Friday, February 28, 2014

Week 8 Friday (2/28/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Chicken Tortilla Soup
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Page 76 - 78      Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 202 calories per serving, if 8 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         I actually like making homemade soup. The whole house was filled with the aroma and the flavors filled the air. Ree called this a Tex-Mex soup and she was right on! There are so many things in this soup that I have never eaten in the past, beginning with black beans. I actually liked them in this soup. The peppers were a real plus and chilies are a new favorite. This is a soup to take to work each day as it is warm and comforting. I think this one would be a hit on a buffet line.  Step right up and eat some chicken tortilla soup today!

I am cooking the onions and wonderful peppers.  

Today’s critics: 

         Brandy:  - Really good, had a kick but not over whelming, liked the tortilla strips. I thought it was good. Wouldn't change anything!

Why Weight?

         What is a realistic goal?  Is it a small goal that keeps you striving for success?  Is it a goal that can be achieved in a set amount of time?  If so, who knows what that time frame is?
         The schools latched onto the concept of SMART goals. My goal is supposed to be specific.  I will lose 10 lbs. or whatever number I select. Okay, that’s specific.          Is the goal is measureable?  That one is easy because of the invention of the scale.  Two down – three to go.
         Is it attainable?  Well that one can be debated. Of course it can IF, and that is a big IF, I keep doing what works, I don’t sabotage myself or someone else doesn’t sabotage me, and IF what I am doing continues to work.
         Is my goal realistic? To whom? To me? To you? To the American public? That one should be okay, I think?
         Lastly, is my goal timely?  Say Whaaaaat?  This is where it really fell apart of me.  I may not be able to say what is timely. 
         When I started this endeavor, in July of 2012, I thought through these areas and here’s what happened. The goal was specific – lose 100 lbs. in 1 year. The goal was measurable – my weight should drop at least 100 lbs.  The goal was attainable – I couldn’t see any reason that it wouldn’t work. The goal is realistic – I thought that it seemed realistic to me. The goal is timely – I wanted it when I started, and had a clear ending – so what could go wrong.
         OMG – WAS I CLUELESS!  I only lost 75 lbs. the first year – bummer.  Now that is nothing to whine about but being a goal driven person – it made me a little annoyed. 
         Let’s re-evaluate. Specific – yes!  Measurable – yes! Attainable – no way.  I reached for the stars – I overestimated what my body would allow me to lose. Realistic – no way.  My head was in the clouds. Timely – yes!
         So the moral of this fairy tale is that I have slowed down, need to accept it, and need to just lose what I lose each day. No pressure – just hard work, exercise, and a positive attitude.  

Fabulous “Family” Food

Sharon Ory’s Peanut Butter Eggs
Makes about 24 eggs

         Today’s recipe came from a friend from about 25 years ago named Sharon Ory. I do not know where she got the recipe, but she kindly shared it with me. These peanut butter eggs are just fabulous.

Mix together:  2 cups powdered sugar with 3 Tablespoons                                     melted butter, and 1 ½ cups peanut butter.

Press into small balls and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

In a double boiler or microwave oven, melt 1 (12 oz.) package of milk chocolate chips and 1 package of almond bark.

Use a slotted spoon to dip the candy into the chocolate and then place it on waxed paper.  Let the candy set.

Variation:  you can use butterscotch chips if desired.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Week 8 Thursday (2/27/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Chipotle Steak Salad
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Page 48 - 49      Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 741 calories per serving, if 8 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         OMG was this fabulous!  I absolutely loved the dressing.  I love the spiciness and made extra so I could enjoy it on other salads. The steak was wonderful!  I nixed the strips, which do make it look beautiful, but more difficult to eat.  I just did the old fashion way of chopping the steak into bite size pieces for ease. I strongly recommend this salad as the perfect lunch.
         I think I need to plan a sister’s luncheon at my house.  Unfortunately, the last time I tried to have my sisters and Mom for lunch, I decided to grill on the deck.  Now I was never meant to grill and it took the coals over an hour to heat up.  The lunch was great but over an hour late.  I never tried to again – but with my new cooking self-confidence, maybe I could brave having them for attempt #2.  Hopefully, they will give me a second chance.

Today’s critics:

         Brandy:  Um, wow, hot hot hot, after initially trying it I should have mixed mine with Ranch like Nicole. I was sweating, and it was even hotter the next day :)

         Nicole:  Too spicy for us. We used ranch dressing instead of the chipotle.

Random Reflections

         A few weeks ago, when I was at the Batavia Curves, I noticed that they were cleaning up the area in the rear of the building. In the middle of the lot was a stripped down, old railroad car. It interested me because I thought it would be a fun project to rehab the old train car and turn it into something useful. I love the shape and the big openings for windows.  I have no idea what it could be but the possibilities are endless.

Irksome Ideas and Images

         For someone who likes order, my basement is a disaster! How did I let it become such a mess?  It was actually very easy – if I didn’t know where to put it – the basement was the decision.  I just have too much stuff!  The basement is divided into junk sections. In the far back left are the Christmas supplies. Being a teacher has contributed to this problem. Over the years I have been given so many items that the sheer amount is ridiculous.  Going through the rubbermaid tubs will be a monumental task.
         The back right section is school related items. This is a personal problem. What other teacher stores school supplies at home?  Of course, they are not the “normal” school supplies. I have saddles on stands, a swimming pool beach supplies, and a large supply of hats. This is just the tip of the iceberg. When I retire, I will actually have my basement back.  Wow!
         Then there is the alcove that is my pantry.  That is the most organized section of the basement. This is my salvation area because it is organized and when I am preparing to cook – I walk this area to see what supplies I already have before I go to the store. I think every home should have a pantry to save trips to the grocery!
         The basement is all about decisions, decisions, and decisions.  This is definitely a summer task so that when I retire my home is on the road to perfect organization and free of junk and unnecessary clutter.  Another goal to accomplish!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 8 Wednesday (2/26/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Cowgirl Quiche
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Pages  34 - 36    Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 422 calories per serving, if 16 servings are made. Like Cowboy Quiche, I made two single pies instead of one deep-dish so I got 16 servings instead of 8. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         This is the best quiche I have ever had in my life.  I love the Cowboy Quiche but this one tops them all.  Do you think its because I want to be a cowgirl? I do like cows and I am a girl but I doubt it is in my future. I do know that I definitely like this pie. 
         I have to make a confession.  I didn’t even know what a leek looked like before I made this dish. When I was at the grocery I was shocked at how big it was and that it actually was in the onion family. The name made me think it was another disgusting veggie but now I just love’em.

The leeks are a cookin' 

Today’s critics: 

         Brandy - Filling, good flavor, felt like I was eating something healthy cause it had leeks in it and I’m really not one for quiche, but it was good.

Gabbin’ About Gratitude

         I received a wonderful gift certificate to the restaurant Fridays. I went there one weekend and enjoyed an amazing meal.  I have a trick for dining out that has really helped me continue to lose weight. When I go out to dinner, I bring my glass snap-top lidded containers and before I even take the first bite, I divide the food in half.  This is because restaurant portions are so large that it would sabotage all efforts to count calories.  I wanted to order an hors de ouvre as well as a burger so I brought several dishes.  The great part about doing this is that I got three meals out of it for free, thanks to the gift card.
         I strongly suggest the Queso from Fridays.  The sauce is so amazing and it is served with these huge salted chips.  I loved this so much that next time I just might order this dish as a meal.
         The other item I ordered was the scrumptious Jack Daniel’s burger.  As a burger addict, I can honestly say that this one is a keeper.  They cooked it perfectly for me and it arrived hot and juicy.  This meal was just pure happiness for this girl.
         I am very thankful for the wonderful student that treated me to a great dinner at Fridays.

Memory Musings

         How do you solve your problems? Where is the place you go to think? When I was in elementary and middle school my place to go was in the mulberry tree with my best friend, Kathy. The mulberry tree was a safe haven for us and it was our place to discuss our thoughts and feelings, and then eat a few mulberries.  I have such fond memories of my childhood and friendship with Kathy. I really think that we had the ideal childhood. Okay maybe even a Brady Bunch childhood (except more real and not as annoying, and Kathy never got hit in the nose with a football). Did you have a place to go and think and plan your future???

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 8 Tuesday (2/25/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Tangy Tomato Brisket
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Pages  180 - 181     Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 688 calories per serving, if 8 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         As far as I know, this is my first brisket. If I have eaten it, then I just called it beef and went through life clueless.  This was interesting to me because I never even thought of cooking something for a whole seven hours in the oven. The flavors are outstanding and when I removed it from the oven the meat just fell apart. It was so wonderful and flavorful.  I need better adjectives to describe the flavors. This is worth the wait.

My flash totally changed the color - the bottom one is correct but the top one is more clear

Today’s critics: 
       Brandy:  - Excellent, wonderful flavor, very moist and tender. Really good all the way around. I will be making this one for sure.

Why Weight?

         Deprivation is an interesting word. In the past when I was dieting (it seems like my entire life) I began a program on a roll and it didn’t take long before that “D” word crept into my mind.  I was deprived of fast food. I was deprived of a rich dessert. I was deprived of what seemed like everything except salad, veggies, and miniscule portions of meat and potatoes.
         What is great about this time, is that I am never deprived.  Deprivation is a thing in my past. I do count the calories of everything that goes in my mouth, but I do not limit the types of things I eat. Now I am not foolish and I do know that certain foods are better than others, but if all I can think about is a Snickers bar, then I eat one. I find that once I do, my thoughts are satisfied and I can move on to other things.
         Now as I’ve said in the past, Ree’s food is amazing. I used to eat a lot of food either frozen, canned, or in a box.  Rarely did I eat what I call real food – you know fresh food. I truly think that is the one real difference this time. I am eating amazing, rich food, but in a limited quantity, and the outcome is lost weight.  Who would’ve known???

My Gorgeous Girls

         I feel very strongly that all animals should be micro-chipped.  This could be the difference between life and death for your pet. I frequently watch a show called Animal Cops (various locations). On this show, they save animals that are being neglected or abused, but they also catch strays or runaways. One way to reunite an animal with its owner is for the vet or animal control person to check to see if the animal has a chip. Be an advocate for your pet, and make sure that they are chipped immediately. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 8 Monday (2/24/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Pages  190 - 193     Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 167 calories per serving, if 10 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         This is so easy to make and I love the flavor!  I have always purchased pre-seasoned pork tenderloins.  Sometimes I have to admit that it is just easier to buy them ready to go.  I have pretty much had an awakening since I started this blog.  Just because it is easier doesn’t make it better. Ree has given me such confidence in my own abilities that I actually like creating the food and take great satisfaction in it.
         Unfortunately, I did not care for the cornbread triangles.  I am a finicky cornbread person. I think I learned to love southern cornbread and an not as open-minded as I need to be regarding my choice of cornbread. 

Today’s critics: 

         Brandy:  We really liked it, including the corn meal triangles and apricot sauce. I was shocked because it was way out of our comfort zone, but we both really liked it. Great flavor.

Craft Corner
         Today, is a celebration of the success of my friends and family who are trying to create a craft. I was talking to a friend at school who is tackling a new project – knitting a scarf. This is the first step!  I remember that I spent years knitting scarves and it is so relaxing that my blood pressure drops to about 90/50 when I work on a craft. Now my Mom and her sister have the opposite reaction – they becomes frustrated and their blood pressure probably rises. Crafting to me is a life long hobby.  I am so happy for everyone that is trying to create something new.  The personal satisfaction is amazing even if the first one doesn’t turn out perfectly – you did it and the next one will always be better.  Yeah!

Random Reflections

         Last weekend I drove through the east side of St. Charles and came upon a beautiful house. In some way it reminds me of New Orleans.  The beautiful porches and balconies took my breath away.  I can just see it in the summer with huge ferns hanging between the posts.  It has such a welcoming look about it.  I wonder what the rooms are like.  Are they small and formal or have current owners changed them to the open concept?  It is so close to Pottawatomie that its proximity to town and the river walk makes it a dream location.  When you have a second, drive down to 2nd and Fulton Ave. and take a look at this beauty.

Wants and Wishes
         I am currently driving a burgundy colored 2001 Ford Van.  I love this car.  It is comfortable and big enough for me to have a dog crate or school cart in the backseat. The seats are so comfy that it is like driving while sitting on a couch.  But the time is coming for the two of us to part ways. She will be going to the big car lot in the sky, as I need to go into retirement with a brand stinking new vehicle.
         I have always kept my cars until they have outlived their usefulness. My last car was a Honda CRX, a two-seater, which I had for 13 years. It was a fabulous car, but the rust had actually eaten through the side and a person could put an arm through the hole.
         The new dream car will be the Ford Flex. It is like a boxy looking station wagon. I need a vehicle large enough to hold a dog crate and this one seems to fit the bill. I fell in love with the Flex because the interior is plush and it has three large skylights (one per section). This vehicle is pretty pricey, but I hope that since my driving will be greatly reduced, this one will last more than my usual 13 – 14 years.  Imagine that!  I have already shown this car earlier in the week but I am sure you are going to want to view it again!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 7 Sunday (2/23/14)

Recipe Review

 Today’s Recipe and Location:  Apple Brown Betty
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Pages 250 - 251      Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 544 calories per serving, if 8 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         This is such a simple dessert to make and enjoy. It is warm and comforting. I love the brown sugar and how it mixes with the apples. It has an old school flavor. The cream topping seals the deal being rich and creamy. I know this dish is from days of old (no – not my age but my Grandmother’s). I probably won't make it again because she makes so many other desserts that are to die for after eating.

Today’s critics: 

         Brandy Lehman said she “Love Love Loved the taste, but hate hate hated the bread got really soggy....didn't like that at all, but the taste was really good, won't be making that one...”
         Nicole:  That was good. I don’t know if would make it again but I would rather use the apples in slices or a pie.  I have nothing against it because I thought it was tasty but I wouldn’t make it again.

Trivial Triffles

         A few weeks ago, the snowfall kept coming and I am beginning to notice fabulous shapes and drifts after it stops.  I was at Curves and looked out the front door and saw this old planter with what looked like a hat or the top of an ice cream cone. The wind had shaped it into this wonderful shape.  At least if we can’t get the snow to stop, look around and try to enjoy what it leaves.

Isn't the shape great???

Memory Musings

         When I was in Middle School my Mom and Dad joined WestWind, which was a swimming/tennis club. I loved going there because we rarely went to a pool.  St. Charles has a great pool at Pottawatomie Park but I don’t remember us going there very often. WestWind was great because it had diving boards. We would bring a lunch and spend the entire afternoon.  The friends were made there were great, but apparently not too memorable as I cannot think of one person.  Sad, but true.  Is this a sign of aging or was it because they were only friends for one or two summers?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Week 7 Saturday (2/22/14)

Recipe Review

Today’s Recipe and Location:  Fancy Mac and Cheese
         Found in: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From my Frontier
                           Pages 132 - 135      Copyright:  2012  Harper Collins

I figured out that there are 334 calories per serving, if 18 servings are made. (Please note that the calorie counts vary depending on the specific brands of ingredients that you choose to use.)

         Fancy Mac and Cheese is one name, Ree, but I would call it A Pasta and Cheese Dream.  I love this adult Macaroni and cheese. It is rich and has so many cheeses that all compliment each other. I also think that peppered bacon is now a must in this household.  I even had it with my breakfast eggs this morning.  I have no idea if kids would like this dish,  but adults would go wild for this rich, decadent side dish or even a as meal.  This is a definite keeper!

Today’s critics: 

       Deb Klos:  - creamy and smooth without a definite "cheesy" taste; loved the salty compliments of the bacon and onions; Yummy!  Thanks for sharing,
         Brandy:  - To die for: bacon, blue cheese, and I need to say more? Absolutely delish

Random Reflections

         As I write this, I am sitting in the car dealership in West Chicago waiting for my van to have an oil change and new front brakes. This vehicle needs to last until next April before I purchase a new car.  I want to go into retirement with new wheels. My current car is a 2001 so I definitely have gotten my money’s worth. I am really good at delayed gratification because my previous car, a little Honda CRX two-seater, lasted 13 years, too.
         The next car I am currently interested in is the Ford Flex.  I love this vehicle because it is roomy and can fit my dog crate in the rear. It is a beautiful car, even though it is shaped kind of like a rectangular box. I love the three skylights and the features they offer. I think I really like the blue car with a tan leather interior. But for now, I will drive my old geezer car and be thankful it gets me everywhere I want to go each day.

The rear view

The side view

It's just soooooo pretty!

Helpful Home Hints

         Insulating the garage would be a wonderful thing to do in the future for me. This would help me avoid exploding pop cans in the dead of winter and losing yard chemicals and sprays that go bad after the winter months.
         I would like to staple up insulation and then put peg board over it so everything can be put away neatly.  I love it when I see that someone has drawn paint outlines of where everything goes.  Now there is an organizer.
         This is on my list of things to do during the first year of retirement.  Even the garage needs a little TLC.  Is your garage insulated?  I wonder of much of a difference it really makes.  I also must investigate if a new garage door is needed to really keep it warm.  Oh well, these are things to consider later.  After all Scarlett – tomorrow is another day.