Confessions: Non-Usher Style

Last week, I went on a diet hiatus.  I basically ate like I only had that week to live and my body seriously hated me for it.  Not to mention, now my body is too ashamed to go back to the gym.  I haven’t been since last Monday! Just the thought of making the effort to go tonight made me cringe.  I couldn’t even say the words out loud.  THAT, people, is what happens when you go on a health and fitness hiatus.

So today, I took the first step towards recovery.  I knew that if I started eating well again (although, let’s be honest, how many of us go a week off the wagon? At least it was only a week this time…), my body would start communicating with my head again and things would go uphill.  Today, I started out with my standard breakfast:

1/4 cup of egg whites (and you know it was an off morning because I forgot to spray the pan and totally scorched the heck out of the “crust”)
2 Bob Evans brand turkey sausage patties (I have vowed to try every single brand to see which is the tastiest yet least salty)
1 small Publix deli sandwich bun (normally I do a whole wheat English muffin or some Ezekiel bread, but in my hanger yesterday at the grocery store, I grabbed a bag of these and they whispered all sultry-like to me in my sleep deprivation)

All with a massive cup of coffee sprinkled with soy milk.

Around my third batch of students, 10:45ish, my tummy reminded me that it had been a few hours, so I re-energized with a piece of string cheese — yum yum! I know I’m technically avoiding dairy due to Ultra fit and because I’m hella lactose intolerant/allergic/all kinds of poorly matched with dairy, but I’ve found string cheese to just be the smidgeon of dairy, salt, and protein I need around that time of the day.

For lunch, I did a poor job of packing deliciousness.  I brought what I thought was a roasted piece of chicken breast, but it turned out to be a fatty fatty piece of chicken thigh.  I muddled my way through some of the meat, but ultimately paid more attention to my tiny 2 ounces (no joke) of mashed potatoes and a decent amount of green beans.  Truly and honestly, these were take-out leftovers, so neither tasty nor clean eats. I paid dearly because I was le starving soon thereafter.

Fortunately, I brought some TJ’s turkey meatballs (3 to be exact) that I microwaved and chomped on while I waited for my after-school girls to come in. (With another cup of black coffee because, let’s be honest, this daylight savings crap is for the birds.)

Even with the meatball snack, though, my lunch was so unsatisfactory that by the time I got home around 5:30, I was ravished and inhaled a plate of leftover spaghetti with meat sauce.  Not my most shining moment.

This did, however, help my hanger calm down enough to do a little food preppin’.  I made The Fitnessista’s kale caesar salad dressing and massaged it into Trader Joe’s “cruciferous crunch” mix and holy canoodle, it was delicious.  I packed up two lunches worth with three meatballs a piece and a separate little bit of roasted sweet potatoes for each.  I also put some chicken tenderloins to marinade with some garlic, lime juice, and various spices, and I made up a huge batch of beef vegetable soup.  For the beef veggie soup, I just find the leanest ground beef I can (or ground london broil) and I toss it with a bag of frozen stew vegetables (okra, tomatoes, zucchini, lima beans, and tiny white potatoes.. maybe a few others but I can’t discern them) and some salt-free chicken broth and a few spices.  I packed two days’ worth of that up, too.  It feels good to have a little meal prep done because it leaves a lot less room for effin’ up.

I didn’t really eat a legit dinner, but I heated up two more meatballs and ate a hefty dose of the kale caesar salad.

Oops, I also forgot to mention the half ice cream sandwich I sucked down shortly after the spaghetti.  I must have still been suffering PTSD from the hanger.  I was actually pissed because it was from the gas station (I know, I’m completely trashy) and it had clearly been there for a decade or two, so I threw away half of it because it tasted entirely of frostbitten grossness.  Probably for the better.  It was divine intervention for my ice cream sandwich addiction.

In non-food news, I finally called a tow truck to come get my sister’s sad little car that’s been sitting in our driveway since Christmas because it’s a 91 Honda Civic and it’s been gradually dying since its hot clubbin’ days in Miami.  We’ve been letting my sister borrow my hub’s car, but it’s getting to be a real pain in the bum bum so we finally got took a sec to send it off to the car hospital. It felt gooood to pull all the way into my driveway.

Also, remember how I’m under formal evaluation by the state department of education cause that’s the silly little thing South Carolina does to second-year teachers? Well, I’ve been observed the max six times now and I’ve received 5 of the 6 evaluations, all positive.  I hope the last comes in as positive and shiny as the others and that when it comes to the consensus meeting (the end-all meeting), there are no surprises.

Now, I am curled up on the couch with a puppy around my shoulders (she likes to do this, like she’s some kind of mink) and Criminal Minds on the tv.  I can’t believe it’s already 9PM.  Where did my day go!?!

Impromptu Menu

Sup y’aaall.

I struggled so much this week trying to figure out what to make for next week…

So I took the plunge and went to the store without a list.

Not only that, but I went with half a falafel in my stomach– and nothin’ else!

Needless to say, I went over budget… just by $15, though.  I did shamelessly buy a box of cookies for myself and a surprise for Robert… I also ended up with an unnecessary package of chicken breasts.  So, the next visit to the grocery store will definitely be planned and well under budget.

However, my hungry belly and the rows of food-laden shelves did help inspire some meals:

Monday: Turkey & Quinoa Meatloaf + Mushroom Rice + Green beans

I have about half a box of quinoa left in the pantry leftover that I’ve been aching to use because it’s so rich in nutrients (fiber, complete protein, iron, etc.) and I found this interesting little meatloaf recipe online.  Hope it’s good!

Tuesday: Taco Pizza

Okay, let me be trashy for a minute: do any of y’all remember going to CiCi’s Pizza as a kid and having the Mexican pizza? We drooled over that in my family.  Salsa instead of sauce, taco meat, lettuce… all things I love in the form of the one thing I love the most – pizza!

Wednesday: Brat dogs + Sweet potato fries + Broccoli slaw

It’s summer…  and that means hamburgers and HOT DOGS! We’ve been doing burgers since the temps hit 75, but we have completely been neglecting the hot dog.  I’m not a huge fan of the overly processed boiled weenies, but grill me a mean bratwurst with some hot mustard and I’m THERE.

Thursday: Baked Tofu + Brown rice + Grilled summer vegetables

Obviously, Thursday night is single gal’s dinner.  Although the hubs will eat tofu, I know that I can happily make a whole meal around it without needing man meat.

Errr… you know what I mean.

Friday: Farfalle Bake 

I’m totally enjoying the fact that I now love squash and zucchini.  I also am loving the fact that I can throw them in with some of my favorite whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce and that it not only adds that awesome Italian flavor, but it remains just as healthy!

Saturday: Carnitas Tacos

I can’t tell y’all how excited I am about these! Part of the reason I went over budget was because I bought a huge 4-pound pork shoulder to make carnitas tacos.  We have a ton of leftover corn tortillas from this past week’s fish tacos and there’s nothing like tender, juicy shredded pork with onions and aromatic cilantro (and a marg or two) to celebrate a Saturday night with your hot and sexay hubs. The best part: it cooks in the crockpot!

Sunday: Leftovers

Self-explanatory! We will have a ton of leftovers this week, not to mention we have a vat of zucchini and sausage pasta frozen in the freezer.  On top of that, Sunday lunch is our designated meal out and more than likely there will be even more leftovers from that.

Voila! The hungry hippo strikes again.  These are all relatively indulgent meals (read: no baked fish and steamed broccoli, baha), but all still relatively figure-friendly — and you can keep it clean and natural if you look around your local farmer’s markets this weekend for tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cilantro… and any other local delicacies!

Have a great weekend, guys 🙂

Summer Veggies

Confession time:

The list of vegetables I like is pretty short.  More specifically, the list of non-starchy vegetables I like is very short.

I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised pretty much in the South where our vegetables include stewed beans, plantains (fried, of course), potatoes, potatoes with cheese, fried potatoes with cheese, and corn swimming in butter.

That’s what I’m talking about, right? 😉

Unfortunately, my waistline, cholesterol level, and little ticker can’t handle a constant supply of those kinds of “vegetables”, as much as I may love the $5 plate at the Cracker Barrel.

Don’t get me started on the dumplings.

For clean and healthy eating, I am a firm believer in the theory of the “nutritionist’s plate”.  I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called, but that’s what I call it in my head.  All nutritionists that I have seen throughout my life have told me that the rule of thumb for a properly fixed plate is to divide it into 1/2 non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 good carbs.  Obviously, throwing in a tiny bit of dairy and a good helping of fruit never hurts, either.

Therefore, when I plan out our weekly meals, you’ll notice that I always include those three.  As an example, I’ll give you the run-down of our latest and greatest pasta concoction, Summer Squash & Zucchini with Sausage.

Very rarely in the wee Rader household do we have pig products (except for bacon, of course, hello) like sausage and pork, but on occasion, we will indulge for some added flavor and fat.  Turkey sausage and chicken sausage, however, are excellent substitutes with less fat and just as much flavor.

Brown up about a pound and a half of your favorite spiced sausage (not necessarily spicy, just not plain).  It doesn’t have to be fully cooked at this point because it will be cut up and go back in the pan.

Yummmm.  Once they’re ready, take them out and cut them up into about 1/4 of an inch slices.

While those are cooking, slice and chop up about half a cup of onion, two small zucchini, and one small yellow squash.

Throw everything back in your big skillet for about two minutes… let everyone get to know each other…

And then add a can of stewed tomatoes.

If you have some favorite Italian seasoning mix or a few pinches of basil and oregano, throw that in now.  Reduce the heat to simmer and cover for about 10-15 minutes until the sausage is cooked all the way through and the veggies are tender (to your liking, of course).

We served ours over whole wheat rotini, but it’s great by itself with a slice of crusty bread or on top of a bed of brown rice.

Full recipe:

1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage links
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the Italian sausage until the inside is no longer pink. Cut sausage into 1/4 inch slices, and continue cooking until browned.
  2. Stir in the zucchini, yellow squash, and onion; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, with liquid. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Enjoy your summer!

Lemon Garlic Tuna Burgers

Before I start to indulge you guys with my very slightly tweaked version of these delicious tuna burgers, let me just tell you that someone found my blog by searching:

“Looks like butt cheeks”

O.O

Should I be concerned? Baha!

Anyhow, last night the bearded one worked late so my sister and I whipped up these burgers and sat down to a few episodes of Criminal Minds.  We party hard, I know.

The closest thing I can compare these to in good ole’ southern terms would be salmon patties.  Now, I once made a batch of salmon patties and they were pretty much the most awful tasting things I ever put in my mouth.  And I’m not a bad cook, I promise.  The canned salmon just made me cringe.

On the other hand, I am a tuna lover.  Of all kinds.  I can open up a can of tuna and eat it straight up, maybe with a few crackers on the side. Add lemon, parsley, and green onions (my three favorite things ever) and you’ve pretty much won my heart.

Not to mention those giant chunks of garlic.

To be quite honest, I’d never used panko before.  Not that I’m averse to them or anything, I had just never thought to use it in lieu of regular breadcrumbs.  They’re great, just like an extra crispy version of the original stuff.  Now, I might just go and do something crazy like dip my pickles in them. You’ll see what I mean later.

Just take your tuna and break it up as much as you’d like.  You can process it to get a very mushy, bean-burger-like consistency, or leave it a little flakier for more chunk-a-lunk.

A little parsley… about three tablespoons.

A little bit less than a 1/3 of a cup of the panko breadcrumbs.

Seriously, I could put green onions in just about anything.  Eggs, pasta, salads, burgers… they kind of have a sweet crispness to them.

The juice of half a lemon… put the other in your seltzer water, or in a handy-dandy lemon holder! I got one in my stocking at Christmas last year and it is the cutest little thing.

All together now!

Throw in your egg and three tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt, mix up, and form into four (very wet!) patties and bake for twenty minutes at 400 degrees.

We baked up some sweet potato fries to eat on the side and served the burgers on whole wheat English muffins with a tomato slice and some spinach.

And coming from a girl who is anti-leftovers, these taste just as great out of the toaster oven or microwave the next day.

Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Tuna Burgers
(adapted from Andie’s, here)

2 5oz cans of tuna
2 garlic cloves, chopped up
3 tablespoons of parsley (more if ya like 😉
1/4 of a cup of green onions
1 egg
3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt
1/3 of a cup of panko breadcrumbs (a little less)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Mix all ingredients together and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

If you’ve got it on hand, a few tablespoons of cottage cheese make for a fatter, tangier burger, too.

Upcoming Eats & Grocery List

Hello hello!

What am I spending my Saturday night doing? Oh, you know… eating BBQ pizza, watching Get Him to the Greek with my bearded man, and writing out this week’s eats for y’all!

Since it’s Saturday, I’ll go from Sunday to Sunday for you…

Sunday: Lemon Garlic Tuna Burgers + Sweet potato fries

Holy yum, y’all.  I stole this recipe from Andie and tweaked it a bit since I was low on a few of the ingredients.  I will try to post my version with some photos this week. They are amazing on whole wheat English muffins or by themselves.  Also, we couldn’t find any satisfactory sweet potatoes for roasting, so we bought the frozen kind (just as delicious and healthy, promise).

Monday: Eggplant Parmesan

A non-fried version of the Italian classic… The mister and I are going to give eggplant a chance and we figured this has to be a fool-proof way of enjoying a veggie we have shunned for far too long.

Tuesday: Grilled Fish Tacos with Corn & Jicama Salsa

Let’s just talk about how much I love fish tacos… and corn tortillas… and corn salsa.  All great things.  If you haven’t given jicama a chance, you need to get yourself to the nearest produce section and give it a whirl.

Wednesday: Turkey Robinson + Brown rice

What y’all might not know is that Claire Robinson is my favorite Food Network personality.  I race home from work to get home in time to catch her show at 5:30 every day and I drool over all of her dishes and her deliciously fresh ingredients.  This is a mix of all things I love (beans, spinach, turkey), full of protein and vitamins.

Thursday: Penne with white wine & shrimp

We’re getting a little creative with our pasta dishes over here in the Rader household.  Whole wheat penne is our current favorite and mixing it with a little olive oil, onions, white wine, and shrimp helps to keep it tasty and light.

Friday: Baked salmon + roasted fingerling potatoes + green beans

This is hands down the best salmon recipe I’ve ever made.  Don’t let the calorie content scare you, that’s for the entire sum of the marinade.  I would eat the entire batch if I could.

Saturday: Wild card!

I’ve decided that this Saturday, I’m going to peruse the markets and see what inspires me that day… I often find myself lusting after Earth Fare’s handmade ravioli when I’m there, but never think to put it on my menu.  So, if I find a lust-worthy treat that morning, it will be our dinner that night.

Sunday: Braised balsamic chicken + brown rice + mixed greens salad

I looove braised meats.  And I love balsamic vinegar.  And diced tomatoes.  Needless to say, this intrigued me and we’re hoping for the best!

As for my grocery list:

Garlic
Green onions (pretty much a staple in this house)
1 Can of corn
Corn tortillas
1 red onion
1 jicama
1 red bell pepper
Cilantro
2 Limes
2 Lemons
Plain greek yogurt (used as a sub for sour cream)
Tilapia fillets
Chicken breasts
3 cans of diced tomatoes
Salad greens
3 eggplants
White wine (Umm, where’d it all go?)
1 lb. shrimp
Whole wheat penne
Frozen green beans
Sweet potato fries
2 cans of tuna fish
1 lb. ground turkey
Spinach
1 can of cannellini beans
Popcorn (excellent low-fat, low-calorie snack)
Bananas (another staple)

I have to go in search of the red onion and jicama tomorrow, but aside from those our total was around $48.00.  That’s what’s up, y’all.

Stay tuned! I have a lot of great posts planned for this week (Ever wanted to learn how to make your own soft pretzel rolls? Need an easy stir-fry recipe? What about the best friggin’ turkey burger this side of the Mississippi?)

Happy cooking!

Weekly Menu & Grocery List

Guys,

I am so excited to share this week’s menu and grocery list because one, I stayed completely within budget, and two, the wee Rader household is in for some good eats this week.

Just to recap, the mister and I try to stay within a $55-60 budget every week at the store.  We go every week because we buy so much fresh produce to use, and as you know, that kinda stuff doesn’t keep for very long. We do buy the majority of our frozen vegetables, canned goods, and boxed pastas at Wal-mart; let’s face it – as long as you’re reading the ingredients list and not loading up on pre-prepared meals (which are high in calories, fat, and sodium), it doesn’t matter where these particular items come from. However, for fresh and nice-looking produce, I make a special trip to Earth Fare.

This week’s menu:

M: Grilled chicken, red pepper, and goat cheese paninis + sweet potato fries
I will have some leftover grilled chicken from Sunday night’s dinner for this, as well as some chive goat cheese from the farmer’s market last weekend, mmm! Inspired by a sandwich I had a few weeks ago near the mall.

T: Tempeh tacos
I have been hoarding a few packages of tempeh for quite some time now and I came across this super easy recipe a while back

W: Personal pizzas
In the wee Rader household, we love pizza.  Of any kind.  At any time of the day.  We would eat them in a boat with a… you get the picture. Most of the time, we just buy a simple pizza crust and have at it, but with the tomatoes springing up, I’m aching more and more for them on my pizza – something my partner in crime is strictly against.  So, this week, I’ll be enjoying my fresh tomatoes and he will (at last) have a manly meaty pizza party.

R: Shrimp & grits:
Seriously, y’all… I’ve been longing for a bowl of shrimp and grits for months, now.  I did a little investigating, gathered a few supplies, and will attempt my own version of this.  If successful, I promise a recipe to follow.

F: Roasted lemon pepper salmon + scallion brown rice + mixed green salad (from the Biggest Loser family cookbook)
We like to have fish at least once a week for the sake of our waistlines and our cholesterol, not to mention Omega-3s, and cooked with a little olive oil for a sweet complexion — you seriously can’t go wrong when eating fish… except maybe the Paula Deen way.

S: Chicken stir-fry
Confession: I have never cooked Chinese food at home before.  I have made a delish version of Coconut Curry Chicken before, but that’s a different part of Asia. Again, I’m going to have a go at this and if we are successful, then everyone gets to celebrate with the recipe!

S: Annie’s Turkey Burgers + baked pickles + mixed greens salad
We normally use this recipe for turkey burgers (which we tweak into a couple variations), but these just looked so good I couldn’t resist. And baked pickles? Yeah, just imagine those deep-fried Zaxby’s pickles but on a lighter scale. Still just as crunchy and delicious.  Stay tuned for that recipe, cause seriously, they’re amazing.

In addition, I got ingredients for homemade hamburger buns and zucchini muffins with cream cheese frosting, mmm.

As for the grocery list:

1 small package of organic chicken tenders: $3.51 (like, 1/2 a pound)
1 lb. ground turkey: $2.82
1 small bag of grits: $1.12
1 package of cream cheese: $1.72
1 red bell pepper: $1.78
1 lb. zucchini: $2.89
1 Jalapeno: $0.09
Frozen stir-fry veggies: $1.83 (almost the same quality, much cheaper than buying individual fresh)
Green onions: $1.18
Confectioners’ sugar: $1.42
Brown rice: $2.00 (I buy boil-in-a-bag… I fail, I know)
Cheddar cheese: $2.08
Mozzarella cheese (part-skim): $2.08
Whole wheat English muffins: $2.50
Chopped walnuts: $1.12
Salmon: $4.94
Shrimp: $5.48
Ciabatta rolls: $2.68
Hormone-free eggs: $1.92

Bananas*
Sweet potatoes*

The last two were purchased by a sweet lady in front of me in line who had extra on her WIC voucher and did not want to waste it.  So glad there are people in need that still know how to pay it forward.

At Walmart, the total was $46.50

At Earth Fare:

Shredded lettuce: $1.50
1 tomato: $2.00
Pizza dough: $1.98
Spinach/mixed greens: $3.50
Larabars: 2 @$1.49 a piece

Total of $12.50

Total in groceries: $59.00 (ish).

Enjoy your weekend! I’m off to bake some zucchini muffins… 🙂

Grocery Shopping & Weekly Menu

Hi!

Remember me?

I know it’s been a while…

But I’m all yours, once again.  Promise.

Last week, we spent every night trying to get our apartment situated and boxes unpacked… and my sister came over and spent the weekend with us and helped us get more stuff situated.  Y’all, this is going to take forever.  We still have a few things at the old apartment but with work and the gas prices we haven’t been able to go back and get anything.

$3.50 a gallon has me on edge about everything.  I have been most unpleasant due to financial stress caused by the ridiculous gas prices.

When will it end? When will the madness end?

Feels that way, huh?

Anyhoo…

We had our first grocery shopping adventure on Saturday.  Robert was off all day so we had a late breakfast and made out a grocery list.  We are still trying to figure out where is the best place for us to get our groceries.  In Rome, we pretty much stuck with Kroger and Wal-Mart… not ideal for clean foods, but excellent for our budget.  Unfortunately, the Wal-Marts near us are… shady, to say the least, and there’s not a Kroger for 30-45 minutes.

However, we are lucky to have several amazing whole foods stores nearby like Earth Fare and Fresh Market, as well as a Publix (!!) and Target.  A little more expensive? Yes.  Totally worth it? Yes.

Earth Fare is more for fun and exciting foods, to be quite honest, and I don’t plan on buying staples there any time soon.  Also, a great selection of vegan-friendly foods and beautiful fruits.  I bought a bucket of watermelon for less than three dollars and it was like eating little bits of heaven.

Fresh Market was much better for staple items, produce, and meat! We bought almost a pound and a half of antibiotic and hormone-free natural chicken breasts for less than seven dollars.  I made baked chicken tenders with it last night and I can’t express how clean and delicious it was.

Just beautiful.

Will definitely be getting our meat from there from now on.

Our last stop was Publix… which I love dearly.  I have fond memories of my Grandmother and Publix ’cause, well, she lives in south Florida, and she’s a little old lady meaning that it’s kind of unsaid that she frequents Publix, right?

While a little expensive, it was very clean and well-organized and had an excellent organic section, and we will probably be back for lunch items and canned goods.

Unfortunately, we went about $11 over our budget because we picked up a treat at both Earth Fare (Mexican Coke and Steaz) and Fresh Market (Fresh cookies!), but it was well worth it.  It also rained on us all day, so we dried off and enjoyed some tacos and burritos at Salsarita’s to make ourselves feel better.

All in all, a very nice Saturday 🙂

This week’s menu:

Monday: Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers with leftover collard greens and sweet potato fries

Tuesday: Homemade pizza with Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough

Wednesday: Sloppy Josephines and steamed green beans

Thursday: Philly “Cheese” Sandwiches and spinach salads

Friday: Black bean burgers and steamed broccoli

Saturday: Chana masala

Sunday: Leftovers!

Seemed like a Mama Pea and Jenna kind of week.  Obviously I was blogstalking them as I was preparing my grocery list… PUMPED about tonight’s turkey burgers! Yumm…