By the way

Sorry I didn’t post sooner, but here’s the story behind the “What is it ” photo posted on August 4th:

I’ve not kept up on the house as well as I should since I am doing so much traveling between home and the state capital. Before I headed up to training the week first week of August, I cleaned out the fridge and found a small carton of cream in the back. When I poured it out these clumps of mold got caught in the sink drain. I know, icky, but it made an interesting photo. 🙂

My Favorite Salad

In late January I started focusing on myself and my overall health. For me, this meant a big focus on what I ate, incorporating exercise into my daily routine, and weight loss. With a few tools, I’ve been pretty successful. To date, I’ve lost 24 pounds and have developed some short term goals to work on as I progress towards my ultimate goal. ?

I’ve tried different strategies to lose weight before, but have never had the results I’ve had this time around. A big part of the problem with previous attempts was censoring what I ate to a point where I could not keep with the plan. Not this time! While I have focused on more balanced meals and snacks and portion control, I really have not been too restricted in what I eat. I have never been a big sweets eater, so that helps. And, while I have always drank diet soda because I just liked it better than regular, I decided to cut that out and drink tea instead.

I’ve picked up several cookbooks at our library to help me along the way and find recipes that will satisfy me and also M. who is trying to gain weight. During the course of experimenting with different things, I found a salad I really enjoy and thought I would share it here. This salad is huge and it can be huge and still very healthy because of what is thrown in. So, get out a big bowl and try this out for lunch or dinner. This salad is a full meal on it’s own, but is low enough in calories and fat that you can add a small side to it, too.

The ingredients - mix and match as you like!

The ingredients - mix and match as you like!

You can’t see it, but there is a bag of romaine hearts I’ve washed and cut up in the back. I like to use romaine heart or bok choy as my salad base. Then we have Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame dressing, orange, yellow, and red peppers, a portabella mushroom, broccoli florets, snow peas, yellow squash, and Starkist Tuna Creations Sweet and Spicy.

Greens are the base of the salad

Greens are the base of the salad

I begin with the romaine or bok choy, then add in the snow peas (broken in half) and the broccoli florets.

Veggies are chopped and added for color flair!

Veggies are chopped and added for color flair!

I then chopped up about half of my portabella mushroom, 1/4 of each of the peppers, and about half my yellow squash and add these to my green veggies. The yellow squash is my favorite veggie in this salad.

The salad is dressed up with tuna and dressing.

The salad is dressed up with tuna and dressing.

Final step is adding the tuna – and yes, I use the entire pouch. Tuna is light and good for you (provided it’s packed in water and not oil). A bit of dressing is layered on top (1-2 tablespoons) and then everything is mixed up. The approximate macronutrient breakdown for this salad is 33 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs, 2.75 grams of fat, and 289.5 calories.

A complete lunch - very filling!

A complete lunch - very filling!

I finished my salad off with a small side of Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips and pinto bean spread. Arizona Diet Green Tea with ginseng is the final touch to this healthy, filling lunch.

Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Christmas gifts are always a bit of a chore, if we tell the truth. What to get so and so? Do they already have one of these? Do we get a needed item or something that leans towards frivoul0us want? Is a gift card appropriate, or should there be more to the gift? To add to the regularly scheduled gift dilemmas, I am also unemployed this year, which has meant for me, greatly restricting my spending and actually trying to budget. I had to factor that into my gift-giving.

I turned to the trusty internet to help me find good, thoughtful, and budget-friendly gifts this year. I decided I would make gift baskets of things I personally made for my gifts. It was easy once I decided what would go into the baskets, then I just had to decide how many baskets to make, create a shopping list of necessary items, do some shopping, then assemble. I am pleased how everything turned out and hope that the people who got the baskets like them and the thought I put into them this year. (I did do some modifications for my brother since he is a single 26 year old male – he got a few handmade things and a gift card.)

Here is what ended up in the baskets:

Most of my idea inspirations came from a post on the blog Get Rich Slowly. Here are some pictures:

Brownies in a jar

Brownies in a jar

Smiley Eggs - when I tested the brownies, the eggs just happened to break like this!

Smiley Eggs - when I tested the brownies, the eggs just happened to break like this!

Christmas basket and it's stuffin's

Christmas basket and it's stuffin's

'08 Christmas Card - front

'08 Christmas Card - front

'08 Christmas Card - inside

'08 Christmas Card - inside

'08 Christmas Card - recipe cards

'08 Christmas Card - recipe cards

For M. I got the special edition DVD of the animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars. M. is a HUGE Star Wars fan! Here’s the card I made to go with the gift:

Christmas Card for M

Christmas Card for M

Christmas Card for M - detail

Christmas Card for M - detail

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and my box from North Dakota with the presents from my family arrived yesterday so there are actually presents under our tree! There is something a bit sad about a poor Christmas tree with nothing under it.

There is also a present for M. from me under the tree. Shhh! He wasn’t supposed to know about that because we are budgeting and typically don’t get each other gifts due to our buying pretty much what we want throughout the year. But he found out because last night while we were trying to fall asleep he said, “You didn’t get me anything, did you?” I tried to be coy and avoid the question. “Why would I buy you anything? What do you mean?” But he had me all figured out and lamented that he would have to go into town the next day (crazy Christmas Eve day shopping) to get me something. I vehemently insisted he didn’t have to, that he shouldn’t, that all I wanted was for him to stay home. I must have convinced him because he’s been home all day. 🙂

I have a pot roast in the oven for an attempt at an elegant Christmas Eve dinner. (Thanks again to Pioneer Woman’s cooking section! I omitted the onions and added some taters to the pot.) Twenty-four hours of A Christmas Story will be starting in a couple hours. I think Christmas is truly upon us!

And the house filled with smoke… **Updated**

My mother-in-law will be having a Thanksgiving shindig at her house some time this weekend. I decided to avoid my antisocial self and will accomany M. Even though the thought of 8 adults and 8 children crammed into that house makes me anxious!

So I also decided I would not show up empty handed after the Pioneer Woman posted a great looking recipe for caramel pumpkin cheesecake on her cooking site. Traditional pumpkin, but not in the traditional pie form. Because I had never made this particular cheesecake, I decided I better get the ingredients for 2 cheesecakes and make one today so M. and I could test it.

After lunch with a friend and some assorted errands, I arrived home with all the fixings for two of these cheesecakes. I got a few things squared away around the house and then set to making the “test” cheesecake. All went well. The crust turned out nicely, the mixing of the filling yielded a lovely light orange gloop that when tasted reminded me of my mother’s pumpkin rolls – which I miss. (I should get that recipe…)

And then the cheesecake went in the oven to bake for the appropriate 1 hour and 15 minutes. About 10 minutes into the baking I realized I had a problem. My springform pan was leaking a bit into the bottom of my oven. And the drippings were then burning. And the burning caused smoke. Within about 15 minutes my kitchen and living room were filled with smoke. So despite the cool air outside, I opened the door off my kitchen leading to the porch to help ventilate – much to my kitties’ delight (they haven’t been out in ages).

When M. arrived home, we had a cold and smokey house, but a nice looking cheesecake. The cheesecake is currently setting in my fridge. Pioneer Woman recommends at least 4 hours in the fridge, but I don’t think it will make it that long. I plan to pull it out after writing this post and testing it out. I hope it turned out as delicious as it looks in Pioneer Woman’s pictures!

I also ended up slicing my palm when washing the blade from my food processor. 😦   There had better be somoe good results waiting for me in that fridge!!

***UPDATE***
I tried the cheesecake last night. Very yummy! Still reminds me of my mom’s pumpkin rolls. Here’s a couple pictures.

Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Sliced me a piece

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