Monday, January 31, 2011

PFP Week 3 Update

Hello everybody!

My progress for the week:
I avoid mentioning it on the blog beforehand, but I actually was out of town from Wednesday through today. For the roadtrip I packed healthy snacks like crackers with peanut butter, apples, Kashi bars, popchips, and a reusable water bottle I refilled many times. I could have made better fast food choices, but it's hard to eat a salad or chili while driving. My mom and I walked miles and miles around wedding venue options, so that counts as my exercise this week! Seeing myself in wedding dresses made me realize I need to add arm exercises to the regimen, too.

Debbie's progress:
Same weight but feel this is an accomplishment after all the incredible food on our NY trip!
Walked today even though it was my bday and I had just gotten home!
I promise tomorrow begins sit ups!

Menu plan for the week:
Just got back in town, need to regroup, then I'll edit this

Tip of the week:
One of my problems, which I know some of you have as well, is late night snacking. I will do great during the day and then add a lot of excess calories with snacking before bed. Something I've found that helps is brushing my teeth a little while after dinner. This leaves a minty, clean feeling in my mouth which deters me from wanting to eat. Also, I'm lazy and I know I won't want to make the effort to have to re-brush my teeth if I eat. Try it and see if it works for you too!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Firsts - Griddler

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! I'm so excited to see a burst of new participants! If you need more information, click the image above.

My first for this week as using a Christmas present Johnny got me - the Cuisinart Griddler. I've been toying with the idea to get a George Foreman because I know Sophia loves her so much.

Much to my surprise, Christmas morning I opened the Cuisinart's take on the George Foreman - the Griddler! It can open flat to be a griddle or be used as a press. The plates come out and can be used with a flat surface or ribbed surface. The absolute best part!? Dishwasher safe!!! (Do you hear that Mara?!) So I can cook dinner on this little baby and besides a quick sponge off if necessary, the rest of it goes in the dishwasher. Easy peasy, just how I like it!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roasted Cabbage Nests with Grilled Tofu

It's no secret that I love cabbage. And one of my favorite uses for it is roasted cabbage nests.

A few I've featured on the blog:

Repeats of those and other versions I haven't featured on the blog have partied in our bellies, too.

This current version was the first time I've topped them with tofu, and it was terrific, if I don't say so myself. (Johnny tentatively tried it and ended up agreeing that it was terrific, if a 2nd opinion is your sorta thing.)

1 small head green cabbage
2 eggs
1 green pepper
2 small onions
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 block extra firm tofu
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp favorite BBQ sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

I began by pressing my tofu between two paper towel lined plates with a heavy cast iron pot.

Preheat your oven to 400° and slice the cabbage into quarters, then in thin strands. In the bottom of a very large mixing bowl whisk the two eggs and salt and pepper. Separate the cabbage strands into the bowl and use your hands to toss and coat in the egg mixture. It will take a little working, but eventually everything will be coated. Spread out onto a greased baking pan and pop in the oven.

Wash and process your veggies, cutting into bite-sized pieces. Add to the mixing bowl with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread out onto a baking pan and pop into the oven with the cabbage. Set the timer for 20 minutes.

In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining olive oil, balsamic, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, and salt and pepper. Slice the tofu into 1/4" pieces and dredge through the sauce.

Heat a griddle or skillet and cook the tofu until hot and a browned edge forms for texture and extra flavor.

To serve, scoop a "nest" of cabbage, top with the roasted vegetables, and some slices of the tofu. Additional balsamic vinegar and oil can be used to dress the top, if necessary.

This makes a LOT. Leftovers reheat well in a warmed oven or toaster oven.

Really, I don't know much I could say that the pictures don't show. It was beautiful - both on the plate and the tastebuds. You can't go wrong with roasted veggies anyways. But then to adorn them with slices of tangy marinated tofu!? Definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sorry, this isn't the golden fried chicken nuggets and bright red, sugary sauce of Chinese take-out's familiar sweet and sour chicken (as pictured below).

Below is my attempt at a healthy version. I was really pleased with it, personally. I liked it better than the too-sweet take-out version.

Johnny's partial to the "real deal," since this is his favorite menu item. But as a healthy substitute, he admitted it was good, too.

3 thin sliced chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
20 oz. can pineapple chunks in juice not syrup! (reserve juice)
1 green pepper
1/2 cup ketchup (read the label and avoid added sugars)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup cold water
3 cups cooked rice, white or brown

Cook your preference of rice according to package instructions.

In a medium stock pot, add the pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic powder, whisking to combine. Wash and cut the green pepper and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cover.

Salt and pepper your chicken breast and cook until done. A little sear on the outside will add an extra layer of flavor to the dish. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Thoroughly combine the corn starch and cold water. Slowly whisk into the sauce, avoiding any lumps. Add the pineapple tidbits and return the cover, letting it return to a simmer to thicken.

Serve the chicken and sauce over the rice. Make sure to scoop plenty of the peppers and pineapple pieces over top, too. Serves 4-5.

As I said above, I preferred this version because it was more savory. The ginger, garlic powder. and rice vinegar added some great depths of flavor to the sauce and the only sweetness you get is from the pineapple's inclusion. There's a bit more "tang" than "sweet," which is how I think it should be.

A great weeknight dinner to replace a night you would have had take-out. Save yourself a few (hundred) calories and make this version!

Monday, January 24, 2011

PFP Week 2 Update

Hello everybody! It's hard to believe we're already into week 2 of the challenge.

My progress for the week:
I didn't lose any weight, but I also didn't gain any weight. I stuck to my meal plan, except a few of the meals from last week will roll over into this week's plan because I always forget to account for leftovers! We ate out once and it was Wendy's, but instead of ordering that awesome new Guacamole Bacon Burger I thought of you guys and got the baked potato and chili instead. I stayed away from soda and sugary drinks - only consuming hot tea or water (sometimes spiked with a lemon slice).

Mel's report for this week:
This morning's weigh-in had me .8 of a pound less than last Wednesday. Not the best progress, but with my behavior (eating out way too much) over the past week -- it's better than a gain. .8 down / 32.2 pounds left to shed! (For future reference, Mel checks in with me on Wednesdays because of another challenge she is participating in.)

Laura reports:
yeah!! I lost 3 1/2 pounds this week
I drank 2-3 quarts of water every day
I watched what I ate making sure to enjoy the vegetable side of life too
I did indulge in chocolate twice, went out for lunch once and stayed away from
any super sweet coffee or cocoa drinks while out with a friend
my biggest challenge is moving every day because I am always 'on the go' I feel hard pressed to take that time to myself but we did go sledding for a couple hours yesterday
this week I plan to work on moving more, staying hydrated and avoiding the pitfall of feeling deprived

Jenn checked in to say:
I had a great week. I am on week 3.

Here are some things I did:

exercised 5 days
avoided food at work (cake, cookies, donuts)
Brought my food to work
Logged in my daily calories into

Debbie emailed:
I walked almost everyday 3-4 miles
only ate fruit before bed
MUCHO veggies all day
seriously BAGS of veggies-spinach, carrots, celery, mushrooms
was bad on weekend
Pasta , bread, steak (jumbo helping)
more water, less wine
NO sit ups:(
lost 2lbs

My menu plan for the week: (incomplete)
cabbage nests
baked tofu

Tip of the week:

For those of you (ladies) interested in taking a multi-vitamin*, this is the one I have been taking for about 8 months. I have tried a few brands in the past, but they usually make my stomach hurt. I did a lot of research about what vitamins and minerals should be included and which amounts, and this seemed to be the most all inclusive with the added iron and calcium as a bonus.

The 90 tablet bottle is about $11 in stores by me. If tablets are hard for you to swallow, it also comes in a liquid softgel pill, which is more expensive (about $12 for a 60 pill bottle). Being the frugal gal that I am, I appreciate that they have occasional buy 1 get 1 free sales. The Sunday paper also has a $1 off NatureMade coupon frequently to clip. They offer a Wellness Rewards program on their site, where you enter a code from the bottle to collect points to earn prizes and coupons too!

*Disclaimer - I am not a health professional. Please talk to your doctor before taking a vitamin to see if it's right for you. This is just my recommendation for a brand that I have personally used and like.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stylish Blogger

Well I must be doing something right lately, because Mara and Tracy passed the Stylish blogger award onto lil ole me!

Here is how it works:

First: Make a post linking back to the person who gave you the award
Second: Share 7 (random) things about yourself
Third: Award 15 recently discovered bloggers with this award
Then: Contact these bloggers and tell them they’ve won your award

1) I have read every Nicholas Sparks' book to date.

2) I have watched every episode of Gilmore Girls, The Office, News Radio, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, and Dexter. (And loved every minute of it.)

3) I have a Dwight bobble head on my desk. His head is moving as I type this.

4) I can't stand having my nails long. I cut them like once a week. (I blame my piano teacher mother.)

5) Last week I threw out a Gladware container of something in my freezer that I a) had no idea how long it'd been in there and b) had no clue what it was. I was scared.

6) My suitcase from staying in NC this summer is still in the laundry room, largely unpacked.

7) Everyday I unlock the front door and peak outside to see if I have a package. Even if I'm not expecting anything, I have to do it.

I'm tagging:


Phew, I think that's 15!

Crap, I just counted and it's 16. Too bad I'm not taking anybody off! :)

Friday Firsts - Turkish Delight

Friday Firsts
Happy Friday everybody! A few weeks ago Johnny and I stumbled upon a new restaurant, Pita Oven. Inside its humble strip mall storefront are three components. On one wall is a small restaurant counter where you can order food to eat there, or take to go. The opposite wall is a bakery with a huge open stone oven and a little man, crisply dressed in white, tirelessly cooking batch after batch of fluffy pitas. The center has a small grocery store of unique items and a few tables to eat at.

Being the gluttons that we are, we enjoyed all three - ordering food to go, purchasing a batch of the best pitas I've ever tasted (still warm) from the bakery, and buying a few things at the grocery to sample.

One was this candy, Turkish Delights. It's hard to describe. Kind of a gummy, jelly texture with hazelnuts in it, rolled in coconut. Not overly sweet, and nothing like anything I've ever had. It's not my favorite, but I wouldn't say it's bad. It just kind of tastes like "old people candy," if that makes sense.

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hot Toddy

I like to tease Johnny that he has the weakest immune system in the world. Although it's not really a laughing matter, the truth is he would catch something from somebody rumored to be sick.

Usually this means the winter is a cyclical journey from one cold, to another sore throat, to congestion, to more aches, and finally to fevers.

One of his favorite ways to feel better from colds, congestion, and sore throats are hot toddies. He heard about this from an old co-worker of his, and I've now got a "recipe" down pat.

mug of hot water
1 slice lemon
1 cinnamon stick
spoon of honey
1-2 shots Scotch
cloves, optional

Boil water, or put a mug of water in the microwave until hot. Add the remaining ingredients and let steep for 2-3 minutes. Sip slowly, making sure to enjoy the aromatic steam under your nose.

Instant joy to those with weak immune systems!

P.S. The Dollar Tree has a big ass bag of like 50 cinnamon sticks for a buck!

P.P.S. I told Johnny I was putting that pic on the blog.

P.P.P.S. I think he thought I was kidding.

P.P.P.P.S. I wasn't.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chicken Tacos

As part of my meal plan this week we had chicken tacos. It's no secret that we love Mexican food, so this was a nice way to have it without all the extra fat and calories of beef.

Not only did I substitute ground chicken in place of ground beef, but I also threw about two cups of fresh spinach in with the meat mixture to wilt and add a touch of green.

Then we just topped with the usual cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce accessories.

We used fat free cheese, fat free vegetarian refried beans, and fat free sour cream. Ordinarily I hate fat free products, but I have to say I didn't notice this dinner was missing anything.

I highly recommend Breakstone's sour cream if you're going to go the fat free route. Instead of being watery and thin, it is still really thick like Greek yogurt. We have purchased regular, low fat, and fat free versions of Breakstone's over the years and I swear I can't tell a difference between the three!

Monday, January 17, 2011

PFP Week 1 Update

Hi everybody! I'm so glad many of you decided to join me in this challenge. I'm horrible at motivating myself, so hopefully this will finally do the trick!
  • At the top of the page, just below my header is now a Pound for Pound Challenge tab. You can click that to see the PFP information, all of the participant bios, and I will add the update links to it weekly.
  • Each Monday I am going to be posting an update, so if participants could please e-mail me any updates they want to share by Sunday, that would be much appreciated. You do not have to update every week, but I will try to check in with everybody as often as I can.
  • The update post will include a menu plan for the upcoming week. One of the things I noticed is that I make bad choices when I haven't planned ahead and shopped accordingly.
  • I will also include a tip to share for that week to keep us all moving in a positive direction. It could range from a product I like, an exercise, a healthy recipe, a motivating book or movie, etc.
  • If you have anything you would also like to share with the group you are encouraged to do so! I have added all of the participants to a private Facebook group where you can chat amongst yourselves, share recipes, ask for support, brag about progress, etc.
I know this is a bit confusing in the beginning, so please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification!

My progress for the week:
Unfortunately, I kind of held off until this post for an "official" start to the challenge. Hopefully this will kick my ass into high gear since it's up and I'm being held accountable now. There were two days this past week Johnny and I had to go to the mall by our house (gag), which equaled a lot of walking around. I also tried to consciously make wiser meal choices, but could have been better. I just shopped and bought really great items, so that will make the coming week easier. I'm weighing myself daily and that has been fluctuating in a four pound window. For now I think it's safe to say I haven't lost anything yet.

My menu plan for the week:
Ground chicken tacos with fat free cheese and sour cream
Cabbage nests
Butternut squash soup (made with skim milk in place of cream)
Sweet and sour chicken casserole (in my head it's good!)
1 crust chicken pot pie (idea from Biz)

Tip for the week:
Dailymile is a terrific free resource for tracking your exercise progress. I have mine linked to my Facebook account, so it auto-posts to my wall. It allows you to select a workout, use Google maps to outline your routes, keep track of time spent working out, asks how you felt, lets you add notes about the workout, and calculates the calories you burned.

After you add your workouts, it compiles all of the information in an easy-to read progress report you can view by day, week, month, or at year's end. I used it during the summer when I was in North Carolina and loved it! It's a great tool to really see the time and effort you put into exercising, even if the scale doesn't always reflect it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Firsts - Dried Beans

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! Since Johnny started his new job I'm really starting to love weekends. We see a lot less of each other during the week with him leaving for work earlier, getting home later, and needing to go to bed earlier for the dreaded alarm clock. I know it sounds weird because we live in the same house, but I miss him!

Enough with the sappy stuff, though. My first for this week was cooking dried Northern white beans in my slow cooker. I don't use dried beans very often, but I should because of how cheap they are. This was the first time I threw non-soaked beans in anything and I wasn't even sure they'd cook properly. But I took a leap of faith and it worked! Four hours on high and they were tender and velvety soft.

At the top of the blog you'll notice I've added another tab for the Pound for Pound challenge. Please let me know if you would like to pledge to lose some weight this year. For every pound you pledge, a pound of food will be donated to a food bank through Feeding America. Together we can feed the less fortunate and motivate each other in our journey towards getting fit and healthy!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sausage and Beans

I still haven't gone grocery shopping yet. I know. It's been a really long time. My list is made and my coupons are sorted, it's just hard to get the final nudge to tackle errands when it's freezing and snowy out.

So these beans came from the pantry and the sausage came from the freezer. Always nice to make up meals with things you have on hand.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how it'd turn out because I haven't worked with dried beans a lot, and never in the slow cooker (unless you count split peas).

3 small onions, roughly chopped
2 cups dried Northern white beans
1 package Johnsonville beer brats (sooo good)
4 cups stock (*see note below)

Begin by chopping the onions and placing them in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place the beans in a colander and pick out any odd looking ones. Rinse really well, using your hands to move them around so they all get a good rinse. Add to the slow cooker. Lay the sausages on top of the beans and add the stock. Cook on high for 4 hours.

Easy peasy. It smelled delicious and was really good. One note - it was a tad on the salty side for my tastes. In the future I would probably do half stock, half water.


(Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pound for Pound Challenge

In the four years I've lived with Johnny I have gained about twenty pounds. While I know I'm older and will never return to my starting weight, I would still like to lose a small amount of weight and be more healthy and fit overall.

As many of you know, Johnny proposed on Christmas. On top of being exciting and great, this has lit a fire under me to get in shape in the long run so it's not a frantic crunch right before the wedding.
I have started a Pound for Pound team. This is a challenge sponsored by The Biggest Loser that benefits Feeding America. For every pound pledged 11¢ (the cost of a about a pound of food) will be donated to an approved food bank.

I invite you to join me in a healthier 2011 by joining the Dinner at Christina's PFP Challenge team with me!

What you need to do if you would like to join:
(Please note - no personal information or beginning/ending weights will be shared.)
  • Go to and create an account. Search "Dinner at Christina's" under "Team Name" and click Join! (or e-mail to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com and I will send you an invite)
  • check in at least once a month via e-mail letting me know how you are doing (more check-ins are encouraged so we can support each other)
I will keep the Pound for Pound team members and team progress updated on its own tab on my blog for exposure and support throughout 2011.

(The below rules are unrelated to the challenge above.)
If you were interested, one of the things I did to jump start getting fit was join Dr. Oz's Just 10 Challenge. The premise behind this challenge is not a diet, but a few key changes in your life that will eventually help you lose 10 pounds.

The "rules" are:
  • no soda
  • no eating 3 hours before bed
  • move at least 10 minutes every day
  • portion control at meals
  • weigh yourself everyday
  • take your vitamins
  • cook healthy recipes
The eating "guidelines" are:
  • 4 servings of protein and fat each day
  • 3 servings of complex carbs each day
  • 3 servings of fruit each day
  • unlimited vegetables each day
  • dessert every other day
  • red meat no more than once each week
  • eating out no more than once each week

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Firsts - Falafel

Friday Firsts

Hi everybody, Happy Friday!

First, I'd like to again say thank you to those of you who donated to help my brother's cat. If you hadn't seen already, I added a (happy) update to the bottom of the post.

My first for this week was attempting to cook falafel from scratch! I've made it from a mix before and eaten it out a few times, but never made it from scratch. I was not very pleased with the final outcome, but Johnny loved it. So, I'll tweak and play around with it some more before I post it for you guys! You win some, you lose some - but at least you tried, right?!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Urgent Kitty Help!!! (Updated)

Hi everybody, sorry for the lapse in food posts lately. I have been sick, but am now feeling better and will be heading to the grocery store tomorrow.

In the meantime, I really need your help. My brother Michael's cat is really sick and needs an expensive surgery. Even if you can only give $1 or $2, any little bit helps. He really loves this cat and has traveled with it back and forth from California to North Carolina several times with kitty in tow.

To give with any credit cards or PayPal click here.

Thank you so much, we really appreciate it!


Thank you SO much to everybody that donated. I saw a few of your names on the contributor list and it warmed my heart. You guys are great!

The kitty survived the first few procedures and was able to come home from the vet today. He has a check up next week to see if future surgery is needed. He will also be on a special prescribed food the rest of his life.

My brother and his friends thank you again - they know they would have lost him without all of your generosity to help afford the procedures!

Another update:

The kitty had his 2nd vet check-up and everything seems to be holding strong. He is still on prescribed medicine and will remain on the prescribed food. He seems to be healing and making a great recovery!

Thanks to those who asked donated and asked about him!