No More Cheap Store Breads!

One way to reduce stress and live healthier, happier lives is to get rid of debt. As a result, I have been on a crusade the past few weeks to minimize our grocery budget as part of our goal to get out of debt. But, I don’t want to compromise on eating nutritious foods!  So, I’ve been learning about ways to reduce my grocery expenditures while keeping our food selection nutritionally sound.

I was intrigued by the book “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoe Francois (see: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/). We love fresh bread. In fact, we are a bit spoiled by the excellent bakery breads and homemade breads. But, ever since my husband lost his job two years ago, we’ve been stuck with the cheap $1 store brand breads that taste terrible and have a consistency rather like glue. So, I bought the book with my credit card reward points on Amazon and started baking!

This is incredibly easy! And, even the most simple “master recipe” was pretty tasty. How something with only flour, water, yeast and salt can taste so good is a mystery to me. But, it does. And, since I didn’t have to buy any special equipment, the cost to start was nearly zero. We’ve been eating great bread each day for even less than $1 per loaf (the book estimates $0.40/loaf, but I haven’t done the math yet) – and there is simply no comparison in taste!

Here are some pics of the bread I made this morning. It is a light wheat recipe (partial unbleached all purpose flour and whole wheat flour).

Getting the refrigerated dough out.  The top dough is for pizzas in the next few days – I mixed both doughs at the same time and just popped them in the fridge last night!  So easy!  And, I can use the dough anytime in the next two weeks – so no pressure to use it right away!

 

 

 

 

This is the dough left after I pulled out enough for my loaf today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my lovely loaf all ready to rise for the next 40 minutes.  It took me maybe 30-45 seconds to get to this point since the dough was already prepared and ready for the final rise.

 

 

 

 

 

My loaf has risen, the oven preheated, the bread floured and scored – now it is ready to bake!

 

 

 

 

Dough is slid onto pizza stone, water added to the pan underneath (apparently steam is the secret to perfect crust), my timer is set and I’m off to do other things while the bread bakes.

 

 

 

 

 

The bread has been pulled out of the oven and is cooling.  I’ve brushed the excess flour off.  Next time I’ll make the scores a little deeper so it looks nicer.  But, all in all, not a terrible looking loaf!  It is certainly nicer than my first attempt yesterday! LOL.

Later, I will re-read the part of the book about making the loaf a more traditional shape for good sandwiches.  I have a sneaking suspicion that my son (age 4) won’t eat it unless it looks like what he is used to. ;)

 

If you have tried this method, or are interested in it, leave me a comment!  I’d love to hear your experiences and questions!

Posted in Managing Stress, My Health Journey, Recommended Blogs and Sites | Leave a comment

Breaks and Burnout

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by change in your life?  Have you, like me, jumped off – even catapulted off – the bandwagon in an effort to get away from the stress that attempted change can bring?  Did you ever wonder whether you could maintain the ground you’ve gained while focusing on something other than your “big” goal?  These questions and more have tickled, pricked and pushed me over the past two months.

These past couple of months have been an interesting leg of my journey on the road of life.  For some reason, summer has brought more stress and more challenges than I expected.  Sticking with my weight loss program has been, well, non existent.  Not that I gave up.  No, no, no.  Far from it. I just got burned out, stopped tracking everything and attempted to live up to what I had already attained without all the time and hassle of tracking all my food, working out regularly, etc.

Fortunately, I pretty much maintained my weight loss.  I kept eating healthy and still performed my daily stretches (most days) to keep my back pain manageable.  But, I rarely worked out and the “occasional” indulgence was a little more frequent than I’d like to admit!  lol.  But, you know what?  I only gained 4 lbs.  I’m rather surprised!

The most encouraging thing has been that the habits I worked so hard to establish during the first half of the year have been a lot easier to follow, even while neglecting my “tracking” software (LoseIt!).  There were times I definitely caved to my chocolate cravings.  But, this little unplanned experiment has really boosted my confidence: not only can I lose weight – I can maintain it!  And I don’t have to be “perfect” to do it!

Are you feeling burned out on your weight loss goals – or some other goal in your life?  Try taking a step back, putting that goal on the back burner, and just live up to what you have already achieved without making a big deal about it.  Take some time to enjoy life, doing things you find renewing and energizing.  Then, when you feel ready to pick that goal back up, do it feeling refreshed with no feelings of condemnation or guilt.  Be proud of your accomplishments and continue to seek the balance that brings you joy and peace.

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Recipe: Black Bean, Rice and Veggy Burritos (or Salad)

I can hardly believe it has really been around 6 weeks since my last post!  Life has been incredibly busy!  But, here is a new original recipe for my friends out there.  If you try it, let me know what you think – and/or what you did differently!

(Note: this recipe can be adjusted to your family size.  I made a ton extra for freezing and for lunches this week.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans Reduced Sodium Black Beans (can also use dried beans that have been soaked over night – a big cost saver!)
  • 4 cups cooked rice (1.5 cups uncooked steamed with 2 cups water)
  • 1/2 tbls butter (could be omitted for calorie reduction of about 50 calories)
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 cups salsa
  • taco seasoning – to taste (I have a big container of Ortega Taco Seasoning with no MSG)
  • Whole wheat tortillas, if desired
  • Lettuce, if desired
  • Shredded cheese, if desired
  • Sour cream, if desired

Instructions:

  1. Cut onion and pepper to bite size pieces (size of nickel or quarter, depending on your preferences).
  2. Saute onion and green pepper in wok or large skillet with butter over medium high heat.
  3. While onion and pepper are cooking, cut up zucchini and tomato (around same size as onion/pepper).  Add to wok/skillet, mix, continue cooking over medium-high heat.
  4. Rinse beans and add to wok/skillet; mix.
  5. Add cooked rice, salsa and taco seasoning; mix thoroughly and heat through, then turn off burner.
  6. For burrito: serve 1 cup mix on warm tortilla; top with cheese, sour cream, lettuce to taste.
  7. For salad: serve 1 cup mix over 2-4 cups cold lettuce; top with cheese, sour cream, and extra salsa to taste.

Servings: 12 (1 cup/each)

Total cook time between 20 and 30 minutes.

Nutritional Facts (Filling Only – add tortilla and other toppings to your calculations):

Calories: 192; Fat: 1.4g; Carbs: 37.2g; Protein: 7.2g  (calculations using LoseIt! recipe creator)

Tips:

  • This will make a filling lunch (or dinner) over a large salad (3-5 cups), even with no extra toppings.  Several cups of lettuce add almost no calories!
  • Reduce serving size to 1/2 cup for burrito and add 1/2 cup lettuce and a sprinkling of cheese.  This is still very filling, while increasing fiber and reducing calories!
  • Add spinach when cooking to add extra vitamins for very few calories – spinach can be added to nearly anything without a noticeable taste difference!
  • Can also substitute eggplant or tofu for zucchini.
  • The rice can be cooked ahead of time or in a quick 15-minute steamer as you get the rest of the ingredients ready – I love recipes that let me cook and chop at the same time so I’m not wasting time standing there with nothing to do while I wait for the required cooking time to add the next ingredient! ;D

Happy cooking!

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“Mommy’s Nice”

Yesterday, after getting home from work, my husband, Seth, told me a story.  He warned me that Dietrick had spread Play-Doh all around the office, including all over my desk and keyboard.  Now, I’m a bit of a neat freak when it comes to my home office.  I need things to be clean and orderly – and I especially hate for anything on my desk to be touched (i.e., moved from its proper place) or dirty.  When Seth told Dietrick that he (age 4) had better clean up his mess before Mommy got home or “Mommy will be mad and whip you,” Dietrick replied confidently, “No Daddy, she won’t whip me; Mommy’s nice.”

That sure made me laugh!  But it also made me think.  It’s true that I rarely spank.  I feel spanking is appropriate in only certain circumstances – and never when I’m angry or upset.  “Discipline” should not be punishment, and acting from a place of anger usually results in punishment rather than true discipline.

And, yes, I was irritated about my desk.  When I called Dietrick into the office to deal with the mess, he was a little worried that I might spank him.  But, instead I simply made him clean up the mess before he could do anything else that evening and I told him that “Mommy was not happy that her desk was so messy.  You are not allowed to make a mess on Mommy’s desk.”  It took a while for him to clean up since he is a typical, active, distracted boy.  But, with plenty of follow up, teaching and encouragement, it was finally clean enough so I could praise him for a job well done and thank him for cleaning up his mess.

Why do I tell this story?  It is a perfect example of my parenting style.  My goal as a parent is to nurture with love.  Kids are with us for such a short time and I want to do all in my power to prepare them for life as an adult while nurturing a relationship with my children to develop trust and love between us.  I will never be a “perfect” parent.  But, I can be a loving parent who always makes the effort to understand my child’s needs and to help them develop into loving, responsible adults.

I also realized two things from this experience.  First, kids develop opinions of their parents much earlier than I realized (or remember).  Second, my relationship with my children will develop into something different than the relationship I had with my dad – and that it may be even better.  I had a great relationship with my dad and I have always hoped that I could mirror that kind of loving, nurturing, supporting role for my kids.  It is incredibly exciting to see my kids growing and experiencing a special bond with them that is so sweet and loving.  There are few things better in life than the unsolicited hug and kiss or the unsolicited “I love you Mommy” from your kids.  It fills me with such joy to know that my children know they are loved, know they can trust me to always look out for their best interests, and that they love to be with me as a result.

Parenting sure is an adventure!  And I love every minute of it. :)

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Slowly, Yet Surely

Victory!  This morning I had a sudden idea to try on a pair of my non-maternity dress pants right before leaving for work.  I’ve kept them hung up in my closet for “that day” so I have something to keep looking forward to when I feel like I’ll *never* get my weight down.  Though my weight loss has slowed to a crawl, somehow my waist line is still shrinking!  Amazingly, they fit!  I was shocked and exhilarated at the same time.

Since my last post, I’ve been working double time to manage everything.  Weight loss has taken a passenger seat, if not a back seat, in my life as I continue to learn balance.  I’m not giving up though!  I have lost 24 pounds (from 229 to 205) since Christmas and have another 45 to go, maybe more.   I have held steady at this weight all May – well, except for the last week, where I gained 3 lbs due to celebrating my 30th birthday… all week!  LOL!  But, hey, I figure I might as well enjoy celebrating the beginning of a new decade!

My new decade is off to a good start and I am really looking forward to the next 10 years of my life.  A lot can happen in 10 years.  A lot of positive things can happen in the next 10 years.  And I’m going to keep taking baby steps day by day to create this positive change in my life.  No one can take this journey for me.  This is my journey for health and life and I’m taking it seriously.

I may not be traveling as quickly as I’d like to be (patience was never my virtue, but fortunately, for me, stubbornness is!), but slowly and surely my life is changing and moving in a positive direction.  Once we let go of the perfectionism and the “must-have-it-now” syndrome, life is a lot happier and progress seems a lot easier.

Wishing you all a great start to a happy and progressive summer!

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Why I Hate Fairy Tales

Many (dare I say most?) American children grow up reading and watching “happily ever after” fairy tales.  Lately I’ve come to I wish I hadn’t been raised on such things.  Why?  Because these stories set us up for false expectations.

First: There is no such thing as happily ever after.  Even when we do meet our perfect prince in shining armor or the princess of our dreams, it is just a matter of time before the truth of our imperfections start shining through.  Relationships do not just magically work over the rest of our lives.  Instead, relationships are work.  Rewarding, amazing, pleasurable, satisfying, encouraging, joyful, fun, and a host of other things that outweigh the work part of it.  But still work.

Second:  There is no fairy godmother to swoop in and make everything better.  God may bless us.  He may redeem us.  Friends and family may support, encourage, and uplift us.  But, we have to work to improve our lives, our health, our circumstances and our relationships.

Third: The decisions we make DO matter.  There are consequences to our actions that we have to live with.  Yet, the stories we are brought up with teach us that we can make really stupid decisions and someone will come rescue us.  It is foolishness (and maybe some childishness) to imagine that we can squander our resources (time, energy, health, money, relationships) or take them for granted and then figure they will still be around when we want them.

And, so, I find myself in the midst of these childish and foolish feelings of wishing things would be easy, that the hard stuff would just go away, that I wouldn’t have to work so hard to regain health and prosperity.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, really (and there I go admitting another silly personality flaw: pride).  But, it’s true.

I’m tired of working so hard to lose weight.  I have hit the 20 lb mark!  (Wohoo!) And now I want to be done!  I’ve worked really hard for nearly three months, have lost only 1 lb in the past 3 weeks, and now I want to go back to eating whatever is convenient, not pushing myself to work out, and certainly not tracking everything that passes my lips!  And so, I ask myself, “What is wrong?  Why do I feel this way?  Why do I have this expectation that everything should just work… without the, well… work?”

My analysis ended up with a combination of nature and nurture.  I’m a perfectionist who wants things to work perfectly and on schedule.  I’m not on schedule with my weight loss and I’m not eating/exercising perfectly, so I’m not happy.  Also, I’m a very busy.  There are lots of things competing for my time!  As for nurture: I’ve been trained all my life to idealize the fairy tales I was brought up on.  And here I am, in the midst of real life, throwing what amounts to an adult temper tantrum because things aren’t going as fast or as easily as I want!  Lol.  Shame on me!

Yes, life is full.  And it is challenging.  But, I’m glad it isn’t boring.  I’m glad I have these road blocks that make me step back and take stock of myself so that I can grow up and move on. I recognize that I no longer have the luxury of doing whatever I feel like; instead I have to budget my time, prioritize tasks, and constantly prune and plan so I can get the most out of my resources.

As tempting as it is to stick my head back in the sand and be happy with my 20 lbs weight loss, I owe it to myself to keep moving on.  The laws of our world dictate that we either move forward or slide backward; we don’t get to just be static.  So, I’ll keep pushing along, dragging my inner tantrum-thrower along for the ride until her voice gets quieter and my future gets brighter.

Wishing you joy in your journey!

Rachel

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Don’t Give Up!

It is mid-February and I am starting to see the weight-loss excitement die down.  I am seeing several people drop out of our weight loss challenges and not sticking with their weight loss efforts on LoseIt.  And of those who are still logging, many are frustrated with their progress.  Here is my message for my friends and family who are also on their weight loss journey:

Here is what I have come to believe: it doesn’t matter how many times we “fall down” in our efforts to lose weight; what matters is that we keep getting back up.  This is the first time I have stuck with any kind of effort for more than three or four weeks.  I have tried just about everything and then quit after just two weeks, on average.

But, I want to live.  I want to live healthfully, happily and joyfully.  I want to be free of major diseases, particularly those preventable from diet (most cancers, diabetes, etc.).  I don’t want to be depressed every time I go clothes shopping.  I want to feel confident, be able to play with my kids, be able to actively enjoy the outdoors.  And so, I’m going to keep picking myself up.

What do you want?  What are your goals?  What is worth picking yourself back up again and starting afresh for?  I’d like to hear it.  YOU are worth it.  YOU are worth fighting against your habits, your friends/family who aren’t supportive, your frustration, your limitations.  Keep pushing, even when it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere – because we are most likely on the verge of a breakthrough when we reach the most resistance.

Don’t be afraid to start again.  Don’t hold onto guilt for “failing” to stick with it last time.  Don’t let weight gain, food cravings, a slip up, or anything else keep you a slave to a lifestyle you aren’t happy with!  What matters is that you are willing to learn from the past, put it behind you and then try again.  You CAN do it!

Let’s walk down the path to health together, one baby step at a time.

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