Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frozen Chocolate Mocha Dessert

I tried this new recipe this week, and it is a definite keeper. The recipe is easy, requires no baking, and is delicious! Perfect for a hot day. I only remembered to fold in the whipped cream after I had sprinkled the remaining crumbs on top, so the crumbs got folded in with the whipped cream. That's why mine doesn't have crumbs on the top

Frozen Chocolate Mocha Dessert

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat (or in a microwave). Stir in crumbs, sugar, and cocoa. Reserve half a cup of the crumbs. Press remaining crumbs into the bottom of an ungreased 9 inch springform pan.

1- 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 - 11 oz (300 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup chocolate syrup
1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp of hot water
1 cup whipping cream (or 1 envelope of topping)

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in milk and syrup. Add coffee to mixture. Beat whipping cream until stiff. Fold into cheese batter. Pour into prepared pan. Scatter reserved crumbs on top. Freeze. Drizzle chocolate syrup to garnish just before serving. This is a great make ahead dessert!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

After Organizing the Chaos

Remember THIS huge mess? Well, after spending the last week in the basement, that huge mess has turned into this. Ahh...I feel like I can breathe again when I go down there!

The sewing/spare room.

Then I went a little label crazy. I like this so much better than before, though. Now there is a place for everything. I went really label crazy and even labeled some of the dresser drawers in the spare room (where I keep some craft things, manuals, videos, etc.), but my husband wisely suggested that that wasn't the best idea.

And while I was in the mood for labeling, I figured I'd organize a few cupboards and label containers, too.

I also organized and, of course, labeled the space above our coat closet.

I am trying to get to the point where there is "a place for everything and everything in its place." I am slowly, slowly getting there. My next plan is to try implementing an index card system where every single box has a corresponding index card that lists all the contents of each box. That will be a very big project. But for now, I have plenty of other things to catch up on, namely, gardening and yard work. Oh...and experimenting with canning. And...experimenting with sewing. And..practicing the piano...and attempting to keep a journal again. And...reading some of those books I've been meaning to read. to run 10K. get the idea. Too many things I want to do and too little time!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (July 26)

Last week's menu went smoothly, with only one change. Instead of bbqing hamburgers, I decided to make crepes with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. I'm determined to avoid the grocery store this week if at all possible, so my menu is planned with that in mind.

Here is the plan this week:

Sunday, July 25
Lunch: Leftover crepes
Supper: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (bbqed), Homemade Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce, Caesar Salad
Note: Since we had these yesterday, I can tell you that the homemade onion rings were so good! This is only the 2nd time I've made onion rings, and I definitely prefer this recipe out of the 2 I've tried. It is very time consuming, messy, and unhealthy, however, so I probably won't make them for a really, really, long time (like next year!).

Monday, July 26
Pasta and Pasta Sauce, Salad

Tuesday, July 27
Shepherd's Pie (new - recipe to come), Salad

Wednesday, July 28

Thursday, July 29
Easy Curry Chicken (my hubby's fave -recipe to come), Rice, Salad

Friday, July 30
Tuna Macaroni Casserole (recipe to come), Salad

Saturday, July 31

Frozen Chocolate Mocha Dessert (recipe to come if it turns out)
Whole Wheat Bread (maybe)
Pita Bread (maybe)

Sorry for the lack of recipe links this week. I'm in a bit of a hurry and don't have time to post them right now. Hopefully I'll get around to posting them later in the week, but for now, I'm off to enjoy the day!

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Formatting

Hmm...For some reason there is a photobucket message showing on my blog that I have no idea how to get rid of. I don't know how it got there or why it's there. It is annoying me, but I haven't yet figured out how to get rid of it. I may have to change my blog format and design a bit, so bear with me while I get this all figured out. I don't have time right now, but hopefully I'll get around to it in the next week or so.

*Update* I think I figured out the issue. Now I'm just going to play around a bit with the background to my blog until I find one that I like.

Organizing the Chaos

If you were looking for me this past week, you would have found me in my basement tackling this huge disaster. I am nearly finished with organizing all this, so hopefully I'll have the "after" pictures up in the next few days. For now, here are the "before" pictures. What a mess!

Here's the main area with all kinds of "stuff" that needs to be organized.

Office area that needs major help.

I can't wait to show you my "after" pictures. I feel like I can breathe again when I go down there now. Having a big cluttered mess like that just drives me crazy! Well, I must get back to the basement to continue my big project. Meanwhile, if you have a few minutes, feel free to check out one of my favourite organizing websites, The Organizing Junkie.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (July 19)

Last week's recipe highlight was Fettuccine Alfredo with Golden Garlic Bread, which was SO good! I hope to post the recipe for the Alfredo sauce later this week. The sauce was delicious; my only complaint was that it thickened up a bit too much, so I think I'll tweak the recipe slightly to fix that problem. You'll notice we are having lots of salad this week. That is because our garden has produced quite a bit of lettuce, but last week I forgot about the lettuce in our garden and accidentally bought some at the grocery store. Oops. This week is fairly simple because I'm hoping to devote most of my time to doing some serious organizing in my house this week.

Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, July 18
Lunch: Leftover Homemade Pizza
Supper: Visiting family

Monday, July 19
Easy Cream of Tomato Soup (scroll down on link for recipe), Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Tuesday, July 20
Homemade Buffalo Chicken Fingers (didn't get made last week b/c we still had leftovers, Salad

Wednesday, July 21
Lemon Dill Pollock, Oven-Fried Potato Wedges, Salad

Thursday, July 22
Au Gratin Sausage Skillet (using leftover sausage from freezer), Salad

Friday, July 23
Leftover Sausage Skillet

Saturday, July 24
BBQing Hamburgers (weather permitting), Caesar Salad

Blueberry Cobbler (recipe to come)
Lemon Dessert (recipe to come)
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (if I have time this week)

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golden Garlic Bread

I just tried this recipe (out of a church cookbook) last night to go with our Fettuccine Alfredo. This garlic/cheese bread was AWESOME! I highly, highly recommend this recipe. It's very easy to make and the cheese mixture can be made ahead of time, too. I made half of this recipe, which did 4 pieces of the bread, and I still had lots leftover.

Golden Garlic Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1 Loaf of French bread (I used sour dough), cut in 3/4 inch slices

Beat together butter and mayonnaise. Stir in seasoning, garlic, cheeses, and onion. Spread on bread slices. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Cheese mixture keeps well in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Garage Saling - Our New Hobby

My husband and I have discovered that a new hobby - garage saling. I used to despise garage sales because I never seemed to find anything worth buying. Everyone else's junk looked like junk to me, too. However, when I was pregnant with our daughter, my sister-in-law, who was also pregnant, got me hooked on garage saling. I became amazed at some of the deals she got on baby items and decided to give garage saling a second chance. I soon discovered how much money I could save on baby items by buying used! And being from a Mennonite background, how could I resist a good deal! We got tons of baby items at garage sales - we got an exersaucer, baby swing, baby clothes, a snuggly, toys, jolly jumper, and much more - all at a fraction of the cost it would be to buy these items new. Some baby items I found were brand new (with $20 tags on them), but I only paid 25 cents for them! Garage sales are especially good for buying baby items because often the items have only been gently used.

My husband was happy I was saving us money by buying baby things second hand, but he was still not a big fan of doing the "garage sale thing." He was happy enough to let me go travel from sale to sale, but he didn't bother coming along most of the time. Now that we've recently purchased a house, we've discovered other things we can get at garage sales. A few weekends ago, I went to an awesome garage sale and got several items (including a toddler bed, pine night stands, and some baby toys) for a very, very good price. When my husband got home from work, he was so thrilled with my purchases and what I paid for them that HE set the alarm for 7:30 a.m. the next morning to go garage saling with me! My husband woke me up bright and early, excited to go find some good deals. And so began our new hobby...

Here are a few of our garage sale finds this summer.

Matching pine night stands for $5 each.

A toy for our daughter. It reminded me of the toys they had at the dentist's office when I was a kid.
A brand new door knob for $3 to replace a really nasty looking one for our bathroom door downstairs. (At that same garage sale, we also picked up 5 more brand new door knobs (still in original packaging) for $2 each that we hope to use upstairs when we change the old doors upstairs.
An apartment sized deep freeze for $50 for downstairs. We had been thinking about buying a new one for awhile and had looked at a few other used ones before we found this one. Now I can bake and cook in bulk all I want!! I had to hold myself back before because our freezers were full. This one will especially come in handy after this summer when I hope to freeze our garden produce and berries.
A storage unit for our downstairs bathroom for $5.

Those are just a few of our garage sale finds! Now my husband and I enjoy just going from place to place, even if we don't always find something. The only challenge now is making sure we don't buy things we don't really need. Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit that garage sales can be a great way to save a buck or two.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sewing Project

We just returned from a great weekend visiting some friends of ours. While our daughter played with their 2 youngest girls, I had a chance to learn more about sewing from a friend and fellow sister in Christ. I brought my sewing machine along, so that I could learn more about it and put it to good use. My friend was kind enough (and patient enough!) to offer to teach me some sewing basics, and we did a simple project together. Other than the little instruction I received in grade 8, I know next to nothing about sewing. We had a great time visiting and sewing away for a few hours. We made a cute little apron bag-holder thingy (I don't know what else to call it!) to hold plastic bags. It has "prettied up" my pantry quite nicely! Thanks, dear friend, for teaching me several things about sewing. I had a great time!

The finished project before I stuffed it full of bags.

Here it is in action.

I have a cute little dress pattern that I'm hoping to tackle next time. Thankfully, both my mom and my mother-in-law know how to sew, too, so maybe I'll get their help with my next project!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Menu Plan Monday (July 12)

Last week's new recipes Spinach Lasagna and Lemon Chicken Wild Rice Soup were both excellent. The lasagna was a bit time consuming to prepare, but I think it was worth it because it tasted so good! Here's the plan for this week.

Sunday, July 11
Visiting friends

Monday, July 12
Sweet & Sour Meatballs over Rice, Peas

Tuesday, July 13BoldLeftovers

Wednesday, July 14
Fettuccine Alfredo (new version - recipe to come), Caesar Salad, Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping

Thursday, July 15
Homemade Buffalo Chicken Fingers, Ranch/Blue Cheese Dressing, Carrots and Celery Sticks

Friday, July 16
Homemade Pizza and Caesar Salad

Saturday, July 17
Leftovers or Lemon Dill Pollock and Potato Wedges (if no leftovers)

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Oven- Fried Potato Wedges

Here's a slightly healthier alternative to french fries. I don't really have a recipe for these, but here are the ingredients to make these. All measurements are approximate.

Potato Wedges
4-6 medium potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled (you can peel them if you want to, but I usually don't. It saves time and I like the peel on better anyway.)

3-4 Tbsp oil

3-4 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 - 450 degrees F. Cut each potato into about 6-8 wedges. To do this, cut the potato in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 3 wedges. Put the wedges into a large bowl and toss with the oil. Then, add the seasonings and stir well to coat. Spread the wedges evenly onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 425 - 450 F, or until potatoes are tender and browned. Flip the potatoes halfway through to get them browned on both sides. The baking time will vary depending on how thick or thin your wedges are. Serve with ketchup, sour cream, ranch, or blue cheese dressing.

Printable Grocery List

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lemon Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Lemon Chicken Wild Rice Soup

6 cups chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/3 cup uncooked wild rice
1/3 cup diced carrots
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup cubed, cooked chicken
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 eggs
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
sliced green onions or chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, combine first 6 ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover. Simmer 20 minutes or until rice and veggies are tender. Stir in chicken. Remove from heat.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute until smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in 2 cups of the broth mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. In small bowl, beat egg until foamy. Gradually beat in lemon juice and 2 cups thickened broth mixture. Slowly add egg mixture to broth mixture in large saucepan, stirring constantly. Heat gently until soup thickens, stirring frequently. Do not boil. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with green onion or parsley.

Spinach Lasagna

Here's a new recipe I'm trying this week from a family cookbook.

Spinach Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles, partially cooked
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Vegetable Filling;
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups fresh spinach (I'm using frozen, with water squeezed out)
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp each of salt, marjoram, and oregano
1 cup small curd cottage cheese

2 1/2 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt
Handful of mozzarella cheese (about 1/3 cup)
2-3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
dash pepper
dash nutmeg

Vegetable Filling: In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over high heat. Cook onion, celery, and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until tender. Add chopped spinach, basil, salt, marjoram, and oregano. Cook, stirring constantly, and then mix in cottage cheese.

Sauce: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually add milk and stock and bring back to boil, stirring constantly. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add spices and set aside.

Lasagna: Spread 1/3 of the sauce on bottom of greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of Parmesan over top and cover with 4 lasagna noodles. Spread 1/2 the veggie filling over top, then repeat the sauce, noodles, and Parmesan. Put on remaining veggie filling and repeat the sauce, noodles, and Parmesan. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes until sauce bubbles and cheese is golden brown.

Menu Plan Monday (July 5)

Last week's menu plan went smoothly, and I followed it pretty closely with only the days getting switched around a bit. I didn't get to making the Sweet and Sour Meatballs, though. Last week's recipe highlight definitely goes to the Crunchy BBQ Chicken Wraps, using the leftover roasted chicken. These were SO good! I am not much of a sandwich fan, but I'm pretty sure I could eat one of these every day for lunch - they are that good! I really wished I would have taken a picture of them because they even looked delicious with the colourful coleslaw. I tweaked the recipe very slightly. Instead of wraps or sandwiches, we had these in my homemade pita pockets. I used a prepackaged bag of carrot slaw for the veggies and left out the red pepper. For the bbq sauce, I used Diana sauce, which is slightly sweet. My husband and I even joked about me opening my restaurant and serving these as the signature sandwich. The sweetness of the bbq sauce really complemented the spiciness of the coleslaw. We had Caesar salad on the side. I will definitely be making these again. My husband has a few days off this week after working a very long stretch, so I have a fairly simple and flexible menu planned this week.

Sunday, July 4
Lunch: ate out
Supper: Leftover taco salad using taco meat from freezer

Monday, July 5
Spinach Lasagna (new), Caesar Salad

Tuesday, July 6
Leftover Lasagna

Wednesday, July 7
Lemon Chicken Wild Rice Soup (new), Cheese BiscuitsBold
Thursday, July 8

Friday, July 9
Hot dogs or more leftovers

Saturday, July 10
Simple Supper or go out to eat

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle (Part 4)

If you missed the first 3 posts of this series, you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

In the final part of this series, I want to outline exactly what I did to lose the weight and what I'm doing now maintain my current weight. My total weight loss since the end of December 2009 is about 30-35 pounds. I have been maintaining for about 6 weeks now. Here's what I did.

To lose it...

  • Decided that I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and I was ready to do something about it.
  • Set a reasonable goal for myself to lose 20 pounds (I ended up losing 30-35). I aimed to lose 1-2 pounds per week at first and then half a pound per week at the end.
  • Became accountable by participating in weekly weigh-ins at a blog that I read. (This helped keep me motivated, too.)
  • Started moving more. I needed to get motivated to exercise again, so I decided to try the Couch to 5K program and blog about my progress to keep accountable. Seeing the visible results of my fitness level improving was VERY motivating for me. Since I am a competitive person, it was good to "beat" each previous week's time and improve my fitness each week. After about a month, I started having so much more energy, and I attribute this to exercising. Honestly, sometimes I hated exercising and I had to force myself to do it, but I always felt so good after the workout was done. I also made an effort to just move more around the house - less sitting around and more of housekeeping, gardening, etc.
  • Started a food and exercise journal to keep track of what I was eating and approximately how much. This was really key I think. It made me get honest with what I was eating. I didn't count calories, but I would write down a brief description of how much I was eating such as "small plate", "2 scoops ice cream", "15 chips" etc. to get estimates of how much I was eating. It is interesting to note that once I started writing down exactly what I was eating, I could see that I was eating way too much junk food (cake, cookies, pop, chips, ice cream, etc.). I didn't realize how much junk I was eating until I started writing it all down. If I flip back from when I first started my food journal and compare what I was eating then to what I'm eating now, there is a pretty big difference. The exercise journal was important, too. Because I had started running on the treadmill, I did keep track of how many calories I burned. I aimed to burn about 1500 calories per week.
  • Participated in weekly weigh-ins. Each Monday I weighed myself and checked in with the blog I read.
  • Kept track of my progress. I wrote down my weekly weight so I could see my progress.
  • Planned healthier meals. I had already been menu planning, but I decided to put more effort to create healthier menu plans. For example, we eat fish more, we eat a lot less creamy dishes than we used to (and if they are creamy, I alter the recipe to try to reduce the calories.) I also experimented with and planned ahead for making different salads and vegetable dishes to get us eating more fruits and veggies. We ate more homemade soups, too. (not the creamy kind, which I don't like anyway.)
  • Started eating breakfast.I used to hardly ever eat breakfast, but I really believe eating breakfast is important to losing weight. It sounds backwards, but I think that it helps prevent overeating during the day. For breakfast, I usually just have 1-2 pieces of toast, fruit, and the occasional egg. Bold
  • Ate simpler, healthier lunches. For lunches, I would usually have a tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread, leftovers, or a fruit smoothie and omelet.
  • Ate out less and made smarter choices when eating out. I also stopped feeling bad if I didn't finish all my food at a restaurant. We all know how the portions at a restaurant are enormous.
  • Paid attention to hunger/full cues. I had to teach myself to quit eating when I was full and only eat when I was hungry. This meant that if I had half a sandwich left but felt full, I would wrap the sandwich for later and stop eating. This also meant that if I was hungry at 2 in the afternoon because I had a smaller than usual lunch, I would have a snack such as and apple or smoothie or piece of toast. I think I was really used to overeating before and that feeling of being "stuffed." I now absolutely hate the feeling of being stuffed and hardly ever overeat because I don't like that feeling anymore. When I do occasionally overeat now, I regret it because I hate that feeling.
  • Allowed myself treats and didn't ban any food. I still ate cookies, cakes, chips, ice cream, and pop. I just ate it less often and ate less of it. I went from drinking pop nearly every day to drinking it 1-2 times a week at most (and then less of it at those times, too.)I would opt for a small piece of cake instead of a big piece.
  • Made lower-calorie substitutions for some of my favourite foods with "instead of that, eat this" philosophy. For example, I used to drink a lot of homemade milkshakes and iced cappuccinos. Instead of homemade milkshakes, I made homemade fruit smoothies with fruit, orange juice, and yogurt. Instead of munching on chips, I munched on lower-calorie popcorn or rice crisps. Instead of snacking on ice cream and junk food all the time, I started snacking on foods like grapes.
  • Didn't get discouraged when I hit a plateau. I hit a weight-loss plateau for about a month. I actually thought that I was perhaps at the weight I would maintain. I looked at my food journal and saw areas I could improve on. After about a month, I started losing again and lost 10 more pounds.
To maintain my current weight...
  • Weekly weigh-ins. I still weight myself every Monday and keep track of my weight in my Home Management Binder. I have been maintaining my weight for about 6 weeks now.
  • Determined to not go over a certain weight. This is pretty key to maintaining, I think. No, it is not all about the numbers, but I still want to ensure that I do not let the weight slowly creep on again. Now that I'm at the weight I believe to be my healthy, normal, non-pregnant weight, I have a certain number that I refuse to let myself go over. If I ever see "that number" (which is about 3-4 pounds more than my current weight.) while I'm not pregnant, I have decided to work it off as soon as possible. I will not allow myself to ignorantly let the weight creep on again.
  • Active lifestyle. Right now I actually am not regularly exercising like I was before when I was losing the weight. Because the weather is warmer now, I prefer to walk outside than jog on the treadmill. I do still try to go for a run once in awhile because I'd like to maintain my fitness if possible, but I do not have a set number of calories to burn each week anymore. Instead, I am trying to just have an active lifestyle. I take my baby for walks during the day when it's nice outside. I walk to garage sales. We take walks in the evening sometimes, too. I loosely aim for 3-4 days of purposeful walking (30-45 minutes of brisk walking) or exercising per week. I have been thinking about possibly starting to run regularly again and train for a 10K run, but currently I am not doing that.
  • Maintain new eating habits. This has been easy and I actually hardly have to think about it anymore. Where it used to be "normal" for me to always overeat, it is now normal for me to hardly ever overeat. It is normal for me to eat and cook healthier foods. It is normal for me to eat just less of everything. It's normal for me to only drink pop on occasion.
  • Keep a food and exercise journal. I am not as disciplined about this as when I was losing the weight, but I still loosely keep a food and exercise journal. I have noticed that when I don't do this, I don't eat as well as I should.
That's about it. Please note this is not medical advice. I am simply outlining the things that have helped me lose the weight and now maintain my current weight. Our bodies are each different. What worked for me may not work for you. Our metabolisms are different, too, so some of us will lose weight more easily than others. My ultimate goal was (and still is) to be healthier and to take better care of my body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I want to nourish my body with good food (at least, most of the time) and keep my heart healthy and strong by keeping active, all while keeping a biblical perspective. Remember that ultimately it is not our size but our heart that matter to the Lord.

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

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