Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp

I know it's Wednesday -- I've been technically challenged this week and couldn't get this to post! Oh, and I procrastinated a bit...

I've written about this place before:

I found a new spice mix there that I used to make these beauties:

It's the "Coastal Blend" and it is light and lemony and garlicky and all the good things that shrimp needs. And very, very easy.

I put about a dozen cleaned shrimp into a Ziploc bag and added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mixed that around to coat the shrimp, then sprinkled in about 2 teaspoons of the spice. Tossed the shrimp in the bag and took a look -- they all had visible spices on them, so I decided that was enough. (Like how exact I am?) Then I added a couple of teaspoons of lime juice and let the shrimp sit until the grill was hot.

This time, I just put them in a grill basket. Sometimes I'll skewer them, but was too lazy to work that hard. About 7 minutes on the grill, tossing them around a bit, and they were done to perfection.

Of course there are all sorts of spice mixes that work with shrimp - this is just moving up my list of favorites. The process, though, would work for anything you're putting on them: garlic, cayenne, lemon pepper...Keep it simple and enjoy the summertime grilling!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Workout Recaps

Seriously, people, somebody help me with these blog titles. I'm only using days of the week to try to force some structure on myself, but this is going to be boring really quick. Okay, moving on to the topic.

This month, I finally was able to start running again after injuring my foot. I'm now in in week three of fairly consistent workouts. Go me!

Running in Texas in the summer is an iffy proposition. Either you have to get up before dawn, run after dark, or find a treadmill inside. I don't have a treadmill, so that's out. RDub won't let me run after dark without the dog along, and he's a big baby. So, early morning it is. Yuck. And seriously, if you wait until 8am, it's too hot already.

RDub and I tried running together a couple of times. 5:30am isn't as impossible for me as it was a few years ago, but it definitely isn't my favorite thing. But he needs to run, too, and before work is the only option. The first day was okay - got a couple of miles in. The second day, though, came after a sleepless night. Neither one of us was able to sleep and I have no idea why. That morning, we only did a little over a mile. Even the dog was relieved.

We've decided that we don't make good workout buddies. I do much better and am more motivated at 6:30, and less likely to bail on that third mile. He's faster and just wants to get done, and he has the dog. For now, we're running separately.

Anyway, this is what I've run so far this month:
I really like to run on Saturdays, but I really like to sleep in a little, so I'm at an impasse! We'll see if I can run on Saturdays through the summer -- but I know I'll start again when 8am isn't so freaking hot already.

In addition to the run/walk combos, I've started doing a few weird things. Every night, as I brush my teeth (2 minutes with the Sonicare), I do 50 squats. Yeah, take a moment for the visual, then move on. I don't really NEED to watch myself brush my teeth, so I'll do squats instead. Anything that might lift my butt is okay by me.

I've also started my own bit of Pilates/yoga to do while we're watching TV. It's hard to do with an audience, but it's not like my family doesn't already know I'm special. The ultimate goal is to not have more than one night off of doing NO physical activity, and I've been meeting that pretty well so far.

That's it. I'm not dropping weight yet, but I hope that will follow soon as I stay consistent. I am sleeping better, which makes any exertion worth it. Now I'll just try to get the blogging/accountability thing in place so I don't stop any of this!

New title suggestions? What activity are you doing in the summer?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Easy Skillet Dinner

This meal (and variations of it) has become one of our go-to, too-tired-to-really-cook meals. For a while, it was every Friday, then it started sneaking into Wednesdays, and I've been known to make it when I'm the only one around to eat it!

When I was doing cookups every week, this skillet dinner became the best way to use up the chicken/beef/sausage as well as leftover veggies I'd cooked during the week. Before long, though, I'd gotten attached to the sausage I use almost all the time now -- it's "close" to Paleo (sausage has a tiny bit of sugar in it). The variations are almost endless -- so let's get to it.

What you need:
Already looks complicated, doesn't it?
 Favorite frozen vegetables - I use sugar snap peas and California blend
Cooked meat(s) - tonight it was my beloved Andouille sausage and some frozen shrimp
Minced garlic
Favorite spices or spice mix -- I use a mesquite blend with a little kick

Heat the oil and add the garlic and spices to it. Stir and cook for less than a minute - just to release the oils from the spices

Here comes the hard part. Open the packages of veggies and throw them in the pan. Give it a stir to distribute the spices, and put the lid on. If you're using any frozen meat, add it now, too (like the shrimp here).

Add the cooked meat -- dice chicken, or slice up these sausages. I've used ground beef and ground sausage before, too. If you need to cook a meat for this, I recommend doing it in a separate pan, but then I have issues with meat juice. Don't be like me.

It all looks so pretty! Keep the lid on and simmer on medium until it's hot (about 20 minutes).

Note: You can absolutely use fresh veggies, too. I love to add squash and zucchini. If you do, keep the chunks kind of thick so they don't get all mushy. I'd heat the frozen stuff first, then drain off excess liquid before putting the fresh vegetables and cooked meats in. Then give it about 10 minutes more to cook.

Fix yourself a big bowl and know you're doing something healthy! And yes, I'm sure this would be lovely with some mozzarella cheese, but I don't go that way.


What's your lazy night meal?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Grilled Eggplant

Other than the color, eggplant is not one of those vegetables I'd expect to like. It's weirdly shaped, and I've really only eaten it in restaurants. I've tried cooking it myself and never liked how it turned out.

That changed a couple of weeks ago, and to prove it wasn't a fluke, I made this eggplant recipe again. I know it's not for everyone, but if you'd like to try, just get your grill ready.

Grilled Eggplant with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
(from Weber's New Real Grilling)
What you'll need:

For the vinaigrette:
4 sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil, minced
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls shallot, minced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together, excluding the olive oil. When they're mixed, drizzle the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set aside.

For the eggplant:
Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season each side with salt and pepper.
It's just a weird looking vegetable.
Grill over direct medium heat with the lid closed, about 8-10 minutes, turning once. Don't try to turn too early, or the slices will stick. They should have nice grill marks and be easy to lift from the grate.

Remove to a platter and top with the vinaigrette.

Picture quality sucks, but the vinaigrette is awesome.
Even without the sauce, the eggplant is tasty. The sun-dried tomatoes just add a little something that I love.

I am not the most adventurous eater, so I understand if this doesn't blow your skirt up. Just trust me that if you've been looking for something a little different, not too scary, and not difficult, you might give this a try.

Making plans and changes.

I found a notebook where I'd drawn out some ideas for the blog, made plans for new/different exercise programs, and jotted down recipe ideas, and decided I should get back to it. When I first started blogging last year, I had a goal (weight loss) and used this forum for accountability. I now have another few goals, so let's see if it will work this time.

Losing the rest of this weight is of course a goal. I've been stuck here for about a year (some down, some up in the last 12 months, but generally the same place). On the one hand, that tells me that maintenance is something I CAN do -- good to know. OTOH, I don't want to be at THIS weight! I'm working through what that means for me - I don't do well with deprivation, counting calories makes me feel deprived, and this is almost completely about what my brain says. I know that no amount of exercise will make up for a crappy diet - but I'm still struggling with the changes that will stick. A few things I've tried lately:
  • I counted calories for about three days just to see where I was in general. Because I was thinking about it, I stayed between 1100 and 1500. And then I felt ravenous because I was thinking about it. I probably stay around 1600 on most days, unless there's bacon.
  • I backed off red meat for a week, not because there's anything wrong with it, but because I tend to eat more of it than anything else. That's probably something I will continue to limit to once a week, although we make some pretty awesome steaks.
  • I completely cut out alcohol, as part of a "Whole 10" (would have been a Whole 30, but there are two parties coming up!), but that goes to the deprivation mind set, especially in the summer when floating in the pool is my main form of entertainment. Now I've cut it down to just one glass of wine, and that's only on nights when I've had some form of exercise.
  • RDub and I got up at 5:30am to run a couple of miles. In Texas, it's too hot to run after about 8am in the summer. He leaves for work at 6:30, so we gave it a shot. It went fine the first day, but the second day neither one of us had gotten much sleep, so we cut the distance. We're still fine-tuning that whole idea of working out together, at least during the summer.
Anyway, it's been a bit frustrating to realize (again) exactly how much my behavior is driven by what's going on in my head. I apparently resist habits quite vigorously, and spend time coming up with "reasons" for whatever can/can't happen that day. That has to stop, so I'll be working on it in the next few weeks.

Going back to the accountability thing, I'm going to focus on just two changes right now:
  • Tracking my exercise and logging some movement five days a week. That won't all be running.
  • Blogging at least three days a week. One of those will be a new feature, Tasty Tuesdays, where I'll post some recipe I made during the week. Another will be the various exercises I'm going to try.
Ultimately, the goal is to have the remaining 35 pounds gone before Bug graduates next May. Ideally, I want them gone by Christmas, but I'll give myself some leeway when I see how it goes. I don't plan to go off Paleo, and I really hope I don't have to go back to calorie counting, but I'm open to almost anything.

Okay, I'm hitting publish. That puts this out there. Scary.

Got any new goals you want to share?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Celebrating a milestone.

June ended on a high note -- 80th birthday party for my sweet mother-in-law. It would be the first real birthday party she'd ever had. No pressure.

The Players: My sister-in-law Sharon (husband's sister), sister-in-law Kathy (brother-in-law's wife), and me. The guest of honor is Barbara.

The Plan: We started planning in April, and I had one condition: I couldn't do the food from three hours away. They both live locally to Barbara, so they were forced convinced that they could do the food part. I'd handle the decorations and serving details.

The Menu: After discussion, we decided on cupcakes. There was some thought given to having a chocolate fountain, until we realized how big a mess it can be. So cupcakes, nuts, mints, tea, water and punch was the final menu. 

The Decor: Pinterest to the rescue, as usual. I wanted something simple to dress up the church's fellowship hall. Six foot tables, folding chairs, kitchen area right there...this wasn't going to be formal, but we wanted pretty. I pulled some options together:

Thank you, Pinterest, and all the credits are on my board. Don't sue me.
I knew I wanted flowers, but finding something that would work for long tables, seating for maybe 100, AND survive the heat on the drive down there was a consideration. Costco to the rescue. I ordered a set of assorted mini-bouquets -- 10 bouquets of 15 stems each -- to be delivered on Thursday. I got an email saying they had shipped on Monday, so I'm thinking they better be refrigerated on a FedEx truck or I'm screwed. When they showed up Thursday, I noticed the box was NOT chilled, and it was sort of caved in on top. I also noticed the customs label, as the shipment originated in Ecuador. I had my camera ready, prepared to do battle with Costco if this totally sucked. Opened the box: no water, no chill packs -- and absolutely gorgeous flowers. There were roses in every bouquet, and there were assorted colors that would work great with the rest of the decorations.

The Night Before: We got there late Friday afternoon, and the decorating began. We'd banned Barbara from the scene, so after a quick hello, we headed up to the church to get as much done as we could.

Brown paper covered the tables, then a strip of white-on-white polka dot cloth ran down the center of each. Mason jars with burlap and polka dotted ribbon were assembled. Clusters  of mason jars (2 large, one small) sat on each table. End result:

The small mason jars held mixed nuts and mints on each table.
The Morning of: Kathy and Sharon had made three kinds of cupcakes - chocolate, white (birthday cake!), and lemon with lemon curd filling. They were all frozen, waiting to be iced. Saturday morning, the icing-making began. What should have been an easy cream cheese icing-making event turned into "Let's make a guess on how much more powdered sugar we need" experience. Kathy made icing for an hour, not exaggerating. There was a film of powdered sugar everywhere. Bug had sifted 6 pounds the night before, and I think Kathy ended up using almost 10 pounds for the three batches she was making. I don't know what was happening at Sharon's, where she was making chocolate cream cheese icing, but I can imagine it was the same scene.

Anyway, we got to the church, and the icing commenced. Three of us had bags or icing pumps, and we were going with a simple swirl. Cousins showed up shortly after and began sprinkling the colored sugar and placing the cupcakes on trays. When we finished, we counted 309 cupcakes total.

Lined up, ready to be added to the serving table as needed.
We had about 100 of the cute paper liners,
because that was originally how many cupcakes we planned to make.
The bakers got worried about having "enough."
And here's the first tray of birthday cake flavor, out on the serving table.

Everything on the serving table looked so pretty!
We had so many cupcakes that, by the end, we were putting them on plates and basically shoving them into people's hands as they left.

Notice the blue hydrangeas -- those came from Aunt Frog's garden (Barbara's sister).
Over the two hours, we had about 75 guests stop by, and Barbara had a great time. The next morning she said she was still awake at 3am: "I don't know if it was excitement, or what!"

Eighty years is more than 29,000 days -- I think it's about time somebody celebrated this awesome woman with a party just for her! So glad it was us.