Friday, May 31, 2013

Pasta Taco Bake or Another Reason Not to Eat Hamburger Helper Ever Again (if you still do)

I had to dig down deep on my Food and Drink board to find this recipe (that is bound to happen when you have 450 pins on that board alone). I mentioned in an earlier post that the majority of my pins are desserts so finding a dinner recipe can be a bit of a struggle, especially two days before grocery shopping day. This one came across my screen, looked appetizing, and I had all of the required ingredients. 

Recipe Ingredients:
  • 1/2 - 3/4 of a bag of large noodle pasta like ziti
  • approx. 1lb of ground beef
  • 1 pkg/envelope of taco seasoning
  • 1C water
  • 1/2 pkg of cream cheese (about 4oz)
  • 1 1/2C shredded cheese (I used marble)
1. boil pasta until just cooked, drain, run cold water over it
2. brown ground beef
3. mix together taco season and 1C of water, pour over cooked beef and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced
4. add the 1/2 pkg of cream cheese to the beef mixture, stir until melted and combined, remove from heat
5. put pasta in your casserole dish or pot, mix in 1C of the shredded cheese
6. top pasta and cheese with beef mixture, gently mix until the pasta is coated
7. top with remaining 1/2C of shredded cheese
8. bake at 350 uncovered for approx 30 minutes
(Recipe from
 I used ground turkey instead of beef and Neufchatel cheese. I almost never use ground beef, the hubs and I have just gotten so used to using turkey that ground beef tastes funky to us and the cheese is slightly lower in fat and calories so it's what I always buy. I also added about half a cup of diced onion at the husband's request but that could easily be omitted or increased depending on your tastes.
 Meat has been browned, and the sauce has been reduced
Melting the cream cheese into the sauce (it smells and tastes better than it looks I swear).
Cooked pasta in the casserole dish with shredded cheese on top (I only used about half a cup)
After 30 minutes in the oven, ready to serve
This dish tasted great, much better than any taco Hamburger Helper I have ever made and it can feed way more people. I used a mild taco seasoning but it still had a bit of a bite (for me but I'm a spice wimp). You could use a medium or hot seasoning or add red or cayenne pepper to the mix if you wanted it spicer. This would easily serve 8 people with generous portions and is very filling. MyFitnessPal put the calorie around 356 calories for an 1/8 of the casserole so it's not over the top, especially for a pasta dish. The husband enjoyed it and even kiddo ate it without a "whole" lot of complaint (which is kind of a big deal for my picky eater). I had some for lunch today as well and it reheats well, though it does dry out a bit. Definitely more time consuming that Hamburger Helper but I think its worth the extra time not to eat all those preservatives and to get leftovers out of the deal. This got added to my Recipes I've Made and Would Make Again board. If you are interested in seeing what else is on my Pinterest Boards click on the follow me on Pinterest logo at the top right of my blog. Happy eating everybody!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pinterest Lies...or the Worst Broccoli I Have Ever Made

In my continuing quest to lose the baby weight, I have been on the hunt for healthy recipes I can easily add into my cooking repertoire. One about baking broccoli in the oven caught my eye and when I went to Sprouts (our local farmer's market like grocery store) broccoli just happened to be on sale so I picked some up and decided to give this pin a try. This is one of those pins where the instructions are in the comments section, but I did my due diligence and checked the link to make sure nothing had been changed or left out. Nothing had been, which made me excited to try the pin, because any recipe with broccoli that doesn't include dousing it in cheese is a benefit for me.
Here are the ingredients. I didn't use as much broccoli as the pin said I doubt that had anything to do with the recipe bombing. Here are the instructions from the pin, which mirror what was on the blog page. Put a few Tbsp of olive oil in a Ziploc with some salt and pepper and the broccoli and shake. Then spread on a cookie sheet and spread minced garlic over it and roast at 425 deg F for 20-25 minutes. After it comes out, squeeze a lemon over it and sprinkle w Parmesan.
Here is the broccoli after it has been shaken in the Ziploc bag with the other ingredients. I made the mistake of putting the Parmesan cheese on it first, when the instructions require it at the end but again I don't think even that screw up was the downfall of the recipe. I put these in the oven for 23 minutes at 425. Here is what came out of the oven:

The blogger described them as "crispy and delicious" but I would call them "burnt and nasty". The florets were mostly blackened and tasted like what you would assume burnt broccoli would taste like. The stems were OK, the olive oil and minced garlic gave them some flavor but it didn't make up for the burnt tops. The blog said these were supposed to be amazing and "better than biting into a steak" but I would have much rather had the steak or even boring steamed broccoli instead. I tried a few but in the end I tossed them in the trash and opened up a can of corn to have with dinner instead. They might have been good if I had made a foil bag and steamed them in the oven, which I may try, but I would not cook them uncovered in the oven again. I encourage everyone to eat their vegetables, but I personally can't endorse this particular method.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Post Modernism Piece in the Medium of Shaving Cream

At Kathryn's preschool they have been playing with shaving cream a lot lately, or at least that is what I gather from how much she talks about playing with it. When we went to Walmart last week, she begged me to buy a can of shaving cream so she could play with it. I figured it was worth the $1.18 to make her happy and I knew I could probably get a blog post or two out of it so in the cart it went. I checked my Kathryn board when we got home and saw that I had pinned using shaving cream as an outdoor paint with and decided to try that out.
The original pin called to use the egg dye drops for coloring, and although I searched high and low for some in my pantry, we were all out. I did have coloring gel that is specifically used for dying icing and used that instead. I would recommend using the egg dye if you have it as this dye is more expensive, but in a pinch it worked great. I grabbed one of my old muffin tins and a few of my big cheap paint brushes and got started mixing the colors.

I squeezed the shaving cream into the spaces on the tin (do that at a slight angle and make sure to shake the can a bit first as to not have a bit of a shaving cream explosion, I learned that the hard way) then used tooth picks to get some gel out of the container and mix it around to make each color. I obviously only used each toothpick once and tried to get a decent amount of gel on them so I didn't have to go back for more gel.
Once all of the colors are mixed your ready to paint. We have two large windowed patio doors and I told K she could paint on them only, but you could easily paint on a sidewalk or any outdoor surface that you can easily spray off with a hose. I gave her the brushes, paint, and a bowl of water to rinse the brushes in and let her go to town. This kept her entertained for over an hour until she ran out of color and window space to paint on.

Artist at Work
Showing off her finished product
Like I said earlier she loved painting with the shaving cream and has been begging all weekend to do it again (which I'll probably let her later today). The only downside was the slightly discolored hands and arms from the dye. After a healthy dose of hand sanitizer and a bath the color was almost gone. By the next day after a few more hand washings it was completely gone. The color rinsed right off the windows with the garden hose in about 30 seconds, but I have no clue how well it would come off of cement or any other outdoor surface. I definitely recommend trying it with the kiddos, its a super cheap outdoor activity that I think most kids (even older ones) would really enjoy. Definite Pinterest Win!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hardest Post I've Ever Written, But it Needed to Be Done

As anyone who has read this blog recently knows, I had a beautiful baby boy on April 21st. Like most new mom's I am struggling with my battle worn post baby bump body. I can't complain about my pregnancy, my morning sickness was minimal and I felt pretty good up until the last few weeks. The down side is that when I get pregnant, I get FAT. Not just swollen but just downright chunky. I gained 60 pounds with my first pregnancy (and it took a year and a half to get the weight off) and 50 pounds with this one. I really tried to be better this time, and diet wise I ate much healthier food but I was hungry constantly and needed to eat to not feel sick. I was also very tired and stopped running regularly, which I had been doing for 6 months prior to getting pregnant. I believe this lack of regular exercise made the weight come on a lot faster than it would have if I had at least tried to keep up a regular exercise routine.

It's been almost 5 weeks since giving birth and I was cleared by my Dr. to start exercising again. I have been using MyFitnessPal to help keep a food diary and calorie count. I signed up for an account (and downloaded the app for my phone and iPad) a few weeks and I LOVE it. I haven't found a food yet that it doesn't have in its database and the recipe adding function is super easy. It also keeps track of foods you added in the past so if you eat something all the time you can easily find it on you recent list instead of having to search for it every time. I have been tracking my calories for about 2 weeks and have sticking to it because its so easy. I found a calorie calculator to see what I should be taking in every day to lose weight while still breastfeeding. I have been eating around 2000 calories a day for the last two weeks and have seen slow but steady weight loss, I know that when I start exercising I will be able to eat more calories as long as I keep breastfeeding, and once I stop I'll have to stick to around 1600 calories a day to keep losing weight.

Now here comes the hard part. One of the hardest things for a girl to admit is her real weight and let people see her at her not so best. I need to be held accountable and who better than my friends and blog readers to keep me honest and motivated. I want to be honest with my struggle because SO many women struggle with the same thing, especially after having a baby. If I can motivate even one new mom or fellow chubby girl to get moving and start working on getting to their goal weight or size then I will know that being brutally honest about myself will be worth it. I figure the worst someone can say is that I'm fat and it wouldn't be the first time. So here we go:

Pre-Baby Weight- 155 pounds-Size 10 pants
Max Baby Weight- 205 pounds
5 weeks Post Partum Weight- 182.2 pounds- Size 16 pants

First picture was at 40 weeks 2 days pregnant      Second picture was last night at 4 weeks 5 days PP  

My weight this morning (please forgive my toes, I need a polish change ASAP)
 So here's the plan of action. I'm starting Couch to 5K with a friend next week (my first 5K, which will be the Rahr & Sons 5K on September 28th in Fort Worth)  and my family and I are trying to figure out a gym schedule for us to go to the YMCA regularly (they won't watch the baby until he's 6 months old). I am going to try REALLY hard to go early in the morning after the baby's feeding and before my husband leaves for work (that's my goal for Monday). I also have some Jillian Michael's DVDs to throw in on days I can't get to the gym in the early AM. I'm going to stick to my calorie counting and keep breastfeeding (it really is a calorie buster, but you have to drink A LOT of water and try to pump when you can). I'll post an update maybe once a week and I also plan on blogging on some of the fitness things I have pinned, since you know I have to stick with the blogs original format. Can't weight to get started (ha ha, chubby girl pun) and see what the summer brings me. Well I'm off to take a walk before the baby wakes up from his nap. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enchilada Casserole

I made it a mission this week to eat at home every night this week (with me on maternity leave we need to save money where we can). I had been perusing my Food and Drinks board to try and find something new to make for dinner, which is a challenge since I pin WAY more desserts than anything else. I pinned this a week or two ago and it looked pretty yummy. When I checked the recipe it came from an awesome blog called, I have at least 10 of their recipes pinned, this is definitely one of my favorite Pinterest found websites. I tweaked the recipe a bit so I will include the original recipe and my tweaks (which are in italics) so you can see both.

Cheesy Enchilada Casserole
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)- (I used 93/7)
1 large onion, chopped or season with Onion powder or minced onion
2 1/2 cups salsa (I used about 2 cups)
1 can (15 ounces) black beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I used Pinto beans, husbands preference)
1/4 cup reduced-fat Italian salad dressing (I omitted this since I didn't have any)
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium taco seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6 flour tortillas (8 inches) (I used 12 corn tortillas, they are lower calorie than flour)
1 small can of drained corn, or about 1 1/4 cups of frozen corn (optional) (I used an ear of fresh corn cut from the cob because that's all I had at home)
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream *Note: I used 1/2 cup
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (I omitted the last three since I didn't have them either)
I also added a can of mild enchilada sauce, I wasn't sure why you could call this an enchilada casserole without actually including enchilada sauce.

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
Stir in the salsa, beans, dressing, sour cream, corn (optional), taco seasoning and cumin.
Spoon a generous layer of meat mixture on bottom of 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
Place a flour or corn tortilla on top of meat mixture. Layer with half of the meat mixture, and cheese. Repeat as many layers as you like.
The last & final layer should be a healthy dose of grated cheese.
Cover with foil that has been sprayed with Pam or other and bake at 400° for 25 minutes, or until hot & bubbly.
Let stand for 5 minutes before topping with lettuce, tomato and cilantro. Yield: 8 servings.
Meat browning with the onions

Meat mix layer
Each layer of tortillas has 6 corn tortillas

Foil on top, ready for the oven

After 25 minutes covered and an extra 5 minutes in the oven uncovered
Cut and ready to eat

Makes about 8 very healthy sized servings
I put the recipe in MyFitnessPal (with my changes) and put it in as serving 8 people. Each serving came in at around 370 calories, so it's fairly healthy as long as the servings aren't too big. That shouldn't be a problem as this is a very filling dish. I think the fresh corn made a difference too, I could really taste the freshness of the corn so I would recommend using left over corn of the cob if you happen to have any. It was delicious and  the spice level could easily be adjusted to taste. Mine was fairly mild but jalapenos or other chilies could easily be added to make it spicier. This recipe was easy and would also make a great pot luck casserole or a dinner to bring to someones house. I had a second serving for lunch today and it was very good as leftovers. I added sour cream and half an avocado as a garnish and it was wonderful with that as well. I recommend this dish and going to the Six Sisters website, as they have a ton of other great recipes as well.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Fried" Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, It's Not Just for Elvis Anymore

I came across this particular pin and immediately said to myself "That is what I'm having for lunch today." I've made peanut butter and banana sandwiches before but I always toasted the bread and never really thought about frying it in a pan. This recipe also called for coconut oil, so you know I was all about trying another way to use that versatile jarred wonder.
I used Sara Lee 45 Calorie Honey Wheat bread (best low calorie wheat bread I have tried thus far), Great Value Natural Peanut Butter, my wonderful Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, and half of a large banana. Anyone could easily use a white bread and a different peanut butter (crunchy would probably be AWESOME), or a non peanut butter variety if allergies are a concern. I've heard good things about sun butter. 

I used about a tablespoon of coconut oil and melted it in the pan. I had the heat on a low medium setting and coconut oil melts very quickly so it took no time at all to liquefy. Please ignore my clean but water marked pan, I did a no-no and washed it in the dishwasher. I have learned my lesson, I promise.
I used about a tablespoon of peanut butter and spread it on both pieces of bread, then sliced up the half a banana placed it on the bread. This bread is a little on the small side (what can you expect from a 45 calorie slice of bread) so I ended up eating a little bit of the banana that didn't fit on the sandwich. Once the pan was hot I put the sandwich on and cooked each side for about 2 minutes. This is the toasted level I like, it makes the bread nice and crispy. My husband would call this burnt, to each his own I guess, so cook it to your own preferences.
My Instagram worthy creation
 Like I said earlier, I have made PB&B sandwiches in the past and they were good, but this was great. The coconut oil toasted the bread so well, giving it a wonder ful light crispy taste without leaving any oily taste. That is one of the wonderful things about coconut oil, it has almost no taste so it doesn't interfere with the taste of what you are cooking. I was sad when it was gone and *almost* made myself a second.
According to my MyFitnessPal app (which is awesome and I'll blog about that soon) this sandwich came in at around 245 calories (but you would have to use the low calorie bread and be a bit light on the PB) so that is pretty good for such a decadent treat. I will DEFINITELY be making this again, sooner rather than later, and I also am looking forward to using the coconut oil to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I want to see if they fry up as nice as these did. I believe even the King himself would have been happy to have had this tasty treat for lunch any day of the week.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another Extended Absence...but I Think You Will Forgive Me

So it's been a few weeks since I posted anything, but like my last extended blogging absence I have a very good (and adorable) excuse. My husband and I were blessed with a 8 pound 9 oz baby boy on April 21st. Evan James made his appearance fairly quickly (after an induction due to being 5 days past his due date) at 1:11pm after I received my first dose of pitocin at 7:00am that morning.
We have been spending the last three week adjusting to our new addition and having visits from Grandma's and Nana's. K absolutely loves her new brother and constantly wants to hold him and gets upset that right now only Mommy can feed him.
We have gotten down a pretty good rhythm and he his sleeping well for a newborn and gaining weight like a champ. His one month appointment is next week and I am excited to see how much he's grown. It has been an amazing transition from one kid to two and I am so glad we waited until K was more independent to have another baby. I give mom's who have their kiddos close together major props, but K was a difficult baby and toddler and adding a newborn in with her at that age would have been a recipe for disaster.
I'll leave you for now with my attempt at recreating a picture I saw on Pinterest. I first have to confess that I am a terrible photographer. I really want to take a digital photography class soon to get better but for now I am completely unskilled. Here is the original:
Here is my interpretation (or photo fail)

Using a sleeping baby may have been easier and the my daughter's 3D glasses with the lens' popped out were way to big. He still looks super cute so I guess it's not a total fail. I can't wait to inundate you with more cute pictures, however I plan on continuing my Pinterest endeavors as well as adding in my attempt to lose the baby weight (of which there was a lot) and get ready for my first 5K since pregnancy in September. I also am starting a half marathon training program as soon as I get the go ahead from my doctor, so it should be a busy summer for this momma. Stay Tuned!