Thursday, January 26, 2012

Easy Beef Stroganoff

Years ago, I made Beef Stroganoff and I wasn't impressed.  I think I may have cleared my plate, but didn't really enjoy it.  Recipes like that are never made again.  Rarely do I consider giving another, similar recipe a try. 

When I linked my Gooey Butter Cake post to Food On Fridays with Ann, I saw that she posted a recipe for Easy Beef Stroganoff.  I looked at the ingredients, saw that I liked all of them (except for the mushrooms).  I added it to last week's menu plan! 

I'm so glad that I gave Beef Stroganoff another chance!  This recipe was a hit!  I even had seconds (and I've been laying off the seconds for the past few weeks)! 

I tried to stick as close to the original recipe  as possible, but made a couple of small changes like leaving out the mushrooms and using less meat.  I also used a mixture of ground beef and some zesty hot pork sausage because that's what we had in the freezer.  So, I guess this is really Beef and Pork Stroganoff.  Is there such a thing?  I guess there!  :) 

Easy Beef Stroganoff

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. Bob Evan's Zesty Hot Sausage
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 4 tsp. beef bouillon granules
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • In a large pot or dutch oven, over medium heat, brown and drain the meat. 
  • Add the onion, cook until tender. 
  • Season with pepper.
  • Disolve bouillon granules in hot water, then pour over the meat.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, tomato paste. 
  • Mix together the flour and water; add to pot. 
  • Stir until well combined. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for an hour.  Stirring often.  Adding water if needed. 
  • Stir in sour cream just before serving.
  • Serve over hot, buttered noodles. 

Be sure to check out Ann's weekly Food on Fridays recipe link up to find more great recipes and food related posts!

This recipe has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spring Chick Challenge ~ Quick Update or small brag for the week!

I mentioned in yesterday's update that I set up our Wii in the living room on Sunday.  Monday was errand day, so it sat there on our mantel alone and neglected.  On Tuesday, I checked batteries, made sure everything was connected correctly and searched the entire house for my yoga mat.  There was a small glitch that I needed Joe to check out for me before I could get in a workout.  Turned out to be just me, having an airhead moment.  You see, it's been so long since I've used our Wii, that I forgot how to set it up. 

Anyway, after Joe came to my rescue and not only showed me my stupid mistake, he also found my missing yoga mat, I lost interest in working out.  Instead, I watched some Big Bang Theory reruns (I LOVE that show!) and ate some chips between running back and forth from the living room to Grace's room to see what her next excuse was for not being asleep yet. 

By the time I was certain she was fully asleep, I started to feel guilty about the chips (and the other snacks I ate during the day) and decided that I should at least do the body test before going to bed.  I did the test and was not a single bit surprised when it told me I was out of shape! 

What did suprise me, is the fact that I didn't want to just quit and go to bed at that point.  I mean, I did say I would just do the body test before going to bed.  Instead, I decided to do a couple of balance exercises.  I figured 10 minutes worth and then bed.  I ended up doing several minutes worth of balance exercises, 3 basic runs and even a few aerobic exercises all adding up to 30 minutes!  Less than half of that was actual exercising, the rest was just doing the ski jump balance thing.  But the fact that I got my big ol' butt off the couch for more than a run to the snack cabinet during commercials is a huge big deal to me!  Plus, with my two bad legs and all of this extra weight, I really do need to work on my balance. 

It's now after midnight, officially Wednesday and I'm still awake.  I feel great and am looking forward to another workout (or two) tomorrow!  I'm going to try to get Grace to do some of the exercises with me.  If that works, I may not have to wait until after her bedtime to work out.

Right now, the only thing I regret is that I didn't delete my information from when I was using the last year.  I'm going to check to see if there is an option for that, but wish I would have done that before exercising on Tuesday so everything would be more accurate. 

So, here are a couple of  questions:
  • Do any of you use the Wii Fit as their only form of exercise? 
  • Have you been successful in losing weight? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ Two Favorites from 2011

Of all of the photos taken of Grace in 2011, I have to say, these two are my favorites!  They were taken the last week of the year and I didn't take either of them!  It's funny how things work out! 

This first photo was taken over the holidays. We had the chance to visit Sesame Place for their Very Furry Christmas celebration thanks to the giveaway back in November, hosted by Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog.  Thanks, Valerie!  We had a wonderful time!   

Joe snapped this sweet picture of Grace wrapping her Uncle Chris around her little finger!  Oops!  I mean, taking a walk with her Uncle Chris! 

I'm so glad Joe took this picture, since I missed this sweet moment since I was in the Emporium shopping with Grace's Aunt Barb! 

The other of my favorites was taken of Grace by my niece, Amanda on Christmas morning.  Grace spent most of the day in her pajamas and super-hero cape.  I'm so glad that Santa put one under the tree for Grace and her cousin, Bella! 

Amanda enjoys playing around with photo editing and I love when she edits Grace's pictures!  So much fun!  Thanks, Amanda! 

This Wordless Wednesday post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Spring Chick Challenge 2012 Weekly Update

I wish last week's weigh-in (and 2 lb. loss) was enough to keep me motivated, but sadly, I just did what I shouldn't and ate what I wanted. 

Yesterday, I weighed in and it showed a gain.  I was in no way surprised.  Maybe a bit disappointed, but really, I expected it.  I gained most of those 2 lbs. back. 

I hate that this is so hard.  It certainly wasn't this difficult gaining all of this weight!  

This week will be different.  On Sunday, I dug out the Wii and set it up.  Today, I want to see if Grace will play with me.  I only have 2 discs, but I think I'll start out with the running.  I really hope she'll run with me, it might help tire her out, so that her sleep schedule gets better. 

All last week, I was back to drinking diet soda.  I'm having such a difficult time with the water.  Sunday night, I made myself a pitcher of sweet tea (using Splenda) and will drink that this week.  It's probably not much better than the diet soda, but doesn't have the carbonation.  The next pitcher I make will be half decaf..that should be better. 

In addition to adding in the Wii this week and swapping out my Diet Pepsi for (diet) sweet tea, my goal for the week is to eat a healthy breakfast every day.  At the moment, my choices are oatmeal with fruit on the side, or Cheerios with banana and skim milk.  Also, I'll eat a salad with dinner every night.  Small goals that I want to turn into new habits. 

I hope you are all having a better time with this challenge

Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of January 23rd

Last week's menu plan didn't go completely as planned; I rarely follow it 100%, but use it as a guideline.  Like my friend, Lisa, we had a lot of leftovers to use up.  I usually only plan 5-6 meals in a week, and keep a couple free for leftovers, but sometimes we have more leftovers than I allow for!

The couple of meals that we skipped, I'm no longer interested in making.  So, I'm not adding them to this week's plan.  I'm sure we'll see them in a future menu, just not this one! 

I did some digging in the freezer to see what's left in there.  Not much.  Aside from some homemade stocks and the wild boar meat (from when Joe went hunting last spring) at the bottom, there are just a few odds and ends that will need to be used before we re-stock the freezer.  I'm not real crazy about pork in general, so I'm not overly thrilled with the wild boar meat.  Joe will need to use that up...I'll plan other meals for myself around that whenever he gets around to it. 

This week's menu is going to be pretty easy:

  • Spaghetti with Simply Tomato Sauce, salad, bread sticks.  This is the last of the tomato sauce from the freezer.  I didn't think we had any left in there.  Soon it will be time to make another big pot of this SIMPLE sauce! 

  • Oven Barbecue Chicken, Steamed Veggies, Salad.  A few months ago, I bought some split, bone-in, chicken breast on sale.  This is the last pack.  I'll cook all of the chicken at once, then use the leftover chicken to make other meals for the week. 

  • Chicken Rice Soup, salad, bread and butter.  Feels like forever since we've had a simple chicken soup.  This will be such a simple dinner to throw together! I just haven't decided if I'll make a clear or creamy chicken rice soup.   

  • Chicken 'n' Dumplings.  We've had this not too long ago, but it's one of Joe's favorite meals.  I can't believe it's taken me so long to make this for him, since it's really such an easy recipe!  I'll make the soup shown above with the leftovers!   

  • Breakfast for Dinner.  I'm in the mood for waffles.  It's been a while since I've made them.  Sometimes I forget just how easy they are to make!  I'll make some Turkey Scrapple on the side.  I know, local readers are probably skeptical about the concept of turkey scrapple.  I thought Joe was crazy when he bought a block of it home from the store!  We were both very surprised at how great it tastes!  I'll also slice up some oranges to serve along with the meal. 

  • Hot Dogs, Molasses Baked Beans, baked potatoes.  The hot dogs and baked beans are both from the freezer.  I'll bake up a couple of potatoes to serve on the side!  I love baked beans served on top of my potato!  MMmmm! 

So, now you know what's cooking at our house!  What are you serving this week?  Share your dinner plans in the comments or follow me over to Menu Plan Monday!  You can also check out our past menu plans

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

Last weekend, I discovered that we had two large sweet potatoes left from the holidays Thanksgiving (I had no idea they last that long!).  Since we arleady have some Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili in the freezer, I needed to figure out some other way to use them.  Soups and casseroles were on the menu for the week, so it would be a while before I would be serving anything that could use sweet potatoes as a side dish. 

I decided to try something new and threw together a really quick and easy sweet potato soup.  Since we already had meals planned for the week, I only ate a small serving of this along with a salad and some leftover omelet before putting the rest of the soup into the freezer for another night in the future.  I'm bummed that I didn't get a picture before freezing it, but I wanted to share the recipe with you now anyway. 

Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 cups assorted veggies (onions, celery, carrot), finely diced
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced and pre-cooked
  • chicken broth
  • evaporated milk
  • salt and pepper
  • In a large pot or dutch oven, cook diced bacon to desired done-ness.  (I cooked mine until is was almost crisp.) 
  • Remove bacon from pan and set aside on paper towels to absorb the grease.  Do not drain grease from pot.
  • Add chopped veggies to bottom of pot in the hot bacon grease and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender.
  • Remove vegetables, straining as much of the grease as possible, set aside.
  • Drain grease from pot. 
  • To the pot, add chicken broth, evaporated milk, and salt and pepper to taste and allow to cook over medium heat until bubbly.
  • Add in the pre-cooked sweet potatoes, vegetables and bacon. 
  • Mix until well-combined.
  • Cover and reduce heat.  Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often.
  • If you like, lightly mash the potatoes with a hand masher.

  • I really enjoyed this soup.  It was so easy and so pantry friendly.  The vegetables I used in the soup, were odds and ends left after chopping the veggies I needed for other recipes.  The rest of the ingredients I had in the pantry. 

This recipe has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Spring Chick Challenge 2012 ~ Late Update

I'm really late in posting my update from last week.  I planned to start working on the post over the weekend and then just updating the weight on Monday morning, but we were busy around the house over the weekend.  Then on Monday, Grace and I ended up going out with a friend since she was off from work.  After that, this week just got away from me....anyway, on with the update. 

Last week, from Tuesday until Thursday I did great.  I started my day each morning with either a bowl of oatmeal or Cheerios with banana, kept the calories low, cut out the soda, drank a little water, and increased dairy.  The weekend was a totally different story.  Snacks and soda the entire weekend.  Although, I did stick to the oatmeal or Cheerios for breakfast the entire week. 

I stepped on the scale and was greeted with a pleasant surprise!  A 2 lb. loss!  Yay! 

You would think that would be the incentive to get me back on track after that snacky weekend, right?  Nope!  It's been a rough week! 

Since Christmas, we've been working on getting Grace's sleep schedule back on track.  Running around shopping and then visiting over the holidays really messed up her sleep, even though we tried to be mindful of her naptime and bedtime while running here and there, but still her schedule is a bit out of whack. 

Also, since Christmas, we've been working on having Grace sleep alone in her big girl bed.  It's a long story, but for the past 2 years (since she out grew her co-sleeper), I've been sleeping in her room with her.  Mainly because she wakes during the night and when I'm in my room, I just don't hear her...even with a monitor.  I'm at the point now, where I feel that Joe can either wake up with her when she cries at night or he can wake me up.  Grace has been up almost every night since Christmas and as much as Joe tries to get her to go back to sleep for him, she won't. 

It's been an exhausting few weeks.  And when I'm tired, I'm hungry and I don't care much about counting calories or watching what I eat.  Today is a new day and I'm determined to get back on track with my food and calories....sleep or no sleep! 

I'm dreading the scale on Monday.  I worry that I've gained back those 2 lbs....or more! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black Bean & Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I've wanted to share this recipe with you for over a year now.  I made it almost immediately after seeing it posted over at Debbi Does Dinner Healthy & Low Calorie when Debbi posted it last summer.  The reason I didn't post this then is because I lost my notes and it took me up until a couple of weeks ago to make the recipe again. 

Joe and I both really enjoy spaghetti squash.  We usually just eat it plain, straight out of the microwave.  Sometimes we add a little Morton's Hot Salt to spice it up a bit.  Now after making this, we'll be adding this meatless casserole to our menu plan more often! 

Black Bean & Spaghetti Squash Casserole

  • 3 cups spaghetti squash, cooked
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can Bush's Grilling Beans, Black Bean Fiesta
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, choppped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 small can diced chilies
  • 3 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • cooking spray
  • olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray 8"x8" casserole dish with cooking spray. 
  • In a small amount of oil, in a large skillet, saute onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic until tender.
  • Add black beans, corn, diced chilies, and chili powder, stir.
  • Cook until heated through.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Add cooked squash and salt to taste.
  • Mix well, pour into the casserole dish.
  • Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

  • I've made this a couple times, and both times, I've made slightly different. 
  • The original recipe calls for spinach.  It's great both with and without the spinach! 
  • Also, Debbi topped hers with a corn meal crust.  I prefer to serve cornbread on the side, but if you liked to try it with a crust on top, check out Debbi's recipe

If you like spaghetti squash like we do, you may want to check out Debbi's latest recipe for Sausage & Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Pie!  I know we'll be trying this recipe very soon!


This recipe is linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of January 16th

After a very busy weekend around the house, I'm finally getting the chance to sit down and type out the menu plan for this week.  Although, I should really be loading the dishwasher and going to bed! 

Last week's menu plan went very well.  I actually prepared every meal on the list, had night of leftovers and added in BLT's for a last minute meal to finish up a loaf of bread. 

We're continuing with our pantry challenge and working on keeping the food budget down to a minimum.  This morning, after breakfast, I started to plan out my meals for the week and compared my ideas with the ingredients we have on hand.  I think with creative substitutions and minimal shopping, this will be another successful menu plan. 

Since I'll be trying a few new recipes, I don't have photos yet, but promise to share the recipes soon after we try them! 

  • Chicken Stir Fry.  We have some veggies in the bin that need to be used up before they spoil.  A quick stir fry is the perfect way to prepare them.  I'll serve the chicken and vegetables over white rice.  I just opened a 10 lb. bag! 

  • Rice and Bean Soup.  Several months ago, I shared a recipe for Chicken Jambalay.  When putting away the leftovers, I reserved some to use in other recipes.  We really enjoyed the Red Bean and Rice Soup, so I thought I'd make something similar using the leftover Crock Pot Chicken Chili that's in the freezer. 

  • Pasta with Garlic, Oil and vegetables.  Another quick and easy recipe to finish up those veggies in the fridge!  I don't follow a recipe for this meal, I usually just wing it. 

  • Beef Stroganoff.  After all the chicken we've been eating lately, I knew right away that I wanted to try this recipe this week!  I have some ground beef in the freezer just waiting for a recipe like this!  I'm really looking forward to this meal! 

  • Porcupine Meatballs over rice.  Here's another beef recipe and another great use of that big bag of rice!  Another recipe I'm looking forward to preparing this week! 

  • Pasta e Fagioli Soup.  I think the only thing I'll need to pick up for this recipe is the small pasta.  It's been a while since I've had Pasta e Fagioli Soup (I think almost a year ago) and even longer since I've prepared it.  I don't have the ingredients for the soup the way I normally make it, so I looked for a recipe that included more ingredients that I already have on-hand. 

Sorry for the lack of pictures!  I hope to make it up to you very soon with lots of new recipe posts!

I'd love to know what you're cooking up this week!  Please share your dinner plans with us in the comments!  Or follow me over to Menu Plan Monday!  If you like what you see here, feel free to check out my past menu plans

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spring Chick Challenge ~ Mid Week Update (week 2)

So far, so good.  I'm not sure what it was that clicked to get me more motivated to eat healthier this week.  But whatever it is, I hope it lasts! 

I'm still having trouble with drinking my water.  I just don't like it!  In the summer, I can drink it and even enjoy it.  But in the winter, it just tastes nasty to me!  I've been avoiding diet pepsi since Monday and sipping water here and there, but not much. 

Exercise hasn't been much of an option since the start of the challenge.  Grace has been cranky and clingy since the start of the new year.  And BOSSY!  I never realized how bossy a two year old could be!  I'm lucky if she'll let me out of her sight long enough to make the bed or use the bathroom, so hopping on the exercise bike isn't likely until this clingy phase passes.  I try to get her to dance with me but she quickly loses interest and wants her shows back on, or for me to sit with her.  Hopefully, I can work something in next week. 

I've been keeping my calorie intake very close to my daily target since Tuesday, when I started fresh after last week's disaterous start.  I've gone over a little when needing a snack.  I chose a banana one night and some grapes the next, both causing me to go over my daily target.  But, I'm proud of the choices I made and won't worry about an extra 100 calories (or less). 

Tracking calories at dinner time really stressed me out last week.  I love that My Fitness Pal offers a recipe builder that will show the total calories for a meal.  I've used it over the summer with great results.  But at this very moment, I don't have time to weigh and measure and enter each ingredient as I'm cooking (or even after) and then have to measure out the entire recipe to find the number of portions, etc.  In the summer, it was easier.  But now, with us eating so many soups and stews, it's just too time consuming. 

Last week, my OCD was really kicking in over the fact that I wasn't tracking dinner.  Since I'm an "all or nothing" type of person, I couldn't NOT track dinner and continue to track the rest of the day.  My brain just doesn't work that way.  This week, I decided that I will allow 600 calories for dinner on those nights that I just don't know the calorie count.  On those nights, I will have a salad before my meal, watch my portion size and skip the seconds!  I realize that some days I may be over or even under those 600 calories, but I'm hoping it will even itself out over the course of the week.  We'll see how this works out. 

So, that's where we are right now.  I probably won't do another update until the weekend or even Monday.  Until then, I wanted to share this great Dear John letter I stumbled upon last night!  It's a great read and I'm sure many of us can relate to this dieter's post

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Spring Chick Challenge ~ Let's try this again!

I wish I could say that my first week of my weightloss journey went well.  I think my buddy Nicole said it best when she called last week a Big Fat Fail.  Yep, I don't even think I lasted a full day before I decided to go over my daily calories.  On day two, I decided I didn't want to track calories at all.  On day three, I didn't even concern myself with the fact that I started a challenge.  I could go on with all of the negative aspects of the past week....but I won't. 

Instead, I will mention a few good points of the week.  Like the fact that for 3 days, I gave up soda.  Or that 4 days last week, I took my vitamins.  And it can't go without mentioning that I ate oatmeal instead of donuts for breakfast several mornings last week.  I even managed to get in a few dairy servings. 

All of that may not sound like much, but people that know me as a soda guzzling, junk food junkie know that all of those things are a very big deal for me.  HUGE! 

I did notice that even though I strayed from calorie counting, my portions were smaller.  Most nights, I managed to resist going for seconds at dinner.  When I snacked, I either tried to make better choices or ate less than usual. 

Aside from total lack of dicipline, there were other factors that contributed to last week's failure.  Boredom.  Exhuastion. Stress. 

  • After all of the excitement of the holidays, last week was a let down!  Boring with a capital B!  I eat when I'm bored.  You know, like grabbing a snack during the commercial break.  Last week, was one long commercial break! 

  • I had a very difficult to wind down at the end of the day and found myself up until the wee hours of the morning, making it very difficult to make good choices for myself or to care that I was making poor choices. 

  • Grace was extremely grumpy and needy last week.  I think she was having separation issues after Joe went back to work making her whiny and cranky for days at a time.  After spending hours catering to her crying and demanding attitude, did I really want to worry about how many calories I was eating?  No way!  All I wanted to do was eat that stress away!  But guess didn't work!  I'm still stressed and still fat.  Why won't I learn? 

I weighed in yesterday with a 0.2 loss.  Not what I expected at all.  I fully expected a big ol' gain!  But don't pat me on the back for that 0.2 decrease in weight.  It's only a normal fluctuation in weight.  I could go back and forth gaining and losing that same 0.2 for the next year if I don't do something about it now.  So, today I am starting over.  Today is a beginning.  Hopefully, with better results and better discipline than last week. 

I want to thank all of you for all of your wonderful comments and support.  You are all so very wonderful.  I didn't have much computer time last week, so I didn't get a chance to check out all of your posts, but I'll make a point to visit (and cheer you on) this week! 

For those of you that are participating in the Spring "Chick" Challenge, I'll be tracking my progress over at My Fitness Pal. My username is fitmomma613 if you want to follow along over there. You can also find me on facebook here and here. (If you want me to add you to my personal account, please message me that you are part of the challenge.)

Gooey Butter Cake

I have fond memories of visiting my Gram at her house down the shore when I was a little girl.  We would take an early morning ride to the local bakery and pick up some pastries.  My favorite was the Butter Cake. MMmmm!
I'm not sure how it is in other parts of the country, but sadly, around here little bakeries have become hard to find.  And not all of our big grocers carry butter cake in their bakery departments. 
Many, many years later I found a small bakery near the flower shop where I worked at the time. Occasionally, on Saturday mornings, I would stop at the bakery on my way to work and pick up a Butter Cake to share with the other poor souls at the shop that were stuck working on a Saturday!
After a while, it became less and less convenient to get to this bakery. So, it became a very rare treat. And now, since we've moved from Philly, we don't get there at all and haven't found a small bakery in or near our new town.

A few years ago, we had a lovely picnic hosted by my parents. It was a chance for us to get together with another family that my parents have known all MY life. (They met shortly before I was born.) We've all seen each other through the years, but not all together at the same time. So it was a really great day!
We all brought something to contribute to the day's meal. I took a salad and a couple of pudding pies. But the best thing of all of the food served that day was the Butter Cake that my sister-in-law, Jen baked!
She gave me the recipe at the time, telling me that it was one of the recipes in her grandmother's recipe box. I never got around to making it and I lost the recipe card in the move (still in boxes in the basement I'm sure) Now that I have the recipe again, I'll be sure to make it soon! I'm drooling right now as I type about it!

Jen's Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 1 pkg. yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
Ingredients for the topping:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a bowl, mix together the dry cake mix, egg and softened butter with a hand mixer to form a dough.
  • Press dough into an un-greased 9x13 baking dish.
  • In a bowl, combine all of the topping ingredients until well mixed.
  • Pour over the cake/dough spreading to the the edges.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes.

This is one of those recipes that can be found all over the internet with a few changes here and there.  In fact, I've seen that one popular, butter-loving Food Network chef makes Gooey Butter Cake on her show.  Of course, she adds a stick of butter to the topping in her recipe! 

Anyway, since my sister-in-law first shared this with me, I like to call it Jen's Gooey Butter Cake. 

*This is a repost of a recipe I originally shared on my other blog.  Since I don't have enough time to keep up with two blogs, I have kept this as my main blog and over time I have been bringing the recipes over to this blog. 

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 


Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 2012 ~ Week of January 9th

Last week, I mentioned wanting to keep our food bill down for the next few weeks.  In order to do this, I decided to do another Pantry Challenge.  I seem to do this every few weeks or so.  Either when I decide we need to save money or when there isn't any room in the freezer or pantry for any new purchases.  If I'm lucky, the occasions will coincide with each other.  If I'm not lucky, using from the pantry takes a bit more creativity and will-power. 

Lucky for me, my pantry seems to be overflowing because I'm seriously lacking creativity at the moment! 

Another thing that's working in favor of this month's pantry challenge is that Joe seems to be 100% on board with the idea.  Since he is the one that does about 95% of the food shopping, having him on board is helpful.  I don't know how many times in the past, I've told him to only buy what's on the list, only for him to come home with 3 or 4 extra bags filled with items that "were on sale".

This past week, he really stuck to the list.  I think the only item he purchased that wasn't on the list was a loaf of Italian bread he picked up when I told him we were having chili for dinner.  He was stopping to pick up milk and yogurt on his way home and couldn't resist the loaf of crusty bread.  I'm glad he thought of it, since I actually forgot to add it to the list. 

We didn't fully follow last week's menu plan.  Due to frozen chicken issues, I had to switch the days around a bit.  Plus, I ended up with more chicken than I needed for the week.  I didn't realize how large the two packages were when I brought them up from the freezer. 

I ended up making some Crock Pot Chicken Chili with half of the extra chicken and will made broth and shredded chicken with the rest of the chicken.  Both will be put to use this week, making meals simple so I can get to work taking down the Christmas decorations and a few other things that need to be done around the house. 

Here's a look at our plan for the week: 

  • Spanish Chicken Stew.  I like to add more vegetables to the broth made from the Spanish Chicken dish along with any leftover chicken for a nice and hearty stew. 

  • Chicken Pot Pie.  I'm really in the mood for comfort foods this week.  And you can't get much more comforting than a homemade pot pie right out of the oven.  Mmmm! 

  • Sweet Potato Soup.  This is something new.  I haven't posted it yet, but hope to get it posted this week.  I threw this soup together on Sunday while I prepared Breakfast for Dinner.  I had some extra bacon and 2 sweet potatoes, so I decided to make a quick soup.  Although, we didn't have this for dinner yet, I did take a quick taste and it is really tasty!  I'll make a salad and grilled cheese sandwiches to serve alongside this yummy soup! 

  • Enchiladas.  Leftover Crock Pot Chicken Chili mixed with some leftover rice will be the perfect filling for enchiladas.  It's been a while since I made them, so we're really looking forward to enchilada night!  Here's another enchilada recipe that we love...and will have to add to our menu plan....SOON!

  • Tuna Noodle Casserole.  With the addition of the Chicken Chili last week, we skipped this casserole from last week's menu plan.  After all the chicken in this week's plan, this will be a nice change. 

I originally planned to have a couple of dinners using beef this week, but since we have so many leftovers from last week, I thought it would be a good idea to use  up some of what didn't make it into the freezer for future meals.  Beef next week, for sure! 

I had a few requests for the Gooey Butter Cake recipe I mentioned in last week's plan.  I'll be getting that posted this week. 

Now that you've seen what I'm bringing to the table this week, leave a comment letting us know what's on your menu this week! 

If you are still looking for recipes or menu planning inspiration, you can follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie or you can check out our past menu plans.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Spring Chicks Challenge ~ Official Introduction and Weigh-In

Good Morning, Friends! 

For those of you that are new here, let me start by introducing myself:

My name is Alison.  I'm a 41 year old, stay at home mom that struggles with food addiction.  I eat when I'm hungry, I eat when I'm not.  I eat when I'm bored, depressed, happy, sad.  I'm constantly snacking and making bad choices when it comes to food.  Because of this, I'm overweight, unhealthy and miserable. 

I've attempted to lose weight in the past, and only lasted a couple of weeks or even days.  I'm hoping that 2012 will be my year to get myself together and get fit!  The Spring "Chick" Challenge is just what I need to get me started in the right direction! 

In the wee hours of the morning, I posted my goals based on the guidelines of the challenge.  In that post, you can read about my goals for Non-Scale Victories, Exercise and Nutrition. 

After a few hours sleep, I got out of bed feeling positive and energized...  Wanting to face the scale and see just how many pounds I aim to lose during the challenge. 

Ultimately, I'd love to lose 66.6 lbs.  It would be impossible (not to mention unhealthy) to lose that amount of weight during the challenge.  So, I set a smaller goal for myself.  I hope to lose 21.6 lbs. by the end of the challenge.  Even that amount seems out of reach to me at the moment.  So, I'll just take it one pound at a time and be happy with the results, good or bad. 

I'll be tracking my progress over at My Fitness Pal.  My username is fitmomma613 if you want to follow along over there.  You can also find me on facebook here and here.  (If you want me to add you to my personal account, please message me that you are part of the challenge.)

Here's a before photo for those of you that like that sort of thing:

You can also see more photos and a slightly more detailed introduction by clicking the Weight Loss (2012) tab at the top of the page.  I'll also be linking challenge updates there, so they can be found easily in one spot. 

I think that's about it for this morning...time to eat something healthy for breakfast! 

Angel's Fantastic Frosting

Many years ago, I worked with a woman who loved to cook.  Sometimes she would bring in a big pot of soup for all of us to enjoy during our lunch hour, or she would make us sandwiches using her sandwich maker.  My favorite, though, were the sweets she would bring in for us to nibble on throughout the day. 

That was the first time I tried this tasty frosting recipe.  I've been calling it Fabulous Frosting, but looking at my notes, I realize it's called Fantastic Frosting.  Whatever the name, this 3-ingredient recipe is both delicious and simple to make! 

Angel's Fantastic Frosting

  • 8 oz. tub Cool Whip
  • small box instant pudding (any flavor)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Mix all ingredients until well combined. 
  • Chill until thickened.
  • Frost cake. 

  • I'm not sure where this recipe originated, but I like to call it Angel's Fantastic Frosting since she introduced this to us so many years ago. 
  • Store brand ingredients work great in this recipe, helping to keep cost down. 
  • Angel usually used chocolate pudding in this recipe and it's soooo good!  I just made this frosting for cupcakes this weekend.  Since my nephew and Grace both don't care for chocolate (really, I don't know how she can be my daughter and NOT like chocolate!) I used vanilla pudding to flavor the frosting.  I'm looking forward to trying other flavors of the pudding in the future! 
  • In addition to testing out other flavors, I also look forward to making a lighter version of this frosting using fat-free whipped topping, sugar-free pudding and skim milk.  I'm sure it will taste fantastic!  

Recently, my friend Lisa used this recipe to make frosting for her son's gluten free birthday cake.  She was blessed with kids that LOVE chocolate, so she was able to use the chocolate pudding to flavor her frosting! 

Don't you just love that cupcake cookie jar?  I got it from the clearance section at Kohl's last Valentine's Day!

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

2012 Spring Chick Challenge ~ Guidelines and Goals (Weight Loss)

For the past month, I've been thinking about things I want to change in my life this year.  Every year, my resolutions are the same.  Every year, I want to do something about my weight.  Every year, I fail.  This year will be different.  I want to succeed.  I need to succeed. 

With that in mind, I was thrilled when I received an email from my buddy Nicole.  She just signed up for the 2012 Spring "Chick" Challenge and wanted me to join with her.  It's always easier to lose weight with a buddy! 

Photo credit:  Photo Bucket

I checked out the challenge and using the guidelines of the challenge, I set a few goals for myself: 
Commit to a Non-Scale Victory: 
  • Energy.  At the end of this challenge (and during, too), I want to have more energy.  It's embarassing to become winded while dancing around the living room with my toddler before the song is even over. 

  • Wedding rings.  I haven't been able to wear my wedding rings since the end of my pregnancy with Grace.  I'd love to lose enough weight to be able to put them back on my finger.
  • Healthy Lifestyle.  I want to set a good example for my daughter and help her to make healthy choices when it comes to food and activity.  While she can be very active, she also has no problem sitting on the sofa all day watching TV while eating cookies or cupcakes.  I want that to change, but I need to lead by example.  How can I tell her to exercise and eat a banana instead of a donut while I'm munching on a Hershey bar? 
Commit to a set of nutrition parameters and track via My Fitness Pal:
  • Calories.  I have not weighed in yet, so I have not decided on my daily calorie intake.  Once I've weighed in, I will decide on the amount of weight I want to lose during the challenge and using My Fitness Pal, I'll come up with my daily calories. 

  • Water.  I have such a difficult time getting my water in, not only in challenges, but in daily life, too.  I always tend to reach for the diet soda instead of water.  During the colder months, I don't drink much of anything.  So, this is going to be a challenge in itself.  My goal is to drink at least six 8 ounce glasses per day. 

  • Portion Control.  I'm starting this challenge on a tight budget.  For the first week or so, I won't be using low-fat or low-cal foods.  I'll simply be eating smaller portions and filling up on some raw vegetables. 

  • Dairy.  I'd like to increase the amount of dairy I consume daily.  Skim milk and low-fat yogurt are always in my fridge.  But usually shoved to the back and almost always forgotten about until trash day. 

  • Fruits and Vegetables.  I love fruits and veggies, but find it so much easier to grab a donut than it is to bend over to grab an orange out of the produce bin in the fridge.  As I  stated before, this needs to change not only for my own health, but for Grace as well. 

  •  Limitations.  I'm going to be realistic here and admit that I will not be cutting out all junk-food and sweets.  I know myself and know 100% that if I cut out those things completely, I will fail.  I will limit myself to some treats here and there based on other food and exercise choices made that day. 

  • Vitamins.  Like the milk and yogurt, vitamins are always in the house, I just fail to take them.  I can't give any real reason other than the fact that I'm lazy.  Sure, they make me a little queasy the first couple of weeks (I won't even mention the funny colors they turn my urine...yikes!) but once I'm used to them that goes away.  I just rarely get past that point, before I stop taking them.  This, too, needs to change.   
Commit to a set of exercise parameters: 
  • Exercise.  I'm guessing this should be more than just getting off the sofa to grab a snack from the fridge during commercials, huh?  Well, I dusted off the exercise bike and plan on setting up the Wii Fit in the morning.  I'll be starting off slow, but my goal will be to exercise 15-30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week. 

  • Sleep.  It's no secret that I have horrible sleep habits.  I've always been a night-owl, but since Grace has been in my life, my days have gotten longer.  I stay up late, just to have some time to myself.  Time to watch non-kiddie shows or to work on my blog.  I need to work out a blogging schedule for myself so that I can get to bed early without neglecting my blog.  Better sleep habits will help me make better choices regarding food and exercise each day. 
In addition to the above guidelines, I will blog twice a week regarding the challenge and attempt to offer support to as many of the other participants of the challenge as I can.  Time is sometimes an issue, since I spend so much of my day with Grace, so I may not always fulfill this part of the challenge.  Please accept my apologies in advance...but know that I am here rooting for each and every one of us in hopes that we will all succeed in reaching our goals! 

Check back later today for my official weigh-in and introduction post! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year: 2012

It's a bit late in the day, but I wanted to be sure to wish you all a very Happy New Year! 

I planned on writing this post earlier today, but the day got away from me!  Already the new year is speeding by!  :) 

This morning, I got a start on one of my resolutions: 
  • Getting Organized. 

I do believe it will take me all of 2012 to get this place organized, but I feel that I got a lot accomplished already this morning.  The fact that I can now walk around my bedroom without tripping on piles of clean laundry is proof that I'm moving in the right direction! 

Tomorrow, I start working on another of my 3 resolutions.  Check in tomorrow if you are interested in following my progress on my weight loss journey. 

Thanks so much to Nanalulu's Musings for sharing the vintage graphic used in this post.  Be sure to check out her blog for other FREE vintage New Year graphics.

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 2nd

As I write this post on New Year's Eve, I'm finding it difficult to believe that the year is over already.  In some ways, it's been a really rough year and I'm somewhat happy to see it go.  I'm looking forward to some changes in the new year and I'm looking forward to getting started on following the resolutions I've set for myself.  Although, I'm not so sure how I'm going to feel about them come Monday morning! 

We spent way too much money in 2011.  This has to change.  We really have to start living a more frugal life.  I find that I go through spurts of frugality, I need to make this our way of life, rather than something we do to recover from a major spending spree! 

This morning, while Joe was keeping Grace occupied, I cleaned out the fridge and took inventory of the freezers in order to plan out this week's menu.  I'm planning on starting the year off with a very low grocery bill for the month!  And by the looks of the freezer, that won't be too difficult!  There's plenty of good food on hand to prepare some great meals this week....and even next week! 

Here's what I have planned for this week: 

  • Saturday:  New Year's Eve.  Dinner with Friends.  I'm not sure what good food they've planned for us, it's my job to bring dessert.  I'm thinking of making a gooey butter cake and possibly some cupcakes...we'll see how productive I feel after I finish this post and get a shower!  (I ended up making both the Gooey Butter Cake and some Funfetti Cupcakes with Fantastic Frosting...links will be added soon.)

  • Sunday:  New Year's Day.  Chicken Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes with Cauliflower, Corn.  After seeing that my buddy Nicole from Colie's Kitchen made fried chicken for the last time before she begins her diet on Monday, I decided that was a fabulous idea!  I rarely make fried chicken because it's so time consuming.  BUT, once I start a diet, it's always one of the first foods I want!  Since I'm beginning my diet along with Nicole on Monday, we'll be enjoying our fried chicken on Sunday night!  I'll pack any of the leftovers for Joe to take to work with him on Monday, so I'm not tempted to nibble. 

  • Monday:  Chicken 'n' Dumplings.  Probably not the most diet-friendly meal to start off with.  But it's tasty and filling and goes well with my resolution to save money.  I've already made the broth, so this will be a very quick and easy meal.  For the weekend, I'll add some broth and vegetables to turn the Chicken 'n' Dumplings into the soup shown above.   

  • Tuesday:  Breakfast for Dinner.  We have a couple dozen eggs left in the fridge.  Joe stocked up before Christmas, hoping to make a big breakfast each day of his Christmas vacation.  A few busy days sort of squashed those plans.  I'll start off my French Toast and bacon dinner with a bowl of non-fat vanilla yogurt and some fruit to help me keep my portions of the non-diet foods smaller. 

  • Wednesday:  Tuna Noodle Casserole.  This is my stand-by meal for those weeks that we're wanting to skip the grocery store.  I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  We might have to pick up a box of elbow macaroni, though.  I think we used the last box when we had hamburger soup last week. 

  • Thursday:  Spanish Chicken, rice, salad.  Several weeks ago, I saw a really good deal on bone-in chicken.  We picked up a couple big packs and stuck them right in the freezer!  This is my favorite recipe for bone-in chicken.  So easy and makes a lot! 

  • Friday:  Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos, Sweet Potato Fries.  There's a small container of Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili in the freezer, the perfect amount to roll up in a few tortillas for a quick and oh-so-yummy dinner!  I have 2 big sweet potatoes in the potato bin, I'll slice them up and bake them in the oven....I've never done that before with sweet potatoes, so if you have any tips or suggestions, I'd love to hear them! 

  • Saturday and Sunday:  Leftovers, Leftovers, Leftovers!  I'm sure by the end of the week, we'll have a wide selection of leftovers to choose from!  We'll just choose something from the fridge and pop it into the microwave!  So easy!  So frugal! 

If you're looking for more recipes or menu planning inspiration, follow me over to I'm an Organizing Junkie's weekly blog carnival, Menu Plan Monday.  Or, if you like what you see here, check out our past menu plans

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