Sunday, February 13, 2011

WW Chicken Parmesan, Baked Zucchini Sticks and Diet Coke Cake

Tonight I had my parents and cousin over for a Valentine's Day Eve dinner. I have been pretty into trying some new recipes lately and had stumbled across a few Weight Watcher ones on Skinny Taste and based off of tonight, I'll be trying more from it!

I made Baked Zucchini Sticks and they were AWESOME! I like zucchini but get sick of fixing it the same way and this was a really nice change of pace. My sister has had them before and had said they were tasty- turns out, she was right. I would definitely recommend them!

For the main course, I fixed Baked Chicken Parmesan and LOVED it. It is by far the best WW recipe I have ever tried. We had a hard time believing that it was low calorie, but I guess the whole not frying it thing helped. I'll definitely be making this again. I served it with a bit of spaghetti but definitely didn't even need that.

For dessert I made Diet Coke Cupcakes. I wanted to make chocolate ones but didn't have a chocolate cake mix on hand, so I did yellow cake and used leftover chocolate frosting from the last cupcakes I made. This is not my favorite low-fat dessert but the cake was really soft and the frosting helped. I'll be taking the rest to work tomorrow for Valentine's Day!

Hope everyone has a great Valentine's Day!!! xoxo

Merry Christmas in February!

My aunt, uncle and cousin in Colorado gave me a Penzeys giftcard for Christmas and I just placed my order. SO excited! If you haven't been to a Penzeys (it's a national company, you should check it out, or even look online. It's an awesome spice store with all kinds of stuff. Today I used to my giftcard to buy poppy seeds (I have a recipe to try called Poppy Seed Chicken), black peppercorns, Old World Seasoning (which they claim is their lower salt answer to Seasoning Salt, which I frequently put on my cooked broccoli), Pasta Sprinkle (says it's good to put on pasta or chicken too!), and I got some Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon (how exciting is that?! the website said it's super strong cinnamon and perfect to use when cinnamon is the main flavor- like with cinnamon rolls). With the giftcard, they also gave me some dried minced garlic which is awesome. I've used it a couple times and would recommend it. Thanks Colorado family! I'm excited to get cooking with some different flavors!

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Carb Left Behind...

I FINALLY ordered and received my pictures from my trip to Australia and New Zealand that I experienced this fall with Megan. We had an amazing time getting to travel around, looking at awesome scenery and......of course, trying out the amazing cuisine and beverages of another country! While looking through pictures, I realized how MANY pictures of our tasty treats I took over our the course of our three-week trip....perhaps too many per my lovely sister but I'm glad I took them! I'm also super pumped that I wrote down a description of everything. I thought it was about time I share a little about our trip. I wrote up our basic rundown of everything we did but I'll try to put some posts up with more interesting stories so you can get a feel for the trip and so I can remember more when looking back. Here's a smattering of what we ate (what didn't we eat?!?!) during the trip- shocking that we didn't gain a ton of weight....definitely thankful for all the walking we did during our sight seeing! So here've been warned; it's quite a few pictures. Look at your own risk. Could be time consuming!

City #1- Perth, Australia:

This is a beer Meg had at her apartment that she lived in while in Perth. It's called "Little Creatures" and brewed there. She was pretty into it. I thought it was "okay".

During our daytrip the second day I was in Perth, we took the train up to Fremantle, where there are tons of shops and little restaurants. Meg and I split a chocolate-banana shake....much thinner than our shakes here in the U.S......and we also split an order of churros! So good!


Some things you can count matter what continent you're on! My delicious staple of Diet Coke.

This is a "Beef Pie". Oh my goodness....they love their pies! It's essentially a chicken pot pie idea, but with beef. Meg's friends there were shocked to find out this isn't something we "Americans" survive on during winter. They can't imagine living without PIES! They were like, "What do you eat in the winter?!?!? It didn't taste badly, but I didn't love it either. It's beef and gravy but tastes really salty and is packed with sodium. Tricky to read the nutrition labels there though as they list units of "energy".

After my first beef pie experience, we took a boat over to Rottnest Island which is completely a no vehicle island. Basically just a place to go hang out, have some lunch and take in the scenery. This is a picture of our glorious "chips". Instead of eating their "fries" with ketchup, which is of course common in the U.S. or even with ranch, they use either sour cream or mayo (Greek aleloi). At first we were a little grossed out, but turns out.....pretty tasty! Nothing like dipping a fried food in a vat of fat!

Along with our chips, we split this sandwich, which had chicken, cheese and avacado on it.

Our last morning in Perth, Meg and I went to breakfast and each had pear and cream stuffed french toast with strawberries. Uh-ma-zing!!!! So good!

This is Meg and a "Tim Tam". Oh my gawd. My sister LOVES these!!! She has since discovered them in the states and couldn't be happier about it really. It's a wafer cookie covered in chocolate and the protocol (which she is trying to show me in the above picture) is where you bite off opposing ends and suck coffee or hot tea through it and it becomes soggy and you put it in your melt where it essentially melts and goes directly on your hips. ;)

We had a day of wine and brewery touring....this is a pic of Meg with her Skippy Light beer at Elmer's. Really good.

Our last night in Perth, we went to dinner at "Must" with Meg's friend Crystal that she worked with and had some surprisingly great food. This was my dinner, which was actually an appetizer (and plenty of food) since the meals were like a bazillion dollars. It was a cheese tart, salad and the biggest piece of asparagus EVER.

City #2- Sydney, Australia:

After our first day of sight-seeing in Sydney, Meg and I found some AWESOME Italian food to share at "Giovanni's". Makes me hungry for pasta and pizza just looking at the pictures! Neither of us had any idea how much Italian food there is in Sydney! Insane amounts!! We split the above tortellini stuffed with sausage and had cream sauce and mushrooms and proscutto, as well as the sausage and pepperoni pizza below.

Day 2 of Sydney including a stop in Sydney Harbor for lunch. REALLY crappy service. There is not much motivation for servers or waiters to do a good job as there isn't any tipping in Australia or New Zealand. Anyway, Meg and I split some bruschetta and also had the above pictured sausage and sundried tomato penne, as well as the chicken crepes. Too much food honestly but we survived.

We did NOT have this while we were traveling abroad but we had to take a picture of the MegaMac! It was insane! Who eats 4 beef patties?! Australians apparently!

These are Singapore noodles. My sister was addicted to them while she lives in OZ. They are as good as they look.

Fish and "chips" are a beachside tradition on Mainly Beach so of course we checked them out.

This is actually from the winery we went to outside of Perth but we shared it with some take out pizza in our Sydney hotel room.

Speaking of pizza and crazy amounts of Italian food, Meg and I split this pizza and pasta our last night in Sydney. (Do you see what I'm saying about all the carb action?!) This food was good enough to fly back to Australia for and endure the 24 hour trip! We knew we were onto something when there was a line out the door when we got there. Our order was Four Seasons pizza and chicken spaghetti. We met a couple from Georgia. The ONLY other Americans we saw the whole time we were in OZ. They were super friendly.

City #3- Cairnes, Australia:

This was the spread we had on our boat while our snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. We had a lunch break and they had a buffet set up and it was good. If you can't tell from the picture, this was a slice of ham (Meg passed on it), a chicken leg (again, Meg said no thanks), pasta, salad, cold beets, potatos salad, couscous and a roll.

City #4- Queenstown, New Zealand-

Meg and I were PUMPED with the food in Queenstown after everything being pretty crazy expensive in Australia. Queenstown revealed itself to be a host to many backpackers and you could tell the town was catering to that fact. There were lots of lunch and dinner specials at various restaurants. We found this Thai restaurant our first day there and it was SO good and SO cheap. We split some spring rolls (including the carrot flower), as well as some fried rice and lo mein noodles.

Man, oh man. This was a BURGER! Queenstown is pretty small and everyone is always walking around checking out the shops and activity. We had been there for a couple days and walked by "Fergburger" a few times and no matter what time it was, it was ALWAYS packed! So on our last day in NZ, we got a burger and fry to split and it was AWESOME! I guess it's local to Queenstown and a local favorite. We enjoyed the burger on the patio and watched all the people walk by.

This last picture is from our last night in Queenstown. After the above mentioned burger earlier in the day, we did some window shopping and packed up for our long flight back to the states. While we were out shopping, one of the local girls working at a shop told us about a pizza place in the middle of town and RAVED about their pizza. We figured we should give it a try....when will we cross this way again, right? It was amazing....we ate it sitting on the beach looking at the water and mountains. Definitely a unique pizza but surprisingly tasty. On the pizza was chicken, green onion, brie, red pepper, and to dip there was chili sauce with pistacio sour cream. Very rich.

Now, don't worry...we have also sampled pretty much all of the gelato and ice cream shops in all of OZ and NZ. Not to mention the airplane food.....will mention that more when I tell about our CRAZY traveling experiences!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How cute are these?

I was looking around on the ever-popular Pioneer Woman website and ran across this adorable, although potentially labor-intensive, recipe. I thought about making some tonight, but then I sat down and it seems like an terribly daunting task at this point. However, maybe someone else is up for the challenge? I would definitely like to do some Valentine's Day baking at some point this weekend for my sweet coworkers....also considering making these or just traditional frosted and decorated sugar cookies. We'll see what the week brings. Does anyone have any favorite Valentine's desserts? I always think you can't beat chocolate-covered strawberries....too bad they're not really in season! :(

Happy STF Anniversary!

This morning I realized it's been two years since I started working at St. Francis. This blows my mind that two years have passed! I miss my Wichita friends, of course, and am grateful that I still see many of them fairly regularly! I am also grateful for the new friends I have made in Topeka. It seems hard to believe that two years ago I didn't know any of them.

So, how am I celebrating such a big event you might ask?! I'm having a meal tonight that I was probably pretty into when I was 8 or 9. A hot dog, cheetos and cottage cheese and diced peaches. Yum. Well, it's probably a little different than when I was a kiddo- it's a Hebrew brand hot dog. Not sure what's in it (probably don't wanna know) but my mom told me about them awhile back and I think they're pretty tasty. Can't go wrong for only 40 calories. And those glorious Cheetos are the baked kind but I really like 'em. And you wanna know the perfect way to have cottage cheese and peaches? Make sure the peaches are at room temperature and the cottage cheese is nice and cold. You'll thank me later.

Anyway, so on this day of celebration, it was the most crazy busy day in the history of the world. I am grateful. I will definitely not complain about overtime when I had an unexpected bill at the Ford shop yesterday when I had to buy a new air/vent/thingy that attaches to the engine and sucks air in. (Make sense? Yeah, me neither, but the people that know stuff tell me it's crucial to the engine.) Work definitely seems like a feast or famine kind of deal sometimes.....rarely is it just a steady, predictable caseload....which, in general I like. I really like how every day is different and it's dynamic and you constantly are "on" and having to think. I had a couple really tricky patients today and although they are challenging, it makes me go, "Oh yeah, that's why I do this." One of my VERY FAVORITE PATIENTS EVER is going home this weekend. He couldn't be more excited and I'm really happy for him but I'm really going to miss him!

In other breaking news, in case you happen to not live in the snowed. Again. Last night we got 4.5" of snow here and the meteorologist proudly reported that we have received 30" in the last month in Topeka. I'm sorry, but that's too much. I definitely find myself dreaming of warmer weather, grilling outside and even of mowing the grass! Gasp! Remind me I said that in a few months when I'm complaining about how much I hate to mow!

In further disturbance, one of K-State's main players is rumored to have failed a drug test and out for the rest of the b-ball seaon. Seriously guy?!?!?!? What a disappointment for a season where dreams were SO big! I'm not gonna stop cheering but I get so sick of trying to defend the team. If things get much worse, I might have to play in the match up against KU on Monday. Now that would be a game! Speaking of KU, has everyone seen the Flash Mob clip that is going around from the KU/MU game on Monday night? I absoultely LOVE a Flash Mob and thought this was pretty impressive!

Hope everyone had a Happy Hump Day! Countdown to the weekend is on!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

WW Chicken Pot Pie

As I'm awaiting the snowfall tonight (seriously, I can't believe it's gonna snow again!), thought it seems like a good night to make this Weight Watcher dish that I think is pretty good. Here's the recipe if you wanna give it a try:

Cooking spray
1 tsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. table salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup canned chicken broth
3 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk, divided
Reduced-fat crescent roll dough, undivided

Preheat oven to 375' F. Coat a 10" round shallow baking dish with cooking spray.
Coat a large pot with cooking spray, add butter & melt over medium heat. Add onion & mushrooms and cook, until tender. Stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, thyme, salt & pepper. Add vegetables, broth and chicken. Cover & simmer 15 minutes.

In a small cup, combine flour & 1/4 cup of evaporated milk, stir into chicken mixture. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly for approximately 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup evaporated milk & cooking until mixture is slightly thickened approximately 2-3 minutes more.
Spoon chicken mixture in baking dish. Bake approximately 15 minutes. Serves 6.

Resolution Check-In....

At the beginning of the calendar year, I wrote 10 resolutions to work on, in order to improve my overall Michelle-ness. I am going to give an update, mainly to keep myself accountable. So, here's where I'm at with things so far.....

1. Hmm, well, I have DEFINITELY increased my use of reusable bags from 0% of the time to approximately 50% of the time. It's not an automatic yet but better, and my GIGANTIC pile of plastic bags under the kitchen sink is starting to decrease. Yea!

2. I have been actively working on complaining less.....still room for improvement. Been thankful for lots lately and lots of praying going on.

3. I'm back on track with my checkbook balancing. Hopefully I can keep this up.

4. Doing better with my niceness towards the fam (at least maybe a smidge better??) but I guess I'd have to check with them to see what they think?!

5. I have only been to church ONCE since the start of the year out of SIX Sundays. Epic fail. Granted, I was out of town a couple of them and worked a couple, but still....not good. I went to a church yesterday that I have been to before and made the decision that it's just not for me. Moving on.

6. Not so Still fairly messy. I'm in a holding pattern of avoidance about it.

7. Regarding lessening my TV watching, I feel like I'm doing better and limiting how much I watch during the week. Thank goodness for my DVR! I have been making an effort to read more and read a few pages of a book each night before I go to sleep. Room for improvement here...

8. Um, need to continue working on less multi-tasking. I had several friends say "I think multi-tasking is a plus!".....well, in general, it's true....but I get to doing TOO many things at one time and get going in a frenzy! One instance of multi-tasking that didn't work out since I set this goal, was that I was shoveling my driveway and talking on my cell phone, put the phone in my pocket when I was fell out and I buried it in snow! No worries though, I found it! :)

9. My sis and I have made plans to run in Wichita's 5K during the River Festival the first week of June. My friend Linds is planning on running too! Hopefully more friends will join us. My sis and I have actually started a weight loss competition that goes until then and whoever loses the biggest percentage by the time of the race will be the Biggest Loser! Hopefully there will be confetti like there is on the finale for the show! :)

10. Haven't found my cause yet, but still excited about this!

Super Bowl Weekend....and new (to me) recipes!

This weekend FLEW BY! That could be largely associated with the fact that I worked Saturday, went to the gym Saturday and Sunday and spent most of the rest of the time at my parents' house.

Friday night I went to see "No Strings Attached" with a few friends. It was cute. Natalie Portman was funny- who knew she had that in her?! More vulgar than I was expecting for a little romantic-comedy but still a movie I would recommend.

I cooked dinner Saturday evening for my parents and cousin and tried a couple different recipes. I found this Laughing Cow Chicken recipe on Cara's blog. I LOVE Laughing Cow cheese and finding new ways to use it. So low in calories, but really tasty with crackers, pretzels, veggies, etc. I love trying new recipes and while not my favorite, would recommend you give it a shot. I also had made a Chocolate Chip Pound Cake Friday after work that I found on a blog of a friend of a friend. I made it to have a little dessert Saturday night, but ended up giving some to my friend's kids who shoveled my driveway last week as a thank you and then took the rest to work Saturday. You could say it was a hit. Definitely recommend it next time you want some serious chocolate!

Yesterday brought the SUPERBOWL! I went to my parents' house for the game. One of their friends, along with my cousin and my friend, Sharee, joined us. Sharee decided to cheer for the Steelers "cause she thinks their coach is cute and probably nice" so I got onboard with that plan....before realizing K-State's Jordy Nelson plays for the Packers. It was fun though since the Steelers' colors are black and yellow and there just so happens to be a song right now with that, for the majority of the game, you could hear us singing, "Black and yellow, black and yellow....". It turned out to be a close game, which is fun.....but I was a little disappointed with the commercials. :( I liked the Doritos ones the best....especially when the guy licked his co-worker's cheesy fingers. INAPPROPRIATE!!!! :)
Some of the biggest talk post-game is about how Christina Aguilera flubbed up the lyrics for the National Anthem. REALLY Christina?!?!?! I know some people think it's harsh to think she should sing it correctly, but I'm sorry....if you're going to be on national TV and it's the biggest professional sporting event of the year- YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T MESS IT UP! I know if they ask me to do it next year, I'll nail the lyrics!
Of course the best part of the Superbowl (well, for most girls) in addition to the ads, is the snacks! Sharee brought over two dishes, including a new recipe for a "Hot Seven Layer Dip" which was really tasty, as well as some BBQ weiners. Mmm. My mom also made a bunch of stuff (of course) and we ended up with a good variety of stuff.

Sharee and I got festive by dressing in our team's colors. Too bad for the Steelers I picked them to cheer that usually doesn't tend to work out for whatever random team I pick. She even painted her nails in team colors!

Here are a couple other pictures from the evening....

As promised, I made my first veggie pizza, and it was pretty good too. There definitely was not a calorie shortage. I worked out hard yesterday in preparation and actually just hit the gym tonight after work. Whew! Getting back on track today after a treat-filled Sunday! :)

At the current moment, I am watching "Glee!" from last night and just made a Weight Watcher Chicken Pot Pie and I will share the recipe later (tonight hopefully). I made it once last winter when we had a chicken pot pie cook-off and I thought I posted about that, but I can't seem to find it. Oh well, I think it's post-worthy even if I have before. Low calorie and tasty!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week could largely be summarized by "brr!" and "snow!". I am trying to stay positive about the snow, but man, it's tough! I finally went to the gym yesterday morning after not going M-W, it felt good to go, but the temperatures are so crazy. On the way homefrom the gym, my car read -11 at 6:30 and it warmed up to a balmy +23 degrees on the way home from work....who else is ready for spring?! I have logged quite a bit of couch time this week and will have to report on how my resolutions are going, as some of them (watch less TV) took a hit during my hibernation! One BIG task that I did accomplish was that I ordered pictures from my sis and my Australia/New Zealand trip this week. Took me quite awhile to pick which ones I wanted!! Excited to get those in an album!

On an upnote, I am chipping away on my Pantry Project 2011 and getting more and more room in my freezer and cupboards! Hooray!

One nice surprise this week was that my friend's kids shoveled my LONG driveway while I was at work Wednesday! These are the same kiddos I referred to last my head I was thinking, "It will be good for me to shovel....good exercise." But, I'm not going to lie, I was really excited to see that snow gone when I got home. Oh yeah, for all of you "snow day" people- the hospitals NEVER have snow days. Turns out, people still get sick even in crummy weather!

Things perked up yesterday when I went to my parents' house for dinner and my mom had made her homemade scalloped potatoes. SO GOOD! It's her mom's recipe and a treat we only have it seems like every few years. Made my day!

In a bit I'm going to meet friends and go see "No Strings Attached". Looks cute and who doesn't love Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher?!

I'm working tomorrow during the day and then going to log some time at the gym as I'm trying some new recipes at my parents' house tomorrow night (more on that later!) AND looking forward to watching the Superbowl (okay, let's be honest, the commercials) on Sunday. I amtaking a veggie pizza to my parents' house for the game and PUMPED about using my new food processor that I got at Christmas (first time use!) to chop veggies for it. I've actually never made this recipe, but it makes me think of my college roommate Katie because she introduced me to it our junior year of college. She made it to take to the K-State game at Nebraska that we road-tripped to and I thought it was the BEST THING EVER! Shockingly, I have never made the popular recipe but excited to try it.

Hope everyone has a warm weekend with family and friends!