Fresh to Death

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Just a quick post, because my life is insane. Yes, I admit this to you, and the world at large, because the truth is that I can’t even find a minute to get my eyebrows waxed this week, let alone eat right. But I did want to share this awesome deal in the Philadelphia area on fresh organic food. Living Social is plugging a great deal for a little produce box from Suburban Organics, that will be delivered right to your home. A good friend purchased something similar from Groupon and had nothing but great things to say about Surburban Organics and their foods. And it’s DELIVERED for free to the Philadelphia metro area (NJ and DE included)! For a gal on the go like me, I can’t afford not to take a deal like this on healthy, fresh food.

Thanks for reading – and I promise I’ll catch up soon. 52 days and counting until my big day!!! – A

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March 14, 2012. Tags: , , , . 2012. Leave a comment.

Chicken Challenge: Week 1

So I have completed the busiest week I’ve had since August and I’m thrilled that I’m on the other end of it! The Chicken Challenge has TOTALLY helped me out. As you know, I’m cooking big on one day and then, with minimal prep, we will be eating well the entire week. So here’s a recap of what I did this first week.

On Sunday, I prepared the chicken for the entire challenge. I mentioned before that I bought like 20ish pounds of chicken breast while it was on crazy sale, and so I had to package it out and prep it for freezing. I separated it out into saran wrap (for freshness), then covered by tin foil (to keep frost out) followed by a plastic bag with the challenge week # and the date I packaged it. Then I roasted week 1’s portion, and we ate a little for dinner that night. I also portioned out the remaining chicken into baggies and added their seasonings so they were ready to go each night. Finally, I made a pot of chili with the chicken because I think soups and sauces are better a day or two after they’re made since they’ve had time to let the flavors really meld together.

Chicken Tacos

Monday rolled around and I wanted to bang out something quick since I had a rehearsal after work. I had 8 ounces of shredded chicken marinating in some taco seasoning and hot sauce. I threw that in a pan to simmer, and made some rice with diced tomatoes and a bit of hot sauce. I ended up throwing in some salsa at the last-minute and suddenly I had chicken tacos and mexican rice.

Tuesday was going to be another long day for me, so I prepared some bacon-roasted corn bread on Monday night for Tuesday’s meal of chili. The bread did not come out as planned – I think my addition of corn made the texture a little less crumbly than I would have liked – but we threw it into the chili like croutons and it was yummy! By the way, the recipe for my BBQ Chicken Chili is: 

BBQ Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

4-8 oz. Shredded Cooked Chicken
3 c Chicken Stock
1- 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
1 c Red Kidney Beans (canned or pre-cooked) *Rinse if using canned.
1 c Fat-free Refried Beans
1 c Frozen Peppers & Onions Mix (Look for stir fry or fajita mixes)
½ c Frozen Corn
¼- ½ c Barbecue Sauce (to taste)
2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Heat BBQ Wing Sauce
1 ½ tsp Cumin
1 ½ tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Cinnamon

 1. Combine chicken stock and refried beans in 2 quart pot, stirring over medium heat until beans have dissolved.
2. Add Diced Tomatoes, Barbecue Sauce, Frank’s Wing Sauce and spices. Stir until incorporated.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
4. Once boiling, reduce heat and allow chili to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 Makes 8-10 Cups, or approximately 2 quarts.  For thicker chili, double amount of refried beans.

 Calories:

4 oz. Shredded Cooked Chicken 130
3 c Chicken Stock 30
1- 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes 210
1 c Red Kidney Beans (canned or pre-cooked)
*Rinse if using canned.
200
1 c Fat-free Refried Beans 200
1 c Frozen Peppers & Onions Mix
(Look for stir fry or fajita mixes)
70
½ c Frozen Corn 120
¼- ½ c Barbecue Sauce (to taste) 100
2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Heat BBQ Wing Sauce 40
1 ½ tsp Cumin 0
1 ½ tsp Garlic Powder 0
½ tsp Cinnamon 0
 

Total:    

1100 calories
 

Per 1 c Serving:   

138 calories

Buffalo Wing Pasta

Wednesday was another rehearsal, so I quickly threw down some pasta and whipped up a cream sauce using skim milk. I added in shredded chicken I had marinating in hot sauce, a little cayenne pepper, garlic and finished it with chopped fresh celery, and we had Buffalo Wing Pasta.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Thursday was yet another long rehearsal night, so I let the pulled chicken marinating in barbecue sauce simmer down on the stove with some water. I threw some potatoes in the microwave to “bake” and made some corn for a BBQ chicken sandwich meal.

Quick Chicken Caesar Salad

Friday was a long work day. My schedule has changed a bit and Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are SUPER long for me now. I had a football game to attend, but by the time I would have gotten there I would have missed my kids performance and sat in the cold for the final quarter of the game so it really wasn’t worth the stress of trying to get there to be late. Still, I was SUPER tired when I got home so I was glad that I saved the easiest meal for that day. I opened a bag of salad mix, tossed the cubed chicken I had prepared on top, and the world’s easiest Chicken Caesar Salad was born.

All in all, I’m really happy with how this week turned out. It was nice knowing what I was having for dinner that night, I knew I didn’t have to do a lot of work to get good food, and in the end I didn’t end up eating a lot of trash in a bad decision that was brought on by stress and hunger. Yesterday, Sunday, marked the beginning of week 2, though I had a 15 hour work day and ultimately could not commit to baking my chicken. But the beauty of this whole thing is that I can roast it up tonight and my week is just shifted by a day. I’ll let you know how week two turns out!

Thanks for reading! – A

November 14, 2011. Tags: , , , . 2011. 1 comment.

The Chicken Challenge

Lately, I’m feeling a bit pissy about my food habits. Yeah, I said pissy, so what? It’s true. I have been a mess since my schedule has really kicked my buns. Snacking after dinner is an issue for me. I’m also finding on Saturdays when I have REALLY long days teaching that I am making bad food choices. I’m selecting foods that just aren’t right for me, and I’m also subject to the constraints not being able to cook or refrigerate my choices at school. Enter Wawa.

Wawa is this glorious chain we have on the east coast that makes the most incredible food that you will ever get at a gas station. Yes, I said gas station. They have the best sandwiches, soups, and salads. And although they have some healthier options, temptation is hard core in that place. I may get a healthy sandwich and apple, then I find myself putting baked chips or starburst next to it on the counter. Sure, treating yourself now and again is good. But it should be just that – a now and again thing. Like Tom and Donna from Parks and Recreation, they take the time to say “Treat yo self!” once a year. 

Ok, so back to it. I have noticed a slow in my weight loss and have been hovering in the same 5 pound range for about a month. I am only 25 pounds away from my “dream” weight and although I’m not SO stuck on numbers, it would be a nice milestone to reach, especially for my wedding. So I have decided the only option is to focus in on what I can control. Right now I still have about two weeks left of band which means a few more bad Saturdays. I have resigned myself to the fact that these are circumstantial and will come to an end when band ends. 

That leaves after dinner snacking. I think perhaps I don’t eat well enough at dinner and then allow myself to go nuts later. But I am also a busy chick and don’t really feel like cooking a Norman Rockwell-worthy dinner by the time I walk in the door. I did, however, recall a sorority sister I will call B. She is a mother to a very rambunctious 2-year-old boy, a nurse, and a wife. Pretty much a superwoman, right? What’s more, she’s just recently relocated, because moving is so easy, and I’m pretty convinced her husband, a doctor, works nutso hours. Yet she is always posting awesome recipes and comments on Facebook about her food for the week. Turns out, she cooks big once a week or so and eats well the entire week. I asked her for a few sites that she frequents and she recommended Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman. The recipes looked great and inspired me to see if I could take it a step further. I started perusing my local store ads and I found roasting chickens on sale for 99 cents a pound, and so the Chicken Challenge was born!

So here are the rules:

  1. I will cook 4-5 pounds of chicken each Sunday. We will have a dinner of roasted chicken on Sundays only.
  2.  I will make the leftover chicken into 5 meals, one for each week night, in the categories of soup, sandwich, salad, pasta and general meal.
  3. I will prepare as many of the components as reasonable to the week night recipes on Sunday.
  4. No genre of food will be repeated back to back, so I will not make tacos one night and then mexican lasagna the next night.
  5. All week night meals will require 15 minutes or less prep time and 45 minutes or less heating/cooking time.

For our purposes, I ended up purchasing chicken breasts since we’re not big dark meat fans in my house. Not only that, but they were also on sale for 99 cents a pound, so we made out like bandits! I also bought a bunch of other stuff that I thought I would need based on the recipes I dug up and wanted to try. I spent about $130 at the store late last night with creepy late-night cashier guy – I was shopping at 11 PM because I didn’t want to miss such a good price on the chicken that expired at midnight. Anyway, the meal plan I put together in Excel calls for Sunday dinners of roasted chicken and then 5 weeknight meals for 4 weeks, or 24 meals total. I assume will probably pick up another $20 or so in extra stuff I forgot, but that comes out to $6.25 a meal, where there will undoubtedly be leftovers for lunch the next day. So as it turns out the Chicken Challenge will most likely be cost-effective as well as healthy.

This will all begin on Sunday, so we’ll have an entire month of chicken. I’m looking forward to putting the final touches on the plan and seeing how it goes. M is just happy that I’m happy, and though I’m sure he would prefer it to be red meat, I think he will survive. And who knows, if this goes well we could change this to ground turkey next month. Wish us luck!

Thanks for reading! – A

November 4, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . 2011. 3 comments.

Incredibly Engaging – How I Saved on Engagement Photos

It may come as no shock to anyone who has read at least one post on this blog that I am a busy girl. It may also not be absurd to say that this is because I am working several jobs to pay for my wedding. Why, you may ask, would someone run themselves ragged for one day? Because it’s supposed to be the best day of your life! That being said, I am also a bargain hunter and have often considered the financial repercussions of what I’m doing. Some things I consider “must-haves” while others are “nice-to-haves”.  Admittedly, the line between the two is noticably blurry anymore.

Anyway, one of our original “must-haves” of save the date cards that included photos of us was running into the “nice-to-have” category when I realized that our amazing wedding photographer charged so much for engagement photography. The services for the big day are mainly covered by Mama M’s generosity, but the remainder, including engagement pics, are on us. When I sat down to look at the dollars and cents, I really started to assign value to these photos. Yes, it would be amazing to have these pictures but are they necessary?

Though they weren’t necessary, I had done a lot of hoop jumping to try to get prepared for them, particularly with my braces coming off. I had appointments scheduled back to back in an attempt to get my chompers ready for their close up. I felt committed, but I really couldn’t mentally justify the big expense on something unnecessary when I still hadn’t paid for my gown alterations. So what’s a gal to do?

Que Craigslist. I posted the following ad:

Build Your Photography Portfolio –
Free Dinner/Modest Honorarium Barter (Philadelphia)

We are looking to help you build your artistic portfolio and serve as models for a fun engagement photo shoot. Our idea is that we’ll shoot at two locations. One is a beautiful old stone church with rolling grounds and beautiful landscaping that will serve as a great backdrop to capture that wonderful Fall afternoon lighting. The other is a classic chrome diner where the waitresses are 100 years old and the milkshakes come in tall glasses with whipped cream and a cherry. We’re looking for an artistic eye that can see the beauty in something as simple as a piece of pie with ice cream melting on top.

We are moderately attractive people who photograph fairly well and we think our ideas can certainly serve as promo material for your budding photography business. We’d like a DVD of the raw digital images in an agreed upon format. In exchange, we’re willing to offer you the finest in diner cuisine after the shoot and also a small honorarium that we can negotiate. Obviously we understand that you are not working for peanuts, but you have to understand that we are also on a crazy strict budget. But don’t worry, we’ll let you get pie. 🙂 Also, we have a wedding blog in the Philadelphia area that we would mention you on/ post a few example pics, so it wouldn’t be too shabby of a plug. Our florist has actually booked 3 clients from the kind words we’ve said about her! 

Would you believe this ad in the “Creative Gigs” section got me 20+ emails from photographers? It was like Christmas! I emailed them and asked for sample photos and info about themselves. Ultimately, we settled on a really talented and ambitious duo from Benjamin Lackey Multimedia.   Please feel free to check out their growing portfolio, or ‘like’ them on Facebook. As college students at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia these guys are building a business from the ground up. They were SO great to work with, super personable, and they have also helped us out in getting what we’re looking for in terms of affordable video coverage for the big day. I can’t say enough about Ben and his partner Mike, but they REALLY saved the day. Our shoot with them was so comfortable and honestly as close to ideal as possible. We were all on the same page and the pictures came out wonderfully, don’t you think? Huge thanks to them for their help!

 

 

So please feel free to utilize Benjamin Lackey Multimedia. Good guys, affordable prices, and fantastic results. They may not always work for pie, but they are worth the $, I promise. 🙂 And if worse comes to worst and you can’t afford engagement photography, feel free to use my idea and see what photographers you can round-up in your area. By the way, I ordered my post cards from Vistaprint for free, so the savings just keep coming! Keep an eye out for those deals and you can save a ton on your save the dates too.

Thanks for reading! – A

November 2, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . 2011. 1 comment.

“You’ll find that life is still worthwhile if you just smile.”

I know I am TERRIBLY late with this one! I got my braces off a few weeks ago, and was then immediately hit with the worst cold I’ve had in a few years. I think it was part allergies, part stress, part toxin release from recent chiropractic visits because my hip has been weird since losing so much weight.  Whatever it was, it was bad.

So  here’s the process I went through. First, 4 1/2 years of pain. I got the braces because I have TMJ and this was one of the treatment options that didn’t involve surgery. After all that we went through, my orthodontist, Dr. Klatte, did an AMAZING job getting my teeth to move as much as they did. However, there were some small spaces that he couldn’t close because my canine teeth are smaller than usual. The solution was to have my regular dentist bond those. All in all, I’m psyched at how it looks and I’m even happier that I don’t get migraines from my TMJ as much. So without further ado, here are the pics of the final days!

Last day with braces!

Braces are finally off! (Pre-whitening)

Post-Zoom Whitening and sans makeup 😛

Post-bonding and finally done!

 
 

I’m so happy that I will have a great smile in all of my wedding pictures!! 

Thanks for reading – A

 
 

October 13, 2011. Tags: , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

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