Feelin' Chalky

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do You Know The Muffin...Top?

It has been 32 weeks since I hung up my life as an unhealthy, excuse-making, "fat" girl and traded it for the crazy, God-driven journey that I am on today.  It has been a wild ride with lots of unexpected twists and turns.  I feel like I have completely changed who I am and I know that this time it is for good.

There have been many milestones that I have reached on this journey and many more to come.  I have high-kicked for joy at 10%, did a happy dance when I dipped under 300, cried at 50 pounds lost, and now I am ready to strut my stuff in a cute, new pair of non-twenty-something jeans.  Hooray!!  Why is a number -  a size of jeans - such a big deal?  It's sort of nostalgic for me - being a size 18.  I remember I was a size 18 in college.  I remember I was a size 16 in high school.  Now, to some people, size 16 and size 18 are still "big" sizes.  I get that, but I don't ever remember being any smaller.  And when you've come from a size 28 (wow) it's a really big deal!

BUT...and this is a big but...I still have a problem.  When you shop for a size 28, you shop in the "women's" section - the eternally un-cute, the frumpy, the elastic waist, the pull your pants up to your bra-line, the trade style for comfort section.  When you transition to a size 18...something magical happens.  You all of the sudden are able to be cool again - normal.  You go from full-rise (haha) to low-rise.  Clothing manufacturers once again grant you the gift of style.  THAT is a beautiful thing, however, it is also a curse.  Why???  Because.  With style comes...(drumroll) the dreaded MUFFIN TOP!!!  EEEEK!

You may think I am joking, and maybe this isn't true for everyone, but it is true for me.  Here is a snapshot of the way my body is shaped.  Comparitively speaking: "skinny" legs, no butt, spare tire for a tummy, full bust (I thought that was a nice way to say it).  What that translates to in the clothing world is jeans that don't ever really sit quite right on my body.  Either they fit great in the waist and are baggy in the legs and butt OR they fit great on my legs and butt and are tight in the waist and create a muffin top.  Luckily the jeans I found the other day at Target are a better fit than normal.  They aren't constricting in the tummy area, but they still create that breakfast-pastry-like sillouette.  I'll take it even if it means I can only wear hooded sweatshirts with my jeans!  ;) It's been a long time coming to get to this place!  

I figured this was a great time to take some updated progress shots (and it gave me an excuse to show off the cute jeans...haha):

At 19 weeks and...

At 32 weeks!

At 19 weeks and...

At 32 weeks!

Face shot at the beginning of my journey...

Face shot at 32 weeks!  :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeding Frenzy!

I have a lot to talk about today!  I don't know about you but I am always on the hunt for delicious, easy, and healthy snack options - for me - but especially for the kids!  Lately I feel like I have hit the jack-pot!  I thought I would take the time today to share some of my new favorite snacks and tell you where you can buy them!

1. SOYJOY - I actually just discovered I liked SOYJOY yesterday.  I signed up for a free sample through a Hungry Girl e-mail.  I had heard from other people that SJ was pretty lame (sorry SOYJOY) and hadn't mustered up the courage to try it.  However...it is quite amazing what a freebie will do for you.  Heck I'll try dog food if I get a cute, free sample in the mail.  OK...maybe not, but I do love a good freebie!  My husband, however, thinks I'm crazy.  Anyway...my sample arrived yesterday...in a shiny yellow and silver package.  It was DE-licious!  I am in love!  The bar I had was the new banana flavor, but I know that they have all kinds of other flavors from blueberry to mango coconut to strawberry.  The free samples are all gone BUT you can check out this link for a "buy 2 get one free" coupon!  By the way...please try the banana first...it is like banana bread and I promise you won't be disappointed!  If you have tried the bars before and didn't like them - try them again.  I guess SJ has given their products an overhaul so they are new and improved!  Check out this link to "like" SOYJOY on Facebook and possibly win $1,000 in the process!  :)  Oh...and you can buy these just about anywhere - they are in the health/diet section with all the other protein bars and shakes.

2. Funky Monkey - I found these at the Kroger on Dixon.  The kids LOVED them!  They were inhaled in 2.2 seconds.  I think I lost a couple pieces of jewelry in the process.  ;)  The flavor I bought was "Bananamon."  Basically, they are freeze-dried bananas with cinnamon.  They are leaps and bounds better than any banana chip I have eaten, but they still have that crunch that kids (and adults) love.  The whole package is only 110 calories and is 3 servings of fruit.  Did did you see that?  3!  No excuses now for slacking in the Fs and Vs department...that's over half of the (minimum) daily servings you need!  Check out the Funky Monkey site for more info and all kinds of fun.  I added Funky Monkey to my a-store.  You can order them here in bulk or they are sold at Kroger, Marsh, Target, or Whole Foods!

3. CLIF - I love CLIF.  I love that they aren't laden with sugar and HFCS (soon to be named "corn sugar").  They make two really great kids' products - CLIF kid Zbars and CLIF Twisted Fruit - both organic and both staples in our house.  I used to buy both at Sam's Club, but now they only sell the Twisted Fruits.  You can find them at Target, Whole Foods, Sunspot, or Trader Joe's.  Target runs good sales on the Zbars...and they even have the new S'mores flavor!

4. Somersaults - Just tried these thanks to a suggestion on a blog that I love called Weelicious.  These are phenomenal!!!  Somersault snack company is a new, small company based out of California.  They make these round, tasty little "nuggets" - Somersaults - that have sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and toasted grains.  They are one of my new fav finds.  One thing that impressed my was the packaging.  When I received my order it was just plain adorable.  Different colors of tissue paper, a cute brown bag  - hard to explain unless you see it, but I felt like a little kid ripping open the pretty paper to find my prize!  Somersaults come in 4 flavors: SS Sea Salt, Salty Pepper, Santa Fe Salsa (my favorite), and Chez Cocoa.  Check out their website here.

Whew...time for a snack...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie

OK.  I am officially a freak.  I woke up at 5:30 to clean.  Why?  Because we are showing our house at 2:00...PM.  I thought I had a lot more work to do, but the reality is that it's pretty much done.  That's one benefit of keeping a better handle on the housework these days.  It used to take us all day to clean for a dinner party or family gathering.  Now?  About 3-4 hours tops.  So now I am sitting here in the dark, quiet of early morning before any kiddos wake up begging for milk, food, diaper-changes, book readings, nose wipings, shoes, shirts, and service!  You know - the usual.  Perfect for me because I need some time to update my blog!

We got the privilege and honor to host a wonderful guest in our home this week - the stomach flu.  Luckily, I did not personally partake in the fun, but got to watch everyone else enjoy the festivities.  Oh and I got to work the graveyard shift several nights in a row as well as wash a few dozen extra towels and sheets.  Blech!  Next time this charming guest wants to visit I think I will screen my calls.

This week I was back up 0.4 pounds.  Eh...I'll take it...6.2 last week is a lot.  I can spare four-tenths of a pound I suppose.  ;)  For anyone keeping score that brings my total weight-loss to 72.8 pounds - 2.2 pounds away from another big milestone...75!  I am determined to hit 75 this week.  My buddy and I are hitting the gym this week with our leg warmers and sweat bands (OK, maybe not...more like yoga pants and baggy t-shirts) for some Zumba and Pilates.  We're getting physical, people!  If I hit 75 this week I will definitely be posting a vlog update.  Anticipation...

In other news...here are some things I am "falling" madly in love with right now:

Gardein chick'n products - made from ancient and yummy grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, and kamut - another great faux chicken option (thanks, Morgan, for encouraging me to try something new!).  You know how much I love Quorn, but this is a really good option too...and Vegan!

Apples, apple cider, apple butter...do I even need to explain myself?  Yum.

Pumpkin - So delicious.  So packed full of nutrition.  So fall.

Pumpkin seeds + dark chocolate - I think this should be the next candy bar.  I would totally buy it.  Right now I just mix the seeds with a few non-dairy, dark choc chips, but it would be so awesome to have it all in one cute little package.  If you see anything of the sort - let me know.  I have had a dark chocolate with flax seeds bar, so I know I'm not THAT crazy.

Chai - Once again, very "fall" of me to mention.  I found a pre-made carton of black tea Chai made by Tazo at Sunspot.  I bought it.  I added unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  I love.  I love very much.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Better Late Than Never!

Late, tardy, delayed - the story of my life.  I am always running behind.  I know it's a lack of planning, but with four kids - life is just unpredictable.  Someone always has to poop or goes just as I put them in the carseat.  Today...it was a seemingly empty can of Diet Coke that my husband left in the van.  I pack everyone in the van, go to buckle them in and see that the girls had attempted to drink what was left of it and spilled it down the front of their clothes...we were heading to preschool...

Anyway...speaking of late...what happened to my Saturday post?  I know, I know.  You were all just sitting on the edge of your seats waiting to hear what I gained or lost...right?  ;)  Last week was a great week for me!  After having a gain I always stand at a crossroads of do I quit or do I press on?  I chose to press on and it really paid off!  Last week I lost 6.2 pounds!  That brings my total weight loss to 73.2!  My goal is to hit 80 pounds by the end of our Lose For Good campaign!  I think I can, I think I can!

What did I do different that made me lose so much???  Wait for it...nothing.  Yes, I said nothing.  I didn't change a thing.  I stuck with eating fruits and veggies, limiting sugar and white flour, and upping whole grains.  I tracked my points.  I worked the program.  That's it.  I have really found that sometimes my body just gains weight.  I could eat bread and water all week and I might still gain...why?  I don't really know, but I do see that I have a pattern that my body usually follows - Lose big one week, lose normal 2 weeks, lose very little or gain...start over again and repeat.  I think it is a combination of hormone changes, sometimes getting a little lazy with tracking, and mostly just my body adapting to the big changes it is going through.  What is YOUR pattern??

Speaking of changes...I have been having a horrible time with my feet.  They hurt so much all of the time.  It has progressively gotten worse the more weight I lose.  I am not sure if they are just adjusting to the new me or if there is something really wrong.  I know that carrying around the extra weight all of these years has probably done some damage, but I am hoping it will get better.  Anyone else experience this after a weight loss?

Lastly...a love note...

Dear Quorn,
I love you.  Do you love me?  Circle yes or no.

Yes                                                           No

Quorn has once again wooed me.  I found a new product that I am in love with - their Naked Cutlets.  Sounds pretty cheeky, eh?  Basically it is the closest thing to a chicken breast on the planet other than an actual chicken breast.  LOVE!  It has sealed the deal for me and now I know I will never even dream of chicken again.  Buh-bye!  ;)  Seriously, though, they are wonderful and only 1 point per "cutlet."  I used one today for a delish chicken wrap.  I just cut it in half (cooked of course), added some homemade ranch, romaine, tomato, green pepper, cheddar veggie shreds, and pickle and wrapped it up in a Rudi's wrap...YUM!  You have to try this!!!  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eat the Rainbow!

OK...I am up ENTIRELY too late, but I can't sleep.  I have so many thoughts swimming around inside my head.  To give you an update on the homefront...we have been doing a pretty dern good job at maintaining a state of cleanliness here...which in and of itself is a miracle.  I mean, 4 kids + way too many toys + tired parents should be a recipe for disaster, but somehow we are managing OK.  We had an Open House today and had a couple of prospective buyers walk-through.  I am keeping my fingers crossed and trying hard to listen to the quiet whisperings of the Almighty - SO hard.  Where will we go?  No clue.  We have a couple of houses that we really like, but nothing set in stone.  Who knows...our "dream house" could go up for sale tomorrow!  ;)

And...now the bad news.  I didn't do my best at the scale this week. Even though I don't really feel like I changed anything food-wise, I have a million ideas as to why I tanked this week.  I will just say that I am going to keep on keeping on and move forward from here.  Sometimes I think it would be easier to attribute a gain to some big, catastrophic event like, "oh yeah...I ate that plate of 12 cookies...thaaaaat's why."  Alas...it's nothing like that.  :(  This week I gained 1.6 pounds (gasp).  I still have lost a total of 67 pounds which is so awesome, and I plan to lose AT LEAST another 55 - so here's to another 50!

One cool thing that WW is doing is a campaign called "Lose for Good."  Basically for the next 6 weeks we donate a pound of food for every pound we lose to a local food pantry  - Kokomo Urban Outreach.  I am pretty excited!  I think this is such a great opportunity to help others and it's also a great tool for us to see our progress.  For instance...what does 67 pounds of food and toiletries really look like?  I am not really sure, but I am going to find out!  My goal is to donate 80 pounds of food and toiletries by the end of the 6 weeks.  That means I am going to have to really get my behind in gear to lose another 13 pounds.  At the end of the six weeks, I will take a picture of me and my 80 pounds of "stuff."  I am really energized and excited to make this happen!  If you've been thinking about joining WW - now is the time!  And if you aren't in WW but are doing any kind of weight loss program and want to donate your weight loss too...I would be more than happy to take it for you.  I will take your picture with YOUR "stuff" and post it on my blog too!

One last thing I wanted to mention.  I brought this up in our meeting on Saturday.  I have been trying to work on getting my kids to eat a better variety of fruits and veggies lately, so I came up with the idea of eating the colors of the rainbow.  Now I know that Skittles beat me to the punch and coined the phrase, "taste the rainbow," but I am going to coin the phrase, "eat the rainbow!"  :)  They were pretty excited about eating their colors - and so am I!  I think it will help keep me accountable to them.  I want to make sure I am eating all the colors I should be.  It's easy to get stuck in a rut.  I encourage all of you to do it as well. Studies have shown that you get the best nutritional balance when you are eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables and less of the brown and white stuff (by that I mean breads and pastas, nuggets, fried crap, sugar, flour...you get the idea).  As my leader said to me...have a rainbow week!

Oh, and P.S. - I apologize for picking on Mc. D's the other day.  Obviously they aren't the only offenders when it comes to nutritional train-wrecks.  In fact, they aren't even the worst - the probably have a better selection of "healthier" foods than most fast-food joints!  I read the other day that some restaurant is introducing a hamburger that is sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwiches...ack!  So...I also say boooo to Wendy's, KFC, BK (isn't the stupid king enough to keep you from eating there?), Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Sonic, Cone Palace, Taco Bell (they put sand in their meat, people!), Rally's, White Castle, Hardee's, Dunkin Donuts, and even Starbucks...as a friend put it...some of their drinks are really just like drinking a donut.  :)  Who's wants take-out?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mc.Fatty OR Ick-Donald's?

Let's face it.  Mc.Donald's is a super-power and it's powered by our money and a truck-load of processed crap.  There really are very few options at the golden arches that aren't crazy high in fat and calories...not to mention laden with preservatives and who knows what else.  You are better off shoving a bunch of dirt in your mouth than eating there.  But...there is always that...

*night when you are completely exhausted and don't feel like cooking
*3rd night in a row that you are rushing straight from work to take your kids to ___ practice and don't have TIME to cook
*time of insanity where it sounds SO good (I know because I still get the urge from time to time - ew)
*we all eat out

So what do you do?  For starters...try to do your research.  Just knowing how high the stats are on some of your fav foods is enough to make you seek out other options.  Or...be smart. Try something new - less horrific.  My kids used to eat the occasional chicken nuggets or what-not, but I could really tell a difference in their behavior (and, um, well, bathroom habits - is that a nice way to put it?) after they would eat them - really.  So...I swore off Mc.D's forever...and forever turned into a few weeks.  But we did change what they ate there.  First of all...I wanted something that still sounded "fun."  Happy Meals and Chicken Mc. Nuggets sound kid-friendly and fun.  Why?  So that kids beg incessantly for them on a regular basis!

The word "wrap" also sounds pretty fun...and so does the word "ranch."  I could probably slather ranch dressing on a shoe and they'd eat it!  ;)  Is it a great thing?  Not really, but I feel like a small amount every once in a while is OK...and I am working on a replacement to their favorite 64 oz jug o' Hidden Valley as we speak.  (Sunspot makes a MEAN organic semi-good-for-you option.)  Anyway, the new Mc.D's meal for the kids?  Grilled Chicken Snackwraps and Strawberry-Banana smoothies.  Still not better than a home-cooked meal loaded with veggies, but with a side of carrots and bell pepper sticks and fruit...

The Ranch Snackwrap (Grilled) weighs in at 270 calories and 10 grams of fat.  Not too shabby for take-out.  It is more than enough to fill them up with some added veggies and their smoothie.  I think it is a far better choice than a cheeseburger or fried nuggets - even though the nuggets are less calories (for a 4-piece: 190) they have more fat (12 grams) and are much more processed (do we REALLY know what a Mc. Nugget is?).  The smoothies are really pretty tasty.  The website states that they are just strawberries (frozen I'm sure - which is OK with me), banana, ice, and low-fat yogurt.  Yogurt doesn't seem to bother my son's stomach like milk which is good.  A small Strawberry-Banana Smoothie is 210 calories and .5 grams of fat.  We buy two smalls and give each kiddo half (and then someone sneaks the rest).

But let's get serious...do they have anything I can eat?  Yes.  An unsweetened tea!  Seriously, though, I always seem to feel a little left out when we go there.  The smell of grease is in a way intoxicating...right?  Yes...they have salads, but why should I pay $4-$5 for a salad I could make at home?  I have to bring my own dressing anyway!  After viewing commercials about the Mac Snackwrap I decided last night that I was going to make a healthy alternative...and feel like part of the crowd again.

Mc. Fatty Mac Snackwrap Swap

1 Trader Joe's Whole Grain w/ flax tortilla (or any other whole grain tortilla)
1 Amy's Texas Veggie Burger (cook on 425 for 4-5 min per side)
1 slice Veggie Slices American flavor
Romaine lettuce
a little bit of mustard
1 T ketchup
1 T Vegenaise
1/2 T sweet pickle relish

Start by cooking your veggie burger.  (I really love Amy's.  They are my favorite.  They are soy-free and have all kinds of good-for-you grains and goodness in them.  The Texas version has a little bit of a barbecue flavor in it.)  Add the cheese slice and then place back into the oven with your tortilla just until warm.  Cut the burger in half.  Place the halves on the tortilla.  Add lots of lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and a small amount of mustard.  Mix together the ketchup, Vegenaise, and relish.  Top with "special sauce."  :)  Enjoy!

This was really surprisingly good and I felt like I was eating something so bad for me even though it wasn't.  It was very reminiscent of the Big Mac.  The stats?  The wrap-swap was 8 points total.  That figures out to be about 350-400 calories.  The Mc. D's version is 330 calories.  Hmmm...a lil high you might say?  Well, yes and no.  Mc. D's Mac snackwrap is about half the size, contains no whole grains, and only has iceberg lettuce, cheese, and special sauce.  Also...the Mc. D's Mac has 19 grams of fat.  Mine?  16 - the majority is in the Vegenaise (which is a mayo-like product).  You decide if it's worth it.  I think it is.  Why?  Two less dollars in their pockets.  I'm lovin' it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Incredible Shrinking Mama's aStore!

I just finished creating my own aStore on Amazon.  I know...a what??  Well, basically, it is an online store through Amazon that is linked up with my blog.  I pick what items are in my store and then you can purchase anything I talk and rave about in my blog!  Fun!  It is also a way to make a little money doing something I love!  Amazon pays me to promote their site...just like many of the ads you see off to the side or bottom of my blog.  I really like Amazon because they have just about anything you can dream up and usually FREE shipping!  I have always gotten my items fast and have been very satisfied with their customer service.  If you have the time...check it out!  I will be adding new items as I find them.  Happy Shopping!

The Incredible Shrinking Mama's aStore

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Q&A Part One

I received my first questions today!  I am so excited to answer them! :)  Here goes...

"What did you use for the heavy cream in the ganache?"

I'd like to say that I used something very creative and healthy, but alas, I did not.  I used cream.  I wanted to make sure the ganache turned out and I hadn't found a replacement at the time of the party.  However, I DID find a dairy-free "heavy cream" at Sunspot the other day!  It is called MimicCream.  It is made out of almonds and cashews (yum-o) and comes in a little square box.  I am anxious to try it out!  I am planning on testing out a ganache this week using Earth Balance Butter (soy), MimicCream (nut-based), and non-dairy chocolate chips.  I will let you know the verdict once I try it!

"My questions are about sweeteners. I just found a good deal on agave at Trader Joe's. What is the best way to try to incorporate it into our diet? Is it better in baked goods or drinks, or both? Also, I know brown rice syrup is similar to HFCS, but what recipes do you use it in most? i think it seems expensive, and i'm not sure how much i would use it."

OK...first things first...agave and brown rice syrup are both expensive, yes, BUT agave is a concentrated sweet so you don't have to use much to get the results you want!  Yay!  I love agave in baked goods, desserts (like pies), drinks...ok, pretty much everything!  Again, it is very sweet, so go easy at first so that you don't overdo it.  Here is a handy guide to substitutions in baking (I am guessing that agave would also be 1/2 cup b/c it is similar in consistency and sweetness as maple syrup and honey):

In all recipes, 1/2 cup of sweetener (read: sugar) equals one of the following:
• 1 1/4 cups rice nectar
• 1 1/2 cups barley malt extract
• 1/3 cup molasses
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 cup fruit juice concentrate
• 1 1/4 cups dried fruit puree
• 2 cups fruit juice
• 1/2 cup unsweetened frozen juice concentrate
• 1/2 cup fruit juice + 1/2 cup carrot juice

Tip: Remember to decrease or increase the amounts of liquid and/or flour in the recipe to compensate for the liquid content of the sweetener.

As for brown rice syrup...right now I mostly use it in my "Bananas Foster Groats" recipe.  I haven't experimented much with it, but it has more of a warm, mellow sweetness and is very thick and rich.  The best part about it is that it has nutrition!  Woo-hoo!  HFCS cannot boast that!  Because it is made by boiling down rice...it holds some of the nutritive qualities of brown rice!  I think it is great in warm cereals and would probably be fabulous in homemade breads.  Oh...and I have also used it to make a yummy dipping sauce along with mustard for some black-eyed croquettes!

I hope this helps you out!  Keep those questions coming!!

The Incredible Shrinking Mama

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Writer's Block

I have been putting off writing this post because, well, I am just not really sure what to write today.  Usually I will think of something throughout the week and feel inspired...this week...not so much.  So I thought I would turn the tables this week.  I am taking an idea from a friend of mine who also is an avid blogger and vlogger.  He started doing a Q&A thing with his readers and I think that it's an awesome idea!  You can check out his blog here.

So what do you want to know about me? about life? about food?  What recipes would you like to see on this blog?  What are you struggling with?  Send me your ideas and I will deliver (to the best of my ability)!  I might even answer a few questions in video form.  I know, I know...contain your excitement!  ;)

I'll start with a question that I get a lot.  It goes a little something like this, "so, like, what do you eat these days?"

Answer:  It's complicated.  I would say that I eat mostly a vegetarian/vegan diet.  Here is the ISM (Incredible Shrinking Mama) lifestyle in a nutshell: I don't currently eat any meat with the exception of salmon (because I love it), shrimp (because it's yummy), or other fish.  I really only eat seafood if we go out to eat.  I buy shrimp on occasion at Sam's Club if it's on sale because my husband is obsessed with it.  I don't drink milk or consume dairy more than once or twice a month.  I know that sounds kind of weird but my thought behind it is pretty simple.  I love cheese.  I always have and always will.  To say I will NEVER consume cheese ever again is a lie and very unlikely.  I did it for a couple of months and then caved.  You know what?  It made me have a stomach ache, but it was worth the splurge - in my opinion. Saying I can't eat cheese just makes me want it even more.  So, I figure if I give myself the allowance to eat it every once in a while, I don't think about it as often.  98% of the time I am dairy-free.  There are more than enough suitable alternatives to satisfy me.  Veggie Shreds and Slices are great (these are soy cheese products - my sister pointed out that some do contain the milk protein "casein").  I love all of the milk alternatives (soy, rice, almond) with the exception of hemp.  I just thought it tasted funny and it made my tongue feel tingly...true story.  

To sum this long answer to a short question up...I eat mostly fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, whole wheat tortillas and pastas, a few packaged items like CLIF or LUNA bars or Erin Baker Breakfast cookies, and I occasionally consume (less than twice a month) seafood or cheese.  Oh...and I do still eat eggs.  I say that because you all know how much I love Quorn products and they contain free-range egg as a binder, so they are not considered a Vegan product. I don't typically eat eggs on their own anymore mostly because I am lazy, but I am not against it as long as I know where the eggs are coming from. Right now I buy them from our co-op for $1.25 a dozen.  They are the best eggs you can buy - super-bright yolks.  They come from a local farmer and the chickens are free-range and eat a diet of...bugs...that's what chickens are designed to eat!

I also still limit my sugar intake as much as possible.  Whenever I bake I try to substitute agave or brown rice syrup or honey in recipes in place of white sugar.

I like to try new things, so this journey has helped me to really branch out and try things I would have never dreamed of eating.  It's fun!  Sometimes I waste a few bucks and get frustrated and sometimes I hit a home-run and find something that becomes a staple on our weekly grocery list.  The nice thing is that I have the luxury of riding the fence, so to speak, and experimenting.  Some people can't have dairy or wheat or certain kinds of protein due to health issues and concerns.  I am lucky that I don't have to be pinned down to a specific diet, but I really admire people who do.  It is tough.  You have to be very educated and you have to be strong.

This week was a fun week!  My son turned 2 and we had a fun cowboy-themed party for him.  Here are a couple of pictures from the party:

Warning!  These cupcakes are not healthy in any way, shape, or form...but they are oh so good!  :)  If you'd like the recipe, you can click here.  By the way...I figured up the points on these amazing cupcakes and they are about 9 points each...not too bad, but make sure you plan your day accordingly!

For dinner we had a Veggie Chili that was out-of-this-world delicious.  I got the recipe from Morgan from Little House of Veggies.  I felt pretty special because she has a very successful blog (over 3,000 followers) and she took the time to personally e-mail ME a recipe!  ;)  Here is her recipe.  I made a couple of small changes (as always) but I will post what she sent me first:

Morgan's Veggie Chili
1 yellow onion, diced fine
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper
1 1/2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 regular sized cans tomato sauce
1 1/2-2 cans water depending on consistency desired
1 zucchini, chopped
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 Can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Yves meatless ground 
parsley for garnish
avocado for garnish

In a non stick large saucepan add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.  Add onion and saute until becomes tender. Add spices and garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add red pepper. When it softens, add the tomato sauce and water. Then add zucchini, beans, and the meatless ground and simmer on low for about 5 minutes or so, until the soup is warmed through and flavors have blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with avocado and lots of fresh parsley.

I doubled the recipe because we were having about 15 people over.  I also made it in the crockpot so that I wasn't cooking while everyone was here.  I went ahead and sauteed the onions and garlic and spices and then put everything into the crockpot.  I used 2 red peppers, an orange pepper, and a yellow pepper and I used two large onions.  I tasted the chili after about 4 hours on low and adjusted the seasonings (I added quite a bit more cumin and chili powder and also added a tad of cayenne pepper).  Oh...and of course I used Quorn meatless grounds instead of Yves.  I put them in about 15 minutes before we ate.  I also cooked up some Barilla Plus macaroni noodles and served them alongside the chili.  Thanks, Morgan for the recipe!

This week, despite partying and cupcake-eating, I lost 1.4 pounds bringing my total loss to 68.6 pounds!  Hooray!

Send me those questions!!  I will be anxiously awaiting them...