Monthly Archives: February 2012

Monday Menu Plan: 2/27-3/4

Today is my son Christopher’s 5th birthday. Chris is an awesome little guy who deserves the best of everything, so this week’s menu plan is just about 90% Chris-approved. This, of course, is why it looks like a 5 year old picked all the meals ūüėČ We’re going into the city on Wednesday to hit up the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center (is it dorky of me to be mega excited for this?) and we’ll probably be home later so takeout is on the menu for dinner. This weekend is a bonanza of excitement for the kids with a sleepover at Grandpa’s Saturday night and a trip to Monster Jam (!!!) on Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure what we’re eating for dinner but I’m sure it’ll be good. As for today’s festivities, the kids and I will be baking and decorating a cake to voraciously devour after dinner.

Happy Birthday to Chris!

Breakfasts: baked oatmeal, eggs & toast, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, waffles

Lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn, yogurt, jello, hard boiled eggs, graham crackers with peanut butter, roasted chickpeas, spinach & fruit smoothies, goldfish crackers, muffins

Dinner:

Monday
  • hot dogs
  • macaroni and cheese
  • salad
Tuesday
Wednesday
  • takeout (probably pepperoni pizza)
Thursday
  • grilled cheese
  • fresh veggies and dipping sauces
Friday
  • apple cheddar quesadillas
  • salad
Saturday
  • ??? – sleepover at my dad’s
Sunday
  • ??? – Monster Jam (!!!)
What’s on your menu plan this week?¬†Share in the comments section below! If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want information on how to plan a weekly menu, click¬†HERE.

Injuries and a 30 Day Shred Update: Day 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28

Last week my biggest exercising fear came true: I hurt myself. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but my husband says I probably pinched a nerve or strained a muscle while exercising. There is a dull achy pain in the middle of my back that I can ignore for the most part with the help of Motrin (or, you know, wine) but I definitely notice it when I start to slouch or turn my upper body. I’ve contemplated going to the doctor, but the frequency and intensity of the pain is starting to lessen dramatically so I think I’ll stick it out a few more days.¬†As I write this I’m going on day 8 of no exercise, but since I have no intentions of quitting the 30 Day Shred I’m going to start easing back into it. Maybe I’ll do Level 1 for a day or two to ease into things and then pick up where I left off. I have to laugh, because a month ago I wouldn’t have considered Level 1 to be any sort of mechanism for “easing into” anything, but now that I’ve seen the darker side of the workout, I’d gladly welcome Level 1 back into my life with open arms.

How do you handle exercise-related injuries? What influences your decision to stop and rest or just keep going? Share with us in the comments section below!

Day 24: Moving on to the next level of the 30 Day Shred is always welcome after 10 days of monotony. I was all excited for change, and glad to leave those pesky plank twists and pendulum lunges behind me. After making my way through the new-to-me 25 minute session, here’s what I’ve taken away from my first day of Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred:
-Sumo/plie hops make me fear that my uterus might fall out of my body, or that I might pee myself, or all of the above. And holy wow, they make for some serious thigh burn.
-Jump squats and rockstar jumps have highlighted the fact that I have zero coordination. Also, I never knew you needed coordination just to jump in the air. Also, ouch.
Honestly, everything else was okay. I had to do the easier, modified versions of some of the moves, but overall it wasn’t horrible. I wish there were modified versions of the jumping moves, because I have serious doubts that I can tackle them for 9 more days.

Day 25: I really don’t like the jumping exercises. They’re starting to hurt my knees and today I had to stop halfway through each set of moves from the pain. I can do every other move without stopping, but damn those jumps.

Day 26: I decided to not do the jump squats and rockstar jumps anymore, instead replacing them with jumping jacks, jump ropes, high knees and/or butt kicks. I know I’m supposed to push myself past my comfort zone to see results, but the idea of potential injuries just isn’t worth it. We’ll see how it goes with my substitutions. I refuse to give up! As for the sumo/plie squats, they’re an insanely easy (albeit uncomfortable) move and the more I do them the more tolerable they become. I’m not subbing those out for anything, just crossing my fingers that they don’t destroy me. I’m still doing well with all the other moves. Some are really easy for me and some are a little challenging, but I don’t feel like I’m killing myself like with Level 2.

Day 27:¬†It was a good day for exercise today. I mentioned in my last Shred update post that I was going to work out earlier in the day, but the 7am wake-up time took a few days of getting used to (aka I slept in a lot, oops). I managed to be up bright and early today and tackled my workout before 9, and the payoff was worth it. I didn’t drag at all throughout the workout and I had a huge excess of energy for the rest of the day. It was like I drank 10 cups of coffee, minus all the caffeine or midday crash. I’m starting to appreciate why people wake up redonkulously early to fit in a morning workout.

Day 28: Everything was going fine today, I managed to make it all the way through to the middle of circuit 3 without even pausing to catch my breath. The cardio portion of circuit 3 started and I was doing my jump ropes (in place of the rockstar jumps) when all of a sudden… OUCH. I landed from a jump and a serious pain shot right through the middle of my back. I thought maybe I landed funny so I tried to start again, but nope. It definitely was not a one time thing. I stopped right there and skipped the end of the level.

*Day 28 was on February 16. As of today’s post, I haven’t worked out since ūüė¶

If you missed the previous updates you can click on the links below to check them out:

A Few Thoughts on Exercise, and a 30 Day Shred Update (Days 1 & 2)

30 Day Shred Update: Day 3 and 4

Workout Snacks and 30 Day Shred Update: Days 5,6 and 7

30 Day Shred Update: Days 8 & 9

30 Day Shred Update: Days 10, 11 & 12

30 Day Shred Update: Days 13 & 14

30 Day Shred Update: Day 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19

Monday Menu Plan: 2/20-2/26

Every time we eat chicken, we save the leftovers, bones, skin and roasting juices in containers that I keep in the freezer. I do the same with leftover or end bits of vegetables like onions, carrots and celery. When I’ve filled up two or three containers I dump it all into my slow cooker and add enough water to fill the pot at least 3/4 full. The cooker runs all day on low, and by sundown I’ve got a crock pot full of tasty homemade stock. This cuts down my grocery costs as well as food waste, and leaves us with better chicken stock than I could ever buy in a box. Since the components used to make the stock are all byproducts of food items that we already use (and otherwise end up in the trash), the only thing it costs us to make homemade chicken stock is a little bit of time.¬†I use this frugal stock to make soups, cook rice or quinoa, or even braising veggies. Chicken soup is on the menu plan this week, so I’ll be cooking up a big batch of stock tomorrow.

Menu Planning

Breakfasts: oatmeal, eggs & toast, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, waffles

Lunches: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn, yogurt, jello, hard boiled eggs, graham crackers with peanut butter, roasted chickpeas, spinach & fruit smoothies

Dinner:

Monday
  • vegetarian chili
  • cornbread or tortilla chips?
Tuesday
  • vegetable fried rice
  • salad
Wednesday
  • chicken soup
  • homemade rolls
Thursday
Friday
  • baked ziti
  • green beans
Saturday
Sunday
  • dinner at my dad’s
What’s on your menu plan this week?¬†Share in the comments section below! If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want information on how to plan a weekly menu, click¬†HERE.

In the Kitchen: Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip: Mess haters rejoice!

I have a serious love/hate relationship with buffalo wings.

So freakin’ tasty it should be illegal? YES.
So messy it should be illegal? YES.

So here, you see, is my conundrum. There is no way to be able to indulge in the amazingness of wings and retain a single iota of my refined ladylike ways… Oh wait, me? Ladylike? Pbbbbbfffft HA! Who am I kidding, I can’t even say that with a straight face. For realsies, I’m just a weenie and hate to eat messy food.

I was wasting my evening researching ways to better my homemaking skillz on Pinterest¬†one night when I came across a link for buffalo chicken dip. The manfood gods answered my prayers for a socially acceptable, lady-friendly way to enjoy one of the finer guilty pleasures in life. The¬†original recipe¬†was from Allrecipes.com, but of course I can’t just leave it alone so I tweaked it a little and ended up with one helluva good dip.

Make it. Eat it. Love it. Enjoy.

Here's your "before" shot. I would've taken an "after" shot, but I was too busy eating it all up.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(adapted from THIS recipe on Allrecipes.com)

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (enough for 4 cups of shredded chicken)
2-8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup blue cheese dressing
1 cup¬†¬†Frank’s Red Hot¬ģ buffalo sauce (or other buffalo style hot sauce)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken to the pot and boil over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool for 30 minutes, and shred with a fork. You should have about 4 cups of shredded chicken.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On the stovetop while the oven heats, add the shredded chicken and hot sauce to a skillet over medium heat. Stir to coat chicken and cook until heated through. Add the cream cheese and dressing and heat through, stirring frequently until the cream cheese is melted and fully incorporated into the chicken mixture. Add the cheddar cheese to the chicken mixture and stir to combine.

3. Transfer the mixture to a 2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes, or until bubbly and hot.

4. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with celery sticks, carrot sticks, tortilla chips, crusty bread and/or crackers. Or just take a spoon and eat it straight from the dish. I won’t judge, I promise.

Tips and Tricks:

* If you ended up with too much shredded chicken, you can store any extra shredded chicken in the fridge for 3-4 days or the freezer for up to 4 months. Use your leftover shredded chicken for tacos/enchiladas, wraps, salads or to make more buffalo chicken dip!

* You can add a few teaspoons of salt or chicken bouillon to the boiling water if you want to enhance the flavor of the chicken.

* If you’re waist-watching, use neufchatel or low fat cream cheese. Don’t be afraid to use low fat or fat free dressing. If you aren’t a huge fan of blue cheese, use ranch dressing instead (as called for in the original recipe). On a side note, my husband gags at the thought of blue cheese, but he gobbled up the dip like it was nobody’s business. Either he’s called a truce with his lifelong hatred of blue cheese or it was just that good (or, as he said, it doesn’t really taste “blue cheesy” enough to bother him).

* After baking, a little bit of reddish oil rose up to the top of the dip. I just took a napkin and blotted most of it up, and whatever I couldn’t get out I stirred back into the dip before serving. After a little reading, I discovered that the oil is from the shredded cheddar. I suppose if you want to avoid it looking oily you can leave the cheddar out without compromising the deliciousness of the dip. If anyone makes it sans-cheddar, let me know how it turns out!

* Looking for a meatless version of buffalo chicken dip? Michelle over at The Cooking Life has a seriously delicious looking lacto-vegetarian recipe for buffalo chickpea dip. Check it out and prepare to get your drool-face on!

*This dip can be stored in the fridge (and sampled liberally) for 4 to 5 days. I can’t attest to its shelf life beyond that, because it was gone before it had a chance to become inedible.

* My bad for not taking a “prepared” shot. If you want to know what it looks like prepared, you can Google Image search “buffalo chicken dip“. Or you can take my word for it when I say that it looks very gobble-worthy.

 

Nerdy 30.

Yesterday I turned 30.

(Yes, I was born on Valentine’s Day.)

Oh, hello there.

I’m just about the lamest 30 year old ever, and¬†I warned my husband that if I got any kind of party action he’d likely get punched in the stomach. I took comfort in knowing it would be a relaxing, comfortable day.¬†We spent the day running errands with the kids and hitting up the library. There’s nothing like treating myself to a few good borrowed books on my big day.

Embracing my inner nerd with a few good X-Men comics.

Then I hunkered down cozily on the trusty papasan and finally finished my current book.

OMG. Total book crush.

My wonderful husband made an early dinner for the kids, engaged in birthday song shenanigans and made me a lovely salmon and asparagus dinner. To truly appreciate the dinner, you need to be filled in on a little secret. My husband totally, completely, 110% abhors fish and on a normal day will not touch it with a ten foot pole. But by golly, he cooks up the most delicious salmon I’ve ever eaten. Since it’s quite the rare beast around these parts, I take it whenever I can get it.

Sorry, no picture of dinner. I was too busy om nom nomming it up. Instead, here's a snapshot of my favorite wine which accompanied my favorite dinner.

To finish off my low-key day, I hunkered down with some chocolate cake and Breaking Dawn for a guilty pleasure ending to my happy birthday. No shame.

Chocolate mousse cake from Angela Mia in Norwalk. Holy wow, their cakes are good.

I'm totally Team Edward. Woot.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. Happy birthday to me.

Monday Menu Plan: 2/13-2/19

This Tuesday (yes, Valentine’s Day) is my birthday. I have no idea what our plans are for dinner, but I really hope it includes a very large, very chocolatey chocolate cake. I hope the birthday gods read my blog, or at least my husband.

Happy Birthday to me.

Breakfasts: oatmeal, eggs & toast, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, waffles

Lunches: chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies

Snacks: fresh fruit and veggies, popcorn, yogurt, veggie straws, jello, hard boiled eggs, spinach smoothies

Dinner:

Monday
  • vegetable fried rice
  • salad
Tuesday
  • birthday dinner
Wednesday
  • grilled cheese
  • fresh veggies and ranch dip
Thursday
  • pasta with tomato sauce
  • salad
Friday
  • roasted chicken
  • salad
Saturday
Sunday
  • dinner at my dad’s
What’s on your menu plan this week?¬†Share in the comments section below! If you blog your own menu plan, leave a link so we can check it out. And if you want information on how to plan a weekly menu, click¬†HERE.

In the Kitchen: Self-Serving Snack Box Tutorial and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

1 fruit + 2 veggies + 1 "other" = snack box success!

This is a snapshot of a typical day at our house:

(While I’m doing a load of laundry) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m scrubbing the toilet) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m exercising) “Mommy, I’m hungry!”
(While I’m in the bathroom, shower, or otherwise momentarily indisposed) “Mommy I’m sooo hungry!”
(While I’m washing dishes… right after breakfast/lunch/dinner) “Mommy, I’m sooo hungry I’m going to starve and die if you don’t feed me unreasonably colossal amounts of food right noooooooooooow!”

It’s enough to drive a crazy person even crazier.

I’ve approached the situation from numerous angles. Here is what I’ve tried:

  • “No” = Fail
  • “No” + trying to reason with a 3 and 4 year old that they just ate and shouldn’t be hungry = Fail
  • “At least wait until I’m off the toilet/done paying bills/have washed the bleach off my hands” = Fail
  • Allowing my children liberal access to the fridge = Fail (you’d think this would work, but they just whined that they couldn’t find anything to eat and hounded me to find them a snack)

I was ready to throw in the towel and set up a permanent residence in my kitchen, since it was becoming apparent that I wasn’t allowed to leave it lest my kids become hungry and need another snack. But in a wonderful twist of fate, I came across a photo that someone posted on Facebook of a¬†Tupperware¬†full of snacks. The caption indicated that they fill the Tupperware each day with a variety of healthy snacks and leave it in an accessible place in the fridge for their child to graze on throughout the day. THIS! This was the answer to my conundrum. I wish I could find the original source and give credit where credit is due, but I can’t seem to hunt it down. So to the genius who passed along this life saving idea: Thank you, you are golden.

So how do you set up a snack box for your children? First, find a non-breakable container that will hold a few assorted snacks. I used plastic food storage containers from Ikea, but you could use Tupperware, a small shoe box, brown paper bags, lunch boxes or sacks, or even those plastic takeout containers.

Next, pick snacks. I take advantage of my children’s grazing habits to fulfill the fruit and vegetable guidelines, knowing that they’re more likely to nibble on a veggie if it’s at their leisure rather than when it’s a requirement on their dinner plate. I use a “1 fruit/2 veggies/1 other” formula to decide what goes into our snack boxes. Here’s a list of possible options for creating your own snack box:

Fruit:
1/2 banana
apple or pear slices
segmented orange
grapes
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc)
stonefruit (ie peach, plum, nectarine, etc)
2-3 prunes
applesauce
kiwi slices
dried fruit (apricots, apples, mangoes, banana chips, etc)

Vegetables:
baby carrots or carrot sticks
broccoli spears
cauliflower florets
frozen peas or green beans
kale chips
tomato slices or cherry tomatoes
celery with nut butter or cream cheese
cucumber slices

Other:
popcorn
graham crackers
1/2 muffin
goldfish or other small crackers
yogurt
granola or granola bar
veggie straws or pretzels
nuts and raisins or dried cranberries (trail mix)
roasted chickpeas
hard boiled egg
cheese cubes, slices or string cheese
rice cakes
sunflower or pumpkin seeds

*For children who are apprehensive about eating plain raw veggies, you can include something tasty for dipping:
hummus or other bean dip
guacamole
ranch dressing
cottage cheese
cream cheese or sour cream mixed with herbs
peanut butter dip
marinara sauce
salsa
yogurt
ketchup

The containers in the photo above are silicone baking cups that I picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond. They’re the perfect size for holding little people portions of food. No worries if you don’t have those, you can use little sandwich baggies or any other small food container you might have. I’ve also recently stumbled upon bento lunch boxes¬†that would be perfect for snack boxes and eliminate the need for using individual snack containers.

You’ll want to find a spot in the fridge that is easily accessible for the kids so they can grab and go without hounding you as you’re honing your inner Grammy Award winning superstar¬†shaving your legs in the shower. Or, you know, pooping.

Lastly, sit down with your children and tell them that if they’re hungry in between “designated feeding times” (yes I run my home like a zoo, mwuahahaha) they can help themselves to whatever is in their snack box without having to ask. Explain that they can eat that food whenever they want, but when it’s gone it’s gone. So if they eat it all by 10 in the morning they’re going to have to starve in silence until lunch, regularly scheduled snacktime and/or dinner, because they’ve been pre-warned of the consequences of overindulging. I guarantee you the first couple of times they might excitedly gobble up all those snacks faster than you can blink, and then come to you 5 minutes later with tears of hunger streaming down their cheeks, begging for more food. Don’t cave in to their wily demands. Slowly but surely they’ll learn the concept of self-regulating and only eating as much as they need to at a given moment.

Try incorporating healthy snack boxes into your daily routine if your little ones are perpetually hungry food hounds like mine. I promise you’ll start hearing less of the “H” word in no time.

On a side note, this whole snack box idea has gone over so well with the kids that I might start making one for myself. As a stay at home mom the fridge has become a regular haunt, as well as my own best friend/worst enemy. Having pre-portioned healthy snacks at my fingertips might just help keep my boredom/mindless snacking habits in check.

What healthy snacks would you fill your snack box with? Share with us in the comments section below!