10/31/10

Sunday Gratitude

Today's gratitude list....

1.  A beautiful place to worship. 
2.  A priest with a kind voice.
3.  The story of Zacchaeus. 
4.  Unlikely heroes. 
5.  Organs. 

Recipe for Pasta alla Vodka to come soon - I figured I would keep talk of vodka and church separate from each other.  I mean, I'm not drinking the vodka but still.....

10/30/10

Gratitude Day 6

Today I am grateful for....


1. Lunch dates.


2. Living in a place like Greenwood.  I feel like there are some big things going on here.

3.  A lazy day that I can use for whatever I want.  Today it was sewing...

Burp Cloth - pattern based on tutorial from Spoonful

Talula Reversible Jumper, pattern found here.
 
Soon to be a Ruffled Blouse
4.  The ability to laugh at myself.  The white lining of above pictured red jumper is now tye-dyed pink.  What up, not pre-washing fabric??

5.  My brown fuzzy jacket.   

10/29/10

Lighthearted Gratitude

Another no food, just gratitude day.  I'm still thinking about that haiku, it's going to happen. 

Today's gratitude is sweet and spooky.  It is not, however, weight watchers appropriate.  And I'm cool with that. 

Today I am grateful for....

1.  Prizes from Whole Foods.  They are supposed to be "spooky pretzels" but look a little more mardi gras-ish if you ask me.  Still yum. 


2.  Bake sales that give me an excuse to make Funfetti cookies. 


3.  My banana Halloween costume.  Life is just funnier when you're dressed up like a banana.  End of story. 


4.  Everyone else's Halloween costumes.  It's just such a festive time. 

5.  My fall pot.  She's sitting all alone by herself in the driveway - but she sure is cute!


Happy weekend party people!  Hope it's not to spoooooky!

10/28/10

Gratitude - Day 4

No food today, just gratitude. 

(I just spent an unnecessarily long time trying to come up with a rhyme / haiku since food and gratitude rhyme.  I decided that activity would best be saved for a later date.  Stay tuned)

Today I am grateful for......

1.  Sirius XMU radio and the songs I discover through them.  Here is one I heard this morning.  Coronado by Deerhunter. 


I swear the lead singer from Deerhunter went to WS with me in 4th grade.  His name is Bradford Cox and he looks alot like the Brad Cox that I knew. Coincidence?  I think not.....

2.  A good church with fun members that holds (that hold?) events like chili cook offs. 

3.  A drop in the temperature.

4.  Friends that want me to sew things for them.  Makes me feel so good!

5.  The physical ability to get up and exercise in the morning. 

What about you?  What are you grateful for today?

10/27/10

Simple Breakfast and Gratitude (Day 3)

On this glorious Wednesday morning, I would like to share what I have been having for breakfast this week.  It is quite filling and has been making me quite happy.  After all, it's no secrete that peanut butter is my friend. 

This quick little ditty was featured in this months WW magazine, they suggested cutting down on processed snacks by eating something like this.  Myself, I'm having it for breakfast. 

1 wheat English muffin (3 pts) *There are some that are 2 pts, I just goofed and got the 3 pt ones.  Boooooo!
1/2 tbl reduced fat peanut butter (1 pt)
1 tsp simply fruit jelly (I like blueberry) (.5 pt)

Total pts 4

Toast the muffin, spread PB and J equally on each side.  I wrap it up in foil and carry it to work with me.  I split it in half and eat one half at a time.  Just seems like more food that way.

Gratitude!

1.  I'm grateful for finding my calendar.
2.  I'm grateful for leftovers.
3.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to meet new friends.
4.  I'm grateful for my Keurig.
5.  I'm grateful for purple shoes and black and white scarves. 

10/26/10

Turkey Sliders

So every time Brandon and I venture to Jackson, we make this huge deal discussing where we are going to have lunch.  And every time, we end up at Kiefers. 

Mediterranean-esq joints are probably my favorite, I am such a fan of baba ganoush.  I'm also a fan of the slider, ground turkey, and pita bread.  All of these forces combined are probably the reason that I give last night's supper two thumbs up, way up. 


The above picture was snapped just moments ago as I put my lunch into the work fridge.  I forgot to take one last night; by the time the sliders were done I was famished and took to eating them standing up in the kitchen.  I agree that the picture is kind of creepy looking but I thought it might be helpful to see a pic of the little dears.  

Turkey Sliders
adapted from WW Magazine

Sauce:
1/2 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and diced small
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 tbl lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Burgers:
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 green onion, minced
2 tbl roasted red pepper, minced
1 tbl ketchup
1 tbl chopped fresh mint
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
10 (2 1/2 inch) whole wheat mini pitas, split OR 3 regular whole wheat pitas, cut into fourths and split

To make sauce - mix cucumber, sour cream, lemon juice, mint, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

To make burgers - combine turkey scallion, roasted pepper, ketchup, mint, garlic, cumin, coriander,and black pepper in a large bowl.  Form into 10 burgers. 

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, coat with cooking spray.  Cook the burgers until done, about 5 minutes on each side. 

To serve, place one burger between pita bread, top with a heaping teaspoon of sauce. 

Serving size 1 slider
WW points 2
Points Plus 3 

And now......day two of the gratitude list!

1.  Sliders of all kinds. 
2.  The story "From Inside the God Box" in this months Real Simple magazine.
3.  Rain.
4.  My Wii Sports Active workout regimen.
5.  Matchstick corduroy pants from J Crew. 
 

10/25/10

30 Days of Gratitude

While flipping furiously through my desk calender today, it hit me. 

Thanksgiving is 30 days from today.  Whoa!  Then it's Christmas....then the New Year....then I'm a 97 year old great great grandmother jetting around the Caribbean, doing yoga in the morning and drinking wine in the afternoon. 

I might be getting ahead of myself.  My point is:  time is flying and the holla-days will be here before we know it. 

I decided to do this whole 30 days of gratitude ago, who knew it would sneak up so fast. 

Here is my plan - each day, leading up to Thanksgiving, I'll be listing 5 things on my blog each day that I'm grateful for.  It's an exercise that I hope will get me in the right mind frame for the holla-days, as well as help me to stop and say thanks for the good stuff in my life. 

I do hope you'll join me...leave a comment and share what you are grateful for! 

Here is the kick off list:

1.  Friends that don't let their herb gardens die.
2.  Salomon tennis shoes that have stuck with me for 3+ years.
3.  The ability to get outside and mow my leaves (I don't rake.)
4.  Friends that are honest - even when they tell me that something I've done makes them want to throw up.
5.  Miracles.  Jennifer and BJ are expecting their second little babe in May.  Join me as I do a wild, excited dance! 

Slow Sunday Supper (Slow Cooker Lasagna)

After my most recent crock pot debacle, I decided to dust the old girl off and try it again.  This time, I made sure to stick close to home in order to avoid mistakes made last week. 

It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 

As mentioned in the title, this was a slow Sunday supper.  There is something about a Sunday meal, I feel like it should be a big deal.  Growing up, our big Sunday meal was always lunch; supper was usually a find whatever you can type situation - if memory serves me right.  Our Sunday lunches involved whatever family that was in town coming together after church.  The location for this varied between various restaurants in Greenville:  The Country Club, Hunan's, Gus', and most recently Nanny's house with my dad picking up some chicken. 

It's a tradition that I miss, not living there anymore, but one I often think about.  I rarely lunch out on Sundays, aside from B and I randomly going to the Mexican restaurant OR Turnrow Brunch.  I do, however, try to do a fancy meal on a Sunday night.  It works for me because I can spend as little or as much time on it as I want during the day and not have to worry about being rushed.  


Really rambling now, aren't I?  I guess it was all the family time on Saturday in Starkville.  Got me all reminiscent about Sunday lunches.  Anywho.  Moving on.

I used the crock pot in this one, but I guess you wouldn't have to?  There was a little bit of prep work here but it was very worth it.  It's one of those "there's no freaking way this it a WW meal" kind of meals.  Hearty, comforting, easy...the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.  

Slow Cooker Lasagna

cooking spray
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
15 oz canned tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup part skim ricotta
1 1/2 cups part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
6 items dry lasagna noodles, no-cook
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, add beef, onion, and garlic.  Cook until done.  Add cans of tomatoes and seasonings, allow to simmer for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine ricotta cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese in a small bowl.

Spoon 1/3 of beef mixture into the crock pot.  Top with 3 lasagna noodles, broken apart to fit into the crock pot.  Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture.  Repeat the layers, ending with the meat mixture. 

Cook on low for 4 - 6 hours. 

Remove cover, turn off heat.  Combine the remaining mozzarella cheese with Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle evenly atop the beef mixture.  Cover and set aside until cheese melts and lasagna firms up, about 10 minutes.

Serving size 1/6 of recipe
WW points 8
Points Plus 9

10/24/10

October Weekend Adventure # 4 & Cheese Toast

Hello there.  Happy lazy Sunday morning.  I'm just hangin' on my couch, watching Law and Order and eating cheese toast.


Why cheese toast? Well for one, it's good.  For two, the 'ole pantry at my house is pretty slim.  The grocery trip that will go down this afternoon will be much needed.  For me, this is a great go-to breakfast.  It breaks down as follows....

2 slices of light wheat bread (1 point)
2 slices 2% American Cheese (1.5 points)
spray butter

Toast it up for a total of 4 points

This weekend, I wrapped up my October Weekend Adventures with a trip to Starkville.  Unfortunately, I didn't really get any pictures.  What I did get was some good playing time in with Alex and Leo.  They are cute.  And busy. 

Brandon and I went to half of the game with my dad and step-mom, I was quite proud of Brandon for getting as excited about the game as he did.  As a long time Ole Miss fan, I'm proud that he can support the rival team. 

I was distracted by the guy that won student fan of the week by covering his entire body with rah - rahs (AKA pom poms). 

That's dedication...

10/22/10

Hats Off to the Pharmacists In My Life...

You may or may not be aware of this, but October is National Pharmacists Month.  This may or may not be a big deal to you, but it kind of is to me.  I would like to take this time to shout out to just a few of my favorite pharmacists (as well as almost pharmacists.) 

Although we were all raised in the same environment, by the same people, pretty much the same way, our brains came out quite different.  Jen and Chick came out with the science / math brain, while I developed the social work brain.  Only slightly different, eh? 

Chick is still in school and appears to be really making her mark.  She participates in exercises where she is responsible for managing a pharmacy in the wilderness - she probably would have rocked that one out if her supply plane had not crashed trying to deliver supplies.  This might sound strange but I have a degree in social work - we did group projects that were waaaaay stranger. 

Chick also keeps me up to date on the function of a social worker in a pharmacists' world.  I'm not sure what that function is though as I can't make out what the picture she sent me says. 


Jen is a for real pharmacist, has been for several years.  She works in the student health center at a college and really seems to be great at it.  She is patient, calm, and understanding.  Although I have never been a patient of hers, I do like to keep her on her toes by calling her on a regular basis and testing her knowledge.  I believe that I am a borderline hypochondriac and have called her in a panic about everything from an ear infection to shingles.  She will usually direct me to the appropriate over the counter medication, telling me everything is going to be just fine.  She doesn't make fun of the fact that I am an absolute lunatic, at least not to my face. 

We can't forget about B.J., Jennifer's husband.  He's also in the bizzzzz and helps the good customers of Walgreens keep there medicine straight.  He's also fun to harass while at work.  I don't get to do it at as often as I would like, but I often enjoy cruising through the drive through and just loitering.  Good stuff.  

Pharmacists have a tough job - we should all do our part to make it better.  I'm an AWFUL pharmacy patient.  I have prescriptions at several different pharmacies, usually don't remember the name of medications that I've taken, throw the boxes of my over the counter meds away so that I have no idea what they are, and get very crabby when I am sick and have to wait on something to be filled.  I bet that those are four of the things that make a pharmacists head spin around...

I promise to be better. 

Happy Pharmacist Month!!!  I'm proud of you girls!

10/21/10

Labor of Love (Orzo and Broccoli Risotto)

All of this running around the southeast lately has really chipped into my sewing time.  Not complaining - I've had a great October thus far, but I was glad to be able to be able to work on some projects this week. 


Two of these three pairs of paints (I know, pants, but it's more fun to say "paints" isn't it?) were put together Monday and Tuesday night.  Easy as pie and quite fun to make.  If you sew, you should pick up the pattern.

I also spent some time working on some long overalls last night.  I almost have them finished but decided to stop for the night after the seam ripper made it's second appearance.  Sewing talk is a blast, huh?   

It's quite a process, sewing that is.  A labor of love we could call it. 

Speaking of a labor of love, I made risotto for supper last night.  The idea came to me after the Great Pantry Clean Out of 2010.  Since then, I've found myself face to face with a jar of orzo each time I open the pantry.  I found the recipe online and luckily had almost all of the ingredients on hand. 

Why is this a labor of love?  Well - I'll tell you.  Because you have to stir risotto for ever.  I mean seriously - for FREAKING EVER.  Like cramp in  your hand forever.  But it was worth it - risotto is always worth it. 


Orzo and Broccoli Risotto
adapted from WW Online

14 oz vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup carrot, julienned
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup uncooked orzo
5 oz broccoli (thawed if frozen)
3 tbl fat free half and half
3 tbl Parmesan cheese, grated

Bring water and broth to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Reduce the heat, keep at a simmer.

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan, add carrot and garlic; cook until garlic smells nice and garlic-y; about one minute.  Add the orzo and cook, stirring, until it is lightly toasted; about two minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low.

Add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to orzo and stir until absorbed.  Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, waiting for all of the liquid to be absorbed before adding more.  Cook until pasta is slightly firm, add broccoli when you add the last addition of broth. 

Stir in half and half, heat for about one minute.  Stir in cheese. 

Serve at once

Serving size 1 1/2 cup (makes two servings)
WW points 8
Points Plus 11

Just be patient....stir and stir and stir and stir until all of that broth is absorbed.  You won't be sorry, for reals.

10/20/10

Just a few things....

Happy Middle of the Week, party people! It's been a good one so far on my end, had a few bumps in the road with the purchase of a new oxygen censor for the 'ole Honda...this led to some foot stomping that I quickly forced myself to replace with good 'ole fashioned gratitude for a few minutes with nothing to do but read magazines and have deep gchat conversations - let us appreciate time spent at the mechanic.  How's that for a run on??!!

In an effort to focus on the positive, here's some stuff that is rolling around in my brain.... 

1.  The newest issue of WW Magazine.  If you are on this program, pick up the November/December issue quick, fast, and in a hurry.  It's full of great recipe ideas, along with some pretty neat-o kitchen gadgets.  How about this....

These nifty plates help you to get a good idea about portion sizes when making your plate for dinner.  The designs are about the size of the correct portion one should have for meat, vegetables, and a starch.  How cool?  You can check them out here

2. This new t shirt from the Gap.  My mom picked me up a few of these on our Memphis adventure this week - I can tell they are going to be my new go to.  Armed with a grey and white stripe, a baby blue, and a basic black I feel like they are really going to pump up my scrub wearing.  They are a great weight, the fit is good, they pretty much rock my world.  Thanks Mom!!!! 

3.  Consolidating.  I spent a few minutes recently consolidating my Pandora Stations.  There were about a million on my profile and I've separated them all into neat little stations, with labels like "Laura Merrill's Indie-ish" or Laura Merrill's Rap-ish."  Makes me pretty happy.   

4.  Speaking of music - here is a rockin' little jam that I've been enjoying.   


5.  Being that it is Wednesday, this week is more than half over.  I'm not trying to rush my life or anything but I'm sure excited about my trip to Starkville this weekend.  Aside from being with family, Alex and Leo (the babies after whom my "clothing line" is named) will get to meet for the first time.  CUTE ALERT.  

Hot Mess

I love a Real Simple magazine. I've been a subscriber for quite some time and look forward to each and every issue.  Every time I read one, I find new things to explore, try out, and want.  While flipping through the November issue at work on Monday, I found a 15 minute plan to a cleaner pantry plan.  I was sold.  Even though I had already planned several things for when I got home that afternoon, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. 


Well. 


This is what it looked like before I started.  I should probably hang my head in embarrassment but I'm just trying to be honest.  Dreadful, right?  How did this happen?  

In case you're wondering, my pantry is a computer desk given to me by my grandmother.  I painted it white and put some fancy new knobs on it and have used it to store food. Unfortunately, no fancy Anthropology knob is going to save the inside of this thing...


My stars.  What they hey?  How does one collect so many spices?  And vinegars??  I'm not even a big vinegar person.

My personal favorite finds from the Great Pantry Clean Out of 2010:  an unopened container of "Everything But The" snack mix from Target (so good and NOT CHEAP and very expired), 1 can of manwich that expired in 2008, and 2 bottles of dark sesame oil.  Because I'm always like "Oh yeah.  I need to make something with dark sesame oil in it."

Geeze. 

What about that washer / dryer in the kitchen?  You like that don't you.  I've actually put a table cloth over it and served food off of it at a party. 


There we go.  Kind of awkward with the 5,723 spices and oils and vinegars, but much much better.  I can actually see what I have.  This should make for some interesting meals in the coming weeks.

You may be wondering....did this process take Laura Merrill only 15 minutes as promised in the magazine?

Heck no.  But it was worth it.   

10/19/10

Hodge Podge Saves the Day

Yesterday was one of those days were I was a bit on pins and needles. It started with, when on my commute to work, my check engine light came on.


I almost went to pieces.


This may sound like an overreaction but there are several reasons that this upset me. For starters - any one remember my Galant? If it wasn't the lights that wouldn't turn off, or the window that would suddenly drop into the abyss of the door, or the hub caps held on by zip ties, then it was some major that was going to be extremely expensive to fix. I have a sort of PTSD related to cars. Another reason that I was shaken by this was the fact that I've almost got the old girl paid off and would then like to have several blissful years without a car payment. Also - did I mention that I drive 35 miles per day to work? Do you see why I was a little upset?


The rest of the day went off without much of a hitch, but there was quite the storm waiting on me when I got home.


Before leaving for work, I loaded up the 'ole crock pot with chicken, salsa, and taco seasoning and let her do her thing. Little did I know what would be waiting on me when I arrived home.


I walked into the house and smelled a delightful, festive dinner, followed immediately by burnt chicken. I removed the top and discovered one hot, crusty, burnt up mess. Un-saveable. Dang it. It was a recipe sent to me by my precious Aunt (that's not really my aunt but a cousin) Lisa - hey Lisa! - and came highly recommended. I will for sure try it again but on a day when I can give my crock pot more attention. Perhaps it will be a good Sunday meal.

I swept my hurt feelings off of the floor and started to make a plan B. 


Luckily, I meal plan.  Next in line was Hodge Podge.  I had all of the ingredients for it so I was ready to go.  This was also supposed to be made in the crock pot but considering the mess in that thing, it wasn't happening.  Stove top it was. 

This recipe was emailed to me by my Nanny - it's something that her mother (my great grandmother Mimi) always made.  Very tasty, for reals. 

Hodge Podge

cooking spray
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic
3 cans Minestrone soup (I used Progresso high fiber)
2 cans ranch style beans
1 can rotel
1 tbl chili powder

Spray a large pot with cooking spray, brown the meat, garlic, and onions until cooked.  Drain off fat. 

Add cans of soup, ranch beans, rotel, and chili powder.  Stir well.  Add about a can of water (or however much you would like to reach desired consistency). 

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for about an hour. 

If using a crock pot - cook the mean, onions, garlic and put them into the crock pot.  Then add rest of ingredients.  Cook in crock pot on low for about an hour.

Serving size 1 cup
WW points 3
Points Plus 4

This made 16 one cup servings....I'm for sure going to freeze some.  And take some to work.  And try to give it to people as they walk past my house.  If any Greenwood folks want some - let me know! 

10/18/10

Chef B. to the Rescue


Stop it with the judgey-pants.  There are a million things wrong with beef ravioli from a can.  I am fully aware of this and that a few months back, I posted about trying to be better about eating less frozen / from a can meals.  Truth is, I have been much better with it.  I've been eating mainly leftovers from the night before from lunch and will only do a frozen meal if I'm in a pinch OR have a hankerin' for Santa Fe Rice and Beans.  

Today was one of those in a pinch days.  I didn't have any leftovers, no turkey, and no frozen meals that really got me excited.  Oh happy day when I remembered this little gem hidden in my desk drawer. I picked it up after cruising the Wal Mart a bit back and realizing that one could have the whole can for 6 points.  AND it has a full cup of veggies in it.  AND it's a good source of 6 vitamins and minerals.  AND it has 14 grams of protein.  AND it tastes like childhood (or freshman year in Rice Hall.)

Regardless of whether it's C.B. Beef Ravioli or one of the many low point soup options, I find it helpful to keep a can of something always at reach when you find yourself without a lunch.  Here in Ruleville, the only options are fried chicken and Subway.  While I love fried chicken, after a weekend like this past one it's time for me to really hunker down and count those points.  And exercise.  And get this dang piece of pumpkin bread off my desk...it's glaring at me.   

October Weekend Adventure # 3

I feel like I've always had a healthy appreciation for the theater. I started at a young age, playing riveting roles as various chorus members in such Delta Center Stage hits as Oliver, A Christmas Carol, and The Wizard of Oz.  I was, however, cheated out of the role of Greta in the Sound of Music...it's really something that was difficult.  My parents blamed it on my inability to read....I was 5.  I declare shenanigans. 

Despite my not getting that role, my love for theater has remained.  I still enjoy a good Delta Center Stage production (What up, Fiddler on the Roof??!!), but I haven't really been to many plays other than small ones in the community.  That all changed this Saturday when I was able to go see Wicked at the Orpheum with my Mom and two sisters (and a sister's friends, more on them later).  The play was absolutely fantastic and the Orpheum was beautiful.  If you ever get the chance to go see this play...go go go go go.  Even if you don't think it's something you would get into, go anyway.  'Cause I said so....  

What follows is just a few pictures of the weekend. 



Here is Chick, taking a seat on the sidewalk in front of the J Crew at Saddle Creek.  She's got her coffee and is rearing to go....


Here is Leah, she met us at the Saddle Creek and joined us for lunch.  She also helped me choose between two pairs of skinny corduroy pants.  Remember that corduroy fairy?? She does exist!


Here is me, my mom, and Chick.  At this point, it got kind of weird that we were sitting on a bench out side of J Crew snapping pics.  Country comes to freakin' town.  Leah, being a Memphis native, claimed that if she saw anyone she knew she was chucking the camera. Luckily...that didn't happen. 
Just a few minutes after this picture was taken, we trekked across the way to have lunch at Memphis Pizza Cafe.  Good stuff. 


Here is part of the group on the way to the play.  Jennifer was leading the pack, helping us to not get distracted and be late for the play.  Anna, Chick's friend that is in the back near my mom, was struggling as she was trying to break in a pair of booties.  It looked painful.  She's cute though, Maureen (friend numero dos) is, too.  I'm glad my sister has cute friends.  I think that's cool.  If ya'll are reading...hey Maureen and Anna!  Had fun with ya'll this weekend!


Anna, Mom, and Chick.  Stopped at a stoplight.  Just though it was a cute pic. 



The group, minus my mom.  Look - Chick tilts her head like I do in pics.  She wants to be just like me. 

Let's wrap up with where we ate dinner last night...it rocked.  Jennifer suggested we ate here and thank goodness she did.  It was fantastic.  The name of the restaurant is Flight, and it is for sure worth checking out.  Located in Memphis, it serves 'flights' of food...which as far as I can tell was just small plates.  It was great to be able to sample everything, it was pretty much a constant passing of plates around the table.  Not that anything I ate was really considered "healthy" at this restaurant, but their small plates are good for portion control.  One of my plates was a rib eye (maybe a rib eye? Maybe not...I'm not good with meat) served atop this amazingly delightful pasta.  It was quite rich so the small portion kept me from licking the plate and regretting it later. 

The picture has nothing to do really with the restaurant, I know.  I just liked this perseco and figured I would share it. 

It was a great weekend with my great family.  Mom - thanks again for everything...Jen and Chick thanks for being such fun sisters.  And Chick, I forgive you for hitting me on the cheek and almost breaking my glasses. 

Next adventure for me is Starkville...what adventures do you have coming up this week??

10/15/10

Four On Fridy

Here are just a few things rolling around in my brain on this bee-u-ti-ful Friday afternoon.

1.  The merry band of construction workers outside of my office building have successfully laid two sidewalks today.  I am really having to check myself to not go stick my hand in it, or draw my name with a stick, or do something equally as childish and amazing. 

2.  A few days in the wilderness, even when using 28 different Oil of Olay Daily Facial Wipes, can lead to some serious breakout issues.  That's what I'm dealing with today, right on my cheek.  Hello there, adult acne.    

3.  Lenny's is so good.

4.  WICKED!!!  I'm setting out tomorrow for Memphis to go see wicked with my mom and two sisters.  I've been walking around, talking singing about Wicked for a few weeks now, really practicing my Broadway voice.  And my jazz hands.  I think I'll buy myself a coffee mug.  I like to buy coffee mugs from places that I visit and things that I see.  Well really, I have only done it once (Second City in Chicago) but I'm thinking about making it a tradition. 

Happiest of happy weekends to all, I hope it's WICKED awesome!  Enjoy the video....

  

10/14/10

A Meat and Two Sides (Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms)

Many of the meals that I cook are not square.  They are more of a one pot deal, pile everything into a bowl and move on with your life.  This possibly stems from my long standing issues with one item of food touching another item of food.  That really gets my goat.  You know what else gets my goat?  Children in laundry mats.  But that's a whole different story. 

Moving on.  Wednesday nights supper was a complete meal, made up of Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms, green beans, 1/2 of a thin bun, and mac and cheese.  Yes, mac and cheese.  Not WW but requested by Brandon.  And I ate some....and I like it.  Because that's how I roll. 

This is a great chicken recipe; I was able to make it without having to much of a melt down.  I still have my chicken issues but am working to over come them.  I feel like leftovers from this would be good atop a salad.  Had I had salad dressing this morning, or lettuce for that matter, that's what I would have had for lunch. 

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms
adapted from WW Online

2 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbl balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 lb uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast (4 pieces)
1 can of mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup fat free chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large non stick skillet.  Meanwhile, combine 2 tbl of vinegar, the mustard, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add chicken, turning to coat.

Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet, cook until done. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Heat remaining tsp of oil in the skillet.  Saute mushrooms for 1 minute.  Add broth, thyme and remaining tbl of vinegar.  Cook, stir occasionally until mushrooms are deep brown. 

Serve chicken topped with mushrooms.

Serving size 1/4 of recipe
WW points 3
Points Plus 4

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10/13/10

I Get It From My Mama (Mug Cake)

Yes, I get it from my mama. My love of sweets, that is. My sister, Jennifer, also loves a sweet. Chick - I don't feel like you get that into sweets. You such a healthy eater.


Anywho. My mom is one to always want a bite of something sweet. And Jennifer? She mastered the art of baking waaaaay before she mastered the art of actual meal cooking. Remember those chicken shish-kabobs from Publix? Nothin' but love for you, sister. But she can totally put together a meal now, so she's good.


This is a recipe that is completely and totally lifted from my pal Mary Straton. You may have seen it on her blog. If you didn't, get ready. If you are someone who counts the WW points OR just someone who finds they MUST have something sweet when dieting - hold on to your britches. This one rocks. AND it's cheap.  I love those WW sweets, but they hit the wallet pretty hard.  It's also approved by non weight watchers - Brandon devoured it.   


Mug Cake
from Mary Straton


1 box angel food cake mix
1 box any other cake mix (I used devil's food)
water


Combine both boxes of cake mix - stir well.


Place 1/3 cup of cake mix into a large mug (this is important - my first one wasn't big enough and it caused major issues in my microwave). Add 1 tbl of water. Stir well. Microwave for one minute.


Serving size 1 mug
WW points 1

*Just a little tip - I dumped both boxes of cake mix into a large ziplock bag and mixed them up in there.  Now, said ziplock bag sits right beside my microwave....couldn't be easier!

10/12/10

Taco Soup and Drama

This is one of those meals that makes being on Weight Watchers OK. Just like everything in life, the program can get dull. It can get annoying. It can make you feel desperate. Desperate might be a little dramatic, but there have been times where, if given the chance, I would have locked myself in a dark room with a bag of oreos and a glass of 2% milk.


Doesn't that sound amazing? Focus.

Back to the soup.  Taco soup, that is.  It's something that I'm sure is in most people's bag of culinary tricks.  If it's not in yours, it should be. It's always tasty, always comforting, and always makes me want to do a little MC Hammering across the den floor.  Especially since I vacuumed last night. 

Taco Soup

1 1/4 lb extra lean ground turkey
cooking spray
1 large onion, chopped
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning
1 can rotel
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can pinto beans
1 can red beans

Brown meat and onions in a large pot sprayed down with cooking spray.  Once done, add ranch and taco seasoning.  Add rest of ingredients (undrained) to the soup. 

Allow mixture to come to a boil, reduce heat.  Allow to simmer for about an hour.  I added a half a soup can of water to mine, just to thin it out a little.  But you can do whatever you want. 

Serving size 1 cup (makes about 10 servings)
WW points 3
Points Plus 5

This is great with some sour cream and shredded cheese, just be sure to adjust points (if you're into that).

10/11/10

Two of My Faves (Peanut Noodles)

Don't you love it when two of your favorite things come together effortlessly?  I do, too.  Maybe effortlessly is a bit of a stretch for this meal.  It required lots of chopping and I had to get Brandon to get my blender out of the cabinet.  I can never reach that thing. 

On the grand scheme of things, it wasn't to much work....the chopping was kind of therapeutic and all of the veggies made me feel very healthy.  

So what is it?  What are two of my favorite things that came together in this effortless yet kind of labor intensive meals?  Drum roll.............................peanut butter and noodles.  Love them both, just usually not together.  I think the love of peanut butter is a family thing, I've heard Chickey say that she allows herself one spoonful of peanut butter every afternoon.  I like that.  I also like noodles.  So comforting.  This meal is one of those where you feel like you are eating something bad for you but you're really not.  Great for a Sunday night meal. 

Can you tell I'm still tired from the weekend and really struggling to get my thoughts together?  Maybe if I put my glasses on it would help. 

Peanut Noodles
from WW Magazine

1/3 cup low fat peanut butter
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbl minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbl rice vinegar
1 tble packed brown sugar
1 garlc clove, chopped
6 oz soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced
1 carrot, shredded

To make peanut sauce, puree peanut butter, water, cilantro, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic in blender.

Cook noodles.  Drain in colander, rinse under cold water, drain again. 

Transfer noodles to a large bowl.  Add peanut sauce, bell pepper, cucumber, carrot.  Toss to coat.

WW points 5
Serving size (approx) 1 1/4 cup

10/10/10

October Weekend Adventure # 2

I'm baaaaaaack.  Back from the wilderness, that is.  Well, maybe it wasn't the wilderness but it is nice to be fresh and so clean clean, sitting in some A/C.  I'd like to take a few minutes on this lazy Sunday to share some things I learned / decisions I made / ideas I had over the weekend.

1.  Abe's BBQ in Clarksdale, MS has the MOST AMAZING hot ham and cheese sandwich.  This has nothing to do with camping, but it's where we picked up lunch on the way there.  Go get one.  And ask for slaw on it.  Just do it. 

2.  Sometimes, those pictures that you take of yourself actually do work.  On the first try.  Yay! 


3.  The family that dances together, stays together. 

4.  If you should ever spot a food truck, with a happy Greek man fixing gyros and looking extremely giddy about it, and it just happens to be called "Greek to Me".....go get one.  Or two. 


5.  There is another way to bale your cotton.  Very strange to see these after you've always been used to the big, long, rectangles.   

6.  Baby powder if a good option for the greasy hair...when there is no other option. 

7.  The 34$ inflatable mattress from Wal Mart is actually not that bad.  I mean, I'm not going to take my bed out of my house but I will for sure offer it to guests in the future. 

8.  One day, I'm going to have a major life event (wedding, writing the next best therapy book, just a "Laura Merrill is Awesome Party", whatever) and Taj Majhal is going to play for it.  Anyone have connections? 



9.  One doesn't need to worry about bears in Helena, AR.  No, no.  Just alligators.  Or at least that's what some guy wizzing around on a bike told me.  The conversation started when he snuck up behind me on his bike, made a quick jerk of the handle bars to narrowly miss me.  (I'm sure it happened nothing like this, but trails make me slightly skittish).  I scream...AH!!!!  He almost falls off his bike.  I say...."I'm so sorry!  I thought you were a bear!"  and he says, laughing, trying to steady himself "Oh no!  No bears here"  A brief silence.  "You just have to watch out for the 'gators around these parts"  He rides away as quickly as he came; I'm left trying to think of ways to gator proof the tent.  Luckily, no gator sightings and I didn't have to use the karate moves I'd planned on using to defend my home-stead.   

10.  There are few things more amazing than a hot shower...especially when your last one was two days before.  You know that feeling....

My camping adventure was nothin' compared to what this gal is about to be doing.  Clare, who I've often discussed in this blog, is heading down south to Argentina.  Luckily, she has started a blog to track her journey.  It should be full of adventure, laughter, and lost personal items.  It's destined to be a classic....

Until next time, party people. 

10/8/10

Trash.

No, I'm not talking about what I will look like come Sunday Morning.  I'm talking about what took up most of my night last night.  But more on that in a bit. 

Today is the day that we leave for the big camping adventure in Helena.  I'm quite excited while being a little bit anxious about what I know my hair will look like.  I've got the fine hair and it tends to get a little rough without a good shampooing.  And I just don't look that great in a hat. 

So back to the trash.  I've been a total slacker on WW recipes this week - I know I've eaten, I'm just not really sure what it was (besides the soup).  Last night I had grand plans to make this WW peanut noodle dish (mmmm) but instead made trash, a frozen pizza, and watched Project Runway in my jammies.  This caused me to spend a lot of time researching Heidi Klum's line of active wear. 

Sooooooo.  It was my first time to make trash.  I can really either take it or leave it, but Brandon's grandmother used to make it for him and he always talks lovingly of it.  It's kind of like me and Nanny's iced brownies.  (HINT HINT, NANNY!!) So I decided to try my hand at making the trash.  I think it came out pretty well.  And no, it's not chocolate trash....just some of it is burned.  Aren't you jealous of how much counter space I have?  Jokes. 

Trash

2 cups rice Chex
2 cups corn Chex
2 cups wheat Chex
16 oz salted peanuts
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup Worcestershire
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp seasoned salt

Dump all ingredients into a crock pot, mix well (but gently).  Cook on low for 3 - 4 hours.  Stir regularly while cooking (I didn't and that's why it looks like I have chocolate trash). 

After it's done cooking, spread paper towels out on the counter, allow it to dry for about an hour. 

Happy Friday to all!  Anyone going to Helena this weekend....hit me up!  

10/6/10

If I Had A Boat

Here is a little peak into what we are doing here today at work.  Usually, Wednesday is "craft day." On this day, we try to do some sort of activity that relates to what we have been covering in our sessions. This is a way to sauce things up a bit as well as help the group members get a better grasp on the topics. 

As I'm sure you know, Columbus Day is Monday.  In honor of this fine holiday, we will be discussing exploration and how to "explore" what you want out of life.  To fit this into our hands on session, we will be making boats.  Very large boats.  

I am sharing with you today the example that I made to share with the group.  Not because I think it will change your life but because maybe, just maybe, it will help you to think about and explore what you want out of life.  I know what I want....to eat this all day. Mmm mmm mm mmmmmm.

In closing, you should go look up Dave Matthews performing "If I Had a Boat." It's what I jammed swayed to while making this boat.  I attempted to post the video, but it was a fail.

P.S.  I know that my desk is cluttery - it's usually worse than that.  Yes, I do tape my pictures to my computer tower because I don't have any picture frames. And Lindsey - that is your Marie Clare, you left it in Denver.  Clare gave it to me.  

P.P.S.  I also know that my wants appear to be quite shallow and materialistic in nature....it's not an exhaustive list.  I'm just trying to exercise appropriate personal boundaries.  

Later.   

10/5/10

Letters

I've spent a bit of my day today alternating between tears of sweetness and fits of green eyed jealousy over this blog.  The couple that writes it appears to have the right idea...acknowledging and being thankful for the small things that happen throughout the day.  Or maybe that's not their idea.  Hmmm.  If not, it's the idea that I've gathered from reading their work.  If you are a reader of Fly Through Our Window, you are probably already hip to this site. If you're not...I do hope you enjoy it.  I know I did. 

What are you thankful for today?   

Italian Sausage and Bean Soup

Don't you just want to curl up in this pot of soup and take a nap? Well, maybe you would if it wasn't slightly burnt up and creepy on the side. I was tidying up my room and forgot that I had soup on the stove. Thankfully, my mistake did not affect the taste.

This was a recipe I tried after having left over celery and carrots. Also - I accidentally bought the wrong kind of sausage for the breakfast casserole I made last week. For once, I am very excited that I over bought food and forgot to read my recipe.  Thank heavens for my flighty-ness. 

Italian Sausage and Bean Soup
adapted from All Recipes

1 tbl olive oil
1 lb turkey sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cup onion, diced
1 1/2 cup carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
5 cups fat free chicken broth
1 can kidney beans, drained 
1 cup whole wheat pasta shells

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add sausage, cook, breaking into pieces.  Once cooked, add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, rosemary, red pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  

To sausage, add tomatoes.  Allow to heat through.  Add chicken broth and kidney beans.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low.  Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add pasta, cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is done.  

Serving size 1 cup
WW points 4
Points Plus 5

Many many many many more soup recipes to come.....and it's not even that cold yet.  Love it.