Friday, March 29, 2013

Teriyaki Beef and Rice

Hey y'all! I promised you a recipe, and here I am, delivering! Don't say I never keep my word! We're gonna make teriyaki beef with veggies and rice. It's 10 Weight Watchers points per serving, and it is tasty.

What You'll Need:
1 pound beef cut for stir fry or fajitas

1 cup white rice
1 cup frozen edamame (shelled)

1 cup frozen veggies (Japanese/Asian blend)

1 handful grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup teriyaki sauce (any kind)
Soy sauce to taste

What You'll Do:
1. Prepare rice as directed on package.
2. While your rice cooks, heat olive oil and a little garlic in a pan over medium-high heat, then add your beef and cook until browned. Drain.

After I took this, I got really hungry and forgot to take any more pictures. I'm sorry!

3. Add your frozen veggies, edamame, and teriyaki sauce. Stir and cover, reducing heat to medium.
4. Continue to cook as sauce thickens - add soy sauce or water if it gets too thick, or remove the cover and continue cooking if it's too thin. This is your preference here.
5. After the veggies and beef have married up with the sauce, add your halved tomatoes and give it a quick stir to combine.
6. Serve over rice in a bowl.

This recipe is super flexible, the amounts are not set in stone, and you can substitute as you like. Feel free to interpret as you go. But I promise, this is yummy. See y'all again soon!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm a Terrible Blogger...

Ruh-roh, I disappeared again! I've been traveling non-stop, so I've barely been home to perform any home economics! But today, I've got a few quick tips for you:

1. Pet-sit for your friends whenever possible. This is just good karma.

2. Pet stains resulting from pet sitting? Get you some Arm&Hammer Pet Fresh Carpet Powder, put it on the stain, spray with vinegar (it mixes with the baking soda in the powder and will fizz), then blot it up. (or use a carpet cleaner (like a Bissell Green Machine) with vinegar as solution and spray over the powder)

3. NEVER go grocery shopping without a list. Bad things will happen.

4. Don't wash all of your work pants and your spanx at the same time. You'll have to wear a sweater-dress with leggings, and you won't have your spanx to hold it all in. This is happening to me today.

5. Make time to spend with your family. If you're fighting with your family, unless it's something really serious, STOP IT. They love you, and you love them, now be an adult.

I'll get back to you tomorrow (I hope) with a recipe, and you know I'll be cleaning after my guests are back with their father - they are wearing themselves out making messes!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What I'm Eating...

It's Tuesday! This weekend was faboosh - merriment, brunching, game nights, and a super fun St. Patrick's Day celebration with family and friends! Although Henry had a little too much fun....

He won't admit he has a problem...

At any rate, I have been fielding questions left and right about my diet plan and how it works, so I thought I would break it down. (Bear in mind, this is my personal situation, and Weight Watchers doesn't know or endorse me, so don't go blaming me later for your choices)

What I'm Doing
I am using the WW points "plus" system. This gives me (for my stats and goals) a daily points maximum and a weekly "extra" points total that I can use. For my body and goals, I get 29 points a day and 49 weekly extra points. This sounds like a lot, at first, but I realized a lot of "healthy" foods were adding up, and some things are almost or actually zero points. For example, my Bolthouse juice? 4 points for 8 ounces! Now, I still drink it, but you best believe it is in a measured 8 ounce serving. The salad I posted the other day was, as I said, only 3 points total, because fruits and veggies are all zero points in raw form. Coffee and Diet Coke also cost me no points, so there are some perks. Also, you get credit in points for exercising - for instance, horseback riding (with tacking and grooming) gives me a 6 point credit.

What I Like
I like having a consistent idea of what I can eat - basically anything - and the idea of monitoring serving size and portion control. I like that I can easily look up point values and know what I'm eating. I like the control, period.

What I Don't Like
Not much, except when I go over my allowance. Ask me in a few weeks....

Typical Days
So here's what I have actually eaten recently:
1 Greek yogurt - 4 points
2 cups coffee (black) - 0 points
1 salad (spinach, tomato, avocado, bell pepper, crab stick, caesar vinaigrette) - 3 points
1 serving Bolthouse juice - 4 points
1 granola bar - 3 points
1 serving gorgonzola topped chips - 5 points
1/2 chicken panini - 8 points
2 Tom Collins - 12 points (4 pts each and 1 was a double)
1 light beer - 3 points
TOTAL - 42 points

1 Cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese - 13 points
1 salad (crab, tomato, bell pepper, light vinaigrette) - 3 points
2 light beers - 6 points
2 pieces pizza - 13 points
3 light beers - 9 points
1 serving hummus and pita chips - 5 points
TOTAL - 49 points

1 egg white omelette (ham, cheese, mushroom) - 12 points
1 serving grits - 3 points
2 Tom Collins - 8 points
2 Bud 55 beers - 4 points
1 serving corned beef and cabbage - 8 points
4 regular beers - 20 points
1 shot whiskey - 4 points
TOTAL - 59 points

1 Greek yogurt  - 4 points
2 cups coffee (black) - 0 points
1 small bowl of Pho Tai - 4 points
1 bubble tea with tapioca - 4 points
1 green bell pepper - 0 points
1 cup egg drop soup - 2 points
1 serving General Tso's chicken - 4 points
3 piece crab rangoon - 5 points
3 piece dumplings - 5 points
1 light beer - 3 points
TOTAL - 31 points

1 serving oatmeal - 4 points
1 cup coffee (black) - 0 points
1 cup egg drop soup - 2 points
1 serving General Tso's chicken - 4 points
1 WW ice cream cone - 2 points
1 Diet Coke - 0 points
1 green bell pepper - 0 points
1 piece pepperoni pizza - 8 points
1 small spinach salad (no meat/cheese, light dressing) - 4 points
1 light beer - 3 points
TOTAL - 27 points

Now, my first weekend was a disaster - I counted points, but I splurged too much on alcohol - this was a wake-up call for me, since I used ALL of my weekly points in 3 days, plus 14 more. NOT. GOOD. But it was a holiday weekend (for a holiday that is largely about drinking), so I am cutting myself a tiny bit of slack.

So I began this week anew. I used 2 weekly points on Monday. Also, my dinner tonight is projected, and I might (read: probably will!) have 2 beers with dinner, which will put me 1 point over. That's cool, I am riding tonight, so I have 6 more points today (if I want them).

They urge you to eat all of your points (or really close to it), because if you way undereat, you will stop losing weight, or you won't lose in a healthy way. You HAVE to have a reasonable, healthy plan for weight loss, or your body will suffer. Personally, I am going to try to save the weekly points for the weekend (since I clearly lose my mind on the weekend) - I have a much easier time sticking to my 29 points on workdays, so I plan to be a little more strict with myself on those. Still, if I want to use them, I can. For this week, I have 47 weekly points left (I start my WW week on Monday morning). There is a learning curve, obviously - I don't expect to be perfect. The biggest selling point to me is the flexibility of the diet and the idea of retraining your idea of "healthy" choices.

Anyway, this long (and probably boring) post serves the purpose of telling y'all what I'm why?

I have mentioned before that I love competition and I love to win. My office has started our own "biggest loser" competition...we all paid in $20, and whoever loses the largest percentage wins. If I reach my goal, I will be down 15 percent, which could get me the title.

The main reason, though, is that I have put on "winter weight," and it's not cute. This is partly from lack of exercise - I like outdoor activities, but I hate being cold - and partly from my love of comfort food. I am filling out my pants a little more than I am comfortable with, and I want to feel better in my clothes. It's less about the number on the scale (although that is the measuring tool most commonly used) and more about staying in my size 4 pants. Also, 3 months from now, I will be in Florida, and your girl wants to look good. When you're as pale as I am, you gotta be pretty fit, since you aren't gonna be tan enough to hide it. FACT.

That's all, folks. I am really trying to be interesting enough to blog, I promise. This weekend is semi-finals, though, so all of my attention is aimed that way. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Blog Fog and Weighty Matters

Oh, dear readers, I have been a bad, bad blogger! I have disappeared into a blog fog for a week - for that, I apologize. Now I have returned, and I will give y'all the rundown on what's been going on, Fast Five Friday style!

1) Boyfriend and Homegirl have been sick.
For like a week. And neither would go to the doctor. It's frustrating, but Super Sweet Man is too cute to get mad at! So is Homegirl.

2) Riding....hasn't been happening.
I finally got in a lesson last night - my first one since regionals 12 days ago. According to my coach, we're "dressing you up for semis." But she said I don't embarrass her. Winning.

3) Homeslice shed.
My boa dropped her skin, after being in shed for like 2 weeks. And Miss Thing is HUNGRY. Feeding her this weekend.

This is you now....

4) I started Weight Watchers.
Now, before folks go railing on me or anyone for wanting to lose weight (I've already heard "you don't need to do that!"), if someone wants to lose weight, and they don't take it to extremes or have a history of eating disorders or do it in an extremely unhealthy way, LEAVE THEM ALONE and be supportive. I have set a goal, and I will be sticking to this plan like the 2 New Year's resolutions I have kept. Constant vigilance! Plus I get to eat delicious things like this salad:
Only 3 points - and YUMMY!

5) My cousin graduated from medical school!
AND she matched to where she wanted to go!! Yay, Dr. Meh-Meh! (a nickname, not her real name) She probably plans to do something like this for a little while:

That's all I have for today, folks! I'll be back next week!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Light My Candle

Good Thursday, dear readers! Today's post will be a quick how-to that will teach you an easy hack to make scented candles last longer - with very little cost. I LOVE a good-smelling candle, but those puppies can get really pricey, unless you ask your mom for candles as presents (I do). So I came up with this little trick a few months back - I'm sure others have thought of it, but I haven't seen it, so here we go!

What You Need:
Scented jar candle with wax left, but little-to-no wick
2-3 unscented (or same scent) tea lights
Old or inexpensive dinner knife
Sad, used-up wicks.

Fresh, unscented tealights.

What You're Gonna Do:
1. Using the knife, cut into the wax around the used-up wicks. These are usually seated in some kind of metal stand. Do not worry if you make a giant mess or if you don't cut in a perfect circle, or if the wax breaks apart and falls out of the jar. It'll be okay.

2. Once you get down to the base of the wick stands, pry them off the bottom of the jar (they are usually glued down with a stretchy gummy paste and will pry up).

3. Take your tealights out of the metal cups. You can remove the wick and just use it alone, or leave it in. I prefer to leave it in - I think it lasts longer this way.

4. Seat the tealights in the bottom of the jar, then use the scented wax to cover the empty spaces between. Try to get it as even as possible.

I ended up adding a 3rd tealight when the wax melted.

5. Turn your oven to 250 degrees. Put the candle jar on a pie pan (or other baking pan) and put it in the oven. Don't worry about pre-heating - it won't take long.

6. Watch carefully - when the wax has all melted, turn the oven off. Don't take the candle out yet - I worry that the sudden change in temperature may mess with the glass. This could be unfounded, but whatever. Better safe than sorry.

Note third wick - you can add another tealight
once the wax is melted if you want more wicks.

7. Crack the oven so some heat can escape, then wait about 5 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven, then allow the candle to fully cool.

9. Enjoy a re-wicked candle!

A Few Tips:
-If there is a ton of wax on the sides of the jar, take some of it out and leave it out during the wick-removal step. If you leave in too much wax, your new wicks will drown.
-Be careful when cutting out the wax - you wouldn't want to break a jar.
-ALWAYS use precaution with candles - don't burn down the house!
-Buy nice candles - they last way longer than the cheapies from the grocery store, and they smell better, too.

I'm still up in the air about tomorrow's post...guess y'all will be surprised!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Loading The Dishwasher...Like An Adult

Happy Hump Day! Per reader request, today's topic is how to load the dishwasher like a grown-up. While it may seem like a common sense topic, or something that doesn't need a system, loading the dishwasher can either be extremely effective or extremely poorly done. Let's get started!

Preparation Step: Be An Adult
Alright, guys, here's the rub - you have to want to load the dishwasher, or at least feel obligated to do so. DO NOT leave a dish in the sink unless the dishwasher is currently running, and even then, consider handwashing it. There is not much nastier than a sink full of dishes. You'll have crusty unidentifiable food on plates, mold on tupperware, milk crust in the bottom of glasses (my biggest gross-out item), and, in one case of one of my former roommates, a SILVERFISH in the sink - it was like that scene from The Matrix with Keanu's belly button. YUCK YUCK YUCK! Moving on...

This is bad!
Step 1: Pre-Washing
Y'all, I don't care what your fancy new dishwasher can do, or what the Cascade commercials tell you, you need to pre-wash. This doesn't mean the dishes should be spotless before going into the dishwasher. Sometimes I let Henry pre-wash the dishes (he likes the "fravor"), and I know Homegirl lets her demon beagles clean her plates. The point is to get the crud off of them. This is especially important for dishes made with cheese, really anything that contained dairy, or plates that had runny egg on them. Blech! Clean 'em up!

Step 2: The Bottom Rack
This rack is for plates, some bowls, silverware, cutting boards, and dishwasher-safe pots and pans. Some glasses and cups can go down here if they are too tall to fit in the top rack. Silverware, it should be noted, should be put in EATING SURFACE DOWN. It is nasty to put it in fork tines up, etc., because the dishwasher cleans the silverware, then you will put your nasty fingers on the eating surface. NO NO NO! Additionally, for ease of unloading, go ahead and sort the silverware as you put it in.

That pot is older than me, so I dishwash it.

Sorted and not stuffed.

Step 3: The Top Rack
This rack is for your glasses, tupperware, more delicate pots and pans, small bowls, measuring cups, and large cooking utensils. I like to do the cups along the edges, the cooking spoons and spatulas down the middle, then fit everything else around it. Make sure lightweight plastic cups are secure - these have a tendency to flip over during the cycle, then you have a cup full of rinse water. GROSS.

Full, but not packed.

Step 4: Loading Density
Guys, I like to play dishwasher Tetris as much as the next Tech grad, but the dishes will NOT get clean unless there is enough space for the soap and water to move in between and around them. Don't cram 15 forks into one 2x2 cubby hole because you want to get them all in. Ideally, since we are NOT leaving dishes in the sink, you should never face this issue, but still - don't overload it. If you do, instead of a few dishes to handwash and a dishwasher full of clean dishes, you will have a stuffed dishwasher full of still-dirty dishes. NASTY.

Don't sacrifice your whole load of dishes for this - handwash.

Step 5: The Detergent
Y'all, I don't care what detergent you use, but I like the Cascade packets. They tend to work for me. If you like liquid, powder, or whatever, do your thing. Add some rinse aid if you like. Just make sure you use it correctly. The compartments are there for a reason, ya know...

Step 6: The Cycle
Most of the time, your basic dishes will require "normal wash." Heavy wash, short wash, pots and pans, etc., all basically do what they say. The biggest no-no is clicking off the "heated dry." Guys, I think of this as the dry and sanitize step. If you've ever tried to unload a dishwasher immediately after heat dry, you'll know how hot those puppies get. This kills bacteria, kids! Let it dry - forget about the $0.50 you'll save on energy for not using it.

My dishwasher is OLD.

Step 7: Unloading
Alright, now that we've washed our dishes, you HAVE to unload them. Do this ideally within a few hours of the cycle finishing, but don't wait longer than a day, or you'll be piling up in the sink ('cause we all know your nasty behind won't handwash like I told you to do). Make sure anything with grooves or cubbies (tupperware, tops of mugs, etc.) is totally dry before you put it up. Aren't you glad you pre-sorted your silverware? I know I am.

Hopefully this quick little guide will help keep your sink and dishes clean, or at the very least, keep you in harmony with your roommates. In that vein, a few quick items about roommates and dishes:
1. You all live there - respect that.
2. You are all adults - if it needs cleaning, just do it.
3. Don't fight over cleaning unless one person becomes a CLEAR issue, and it still shouldn't be a fight.
4. When you look back on your roommates, most of them will stir up fond memories. Don't forget this when Tom leaves a cup in the sink with milk crust - just wash it and think positively that he'll get yours next time.

That's all I've got for today. Tomorrow, I'll be bringing you a little trick to get the most out of your yummy scented candles!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Tale of Two Cookies

Happy Tuesday! Last night's dinner was meh - my fried okra was delicious (once I put out the grease fire I started), but the chicken I made was boring. They can't all be winners. At any rate, I completed another task I have been meaning to undertake last night...


If you weren't aware (I wasn't totally informed, but am now, thanks to Homegirl), Girl Scout Cookies are made by a subsidiary of Keebler. That's right, elves in a tree are making your Thin Mints. Until recently, there was some kind of agreement that Keebler would not replicate the GSC under the Keebler brand, but that junk expired, so now they are cranking out replicas like it's going out of style! They are the Grasshoppers (Thin Mints), Fudge Shoppe Peanut Butter Filled (Tag-a-longs), and the Coconut Dreams (Samoas). As the best GSC in the world is the Samoa (don't argue), I decided to do a taste test to compare the Samoa to the Keebler Coconut Dream.

Criteria One: Packaging
First things first - you get more cookies from Keebler.
Point: Keebler

Criteria Two: Nutrition
Y'all, I'm not saying cookies are healthy. GSC and Keebler are very close on nutrition facts. The only difference is that Keebler packs 5 FEWER calories per cookie, and since I can down ten of the things in one sitting (okay, I can eat the whole tray)...
A not-so-distant relative of mine...
...I have to give a slight advantage to Keebler.
Point: Keebler

Criteria Three: Appearance

KCD (left), GSCS (right)

The two cookies look almost identical, but the coconut is slightly more defined and the chocolate is darker on the GSC, giving a more inviting appearance.
Point: Girl Scouts
Criteria Four: Texture
The Keebler cookie is a little softer than the GSC, which is not necessarily bad, but it doesn't hold up as well to the gooey caramel. Also, the coconut seems less toasted, so again, not as much crunch to the overall cookie.
Point: Girl Scouts
Criteria Five: Taste
Keebler makes these with milk instead of dark chocolate, but the dark chocolate used in the GSC is sweeter than most already, so it doesn't make a noticeable taste difference. The cookie tastes the same (aside from texture), as does the caramel and the coconut.
Point: TIED

Criteria Six: Price
GSC ran me $3.50 per box. I got Keeblers at Kroger on PlusCard sale for $1.99. And again, I got more of the Keeblers per package.
Point: Keebler

Criteria Seven: Availability
Y'all, the Girl Scouts are kind of stingy with their cookies - you'd think they would want to make money year-round. Keebler sure does, as their Coconut Dreams are always on the shelf.
Point: Keebler

Final Verdict?
Keebler's got this thing - you cannot beat more cookies for less money, constant availability, and an almost identical taste. Sorry Girl Scouts - the elves kicked your booty!