Friday, March 31, 2017

There's an App for That!

Today is Thursday, March 30, 2017.  Since January 1 of this year I have lost 35 pounds. Wow!! 35 pounds. Thirty. Five. Pounds.  I am having a bit of trouble processing this. It has only been three months, and when I stepped on the scale on January 1 I truly thought it would take at least 6 months to get where I am right now.  People have asked me what I am doing. Really, there is no secret.  It's the same thing everybody already knows. Eat fewer calories, exercise more. While it is simple, it is certainly not easy.

How, specifically, have I done it? There is a combination of a few things, which I am happy to share with you:
1. I keep track of every calorie I consume.  While this sounds tedious, it really isn't, especially after you have been doing so for a while.  I use MyFitnessPal to track both calories consumed and calories expended. This is VERY easy to use, and once you have entered a few meals it gets easier because the app will list your recent food entries. For example, below is the listing that comes up when I click on add food for lunch:

As the top tabs indicate, this list can be sorted by frequently used foods or recent foods. I prefer to sort using frequently used foods because I tend to use a lot of the same ingredients on a regular basis.Once you get used to using MyFitnessPal you'll see how easy it is to use and will wonder how anybody ever lost weight prior to smartphones! Also, there is a place to keep track of they type and amount of exercise you have done and MyFitnessPal converts it to calories burned.  

I have found that when I use this app routinely I am much more conscious about the food I consume. It's okay to miss a meal or two or even a day or two, but when I get out of the habit of keeping track of my food I get complacent and start gaining weight.

2. I started running/walking again. An app I use frequently for this is 5K Runner. This app is a couch to 5k running app. There are several good free ones available, but the reason I chose this particular app is because for the purchase price I also received the 10k and 21k apps, along with a 5k and 10k pacer app which will help me boost my speed when I am ready for it. Also, there is a sit-ups and a push-ups app with the 5K Runner.  If you don't want to run, there are plenty of other apps available to help you get active.  Just don't sit around planning on being active. Do something. Anything! Even if it is for just 5 minutes.  That will be 5 more minutes of movement than you did yesterday, right?

3. While I am running I also like using an app that keeps track of my mileage and pace.  There are several apps available that will do this, however, the one I currently use is Nike+Run Club. I like Nike+Run Club because it maps my running route, keeps track of my pace throughout my run, offers ongoing encouragement throughout my run, and is lockable so I don't accidentally pause or stop my run (yes, this is a real issue I had with a different app).

4. I have a support system. My husband and children eat basically the same things I eat (and all are losing weight/getting healthier) and are very supportive/forgiving of my many food experiments. Besides my family, I have an extended support group in November Project. While there is no tribe in my current location, I keep in touch with my many NP friends via Facebook and Twitter. They are quick to offer encouragement and support and I always look for ways to get to a tribe if I am close enough.  If you happen to live in or near one of the 30ish (I've lost count) cities that currently has a NP tribe you really should go.  Don't worry about being in good enough shape or that you run too slow or you don't run at all. Don't wonder if you'll fit in. Just show up. You'll be accepted the way you are. You'll meet lots of interesting and fun people and you will get hugs from strangers (don't let that one scare you).

I would love to hear what YOU are doing to improve yourself, whether it is a physical improvement or mental, spiritual, or whatever.  Please comment and let me know how it's going!  


Monday, March 20, 2017

Beans N Things

                                          Salvadore Dali: Persistence of Memory

Oh. My. Goodness. Has it really been two weeks since my last blog? TWO WEEKS??? Where have I been? What have I been doing? ACK!

Actually, I have been working at my full-time job and hanging out with family some over spring break.  I hate that I've let y'all slide for two whole weeks, though.  It won't happen again. Okay?

It is very easy to let time slip away from us, and before we realize it two weeks, or two months, or even two years have gone by, leaving us wondering what we have been doing during that time.  The same thing happens to me frequently with my menu planning. I plan on making a menu plan on my day off, and before I realize it my day off has disappeared and I have done nothing toward planning my menus or grocery shopping for the week.

For these situations, when it is Monday morning and I am suddenly wondering what I am going to have ready for dinner, I find it helpful to turn to my pantry staples.  With a few staples and very little planning, I am able to assure my family that they will not be missing dinner tonight!

My pantry, including the refrigerator, (almost) always contains:
dry beans
canned beans
canned tomatoes
canned corn
jarred marinara
peanut butter*
soy sauce
maple syrup
potatoes (white and/or sweet)
cheeses (feta, cheddar, goat, mozzarella, parmesan, whatever floats our boat)
and I usually have some kind of meat in the freezer.

Knowing I have a well-stocked pantry gives me the freedom to skip a trip to the grocery store, secure in the knowledge that I have plenty of options for dinner.  Today, I am going with a southern tradition I grew up on: beans and rice. Actually, I grew up on beans and cornbread, but I prefer serving beans with brown rice for the good whole grain.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans 
2 pounds dry pinto beans
4-5 quarts of water or stock
1 Tablespoon salt
1 onion, quartered
1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Sort beans to remove any pieces of gravel. Wash beans thoroughly - I usually put my beans in a large bowl and swish them with water, drain, and repeat until the water runs clear (2-3 times). Once my beans are clean I put them in my slow cooker. I add the onion, salt, and garlic (and if I have it, I also add a fresh jalapeño in halves) then fill my 6-quart slow cooker almost to the top with my liquid. Cook on low for about 8 hours. If you want, throw some smoked sausage in a few minutes prior to serving. Also, don't forget to taste the beans to add more salt as needed prior to serving. My family enjoys sprinkling our bowl of beans with Tony Chachere's seasoning blend.

Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil. Stir, cover pot, turn heat to simmer, and let rice steam for 40-45 minutes. Do not take the lid off until the rice has finished cooking! Also, rice is a simple 1:2 ratio with water, so it is easy to make more or less as needed for your family size.

One cup of beans served with a half cup of rice is only 352 calories and costs a measly .64 per serving.

*I buy either Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter or Laura Scudder's Natural Peanut Butter because the ingredient list is peanuts and salt. No sugar, corn syrup, or other such nonsense.

What is your favorite go-to meal? Add yours to the comments.


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Myth of Saving

There is a phrase people use that always makes me shake my head. We have all heard it.  We have probably all said it.

"Look how much money I saved at the store today!"

Isn't it a good thing to save money? Teresa, why don't you like this phrase?

I'm so glad you asked. Yes! Of course, it is a very good thing to save money. And the reason I don't like the phrase, "I saved money at the store today," is because it is a false statement.  A more accurate way to share your enthusiasm regarding the amount of money spent at the store would be,

"Look how much less money I spent at the store today!"

Let me explain. Until the money is actually placed into a savings account of some kind, it is NOT money saved! For example, if you have a $100 per week food budget, and this week you find a lot of really great bargains so you only spend $85 on food for the week. What happens to the extra $15? If it gets moved to another spending account (household, entertainment, whatever) or if you just nickel and dime it away, you did not save $15, but you did spend $15 less on your groceries.  On the other hand, if you take the $15 difference and place it in a savings account, retirement account, under you mattress, etc, you have indeed saved $15.

See? Money saved versus less money spent.

Speaking of spending less money on groceries, here is a recipe for Southwest Pasta that cost me only $0.95 per serving! And, while it is inexpensive to make, it is really big on flavor and my family loves it!

Southwest Pasta
8 oz. whole wheat penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 can black beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
salt to taste
1-3 tablespoons of adobo sauce*
1 avocado
cilantro for garnish

Heat a pot of salted water to boiling and add pasta. While pasta cooks, heat oil in skillet then add onion to sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, beans, and corn to skillet and cook until heated through. (5-10 minutes).

Garnish with avocado and cilantro. You can shred a bit of cheese on top or even add a bit of salsa or hot sauce. Also, feel free to use whatever style of pasta you like. As you can see in the above picture, I do not always use penne, myself.

This makes 4 large servings at 455 calories per serving.

*The adobo sauce could be left out, but it adds a wonderful smoky heat. Use as little or as much as you like and feel free to chop up a chipotle or two in this as well!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Getting Started

Pad Thai

Oh! Ack! I started this blog a week ago. Why am I just now getting to the point of publishing it??Sorry for the delay, but here we go with another blog and a new recipe (finally).

Many of you have stated that you would like easy, quick, and healthy meal ideas, but before I get into my first meal idea I would like to recommend you to approach your meal-planning with an open mind. Try new ingredients and cook with different spices. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut, believe me when I tell you I fight this all the time.  New ingredients and different spices are a great way to shake things up a bit.
This first recipe, for Pad Thai, is actually what my family is having for dinner tonight. Since I don't get off work until after 9:00 tonight I am putting most of it together ahead of time and leaving instructions for the kids to finish the rest of it this evening.
 If you have never had Pad Thai, please don't let the sound of something foreign to you keep you from trying it. My family really likes it, and they love this recipe. And one nice thing about it is you aren't confined to specific ingredients - use whatever vegetables and protein you and your family love. For good measure, try throwing in a little bit of a vegetable you have never tried before.
 When you make this, please let me know how it turned out and if your family liked it!


1-2 Tbs canola or olive oil

lb lean protein of your choice, cut into bite-size pieces (chicken, shrimp, tofu, etc)

1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

2 large carrots, sliced in 1/4" slices (or there about)

2 cups cubed butternut squash

6 large white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced fairly thickly
1/2 head broccoli, small florets only

1 box of rice noodles

Sauce Ingredients*
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock (or water would even work in a pinch)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I use 2 Tbs soy sauce, as I have a vegetarian in the house)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (if you don't have this use white vinegar or 2 tablespoons lime juice and omit rice wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Sriracha or Thai chili sauce (depending on your spice tolerance...if you know you're not into spicy, go with only 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon minced or grated fresh ginger (you can omit or use 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger if you don't have this)
1 teaspoon minced garlic

*The sauce for this recipe makes all the difference, and this is not my recipe! This is a recipe I found on Jen Eddings blog, Peanut Butter Runner, and it is far and away what makes this recipe so delicious. 

Mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside. Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Heat oil in non-stick skillet. Add the protein and cook until browned then set aside.  Add onions, sauteé until transparent, then add garlic, carrots, and squash. Cook until carrots and squash are crisp-tender then add mushrooms and broccoli. Cook until broccoli is bright green then add sauce and cook 5-8 minutes until sauce has thickened and broccoli is tender, but not mushy. 

This makes 4 servings at 533 calories per serving(if using chicken breast), and with all those vegetables make these very large servings!