Friday, March 30

Yay, It's the Weekend!

Ending My Lease
The time has come for me to part ways with the space I've been leasing at a shop in Bowling Green.   I was selling my items there, but was not making enough profit to justify the rent and gas it cost me to take my items up there to sell.  I will miss having space there, and it was a really neat little shop.  I wish the owner the best of luck in her future endeavors.
It got cold again!  Boooooo.

Lasagna & Chocolate Cupcakes
We haven't had much luck with the Weight Watchers recipes we've been trying lately.  That all changed tonight when I tweaked a Weight Watchers recipe for lasagna!  This is a great and easy recipe, although a bit time consuming.  For lasagna, though, isn't it worth the time and effort??  I haven't really ever made a real lasagna that I can remember, so for a first try, I was pretty happy with the result.  You need all of the basic ingredients, but I added ground beef and cheated by using our favorite store-bought pasta sauce.  Using fresh chopped parsley gave the lasagna a good, but not overpowering, herb flavor.  After my recipe doctoring, one serving (1/6 of the pan) was 9 points +, and a quarter of the pan was 13 points +.  Not bad!  And it could be a little lower if you use a leaner beef.
Smelled and tasted as good as it looks!

Here's a treat that I made earlier this week.  I know, chocolate cupcakes on a diet?  Well, these eliminate the calorie-laden oil and eggs.  Simply mix a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix) and 1/4 cup of water with the cake mix of your choice.
For me, that was a no-brainer--chocolate!  The cupcakes were fluffy, slightly dense, moist, and chocolatey.  While there was just the faintest hint of pumpkin flavor, you really don't notice it.  My husband and I both agreed that they were tasty.  I am going to try a spice cake mix next with the pumpkin mixture.  I think it's going to smell like Thanksgiving soon!  Each muffin is 2 points +.

Sewing Project on the Radar
I came across an idea on Pinterest for a simple summer dress.  If I can get around to making it soon, I'll post pictures and directions on here.  Should be cute!

There are a few things on the horizon in my life right now.  Whether any of them will come to fruition, I can't say, but I'm hoping that a new season of my life will be starting soon.  However, I have no control over any of it, and I'm well aware of it.  But nothing stays the same forever: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:...a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6-7).  Life is unpredictable; thank God that He is the constant!

Sunday, March 25

Getting Ready to Garden and Date Night

Hubby and I spent an enjoyable day working outside yesterday.  We accomplished quite a bit!  We started out in the morning to buy some manure to spread over the garden beds, along with a vegetable fertilizer for the beds, then we came back, picked up sticks in the yard, cut down some overhanging tree limbs above the garden beds, and split up to tackle our own projects: hubby with weed trimming and mowing, and me working the garden beds and erecting a trellis for my cucumbers to grow upon.  I was also able to harvest our first asparagus for the season! (I later heard from a neighbor that sprinkling water softener salt around the asparagus makes it grow like crazy, while eliminating any other growth around it.  I'll have to try this next year and let you know.)
Asparagus before I weeded
My first bunch of asparagus for the year
The beds after weeding and working--what plant wouldn't want to live here??
My cucumber trellis, made from the tree limbs we cut down
This early spring has been great so far.  I picked up four Romaine lettuce plants at Lowe's, but don't plan to plant it outside until after the possibility of frost has passed.  I need some new row covers but the stores don't carry them yet, since it's early for planting in this area (in general).  So, for the time being, the lettuce will live in my kitchen and grow.  I've read that you can grow lettuce indoors all year long if you want, but haven't tried it yet.  I suppose this is kind of a test. 
Lilacs in March??
After spending hours outside, working hard, I promised hubby that I would go with him to see a movie.  We went to see "John Carter" before dinner, and it was okay.  A little hard to understand if you are not a sci-fi person (which I am not), but a decent story line and great special effects.  Hubby is a big Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, so he desperately wanted to see the movie, and I finally agreed to go.  After dinner, we rewarded ourselves with dinner out at a Chinese restaurant here in town, and we had a good time.  It tasted good to treat ourselves after a week of trying new recipes, not all of which were that great.  All in all, a good day spent with my best friend!

I never doubt my husband's love for me.  It's one of the great things about him--having the courage to be a man who's not ashamed to love his wife.  Ephesians 5:28-33 talks about the type of relationship marriage should really be: "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of His body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."  I'm glad I have a husband who honors God in his love for me!

Thursday, March 22

Deep Dish Pizza Casserole, Chicken and Cheese Casserole, Chicken Piccata

Tuesday-Deep Dish Pizza Casserole (for recipe, click the title)
Tonight we tried the Weight Watchers recipe for Deep Dish Pizza Casserole.  Hubby and I worked together doing the prep work and had all of the ingredients ready for the oven in about 15 minutes.

We did the dishes as the casserole baked and the crust browned, and then added cheese and baked it for 5 more minutes, until the cheese melted.  It smelled so good as we were cleaning up!  The finished product was not disappointing, either.  It's a great food when you are dieting and still craving pizza like a Ninja Turtle.

I only used half of the amount of ground beef, and I bought Meijer brand refrigerated pizza dough and Meijer brand Italian diced tomatoes, but that was all that I changed in the recipe.  Upon first bite, I thought it needed a little extra help from herbs, but the more I ate, the better it tasted, and by the time we were done with our pieces, we decided we needed more!  So far, we have been very pleasantly surprised with the recipes we've tried.  I am more than happy to add this recipe to our rotation now too, and will probably continue to make this long after we part ways with Weight Watchers.  Very tasty, and highly recommended!

Wednesday-Chicken and Cheese Casserole (for recipe, click the title)
This was not as good as we had hoped.  Regardless, we were hungry, so we ate it anyway.  Our biggest complaint was that it was very bland.  It was easy enough to make, though--cook the chicken and macaroni at the same time, then mix all of the ingredients together in the casserole dish and bake for about 45 minutes.

We didn't have any low-fat cheese, so we had to use the regular shredded cheddar that we had in the fridge, which probably affected points a bit, but we hate to let the food we already have go to waste now that we are eating healthier.  I also halved the recipe, since it's just the two of us and used a can of cream of chicken instead of cream of mushroom (the nutritional values on the cream of chicken were slightly better than the mushroom--go figure).  I admit that I forgot to add garlic powder to the chicken, but I doubt that it would have affected the flavor that much.  I might try spices, such as mustard powder (frequently used in homemade mac and cheese recipes), paprika, garlic, and maybe a little seasoning salt.  I will have to play around with it if I make it again.  If you try it and add spices, please let me know what you used!

Thursday-Chicken Piccata (Original Recipe: Pork Piccata)
Nope.  Didn't like it.  So, I'm not going to share the recipe.  Sorry...I'm sure there are good recipes out there in cyberspace.

Monday, March 19

Review: Weight Watchers Parmesan Chicken Cutlets

Update: I have lost 2.2 pounds since we started last Monday.  Hubby, however, has lost a whopping 6 pounds since Monday!  

For dinner tonight, we tried a chicken recipe from Weight Watchers.  Very simple, and very good!  In all honesty, I probably could have come up with this myself, but they did it first, so I went with it.  I did make some changes, as I'll describe below.

For the recipe, click here.

This recipe is for four servings, and each serving is 4 points.

First, I mixed up all of the ingredients, minus the chicken, in a Ziplock bag.  I didn't have Italian breadcrumbs, so I used plain crumbs and added some Italian seasoning.  I also didn't measure the herbs, just added what I guessed would taste good.  It worked out well.  Once all of the ingredients were well mixed, I cut the chicken up into small strips/chunks and dropped them into the bag (or, my hubby did the cutting, since I managed to have a bad run-in with an old razor blade as I was getting the trash together to go out.  I always seem to find sharp objects on accident).  I shook the bag around to coat the chicken well, then sprayed the baking sheet with cooking spray and placed the chicken on.  I popped it in the oven for 25 minutes, and they came out golden brown and smelling great!  The coating gave the chicken a good flavor, and just a little crunch--just right, in my opinion.  Hubby loved it too, and requested that it go into our regular meal rotation.  Overall, I would definitely recommend this recipe for a flavorful chicken coating--and it would probably be good with turkey and pork, too!

On the menu this week:
WW Deep Dish Pizza Casserole (from, 6 pts.)
WW Chicken Piccata and Oven Fries (5 pts. & 3 pts.)
WW Baked Beef Ziti and Garlic Bread (7 pts. & yet to calculate points)
WW Chicken and Cheese Casserole (6 pts.)
WW Chicken Pot Pie (points value to come)

Sunday, March 18

Review #1-Chocolate Chip Cookies, Macaroons and Mashed Potatoes

Today I felt like being very adventurous.  I decided to try three Weight Watchers recipes: Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes.  I decided on these three recipes because hubby and I were in need of some home-baked goodness (okay, me more than him) and we were having turkey for dinner, and what goes better with turkey than mashed potatoes?  So, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, after we transplanted the plants that we picked up yesterday.  How did the recipes measure up?  Read on!

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons 
(For recipe, click here)
I must preface this with the fact that I don't like coconut.  Not a bit.  I've tried it several times, and just can't really handle the texture--you chew and chew, and it never changes!  So really, I just made these for my husband who does like coconut.

The recipe itself is very simple, and very similar to other macaroon recipes.  I whipped it up in a matter of minutes, and following the recipe instructions, tried to form the mixture into balls.  I tried and tried, but this is not a batter that lends itself to formation of any sort of shape--ball, triangle, octagon, etc.  I did the best I could and got 30 macaroons on the cookie sheet (the recipe yields 32).  Next time, I'll just spoon them onto the cookie sheet.
I popped them in the oven and baked for 18 minutes.  While baking, the macaroon juice seemed to seep out and form a puddle underneath, but other than that they baked fine.
While they baked, I began to melt my chocolate and start on the dough for the chocolate chip cookies.  Once baked, the macaroons sat on a cooling rack for around 30 minutes, and by then the chocolate was melted.
I tried to peel the macaroons off of the parchment paper, but they stuck, leaving half of the macaroon behind, so I opted to more or less drizzle the chocolate onto the macaroons.
After that, I popped them into the freezer for around 20 minutes to solidify and let the chocolate set up.  The result was a nice, cool coconut treat that is low in fat and calories, with a pleasant burst of chocolate.  I did taste them, but my opinion didn't matter.  Hubby really liked them, and said that they tasted very similar to regular macaroons.  He was very pleased with the result, and is looking forward to spending points on consuming these.  I am keeping these in the fridge due to the warm temps outside and in the house right now.  Overall, I would recommend this recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(For the recipe, click here)

I loooove chocolate chip cookies.  They are my favorite.  So if there is a whiff of a recipe that is lower fat and lower calories, I'm there and trying it!  Hubby and I were pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  It is a simple cookie recipe, pretty basic.  I mixed the dough quickly, and it formed a soft dough, which I thought would spread considerably in the oven while baking.

Happily, they did not, and they baked up to a puffy, cakey consistency, which I like.  The dough was mild in flavor--not completely lacking flavor, but overwhelmingly chocolate and not very buttery or sweet.  The recommended size is half of a rounded teaspoon, with a yield of 48 cookies, at 2 cookies per point.  So I decided to condense the cookies down and make 12 cookies, two points per cookie, and they turned out to be a regular sized cookie when made that way.

They smelled great, and looked like a regular chocolate chip cookie when I took them out of the oven.  After letting them cool briefly, hubby and I had to try them and see how they held up, and we both thought they were pretty good for a low-fat, low-cal cookie recipe.  Overall, I would recommend trying this recipe.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
(For the recipe, click here)

These seemed easy enough when I glanced over the recipe.  Basically, boil five red potatoes, mash 'em up, and add a few ingredients and mash 'em up more.

In the end, it was easy, but not great, unless you like mashed potatoes of the spackle consistency.  I had no buttermilk or chives on hand, so I made buttermilk using the milk I had on hand and lemon juice (typically, add 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 C milk to make buttermilk).  Instead of chives, I used dried oregano.  I mashed the whole potatoes, added the buttermilk, parmesan, and seasonings, and voila!  Very dry potatoes.

I added a little more milk, along with two tbsp margarine, and it helped with the consistency some, but I still think it needed more to create a creamy mashed potato.  I didn't want to add too much, though, because then it affects point values, and the potatoes are six points just by following their recipe exactly.  So, overall, neither of us was very impressed with the potatoes.  Now, if you aren't following Weight Watchers, then you can doctor these bad boys up and make them great with butter and such.  Going by just the recipe, I'd only give them maybe two stars out of five.  I wouldn't recommend it as it is, but doctored, they would be better, which is why I'm sharing the recipe anyway.  How will you know if you never try it?

Saturday, March 17

Time To Change Things Up A Bit!

Well, hello!  It's been a while since I've written a new blog.  I've been dealing with some pretty low moods lately, and when I get that way, I have no interest in doing much of anything.  That all seems to have changed with the change in the weather, and as I sit here on St. Patrick's Day in shorts with the windows open, listening to the birds sing outside, I am having a hard time believing it's still winter!  But I'll take it, if it means getting me out of my funk and in a better mood (I'm sure hubby will, too).  I'm hoping this beautiful weather is here for a while, but I don't believe that the cold weather is gone for good just yet.

Thanks also to the weather, my thoughts over the past week have turned to gardening.  Hard-core.  I am eager to begin a new garden for the year, and be able to enjoy delicious fresh veggies from my backyard.  On the plan this year will be corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, and of course, asparagus.  I had hoped to see an asparagus shoot poking its little head out of the ground when I went out to look yesterday, but alas, nothing yet.  I'm sure I'll see something soon, though.  Hubby and I went to the home of a coworker/friend this afternoon who was offering to give us some lilies that she had split from her garden, and she also gave us some black-eyed Susans to replant, too.  They are sitting on our back patio right now, but hopefully they will be in the ground by tomorrow.  I'll take pictures once they start growing and blooming.

Ingredients for Candy Bar Cake--NOT on the WW plan.
My thoughts have also turned to losing this extra weight (I'd call it winter weight, but honestly, it's about three winters' worth of weight, so it would be a bit of a misnomer).  Hubby and I broke down, after not having much success or motivation trying to manage our diets on our own, and purchased a Weight Watchers membership.  So far, it's working well, especially for hubby, and it's only been a week.  It's not a bad plan, but I think I'd rather go back to counting calories.  Once the membership expires (in May), I may go back to doing that, since I should be back to within my normal weight range by then.  Not down to my goal, but at least back to acceptable.  So, I went online and printed out a bunch of recipes from the website, and I plan to begin trying them over the course of the next several weeks.  I will also review them on here, and if they are good, I'll post them for you to try as well.  I figure, even if you are not trying to lose weight, why not eat healthier anyway?  I went on Pinterest and did a search for Weight Watchers recipes, and found quite a few that sounded good.  You can also just do a Google search and find them.

Since we've started the Weight Watchers plan, I admit that I feel like I'm not eating enough.  According to them, though, I am.  I just feel hungry all of the time!  I know that it's for the best, though, if I want to be healthy.  It's nothing compared to what Jesus experienced in the desert--He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights!  If that's not hunger, I don't know what is.  Just the fact that He was able to go without food for over a month shows that He was more than human.  When the devil came to tempt Jesus to turn stones to bread to eat, and prove that He was God, Jesus replied, "“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" (Matthew 4:1-5).  Jesus could have done it, but it wasn't the reason that He was fasting to begin with.  Maybe when I'm hungry, I should turn to the "soul food" that God offers each one of us every day through His word in the Bible.  Hmm.  Food for thought.