Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Look Who Is Back!!!

Well would you look at that...almost a year since my last post! LOL No one can ever accuse me of being too wordy can they? LOL

So let's recap....not sure I had mentioned it on the blog but I won an all expense paid trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming courtesy of Mountain Dew!!! Karl and I went in March, just the two of us, and had an amazing time!!! After we got back from Wyoming, I started back to school (online) full time. Whoa, what a ride that is! 

I did some volunteer work at the local hospital while looking for a more permanent job, which finally came in June! Unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be. In September I found what I thought was once again an amazing opportunity, but sadly that wasn't in the cards either and we'll just leave it at that. 

So here we are January of 2016 and I find myself once again as a stay-at-home mom and full-time college student. Honestly, I have missed being home with the kids (well when they aren't in school) but I also will miss the paycheck. Right now I am most likely just going to focus on school and not stress about a job at this moment. It's nice to be able to breathe again. 

So enough about me...lol...let's get to what I love to do and that is share recipes. :-)

Tonight I made Jamie Oliver's "Chicken in Milk". I can't lie - I was a tad nervous about the idea of cooking a whole chicken in milk...but it turned out amazing. The only thing I didn't use that the recipe called for was the cinnamon stick. Even the kids loved it, especially my picky eater - he went back for seconds. The chicken was moist and tender with a hint of creamy, lemony essence. Yum! 

After supper I cleaned the rest of the meat off the carcus, strained the leftover milk broth and went about making soup for tomorrow night. I added some additional chicken stock, the leftover chicken, peas, carrots, onion, corn and rice, a bit of spices and in no time at all the soup was done! I love meals where you get more than just one meal out of it. Oh yeah, I even tossed in the little bit of leftover mashed potatoes into it! :-) 

I didn't think to take a picture of the Chicken in Milk but here is a photo of my lemony chicken soup for tomorrow! 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lifestyle Overhaul

So I've been posting all those recipes last week and then decided to change my eating habits....go figure! LOL Obviously since the surgery my eating habits have already changed drastically. Gone were the days of fast food, junk food, etc. I've lost 143 pounds since my surgery and that is amazing. But honestly I am stuck - I still would like to loose another 20-25lbs. But even that wouldn't be enough to put me in a normal BMI. Realistically I'd have to loose another 60lbs. Everyone who is close to me says that is crazy because right now I am looking fairly good that 60lbs more seems like this crazy amount. Will I ever loose that 60? I don't know. Will I loose that 20-25? Hell yeah. Will my BMI ever be in the normal range? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I am so much healthier than I was 143lbs ago!!! I know there is a lot of controversy over BMI, so I am trying not to let that play too big a role in my life. Instead I want to concentrate on building more muscle, keeping my blood sugar levels normal, my cholesterol normal, etc. Personally I think those are better indicators of overall health then the BMI %.

So like I said I've been stuck at 143lbs lost for quite a while now. The biggest road block I've had is that I've had four surgeries since my initial gastric bypass surgery. First I had to have two surgeries (unrelated to the gastric bypass - totally different body area) for some personal issues. Then I had a hernia - tear in my intestine. Then I had knee surgery. After each surgery I was faced with a good 6 weeks of no working out. Well you do the math - 4 surgeries x 6 weeks of laying low = 24 weeks of nothing all together. That's a long time. So needless to say that has played a big role in my weight stalling. And while I kept my good eating habits during this time, my body just hasn't budged really. One thing I did stop doing though was logging my food intake - I think that is key for me to have success. I am the type of person who needs to see my numbers - calories, fat, carbs, protein, to keep me on track - to see where I need to make improvements. See while I was still eating well I wasn't tracking my intake so I didn't see my protein levels, which has always been a major thing for me after gastric bypass. For all I know I wasn't getting adequate amount of protein which can also stall the weight loss. 

I did a lot of thinking this past weekend and decided that I really need to kick this into gear. And for me that meant making several changes. 

1.) Upping my water intake - I now am consuming 11 (8oz) cups of water on average. Sometimes it a lil more but at the very least it's a total of 88oz for the day. Not only am I flushing out my body and keeping hydrated, I am also running to the bathroom ALL.THE.TIME, lol, which means more exercise up and down the stairs since the bathroom is upstairs. LOL 

2.) Thanks to reading a blog my friend Jennifer posted regarding the benefits of lemon water (you can read for yourself here on her blog, Loving Me Holistically), I started drinking a cup of warm lemon water every morning. At first I admit I kinda balked at the idea - just warm water with lemon - boring! But then I tried it and I was like, this isn't really all that bad and guess what? I actually like it now! Who knew?! LOL

3.) I have given up all caffeine with the exception of one cup of coffee each morning. I used to drink on average 3-4 or so cups of coffee or other caffeinated drinks. No more.  So I have my lemon water to start the day, then my coffee, and then after that I drink water all day or tea - green tea or a recent favorite is Tazo Zen - a harmonious blend of green tea with lemongrass & spearmint. Yum! 

4.) I've gone back to drinking protein shakes for breakfast and lunch. I get sick of the taste easily so trying to find one that I actually enjoy is key. Ultimately I prefer Chike , but it's a bit expensive for me while I am out of work. So I got this one last week - Six Star Pro Nutrition Fit Rich Chocolate Lean Protein. I got it for about $15 at Walmart. When I make my protein shake I use a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part skim milk. I use to make my protein shakes with straight up skim milk and found them too rich...when I made the switch I found I liked them better. I get a lil bit of protein from the skim milk still but I can tolerate it better. Usually at one of my shakes (breakfast or lunch), I'll also add in an envelope of Carnation Instant Sugar-Free Breakfast. This is one of the things that was approved by my dietitian and surgical team. I don't rely on it simply cause it's not enough protein in my opinion, but when added to my shake, it adds protein and I like the tastes of the two combined. 

5.) Snacks are now things like: Greek yogurt, 2 Halo oranges, 24 seedless grapes, 1 piece of good quality dark chocolate (1 square - not one whole row of chocolate), 1 banana, 1/4 cup of soynuts, a mug of diet hot cocoa with a 1 tablespoon fat free whipped cream in it. 

6.) Dinner is my "big" meal - well as big as one can have after having gastric bypass surgery! LOL 

7.) I have started towards a more vegetarian lifestyle. I've never been a big meat eater, so this isn't that big of a leap for me by any stretch. I have always loved most fruits and veggies and eating a whole meal that consists of nothing but plant based foods is so good. I do not miss meat at all. I am finding so many creative ways to prepare veggies, grains, nuts, etc. that who needs meat? Not I! Karl and the kids aren't going full on vegetarian (at least not yet lol) but they have drastically reduced their meat intake as well. Karl is actually leaning more towards a pescetarian lifestyle, and honestly I'd be ok with the kids doing that as well. I'd much rather see them eating healthy fish/seafood then gobs of fatty, greasy ground beef, etc. I think by starting at their ages now, 7 and 11, we are opening them up to a lifetime of healthier eating. Vicky loves, loves, loves veggies and she loves things like salmon, tilalpia, haddock, etc. Trevor is a harder sell as he's picky esp with the sensory issues, but everything I've been reading about kids on the spectrum and gut issues, I am interested in seeing how a more plant based diet could benefit him. I used to think that I had to eat so much meat though after the surgery to get my protein in. I've discovered I can get adequate protein from a plant-based diet but also that the idea that we need tons of protein isn't true either. 

8.) So I also started exercising again. I have to be super careful because of my knee but I have some workout dvd's and I have started using those. If I come across an exercise that is too taxing for my knee, I just do something else and then continue on. My goal is to exercise 5 days a week for at least an hour a day. So far I've exceeded that every day this week. I am sore as hell right now but it feels kinda good in a strange way! LOL! As I said I am determined to get those 20-25lbs off. I have loose, sagging skin from the extreme weight loss and while I know I'll never get rid of it totally, short of having plastic surgery, I do want to firm up as much as I can and build muscle. 

So what have all these changes started doing for me? 

A.) I am sleeping like a rock. Prior to this I would be awake several times a night, tossing and turning, or just wide awake and unable to get back to sleep. Now when I turn the light off and close my eyes, I am out in no time and I don't wake up till the alarm clock goes off the next morning. I am sleeping so sound. Getting out of bed in the morning isn't quite as hard and my hope is that as time goes on that will get even easier. 

B.) Overall I feel like I have more energy. I don't want to just sit around 24/7 now. I want to be up and active and doing things. 

C.) The scale is moving again and while I am not ready to say how much because honestly I am sure most of it is water weight at this point, it is moving again. I have taken my measurements again and will keep track that way - I think it can be a better indication of the changes in my body. 

D.) My skin feels better - I get very dry skin in the winter but it's starting to look better. 

I am sure as time goes on there will be more changes and more I can talk about. The biggest thing for me is that I do not want to return to the person I was. I do not want to be one of those people who is given this gift/tool (and by that I mean the gastric bypass surgery) and gain all of it back. I wasn't living back then - I was just existing. And despite the knee pain/issues, I am finally living again. I refuse to give that up! I am no longer on the sidelines...I am participating now!!! 


The picture on the left from January 2011 isn't even at my highest weight - I had gained about another 25lbs on top of that. 


The picture on the left is from two weeks pre surgery - when I started the 2 week liquid diet. 

I don't even recognize that person ...I've come so far.I can do this!!! 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Maternity Photos

So I still dabble in photography here and there - I'd like to do more but I live in a rather small area that is saturated with photographers. It's hard to make a go of something when you have people advertising $10 photography sessions left and right. So instead I usually keep it to photos of my kiddos and the occasional friend/family member. Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

I recently did some indoor and outdoor maternity photos for a friend. I've known Destiny for about 7 years now and have watched her grow-up and become not only wife but mother. She is due with baby #2 tomorrow actually ...another lil boy! Eek! So excited for her and her hubby! I had the pleasure of doing engagement photos and then wedding photos and then maternity photos and then newborn photos and family photos and once again maternity photos. And I am awaiting word that she is heading to the hospital so I can scoot on up and get some photos of baby A's arrival! :-)

I thought I'd share some from our recent session but I think I'll share some from each session we'd had ...






































I look forward to capturing more moments of their growing family! Thank you Destiny & Matt for allowing me to be a part of all these special moments in your lives! 




Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tomato Pie

Sometimes you come across a recipe that just sounds wrong. For instance, "Tomato Pie". I mean, most people hear the word "pie" and you think of things like the classic all-American apple pie. I admit curiosity got the better of me and off I went to see what exactly this tomato pie was all about! So I read the recipe and I was leery - I can't lie. The idea of baking mayo just didn't sit well with me but I am pretty open to trying new things, so the ingredients found their way to my shopping list and Tomato Pie went on that weeks menu. Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

You can find the recipe HERE on the Tastes Better From Scratch blog. She's got a ton of recipes and I am definitely going to be checking more of them out - the spicy chicken lettuce wraps caught my eye! ;-)

Ingredients
  1. 5 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (Roma work best)
  2. 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  3. 1/2 cup chopped green onion, or red onion
  4. 1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
  5. 1 cup grated mozzarella
  6. 1 cup grated cheddar
  7. 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or half mayo, half Greek yogurt)
  8. 2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
  9. Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to pat fry the tomatoes and make sure all of the juice is out. (You don't want wet tomatoes or your pie will turn out soggy).
  3. Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. To serve, cut into slices and serve warm.
Adapted from Paula Deen

Once again I used my go-to pie crust recipe but you could buy a prepared crust. I don't like the store bought pie crust as I've noticed most of them seem to contain lard and I can't stomach the smell or taste of lard. And honestly pie crust isn't that hard to make. Give it a go - you'll see! 
So how was the tomato pie? It was delicious! We all really enjoyed it, including the kids. It seems like an odd combination of ingredients but honestly it comes together wonderfully. I can't wait to make it again esp in the summer when I can get farm fresh tomatoes. Yum!!! 

Quinoa Patties & Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps!

In an effort to reduce the amount of meat we consume but still meet our protein goals in our post surgery lives, I've been turning to alternatives. Quinoa has been something I introduced the family to with much success. I've made it plain as just a side dish in place of rice but recently I've used it in two recipes that I found on Pinterest. The second recipe was not meatless I should note. Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

The first recipe was for Quinoa Patties - the recipe can be found HERE on the Frugal Living NW blog! 

Little Quinoa Patties

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen (Amazon)
Feel free to play around with this basic recipe; the cheese and vegetables can be changed to fit your preferences.

Ingredients

2 1/2 c. cooked quinoa at room temperature
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. finely chopped chives or green onions
1/3 c. finely chopped yellow or white onion
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese (goat or feta cheese is good, too)
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 c. bread crumbs
1 T. olive oil, for cooking
  1. To cook quinoa: Combine 2 cups of well-rinsed uncooked quinoa with 3 cups of water and 1/2 t. of salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the quinoa is tender.
  2. To make quinoa patties: Combine 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add the bread crumbs and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, shape 12 1″-thick quinoa patties. They don’t have to be perfect. I’ve found the easiest way is to scoop 1/4 cup (use a measuring cup) of the mixture into wet hands, quickly press it into small patties, and slide it into the hot oil with a spatula.
  4. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes until the underside is golden brown, flip, and repeat until the other side is also a golden brown and the quinoa patty is firm (cooked in the middle). Serve hot or cold with your choice of toppings, if any.
I served these with Parmesan roasted cauliflower and some of my homemade spaghetti sauce - huge hit with hubby and the kids! The kids actually thought they were some sort of meat patty at first and I had to explain to them what it was. This recipe made quite a few and I was able to take the left overs and layer them in a freezer container separated by wax paper so we have them for a second meal. I figure a quick heat up in a nonstick skillet and we'll be good to go some night when we need a quick supper. 

I've got to stay that honestly with things like this I don't miss meat. These really were delicious! 

And the other recipe using quiona recently was for Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps - the recipe can be found HERE on the sugardish blog. 

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Spicy buffaloed oven fried chicken bites wrapped in buttery lettuce leaves with tomatoes, quinoa, avocado, and blue cheese dressing. Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a healthy and filling lunch or dinner your whole family will love. Note that prep time includes 30 minutes for the chicken to marinate.
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 cups plain panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ - ½ cup buffalo sauce
  • 4-6 large soft leaves of lettuce (I used Boston Bibb Lettuce)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced avocado
  • blue cheese (or ranch) dressing & scallions to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease (I used cooking spray) a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the chicken in the ½ cup buffalo sauce, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pour the breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Coat each chicken piece evenly and place them on the prepared baking sheet. The baking sheet will get pretty crowded -- it's okay.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. To assemble the wraps, fill each leaf of lettuce with quinoa, tomatoes, and avocado. Top with the crispy baked buffalo chicken, drizzle with the blue cheese, and sprinkle with the green onions.
  6. These are also a delicious cold lunch if you prepare the chicken ahead of time and refrigerate it before serving.


Since Trevor isn't fond of hot foods, I kept some of the chicken separate so that his wasn't spicy! The rest of us really enjoyed the lil bit of heat. The kids gobbled these down and asked for more! The only thing I didn't use was the avocado because they were not ripe in the store and they are ridiculously expensive. I hope when we get moved out west that we will be able to get more fresh veggies and at better prices. 

I wish I had taken pictures of these foods....I need to start using my camera more to capture these yummy meals! 

Enjoy! 

Big Mac Salad? Yes, that's a thing! LOL

I admit I used to have a thing for the golden arches! It was a cheap and easy "meal" on the run. But let's face it, it's not exactly the epitome of healthy by any stretch of the imagination. I always said I would never introduce my kids to that stuff and yet I did. And honestly I still feel guilty about that -it's one of those things that I wish I could undo. After I had my gastric bypass surgery in 2012, fast food became a very rare thing - almost every single time I've had it since then, I find myself sick, physically sick. It's not a pleasant experience. My lil pouch doesn't like it and truth be told neither do my taste buds - it's greasy, 99% of the time lukewarm (and let's be real - who enjoys a lukewarm burger? certainly not me!) and full of calories and not the good kind. That said one of my favorite things to get there had been the Big Mac. But even if it didn't make me sick, there is no way I could eat one of them now - the amount of bread alone would do my poor lil pouch in! Last week I was browsing Pinterest, something I often do in my boredom, lol and saw a recipe for a Big Mac Salad and immediately went to the website to see what it entailed. Needless to say I made it this past week! I wish I had taken some pictures but my camera batteries were charging at the time and so I didn't get to! Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

Let me just say that maybe a Big Mac salad sounds crazy but it really was delicious! Next time I make it, I am going to use ground chicken instead of ground beef simply because we are getting away from eating a lot of ground beef. Seems the whole family has come to prefer ground chicken over ground beef or even the ground turkey! 

You can find the recipe HERE  on the Can You Stay for Dinner blog! Check out some of the other recipes while you are there! 

Cheeseburger Salad with Big Mac Dressing
dressing adapted from Top Secret Recipes
makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons full-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons full-fat sour cream or yogurt
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon minced white onion
1 teaspoon sugar
dash Tabasco sauce, or hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef sirloin
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dill pickle slices (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, ketchup, water, vinegar, relish, onion, sugar, Tabasco, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the ground beef and cook for about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally and using the spatula to crumble the meat.
Add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds, until fragrant. The meat should no longer be pink; if it is, continue to cook until browned. Remove pan from heat and set aside while you assemble the salads.
Divide the romaine, tomatoes, and cheese evenly among four large bowls or plates. Divide the beef mixture evenly among the salads. Drizzle each serving with 2 tablespoons dressing. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information for 1 Serving (1/4th of Entire Recipe): Calories 445, Total Fat 24.8 g, Total Carbohydrate 13.1 g, Dietary Fiber 4.1 g, Sugars 1.2 g, Protein 43.1 g

Now I should note that because Karl and I have both had gastric bypass, we eat a lot less - so we got about 6-7 servings out of this vs. the 4 the recipe says. And of course, the more servings the less calories, fat, etc. When I make it with ground chicken next time that will also reduce the calories and fat. I imagine if you used reduced fat or fat free mayonnaise, etc, you could reduce the calories even more. Either way you still have something much fresher and much tastier than what you get through a drive-thru window! 

French Onion Beef Stroganoff

I am going to attempt to share more recipes, be it ones I've created myself or ones I've found! My usual go-to place for recipes these days seems to be Pinterest. So it's really no surprise that I found this one on Pinterest a few weeks or so ago. I love onion soup...however, I am the only one who would eat it. Well, I take that back...Victoria might eat it, she's come to love onions but still...anyways I digress...so I stumble upon this French Onion Beef Stroganoff and I am instantly intriqued. I admit openly I am not a stroganoff fan usually but this was different. So a few nights ago I made it and it was a hit with adults and kids alike! Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

The recipe can be found HERE on the Host the Toast blog! Go check it out and take a look around the blog - lots of yummy looking recipes to be tried! 

French Onion Beef Stroganoff

INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 onions, French-cut
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 6 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs round steak, cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1½ cups beef broth
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups egg noodles
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • 1- 1½ cups grated Gruyere or Swiss
  • Parsley, to top
DIRECTIONS
  1. Melt the butter in a large, high-walled and heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf, sprig of thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook until the onions are soft and nearly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add in the mushrooms (with a little more butter, if necessary), and saute until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned and the onions have caramelized, about 5 more minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme and remove the onions and mushrooms to a bowl.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high, and sprinkle the steak with salt, pepper, and flour. Saute until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove the steak and set in the bowl with the mushrooms and onions.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add in 1½ cups beef broth and ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and bring to a low simmer. Add back in the steak, mushrooms, and onions and let simmer, covered, until the broth reduces slightly and the steak is cooked, about 8 minutes.
  4. As you wait for the broth to reduce, cook the egg noodles according to the package. Drain and set aside.
  5. Remove the beef mixture from the heat and add in the ⅔ cup of sour cream, stirring well. Mix in the cooked egg noodles.
  6. Top with 1 to ½ cups grated Gruyere. If in a ovenproof pan, put under the broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned. If not, leave the pan on the burner on medium-low, cover, and heat until cheese melts.
  7. Top with torn parsley and serve.

Here are some pictures I took while cooking: 









One thing I didn't do was cook it in a pan that I could put in the oven at the end to melt the Swiss cheese and brown it a bit - I totally forgot and used my nonstick pan. Oops! That said, it was still delicious! 

Side note - as stated before I don't cook with wine, so I subbed beef broth in this recipe for the wine.