Mid-Week and Making It

This week has been flying, but because I planned ahead, I’ve managed to keep things on track at the house. Smoothies have found their way into my belly each morning this week. I’m pretty comfortable in concluding that the worse a smoothie looks, the better it will taste. I have had some pretty funky looking things in my smoothie cup this week, but it has tasted soooo good!

Last night’s dinner was a success. My youngest is perennially picky. She informed me, however, that she has been liking our dinners lately [even though hers is always modified in some fashion] and making healthier choices at school. That’s major for her–I only craved junk when I was pregnant with her and it seems that was because she had a powerful sweet tooth even before she had teeth.

balsamicdrumsticksI made Crockpot Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks last night. I found the recipe at Who Needs A Cape? and those smarties had adapted a recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple to make it slow cooker ready.

I appreciate the effort to make an already pretty easy recipe even easier.

I marinated the drumsticks overnight, dumped them in the slow cooker in the morning and it made our dinner while I went to work.

A handful of hours later, we arrived home to some awesome smells coming from our kitchen.

And, when we cracked the lid on the crockpot, these beauties were just lazing around waiting for us to put them to good use.

My husband and I ate them as they were in the crockpot. My girls, however, became a little creative.

My youngest is not one for sauces, condiments, crazy spices or anything else resembling creativity in the kitchen. She likes her food plain, crunchy over mushy and relatively bland. Given her proclivity for turning up her nose to all things wonderful,M2take we set aside some drumsticks for her.

They were dusted with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.

She put together her own sides for her dinner and the end result looked pretty darned delicious.

I’m a fan when she eats the entire thing and that there isn’t much processed food on her plate to be found.

I’m sure the Progresso breadcrumbs aren’t 100% okey dokey, but the fresh fruit and corn balance out the plate.

She even seemed relatively proud of herself that she was eating something similar to what everyone else was eating and that some of us coveted her side dishes.

My older daughter also took her turn at culinary creativity.

She removed the chicken from the bone and used it to top her favorite pasta type–orzo.

She has been eating orzo since she M1takewas in a high chair. She loved orzo with carrots, zucchini and yellow squash.

I swear she’d have eaten her weight in it every day if I had let her. Had I had cauliflower ready to go, I’m sure she would have enjoyed cauliflower ‘rice’ beneath the chicken too. Come to think of it, I should have made that for myself!

She also put together a salad with Romaine, Annie’s dressing, goat cheese and strawberries. She, too, ate what she’d put on her plate and didn’t mind working the main dish into something that made her happy.

I’m happy there is fruit, veggies and chicken on her plate. Both girls expend a ton of energy at school and in their activities, so it’s nice to be able to pull together dinners they find good enough to experiment with and eat.

Tonight is Meatball Wednesday! I have a HUGE container of Paleo Crockpot Marinara waiting to envelope those little beauties. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

YUM!

Fashion Faux Pas? Totally Worth It!

This weekend marked another military ball for my military marriage. I made a very deliberate and conscious decision not to wear a particular gown because I thought I had worn it last year. Why I didn’t think to look at my Facebook photo album of military events is beyond me, but I did not. About 3/4 of the way to our destination, I realized that the dress carefully packed in the trunk was the very dress I’d worn in 2012.

CavBallWell, that stinks. But, in my defense, my husband wears the same “outfit” every year–save some “accessories” that he adds to after each accomplishment. Truly, no one remembered. But, I decided to turn a faux pas upside down and make it worth my while to have worn the same dress to consecutive balls.

With help from my daughter and an app on her phone [because PicMonkey caused me to yank out my hair!] , I was able to knit together a photo from last year and one from last night.

Notice my carefully cropped out arm from last year–because it looked huge. But, the pudge pocket under my left arm last year remained. Plus, my chin is pretty angular [I gave up wearing retainers a long time ago and my pointy chin that braces helped fix is back], but you’d never know it from last year’s shot.

Additionally, notice that my gut last year was encroaching on my husband’s uniform quite handily. I remember feeling completely huge after that meal last year–just nothing ever seemed to agree with me and I would bloat up and stay that way. This year? I did eat the meal that was served that included some bread, white potatoes and a completely naughty piece of chocolate perfection–BUT, one night in the ditch does not a new habit make.

I am simply blown away by the comparison and it’s increased motivation to keep working toward a healthier and more Paleo lifestyle.

To that end, I’m planning ahead. I have combed through websites and the recipes I’ve pinned from them to create our fruitforcrispweek’s dinner menu. I visited the market today and make sure our pantry and refrigerator is fully stocked. One thing that was a fun little last minute additive to the meal plan was a Paleo Fruit Crisp from Guilty Kitchen.

I decided to swap out the blueberries and replace them with raspberries [peach & raspberry = married bliss] and I didn’t use the coconut flakes because my husband isn’t a fan of coconut. Next time, I may try slivered almonds?

When I saw these berries at the market, I knew they would make this dessert even more amazing. My youngest helped with the shopping today. We had very firm [not quite the ripest] peaches and very wiggly celery, but she will learn. I think had the peaches been more ripe, the juice they produced when they sat in the coconut sugar and lemon juice would have been exponentially more. But, even as it was, it turned out beautifully.

Fruit crisps remain one of my favorite go-to desserts. Even when I was living unhealthfully, I almost always had fresh fruit in the house and what sugar addict doesn’t have brown sugar in their cupboard?! Crisps are super easy to make and it makes a routine weeknight dinner seem super special.

fruitcrispI used my pretty pie plate and baked this little beauty according to the recipe.

It smelled delicious baking and when I pulled it from the oven, all the bubbling juices made me wish it were okay to sit at the table with a fork and eat the entire thing.

But, I didn’t. Because I’m a pillar of self control…and the kids were home and would have told on me.

My youngest said to me tonight, “That’s it, Mom! I’m adopting your lifestyle. I’m going to eat as healthy as I can.”

She then proceeded to remember there were Oreos in the kitchen. She ate two and then said, “Okay. I guess I’ll be healthy tomorrow.”

It was a good opening to talk about how eating a couple Oreos is a choice, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep moving forward with making healthier choices. I related to her the story of my choice to eat the meal that was served at the ball, but that I chose not to eat all the cheese and crackers before the event–I had some veggies instead. Not that choosing vegetables erased the chocolate confection I had for dessert, but I had decided whatever was at the table that night would be my meal and anything not at the table would remain closer to my new choices. And, that today I was back on track–evidenced by my homemade mayo being used in some awesome tuna salad with a red pepper half as a delivery system [rather than toasted white bread of days past].

She’s slowly understanding that being picky and not eating good food isn’t smart. She wants to be an athlete and that means feeding the machine. We are eating much more at home and she loves that. And, so far, I don’t mind keeping her food plain while the rest of us try out new tastes. At least it’s a healthful base for her–I don’t mind if her chicken drumsticks are plain while ours are marinated in balsamic vinegar.

So starts a new week. Thank goodness for a fashion faux pas that served as continued motivation to return to and stay on the track!

Moving Past the Whole 30

Although my Whole 30 ended on the 30th, any attempt to return to even the slightest pre-Whole 30 menu has been met with a wholehearted “are you kidding me” from my body. I think it’s official–there is no turning back now.

dinnerTonight, we had a Paleo dinner and even my husband ate it. This is always a plus given that this involved a replacement to his favorite vegetable–white potatoes.

We had fauxtatoes in the form of mashed cauliflower. I used the easy recipe I found at the Pretty Little Paleo blog. That made a great side dish and a perfect companion to the Paleo Chicken Marsala I constructed from the recipe I found at the Paleoaholic.

My younger daughter opted for baked chicken strips. Simply dredged in Progresso breadcrumbs, these chicken strips make her very, very happy. And, because they are baked and not fried, I feel they are a step in the right direction.

We are probably going to be more Paleo than not for the foreseeable future because I am the one who will be cooking and I am the one discovering all these amazing recipes. I found a recipe using cauliflower to make a pizza crust. I am going to try it. It sounds like a fun alternative to the cardboard tasting pizza I tried earlier this weekend. Imagine how disappointed I was to realize that those things I used to stuff my face with no longer tasted or comforted quite in the same manner as they once did. It’s encouraging as well, but a little scary as I wasn’t expecting that!

This weekend was a busy one for the family. My youngest played in a soccer tournament. These were her first games of the soccerpicseason and the tournament is a really premiere tournament for the very best of the best.

It was nice to see her team hold its own though, as they aren’t the top level in her club. I see a ton of promise in her as a player and that makes my heart full.

My little 41 doesn’t back down from a challenge and I love that about her. Now if I can just channel her energy into becoming more health conscious, it will be a good deal. She drank V8 Fusion juice this evening…that’s my first transitional step in moving her toward drinking Vitamix creations that contain both veggies and fruits. We will get there!

Another busy week ahead. It’s amazing that we’re moving toward fall already. It’s my favorite season even if it’s one of the shortest. I’m determined to learn to use my fancy camera to capture soccer pics AND fall leaves. Fingers crossed!

Whole 30 — Day 30 Recap

I did it!

Whole 30 in the books.  I wish I’d measured myself. I can definitely see differences. Plus, I’m wearing clothes I haven’t in quite awhile. I lost 13 pounds which amazes me, especially because I didn’t exercise. Kicking myself on that one too because just imagine where I might be if I had!

But, I’ll take what I earned and just keep going.

If you thought I went out and ate some kind of Dairy Queen concoction, a fully loaded pizza or some other hot mess of a food stuff to celebrate, you would be wrong.

CauliflowerPoppersMy daughter and I made Cauliflower Poppers from a recipe on the Delighted Momma’s blog. We loved them and polished off the bowl I’d made in no time! Note to self: You can totally make the entire head of cauliflower and go to town. 🙂

I also had the chance this morning to put together a yummy batch of Snickerdoodle cookies using the recipe I found at Love In the Oven.

We have a huge weekend this weekend–my youngest is playing in a gigantic soccer tournament and my oldest’s school is holding it’s weekend long festival fundraiser. Both involve volunteer shifts for parents plus lots of running between venues.

One thing I hadn’t planned on? Thunderstorms! Really threw off our game schedule today, but we hope tomorrow will be better.

Whatever happens, I’m feeling better and lighter and all that good stuff and I have a ton more energy than I would have had a month ago.

If your’e on the fence about the Whole 30, go for it! Get off that fence and give it a go!

Whole 30 — Day 16 & 17

Day 16 in the books and I tried a new recipe. It was delicious and easy, plus it left me with a chicken breast all ready for enjoying another day. When Stupid Easy Paleo entitled this recipe with the word “easy” in it, I thought–challenge accepted! I wanted to know if it were, in fact, “easy” and if it tasted as incredible as the blog post made it sound. Easy Pan-Fried Lemon Chicken delivered! This is especially fantastic and quick if you begin with thin chicken breasts. You can slice them down to make them so, or do as I did–pick up some at the market as they were on special this week. The marinade couldn’t be easier and it truly did bump up the tenderness of the chicken and its flavor. Very yummy and definitely an alternative to baking chicken on a weeknight.

Our family attended a wedding on Day 17. I don’t know if anyone else is from the Midwest and can relate, but there are certain cupcakefoods that make an appearance at family events.

For some reason, many of the same foods that show up to celebrate weddings also take center stage when people need comforted at a funeral.

Doing a Whole 30 during the same month as a family wedding was probably poor planning on my part. These foods are “soul” foods and, although not good for me, they could be enjoyed once in awhile in a nostalgic way. Chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn, pulled pork, white rolls, etc. and so forth.

Luckily for me, this bride [my husband’s younger cousin] included salad with cucumbers and tomatoes on the buffet line. My daughter and husband gave me their salads and I was able to find a piece of baked chicken that could have the gravy easily removed [not ideal, I know, but let’s be serious. A woman needs to eat.] I also drank bottles of water the entire evening which was quite refreshing.

My husband, being the team player that he is, offered to eat the cupcake I would have chosen if I were eating such things. He, honestly, didn’t want to, but I made him. 1) Because I wanted to take the funny picture I knew would result and 2) because it looked delicious and if someone ate “mine” I wouldn’t be snooping around the cake table later in the evening.

The wedding reception venue was perfect and we had perfect weather which was nice as it was an outdoor affair. I also choseScreen shot 2013-08-18 at 4.48.03 PM to wear a dress my youngest daughter talked me into buying a couple weeks ago. Normally, I might not go all out with color and definitely not sleeveless, but she told me I looked nice and if she didn’t think so, she would DEFINITELY say so.

She isn’t one to spare a person’s feelings.

It’s a Land’s End dress [LOVE Land’s End] that I bought off the rack at our local Sears. I hadn’t seen it on a model before looking for it online. And, now that I have, I think I made the part above the waistline look much more interesting than the thin model did. The fit and flared skirt was flattering and I felt very comfortable in my choice of dress.

It was a nice family evening and it was so sweet to see my husband’s little cousin so happy. Nothing like a nice wedding to make everyone smile. My youngest [our tomboy] even wore a dress. Without being badgered. She even said, “I’m learning to appreciate dresses. I have two in my closet now and that’s a record.” I am pretty sure she’s right–at least for as long as she’s been dressing herself–or making known what she will or will not wear.

M2andMommyI can’t believe we’re in the homestretch of the Whole 30 already!

Also, I made the choice not to engage in familiar and wonderfully memory-laden wedding food nor did I feel bad when my husband and daughter ordered and ate pizza this afternoon.

I had the chicken breast in the fridge and some sweet potato to eat. It was good and I’m not feeling gross after eating a ton of cheese and bread–although it did smell quite good. Ha!

This coming week will be a challenge–busy Orientation Week full of welcome lunches, picnics, etc. I will need to pack my lunch carefully so I can easily blend in and still be satisfied.

It will be worth it, though.

So determined to make this Whole 30 to the last day!

 

Whole 30 — Day 12, 13, and 14

If you had a betting pool going on whether I dropped out, I hope you bet ON me rather than AGAINST me. I’m still here, baby! Just been very busy running kids to and fro and have been hitting the hay before I’ve had time to blog. My oldest started high school with a freshman-only day on Tuesday. My youngest has had soccer every night this week so far.

I happened to have a Whole 30 Day 0 photo of myself because I had my haircut that day and everyone wanted to see the new cut. I decided to take a photo of myself tonight [windblown and exhausted] to see if I could see a difference in my face–that’s where I seem to show my weight the most. When I lose anything, my face usually shows it pretty rapidly [thank goodness].

Whole30Half

 

I can see some difference so far. Imagine if I’d actually restyled my hair after driving with my windows down this evening. And, if I hadn’t been running around like a madwoman this week–I might actually like my face. Ha! My daughter says she can definitely tell a difference. I have a hard time because it’s my own face. Plus, this is without really exercising at all–sure, I park far from the other cars in the lot and I take the stairs, but as far as hard core exercising like I used to, I have not engaged. Once the girls have returned to school and our classes start at the law school, I think it will be much easier. Right now? I’m in GO mode and even 30 minutes of exercise right now would have to occur at 3 a.m. to happen. And, I’m sorry, but I can’t run and sleep at the same time [wouldn’t that be an awesome super power, though?]

I went shopping at Sam’s tonight to stock up on some things. Lo and behold, I found the light olive oil that Melicious spoke of in her infamous mayo recipe. I’ve made it with extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, and it always had a color to it and a taste as well. Tonight, I used the olive oil suggested in the recipe because I actually unearthed it in a most unlikely place and produced the most beautiful homemade mayo yet!

mayoTake a look at that beauty!

I plan to use it in the a.m. to produce some top-notch tuna salad that I will have for lunch. Tomorrow will be a challenge in a way because I can spend the entire day at work–no kids to run or dogs to take to the vet, etc. So, I will need to be prepared.

Our vending machine has about one choice that would be Whole 30 approved and they aren’t considered the best fat choices [seeds & nuts], so I’ve stuck to other things.

I like having options in the fridge and to quickly be able to throw things together to head to work.

For the first time, I think I’ll make it to the end of the Whole 30. My husband has been at annual training with his Guard unit this entire time. He’ll be back Saturday. I think that’s when the challenge will really start. It’s easier to do this when it’s just the kids and they encourage me. My oldest even plays along for the most part. My husband loves his white bread, white potatoes and CHEESE plus his glass of milk with every meal. I don’t think he realizes how easy this can be and how GOOD it is. Maybe I’ll rock his world with some Paleo meatballs when he comes home this weekend.

How is YOUR Whole 30 journey going so far? What are you eating that is rocking your socks?

 

 

 

Whole 30 — Day 12

Today was one of the only days so far where I have felt I properly planned for an entire day of Whole 30 loveliness.

I Tessemaeboxremembered to take the baked chicken to school for lunch. I had a side order of Fuji apple with it.

For dinner, I baked a salmon filet in the oven & paired it with some roasted sweet potato. After my youngest’s soccer practice, she treated us both to a cup of mixed berries–strawberries, red raspberries and blueberries. So good!

My Tessemae’s arrived and, as promised, I made use of the Lemonette dressing. I used it on my chicken at lunch and on my salmon tonight. It did a great job of livening up the leftover chicken breast. And, it kept our salmon filet moist as it baked in the oven. Not overpowering or greasy/oily at all. Very nice and I can absolutely see why people become addicted to these dressings!

I am looking forward to breaking into the other varieties I purchased. It should make the remaining days of the Whole 30 more entertaining.

In other news, my oldest starts high school tomorrow. I am excited for her and yet, it is so bittersweet. I know the next four years will fly. And, just as she graduates and heads off to college, my youngest will begin her high school years. I still feel like a mom of young kids. I don’t feel like I have a high schooler. In fact, I never imagined having only two children. I think I zigged when I should have zagged [law school rather than a third baby] and here we are.

My youngest is having a hard time with her sister going to a different school than her this year. And, the oldest starts tomorrow while the youngest has another week. The youngest asked that I be sure she is up and ready to ride along to drop big sis off at high school tomorrow morning. It will be a whole new world for the youngest to be at a school building where her sister is not. I am sure there will be other kids in her shoes, though, and they can share their collective angst.

It’s a year of big change for our family. My boss retired and I’m now the interim director of the program I’ve worked in for the past five years. My husband is entering his 20th and potentially last year of military service. My sweet girl starts high school and my baby hit double digits and is in fifth grade.

It’s enough to drive a mom into a gallon of ice cream. BUT! Not THIS mom. I am being strong! I’ll drink my fizzy water and LIKE it!

Holiday Hangover

2012-12-26_14-50-11_800As the first month of the new year draws to a close, I realize that my enthusiasm for 2013 has not translated into much progress. Oh, sure, I revamped my bedroom by closing my fashion museum [my clothing no longer lies about as if on display], purging my closets & finding a bunch of clothes I’d completely forgotten. I’ve also been busy assisting recent graduates in preparing for February’s bar exam. Somehow, though, I’ve continued to wrap myself in the haze of the holidays and I’ve neglected to truly turn my desire for progress into actual progress.

I have not gone running yet this year.

I have not begun my new notebook for the year that is set to help me reach my business goals.

I have not begun reading or finishing any books for my annual reading goal.

I have not put together all my business receipts and records so my accountant can work her magic.

In my analysis (rationalization?) of this phenomenon, I concluded that since 2009, my little family ricocheted off the walls of life. We experienced more in that three year span of time than some families experience in a lifetime. At the close of 2012, most every loose end tied itself. After you live like that for so long, however, you remain under the impression that even tightly tied shoes drop.

We have so much to look forward to this year. My husband started a new job after nearly 20 years with the same employer. My oldest is finishing her junior high career, looking forward to high school, and following in Mom’s footsteps by launching her own business. My youngest is committed to academic success in her final quarters of 4th grade and I am committed to helping her reach it. My plan remains taking my business by storm, helping my daughter in her new endeavor, making memories with my kids and upping the passage rate of the first time bar takers with whom I work.

I guess three weeks is long enough to hibernate. It’s time for the opening bell to ring and for me to charge from my corner and take on 2013.

I refuse to have resolutions. I commit to objectives, plans and goals. First up? Kicking my own butt & starting this party!

Recap: Christmas Goodies at the Fort

Because not everyone in our family has the same last name and because we are a military family, we have christened our little corner of the world like an army post–we’re a fort.

This year at the fort, the girls envisioned a holiday full of homemade goodies and Pinterest only fueled the fire. Always watching for memory making opportunities of the pleasant variety, I obliged.

IMG_1030We went a little nutso. We started with a salted caramel pretzel bark I pinned on Pinterest.

It’s hard to believe that these raw materials turned into something so delicious, but I believed the blogger when she said they would. Her photos were pretty convincing too.

My youngest took on the task of individually lining up the pretzels so that they were in a single layer. She also had the ingenious idea of using broken pretzels in the tight spots close to the edge so the caramel would have something crunchy to cling to when we poured it.

She had some great ideas in addition to this one, but I must say, the kids spatial skills will serve her well on her college placement tests someday, I’m sure. We met maximum pretzel capacity on our first attempt at this recipe.

Few things encourage me to harm myself more than boiling hot sugar that is turning into caramel. You know you can’t eat it, but IMG_1038you want to grab a spoon and go for it–3rd degree burns be darned.

The caramel took its sweet time working its way into the crevices created by the pretzels. I worried that it wouldn’t cover all the pretzels, but my astute daughter reminded me that once it went in the oven, the caramel would warm even more and spread around the pan.

It took just a few minutes for the magic to happen. Then, before we knew it, the oven beeped and we removed the pan from the oven so we could give this treat another layer of loveliness.

I don’t know about you, but in our house, anything topped with chocolate chips, especially melted ones, earns a blue ribbon on the Yum scale.

IMG_1043The girls enjoyed sprinkling on the chocolate chips before we popped the pan into the oven again to start them melting.

The youngest finally relinquished the sole baker role and turned over a spoonula to her older sister. M1 spread the chocolate over the pretzels and caramel as evenly as she could without uprooting the pretzels in different spots.

Once the chocolate had been spread around, it was time to sprinkle on salt (we used Kosher) and place the pan into the freezer so the goodies could set.

As you might imagine, the view inside the freezer improved greatly once the pan took up residence. I worried when I went to peelIMG_1047 away the aluminum foil, but after the bark warmed a few seconds, the foil peeled off easily.

I think this will be added to our holiday goodie arsenal. I also think that we will plan better next Christmas so that we are actually making and TAKING these goodies somewhere. It will certainly make things more fun for my waistline as no one enjoys the scavenger hunt for pants that fit that ensues at the end of the year.

IMG_1049In between the homemade, more work intensive items, we also made a perennial favorite–Peanut Butter Blossoms. A perfectly acceptable cheat in my mind is to purchase a big log of Pillsbury Peanut Butter cookie dough and use it as your base for the cookies. I’ve made some pretty awesome peanut butter cookies from scratch, but let’s be honest–this cookie is all about the Hershey’s kiss.

And, if you roll the peanut butter cookie dough ball in sugar before you put it on the pan, it’s even more homemade-esque. You simply can’t go wrong when cutting corners still ends in a deliciously divine cookie treat. I don’t think (had we shared these) that anyone would have said–“Hey. I’m not 100% convinced these cookies are 100% homemade.” Nope. You can’t tell and even if you suspected, you’d still eat three before you completed the entire thought in your head.

Because I’ve had previous Pinterest successes, I was emboldened to try a feat I’ve often considered, but never committed to doing. Yes–cutout, decorated sugar cookies. I found this recipe on Pinterest and had some vague memory of hearing that sour cream in IMG_1046sugar cookies makes them superb.

My kids weren’t nearly as convinced, but I told them that good or bad, they could still help roll them out, cut out shapes and decorate them. That information quieted the peanut gallery considerably and we started on our mission.

My youngest provided the assistance in measuring and mixing the ingredients into a sticky dough that rested in the fridge while we worked on other goodies.

Universal kid law states that any activity that allows you to cover the table, your hands, a rolling pin, cookie cutters and any IMG_1055other helpful surface in the kitchen with flour RULES.

Lots of smiles during the process and funnily enough, no one wimped out prior to the cookies being baked. Usually, we experience ample amounts of enthusiasm to begin a project that wanes long before the oven finishes baking the first batch.

My girls demonstrate their decorating prowess with this project as well. We mixed and tinted our own icing. They had definite ideas about decorating their trees as well as the Santa/Elf cookies. Because we have resident Elves during the holidays (Elvis and Little Elvis), one cookie was decorated to look like each Elf.

IMG_1071These cookies rocked our socks.

Extremely soft. Incredibly tasty. And super fun to decorate.

I think we’ll be making these again long before it’s Christmas cookie time. After all, I have other shapes of cookie cutters and we don’t want to make them jealous!

 

 

Party Success = ToysRUs & PartyCity blew up in my house & I LOVE IT!

I really missed out not having boys (or girls who were pirate crazy). What a fun looking party!