Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cupcakes Part One

As February approaches, I have cupcakes and chocolate on my mind. . . dark, milk, German, Swiss, any chocolate will do.  These cupcakes are made with dark cocoa powder, which has a deep, rich, flavor.

My tricks for cupcakes;
1. Start with good ingredients and always reduce the sugar
2.  Experiment with different flours (the above cupcakes are half white/half whole wheat)
3.  Make a small batch of frosting rather than store bought (less of a temptation to eat out of tub)
4.  Top with fruit rather than frosting

I can't wait to show you more cupcake ideas and what I have been baking lately.  More to come soon. . .

Friday, January 27, 2012

Learning to Cook

Learning to cook is hard.  It may come natural to some of you how to cook and be comfortable in the kitchen.  It has taken me awhile to figure out how to have things taste good and be good for you too.  Ten years ago, I didn't really cook.  I heated up and put things in the oven.  A typical day looked like this:
Peanut Butter Captain Crunch
Cheese and crackers for a snack
Mac and cheese plus an orange for lunch
Cookies for an afternoon snack, (oatmeal made me feel like they were healthy)
Processed Chicken nuggets, french fries and frozen corn and maybe a salad out of a bag for dinner
Lots of coffee all day

As you can see, I didn't include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.  At the time, I had many excuses of why I was overweight.  It all came to a halt when the truth and reality was my body was not healthy!  My blood pressure was not being controlled with the medication the Dr. had prescribed, I felt tired, yucky, and sad that couldn't fit into the size I felt good in. 
I started to read as much as I could about what I could do in my everyday diet to change my health.  Plus, I started to faithfully be active.  It has worked!  My health and blood pressure are in a much better balance.
The biggest change was cooking almost everything from scratch, so I could control how much salt, what kind of fat, and sugar was in my food.  Processed food has scary amounts of salt.
A few of my top foods I now make from scratch are
1. Pancakes
2. French Fries
3. Veggies  (No Vegetables from can,  I now roast, saute, or eat raw)
I really thought that homemade pancakes came from the store in a box or bag and you added water.  I didn't know you could make it with real milk or eggs. 
These pancakes are made with whole wheat, real eggs, milk, butter and a little sugar, and baking soda.
I timed myself to see how long it would take me to gather all the ingredients and whip up the batter.  It took me 3 mins. from start to finish.

Ten years ago, I was really good at using the microwave.  Being creative to keep the family happy with healthy food is a challenge.  This past week, I made calazones.  I told my kids they were pizza pockets.  They weren't familiar with the term calazone.  I loved making them and think they would be great to freeze for when you have a busy day and need to have something fast.

I used a whole wheat pizza dough I made from scratch.  I kept the filling ingredients simple
organic hamburger
They baked in the oven for about 18 min. 
My family said they were good, but wished they were the half white, half wheat crust I usually make.  They have slowly gotten use to my healthier cooking.  It has taken time and is not always what my ears want to hear.  I asked them recently on one of the soups I made," a thumbs up or thumb down?"

 I think that the adults have a thumbs up and the rest are down.  I also asked my husband, do you remember when we would get the big pack of pizza pockets, and chicken nuggets from Costco and if he missed those things?  He sheepishly said, "yes."  Even though he may miss some of those things from our freezer I am thankful that he always eats what I serve with out complaint or being critical.  He supports me in my efforts in this life long journey of health.  Thanks honey!
I still make things that lack that wow factor,  I hope I keep learning and getting better.  This is why I blog.  Eat well, live well, and have fun in the kitchen.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inspiration to Run

My cousin Amber, who has three lovely girls and live s in Oregon with her husband, is a inspiration to me.  She is doing her first 1/2 marathon this weekend.  I contacted her via facebook, to get more of the story of what motivated her to decided to run. 
Here is a picture of us from two years ago, the last time I saw her.

I specifically asked her, "did you do sports in high school?"

No, I did some sports in Junior High but honestly didn't go any further because I hated all the running...haha. No, seriously, I hated running and honestly thought I couldn't run. Last spring after I lost 30 lbs and had been walking regularly I finally built up the confidence to try. I ran around our block (.5) and just about passed out. I then started running smaller portions of my normal walking route and finally built up the confidence to go running at a public! At first, I was worried that everyone would be able to tell that I wasn't a real runner but, as I built up my endurance my confidence grew. (If you couldn't tell, running has helped me develop more confidence:). I tell everyone, if I can do it, you can do it. I hope I can inspire someone! You were definitely an inspiration to me:)

Here is a picture of her on her last "long run" getting ready for this weekend.

I am so proud of her.  She looks strong and ready!  It takes courage to be determined, and dedicated to train for a half marathon.
Amber got it just right when she said "as I built up my endurance, my confidence grew."   Getting fit takes time and a willingness to push past self-doubt. 
No matter what age or fitness level, we can all make a choice to be active.  It may not be running for everyone.  It may take a different form for you. 
I have found running to be great for me physically emotionally and spiritually.  These are my top reasons I like to run:
1.  Its free (no special gym membership required)
2.  It gets me out into nature
3.  I can focus on praying or clearing my head of junk
4.  I feel alive and energized when finished
My thoughts and prayers will be with Amber this weekend.  She is going to do great!  I hope we all can stay on track, eat well, live well, and push past self doubt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Tea

The day that most of Washington experienced heavy loads of snow and for some people serious delays to a normal day, I was experiencing my own delay.  I spilled coffee on the lap top that I write this blog with.  I thought for sure I had ruined the computer and my blog and facebook time would come to a dead halt.  The computer would not turn on for a few days.

The timing of being off line, all worked out.  I have had a head cold for the past few days, making cooking, writing, or much of anything very difficult. 
I am happy to say that the computer is not ruined, (except for a few of the keys sticking,) I am back to journaling what I have been cooking and thinking about. 
What has been most on my mind is tea.
Herbal . . .Peppermint. . .Chamomile. . .Chia. . .Green Tea with Lemon Grass. . .and my homemade ginger tea.

I make this simple tea when it is cold outside, or when I have a head cold.  It only takes a few items:
Hot water
I grate the ginger directly into my mug, squeeze one slice of lemon, a tsp. of honey,  and pour hot water over all of it.  I wait 3-5 min for the ginger to settle to the bottom of the cup.

The ginger tea and all the teas I have been drinking these past few snowy days have been warm, comfort in a cup.  What is your favorite tea on a cold day?  My favorite is any tea with orange, almond, in it with a touch of honey.  Enjoy the snow, eat well, live well, and find a tea to try.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Put it in the Crockpot

Faithful, to be faithful is to be worthy of trust or belief, to be reliable.  My crock pot is my reliable cooking mate.  It is used several times a week in my kitchen.  I use my faithful appliance almost every Sunday.  This week I put a roast and vegetables.

To keep it in balance, I serve a big salad for everyone.

The great thing about using roast is that the next day the left overs make a great soup.  I used:
Leftover potatos
Roast meat
and a homemade veggie broth

"Soup Night" was a big hit.

My oldest daughter really likes the flavor of rosemary.  I made a rosemary cracker to go with our soup.  Crackers take minuets to stir up and only 12 min to bake.  When I make homemade crackers, it is not a temptation for me to eat too many of them. 

These crackers are made with whole wheat, butter, rosemary, salt and milk.

I also made a Lasagna in the crock pot recently.  A recipe on-line said, to layer the noodles uncooked. It was just right after being on low for 3 1/2 hours. 

My Top Ten List for the Crock Pot
1.  Roast
2.  Navy Bean Soup
3.  Beef and Barley
4.  Baked BBQ Beans
5.  Stew
6.  Garlic Potato Casserole
7.  Whole Chicken
8.  Lasagna (meat or veggie)
9.  Chili
10. Chicken Corn Chowder

What do you use your crock pot for?  I have never used it for dessert.  Happy cooking to you all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flavor Without Fat

I really like for my food to taste good and look good too.  I have found that buying lemons and a variety of herbs helps me to succeed. 
The rind of lemons or oranges are great to finely grate over salads or add to a salad dressing.  A simple salad dressing might include;
Olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
When it is freshly made it tastes, vibrant and like sunshine. 

Parsley and cilantro stay in a jar in my fridge.   Usually the cost is less than a dollar.  I buy it a couple of times a month.  It is a small investment to add big flavor and freshness to so many things.  Changing the water in the jar ever couple of days extends the life of the herbs.

I add parsley to my salads, soups, and to make both vinegar dressings, and creamy homemade dressings.  Cilantro is great on sandwiches, and most recently,  I used it to make a homemade pico de gallo;
canned green chilies
All Mexican, Spanish, inspired dishes benefit from some chopped cilantro.
Basil is winter happiness for me.  Not all stores carry basil at an affordable price.  When it is on sale get some.  Basil has such a robust, reminds me of summer, wonderful flavor. 

This particular basil comes from the grocery store that sells it with the roots still intact.  I put it in water and leave it on the counter.  I payed about four dollars and it lasted me for almost  four weeks.  Inexpensive joy sitting on my counter. 
Basil as you can imagine goes well with all sorts of Italian dishes.  I like whole leaves on sandwiches. 

This is my first winter to have an herb pot in my house.  It contains, rosemary, lemon thyme, and oregano.  I usually have these in my outside garden in the summer.  The added flavor of fresh oregano in spaghetti sauce is amazing. 
If your not sure which herb to start with, I started with buying flat leaf Italian parsley and then expanded.  It is in the produce section, it my look like it is decorating the other vegetables, but, yes, you can buy it.   I hope you all eat well, live well, and try some new flavors.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Soup Time

When it is cold, I want soup.  I get excited about it.  Not everyone in my family shares my enthusiasm.  It warms me, and fills me up.  It is a great way to get veggies to taste super delish. 

I recently made a Butternut Squash soup.  This is a soup I made specifically for me to eat. I don't make everyone in my family eat it (they aren't fans of pureed soup.)  I love it so much!   I ate this particular batch of soup for three days in a row.  Our youngest tried a taste.

Butternut Squash Soup
This is a large batch
2 carrots
2 apples
4 cups butternut squash cubed
2 tsp tturmeric
nutmeg, cardamon and clove to taste
(add the flavors you prefer)
Put all this in a large pot, cover with water or broth.  Then boil for 20 min.  You can use an immersion blender or regular blender, working in batches.
Since this is a puree soup, it works really well with a crunchy bread, sunflower seeds or crackers on top.

Sweet Potato Parsley
Ingredients:  sweet potato, brown rice, celery, onion, garlic, curry powder, chopped parsley, and chicken broth

Tip:  Sweet potatoes can get mushy fast.  Watch closely, to not overcook.  The curry powder is what makes this soup come together.

Over the past 13 years I have made many grilled cheese sandwiches.  We have fun with them now compared to yesteryear of Wonder bread and American cheese (which aren't allowed in the house anymore.)

 Turkey and Basil

We now also like to add, rosemary (fresh or dried) and experiment with different cheeses.  My personal favorite is tuna or smoked salmon on a grilled sandwiches.
Soup and sandwiches are a favorite combo, especially on a saturday afternoon. What are your favorites? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Snacks On The Go

My top two favorite snacks are almonds and blueberries.  Recently, I toasted my raw, unsalted almonds from Costco, by, coating them with a little olive oil, a big sprinkle of garlic powder, and a little smoked paprika.  Experiment with what flavors you like.

I toasted them in the oven for about 20 min at 325 degrees.

 I bought my smoked paprika a couple of years ago.  I only seem to use it on my almonds.  It is a strong smoke flavor.  About three years ago, I use to watch "Rachel Ray 30 Minuet Meals."  She seem to use it in many of her meat dishes.  It  hasn't made  a transition into any other thing for me.  If you use it, please leave a comment and let me know.

The blueberry are most commonly used in smoothies at our house.  Everyone loves a smoothie.

 I have been using coconut milk, which gives it a nice smooth flavor. Coconut milk is one of my newest discoveries at the grocery store. I use it on everything that I normal would put milk. Oatmeal,coffee, and smoothies are my most common use of milk.  This particular smoothie had,
1.  apple
2.  blueberries
3.  half a banana
4.  splash of coconut milk.  
It was so good, I almost forgot to take a picture of it.

Almonds and blueberries are on my personal list of power foods.  They are easy to take with me on the go and I feel better when I eat them, helping me to to stay full.  I eat snacks everyday. I have had to change my thinking from snacks meaning,  a serving of cheese and crackers, to something with high nutrition value.  A snack must help me stay focused until the next meal.
Eat well, live well, and try a nutritional snack

Monday, January 9, 2012

Be Prepared

Abraham Lincoln said,
If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the ax."

Posted by PicasaPreparing to make healthy choices, to eating well and making fitness a lifestyle, takes work.  I heard someone say, "If you want to get healthy, start chopping."  Getting into the kitchen and starting to peel and chop veggies takes work and it is messy.  I couldn't resist taking this next picture of my cutting board.  Cooking is messy.

Being prepared means to me:
1.  Invest into a good peeler, and knife
2.  Menu plan
3.  Make an appointment with yourself to be active/exercise  (write it down)

I expect that I will achieve success when I feel prepared.  Recently, my husband told me something that he heard Tim Tebow quote, "Hard work will always beat talent, when talent won' t work hard."

Eat well, live well, and work towards being prepared.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Simple Foods

I love to have easy fast food to make.  This Baked Apple  recipe takes minutes to prepare.  It makes my house smell like candy.  You can add less sugar and make it better for you.

Baked Apples
Core 7-8 apples in 9X13 pan
(Tart, firm apples work best, cut bottoms to sit flat in pan)
put a small pat (about 1/2 tsp) butter inside apple
pour small amount of real maple syrup
sprinkle with brown sugar,
 bake at 350 degrees
These apples took about 20 min.  Large Granny Smith Apples have taken 40 min for me.  After 10 min. I pulled them out and spooned the melted butter, syrup, sugar mixture, back into top hole of apples.  My husband likes it served with ice-cream.
I Love spinach!  My favorite way to eat it is tossed with, celery, walnuts, feta cheese and a vinegar based dressing. 
 I am always trying to sneak spinach into our dinners for the family to eat.  I saute it and put it in spaghetti, soups, sandwiches and wraps.  Many times my daughter will ask before even taking a bite, "Did you put spinach in this?"  Spinach is one that is affordable to buy organic.  Most grocery stores sell it and it isn't much more than regular. I also try to keep some in the freezer  to add to soup.

To give you an up date on my winter goals, yes,  I have been drinking tea each day.  I mostly have been drinking green tea, but, I have a great,  black almond tea that has been great for my afternoon tea time.
I think that apples, spinach and tea are beautiful, wise choices to make life simple.  For this week less is more.   
Make life simple, eat well, live well and sip some tea. 
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Friday, January 6, 2012

No Excuses

The theme for the current season of Biggest Loser TV show is no excuses.  I love to say this over and over to myself recently.  I have been given the gift of health, no injuries, and a good base of information on what I should do physically to work out. 

This is why I chose to start to blog.  I needed a way to be motivated, keep a journal, and  keep going on my life long journey towards health. 

I have recently started to jog on the treadmill.  Today, I did,
1.  25 min of cardio
2.  30 push-ups,
3.  5 min floor ab workout. 
It feels great to use my muscles.  While I was doing push-ups I was reminded of the no excuses theme and someone that I got to meet this summer,  Ali Vincent. She was the first female Biggest Loser winner.  The season that she was on was inspirational to me.  She was a former swimmer who let the weight pile on.  I could identify with that.  I did swim team for many years and after having children struggled with finding a routine for a physical activity. 

The picture I got taken with her didn't turn out because of my camera (so sad.)  Hopefully I can meet her again and get a better picture.   

It was a great day, in August of 2011.  I did a mini triathlon and got to meet Ali.  She lives in Spokane and did the West Plains Wunder Woman Triathlon.  I had set the goal to do the triathlon in January.  I let the ladies at my church know that they could join me if they were interested.  We did most of our training separate, but encouraged one another.  When they day came it, was an amazing, friendship building, wonderful day.  I got to participate with six of my dear friends including my sister in- law. My sister in-law and I  posed for a picture by the bikes.

I think why I like the show Biggest Loser is because it is a competition, and I am a competitive person.  Not, competitive in in a negative way, but a,  "I can win," "Feel good about doing my best," kind of attitude.  Swimming is my favorite part of doing a triathlon.  In this next picture, I am grinning from ear to ear coming out of the water. 


My friends, eat well, live well, and make no excuses today.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

21 Day Action Plan

I get the Whole Living magazine in the mail.  It is a beautiful magazine with many great tips.  Three years ago I got a copy of the magazine from the Library.  I did the 21 day challenge that they propose.  It was difficult challenge for me then and as I start again I am already wanting sugar.  When the magazine came before Christmas I read about the 21 day challenge and didn't think I would do it.   Now, I am ready to start.

The truth is that over the holidays, I ate way to much sugar.  It is a vicious cycle, my relationship with sugar.  Once I start eating it I have a hard time stopping. 

The 21 day challenge is broken down into one week increments. 

Week One:   Simple meals made by purifying fruits and veggies plus seeds and nuts.
Week Two:  Add High quality protein, and nutrient-rich, whole food
Week Three:  Add gluten-free grains and eggs.

I love to menu plan.  Right now, I have my family's regular menu (which includes pasta, bread and meat)  For these three weeks, I have my own menu.  I usually don't like to have it so separate, but, I need to kick my sugar habit.

If you are interested in looking at the recipes and foods the Whole Living website is fabulous, you don't need to purchase the magazine.  They have 50 recipes and a shopping list that you can print out. Go to

Yesterday I tried a carrot, ginger smoothie.  I'm making a butternut soup for lunch (making enough for leftovers) and a steamed broccoli recipe for dinner.

For breakfast,  I tryed the kale, banana smoothie.   I substituted swiss chard.  The store was out of kale.  I laughed, and told my husband, "See, a shortage, everyone is trying to get healthy."

The smoothie was simple, just some spinach, banana, wilted swiss chard and some ginger.  I was surprised that I liked it.  The ginger masked that green taste. 
I am a person who likes to see all that I can eat and not what my limitations are.  This helps me mentally.  I like to  have more choices and not feel deprived.  My fridge is currently stocked with veggies.  My suggestion before you start any sort of  change is, be prepared, go grocery shopping.

The Six things that the magazine suggest that you skip for the three weeks is difficult but necessary. 
 1.  processed foods or beverages
2.  Added sugar
3.  Dairy
4.  Gluten
5.  Caffeine
6.  Alcohol

I have a hard time following rules, and being rigid.  I already have cheated and had green tea and a sip of my husbands coffee. My main goal is to kick the sugar habit and then after the three weeks, be very mindful of the sugars I choose.  I hope that you eat well, live well and eat your veggies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hummus in a Flash

Hands down, hummus is my favorite way to dip vegetables.  Celery, carrots, peppers, cucumbers all taste great with this creamy spread.  My second favorite way is to put it in wraps or on sandwiches.  I think that the store bought varieties taste fine, but made at home costs less and can be whipped up quickly. 

You only need one specialty item, Tahini.  Most grocery stores carry this item.  It looks like peanut butter.  It is made from sesame seeds.  It is more expensive than peanut butter, but you only use a small amount at a time.  My jar lasted for a year.  My youngest daughter was happy to pose with my jar.


2 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1-3 cloves garlic  (I usually put in three, if you are very brave put in four) 
1 tsp. tahini
1/4- 1/2 c. Olive oil
1 whole juice from a fresh lemon
salt to taste

Put all ingredients in the blender.  Blend, then blend some more.  It takes a 3-5 min. to get it to a creamy texture.  It also depends on the strength of your blender.  If you have a food processor, use that.  You can add water or more oil if it isn't blending well.   Add water a splash at a time.  You don't want it to taste watered down.

The finished product should be creamy with out chunks of garbanzo beans. It may not be a favorite for everyone, but I am always on the look out for healthy foods that are low in calorie and big on flavor.  The garlic and fresh lemon bring a big wow factor, a zing to this dip. 

 I think that garbanzo beans are a great little bean.  Garbanzo beans curb over eating for me.  They are full of fiber and it fills me up.    
I bring my hummus dip to parties, play dates, Bible study and most recently as a snack when we went shopping.  It helped my hunger pains between shopping at Value Village and Ross.  I think since I tend to bring it everywhere, many people over the past two years ask me how I make this dip.  I am happy to be able to post this to my blog as a resource for my friends.  My friends, eat well, live well, and enjoy your day.

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