Monday, January 30, 2012

Crockpot Taco Soup

I guess this recipe is more of a chili, but I like the name "taco soup" - it just sounds more festive!  I made this up in the grocery store!

Quick and Easy Crockpot Taco Soup
1 lb. ground beef (use grass fed - it's better!)
1 large can fire roasted tomatoes (28 oz)
2 cans black beans (14.5 oz)
1 can pinto beans (14.5 oz)
1 can green chilies (4 oz)
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (7 oz)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning
1 cup water or stock

How it's done:
1.  Brown and drain the ground beef.
2.  Rinse and drain the beans.
3.  Put everything in the crock pot on high for 4 hours.
4.  Do something fun for 4 hours while you wait for this to be finished.
5.  Serve with cheese, sour cream, and a side of tortilla chips!

Sharing this at Tasty Tuesdays!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fit Friday - Accountability

One of the biggest things that has helped me have success on this journey to health has been public accountability.  Now, I don't go sharing my weight all around - I'm not that brave (yet).  But, I do use things like Facebook, Twitter, and this blog to share the journey.  In the past, I've always kept attempts at weight loss a little more under wraps.  I'd talk about it with my family, close friends, and co-workers, but I never made it at the forefront of my life.  This time around, I can't seem to shut up about it.  But, that helps keep me motivated.  It helps me to remember that everyone knows about my journey and that so many people are cheering me on.  So don't hide it - share it!  Tell the world...shout it from the rooftops!  Be proud of what you are trying to accomplish!

With that in mind, I'll share...
-I did my first set of push ups in my workout yesterday OFF my knees (as in - military style!) and then the first 6 of 12 reps for the 2nd two sets.
-I REALLY wanted to curl up in my sweats with a glass of wine tonight, but I went to Zumba and TRX anyway.
-I'm down a total of 27.4 pounds.
-I ate at least 10 Palmer Peanut Butter Chocolate hearts today.  Oops.  See - not all good! ;-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Instagram weekend

{watched a student at her clarinet recital}

{crafted my my Valentine mantle}

{went into school and worked on some lesson plans}

{made tons of delicious food for crafts and wine with Michelle}

{did some serious crafting}

{spent time with Jesus over breakfast}

How was your weekend?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fit Tip Friday: Try Something New!

Last week my tip was to find an exercise you LOVE.  Once you do that, don't get stuck in a rut!  Try new things!  Planting yourself on the treadmill and running the same distance every day is not the best way to get fit.  You need to shake things up and break your body out of its comfort zone!

I have tried 2 new things that I thought for sure I'd hate and have actually ended up loving:  Bodyflow and TRX.

Bodyflow is a Les Mills class that combines Tai Chi, Yoga, and Pilates.  It's a faster moving class, in that they switch from one pose to the next a little quicker - which is good for me because the thing I hate about yoga is all the holding!  I am really enjoying this class and I'm so glad I tried it!

Another class I tried and am LOVING is TRX.  TRX is suspension training.  It's hard to describe, because it's strength training using your body weight as resistance as you work through exercises using a set of straps anchored to the ceiling.  That probably didn't make a whole lot of sense, but here is what it looks like:

I don't actually look like that when I do it. Haha!  Here's a video of TRX in action, too!

What's something you've been wanting to try lately but haven't?  Why are you waiting - go do it! :-)


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crazy for Quinoa

Have you tried quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") yet?  If your answer is NO, then you are missing out!!  Quinoa is a delicious, versatile, easy to prepare grain.  It's like rice with a kick.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of quinoa's nutritional info with that of brown rice.  It's a little hard to see, but quinoa has more fiber (4g vs. 2g), more protein (5g vs. 3g) and more vitamins and minerals than brown rice.  It is slightly higher in calories (170 vs. 150), but not by much.  Quinoa also contains essential amino acids like lysine, which aids the body in absorbing calcium. 

This is the most popular yellow quinoa.  Though often thought of as a grain, quinoa is actually the seed of the plant.  Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy, with a little crunch and a slightly nutty flavor.

Quinoa comes in a variety of colors.  I've been able to find the yellow and red in the organic aisle of my regular grocery store.  I found black quinoa at Whole Foods.  My favorite is the red.  It is a little nuttier in flavor than the yellow.  I don't like the black as much, its flavor is a little stronger.  

Quinoa is really easy to cook, and fits like rice into any dish.  The only additional step to cooking it, is to rinse it with cold water first to help ensure that the coating has been totally removed.  Most of this coating is removed when the seed is harvested, but this extra rinse helps.  You simply add one part quinoa to two parts liquid, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  

I have quinoa several times a week as the grain portion of my dinner.  The picture above shows black quinoa, cooked in chicken stock, that I tossed with some roasted tomatoes.  

Here some other quinoa recipes I like:

Find more recipes at Tasty Tuesday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Melody - Still Here

Last week I shared an important health milestone I hit on Wednesday.  Later that same day, I wrote about the "coincidences" that happened.  I think one of the biggest struggles to hit that 25-pounds lost mark was the release of the emotional weight more than the physical weight.

As part of helping myself release that emotional weight,  I started taking the BodyFlow class my gym offers.  According to the Les Mills website, "BODYFLOW™ is the Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates workout that builds flexibility and strength and leaves you feeling centered and calm." 

Last night was the launch of the new round of Body Flow class material, and as we were doing one of the exercises, I heard the word strong in the lyrics of the song that was playing.  Of course, that made me listen in closely and I heard this beautiful song that I feel was yet another message (not coincidence!) from God - a reminder that I'm not moving on from Isaac, but rather moving forward - and that's okay.  

You looked at me and saw what I never could see
You made me feel more than I thought I could ever be
And when I needed a friend you were always there to lift me up
To make me strong
You're not gone

You're still here
With me all the time
You're still here
When I close my eyes
I still see you
I still feel you
And we'll never be apart
You're still here
Still here in my heart
In my heart

Because of you I knew how it felt to be loved
You made me feel beautiful 'cause you believed I was
And I will never forget how you touched my life
You made me feel like I belong
You live on

All my life
You'll be in my life
You'll be part of me
I'll just think of you and you'll still be
You'll still be here


Friday, January 13, 2012

Fit Tip Friday: Love it!

Something that has dramatically impacted my weight loss is finding an exercise I LOVE doing.  For me, it is Zumba!  I love, love, love it.  I've already told you about how much I love my gym.  And I do, I really love it there!  But Zumba is what got me hooked.  When I realized I could spend an hour of my life dancing around and having fun while getting fit, I was in!  I also love that with Zumba, I have to concentrate on the steps, so my mind can't focus on things that it might be stressed out with.  I always leave Zumba with less stress and more energy.

Also, as promised, here are my latest progress pics!
I lost 5 inches in 8 weeks!  I actually only lost about 8 pounds between November and January.  That's 1 pound a week, which is good! However, the really awesome thing is I lost almost FIFTEEN pounds worth of FAT!  The percentage of my body that is lean mass has increased - meaning...I am STRONGER!  Remember that word?

I'll report more results after the next 8 weeks. (at my gym, I get weighed/measured every 8 weeks)  My goal is to have lost 10 pounds.  Oh, and to be able to do the push ups in my workout routine as regular push ups, not girly style push ups.  Stronger, right?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The $170 Wreath

No, I did not make a wreath that cost $170.  I did, however, make a wreath that cost under $10.  My inspiration was this wreath:
Pinterest via Etsy

I spotted it on Pinterest, and when I followed the link to the Etsy shop I was SHOCKED at the price.  $170???  I don't understand.  Why is this wreath so expensive??? Are those real diamonds?  Haha!  So I set out to make my own for MUCH less than $170.

I started with the outside of an embroidery hoop.  I had it left over from my crayon wreath!

I painted the hoop white and tied the ends together with a little ribbon that will also serve as the wreath hanger.

Then, I cut 10 billion pieces of tulle.  Okay not quite 10 billion.  But it was 50 yards of white tulle (about 6 inches wide, $4.99 a 25 yd spool at Hobby Lobby), cut into 12 inch sections.  It was a LOT of tulle.  I don't have a picture of all the tulle, but I do have this picture of one of my cats watching the tulle very carefully.  She really wanted to eat it.

Next came the tying process.  I just tied double knots in the center of each piece around the edge of the hoop.  

After that, I hot glued some shiny stuff onto the center.  I chose a piece of tinsel ribbon (found in my ribbon stash) and a string of silver beads ($1.49 at Hobby Lobby).

One more addition I need to make is to attach some sort of snowflake to help signify that this is a winter wreath and I did not, in fact, just hang a tutu on my door.

Voila!  $170?  Puh-lease.  Try under $10!  And it wasn't even time intensive.  It took about 1 episode of House Hunters followed by 1 episode of Cupcake Wars to complete this.  Also known as, 1.5 hours.  


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It Can't Be Coincidence

This morning, I wrote about how I finally broke the "widow weight" barrier and hit the weight I weighed on my wedding day.

Today when I went to the grocery store and saw these for the first time this Valentine's season.

After Valentine's Day 2009, my mom bought 20 bags of these hearts and we sprinkled them on the tables at my wedding.

I thought that was a funny coincidence.  Then, I was sitting thinking about that coincidence and I realized that today is another anniversary of sorts.  This day, 2 years ago - the Wednesday before Martin Luther King, Jr day, Isaac and I had a conversation I'll never forget.  Isaac was scheduled to go for blood counts the next day, and he'd been feeling really tired all that week.  He said "Tomorrow they'll tell me either I need more red cells and I'll get a transfusion, or it's my oxygen level and I'll have to go on oxygen"  I immediately burst into tears, recalling the words of the MD Anderson oncologist - "When/If Isaac goes on oxygen, he will have only a matter of weeks left." The next day, Isaac was admitted to the hospital and put on permanent oxygen.  He died 7 weeks later.  So I started thinking maybe this wasn't all coincidence.

Then, just now I sat down at my computer to do some schoolwork and turned on my Pandora.  The first song that came on was "You Never Let Go" - the last song I remember standing with Isaac and singing, and also a song we sang at his funeral.  Immediately after that, the song "Came to My Rescue" came on.  That song rarely ever comes on.  That song is the last song that was playing on my Pandora the morning Isaac died.

It can't be coincidence.

The Weight

1 Corinthians 12:9-10

There is a number on the scale that has been taunting me for some time now.  Since the end of November the closest I have come to this number is 1.5 pounds above it.  Throughout December I bounced between 1.5 pounds and 4 pounds about the number.  I haven't been able to get past this one darn number.

You see, it's the number I weighed on this day:

Most women who gain weight after their weddings think of that "wedding day weight" as a major goal.  For me, it was that but it is also a major milestone.  I gained a few pounds after we got married, but most of this extra weight was gained throughout Isaac's declining health and after his death.

And as of this morning, I FINALLY broke that number.  I've lost the 25 pounds of "widow weight".  

Mostly, I feel completely and utterly THRILLED with this!  I am so proud and I feel so strong.  But, there's this little piece of me that has struggled to get past this number because in some way, I feel like holding on to that extra weight was a way of holding on to Isaac.  I know in reality that Isaac would be SO PROUD of me for doing this.  He would be cheering me on every pound lost and every time I up my weights at the gym and he might have even choked down a green monster for me.  Okay, that last part might be pushing it.  

Along with the physical weight I have lost, there has been a huge change in the "emotional" weight I've been carrying.  I can't begin to explain how GOOD I feel.  I have more energy, I sleep better, I am more confident, I am in a better mood (usually).  This comes from not just the physical work I've been doing, but the spiritual work as well.  I work hard at staying in God's Word regularly, at praying more consistently, at praising more frequently.  

I can't remember a time in recent memory that I have felt this much peace, joy, and contentment.  I thank God for giving me the strength to keep working at this.  I thank Him for blessing me with 8 months of marriage to someone as amazing as Isaac, who showed me what it really means to have God's strength in even our weakest times.  

Progress photos coming on Friday! :-)
Find more inspiration at Word Filled Wednesdays and Women Living Well!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fit Tip Friday - The Green Monster

While I'm in the process of losing weight and working out, I thought I'd share some of the tips, tricks, and information I've been learning and gathering along the way!  So here's the first "Fit Tip Friday"!

Every morning for breakfast, I drink a "Green Monster".  The original recipe can be found at Oh, She Glows.  My recipe is almost the exact same thing, just a few minor tweeks.  It has enough protein to keep me full for several hours, some healthy fat from the coconut milk and peanut butter, and the nutritional benefits of spinach and bananas!  It's a delicious and easy way to start the day off with a couple servings of fruits and veggies.  And I promise - you really, truly, for real CANNOT taste the spinach.  I mean it!

My Green Monster
1 cup vanilla SoDelicious coconut milk (90 calories)
1 tbsp natural peanut butter (100 calories)
1/2 scoop 100 calorie Whey Protein powder (50 calories)
1-2 cups baby spinach 
3-4 ice cubes
1/2 frozen banana (50 calories)

Put the ingredients in a blender and mix!
Total calories:  290


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


January's "Word Filled Wednesdays" will feature verses that tie in with my 2012 word: STRONGER.

I took this picture along the beach on Sanibel Island in Florida.  There were tons of these beautiful conch shells all over, but every one I picked up had a live animal in it, so they were left on the beach.  My mom and I were both wondering how the little creatures would survive when the tide went out.  But I realized, the conch animals weren't worrying about that.  They weren't frightened of the tide or being left in the sun, they were just rolling around in the ocean doing whatever conch creatures do.  Sometimes I wish I could be more like that, less worried about the "what ifs" and more content to just hang out in the waves. 

Find more inspiration at Word Filled Wednesdays.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adventures in Pasta Making

I spent my Christmas in Ft. Myers, FL with my parents.  With beautiful 80+ degree weather, blue skies, and lots of sunshine - it was a great way to spend Christmas!  Little did I know it, but Santa actually visits motor homes, too!  If you're wondering, he comes in through the furnace (not the exhaust pipe, as some might think).  This year, Santa brought me a really fun present!  A pasta maker!  So, naturally, the first day home I spent several hours in my kitchen teaching myself how to make pasta.  It is SO EASY.  It won't take several hours every time, but the first time always takes the longest.

Here's my step-by-step teaching myself how to make pasta tutorial!

Basic Pasta Ingredients: (from the book that came with my pasta maker)
Per Person:
125 grams of flour
1 egg

1.  Measure your flour.

2.  Add flour to your bowl, making a small well in the middle.

3.  Add the egg into the little well.

4.  Use a fork to mix the egg and flour.

5.  Add water if necessary until you get a nice firm dough.  (I added about 2 tbsp of water)

6.  In small sections, run the pasta through your pasta maker.  Start off running it through a few times on the widest setting.  Then turn it down a notch, run it through, turn it down another notch, run it through, etc.  Continue until the pasta is the desired thickness.
7.  Play around!  This was my first batch of dough.  I tried running it through the fettuccine cutter, the regular spaghetti cutter, and making a ravioli.

8.  For ravioli, I cut squares the size I wanted out of the pasta.  Then I used my 1 tablespoon scooper to add the filling.  My filling is a puree of roasted mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, garlic, and olive oil.

9.  Add the second square on top. 

10.  Use a ravioli stamp to seal.  Trim the edges.  I also played around with using a biscuit cutter and then sealing the edges with a fork.  That worked well too!

11.  Place the raviolis on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.   Freeze until ready to use!

12.  Pop the frozen raviolis into boiling water for 4-6 minutes.

13.  Smother with super healthy pasta sauce.


This was much, much easier than I had expected it to be.  They froze really well, and cooked up quick.  It'd be easy to spend a Sunday afternoon making a big batch of ravioli to freeze!  

I also made a batch of fettuccine, let it dry overnight, and then cooked it a few days later.  It was delicious, too!

Find more recipes at Tasty Tuesday!