Monday, April 30, 2012

Strawberry Cake

Yep - still working with strawberries. We have a few more weeks - so just humor me.

I have a post almost ready to show about eating out. But, can't seem to get the photos right.

So, until then...

Picking with the kids was fun. Still planning on going back at least one more time.

I had the craving for strawberry cake. I found this recipe and thought I would try it. I decided to do half with my regular buttercream frosting for the kids and the other half with cream cheese frosting and some no sugar jam (for ME!!)

This is how it turned out. YUM.

The kids...

I must say, next time, I think I will try without the jello - or maybe half the jello? I found the cake base to be a little too sweet.

Do you have a favorite strawberry cake recipe?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin mini muffins - plain

 Large pumpkin muffins (not jumbo) with raisins and walnuts. YUM!

These are my FAVORITE muffins. Healthy? Well, partly. I use whole grains, pumpkin, reduced fat - but they still have plenty of fat and sugar. Don't make these too big (although the structure can handle it and the original recipe made these jumbo muffins). I just try to make them smaller to help control calories.

3 cups flour (I use 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup ground oatmeal - sometimes this varies depending on what I have on hand. If all you have is white and whole wheat flour, don't go less than 1/2 white flour or you will notice a difference in flavor and texture.)
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter + 2 TBSP (cool room temp about 68deg)
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup fat free yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.
Combine 1st 5 ingredients in a separate bowl.
In Mixer: Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated.
Add the pumpkin. It will look like this...

Add 1/3 the flour mixture.
Add 1/2 the yogurt.
Add 1/3 flour mixture.
Add remaining yogurt.
Add remaining flour mixture. It will look like a thick cookie dough...

Put liners in the muffin tins.
Fill cups 3/4 full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. You may need to rotate pans halfway through cooking (depending on your oven).
Makes 15-18 muffins.

You can add to these muffins - I like to mix in raisins, shredded carrots and nuts. Just don't add too much - they are healthy, but do add calories. My kids really like these with mini chocolate chips. If I eat those - they are for dessert!

This is a pick of raisins and walnuts added to the dough. Yes, it looks just like chocolate chip cookie dough.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lesson 4: Reducing and Changing Cues

Why do we eat what we eat?

There are many reasons we eat.
1. Hunger. Yes, physical hunger is the obvious. We need to eat to nourish our bodies. BUT, there are also times we have a desire to eat without feeling physical hunger.
2. Thoughts and Feelings. Emotions can trigger eating. For example, I go to sugary treats when frustrated or bored.
3. What other people do. If a friend offers you some food, you may feel obligated to eat it - or just want to eat it.
4. Sights and Smells. Just seeing or smelling food can trigger the desire to eat.
5. Activities. Watching TV, going to a ballgame, going to the movies. How often do you NOT think of the foods you will eat when doing these (or other) activities? Never right? right? Yeah, me too.

So, how do we change our behaviors and habits?

1. Stay away or hide!

  • Don't keep your 'trouble' foods in the house or at work. If you must, use single servings, or hide them. Don't keep them in plain sight.
  • Use opaque containers.
  • When you finish eating (at home or a restaurant), remove the plate or put a napkin on top.  If at a restaurant, ask for a to go container right away. Put any 'extra' in the box so you won't be tempted to eat 3 servings instead of one. 

2. Build a new healthier habit.

  • Keep the healthy stuff in sight. Put the healthy stuff in prominent locations in the fridge, not so healthy stuff in the back.
  • Set a designated eating place in the  house. Restrict your eating to this one place.
  • Separate eating from other activities. No more watching TV while eating. :(
  • Use smaller dishes - ones that better fit the correct portion size. You are less likely to feel 'cheated' if using smaller dishes with the correct portions. Correct portions and large dishes makes you feel like you are eating nothing.
  • Don't eat while cooking/baking. (Ohhh, the calories I must consume before we are ready to eat!!)

Shopping: Yep, this can be troublesome for all of us. Make a list. Stick to it! Don't go to the store hungry. Don't be a slave to coupons. Just because it is on sale - doesn't mean it is good for you.

Examine your habits...

Make a plan. Figure out what your 'bad' habits are and make a plan to change them. Write it down. There is something about having something in writing that helps to stick to the plan!

So - what are your habits? How do you plan to change them?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strawberries, Strawberries, and MORE Strawberries

I am VERY excited! It is Strawberry season in NC. My youngest BEGGED me this morning to go picking. How could I resist? So, away we went. We didn't pick a ton - as the others will want to pick as well.

Happy Dance!

First, we ate a few - because who can resist strawberries staring at you and calling your name?

Then we got home and washed a few to eat a few more.

Then, I decided they would be REALLY yummy with chocolate! Instead of dipping, I drizzled - in the interest of not going crazy on calories. But, you will see some are a bit heavy on the chocolate (the kids will get those - they don't have any problems running around outside!).

Then, I had a bit of chocolate left over - time to cover some bananas,

pretzel rods,

and since there was some bacon sitting left over from last night's dinner I put some chocolate on that. WHAT??? Yes, I decided to give it a go. A friend said it was AMAZING. I haven't tried it yet - I will have to update you on the result later.

Hope you all are enjoying your strawberries (or are starting to plan what you will do with yours once they are ready).

Jam making this weekend!!!

Addendum... Chocolate covered bacon - good, but not at all worth the calories. At least, not for me. Hubby liked it more than I did, but he loves bacon so much, he would prefer no chocolate. It was fun to experiment though!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lesson 3: Healthy Eating

Yep, most of us just need to eat healthier and eat less. I am guessing we all know what that means. But, if you want a little refresher, here are some tips. And, remember, the definition of healthy can vary - a lot. I have to set the bar on the low side - otherwise I may just drive myself nuts! I am in LOVE with carbs. Any kind of carb. I have been trying to eat more foods I prepare and fewer prepackaged foods, more 'natural' foods (foods that come from the earth) fewer foods from a factory. I have nothing against pre-packaged foods. I still use them a lot. I just figure that fruits and vegetables are probably better for me than oreos. But, it is a work in progress.

That are lots of ways to change eating habits. Three main areas are:
1. How you eat
2. What you eat
3. How you prepare food

How You Eat
  • Have a regular pattern of meals.  Stick to a schedule - this will help from getting too hungry and losing control. Try to set colorie goals for each meal. If you can plan your food for the day, you will be less likely to indulge and go crazy.
  • Eat slowly.  This helps to better digest food and give your body time to feel full. You will also be more aware of what you are eating and when you feel full.
  • Don't worry about cleaning your plate. (Do any of us worry about this?? Not me, I am usually more worried about seeing an empty plate and still feeling hungry! :) ) Serve yourself smaller portions. When eating, stop periodically, put your fork down and do a hunger test. If you do not feel hungry, push the plate aside.
  • Veggies first. Fill up on all the veggies first, then eat the food on the rest of the plate.
  • Smaller plate. Use a smaller plate than you normally would. This will help to decrease portions AND fool your body into thinking you have just as much as you did with the large plate. Weird, I know, but this DOES work.

What You Eat

  • Everything in Moderation! Eat high fat/high calorie foods less often.
Less of this... 

  • Eat smaller portions of the high fat/high calorie foods.
  • Eat LARGER portions of low fat/low calorie foods.
More of this...
  • Try substituting lower calorie options when possible  - use low fat margarine, mayonnaise, cheeses, salad dressing, etc. WARNING - 'low fat' options still have calories and often have MORE sugar than the 'regular' option. READ THE LABELS.
  • Instead of flavoring foods with fat - try spices or other low fat options.
  • Lower the fat content in the meat you eat. Buy lean cuts. Trim visible fat. Broil, roast, bake, grill - no frying. Remove skin from chicken and turkey. Choose a white meat. Drain off fat after cooking. Eat more FISH!

How You Prepare Food
  • Avoid Frying food.
  • Use vegetable spray instead of oil.
  • Use 2 egg whites instead of a whole egg.
  • Again - use more spices and less fat
  • When baking, incorporate more whole grains. You can substitute up to half the regular flour in MOST baked goods without significant changes in flavor and texture. You can certainly use entire whole grains - BUT you are warned, you and your family WILL know the difference. I like to use a combination of whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and wheat germ. There are many other options, I just have never tried them.
  • You can 'hide' pureed veggies into several meals as well.
  • Substitute for fats. There are many options for removing fats from foods by substituting low fat yogurt, low fat sour cream, unsweetened applesauce, flax seed, etc. I like to substitute SOME of the fat. Again, you can substitute all of the fat, but the texture will suffer. I don't have a ratio here to stick to, but you can experiment a bit. Non-fat options tend to make the texture rubbery.

There are several blogs out there with healthy recipes. Just be careful - everyone's definition of healthy is different. Make sure to check the nutrition content. Calories, fat, carbs, fiber, sugar. It all counts. You just have to find the right balance. If you have a favorite site for recipes - please share.

Happy Eating!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lesson 2: Intro to Weight Loss

At first, it seems a little weird that the introduction to weight loss is the second lesson - but I guess the idea was to get us started by setting goals and then work in the rest of the facts. I guess it doesn't really matter - I am just following the program here. So, I will get on with it...

This information is based from a Diabetes Prevention Program funded by the NIH. Surprise, surprise, the study found that easting right and exercising reduced your risk of diabetes.

This program supports making gradual, healthy, and reasonable changes. No cold turkey here. No instant changing everything. I knew there was a reason I liked this plan! This plan is designed to help lose 1-2 lbs per week.

We may be a bit unsteady at first, but we will get stronger!

The key to weight loss is controlling calories. You have to eat less and exercise more. Yep - that simple. To lose 1 pound you need to burn 3500 calories (eek!) more than you eat. To do this, you need to create a deficit of 500 calories per day. If you want to lose 2 pounds, you need a 1000 calorie deficit. Oh - the standard 2000 calories per day recommended - that's for average height and weight people. Those of us that are short - should be more like 1700 calories (what????).

Remember, these are just averages. Your metabolism rate changes things as well. BUT, most of us do NOT have a high metabolism -so that's not much of a help. (SIGH).

So, how do we do this?

  • Exercise AT LEAST 2.5 hours per week (~750 calories)
    • Pick activities you like
    • work up to your goal - this could take up to 4 weeks
    • spread the exercise out over several days 3-6 days is recommended
  • if you are less than 200 lbs - you should be eating about 1200 calories per day
  • if you  are more than 200 lbs - you should eat about 1500 calories per day
This helps us be aware of what exactly we are doing.  Write down everything you eat, when you eat it, and how much you exercise. This has been found to be the single best predictor of successful weight loss. Get your pens ready!

  • Be honest and complete - don't lie - it will only hurt you. Don't forget everything you drink and all the extras like butter, dressings, etc. Carry your journal with you  so you can keep track wherever you go. There are apps for this now, if that is easier for you.
  • Be accurate. Read labels. Use calorie guides (I have used this one)
    • Measure your foods to increase accuracy. You may be surprised at how little the serving sizes are.
  • For those of you familiar with Weight Watchers - this is a big thing for the program. For good reason! You can use their systems, or just count calories. Either way - you MUST know what you are eating!
  • At the end of each week, give yourself a grade on how well you stuck to your goals. Think about your exercise and eating habits.
A little about behaviors. I tend to be an emotional eater. When stressed, upset, bored, etc I go to the kitchen. This is always a battle for me. Do you struggle with this too? It is helpful to write down emotions in the guide too. I find when I am recording everything I eat, I tend to eat less, just be cause I don't want to write it down. Emotions and justifications are funny things. There are books out there on this subject and how to deal with it.

One other tip - Take pictures of yourself as you go. Every month or two. It is hard to see results when you are looking at yourself every day. Pictures help to show the changes. Body Measurements are also good. Sometimes, the scale doesn't show the whole picture.

Good Luck! If you are interested in a food log, I have an electronic version of the one included in this study. Happy to email it to you if you are interested. Just leave a comment.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Birthdays and tutorial

This past week, we have celebrated the birth of 2 of my little ones! The youngest turned 3 and the oldest turned 9 - just 4 days apart.

Can you say cake overload? Pink cupcakes for the youngest and army tanks for the oldest. I actually had a little foresight to make the cakes the day before. I only had 1.5 hours to put these together. The boys thought they were cool. Mission accomplished.

I have not had the courage to step on the scale the scale the past couple of days. And Easter is just around the corner. AHHHH! I am trying to at least make sure I get some exercise in each day. I can't say I have been 100% successful, but close. Here's to maintaining weight!

The oldest had a sleep over party - 6 boys. Lots of sugar and not much sleep. BUT, they had a GREAT time. Marshmallow shooters (guns), camp fire, and a warm rain. I don't think they could have asked for a better evening. We spent 5 hours outside! Few. My house thanks me.

The boys were coverd in so much mud, they needed showers and I had to wash their cloths.  

LUCKILY, we have a mini shower in our mud room - so all of the mud was contained to the mudroom! YAY! Hard to see all of the mud in this pic - trust me, it was there!

The boys 'made' their guns. We had all the pieces cut and then they assembled and decorated. I just love the new duct tapes that are available these days. They could use UNC or camouflage. I had whipped up the ammo sashes earlier in the day. One some of the kids they worked well, on others - not so much. A top flap wouldl have been helpful to keep the marshmallows in.

Our guns are similar to these. Ours were built a little different, but basically the same steps.

Ammo sash
I didn't take pictures as I was making these - no time. So, here is a quick and dirty explanation of what I did. Let me know if you have any questions.

For the sashes, I cut 2 pieces of fabric 3"x25". Sew together on one (short) end (right sides together). Serge long sides. Cut 2 pieces of fabric 8" x 9" (these are for the pockets). Serge all 4 sides on each piece. Pin the 'short' side of the pocket to the side of the sash - about 8" down from the top seam. Pin the other 'short' side to the other side of the sash. Do this again for the second pocket - about 1.5" below the 1st pocket. You will secure these sides (the middle will be 'flapping free' for now). Once secured, now you can make one large pleat across the bottom of the pocket. Pin in place and sew. repeat for second pocket. I would suggest adding a flap on top of each pocket to help keep the marshmallows in place. Just make them 3" wide and secure above each pocket. I serged everything for this project - as I needed it to be fast and easy. You can always just turn under and hem everything. That was too time consuming (I only had 2 hours to make 8 of these babies). Then, turn right sides together and make a 45 degree line across the bottom and sew. This secures the bottom of the sash. Where this is placed depends on the size of the kid (or adult).

This is a close up of the pocket (the top is pointing to the bottom of the screen). Sorry, can't seem to get it rotated. Notice the serged sides.

Next up - Easter...