Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

31 Dec

My sister shared a recipe that she raved about, so I decided to give it a try.  Just as my sis promised, this soup is hearty, satisfying, and incredibly easy to prepare.  Plus, a filling two-cup portion is only 9 WW points plus!

Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

1.25 lb turkey sausage.  (I used Italian sausage and removed it from the casings.)

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced.

1/2 bunch kale, rinsed- leaves removed from stem and roughly chopped

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups fat free chicken broth

2 cups water

1 pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

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Instructions:

Heat oil over medium high in a large pot.  

Add sausage meat, breaking it up as it cooks.

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Once the sausage is fully cooked, add garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, taking care that the garlic does not burn.

Add water, broth, beans, and pepper.  Stir.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes, covered.

Add kale, stir.  Simmer for another 10 minutes, covered.

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Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot!

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*This recipe has been taste tested and approved by McKenna.

With the leftover Kale I made Kale chips, but they turned out too salty.  Next time, I will try a different recipe for the chips!

Healthy Rewards and Accountability

28 Dec

For the past couple of months, I have not been following a specific exercise program.  I had been working out quite regularly with T25, but I was just choosing the workout I was in the mood for.  Workout boredom was coming back to me.  I could feel my motivation slipping away.  There is truth to the idea that maintaining weight loss is more difficult than the weight loss process.

So, I decided that I would begin the T25 program again from the start, this time doing it in its entirety.  Things were going well; I usually respond pretty well to the goals I set for myself.  Then, during a workout I injured my neck, and it took almost a week until the pain started to subside.  I am not the type to feign injury for the sake of an excuse, and I was frustrated.  When I was feeling confident about starting again, I hit that slump.  You know, the one that lets you find ANY reason to not work out.  I was tired.  It is the holiday season.  I want to watch 75 episodes of Game of Thrones.  If the problem was workout boredom, then I needed to find interest somewhere.  My sister kindly let me borrow P90X.  I hope she is okay with my definition of the word “borrow.” 😉

I started by just feeling the program out.  I enjoy cardio heavy routines, so I started with plyometrics.  The next day I did kenpo.  I totally am obsessed with what I have tried of P90X so far.  After some exploration, here is my new goal:

1.  Start T25 from the beginning.  Complete both the Alpha and Beta rounds.

2.  Do a hybrid schedule of P90X and T25.

Reward for finishing:  Purchasing a new Beach Body Program.  I have my eye on Insanity Asylum or P90X 3.  If you have suggestions, please share!  

 

January 1 seemed like the best day to start, right?  I planned on doing whatever workout I was in the mood for each day until then.  However, when my husband woke up yesterday he said, “I have decided that today is the day I will start working out.”  Um, OMG!  So of course WE started T25 TOGETHER yesterday.  Can you sense my enthusiasm to have a workout partner?

What keeps you accountable?  How do you reward yourself?  

 

Lifetime Member Thanksgiving

28 Nov

Last Thanksgiving, I weighed almost fifty pounds more than I do today.  Last year, I was just starting my post-baby weight loss journey.  Because I was just beginning, I chose to be incredibly strict.  In fact, now that I reflect, I really stuck to my guns all throughout the holidays last year.  I was probably slightly annoying about it.

Now that I am at my goal weight, I can approach the holiday season a bit differently.  Armed with my new perspective on a healthy lifestyle (courtesy of Weight Watchers) I can now indulge a bit around the holidays as long as I maintain a healthy balance.

Before I was a mother, my version of healthy was really just about not gaining weight.  Holidays would cause anxiety for me.  I knew that I would be put in situations in which it would be difficult for me to stick to the idea I had in my head about what healthy eating looked like.  My past reaction to these situations would be to either eat NOTHING or EVERYTHING.  I would finish the holidays annoyed with myself that I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else or I would overindulge, leading to a lot of guilt and angry exercise sessions.  It is no surprise that this attitude of self-deprivation and self-loathing eventually lead to me gaining a few extra pounds before I even became pregnant.

As I discussed Thanksgiving plans with my family for this year, I noticed something–that old anxiety was missing.  I was not in the slightest worried about how I would feel sitting around the table.  I did not imagine myself watching everyone else enjoy the holiday food without me.  The only thing that came to mind was how much I was looking forward to the party.  Imagine that!

And again, I owe my new healthy relationship with food to Weight Watchers.  This is my first month as a WW lifetime member, and achieving this goal reminds me that even if I do pick up a few pounds around the holidays, I have all of the tools I need to refocus.

So this Thanksgiving, I am not going to think about strategy.  I am not going to obsess over points.  I don’t need to over think it anymore because it is just not necessary.  I can just be; I have finally found that balance.

Last year, I made this lightened up version of pumpkin pie.  It is quite tasty, but this year I will most likely opt for a small piece of the real thing.

WW Pumpkin Pie

Cooking Spray

4 sheets Phyllo dough

1/2 Cup dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 Cup canned pumpkin puree

1 1/2 Cup evaporated fat free milk

1/2 Cup fat free egg substitute

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

2.  Cut phyllo sheets in half.  Place 1 sheet in pan and coat with cooking spray.  Top with another sheet of phyllo, placing corners just to the right of the previous sheet.  Repeat with remaining sheets to form a circle.  Press layered dough into the pan and roll in edges.  Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

3.  Whisk together brown sugar, spices, cornstarch and salt.  Whisk together pumpkin, milk, egg, and vanilla.  Gradually whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

4.  Pour filling into crust.  Bake until set, about 50 minutes.  (Cover crust edges with foil during baking if they are becoming too brown.)

Cool completely before cutting. 

8 servings.  4 WW Points Plus

Liebster Award

27 Oct

 

Recently, my friend Rachel nominated me for the Liebster Award.  I had never heard of it before, but I am appreciative that she thought of me!  Rachel is a fellow teacher and blogger.

The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. So, what is a Liebster?  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Isn’t that sweet? Blogging is about building a community and it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and help spread the word about newer bloggers/blogs *This definition is stolen and was found during a quick google search.  And yes, I teach a research class. 😉

Blogging is something that I just barely dabble in, but I have loved the connections I have made with people because of it.  People who I haven’t spoken to in years have reached out to me because of my posts.  Making connections is by far the best benefit of blogging.  It truly is an awesome way to share ideas, but you already know this because you are reading this blog/have a blog of your own.  I have also been experimenting with using blogs in my classroom lately, and I have been having a blast with it.

The Liebster Award rules also ask that nominated bloggers answer a few questions so their readers can learn a bit more about them.  These are the questions I was asked:

1.  I started blogging because…

I was mentally having a difficult time gaining weight through my pregnancy, so I decided to use my blog as a way to channel my energy.  I wanted my struggle to turn into something positive, and it has.

2.  I’m currently reading…

Game of Thrones.  Two of my students recommended the TV series, and I told them I would watch it if they read the books with me.  It is totally not something I would normally pick up, but that is a good thing.

3. My favorite quality about myself is…

I am determined.  Once I decide that I want to do something, I do it.  No excuses.  Dropping 90 pounds is an example of that. 😉

4. My favorite beauty product is…

I love Mascara.  I love trying all of the new ones that pop up, but I am a loyal fan of all Maybelline mascara.  Nothin’ too fancy!

5. The song/artist/band I can’t get enough of right now is…

Alabama Shakes…hands down!  I actually bought the CD for my hubby as a little surprise gift, but he has never even listened to it because I can’t give it up!  Every song transports me to 1960.  I am slow dancing in a gym…

6. The last new recipe I tried was…

I LOVE trying Weight Watcher Recipes!  Let’s see…the last one that I tried was a spicy pot roast.

7. If I could have one superpower it would be…

To stop time.  Everyone makes the cliche claim that time speeds up once you have kids.  I hate cliches.  However, nothing has ever been more true.  Time speeds up when you want to cherish every moment.  I can’t believe it has been over a year since I first saw my sweet daughter’s beautiful face.

8. My favorite holiday is…

I love the 4th of July!  When I think about every 4th of July I can remember, each one holds very specific memories like no other holiday does.

 

Okay, time to pass it on!  My nomination for the Liebster Award is:

Corrie!  Corrie shares her daily writing on her blog Cobalt’s Keeper.

Here are your questions, Corrie:

1.  If  you could only eat one food for the rest of your live, what would you choose?

2.  Why did you start blogging?

3.  Share a strange dream.

4.  What are you currently reading?

5.  What is your guilty pleasure?

6.  What is your favorite holiday?

7.  What is your favorite movie?

8.  If you could live the life of one fictional character, who would you choose?

 

 

Two Fall Favorites

9 Oct

Fall really is the best time of the year for food.  I celebrated the first official day of Fall a few weekends ago by busting out my crock pot and Dutch oven.  The season calls for chili, soups, stews, apple cider, and most importantly: pumpkin lattes.  I have continued to enjoy experimenting with Weight Watchers recipes.  I want to share with you what I have made recently: something brand new and something tried and true.

The Best WW Chili

I really like chili.  Yum.  I have made several WW chili recipes, but this is the one I keep going back to.

BBQ Chicken Chili

1 pound ground chicken

1 large onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

31 oz. Kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15.5 oz. pinto beans, rinsed and drained

14.5 oz. canned diced tomatoes

12 oz. chili sauce

4.5 green chili peppers, canned, diced

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp molasses

1 tbsp packed brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cumin

Directions:  Brown chicken in a pan.  Place all ingredients in crock pot.  Cover and cook 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.  1 1/4 cup = 7 WW points plus.

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The picture does not do it justice.  This is sweet and spicy in a wonderful way.  I have been making it about once a week!

Winter Beef Stew

Cooking spray

1 pound lean sirloin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

2 tsp canola oil

1 large red onion cut into large slices

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

5 tsp red wine vinegar

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 cup apple juice

1 cup beef broth

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced

2 cups egg noodles, cooked

2 tbsp fresh minced parsley

Directions: Coat a nonstick Dutch oven with cooking spray.  Brown beef and set aside.  Heat oil in same pot.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook for ten minutes over medium heat while stirring.  Stir in vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Pour in apple juice.  Stir up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add broth and bring to a simmer.  Add carrots and beef; cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove bay and thyme.  Spoon noodles onto serving plates and top with stew.  Sprinkle with parsley.  1 cup of stew and 1/2 cup noodles = 9 WW points plus.

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Okay, so I know that this does not look all that interesting, but the vinegar with the apple juice gives this stew a really unique flavor.  It tastes like a lighter version of a dish my mom makes called Hungarian goulash.

Enjoy!

Insanity: The End of my Journey

20 Sep

So, with only a few Insanity workouts left, I am ready to give the program an official review.

First, I have to admit a few things.  It did take me a bit longer to finish the 60 day program than the 60 recommended days.  I was at day 45 with zero setbacks until I got sick.  I took four days off for that.  Then, life got in the way.  Now, if you know me, you know that exercise, diet, etc. is a PRIORITY in my life.  However, I am allowing myself a bit of leniency here because this is by far the busiest year of my life.  Motherhood, career, Master’s degree internship, blah, blah, blah.  I hate when people play the “I am busier than you” game, so I know that I have nothing going on that other people don’t.  But, I am not one to make excuses.  There were a few days that just truly did not have enough hours in them for everything I want to accomplish.

That leads me to the only complaint I have about Insanity:  the length of the workouts.  I understand that if you want to change your body, you have to put in the time and effort.  I am completely willing to do that.  There were some nights throughout this journey that I did not even start working out until 10PM.  So after an hour or so of working out, I am pumped and obviously wide awake.  Then after a shower, I usually watch a bit of TV, read, and finally go to bed.  I wake up at 4:30 AM.  So, it was clear that keeping this pace was eventually going to be a detriment to me.

The first month of the program was fine.  On most days, I would be finished in under an hour.  As I continued through the program, the workouts got longer.  On the weekends, I was happy to work out for over an hour each day.  I looked forward to it.  On the week days, it started to become a bit unrealistic for me.  I see myself using the program in the future as a supplement to other things.  I see myself doing it every day over winter break.  However, I most likely won’t do it in its entirety until next summer.

I love an intense workout.  I love the way Insanity makes me feel.  Every time I do an Insanity workout, I get a sudden surge of energy right at the end of the warmup.  This fuels me for the rest of the work out.  I feel accomplished.  I end dripping in sweat.

I weigh six pounds less than I did when I started the program.  It may not seem like much, but I think it has made a difference.  I honestly don’t want to lose any more weight; I am completely happy right where I am.  I like the size I am now and I feel great in my clothes.  Mostly, I feel like I have really started to change my body.  My arms feel more toned than they have in like six years.  My legs actually look smaller.  My legs feel stronger.  I can freaking do pushups.  I can freaking do pushups!  I can burpee anyone into the ground.

I would recommend this program to anyone.  It really is not too hard.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Sure, maybe I took a few extra days off.  Maybe some would say that I did not actually do the program.  All I know is that I feel great and my view of exercise is forever changed because I challenged myself with this instead of continuing my pattern of guilt, boredom, whatever.

I know that I want to continue an intense workout program, but I also know that I don’t have an hour or more every night to give to it right now.  I finally decided to pull the trigger and purchase T25.  I plan on doing my favorite Insanity workouts (Pure Cardio and Max Interval Plyo) until I get the new DVDs.

So, if you have been toying with the idea of trying Insanity, just go for it. 

Sickness over Insanity

3 Sep

Last week was my second week back at school.  I think it is safe to say that getting a “back to school illness” is now a tradition.  I had strep throat on the first day of my teaching career.  This year, I had some unnamed illness that resulted in me completely losing my voice.  In fact, I taught my classes one day entirely by typing what I would have normally said. 

The first day I had symptoms, I pushed through my Insanity workout regardless of how I felt.  As the week moved on, my illness progressed.  I knew that it would be unwise to do an Insanity workout when just breathing was becoming painful.  So, I talked myself into taking a day off.  Then a day become two.  Then three.  I wasn’t sleeping.  Then, Friday was a fourteen plus hour day at work.  So, by last Friday I had taken four days off from the Insanity program. 

Think logically, Diana.  You were sick.  You weren’t sleeping.  You needed to let your body rest. 

Even so, I was/am incredibly frustrated.  I was on day 44 of the program without deviating once.  Okay, I did have to switch my day off one week, but I still did six days a week.  So, this is a lesson.  Sometimes setting goals can be dangerous.  Life happens.  Other variables cause plans to change.  I can either be really pissed about the fact that I got sick and had to take a short break, or I can just pick it up where I left off.

Bottom line:  doing the Insanity program one time through is not my end goal, anyway.  My goal is changing my body in a way I never thought possible.  My goal is to make working out a permanent daily habit.  My goal is to challenge myself.  My body deserves to be taken care of and challenged, but it also deserves to rest when necessary. 

Plus, it helps that I finally made my goal weight at Saturday’s weigh in.  🙂

How do you feel about taking days off from working out when you are sick?