Friday, February 27, 2015

5:2 Update - Week 6

Workouts - I've got a pretty regular workout routine now, so I won't bother updating anymore with how much I'm working out each week. Every weekday I do about 10 minutes of weights and 20 of Zumba (cardio). I'm having such a fun time with Zumba, I hope it lasts!

Progress - I hit the 5 lb. mark at week 4, and after 6 weeks I am down 9 lbs!! (Justin is too.) My waist and thighs have gone down another 1/2" or so since the last update, and I definitely feel like all of my clothes are fitting so much better. I can't wait to see how the next few weeks go.

Meals, Week 4 -
Lunch - Progresso Light soup
Snack - Potato, mushroom, and egg bake
Dinner - Chicken, mushrooms, & asparagus (sauce failure!)

Chicken, Asparagus, & Mushrooms (sauce failure!)

I finally gave the Progresso Light soups a try and they were really tasty and filling! Neither the snack or dinner recipes turned out very well this week so I won't go into more detail on those.

This week I tried having a small meal between lunch & dinner instead of using my last 200 calories on random snacky things. The first day I was *starving* after dinner, which was a first. So it seems I actually do better having a smaller snack between meals and leaving myself 50-100 calories for a treat right after dinner.

Week 5 -
Lunch - Progresso Light soup
Dinner - Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

Low-cal Chicken Gnocchi Soup (206 calories)

Week 6 -
Lunch - Chicken & Kale Scotch Broth (soup)
Dinner - Asian Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, & Chicken

Asian Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, & Chicken

I made a few tweaks to the Scotch Broth soup to get the calories down from 250 to 200 and took some new pics so I can share it here soon. The sauce for the dinner was delicious, but I need to work on the ratios (less chicken, more veggies).

Breakfast was the only time I felt somewhat hungry on diet days before (since it is skipped), but by week 6 that has gone away. I'm less hungry for it on normal days too. (I actually wouldn't mind skipping breakfast everyday ~ I never know what to eat & usually end up grabbing a Pop Tart or Hot Pocket! So healthy.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Family" Heart Wall Decal

A few years ago I was contacted by Happy Lines, a Norwegian wall decal company, about using my "Family" heart design. Recently I was searching around Pinterest & found this beautiful sample picture from their site. Love those bright colors and modern decor!

Monday, February 23, 2015

5:2 Low-cal Chicken Gnocchi Soup (206 calories)

After trying this delicious Creamy Cauliflower Sauce (which ends up tasting like Alfredo),  I was curious to see if I could use something similar to replace heavy cream in some of our favorite recipes. My first attempt was with this Olive Garden copycat Chicken & Gnocchi Soup. The broth was a little diferent than the origional, but delicious either way!

Low-cal Chicken Gnocchi Soup (206 calories)

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* will vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

1/2 Tbsp. butter (60)
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced (10)
1/2 cup carrot, minced or grated (26)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (0)
1 Tbsp. flour (28)
6 cups water (0)
4 tsp./cubes bouillon (20)
8 oz. cooked, chopped chicken (272)
1/2 tsp. ground thyme (2)
1/4 tsp. black pepper (1)
2 cups cauliflower florets (50)
3 Tbsp. skim milk (15)
3 cups fresh baby spinach, stems removed & cut in half (21)
8 oz. gnocchi (320*)

1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the celery, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally.

2) Stir in the flour until well blended, then add 4 cups of water and 3 tsp. (or cubes) of bouillon. Add the chicken, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

3) While the soup is simmering - In a small pot, add the additional 2 cups of water and 1 tsp. of bouillon. Bring to a boil, then add the cauliflower florets. Cover and boil for 10 minutes.

4) Pour the cauliflower (and broth) into a blender, add the milk, and blend until smooth.

5) Add the blended cauliflower, spinach, and gnocchi to the large pot and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. While it simmers, skim off the foam for a cleaner broth (optional). Serves 4.

Calories - 206 for 1/4

Friday, February 20, 2015

Add Some Strength Training to Your Workout

Over the last year I've been hearing more & more about how great strength training can be for weight loss. (This would be weight lifting, push-ups ~ anything to build muscle.) Muscle is nice & lean, and burns tons of calories even while you are at rest. Do a Google search and you will find an overwhelming amount of articles and videos comparing the two, but most of them tend to agree that a combination of strength training and cardio is best.

The most effective way to build muscle is to do 10-15 reps of a move (with weights just heavy enough to make it difficult at the end), then take a short break and repeat two more times. And then the next day you give those muscles a rest and work on a different area. A lot of the videos I've found are laid out that way, running through a series of moves 3 times. But all of this repetition bores me to tears! Maybe it's not the most effective way, but I like to do just one set from these videos (about 10 minutes) and then move on to Zumba for cardio (20 minutes). The best videos I've found for this have been from Fitness Blender ~

And these three get an honorable mention, but are a little too short ~

30 Minute Strength Training for Women (Includes a warm up & cool down, so not 30 min. of weights)

15 Minute Beginner Weight Training

Beginner Strength Workout

I've been having trouble finding more full-body weights workouts like these, everything else seems to focus on just arms, abs, legs, etc. Which makes sense if you are supposed to work on a different section each day! I suppose that is what I will have to try next.

I've created a Pinterest board for Strength Training Workouts and will continue to post any good videos I find there.

2/21 - Edited to add ~ What timing! Our Best Bites just posted all about strength training with a great list of the benefits & a few exercises to try.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chicken Tikka Masala

I haven't had a lot of experience with Indian food, but I saw a lot of people mention that Chicken Tikka Masala was their favorite, so I was curious to give it a try. This recipe is an old favorite now! We've made it many times & tweaked it along the way. Rich and creamy, this one is certainly not good for you, but worth it! (I even tried halving the heavy cream once, but it was definitely not as tasty, so go ahead and pour it all in.) If you don't have garam masala, you can use 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 2 tsp. cayenne pepper instead.

Chicken Tikka Masala

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything.)

1 cup yogurt (154)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (3)
5 teaspoons garam masala (30)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (10)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (3)
1/2 teaspoon salt (0)
2 lb. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (1088)

1 cup Basmati rice (190)
1.5 tsp. ground turmeric (10)
2 cups water (0)
1.5 cups frozen peas (140)

2 tablespoon butter (200)
2 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.) (0)
16oz. can tomato sauce (145)
2 cup heavy cream (1 pint) (1,642)
4 teaspoons ground cumin (0)
4 teaspoons paprika (24)
1 teaspoon salt (0)

1) In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garam masala, black pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

2) Combine the rice, tumeric, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover, cooking for 20 minutes. Stir in the peas and cover, letting the hot rice warm them.

3) Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat then saute garlic for 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Season with cumin, paprika, and salt. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes (a splatter shield is highly recommended!).

4) Add the chicken to the sauce and raise the heat to medium, cooking for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve over rice. Serves 6.

Calories - 606 for 1/6

Friday, February 13, 2015

Zumba "Pick 6" Workout

Well, ever since I discovered Zumba workouts, that is all I search YouTube for anymore. And I'm having a blast! For once I am actually enjoying cardio workouts rather than just forcing myself. I've been doing about 20-30 minutes every weekday (which is already crazy), and in the evenings I keep thinking, 'hey, it might be fun to go do some more Zumba'... but then I sit on my butt because I'm not *that* good.

I found that a ton of videos are only about 3-4 minutes long, just the length of one song. So I thought it would be fun to collect a bunch of good 1-song videos, and then you could pick out a few and create a new workout each time! "Pick 6" to get a workout about 20 minutes, or pick 9 for about 30. (Of course you can always add up the times too, which is what I usually do.) Here's 6 to start you off with...

Boom Boom Boom by Black Eyed Peas, 4 min.

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, 3.5 min.

Dare (La La La), 3 min.

Hotel Room by Pitbull, 3.5 min.

Let's Get Loud, 4 min.

Jumping (Mega Mix 44), 4 min.

And you can find the rest on my Zumba "Pick 6" Pinterest board. I've currently found about 20 good songs and will be adding new ones every weekday for a while.

By the way ~ If you've tried Zumba at a gym & didn't like it, give some of these videos a try. Things are going to vary dramatically from one instructor to another. I can't tell you how many videos I tried out and stopped after 30 seconds because the moves changed too fast, or went way too slow, or had way too much salsa, etc. If you've ever danced around in your bedroom to music, you're probably going to have fun with these.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gyudon - Japanese Beef & Egg Over Rice

Taking a cue from my last post, I pulled up a favorite recipe to share! Another winner from Just One Cookbook, Gyudon is delicious Japanese comfort food. Sweet simmered beef, onion, and egg topping a bowl of hot, white rice. Easy to make, this meal takes about 25 minutes to prepare.

Gyudon - Japanese beef & egg over rice

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* will vary a lot based on what you buy, so make sure to compare your label.)

1.5 lb. thinly sliced beef (24 oz.,1680*)
1 Tbsp. oil (120)
2 large onions, havled & thinly sliced (120)
4 tsp. sugar (64)
4 Tbsp. sake (80)
4 Tbsp. mirin (180)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (20)
6 large eggs, beaten (420)
4 green onions, thinly sliced (20)
Cooked white rice

1) Cut the beef slices into small pieces (About 2-3 inches wide) and set aside.

2) Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. (Meanwhile, start cooking your rice, if needed.)

2) Add the meat and sugar to the pan and cook until mostly browned.

3) Add the sake, mirin, and soy sauce. Reduce the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid.

4) Pour the beaten egg over the top, cover, and cook until egg is set. To serve, fill the bottom of a bowl with cooked rice (1/2-1 cup). Top with the beef mixture, pour in a little of the liquid, then garnish with sliced green onion. Serves 5-6.

Calories - 540 for 1/5, or 450 for 1/6 (+ 100 calories per 1/2 cup rice)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Red & Silver Arabesque Nails

I have so many recipes that I took photos of, and then they sat around forever in my "To Blog" folder. There are at least 15+, and some are as old as 6 months, or even 1 year! I really need to kick myself in the butt and start posting them!

When I was looking through the pics morning, I noticed a picture of a manicure I forgot about from the end of December ~

Red & silver arabesque nails (Born Pretty Store #17)

I got a few Born Pretty Store stamping plates for my birthday. They are super cheap (and go on sale often), but they take about a month to arrive in the mail so they came right around Christmas. They stamp really well! (They also sell some off-brands here, but I don't know how well they work.)

The base color is an unnamed Wet N Wild Megalast red that came in a sample set. I've had bad luck with some Wet N Wild in the past, but the Megalast seemed nice. Then I stamped with plate BP17 in Pure Ice "Silver Mercedes". This is one of those combos I wish I'd tried on a nail wheel first. I thought silver & red was pretty safe, but with so much silver, the colors just looked odd. A black base would have been lovely though!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

5:2 Update (Week 2 & 3)

We just finished up week 3 of 5:2 and are really enjoying it! Switching to Monday & Thursday made a huge difference since those 2-3 days feel like a very long break between diet days. ("Fast" days just sounds terrible to me, so I settled on "diet" days.)

On week 2 I had miso soup for lunch loaded with tofu, wakame seaweed, green onions, and shiritaki noodles. For dinner I made a lentil & sausage stew based on this recipe. 5:2 started in the UK so a lot of the recipes you will find measure everything in grams & liters. I end up planning out my own measurements (cups & Tbsp.), calculate all of the calories, and tweak things to get the servings close to 200 calories. The stew ended up being very tasty but looked like a gray-brown pile of mush, so I might change things around next time, haha. Those two meals only totaled up to 300 calories, so I had another 300 to use the rest of the day (although I could have made better choices with them).

I was hoping to lose more than 1 lb. this week and worked out 4 times, including one 45 minute workout! (I usually do 20-30) And of course I ended up losing 1 lb. again. I know that 1-2 lbs. a week is a perfectly normal and healthy weigh loss range, but I was a little bummed to see that the extra work made no difference. Naturally my husband lost 1 lb. each week without doing any exercise.

Faux Sizzling Rice Soup

Week 3 I made Chicken & Kale Scotch Broth (soup) based on this recipe, which ended up being fantastic! I'll definitely have to type up my version soon. For dinner we had an old favorite, Sizzling Rice Soup (see above), and the two meals ended up being about 425 together. Soups are so easy to load with veggies & make super-low calorie, and I love them, so I didn't even notice that I'd planned soup for both meals. By dinner the 2nd day I was not really in the mood for soup & wishing we had something else, so now I know not to make 2!

This time I was determined to lose more than 1 lb., and was really enjoying my workouts for once, so I did 5 (1/2) workouts! Unfortunately the Super Bowl snacks really did us in, and I only went down 1/2 lb. My husband lost none this week, so I guess the exercise did help! I decided to take my measurements again this week and saw that I've lost 1/2 inch off my hips and 2 inches off my waist! (the smallest part of the waist) Very encouraging! Perhaps I am gaining muscle & loosing more fat than I think.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Great YouTube Workouts

I've come to realize that in order for me to really lose weight, I unfortunately have to track calories *and* exercise. I tried just counting calories, sticking with it for months, and was only able to lose a few pounds. I tried exercising 3-4 times a week for months with the same results. Putting in all that work with basically no results is very disheartening! Luckily I am super motivated to do both right now. I'd actually started walking a mile most days for a little exercise back in October, and recently switched to cardio for something more effective, so I was thrilled to discover 5:2 so I can get my diet on track at the same time.

One big problem we had doing cardio in the past was that we only had a few DVDs & recorded shows to use, and things get way too repetitive really quick. We started muting the show and putting on our own music because we couldn't stand to hear the same motivational lines & cheesy comments one more time! Now there is free access to a nearly unlimited amount of work-out videos on YouTube, and I've been having fun trying out a new one every day! There are some hits & misses though, so I've been bookmarking the good ones here so I can do them again later, and so I can share them with you!

Here are the top videos I found so far, listed roughly in order from easiest to hardest...

Kickboxing Cardio, Denise Austin (with hand weights) ~
Justin and I loaded up our DVR with Denise Austin workouts at one point and went through them regularly. She is good for beginners because you feel like you are getting a good workout but don't really feel like you are *dying* at any point! I also like how she always does a mix of low & high intensity and hand weights. I found this one a little harder to follow than usual, but it's easier once you realize she is cycling back through the moves & adding a new one at the end.

30 Minute Aerobic Dance Workout, Bipasha Basu ~
This one is a little more dance-y and switches moves quickly but it was easy to follow. I did find the wind blown hair and voice-over instructions a little odd, haha. (I only did about 20 minutes of this one, so I can't vouch for the last part!)

Zumba Dance Workout for Beginners ~
This was my *favorite* video so far ~ I was actually having FUN exercising, and that is very rare for me! I'll definitely be looking up some more Zumba workouts. The moves change very quickly, but I still found them easy to follow, and the cycles repeat. This video is made up of about 5-6 segments and I loved the first two (was not excited about the spinning girl). The last segment is actually missing the music, probably due to copyright issues, but it is short & not too awkward to do without sound.

Tae Bo Cardio, Billy Blank ~
This is another classic for us, being one of the few DVDs that we have. This workout is about 45 minutes long, but I'm used to more like 20-30 minutes, so I often end early unless I'm super motivated! There area a few intense moves mixed in, but most of it is easy to get through.

30 Minute Cardio, CafeMom Studios ~
There were a few high-intensity moves with a few too many reps for me, but otherwise I was able to do the whole workout, which is pretty good for 30 minutes. I do feel like the camera angle threw me off a few times because it would switch from in front of the girls to the side and confused me about which leg we were on.

150 Calorie Cardio Fat Blast, Jessica Smith ~
This is one of those HIITS workouts that has been kicking my butt lately (high intensity interval training). You basically do a high-intensity move for one minute (think jumping jacks) and then walk or jog for 15-30 seconds to catch your breath before you do it again. A lot of these are too much for me right now, but this is a good one if you are short on time but willing to bust your butt to make up for it.

I hope you give some of these a try and I will keep searching for great new workouts to share!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weekend Productivity

Hello Monday! We had a pretty good weekend over here. I'm having one of those rare spurts where I feel super motivated and end up getting a ton done.

p7-14 Cabinets, 1     .     p5-14 DVDs

So, my nearly-2 year-old, Pandora, spends most of her time doing this, all over the house. And if you try to clean something up, it just draws her attention to it & she wants to play with it. So you start cleaning up a wooden puzzle & she runs over & dumps it out to try solving it herself. You move onto the Legos... and so does she. Most of the time I'm so busy trying to keep up with the laundry, dishes, and cooking, I have to just ignore her mess and it doesn't really get tackled until we're having guests over, & then Justin & I both clean like crazy. (Being a parent is *so* fun sometimes!) Here's what she can do to a clean playroom in just a few hours ~

p9-14 Destruction     .     p10-14 Sarah Bear

Friday I was trying to cook and there was so much junk on the kitchen floor it was really stressing me out. I decided that Saturday I was just going to spend the entire day cleaning! And I worked & worked, only stopping to re-assemble a heavy-duty tape measure the kids had pulled apart (pretty proud I figured that one out), and during their nap break I worked on the computer. I finally ran out of steam around 3:45 & sat down for a half hour or so until it was time to start dinner. Let's just hope I don't have to do that again for a while!

My husband got paid for some extra work this month & after tossing around some ideas we decided to buy the new bed set for our bedroom. We really need to start painting walls, especially in our room where I ripped out some ugly wallpaper, but I couldn't pick a color for the wall until we had a bed set to match colors! After searching for months, I could only find one green queen comforter set I liked, but it came with a hefty price tag at $140. I eventually found it for around $110, but Saturday the price was back up, so I started searching again. So I was completely shocked when I found it in a king size for $87! It's just a little larger both ways so we snatched it up, and now this beauty is mine! (Just the two shams & comforter. I'll find my own decorative pillows) ~

Which is oddly enough the exact store we were planning out buying some shoes from, so I also ended up with these.

We also grabbed this large 3'x4' Starry Night painting to fill the big, blank wall in the living room. We saw that painting in person in college so it's meaningful and matches our color scheme ~ perfect!

Sunday we tried to stay productive & moved the Christmas boxes back down to storage, dropped a large load off at Goodwill, sorted through the kids clothes & pulled out what was small, and I fixed the nicks in a mirror frame with some paint so we can hang it in our room. We've been in this house for half a year now, and it feels like such slow progress, but at least there *is* progress!

By the way, at the end of the year we were finally able to move the piano from my Nana's house that I grew up taking lessons on. One day we'll need to get it tuned, cleaned, and repaired, but after $350 for the move we're just happy to have that done. (Oh yeah, now I remember why we never have money to buy stuff for the house!)

op12-14 Piano, 1