Monday, December 31, 2012

I can do this... right? ;)

Last day of 2012.  Tomorrow begins the vegan adventure.

I've been reading up on the vegan lifestyle since August and I suppose the reason I thought it was going to be easier was because most of our lunches and dinners are already vegan.  What I didn't stop to think was that our breakfasts and snacks revolve heavily around yogurt and eggs.  

Im sure there are great vegan alternatives for yogurt but I'm not willing to pay the steep prices our local grocers tag them with.   Part of our new year regimen includes saving as much cash as possible for the wedding we have yet to set a date for!  At $4+ for a container of soy yogurt, I'm going to have to pass.  Plus I think I would prefer coconut yogurt rather than soy.   

As for the eggs -- well I'm making peace with the fact that I will not die if I don't have that delicious little runny yolk mixed with spicy Sriracha sauce for a month. My little egg with the sriracha drawn heart and avocado toast has become one of my absolute favorite meals....  le sigh... I can do without, seriously I can....   

In my heart of hearts I would love to say this is the beginning of a more permanent switch but as things stand right now I can't imagine myself going hardcore vegan having to bring my own meals to get togethers or "poo-poo" other peoples foods when offered.  

As a recovering binge eater I'm still far too lost to dedicate my lifestyle to a cause other than whats best for me right here and right now.   As for Abel, he's not too worried about it all. (Of course!)  He's so open to changes and is already looking into what Vegan restaurant options we have around here for our 4 year anniversary next month.  

For now I can tell you what materials I've collected in preparations for this little experience.  

The past few days I have been found scouring The Happy Herbivore.  The site as well as her facebook page.  I've had the first two of her books for a while but only dabbled in a few of the recipes.  I've recently gotten her third book and I'm fairly certain the majority of our meals will be coming from her books next month. 

I also have a slew of websites that I follow with vegan and vegetarian options but I'll have to take the time to compile the actual list.  My favorite thus far is Angela from OhSheGlows   As luck would have it, she posted today that she's working on a Vegan How-To series which you can believe I'm going to be watching like a hawk.  

Her Cozy millet bowl w/Mushroom Gravy and Kale is out of this world delicious.  Also today I noticed she has a 10 minute yogurt recipe that may help us not to have to pay ridiculous prices for non dairy yogurt. 

I have a few other options when it comes to vegan books and recipes but that will come once I compile the list and get a chance to play favorites.

As for the book that started this entire lifestyle, Cynthia Sass's Sass Yourself Slim, it goes without saying we are still following it day in and day out.   Without the knowledge that book has provided us we wouldn't be where we are today.   Though this is the end of the year I am waiting on writing an udpated review of the book for the end of March (the 1 year anniversary with SASS).  

This will definitely be an interesting year for Abel and I, and I'm anxious to get it started.  Happy New Year to you guys and your loved ones!!  Farewell 2012!!! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Preparing for 2013, we are still here!

We had no intentions of abandoning this blog of ours, life just took us away for a while and any chance I've had to take a breather has been far too short lived.  Lets face it, the last thing you want to do when you're exhausted and crabby is gather your thoughts on how responsibly (or irresponsibly) your eating has been.

That said, it's been a struggle the last six weeks for me to stay on track.  Mainly because of stress -- there's nothing more "convenient" than working at a bakery when you are in desperate need of comfort.  I accept full responsibility for the last 5 (or so) pounds I have put on since the end of October.  

At least the last I knew about it was a 5 pound gain.  Nothing to mope about nor worthy of shedding tears over at least.

Aside from my sneaking in of too many work cookies, Abel and I have still been following our menu board day in and day out.  I'm getting in all of my veggies and fruits and I can at least be proud to report nothing has changed in that respect.

We're still incorporating the SASS Yourself Slim strategy to our meals and Abel is down at least another 5 pounds from where he was in our last weigh in.  He now stands as my personal role model because even with a few holiday treats here and there he's managed to keep it all fully balanced.   Something that makes me wonder if I'm in denial as to just how lax I've been with my own eating. 

Nevertheless, we have set up a new challenge for ourselves to kick off 2013.   After watching the documentary Vegucated on Netflix a few weeks ago we decided to try going Vegan for the month of January.  

Some of you may recall we went meatless in August  and quite frankly ever since then, I don't think meat of any kind has been i n our grocery cart more than 4 times.  We've fallen in love with beans and chickpeas and even though we both think vegan lifestyle is too extreme for us, the documentary was more than enough to say we'd like to give it a shot. 

I've seen other documentaries before and though I generally feel inspired after each of them, this one managed to hit a little deeper within my core.  Mainly because of the treatment of animals.

I've heard the stories of how the animals go from the farms to our plates.  "Yes animals die, lets all get over it"... that was my particular attitude towards it at least.   Not once did I stop to think how they were treated or how they lived prior to their death sentence though.   Believe you me I am personally not a big fan of animals in the first place (lack of a trust factor) but that doesn't mean I want them to suffer all of their lives for the sake of my breakfast. 

If you haven't already seen it I would definitely recommend it.  I won't go as far as saying its "life changing" but it's definitely interesting.  Most of the documentary involves following three individuals who volunteer for a vegan challenge and seeing what kind of changes going vegan brings their bodies.   Its interesting if nothing else.  

Personally, as affected as I was by the documentary I am not about to tell you its enough to turn me around  overnight vowing to never touch an animal product again but it IS enough for me to accept a 30 day challenge AND do what I can to ween myself away.  The entire concept was Abels idea and he's not certain where it will take him either but I'm sure his newfound "foodie" lifestyle is quite anxious to keep trying new things and thats where his commitment will come from. 

With so many "rules" to who can and cant call themselves vegan it's got me leary enough to even wonder if I can call what we are attempting "veganism" but if I may say, its the attempt and the endeavor that I stand behind, we're not here to earn badges nor entitlements to step on soap boxes.  We're just here doing what we do for reasons of our own.  Its a new chapter, new experience, new findings...  keepint it all positive without the black and white rules that deem us as successes or failures.  

That said, we'll see what January brings and I trust that any readers who may still be out there are having a wonderful holiday season!  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not my best month....

We haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

Life has been (as usual) flying by and as much as I envisioned a big 6-month follow-up since starting the SASS Plan, I haven't had the time to fully get everything together and branch this page out a little more.

Not to mention that this particular month has been the roughest for me personally to stay on track.  Abels been doing fine and dandy.  As for me, the stress of to-do lists are chipping away at my drive.

Stress and anxiety are a pain for everyone but for a recovering binge eater.. well, no need to tell you I am only human and quite flawed.  I dont forecast a weightloss of any kind for this month as these past few weeks have been like a mini warzone inside my psyche but I do need to come clean for the sake of accountability.

I'm pushing past it though and getting my head back in the game.

I think a part of it is that I haven't had the time this past month to gather new recipes and incorporate them into the SASS plan like I did the past few months.  I found a love in tracking down new recipes and I may be throwing a little tantrum because I havent had the time to continue that hobby lately.  Things will slow down if I stop procrastinating on the necessary responsibilities of life and just get them done and out of the way.

I won't be such a stranger when it comes to updating.  My bloggings are just as much a responsibility to me as staying on track with proper eating.  I'm fairly certain that a month from now this will all seem like a small hill I had to overcome rather than the mountain I am making it out to be.

Hope everyone out there is doing well, I have quite a bit to share in terms of how much I'm still loving the SASS plan and foods we're eating lately but I will save that update for a time when I've got a clearer state of mind  and the proper time to devote to it entirely.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weigh-In Results for our meatless month

So much for updating before leaving town!
Our morning was thrown off by a good hour and some change after we woke up late and hit the road around 6:30 instead of  5 Saturday morning.

We did however get our weigh in done prior to leaving and the results are as follows:

Abel lost 2 pounds in our meatless month and I lost 4.

Considering I have been losing two pounds a month lately my mind was blown by the number doubling.  I haven't done anything different this month than the last few months other than removing meat.

Abels been more lax with eating sweets this month which is why his # didn't smoke mine but considering his indulgences in cannolis and gelato every week, its just as awesome for him to see a loss as well.   He's not so much in it for the numbers on the scale which I SO envy at times.  His focus is always more on how he feels on a day to day basis and paying attention to his bodys signals.  Its the shift in lifestyle that hes noticing rather than the shift in weight.

Personally I am quite oblivious to noting changes in my body.  It isn't until I either see a  photo of myself that I actually see them, or until someone points it out to me.  I'll be working on a separate post for these things along with a mini photo montage of some of our meals from August.

The results are awesome and I'm going to continue trekking forward limiting meat from here on out.

As I am now enjoying the weekend with my family I can tell you that yesterday was quite an interesting day for me.  I have heard of how meat affects people after they have given it up for a while and if I may share my own story I will tell you that after eating a polish sausage and a hamburger patty at a cookout yesterday, i sit here the morning after feeling insanely bloated and gassy.

Of course it could also be because I had the polish on a bun with a side of rice. (Carb overload) and the hamburger (sans bun) with a side of diced potatoes.  It was the first time in months that I ate without even trying to stay within the SASS strategy.   Though I'm not exactly riddled with guilt nor regretting the consumption, I love that I woke up this morning wanting fresh foods and a huge cup of water.  My body is indeed communicating with me.

Let me tell you, after living over 30+ years and never stopping to think stomach aches, headaches, skin flare ups, back aches, weak nails, sinus problems etc etc etc.... were all ways of my body trying to actually TELL me something for so long.. well, it's embarrassing that I am only now willing to listen and am learning how to respond back.

It's fascinating I tell you.

Hope you're all enjoying your weekend.  I'll be working on that post with more details on the noticeable changes later today!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meatless month grocery total

The end of the month is in sight which means our meat-free month is coming to an end. 

For the sake of technicalities I should probably mention that we did eat seafood on Friday evenings for dinner. Considering we were doing this for curiosity rather than environmental or animal concerns, I'm quite alright with still calling our month "meatless" within the guidelines of my own definition ;)  

Weigh in results will come on Saturday but as of  this past Sunday, we have the tally to show the effect it had on our grocery bill.

The previous 4 months on SASS Yourself Slim Plan we've found ourselves spending between $360-$425 dollars per month.  2 people. 4 meals a day.   When it comes to groceries, I feel like we're still newbies in the game of shopping.  We're  really not much for coupon clipping but we do our best to keep an eye out for any items we can find on sale.

The tally for this month surprised me enough that I had to recalculate it  4-5 times because I was sure I was making a mistake somewhere. (Math isn't always my best friend).  After running the numbers by Abel for a final time, we both came up with the same tally of $278 in groceries.  For 2 people, 4 meals a day.

Thats a considerable chunk of change that we saved this month! 

Considering the fact that two super omnivores that would have never considered going vegetarian actually went semi-meatless for an entire month and had zero complaints at the end...

Well, thats pretty impressive.   I'm not sure that we'll go entirely meatless again for next month but we have already decided we will continue to incorporate a lot of meatless meals in our menus each week.

Our next feat awaits us Saturday morning as we weigh in for our personal results.  We'll be going out of town for Labor Day weekend but before heading out I will do what I can to hop online and post the results prior to leaving.

Until then, hope you're all having a great week!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This is what happens when I worry there is a garbanzo bean shortage in our apartment:

5 cans and I can guarantee that come Sunday I will be tempted to buy some more...

As we go with our meat-free month we rely on these for our favorite weeknight meals.  Chickpea Satay Pita and the similar Peanut Noodles with Salmon Chickpeas.  Anything that involves peanut butter morning, noon and/or night is top choice in our eyes. 

Even though we do prefer these meals with chicken, I gotta say they are still insanely good with the garbanzos.   It may just be the texture of the chicken that I miss and find works best for the dishes. 

I asked Abel a few days ago to rate on a scale of 1-10 just how much he misses eating meat this month and his answer was around a 5.  Hes ok without it but definitely not about to ditch it entirely...

Me, I think just the idea of giving it up for a month was much more stressful than the actual giving it up.  My rating of missing meat comes in at a 3.  I miss chicken in some of the salads but if I could find a substitute texture for something meaty like chicken then I would probably be ok without much meat at all.   Although I do think I would still indulge in seafoods from time to time...

Last weekend we took a trip to Columbus for a court interpretor class Abel had registered to attend.  While he was in class I had every intention of navigating around the city to see what downtown Columbus had to offer...

well, THAT was the intention anyway...

What I ended up doing instead was snuggling up in the hotel bed watching the Food Network.  We don't have cable back at our apartment and though I don't miss it very much, I do miss the food network.... oh so very much.

I ended up watching episode after episode of The Great Food Truck Race (Season 2) and its there that I saw my next must try....

The vegan girls "Seabirds" were working with jackfruit to sell tacos from their trucks and it took me back to a trip we made to Jungle Jims earlier this year.  We had seen big ol Jackfruits but never knew how to use them or even how to tell when they were ripe so I made a mental note to research it and return to experiment with it..

..only like most of my mental notes, it got cluttered up and lost in the rubble of everything new my head has been trying to contain.

Eventually I had forgotten all about it until those little Seabird chickies shed light back on that memory.  After a LITTLE research I am finding that buying an actual jackfruit would be a bigger pain in the butt to choose and prep than I am willing to invest.  In order to use it as a meat sub it needs to be under ripe enough...

... daunting for a food newbie like me!

I will however keep an eye out for canned or jarred jackfruit already cut and save my efforts.  I will also document here the experience as I have read a mix of positive and negative reviews from people who have prepped their own jackfruit for tacos. 

In the end, I ended up missing the last three episodes of the food truck race but did make it out to enjoy some of the sights in downtown Columbus.   You can find pics of our two day adventure on Abels blog as I believe I've already blabbed on long enough here. 

I will of course make one final note about the trip to Columbus in terms of food.   In keeping in step with the meatless month, my dinner of choice Friday night was perhaps the absolute best meal I've eaten all month at a small restaurant downtown called The Jury Room.   If ever you find yourself in Columbus, Abel and I both highly recommend it! 

My dish of choice:  

Jury Room Shrooms
Tomato, basil, portobella mushrooms, mozzarella atop a bed of zuchhini strips and roasted potatoes.

A dish that surprisingly would be able to be recreated in accordance to the SASS eating plan.  Granted I know these veggies were bathed in butter which made the dish less than stellar  healthwise (but not tastewise;)  I still have every intention on making my own version of this here at home because it was just that good. I know butter tends to make things taste like creamy heaven but if I can get remotely close to recreating this meal without the butter I will be in portobello heaven :0)

Happy Tuesday Bloggers!! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Still going!

Just as I nestle in to start some serious updating to this blog, I recieve an email with three etsy orders that need to be filled.

This now leaves me with only enough time to get a quick update in while I enjoy my breakfast.    

Our original breakfast menu was raspberry pistachio cereal but considering I wanted something that could sit and wait for me as I multitasked instead of turning to a soggy cereal goo, the following is my breakfast of choice:

Its relatively simple, 1 egg with sriracha sauce, whole grain toast with avocado and cajun seasonings.. and to round it all out, a cup of cherries.   Perhaps not the best lighting for the cherries but all in all one of my favorite breakfasts.

If you haven't tried something as simple as avocado toast I definitely recommend it!   (If you're a fan of avocado of course)  Also I would implore that you make cajun seasoning a staple in your pantry just for the sake of this toast... seriously, I am hooked

Between this and Peanut Butter Mulberry Toast, my heart and stomach get conflicted every morning on what they want to eat.  Truth be told, today the mulberry toast was screaming my name until i remembered I had to save the remainder of our peanut butter for tonights dinner instead.  (I can be quite the selfish peanut butter whore, you know..)

It took a few minutes to talk myself into just letting the PB be and saving it, but in the end when I thought about the Chicken Satay Pita we were going to be eating tonight I gladly tossed the jar back in the fridge.   Of course since we are still continuing on our meatless month, we will be replacing the chicken with chickpeas.   Should be fairly interesting!!

Speaking of our meatless month, we are going semi strong -- though if this were a confessional I would have to let you know Abel and I both ate meat this past weekend due to social protocols.   Not that I am making excuses, we simply chose to break our little august vow for a day instead of having people feel like they had to cater to a meatless regimen. 

No biggie.

I will say one thing though, after only 2 weeks of this change I am finding that my body is feeling much "lighter" and there has been a slight decrease in my love handle area.   Its not exactly something I can see with the naked eye but definitely a difference I can feel when I put my hands at my waist (a'la "i'm a little tea-pot" pose)....

Since we are not stepping on the scale until the first of the month I really couldn't tell you if theres any actual pounds lost but I do find my pants have a little more wiggle room in them this month and I am taking that as a WIN... already and its only two weeks in :) 

We are still incorporating our SASS Yourself Slim recipes but instead of using meat we have been subbing in a lot of different beans, some lentils and even a bit of seitan.   For anyone unfamiliar with seitan, its basically a faux meat made up primarly of wheat gluten. Sometimes referred to as "wheat meat"...   

I'm still dabbling with the right recipe to make it, but heres a snapshot of some seitan we prepared for "gyros" last week:

This particular recipe isn't in the SASS book but its one that we are tweaking to fit the 5 piece puzzle and has just a bit more experimenting to undergo before I feel its ready to share. 

The seitan itself was quite interesting... tasty (very tasty) but I am still weirded out by the fact that its texture is very much like a meat only its not meat at all.   Abel was quite taken back by just how much  it actually tasted like gyro meat.  Of course much of that was due to the seasonings but I am finding that the seitan is definitely oh so adaptable depending on what you may want to use it for.

I think "meatballs" may be in the near future for this recipe. 

Last night our meal was Chilled Brown Rice and Vegetable Salad with Brazil Nut Dusted Chicken Seitan.   Another recipe from the SASS Yourself Slim Book (pg 122) and you can see just how well the seitan took to thicker chunks and "breading" with brazil nuts:

Absolutely delicious!  I do promise to come share the final seitan recipe when I finally get it to the proper consistency.  The first time I made it for the gyros I used a recipe online that I suddenly can no longer find again.

This second time I followed a recipe from a recent downloaded book and it is entirely too "wet" for my likings.  For the brazil nut seitan I had to squeeze a ton of the liquid out prior to baking it and Im not sure if that was an err on my part or just the recipe itself. 

Usually when I test recipes I start by cutting them down to 1/2 or 1/4 of the original recipe because its only for "test" purposes and also because there are only two of us eating.  Sometimes my math skills fail me and I'm left with the wrong measurements of ingredients leaving me to go back to the drawing board.

For now I have two servings left in the freezer but once that is gone I will document my next seitan experience step by step to share!! 

I hope all is well for everyone in blog land.  Before I go I would also like to make note we have a new member of the blogging community as Abel has decided to open a blog that coincides with his Flickr interests and groups.  Its not necessarily weightloss nor food related, but lets face it, we all can use a little break from those types of blogs from time to time, right? ;)

 Feel free to follow him over at A Marvelabelous Life.  We promise to be your best friends in exchange for your support ;)

I'll be working behind the scenes on this blog for the majority of Friday morning so please don't give up on us just yet as we are still here and marching forward!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Weigh in Results from July Progress

I'm done asking where these months keep running off to.  

I think the last time I felt like I was caught up on much of anything was back in February.   From there things have been a huge blur and I have to face the facts that I simply need to enjoy the ride and stop trying to keep up on every last thing.  

July results are in.  Abel lost 3 pounds and I lost 2.  

Not exactly our best month but you won't hear us complaining.  

We're still following the SASS eating strategy though there have been a few tweaks made (mainly just cutting the grain from my snack meal) but aside from that this way of eating is becoming second nature to us.  Even with "events" such as the 4th of July, Abels birthday and his coworkers hawaiian luau party last month we were able to keep things in moderation, enjoy some great food, baked goods and still come out on top.  

Sunday afternoon as we were planning our menu for the first week of August I suggested we try to go meatless for the entire month.   Looking back on my suggestion now I almost wish I hadn't blurted it out so enthusiastically because sometimes I forgot how keen Abel is for trying new things.   

(Plus in past years he's given up meat for Lent so the idea isnt entirely new to him)

Me, I've never given up meat for more than a week...

...but it was too late.  He was on board, agreed and so we're doing it.    I'm relying on that same enthusiasm to stay with me all month because if I start having meat withdrawal symptoms and foaming at the mouth it will be nobodys fault but my own. 

Eggs and one fish dinner a week will stay in our rotation this month but the rest will be entirely vegetarian.  Our cupboards will surely be stocked with beans this month and I'll be looking into recipes that involve Seitan and maybe (just maybe)  some Tofu as well. 

Tofu and I have yet to find ourselves on friendly terms but this is as good a time as any to try again.   

Any tofu fans out there please feel free to share your favorite tofu recipe.. i have a few that are "supposedly" guaranteed to turn anyone into a tofu fan but only time will tell if they have any merit in that guarantee....

We'll be reporting in throughout the month on any passes and fails.   Already we are on a good start after our first week of grocery shopping came to a total of $68 spent.  If every weeks tally came in under $75 then I will be one happy camper!  

Wish us luck :0) 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kindle and low carb reading

That my friends, is what my kindle presently looks like. Some of these books were between $2-$5 while others were a tad bit costlier.   There are a few more you can't see in the photo that were 99 cent books but I have yet to really give them more than a cursory glance.  I've gone a little overboard here but its like a little addiction.

If I had to choose right now my top choice (at the moment) it would be Quick Fix Vegan.  Only because its the only one whos recipes have yet to disappoint.  Granted we've only made 3 of them but considering there are other books that have yet to make an impression on us (I'm looking at you Chloes Kitchen), Quick Fix Vegan has thus far been on top.

I'll leave the indepth reviews for the future when we've had more time to trial run recipes.  I will say though, I'm surprised at just how much a lot of these recipes are simple plug ins for the SASS Yourself Slim plan.   It helps make me feel like we're definitely on the right track with good nutritional standards.

Not to say that I think vegans are the epitome of nutritional standards.  I'm far too uneducated and inexperienced on that lifestyle to make such a statement, rather just that all of these books center on eating healthy -- and the fact that they are easily adapted to the 5-piece puzzle reinforces my belief that I'm doing well for my body's needs.

The only downside?... Well, since incorporating some of these vegetarian and vegan meals I believe its thrown my body for a bit of a loop and has caused a minor constipation issue.

Apparently its just me though... I'm pretty convinced that nothing can ever stop Abels digestive system from running smoothly as none of the changes have caused even a hiccup on his system.  The man is a machine.. a well lubed machine.  (hah)

At any rate, it lasted for the entirety of about a week and now things seem to have gone back to normal which Im thankful for.  Perhaps I chose one too many bean centered dishes last week or something, who knows (?)

Also included in the list of books, you may notice the one entitled: The Low Carb Revolution.  I decided to read this book as last month, Cynthia Sass, the author of SASS Yourself Slim (the book we are following) was slammed by the low carb community for writing an article about why low carb diets should get the boot.

Though I feel a lot of the slamming was incredibly rude and childish, I stopped to wonder just how so many people stood behind the low carb diet lifestyle.   There had to be something there if it has worked wonders for so many people, right?

So let the research commence.  Thus far I've only read a few blogs, online articles and am halfway through reading The Low Carb Revolution and though I am quite fascinated by some of the information, the book itself has proven a bit of a tough read for me.  At least the first half anyway.   Could be the way the author has written it, or it could just be that my love for carbs is simply not even wanting to read it.  It has a lot of great reviews for those who may be interested.

As I mentioned in my other blog, it has on more than one occasion literally put me to sleep.  Its a shame really because the author seems very animated and fun.  I blame my carb loving body for knocking me to sleep in fear perhaps, that I may abandon them.

Regardless, I would like to continue on my research just to see what all the commotion is about.  The chances of me living low carb?  About 1 in 50.

Never say never... but trying to pry bread out of my hands will more than likely get me accused of being a cannibal after I bite at your hand for even touching my love.

But hey thats just me.

For now I'll continue on my quest for information as long as everyone else will keep their hands off my carbs.  Judgements are fine, hands -- not so much.  Its just for the best ;0)

What I feel its all going to boil down to is the same as always:  To each their own.   No shame in our games as long as the quest for proper nutrition stays active within us.

In case anyone is wondering, tonights dinner menu will be featuring: Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza.  I have high hopes for this one... high hopes indeed!   I should point out that blog there belongs to the author of Quick Fix Vegan so Im confident this will be pretty damn good!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Menu board revisited and prepping our grocery list

We are over three months in with this menu board of ours and its still in pretty good shape.  There are a few small wrinkles from the tossing around we do with it but all in all, its doing a great job for us. 

A fellow blog reader named Juliet inquired on the last post about the menu board with a few grocery list questions and I'm going to try to do my best to explain our process of "organization" thus far. 

Heres a closer look at the menu board.  The board itself didn't take very long to complete (minus my desire to include little doodles)... but in terms of the recipe cards... well, we'll get into the cards further down below:
As for the little decorative drawings, well that was just for the sake of adding a bit of color and fun.  If you dont have the time, patience nor desire, then skip it altogether.   I've looked at a lot of ideas out in the blogosphere for menu boards and as much as I love the idea of dry erase boards, chalkboards, magnetic boards and even post-it notes, I needed the index cards to write the recipes on the back of.  

Because these were all new-to-us recipes featuring the dishes in the SASS Yourself Slim book, I needed the advantage of the double sides to jot down the ingredients and directions.  Post-its and erasable boards would be great if all you need to write is the name of the dish and slap it on the board.  We needed something I could physically take off the board and reuse constantly...

Heres a sample of what our cards look like:
All of the cards are housed in a little cheapie recipe box I picked up from Michaels.  Since the lunch and dinner recipes are one in the same and interchangeable, we only needed three dividers:  Breakfast - Lunch/Dinner - Snacks.  

You'll note in the book that breakfasts and snacks are also interchangeable but since they are separately written in the book, we separated them too.  If you notice the circled numbers on our cards, our original idea was to number the cards and the book recipes accordingly so we could refer back to them but after thinking about it, the smarter and easier thing to do was to simply write the page number of the book on the card.

As we've been expanding our recipe searches via cookbooks and internet searches, we now also write down which website or cookbook the newer recipes are from.  Just in case we want to refer back to them for any missed details.

And yes, each recipe card was and will continue being handwritten.   I know there are programs out there with templates for recipes but I thought writing each and every one of them would help remind me which foods fall under which categories in terms of the "5-piece puzzle" the book refers to.

It also helped imbed in my brain what a serving size of each food is.  It's not rocket science but my head has a tendency to retain only the things it wants to.  Its a very lazy little head.   That said, it took weeks for us to get the recipes written out because I was only willing to do them little by litte.

Each card had a recipe title on it but not all of them had the recipes written on the back.  Every weekend I would sit and write out a few more cards at a time until finally they were all complete. An overwhelming task indeed but one that Im grateful for doing.

Lastly, you might also note that we have "star" ratings on the cards.  That was more for our the benefit of future references. We wanted to mark each recipe that we tried somehow so we could keep each week fresh and new.  We also knew it was going to be hard to keep mental track of which recipes we liked and which we didnt.   Each dish we tried was given a rating from 1-4 stars and if I may say, there are only a select few that have less than 3 star ratings from us. Yay for delicious food!

As much as I thought this menu board was going to be a temporary solution for just the 30 days, we are now over 3 months in and its still as valuable to us today as it was on Day 1.   I like it so much that I'm planning on giving it a facelift soon to make it look a little "neater" and a little more artsy fartsy.

The routine is still the same. Weekends we choose our meals and then Sunday, we generally make out our list and shop for whatever we may need.  Seeing as how I've never in my life been an "organized" type of person this weekend task was daunting and dreadful at first, but these days its becoming a little more second nature.  Not taking as much time as it used to.

After our menu plan for each and every day has been set, we simply flip over the cards and check what items we need.  Generally speaking the majority is always fruits and vegetables that need replenishing as well as some of our basic items like eggs and milk.

As we go down the list I input the key ingredients I know we will definitely need into the ColorNote app on my phone:
If I have any doubts on any of the items, I will generally leave a question mark behind it to double check the pantry in case we already have it in stock.    I will admit that I haven't done much research in terms of how other people do their grocery lists and planning so there may be better apps available  out there but this one seems to be just fine and dandy for us at the moment.

Simply, input your items and as you shop, cross them out with the touch of a finger.

One thing I should also mention is that if you already know you won't be doing all of your shopping in one place, it helps to break the list down into separate markets/stores.

We have a couple of Aldi stores closeby which helps our costs immensely with their low prices but as many people know, they are limited in certain departments so we always find ourselves going to Meijer afterwards to pick up any of the remaining items on our list.  We get a lot of "basics" from Aldi, but for the items that are a little more specialty, we usually find ourselves at Meijer or Kroger to complete our list.  
Depending on how well you know your supermarket, it is also recommended that you rearrange the list according to the aisles and departments you may find each item in.  Its a step that seems tedious but one that you will be thankful for taking once your in the store making smooth aisle transitions rather than running back and forth because of a scattered list.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't mind perusing the grocery store but since we do our shopping on weekends, I would rather drive myself a little crazy with this organization than deal with the masses of people shopping for very long!

Also worth mentioning (that I had almost forgotten) is the chalkboard we keep alongside the wall where our refrigerator stands:

As we run out of items in the fridge, we make note of it on the board to save time from second guessing and double checking our pantry and fridge.  If anything, this is definitely a great place to have a board of some sort to write these things down on.

Had you told me at this time last year that I was going to be this "organized" in the near future, I probably would have had quite a great laugh at your silly prediction.  "Who the heck do I look like? Martha Frickin Stewart?! PSSshhhshhh"

Well no, I don't look anything like martha frickin stewart but I'll be damned.. I am sitting here typing up an entry on how I organize my food plans and grocery list.

Next thing you know, I'll be telling you how I save time by cooking in large batches and making the freezer my new bestie.

It's going to happen my friends... mark my words.  It's going to happen.  Thats still a work in progress but I can't tell you just how great it is to save so much more time.  

I hope I haven't sent any readers to snoozeville with this post but I figured if it can help even one person give this whole organized thing a shot, then I will be doing a happy dance.  Without the menu board I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have followed the SASS book much longer than the initial 30 days!

If you guys have any ideas and shortcuts of your own that you use, by all means, share and share alike.  I ,and other readers I'm sure,  would greatly appreciate them!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Piri - piri makes me sing

I've been absolutely terrible at sharing recipes with this blog.

Not that there aren't a bizzillion other places where you can find awesome eats but the point of this blog was to kinda show you where we are in terms of our eating habits and what changes we're making.  

Currently with my laptop out of commission I don't want to take over Abels laptop 24/7 drafting recipes and cluttering it up with food photos.   Truth be told, as the weeks are going by,  its already starting to happen so the only thing to do is to start sharing more of our eats with you guys, regardless of my culinary amateur abilities.

There are a few recipes from the Vegetarian Times  that I have been meaning to try but their Spanish White Bean Tortilla with Piri-Piri sauce was on top of the list. As we made out our menu for the week on Sunday, we had deemed Thursday night to be the night we introduce our tastebuds to this interesting "piri-piri" sauce.

Funny thing, when I jotted down the recipe title I had assumed it actually involved tortillas. I figured, a casserole of some sort perhaps, right?

Even looking at the exquisitely beautiful photo in their magazine wasn't enough for me to realize I was mistaken.   In my mind I had already decided I was going to ditch the casserole and make this dish into tacos instead... I even wrote the word "tacos" on a recipe card for our menu board.

Silly, silly me.... I was completely oblivious to the fact that Spanish tortillas aren't tortillas as we know them at all -- they are more along the lines of a frittata.

Feeling slightly disappointed (because I really wanted tacos) I was about ready to ditch the idea altogether and return the recipe to the "another day" pile.

Luckily curiosity got the better of me and I kept to the original menu.

My decision was only further reinforced when low and behold I went to check out one of my favorite recipe blogs that very day and there it was.  The same dish we were destined to eat for dinner over at Caras Cravings.

Being such a newbie to the cooking world I geeked out a little because this had to have been a sign from the culinary Gods.  A sign that said this dish was going to be amazeballs.

Not that Cara is the end all be all in tastes (or anyone for that matter) but you know, I'm a geek and I geek out.  Its just a fact.

I was also a little more at ease because she laid it all out there in a better way than I currently have the abilities to.   The recipe I am providing below is what I did for two servings.  It doesn't differ very much from Caras except that she used red pepper flakes while we stuck to the original cayenne.  We both also had the same idea along the lines of adding greens to the mix though we used spinach and she used swiss chard.

The recipe below is, as I mentioned, the way I made it for a mere two servings.  To see the full version (serves 6) recipe and a much more appetizing photo of this very dish check out Caras Cravings.  You'll note there is a dry spice mix to make before making the piri-piri sauce but for the love of all things delicious, don't let that deter you because it really doesn't take much time nor effort.

Spanish White Bean Tortilla w/Piri-Piri Sauce

(serves 2)
Spanish White Bean Tortilla with Piri-Piri Sauce
Serves 2: 
Piri-Piri dry mix:

1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
-(the original recipe does call for salt but we made the omission and didnt miss a thing)

Piri-Piri Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp piri-piri dry mix-Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan set over high heat until it comes to a boil (this should happen rather quickly less than 2 mins).  Set aside and let cool.  This is obviously a tiny amount of sauce so feel free to up the quantities to make more.  I set mine on the stovetop in a tiny frying pan to boil and it was just enough for the two of us.
2 eggs
1 tbsp parsley
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup white beans (we used great northern beans)
1tsp piri-piri dry spice mixture
1/2 red roasted bell pepper

In small bowl, whisk eggs with parsley.  Set aside.
  • Saute onion and spinach together in a skillet until spinach begins to wilt.  We used a non stick cooking spray though feel free to use olive oil or veggie broth.  Considering the sauce already has  our alotted olive oil, I decided against using any more.  
  • Add beans and a teaspoon of piri-piri dry spice mix and stir as beans get coated with the spices.  Add in the egg mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes, lifting and stirring to allow for even cooking.
  • Cover and reduce the heat to low until egg is cooked through.  Divide into two portions, plate and garnish with strips of roasted red peppers. Serve the piri-piri sauce on the side or simply drizzle atop the finished dish as we did.   
According to the vegetarian times, the term piri-piri or peri-peri has become a generic term for hot sauces and chili powders used for barbecue.   It really does make this dish sing and though we did find it to be quite spicy, you can always use less cayenne pepper (or even use a milder pepper).

For anyone following the SASS 5-piece puzzle food strategy, you'll note this dish doesn't incorporate all the required vegetables which is why we served it with a side salad.  There are also no grains and slightly more from the "proteins" category than what Cynthia recommends but it was quite filling and we were just fine sans the grain.   I do admit though, the thought of this sauce spilling into some delicious quinoa makes my mouth water.

My apologies for the long read, I promise as time goes by I will learn to paraphrase and just get to the recipe from the start ;0)  

Everyone enjoy the weekend!! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quick update - changing to Monthly weigh-ins

(Day 107)

Someone remind me I said we're ditching the scale for a month, not this blog.

I can't believe its been so long since I updated with anything but considering I'm still in amazement that we are no longer in June, well...  i'm definitely a little slow.

Things have gotten a little confusing for me in terms of monitoring our weight loss because I'm absolutely terrible at keeping things up to date. (As I'm sure you've noticed)

I have all of our weigh ins written down but somewhere along the lines we have extra weigh ins due to the fact that our weekly weigh ins didn't exactly coincide with our Month 1 and Month 2 end dates  so now I'm sitting here with a bunch of numbers, no dates, scratching my head...

Sure I could go grab a calendar and do all the math retracing my steps but that will just hinder my update further...

.. so to make a long story short:  We are now on monthly weigh ins starting with July 1st.   I will still keep tabs on our overall weightloss numbers but apparently dates are much too confusing for me to tally so we couldn't have picked a better time to switch to monthlies.

We've been trying new recipes out and as usual enjoying our favorites from Sass Yourself Slim.

I know its been a while since I've mentioned much about the plan or the book but believe me, we're still following the 5 piece puzzle strategy and thats not about to change anytime soon.

Recently, we've been taking cynthias lettuce wrap recipes and dicing up the lettuce to make these recipes travel friendly.   Not exactly a concept that makes us "geniuses" but we kinda kick ourselves for not doing it sooner.   Considering I was off work yesterday I enjoyed the wraps below as is:

Chicken and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
I've never been a big fan of olives but in this recipe, they just work perfectly well with everything else.  I've shared the link for this recipe before but in case you missed it, check it out here.

If you're in need for a new salad I'd definitely give that recipe a go and just chop the romaine to bits as I stated above.   The burst of lemon makes it absolutely refreshing.

I'll do my best to get a little more frequent with the updates.   If I could just get time to slow down a little bit I might have more time to share our little kitchen adventures with you guys.  For now I hope you're all doing well and I'll be back in the evening to catch up on blog reads.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Our first meal from the Happy Herbivore

In regards to that last post and our last weigh in, I'm not sure what the "blip" in my system was that caused me to de-rail but as of the weekend, everything is back to normal (minus my two pound gain-- that will of course take more than a weekend to take off) .

I'm personally back on the healthy eating bandwagon and feeling good.

This week I decided to hell with my lack of having a laptop of my own and have officially started to create new bookmarks on Abels laptop with healthy recipes.  

He doesnt mind of course because we use two separate internet browsers so he never even sees what I'm bookmarking but for reasons of propriety  I suppose I felt it was poor manners to clutter up anything on his laptop at all.   (I'm silly that way)

I didn't quite get a chance to play around with the new TVP product I purchased BUT I did get in on the testing of a recipe from The Happy Herbivore.

Far be it for me to publish recipes that aren't mine or that aren't otherwise available on the interwebs but this dish was pretty damn amazing and I would definitely encourage anyone with a kindle to get this book at less than $5 just for this recipe alone.  

I'm not going vegetarian nor vegan in this lifetime but as mentioned before, the world of new food options entrances me and has me looking up vegan and vegetarian recipes like a madwoman.

We did adapt the recipe enough to fit the SASS eating strategy as best as possible although I'm pretty sure the tamale/cornbread topping was not the healthiest fit in terms of whole grains....but do you hear either of us  complaining?


The differences we made for our particular casserole was the entire omission of corn and the doubling of the black beans from 1/2 cup to a full cup.   Our salsa of choice was a green salsa my mother ever so lovingly jarred from her personal garden  and, to boost up the heat factor, a few additional canned green chiles.

Because we've gotten into the habit of making just enough for two servings, we dusted off our internal calculators to halve the original recipe.  It wasn't too hard to do which was lucky for us...

...until ,that is, we got to the cornbread batter.   That was a little trickier because I really hate math and anything that doesnt end up in a whole number.   The end result was our batter being a little thicker than the norm but that could be because we used only a smidgeon of the maply syrup called for.  (note the fork prong marks running along the casserole where I tried to make the batter cover end to end...oopsie)

Though I enjoy a good sweet cornbread, the thought of a sweet "masa" replacement for a savory tamale casserole just didn't appeal to me.  For "sweet" tamales absolutely, for black bean tamales... not so much.

We also threw in some chopped cilantro to the batter before baking it atop our luscious casserole.

Its a dish that has earned a 4-star rating in our recipe box and the perfect excuse for me to soon buy those cute little individual sized casserole dishes I see all over the place.  

We'll definitely re-visit this recipe in the near future as the combinations for the different fillings are almost endless!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 90 Weigh In

This week pretty much went down the crapper for me so I'm not too surprised to see a gain (gasp) for the first time in three months.   A gain of 2 pounds which isn't entirely catastrophic but disappointing nonetheless.   It was a week of "I don't give a damn" when it came to the foods I was eating.

As much as I'd like to figure out why I had such a negative turn, theres not a single answer that seems logical.   Its emotionally tied in to a lot of things but I put an end to it yesterday after a massive headache and uncomfortable stomach issues.  Perhaps the strangest thing of all was that all of my indulgences were sweets.

It's crazy as I've never been one driven by a sweet tooth yet this week it was all about cookies and sugared cereal.  Its no wonder indeed why this food hangover is as strong as it is today.

Not exactly the way I was hoping to end off the final week of our 90 days but whats done is done.

Abel on the other hand had a small loss of .4 lbs.   Except for our weekend out of town he's stuck to the eating plan all week so I'm not surprised to see he still had a loss.

To make things a little easier next weigh in will be on the first of July and then from there on out we will be weighing in the first of every month.    No more weeklies for us!    

Lets hope I'm actually harnessed and fully secured back on the healthy eating/no-binge bandwagon from here on out.   If this weekend proves to be different I may have to reconsider ditching the scale and keeping the weeklies for accountability.

All in all three months in and the 90 day tally of weightloss:

Frances: - 22.2 lbs
Abel - 34.4 lbs

From the looks of things month 3 was a bit of a wash for me, I struggled to lose much for two weeks and then gained the final week.   I'll still take a little pat on the back though.  Given my track record for losing weight and having the ability to keep it off I've done surprisingly better.   I must always remember to keep that in mind.

One foot in front of the other.   :0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tofu and TVP... yay or nay?

Taking a sneak peek on the scale today (curiosity got the best of me) its noticeable that I haven't been following the plan for a few days.   I'm still maintaining and the chances of me losing the two pounds I was hoping for by this Saturday is probably not going to happen.

I'm quite ok with that for the moment.  I considered going back to the FastForward aspect of the SASS Yourself Slim Plan but considering I'm not quite in need of a "reset" button I will opt out and simply stay on the right track.  The numbers on the scale will not dictate my attitude towards myself.   That is the price one must pay for indulging in lemon bars, cookies, gummi bears, chocolate covered amaretto almonds, and after a lovely Monday night out, we can also add alcohol to the list.  I realize this sounds like I was a complete glutton over the weekend but everything was moderated and portion controlled so I was sure not to see a gain come from it...

Its a rare thing for me to have a drink these days but Abel and I went out Monday night to see George Lopez perform at The Funny Bone in Newport.  Of all the places to see Mr Lopez perform I never would have thought he'd be across the bridge from us in Kentucky.   Once we heard the news and found out the tickets were reasonably priced, there was just no way we were going to miss it!

Considering this was one of the best weekends I've had in quite a while I have no room for complaints :0) I don't believe Abel has stepped on the scale at all since last Saturday so I can't quite report how he's doing but we all know how much more forgiving mens metabolisms are than womens.  Lets not get onto that subject please... ;0)

In other news, I finally got my kindle back and downloaded a few new goodies.  I've never been one to have magazine subscriptions but considering how cost effective they can be when downloading them onto a device as opposed to having hard copies, I went ahead and got a subscription to Vegetarian Times.

As I explained in an earlier post, I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan but the meals we've had sans meat leave me in such a different world of flavors that I'm intrigued and curious for more.  

I also bought The Happy Herbivore's book (kindle edition) because it had such great reviews and seeing it for less than $5, I wasn't about to pass it up.  For many of her recipes I'm thrilled to know 90% of the ingredients she tends to use are already in my pantry.   Had to say finding that out was a proud moment for me!

This book is going to be my reason to once again give Tofu a chance.   I've only tried preparing it once before and though I had no idea what I was doing (let alone what the differences in tofu textures were), I prepared a serving in "buffalo tofu" form....  and absolutely hated it.    I used a firm tofu and made no attempts at squeezing out excess moisture as I have now been told should have been done.  I also failed to season it with anything other than Franks Hot Sauce...  (a staple in our pantry).  I'm a huge sucker for textured foods but when I went to eat my little creation I couldn't get past the mush of it and though I've heard many people say tofu has no taste I beg to differ from my recollection of that day....

Considering there is a mini list of things I thought I hated which I now love (onions, kale, olives and cabbage I'm looking at you guys)  tofu will also get its day for redemption. Me being a not-too-picky eater I don't like the idea of shunning foods.  Believe me, I'm a creature of peace and harmony and I want nothing more than to love tofu... and eggplants...  but the latter we will save for a day when I'm truly brave.  Eggplants, oh eggplants why can we just not get along?

Also on my experimental list is the new-to-us ingredient of TVP.  (Textured Vegetable Protein)   I've seen this in stores several times and though I've read the description for it each and every time, I have yet to toss it into the cart to give it a shot or to find a good use for it.

Considering I see it used in a few of the Happy Herbivores recipes I decided now was as good a time as any to make the purchase.   In case you've never heard of it, its made from defatted soy flour cooked under pressure and then dried.

When rehydrated it is widely used as a meat substitute and is a good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.  Each (dry) 1/4 cup serving contains 80 calories, 7 g carbohydrates (dietary fiber 4g), 12 g protein, 0g fat, 3g sugar, 594mg potassium and 2mg sodium.

I'm thinking sometime this weekend I will give it a whirl as we already have our meals booked for the week.  In the SASS Yourself Slim book, Cynthia highly encourages one to have a minimum of 5 vegetarian meals a day and though I'm not sure if she's including breakfasts or snacks in that category (or if she means 5 lunches/dinners) I would still like to follow through with that for the next 30 days when we go scale free.

Currently I would say we have at least 2-3 vegetarian lunches or dinners every week and now that I have my hands on a few more resources for recipes I'm looking forward to it.

If anyone out there has tried TVP or wants to weigh in on Tofu I would love to hear it... I'm a little intimdated by the tofu but I think next Monday will be the day I try to play nice with it...  if it isn't meant to be at least I will know I gave it all I had...

wish me luck :0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The weekend in yummy photos

Weigh in was supposed to be Saturday morning but considering we went out of town earlier than scheduled (Friday night) we just decided to forego the weigh in and come back to it this upcoming Saturday.  

As I had mentioned before my parents both had reason to celebrate this weekend as Fathers Day and my mothers birthday coincided this year.   This meant lots of celebratory "goodies" and of course more risky road trip foods.  

Thursday morning I ended up working on my fathers special cookies as I wanted to taylor a recipe specifically for him.  He's not too keen on super sweet things so the standard sugar cookies from the bakery I work for were definitely out of the question.   Instead, I snagged this recipe from Smitten Kitten and substitued regular flour for whole wheat flour since it was all I had on hand.   The cookies were good though not sweet at ALL.  I almost thought for a second they were too bland but considering my initial plan was to add some chocolate details, it came out perfect in the end.  To play it safe I only made a portion of the recipe -- just enough to get two taste test cookies and 5 cookies for my father.  

In case you havent noticed I'm a sucker for personalizing gifts.   Forgive the wonky lining of my chocolate piping skills but considering I'm used to using a stiffer icing for such projects, I felt this wasn't too shabby at all.

As for my mother, well as much as I wanted to make her an actual "cake" I felt a little awkward doing so because for the past few decades her sister (my aunt) was always the one to make everyones birthday cakes. Sadly we lost my aunt to cancer last July and my mother is of course still feeling the tremendous loss.   The last thing I wanted to do was to give her a reminder of my aunts passing.   Not that its not already something she still thinks about on a daily basis, but you understand.  

So after giving it much thought I went with this fantastic recipe for Strawberry Lemon Bars from Marc at  My mother adores strawberries and it seems like everyone in our family loves the tart little flavor of lemon so it was absolutely perfect.   It's not a "cake" but still an incredibly special treat.  

Pay no mind to the cracks that are scattered throughout the surface.  I couldn't find anything in my mothers kitchen to plate it on and upon trying to place it in a shallow oval dish, the small dip of the center caused the entire thing to shift inwards and crack.  

As for the strawberry "roses" at each end, they probably took me about 5 practice tries before I finally ended up with something I was happy with.   If anyone is interested in how to make them, I found a pretty good video here.  I then just chopped a few kiwi slices to look like "petals" and tucked them underneath.  

All in all, our short trip back home was pretty awesome and I'm glad I got to spend some time with my parents on their special day.  

And before anyone asks, that is indeed a photo frame the lemon bars are sitting on top of.   If nothing else I get major creative and quick thinking points for last minute decisions when I couldn't find anything to sit the entire thing on.  ;0)

Also, in case youre wondering whats inside the gifts, my father got the movie Shotgun Stories and my mother got two cds of Jim Nabors lovely singing voice.  I never knew "Gomer Pyle" was a great singer but apparently my mother was very well aware and has always wanted his Christmas CD.    She mentioned it to me two weeks ago in a passing conversation and I knew it was the perfect gift.  

Hope you all had a great Fathers Day weekend.  Theres more to update on but it shall have to wait as today is just another day and I'm back to the grindstone...  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Laptop woes and Fathers Day treats sneak peek...

I wasn't lying when I said the author of SASS Yourself Slim, Cynthia Sass loves beans.  Nor was I exaggerating.  Check it out for yourself in her latest article.

I wont go as far as saying I would want beans to be my food of choice if i were stranded on an island with only one food choice.... but you can rest assured that these days there are always black beans and garbanzo beans stocked in our pantry.  I realize there are so many more beans to be had but for now these are the two that are permanent pantry staples.  Yum!   Ive even been itching to roast up some garbanzo beans into crunchy little snacks but its that type of snack that always gets me in overdose trouble...

Even though our meals include a "snack" meal,  my saving grace is that its actuallya meal rather than a typical "snack".  I would do much better eating toast spread with ricotta, fruit and nuts than say, a bag of pretzels, a string cheese and dried fruits/nuts because those are all  "snacky" foods and they always have a tendency to leave me wanting more.  Does that even make sense?  

In other news, yesterdays Mac N Cheese using nutritional yeast was interesting.  Not bad in any way, but also not sing-song praise worthy.   I do feel I watered down the mix too much so I need to keep experimenting with it.  I was afraid it was getting too thick as I was stirring the ingredients together so I added more water then the recipe called for.  After the pasta and broccoli  went in though, it thinned the sauce out even further and I should have just left it as it was originally.   

I'll definitely give it another go and properly share with you the experience.  We did snap a few photos of the mac last night but I'm presently having to deal without my laptop as the keyboard has gone down and my lappy is the only one that has photoshop on it.  Though I can still access my program and files its a bit of a pain to sign in sans keyboard and get things moved around.   Right now I'm trying to keep in mind that this laptop isn't mine and I'm not to clutter it with 150 recipe bookmarks.  

So far there are only 8 bookmarks that I've added... in the last 24 hours.  Thats some damn good restraint if you ask me ;0) 

Tomorrow I will be getting a few recipes together to bake prior to our weekend trip home.  I've got the perfect baked goods for my mothers bday as well as for fathers day that I am just dying to make and get photographs of.  

This of course means dealing with the pain of my laptop but it (hopefully) will all be worth it in the end.  I'm creating a cookie recipe for my father and am waiting on my order of special cookie cutters: 

available at

What could possibly be more "Fathers Day" then these adorable cutters?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What the heck is "Nooch"?

Apparently this "nooch" has been around for quite a long time and I've just recently stumbled across its existance.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before or not, but going through all the recipe blogs in my favorites folder, I find myself fascinated the most by the vegan and vegetarian recipes.  

I'm a diehard meat eater but quite frankly there are several recipes that are helping me little by little let go of my animal instincts to feast on delicious little animals.  Granted, not enough for me to become a vegan nor vegetarian but definitely enough to learn about the benefits that other forms of proteins have to offer.   Beans are becoming one of my favorite foods these days!

I remember first reading Cynthias book in which she states how much she loves her beans and I couldn't help but think "EGADS, I like beans as much as the next guy but to proclaim a love for them... thats a little odd"...  

and now here I am making the same proclamation of love.  

Yay beans! 

But this isn't supposed to be about beans.. no.  This is about "nooch" as it is commonly referred to in the land of food.  From what I've read, in vegan diets specifically there tends to be a bit of a lack of some vitamin B complexes and because of this reason, many people turn to Nutritional Yeast as it is fairly rich in such a vitamin.  Its also naturally low in fat and sodium and serves as quite a good source of protein.   

Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about yet?  Probably not because quite frankly I don't know much about vitamins and what they do for the body but I'm slowly learning.   If I'm the last person on this earth to know what Nutritional Yeast is then by all means indulge me a little and let me have my blog entry.  

Thus far I've read about people adding it dry to popcorn, using it for an eggs benedict sauce and of course most commonly those who use it to make Mac N Cheese.   Oh la la.. mac and cheese... color me happy! 

Lets face it, when you're talking about an alternative for cheese I demand to make a test run of it and get my opinion out there.  Cheese is like gold.. delicious delicious gold...  so how is this going to stack up I wonder? 

I can't even tell you the last time I had mac'n cheese.   But I can tell you that tonight it's the star of our menu and I'm truly hoping it doesnt disappoint.  I've got my hands on a fairly reputable recipe and in a few minutes i will be whipping up the sauce in the kitchen.   Apparently people don't like the sound of Nutritional Yeast so they shortened the name to Nooch... 

personally I dont think "nooch" sounds any more appealing than Nutritional yeast but what are ya gonna do?  If this recipe is worth its weight in deliciousness I may have to give it a new nickname.. nooch just won't do at all.  

Will we like it? Will we hate it?  Will we end up eating a bowl of shredded wheat for dinner instead? 

Stay tuned for tomorrows thrilling conclusion.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

If it looks like a potato, and bakes like a potato....

Jicama Fries
I'd love to tell you I found the perfect french fry alternative with the above photo but the truth is I have mixed feelings about the Jicama Fries and I need to do some more experimenting.  They look and smell pretty awesome.  They don't taste awful so in a way thats kind of a win isn't it?   Are they edible?  Yep.  Can I say that I "liked" them?  ...  yep.  

But I think theres room for improvement.  If you've had Jicama before you know its consistency is very similar to a water chestnut.  Its got a nice crunch to it but a little watery with a delicate sweetness.  Thats what makes it so refreshing to eat with a twist of lemon (or lime) and salt or hot sauce.  (Well thats how we grew up on it anyway)

I had recently read that jicama could  be baked a'la faux fries and I thought it was genius.  I cut them into fry shapes, Abel dried off the excess moistness of them with a towel and with a hit of oil and spices, they were tossed into the oven.  The end result was a crispy exterior which was perfect.  The inside however still had that "juicy" bite.  Not perfect.  It also seems that the baking experience brought out the sweetness just a tinge more.  The extra boost of sweetness didn't bother me much, just the "juiciness" of the bite felt a little off.  

Abel had a bite and decided they were not going to be accompanying his black bean burger.  In an attempt to boost their little ratings I pulled out some ketchup and two types of hot sauce.  Surely the hot sauce had to make it better, right?   

Not exactly.  The hot sauce made them seem even sweeter... 


The ketchup though... that seemed to make enough improvement for Abel to change his mind and add them to his dinner.  After all was said and done (and eaten) Abel changed his tune and said the "fries" were good.  I still say theres room for improvement...  I'll get it right eventually :0)   

We'll be going back towards Chicago this upcoming weekend for Fathers Day and my mothers bday.  They both happen to fall on the same day this year so how can I not be there to celebrate?   This means I will be back in the kitchen playing with baked goods again.   Wish me, my tastebuds and my waistline good luck as we may just need it! :) 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday Weigh In

Day 76.

Gah.  No movement on the scale front for me this week.

Abel of course had a 2.2 loss.

I shouldn't be too surprised at my number.  Things at work have slowed down and since I have an extra day off that means my feet had an extra day off and my activity wasn't as much as it has been in the last 6 weeks.

This of course only nudges me to start working out again.  Especially since I won't be working mondays for a while. No more excuses nor hiding behind "my job keeps me busy I dont need to work out".   Regardless of the numbers remaining the same I got a lovely compliment from our store owner yesterday.  I'm not sure why there is a difference between someone saying "youre losing weight" versus someone saying "youre slimming down" but I definitely like hearing the word "slimming" in reference to myself.  21.4 pounds away from my first initial weight... its so close now!

In other news, two Saturdays from today will officially be Day 90 and after that we will be moving into monthly weigh ins rather than weekly.   I would love to be a minimum of 2 pounds lighter by Day 90 which considering it means losing one pound a week it shouldn't be a problem.

As for Abel, well I really think he's just going through the motions of weighing in for my behalf.  He's not necessarily interested in what his numbers are and i'm pretty sure he's looking forward to the days where we just weigh in monthly.  Again, I totally envy that about him.  He doesnt care about the number -- he just likes feeling good while eating really good food.

Speaking of which its back to the scouring of the interwebs for more recipes to try this upcoming week.   This weekend my experimental food victim will be Jicama.

Mmm... jicama!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When experiments fail...

A couple of flops made their way into our kitchen this weekend.   The culprit:

Vanilla Caramel Truffle Tea
To be honest I didnt buy this tea with the intention of drinking it straight.  I always say I want to be more of a tea drinker but have yet to enforce it into my life.  I have a box ful of green tea waiting to be used up and instead of drinking it we find ourselves using it for Cynthias Green Tea Chicken recipe. (One of our favorite recipes btw)

Its not that I don't like tea.. its just that I never care enough to make some.

That said I thought Liptons Caramel Truffle would be awesome to infuse into some recipes.   My first idea was to throw it into something sweet.  French toast could be perfect as the addition of fruits wouldn't require any additional sweeteners.
I tossed some of the tea blend into the eggs prior to coating the bread.  Though this wasn't exactly a "fail" of a recipe, I probably wouldn't make it again with the tea.  It has an overwhelming aroma to it thats almost perfumey.   The same way the Rose Biscotti I made a few weeks ago had... except with the Rose biscotti it was a rose aroma which was divine.  This one is one I can't quite put my finger on but I imagine would be because it is has a black tea as a base.  I've never had black tea before so perhaps I should research these things before I try to enforce them into cooking.

Or perhaps one might think I should just drink the damn tea as it was intended and stop trying to get fancy with it...

... so all in all, experiment #1 was just "so-so".  Experiment #2 involved a savory dish.

The way I see it if a Mexican mole sauce (pronounced moh-leh, not like the little animal creature "mole") works so damn well with chocolate and even peanut butter in some recipes then why can't this black tea with caramel truffle work in something equally savory?

The dish of choice:  Enchiladas.

I used a basic enchilada recipe and tossed in some of the tea...

It was... "interesting" to say the least.  Still haunted by the perfumey undertones it wasn't something I would do again BUT the original recipe is definitely staying in our "keeper" pile.  These are kale and kidney bean enchiladas snagged from Branny Boils Over.  Considering this was our first time actually cooking with kale I probably shouldn't have added the tea infusion just in case we didnt like the kale to start with.

Lucky for us, we loved everything about these enchiladas except for my silly tea shenanigans.   I've never deemed myself a fan of Kale but after reading her recipe and the intro to the recipe I trusted her words enough to give kale another shot...

it did not disappoint.

But, getting back to our tea here.....  am I admitting defeat on cooking or baking with this caramel tea?

For the moment, yes.  I am.  I am hopeful in thinking that creating a baked good with this tea will provide a winning combination but I will hold off on that for a while as I'm still in "disappointment" mode.   Last night in this defeat I suggested to Abel that we just make the tea as it was intended and unwind with it after a long day.

Surely if nothing else it would have to be a decent cup of tea... the undertones are strong but something I could see myself enjoying as a tea rather than in cooking.

When all was said and done, I added a teaspoon of sugar, taste tested it and thought "meh, its not bad I guess"...  I then thought adding in some milk would certainly boost its flavor points and thats where I ruined the entire cup.

The poor cup of tea ended up drained in the kitchen sink.   Abel was a trooper and drank 1/4th of his before declaring it a disaster.

I'm sorry Lipton... I oh so wanted to enjoy your tea...

perhaps another day in another experiment things will be different.  For now the poor box is being "benched" in our cupboard...

Would love to hear any recipe fails or disasters from anyone else out there.  Though I was pretty disappointed and felt like kicking rocks after all this I can't complain too much as most of the experimenting for other dishes has gone very well and nothing has been completely inedible...


Monday, June 4, 2012

Saturdays Weigh In and Catching Up

Would you believe I have the day off? 

Its a Monday and though my To-Do list is a mile long I have no words to express how appreciative I am that every hour of this day is on my terms to do as I please.   Just for myself!

First thing on my list is to update with Saturdays Weigh In:
Despite our 3 day weekend and the haphazard food planning due to us being out of town for Memorial Day, I still managed to lose a pound and Abel (having eaten like a King while away) maintained for the week.  

Win for the two of us in that respect.  

More items on my to-do list for the upcoming weeks are to photograph and share some recipes on this blog (which I have been promising since this whole thing started) and to create an actual progress page to make it easier for anyone curious as to how the SASS Yourself Slim Plan is working for us in terms of weight loss. 

In other news, I'm finding myself spending every spare minute I do have looking for  recipes to tweak.   Its a sick little obsession that I am starting to wonder if I need an intervention for. 

My bookmarks now have 151 recipes that I would like to try and tackle these upcoming months.  We've already taken on a few with great success, and a few that left us highly disappointed.  I will post more about these in the upcoming weeks though, promise! 

I will say one thing for those of you who constantly post photos and recipes on your blogs... 

MAJOR kudos to you because I am finding that it certainly takes a lot of time to get all these things done.  How people do this while working full time jobs, dealing with families, small children, going to school, (or a combination of these things!) and still sharing your awesome kitchen skills with the world via blogging....

well.... I'm in utter awe.  Here, its just Abel, me, our jobs and a pet fish..

If I even thought about how much busier life would be with a child or school hours, my head may just explode.  For now, I'll stick to baby stepping my way through anything and everything new and see where it leads.  I know I've said it before but changing up your lifestyle in terms of diet is a huge commitment and takes more than willpower and good decision making. It takes knowledge, time, commitment and dedication. 

Today marks Day 71 since we started using Cynthia Sass's Book as our strategy guide for eating.  Almost two and a half months in and though its still a work in progress in terms of becoming second nature, its indeed continuing to be effective for us.  By Day 90 I would like to revisit the review I wrote and write in any changes we've been incorporating in while still losing the weight.  

Who can believe just how fast time is flying?  For now I will get back to my to do list... 

..after I get my lunch on of course :0) 

Happy Monday eats bloggers!