November & December Catch Up!

Can you believe it’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted a real post? I’m talking meat & potatoes, not just some cute link or something? I have been a busy gal and time has flown by! I apologize for neglecting you, but I promise that this project has been in my mind. So, let’s catch up, shall we?

November

Chicken Challenge Shepherds Pie. SOOO yummy!

So remember when I began my Chicken Challenge? It was a month of planned meals that would happen based on cooking big on one day, then minimal prep throughout the week. Well, I made it two weeks. It was not the brightest idea to get excited about something like this during a month where eating is a national holiday. However, it was an awesome experience for the two weeks I did it, and I had many more leftovers than I planned. I think perhaps doing something like this every other week would be more suitable for our lifestyle, given that we go to dinner with friends and when we do follow the cooking plan, we are more apt to have leftovers because I eat like a fricken’ bird. Oh, and I also need to incorporate supplemental proteins. I love chicken, but it gets to be too much. After my surgery, I ate so much of it that I reached a point where, like a baby eating something it didn’t like, I found myself unconsciously spitting it out when it was in a mouthful of Lean Cuisine pasta or something. It was like an unintentional aversion. The addition of other meats will probably help the chicken go down a little easier.

We’re kind of a big deal….

So speaking of poultry, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I had it planned to the T, and it was great. The night before, we began the drive to Grandmother’s house, knowing that we’d stop near Allentown for a gig with my new band, Fake MacKenzie. I was actually really excited to start playing with a new Irish group, and what’s great is that we actually get booked (read: paid) often. We have 5 gigs lined up for St. Pat’s weekend, so come check us out. 🙂 Anyway, the traffic was nuts, the gig was awesome, and I got the Gram’s at 2:30 in the morning. The next day I was up and cooking, and it didn’t stop until we ate. But it was wonderful. I got to spend time with my niece and nephews, and even took her and my young cousin to see The Muppet Movie with M. It was amazing!

My cousin, niece and M at the movies

December

Me, in the big box our sofa was delivered in.

As soon as we got home from Thanksgiving, it was right into Christmas mode. First up was planning our annual Ugly Sweater Party! This year, there was a lot of sprucing up of the house because I’m just in super nesty mode, so we bought some new furniture. As you can see, the couch box was pretty huge. The party went off without a hitch, and we had a lot of fun. There were insane amounts of food, but it wasn’t too hard to keep things in check because we had a nice balance of healthy and totally bad-for-you food.

Most people eat cookies at Christmas. My nephew prefers his hand.

Christmas was spent with my family. It was great to see the babies again, because they are adorable. My youngest nephew, Keimani, is just about 6 months old, and he is changing every day. He’s a little flirt, and I love him to bits! M is still a little apprehensive to hold him, but we’ll get there soon. I cooked a lot over Christmas, but we had lasagna on Christmas Eve which is not a tradition, just something my grandmother always threatens after the big hoopla of Thanksgiving. This year, it actually came to fruition and it was really great. We had a lot of time to prepare, so I had extra time to build a gingerbread house with my sister and niece. On Christmas day we had Jewish Christmas with M, who was raised Jewish, and we went to a Chinese buffet for lunch. I got great presents, I gave stuff that people loved, and it was a wonderful occasion.

Rudolph noses with my girls 🙂

New Years was spent with a few friends at a bar in Old City. No drinks for this girl, since a charming perk of having this surgery is that alcohol is absorbed like 20 times faster than before. So basically in the course of sips I am way tipsy, but then because it took so little to get me there I sober up super fast. All this equates to not being worth trying to get drunk. But I’m always a reliable DD, so that works out. 🙂 We rang in the new year, and now it’s the year that we’re getting married! I can’t wait, and neither can M, as illustrated below:

"I'm marrying you this year, so that makes you MINE!" ❤

So now we are 4 months away from the wedding. FOUR MONTHS! How does that happen so quickly? We are putting together the invitations this weekend since my MOH will be in town. They have been a true labor of love, but I’ve also ended up with an invitation that looks like it costs much more than it really did, thanks to imagination, and a lot of man hours in MS Word. We are still battling out what to do with our wedding cupcakes, as the first vendor we considered thought 8 weeks was a reasonable time frame to wait on getting a quote to us. Our second vendor is still a little lax on the response time, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since it was the holidays.

Past that, we are now entering crunch time to get everything settled, so my stress is amped. So to alleviate that stress, I’m trying to put some new year’s resolutions in place. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. This year, I will run a 5k. I know I’ve said this before, but I regularly (read: pre-Fall) run 5 miles or so at a clip, so 3 shouldn’t be a problem. But I need to just sign up for one and do it. I’d really like to get this knocked off the list before the wedding, because I feel like the accomplishment would be a nice self esteem boost.
  2. I want to wear a size 8. I am currently a 10 that is getting a little loose. I can, most likely, wear some things in an 8 that would look just fine, but I’m talking size 8 boot cut jeans from the Gap. This is my goal, and should I begin working at #1, I believe this will be attainable.
  3. I will stop drinking soda at home. I am trying to phase soda out all together. I drink diet, so it’s non-caloric, but I just think it’s not good to have. Also, I’ve read studies that say the chemicals in diet drinks may be counterproductive to weight loss, so I’d like to nix it all together. By not allowing myself to drink it at home, I think I will hopefully wean myself from a 30-year habit.
  4. I will pay off my credit cards. This is a big one. I have been working pretty steadily toward paying off the balance I have on two of my cards. When I was unemployed in 2010, I relied on the cards a little more than I should have and I have been chipping away at that debt since. I’m pretty sure this will be paid of soon anyway, but I would love to have this done before the wedding.
  5. I will take care of myself more. I don’t make a lot of time for myself for stupid stuff, like painting my nails. I get a pedi like every other month, and that’s about it. And it’s not about the expense of having someone else do it, it’s just the time commitment of going and the upkeep. But I’ve decided, I will make time to do a face mask, or paint my nails, or do a hair conditioning treatment or teeth whitening – basically, non-essentials that I keep putting off. I will do these things not only for the outcome of having done them, but to just spend a little time with myself and to allow me to shut my mind off from work, wedding and stress, and just enjoy where I am.

    My attempt at festive nails for NYE. It's like champagne and fireworks had a baby.

I’ve thought a lot about where I am right now. I try not to mention it a lot, but the relationship I had before M was one that I wanted to go somewhere. When I realized it wouldn’t end where I’d wanted it to go I had to leave. In retrospect ending that relationship was sad, not so much because of the loss of the guy, but more because of the loss of the life I was so close to having: the house, the cars, the friends. Things vanished when it ended, and I just missed that life because it was one that I’d always wanted. But just the other day, I came home and sat on my new couch. I stared at my wood floors that we’ll refinish together after the wedding. I looked at the end table I’d rehabbed from Craigslist. And as my kitties jumped up next to me to snuggle, I realized that I had that life, the one that I mourned. The difference was that this time, it was all 100% real, complete with a man who wants the same things that I do. It was a really humbling experience to realize that, though the road didn’t look like I thought it might, it still got me to my destination.

We're getting married this year!

I’m really happy for everything that 2011 brought me. I got a new job. I planned an amazing wedding. I made a home with M. And now, in 2012, we will begin our life together. I couldn’t be more blessed, and I can’t wait to continue to share the blessings, both obvious and in disguise, with you this year.

Happy New Year! – A

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January 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

5 Tips for Losing (Baby) Weight

Jennifer Hudson, Before and After

No, I  do not have a bun in the oven. What I do have is a lot of loose skin because I’ve dropped a whopping 135 pounds. That’s a Jennifer Hudson, by the way. But the new one, not the old one. More on the skin later. Anyway, I came across this article on a sister site of Perez Hilton‘s called Perezitos.com, and I thought I’d share it. The tips, especially the one about putting a mint in your mouth when you’re just about feeling full, are pretty good. I like that the Pavlovian response to having a mint will end up being that I’ll feel full and satiated. Anyway, happy reading – and I promise I’ll post a catch-up in a little bit.

Thanks for reading! – A

December 16, 2011. Tags: , . 2011. 1 comment.

15

You’ve heard of Adele, right? I loved her back when virtually nobody knew about her, back when it seemed absurd for a white British girl to sing like a soulful Southern black woman, back when I was fat. And God love her, she’s fat too so I felt this camaraderie. Well, now I’m not fat, but I still love her. And one of the things I love about her, besides the fact that she is incredibly talented and so gorgeous!, is that her past two albums have been titled after how old she was when she wrote them – sort of an homage to where she was in life at that time. So in that vein, I’ve titled this post 15.

Why Fifteen? Great question! Let’s explain. The past month or two I’ve been in this holding pattern, where my weight was back and forth between the same 5-pound range. It was infuriating. Yes, I’m aware that water retention, hormones, time of day, etc. can change all this. But based on  consistent factors, I was going in circles on the scale. On top of that, I am so CLOSE to my “Never in a million years will this happen, but I wish it would” goal of being both a size 8 and weighing in the “normal” section of the charts doctors post that you look at and think “Who actually fits into these ranges?”

Well, in 15 short pounds I will fit into that range. And this morning when the scale told me that, I literally squealed with delight. No, I’m not normally that girl, but this happened to coincide with a change in the second number of my weight that I hadn’t seen before and I was happy about it. It’s weird, looking back at all of this, how my body has changed and how people treat me now. I feel like the world is open to me now, which is odd because it’s not as if there was a big “Do NOT Enter” sign in my way before.

I’m still amazed by what this tool has done for me. I am slightly less terrified that I’ll screw it up, given that I’m obviously not gaining weight back and it’s been 16 months. Clearly losing another 15 is the big goal, and maybe the grand supreme of all impossibilities, a bikini, will happen in Summer 2012. I’m trying to lose a solid 5 pounds (though I’m really shooting for 9) by Christmas. I have just over five weeks to accomplish this. Ok, now that I said that out loud to myself, maybe the 9 won’t happen. But I’ve also been SO busy I haven’t really worked out in the past few months so I’m hoping that when I start hitting the gym a bit harder that things will move a little quicker.

No matter what happens, I’m still so thankful for what this process has done for me. I’m happy that I will feel like a beautiful bride and when people tell me that, I will believe them. I’m happy that I can feel my fiancée able to touch his elbow with his opposite hand when he hugs me. And even if I, for some reason, never lose that 15 pounds and technically remain in the dreaded overweight category of the chart, I have achieved so much so I think I can live with that too.

Thanks for reading! – A

November 18, 2011. Tags: , , . 2011. 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.

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