New toys

Today I’m pretty sure we used every new wedding gadget we’ve gotten.  Tim made delicious waffles in the waffle iron for breakfast, and I used the bread machine, crockpot and food processor with great success today. 

Meet Super Delicious Salsa Slow Cooker Chicken.

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Ugly, yes.  Delicious, yes.

I basically cobbled this together from various recipes I’d found online.  I dumped the following into the crockpot:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small bag frozen corn
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 brick reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. salsa (We used Pace Mild salsa, blended smooth in the Magic Bullet with a small container of Chipotle hot salsa—our favorite!  We are anti chunk.)

Then…you just let it peace out in the crockpot on low for about six hours, and serve over some brown rice.

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Southpaw was stalking Tim’s plate.  Super good and filling, and there’s enough leftovers for dinner tomorrow!

I also made this beauty today:

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We’ll call this…honey mixed nut butter.  Unless anyone else has a more creative idea.  Again, an easy recipe. 

Into the food processor went:

  • 1/4 c. salted peanuts
  • 1/4 c. macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 c. almonds
  • 1/4 c. pecans
  • 1/4 c. hazelnuts
  • 1 T. honey

Blend until smooth.  Easy peasy and delicious.

The nut butter will go on this:

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The loaf of honey wheat bread in the bread machine.  This will probably go in with Tim to work.  But I’m considering keeping it.  Hee.

Also today:  I did about 10 loads of laundry, vacuumed the entire house, cleaned the bathroom, and got the guest bedroom in a state where I WOULDN’T be embarrassed for people to see it.  Our house is finally starting to look like normal again.  I love it so.

And Tim did this!

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Wall mount wine rack!  (He also took my car for an oil change and returned a duplicate gift.  God bless him.)

I am currently decompressing with this.

0516 005 A glass of Gamay Rouge. 

Operation Break In Orthotics has not gone as well as I’d planned.  Mainly because it’s been POURING here.  I’ve tried.  I’m going to do my best to drag my lazy butt to the gym tomorrow after work and hopefully break them in with some run-walk intervals for awhile. 

Four days until we leave for the honeymoon!  I can’t wait!

Warning: Unhealthy food ahead

So, I love to bake.  As I mentioned earlier this week, my mom baked and sold custom birthday cakes out of our kitchen when I was little, and I grew up licking beaters and getting little dollops of frosting on my finger.  (I won’t delve into how this has influenced my later weight and eating issues, but whatever.)  Baking has always been my solace–I love zoning out and measuring precisely and coming out an hour later with something delightfully warm and wonderful.

When I started losing weight, I tried “healthy” baking.  It didn’t really catch on.  Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose–I still like making whole wheat breads and pizza doughs and such.  But all the lower-calorie cookies and cakes to me are just subpar pale imitations of the real thing (and yes, I can taste the difference between applesauce and oil), so I kind of had to figure out a happy medium.  I tried giving up baking entirely, and that made me sad.  So, I finally just had to figure out some strategies so that I could keep my favorite hobby, but not the extra pounds it was causing me.

Enter strategy number one: GIVE IT AWAY.  I started baking right before I had meetings to attend for school, and would bring treats to share with everyone.  (Bonus: this makes you popular.)  Since we’ve moved, I’ve taken to baking things and sending a good portion of the stuff to work with T.  (Unfortunately, he has a very small office, so I can’t get rid of too much this way.  He needs more coworkers!)  Tonight, I baked a double batch of Bakerella’s Cake Balls.  Half of them will be going to the Ronald McDonald House where I volunteer, for families of hospitalized children to eat.  About a quarter will be going to work with T, and the rest will stay at home.

(Instead of making red velvet cake balls–been there, done that–I made one batch using strawberry cake mix/rainbow chip frosting/white chocolate coating and another batch making German chocolate cake mix/coconut pecan frosting/dark chocolate coating.  Mmm.)  Here is the pictorial evolution of the cake balls:

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Delicious!  (Note: I don’t usually use so many baggies, but the house director at Ronald McDonald House suggested individual size packaging for snacks so families can grab them on their way out the door.)

Strategy number two for baking: portion control.  One batch of cake balls yields probably 36 balls–so, that’s basically 1/36 of a cake, 1/36 of a can of frosting, and a minimal amount of chocolate coating.  Compare that to a whole cake, in which if you eat one slice, you’re eating what, 1/8 of the cake?  1/16, maybe?  No, it’s still not good for you, but it’s less of a calorie hit when you downsize a bit.  The trick with cake balls is to just stop at one, which, trust me, is easier said than done.  But I find that if I bake smaller things, like cake balls instead of cake, or mini muffins instead of muffins, I don’t miss the huge chunk of dessert–it’s nice to just get a taste.

Anyway, what are your strategies for baking?  Anyone else a slightly reformed baker like me?

Crockpot Lentil Chipotle Chili

First, a quick note: I’m not going to do the “blog three meals a day” thing.  It’s been done, and far better than I could do it, by lots of other great bloggers.  If I did this, you would be very tired of looking at pictures of eggs, yogurt bowls, cereal, and turkey sandwiches, since I like eating basically the same breakfasts and lunches every day.  But I will, from time to time, feature a recipe I think is pretty healthy and delicious and interesting, and, well, not copyrighted, like the applesauce post I did last week.  This is one of those recipes.

Anyway, it’s late September.  This means that some of my favorites make it back into the bi-weekly food rotation: chili, soup, stew, and other various concoctions!   I will be honest.  I had never even eaten chili until last year, because, well, it looked kind of gross.  But T requested it, and I figured it would be worth a try if I could find a recipe I liked.

Well, I didn’t really find a recipe I liked, so I kind of fused elements I liked from a few recipes together to create something that looked good.  And so, I present to you, Crockpot Lentil Chipotle Chili!  You will need the following things:

  • 1 cup apple juice (I use Simply Apple, no added sugar)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups dry lentils (no need to soak)
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound ground meat of choice (sometimes we use turkey, sometimes extra lean ground beef)
  • garlic (to taste–I like a lot, about 5-6 cloves, chopped)
  • chili powder (about 2 T)
  • hot tomatillo salsa (again, to taste–our favorite is from Chipotle!)

The best part about this recipe is that the instructions are basically that you dump the juice, water, lentils, meat, garlic and tomatoes into the crockpot, and let it cook covered on low for 6-8 hours.  Right before you’re ready to eat, stir in the chili powder and salsa, taste and add and tweak until you’re ready, and voila! easy dinner.

Pre-cooking:

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Everything in the crock pot, ready to go:

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Chili powder and salsa at the end of the cooking process:

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I made corn muffins to go with it, and topped it with some cheese:

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Mmmm…lentils.

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What you don’t see (because my camera ate the picture) is that this makes about 8 servings, total.  There are 6 portions of this sitting in the freezer, ready to be thawed out for T’s lunch or another dinner for the two of us.  This recipe really couldn’t be easier, and is incredibly healthy and delicious!  I love using my crockpot–right now we have a 1970s model inherited from my mom, but we’ve registered for a nice new one that will be much easier to clean.  Even if you just have 1 or 2 people in your household, they’re great for freezing leftovers and totally easy meals.

Do you have a crockpot?  Any recipe suggestions?

Fall is here!

Well, almost.

I am generally not all that keen on fall.  I know a lot of people love pumpkin pie, and cinnamon, and Halloween, and falling leaves, and gourds and stuff, but I do not like any of those things.  No joke: I started crying once when my mom was pushing us to have a beautiful fall wedding, with dark reds and oranges and browns and pumpkins.  I believe I used the phrase, “I don’t want any bleeping pumpkins at our wedding!”

That said, I do generally like the mild fall weather.  T and I were ranking our favorite to least favorite seasons the other day, and summer was definitely my least favorite, with spring on top, and fall slighly ahead of winter.  And I do like the plethora of delicious apples and pears that show up in grocery stores.  So, I decided to make applesauce!

T is a big applesauce fan.  He packs it in his lunch several times a week and makes funny happy faces while eating it.  I like it fine.  Again, like with pizza…he likes his smooth and cinnamon-free, whereas I prefer mine chunky and cinnamony.

First, I bought a dozen Gala apples at the store (for about $4):

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Then, I peeled them:

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And cored them and cut them into small pieces.  And broke the garbage disposal.  Cores go in the trash can, friends!:

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I added half a cup of water, and let it simmer on medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until it reduced itself into applesauce!

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Since T wanted his smooth, and I wanted cinnamon in mine, I split the batch roughly in half.  I stirred some cinnamon into mine:

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And then I put his in our Magic Bullet, which made it smooth and almost creamy in texture:

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All in all, this is what my afternoon yielded!  T’s is in small cups, ready to take to work:

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And, wow, is this stuff good.  Apples, water, and cinnamon–that’s it.  No sugar added (or needed)!  I’ll definitely be making this again soon.

I rested from exercise yesterday and today.  My legs are quite sore from lifting on Friday, to the point where they’ve actually been cramping up–yuck!  Any suggestions?

How do you like your applesauce?  Chunky, smooth, cinnamon, no cinnamon?