Thursday, May 31, 2012

When staying up late...

...don't make the same mistake that I did last night.

Here's the background.  I went to the store to get milk and a few other items that we needed.  I had plans to make yogurt...again, since we've all been eating it *including me*.  This last batch was 71 calories per 1/2 cup.  I digress.  Milk was on sale for $1.57/gallon, so I figured I'd make yogurt using the entire gallon *because you can.*

I put the milk in the crockpot *I used a bigger one; it's 5 or 6 quarts* at shortly after 8.  The girls were put to bed and I started making granola.  I made this delicious granola that can be found here.  I didn't make the 30 servings that it suggests, but cut it in half.  For my purposes, it still made 30 servings *I'm figuring about a 1/4 cup per probably could use less*.  I also didn't use all of the ingredients listed *I didn't have:  sunflower seeds, oat bran, pecans, or maple syrup.*  Instead of the oat bran, I used flaxseed meal *but only a 1/2c instead of 3/4c* and instead of the maple syrup, I used sugar free breakfast syrup.  I also used 2 tablespoons of regular butter and 6 tablespoons of light butter instead of the vegetable oil.  I omitted the raisins.  After baking it and allowing it to cool, I needed wanted to taste-test for quality assurance, so I had some of our homemade yogurt with the granola on top.

At about 10:30, I checked the temp on the milk.  It wasn't there yet.  At this point, I was already fading.  I'd had some decaf coffee and some dark chocolate.  Then I had... and ....

Are you seeing a pattern?  I was having difficulty staying awake long enough to get the milk ready to go in the oven.  My coping mechanism for staying awake is food.  I did this in college...often.  When it finally  got to temp, I then needed to cool it.  Ugh!  More waiting!  I got the wrapped crockpot into the oven shortly after midnight.

There are several morals to this story.  #1--It takes quite a bit longer to get a gallon of milk to temp than a half start early.  #2--If you're not wrapped up in making yogurt and you're very tired...Go.  To.  BED!!

If you get caught up in this dilemma, remember to track everything.  Things like this happen and we just need to keep ourselves accountable.

**Edited to add:  1/2 cup of my yogurt *the one I made with myself in mind* works perfectly with 2 tablespoons of the granola.  Yum!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More fun with yogurt!

After my friend told me about starting her yogurt on the stove, I decided to give it a whirl with fat free *or skim* milk.  What I really wanted to see was if I could make yogurt for me too.  The only difference would be that I'd substitute splenda, agave nectar or honey in place of the sugar that I've used in the girls' yogurt.  So, let the 'experiment' begin.

I put the milk in a large pan on one of the large burners.  I turned the heat to medium, but decided after a bit that it seemed too hot.  I turned it down to medium-low *on my stove it's 2-3*.  I was working on cleaning up my kitchen and doing the dishes, so I was right there to monitor the pan.  I stirred often because, I didn't want scorched milk on the bottom of the pan.  It easily took me an hour to get it to temp.  My friend uses a gas stove and said she thought that it took about 30 minutes.

This is my pan up to temp.  *My other burners are missing because I'd cleaned the drip pans while I was doing the dishes.  The cleaning never ends.*  After my milk cooled down *about a half hour to 45 minutes*, I added the 'normal' stuff *dry milk and 1 cup of starter*.

Next up:

I put the lid on and wrapped my pan in a towel.  This time when I went to bed, I left the light in the oven on.  I also let my yogurt sit in the oven a bit longer *10 hours* instead of the 8-9 hours I did with the previous batch.  When I pulled it out to stir it, it was definitely thicker than the last batch.  I added the sugar and vanilla, and due to the lack of time before my book study, I put the lid back on the pan and threw it in the fridge.

When I had a chance, I poured it into jars.  I ended up with 4 pints plus enough yogurt to fill 4 freezer pop slots *yes, we've done that too.*  I didn't pull off a cup of my newly made yogurt because I still have my 1 cup in the freezer from the last time.  When I added my 1 cup to this batch, I still had plain yogurt in the fridge, so I used that.  If I factor in the cost of my half gallon of skim milk and the 1 cup of plain yogurt, I'd say I spent roughly a  little over $1.50 for twice the amount of yogurt!  What a deal!  The verdict on which way of preparation I'd prefer?  I'm leaning more towards doing it in the crockpot, mainly because I wouldn't have to stand over it and stir it to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The pan/stove method was faster, but again, if I had the time to 'stand' over it and monitor it.

Since I said something about our freezer pops, I'll go back to that.  A friend of mine said she had put hers in the freezer.  I thought, "Why not?"  I bought one of the freezer pop 'makers' at Family Dollar for a $1.  I poured cherry and peach yogurt into it *up to the top of the hole* and put the stick back in *8 total freezer pops*.  After a couple of hours, they were solid.  I did have to twist the stick a little to loosen the pop from its spot, then lean the container a little so that the pop stays on the stick.  Ha!  It's tricky a piece of cake.  One of the best parts?  The girls love them.  Another positive?  They're cheap!  You want another positive?  Okay...they're healthy.  Still not convinced?  They can be versatile.  What do I mean by that?  You can make your base yogurt vanilla and then add in whole fruit *or chopped up*.  They're also a nice cold treat!  Believe me, I'm sold!

Now, what are you waiting for?  Go make yourself some yogurt and yogurt pops!  You won't regret it!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Staying Busy

With the end of school and other various things beginning, we've remained quite busy these past couple of weeks.  Just a warning, it's picture heavy.  Last week we had this:

This was just the beginning of getting our new counter tops in. 

Definitely challenging when your kitchen is one of your main rooms of the house.

He was laying it out so he knew what he had to work with.

Complete with back splash!

This was nearly complete.  We just needed to wait until the morning before we put the electrical covers back on.

See my 'waterfall'?  I drew that on the slab and he cut it out!  Amazing!

I got the kitchen back to somewhat normal, with a few new additions.

After getting things back to 'normal', there were other projects to attend to.  The friend that helped with the kitchen, also had other things to help me with, since I had been formulating a list.  Next up?  My garden.

Here is my garden.  It's still a work in progress.  On the far left of the picture is my spinach and romaine.  The pots on the end have tomatoes.  I also have potted basil and oregano.  I was just given two pepper plants that I need to plant, but it's been too cold/windy to do it.  It took nearly 3 hours to get it to look the way it does in this picture!

I've been working outside quite a bit, aside from the garden.  There's always weeds to whack, watering to do, etc.  I also had another project to work on.  At the same time I picked up the lumber, dirt, etc. for my garden, I also picked up paint.  Paint for what?  Why for my cupboards in the kitchen!

So, I came back into the house to sand and paint.  This is my nearly finished kitchen.  I still have one more coat of paint to put on the large cupboard door to the right.  It has dropped cold here, so I have put off doing the last coat.  And I'm not exaggerating on the cold thing.  The furnace is on tonight, which means it's less than 68 in the house.

Here's what I had to do tonight...

Yep.  Down into the 20s/30s tonight.  Crazy, no?  Ugh!

The quality isn't good *I took these on our ipod*, but these are my potted goodies.  I actually have one itty bitty tomato on one of the plants.  The two grey pots are my basil.  Yum!

So, as you can see, life hasn't been slow around here.  To top things off, today began the true busy-ness of summer for my hubby.  Today was day 1, of week 1 of the first session of camp.  He went in between 5 & 6 this morning and didn't get home until 8:30*ish*.  This week will be rather quiet, but I'm hoping that the weather will improve again so that the girls and I can get back outside.  After this week, the fun really begins!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The next great food adventure!

So, I tried something new that I had wanted to try before, but always thought you had to have some type of 'special' contraption to make it.  A friend of mine posted about making it in the crock pot and I thought, "No way!!"  So...I googled it.  I stumbled across this recipe for making yogurt *yes, you read that right...YOGURT* in the crock pot.  My friend also posted this recipe.

As I looked over both recipes, I thought...I can totally do this.  It looks like a piece of cake.  So, I went to the store and picked up a half gallon of 2% milk ($1.99) and 32oz container of plain yogurt ($2.69 I believe).  This will be the most expensive batch because from here on out, I can save 1 cup of yogurt from each batch that will get added to the following batch.  Cool, huh?

I started the process at 8pm and based on a little of both recipes, and knowing that my crock pot runs hot, I opted to run it for 2 hours on low. 

After using my food thermometer, it told me that the temp was only at about 140 degrees.  So, I turned it up on high for about another 10-15 minutes just shy of boiling.  I turned it off, leaving the lid off, and every so often walking over to stir it.  After a half hour to 45 minutes, it was ready to add the 1 cup of yogurt *for the live & active cultures* and my 1/2 cup of dry milk. 

Then I put the lid on and wrapped the crock pot.  The whole thing went in the oven.

It stayed in the oven the whole night.  We took the middle kiddo to school and came home to check out the finished product.  All told, our yogurt stayed in the oven for about 9 hours.

Just a note, the yogurt is not as thick as store bought because they use things like pectin to make it thicker.  While it has a 'runnier' consistency, it is still yummy!  You can immediately put in containers and put it in the fridge, or do what we did.  We made up flavors right then and there.  Since I have home canned fruit, we opted for some peaches and cherries.  We also decided to use homemade raspberry jam since we had it on hand.  In the half a cereal bowl that I had left after filling 9 pint jars, I used vanilla extract and a touch of splenda *you probably could use stevia or another alternative sweetener like honey*. 

So here is what we got for $1.99 *basically*:  the green lid container is my 1 cup for the next batch, my half a bowl full of vanilla yogurt, 2 pints of peach yogurt, 2 pints of cherry, and 1 pint of raspberry.  Not bad if I do say so myself.  My girls get 1/2 cup of yogurt as a serving.  That means there is 21 servings for now and 2 more that will be used in the next batch.

The next adventure was going to be using 1% or skim milk to make our yogurt next.  Well, another friend has already mastered that and I was there to see her pull it out of the oven.  It looked great!  I had told her about the yogurt adventure earlier today and she decided to give it a whirl.  The other difference she had was that she put it in a pot and heated the milk up on the stove *stirring often* and achieving the 180 degrees.  She may very well be a new convert as well.  It also seemed that her kids loved it as much as mine did!

This is such a neat adventure and I'm so glad that I've learned about it.  I'm excited to try new flavors and experiment with this new found love.

**Edited to add:  Safeway has their sale ad out for next week *tomorrow* and their half gallon of milk is $.99!  If their full gallons were on sale for $1.57, that would be the better route, but $.99 for all of that yogurt?  Crazy!!  Also...frozen yogurt pops?  Yum! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Almost 3 Months!

No, it's not the age of my shortest little girl, but it is almost my 3 month weight loss goal anniversary.  I still can't believe that it's been nearly 3 months.  The funny thing is, I'm still adjusting and still figuring out how to keep the weight off.  Surprisingly, it isn't as difficult now as it was the first month.  It's actually gotten a little easier.

The rule for Weight Watchers is to remain within 2 pounds of your goal.  That is, either 2 pounds above or 2 pounds below your goal.  In the 3 months I've been in 'maintenance', I've not been over my goal by more than 2 pounds and I've been under by exactly 2 pounds.  Is it safe to say that my body is comfortable where it's at *finally*?  Or, can I expect my body to lose another 5 pounds?  That would be nice, but I'm not pushing for it.  I think hubby likes a *tiny* bit of meat on me, so I'm not sure that I'd be able to pull off another 10.

In thinking of where I'm comfortable, I also have to keep in mind that I have had three beautiful babies.  I could kid myself by thinking that I could be at the weight I was in high school, but I am definitely not one of those girls who is able to pop out a baby and snap back into my pre-pregnancy body.  Not.  Ever.  I do think that eating better and exercising regularly helps to keep one looking younger and perky *as perky as one can be with 3 children*.  While home a couple of weeks ago, one of my mom's friends asked me if I was 18.  Ha!  That sure was a l-o-n-g time ago * practically half my life ago*, but it sure was a nice compliment *goes along with the manager that thought I was a college student back in January!!* 

There will be more exercise get moving opportunities coming up tomorrow.  I'm kind of giddy about it and hope that the change will be a good one for our garden ventures.  A friend of mine is helping me get the lumber and dirt that we need for our raised beds.  We're hoping to have some y-u-m-m-y goodness this summer/early fall.  I've planted here before, but it's difficult with the type of ground that we have *very rocky = not very good for planting.*  The garden is going to include:  summer squash, pumpkins, spinach, romaine, lettuce, kale, and corn.  Ooh and we also have fresh basil, oregano, and tomatoes in pots!  Yum!  With that said, I'll be getting some exercise putting the bed(s) together and getting my stuff planted tomorrow.  I'm also hoping to get our porch finished with the side slats.  You better believe that I'll be wearing my heart rate monitor!

Summer lends itself to lots of exercise get moving opportunities.  What opportunities will you take advantage of this summer?  Swimming?  Walking?  Park play times?  Kicking a soccer ball around with the kiddos?  Whatever it is, enjoy it!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eye Candy

We are a very visual society.  I think we've been like that since the beginning of time.  Often times you hear about someone looking like 'eye candy' and I can relate to that on a food level.  Seriously.  It can be pretty bad, especially at night when I'm hanging out, checking the ole facebook page.  We don't have TV, so there aren't commercials, but if we did, I'd be in trouble at night with all of the dopey food commercials that get flashed across the screen.

So, here I am, checking the ole facebook page, and some of my sweet friends are posting pictures of sweet cupcakes.  Bah!  Of course, if you're reading this, don't feel like you can't post pictures of your beautiful cupcakes that you sell, but sheesh!  It sure makes me want to whip out my mixer and go to town.  Of course, I wouldn't go through all of that effort just to make a cupcake, but there have been times when I wanted something yummy and actually went to the store to get it.

This is part of the reason why I won't buy things and have stuff in the house.  It's because I know that I wouldn't be able to leave it alone.  I also know that my hubby wouldn't be able to leave it alone, nor would my children be able to keep themselves from asking to have some of whatever it is that I had to have in the house.

If you see something that looks good, what does that do to you?  When you're watching TV at night *if you have TV* with all of those evil lovely commercials that come across during prime time, how do you react?  Are you the type of person that can completely ignore them?  Or do they spark some deep desire want that sends you into the kitchen for the next best thing?  And, if you do decide to venture into the kitchen for something, what do you do if you don't find what you're looking for?  Are you the type of person to go out and get something *or maybe send your hubby/significant other* for it?

By knowing what triggers you to indulge in things that are less than beneficial, you might want to try some strategies to keep you busy during those times.  It's so hard and I'm right there with you...minus the commercials.  Some people say that keeping their hands busy by working on a craft, quilting, scrapbooking, etc. helps them to stay away from goodies at night.  Maybe you might even have to forgo watching TV at night to avoid those commercials.  Learn what your triggers are and fight the eye candy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another Review

So here we are, in May and we are so close to being half way through the year.  Can you believe that 2012 is nearly half over?  I'm not really sure I can believe it.  If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that I wrote 12 for '12...that is 12 goals for 2012.  You can find my original post on that here.  You can also see my first review of my goals here.

I'm going to re-list my goals...again.

  1. Get to my goal weight *185* or less and maintain it.  **I have accomplished this!  I made goal on 2/24 and I have been within 2 pounds of my goal ever since.**
  2. Continue to work hard by strengthening my body.  **This is daily.  My legs are sure getting a work out quite frequently now that we're riding a lot more.**
  3. Try to have at least one 'date' with my hubby per month *coffee date, dinner date, something!*   **This will probably get put on the back burner during the summer.  Hubby's schedule is SO busy as it our family schedule.**
  4. Keep trying new recipes.  **We are still doing this frequently.  Our newest favorite is oven fried chicken.  Yum!**
  5. Read more.   **I read 3 books in April and started a 4th, so I'd say I'm doing fairly well with this goal!**
  6. Take time for myself (outside of exercise & my book study)  **I'm still doing this regularly.  My new favorite is taking a bubble bath.**
  7. Continue to blog and share my journey with others.  **My posts are a little further apart, but I'm still working on this.**
  8. Do things with the girls that require going outside and being active.  **We're doing a lot of this.  We've done a lot of bike riding and just playing outside.**
  9. Eat fresh fruits/veggies as much as possible.  **We are still getting our Bountiful Basket and loving it!  We just had fresh summer squash last night with our fish fillets.  It was heavenly!**
  10. Write more letters by hand.  **I have been doing much better with this.  No one knows just how much a hand written note means to people.  It's a true blessing!**
  11. Laugh more.  **Since I went home for a week, I've been doing this a bit more.  I'm not feeling as overwhelmed as I was before.**
  12. Learn how to better express my feelings to others.  **A work in progress.  That's all I have to say about that.**
I believe that it is healthy to reflect on your goals...and often.  I think it helps you to see where you were, where you've been, and how far you've come.

Be sure to pull your goals out from time to time.  If you need to dust them off, then do it.  They might even refresh your vigor.  Just because the year is nearly half over, doesn't mean you can't get moving on some of those goals.  It's never too late to get started on them.  Now is the time!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'm a little nutty!

Yes, it's true.  I'm nutty...over nuts.  I've really started to incorporate nuts in a lot of things lately.  If you're allergic, then disregard this entire post. 

Nuts in moderation can actually be very good for you.  What am I talking about?

The benefits of nuts can include:

1) They are good for your heart (check out the Mayo Clinic)
2) They help to curb your appetite (listed here in ways to curb your appetite)
3) They help to increase your fiber intake (a list of foods to help with fiber can be found here)
4) They are a natural weight loss food (as seen here)
5) They are a good source of protein and minerals (as found here)

To eliminate some of the sodium in my diet, I tend to opt for the dry/unsalted varieties if I can.  My favorite go-to nuts/seeds right now are almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seed kernels.  I've started putting a half serving in my oatmeal in the morning, along with another half a serving on my salad for lunch.  If I have calories to spare, I may sprinkle a few on my dinner salad too.

Yes, they can be expensive, but if you are portioning them correctly, they should last for a while.  I picked up a large bag of unsalted almonds at Sam's Club and it lasts me several months.  The walnuts I picked up in a large bag *on sale* at Fry's and that has lasted me over a month as well.  Sunflower seeds are a bit less expensive and are a fun treat on a salad.  Yum! 

I'd imagine if you're nutty, like me, you might like to stir in some chopped nuts in your yogurt.  Where else do you incorporate nuts/seeds in your diet?  Do you eat them by themselves or with something?

It's good to be nuts over nuts.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Problems with weight loss...

Weight and being over weight is such a huge sensitive issue for so many people.  I just wanted to let everyone know that it is so individual to each person.  There are so many reasons why people struggle with weight.  Reasons can include:  a medical reason *a thyroid disorder, diabetes, or something else*, their budget is tight, or any other number of reasons someone can come up with.

My reasons for being overweight include:  laziness, a tight budget, allowing far too many treats, knowing that my hubby loves me regardless of size, and being 'comfortable' in my ways.

My reasons for losing the weight include, but are not limited to:  wanting to be healthy for myself and  family, wanting to be in pictures with my kids instead of always being behind the camera, not wanting to be out of breath when I chase after my children, setting a healthy example for my children, staying away from the diabetic diagnosis for a while longer *since it is so prevalent in my family history it's still a possibility*, knowing that I was unhappy in my own skin, and feeling like I am desirable to my hubby.

Why am I posting about this?  I can give advice, I can be the best cheerleader, I can blog helpful tips, and share my journey, but really, weight loss is individual.  My food choices may not be your food choices.  That's okay.  My methods may not be your methods, and that's okay too.  Sadly, I can't lose the weight for you, and no offense, wouldn't want to lose it for you either.  I think when you have a long way to go, the journey is what gives you strength.  The only one that can lose your weight is you.

If you're not happy where you're at, maybe it's time to make those thoughts of "I think I might be able to do it" and change them into a solid, "I'm going to do excuses!"  Can your reasons for losing weight outweigh your reasons for being overweight?  If they can, then get moving...NO EXCUSES!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Skinny On Yogurt

I have decided that life without yogurt is terrible.  It's terrible indeed.  My girls eat yogurt like it's their job and I have now incorporated it into my daily diet as well.  I know there are some people that can't get past the thought of putting it in their mouth *my grandmother is one of those people that does not like the taste of yogurt.*  Everyone is different.

I'm not really particular on yogurt type/brand.  I usually get what I can that's on sale or is cheaper than what's available at other stores.  I've recently branched out into Greek yogurt *within the last 4-5 months or so*.  I found out that the reason why it's more expensive is because they have to use more milk.  More milk = more cost for the consumer.

The brands you may see at the store are:

1.) Fage
2.) Chobani
3.) Oikos
4.) Yoplait
5.) Brown Cow

I know that there are several others, but these are the ones that I've tried.  And, believe it or not, all Greek yogurt is not created equal by any shape or form.  Out of the ones that I've listed, Yoplait is my least favorite.  The others have grown on me and I've been able to tweak them to my needs *especially if I get the plain variety and throw my own fruit in it.*  And, to be honest, I have one container of Yoplait left in the fridge, and the only reason I got it was because it was free.  I'm not too sure I'd buy it again.

When all else fails, and Greek yogurt is not on sale, I'll get the light variety of Activia, Yoplait Light, or the Kroger brand light/carb watching yogurt.  For me, what it really comes down to is, the healthy flora that yogurt promotes in your digestive track.  Also, yogurt is a great way to get some dairy into my diet as well.

What are some ways that you get calcium into your diet?  What's your favorite dairy item?  I'd also be interested to hear what you do if you're lactose do you get calcium into your diet?