Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eat More to Weigh Less.... What?

Sounds counter intuitive, right?  How in the world can eating more food (which in turn means more calories) result in weight loss?  A year ago there is no way in the world you would have been able to convince me this was true.  I was a faithful 1,200 calorie a day girl.  But I wasn't losing weight!

Several months ago I came across a website that several online friends had suggested for calorie counting.  The Daily Plate became such a useful tool for me.  See, calorie counting was something that I had to be pretty strict about for a while.  I had to do it to be honest with myself about what I was eating and to hold myself accountable.  I also have to measure my food.  Portion sizes are so skewed in our culture.  You would be surprised exactly what a 2 Tbs portion of peanut butter really looks like.  As healthy eating became second nature I've been able to back off strict counting, but I definitely still do it every now and again to keep myself in check.

The first thing you do is establish a daily calorie goal.  Your body burns a certain number of calories just existing.  For my height, weight, age and lifestyle (not including exercise, we'll get to that) I should consume around 2,100 calories per day to maintain my current weight.  Since I'm still looking to lose a little body fat I can cut back on my calories to create a deficit.  A 500-750 calorie per day deficit keeps you on track for a safe and sustainable 1-1.5 pound per week weight loss.

So this brings my daily NET calorie goal to 1,600.  The net part is very important.

Another key to being healthy, both physically and mentally for me, is exercise.  I'm so glad that I actually enjoy exercise.  I would hate to view it as a necessary evil and have to force myself to do it anyway.  When you exercise and burn calories.... YOU GET TO EAT THEM BACK.  Seriously, I think this is the best thing ever.  I love eating more than I love running... and that says a lot.  This part of the formula is something that a lot of people overlook.  You need to fuel your body properly for the exercise that you do.

My average workouts burn 350-550 calories.  The Daily Plate has an exercise tracking function that helps you determine calorie burn, just be sure not to overestimate.  So on any given day I'm eating 2,000+ calories and still confident that I'm on track to lose weight.

Eating less calories than your body truly needs will not facilitate quicker weight loss.  In fact, your body is more likely to hang on to fat reserves if it feels that it isn't getting adequate fuel to function.

I still overhear ladies talking about their 1,200 calories and I want to reach out to them and tell them there's a better way!  There is life beyond rice cakes and baby carrots!  Ok... so I eat baby carrots all the time.  I like them!  Seriously, I've found such a passion for healthy living (and eating) and never knew that I wasn't eating enough.  I can't help but think that there are other women that don't know either.  Of course, every woman and metabolism is different, so even if we are the exact same height and weight our needs will be different.

I hope that someone out there somewhere found this at least a little bit informational and helpful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Less than two months to go.....

I can't believe that in less than two months I'll be running my first (but most definitely not my last) half marathon!  I'm running the half at Chosen: Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels.  I've really enjoyed the training so far in spite of the brutal heat and humidity.  I've learned so much these last few weeks/months and thought I would write some of it out here so that I can come back after the race and see if it still holds true and how my perspective might have changed.

1. The only way to run faster is to run faster.  I read somewhere that the only way to increase your speed is to do speedwork.  It's definitely working!  I do one tempo run or interval run a week.  Nothing formal, but I like to see just how fast I can run the 5K distance, or I'll set out to do 2-3 miles of sprint/jog intervals.  The other day my Nike+ said that I was running at a sub-9 minute per mile pace for the first time ever.  I'll never be the fastest but it's so rewarding to see a definite improvement.  Last year I was running anywhere from 13 to 15 minute miles.  This year I'm averaging 11:45ish.  I have a theory that once the weather cools off I'll see a huge difference as well.  We shall see.

2. Long runs are NOT scary. My number one fear when I put together my training schedule was the weekly long run.  My farthest distance up until then was 6 miles and that was only a couple of times.  So far I have run 7, 8 and 9 mile long runs.  I'm always careful to go slower than normal so I don't burn out before the end.  Right now I'm all about the distance on the long runs and not the speed.  We'll see how I do with double-digit runs.  My first one is coming up this weekend!

3. It's hard to lose weight when training for a race.  I heard this and thought PSHAW, I can do it.  I'll just keep maintaining the same calorie deficit that I have for a while now.  No Way!  I learned a new word from a blogger that I follow. Runger.  It's the hunger that you get from running more and upping your weekly mileage while training for a race.  This is some serious business I tell you.  The scale hasn't moved in weeks and I'm perfectly fine with that.  I'm feeling great about my body and how strong it is becoming while understanding that it needs fuel to do so.  I do try to make sure that I stuff my face with smart food choices but I can't say that I'm 100% successful.  We'll see if this weight loss plateau continues.

Some other random thoughts about running:

- When I'm stressed I want to go for a run.  This beats feeling the urge to hide under my bed with a box of Little Debbie treats.

- I have learned that while it's cooler in the mornings it is more humid.  So I get to choose, heat or humidity?  Well, I don't really get to choose.  My schedule is pretty much dictated by my husbands work schedule and when he is home to be with the girls.

- Why did it take me more than a year to learn that I need water DURING my runs?  Maybe this won't be the case this winter, but it definitely is a neccesity right now.

That's all I have for now.  I'm sure I'll think of more stuff and be back to blog about it.  If you read all this, Yay!  If not, I don't blame you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

The summer temperatures here in Texas can be brutal.  There's nothing like a chilly treat to beat the heat.  This fun to make twist on the ice cream sandwich earns bonus points as a great way to get the kids in the kitchen with you.  I used the classic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe, but these would be great with any of your favorite cookies, even the refrigerated dough kind.  Mix and match your ice cream flavors as well.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches


1 batch Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies

Half gallon of your favorite vanilla ice cream, softened

Mini chocolate chips or sprinkles


Prepare cookies according to recipe. Cool completely.

Place a heaping tablespoon of ice cream on flat side of 1 cookie; top with flat side of second cookie to make a sandwich. Place morsels or sprinkles on plate. Roll sides of sandwiches in morsels or sprinkles. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Crustless Quiche

Quiche is another extremely versatile recipe.  In this lighter version I have reduced the carbs, calories and fat by omitting the crust and making some healthy substitutions.  I made it two different ways and you can definitely add anything else that you think would be yummy.

Crustless Quiche

Basic Ingredients:

5 large eggs
1 cup 1% milk (or whatever milk you have will be fine)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground mustard
black pepper to taste

Additional Ingredient Options:

1 cup sauted veggies - spinach, asparagus, onions, anything you like
1 cup cooked meat (bacon, sausage, etc)
1 cup shredded cheese - any kind of cheese you love - be creative!

You can definitely mix meats and veggies.  Really... anything goes here.

Carmelized onion, spinach and sun dried tomato-
Slice 1/4 yellow onion very thin.  Using 1 tsp olive oil, cook over medium-low heat until very soft and carmelized (this will take a while, just be patient).  Remove onions from the pan and turn heat up to medium.  Saute 1 tsp minced garlic and 2 cups baby spinach until spinach is wilted (about 2 minutes).  Allow spinach to cool and remove as much water as possible by squeezing it.  Roughly chop the spinach. Chop 3-4 sundried tomatoes.  I used muenster cheese with this quiche.

Bacon and cheddar-
Cook six slices of bacon until crispy.  Drain well and chop. (I cut mine up before I cook it.  It cooks much faster that way).


Preheat oven to 350.  Spray glass pie dish with nonstick spray.  Place meat or veggies and cheese in the bottom of the pan.  Whisk eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and pour over the top.  Back 35-45 minutes until set.  Cool a bit before serving.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Homemade Granola Rocks!

I love a recipe that you can change up to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.  You can use any dried fruits or nuts that you like in this basic granola recipe.  I've been eating 1/4 cup of this with a low-carb yogurt for breakfast.  It's so good!

Fruit & Nut Granola


5 cups steel cut (or course) oats
2 cups nuts (I used almonds and pistachios)
2 cups dried fruit (I used raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 Tbs cinnamon


Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to coat.  Spread into a large pan and bake 30-35 minutes, stirring frequently.  Cool completely and store in an air tight container.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Creamy Guacamole

Avocados (and anything derived from them) were on the list of foods I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole for most of my life.  Pregnancy cravings with Brooke (now 10) turned my dining world upside down and luckily this was one of them.  Not long after, a coworker at the time showed me how to make guacamole at home.  It's so easy and this one has an extra ingredient that gives it a creamier texture.

Creamy Guacamole


3 ripe avocados*
Juice of two limes
1 roma tomato - seeded and diced
1-2 fresh jalapenos - seeded and finely diced (or not seeded if you like the heat)
1/2 red onion - finely diced
2 cloves garlic - minced (or 2 tsp minced garlic from a jar)
handful of chopped cilantro
1 Tbs chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 c. Miracle Whip
salt & pepper to taste


Seed and chop ingredients 3-7 and have them ready to go.  Remove pit from avocados, scoop out the pulp and smash in a bowl (potato masher works great).  I like mine pretty smooth.  Combine remaining ingedients and stir well.  Adjust seasoning as needed.

To keep guacamole in the fridge, cover bowl with plastic wrapped pressed onto the surface of the guacamole.  This will keep the guac form turning brown when exposed to air.

* A ripe avocado is relatively firm, but will yield to gentle pressure.  Also, the small knob at the stem end should come free easily and when removed the spot should be green, not brown.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salsa

As a native Texas girl one of my favorite cuisines is Tex-Mex (is that even a cuisine?).  Unfortunately with all of the tortillas, cheese and sour cream it often isn't the healthiest meal.  In an attempt to add flavor to my fajitas I decided to throw together a non-traditional salsa.  You can always adjust the seasonings to your taste and even leave out any ingredients that you just plain don't like.

Also, the recipe calls for roasted corn.  I love to roast corn on the grill!  Buy the corn unshucked.  Soak the ears of corn in water for an hour then grill over high heat, 5 minutes per side.  If you have any left over this is great way to use it.  If you don't (or don't want the extra step of roasting it just for the salsa) just used frozen (thawed of course) or even canned corn.

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salsa

1 15oz can black beans - drained and rinsed
1 ear of corn - roasted, cooled and kernels cut away from the cob
2 roma tomatoes - seeded and diced
1/4 red onion - finely diced
1 jalapeno - seeded and finely diced
Handful of fresh cilantro - roughly chopped
juice of 1 large lime (or 2 small ones)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Seriously the easiest instructions ever.  Combine everything in a bowl.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.  The longer you let it chill the better it will be.  Serve with chips, on tacos or fajitas.

I bet it would be awesome the next day.... but it didn't last that long at my house.

Friday, April 23, 2010


No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Last night I was drawn to the last of the children's Easter candy.  I know there's a chocolate bunny or two hiding out in their rooms.  But I resisted.... I had pickles instead. lol.

Nights when my husband is gone are pitfalls of temptation where healthy eating is concerned.  These nights are fairly frequent since he works shiftwork that includes two sets of graveyards a month.  I'll go through the evening routine and we'll probably even have a healthy dinner.  But once the kids are in bed all bets are off.  I'm confessing right now that I will lay in bed by myself, watch TV  and eat anything and every junk food I can find.  I feel so disgusted with myself afterward, but it's a habit I've had a hard time breaking.

This morning I was proud of myself for resisting the temptation of candy last night, but I DID eat something.  And that's still not completely breaking the habit.  I got to thinking about a discussion our ladies Bible study class has had quite a few times.

When you remove anything from your life it leaves a hole.  You MUST fill that hole with God, or satan will slip in and fill it for you.

Trying to overcome my emotional eating habits without God's help is impossible.  Taking away that comfort (although temporary) of food and not filling the void with something with never result in success.

I'm committing right now to READ MY BIBLE during that time after the kids go to bed that I would usually use to raid the cabinet.  With His strength all things are possible...... even weight loss for emotional eaters.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I did what......?

It seems that I could possibly have maybe sort of agreed to run the Aramco Half Marathon next January...... I think.


I've been very lazy the past few months with my running.  I use the excuse that my schedule changed, but honestly..... I've been lazy.  I've become complacent in quite a few areas of my life and I'm bound a determined to get back on track.  My eating habits and lack of exercise are two areas that will see an immediate improvement.

In order to improve the way I eat I must improve the way I cook.  I love, love, love to bake and cook using all manner of butter, sugar, oil  and countless forms of processed carbohydrates.  That's not going to do me or my family any good in a quest to become healthier.  So I'm giving my cooking habits a makeover.  I think I'll look at it as a challenge.... can I prepare tasty meals that my family will eat in a way that is healthy?

I'll blog about the good, the bad, and the disastrous (you KNOW it happens in my kitchen!) and hopefully along the way I can build a collection of good-for-us recipes that work for my family.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Big Helper

It's no surprise that I spend lots of time in the kitchen on the weekends.  I have loved cooking for as long as I can remember.  My mom always told me that I started following recipes when I was pretty young.  She did the parts that pertained to fire or the oven, but the rest was up to me.  As I got older Mom was very supportive of my cooking endeavors and more than once allowed me to experiment on the family with new recipes.  Some were hits, others were definite misses.

I try to share my passion for cooking with my girls as well.  Brynne and Brooke always help in the kitchen and it's such a joy to show them new skills as they get older.  They have grown from simply following my instructions to reading recipes on their own.  Brynne even gets to use the "good knives" and it working on knife skills.

This weekend it was me and Tori at home.  The past few weeks she has become very inquisitve and independant. "I'll do it BY MYSELF." is her new motto.  Something else I head many times this weekend was, "Let me help you."  So I did.

She got to use her little toddler knife to cut up Velveeta (that I had already cut up) for chicken and rice.  She also got to brush the egg wash onto the loaf of french bread.  She was so proud of herself!

Sunday afternoon her ZeeZee stopped by for a visit.  We were all hanging out in the family room when Tori disappeared and got very quiet.  Anyone with a small child knows this is never a good thing.  When I called out to see what she was doing she yelled that she was doing the dishes.  Sure enough, she had pulled up her stool and was scrubbing away at the loaf pans I had soaking in the sink.  This was the best picture I could snap before I had to rescue my counter from being flooded.

I love my girls so much!  I'm so proud to be their Mom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thin Mint Cupcakes

My thoughtful husband brought home ten, yes I said TEN, boxes of Girl Scout Cookies from work Saturday morning.  This should keep my emotional eating habits supplied for at least the next week or so.  But seriously, I had to think of something to do with some of them so they didn't end up taunting me from the cabinet.  I needed to make two dozen cupcakes for a church event and knew this would be the perfect time to experiment.  They were for the youth group and everyone knows that teenagers eat anything!  So even if they weren't great they wouldn't go to waste.

I took a shortcut here and used boxed cake mix.  I had it handy and I'm not ashamed to admit it. :-)  You can definitely used your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.

Thin Mint Cupcakes


1 box chocolate cake mix, prepared, or your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.
1 box Thin Mint Cookies
Double batch mint chocolate buttercream icing, recipe to follow.


Prepare cake batter according to box or recipe and preheat oven as specified.  Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.  Chop one sleeve of thin mint cookies into course pieces.  The other cookies can be cut in half to garnish the frosted cupcakes.

I usually use an ice cream scoop to measure out cupcake batter for uniform cupcakes.  In this case, you want the cookie pieces in the middle of the batter.  So put half the batter into the liners, sprinkle with crumbs, then finish filling in the batter.  Bake according to the recipe/box and allow to cool completely.  Frost with Mint Chocolate Buttercream and garnish with cookie halves.  I use a pastry bag and this tip that I ordered from Bake It Pretty to make the pretty swirl of frosting.

Mint Chocolate Buttercream adapted from Wilton


1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted

1 teaspoon clear peppermint extract

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)

3-4 tablespoons milk

Makes: About 3 cups of icing.


In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and extract. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Friday, February 26, 2010

No More Hiding.

I feel like I've spent the past few weeks in hiding.  Not physically, of course... physically I've been busy with family, home and work.  I've been planning vacations and travelled to Las Vegas for a long weekend with my husband, sister and brother-in-law.  (It was fabulous and I promise to write a post about it when I can get the pictures sorted.)  I've been doing the things that I always do.

Emotionally I've been shuttered up inside my own mind, locking myself away from my family, friends and even God.  I've holed myself up in a prison of my own making with my fears and anxieties until I feel like I could burst from the pressure.  But why?  Why do I do this?  I know that God's word tells me not to be anxious.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." ~ Philippians 4:6

And I know that the Lord wants to provide me with the strength that I lack on my own.

"..For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

But Satan still whispers lies to me.... lies that tell me I am too small and insignificant for God to care, that I am alone and friendless, that who could possibly want to be bothered with my trivial issues.  And I let myself believe these lies.  It is far easier to hang on to my sack full of ashes and carry it around with me than to lay it at the feet of Christ.  These ashes are MINE, they are a part of me.... what happens if I let them go?  Who am I then?

Starting today, I'm saying it out loud..... SATAN, I'M FINISHED HEARING YOUR LIES.  My LORD, my God is my strength and my peace.

"Peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of trouble, but is rather the confidence that He is there with you always." Pastor Phillip Crossman

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentines Day Cookies!

Pardon the excruciatingly, terribly horrid picture!  It was taken with my phone.  Holding the camera and supervising a 2 year old in the kitchen just wasn't possible.  Tori and I made decorated sugar cookies for her Valentine's Day party at daycare.  I've always been very apprehensive about decorating (or even baking) cut out cookies before.  Royal icing has not been kind to me in the past.

Several months ago I started reading  Bake at 350.  The blog is written by Bridget (a fellow Texas girl and  the neighbor of another of my favorite bloggers) and she gives great step by step instructions on how to make your own super cute sugar cookies.

I used her recipes for Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing just as written.  Read through several of her posts and the FAQ's and you'll quickly pick up on her helpful hints.  Here are a few that I found especially important.


1)  You CAN use cold butter and skip the step of chilling the dough!

2)  Thick cookies and a well floured surface to roll them on (wax paper) are the way to go.

3)  Parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

4)  Freeze each batch for 5 - 10 minutes on the cookie sheet before you bake them.  They held their shape perfectly.


1)  Do NOT overbeat.  I did and it made the icing very hard to pipe the outlines.

2)  Using plastic craft bottles for the flood icing was brilliant and so easy!

3)  Stir thinned flood icing gently and let it set for a bit before you use it to reduce the amount of bubbles.

Decorating the cookies was much less intimidating than I had expected.  They turned out super cute.  Unfortunately, because of the humidity and the fact that I did them pretty late last night they hadn't had time to dry completely before I had to package them early this morning.  There were a few smudges.  I would suggest a 24 hour drying period after you finish decorating.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Through the Trials.....

I missed WFMW this week and I haven't really given much thought to writing a blog post.  I'm going through some trials right now that are really leading me to dig deeper into the "Faith" portion of my blog.  I'm still cooking up a storm (baking = therapy for me) and I'll post some recipes soon, but right now I want to share a note I posted on Facebook a while ago.

I love looking back on postings here or on other websites and knowing that I was led to write those specific words so that I could go back a read them at this specific time.  I posted this note months ago.... and boy do I ever need to read it now.

Does God give us more than we can handle?

Often during times of trial we hear that God will not give us more than we can handle. But is that really true? Will God give us a burden that is too heavy for us to bear?

Some people look to 1 Corinthians 10:13 as assurance that God will not place more upon us than we can deal with. I don't believe that is what the passage means at all.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Paul is writing in this letter to fellow Christians in Corinth. If you look at the entire text he is warning them about getting comfortable in their faith and succumbing to the temptations of sin, as the Israelites did before them. In verse 13 Paul reminds us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist.

There are storms in our life too strong and violent for us to weather alone. There will come a burden too heavy for our shoulders to bear. We will be put through trials that are more than we can handle. The fact is because of the first sin of Adam and Eve all of mankind will suffer during their lifetime.

So what do we do now? If we are too weak to endure these hardships alone what possible hope do we have to make it through this life?

The glorious news is that we have God! If we choose to accept it we have a love and hope in the Lord that will endure any trial, weather any storm. While God will give us more than we can handle, He will never leave us to handle it alone. He wants, even requires, us to turn to Him for assistance. He is an ever present strength, a deliverer and our shield in the storm (Psalm 144:2).

My dearest friends please know that whatever your burden is, no matter how great or small, how heavy or light, that the Lord will willingly carry it on His shoulders if you will hand it to Him.

It was easy to write this when I wasn't struggling, and now that I am having a hard time it is great to read them... and to know that I know that I know that they are true.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake

This is my version of chicken spaghetti.... only without the spaghetti.  I just do not like spaghetti noodles.  Fettuccini, sure.  Angel hair.... maybe.  But not spaghetti.  It's one of my weird quirks.  So I decided to make a version of chicken spaghetti using an other type of pasta.  I made a few other slight changes to the recipe and the family loved it.


1 whole chicken, boiled and the meat shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 box Mezze Penne pasta - or any shape you like
1/2 large block of Velveeta (I used the 2%), cubed
1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken
1 can Rotel, drained - I used mild but you can use any variety
1 jar mushrooms, drained
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed to fine crumbs


Preheat oven to 450.  Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Boil pasta according to the directions on the box.  I boiled mine a minute or two short because I can't stand mushy pasta and it will continue to cook a bit on the oven.  While the pasta is cooking combine the Velveeta, soups, Rotel and mushrooms in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 3 minutes at a time, stirring between, until the cheese is melted.  Stir in the shredded chicken.

When the pasta is done drain and place in the casserole dish.  Pour in the cheese and chicken mixture and stir well to combine.  Top with cracker crumbs.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden.

Too bad I didn't have any frozen broccoli.  It would have been great in this dish.  Just thaw, pat dry and stit into the casserole dish before you put the crumbs on.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WFMW - Favorite Kitchen Tools

I'm at a loss today for anything worthwhile to contribute to WFMW.  Yes, I'm taking the easy way out and spotlighting some of the tools I use most often in the kitchen.

I'm a sucker for kitchen stuff.... utensils, dishes, pots, pans, gadgets, appliances.  You name it, I need it!  I didn't realize how acute this had become until my husband and I had the opportunity to stroll through the mall last Saturday without any real purpose (or any children).  I couldn't care less about any of the department stores.  The clothing and shoe stores hold no power over me.  In fact, I really don't enjoy shopping much at all.  But then we stumbled upon Williams Sonoma!

I believe we spent almost an hour perusing every corner of the store while I ooohed and aaaahed over an assortment of culinary "necessities" that I have neither the funds to buy nor the space to store.  Then we hit up Home Goods and World Market!  By the end of the afternoon I had a list a mile long of various things that I just must have for my kitchen.  But until the day comes when a money tree sprouts in my backyard and my kitchen magically doubles in size I'm going to rely on the same trusty tools that have brought me this far.  I'll share some of my favorites.


Food Processor

It took me years to break down and buy a food processor.  I thought that anything I needed could be accomplished in my trusty (cheap) Oster blender.  Oh how wrong I was!  I use this more than any other appliance in my kitchen except my coffee pot.  Not only for the typical pureeing and grinding, but it grates a pound of cheese in SECONDS.  The fresh grated stuff is so much better (cheaper) than the preshredded bags but for convenience I have been buying them for years.  Not anymore!

Don't even get me started on pie crusts!  Who knew they were so easy?

Oh how I wish I had this when I spent months making baby food.  I can only imagine the time it would have saved.

Mesh Strainer

As a baker I'm almost ashamed to admit that I do not own a sifter.  I'm a firm believer in the sifting process and I know it makes a difference in the texture of baked goods, but I'm not a fan of the sifter itself.  They are a pain to clean and my mesh strainer works just fine.  It serves double (triple?) duty as a sifter/strainer/sieve in my kitchen. 

Flexible Cutting Mats

I use these mats instead of cutting boards.  It's easy as pie to transfer veggies or meats from the flexible mats to a bowl, pot or pan.  The labeled set of four allows you to use a different mat for each type of food and lessens the risk of contamination.

For more tips (on everything under the sun) visit Works for Me Wednesday and We Are THAT Family.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Afternoon at the Park

Yesterday afternoon the weather was gorgeous!  After weeks of colder than normal temperatures we've had quite a few mild days.  The weather was perfect for a trip to the park.  We fed the geese and spent some time on the playground.  We'll have to do it again soon when the older girls are home to play with us.

Tori isn't scared of the geese at all.  She tries to get them to eat out of her hand.  I'm a little more cautious.  I remember being chased by them as a kid.

You're never too old to swing!  It really was a beautiful day.

It was a little windy though.

I'm definitely going to need Botox in a few years! :-)

Slides are even fun for the big kids. :-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

WFMW - Homemade (read "inexpensive") Body Scrub

Before I get to my WFMW post I want to take a moment to remind everyone to continue to pray for Haiti.  A magnitude 6.0 "aftershock" hit the area this morning.

There's just something about spa treatments that make a girl feel better.  But venturing to an actual spa for an actual treatment requires not only the time (and babysitting) but the money.  With this body scrub you can pamper yourself without breaking the bank.

Maybe it's the baker in me that loves this scrub because it smells so delicious!

Brown Sugar Body Scrub


1-1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil (canola oil can be substituted)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blending Procedure:

Pour the brown sugar into a bowl and pack it tightly using the back of a spoon. Add the olive oil and mix together to form a paste.

Add the vanilla extract last for a hint of scent. Mix well.

To use, scoop some into the palm of your hand and massage gently from limbs to torso, avoiding broken skin and face. Rinse well.

Store in a jar in a cool place.  This also makes a great gift!  Use mason jars and ribbon to dress it up.  Don't forget the recipe so your friends can make more.

More WFMW tips can be found here!

Monday, January 18, 2010

P-Dub's Apple Dumplings

Actually, these would be correctly title Pioneer Woman's Momma's Apple Dumplings, but who cares what you call them.  Just make them!  But make them when you have a few people to feed them to.  They are by no means anywhere close to healthy (look at all that butter and sugar!) and are also so, so good that you'll be up sneaking bites in the middle of the night.  Don't ask me how I know.

Apple Dumplings from The Pioneer Woman Cooks


2 whole Granny Smith Apples

2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls

2 sticks Butter

1-½ cup Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Cinnamon, To Taste

1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda - Both PW and I only used about half a can.  I accidentally bought diet and it was fine.

Preparation Instructions

Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.

Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayers and Assistance for Haiti

Unless you've been living in a hole the past few days you have heard of the 7.0 earthquake that struck the already impoverished nation of Haiti.  The loss of life is estimated to be upwards of 40,000.  This nation, these people.... THEY NEED OUR PRAYERS!

They also need assistance.  I know that economic times are hard and you might not feel like the five or ten or even one buck you can contribute can make a difference, but it will.  Everything helps.  I've noticed that the blog world has shown an incredible outpouring of love, prayers and ways to help.  I'm providing links to a few and you can check out their suggestions for where/how to provide monetary assistance.

CakeWrecks - Doctors Without Borders

Run the Earth, Watch the Sky - Harvest International

The Pioneer Woman - She's having a giveaway and donating 10 cents for each entry.  That might not sound like much, but she's got quite a following and it really adds up.

Serious Eats - How to help send food.

If you want to donate actual items, Charity Chicks Houston posted this.

The Haitian Association of Houston is accepting donations of canned food, water, clothing, blankets, medical supplies and money from 7am-10pm through Friday (Multi-ethnic Community Center of Southwest Houston, 9819 Bissonnet St.). They will still be helping after Friday, but those hours are not confirmed past Friday.

The Houston Chronicle and KSBJ also have lists of places/organizations that you can donate to.

An unusual way to help - text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts and the charge will appear on your cell phone bill.

I hope you choose to make a difference!   Please keep praying!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday - Speedy Softened Butter

This is the first time I've participated in Works For Me Wednesday (WFMW).  It's a blog carnival hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family.  If you don't read her blog..... START!  Every Wednesday participating bloggers post a tip on their blog and a link on We Are THAT Family.  There are tips for EVERYTHING there, saving time, saving money, cooking, homeschooling... everything.  I think this is going to be fun!

My first WFMW tip is pretty simple.  I'm always hit by a sudden urge to bake something.... and it never fails that what I choose to bake calls for softened butter.  But who wants to wait hours for butter to come to room temperature?  Maybe you have the patience for that, but I'm still lacking in that department.  So here is my solution.

Set your oven to begin preheating to the lowest setting.  Let it heat for about 5 minutes, then turn it off.  You may even need to leave the door ajar to let some heat escape.  You want it to be warm in there, but not hot at all.

Cut butter into small cubes on a cutting board.  The smaller the cubes, the faster it will soften.  This has to do with increasing the surface area of the butter that is exposed to warmer temperatures, therefor decreasing the time it takes to raise the temperature of the butter.  (Thanks Alton Brown for being a food nerd!)

Place the butter in the warm oven and check it after five minutes.  If it's not soft continue to check it every few mintues.  You do NOT want to melt the butter so make sure the oven isn't too hot and that you don't forget about it.

I hope this tip works as well for you as it does for me!

P.S.  It also works for cream cheese.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Most if the time weeknight dinner at our house must be two things - super quick and relatively healthy.  Last year Troy asked if I would start cooking more fish.  Fish?  Seriously?  I eat fish two ways - batter fried with a side of hush puppies or wrapped in a nori sheet with sticky rice and plenty of wasabi.  Either way... the fish is prepared by someone else.  Cooking fish isn't something I do at all, not to mention well.  But I've never been one to turn down a challenge in the kitchen, so if Troy wanted me to cook fish, I would cook fish.  This recipe has been the most successful by far.

Tilapia is a mild, inexpensive and readily available fish.  You can find it in the frozen seafood section.  It's usually sold in individually frozen fillets.  This recipe is flavorful and crispy on the outside, flaky and moist on the inside.  It shouldn't be mushy or fishy at all.

Parmesan Crusted Tipalia


6-4 oz. tilapia fillets
1 cup breadcrumbs (you can use store bought or make your own.  In a pinch I have run croutons through my food processor.)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (Grate your own, preshredded, even the powdered stuff would be okay.)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp cajun seasoning (Use more if you want.  Use whatever dried seasonings you like!)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray, or if you have baking racks set them on the baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray.  Using the racks will keep the fish crispier on the bottom as well.

Place breadcrumbs, cheese and seasonings in the blender or food processor and process just until everything is combined.

Place olive oil in a small bowl and the breading on a plate.

Rinse each fillet and pat dry with paper towels.  Brush both sides with olive oil and coat with breading, pressing to make sure it sticks.  Place fillets on the baking sheets or racks.

Press a bit more breading onto the top of each fillet and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with steamed or roasted veggies and a salad for a quick, healthy dinner.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dealing with Anger?

Until now, most of the time this blog has been used for general musings, pictures of the kids, and of course recipes.  But today I've decided to talk about a subject a little close to home and personal for me..... anger.  Writing a blog post about it forces me to dig deep into scripture to uncover what God has to say about the subject.  And I get to share what I find with anyone out there interested in reading it.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle with anger on almost a daily basis.  Then I struggle with guilt over being angry.  I mean.... the Bible says that anger is wrong, right?

Well, yes and no.

Psalm 37:8 says "Cease from anger and foresake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land."

Anger can lead us to do evil.  Anger, the emotion is not evil but it can give the devil wiggle room in our minds and our hearts.  If unchecked it can lead to wrath and fury, causing us to sin.

In Ephesians Paul gives Christians a set of standards to live by.  Among them are refences to anger.

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  - Eph 4:25-27

Also, verses 31 and 32 - "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Anger is a naturally occuring emotion.  What we do with our anger is our choice.  God tells us not to STAY angry, not to let our anger evolve to WRATH and cause us to sin.

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" - Proverbs 29:11

"How much more grevious are the consequences of anger than the causes of it." - Marcus Aurelius

Anger itself is not a sin.  The Bible contains accounts of times when Jesus became angry.  (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 3:5)  Jesus was without sin!  Therefore, anger is not a sin, it is neither wrong nor right (or for a more grown up word we can say it is amoral).  The anger displayed by Jesus is true righteous anger.  Jesus was angered not at a personal attack on him.  And He handled His anger in a appropriate way.  To learn how to deal with our own anger we can look at how Jesus dealt with His.

Got Questions Ministries lists the following six traits of Jesus' anger.

1) His anger had the proper motivation. In other words, He was angry for the right reasons. Jesus’ anger did not arise from petty arguments or personal slights against Him. There was no selfishness involved.

2) His anger had the proper focus. He was not angry at God or at the “weaknesses” of others. His anger targeted sinful behavior and true injustice.

3) His anger had the proper supplement. Mark 3:5 says that His anger was attended by grief over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. Jesus’ anger stemmed from love for the Pharisees and concern for their spiritual condition. It had nothing to do with hatred or ill will.

4) His anger had the proper control. Jesus was never out of control, even in His wrath. The temple leaders did not like His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:47), but He had done nothing sinful. He controlled His emotions; His emotions did not control Him.

5) His anger had the proper duration. He did not allow His anger to turn into bitterness; He did not hold grudges. He dealt with each situation properly, and He handled anger in good time.

6) His anger had the proper result. Jesus’ anger had the inevitable consequence of godly action. Jesus’ anger, as with all His emotions, was held in check by the Word of God; thus, Jesus’ response was always to accomplish God’s will.

If we keep these in mind we can deal with our own anger in a way that is pleasing to God instead of letting it become a destructive force. 

My prayer for today is that I have the strength to let go of my anger and the selfishness that I use to justify it, to replace it with the love and forgiveness that God has shown to me.

Have a blessed Friday everyone!  Stay warm!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Better than the Best Hot Chocolate

Since the weather man forecasts a 25 degree drop in temperature today I figured now was the perfect time to post this dreamy hot chocolate recipe that my sweet friend Karen shared.  Actually, my oldest girls whipped up a double batch of this in no time flat last night so it's super easy to make.  A double batch was a really baaaaad idea since it's also very, very (almost too) good and I now have quite a bit of it calling me from the fridge.  I meant to try it my coffee this morning, but (luckily for my waistline) I forgot all about it.

Here's what you need:

1 can (14oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 pkg (6oz) Chocolate chips

1 tsp Vanilla... See More

1 cup cool whip

Here's what you do:

Combine Milk & Choc chips in bowl, cover and microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring twice, or until most of chips are soft. Stir until choc melts. Stir in vanilla and let cool. Fold in Cool Whip. Cover & store in frig for up to 2 weeks.

To serve, spoon 3 Tblspns of mixture into mug & fill with hot milk (or do what I do, put mixture in mug with cold milk and heat in microwave, stir and enjoy!)

It was such a wonderful treat last night topped with a spoonful of the extra Cool Whip!  Some sweetened, whipped cream would be great if you have that handy or mini marshmallows and chocolate shavings!  I bet the fat free sweetened condensed milk and Cool Whip would work fine if you wanted a less guilt inducing version..... but where's the fun in that?

Thanks Karen for the great recipe!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Chilly Weather Chicken and Dumplings

We're in for record setting lows this week here in Southeast Texas.  While much of the country would laugh at our lows in the 20's, we're just not used to that here.  It's time to wrap the pipes, cover the plants, build a fire, and have a warm, hearty dinner. 

This isn't the chicken and dumplings recipe that I grew up eating.  It's not even close, but it's quick and tasty and the whole family enoys it.  A friend's husband made it for us once and then lost the recipe.  I've recreated it as best I could and let me just say, it's pretty darn good.  It makes enough for two big meals, but I'm not sure how well it would freeze.  Also, this is definitely more a semi-homemade recipe than from scratch.  But sometimes we need all the help we can get in the evenings.


3 stalks celery
1/2 medium onion
2 carrots
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
1 whole chicken (I used the rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)
1 large can cream of mushroom soup
1 large can cream of chicken soup
1 large carton (32 oz.) chicken stock
1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
2 cans regular sized refrigerated biscuits (not the Grands, the little cheap ones are great)
salt & pepper


Chop celery, onion  and carrots pretty small (fine dice).  They should be about 1/4 inch pieces.  You want these to cook thoroughly so be sure they aren't too big.  Or if you want crunchy veggies in your dumplings (eww) make them bigger.

Melt butter or oil in a large stock pot and saute vegetables on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the vegetables all begin to soften. 

Add chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

While the veggies are cooking, remove the chicken from the bones and shred it.  Save the bones and the trimmings from your vegetables to make chicken stock if you want.

Add both cans of soup to the pot and stir thoroughly (or wisk) until it is smooth.  Stir in the milk until it is the consistency you like.  You might want to add more milk after you add the dumplings, as it will thicken up a little.

Bring the pot to a boil and cut or tear the biscuits into small pieces.  I like to have smaller dumplings, so I cut them into 10-12 pieces per biscuit.  You can make them bigger, just be sure to cook them a bit longer.

Turn the heat down so that the pot is simmering and drop in the dumplings one at a time.  You might have to stir a couple of times to get them all in the pot.  Stir in the chicken and let everything simmer for 10 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This is perfect with a warm, crusty bread and even better as leftover for lunch the next day!