Monday, February 29, 2016

Five Fantastic Things

1. What I have been focusing on this last month.

2. Along with focusing on keeping my mind healthy with positive thinking, I have also been practicing asking myself what I am willing to do to be healthy physically.  In one of those serendipitous moments, Little Helen sent me a link to an article, The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today. An excerpt:
If I ask you, "What do you want out of life?" and you say something like, "I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like," it's so ubiquitous that it doesn't even mean anything.
Everyone wants that. So what's the point? 
What's more interesting to me is what pain do you want? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives end up.
I know lots of times we read blogs and don't click on links or go any further than the surface, but I encourage you to click up there and read this article.  It's not very long but it is very thought provoking.

3. I don't talk about my running times very often mostly because I think it's super easy to get comparative, sort of like mentioning weight.  I was a pretty good runner at one time - at least for me - managing between 9:30 and 10:30 minutes per mile.  Of course, back then I always, ALWAYS, wanted to be faster (smiley emoticon).  Anyway, this past Saturday, I decided to see if I could push my pace but also my distance.  I'm feeling so much better and I had inched up to 5 miles for the past few weeks and wanted to try for 6 this week.  It was just one of "those" runs - it all came together gloriously right from the minute I started:  breathing, nothing was hurting, the sun was shining, I was in a great place mentally.  When I was done I had run 6 miles in 61:10.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I wrote in my exercise journal: "FABULOUS! Crazy running lady is on the comeback."  And that's how I feel.

4. I earned another $5 this week.  I still haven't even changed a size in clothes yet but knowing myself, it's gonna take 20 pounds before that happens.  The 10 pounds = 1 size has never been true for me - maybe because I've always worked out even if my eating hasn't been very good. And I'm not saying I've lost 10 pounds because as I said before, I'm choosing not to know the numbers right now.

5. This is what I made us for dinner on Friday night.  This entire meals comes together in under 30 minutes and Mr. Helen said it tasted better than what we've had at restaurants!

Browned Butter Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Smoked Gouda Grits
Serves 4

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup quick cooking grits
4 oz. shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 1/2 lbs. jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 T butter
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 T water
2 T lemon juice (I squeeze half a large lemon)

Pour chicken broth into a 3 quart saucepan and put on high heat to bring to a boil.  Once boiling, whisk grits into broth.  Reduce heat to medium, put a lid on the pot and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once grits are cooked and thickened, stir in smoked Gouda until melted.  Cover and set aside.

While the grits are cooking, heat the 2T butter in a large non-stick skillet until melted.  Continue to heat until the butter begins to brown.  Add in garlic, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt, and shrimp.  Stir shrimp and flip around once or twice until shrimp are pink and cooked through.  Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice and water.  Move shrimp around to coat with sauce.

To plate, spoon grits out into a bowl and top with shrimp and a bit of the sauce.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuesday Ten

1. The newest edition to my workout binder, which I got out of the latest edition of Runner's World. I'll do this on Fake Rest Day Fridays.  It IS a rest from running/walking, right?

2.  Speaking of workouts, I'm glad to report that I think my MCL issue is one that is going to heal quickly.  On Thursday evening, which was 2 1/2 days after my fall, I decided I felt well enough to try to take a walk - and I did with no pain!  Granted I wore an extra heavy-duty knee brace but I was so happy to move.  I have faithfully been icing the knee and wearing that brace to work and I think that has really moved things along.  On Saturday, I braced up and ran 5 miles.  On Sunday, our weather turned into spring and I couldn't stand the thought of not being outside so I strolled 5 miles - i.e., not at an exercise pace.  Monday, I ran and this morning I did strength training and a shorter run.  I seem to be fine as long as I support it, which makes me happy!

3. I really appreciate that Lynne (who I am not sure has ever commented before) chimed in with her experience regarding her MCL.  That made me feel confident that I could try to walk and run. Thank you so much Lynne!  Input like that gives me renewed love for the blogging (and running) community. Just like Lynne said, the forward motion is fine and it's only if I suddenly turn pushing into a side motion when it hurts.  I'll know I'm better when I'm able to turn over in bed without waking up because the motion has twinged the ligament.

4. Food continues to be well varied but under control.  I don't want it to come off that I never struggle with thoughts of wanting to eat more, or have that glass of wine on Wednesday.  Pretty much I just keep telling myself I've had plenty already and if I want to continue to feel good I need to stay on this path. Following the 21 days to form a new habit thing, I'm hoping in a couple more weeks it's more automatic than not.

5. Speaking of food, looking through recipes thinking about the week ahead, I made my Sausage, Sweet Potato and Spinach Casserole to eat for breakfasts.  It's so easy for me to get in a rut, especially with breakfast.  I'm glad I made it as I had forgotten how yummy this is!

6.  I got a new washer and dryer for Valentine's Day!  Just kidding but we did buy it the day before Valentine's Day and Mr. Helen did try to pass it off as a gift until I reminded him that it's not a gift if I contribute paying for it.  I've been shopping for one for a couple months and I cannot believe how much the technology has changed in the last 13 years, which was the last time I shopped for a set. That set went to my mom when we moved into our current home as there was a set here already.
I have hated that old washer and dryer since the day we moved in.  Honestly, I just do not care for GE appliances at all and as I replace things they are not GE!  I hope I like my new set, which are LG, high efficiency, and energy star rated.

7. Those beauties had to come down that same awful stair case as our sectional did a couple years ago, which is why we bought bought a set even though it was really the dryer that had issues.  Mr. Helen and a couple buddies helped him get out old ones out since we didn't want the delivery guys to be there all day.  Turned out the stairs weren't even the issue.  Even though we had been very careful about the width of the units, we didn't think about the depth.  The depth shouldn't have mattered except the washer hose hookups are not recessed on these units.  Plus our rigid dryer vent didn't work.  The simple delivery turned into a 4 hour ordeal - for us not for the delivery guys of course. This resulted in a trip to buy more new hoses with an elbow and a flexible foil vent.  Plus lots of curse words and frustration from Mr. Helen.   In my dream house, instead of a laundry closet, I have a room with a counter and a sink.  I guess I should just be glad I have a washer and dryer and don't have to go to the laundromat every week, right?

8. Though I use it every day for coffee, I finally tried my Ninja Coffee Concierge to make a fancy drink.  I chose to make a Peppermint Mocha, which is the only drink I'll buy from $tarbuck$ and even then usually only if I'm traveling.  Anyway,  I used this chocolate (also yummy to eat lol):

I chopped about a half ounce into the bottom of my cup, then set the brewer to specialty brew, which concentrates the coffee.  While it was brewing, I heated  a half cup of 1% milk and frothed it well, and voila!  Not only did it taste just like a Peppermint Mocha, I made it healthier with no syrup and no artificial ingredients.

9.  I earned another $5 last Saturday, even with reduced exercise due to my fall.  I know it's a combination of food and exercise that makes up the overall picture, but I was still happily surprised. I just do not trust my thyroid to cooperate. Mr. Helen wanted to show me the photo again, but I'm stood firm and said not looking until I'm done.

10.  Before you ask, I'll feel done when I'm wearing a size 10.  That was what I wanted in 2002 and it's what I want now.

I'm not really dieting per se but I thought this was funny!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

It's Always Something!

As I have mentioned, we have had some very whacky weather this fall and winter going from spring-like temperatures to arctic cold and back sometimes in only 24 hours. After 4 days of below zero temperatures with windchills to match, and many snow squalls, from 4 p.m. on Monday to 4 a.m. on Tuesday we went from a quick snow storm that left super slick roads and 2 inches on the ground, to pouring rain and 45 degrees!

Tuesday morning, when I got up to have my pre-workout coffee, I turned on the TV to look at the news and found that at 4:30 it switched from national to local news.  This is something my news station does whenever there is bad weather.  I thought this was really odd as I could hear the rain and had already looked out the window to determine that yes, it had cleared the roads and even my front yard was beginning to see grass again.

First they showed a tractor-trailer roll-over that was clogging the highway going south (it ultimately took 16 hours to clean that up and some people were stuck on I-95 for 6 hours!).  Then they started talking about how there was a lot of black ice because the ground was frozen underneath the tarmac even though it was nearly 50 degrees outside.  This made me dread my drive to work but first I had to worry about my workout.

I did my scheduled strength training then headed for the treadmill as it was still raining pretty hard.  I very tentatively stepped out my back door and out on to the driveway and noted that our driveway was not slick or icy.  I began to walk normally towards the garage door and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back.

I laid there a minute, listening to my water bottle roll away from me, trying to assess what had happened and if anything was really hurt.  Turns out what I thought was a puddle in my driveway was actually solid black ice.  The fall happened so fast I don't even remember bracing myself - probably good as I could have possible hurt hands or wrists or who knows what else.

Not only did I fall but the acceleration of the fall threw me onto our patio, which as it turned out was a solid sheet of ice.  I realized that there was no way I could stand up as I didn't have ice skates on my feet.  I had to get to my water bottle which had rolled to where Mr. Helen had pushed the snow back to - so I crawled.  Once I retrieved that, I crawled to the garage door where I was able to use the concrete protected by an overhang to get back up.

Now that I've painted that picture, imagine it in the rain, in the dark.

I was more pissed off than anything else - cussing about the stupid CT weather and vowing to move away ASAP.  I did feel a slight twinge in my right knee and my left butt cheek (I'm guessing that where I initially landed) but decided to see if I could manage the Run and Tone as I had planned.
I did manage and came in warning Mr. Helen about the conditions.  

Got cleaned up and left for work only to have my car's anti-lock brakes kick in and the car literally slid all the way down my hill.  As I slid through the stop sign I just prayed no other cars were coming.  I also managed to make it to work ok by driving carefully - the main roads were actually pretty good, just the side/local roads that were still icy.

As my work day went on, my knee continued to ache and by the end of the day was so stiff and sore any movement of my leg that needed knee flexion was causing pain.

I went home and sat with an ice pack for quite some time but by the time I finished dinner I was pretty miserable so Dr. Helen went to Dr. Google to see what I could find.  I also had a discussion about it with Mr. Helen who has injured many ligaments, tendons, and bones over the course of his years of participation in sports.

Based on the pain and which movements made it hurt, I think I somehow injured the Medial Collateral Ligament which is the ligament that runs alongside the inner part of the knee.  It must have twisted as my left foot went out from under me.

At the onset it is recommended that you RICE - Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate - and take ibuprofen. Pretty much standard for most injuries.  This can take from a few days to two months to heal, depending on severity. If the ligament doesn't begin to feel better in a couple weeks, it is recommended that you go to a doctor for an MRI to see if it is a tear rather than a simple over extension.  The good news is that this particular ligament rarely requires a surgical fix.

Of course this means I can't run and at least for a few days, can't walk for exercise either.  I'm not sure how this is going to affect my get healthy plan but I do know the thoughts in my head went straight to doom.  Those who know me know the ONE THING I am quite consistent with is my exercise and to have that taken away is disheartening.

At least when I got up Wednesday, the only thing that hurt was my knee.  I suppose I should be grateful for that.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Fill-In: Food, Fitness, Fives

I'm starting to feel like I'm getting in a groove with my eat regular food, just cut back plan. I had about three days where I was hungry quite a bit, but now that's gone and I'm feeling hungry at appropriate times. It's definitely not deprivation dieting as I've been eating all the things I love.  You saw the Superbowl food and this was Friday night dinner: homemade tomato soup and a grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich. Comfort food at it's best to ward off the insane cold snap we had for three days.

One of this blog's readers emailed and asked me to clarify what "less" is for me.  Here was my thought process for this meal: I could either have less soup and full sandwich or I could have more soup and half sandwich, but I couldn't have more of both. It ended up being the perfect amount of food and I wasn't hungry when I finished this.

It's an awareness of how AND how much I'm eating more than anything.  Another example is that Pimento Cheese.  As I commented to Shelley, I love that stuff so much I could literally eat it by the spoonful - as in, put a spoon in it, dig some out, eat off spoon.  But with my new awareness the thought process goes something like: "I want Pimento Cheese.  OK, how can I work that into my food today?  Oh, I could have a grilled cheese sandwich and soup tonight. Really and truly it seems that my mind moving towards knowing the food is going to be there another time so I'm not tempted to just eat and eat. If I really think I'm craving something, I figure out where to put it within reason.

It's weird but I feel fuller and more satisfied than at any time when I've dieted and forbidden various things. I'm no Oprah eating bread every day but that's only because I don't necessarily want it every day.

The one thing I did decide to cut out for the most part is alcohol. That actually was only a reduction of about 2 days as usually I would have a cocktail both Friday and Saturday night, plus maybe a glass of wine one weekday.  So this past week I was tee-totaling Monday-Friday, drank on Saturday and got right back to no drinking on Sunday.

Whatever the groove is, I'll take it as I am already feeling so much better physically, which is one of my main goals!

Winter workouts can be really tough for me.  First of all, I'm not super motivated because 1.  It's frigging cold, and 2. Except on weekends, it's dark for the entire workout, and 3. Once we start getting a lot of ice and snow and the roads narrow, I'm stuck on the treadmill.

Really, what I need (in both food and exercise) is variety and I found something the other day that made all the difference for me over this last week.  On a Saturday morning during the blizzardy storm we were having, I ran on the treadmill.  After I finished, I wanted to calibrate it, so I started looking for instructions.While looking for those, I found a  notebook of workouts that I've made over the years and had completely forgotten about.  I took the notebook inside and looked through it and decided to incorporate a couple of them to give me a break from run, run, run on the treadmill, then run some more.

Some of the workouts are really old school - in fact the workout I did last Tuesday is a workout I had found and started doing before I was even a runner!  The date on the page proves it:

This workout "The Walk and Tone Plan" has you warm up and then walk for an allotted amount of time then stop and do a strengthening exercise:

In 2002 - pre treadmill days -  I would go to our high school track to do this. Now, except for the warmup and cooldown time, I run rather than walk the segments.  And if you look closely you can see years ago I made notes as to how long the segments added up to if you walked 3, 4, or 5 minutes. On the back side of this page, once you're back home, you pick up weights and do a couple upper body exercises.  When I go with 5 minute segments, I end up working out for about 50 minutes - perfect for my early mornings.

All in all, I just had a great workout week and that was with temperatures that never left the 20's and windchills below zero. I told Mr. Helen as the week went on I felt better and better and stronger and stronger.  This past Saturday it was 19 degrees when I went out for my run and I ran 5 miles.  Honestly, had the wind not picked up (our windchills went to 25 below!!!) I think I would have kept running, it was just that good.  Let's hope this exercise (not weather!) trend keeps up this week!

Conditions at my house on Sunday morning, thankfully my full rest day!

On Saturday morning, once my run was done and after I got cleaned up, it was time to get on the scale and see who got the $5 this week.  I gave Mr. Helen my camera to document it but told him not to tell me or say it out loud, my plan being to have the $5 be my motivation.  He asked me if I felt like I was going to win and I told him I honestly had no idea but the idea wasn't winning, it was staying motivated and feeling better.  I didn't feel particularly thinner, and I've had plenty of weeks where I've been angelic only to gain, but that I did feel SO MUCH BETTER physically and that in and of itself made the little things I had been doing worth it.

After a short tutorial on how the zero scale works, I closed my eyes and stepped on the scale and Mr. Helen said, "I'm looking for a 7 and another number plus the word loss or gain, right?" 


"Holy crap Helen.  Holy crap! You have to let me show you this."  

"NO! Did you take a picture? Do I get my $5?"

"Yes, but you have to let me show you this.  Just this once, please look. After this week, I'll just take the picture and won't tell you, I promise.  You need to look, even I can't believe this - you haven't even been dieting, you've been eating! Please look."

"Ok fine. But from now on you only get to say lost or gained and not tell me how much."

Holy crap, indeed.  I am honestly flabbergasted by this.  This is the most weight I have ever lost in one week, including pre-thyroid days, including crazy detox diets, including ever.  EVER.  I don't know what to make of it but hope that it means my metabolism is cooperating.  Hey, another pound and I've lost all the weight I gained in 2015!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Super Food

If you cook and work with food, you can get very specific ideas about it.  But I also think if you eat food you have very specific ideas about it.  We all eat, right?  It's that thing where you think and think about a meal - whether cooking it or eating it - and you have expectations. Is there anything worse than those expectations not being met?  It's so disappointing to work on a meal or eat a meal that you've been looking forward to, and have it be blah.  Or at least it is in my book.

Well, I'm happy to say, that was not the case with my Super Sunday.  I realize that is probably a trademarked name of the NFL for Super Bowl, but I co-opted it after all the cooking and food prep I did for my brunch and Mr. Helen's Super Bowl goodies.

I promised I would share recipes with you if things came out good and boy did they ever!  I mean every single thing was just simply delicious.  But before I begin, let me apologize right away for the lack of pictures of the brunch foods, as I was a bit distracted by these two adorable people:

A. is  just a year old - but about the size of a 9 month old and it's the cutest thing ever to see her walking. Mal is my friend Em's little guy and he's about 18 months and has started talking and repeating words.  We got him to say "Helen" and I have video proof lol!  So much fun to get baby time.  They were so well behaved and did really well sharing their toys and their snacks.

Anyway, the menu for the brunch was a french toast bake, a frittata, a salad, and at the last minute, instead of making a biscuit I wrapped asparagus with proscuitto.  We also had coffee, tea, water, mimosas (you see the top of the champagne glass up there in that photo?). 

Since I made the recipes exactly as they were published I'm just going to link you to them.

  • The Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast was from Damn Delicious and was the ladies and Mal's favorite.  It is truly so easy and so yummy I will be making this for Mr. Helen and me some weekend when we are snowed in.  It's great because you can prep it the night before and bake it off in the morning.  I sent the leftovers home with the girls because they loved it so much.  
  • The Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Herb Frittata was from Williams-Sonoma Taste.  Again, super easy and really delicious.  Everyone started with a tiny piece then ended up going back for seconds!
For the Superbowl food, I started with crudite(good thing because Mr. Helen actually ate some and that was his veggies), chips and a couple kinds of dip, along with my homemade Pimento Cheese and bread.  Gah!  I am so proud of this cheese as I ended up making a recipe up myself after looking at a bunch of others and it tastes so good.  I'll probably never buy Pimento Cheese again.

I also made Buffalo and Thai Chili chicken wings.  So, chicken wings are not the healthiest thing, but we like them and have them occasionally.  My secret?  I put them on cookie sheets in the oven at bake them for 45 minutes to an hour at 425 degrees until they are nice and crispy before I toss them in the sauce.  I feel it's a bit healthier than frying because no matter how hot your fryer gets, the food will still absorb a bit of the oil.

Classic Buffalo Wings

Thai Chili Wings

These Thai Chili wings were so good and easy. First I marinated them overnight in a big plastic bag with:

2 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, pushed through a press
1/2 tsp. of fresh ginger, minced.

Bake at 425 for about an hour, then toss in sauce:

1/2 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (it's usually in the "International" aisle in your grocery store)
1 T sriracha

To go with these wings, I made a fabulous Cheesy Bacon Tater Tot Pie.

I got the recipe out of my Food Network magazine but click on that title and it will take you to it if you don't have the magazine. The only thing I did different was to cut the sriracha to 1 tablespoon, and I'm glad I did.  Mr. Helen said he couldn't believe it was tater tots and I know he liked it because he polished off the leftovers the next day after round 2 of snow shoveling.  I will be making this again no doubt.

So, all in all, a very successful Super Sunday!

And yes, we're being blasted by snow.  It snowed all day last Friday - we got about 8 inches.  Just as we'd had a bit of melting and the roads were clear, it snowed another 6 inches on Monday - my day off where I did our taxes instead of anything fun.  At least I didn't have the stress I had on Friday having to drive to work in it. Now we're in a deep freeze with below zero temperatures overnight... and I think our high on Sunday is going to be 14.  Mother Nature has mistaken Connecticut for North Dakota!

View from my kitchen window on Monday

Monday, February 8, 2016

$5 Motivation

I know I shared with you in one of my last vacation posts that I save five dollar bills.  I do it all the time but most of the time I don't have a lot of cash on hand, as I ted to pay with my debit card. So the saving is there but it's a lot slower.  When I really want to save for something though, I put more emphasis on withdrawing cash to pay so that I can get some fives in change.

I'm not really sure what it is that motivates about five dollar bills but I think it has something to do with how fast the money adds up, and also that five dollars is not a huge amount like ten or twenty would be and it's not so little like one dollar would be.  Anyway, five dollar bills are my thing.  Hold this thought.

A couple weeks ago I shared in a post that I had decided that while I am not into any sort of hard core dieting, I would cut portions of food back a bit in the hopes of feeling and possibly looking a little better due to some weight loss.  Just my regular food, portions cut 1/3 to 1/2.  (This has been going well by the way!)

One of the comments on that blog was from Lori:
Are you going to St. Martin this year? Slow and steady wins the race. It just feels like you aren't getting anywhere. Still eating the same but less sure can help you from feeling frustrated and going on a bender :)
This is the time of year where I have to skim some blogs and avoid others because they lose weight quickly for whatever reason and the comparison is hard.
I've been thinking about this as well for me because we are going to Ireland in the fall and I would love to drop 20 pounds."
I haven't really talked about it, but I too have to be careful about the blogs I read.  When I start following a blog, or a website, or a Facebook page where someone is rapidly losing weight and improving all sorts of things, it's hard for me not to get sucked in and/or to start having thoughts about doing crazy things.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for anyone who can do that, but most of them are not 55 year old menopausal, hypothyroid women and when I start comparing I feel like a complete and total failure.

Honestly, the hardest thing about just trying to cut back a bit, is staying motivated.  Because slow and steady works but it's hard waiting on my clothes to feel looser.  And so, the other day I found myself once again thinking maybe I'd just rejoin Weight Watchers for the weigh-ins or swing by the Ideal Protein clinic down the road from my job.  (Aside: that last one is so unrealistic - it's a 2 shakes a day program, and the shakes are soy which I can't have.  Plus you have to buy their snacks and some food and it's all soy based.  But I'm telling you people that do it get fast results.  Do they keep it off?  Well I do know one person who has for nearly five years and was able to transition back to "normal" eating but other than that, not so much.)

Truthfully though, when I think about what I really want, it's accountability to keep my motivation going.  Motivation is such a wacky thing  - at least for me.  Remember Bugs Bunny and his dangling carrot?  I feel like I need a carrot.  Lori posted recently about buying her tickets for an anniversary trip to Ireland - that would be a carrot for me!

I was thinking a lot about what sort of carrot I could use to try to stay the course, i.e., not get so discouraged with my slow progress that I end up quitting.  The very issue I've had since 2007 when I was finally given permission by my doctor to try to lose the thyroid weight gain. (even as she was telling me that most of her hypothyroid patients who get the weight gain side effect rarely ever go back to pre-thyroid weight.  Gee, thanks for the encouragement!)

I went to Mr. Helen and asked him if he would participate in helping me stay motivated to stay the course I've chosen.  He said of course he would but then asked me, what is your motivation.  I responded my health, feeling better, blah, blah, blah but that because it's all so slow for me, I get discouraged, and end up throwing my hands in the air as I quit.

Then I said to him, "I know this sounds crazy but one of the only things I've ever been consistently motivated to do besides running, no matter what, is save five dollar bills. But that's not health related.  I wish I could figure out how to use that to help myself but I'm not sure paying myself is enough."

He responded, "What if I pay you? What if you lose weight and I'll pay you $5? Would that keep you motivated?"

I replied, "Well, I think so but I don't want to get crazy about a scale or actually losing weight.  I want weight to be a side effect of me eating a little less and trying to be healthier and feel better."

So we discussed it more and came up with this plan:  I will weigh myself on my zero scale but won't look at it, he will.  Then he will simply tell me if I lost or gained, not even how much, and if I lose, he'll pay me, but if I gain, I have to pay him. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate giving up a five dollar bill.

I'm being realistic about it, especially with my history I know there will be weeks I will do all the right things and might not get any progress, but I do feel this little $5 carrot will keep me motivated, at least for a while.

First weigh in is Saturday.  Keep your fingers crossed for me - I have the day off today and had planned to do a couple fun things, but instead I'm sitting here at home while we get another snowstorm (4-8 inches today - we just got 6 inches last Friday). Everything in  me wants to stress eat, but I am trying to keep my eyes on the prize...

Have I ever told you how much I love Abraham Lincoln?  He has always been one of my favorite Presidents.  Maybe that enhances my love of the five dollar bill.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


What's everyone doing for Superbowl?  I know a lot of people watch that game and/or go to parties even if they normally don't watch football.  I do watch football and though our NY Giants failed miserably this year, we are still looking forward to the game.  Mr. Helen lived in Colorado for a few years when he was in the Air Force so he considers the Broncos a back-up team.  I'm rooting for the Carolina Panthers, mostly because I love everything about North Carolina and also Cam Newton is fun to watch!

It will be a busy day for me because without realizing it was Superbowl when I set it up, I invited two of my younger friends to come for brunch mostly because I want to get some baby time lol!  So I've been working on my menu for that, which will include a sweet, savory, fresh, pastry, and drink. Though I'm not using her recipes, I got that idea from Smitten Kitchen's brunch builder.  Right now I'm planning a lemon blueberry baked french toast, a mushroom and cheese frittata, a salad with mandarin oranges and toasted walnuts, either scones or biscuits, and of course, mimosas, coffee and tea.  Most of the recipes (except the salad) are new ones to me so if any of them turn out well, I'll share them here at a later date.

Once I'm done with brunch I'll be on to Superbowl dishes.  Mr. Helen requested wings but this year I'm going to make a couple types of wings instead of just buffalo.  I'm also making a tater tot casserole just because it sounds fun, some crudites and dip, cheese and crackers, etc.  I'm actually going to try my hand at making Pimento Cheese.  I love Pimento Cheese but have always bought it.

I imagine I'll be busy Saturday prepping and making as many things as I can a day ahead of time but I honestly love doing this type of thing, as long as I have the time to pull it off the way I want to.


I haven't mentioned it here but I am no longer working my second job.  Not by my choice but by a corporate decision.  My last day was January 10th - a Sunday.  On Monday, my phone rang and it was my boss, whom I hadn't spoken too since before the New Year so I wished him a happy new year then asked what I could do for him.  He just flat out stated, "As of today, I don't have a job and neither do you."  Long story short, Simon Corporation who owns the local mall decided to remove the Guest Services booth from 61 malls and ours was one of them.  They didn't give any notice because we handled money.  So, just like that I didn't have a second job.  It was shocking and a bit frustrating at the same time as I'd made up my mind I was going to keep the job for a while.  In any case, due to all my "new" free time, I no longer have to batch cook for the entire week on the weekends.  It has been nice to be able to have a bit more variety in our diet for sure.  Last night as I was making this recipe it occurred to me that it is one of our favorites, easy to make on a weekday after work and I've never shared it here.   This literally takes about 35-40 minutes to make and tastes gourmet!

Mushroom Asiago Chicken

1 pound of thin sliced chicken cutlets (or cut regular chicken breasts in half/thirds yourself)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream

Heat 2 T butter in a large non-stick skillet.  While the butter is melting, mix the flour, salt and pepper together and dredge each piece in this mixture.  Add to melted butter and let brown until golden - about 5 minutes on first side, then flip and cook for only about a minute on the second side.  Put finished chicken on a plate and cover with aluminum foil.

Melt 2 T of butter in same skillet over medium high heat and add the mushrooms.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until they are a bit browned and cooked down.  Add garlic and thyme and saute an additional 2 minutes.  

Pour 1 1/2 cups chicken broth over the mushrooms and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat so that it's at a fast simmer and cook until about half the liquid is evaporated.  Add heavy cream, stir, then nestle the chicken back down into the liquid.  Slowly simmer for about 15 minutes to finish cooking the chicken and meld the flavors.

Serve with pasta or mashed potato and a green vegetable.