Friday, December 26, 2008

Weight Loss Reflections For 2008

My Weight Chart:
Weight Chart

I don't blog much about weight loss journey which began in November of 2007. As much as I love checking out other weight loss related blogs, I just hate talking about my ups and downs on the scale in such a public forum. Still, confession is good for the soul and I think the end of the year is an appropriate time to look back on successes and issues and think about future goals.

The high point (pun intended) for me this year was being diagnosed with high blood pressure again and being able to get off of the blood pressure meds in only 7 weeks. Major exercise and minor diet overhauls were responsible for my blood pressure now being back to normal.

Admittedly I am a little discouraged that I am not closer to the 200lb mark. I had a plateau for several months in the spring and summer where I was stuck at 250 for months. One health problem after another cropped up. None were weight related but they all had me under doctor's orders to lay off the workouts weeks at a time. Thankfully that's all over and I even walked 10,635 steps on Christmas day.

We decided to try and be a bit more "green" this year and that carried over into health benefits as well. We're growing our own veggies and salad greens again. Chopper is certainly not complaining about all the organic produce he's getting at mealtime. The gardening chores get us out in the fresh air and gives ample exercise opportunities thanks to all the weeds. I have also started mowing the yard with the push mower to get in more aerobic activity that is helpful to the environment.

Food around our house has been interesting this year. We made the switch from white to brown rice and it was much less painful than I expected. I really enjoy it now. I've been experimenting with some new (to our palates) herbs and spices that are proported to have antioxidant qualities. We've had some hits and some misses but it hasn't been dull. I found time to rework a few recipes into lighter and healthier versions to suit our new way of eating. (see sidebar for 'Recipes')

On the whole I think I did okay with my weight loss under the circumstances but hopefully next year will be better. I'm looking forward to more time walking around the neighborhood now that the crazy guy down the street has moved out. For 2009 I need to work on taking my vitamins regularly, drink more decaf green tea and take my lunch to work more often.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Chopper supervises as Posh decorates for the holidays.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday!

From The B Family - HuzBen, Leanna, Pearl, Foster, Chopper, Posh, and Danica

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leanna's Christmas Cheese Spread

I have been making this recipe for over 20 years and it's always a hit at parties or potlucks. It's also a very forgiving recipe. If you need to make it for a larger crowd you can use more cheddar cheese or red bell pepper without altering the taste. For a fancier version, you can shape the finished product into a ball and coat the outside with slivered almonds.

Leanna's Christmas Cheese Spread

2 - 8oz pkgs cream cheese (room temp)
1 - 4.25oz can of Underwood Deviled Ham
1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup diced sweet red bell pepper (do not substitute green bell pepper)
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions

Mix the cream cheese, deviled ham and the ranch dressing mix in a bowl. Fold in the remaining ingredients. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Serve with crackers or mini toasts. Can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever

Wow! The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever came yesterday from This was an early Christmas present from HuzBen.

I took it to work today and skimmed through it in between calls. About 30 purple Post-It notes are now sticking out the top, marking recipes that I can't wait to try. I found lots of recipes that use brown rice and chicken breasts and a few vegetarian recipes that sound good. The book has fast and easy recipes that contain canned cream of "whatever" soups and more involved recipes that have detailed sauces. You'll find the often talked about no knead bread recipe that ran in a New York Times article two winters ago. This book boasts over 500 recipes and is more than worth the price.

I think The Best Casserole Book Ever is going to be my new "go to" book when I can't think of anything to make for dinner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Roasted Pork Loin With Potato Chip Crust

Roasted Pork Loin With Potato Chip Crust

One can of vegetable stock

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup on kosher salt

10-20 peppercorns, lightly crushed

3-4 lb pork loin

1/4 cup brown mustard

1 - 10 1/2oz bag of salt and vinegar potato chips

Make the brine by mixing the stock, salt, sugar and peppercorns. Simmer in a med saucepan, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved. Simmer but do not bring to boil. Remove from heat and let the brine cool.

Rinse pork loin, place in plastic sealable bag and pour brine mixture over the pork loin, refrigerate overnight, turning once or twice.

Remove from fridge and let it sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Crush the potato chips, take pork loin out of brine and rinse under cold water. Coat the pork loin with the mustard and roll in the crushed potato chips.

Place in oven. Roast until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buyer Beware

I took a trip to Joann's on Sunday to purchase some contrasting fabric for the pockets of an apron I'm making out of this fabric from my kitchen curtains.

On the remnants rack I can often find small amount of fabric at a big discount so that was my first stop. I didn't see anything that would work for the apron but I did spot a colorful fleece fabric, just perfect for a blanket for Chopper. This is what it looked like when it was all rolled up at the store. Cute, right?

Back in the quilting department I found a suitable fabric for the apron and I found an awesome flannel print that will be turned into a Christmas present for someone. (I'll post about that after the holidays) I took my purchases home and started to launder everything when I unwrapped the fleece for Chopper and discovered that it wasn't exactly what I thought.


Even Danica had to get a look at it. I did not imagine there would be skulls all over the print. Skulls for my sweet little Chopper?! There is no way to return remnants so it looks like my bunny is going hardcore. At least he doesn't seem to mind.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Monti's Roman Bread

Monti's La Casa Vieja is situated across the street from the old flour mill in Tempe, right at the foot of the Mill Avenue bridge over the Salt River/Tempe Town Lake, across the street from Tempe Beach Park. The restaurant has been at that location since 1956 and has been designated a historic landmark. The food is fantatic and when you eat too much of it (and you will!) a stroll around the park or window shopping on Mill Avenue will help the waistline. :-)

Monti's Roman Bread is probably my favorite bread to bake in the winter to warm up the house. The smell of the fresh rosemary is heavenly! This bread is good with butter but it's fantasic when topped with baby swiss cheese.


1 tablespoon sugar
1 cake yeast
11/2 cups lukewarm water
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
chopped fresh rosemary
Olive oil and salt, as needed

Add sugar and yeast to lukewarm water and stir to dissolve yeast. Add flour, salt and onion. Knead until smooth.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down.

Flatten dough on oiled cookie sheet to about 1-inch thick. Oil the top of the dough.

Let rise until doubled in size.

Sprinkle with salt and fresh rosemary.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Healthier Meatloaf

Healthier Meatloaf

This has all the taste of traditional meatloaf but it contains added fiber. Using lean ground beef and baking it on a rack helps reduce the saturated fats and beneficial MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) are added in the form of olive oil. You cannot taste the apple but it helps keep the ground beef moist.

2 lbs very lean ground beef
1 egg white
1 pkg plain instant oatmeal
1/2 HoneyCrisp Apple, grated
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/3 cup BBQ Sauce (plus more to spread on top before baking)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic salt

If you like a little bit of crunch just blend the ingredients above and shape your meatloaf. If you like your veggies softer, saute the onion and celery in the olive oil before adding to the mixture.

Shape meatloaf and wrap in tightly plastic wrap. Place in fridge for at least 1 hour.
Unwrap and place meatloaf on a rack in a baking pan so it will not be sitting in any residual grease as it bakes. Bake until internal temp is 160 degrees, about 60-75 minutes. Coat with more BBQ sauce at the 45 minute mark. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Today is one of those perfect Arizona days that we all moved here to enjoy. It's sunny but breezy and I have all the windows and doors open to enjoy the fresh air. Posh and Danica are in the window of the guest room looking at the sparrows chirping in the bougainvilla. When they get bored with the sparrows they run to the screen door and watch the hummingbirds in the front garden, flying around the lantana. Foster is out on the porch entertaining himself by watching the activity at bird bath in the backyard. Oh, the easy life of kitties!

Psalm 105:1-2 – "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Healthier Artichoke Chicken

Healthier Artichoke Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 - 15 oz can chopped artichoke hearts, drained well
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup Best Foods Mayonaise With Olive Oil*
1/3 cup fat free sour cream
1 tbsp Penzey's Shallot Pepper Seasoning

In a fry pan, brown chicken breasts in olive oil on both sides. Transfer to a shallow 2 quart casserole dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup of roman cheese, mayo, sour cream and Penzey's Shallot Pepper Seasoning.

Top chicken with the artichoke mixture and sprinkle remaining Romano cheese on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

* East of the Mississippi Best Foods is known as Hellman's

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tackling The Pantry

With the Thanksgiving holiday over and having a long weekend to myself, I decided to catch up on some projects. Yesterday I finally tackled the pantry and labeled all of our food storage containers with my trusty P-Touch Label Maker. Getting this done was on my project list for 2008 so I am getting it in just under the wire.

We have a good size pantry for a house this small and quite a selection of Tupperware to help make the best use of the space. To "store what you use and use what you store" Tupperware is the best for long term storage IMHO. It is available in all shapes and sizes and it's designed to stack and store while taking up minimal space. Five gallon buckets and not designed to be opened and closed again and are not made to stack on each other.

I bake bread so we buy bulk items like wheat flour and whole grains from Sprouts. We're also made the switch to healthier brown rice this year to aid in our weight loss. Sprouts stocks short and long grain as well as brown arborio rice for making risotto. They have a rapid turnover so you know the bulk items are really fresh. Everything we buy goes into the freezer for a few days and then is put into Tupperware Modular Mates.

With their new labels I won't mistake pastry flour for bread flour ever again.

Next project - the office!