Monday Weigh-In: Week 77

This past week felt really good. I stayed within my calories 6 out of the 7 days, worked out 4 times this week AND upped the weights on some shoulder machines at the gym.

I’m also back to enjoying my occasional splurge meal, and Saturday’s dinner was just that for me. We went bowling with friends Saturday evening, and afterwards, I enjoyed a large (mainly because of the large amount of lettuce) “burrito in a bowl” with chips. It was insanely good. Tex-Mex is my weakness. :-) It’s just amazing to feel in control of things again. My cravings for junk food aren’t that bad anymore, and I’m still motivated like crazy.

Week 76: 229.6
Week 77: 226.2

Weight Lost: 3.4 lbs.
Total Weight Lost: 72.3 lbs.

Some NSVs this week:

  • My 16W jeans are fitting loosely again.
  • I ran 1.5 miles last week, which I know isn’t that much in comparison to where I was. However, I consider 1.5 miles in this summer heat to be a small victory. :-)
  • I noticed when I was doing some yardwork yesterday, that it’s gotten so much easier to reach around the garden. I used to have trouble bending over and reaching for weeds, and I usually had to kneel down in the garden after a while to finish. However, I did it all standing up yesterday. This was a huge deal to me!

Sorry Folks…

ah-huck ah-huck ah-huck…park’s closed for renovations. (Sorry….quoting National Lampoon Vacation here!) Nah, the site isn’t closed, but there’s a few changes happening.

Please accept this cute picture of Millie as an apology.

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Easiest way to put it is that there have been some issues with my hosting site over the past few weeks, so I decided that I’m going to take some time to switch over and since they messed up my theme, I am going to do a temporary re-design as well.

Your favorite recipes and posts will still be around, but the site does look a little different. Thanks for your patience!

 

A Bunch of Randoms

1. It’s been a few years since the last Harry Potter came out, and we finally watched it. Holy cannoli. Um…yeah. Didn’t see any of that coming at all. No spoilers, because I’m sure there are people out there who haven’t seen the end. However, I think I’m gonna finally take the plunge and read the books. After reading the Hunger Games trilogy, I can see where people are coming from when they say “It makes much more sense in the books…”. If you watched the movies, this Buzzfeed post is really gonna put a smile on your face. So much awesome.

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2. I got a fun Influenster box in the mail from Mary Kay. I’m always worried about free make-up, because I’m super fair-skinned and usually the shades just don’t work for me. However, I’ve tried the cream eyeshadow and lipstick yesterday. I was stunned at how neutral the eyeshadow was…in the pan, it’s a purple shade, but on my eyes, it was a purple-ish brown. Very pretty. The lipstick looked like a highlighter pink, but on me, it was a good neutral with a hint of pink. Not too harsh at all! It also included mascara, and mascara is always a challenge for me. As a blonde, I wasn’t blessed with gorgeous Snuffleupagus eyelashes. Instead, I have a few, short blonde eyelashes, and mascara usually just makes them look like spider legs (I’m talking to you, Benefit’s They’re Real mascara…OMG talk about spider legs mascara…glad it was a free sample!). Anyway, this mascara actually made my lashes look great and defined! I’m definitely using these products every day now. :-) I’m glad the colors worked out.

Disclosure: I received those products in the mail for free, from Influenster and Mary Kay. All opinions/reviews are my own, however.

Randoms

3. I’m on Day 9 of the Plank a Day challenge. I had to do a minute today. It blows my mind how much your body adjusts to challenges like this. I won’t lie…I still dread planks, but I’m loving how much stronger I feel!

4. Someone posted that a couple days ago marked 6 months until Christmas. What? Oh man…I know it’s early, but around this time, I start brain-storming ideas for handmade gifts. I will admit that I was completely thrown off when Hobby Lobby already had ornaments out. I completely understand having Christmas fabrics out early, but ready-made decor? C’mon now!

5. Another DietBet bites the dust tomorrow. I ::think:: I’ll make it for this one. I can’t explain how wonderful it is to be “back”. When I got off-track in May, I really felt like I couldn’t control myself. My cravings for junk were out of control, and the constant excuses for work-outs scared me. It’s easier said than done to get rid of those cravings, and to just get out there and work-out, but I’m just glad to be back into a routine and see those numbers going down again. :-)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! It’ll be Monday before we know it. :-P

 

 

Granola Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

granolacookies

Ever since I came home from Food Blog Forum, I’ve been having an itch to register for another food blog conference. I don’t think I realized how amazing the food blogger community was until the conference. Everyone was just so friendly and welcoming…it felt like so many of us had been friends for the longest time. Just awesome. I’m seriously on pins and needles about where BlogHer Food will be next year…I think I’m ready to take the plunge. :-)

Another thing I really didn’t account for were the goodies. Oh man….I brought my checked luggage bag as a precaution for souvenir shopping, but seriously needed the whole suitcase for the bag o’ swag, along with the food from a local food exchange. So much stuff LOL. I still haven’t gotten through it all! In my bag was a container of granola, and since I don’t eat granola very often (I may sprinkle some in yogurt for crunch), I searched in hopes that someone has already invented cookies that would use up some of this granola.

Luckily, I came across this recipe, and the results were SO good. The flavor reminded me of an oatmeal raisin cookie, but it definitely had more to it, with the addition of dried cranberries, nuts (from the granola) and chocolate chips. I had to get these out of the house!

Granola Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granola
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk the ingredients together until well-mixed.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, and mix until well-combined. Then, mix in the vanilla extract.
  4. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and add in the dry ingredients. Mix on low until just combined. With a spatula, fold in the dried cranberries and chocolate chips.
  5. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop each cookie two inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool the cookies completely on the cookie sheets and enjoy!

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars

Larabars

While I enjoy eating cookies, cupcakes and ice cream, I could eat fruit all-day, every day. Thank goodness..or this calorie counting thing wouldn’t be working out so well for me. Me and my sweet tooth! :-)

When I started calorie counting, I went to Whole Foods and went on an energy bar shopping spree. I wanted a bar that would carry me through my work-outs, but not feel too heavy after eating them. Most of the bars tasted really good, but the ones that stood out to me the most were Larabars. I won’t lie to y’all. I thought they would taste terrible, being that they only had a few ingredients in them, but I was surprised in how much I liked them. They’re so basic…usually a base of dates, mixed with other dried fruits and nuts. With my favorite combination in cookies (of course, it always goes back to cookies haha!) being pistachio and cranberry, I tried to throw some energy bars together on my own. I was shocked at how easy these were to make. There’s no baking, and your food processor does all the work (which for me, is just a mini chopper, so I did this in small batches).

Pistachio Cranberry Energy Bars
Source: inspired by Use Real Butter

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pouch of pitted dates
  • 5 oz. pouch of dried cranberries
  • 6 oz. pouch of shelled pistachios (roasted and salted)
  • honey, if needed (depending on how wet the mixture is)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper (making sure some is sticking out above the sides to pull the bars out easily) and set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor, except for the honey, and puree the mixture. If you have a mini-chopper food processor like me, do this in small batches.
  3. Check the mixture to see if any honey is needed to help bind the ingredients together better. You want the mixture to be easy to roll into a ball without falling apart.
  4. Once you have your bars at the desired consistency, spread the energy bars out evenly onto the 8×8 pan. Then, cut them into bars and individually wrap.

 

 

Monday Weigh-In: Week 76

Once you fall off the wagon, it’s really really hard to get back on. There were the constant junk food cravings, the constant excuses…always saying “tomorrow”. I fell back hard and got pretty darn scared. I couldn’t gain back everything I worked so hard to lose…I just couldn’t.

I think this past week was the first week in a LONG time where I stayed under my calories every single day. I also worked out for 4 days out of the week. Tiny steps, but it’s wonderful to be back.

Week 75: 234.4
Week 76: 229.6

Weight Lost: 4.8 lbs.
Total Weight Lost: 68.9 lbs.

I’m 4.6 lbs. away from my lowest weight (which was 10 weeks ago), and I’m just super glad that the loss this week was huge. It’s definitely a good kick in the tail to keep things going. While I know these results won’t happen next week, I’m just happy to see results like this again. :-)

Some fun numbers I’ve been thinking about lately:

29.7 lbs. away from Onederland (199.9 lbs.).
18 weeks away from Halloween (my new personal goal to reach 199 lbs.)
49.6 lbs. away from my goal (which could change….but for now, it’s 180 lbs.)
4 sizes away from my ultimate clothing size goal (a size 10)
7 months away from my first half marathon

How was your week? Any victories or vents to share?

Fireworks Cupcakes

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Back when I graduated from college, I moved back in with my family. Being the oldest of 4 kids, I knew that coming back home would mean that I needed to help around the house as much as I could. So, since I got off of work the earliest, there were evenings where I’d try to cook for my family. Most of the first meals were disasters…I’m sure my family just ate them to make me feel better, but I learned very quickly the fundamentals of cooking. I’ll never forget the one night when I tried to make a simple chicken dish with gravy, and my Mom came home to find me essentially boiling chicken. I tried…I think we had pizza that night.

It took me quite a few months to get the hang of things, but after watching numerous cooking shows and sneaking in some reading time of my Mom’s beloved Better Homes & Gardens magazines, I decided to start a food blog. My first post pictures were nothing extraordinary, but those recipes were pretty darn good! I was proud of myself. :-)

After I got comfortable cooking, I got the itch to make pretty cakes. I took three Wilton classes, and my coworkers (who got a fresh, decorated cake every week) quickly became my best friends. I learned a lot in those classes, and accumulated a TON of icing tips in the process. Nowadays, I don’t put my Wilton classes to practice much, and I really only use about 10 of the same tips over and over again (for cookie and cupcake decorating).

However, when I went to Food Blog Forum, I saw these adorable Monsters, Inc. cupcakes (scroll down in Julie’s post), which were decorated using what is commonly called the grass tip. I thought that was so adorable and creative! I definitely wanted to try something like that at home. A couple of weeks later, I found these fireworks cupcakes while I was in a Pinterest wormhole (You know…when you check out the popular pins, then find a random pinner and look through all of their boards? No? Just me?). Sadly, it was just a picture with no tutorial, but I had a feeling I could replicate these cupcakes.

All you need for these cupcakes are a double batch of frosting, piping bags, couplers, a large cupcake tip (I used 1M) & a grass tip (Wilton 233).

First, simply frost your cupcakes, using 1/2 of the frosting and a large cupcake tip. Basically pipe a flat swirl (no height is needed…you’ll get height in the later steps), leaving the edges of the cupcake without frosting.

fireworks_step1

Then, divide the remaining frosting into thirds, dying one third blue, leaving one third white and the other third, red.

Put your first color in a piping bag, fitted with a coupler and the grass tip. Pipe the frosting going from the outside in, towards the center (making sure none of the original white icing shows through). You can leave the center of the cupcakes without this frosting, though, since there will be plenty of frosting added to the cupcakes in later steps. Here’s a picture to show what I mean…just keep in mind, I’m a geography major…never took an art class. :-P

Fireworks

Here’s how they come out.

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Next, add the second color to a fresh piping bag, fitted with a (clean) coupler and grass tip. Start piping from the outside going in, but this time, leave a little bit of the red icing showing around the edges.

fireworks_step3

For the final step, add the last color in a fresh piping bag, fitted with a (clean) coupler and grass tip, and pipe from the outside in, leaving the first two colors showing.

fireworks_step4

Then, for an optional last step, you can add sprinkles to the very center of the cupcakes. :-)

This may seem time-consuming, but once you find your groove, the piping goes by pretty darn quickly. I’m already thinking up some fun, new ways to use the grass tip again on cupcakes. I really should fork out the Wilton tips more often. :-)

A Bunch of Randoms

This week kind of flew by for me, which is rare. I just hope that doesn’t mean the weekend will go by even faster. Sadly, I have to do some major garden maintenance, which means I either wake up early and do it at 7am or wait until 7pm and swat mosquitos at the same time. Ahh….summer.

Randoms

Randoms

1. I took a good portion of the last weekend to clean up the disaster that is my craft room/guest room. Oh man…it feels good to have those shelves clean and organized! I have to admit, I haven’t gone on a fabric spree in a long time, and it just blows my mind how much fabric I still have. I guess I should get to sewing. The yarn shelves…eh…went a little crazy at KnitPicks at the end of last year. :-P

Randoms

2. I have an unsafe obsession with all things scented wax related. I love our little wax burner so much that I purchased one for my Mom & Memaw for Christmas last year. It’s nice to know that I can leave these on, and not worry as much about it being a fire hazard (that is, unless the light bulb causes a fire or something…but yeah, the risk is WAY less)!

Randoms

3. I have a slight sprinkles and cupcake liners problem. Earlier this year, we purchased a kitchen cart for a few of the larger kitchen tools that we have, and I just felt that I HAD to add some fun kitchen-y decor to it. I purchased some large jars at TJMaxx, and filled them with 1 lb. bags of non-pareils and jimmies. It’s SO much cheaper to buy them in these bulk bags, and I feel like I go through these regular rainbow ones so quickly…especially when I’m on a funfetti kick! I also purchased a larger jar and put my cupcake liner collection in it. It’s just so pretty & functional. Love it!

Randoms

4. Liz of The Lemon Bowl recently posted a 30 Day Plank Challenge. I decided to join in on this one to see how strong I could get. I would be 110% surprised if I can do 5 minutes of planking by the time this is over. I’m on Day 3 right now and just plugging along, while my arms violently shake and my stomach screams.

Randoms

5. Here’s a cute picture of Millie just for kicks. :-)

Hope y’all have a good weekend!

 

 

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Happy first day of summer! It feels like it’s been the summer here for quite a few weeks already…the humidity is crazy, it didn’t rain for about two weeks, and bugs are everywhere. Yay Louisiana summer!

One of the great things about summer is that it’s grilling season. Man, I love grilled foods…the flavor…the pretty grill marks on food…the fact that I don’t do the grilling. :-P Yeah…grilling outside is my husband’s thing. He’s great at it, and I don’t like dealing with fire.

We had a pork tenderloin in our fridge that I had other recipe plans for, but ultimately decided on grilling it, because it seemed quick/easy. This recipe is from Alton Brown, who has never steered me in the wrong direction. The marinade for the pork is flavorful and very simple to throw together. I was a bit worried with the addition of the chipotle pepper, but it just gave the pork a little bit of smokey flavor and heat. It was nothing over-bearing. I especially love that you just marinate the meat the day before, and the next day, just grill it. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner!

The only thing we did differently is that once the grilling was done, we let it finish in the oven until it reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees. I know that 140 degrees is OK for pork (which is what Alton’s recipe is written for), but my preference is for the pork to be well-done.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Source: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole pork tenderloin, appx. 1 pound
  • 1 lime, zest finely grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1.  Trim the fat and skin off of the pork tenderloin, and place it in a gallon ziploc bag. In a jar with a lid, add the lime juice, lime zest, honey, salt and garlic powder, and shake everything to combine. Add half of the marinade to the ziploc bag with the pork, as well as the chopped chipotle pepper, and seal the bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. Place the bag in a container to catch any leaks, and allow the pork to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours (rotating the bag halfway through to make sure the marinade gets in on both sides). Place the rest of the marinade in the fridge for later use.
  2. Remove the tenderloin from the fridge, and allow it to sit at room temperature while the grill preheats. Also, remove the jar of marinade from the fridge. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
  3. Brush the grill area that you’ll be cooking on with the vegetable oil once it’s preheated. Remove the tenderloin from the bag, and place the pork in the center of the grill. You can discard the ziploc bag with the used marinade at this time. Cover and cook the pork for 12-15 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. Move the tenderloin from the grill, and place it on a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Fold in the edges of the foil on the sides to create a packet, and pour in the reserved marinade. Wrap the top of the packet well.
  4. If you’d prefer the pork to be cooked more, place the foil packet in a preheated at 350 degrees oven, and let it finish cooking until it reaches 155 degrees (this took 7-10 minutes for us). Then, take it out of the oven, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. If you prefer the pork as it is, just allow it to rest in the foil packet for 10 minutes before serving.
  5. To serve, take the pork out of the foil, and garnish with cilantro. Then, slice the pork and enjoy!

 

 

Baked Za’atar Eggplant Fries

Za'atar Eggplant Fries

A while back, I decided to go to a new local spice store, called Red Stick Spice Company. I remember seeing them on Groupon, and thought…oh gosh…this could be a very good thing. Every time my husband and I go to Houston, we usually drive to Penzey’s, because the quality of spices and blends there are just amazing. I’m like a kid in a candy store there, so I was hoping this new place would be similar.

It turns out that this little spice store was one of the most GENIUS ideas for home cooks. A spice store where you can buy as little or as much as you want (sold by weight), instead of buying things by the bottle. I mean…how many times do you need a tsp. of a certain spice, and you never use it again? Genius, I tell you!

I was sold. The last time I went was around the holidays, so I bought some blends for gifts, a TON of cinnamon & nutmeg and a few random spices that caught my eye. A few months later, I peeked into the disaster that was my spice cabinet, and saw a bag of Za’atar. Um….yeah. Could not remember what recipe I bought that for, so I googled recipes and stumbled upon this recipe for eggplant fries. (I STILL don’t remember what I bought this spice for…it’s really bothering me lol!)

Now, I don’t eat eggplant very much, because I always seem to forget about this veggie. I love eggplant, however, my husband does not. So, the week he went out of town, I decided to make these fries happen with my sous chef (the dog) standing below, waiting hopelessly for me to drop something. :-)

These fries were flavorful, crispy and very simple to throw together. I forgot how much I love baked eggplant, and they were perfection when dipped in hummus.

Just to note: Red Stick Spice Company or Penzey’s didn’t compensate me to write this post. They probably have no idea I exist. :-)

Baked Za’atar Eggplant Fries
Source: The Kitch’n

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup za’atar spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • flaky salt, to finish
  • hummus, for dipping

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a rimmed cookie sheet (to ensure that all sides of the fries get crispy) and set aside.
  2. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ thick rounds, and then slice each round piece into 1/2″ thick “fries”. Set aside.
  3. Take out three bowls for the batter process. Fill one with the flour, another with the eggs (well beaten), and the third, combine the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, za’atar, salt and cayenne.
  4. Using one hand, dip the eggplant fries in the flour and make sure they’re evenly coated in flour. Then with another hand, grab the fries and dunk them in the egg, making sure that all sides are coated in egg, and place in the third bowl. With the hand that dipped the eggplant fries in the flour, roll the eggplant fries in the panko mixture. This ensures that you don’t end up with a clumpy egg-y panko mix all over your hands…use one hand for dry…one hand for the wet.
  5. Lay each eggplant fry close to one another on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the fries until they are golden brown and crispy, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the fries with flaky salt right as they come out of the oven, and enjoy with hummus!