Category Archives: Be healthy.

Prepping and Storing Produce

One of my biggest pet peeves is throwing away food that has gone bad.  It’s just throwing out money, and lots of it if it’s spoiled produce.

I’m a huge fan of cutting up veggies on the weekend so that they’re easy to eat and cook with during the week.  It’s one of my favorite cooking tips.  If I have cleaned and sliced veggies ready to go, I can throw together a salad to go with dinner in about sixty seconds.  Stir-fry? No sweat.  Veggie pizza?  Done in a jiffy! I also really like to eat fresh veggies as a snack, but if I’m starving and they have to be cut up, whine, whine, whine… I’m more likely to grab something less healthy. 

Problem #1: Cut produce goes bad really fast.

Problem #2: Produce buried in the bottomless pit that is the produce drawer is likely to be forgotten.

Enter the Rubbermaid Produce Savers.  The set sells for around $12 at Amazon, and they are worth every penny.  I bought 2 sets and am thinking about getting another one.

These things are amazing.  They have this little green piece in the bottom that allows moisture to drip away from the produce, as well as let air circulate all the way around the produce.  There are also vents in the lid.  All of that works together to keep the produce from spoiling as quickly as it would otherwise.

Plus, they’re clear, so that I can see what’s in them.  They don’t fit in the produce drawer, so I’m forced to keep them front and center in the fridge.  Sliced veggies are so pretty and yummy looking when they’re already ready already!

We use the big ones to store fresh greens – spring mix or baby spinach.  The greens in the bag at the store are pitiful, but we’ve found a local farmers market that sells them in bulk (when we can make time to get there).  They last more than a week in these containers!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Things I Love Thursday.  Have a great tip?  Go link up!

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Menu Planning Monday ~ March 7

Comfort food just seems necessary this week.  Winter just won’t let up here in New Jersey.  We’ve had several random days of 60-degree weather, but nothing that makes us feel like spring is here yet.  We had all the windows open in the house on Saturday; it was lovely!!  Today?  It’s windy and freezing.  *sigh*

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday: Mom’s Meatloaf, green beans, fruit  (I’m making the meatloaf with 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey.  I’ll use the other halves for burgers tomorrow night.)

Tuesday: Burgers, salad, beans

Wednesday: Baked fish almondine, asparagus, rice

Thursday: Marinated grilled pork tenderloin, salad, corn

Friday: Breakfast! Eggs, toast, turkey bacon

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Filed under Be healthy., Eat to Live, MPM

Roasted Asparagus

I really like to roast vegetables.  It’s nearly foolproof – drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle on some seasonings, and cook at a high temperature until they’re tender.  I think it’s much better than boiling, where you lose so much of the flavor and nutrients to the water, or sautéing on the stove top, which can be messy and take too much of my time and attention. I feel like roasting vegetables allows me to preserve and intensify their natural flavors.

Roasting asparagus is especially easy – it cooks quickly, which makes it a great side dish for a weeknight dinner.  It’s delicious, too… Knight swears he could eat this twice a week and never grow tired of it.

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

1-2 bundles of fresh asparagus

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Unbundle the asparagus.  This step is particularly easy if you have a toddler handy.

On a chair.

“Helping”.

Note the gratuitous display of chubby toddler fingers in the above picture.  It’s really the only reason I included it.

Also, these asparaguses (asparagi?) are the biggest, fattest ones I’ve ever seen.  I usually buy the thinner ones, but this was what the commissary had this week.  So, fat asparagus, it is!

Trim the ends of the asparagus.

I’ve heard that you’re supposed to bend one stalk until it snaps and then use that one as a guideline to trim the rest.  But I just hack off the last inch or so.  I’m a rebel like that. And nobody here has died from eating the extra asparagus that should have been trimmed.

Spread the asparagus out in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Drizzle with the olive oil.

Sprinkle with the various seasonings and toss it all together with your hands.

Roast for 7-10 minutes, stirring/turning halfway through, until the edges are crisp and the stalks are tender.  Or, in the case of the most ginormous asparagus in the world, roast them for 15-17 minutes.

Yummmmmy.

If you thought you could never like asparagus, please, for the love of all things holy, try this recipe.  The sugar is important because it removes some of the bitterness, and caramelizes really nicely on the outside of the asparagus.  But it doesn’t turn it into candy or anything.  The ginger and garlic make happy things together in your mouth.  Promise.  Just… go make it.  You have my permission to not like it.  I guess.  But at least try it.  Please.

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Things I Love Thursday ~ My Fitness Pal Review

When I decided to quit Weight Watchers, I knew that I didn’t want to quit tracking what I ate.  Writing down everything each day had been essential to achieving my weight-loss goals.  I specifically wanted something that would allow me to track calories, certain nutrients, weekly weigh-ins, and exercise.  It  needed to be free and available as an app for my iPhone, but it would be nice if it had a web version, too.  I also wanted something that I could use to calculate calories for my own recipes (as in, put in my ingredients and end up with the nutrition information for each serving).

I read lots of reviews and decided to go with My Fitness Pal.  It asked for basic information like my gender, height, current weight, level of activity and weight loss goals, and then calculated a daily calorie limit for me.  It not only asked the amount I wanted to lose but also how quickly I wanted to lose it, with the maximum rate being a healthy and sustainable two pounds per week.

For the food tracking, it saves entries I’ve made, allowing me to add them to my food diary quickly at a later time.  This is really handy for me since I don’t mind eating the same things on about a two- or three-week rotation.  There is a huge database of food available, and it shows how many times an item has been verified by users.  I can also add “personal foods” – things that aren’t available in the database.  It provides an option to create a meal (for example, a grilled chicken salad that I eat regularly), so that I don’t have to add the individual items each time I eat it.

One of the most useful features for me is the ability to customize my day by breaking it down into six separate eating times.  I have mine separated into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, with a snack in between each meal.

I am able to input recipes and break them down by servings to obtain calorie counts.  They are building a database of recipes that will be shared across the site, but it’s not available yet.  The one thing that I would like to see done differently with this part is to allow a way to also put in the cooking directions without having to share the recipe.

I also noticed that, after I’d lost the first ten pounds using the program, it automatically recalculated my daily calorie limit.  I liked that I didn’t have to remember to do that.  I’m assuming that it will continue to do that for each ten-pound weight loss.

It allows me to set excercise goals for each week.  Like the food tracker, it automatically saves the ones I do regularly so that I don’t have to add them each time.  The database of exercises contains pretty much everything I think I’d ever do!

I’ve been using My Fitness Pal for almost three months, and I really have no major complaints.  If you’ve been looking for something similar, I highly recommend it.  It’s definitely a Thing I Love!

Note: I was not paid by My Fitness Pal to write this review, but I’d take some money if they wanted to throw it at me now.

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Works for Me Wednesday ~ Make-Ahead Lunches

I am not a good lunch-packer for Jet.  I’m just not.  For awhile this year, he had two Lunchables each week, two peanut butter sandwiches, and pizza from school on Fridays.  A few weeks ago, Jet told me that he didn’t want to take Lunchables anymore.  Aside from the convenience factor, I was okay with that.  I’d been feeling a bit guilty about them; they just don’t seem like a very healthy choice.  And we’ve been all about healthy choices ’round here, lately.

He told me that he’d rather have peanut butter sandwiches everyday, “except, of course, FRIDAYS, Mama, because you KNOW I love Pizza Fridays!”.  I’m okay with that, too, except for the making a sandwich every day part.  I know  it’s not that hard.  I’m just lazy busy.  Then he said he wanted it to be half a sandwich that has PB and strawberry jelly, and half a sandwich that has PB and honey.  Every day.  (High maintenance, this one.  Don’t know where he gets it.)

A few days after this conversation, a friend of mine told me that sometimes on Sunday nights she makes a bunch of peanut butter sandwiches and tosses them in the freezer.  Each morning, she takes one out and tosses it in her son’s lunch box, and it’s totally thawed by lunch time.  She said, “If Smucker’s can do it, so can I.”

Well, duh.

So, a couple of weeks ago, that’s what I started doing.  I can even make them half-honey and half-strawberry jelly, just like he wants.  I put them in sandwich bags and stack them in the freezer.  I also packed a few chips in the snack-size baggies.  I wrote out four little notes and stashed them in the cabinet.  And it’s been a dream.  Every night, I throw it all  in his lunch bag, along with a drink, some apple slices and maybe a treat, and it’s all of two minutes to get his lunch together. 

No complaints from Jet about them (and I’ve quizzed him pretty well about how they taste, etc.).

Hallelujah, and thanks, Mandy!!!

This post is linked up to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.

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Filed under Be healthy., Family, Jet, WFMW, Yum

Happy Birthday (Recipe)

Here’s the thing about this dessert: I have no idea what it’s actually called.  My sister-in-law made it one time several years ago, and for awhile we called it the angel-food-cake-pudding-thing-you-know-the-one-with-cherries.  Awkward.

Then I made it for my mom’s birthday a few years ago, and somehow Jet thought that the dessert was called “Happy Birthday” and the name stuck. 

When I polled the family to see what they wanted for dessert for Valentine’s Day, this was the decision.   No problem! It’s super easy, better if it’s done the day before, and nearly fat-free.  What’s not to love?!?!

Happy Birthday

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake from the grocery store bakery

2 1-oz boxes of fat free, sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix

4 cups skim milk

1 16-oz container fat free sour cream

1 12-oz container tub of fat-free whipped topping

1 21-oz can cherry pie filling

Directions:

Following the directions on the pudding package, whisk pudding and milk together.  Set aside.

Tear angel food cake into large-ish bite-size pieces and arrange them in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. 

Stir sour cream into semi-set pudding.  Pour pudding mixture over angel food cake, spreading evenly and pressing slightly to fill the gaps between the pieces of cake. 

Spread about 1/2 of the whipped topping over the pudding.

Spoon cherry pie filling over the top.

We’ve talked repeatedly about using different types of pudding and pie filling combinations, but hadn’t done it yet.  However, at the commissary this weekend, they only had chocolate angel food cake.  Who knew they even made such a thing?!?!  So, I used that with the rest of the regular ingredients, and it was delicious!

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Homemade Pizza

As I’ve worked to lose weight, I’ve learned to make healthier choices.  My family loves pizza, but we just couldn’t afford (financially or calorically) to order take-out regularly.  I have many fond memories of making homemade pizza with my Grandad Glenn, so I knew I could do it.  I also knew I’d have to “healthy-up” his recipe.

I could probably make a homemade crust (I’ve seen lots of recipes), but for my life right now, the Betty Crocker Pizza Crust is just too easy.  Of course, I can’t just follow the directions.  Before I add water, I sprinkle in a couple of teaspoons of McCormick Basil and Garlic seasoning.  The directions say to use flour on your hands to pat out the dough, but I use olive oil.  It helps the edges brown nicely, tastes great, and is better at keeping the dough from sticking to my hands.

Another healthy trick that works for us is to use Hormel’s Turkey Pepperoni instead of the “real thing”.  We honestly can’t tell the difference in taste, and I love that it doesn’t come out of the oven with greasy puddles in the middle of each pepperoni.  (I used to soak the top of my pizza with a napkin… does anybody else do that??)

I love our pizza pans.  The holes make for a crispy crust!  I have two pans, since I usually make two pizzas – one “just pepperoni” for the kids, and one with pepperoni and veggies (onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives) for the grown-ups.

Homemade Pizza (1 pizza)

Ingredients:

No-stick spray

1 pouch Betty Crocker Pizza Crust Mix

2 tsp McCormick Basil and Garlic Seasoning

1/2 cup warm water

Olive oil to coat hands

scant 1/3 cup Betty Crocker Pizza Sauce

About 20 slices Hormel Turkey Pepperoni

About 2/3 cup veggies of your choice

1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, mix the Pizza Crust Mix and Basil and Garlic Seasoning.  Add water, stirring with a wooden spoon until well moistened.  (If it’s a dry day, you may need to add more water.  I’d start with 1 tsp at a time.)  Set aside for a minimum of five minutes.

Spray pizza pan with no-stick spray and slice/dice veggies.

Drizzle a little olive oil on your hands, then pick up the pizza dough.  Place it on the pizza pan and pat it out to the thickness you like.  (TIP: I balance the pizza pan on the edges of the sink, so that the holes are over the sink.  Otherwise, the dough will push through the holes and stick to the counter.  Not Good.)  I bunch up the edges a little to form a barrier so that the toppings won’t slide off.

Spread the pizza sauce over the crust.  Go easy – too much makes a soggy crust.

Sprinkle your pepperoni and other toppings, followed by the cheese.  Again, go easy.

Bake at 400 F for 11-15 minutes.  Start checking after 10 or so.  The cheese should be melted nicely, and the edges of the crust a pretty brown.

(TIP: To get the pizza off the pan, I hold it over the sink and run a spatula between the pizza crust and the pan.  The little bits of crust that poked through the holes fall into the sink.)

And now, the hardest part:  Let the pizza cool for just a couple of minutes before slicing.

Confession:  I’m so cheesy that I made heart-shaped pizzas for my family last night.  Yes, it’s true.  And they loved it.

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