Monday, May 14, 2012

Brown Sugar Banana Bread

This banana bread is out of this world!  It's relatively healthy to make, since you use bananas and applesauce for moisture.  It's really good on its own, but adding chocolate chips makes it heavenly!

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk or water
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 cup mashed banana (2-3)
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Beat the butter, applesauce, eggs, milk and sugar in large bowl until smooth.  add banana and blend at low speed; beat at high speed 1-2 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients; mix into batter.  Mix in nuts.  Pour batter into greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until bread is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool.

With it being Mother's Day yesterday, I didn't get a chance to bake.  Therefore, the photo above was taken from Flickr (

Sunday's picture

My bean, at the park.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sugar: My nemesis

I'm a sugar fiend.  I love most forms of it and not matter what I do, I still crave something sweet after most meals.  And yet I know it's bad for me and am doing a lot to cut down on my consumption of it.  Here are some of the ways I've done that:

1.  I have finally kicked my Mountain Dew habit.  I was drinking 2-3 cans a day.  At least.  And even knowing how bad it was for me, I still managed to drink it for years.  I had to give it up during my pregnancies because of the gestational diabetes, but somehow managed to get right back on it afterwards.  But I decided enough is enough.  I now brew iced tea every morning to bring to school.  So any time I feel the need for caffeine, I drink that instead of the Dew.

2.  I have eliminated some hidden sugars from my diet.  For example, I have switched peanut butter brands, to one that doesn't have any added sweeteners.  I recently had peanut butter at my parents' house and I didn't really like the Jif brand I had grown up on.  I also slowly weaned myself off of sweetened yogurt.  I started by mixing sweetened with plain, then switched to plain with a little honey.  Now I can eat plain yogurt with some berries and no sweetener at all.

3.  I am currently in the middle of a sugar fast.  I am avoiding all added sugars, which especially includes desserts, for two weeks.  Last week I ate horribly, thanks to a party, a field trip and stress (I'm a stress-eater).  I decided to make up for it by avoiding sugar for a bit.  I'm not doing a hard-core fast, which would eliminate all sugars, even things like ketchup.  I just am not adding it to anything I eat, and I'm not eating ice cream, cookies, bars, and all that yumminess. I've been in a couple tough spots, but have successfully pulled through.  One more week!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chicken Broth

I've stopped buying chicken broth at the store (well, most of the time).  Instead, I make my own out of things I would normally throw away.  Every couple weeks, I make a chicken in my crock pot.  (easiest way to make chicken EVER.  Put a chicken in the crock pot, season with salt and pepper, and cook all day).  When we're done eating the chicken, I put all the bones and skin into the freezer.  At the same time, any time I use carrots, onions, or celery, I keep the ends and peels.  I have a ziploc bag I keep in the freezer full of veggie remnants.  When I get the chance (or run out of broth), I make chicken broth.

Get the biggest crock pot you have and fill it with the bones and skin of two chickens, fill in as many vegetable parts as will fit.  Then, fill the crock with water.  Add some salt, a few bay leaves, and some whole peppercorns.  Cook for 12 hours.  Strain the broth, and let cool.  I portion the broth out into various containers I have laying about, label them, and freeze them.  Then, whenever I need some, I defrost and use.  The hardest part about the whole process is probably the straining.  Or maybe the scrambling to defrost the broth since I always forget to take out of the freezer.

Using broth like this is great for many reasons.  First, you're using things you would normally throw away.  This is good for the environment and economical as well.  Second, the broth is free of all the crap and additives that many broths have (you can even make it low sodium by not adding salt).  Thirdly, you can reduce your exposure to BPA, which is in the lining of many cans.  And fourthly, it's super duper yummy!  And fifthly, it makes your house smell wonderful. 

You can adapt for different broths as well.  Omit the chicken bones for vegetable broth.  Switch the chicken parts for cow parts (I always get "Soup bone" when I order my quarter cow.  I don't really want to know where they come from) to get beef broth, although you may want to roast the beef bones first (it gives it a great smokey flavor).  All-in-all, pretty easy.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

 Six years ago today, I married the craziest man I know.  Happy anniversary!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


My motivation tool of the week is Pinterest.  For those of you that haven't heard of it, watch out it is super-duper addicting.  The basic premise is a site where you can organize links (with a picture from the website) onto boards.  Each board can have a different category and title.

 The reason that I find the site to be a good motivation is that you can look for sites that are specifically for fitness. Not all of the sites on there are good links, but it can help me feel motivated to look at pictures of things to do with fitness.  I often click on sites I think look interesting, and have often found some that I enjoy (like this one).  I find that when I need a little motivation, I can go check out what's out there.  That helps me get the motivation I need to exercise or maybe it helps me not eat too much.

You do have to watch out, since a big part of Pinterest is sharing recipes and man do some of them look good!  It can have the opposite affect you're looking for, so I tend to steer clear of the food unless I'm not too hungry.  There are healthy recipes out there, you just have to look for them carefully.  I tend to filter sites to the Fitness category quickly, just to miss the Oreo cake recipe.

You can follow the boards of friends and anyone you want, really.  Feel free to look for me (here).  I have found a few people that have some great fitness stuff.  Jemma Joseph is one of my favorite people for good workouts.  Where does she find the time to find all those great workouts?

Try Pinterest sometime.  I promise it is worthwhile!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Breakfast today

Today's recipe is easy.  It's one of my favorite breakfasts.  There is a fair amount of leniency and ability to change as needed.  I like this breakfast because it provides you with lots of great nutrition to start your day.  Protein, fruit and whole grains.

Toast two slices of whole wheat bread.  Spread both with peanut butter and a little honey.  Slice a banana on top.  That's it!  You can substitute as you see fit.  Try an english muffin or some berries.  Try some almond butter if you have it.  Go crazy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

14 Things About Me

1.  I teach Latin, an ancient language (don't call it a dead language; you'll save yourself a rant from me)
2.  When not teaching, I work in the technology department in school.  Talk about merging the ancient with the modern!
3.   I watch Top Chef as often as possible.  It's the only TV show I watch with regularity.
4.   I love to crochet.  I make lots of baby hats and afghans.  See here for a few things I've done.
5.   I dislike green peppers a lot.  I want to like them, since it would make my life a little easier, but I can't.
6.  I love shoes.  It's my favorite reward for losing weight.  Two more pounds to go and I gets these.
7.  I grow my own raspberries and make homemade jam every year.  It's about as close to God as you can get here on earth.
8.  I am a recovering Mountain Dew addict.  I allow myself one Dew per month.  The rest of the time I drink unsweetened iced tea.
9.  Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.
10.  I love the song "Be With You" by Mr. Big.  It's a love I don't usually share.
11.   I love old movies, especially Hitchcock ones.  My husband impressed me the most on by admitting his favorite movie is "The Wizard of Oz."
12.   Spends a large amount of time on Pintrest.
13.   Loves all things purple.  Especially purple shoes.
14.  I am scared of ticks.  I hate them and freak out if they are found.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Product of the day: Excedrin

I'm sure this isn't a doctor-approved method, but for me it worked very well.  Once I made the decision to get up early to exercise, I found myself hitting the snooze alarm a lot.  I don't know about you, but I need at least one snooze alarm cycle to fully wake up.  My problem was that I kept hitting snooze and didn't get up.  This all started happening during one of my bouts with seasonal allergies, which often manifests itself as a bad headache. So, one morning (between the snooze alarms) I took two Excedrin.  Excedrin is a headache medicine containing aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and caffeine.  Twenty minutes later, I was awake thanks to the caffeine.  I got up and got some exercise in.  This became my routine:  alarm goes off, take a couple Excedrin, be wide awake soon enough and get up to exercise.  Once this became a habit for me, I was able to stop taking the Excedrin.  Now I can get up and exercise most mornings (unless the kids wake me up a lot during the night).  In fact, I know I will feel better if I do.  This has allowed me to break the weight plateau I was stuck on.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vegetable Poached Eggs

Tonight's dinner is going to be Vegetable Poached Eggs, recipe adapted from here. I found that the recipe can be played with quite a bit. As long as the vegetables are plentiful enough for you to cook the eggs, you can vary them based on what you have on hand. The original recipe calls for zucchini and mushrooms, which my family won't eat. I have increased the amount of carrots and broccoli as a result. I serve with wheat English muffins on the side.

This is all part of my attempt to have Meatless Mondays, which doesn't always fall on Mondays, but does happen at least once a week. I have to be very particular in which meatless meals I can serve my husband--he doesn't do tofu.

Vegetable Poached Eggs

2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups spinach
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, cut into julienne (matchstick) strips
¾ cup tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper
8 eggs
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Spray 12-inch skillet with cooking spray; heat skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables; cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in pasta sauce and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated.
Make 3-inch holes in vegetable mixture, using large spoon. Crack 1 egg into each hole. Cover; cook about 5 minutes or until egg whites and yolks are firm, not runny. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday's picture

I don't have any more pictures of me, but here are my two little girls ready for reading night at school. Fox in Socks and Llama, Llama, Red Pajama.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy birthday Rome!

I just got done with a day of birthday parties for Rome. April 21, 753 BC, Rome was founded. As a teacher, I see the need for having a party on occasion, but boy do I hate them. The organization, the mess and especially the food. In Junior High, the food makes the party. Luckily, the kids bring it all, but it is still difficult to be around all the yummy food and not have any. Today I managed to eat a cupcake, some cheese, bread and some sparkling grape juice ("wine"). Not too bad, but not that good either. Bread may be my downfall. I would never succeed at any low carb diet, since I love bread too much. I can (and have) given up meat, sugar, and even cheese. No way to bread. I was trying to avoid the cupcake, but ended up getting a little frosting on my finger when I was closing the box, and licked it off my finger. After that I couldn't stop thinking about eating a cupcake.

Now I'm sitting in my office surrounded by leftovers. I am full, so I will not be eating any more today, but it will still be here on Monday. I don't know about your workplace, but this is what I know about mine: food disappears in the teacher's lounge. I have put many a leftovers in there and teachers eat them without ever knowing the origin. This has saved me many calories over time. Too bad it's Friday afternoon; I'll have to wait until Monday to move the food over.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My experience with Gestational Diabetes

One of the motivating factors in my weight loss is diabetes. Namely, I want to avoid getting it at all costs. Both of my pregnancies I developed Gestational Diabetes. For those of you who have been pregnant lately, that's the test you take where you drink some sugary substance and they take your blood one hour later. If you fail that one, you have to drink a sweeter substance and get your blood drawn one, two and three hours later. There's nothing more fun than hanging out in the doctor's office (and the uncomfortable chairs) for three hours. It's especially nice that you have to fast for the three hour test, so you're quite hungry the whole time. For my second pregnancy, I was still in the first trimester when I took the one-hour glucose test and still in the nauseous phase of pregnancy. When I failed that one, I refused to take the three-hour one and just began monitoring my blood sugars instead.
To monitor your blood sugars, you need to get a monitor, which is a small computer-like device. Four times a day (when you wake up, and after your meals) you get to poke a hole in your skin, extract some blood, and feed it into the monitor. Depending on your numbers, you need to adjust what you eat or take medication to help your numbers.
One big difference between gestational diabetes and type 2 is that there are a number of medications that help regulate your blood sugar, but since you are pregnant, they don't let you take any of them (which is the case for most medications, except of course Tylenol). So early on, I began a regime which started with one shot of insulin a day and evolved into four. No matter how perfectly I ate, my numbers were off. My body simply wouldn't follow the rules.
Even with the shots, I still had to continually check my numbers and adjust accordingly. One of the misconceptions of diabetes is that you can't eat carbs. The opposite is actually true: you need to eat carbs, just not too many or too little. There is a middle ground of a perfect number, so you can help keep your glucose levels regular. It's a delicate balancing act, since a number of things can affect your glucose levels. Exercise, stress and the types of carbs you eat all have a factor. The one time I went too low involved a school trip with LOTS of walking. I didn't take that into account and didn't have enough carbs for breakfast. All of a sudden, outside Ford's Theater in Washington DC, I became very shaky and didn't feel right. I ate some peanut M & Ms and soon felt better.
After all this work, I ended up with two beautiful babies and was able to walk away from my glucose monitor and insulin shots. I'm left with a much higher risk at developing Type 2 Diabetes. That is what drives me to exercise and eat better. I finally managed to kick my Mountain Dew habit of 15 years. I now allow myself to have one Mountain Dew a month, rather than one or two (or more) a day. After living with diabetes, I know what it's like and I know that I never want to deal with it again. I even have days where I try to run a little longer on the treadmill. I found that imagining that I was being chased by an insulin shot is excellent motivation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Livestrong: My Plate

I'm going to devote Tuesday posts to things that have helped me in my quest to lose weight. Today's tool is My Plate on This tool helps you track calories and nutrients in the food you eat. The nice thing is there is an app that goes with the website, so I can log food on the computer or my iPhone. It has a rather large database of food, so you can usually find brand name foods already in there, with all the nutrients already entered. You just log that you ate a bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and it will input the data onto "My Plate."
Some nice features of the site: you can log meals. For instance, I usually eat Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal for breakfast. I always have my bowl with flax seeds sprinkled on and I use whole milk (one of the by-products of having an 19 month old child. I refuse to buy two kinds of milk.) I have this set as my "Kashi breakfast" so I can input all three items at once. You can also input a recipe, so you can figure out the nutrition of something you make often.
If you're really enthusiastic, you can log your exercise in too. You can even set a weight-loss goal and it will tell you how many calories you need for the day (subtracting the ones you burn from your goal). There are "dares" you can take such as eating less sugar or talking a daily multivitamin. You can join groups with similar goals as you. There are plenty of articles and blogs to read as well. All this, and it's free. I'm sure there are some fancy features if you are willing to pay, but I am not.
I've heard that there are other sites that have similar types of things. Sparkpeople is the only one I know off the top of my head. I'd already been using Livestrong when I heard of Sparkpeople, so I decided to keep using it. I've been an on-off user for a couple years now. If you want to become friends with me on Livestrong, my user name is kestie77.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lentil Soup

Legumes are supposed to be one of the super foods of the day. They are low in fat, high in protein and full of good things like fiber and even antioxidants. People like Jillian Michaels recommends eating a serving a day. I try to eat them at lunch, since they are very filling. I have lunch at 11:05, thanks to the schedule at school. That leaves a pretty big gap between lunch and dinner, so I'm all for eating something that leaves me full for awhile.

I'm a big fan of lentils, since they cook fairly quickly. Today's recipe is pretty flexible. You can make lentil soup on the stovetop or in a crock pot. You can also add the vegetables you like, or play with the amounts a bit.
Lentil Soup


Chop the vegetables finely. In a dutch oven, saute the vegetables until soft. Add the broth, lentils, bay leaf (whole) and salt and pepper as desired. Bring soup to boiling. Turn heat down and simmer an hour or two. Add water if it gets too dry. Try adding other vegetables like spinach. You can also add all the ingredients to a crock pot and cook for 8 to 10 hours on low.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A more recent picture

This is me with my girls on Easter. 25 pounds less than last week's picture.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life with little kids

I've had to start waking up at 5 am to actually get in some exercise for the day. Once the kids are up, they always want to "help" me exercise. This can take the form of making me slow the treadmill WAY down so they can walk with me, laying under me while attempt to do push-ups and kicking me in the face, or doing the Jillian Michaels with me while asking important questions like "Why are those ladies not wearing any shirts?"

Today, I rolled out of bed and managed to start Jillian's Michael's Ripped in 30 video. This is how the workout went: work out, hear the baby cry on the monitor, stop and wait to see if she was up or had settled back down. Repeat. Once it really seemed like she was up and I even got to the point of stopping the video and putting away my weights. Then, she settled back in. I'm sure the workout would have been more effective without all the stopping, but I guess it's better than nothing!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: The Flex Diet

I recently picked The Flex Diet by James Beckerman up at the library and have to say that I really enjoyed it. I am always leery of diets and books that claim to be THE thing to help everyone, so this book fit my philosophy well. Instead of telling you exactly what to do, it lists a number (200) different strategies to help lose weight. You can pick and choose as you see fit. Some are geared towards ways to find support, while others have to do with diet or exercise. My blog is actually based on one of his suggestions. None of his ideas are revolutionary, but they are basic and easy to follow. I personally am never going to fast, so I threw that suggestion out the window. I did start blogging and taking fish oil, to name a few.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lunches for the week

Today I have off (for Easter Monday, something I didn't realize existed until I got a job in a Catholic school). I used it to my advantage by cooking up a big pot of chili to use as my lunches for the rest of the week. I try to make up lunches for the week as often as I can, so I can ensure a healthy lunch for myself. I usually make soup, because it's easy and can be packed full of vegetables. If possible, I make it meatless as well, since I am trying to cut back on the meat I eat. Today's chili was Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili. I served it over quinoa, which has a lot of protein. I made up three individual sized portions, then froze some as well. I got my recipe here and have to say it was delicious! It was a little dry, so I added some water early on. I will definitely make this again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My before picture

You always have to find the worst picture of yourself to be the "before" shot, right?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trying this out

Here goes nothing. I am currently a full time mom, teacher and when I get the chance I am trying to lose weight. The balance of all that is very delicate, but I think I'm slowly figuring it out. I had gestational diabetes with both of my pregnancies, and after the last one I decided that I never want to get diabetes again. With that motivation, (and the time I had off of work last summer,) I managed to lose 20 pounds. Going back to work was hard, and I slowly gained back a few pounds. With the new year I have renewed my dedication to losing weight, and I have lost about 5 pounds in 2012. My current goal is to run a 5K for my 35th birthday in July. I'm working with the Couch to 5K app on my phone, and have kept it up for a month now. I'm having trouble surviving the 3-minute run, so have been repeating week 3. Today wasn't too bad and I may attempt the next level soon.