Archive | May 2012

Pastalicious Pasta with Chicken and Green Beans

I did it! I did it! I whipped up a dinner with what I had on hand!
I know this doesn’t sound like a great feat, but for me it is. Like I’ve said before, I’ve never been a woman able to just throw a delicious meal together. My mom is a “work with what you got” whiz. Unfortunately that skill didn’t rub off on me growing up. At least not in the cooking department.
Tonight I was planning grilled chicken salads when I opened my veggie drawer to find we only had romaine and tomatoes. That won’t cut it around here. I had to figure something out.
This idea almost sent me into the usual panic. I scoured the fridge, cabinets and freezer. I’ve used up all the packaged foods in my quest to be healthier and a better, smarter cook. All of my typical backups are no more. No mac & cheese, no frozen dinners, no canned crap. I have to stop, think, think, THINK. I do have thawed chicken tenderloins, I do have pasta (unfortunately it’s NOT whole grain, but it’s better than nothing), and I have the internet.
Search terms: easy pasta dishes, easy chicken and pasta dishes. Using Google’s awesome recipe thing, I can eliminate items I don’t have and check things I do. I find a tasty looking recipe, which I don’t have all of the ingredients for. Figures. Just then, something began to happen. My mind started working in new ways. I started to visualize the ingredients I do have; chicken, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes; then remove the items I do not have; lemons, parmesan cheese; the item I can swap; penne pasta for my linguine. Wow, that sounds pretty tasty, actually! I think I can pull this off!
I look back to the recipe for cooking instructions and decide to check out the reviews. One of them stated they’d added a veggie to the dish during the step of garlic, red pepper flakes and oil sauteed. Now that is something I would love to do. As luck would have I had leftover, uncooked, fresh green beans from my sister’s visit. πŸ™‚ Perfect! I’m feeling like I have made so much progress in this short amount of time. I cooked the dish, served it to the kids, and asked for reviews. But first, here’s my recipe. πŸ˜€

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Pastalicious Pasta with Chicken and Green Beans

1lb pasta
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1+ cup fresh green beans
3 gloves garlic, sliced or chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3+ tbs extra virgin olive oil
Italian seasoning
Seasoning of choice for chicken

Cook pasta according to package. Drain.
On George Foreman, or in pan, cook chicken until done. Remove from grill or pan. Slice.
In large pan, add garlic, red pepper flake, green beans and olive oil. Saute until desired doneness.
Place cooked pasta in pan. Turn off heat. Mix well. Pour pasta into large bowl.
Add chicken to hot pasta. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
Optional: Season dish with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with parmesan.
Serve with Italian dressing to be stirred in individually.

It was a hit! Both kids added parmesan cheese, one also added salt and pepper and Italian dressing. I added a tiny bit of salt and pepper. I asked what we should call it and my son suggested Pastalicious.

Now my husband just got home from work. I reheated the dish in a stir-fry fashion and served it up. Success! He’s loving it with a little salt and pepper.

*Exercise note for today:
I walked for one hour, 3.62 miles, burning 303 calories.
Yesterday I biked for 8 miles, about 45 minutes, burning 330.
I’ve been toying with the idea of trying out bodyrock.tv. I’ve been a little hesitant because I’m really a huge chicken. Today I downloaded their new app and tomorrow I will take the fit test, then start on the May 30 Day Challenge. Wish me luck!

My Boy Has Been Groomed and I Saved At Least $30!

By boy, I mean dog. I do this myself, in my home. I do not own a grooming table. Sometimes I wish I did, though. I sit on the floor and do my thing. It is not very easy on my legs, back or neck. I know that if I did have a table my body would thank me, but I don’t think my baby boy would enjoy it as much as he does. He even falls asleep during the cut! He’s so sweet. πŸ™‚
I started doing it myself because it seemed every time I got him back from the groomer’s I wasn’t very happy. He always had clipper lines all over. Maybe it’s because my mom does hair (on people, not dogs), but seeing those clipper lines drove me crazy. I paid a lot of money for him to be groomed and I didn’t feel like he should have lines all over the place.
One day, after picking Tank up from a visit to the salon, I finally told my husband that I could leave clipper lines for a lot less money. We decided to go price some dog clippers and see what I could do.
We didn’t look at anything fancy, I wasn’t planning on going into business or anything. We just headed to Walmart to see what they offered. I ended up buying a set for about the same price as ONE visit to the groomer. So if I can pull off a decent looking cut we’ll save tons of money!
That was years ago, and today I am still my little man’s groomer.

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Isn’t he precious?!?!
To this day I use the same clippers we purchased at least 5 years ago, maybe 6. It may be time for a new set, but it has definitely been much more cost effective to do it myself. He looks great, people often ask where he gets it done and are always surprised when I tell them it was me. πŸ™‚
I hope everyone has had an amazing Monday, gotten in some exercise and eaten healthy! I walked 3 miles today. πŸ™‚

What are some things you do to help save your family money?

Oh, My Delicious Dinner!

First off, let me apologize for not getting a photo of this insanely easy and tasty meal.
Here’s the story:
We make baked bbq chicken quite often using skinless, boneless chicken breast, breast filets or tenderloins. We love it and it always comes out perfect.
That was last night’s dinner plan.
I’m watching calories and was cutting it close to my daily budget so was just having a big salad and our daughter is working towards a vegetarian diet, so that means there’s going to be extra. (Maybe the boys can handle it?!) She asks if she can have a veggie burger instead, which then leads to my son asking for one, too. Surprisingly, he loves those things! Now this means only one person is having chicken, and I just put 4 breast filets in the baking dish and smothered them in bbq sauce.
Leftovers… We’re not good with leftovers. We almost never eat leftovers. I try to cook just enough food because I know that most leftovers will be wasted.
But it was too late. The dish was already prepared and headed for the oven. I had to think of something. I’m not (yet) a woman that can throw things together and create a wonderful meal for her family. I need directions, a recipe, something. Usually.
Thanks to a recipe I tried very recently, I was actually able to think up (think up? is that really the best I can do? it is right now) a leftover dinner ON MY OWN.
I present to you:

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

Leftover bbq chicken, cut into very small pieces
6″ corn tortillas, 2 for each quesadilla
Shredded cheese, Mexican blend or your choice (due to availability we used cheddar)
Optional, choose any or all:
Fresh Spinach, chopped tomatoes, chopped bell pepper (I’m thinking red sounds awesome), any fresh veggie that sounds good to you.

When I was putting the chicken into a container last night I made sure to scoop out lots of the bbq sauce so the chicken would still be smothered. This made the quesadillas absolutely delicious

Okay, on to the cooking instructions. I used a flat, square skillet(?). To be sure I have plenty of room to flip the quesadillas I only make one at a time. There’s room for two, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’m not a pro.

Heat pan over medium-ish heat.
On a flat surface (I used a large cutting board to prep four at a time) lay out bottom tortilla.
Stack with desired amount of cheese, chicken, and any veggies.
Top with second tortilla.
Spray heated pan with cooking spray.
Using hands, or wide spatula, place quesadilla on heated pan.
Heat until browned and cheese is beginning to melt or melted.
Flip, carefully and quickly. This will be trickier (is trickier a word?) the more you have in it. Hence, the reason I choose to cook one at a time.
Once browned, remove from pan.
Re-spray and repeat for remaining quesadillas. They cook pretty quickly and it gets smoky after a few.

You may want to dip in salsa, sour cream, or guacamole. Maybe all three!

They turned out much better than anticipated. I’m very happy with the results and so is my husband!
The kids, of course, had theirs a little different. Child #1 had cheese quesadillas, and kid #2 likes his with cheese and salsa on the inside.

Each one, depending on your chosen ingredients, is under 300 calories. To keep it low cal, I suggest having a nice side salad with it. We actually had two quesadillas each, plus some homemade tortilla chips as an appetizer.

If you try this recipe I hope you enjoy it! If I left anything out, or you have a question, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.
Good night!

My Amazing Morning Run, My Fastest Mile

Before bed last night I get my clothes and shoes ready and set them out. I plan my quick and small morning snack to give me fuel for my early morning run; my mile challenge for the week. I’ve got my head ready. I can do this, wake up early, get my run in before I have to get the kids up for school. I did it Monday and it was great! I go right to sleep.
My alarm goes off. I get up and push snooze. I just want to snooze it one time then I’m getting up and getting ready to run. I lie back down. The alarm sounds again.
I get up, I eat, I have a small glass of water. I put on the clothes I set out last night, my shoes. I stretch. I head out the door. I set up my tracker as I make my way to the sidewalk across the street. I walk for 5 minutes to warm up, then start jogging. I’m feeling good. My feet are landing just right. I keep reminding myself to land softly; I don’t want to aggravate my shins. I move off the pavement and run in the grass to lessen the impact. I’m feeling great!
I’m not feeling tired or winded yet. It feels like I could run forever. I glance at the tracker and it seems I’m making excellent time. I don’t remember exactly what it reads, but I know I’m happy with what I saw. Ecstatic even!
I reach the half mile mark and I turn around. I’m still running. This is by far the longest distance I’ve ever ran, and I keep running. I’m not tired or winded. I don’t understand why I’m doing and feeling so great, but I love it so much.
I run all the way back, with long, meaningful and athletic looking strides. I’m running like someone who trains and runs everyday. I’m running like a runner!
Once I reach 1 mile I slow it down and begin to walk. My cool-down. I can’t believe what just happened. Why am I not winded? Last week was so hard, I didn’t do nearly this great and I walked part of it.
Once home I check my time…
Under 6 minutes?! Really?!?! This can’t be! I just ran faster than every person on my team. I’m elated! I’ve never felt this amazing, this accomplished! I go right to my team’s thread and post my time.

I begin hearing music. Breaking Benjamin. I love this song. I hear it every morning. Every morning while my husband’s alarm is sounding off. I start to awaken. It IS my husband’s alarm. I was asleep. I slept through my running time dreaming about running! Seriously?!?!?! Ugh…
Time to wake up the kids.

Fitness Friday

I think I’ll start by saying today was another smoothie success with my husband. I whipped up a Peach Banana Strawberry batch for the two of us and he loved it. It looks like I need to start buying two tubs of yogurt at a time now, which is fine by me. At least I know my baby is getting some nutrition before work.

For Friday I decided I’d make it Fitness Friday. I talk about food most of the time so why not dedicate a day specifically to fitness. That doesn’t mean I won’t discuss fitness other days, or food on Fridays, just that fitness WILL be discussed on Friday no matter what.
Typically I’m not much of a schedule person. I often go through periodic phases of feeling like I need to adopt a workout program, then drop it after a week. I’ve made great progress doing things my way, but sometimes I feel stumped and need a kick to get me going again. So I suppose the programs do serve a purpose for me; they get me back to doing me.
I’m all over the place with my workouts. Currently I’m using my stairs as a great workout. I try to do it everyday, but that doesn’t always happen. I use an app called Cardio Trainer to track while I’m going up and down my 14 stairs. I started doing 3 minutes, progressed to 5, then to 10. At 10 minutes I burn right around 90 calories (according to the app). I’ve been thinking I wanted to up the challenge a bit, but wasn’t really feeling adding another 5 minutes to it. While I was running up and down and getting close to hitting 10 minutes I realized what to do, I’ll change my goal from 10 minutes to burning at least 100 calories. It was perfect! I ran up and down those stairs for 12 minutes, burning 109 calories. πŸ˜€
I also love Tabata intervals which really get you going and rev you up for your workouts or for your day if you do it in the morning. A quick, 4 minute high intensity workout is just the thing most of us need with our busy lives. I follow the Tabata workouts at bexlife.com. She has lots of other videos, too, not just Tabata and not just workouts.
On Lose It! I’m part of a team called Runners are Losers. We have weekly challenges like the One Mile Challenge. Each week we try to beat last week’s mile. I’m happy to report that I continue to improve weekly!
Also, I have several workout apps on my phone. Some have lots of different exercises to choose from, some are daily workouts. I actually have 5 Daily Workout apps; daily abs, daily arms, daily legs, daily butt and daily cardio. I don’t use them daily, but they are great when I’m in the mood to target certain areas.
I love walking, biking riding and finding new ways to get in some calorie burns during my days.
There is one program that I’ve been sticking with. I’m currently on week two, day three. It’s a 3 day a week, 6 week program with a test every two weeks. Curious? If you’re interested in improving your upper body strength and don’t terribly mind pushups, then you’ll find this challenge appealing.

Hundred Pushups


You start off doing an exhaustion test. You do as many good form pushups as you possibly can. This test will determine how you start your program. I can only do 2, maybe 3 pushups on the toes so I’m doing this program from my knees. Once I complete the program on my knees I plan on repeating it doing real pushups. Like I said, today is week 2 day 3 for me. I have to complete this challenge with 120 second rests in between each set (each day is different):
16
17
14
14
Max (at least 20)
This looks very scary! I haven’t yet maxed that high. My highest is 19 and that was week 1 day 3. I’m praying I can accomplish today’s challenge so I can move on to week 3. Tomorrow will be another exhaustion test which will determine where I start for week 3 and 4. I can’t wait until the day that I can drop and do 100 pushups!

Well I want to know what YOU do for fitness! Are you a program person, a gym person, a wingin’ it person? What has and hasn’t worked for you? I’m always up for hearing stories and learning new things so please comment with yours!
I look forward reading your responses!

Smoothie Lovin’

Smoothie success is happening! Maybe not financially, or famously, but in my home. Yesterday my daughter asked if I’d make her one for breakfast when I made mine. Then, after telling that to my husband he asked me to make him one, too! I haven’t even been able to get him to taste one! Getting that man to eat breakfast can be difficult. When I’m able to he usually wants a bacon egg and cheese bagel sandwich, or a classic egg breakfast with bacon and toast. Drinking fruit and yogurt for any meal seemed less than appealing to him, I think. You can imagine my surprise when those words crossed his lips. So today I kept the smoothies basic; strawberry banana. Everyone loved them (my son tasted his sister’s) and asked that they have them more often. πŸ™‚

Husband’s Smoothie To-Go


Yes! Sweet, sweet victory!
This one actually follows another victory from the night before. We ate grilled chicken salads for dinner. I do this quite often, and my daughter also loves salad as the meal. My husband, however, has always looked at salad as a side to the main course. Several nights ago he ate his salad first and was surprised to learn that he was quite satisfied and really didn’t even need anything else. He proceeded to tell me that he may be ready to try grilled chicken salad for dinner. That makes me a happy girl! I LOVE hearing my family make healthier choices on their own.
Last night was the night. I sent him a text asking if he was ready and he said yes.
Hours later: Dinner time! I cleaned and cut the boneless chicken breasts. I started filling up four big bowls with different veggies depending in who’s bowl was who’s. Everyone received fresh shredded romaine and cucumber. Some had sliced zucchini and squash, tomato, red bell pepper, green and black olives (I also like to slice carrots but we were out.
When the salads were mostly put together I started heating up the George Foreman. That thing has become a staple in my kitchen since I started changing my diet (and I remembered that we owned one). Now the chicken is cooking, everyone has their bowls and is throwing on their last few items; shredded mozzarella, bacon bits, croutons, and of course getting choice of dressing. Chicken is done in minutes and I’m bringing it to the table. Well, after I measure out my serving so I can accurately log it on Lose It!.
Everyone enjoyed their dinner!! My daughter, who’s working towards becoming a vegetarian, had hers without the chicken, my son took his chicken on the side because he likes to dip it in ranch dressing, my husband and I actually had grilled chicken salad, and he loved it!
So two victories, two meals in a row. Woo woo!

I have to briefly talk about the smoothie I made yesterday. I decided I wanted to try a smoothie with cantaloupe. I started out thinking just cantaloupe and banana would be good. Shoot, I probably wouldn’t even need the sweetener packet! (I went ahead and froze the cantaloupe the night before. It was very juicy and I didn’t want it thinning down the drink any.) I wasn’t too fond of the flavor without the sweetener so I added that. Then it was too sweet and missing something. I added some sliced strawberries. That was exactly what it needed! This turned out to be one of THE best smoothies! Recipe? Sure thing!

1c frozen cantaloupe
3/4c sliced banana
1/2c sliced strawberries
1/2c Oikos nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2c Silk Original Soy, Light
1packet Stevia sweetener

Calories 256
Fat 1.3g
Cholesterol 7.5mg
Sodium 98.8mg
Carbs 53.1g
Fiber 6.3g
Sugar 35.9g
Protein 15.6g

Tuesday Morning Mess

Happy May everyone!! This is a busy month for us. We have Mother’s Day of course, our daughter’s birthday, our 10 year anniversary, my daughter’s freshman orientation, my son has 2 field trips, and then there’s Memorial Day. And you thought the holidays were bad. πŸ˜‰ Anywho, I hope this month is good to you, it’s one of my most treasured. Now on with the post!

Now, I don’t claim to be a great cook. In fact, I kind of suck at it, that is unless I have directions or a recipe. I’ve never been able to just throw things together. As I embark on this smoothie making time in my life, I have to try to use my imagination (and Google) to try new combinations of fruits. Take the mango for instance; I don’t particularly like mango. I don’t even enjoy their aroma. Yet I tried one in a smoothie and it was fabulous.
This brings me to today’s Smoothie…
I walked over to the produce place yesterday to purchase some fruits. I wasn’t sure what they had in but I knew I wanted to try something new. Turns out they were almost out of all their fruits. There were a few kiwi, which I don’t like and already have a couple in the fridge for my son, mango, oranges and apples. This wasn’t looking too good. As I’m listening to the man tell me tomorrow (now today) is produce day I’m thinking mango and orange sounds like a tasty combination. I already have a few apples at home and the kiwi, so I purchase one mango and four oranges (I know at least one of the kids will want one, too). Once home I do a little online searching to see if others make smoothies with mangos and oranges and if so, is there a good way to go about the prep. Well, there are tons of recipes using these two beautiful fruits! And it seems prepping the oranges is as simple as peeling and removing seeds! Several recipes instructed me to prep, then freeze the fruits, but I decided against doing that. I had plenty of other thing to do yesterday.
Now here we are, Tuesday morning. I’m getting hungry and I’m ready to get started putting together a flavor that is brand new to me.

Mango and Orange

Doesn’t that look delicious? Another great combination of flavors. Besides the oranges and mango, there is a tiny bit of banana. My daughter wasn’t able to eat the whole thing this morning so I threw that in, too.

Here I’ll list all ingredients, then I’ll tell you what went wrong, what went right and what I’ll do differently next time.

4 ice cubes
2 fresh oranges, peeled and seeds removed
1 mango, pit and skin removed
About 3 tbsp banana
1/2 cup Dannon Oikos nonfat Greek Yogurt, plain
1/2 cup Silk Original Soy milk, light
1 packet Stevia sweetener

Oh boy, now this was an interesting morning. Peeling and removing the seeds is much more work than you’d think. I made a mess of the first orange by peeling it, then trying to dig the seeds out and remove some if the thicker, white, skin stuff. The second orange went much better. I cut it in half, then halved the halves. I was able to easily cut away the stuff I didn’t want. Had this been tangerines, I would have had it right the first time.
Then the mango… I like to call it the massacred mango. I’ve only once before cut up a mango, and I guess I forgot how. Not that I did that great of a job the first time. I did, however, figure it out half way through when I realized how flat the pit was and in which direction it sits inside the fruit. I wish I would have gotten pictures of the sad state I put my fruits in. It was pitiful. Poor things.
The wrongs: the ways my precious fruits were treated.
The rights: I did finally “get it” so next time they will be treated with the care they deserve.
What I would do next time: take the advice of all the recipes out there saying to prep and freeze. These fruits need much more time than bananas and strawberries to get ready for the blender. It would be wise to prepare the night before for a quicker breakfast. All the counter time and handling warms them up, too, so freezing would’ve been a great way to make this an ice cold smoothie. I’d also be sure to remove thick skin and stringy things from all of the orange pieces. It was a little too chunks for my taste.
Flavor wise it was out of this world! I love how they keep getting better the more I try new things. πŸ™‚
I can’t wait for the produce guy to get back with his fresh load. I’m hoping he has something I’ve never had before!
That’s enough rambling this morning, I have work to do! I hope you have an amazing Tuesday!

P.S.
My daughter is now adding zucchini and squash to her salads and even trying to like bell pepper! She wants me to make her salad the same way I make mine. πŸ™‚ She aspires to become a vegetarian when she grows up so she says this is her way of preparing.
I love my kids!