Monday, August 19, 2013

Unintentional Vacation - It's a GOOD Thing!

Hey y'all!

I have to take a little time away from el blog-o. Nothing serious, just BUSY.

Life took a crazy turn last week (which, since I wrote all those posts in advance, I didn't have a chance to share and edit), and ended on a good note. I've attained a teaching position, which is great! School starts Wednesday, though, and I have had very little time to prepare for it, so I want to just focus on doing my job well. Children are the future and all that happy crap. ;D

I'll be back in September, aiming to post at least 2-3 times a week again. Promise!

Until then...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Foodie Friday: Healthy Eating Recipes!

Let's be honest: You're here for the recipes, right? ;D I understand. Let's cover the food first, then if you're curious how I'm eating/exercising, that'll be below the "Read More" link!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that are low-calorie, and easily served alongside some veggies (if they don't incorporate veggies already)!

The one pictured above is my own mish-mash that I like to call "Asian Goulash" (even though it has nothing in common with actual goulash). I love Chicken Lettuce Wraps from P.F. Chang's, but it's an awfully expensive option. ;) I found this recipe from YumSugar years ago, and basically mish-mashed the recipe into my own combination of them. If I don't feel like scooping it into lettuce, I'll serve it over rice instead with a little extra sauce. This recipe doubles easily if you have more people to feed; I designed it for one large serving each for 2 people (The Hubs and myself).

Asian "Goulash"

1/2 pound ground meat (I used turkey)
1/2 of an 8oz can of water chestnuts, chopped into bite-size pieces
2-3 celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp minced garlic (or less, if you're not as into garlic as I am - I loooove garlic)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger OR 1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, split
1 Tbsp hoisin or oyster sauce (whatever you prefer), split
1 tsp corn starch, split
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
dash of sesame oil (optional)
minced green onions (optional)
lettuce leaves (I love butter lettuce for this) or cooked rice

  1. Chop your veggies and aromatics first! Sprinkle 1/2 a tsp of cornstarch over the ground turkey and mix it up. (The cornstarch will help give the sauce something to adhere to later.)
  2. Mix 1.5 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 a Tbsp of hoisin/oyster (whichever you chose). Go ahead and mix the remaining soy and hoisin, 1/2 a tsp of cornstarch, pepper flakes, and  sesame oil (if including); it'll be your sauce for pouring over the meat and rice. We're prepping all this stuff ahead because the cooking process will go FAST.
  3. Spray a little cooking spray on your skillet. Throw in the garlic and ginger, and stir around a little, about 1 minute. Add the cornstarched-mixed meat, and cook until meat is cooked through. 
  4. Add in the celery and water chestnuts. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring around. 
  5. Pour the soy/hoisin-only mixture over the meat and veggies, and stir around to make sure everything's covered. You're done!
  6. Serve over rice or in washed lettuce leaves, pouring the sauce over it if you desire. (If you don't think you'll want sauce, use it during the cooking process. The Hubs likes having extra sauce so I save half for serving.) Enjoy!
Served over rice, each serving is 352 calories, 9.4g fat, 37.3g carbs (4g of fiber!), and 28g of protein! SUPER-filling.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I actually typed the recipe up over on SparkRecipes already. But it's mine! I modified it from a vegan recipe on because I like cheese too much to substitute the fake stuff. ;p

Other healthy recipes I like that I didn't create:
Sausage and Brown Rice casserole (I sub in carrots and cauliflower for the bell pepper)
Slow-Cooker Teriyaki Pork  (I serve it over brown rice and steamed broccoli!)
Fagioli Soup - pasta fagioli soup without the pasta
Cheeseburger Soup - Low carb and deeee-lish!

What's great about all of these recipes is that they HAPPEN to be healthy while also being super-tasty! The Hubs does NOT complain when we eat these, and I don't feel like all I'm eating is lettuce.

If you'd like to know what my general eating and exercise practices are, click on "Read More"!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Works for Me: Healthy Habits Checklist (Free Printable!)

  Download link: JPG  PDF

So not only am I doing all that healthy eating junk, but I'm ALSO getting my teeth health junk in order, too! Nothing serious, but my dentist would like me to brush my teeth twice a day (I'm a mornings-only brusher) and floss at least once a day (Yup, I'm REALLY bad). I'm naturally blessed with good quality teeth; I'll be 32 this year, and I still have only had one official cavity! My gums aren't great, though, and I went through a deep root planing 2 years ago and I will be DARNED if I have to go through THAT again, ugh. (I'm sure it's nowhere near as bad as a root canal, but it was bad enough to make me want to be better about my teeth!)

I've been pretty good the last week or so, but it's not a habit yet, so I thought it might help to put a little checklist near my bathroom mirror so I can check it off. I wanted it to be reusable, and then I decided I wanted it to be cute, too! So my solution: Make a cute graphic (like the one above - yup, I made that!), and use one of my favorite teacher tricks for cheap whiteboards: Put it in a document protector and use wet/dry erase markers for the writing and checking!

Use the wet-erase marker for the habits you want to work on, and the dry-erase marker for the check marks. This way, you can erase your check marks without having to re-write your goals every day. (Of course, you could always use PicMonkey to "write" it on the image itself.)

I haven't had a chance to take a picture of it in action, but it's nothing fancy, just in the clear sheet protector. :)

Hopefully this checklist helps you keep track of your daily goals! You can do it!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Works For Me: Healthy Changes

As I've mentioned before, I have health issues that I'm treating. One of the best ways to treat these issues is eating healthy and exercise - you know, the two things that were, like, ZERO fun for me. ;)

I'm a firm believer that people only change when they're ready, regardless of how necessary those changes may be. I notice when I'm open to the change, and I try to seize the moment. As such, I've been slowly working my way towards eating better and exercise over the last year... VERY slowly on the exercise front. Now things are starting to come together, and I'm starting to feel really great about my progress!

Don't worry, this is NOT turning into a health-based blog. (There are way better ones out there!) It's been my focus of late, though, so I needed to "blog it out". All these changes don't make me an expert, but I like to share what works for me because it might work for someone else, too! Here are the unofficial "rules" I live by which are helping me succeed at the moment:
  • Start small, and find compromises when you can! This was the best advice I've read, and I wish I'd saved the blog where I found it! Specifically, the advice was to just focus on giving up something you know is bad for you for now, and as you become accustomed, try giving up another bad thing. It was easy to switch my chemical-laden coffee creamer to all-natural half-and-half (as the entry suggested), but I knew diet soda was going to be harder and I'd have to find a happy medium. My endocrinologist says stevia is ok for my dietary needs - so I've switched to Zevia-brand soda, which is the only one I've found made with stevia. I make sure to have no more than 2 a day, usually as a "treat" with my lunch and dinner. It keeps me sane, it's better for me, and I've noticed that it doesn't dehydrate me as much as other artificial sweeteners did!  
  • Make the end goal reasonable. A specific measurable goal that's reasonable is good: right now my goal is to lose 5% of my body weight overall. The number on the scale is just a measurement tool, though, and it doesn't decide my overall success, especially considering my PCOS makes weight loss veeeeeery slow-going, so I don't want to make the scale my main measurement. My overall goal in this is to improve my overall health; if I only lose 2 pounds, but my endocrinologist sees an overall improvement in my numbers, I'm going to feel successful! Losing 5% of my current weight might make a marginal change in my appearance, but it will improve my overall health a LOT.
  • Find the easiest way to do it. Veggies was the hardest thing to add to my diet when it hasn't been a regular part of it. So I found the easiest ways to incorporate them! Aside from the recipes I linked, I buy a big box of mixed greens and spinach for easy salads, and frozen broccoli or cauliflower that I steam in the microwave for a quick dinner side (I'll dress them with a sprinkle of salt and garlic powder). Those are veggies that I like and don't feel annoyed to eat, and that take mere minutes to prepare. I eat a big salad typically with lunch, and then veggies with dinner (If I'm feeling esp. sassy, I'll have a salad AND frozen veg with dinner!) Do the same with your health bugaboo - find the easiest way to incorporate or address it. 
  • Give in to a craving - within reason. You've probably seen this before, but it's really true; if you are legitimately craving something to the point of distraction, give in and get it out of your system. BUT do it in moderation! Here are my rules for myself when it comes to cravings: I have to have thought about it for at least 3 days in a row, I don't substitute it with something that won't quell the craving, and I have to buy the smallest 1 serving amount of it that I can (and that's ALL I buy).  I love nacho cheese Doritos, but I know I can eat a whole bag in one sitting - so I keep them out of the house. If a craving hits, I'll buy the smallest 1 serving bag I can find, and I'll enjoy it. It gets the craving out of my system, I don't feel like I've deprived myself, and there's no more in the house because I only bought the 1 serving.
  • When eating out, pick one indulgence.  The point of eating out, in my opinion, is to indulge. When you're trying to eat better, though, eating out often is NOT going to help. So I'm trying to eat better when I do eat out by sacrificing something or including something I might not normally. If it's a burger place, I will usually get the burger I want and sacrifice the fries for veggies instead. Yes, I'm still eating a not-great food, but I'm only eating one "naughty" element as opposed to an entire "naughty" meal, and I'm also getting my veggies in with it and the tastes that made me want to eat out in the first place.
  • Don't beat yourself up over a bad day. This is the hardest truth, but it's the most important one. We're human and we're going to make mistakes. I am extremely susceptible to the "Well, I screwed up, might as well just give up entirely" attitude. So far, I've managed to get over myself and just start fresh with the next meal. For example, I'd been craving beef broccoli with fried rice from my fave local Chinese place for a week, so I indulged the other day. It was waaaay too much food, and I felt STUFFED and regretted a little. BUT I recognized that it got the craving out of my system, and I had a very reasonable dinner to make up for it. I moved on from my mistake instead of drowning in it.
  • Figure out what works for YOU - you may have to switch it up until you find your best method! These are all tips that work for me: gradual small changes that add up to good health. Some people, though, can just completely turn a 180 from old habits and thrive! If that works for you, then keep on keepin' on! When something's not working, try something else. My eating changes are all manageable for me, and I can feel the change (and see it - my clothes are a little loose and friends are asking if I've lost weight). This first week of incorporating exercise is working well for me because I know what works for me and my attitudes, and I also know to not push myself, lest I hurt myself and have to stop, which will make me lose momentum; I figure as long as I break a sweat and am slightly out of breath by the end, I did my job for now. As it gets easier, I'll push myself harder. Consider your habits and your natural inclinations, and work with them, not against them.
For Foodie Friday, I'll share my eating and exercising changes, along with my favorite healthy meal ideas; this entry's long enough! Come back Wednesday for another helpful idea in making healthy habits stick!

Follow me on Twitter or Instagram to keep me accountable! I figure if I'm going to talk the talk, I better walk the walk, so I'll be posting picture collages of my meals for the day and logging my exercise! I won't spam your feeds, most likely 1-3 posts a day at the most.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Foodie Friday - 3 Fast Meal Ideas!

As I've mentioned before (multiple times), I am a lazy cook. If I can afford to go pick up the meal, I'm probably gonna go pick up the meal.

Of course, when one is trying to eat healthy, picking up a meal that's healthy-ish and cheap is a near-impossible feat! Good for you food fast tends to be more expensive; seriously, getting a meal-sized salad or adding a side of steamed veggies is more expensive than just eating the fries that come with most meals!Of course, when funds are limited, that's not an option, either. So what's left to do but order the cheap, bad-for-you option? Especially when cooking just takes sooooo long...

Not necessarily!

I've found that, for myself, the less time I have to spend prepping, the happier I am to cook from home. One thing that saves prep time is to buy cheap shortcuts, such as frozen veggies and frozen sides like rice; I try to avoid processed sides like Carb-A-Ronis because there's so much unknown crap in them! Even cheaper is to buy the stuff fresh and freeze it yourself, which I'll do when I can with things like rice or beans.

Here's three of my favorite quick meal ideas for when I want something fast, tasty, and don't want to eat from a fast food restaurant!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

5 Favorite Things (About Sacramento!)

So I live near the state capitol of California - Sacramento! This past July 1st was our 7-year anniversary; we still live in the same apartment, even. (Although that time is probably coming to an end soon - we'll discuss that some other time.)

When we moved here, we thought this would be somewhat temporary; we both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and figured we'd move back once we were a little more financially viable. We never considered Sacramento a possible permanent home, but now I can't imagine moving back to the Bay. I'm NOT saying I don't miss it like crazy sometimes, but it's become a nice place to visit and reminisce. Sacramento is where The Hubs and I have spent most of our time together, and it feels more like home now.

So here are my 5 favorite things about Sacramento and the surrounding area:
  • The Capitol building. It's GORGEOUS, and I love seeing it from various cross streets. During the day or at night, it's a sight to see. Also adding to its gorgeousness: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. YUM. Despite his working regularly in close proximity, I've yet to actually see him. Mainly because stalking is illegal and I also know I would make a damn fool out of m'self if I saw him, squeeing like a teen girl at a One Direction concert.
  • The Crocker Art Museum - I lived here for 6 years before I finally checked it out - then I checked it out twice in six months! First time was with my fellow art/theater nerd N, and second time was with The Hubs (they had a fantastic Norman Rockwell exhibit that we were both interested in viewing). It was just the old Crocker mansion, but then they expanded it into a modern building in addition to the original mansion. 
  • The Sacramento Rivercats, our local minor league baseball team - The Hubs is a huge SF Giants fan - and unfortunately, the Rivercats are the feeder team for the Oakland A's (doh!). We don't hold it against them, though. Raley Field, where they play, is a very nice park with good concessions, and I enjoy the little extra entertainments they throw in for the kids and between innings. All this makes for a fun night out during the summer months!
  • Ghostbusters! That's right, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! I first saw them during a local 4th of July parade, but I've seen the car driving around at least twice since. It always makes me smile. They're committed cosplayers (so as a huge nerd I LOVE that), and they do charity work. How can you not love that? Plus what other city can claim to actually have the Ghostbusters? ;D
  •  The FOOD. So many great restaurants to check out! Plus fancy grocery stores (I'm such a sucker for that stuff), from chains like Trader Joe's and Whole Paycheck Foods to local favorites like Taylor's Market and Corti Bros. My favorite local restaurants so far have been in Midtown Sacramento, for the most part; our favorite place to take out-of-towners is to Chicago Fire because the buffalo wings are perfect, the pizza is AMAZING, and their chocolate chip cookie a la mode is heaven. We've checked out tons of places that we loved and keep meaning to go back to, but just haven't (we try to keep the pricy meals out limited to once a month indulgences), and with so many options it's too tempting to try something new every time! I'm just happy to have my local sushi favorite, my local Chinese food favorite, and my local sandwich place favorite for quick meals, and then so many options to explore for fancier meals out! Off the top of my head, I highly recommend the Squeeze Inn for burgers, Paesano's for a unique Italian-style meal, the Buckhorn Grill for yummy tri-tip, and Thai House for Thai food.
Ok, 1 more thing that I HAVE to include and is not technically IN Sacramento: 
  • Location, Location, Location! - I love that Sacramento is so close to so many things! Ok, "close" is a relative term. What I mean by this is Sacramento is only a couple hours away from a wealth of different activities. Major attractions like Reno/South Lake Tahoe is only a few hours away, the Napa Valley is about an hour and a half, San Francisco is about 2 hours away (excluding traffic), San Jose is just over 3 hours away (we go there at least once a year to see the SJ Sharks). Then there's local attractions that are less than an hour away (or right in town), like Apple Hill, Historic Folsom, the Jelly Belly factory, the state fair (which just ended!), and Old Sacramento. It's great to have so many interesting options for when you want to get out of town for a day or a weekend! 
I could go on! We have a great theater scene that I'm still discovering, nearby Placer county has lots of unique sites to visit, there's farmland all over the place (if you're into that sort of thing - having taught students in FFA clubs, though, it is kind of neat if you're a city mouse like m'self), lots of local breweries (if you're into that sort of thing)... there's so much about Sacramento to experience! It's only in the last few years that I finally warmed up to the city, and at this point it feels like home. I look forward to raising our family around here!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's Happening Lately

Confession time: I like to update 3 times a week minimum, but lately my inspiration has only given me two ideas at the most, and then goes back to sleep. PFFT. Maybe if I build a shrine or something, my muse will work a little harder. So when I'm at a loss for what to talk about, I resort to myself and what's going on in my life! Y'know, 'cuz I'm SO fascinating.

So the biggest thing that's going on in my life right now is unfortunately my looming unemployment. Well, technically I've been unemployed since January, when my last position informed me they were letting my contract expire, but I still had to finish the school year, obviously. I'm currently 0 for 6 on the interview front, and the school year starts very soon, so I'm having to start with the Plan B.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Foodie Friday - Fast, Cheap, and Easy: Breakfast Options!

So far, every job I've had since we moved here has required me to commute at least 30 minutes (if not more). I HAVE to eat breakfast, and as I value my sleep, I prefer it to be quick to make or reheat and something I can eat while driving. Even better if I can make/prep everything on Sunday night in as little amount of time as possible! Plus the easier and faster I can make a breakfast at home, the less tempting it is to spend money in a drive-thru!

There are a few options I have come up with that work really well for me; I need a healthy-ish carb, protein, and if I can squeeze in some veggies, all the better! I've sorted them between "ridiculously easy", "needs a little prep", and "needs a LOT of prep". Enjoy!

Ridiculously Easy


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