Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Grain and Nut Whole Wheat Pancakes

I am really excited about this week's Tasty Tuesday post :) It has been one of my favorites so far! 

Have you ever tried the Harvest Grain 'N Nut Pancakes from IHOP? If you haven't, you are missing out...they are crazy delicious! If you have...you know exactly what I mean :) 

The bad news is...they are probably not really all that healthy if they come from IHOP (c'mon, let's face it...it's IHOP...). The good news...I am about to share with you a pretty dang awesome substitute recipe :)

I found this recipe at allrecipes.com, and read some of the reviews and decided to give it a shot. I was actually a little nervous at first because I have never made pancakes completely from scratch. The best I have ever done is adding an egg to the Aunt Jemima mix that comes from a box...of course! The scary thing is...Walter LOVES Aunt Jemima...like seriously, one time I bought Hungry Jack pancake mix and he looked like a little kid that just lost his puppy. So not only was I trying something new for the first time, I had to live up to the queen of pancakes. Yikes!

Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (I just used instant...worked fine)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I substituted 1/2 cup applesauce!)
1 egg (I used 2...)
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional - I definitely used them!)

I had read some of the reviews for the pancakes, and the only complaint really was that some people found them to be pretty dry. That is why I added an egg and used applesauce instead of vegetable oil. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and I think that added some nice flavor too :) 

1. Grind the oats in a blender or food processor until fine. In a large bowl, combine ground oats, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. In another bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, oil (applesauce), egg(s), (vanilla and cinnamon) with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix wet ingredients into dry with a few swift strokes. Stir in nuts, if desired.
3. Lightly oil a skillet or griddle (I used a little I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray), and preheat it to medium heat. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot skillet; cook the pancakes 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until brown.

I think my stove is a little slow (I hate electric stoves, by the way...), so I actually heated my skillet a little hotter. Mine worked great when I had it set around medium-high heat and cooked for about 4 minutes per side. One thing I would recommend anytime you are making pancakes: try to only flip them once; they will stay more on the fluffy side instead of the flat side :)

They were probably some of the best pancakes I have ever had! One bit of warning though...that recipe makes a whole bunch of pancakes! haha. I think I ended up with 11 pancakes total...and they were not small pancakes...they were pretty good size!

Nutrition info:
(*Note: this is what was on the website, so I don't know if it's exact since I changed the oil to applesauce and added an egg*)
Servings: 6 (2 pancakes)
Calories: 383
Total Fat: 15.5 g

Unfortunately they did not give anymore information than that on the website, but I'm going to bet there was a lot of fiber! ;) 

In addition to the 3 tablespoons of walnuts, I also added a tablespoon of chopped pecans, and I will probably add a little more next time (I guess I'm trying to say I like the nuts...). I will also probably cut the recipe in half so that I don't have a freezer full of pancakes when I'm done next time :) Another thing I would recommend, as I did with the French Toast, is real maple syrup...none of that pancake (high-fructose corn) syrup stuff! It was delicious! I actually just ate one pancake (okay, okay...and half of another one while they were cooking...), with my real maple syrup, and cut up a banana to have with it...it was delicious! Also, they were very moist - I think it was the applesauce! - so I really didn't even need much syrup to make them taste good!


Friday, January 27, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good: I have made a little progress with some wedding things this week!

We officially have a wedding website:

And thanks to my awesome sister who bought us a domain name, it is just our names and not the long one that the actual wedding website gave us :)

I created it at mywedding.com. It was really simple to use, and free, which of course I liked, and it doesn't have obnoxious ads or anything like that. It has a place to list information about you as a couple, the wedding party, other details/events, as well as provides a place for RSVP (since I'm pretty sure nobody sends in those response cards anymore...) and a place to list your registries!

Speaking of...I also finished setting up our honeymoon registry, which was a lot of fun :) We had already registered for some gifts for the home, but since we are 25, have lived on our own for so long and already have the essentials for a house, I thought a honeymoon registry would be a good alternative in case people wanted to add a little adventure to our lives ;) 

When I started researching honeymoon registry websites, I couldn't believe how much the website itself was charging the gift givers/wedding couple (depending on how you look at it)! Most of them kept 7-10% of the amount that people gave as gifts before it actually gave the gifts to the wedding couple. Umm...no thank you. I  contemplated doing lots of work to set up one on my own and just use PayPal, but then I found Honeyfund. It is a free honeymoon registry website, but it uses PayPal as an optional payment method - so the only kicker there is that PayPal does charge some small fees (2.9% of the payment + $0.30 per transaction). BUT it gives gift givers the option to give the wedding couple the gift as a cash or check gift, which is of course fee-less. It does have a few ads on the page, but I like free, so I can live with that :)

I honestly don't anticipate a lot of wedding gifts considering we do have a lot of things we need already. Not to mention, the people that are coming to our wedding are already sacrificing more than we could ever ask to be there and I am completely and overwhelmingly honored by how many people are actually coming to share our big day with us! But I have had a few people ask me where we are registered and what we need, so I thought having some registry options would be beneficial :)

The bad: Though I have made some progress with the above mentioned items, I am falling behind on the invitation details. We did send out Save the Dates a long time ago, which had all of the information about the resort and how to make reservations through our travel agency...and I think most people that are planning on coming have already booked or at least told me they plan too...but I still want to send out the official invitation. I am just trying to plan a few more details ("rehearsal" dinner, reception, etc.) before I have them made. I need really need to get on that...I also have my PhD proposal draft due a week from today...so I kinda have my hands full. This has been a bit of a hectic week...which leads me to...

The Ugly: 

Tax returns.


I have been working like a madwoman all week on getting my taxes done. I really miss the days when I could just file the simple little 1040EZ form and call it good. With the way my scholarship pays me, they don't automatically deduct my taxes from my paycheck, which means I have to pay them myself, directly. Also, with my internship this summer, I had a whole heap of travel expenses that qualified as deductions. I miss the days of "standard deduction," which I could still take, I would just have to pay more taxes, and who wants to do that? So I've been hunting down and sorting through receipts all week and finally got it all settled. Fortunately, I was warned that I needed to make quarterly tax payments to the federal government in order to avoid penalties and interest for late tax payments. Unfortunately, I did not know that also applied to state taxes (I know, probably should've used a little deductive reason there, but I didn't). So the good news is I get a decent little chunk of money back from the federal government, but the bad news is I do owe the state a small fortune. Thanks to some advice I got last year from my friend who is an accountant, I saved 25% of every paycheck I ever got for the sole purposes of using it on taxes if I needed it...which is significantly more than I actually had to pay in after all my deductions...so even though I owe the state some money, it is still kinda like getting a tax refund :) 

My take-away here is mostly just that filing taxes can be an ugly process. Plan ahead. If your employer doesn't take them out for you, be sure to pay your quarterly tax payments (both federal and state). If you can get your employer to just take them out for you, please do. And know that I'm super jealous of those of you that have that ability. Also, I highly recommend taxslayer.com if you are doing your taxes yourself. It is super handy and walks you through every detail and helps you take every deduction properly.

Now onto brighter things...like wedding invitations and becoming Dr. Woods someday. 
Well...actually it'll be Dr. Merriman by then! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tasty...Thursday :) - Slow Cooker Lasagna and eating healthy on a budget

Since I missed "Tasty Tuesday," I thought I would just opt for Tasty Thursday instead.

I told you here about our New Year's resolution to try at least one new recipe each week. We have actually been doing more than one each week...maybe we should slow down so I don't run out of ideas before the end of the year ;) But no, really it has been kinda fun, although time consuming (and money consuming...) at times...trying new things, finding out if we like it enough to make it again, and expanding my cooking repertoire beyond boxed and frozen dinners.

We are really enjoying our new slow cooker, and so far, we've probably been doing at least one meal a week in it. I like lasagna a lot, but had never made it homemade before. I am a big fan of the Stouffer's Lasagna in my grocer's freezer...I actually really like it (Walter makes fun of me for it even...), but I thought I should maybe venture out a bit and try something new. I found "Chef Meg's Slow Cooker Lasagna" recipe on my SparkRecipes iPad app, and it was a hit.

- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 cups eggplant, diced (no need to peel it)
*Note: I had never eaten eggplant before, much less diced it myself. I found this YouTube video to coach me through it: Cooking Tips: How to Dice Purple Eggplant)
- 1 jar low-sodium marinara sauce
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese, part skim
- 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped (I used 1 tsp of dried parsley)
- 1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg white - I used egg white)
- 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
- 6 lasagna noodles, dried, no boil variety (I didn't know what no boil variety meant and just used plain ol' Great Value lasagna noodles...they worked perfectly fine!)

1.) Brown the ground beef in a skillet over moderate heat; drain.
2.) Stir in red pepper flakes, thyme, sauce, eggplant and water.
3.) In a bowl, combine egg, ricotta, Italian cheese blend and parsley.
4.) Place enough meat sauce to cover the bottom of slow cooker. Top with 2-3 noodles, broken to cover the meat sauce. Repeat layer.
5.) Top second layer with cheese mixture and finish with a top layer of the meat mixture.
6.) Cover and set slow cooker on low. Cook for 3.5-4 hours.

Nutrition Info:
This makes 8 servings with 271 Calories, 10.2 g of fat, 56.6 mg cholesterol, 283.8 mg sodium, 145.2 mg potassium, 18 g carbohydrate (1.6 g dietary fiber), and 24.8 g of protein per serving.

It was really yummy, and it was definitely 'lighter' than most lasagna I have ever had, which we liked. I think next time I make it I am going to try ground turkey instead of beef!

Onto the next topic...

We are discovering that eating healthy is not cheap. I really like the idea of trying to make more meals from scratch and eating more fresh vegetable and fruit, but it is definitely not easy on the pocketbook. It is definitely more frugal to just buy the pre-made/boxed/frozen stuff, especially when cooking for two. It's crazy to me to think that I was spending about $150 a month on groceries (sometimes less!) when it was just me, but now that my soldier is home, we are spending $350+ a month on groceries just for the two of us and it is a stretch to even do that. He definitely eats more than me, but it's also that we have been trying to do more things fresh and homemade. Another thing that sucks is that even coupons don't really help us that much because you can't get coupons for produce (at least not to my knowledge...if I am missing out on a hidden wealth of information, please enlighten me!). But I wanted to share a couple of things that are helping us to at least keep the spending down as much as we possibly can:

1.) Make a menu!

I cannot stress this enough. This is the part that can be a bit time consuming, especially when trying to come up with new recipes, but I can only imagine how much we save by doing this. We make a menu at the beginning of every week for 3 meals each day. We normally just do smoothies in the morning during the week...they are best for our workout schedule, and the ingredients we use in our smoothies go a long way. Usually one day a week we do oatmeal with fruit and protein powder, and one day a week (usually on the weekend) we actually make a nice breakfast. Making a menu helps us to plan ahead and think of which meals will probably have leftovers...which leads me to my 2nd tip...

2.) Save and take advantage of leftovers!

If I know I am making a meal that has enough servings to last for a 2nd or 3rd meal, we can plan on having that for lunch the next day or so. I know some people don't like leftovers...and can I just say that I think you're crazy? haha. I love leftovers. I take my lunch to work almost every day, and sandwiches just get old sometimes. Plus, on those long days where I get home and just don't feel like cooking, I love being able to just take something out of the fridge, warm it up and call it dinner :) Not to mention it saves money because you can get 2-3 meals for the price of one!

3.) Make a grocery list!

This kinda goes along with tip #1, but when you make your weekly menu, make a list of everything you need to make those meals before you go to the grocery store. This will help you avoid wasting money on things you don't really need.

4.) Use items you already have!

Before I make our menu/grocery list every week, I look in the cabinets/fridge to see what I already have. There are times (like those lazy evenings where I come home and heat up leftovers) that I don't stick EXACTLY to the menu every week. That is going to happen! BUT if you didn't make it last week, go ahead and add it to the menu for the upcoming week! This will also save you a little bit of time while making your menu because you already have one of the meals covered :) Also, a lot of times you may buy something (like cheese, pasta, etc) and not use it all at one time. Pay attention to things that you have and pick out recipes that require ingredients you already have on hand. This will also help you to use up stuff before it goes bad...one of the most frustrating things to me is when I clean out my fridge for trash day and find things that went bad that I could've used if only I would've paid attention before they spoiled!

Well that's all I can think of for now. I am going to try to find more ways to cut grocery costs while still maintaining healthy eating habits, and as I do, I will share them with you :) If you happen to have any tips I didn't mention, please send them my way!

Happy Thursday! :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Training AND Wedding Update! :)

Okay. I have to admit. I've been a slacker.

In my defense, I was in a car wreck, and my neck hurt for most of the week. Not to mention the drugs...(prescription of course)

I still have some once-in-a-while spasms in my neck and back, and I'm starting to think the knots (a.k.a. "lymphnodes") are going to set up permanent residence in my neck...but for the most part, I am feeling much better, and am ready to get back to it.

Here is what Week 2 was supposed to look like:                                         

Week 2 Mon
AM Chest & Back, Ab Ripper X
PM 3 mile P
AM Plyometrics
PM 2 mile F
AM Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X
PM 4 mile P
AM Yoga X
AM Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X
PM 3 mile E
AM Kenpo X
PM 2 mile H
AM Stretch X

Here is what it really looked like:
Week 2 Mon
AM Skipped out...
PM Didn't even go into work...
AM Stayed home from work again...
PM Stretch X 
AM At least went to work...
PM Came home and took drugs...
AM Met with lawyer.
PM Wasted my time with mono doctor...
AM Legs & Back, half of Ab Ripper X (hurray!)
PM Got a good run in: 3 mile H (2 of 'em F)
(hurray again!)
AM Watched nephew's basketball game...
PM Hung out with family & friends...
AM Went to church. Took nap...
PM Played an indoor soccer game!
So yeah. I pretty much blew it as far as the training schedule goes. I did the P90X Stretch workout on Tuesday, and that really did help a lot with the stiffness, but after that I was pretty much spent for the day. Wednesday was my first day back to work, and after that, I came home, took some pain meds and totally vegged out on the couch. Thursday was the first day I felt like I could probably do something resembling a real workout, but I was 1) busy and 2) scared of making the pain come back.

Friday was a good day! We got up early and did the P90X Legs & Back workout, and attempted doing the Ab Ripper X...but I made it into the first 5 minutes or so, and then my neck couldn't handle the strain anymore...so I quit and got ready for work. Friday was such a nice day, and I was determined to attempt running at least ONE day this past week. I set out to do 3 miles...and managed to do the first 2 at a pretty brisk pace (about 9:10...which is fairly fast for me), plus it was a hilly run...so by mile 3 I just ran it kinda slow because it was mostly uphill...but I managed to finish the full 3 miles in 28:34, which is a pretty good time for me. I was proud of myself! :) Then we went to eat swordfish for dinner at Powerhouse (Thank you LivingSocial)!

Saturday we got up really early and drove to Oklahoma to watch my 8-year-old nephew play some little league basketball. Very entertaining, if I do say so myself :) We hung out with my sister, brother-in-law and the kiddos that afternoon, and then came home and spent the evening with some good friends...Not exactly productive in the workout arena, but enjoyable nonetheless! :)

Today I had really good intentions of doing the Kenpo X workout, since I skipped out yesterday (and most of the rest of the week for that matter)...but it didn't happen. We got up, went to church, came home and took a nice afternoon nap...woke up, ate some leftovers for lunch, and then it was time for my indoor soccer game. We lost, but I can definitely say I ran a lot!

This week is supposed to be a repeat of the P90X schedule, and my goal is to get up every morning and stick to that this week. The Freakin' Eurekan is exactly 3 weeks from yesterday, and I need to kick it in gear. My running schedule for the coming week (Week 3) looks like this:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
3 4 mile E 3 mile F 5 mile P REST 3 mile P 3 mile H REST 18 miles

My plan is to stick to it for the most part. Wednesday is my "long" run for the week...5 miles...so if I can accomplish that, I will be happy, and hopefully pretty well back on schedule. If for some reason I don't make it to 5 miles on Wednesday, I am just going to keep trying until I make it that far at my race pace goal of about 9:30-9:45 per mile. I will keep you posted :)

On a completely different note, I have some other exciting news! 

Our beach wedding ceremony is officially less than 4 months away! I am currently working on all kinds of fun stuff to prepare for that...finalizing details for our passport invitations (I told you about them here), completing our gift registries and setting up a honeymoon registry (I will tell you more about that in a future post!), etc. As of Thursday, all four of my bridesmaids are booked for the trip! Our guest list is growing, and as of right now, we have 19 rooms booked at our resort for the wedding...which means we are one room away from qualifying for the free wedding package that the Iberostar Cozumel offers! :) :) :)

I can't wait to get some more of the details finished and get to post an update with pictures...it's going to be fun :) But for now...it's almost 10:00, which means it is bedtime for this girl, and P90X in the morning!


Friday, January 20, 2012

A pain in my neck...

My neck and upper back is still a little tight from the car wreck we were involved in almost a week ago.

But this is about a different kind of pain in the neck...

The wreck happened on Saturday evening, and Sunday night we were sitting on the couch and I lifted my hand to rub my neck where it was the most sore and I realized I had a couple of knots on the right side of my neck. At first, there were just two, and they were only tender to the touch. As Monday came, I realized there were two more knots in my neck, right next to each other, and a little lower than the other two. So I now had four knots. And they were starting to ache a little bit, no longer just tender to the touch...

Tuesday comes. I feel yet another knot in my neck...but this one is farther down, kinda where my neck attaches to my shoulder. Wednesday comes, and they are starting to not just hurt when I touched them, but were achy almost constantly, and sometimes throbbing.

So, of course, I do the thing that any intelligent human being would do, and I call the doctor to schedule a follow up appointment on Thursday. Since I am a graduate student, I have a medical insurance policy through the University. In order for the insurance to cover all of the expenses, they make you go to the University Health Center on campus...otherwise you have to pay out of pocket, and depending on which doctor you go to (in/out of network), you could end up having to foot the majority of the bill, even if you have insurance. 

So of course, I call the University Health Center. I explain over the phone that I had been in a rear-end collision, was checked out in the ER right after the accident, have some neck pain and stiffness, and am now starting to notice some lumps in my neck. They schedule me an appointment for yesterday afternoon, and I explain, first to a nurse, then to a doctor, exactly what I had stated over the phone. She asks me a few questions that seem to me to have absolutely no relevance to my neck injury, but I play along anyways.

Then she proceeds to tell me that she thinks the knots in my neck are lymphnodes, and suggests that I probably have mono...

I honestly wanted to laugh...but I kept my composure...and tried to refrain from telling her I thought she was crazy (although I must say, usually my face says exactly what I think...so I'm sure that was a worthless effort...).

The nurse takes me back to the lab area to have blood drawn to test me for a virus...

10-15 minutes later, they call me back and the doctor informs me that my blood counts are perfectly normal, and I do NOT have mono (shocker, I know...). She then tells me she thinks my neck is fine, and doesn't know what's wrong with me, but if I would like for her to do a chest x-ray to ensure that I don't have anything in my chest, she will. I respectfully decline, at this point, completely annoyed that I have just wasted an hour of my life to find out that I don't have a virus...because I was sooo concerned about that to being with? 

All that to say...I have lost all faith in the University Health Center. The five knots are still there...and they are pretty achy most the time, and throb occasionally.  I am pretty sure I have a torn muscle or tissue of some kind, and I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse. If it does, I'm thinking I would rather pay for some real medical advice than go back to the Health Center. 

Please excuse my rant. I'll stop now.

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Workout Update and Tasty Tuesday

I have been asked to update on my progress for P90X and my 15K training...so here goes :)

This past Saturday marked week 1 down on the P90X calendar. I did every day, Monday - Saturday, without skipping. 1 down, 12 to go. Week 2 isn't starting off so great, but I will explain that in a bit.  So far, I have learned that I am a wimp when it comes to upper body strength, but I have pretty strong legs. Out of the first 6 days of P90X, I think the Plyometrics and the Kenpo are my favorite ones (go figure, the ones with the most cardio...). The "strength" ones, like shoulders, arms, back, etc....not so much my strong points. But hey, that's why I'm doing it right? To improve what is weak. I have been doing all of the "strength" ones with resistance bands and 5 & 8 lb dumbbells. That is working well for me, and I don't think I will ever reach the point where I can do pull-ups with the bar. haha. Not to mention, light(ish) weights with more reps is what is going to help tone me up. I have no desire to look like a muscle woman. Yoga is also not my favorite. It is the longest video (about an hour and a half long), and it is supposed to be "relaxing"...but really, I mostly find it boring. haha. I sometimes think I have ADD or something. Twisting my body in weird formations and focusing on "breathing" for an entire 90 minutes is a chore for me. Maybe as I get better at it, I will come to enjoy it more. I will keep you posted ;)

The running has been going okay. I ran at least two 3-mile runs last week, and last Friday when it was pretty cold outside, we even managed to force ourselves to go to the HPER (the University of Arkansas fitness facility). I was reminded of how much I hate running on a treadmill. There is something to running outside for me. It's freeing, relaxing, scenic, and I feel like I'm actually going somewhere. I also like that I can slow down a bit when I get tired and speed up a bit when I feel more energized (without pushing a button)...rather than on a treadmill that makes me go the same speed the entire time. I manage to pace myself pretty well while running outdoors at around at 9:30-9:45 per mile pace...but for some reason, running constant at 9:40 on the treadmill was a bit more difficult for me. I think it has something to do with the air...it was warmer inside the HPER, and the air just seemed thicker than the fresh, outdoor air. I only managed to do about 2 miles at the 9:30-9:40 pace (I really don't like having to push buttons when I feel the need to slow down or speed up...), then I walked about a quarter of a mile at a brisk pace, and then jogged another half mile as fast I could manage without flying off the treadmill...so I got in about 2.75 miles total for my first treadmill run in a while. I wish I could've gotten farther, but I do feel like I was pushing my cardio out of it's comfort zone, so that's good, right? :)

Anyhow...week one went well. As I mentioned above, week 2 isn't exactly off to a stellar start. Saturday night my older sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and little sister came to visit from Oklahoma for the weekend. We had these great plans of going to Fast Lane, which is a place about 25 minutes or so from my house that has indoor go-carts, an arcade, laser tag, bowling, etc. The kids were so excited to go, and I think the adults were almost just as excited! We got about two miles away from my house on our way there, and had just stopped at a red light, when out of nowhere we hear a super loud "BANG!" sound. At first, none of us even realized what had just happened, until my 8-year-old nephew shouts, "What was THAT?!" Then our necks started throbbing, and we realized we had just been rear-ended. I have been in my fair share of wrecks, but I have never felt that much of an impact. As we got out of the car, called 911 to send the police and ambulance, and tried to keep the kids calm and make sure everyone was okay, a witness informs my brother-in-law that he was staying to give a statement to the police. Apparently, the woman that hit us (who also had her 3 children in the car...) was going 55+ miles per hour (in a 45mph zone), had just swerved around him and cut him off, and never so much as tapped her brakes before hitting us. There were absolutely no skidmarks, which backed up his claim. 

So...long story short, we got pounded from behind at about 55 miles per hour, spent 4 hours in the emergency room getting checked out, and never made it to Fast Lane to ride go-carts and play some skeeball. Bummer :( But the good news is, other than two (most likely) totaled vehicles, no one was seriously injured. My sister, brother-in-law, Walter and myself have some pretty intense neck/back pain, but other than that, we all walked away mostly unscathed. I am actually quite impressed at my sister's car (a Chrysler Pacifica) and it's ability to withstand an impact like that. It has some pretty severe frame damage, and the back door won't open, but no glass broke, and the 3 kids that were in the back seat closest to the impact were ready to go ride go-carts the next day. Unfortunately the adults couldn't quite handle that kind of activity, so it was a big disappointment for them :( So for now, it's pain meds and muscle relaxers, and not a lot of working out.

I missed my soccer game on Sunday, didn't workout at all yesterday, and just did the P90X Stretch video today in hope that it would loosen me up a bit and get rid of some of the tension. Only time will tell...but hopefully by tomorrow I can at least get out of the house and do something productive.

On a completely different note, it is Tuesday, which means it's time for Tasty Tuesday! I forgot to take a picture of this one, but it is definitely yummy and worth sharing:

French (women don't get fat) Toast
(found in SparkRecipes iPad app)

1/4 cup egg beaters (I used egg whites)
1/8 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
non-stick cooking spray
2 pieces whole wheat bread (I used Health Nut by Orowheat brand...it was delicious!)

1.) Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
2.) In a shallow bowl/dish, combine the first four ingredients. Mix well.
3.) Dip a piece of bread flat in the bowl, letting it soak up the liquid, but not so much that it falls apart. Do this on both sides.
4.) Put the bread on the skillet, cooking it on both sides until browned. Repeat this process for the next piece of bread.
5.) Put it on a plate and top it with favorite toppings (such as fresh fruit, maple syrup, powdered sugar or whipped cream)! 

I used pure maple syrup. It is a bit more expensive than your typical pancake syrup, but much healthier because it is naturally sweet and does not have any high fructose corn syrup in it :) 

Nutrition Info:
This recipe makes 2 pieces of french toast, or 1 serving
150.2 Calories, 1.6 g of fat, 227.1 mg sodium, 61.7 mg potassium, 21.7 g carbohydrate (4.6 g dietary fiber), and 12.1 g protein per serving (toppings not included in nutrition info).

So there you have it...a very simple and very delicious French Toast recipe. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Workout Frenzy!

Two exciting things happened last weekend: My soldier found out he has his first post-deployment PT test scheduled for the first weekend in April, and I found out about the Freakin' Eurekan 15K Trail Race...which I decided to sign up for with my friend Christie! It's February 11th, which is exactly one month from today...so I have some work to do!

The better half and I decided we needed to start working out together, and we started this week. Monday we kicked off the P90X dvd program. If you've read some of my blogs in the past, you may know that I am a fan of the Insanity program. I have never tried P90X until now...and I am definitely feeling it (it's kicking my butt...). I have always been skeptical (and still am...) of trying out P90X...mainly because every female I see in the videos or on advertisements looks pretty manly. haha...so I already told Walter that if I started to look/feel bulky, I'm probably going to quit on him. But for now, I am going to stay positive and give it a shot...use lighter weights and see where I end up. The good thing is, P90X is going to be really good for him to build up his strength and get ready for his PT test...and if we stick with it from here, we will finish up the 13 weeks JUST in time for his PT test :)  We took "before" pictures today...I thought about posting them on here, but then I figured I'd really rather not...haha. But if I am able to stick through the full 90 days, I will take an "after" picture and post them both at that point. I don't mind a little humiliation, so long as I am able to prove improvement...haha ;)

So far this week, we have been waking up early every morning to do P90X. I am going to do my best to stick to that schedule...I am a firm believer that morning workouts are the best. It reduces laziness and sleeping in by giving you a good reason to get out of bed, keeps your metabolism higher so you burn more calories and makes you feel more energized throughout the day, and makes you get tired at night when you're supposed to be tired so that you can get a good night's sleep and be fully rested for the next day. Consistency, both with working out and sleep schedules, is key to a healthy lifestyle.

Now onto #2: the 15K (9.3 miles)! I officially signed up today and spent the $35, so now I HAVE to do it...which will help motivate me to train properly! :) The last major run I did was a half marathon (13.1 miles) in mid-November. I was able to run the entire thing...which I was really proud of, and it was something I have wanted to cross off my bucket list for a long time now! However, I did not train as much as I should have for it, and it took a lot out of me. I was really sore for a few days after, and the last thing I wanted to do was run. Then came the holidays...and I turned into a big, fat slacker. I had hardly ran at all until a week or two ago. Fortunately, running comes back to me fairly quickly, and I have been able to get in two 3-mile runs this week. I am going to take a break tomorrow and do 4 on Friday and see how I do :) I looked online to try to find a good training schedule for a 15K, but I didn't have much luck...most of them were 8-12 weeks. Counting this week, I have just under 5 weeks until race day. So I made my own little training schedule:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
1 3 mile E 2 mile P 3 mile P REST 4 mile E 2 mile H REST 14 miles
2 3 mile P 2 mile F 4 mile P REST 3 mile E 2 mile H REST 14 miles
3 4 mile E 3 mile F 5 mile P REST 3 mile P 3 mile H REST 18 miles
4 4 mile P 3 mile F 6 mile P REST 3 mile P 8 mile P REST 24 miles
5 4 mile P 3 mile H 5 mile P REST REST  15K! REST 21.3 miles

E = easy; P = race pace; H = hills; F = fast

I started this on Monday, and I already skipped Tuesday...it was raining. haha. But I am going to try really hard to stick with this for the next few weeks. On days that it is rainy or too cold, I need to get the discipline to go to the gym and run on the treadmill...I just really hate treadmills. But I need to do it! haha. My goal is to run at a 9:30 per mile pace, so on days designated with "P", I plan to run at that pace. "E" days will be a little slower than race pace (9:45-10min pace), and "F" days will be faster than race pace (8:45-9min pace). This may improve over time and with more running, but for right now, that is my goal :) The days designated with "H", I plan on doing runs on campus - in case you haven't been to the University of Arkansas campus, it's really hilly. I have never personally seen the Freakin' Eurekan race trail, but I have heard it is rough. And Eureka Springs is a very beautiful, and very hilly area...so I can only imagine. So I figure it wise to at least incorporate some shorter, but super hilly runs into my training schedule. 

Here are some pictures I found that give me a glimpse into the Freakin' Eurekan Trail:
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It's going to be crazy, but I am super excited! I hope I can complete the whole thing and actually run the entire 9.3 miles :)

So there you have it...P90X in the mornings, running in the afternoons. I am going to be one busy (and sore) girl for the next several weeks. It'll be a good thing though...the wedding and honeymoon is approaching, and we are down to just over 4 months. I better look good, dangit! ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Easy Taco Soup

I told you last week about our "New Years" Resolution to try out at least one new recipe each week. We have actually tried out 3 new ones since that post, and have liked them all...(what can I say? maybe we just like food...)

So today for Tasty Tuesday, I wanted to share with you my favorite one from this week: Easy Taco Soup

I'm not kidding by the way...this one is easy :) Maybe that's why I love it so much...but I promise, it does taste really good too! :)

This one is a slow cooker recipe. My sister actually got us a really awesome Cooks slow cooker for Christmas, and I have used it twice so far. Let me just say...I am a fan :) It is a really nice one...has settings for low, medium and warm, and it also has a timer, which I really like because I can set it for as long as I need and it will not overcook stuff and make it too mushy or anything. It's fantastic :) 

We got this recipes from SparkRecipes iPad app. Here is how you do it...

1 lb. frozen chicken breast
1 can great northern beans (undrained)
1 can black beans (undrained)
1 can dark red kidney beans (partially drained)
1 can corn (undrained)
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (powder)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (a.k.a. Rotel tomatoes - undrained)
dash of cumin

-Do not defrost chicken first. Put it in first, on the bottom of the slow cooker, closest to the heating mechanism.
-Do not drain any of the cans except for the kidney beans, and even then, only drain what sits on top of the can - leave 3/4ths undrained.
-Cook for 1 hour on high, or 6 on low.
-Once done cooking, shred chicken with a fork while still in the pot (I acutally took the chicken out and shredded it with a fork on top of a cutting board because it was a little easier to maneuver).

Nutrition Information:
Makes eight 8oz. servings
Calories: 262.2
Total Fat: 2.9g
Total Carbs: 44.4g
           -Dietary Fiber: 11.7g
-Sugars: 2.4g
Protein: 15 g

As you can see, it is low in fat, fairly low in calories, and high in fiber and protein, which is important :)

I served it over a bit of steamed rice and topped it with some shredded cheese and a dollop of fat free sour cream...It was delicious! However, those are not included in the nutrition info..haha :)

The chicken can also be substituted with 1 lb. frozen ground beef, but that would add calories, as well as unnecessary fat.

Bon Appetit! (perhaps I should learn how to say that in Spanish? haha)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"New Year's" Resolution and Tasty Tuesday

I am not normally one to make a New Year's Resolution. Mostly because I think that if you're going to change something, you should do it NOW rather than two months from now just because it's something "new." Make the new start NOW. I also think most people tend to make either a) unreasonable resolutions, like "I'm going to do ______ every single day!" (to say you are going to do something every single day for me, would probably just be setting myself up for failure. One day I will be too tired or too busy, and I won't do it...and once I skip once, it's easier to skip again...), or b) just don't really "resolve" to do anything different. I hear people all the time say something like "I want to lose weight this year." Well, how are you going to do that? The pounds are not just going to fall off, you have to work them off, eat less and/or more healthy, or (most likely so) a combination of all of that. 

I felt like my "new year" actually started about two weeks ago when I got my soldier back from his deployment. We are getting to start fresh in a lot of ways...planning our monthly budget together (and rearranging our budget now that we are not making as much money since he is returning to school and no longer on active duty), working out together, taking trips together, going to see movies together, etc. Actually living our lives together, rather than 9000 miles apart with crappy (if any at all) internet, is completely new in and of itself. Two of the things we are really trying to do is stick to a consistent budget and eat healthy. Also, I came from one of those families that ate a lot of hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, and ramen noodles growing up. It was kinda like coming from a package was a qualifier for any meal we ate at home. That being said, I never really learned how to cook. Now that I am starting my own family...I think it's time I started building some sort of cooking repertoire. Fortunately, I am actually one of those really blessed females that has a man that loves to cook. Since he has been back we have really been trying to focus on eating out as little as possible, and cooking healthy meals at home. We have already been doing this quite a bit since he got home on December 18th, but we kinda decided today that this was going to be our "new year's resolution":

We resolve to try at least one new recipe each week.

We want to try new things, learn how to cook a variety of dishes, and continue to eat healthy.  One of the major ways we are doing this (among other things) is by cooking with more fresh vegetables rather than stuff from a can. This is a bit of an adventure for me...Hamburger Helper doesn't have vegetables...

So...we have started looking through cookbooks, using our Beachbody meal plan books (I have Insanity and he has P90X), and a handy iPad app we found called SparkRecipes. Thanks to Betty Crocker, we found a really yummy one that we tried out last week, so I thought I would share it with you :) When we find a good one, I will try to share it on here...maybe every Tuesday, but I make no promises :)

Mixed Roasted Vegetables and Pasta

1 medium green or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. whole mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped fresh or 2 tablespoons dried basil leaves (we used dried)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups uncooked pasta 
(the recipe suggested cavatappi, which is the corkscrew lookin' kind, but we wanted to add some fiber, so we went with whole wheat penne pasta :)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups shredded cheese blend
(the recipe suggested Italian-style four-cheese blend, but we just used some mozzarella and cheddar because that's what we had in the fridge :)

1. Heat oven to 450 F.
2. In 15x10 pan or shallow 3-quart casserole, place bell peppers, onion, zucchini and mushrooms. Sprinkle evenly with basil.
(15x10 is a really big pan...we used our 13x9 Pyrex dish and managed just fine, we just had to be careful when stirring things later to not spill...)
3. In a small bowl, mix oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper; drizzle evenly over vegetables. Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Add tomatoes and pasta to vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered about 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and cheese is melted.

This makes 6 servings, at 360 Calories, 14g of fat, 40g of carbs, 4g of fiber and 18g of protein per serving.

It was really scrumptious! We loved it, and have definitely decided that it is something we will make again :)

Here's to a happy, healthy and blessed new year to you and yours!

Happy 2012!