy again.  I have two more containers, but I'm dreading eating them.   I will, though, since I spent the money and it was inedible.

One other thing I don't like is that you only get 5 ounces in the container versus 5.3 ounces with the regular Light & Fit Greek.  Not a big difference, but it's a little annoying.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

today's dinner

Yes, I ate a rice cake with almond butter for dinner.  It's MY dinner, right?

I'm on a rice cake kick now. They're low in calories, not too high in carbs, and you can put just about anything on them.

This time I went for Trader Joe's almond butter (I love Trader Joe's) and some cinnamon.  I occasionally make a protein shake with almond butter and cinnamon, so I figured it would be just as good on a rice cake.  And it is!  The only issue is that almond butter can be a bit runny sometimes. It wanted to run right off the rice cake so I had to eat it fast.

Any suggestions for toppings?  I already got a few from my last post, but I'd love to have more.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

my new snack: rice cakes with nut butter

As I've said in the past, I've been looking for new snacks.  Life in terms of eating can sometimes get a little boring after weight loss surgery.  Not because we can't eat anything, but because we tend to gravitate towards the things we know sit well in our new stomachs, or things we know have a lot of protein, or things that are just easy to throw together into a minuscule container; it gets to be too much effort sometimes to keep it interesting.  Luckily I don't have an issue with foods bothering me; I'm just lazy.

I went grocery shopping last weekend and came across these nut butter packets from Wild Friends. They're one serving and there were lots of interesting flavors.  And I couldn't ignore the "10 for $10.00" sign.  You know what that means:  they're only $1.00 each. (You're sneaky Big Chain Grocery Store!) Yes, I'm a sucker for the "10 for $10.00" sign.  I grabbed Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter and Chocolate Almond Butter with Sunflower Seeds.

I decided to get some rice cakes on which to spread the nut butters:  Quaker Lightly Salted.  I haven't had rice cakes in years, so I figured it was worth trying them again. (Years ago there weren't a lot of flavor options.)

The packet says to make sure you "knead and squeeze" before opening.  It's because these are natural nut butters, not the jarred big brand stuff.  I did as I was told.  The Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter was just fine and wasn't liquid-y.  The almond butter, however, was a mix of thick liquid and thick nut butter.  It was a bit uneven to spread, but not messy.

Both of these nut butters were yummy.  They tasted just like the packet says.  The Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter was a nice mix of all three flavors, but I would say there wasn't as strong of a chocolate flavor as I was hoping for. Still delicious and rich, though.  The Chocolate Almond Butter with Sunflower Seeds was delicious also.  Again, I was hoping for more chocolate flavor, but it was still present.

This is the Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter.
I added some unsweetened coconut, which added another 35 calories.  Yummy!

This is the Chocolate Almond Butter with Sunflower Seeds.  It's a little runny, but not too bad.  It doesn't look as appetizing, because I made it at work today.  I forgot to take a picture before I started eating it. Oops!

This made for a very satisfying snack, both in terms of flavor and richness, and satiety.  But it clocked in at about 225 calories, which is a lot when a post-op's standard calorie intake is about 1,000 calories a day.  The rice cakes have only 35 calories, but these nut butters are not low calorie, obviously.  Peanut butter never is.  They're low in sugar, though, and have a nice amount of protein - 6g for the packet!

I would most definitely buy these nut butters again, but I would have to be very careful since they're so high in calories and taste so damn good!

Monday, August 17, 2015

french toast casserole

I've been wanting to try my hand at making french toast casserole.  At my last job, it was a standard pot luck dish for birthdays and other celebrations. The person that made it always made a different flavor each time:  apple cinnamon, bananas foster, caramel apple, etc.  It was always delicious and looked easy to make, but I just never got around to it.  At my current job, one of my team members brings this dish in for birthdays also.  She makes the standard recipe, which is just as delicious.

Bob went camping this past weekend, so I figured that would be a good time to try it.  I decided I would assemble it Saturday night and then bake it Saturday morning, just in time for him to arrive home.

I had all the ingredients except the bread.  I had to go the store for the standard weekly groceries anyway, so I picked up some bread. The recipe calls for French bread, but, of course, the store hadn't baked it yet since I went shopping so early Saturday.  I grabbed Italian bread instead.  I figured the cheapest white bread would be too flimsy, and I didn't want to spend $3.99 a loaf for sturdier white bread.  The Italian bread was $1.79 and there was plenty of it.

I assembled it all Saturday before I left for bingo.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough of the egg mixture to cover it all, but it worked just fine.  It didn't take long to assemble and it was easy.  I'm guessing it took maybe 20 minutes to assemble. Then I covered it and stuck it in the fridge to mix and mingle.

Before refrigeration and baking.

I took it out of the fridge Sunday morning, uncovered it, preheated the oven to 350, and then baked it for 45 minutes. When Bob got home the house was filled with the aroma of cinnamon and brown sugar.  We couldn't wait to dig in!

When I sliced into it, the top layer was kind of crusty, which was nice, but the bottom was a bit soggy; that's what I was afraid of.  It was cooked, but I felt it could have been cooked more.  When my coworker makes it, it's never soggy on the bottom; however, she uses a different bread than I did. Maybe that's the difference. I'm thinking next time I will put about 1/3 of the egg mixture over the bottom layer and reserve the rest for the top layer, since the casserole is baked uncovered.  Or, I might cover and bake for 25 minutes and then finish it uncovered.

After baking.  Look at all that brown sugar!

The top layer is browned and nice and crusty.

We covered it with butter and syrup and then dug into it.  (I used sugar free syrup, of course; this recipe is already loaded with sugar and I didn't want to add even more.)  It was delicious!  Sweet and cinnamon-y, and the bottom edges were all crusty with caramelized brown sugar.

I would definitely make this again, although I might amend it as I mentioned above in order to avoid a soggy bottom.

French Toast Casserole
(I got the recipe here:  Perfect French Toast Casserole)


1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 TB for sprinkling
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 TB powdered sugar
2 tsp white sugar, for sprinkling
Cinnamon, for sprinkling
1 loaf French bread, sliced (I used a large Italian bread loaf)
Butter, for spreading


  1. Melt 1/4 cup butter and add 3/4 cup brown sugar; stir until mixed.
  2. Spread butter and brown sugar mixture into bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  3. Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl.
  4. Lay down a layer of bread in bottom of pan.
  5. Ladle half of egg mixture over the bread layer.
  6. Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and some cinnamon (as much as you want).
  7. Spread a thin layer of butter on one side of the bread for next layer.
  8. Lay the second layer of bread, butter side up, on top.
  9. Ladle the remaining egg mixture over the bread.
  10. Sprinkle the top with 2 teaspoons white sugar and more cinnamon.
  11. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  12. In the morning, remove from refrigerator, uncover, and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

what kind of cherry tree is this?

I need some help figuring out what kind of cherry tree I have.  Actually, I have three of them.

I had no idea they were cherry trees until my sister visited a few weeks ago.  She commented on the tree, saying it looked like cherries.  Rather than look it up, she took one off the tree and ate it; she's brave! She said they are very tart and taste like a cherry. She didn't get sick or drop dead, so I'm certain these cherries are safe to eat.  I tried one today myself, now that they appear to be more mature, and they're extremely tart and firm.

I tried looking it up online using a website that asks a series of questions and show me pictures, but the final result doesn't seem to be correct.  Based on some photos I found online, I'm thinking plain old wild cherries, but could be something else.

So, does anyone know what kind of cherries I have?  I'd love to know, because I now have dreams of making lots of cherry pies!

The cherry is firm, very tart, and has a yellow tint on one side.

The cherries are in bunches of 2 and 3, sometimes 4. 
The leaves are serrated, but the teeth are rounded.

Here's the bark.  (Excuse Lou - he's relaxing in the shade today.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

today's lunch and snack

Usually I post breakfast and lunch, but I forgot to take a picture of breakfast.  So today you're getting my snack instead.

My snack was celery and hummus.  I enjoy it, but I'm getting tired of it to be honest. I recently bought some rice cakes, so I'll eat those with some peanut or almond butter after I finish up all the celery.

Lunch was - surprise, surprise - homemade caprese salad with cherry balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.  I also had a few ham and swiss roll ups with mustard.  It was very filling and actually couldn't finish it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yoplait Plenti

I'm always looking for something different to try, as I tend to eat a lot of the same foods.  What can I say?  I'm lazy.

I found this yogurt, Yoplait Plenti,  in the store last week. It appears to be a new product.  It's Greek yogurt with whole grain oats, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds mixed in.  I really like to add crunchy stuff to my yogurt, so this looked like it might be good.  It has 12g of protein, which is a good thing; 12g of sugar, which isn't bad compared to other yogurts; 140 calories, which is more than I usually spend on yogurt, but all the goodies were already mixed in; and was on sale for $1.47 (that's a lot for yogurt!), so I figured I'd give it a try.

It was OK. Nothing to write home about.  Even though Yoplait has removed the aspartame from its yogurts and the label says it has real sugar, this tasted fake.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe I'm just used to artificial sweeteners now. I don't know.  The oats were chewy, kind of like overnight oats; I don't like the texture of overnight oats. The seeds had a tiny bit of crunch, but really more of a firm chew.

I wouldn't buy this again.  It definitely didn't fill me up the same way yogurt mixed with peanuts does (my usual breakfast). Sure, it's less calories than mixing in peanuts, but there just isn't enough substance there for me. I didn't care for the fake taste, either.  And there's no way I'd more than $1.00 for Greek yogurt.  I'll stick with the Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt and mix in some dry roasted peanuts.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

birdie rescue

I went grocery shopping earlier today and when I got home I noticed a bird stuck in the bird feeder. Luckily the feeder is in line with my car window. Otherwise I wouldn't have seen him.

I tried to pull him out, but he was stuck in one of the wire openings with his wing hung around the wire opening next to it. I grabbed a screw driver from the garage thinking I could pry the staples off the wire enclosure and pull it off the feeder, but that didn't work; the screwdriver head was too big. I then grabbed needle nose pliers with wire cutters on the head. I clipped the wires and then bent them apart. It took a couple tries, but the bird was able to get free and fly away.

I'm so glad he wasn't hurt. He was very calm, too, and didn't screech or try to peck me.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

tiny kittens!

Who doesn't love itty bitty kittens??  I think just about everyone loves kittens.  Well, if you love kittens and want to see them being born and growing up on camera, go here:  Just click on the Watch Live link on the home page and see tiny kittens playing, sleeping, nursing, and just being kittens.

TinyKittens is a foster home for cats and kittens rescued by the no-kill shelter, the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS), which is in Langley, BC. They rely on foster homes to care for kittens and other high risk animals until they are able to be adopted.

Part of TinyKittens' program is fostering pregnant stray, unwanted, abandoned, or feral cats.  That's where the 24/7 live kittencam comes in!  Once a mama cats goes into labor, they set up the 24/7 live feed.  You get to watch the whole birthing process and then get to see them grow up over the course of 6 weeks.  Not only is it educational for everyone, but it's so addictive!  The first time I saw it was while I was on vacation.  It popped up in my Facebook feed.  So I clicked on it.  There happened to be a live birth going on and I got totally sucked in. I watched until my iPad died.  Then I moved to the PC to finish watching.  I then had to regularly check the live feed on my phone throughout the work day. Obviously, the mom and her kittens were usually sleeping, but it was still nice to watch.

Sisko, a feral tortie, is having her kittens right now as I type this.  Actually, I need to go check the feed now to see if kittens 4, 5 and 6 have arrived yet....

Go check it out:

Monday, August 3, 2015

home-grown tomatoes

I did it. I grew my own tomatoes for the first time ever.  I didn't kill the plant and it actually bore fruit.  I've only gotten three full-sized tomatoes so far, but it's a start.

As I've said in the past, I've always been a tomato hater. Actually, a RAW tomato hater.  I've always enjoyed tomatoes any other way except raw slices.  Sun-dried, broiled, stewed, fresh sauce, even raw and chopped for tacos or pico de gallo.  But there was just something about raw, sliced tomatoes. I didn't like cherry or grape tomatoes either.  I think it's the sliminess around the seeds. But something changed this year.  I have no idea why, but it did. I'm suddenly a caprese salad lover; I've cleaned out the bin of marinated mozzarella balls at Stop & Shop twice so far.

So, what do you think I did with the tomato that just ripened, which I grew myself?  I bought some fresh mozzarella and made caprese salad, of course.  I stacked it, drizzled on some balsamic vinegar and some olive oil, and topped it with salt and freshly ground pepper. I kind of went over board with the oil and vinegar, but it worked out OK.  I don't have a good quality, thick vinegar on hand, so I had to use what I had, which was Trader Joe's brand. Good, but too thin for this purpose.  I think next time I will take the time to reduce the balsamic in a sauce pan so it's nice and thick.

(The dinner salad at event I went to the other night was a stacked caprese salad served with a balsamic reduction and topped with a fresh basil leaf.  Delicious! Obviously, this is what inspired me to make my own salad today.)

Here's my first homemade caprese salad. Doesn't look too bad, but it does look like it needs a bathing suit to swim around in all that oil.  I used the whole tomato.  This was a full meal for me. I finished it all but two bites and I was quite full afterwards.

This reminds me of a torte. Sky high!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

my little black dress

I had a wedding to go to last night.  I'm not a fan of weddings.  Sure, I love the food and dressing up, but I'm not into dancing and I usually don't know many people.  But I had to go so I figured I'd use it as as opportunity to buy myself a new dress.

Last weekend I went shopping for a dress with my favorite cousin.  I'm so glad she was there, because she gave me the confidence to, for once, buy a dress that shows off my new figure.  For the first time in my life ever, I went sleeveless and form-fitting!  She helped me pick out some jewelry and shoes.  We also picked out a little lace jacket to wear over the dress, since I was pretty self-conscious about wearing a sleeveless dress.  I've lost a ton of weight, but the tops of my arms are still a bit flabby, so I wanted to be able to hide that if I chickened out.

I'm happy to report I took the jacket off as soon as we got inside the venue!  I felt very exposed at first and a bit self-conscious, but that quickly subsided when I saw almost all the women were sleeveless also.  And there were all shapes and sizes, not just the skinny girls going sleeveless.  Then I thought back to how I looked in the mirror and that gave me more confidence.  For the first time in my life I actually have a shape and it's not round like an apple: it has curves! Having a good, shaped, strapless bra helped a lot, too.  All night I kept telling Bob, "I look like I have a rack!" That helped with the confidence, too.

The biggest self-conscious-fat-girl-no-more moment was in the Ladies room, where there was a big group of skinny women in there chatting, checking their makeup and hair, and laughing.  I felt a bit awkward when I walked in - it felt like high school all over again - but when I looked in the mirror, I realized that I look pretty much like them now.  Sure, I'm not a size 4, but I looked awesome in my dress and I'm no longer the biggest girl in the room.  So, I got over the awkwardness and went about my business as if they weren't even there.

As far as food goes, I ate a lot.  Well, to be fair, "a lot" to me now is totally different than "a lot" when I was 343 pounds.  They had a fantastic assortment of food during the cocktail hour. I ate about two small plates of food: a few chunks of chicken satay, one stuffed mushroom, two bacon-wrapped scallops, one crostini with artichoke spread, two small pieces of beef with gravy, a piece of cheese, and one mozzarella stick.  The salad was caprese salad, which I was thrilled about since that's my new-found love lately.  I had to stop myself from eating it all.  Dinner was filet mignon with mashed sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus; I ate about 1/3 and gave the rest to Bob.  I ate about 3/4 of the wedding cake slice. It was pretty small, so that's not a lot.  Then they brought out cheeseburger sliders cooked to-order and fries. I had just a few fries.  A couple years ago it would have been twice the amount of hors d'oeuvres, my whole dinner, the cake, and several of those sliders with fries.  So, I'm not upset about the amount I ate.  It wasn't all junk or fried food.

So, drinking.  I had two drinks since it was an open bar.  This was my first time really drinking since the surgery. I tried a watermelon martini last summer, but it was too much for me and I gave up.  Last night I had a glass of Bailey's on the rocks and a margarita on the rocks. It took me from 6:30 pm until about 10:00 pm to drink both of those drinks.  Since I drank them so slowly, I didn't get buzzed at all.  Only once when I had three sips in a row. But I made sure to drink a lot of water in between so that helped space it out. And I felt fine this morning.

So here's the dress. I tried to lighted up the pictures a bit so you can see the drape of the dress, but it's a black dress so it's tough.  I love the back of this dress and I'm so glad I didn't wear the jacket!