Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This post is not about food! It's about Holiday Cards!

It's true. I am writing about something other than food. Because Shutterfly is offering free photo cards to people who blog about which of their new holiday card styles they like. And since I was going to order cards from them anyway, well, you get the picture! Many thanks to Lady Ozma, who told me about this.

So for those of you who think I'm just spamming about Shutterfly, you, too, can blog about what cards you like and get 50 free ones. Info here: http://blog.shutterfly.com/5358/holiday2010-blog-submission-form/

So here we go. I've actually been using Shutterfly for years. I have 2 Shutterfly share sites to share pictures with my family, and I make books just about every year. I have sent cards from them for birth announcements, Christmas, and birthdays.

I have also made calendars and note cards over the years. One year, I did a calendar of our trip to Hawaii, and gave it to my parents for Christmas (since they love Hawaii too). Another year, I did a calendar of our trip on the San Juan River. Still another year, I had a really cool idea: I got a bunch of blank note cards using photos of flowers I took in Hawaii. I probably had 5 different photos and got 15 of each. Then I put together my own packs of stationery, so everyone got a few of each photo and envelopes to go with them. They made a great extra gift for everyone, and I still receive them occasionally when people use them as thank you notes.

This year, they have a bunch of new Holiday Cards. Here are some of my favorites:

Love this one. First, it's got that handmade card look, without me having to cut out little trees. And it says Happy Holidays, which makes it more universal, especially for my family. And you can have a picture on the inside as well as the outside! Hooray.

Again, we've got season's greetings, which may be a cop-out for those who don't want to send out 6 different kinds of holiday cards. But still, love the places for all of the photos. It's kind of like a combined card and letter. Sweet. I'm also a big fan of the agey scrapbooky look.

This one gives a donation to the American Lung Association, which is a good thing. It's also simple and elegant.

I have a thing for snowflakes, and I love this one. Simple, elegant, and in blue and silver. I am pretty sure I am going to use this one myself, except that the kids are all wearing green in the pictures this year. We'll have to see how it looks.

For a somewhat less expensive option, you can go for the flat cards. I love this one:

It makes me joyful.

If you want the links to the main parts of the site that you'll need, here they are:

Christmas Cards
Christmas Photo Cards

Finally, they do still have the old style photo cards, but I do love the new 5x7 cards so much. I absolutely love that you can write whatever you want on the inside, from a one-liner to a short letter. I was planning on just sending off a single photo but now that I have seen these cards, we'll be sending out something much much cooler. So go check it out! And do forgive the trip away from food for a while.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kitchen Update

So many people are asking for an update, so here it is.

We had a bit of a regression with the kitchen.

We decided that we really did not like the cabinet above the sink. It was hanging too low, and we could not put in the faucet that we wanted. We finally decided that we are going to take it out and replace it with 2 different cabinets. We went to Ikea yesterday to pick up these new cabinets and return the unusable doors.

We have to modify the over-microwave cabinet, as it is also too low hanging, and we would not be able to put a big pot on the stove (to make, for instance, pasta or beer). So that cabinet needs to come down and be modified. We returned those doors as well and will do a lift-up as we are doing for the modified over-fridge cabinet.

Speaking of the over-fridge cabinet, the hinge solution we had was not working very well. We need to find a new solution for this one as well as the over-microwave cabinet.

We are getting another pull-out spice rack, this time for the 6" space above the other one that we put in. I need to order it.

We found a good solution for the doors for the pull-outs--we will be using 2 6" x 15" drawer fronts. I was hoping to find a 6" x 30" drawer front to use, but Ikea doesn't make it. It's ok. It'll look good (and better than just using filler wood)

Because we have to re-do the over fridge cabinet, we have to wait to attach the cover panel that goes from it to the floor, to the lower cabinet on the other side. Because of that we can't get the granite yet.

So, everything is related to something else. We're getting it done, but there's been some bumps. Meanwhile, these are really end-of-project problems, so we're hoping we can get it all done soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Because Monica is my friend

I will participate in the redefining of Judith Griggs

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, here is an excellent version of the story.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Letter that I just sent to Chipotle

Good Evening.  

Today I went to Chipotle on Sunset Hills in Reston for a take-out order. My family has eaten at Chipotle restaurants before, and we like it because we can control what goes into our meals. My husband is allergic to beans, and we like that we can see our meals being made, and ensure that he is not going to bite into a beef and bean burrito when he has ordered a beef burrito. His allergy is actually quite severe, but we have always felt comfortable eating at Chipotle because of the stated ability to see our food being made and the knowledge that the restaurants use safe food handling practices.  

Tonight, as I was standing at the front of the line, the woman behind the counter was making either a phone or fax order--the orderer was not present. After placing rice and beans on the burrito, she placed shredded pork over the beans. Another woman behind the counter told her that it was supposed to be part pork and part beef, so she removed half of the pork (which had been in contact with the beans) and put it back in the bin that it came from.  

Not a single person said anything. I told her that she had just cross-contaminated the food, and she looked at me like I had two heads. I obviously was not able to order food for my husband at that point; I had no idea if this had happened before (to the chicken or beef) or if it was only the pork that was contaminated.  

In an era of allergies and other health issues, it is vitally important that food preparers be educated to not cross-contaminate food. I cannot imagine that it is the policy of Chipotle to correct incorrect orders by putting food back into their bins after they have already been added to a dish.  

Thank you for your time.  
Lynne Powell

Received this message from Chipotle:


Thanks for taking the time to address your concern. I am sorry to hear that your visit to our Reston restaurant yesterday was not impressionable. We shouldn't be depositing food back into their container after they have been incorporated into an order to avoid cross-contamination. Because the health and well-being of our guests is of utmost importance to us, we'll follow-up with our team at this location and make sure that this does not happen again.

We'd like to invite you back for a meal on us, if you'll willing to give us another try. Simply send me your mailing address, and I will send you a couple of free burrito cards shortly. We appreciate you bringing this to our attention so that we can address our team and correct this.

We hope to see you soon!


Louisa Fredrickson | Marketing Consultant
Chipotle Mexican Grill

Responded with:


Thank you so much for your quick reply. I would be willing to give Chipotle another try, but I am concerned about how long I should wait for the follow-up at this location to take place. Should I give it a week? Or will it happen sooner than that?

My mailing address is:

Lynne Powell

Thank you again for your attention to this matter.

-Lynne Powell

Received this message from Chipotle:

Good morning Lynne,

I heard back from our area manager for Reston and he informed me that this would be addressed immediately with our crew. I will make sure that our team our there is in touch with you to assure you that we have properly followed-up with our team regarding your concerns, and that cross-contamination will not be an issue going forward. I am optimistic that you will hear from them soon.

And I will send the Powell family a Chipotle treat this morning—you should receive the cards next week J  Come see us again soon!


And then received this message:

Hi Lynne,

I spoke with Alex (our General Manager at this store) yesterday and he already has addressed this with his managers and crew.  I am really sorry you had to experience this.  You can trust me in that this is definitely not the norm.  You should feel free to try us at any point; as this should have been corrected immediately.

Again I am really sorry this had to happen to you, but I appreciate you taking the time to let us know about this.


So I thanked them both and am looking forward to my next trip.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Restaurants to which we will not return: Ariake in Reston

I never intended to post bad reviews here. This was supposed to be a place of love and sharing of food. But it is actually because of a food love affair gone sour that I am posting this today. 

Ariake is a sushi restaurant in Reston, on Colt's Neck Road and Glade Drive. We started going there when it opened. This was well before Micah was born, and in fact, it was there that I went for my hush-hush pregnancy sushi. We have been going there for so long that we remember the things that used to be on the menu, that are not anymore, and that the waitresses will always bring for us because they remember us. Our children have always been welcome. We have always been welcome. Until tonight. 

Here's a hint to restaurant owners out there: If you don't want children in your restaurant, don't provide high chairs. If a restaurant provides a high chair, I always make the assumption that we are welcome with our kids. In fact, when we entered today, there were two other tables with small children. 

We ordered our food: a sushi/sashimi platter for two for Adam and me, another special roll, a cucumber roll for Micah, and agedashi tofu for Lillian. Drinks (beer for the adults and lemonade for Micah) were also ordered. We had, in fact, had a pretty rough week and wanted a nice dinner and a beer to try to make up for it.

Everything was generally fine. Lillian ate through most of her tofu and was working on some sushi. Micah was doing his dawdling thing that he does. Adam and I were gushing over the wonderfulness of the sushi. Lillian didn't get everything to her mouth; she's 14 months old. Too old to be feeding baby food (which we never did anyway), too old to be spoon or fork feeding her (which we also never did). She's a voracious eater who does, in fact, sometimes drop food on the floor. Just about all kids do. In most restaurants, we make an apology and leave a big tip. I usually try to do some cleaning up before we go.

Tonight, she was getting antsy, so I picked her up out of the high chair, and the owner's son came over to our table. As soon as I had her out of the chair, he moved the chair out of the way and started cleaning the dropped food. If that had been the end of it, I would have just assumed he was trying to be nice so I didn't step in tofu. Instead, he said, "I'm going to clean this up because it's grossing out the other customers."

"Excuse me?" I said

"It's grossing out the customers to see food on the floor."

"I see. Which customers are grossed out?" I said. "Is there a specific customer or do you mean to say that you are grossed out?

"um, um"

"I see. So you're grossed out because a BABY dropped food on the floor. And you couldn't keep it to yourself."

"It's gross to have food on the floor."

Then I turned to Adam and told him I was going to take Lillian for a walk outside. When I came back in he had brought the check to the table (we were no where near done with either the food or the drinks). I said that I wanted to talk to him and he told me that he didn't want to discuss it with me. We went back and forth a couple of times and he said we should go. He also, somewhere in there, commented that it was a family place. I'm sure. 

One of our favorite waitresses was visibly upset. I commented to her that there are a lot of sushi restaurants in Reston and Herndon, and before I got to finish my statement (that we had been coming here for years now), he overheard and said "well you can go to them then."

I walked out. Adam did pay the bill (I wish he had not) and got a to go box to take the rest of the sushi home. I got in the car with Lillian and pulled up to the front door, then got out to help with Micah. Apparently the manager was also very upset (he knows us as well) because he followed Adam out, and was very insistent that the guy had no say in anything and was just the owner's son.

I said, "Yes but if he were a waiter who treated us that way, he would be fired. You do not use the words "grossed out" in front of people who are eating, especially when referring to their child."

The manager said, "yes"

I said, "But you can't fire him because he's the owner's son. And because he's the owner's son, he does speak for the business whether you say he does or not."

So, we're done with Ariake. DONE. We won't be returning there, except perhaps to drop a copy of this off to the owner. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why we love Chik Fil A for kids, and one thing we don't love so much.

We are still eating out and we end up at Chik Fil A a lot, because it is yummy and really very good for kids. Here's what we love about our Chik Fil A. Note that all of the stores are independently owned & operated so your mileage may vary. Ours is the one on Sunset Hills Road in Reston, across from the Target. Anyway, here we are:

  • Ambiance is pretty cool. There are flowers on the tables!

  • Kids meals are lovely. You can replace fries with fruit, and the fruit is actual fresh fruit and not canned/syrup stuff. Both kids love the fruit and my bigger one rarely asks for the fries. 

  • The toy that comes in the kids meal is usually not particularly annoying. If you ask for the under 3 toy, it's actually a book. Recently we've gotten some educational stuff. Not too bad.

  • They have lemonade as an option to drink, and it's real lemonade (I found pits in it last time we were there). It's a nice change of pace from the usual choice of soda or juice.

  • If you happen to have a baby who is going to be eat off of the table, they give you a plastic table topper to use.

  • If you walk in with a baby in one arm and a kiddo holding onto your other hand, they will take your food to your table and get a high chair for you, and make sure you're all set up. And, they'll come back and make sure you're ok and ask if you need a drink refill. That's pretty awesome. 
  • They have kid's events all the time. Like, on Monday mornings, you can bring the kids for breakfast and they have entertainment, crafts, story time, etc. And they have Family Night on Tuesdays. 

  • They have a nifty kid's play area.

So all in all, for the kids and me, it's a great place. Here's what we don't like:

  • They cook in peanut oil. 

Which means my husband cannot join us. I'm sure the flavor of everything would change if they changed the oil, but I don't think that it would change all that much, and it would open the place to far more people. It's pretty much my only complaint.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CSA this week!

I traded weeks with Amy this week, so we got our share two weeks in a row. And boy was it an awesome one!

Onions  (about 6 of them)
Pole Beans
Cherry Tomatoes
Salsa Kit!!!
Thai Basil
Raspberries (YAY!)

There were a bunch of eggplants that had been left in the "take or leave" bin, so I got a couple of extra (they were small) in hopes that I can make a whole bunch of eggplant stuff for the freezer. I have offers of kitchen use from a few friends, and with all of the tomatoes and eggplant, I see both eggplant parmagiana and caponata in our near future. Also, if I can find the food processor, that Salsa Kit will be Salsa in no time.

I also think we will have to make some swiss chard empanadas. If I can prep them at a friend's kitchen, they will cook nicely in the toaster oven until I have a real oven again.

So yeah, really excited about this week's share.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kitchen Update

The kitchen project turned into a monster that we totally were not expecting, for a few reasons:

  • underestimating how much help we would have from friends
  • underestimating the extent of changes that would have to happen to kitchen infrastructure and of course
  • having to add sub-projects after the start because of things that affected other things.

For instance, taking off the backsplash turned into a drywall/skim coating nightmare because we couldn't get the glue off the walls. Taking out the pantry left a big hole in the floor tiles that required a tile patch job. Deciding to switch from a range to a wall oven and cooktop, and adding a built-in microwave, required pulling another 2 circuits which meant cutting a giant hole in the wall.  And then there was the planned removal of the soffit that turned into extending it out and adding lights because it had too much stuff in it.

But things are finally coming to a point where we can hopefully call some parts of the kitchen Actually Done. Here's where things stand:

  • ceiling is done. This entailed scraping off the texture, sanding, priming, skim coating, sanding, priming, and painting. DONE. Gorgeous. Needs to be a little touched up.
  • skim coating on the walls is done. 
  • painting is mostly done. Touch ups will be done after cabinet installation, since we expect to have to touch up after the installation anyway.
  • patching the floor is done.
  • Lights are installed and beautiful
  • Wall cabinets on Wall 1 are done. 
  • Base cabinets for Wall 1 are assembled but need backs, cover panels, door hinges, and feet. 

OK, so still to be done:

  • touch up paint
  • Construct & Install Wall cabinets on Wall 2 (sink wall) 
  • Construct & Install Base cabinets on Wall 2
  • Construct & Install Wall cabinets on Wall 3 (oven wall)
  • Construct & Install Base cabinets on Wall 3
  • Construct & Install Pantry cabinet 
  • Over fridge cabinet, which is a PROJECT because Ikea did not have the right size cabinet. But I now have a PLAN and hope hope hope I really don't screw it up. If it comes out great I am totally going to post it to Ikea Fans.
  • Install molding over and under cabinets
  • Install covers under cabinets
  • Install all doors, drawers, and handles
  • Install interior fittings (lazy susans, etc)
  • Install appliances (bring back electrician)
  • Pick out granite slabs
  • Get Granite people out here to measure and come back/install granite
  • Plumbing hookups/stovetop install after granite is in
  • And then we have a freakin' party because it will be done!

So we're getting there, but there's still a lot to do. Meanwhile, we have a little table that will hold a rice cooker or crock pot, so I can do a little cooking. Someone freecycled a toaster oven to me so I can do a little bit of baking in small batches. I just can't do anything that requires a stove at the moment! Argh!

But really, I never expected I could do as much of this myself as I did! I'm really proud of both me and my husband. We have the best contractor ever for things like pulling electrical and doing plumbing but we really did almost all of the cosmetic work ourselves. And Adam is now a drywalling pro. And he likes my overall plan for upgrading the whole house, and was even looking at bath vanities this weekend! HAHA awesome!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CSA Goodness!

CSA pickup today and nearly everything can be eaten raw! Yay!

- Tomatoes. It said "take as many as you can eat in a week." Micah decided that was 10.
- Cherry Tomatoes. Because you can never have too many tomatoes
- Peppers. About 6 of them
- Carrots. Lots
- Beets, without the greens this time. Lots (will have to find a way to cook them)
- Lettuce
- cucumbers
- Okra (need to find a way to cook them too)
- sage
- basil. A LOT of Basil. To go with the tomatoes of course
- Eggs

I'm pretty sure I'm going to make some tomato salads. If I can figure out how to get the skins off, I will probably puree and freeze some of the tomatoes, too, since we still have some from last week too.

Plus, there's salad. Yummy yummy salad.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I don't like...

There are very few foods that we consider to be "food" in the United States, that I will not eat. I don't necessarily love every food there is to eat, but generally speaking, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it.  I prefer not to try a few things that I can't wrap my mind around (like tripe or various other types of organ meat) but I've had things that other people I know think is yucky, like squid, octopus, sea urchin, sushi in general, etc, and as I said, for the most part if you put it in front of me I won't turn most foods down. I will turn down peanuts if I'm pregnant or nursing.

And I'll turn down watermelon.

I don't like watermelon.  I know this makes me some kind of a freak, because EVERYONE likes watermelon. But I don't. And I'll point out that my mother in law doesn't either, which is something we can kind of bond over. I don't like the flavor. I don't like the texture. I don't like having to eat around seeds. I simply DISLIKE it. And somehow, people get weirdly annoyed at me when I don't want it.

I try it every so often. If they're putting out testers at the farmer's market, and it doesn't have seeds, I'll test out a piece to see if my opinion has changed. So far, it hasn't.

There was a short time during my last pregnancy when I liked watermelon. I think it is because I had it in a salad and it seemed to work as an ingredient better than it does on its own. But I was also pregnant, and you know, I also thought that pineapple and blue cheese tasted good together.

I know it's weird, but I also think that as someone who will eat just about anything, I am entitled to my little watermelon hatred quirk. And the thing is, I'll eat it if it's a matter of being polite, and I'll not enjoy it, and it will ruin an otherwise awesome dinner for me. Just so I can be polite!

There are certain circumstances under which I will eat watermelon and not absolutely abhor it. It has to be completely fresh and not over-ripe or under-ripe. It has to be crispy and not a drop mealy. It has to be nearly seedless or have only edible seeds. It has to be not refrigerated.  I almost never come across a piece of watermelon this way.

Yesterday when we picked up our farm share, it included a watermelon. I kept it out of the fridge and cut into it for the kids after dinner. Alas. Seeds. I had a tiny piece that had no seeds, decided it was still not my thing, and gave the rest to the kids. My children ate half of a (small) watermelon on their own, all the while the 4-year-old asking me when I was going to have some. *sigh*.

So that's it. The food I don't like. Considering how many people I know who won't eat fruit or vegetables, I think I can live with the quirk.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We have been Tomatoed! Plus, the Kitchen is Nearly Ready For Cabinets!

Today when we arrived for our CSA pickup, there were 5 bins of heirloom tomatoes and a scale saying that mini-shareholders should take 2 lbs, Regular shareholders should take 3 lbs, and Robust shareholders should take 4 lbs. Three pounds of tomatoes should keep us going until the next pickup we have in 2 weeks (we are sharing our farm share with a friend this year)

We also have basil and parsley, many many onions, cucumbers, peppers, chives, eggs, cabbage, carrots, and a watermelon. All of which means I need to borrow someone's kitchen to make bruschetta, cucumber salad, and cole slaw. And more hard boiled eggs. My friend Amy was kind enough last week to allow me to boil a bunch of eggs at her house last week, so that all of these wonderful eggs do not go to waste. Here's hoping I can also make some egg salad while I'm at it.

In other Kitchen News, I am now fully baffled at why anyone would ever do a popcorn/textured ceiling. I've been told that it's easier than making the ceiling look nice and smooth. Well, I can tell you that I am an amateur and my ceiling is now Gorgeous. And it was my first one. When I get to the dining and living rooms, it will go much more smoothly, because now I know what I'm doing. Three weeks ago I didn't know what I'm doing. Now I do.

That's one of the reasons I love that we are doing the kitchen ourselves, even if it's a pain in the ass. I learned how to take down a stippled ceiling and make it look gorgeous. I learned how to make a wall made from 7 pieces of drywall look like a wall made from one. Soon I'll learn how to install recessed lights.

I just wish I could cook. But SOON. SOON we will be able to cook.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We still don't have a kitchen. Over the last few weeks, we have been either eating out, microwaving, or grilling. It did occur to me that we have a few other items to use for cooking, namely a rice cooker (you can also steam veggies in it though I think I lost the steamer attachment) and a crock pot. Also, if I could find my Pampered Chef covered baker I could bake in the microwave, but I am not sure where I put it. But really, summer is a good time to redo your kitchen if you have a grill.

If I had been smart, I would have made some freezer meals that could be heated in the microwave long before the kitchen renovation started. As it is, I do have one freezer meal that fits the bill, so that will be ready to go on a rainy night.

Last night, I adapted my sausage & peppers recipe for the grill. It was easy.

You'll need:

Sausages (Sweet Italian is my favorite but whatever you like)
A large green pepper, cut into chunks
A large onion, cut into chunks
some fresh oregano (or dried if you don't have fresh)
some olive oil
skewers or a grill tray/basket (I have the Pampered Chef grill tray and it rocks)

Place peppers and onions in basket (or skewer), drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with oregano.

Start the grill and set to medium. Place sausages on one side, cover, and let grill for about 10 minutes.
Turn sausages and place the grill basket/skewers/tray on the other side. Grill for another 5-7 minutes. Remove veggies, and check to make sure the sausages are done. If they are, it's time to eat! If not, leave on for another few minutes until they are done.

Easy peasy. We made a container of Easy Mac as a side dish (remember, the tools we currently have are a Grill, a Microwave, a Crock Pot, and a Rice Cooker, so Easy Mac is an easy and cheap choice for a side dish!) and everyone enjoyed dinner! We have a giant cantaloupe from the Farmer's Market for dessert, and it was delicious too!

Next time I'll remember to take pictures.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Dear guy from Fertile Plains:

This is what we did with your porterhouse:

This is what we did TO your porterhouse:

Thank you. That is all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sausage and Peppers Revisited, with Calzone leftovers!

Last summer, I made a delicious meal of Sausage and Peppers from ingredients from our farm share and farmer's market. This year, I did the same, with a few changes, and had left overs, since it was just my kids and me having the food.

I may even call this version better.

For Sausage and Peppers:
1 package of good sweet Italian sausage (we got this from the Pork Guy (Fertile Plains))
2 thin skinned sweet green peppers, sliced thinly
1 bulb of a spring red onion, sliced
1 bulb of a spring garlic (this looks like a garlic with a scallion-like top on it, but when you cut into the head, it has no "skins" separating the cloves), chopped
leaves from 2 stems of fresh oregano
scant cup of water

Brown sausages on all sides, remove from pan, slice into bite-sized pieces, and return to pan. Add pepper, onions, garlic, salt & pepper (to taste) and oregano, and mix. Add a scant cup of water to the pan and scrape anything there is from the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with a lid and continue cooking about 10 minutes more. Serve with pasta, or rice, or not :)

We had about half of the dish left over, and I was not sure what to do with it. Then I remembered something from my childhood: Sausage rolls! Of course, I had no idea how to make them. Mine came out more like a calzone but who cares? They were fantastic.

If you have one, go to Trader Joe's and get a pizza crust dough. It's in the refrigerated section near the cheese, and it costs .99. If you don't have a TJ's you'll have to make your own, or find another brand, but I have not had any as good as the TJ's ones. Also pick up a jar of TJ's marinara sauce (if you don't have any at home) and a bag of shredded mozzerella cheese (we used the lower fat version)

Let the dough sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Break into 2 pieces and work each piece into a round. Place rounds on a pizza stone. working on a 1/2 round, layer sauce, sausage and peppers, more sauce, and cheese. Fold over and crimp the edge, and pierce with a knife or fork to make vents. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.

My son had no idea that this was essentially the same dish that we had for dinner last night so YAY for hiding the leftovers!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kitchen Planning

Some of you may have been following along with my kitchen saga. Last year, we had a few people come to do estimates, and they all came in around $20,000. This year, after hearing that some of the same people had lowered their prices, they came in at $25,000. Thinking that I was never going to get a new kitchen, I went into a bit of a funk.

Then we learned about Ikea kitchens. And suddenly things started moving very quickly! So I thought I'd share how you go about doing an Ikea kitchen, at least for as far as we've gotten so far.

First, you go to Ikea. You really have to see it all in person to get a real feel for it. Go to Ikea, eat the meatballs, and then go looking. One interesting thing about the Ikea kitchens is that they are not all in one place (like, say, kids stuff or living rooms) but are spread out all over the store. So take your time and wander, and believe me, Something will attract your attention. Pick up a catalog. Go home.

Now go to Ikea online and (if you have a PC) use their kitchen design software. If you don't have a PC, you'll have to do it another way, or bring your information with you to the store. You'll want to measure your kitchen, complete with doors, windows, water, and electrical. If you think you might want to take out or move walls, soffits, etc, this is the time to see if you can (not once you are excited about doing something and then you find out that you can't!)

Put everything into the system and then start playing with cabinets. You don't have to be perfect. Just get your general layout done. You can change stuff later. Now go back to Ikea.

Now you want to go to the kitchen design center. This is where you pick out your cabinet fronts, countertops, handles, and appliances. A design expert will go over your design with you and help you to remember stuff that you might have forgotten. He or she will make sure that you won't have handles knocking handles, and make sure that everything will actually fit. You'll be confused when you're using the software yourself, but that's because you are not an expert. Your design expert will make sure that you have the right kind of cabinet for your microwave, have the fridge that you actually want to order, and have it all in the right colors. Then you can buy it! Or you can wait and sit on it for another 2 weeks like we did. I suggest the latter. It's a big purchase, and you probably want to take your design back home and make sure you have it all right (we made 2 major changes after taking ours home, and one minor one).

And then you can order everything. When you do so, they might have you take some stuff home with you that day. We brought home our new cutting board and 34 door/drawer handles. They also let us take with us one drawer front so that we could pick out paint colors.  We should be getting a call soon with our delivery date, and then the real work will begin!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Farmer's Market Eats

This morning, my husband made breakfast--a fruit salad of cherries, black raspberries, and strawberries, followed by eggs, bacon, and scrapple (scrapple for him, bacon for me). The best part about the whole thing is that every single ingredient with the exception of salt & pepper came from either our farm share or the Reston Farmer's Market. It was a great morning.

For dinner tonight, we had a freezer meal (Pork Chops with good stuff) but on the side, we had a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red spring onions, with dill. Again, all of the fresh/raw ingredients in the salad were from the farmer's market.

I absolutely love summer! This Saturday at the Reston Market, we picked up the aforementioned bacon and scrapple, and black raspberries and cherries, plus goat cheese, the red spring onions, tomatoes, garlic curls, and a whole mess of baby zucchini. We're redoing our kitchen this summer, and I am not at all worried because I can honestly live on raw foods and cheese. As long as I have a fridge, I'm good to go.

It's interesting that the newsletter that we get from our farm share encourages you to go to local farmer's markets in addition to eating what we get from the farm. Although Potomac Vegetable Farms is amazing for their veggies, we don't get a whole lot of fruit at all, until much later in the summer when blackberries and watermelons appear. I don't generally mind, though, because the Reston Farmer's Market is amazing. It's so much more than a bunch of veggie and fruit stands. There are representatives from farms that are much further south and west, so while farms that are right in the area might not yet have, say, tomatoes, some others already do. It also allows you to have a nice fruit overlap when the fruit really gets going. Some stands still had strawberries this week, while others had moved on to cherries and raspberries. Meanwhile, there's one stand that specializes in baby salad greens, while another specializes, later in the summer, in 20 varieties of tomato. There's the Wacky Herb Guy. There's the Honey people. Two or three stands have eggs. There's the two different dairies, and bakers, and the kettle corn people, and let's not, oh please don't forget, the Pork Guy. Plus, there is always some kind of musical entertainment, and just this past week, all of the restaurants from the plaza were out sampling their foods. On the Plaza is the craft market, too. This week, I bought a dress I just couldn't pass up (for Lillian), and if I had had any money left over I would have been buying t-shirts for myself. Walk through the craft fair and you'll hear even more music.

But really, the market is where everyone comes out on a Saturday morning to meet with friends and see their favorite vendors and just be out and about on a summer morning. My son loves going to the market, and loves running into friends and relations, and especially loves the music. We let him help pick out fruits, and he is in charge of our market bags and making sure I don't forget to bring one with me. I bring friends from out of town when they come visit. It's that much of a thing in our area. And it's one of the reasons I love where I live.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CSA Week 1!! YAY!!!!

Today I picked up our farm share for the first time this summer. We are sharing our farm share with a friend this year, so we only get to pick it up 8 times--every other week. That said, the farm stand should be open soon, and we can supplement from that. It is possible that there will be Autumn shares available, and if there are, we will participate as long as we have the cash to do so.

SO! Today's farm share:

Swiss Chard
itty bitty Beets w/ greens
garlic curls

Tonight, I had planned to make a freezer meal, but it wasn't defrosted enough when I got home, so I made a stir fry of spring onions (from the farmer's market), garlic curls, kohlrabi, swiss chard, and tofu. I seasoned it with soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, a splash of apple juice, and some garam masala. Don't ask why, I just did, and it tasted great! We made some brown rice on the side, and it was a very delicious, summery, first CSA-meal of the season.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summertime Eating

It's been a while since I posted here. For one, very soon after reaching Lifetime on Weight Watchers I started feeling nauseated all the time. It's not really conducive to posting in a food blog. Since that has passed (for the most part; I think it's dairy that causes it), I am back to cooking, mostly.

But the fun and wonderful thing is that we have the Farmer's Market, and starting on Wednesday, our CSA!!

So far at our Farmer's Market, we have picked up strawberries, various kinds of greens, bunches of herbs, sweet Italian sausage, Goat Cheese, more strawberries, spring onions, spring garlic, cauliflower, more strawberries, and some pastries. Oh and more strawberries. We all like strawberries a lot. Adam is making a strawberry beer, so this week we picked up 6 quarts of them, and only 2 of them are available for me to eat. Uh, I mean for us to eat. That's right.

We're splitting our farm share this year, so we are only getting 8 weeks worth of vegetables, so I expect that we will be buying more at the farmer's market this year than last.

And so far, that's where we are. Oh and of course, we will be redoing our kitchen this year, so I anticipate many raw meals while we don't have a working kitchen!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weight Watchers -- Lifetime!

OK everyone! Here it is.

November 9, 2009 to May 3, 2010, 32.2 pounds lost, and I'm a Weight Watchers Lifetime member! Hooray!

Now I just have to keep on doing it. Forever :) (That's why they call it "Lifetime."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Raspberry Pork Tenderloin and Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

About a week ago I posted to my facebook status that I had gotten a coupon from Bzz Agent for a free Alexia frozen food product, and that I had bought some Spicy Sweet Potato Fries. My friend Brian suggested I make it with something Pork-like, and it got the wheels spinning in my head. The "spice" in the potatoes was chipotle, and I had in the past made a chipotle raspberry pork tenderloin from Dinner Zen. What if I tried to recreate it, but left out the chipotle in the sauce, since it would be in the fries?

What followed was fantastic. Truly delicious. Here's the recipe:

Raspberry Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin
1/4 c raspberry jam
1 T apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper
thyme, tarragon, oregano (all dried)
1/2 a small onion, chopped
a little olive oil

Prepare pork tenderloin by rubbing with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, tarragon, thyme, and oregano. Place it in a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, turning once.
While the pork is cooking, saute the chopped onion with a little bit of salt and pepper. When the onions are soft, add the jam and vinegar, and stir until the jam melts, Keep on low until the pork is done. Let pork rest for a few minutes and slice, then pour sauce over the slices.

If you choose to make the Alexia Spicy Sweet Potatoes, you'll want to put them in about 25 minutes before the pork is done. The recipe will say 20 minutes, but you're sharing oven space and you'll need the extra time to make sure they end up crispy like fries, and not soggy, like, um, soggy fries.

Now, for the verdict. The raspberry sauce was spectacular. The pork was delicious. And the seasoning on the fries made the whole dish more reminiscent of the original dish that I had (that had the chipotle peppers in the sauce). The kids loved the pork and the "dip." The three year old thought the fries were too spicy, but he cut the spice by eating a piece of pork dipped in the raspberry dip. The 9 month old actually loved the sweet potatoes as is, and kept screaming for more. The husband and I loved the fries but thought that by the time we got to the end of them, the taste off chipotle was overpowering everything. Still, as sweet potato fries go, they were pretty delicious and much easier than slicing sweet potatoes by myself! One thing that I will caution--the serving size says 3 oz or 30 fries. This is off. If you are measuring for weight-loss purposes, make sure to weigh the fries and don't count on 30 being a serving size, as it was closer to 20-25.

And as for the pork, if you have a BJ's near you, you should check there, because ours had a pack of 4 pork tenderloins for $14 (it looked like 2 in the package but it was really 4!). So I actually prepped two of this meal and stuck one in the freezer, and then prepped another 2 freezer meals with the other two. Great deal, and I'll have the recipe for the other one up here after we taste test it!  To prep this recipe for the freezer, do the seasoning and olive oil and stick in a ziploc bag, then saute the onions, and place the sauteed onions, jam, and vinegar in a separate bag, and store together in an outer bag. Defrost before baking.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WW Maintenance Update

If you have not been paying attention, I am now on maintenance on Weight Watchers, but instead of maintaining I am continuing to lose weight. Even though I am not trying to.

So, last week, I ate all of my points, and all 35 of my flex points, AND all of the exercise points that I earned, and I went 1.5 points in the hole on flex points, too.

I went out to Red Robin at one point and I ate salmon. I mean it. It was Saturday and even with the salmon instead of my favorite Royal Red Robin Burger, I went way over my weekly allowance points so I walked with the baby on my back for 45 minutes on Sunday to earn exercise points to make up for it. I am so mad because I probably could have had a burger. And I could have had fries instead of broccoli. (And everyone who knows me knows about my cheeseburger obsession too)

I weighed in on Monday sure that I had gained weight or at least maintained.

I lost 2.2 pounds.

So now, I am back to eating 10 breast feeding points per day, even though Lillian eats solid foods.

This is the breakdown:

21 points (this is my base, based on weight, occupation, age, etc.)
4 points (this is for maintenance)
10 points (this is for breast feeding)
5 points (this is 35 flex points per week divided by 7 days)
1 point (I generally earn about 7 exercise points per week, divided by 7 days)

Which is 41 points per day.

If you have been on WW before, 41 points per day should look like a completely ridiculous number to you unless you're a 300 pound man, and even then it might seem high. And yet, last week when I ate approximately 38 points per day, I lost 2.2 pounds.

And actually I had weighed in on Wednesday instead of Monday last week so I lost 2.2 lbs in 5 days.

I am starting to wonder what the heck my body is doing. I personally don't mind that I am still losing, but when you're breast feeding they get a little antsy if you lose too much beyond your goal because they worry about your milk production. But eating 41 points per day is ridiculous, and it's not conducive to me continuing to eat in a healthy way. Generally I eat my healthy foods and then have some chocolate to make up the shortfall.

Also, strangely, I didn't lose weight this quickly when I was in weight loss mode. So I am now eating more and losing more than I was before. I lost 25 lbs in about 24 weeks, and now I'm losing more than a pound per week when I am just trying to maintain.

In other news, I have now lost 31.2 lbs on WW, which is way more than I ever intended. Also did you see how I walked 45 minutes with a 17-pound baby on my back? Without having an asthma attack? Yeah I pretty much rock.

(PS--please don't tell me you wish you had this problem. We all have our problems and until recently mine was "getting bigger and bigger by the week, with a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes looming.")

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Perfecting the Art of Getting The Freezer Full

Let's face it. I do too much to take an entire day doing true Once A Month Cooking. Besides, it's exhausting. Even when I spend 2 hours at Dinner Zen, I walk out really tired, and in that case they have done most of the work for me!

Still, an empty freezer loomed. I was down to one tilapia filet from my last trip to DZ, and that is just not acceptable.

But as I said, sometimes doing a whole month of food in a day is daunting.

Well, the state of my freezer two weeks ago was as follows: 1 tilapia filet. 2 frozen chicken breasts. And that's it.

Two weeks later, the state of my freezer is as follows: 1 tilapia filet, 2 frozen chicken breasts, 3 packs of "Pork Chops with Good Stuff," 2 packs of Mango Curry Chicken, 1 pack of Bourbon Chicken (we ate 1 already), 2 packs of Lamb Zucchini Goulash, 3 quarts of Ham, Green Bean, & Potato Soup. Many bags of frozen veggies (thanks to BJ's, which will keep us going until the CSA season starts)

Is it a month's worth of cooking? Not in the least. But can I spend the day working and throw something in the oven or crock pot to reheat? Oh yes. And I did not do it all in one day.

First, chicken was on sale. So I bought the chicken and the couple of ingredients that I didn't have on hand for the 2 chicken dishes, and I went home and made 4 meals. Then a few days later my supermarket had beautiful zucchini. I made a huge pot of goulash and froze 2 meals after eating one. Then we had Easter, and much leftover ham, so that became the soup. 3 quarts in the freezer and 1 quart into our bellies. Finally, pork chops were on sale, so they became a meal to eat and 3 for the freezer.

What I like about building up the freezer, rather than doing it all in one day, is that I can get a meal into the freezer in 1/2 hour or less. I'm not worrying about having to clean every pot in my house three times. And, probably most importantly, I can cook based on what is on sale at the time. If I plan to cook all in one day, I still need to find the meat that I want to use on sale, rather than building my meals around what I have already found.

Now, with 11 new meals in the freezer, I can see myself going to Dinner Zen and doing a small order--maybe 8 half-dishes instead of 12 full ones--to give us some variety. But the truth is that with extra frozen veggies in the house, I can make a simple meal on a weeknight when I am not necessarily working all day, so we get variety anyway.

I also think that this is a cool way to introduce someone to freezer cooking, without the crazy-making of thinking you have to do a whole month's worth of food in a day. That said, if I had my chest freezer (it's coming, really!) I would make more of each individual meal, because I would know that six pork chop dishes will still stay happily frozen and not bore my family to tears. Yeah, let me get on that right now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Weight Watchers Maintenance, or, help! I can't eat this much food!

I'm on my third week of Weight Watchers Maintenance, and, well, it's going entirely too well. In that I am not maintaining but continuing to lose weight. This is ok, and generally would not be considered a bad thing (you're allowed to continue to lose on WW after you hit your goal) except that I'm breast feeding and everyone knows I'm breast feeding (because I do so at the meeting when Lillian gets fussy) so the leaders are trying to come up with a good points value for me to eat that will allow me to stop losing weight.

It's not so easy. I'm really used to eating fewer points now. And by fewer points, I don't mean less food. I am probably eating more food than I was eating when I was consistently gaining weight. But I've gotten used to eating healthy foods again, and it's just HARD to add in more points. I'm full after every meal. I don't really care to snack. And I keep losing weight.

When you go onto maintenance, you re-do your points values and generally get to eat about 4 more points than you had on weight-loss mode. That translates to approximately 200 calories, which doesn't sound like much actually. I've been trying to eat them all, and still losing. So this week we added another 2 points. That's another approximately 100 calories, when I didn't really want to eat the ones I already had!

So I picked up some 2-point snacks. I'm not really big into buying the snacks, but the pretzel thins that they sell at the meetings are pretty tasty. I bought a pack and I guess if I eat a pack a day it will be 2 points right there.

But then there's also the flex points--you get 35 of them to use any time of the week. I usually save those points for a trip to the ballpark or night out to dinner. I could not imagine spreading them out over the week because that would be another 5 points PER DAY and I CANNOT eat like that anymore. I mean unless I start eating candy again, and candy is a trigger food that I cannot afford to eat.

I think I need to talk to my leader about this again. I'm really confused because if I do add the extra 2 points per week, and then I do go out to a ballgame and use all of my flex points, what if I then gain? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Has anyone gone through this? Is figuring out your maintenance points supposed to be this hard?

Also if you have not seen them yet, check out these "after" pictures that my friend Jacalyn took of me http://emeraldlens.info/?p=384

Monday, March 22, 2010

OK, I kind of found some pictures

OK, it's true that there are no pictures of me without a child somehow attached to me. It's true. So here's my before and after pictures, with baby:

Before (Sept 2009):

After (April 2010):

Weight Watchers -- GOAL!!! (26 lbs!)

I knew that I was close to my goal. I really did. But somehow I didn't feel like it was going to happen this week. In fact, I had been feeling so FULL recently when I ate dinner that I was sure I had made some points calculating mistakes (it turns out I have just been eating more "filling foods"). Wonderful Husband, who knows that Monday is weigh-in day, even bought me asparagus, my sooper sekrit weigh-in food, so that I could pack it in on Sunday night and lose a bit of water and not feel so bad about over-eating this week.

(Asparagus will get rid of any retained water but it's not going to make you lose more than, say, 1/2 lb of water weight overnight! Some people go to the bathroom before weighing in. I eat asparagus, go to the bathroom, and nurse the baby. And hey, I like asparagus, as does everyone else in my family, so it's yummy, too.)

OK, so I went off to WW wearing my new jeans and a light top and I was all ready to be SO close to goal but not there yet. And there was a new leader running the meeting today, though Liz was still there, so she was there for it all. The new leader weighed me in and OMG! Not just goal but beyond goal! 26 pounds lost! OMG!

I screamed so loudly I scared the baby.

So we had our meeting, and I got my information on maintenance, which gives me basically 4 more points per day. So I'm almost back to where I was when I had all 10 of my breast feeding points. Thank you Little Baby, for giving me all those extra points throughout this journey.

Now I get to do 6 weeks of maintenance, and then I will be a life member. Liz, my wonderful leader, asked me if I would apply to be a leader! So I did that today and we will see what happens.

Now, if ANYONE has a picture of me from sometime between July and November, could you please send it to me? I have no "Before" pictures! Jacalyn is coming here later this week, so I'll have her do an "after!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chicken with Penne and veggies (yum!)

I made an absolutely fantastic pasta dish last night, and it is light and delicious and reminds me of spring!

Chicken with Penne and Veggies

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 box of penne (about 1/2 lb)
1/2 a head of broccoli, chopped small
1 bell pepper (I used yellow) chopped
1/2 a small onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 qt (or a box will probably do) fat free chicken broth
2 big handfuls of baby spinach
salt/pepper/garlic/italian seasoning

I used the Pampered Chef covered baker for this, but you can probably just use any covered baker that can go in the oven and the microwave. OR you can buy a Pampered Chef Covered Baker. Go to http://www.pamperedchef.biz/breannadoyle?page=2ways-order-products and put in Lynne Powell as the hostess. See? Now you supported my Pampered Chef party too!

OK, Here's what you do. Place the chicken in the covered baker and sprinkle your seasonings and cover. If the breast is frozen, microwave on high for about 10 minutes. If it is not frozen, microwave on high for 6 minutes. Chop chicken well and leave in the baker. Add everything else except the spinach, stir well, and put in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and add in spinach, stir well, and cover for another 5 minutes. Add more seasonings to taste.

Makes about 6 servings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kid Menu Review: Mimi's Cafe

First of all, my background with Mimi's: for the most part, I only go here with my office for our quarterly sales meeting. I did go with friends one time, but I didn't really pay attention to the kid's menu (since my son just wanted a burger that day)

This past weekend, though, we found ourselves headed to Dulles Town Center (so that I could trade in my size 12 jeans for size 6 ones at the Gap Trade-in Event!!) and I really did not want to eat at the food court. My brain kind of went on auto-pilot while I was driving in to the mall, and I found us headed toward Mimi's. Adam suggested we just eat there, because I had commented that they had some good, lower fat options, and I had also read that it was highly recommended by parents as one of the best chain restaurants for kids.

We got there and were told there was a 20-minute wait, but when I made the "OMG I think we have to leave" face, the hostess noticed the kids and said she would see if she could get us in sooner. She did, and within 10 minutes we were seated. My 3 year old got a kid's menu with crayons, and no one even blinked when I put my 7 month old in a high chair.

The kid's menu was a mix of breakfast and lunch/dinner items, and healthful and not so healthful. Here's the rundown:

"Mimi Mouse" Pancakes with fruit
Scrambled Eggs w/ Bacon
Chocolate chip pancakes w/ fruit

Lunch or dinner (includes drink, entree, dessert, and choice of side (0g trans fat fries, apple sauce, sliced apples, mashed potatoes, fresh fruit)):
Chicken Fingers
Mimi Burger (with our without cheese)
Mini Corn Dogs
Mac & Cheese
Pepperoni Pizzadillas
Grilled cheese
Turkey dinner
Soup & Salad

Now, as kid's menus go, this has a lot of variety, but a lot of it is a variety of not-so-healthful foods. But let's face it, some kids are so used to the "burger or nuggets" option that not including it might make the place feel less kid-friendly. The addition of the turkey dinner and soup & salad option really saves this menu, as does the option of fruit or vegetables on the side.

That said, my own kid wanted a cheeseburger. With apple slices.

Kids can also choose from soda (ick), whole, 2%, or skim milk, chocolate milk, lemonade, strawberry lemonade (hidden option not on the menu), orange juice, apple juice, or Hi-C (ick). Micah asked for lemonade and was given an option of regular or strawberry lemonade, and he was happy to have the strawberry.

They asked if we needed anything else for the baby, and I asked for some grapes, which they gladly brought to me, along with a plate for each kid containing a small cup of cheerios, some fruit, a wet wipe, and a bib. I was so impressed! Our server asked if it was our first time there, and I told her that it was not mine, but it was our first as a family. She brought us 4 giant muffins to take home! Not so great for the weight watchers, but a very nice thing that this restaurant does for its new customers. (Oh a note about the grapes before the internet starts flailing at me: we did sit and peel the grapes and cut them up for her. The girl loves her grapes.)

As for adults, I have, as I had told Adam, very good luck with Mimi's either finding a healthful choice or creating one. For instance, any omlette can be changed to an egg-beaters omlette, and potatoes on the side can be changed to fruit. And for lunch and dinner, they have a lighter side menu, where the lowest calorie item seems to be around 360 calories. That was the "Just Enough" Citrus Salmon, which came with a 3 oz salmon filet, citrus wedges, and a salad with strawberries and fat free dressing. If you're really hankering for a soup, you can have a naked onion soup, which has all of the oniony goodness and none of the bread and cheese. It was all delicious, and I did not feel like I was depriving myself at all. In fact, I felt downright full on that lunch! And then I got to walk around the mall for some exercise.

As a note, Adam got the turkey sandwich and he said it was a bit dry and needed more mayo. It was HUGE though, and he ate half and took the other half to lunch the next day.

So, my final verdict: great for kids, great for weight watchering, great for people who don't have kids or weight issues too! :)

Oh and by the way: weight watchers count is 19 weeks (16 meetings), -23.2 lbs, 1.6 pounds from goal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What do you eat on your sandwich thin?

If you have not learned about these yet, you must know about Arnold Sandwich Thins. They are like a hamburger bun, only thinner. Picture a round piece of bread that has been successfully sliced in half. They are crazy high in fiber, and on WW they are one point. I think that Pepperidge Farms also makes something similar, but I love the Arnold ones.

So I use them for a lot of things, like breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches, snacks, etc. I have a few favorite recipes but could use some more ideas! Here's what I do these days:

  • Ham & Egg -- Get a small plastic bowl, like the kind you feed cereal to a baby in. Line the bottom with a slice of ham and throw a scrambled egg on top. MIcrowave for 1 minute. Spread 1/2 teaspoon of Smart Balance Light and some salt & pepper on one side of the sandwich thin and add the egg and ham to the sandwich. Tasty! 4.5 points

(Note! If you decide that you really prefer eggs that are not scrambled, you MUST pierce the yolk. If you do not, you can create an air pocket and then when you bite into the sandwich you'll get hot steam exploded on your face and lip, and then you'll be in excruciating pain for most of a week while your lip scabs and peels and you won't be able to eat anything the least bit acidic because ow ow ow ow ow. Guess how I know this.)

  • Spinach & Egg -- Just like above only start by filling the bowl with spinach, sprinkle with water, and nuke (without the egg) for about 45 seconds. Then do the egg separately. Do the same with the Smart Balance and salt & pepper as above. 3.5 points
  • Add Cheese -- You can do the same and add 1 T of reduced fat shredded cheese for an extra 1/2 point.
  • Almond Butter & Banana -- This one comes from my friend Abby. 1 T almond butter and 1/2 a banana. YUM. This one is kind of pointsy at 5 points, but if you use 1/2 T of the almond butter it will come down to 3 points. I think that peanut butter might be fewer points, but you'd have to check as we don't eat peanuts.
  • Roast Beef -- 2 oz roast beef cold cuts, some mustard, some horseradish. 3 points. My husband adds a slice of cheddar which makes it 6 points. I would do this if I were on maintenance :)

So so far that's it. Anyone else do anything fun with your sandwich thins?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chicken Mushroom Orzo Soup

So let's say you are like me and you like roasting a chicken. And let's say you're also like me and your family eats 2 drumsticks, a breast, and maybe a wing or two, and leaves you with lots of thigh meat and a whole chicken breast and maybe a wing, too. And let's just say you're so much like me that when you finish dinner, you pick off all the remaining meat and make a broth out of the carcass.

Well, if you're usually like me, then you have a lot of broth the next day and you make chicken soup.

But today, see, today I decided that I didn't want plain old chicken soup, with veggies and chicken and maybe noodles or rice. In fact, I wanted to take my sister's yummy beef and mushroom and orzo recipe and turn it into a chicken soup.

So I did. Here it is:

Chicken Mushroom Orzo Soup
Dark Meat Leftovers from a roasted chicken, shredded
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup (dry) orzo
1 box mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
cooking spray

Saute onions and garlic in cooking spray until the onions soften. Add mushrooms and cook until they start to give off some liquid. Season with salt, pepper, a little sage, and thyme (don't overdo the sage. a little goes a long way). Add chicken broth and chicken and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook 9 minutes more. Serve with a nice hearty bread. Delicious.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Weight Watchers -- 10%!!

As of Sunday, I've hit my 10% mark on Weight Watchers. No chart this time--they're getting too small to see the detail on.

So I've lost a total of 16.8 lbs. I fit very well into size 10 jeans and will pretty soon likely hit a size 8. I think I have about 10 pounds go to, which may or may not happen while I'm still breast feeding. But it feels great to be 16.8 pounds lighter. Oh and by the way, my baby is about 16 pounds, and I really love strapping her on my back and feeling the real difference between what I weighed before and what I weighed now.

If you didn't know, when I was pregnant I was on bedrest. I only gained 15 pounds my whole pregnancy, but what basically happened was I lost a lot of muscle. When I started getting stronger, the muscle weight came back but it became obvious that, had I been not losing muscle weight, I would have put on a lot more weight in this pregnancy. So most of the weight that I gained appeared to come on in the 3 months *after* the baby was born. How's that for weird?

So anyway, there I was at the heaviest I had ever been while not being pregnant. Maternity clothes still fit, but you can't wear them forever. Size 12 clothes did NOT fit. So my options were to buy bigger clothes or lose weight. And I'm really happy to say that WW has fit the bill. If I stayed the way I am, or lost just a couple of more pounds (to get into the WW healthy weight guidelines and reach life member) I would be pretty happy. I do still want to get back into my size 6's but I'm a patient person when it comes to this.

Meanwhile, it's my husband's birthday, and I have lots of weekly flex points to use on a yummy dinner and chocolate cake! Hooray!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Baby-Led Weaning, Week 1

I can hardly believe it, but I've become a believer in Baby-Led Weaning. I honestly thought it was insane when I first saw my friend doing it with her daughter. (Love you Danielle!) I was a huge believer in the Super Baby Food method, to the extent that I have blogged about it and bought the book for nearly every new mom I know. But in the last week, I've become a complete convert.

Now, that's not to say that Super Baby Food is a bad choice for some babies. My son totally thrived on it. He loved his super porridge. He adored his food cubes turned into baby food. I absolutely loved making food for him. But my daughter? Two weeks into spoon feeding and she still hadn't actually swallowed more than a couple of bites of cereal. She appeared to hate bananas. She appeared to hate everything actually. Even the foods she liked she seemed only to tolerate.

Then I gave her that piece of asparagus and she loved it. And I realized, oh my gosh, that she might eat other things on her own as well. I asked Danielle about BLW, and she pointed me to some resources.

That night, I gave my girl a piece of avocado, about 1/4 of an avocado cut into 2 slices. She eagerly picked up a slice, brought it to her mouth, and nommed on it. The whole thing was gone before the rest of us got to the dinner table! That same night, we were all eating chicken and broccoli. I cooked her broccoli a little longer than ours (we like ours pretty crisp) and gave her some. She ate nearly all of it, leaving over just a stem that she had been holding on to. She didn't eat any chicken, but I think I made the pieces too small. When you are doing BLW, the pieces actually have to be a bit bigger at first, until they get a pincer grasp.

So far, baby girl has tried avocado, asparagus, broccoli, bananas, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, and red peppers, and she has at least tried if not loved all of them. Am I nervous about allergies? Perhaps I should be. I'm being careful that she doesn't eat anything too harsh (we took the potatoes out of the home fry mix before adding the chili powder for ourselves and we don't give her anything too acidic) and she doesn't eat anything in the major allergen groups that affect our families (no berries, shellfish, nuts or legumes for a while, but we don't eat nuts or legumes in the house anyway, and the point is she eats what we eat). With my son I waited 4 days between foods for over a year, and you know what? He wasn't allergic to anything. We did wait until he was 3 to give him some kinds of nuts and legumes, but the only allergic reaction he ever had he grew out of after a few months. Meanwhile, my daughter is enjoying food in a way I've never seen a baby enjoy food, and it's completely thrilling.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mushroom Soup

About a year ago, when I was pregnant with my baby girl, I was having a moment of feeling that meat was icky and soup was delicious. My friend Charlotte gave me this lovely recipe for a mushroom soup that feels creamy but has no cream in it. I changed it up a little bit, because I wanted to add onions and remove some of the fat. In all, it's delicious and about a point per serving (based on 6 servings)

cooking spray
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 boxes of mushrooms, chopped really well
salt, pepper, sage, thyme, parsley (or, as Charlotte says, "season with stuff you like")
1 box (4 cups) chicken or vegetable broth

Saute onions and garlic in cooking spray. When onions become soft, add mushrooms. Season with stuff you like (my seasonings above). Add one box of fat free chicken or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, and allow to simmer at least 1/2 hour. Blend with an immersion blender until mostly smooth.

I had some fresh parsley, so I served this garnished with a little chopped parsley. Delicious!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

13 weeks on Weight Watchers

It's been about a quarter of a year that I've been on Weight Watchers, so it's time for a real update!

Check out my weight chart. I've lost 15.2 pounds in 13 weeks. Now, on some weight loss plans that would not seem very good (South Beach has you losing that much in the first 2 weeks I think). But gradual is very good, especially when you're breastfeeding, and I am consistently surprised when I weigh in and I have lost another pound. Also, do remember that some of that weight loss happened over Thanksgiving and Christmas! So I'm very happy with it.

Now, I know what happened to me last time I got near goal on weight watchers, and I am doing my best to not do it again. Last time, I was on the Core plan, and after most of a year on the program and losing over 25 pounds, I got a little tired of eating Core foods. I slacked. A lot. And then I got pregnant. This time I am sticking to counting points, which is much easier when you can count them online and using an iPod Touch app.

If all goes well this week I should reach my 10% goal (16.1 lbs lost) next week. After that it's just another 10 pounds to my ultimate goal.

But here's the thing. I know I sound like a commercial, but with the exception of writing everything down, I don't really feel like I'm on a diet. I mostly feel like I'm eating healthy foods and occasionally some unhealthy ones. I am definitely learning the consequences of making a bad choice. For instance, last week I went to Burger King. It probably would have been OK if I had just had the sandwich (Whopper Jr. No Mayo, 6 points) but instead I added in onion rings (10 points) and a sugared drink (3 points), which basically blew most of my points for the entire day. Yesterday, we went to Wendys and I was much more careful, and had a grilled chicken sandwich (7 points), small chili (4 points) and unsweetened iced tea (free). It was still higher in points than a regular lunch I'd have at home, but as eating-out choices went, I did a lot better after the BK debacle of last week. I know I could have had the salad instead of the chili, but I also know that I do get 10 breastfeeding points, and the chili would keep me fuller, which it did.

I've also discovered that I like snacking, but it doesn't really matter what I snack on as long as I can snack. So I buy a giant tub of spinach once a week and eat salads when I get snacky. Last week I also bought a giant head of broccoli and had that to snack on. If I really want something sweet, I have a 1-point bar and it doesn't blow the day away.

So that's it. 13 weeks (only 11 meetings as I missed 2 when we were in Florida) 15 pounds, and about 10 pounds to go. If all goes well I should get my 10% keychain next week. Here's hoping the next quarter is as productive as the first quarter was!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lemon Caper Chicken

Years and years ago, back about 10 years ago, I was on an online diet program called eDiets. I ended up quitting because they went from this awesome diet that concentrated on healthy eating habits and a diet based on the American Heart Association's recommendations to a site that let you choose between "traditional eDiets," Atkins, and someone else's diet. I thought they were sellouts and I told them so. Looking at their site now, it looks like they still offer three choices, if not specifically two branded diets.

Anyway, the other reason I quit was that the support was in forums, and since not everyone was on the same plan anymore, the forums got weird and unhelpful. As it was I made a bunch of friends, which was pretty cool. And I got a recipe for Lemon Caper Chicken, which I have evolved over the last 10 years. Last night, about 1/2 hour before dinner time, I realized I had not planned anything, took a quick look in my fridge and freezer, and realized it was Lemon Caper Chicken time. Good thing my brain always makes sure I buy ingredients for it even when I'm not particularly thinking of making it.

2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut into small pieces
2T whole wheat flour
2T capers
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c fat free chicken broth
cooking spray

Sprinkle spices into the flour and mix well. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and set the heat to medium-high. Pat dry your pieces of chicken and lightly coat the pieces in the flour mixture, and add them to the pan. Cook for a few minutes and turn. Cook a few more minutes on the second side.

Add chicken broth, lemon, and capers to the pan with the chicken and turn heat down to medium-low. Continue cooking until the broth becomes thick and sticks to the chicken.

Serves 2. I ran this through WW's points builder and I cannot believe it but it's 3 points per serving! Serve with brown rice or pasta or whatever you want because it's 3 points!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Baked Chicken with Orzo

A few trips to Dinner Zen-ago, I made this really yummy dish of baked shrimp with orzo. Today, having nothing really ready to go for dinner, I realized I had orzo, and lemons, and tomatoes, and I could wing the rest of it.

1 cup (uncooked) orzo
2 4-oz chicken breasts
1 15-oz can of diced tomatoes
zest off of 1 lemon
juice of the same lemon
1T dried oregano

Cook orzo and drain. Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine chicken and orzo with diced tomatoes, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour into a square baking pan and bake covered (with foil) for an hour at 350.

Serves 3, at 6 points per serving. You can add 1/2 cup of feta cheese to the mix for an additional 2 points per serving.

I would say that this would probably freeze well (since the Dinner Zen one was a freezer meal). Make a double or triple batch and press into Gladware bakers to freeze.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whitney's Beef Mushroom Orzo Soup

Today, a guest blogger of sorts. Or rather, my sister sent this to me, and I made it today, and it was fabulous:

"I've been making this soup so long I can't remember the actual recipe. So bear with me.

Fry a small chopped onion in a soup pot in little bit of oil until translucent. Add about a pound of very lean ground beef and break up while cooking. Then add some mushrooms--white, baby bella, whatever cheap mushrooms you have. I usually buy a package of already-cut-up mushrooms and use most of it, but it's really to taste. When the mushrooms get small, add about a tsp of sage and a tsp of thyme. Cook until fragrant, a few minutes.

This is where we break off OAMC from dinner tonight. If this is dinner tonight, add about 6 cups of beef broth, bring to a boil, and then add a cup of orzo or other soup pasta. (I used wild rice last time.) Cook until done.

If this is for freezing, cool the mixture and put it into a freezer bag. Add enough beef bullion cubes for 6 cups of broth. (My cubes each do 2 cups, but others do 1 cup each.) Freeze. On the day you want the soup, defrost the bag slightly under warm water, then put the frozen mixture into a pot and add 6 cups of water. When boiling, add the orzo."

I also added some salt and pepper, and I used a whole box of baby bellas for the mushrooms. They were not sliced and I was lazy so I used my Pampered Chef chopper and just chopped the heck out of them. I used Laura's Organic ground beef, which is 93% fat free. At 8 servings, weight watchers calls it 4 points per serving. We had a quart left after making it (we made it for immediate use and not for a freezer meal) so I froze the remainder so that the orzo would stop expanding. This was a quick meal and would be great for a "home late from work" quickie dinner. From the time I walked into the house to the time we were eating, less than 1/2 hour went by.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adventures in Baby Feeding

When my son was 7 months old, we started feeding him solid foods. And he went for it. That boy would eat nearly anything you put in front of him. He was truly a champion eater.

So when my nearly-6-month-old daughter started reaching for food on our table, I figured it was time to start her on solids, too.

Day 1 came and she seemed very interested, but the rice cereal ended up mostly on the floor, on the bib, in everyone's hair, etc. Not to be thwarted, we tried the next day and the same thing happened. Then we added bananas because, hey! Everyone likes bananas! Except for my daughter, who spit them out as sure as she had spit out everything else.

So day by day, she'd get mad at us for eating but then not want to eat her food.

Today, I remembered something that we had done with my son. We were sitting down to eat fish and potatoes and asparagus, and Lillian started making those "you horrible people!" noises when we didn't give her any. So I gave her a spear of asparagus to munch on.

She pulverized the thing. I mean, she ate through that spear of asparagus and wanted another. Even my son (who loved to chew on asparagus spears) never consumed a spear with such relish. It was a sight to see. It makes me wonder if baby-led weaning is the way to go.

Now we'll just see how mama likes cloth diapering with baby girl eating asparagus!