Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that seems to stay relatively constant for our family. Sitting back and reflecting on the constant action of the past few days, I'm thankful for a holiday that I can take time out to say, "Thanks" for...

  1. My sons and daughter who learned to cook and who enjoy making their own amazing dishes and helping in the kitchen! 
  2. My daughter who loves black Friday shopping and spending time with her mom.
  3. Cut throat family games of Trivia Pursuit.
  4. Laughter. 
  5. Hugs and the kids who give them. 
  6. Walking, swimming, and yoga...pain-free.
  7. Twinkling lights and candles.
  8. Family, friends, and a good cup of coffee.
  9. Time to be quiet, rest, and to sleep.
  10. You.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ellen's Favorite Vegetable Chicken Soup

Winter can be a tough time to get veggies in for many people. If you're not a fan of plain cooked vegetables and don't feel like eating salads when it's cold outside, think soup!

Ellen found Jean Carper's recipe for Vegetable Chicken Soup in USA Weekend 13 years ago, and it quickly turned into a go-to favorite! Put it on your list of dishes to try next!

Vegetable Chicken Soup

In a large saucepan, saute until lightly browned. Remove and place in small bowl.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1" chunks
Add to saucepan and cook, stirring until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
Return chicken to pot, add and simmer partially covered for 20 -25 minutes.
  • 1 cup cauliflower, in thick slices or chunks
  • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 4 cups non-fat, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Stir in and cook for 5 minutes.
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn in pieces
  • 5 drops hot chili sauce (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Nutritional info: serves 4. 168 calories per serving/3 units. 19 g. protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 3 g fiber, 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Exercise for a Crazed Woman

I started to pick at a loose edge. I'd been considering peeling it off. I was tired of looking at it. I knew wallpaper hadn't been a current trend in home decorating for a long time. The big yank that followed kicked off a series of actions I call exercise for a crazed woman.

I didn't stop there. I ripped off the wainscoting that skirted the entire breakfast nook and part of the kitchen. It turned out to be glued down with so much glue it ripped off globs of plaster off with every piece. So, I hauled each wood & plaster panel away and set it out by the garbage at the end of the driveway---should have worn my pedometer. I had to use big tubs of spackle, with an extra wide putty knife to get the wall back into shape. Couldn't believe how hard this stage was: sand, spackle, repeat. And, eventually paint. 

Then, like a virus, I keep going. I noticed the entry way looked pretty doggy scratched and worn. Definitely in need of fresh paint on the walls, trim, and door. After I got all that done, I considered why my small foyer had a chair rail around it. Was that a 1950's thing? Since I was still in destructor mode, I got the hammer and chisel out, and ripped that right off. It was spackle time again! Did I have a problem? Or was this a good type of work out?

Seriously. I've never had this much energy for house work, but I headed to our bedroom where water damaged one wall after a raccoon had wrecked havoc on the gutter, pulling it away so water had a chance to seep down the wall. Not so cute. We had the raccoon, roof, and gutter taken care of a couple of years ago. So, I grabbed the wide scrapper, and put some muscle in it as I broke through the dried bubbled bumps. End result: repainted all walls and trim in a calming new neutral. It makes me happy.

The Energizer Bunny was still going, and I had to do something with the half bath. A candle with a wild wick had actually created sooty stuff on my ceiling and walls that wouldn't wash off. Had to repaint. Since I've loved the light blue and white Nantucket-y look I had in there, I just wanted to use my old paint. Except, I had no idea we had so much blue paint. I found 2 cans. I started with the lighter one and got through 3/4 of the room. It just wasn't lightening up to the right shade. I tried the 2nd can on most of the room. Way too bright. Geesh. I gave up and decided a nice light aqua would work. After my 15th trip to Home Depot in a week, I got the entire bathroom done. My husband gets home, looks at it, and says, what do you think? Yea. Then he tells me it'll be "fine." Right. Obviously, he's not a fan. Oh, well. It's done. Fresh, clean paint. A little while later, I run down to the basement's storage closet for more paper towels, and I notice a can of paint on the floor under the shelf. You guessed it. Blue ocean mist or something like that label downstairs bath in big black letters. And, it was 3/4 full. Some weeks are like that. I guess the fact the I didn't find my pretty blue paint gave me lots more exercise in addition to frustration. Does that count as a little extra to my workout routine?

You know, sometimes you just don't have to hit the gym, you get plenty of exercise doing house or yard work. And, lately, I really mean, house work!!

I'm really looking forward to that massage I scheduled this week for those overworked, achy muscles!

Monday, November 11, 2013

John's Vegetable Lentil Soup

I've been married 36 years. To the same guy. Crazy, huh? Especially in this day and age. And it's been getting harder and harder for me to tell people I'm 39 when my oldest just turn 34. Saying I married young can go just so far!

My husband could make 4 things when we were first married: fried eggs, chili, toast, and big mess in the kitchen. At that point, I'd had 9 years of 4-H food units under my belt and finished my food prep courses at Iowa State, so I took it upon myself to teach him to cook and bake. The right way, a.k.a. my way. He caught on to most things pretty fast. The only challenge was that he seemed to dirty every single dish in the kitchen. He wanted every single ingredient pre-meaured, placed into a little bowl, and set aside at the ready. Great way to go if you have a kitchen staff to clean up behind you! But not so fun at clean up time.

These days he's fantastic cook and does really well making dishes healthier without much guidance. Last night, he made a batch of Vegetable Lentil Soup that for dinner that was absolutely wonderful! And best of all, he cleaned up the kitchen and ran the dishwasher.

John's Vegetable Lentil Soup

Rinse in colander:
  • 2 cups dried lentils 

Put lentils into 5-6 quart soup pot. Add and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours:
  • 2 ounces lean ham or chicken sausage, diced
  • 1 cup red wine*
  • 3 cup unsalted cooking stock*
  • 4 cups water*
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • fresh parsley, 3 Tbsp, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried
  • salt, 1 tsp 
  • freshly ground pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • oregano, 1 tsp 
Add and simmer for 30 minutes:
  • 15 oz petite diced tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp wine vinegar
*Use 8 cups total liquid. Most recipes use all water, which is fine. The broth and wine give a richer flavor which seems to need less salt.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our Evening Adventure Dining Out

Amy's incredibly healthy dinner!
A restaurant built around healthy food? Can it possibly survive in the land of super-sizing, deep fat fried Twinkies & turkeys and all-you-can-eat buffets? 

Our evening group was excited to check out the The Leaf Salad Bar in East Lansing last week. As we slowly gathered after work (crazy 5:30 evening traffic!!) we watched a guy choose ingredients that made his smoothie an interesting shade of brown.

Betty having FUN!
Pat's excited for salad time!
Before hitting the food, we mindfully assessed our hunger, aiming to control the food intake. Our strategy for the buffet? Tour the entire line, inspect our options and make choices depending on what looked good and what we didn't always get at home. Perfect.

I was amazed by all the incredibly fresh veggies, nuts, shrimp, and lots of other unique things on the buffet. And, not one wilted leaf or one spotty tomato to be seen. So many deep, rich colors...enough to make a rainbow. I sure hope this place makes it across the street from McDonald's...

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Adventure in Dining Out

Pat G's ready to dig in!
We Americans eat out. I know that's a total shock to you. But, on the average, we're eating out 5 times a week. That's why I take our On the Way to Wellness Weight Loss & Support groups on regular field trips for an adventure in dining out.

I think the morning gang was about ready to drop when I announced we were going to I-Hop. With TV ads of pancakes and waffles piled 6" high with whipped cream and topped other fun calorie sources, I-Hop hasn't held a healthy reputation. But, as I was looking for restaurants, I came across their Simple & Fit menu.

The Simple & Fit choices were intermingled with the entire menu and were denoted by a healthy green leaf. The total calories per serving of each item was listed, making easy choices for all of use. 

Marlene studying the menu carefully
Our gang enjoyed veggie omelet's, whole grain blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, turkey bacon, wheat toast, fresh fruit chunks, and crepes. Sugar-free syrup was offered, but Pat choose a side of powered sugar to sprinkle lightly over her pancakes.The only complaint was that the toast was clearly not whole grain. Oops. Sometimes even if the restaurant server responds to your whole grain inquiry to the positive, they really don't know. There's no question, I-Hop needs to find a good whole grain bread to offer when more healthy savvy customers come to eat!

As you can see, we all had a great time, enjoyed the good coffee, and really
worked on paying attention to hunger levels, and trying to stop eating when we were no longer hungry.

Many thanks to manager Branden at the I-Hop in East Lansing, Michigan! 

Stay tuned: next, I'll be sharing our adventures at The Leaf with the the evening group!