Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scrumptious Chocolate Muffins ~ 100-ish calories!

I mentioned some interesting chocolate muffins a couple posts ago, and as I made them again this evening, I realized I had not posted the recipe.  Sorry for those of you that asked for it, apparently an unfortunate side effect of calorie deprivation is short term memory loss.  Or maybe it's just who I am. That's probably it.

Anywho, these muffins are really a yummy, yummy treat.  I'm guessing these to have about 100 calories each.  The original recipe said 95 calories each, for a recipe that made 24.  I'm a bit challenged in the area of equal batter distribution, so my recipe only made 20.  I also added a wee bit of real sugar, just to sweetin' it up a bit.  So here's the recipe, as tweaked by me.

100-ish Calorie Scrumptious Chocolate Muffins

1 3/4 cup oats
3 egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup baking Stevia (or a similar sweetener that measures like sugar)
1 cup very hot water
1/4 cup sugar (I just needed it. You can omit it if you are stronger than me.)
1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Add all the ingredients, except the chocolate chips, into a blender or food processor.  Blend well until the mixture is smooth and the oats are all ground and incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Line a muffin tin with liners (foil liners work best) or spray well with non-stick spray.  If you've used your blender, you now have a handy-dandy pour spout all ready to help you fill your pan.  Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake at 350 for about 12-14 minutes, or until they've lost their jiggle.

And there you have it!  Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Perhaps It's Not a Trend

Well, well. All be derned. Apparently this "eating healthy" and "burning calories" and "just say no" (to desserts) is a trend that may stick around. I've wondered for the last twenty years if it was just a trend that would fade away, kind of like avocado-colored appliances or orange shag carpet. 

I think, however, it just might be the real deal. I'm a believer because, by golly, it's actually WORKING! I finally got up the nerve to step back on the scale, and.....I've lost 10 pounds in 15 days! Brad took me to his office so I could weigh myself on a reliable scale. Ah. such a relief to see some progress. Still a chunk-a-lump to go, but it's moving in the right direction!

Speaking of scales, I've always been one who takes my shoes off at the doctor before I step on the scale. I try to dress in lighter weight clothes on a day I am being weighed. And I also wonder if all that matters. Last time I went to the doctor, I asked if it mattered. They assured me it didn't really matter, they were just looking for "trends" and dramatic changes. I believed them. But today I experimented a little with the scale. I weighed myself without my shoes and jacket. Then I put my shoes on the scale: .9 pounds! Brad's shoes were 1.4 pounds. My jacket was .4 pounds. So, yeah, those items matter. I made a note to myself in permanent marker in my mind: slip off your shoes, jacket, and anything other that would hinder the scale from being truthful. I may just offer to put on the paper gown and head down the hall next time.

Speaking of paper gowns: did I ever tell you about the time that the receptionist at my doctor's office mistakenly scheduled me for my girlie appointment two months before I was due for it? I questioned her, thinking it should be October, not August, but she assured me I was due in August. So I went. There I am, sitting on the paper sheet, draped in a paper gown, when my doctor walked in and said they realized I was there two months early. So we spent 10 minutes chatting about my kids and his new grandbaby and then I got dressed and went home, realizing I had shaved my legs for nothing.

Enough tangents:  In the last two weeks, I have baked peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for Brad's office, and I didn't even lick the beater. Not a drop. And then I made two pies for work and I didn't have even a flake of coconut. I know a day will come when I don't have to be so restrictive, but I also know myself very well. Getting my taste buds all tingly with excitement is a slippery slope. I do not trust myself enough right now to be good, so I'm not even allowing a lick of cookie dough.

I have, though, found some fun substitutions. As I write this, I am sipping along on a strawberry slushy that's made from frozen strawberries, a frozen banana, and some diet 7-Up. Sweet and cool and going down quite happily. I also made some "Skinny Monkey Cookie Bites" that I LOVE. I ate two last night when I needed something sweet and I had the calories available, then froze the rest. Next time I need a "cookie fix" they are there for me. There's something nice about knowing I can get a little chocolate fix in the form of a "cookie". Pinterest has been good to me.

In case you need a little sweet spot in your life, and want to try these little Skinny Monkeys, here's a recipe for you:

Please excuse the frosted, poorly photographed little darlings.  I pulled them from the freezer to take their picture, and they were none too pleased with me.

Skinny Monkey Cookie Bites

3 ripe bananas
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla

Mash the bananas in a bowl, then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Let batter stand for 20 minutes. Drop by teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 9 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack to cool. Eat one or two and then get them into a freezer bag and get 'em frozen before you eat them all. Just in case you are weak like me! *I used quick cooking oats, because it's what I had on hand.  I think they would be better with the old-fashioned oats...a little meatier and chewier.  I also used Special Dark cocoa, so mine are a bit more bitter-sweet and darker than the recipe intended, but that's how I like 'em.) 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chicken Taco Supreme

I am loving my crockpot these days.  Again.  I even may have a bit of a dependency issue with her.  But, man, do I love the freedom of throwing stuff into her belly in the morning and then coming home to a house that smells yummy with dinner about 85% ready.  She's so good to me like that.

It's especially delightful when I find a recipe that is healthy for all of us.  And when all 5 of us love it?  10,000 bonus points.

So I found a couple similar recipes on Pinterest, and decided to try them.  But then I didn't have all the same things and wanted to add other things, and before I knew it a new dinner favorite was born! 

In case you are wanting a fast, easy dinner to feed a crowd (or a few), you might want to give this a try...

Crockpot Chicken Taco Supreme

4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 packets taco seasoning
juice of 3 limes
half of a large bunch of Cilantro (add more than seems reasonable, you'll be glad)
1 - 1 1/2 cups water

Put all this into your crockpot, cook on low for 8 hours.  At that time, use a large fork to shred the chicken and stir everything around.

Add in any of these:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1 large can olives, sliced

To serve, place in tortillas and add chopped tomatoes, chopped avocados, salsa, sour cream, cheese, or whatever you like on a taco.

In keeping with my good-girl habits lately, I just put a scoop of the meat mix onto a big bed of lettuce, added the tomatoes and avocado, and it was a tasty, tasty taco salad!  I didn't even need dressing, the juices from the meat took care of that!

You could always do the same thing with smaller quantities, of course.  This amount fed my whole family with lots left over for lunches or for me to freeze for another dinner!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Reality of Numbers

Here we are, three weeks into 2013.  A new year.  I'm not one to kick big things off on January 1st.  I do new things when they need to be done.  I do, however, reflect on the last year, pray about direction, use the 'New' as a touchpoint to evaluate.
However, as timing would have it, I had my annual check-up in early January.  Just time to get all my labs checked, renew prescriptions, say I was doing fine, thank you very much.  My doctor retired the end of December, so I saw a gal who was covering his patients for a time.  She was wonderfully nice and kind, as a messenger.  But her message?  Ouch.  All my fault, all my doing.  Here it is in all its full disclosure:
In the last year, I've gained 18 pounds.  EIGHTEEN pounds.  I was under NO illusion that I hadn't gained weight.  I knew I wasn't running, not eating healthy, and was fluffier than this time last year.  But 18 pounds?  Hello, reality, nice to meet you.  I know one of my medications can cause weight gain, but not this.  Not exercising and eating poorly is the most common reason for weight gain, and that's ALL on me.  No pun intended.
And, in addition to that, my cholesterol shot up in an ugly way.  Thanks to an irritating family history, this has been on the radar for awhile, just keeping an eye on it.  This year sent it over the top and I'm now needing medication to bring it down.  Reality is a bossy little thing, isn't it?
At the time of the appointment, I had been back in the gym for three weeks, so that piece of it was underway.  Time to add in the healthy eating portion.  So I began that nine days ago. Yes, I'm counting days still.  And I began it in earnest.
I have been such a good  girl.  I know the weight has begun to drop, but I'm not weighing until two weeks in, so I don't know a number.
Do I want my clothes to fit better?  Yes.  Do I want to feel more comfortable in my own skin?  Yes.  Is that my motivation for this?  No.  I want to take care of my heart, plain and simple.  It's the only one I have, and it works so hard for me.  I want to live a long and healthy life, as much as is up to me.  My heart has done so much for me, so I need to start showing it a little love.
And I'm actually really enjoying the challenge of eating well.  I'm so competitive, even with myself, that having numbers to work with and know that I can manipulate them by my choices?  Perfect motivation.
So here's the approach I'm using:
I'm doing 40 minutes of cardio 5-6 days a week.  Mostly elliptical so I can take care of my knees as I take care of my heart.  It's inconvenient to go to the gym, it doesn't fit easily into my schedule, somedays I think I'm too tired to go, but I do it anyway.  And I'm always glad I did.  Somedays Brad goes with me, runs on the treadmill behind me to pace me.  I like it when he runs at a 7.0 with 9.0 sprints.  Fortunately he likes that too.

As I began this, I shared it with just a few very trusted friends, and they've been sweetly encouraging.  They know me best, so they know the ins and outs and the parts that are difficult for me.  But now I'm putting it on here, more for myself than anything else.  I want to come back and read this when I get discouraged.

In case you want to ingest a little nutrition yourself, here's one of my favorite new meals. I have this either for breakfast or lunch, a quick to-go meal that is healthy, fills me up, and delicious.  Don't let the green color or the amount of spinach fool you:  it's delicious!  It tastes like a yummy strawberry shake!

Green Strawberry Smoothie

1 cup of frozen strawberries
10-ish almonds
1/2 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
4 cups baby spinach (as much as fits to fill your blender)

Blend all of this together high, until it's all incorporated, then switch to liquify to make it all smooth.  Has about 350 calories.

Honestly, I LOVE this.

Another variation is to add a frozen sliced banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter in place of the strawberries and almonds.  Super yummy as well!  I would happily add a picture, but everyone looks at and says "Ewwwww!"  And I don't want to do that to you.  Just try it.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Downton Love

It has taken me a couple days, but I simply must ramble on about Downton Abbey!  I love this show, it is so engaging and absorbing and delightful and intriguing and suspenseful and FUN!

I love watching these characters develop and evolve.  

My dear Mr. Bates, please stay the good, kind, gentle, charming man we know you to be.  I fear where this storyline is going.

Daisy, hang in there, sweet girl.  Please don't make your conflicted insides harden your heart!  You are a sweet and kind soul, and I love ya for it.

Edith, please don't get desperate and settle.

Mary, I sense a bit of your granny's ways emerging in you...and I LOVE it!  I love your elegance combined with sass.

And precious Violet, who I feel I should address more formally as "Countess":  you are simply delightful.  I love the volumes and volumes of words that your looks can convey.  Stuffy has never been such a joy for me to watch.  Your simple question in Season 2, "What is a weekEND?" rings through my mind and makes me grin frequently.  And mistaking your son for a waiter?  A lovely moment.

And, not to be forgotten, the costume designers and hair deserve all sorts of gold stars and perhaps even some golden statues for your work.  Beautiful, beautiful, and completely transporting.

So, with all the Downton love in my heart, I ask,

Have you done something jolly with your hair???

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Butter Has Met Its Match ~ Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here's the thing.  I am a BUTTER girl.  Not margarine.  Not Crisco.  Certainly not Oleo or lard.  I shudder at the thought!  Butter.  All.  The.  Way.  Cookies are best with butter.

Until about two hours ago, I would not have swayed the slightest from that.  But now?  I have been made a believer in a new way to add the fat to my cookies.  And it is divine.  Di-VINE!

And what has won by heart?  Coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil.  Thanks, in part, to Pinterest, I have become quite smitten with coconut oil.  I love to use it as a moisturizer.  I have made sugar scrubs with it and loved it.  I have slathered it onto myself and loved it.  I have used it sparingly in cooking and loved it.  So when I stumbled upon a chocolate chip cookie recipe that used coconut oil instead of butter, I was intrigued.  Tonight I tried it, and I wholeheartedly, without reservation, encourage you to embrace this cookie with coconut oil.  You can search coconut oil if you aren't familiar with it and read all about the wonder-claims.  I love it's texture, smell, feel, and taste.  The cookies?  MOIST, I tell you. They are soft and luscious and chewy and fragrant and stunningly delicious.  I challenge you to try these!!

I buy my coconut oil at Trader Joes, though I'm sure you can find it all over.

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Beat coconut oil, eggs, and sugar until well combined.  Add remaining ingredients and combine well.  Place large scoops of dough onto cookie sheet, without overcrowding the cookie sheet.  I did only 8 cookies per sheet.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and middle is set.  Don't, for the love of all, overbake these (or any) cookies.

Let cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Then just sit back and enjoy these.  Your taste buds will dance and get all giggly, and you will feel all warm and happy and peaceful inside.  You think I jest?  Try and see for yourself!