Monday, January 30, 2012

Winner Winner Yummy Dinner

Considering my past dinner failures, and my never ending ability to find a way to royally muck up dinner, I am SO excited that Friday nights dinner turned out so yum-a-licious.   If you are part of the Facebook "fan" page (are they still called fan pages? Everything changes so often I have no idea anymore).  Anyhow, if you follow me on Facebook- you will have seen this recipe that I found on the Daily Green and decided to make for Friday night dinner.  It was crazy easy to make.

The actual recipe called for Chicken Stock, Heavy Cream, Parmesan Cheese and tomatoes, all of which I omitted- but you can use them if you want.  In their place, I used vegetable stock, skim milk, Low Fat Italian Cheese Blend, and I just left the tomatoes out-  both Mr Millie and myself can't eat cooked tomatoes.  

Here's what it should have looked like according to the Daily Green 
Image from The Daily Green

Here's what mine looked like 

It was SO good.  Can I tell you how good fennel and leeks taste together?  I've had fennel before at restaurants (if you live in Chicago, Scoozi downtown has the BEST roasted fennel)  but I have always been too intimidated to cook it.  They look kind of crazy hanging out in the grocery store.  For those who have not yet met the Fennel,  here is what they look like raw:

And, in case you haven't seen a leek-  this is what they look like  raw 

Now, with the fennel, only the white bulbs are used.  From what I read you can use the green floofy things for garnish, but I just chopped them off and used just the bulbs.  Same goes for the leek.  I'm sure there is a use for the leafy green part, but I don't know what.  I cut the beards off the bottom of the leeks and the leafy parts up top, and used just the light green and white parts.

Here is the recipe from the Daily Green

Now Mr Millie and I have a slight aversion to left-overs.. so I always cut recipes in half or even further down, to make just enough for one serving for each of us.  Case in point-  those stuffed peppers I made a few weeks ago intent on having the others "for lunch the next day"  Mr Millie forgot to grab it for lunch, and so it sat uneaten in our fridge until I just recently threw it out.  

4 medium leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds)  - I only used 2  
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 pound each)  I only used 1
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sugar -  I don't keep sugar in my house, and had some stevia left over from Christmas, I used that 
1 package (16 ounces) bow-tie (farfalle) or gemelli pasta
1 cup chicken broth -  I used Vegetable Stock 
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream  -  I used skim milk 
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  - I used Low Fat Shredded Italian Blend
1 ripe, medium tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice - I omitted entirely 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim off roots and leaf ends from leeks. Discard any tough outer leaves. Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices. Place leeks in large bowl of cold water; with hand, swish leeks around to remove any sand. Remove leeks to colander. Repeat process, changing water several times until all sand is removed. Drain well.
2. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add leeks and cook until tender and golden, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. While leeks are cooking, trim top and bottom from each fennel bulb; reserve fronds, if any, for garnish. Slice each bulb lengthwise in half; remove and discard core. Slice fennel-bulb halves crosswise into thin slices.
4. Add fennel, garlic, sugar, and remaining oil, and cook until fennel is tender and light golden, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Meanwhile, prepare pasta in boiling salted water as label directs. Drain; return pasta to saucepot.
6. When leeks are tender, add broth, cream, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and all but 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; boil 1 minute.
7. Spoon pasta into deep 4-quart casserole. Add leek mixture and toss well. Sprinkle top with diced tomato and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with fennel fronds, if you like, to serve.

The recipe once you make it to steps 3 & 4 get a bit confusing, so here is what I did.  I prepared the leeks in one pot.  While that was browning, I cut my fennel up into little half moons and cooked them up in another pot.  In a third pot (I know, quite impressive I could keep three things going at once!  And, the oven was heating up... I'm getting quite culinary)  I boiled the water for the pasta.

Once the leeks became soft and browned, I added the stock, milk, pepper etc etc (I didnt add the cheese until the end).  In the other pot  I cooked the fennel in garlic, olive oil, and the packet of stevia, and once the fennel had carmelized (you're impressed by my comfort with culinary lingo, aren't you?) dumped the fennel into the pot with the leeks, combined everything, tossed it in with the pasta-  a smattering of cheese pop it into a 400 oven for a bit and taaaadaaaaa! :jazz hands: 

The result, in case after this LONG explanation you have forgotten how beautiful it was

Yum-A-Licious-  and perfect for a cold winter night.  Cheap as well.  My fennel cost about $2, my leek the same.  One box of pasta (I used the Barilla stuff $2 something a box).  So, for about six bucks (plus some ingredients I already had in my house)  a wonderful dinner for two.

Try it, seriously.  Don't be afraid of the fennel! :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

One of the few "good" things about not working

You know I always talk about the insufferably crowded lap pool lanes, and how I have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn in order to just get a lane.  And then I go on further to complain how hard it is getting out of bed in the wee, chilly hours of the morning, just to jump into a cold pool.

Well, the pool is still cold- I have come to the conclusion that its never going to change.  No matter how many times I talk to the peeps at the gym, I blog about it, I email- this squeeky wheel will never get the satisfaction of a tepid pool.  However, the one thing that I have started to receive *jazz hands*  my own lap lane :the crowd goes wild:.  Amazing!  I know you're shocked by this, but in the middle of the day, the gym is a virtual ghost town.  The only people in the pool are me and the blue hairs doing their water aerobics.  I can not even begin to tell how just how much I enjoy the solitude.  Some people have yogo to clear their minds, I have swimming.  :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why the Incommunicado?

Hi all.  It's been a trying past few weeks thats for sure.  There had been some stuff going on with me, which I had been hesitant to discuss on my blog, mainly out of shame, but also because of the situation.  However,  I'm realizing I really have nothing to be ashamed about, and considering the scope of this network, I may be able to utilize it to my advantage.

I was laid off at the end of the year.  My company apparently needed to save some money and was looking to cut costs, so they dumped me.  No severance package, no "here's some money in appreciation of the six years of dedication and hard work"  just a "thanks for the memories" and exit, stage left.  I have to say I'm still a bit hurt by the whole thing.  I realize business is business and decisions are decisions, but I worked for a very small company and I honestly thought we were a family.  To be cut out so quickly and decisively with little explanation or resolution other than "we need to cut costs" stings,  a lot.  I had intentionally sought out a smaller company when applying for this position because I  was under the delusion that in small companies people stick together, that somehow a sum being part of a whole was more meaningful in a smaller company.

It's a rough economic climate out there-  layoffs abound everywhere you look, so I know I'm not in this boat alone.  It just feels like it sometimes.  When you have spent the past 25 days seeking out positions seemingly everywhere, and you hear "thanks, but no thanks" more times that you care to count, it really wears on you.  So, in this, I felt it would be a bit disingenuous to continually blog and chirp along as if nothing was happening.  Especially since, I have shared with you every trial and tribulation over the past three years of my life, to not mention the fact that I'm on the unemployment line would seem dishonest to say the least.

I've heard a lot over the past few weeks that every stumble is an opportunity, God doesn't close a door without opening a window, make lemonade from your lemons, etc  -  and I am truly looking into every facet of possibility, and hoping for a short stint on the unemployment line.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Recipe Success!

So, after my last recipe debacle, I was a bit leery to try another.  But I shopped specifically this week with my list of recipes in mind- so Lentil Stuffed Peppers it is.

The original recipe is from Eating Well magazine (I tried finding the link to the recipe online but can't locate it).  The original recipe is more of a Moroccan spiced recipe one that my wimpy taste buds probably couldn't handle-  so I had already planned on switching it up a bit.  Also the one from Eating Well is a meat eaters version of Moroccan Stuffed Peppers (with Sausage in it). It also called for white or brown rice.. and since we're not rice eaters here (since Im on a strict "eat carbs only when you earn them" diet.. I instead decided to use what I know:

1 Package of Lentils (I buy the ones that you dont have to soak overnight)
1 Medium Red Onion
1 bag of shredded carrots
1 Tablespoon of Garlic (I have dehydrated garlic from my favorite spice store Penzys Spices)  but Im sure any old garlic will be fine
Vegetable Stock
Green Peppers (2)
Orange Peppers (2)  >  Im sure you can use whatever color suits your fancy.
Hubs had an orange one I had a green one, they were both good.
Walnuts (about 1 cup)

So, I set the oven to 350.
In one pot, I boiled the lentils in the vegetable stock.  ( I like using stock better than water it gives it more taste)
In another pan, while the lentils were cooking I took the garlic and onion and sauteed them in olive oil.  Adding the spinach and the carrots and cooking them down.
Once that was all cooked together, I took the lentils, the chopped up Walnuts [I broke out my fancy Cuisinart [you know I cant resist using it]  and chopped them up until they were a fine powder.. but Im sure keeping them in pieces would be fine as well]  and 2 ladles of stock and poured them into the pan with the spinach/carrot/onion/garlic mixture.

I stirred that all up let it simmer a bit for the flavors to combine  and then stuffed my peppers with the mixture.

I used a dutch oven to set my 4 peppers in.  Once the peppers were all in place, I ladled more of the stock from the lentils into the bottom of the dutch oven, enough to cover about 2 inches along the bottom of the pan.  I then covered the peppers with the remainder of the lentils from the pot and the rest of the stock (there isnt a lot of stock left when you boil the lentils in it, as they absorb most of it.  But if I had to say an amount, there is probably about 1/2 cup of stock left in the pot which I pour over the peppers to get them a bit damp)

I put the peppers in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes-  with a check at 15 minutes to see how the peppers were softening.  Once they are tender to the touch, but not mushy, take em out, and serve them.

And this was the result

Yum-O-Licious.  Even my carnivore husband liked them.  So YAY for a successful, healthy, vegetarian recipe :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Suffering the Consequences of a Semester Spent on my Tush

The weather in Chicago lately has been absolutely gorgeous!  Like spring (as I type this, they're calling for 5-8 inches of snow tomorrow- so I guess the fun is over).  Anyhow, because its been SO nice, it has been much much easier to make it to the pool.  Can we please discuss how sore I am ?  Pitiful right?

At this moment thanks to the depleted stamina I am barely able to make it to the 1200 meter mark in 45 minutes.  My arms have that light floaty feeling when you know they are going to hurt later-  every time I swim.  Granted, as the week continues the stamina will return, but owie to the nth degree.  Ok, actually Im being a baby, maybe not the nth degree-  perhaps just a slight discomfort.  The swimming pain is no where even close to the pain instilled by Brutus.

Speaking of Brutus, I'm sure you're wondering what is going on with him as I haven't mentioned him lately.  Unfortunately-  he has become ridiculously popular -  like super star popular (and, if you watch MMA you may have seen his WillPower athletes battling it out)  and with the craziness of the term and the multiple trips I took in November, I had to give up my prime Saturday morning spot.  Which resulted in (at the moment) no available times for us to meet :(

I can't even tell you how much I miss him.  I am just not capable of kicking my butt in the same way he could.  I mean, in all honesty when I start doing something and it burns I'm like "okay, two? two is good enough...right?  I don't really need to to TEN.  Ten just seems excessive"   Where as he'd be all "Millie- just for complaining, you're doing fifteen *whip crack*  and Id be all *whimper* and do the fifteen and like it.  But I just am not a self-whipper.

Hopefully someday soon my prime Saturday spot opens up again (anyone know any "family" that can "take care of the problem"?)  kidding kidding--  For the moment however, Im flying solo.  And I'm not even going to lie-  I seriously miss the hell out of him.

Anyhow- my poor brain totally derailed and I can't remember what else I was planning on saying :-P

So Im going to wrap this up!
Oh- and today's picture I found on Pinterest- I dont know who it belongs to, so I cant give any photo credits.  But I'm not stealing it maliciously, I'm sharing the wisdom of the quotation :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Julia Childs, I Am Not

  • As I discussed on my Facebook Page today-  I had intended on attempting stuffed peppers from Eating Well magazine. Unfortunately I realized as I gathered the ingredients that unfortunately I am out of Vegetable Stock (mental note to go get some tomorrow).  So instead I decided to make these frittatas

Sadly, this is what they *should* have looked like...

And, instead this is what it turned out looking like (now keep in mind, I dont have individual ramekins, so I used a casserole dish instead to make a non-individual sized dinner)

  • The Recipe
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil - check
  • 2 cups refrigerated preshredded potatoes - they weren't refrigerated (maybe that was the problem)
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 2 cups) - I just cut up the whole container of them- if it was more... that just means better right?  :)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion - didn't have, so I skipped it 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced - check
  • 1 16-ounce container liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters  -  check
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese - I had shredded "Italian Blend" so I used this instead
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk -  Check 
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme - didn't have I didn't think a little old thyme would really make a difference 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt - check 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper - check - well it wasn't "freshly ground" but it was pepper

  • Okay-  so I have this Cuisinart that my sister gave me for my birthday a few years back.  So when I have fancy recipes like this, I tend to break it out to make myself feel "culinary"  ---  perhaps this was my downfall.  As I chopped  all of the Brussel Sprouts and the Potatoes in the Cuisinart instead of cutting them or shredding them - whatever it suggested I do.  
I chopped them up, cooked them down in a pan with olive oil and garlic as described.  Once cooked (when the brussel sprouts looked nice and bright green)  I transferred the potato/brussel sprout combo into the Cuisinart and chopped away.  

I think perhaps my brussel sprout to potato ratio could have been off as well.  But it seems every time I chop something up in the Cuisinart, it tastes really bitter.  Which is what this tasted- bitter.

So anyway-  its all chopped up,  I add the eggs and milk and salt and pepper and cheese into the mix and throw it into a casserole dish (I don't have individual ramekins)  and start baking it up.  I patiently wait the twenty minutes, use the thermometer to  make sure its 160 on the inside.  It *looks* pretty-but when I taste it- major yuck...  super bitter.

I added some more cheese hoping that will make it taste better. This is what it looked like (it looked yummy)  but even with the extra cheese it still tasted super bitter.  :(

One of these days I'll get this cooking thing down pat.  If you want to view the full recipe you can find it here

Hopefully, you will have more luck with it than I did :-/ 
Maybe next time I'll try following it to the tee- and leave the Cuisinart for another time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sugar Sneak Attack

Artwork by Ethen Kun

So, after I was just blathering on about staying  on track two days ago....  from the creepiest of corners comes  a sugar sneak attack!  My defenses were down, my game wasn't on point-  I had a million things swimming around in my brain.. and  when I pulled up to the Starbucks drive through, I did it without even realizing what I did....  :hangs head in shame:  I ordered  :blushes:  a grande salted carmel mocha and I drank it.
The worst part?  I didn't even *realize* the sugar sin I committed until twenty minutes after it soothing warmth traveled down the gullet and settled peacefully into the old gut.  How quickly two weeks of hard fought sugar free days,  of detoxing, endless headaches and lethargy  all wiped away with one guzzle of liquid crack. (okay it was a grande- so clearly WAY more than a guzzle, but you get the point)

Dont worry though, I am already suffering for my sins. I have a headache like you wouldn't believe.  Which leads me to confession number two.  I did not do my one mile walk today either *sobs*  it was an entire day apparently of throwing everything out the window!  It is back on track with a swift kick in the rear tomorrow though, and you bet I will make myself pay for my transgressions.  I just wanted to keep you informed, in the interest of full disclosure and accountability.

Tomorrow though- will be better than today.  :)

Have you fallen off the horse recently?  Did you get right back on?  I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Super Secret Trick to Staying on Track

In the month of January, we are all programmed to start thinking about ways we can start the new year that were different from the previous year.  We promise to work out, eat better, spend more time with our families, smile more, play with your kids etc.  Then, around say March or April life gets hectic, it gets too hard, there's too much else going on and those promises all disappear.  For those who have also decided that its 2012 or bust for the Healthy Me journey-  perhaps you're looking for a sure fire way to stay on track through the year.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to always stay on track one million percent. There really is no "Super Secret Trick"because basically, we are who we are-  and that is an imperfect being.  There are things you can do to set yourself up for success like:

1. Find An Exercise You Love-  that way it wont be a "punishment" or "torture"
For me, this is swimming.  No matter what else I have going on, for the most part I can always ensure that I will be in the pool.  It's my quiet place.  It gives me a chance to just be with me and my thoughts. Biking and Running as part of the Triathlon Trifecta  are -kind of- tortuous for me (running moreso than biking)  but swimming for me is fun and never a chore-  even when I push myself as hard as I can tolerate

2.  Find support.  If this is a gym buddy, a personal trainer, a friend -  whomever you know that will love you enough to understand when you really just need a break, or life is too complex for the moment-  but also knows when to kick your ass when they think you're just being lazy and giving up a workout for a Project Runway marathon on Lifetime (not that I speak from personal experience or anything )  :-D

3.  Dont look at restrictions as punishments but as challenges.  I know, I know easier said than done.  I feel ya.  Especially with this sugar thing for me.  However, I have found ways to curb my sweet tooth without breaking my sugar free promise (for me its a Peanut Butter [I use all natural peanut butter with flaxseeds- which cuts the sugar in more than half from store brands] Banana Protein Shake -  with lots of ice to make it really thick.  -  it feels like Im eating ice cream, but really I'm getting a yummy protein filled snack)

4.  If you fall off the wagon- dust yourself off and get right back on.  Trust me- I know all about these types of things.  It seems like somewhere in the middle of every term I fall off the wagon for a bit just because of how hectic everything becomes-  somehow the gym is always the first thing that gets tossed to the side.  Im trying very hard not to let this happen (especially now that I have my 15 minute walk DVD)  but if it does, recognize your error, and jump right back on.  Don't use it as an excuse to give up permanently (this is where your Support comes in handy)

Do you have any other tips for staying on track?  Or any tips for success you'd like to share? I'd love to hear it! :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Oh Sugar!

My friend Meredith and I gave up sugar officially starting this week. (technically it was supposed to start 1/1/12  but, with the holiday and all-  my sugar detox didn't  start until Monday)

Now in case you're wondering why we decided to cut out sugar...  sugar messes up your body-  especially "bad" sugars (high fructose corn syrup)  as well as "fake" sugars that mess with your endocrine system.  Additionally, the more sugar you eat- the more you crave it, leaving you in a vicious and never ending cycle of sugar dependence.  If you've picked up an US Weekly or a People Magazine lately (and really  I'm not trying to be one of those preachy 'jump on the latest fad' type thing)  but there are tons of people that have lost a lot of weight by breaking their dependence on sugars.  Since I already have an endocrine disorder I really need to sever the ties to sugars-  and for me that is all sugars that are not naturally occurring (like in fruit, beans and legumes and milk).  And "sugar free' substitutes are also full of endocrine disruptors so those have been kicked to the can as well.

But let me tell you-  the detoxing has been a BEAR.  Especially since we just passed the holidays, which should aptly be named "Candy Land"  because really what at the holidays *doesnt* have sugar in it.  So I am HURTING.  Not only am I constantly tired and always feel like I'm hungry even though I'm not-  I also have KILLER and I do mean KILLER headaches.  If you're a former smoker- and you remember the withdrawal from nicotine-  (well for me anyway I got terrible headaches from that- but I would just drink a coke and feel better lol)  it is just as bad - well probably worse since no coke allowed :)

I know once Im cleansed I will start to feel better- but I remember this from back in (what was that, October?) when I did the sugar free thing before.  I believe last time once I made it past the 7 day mark I felt better.

Anyone else giving up sugar?  How has your detox been going?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dont Have Time to Workout? I Call BS!

So- it was cold today, and I wussed out.  No pool for me this morning.  I didn't want to go from warm bed to cold pool.  Instead, tonight I did day one of my 1 mile a day challenge.    As I said, I'm walking it for the moment because of my tender knee-  so instead of taking on the elliptical (and all the new year resolvers at the gym)  I did it at home with THIS DVD

In fifteen minutes you can complete a 1 mile walk-  get your heart pumping and take the first steps to a healthier you.  Fifteen minutes.  You could do that while waiting to get enough time on your DVR so you can fast forward through commercials.  The workout is decent-  it gets your heart pumping but its certainly not a high impact workout.  But if you are trying to find motivation to take the first step-  this is an easy and low commitment way to do it.  

So why don't you join me (with the DVD or not)  in walking one mile every day in the month of January.  I'd love to hear if you decide to do it and your progress!

Monday, January 2, 2012

I've Got A New Attitude

Happy 2012 Peeps!

While I'm not big on resolutions,  I am all for refocusing of goals, and refreshing our attitudes & outlooks.

So, here is my refresher- laid out for the public eyes to see.

Weight Loss Goals:

*  No Processed Sugars
*  Sticking (and being very strict about the stick) to Brutus 1900 calorie plan

My friend Michelle had completed this 1 Mile every day for one month "quest" last month. Since my life was cray-cray for rizzle- I decided to make this my January goal.  Since it's kind of already the 3rd (hey- who didnt enjoy their New Years "long weekend" ?  -  we'll just pretend that tomorrow is January 1st.

Here is my promise:

1 Mile Every Day for the month of January.  (Im hoping at the end of the month that I can up this to 2 miles every day next month- and 3 in March)-  which would then put me in perfect positioning for the start of Triathlon training.  However, Im taking a baby step first so as not to get overwhelmed.  1 mile every day.  Im going to start off walking it first- mainly because my knee is still tender  and Ive been on my tush for most of last term.   Hopefully once my body readjusts to the workouts  I can at least WOG (walk/jog)  if not full jog by the end of the month *fingers crossed*

I also really need to work on my emotional outlook.  Being surrounded by negativity and negative people just drags you down.  And day after day of it, its gets draining.  This year, I am hoping to stay positive regardless of what outside influences are trying to do to my demeanor.  Someone told me last week-  you only live life once, so why live it carting around other peoples issues.  And they were right.  Meredith has started a "Complaint Free Life"  with a little bracelet to remind her every time she complains.  I'm joining her in this challenge.

Speaking of challenges with Meredith... it should come as no surprise that she pretty much kicked my arse in the big girl panties challenge.  We were neck and neck for a really good long while-  then- yeah, you know it SCHOOL got in the way. Argh.  This term seems like it will be better than last term (lets hope).  Anyhow-  there is a spa day in the future for Meredith and I -  once we get our schedules sorted and such.

SPEAKING of last term-----  lets get a big :RAISE THE ROOF: HOLLA! For me making it out of Literary Theory with an A!  BOOYAH!  (okay, it was *technically an A-  but Good Enough for ME!)  Woot Woot!  Im not even kidding though when I tell you I honestly thought I was going to get a C and have to take the class over...  it caused a lot I mean a LOT of stress and sleepless nights thats for sure.

As far as my race goals... Im going to keep it simple this year:

Naperville Women's Tri in June (With SKINNY EMMIE woot woot)

Im trying to get a group together to swim the SWIM ACROSS AMERICA : CHICAGO  with me in July.  It will be capital F Fun I promise.  You can even swim as little as a half mile.  I probably would only do the mile myself- considering Ive never swam in open water before *gulp*

And of course, the family Tri in August.  I think that mi familia has decided that they each want to compete individually this year, which will rock (my dad will kick my hiney in the bike- and my sister will trample me in the run  but I will DOMINATE in the pool)  Ok, maybe my sister said she wants to do the whole thing... I think my Dad *might* still be looking for some relay partners :)

Anyhow, here is to a happy and healthy 2012!