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Don’t Just Peek in the Window, Pay a Visit

3 Feb

In the world of blogging – in the world of all writing, actually – authors want first and foremost to have what they have written to be read, and when it is read, we are thankful and happy.  However, anyone who has a blog on WordPress knows that someone reading your post doesn’t necessarily translate to visitors to your blog when those posts are read by way of the reader.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my reader. I love having all the new posts on the blogs I follow show up on one convenient list, and I love searching for new blogs by tags.  The cons to the reader are that oftentimes, authors end up with plenty of likes on their posts, but hardly any actual visits to their blog. Continue reading

Why You Should Care About Alzheimer’s

2 Feb

Alzheimer’s Disease.

We’ve all heard about it, some of us may remember a loved one who had the disease, and a few of us may be or have been caretakers for those loved ones.

It’s hard to think about Alzheimer’s, I get that.  It’s hard for the young to think about growing old, about dying, and even harder to think about being old with no idea who you and those around you are.  No one wants to think about it, but we must.

So why should you care about it? 

  • Alzheimer’s is the SIXTH leading cause of death in the U.S.  And there’s currently nothing we can do about it.

Continue reading

Eight Months Cigarette Free!

22 Jul

Today marks my eight-month anniversary of the last cigarette I smoked.

For those of you who don’t know, I had smoked for 15 years, and my habit had crept up to nearly two packs a day (more than, if I was especially upset, unnerved or intoxicated).

I’d tried once or twice before to quit cold turkey but the longest I ever made it was two weeks before I caved in and lit up.  I’d even tried e-cigs once before, which helped a lot with cutting down, but I still couldn’t manage to completely kick the habit that time, either (the complete story of my failure and subsequent success in becoming a non-smoker can be found here).  Eight months ago, I finally managed to kick the habit completely. Continue reading

Random – Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

19 Jul

I know that, even for me, this is a totally random post topic, but since, at the time of writing, I’m sitting here eating this, and thinking how delicious it is with every bite, I thought I’d share with anyone who is interested how to make HOME MADE Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad… just like Betty Crocker‘s.  (An example of the specific product can be found here)

For those of you who are not regular readers to my blog, please note that I don’t usually post food recipes, so please don’t follow me out of mistaken identity, because when you un-follow me after you realize that I’m not a foodie, I will be broken-hearted and inconsolable (however, feel free to have a look around, and follow me if you like what you see!).

Now, as for my non-US-resident readers, I know that intercontinental market fare is rare indeed, so, I can only hope that you are able to figure out some equivalent of any ingredients not found in your country, assuming it is something you would like to try.

And a final note for all readers:  1) This is NOT good-for-you, healthy food.  This is good stuff.  Tasty stuff.  So obviously, it’s unhealthy 😀 2)If you’re one of those people who cannot cook by ‘feel’ (in other words, you need directions with precisely measured amounts to make something edible) this recipe really won’t be for you, because my measurements are usually along the lines of ‘A lot’, ‘a pinch’, and ‘a handful’.

What you will need:

Pasta!

Pasta!

  • Noodles.  Any kind will do, to be honest, but the box versions usually use the little shells.  Rotini is good, too… any noodle with a decent amount of surface area, but I’d stay away from the ones like Penne  with a large hollow opening, because the insides will either get too much ‘stuff’ in them, or not enough.  Little opening, like macaroni, are fine, though. (This is a great recipe to use up those random remainders of exotic noodles in the pantry!)

The amount of noodles will depend on the amount of pasta salad you want.  A lot of noodles means a lot of the other ingredients, and vice versa, and a lot of the finished product.

  • Mayonnaise.  And I mean real mayo.  Not salad dressing (Miracle Whip = No-no).  REAL mayonnaise.  If you’re making a decent sized bowl of this, say, 6 or 8 servings or so, you’ll likely use 1/3 of the jar, so make sure you have enough before you start.
  • Bacon Bits.  Real ones or fake ones, but, again, the boxed kind uses the imitation kind, so I usually do, too.
Mmmm... Bacon FLAVORED chips...

Mmmm… Bacon FLAVORED chips…

  • Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix.  This one I’m not sure how difficult it is to find outside of the US, but it’s basically powdered Ranch dressing.  If you’re making a big batch, grab 2 packets, if not, one will more than suffice.
Okay, so I used my last pack to make this batch, the part I tore off actually has the brand on it, Hidden Valley

Okay, so I used my last pack to make this batch, the part I tore off actually has the brand on it, Hidden Valley

Now, if you’ve had the boxed variety, you know it comes with little slivers of dried carrots and some dried peas.  You also know that these offer no real flavor to the dish, they’re just there to add a bit of color and perceived nutritional value (notice I said perceived, not actual, lol).  These things really aren’t necessary, and will be more of a hassle to include than not.  Plus, if you want it to actually taste like the kind you buy from the store, believe me when I say don’t put them in.

So, first,you will want to mix your… sauce? Dressing?  Whatever you want to call the stuff you’ll be putting on your noodles. I shall henceforth refer to it as ‘Ranchy-Bacon Goodness’. You’ll need to know how big of a batch you’ll be making to figure out amounts, but I usually end up using 1/4 – 1/3 of the jar of mayo. (I also always use way more mayo than the boxes call for, though… 2 tablespoons?  Really?  That’s a joke.)

Put your mayo in a bowl, and add about 1/2 of the ranch dip packet/powder stuff.  Use your noggin here.  If you’ve got a tiny bit of mayo, you’ll use a tiny bit of Ranch, a lot of mayo = a lot of Ranch.

Stir this up and taste it.  If it tastes too much like mayo, add Ranch.  If it tastes too much like Ranch, add more mayo.

Once you’ve got the flavors balanced to your liking, then you want to add your bacon bits.  I always add extra, even to the store-bought kits, so I tend to dump it in until the surface is pretty much covered, but you add however much or little you like.  Just remember, more bacon bits = more bacon flavor! 😉

Put this bowl of Ranchy-Bacon Goodness in the fridge while you move on;

Cook your noodles to the done-ness you prefer, drain, rinse in cold water until cool, and drain again.  Side note:  if you overcook your noodles, they’re going to fall apart when you stir up this pasta salad, so keep that in mind as you’re cooking.

Once the noodles are cool to the touch (the colder the better, this is a cold pasta salad), get your bowl of Ranchy-Bacon Goodness out of the fridge and mix it and your noodles together.  This is the part that you really hope you guesstimated the amount of mayo right, otherwise, you’ll have to doctor it a little more.

Once everything’s all stirred up and evenly coated, you’ll want to have another taste.  If it tastes good, then congratulations! You can put the bowl into the fridge to let the flavors meld (hence why you made the Ranchy-Bacon Goodness before boiling the pasta!) until time to eat!

If, on the other hand, it’s not tasting quite so tasty, you may need to do a little research and repair mission.  Here are some common problems I’ve had:

Not enough Ranchy-Bacon Goodness – make more.

Too much Ranchy-Bacon Goodness – make more noodles.  (While I find it nearly impossible to have too much bacon-anything, it is possible that you may have overestimated the amount of Ranchy-Bacon Goodness your noodles could support, so, if you’ve already put the entire contents of the bowl into the noodles, your only recourse is to make more noodles.)

Not enough Bacon flavor –  add more bacon bits.

Not enough Ranch flavor –  add more Ranch dip powder.

No appetite by the time dinner is served – stop taste-testing the Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad every five minutes… with a serving spoon. ;-D

Now, as a final note to those of you who are being slick and making your pasta salad ahead of time for tomorrow’s barbeque:  In case you were unaware, pasta absorbs moisture.  If you make your pasta salad to PERFECTION the day before, you will be sorely disappointed the next day when you open your chilled Tupperware bowl and find a dried out mess inside.  If this is your plan, I have a secret secret-weapon for you:  make an extra bit of Ranchy-Bacon Goodness and put it in a tightly covered container.  About 30 minutes before serving, add some of your secret stash to the pasta salad to give it a little pick-me-up, to replace some of the moisture it absorbed overnight.  You will thank me for this tip if you’ve never experienced this pasta-not-so-magical trick before, and if you have fallen prey to the pasta gremlins in the past, you’re nodding your head in agreement.

Okay, a FINAL final note:  You can probably add chicken to this if you wanted to, I guess, but I never have.  But I’m sure it will be tasty!

Time/Mess Saving Tip for Portioning/Pattying Ground Meat For Burgers

6 Apr

*Note:  I copied this directly from my SparkPeople blog, so just ignore the ‘since you’re on SparkPeople’ statement later on in the post.

 

If you’re anything like me, you might run across a few pounds of ground beef on sale, pick it up, come home and stick it in the fridge with every intention of portioning it out before it goes into the freezer, then realizing almost too late that it’s been sitting in the fridge for days, and you don’t have time to portion it right now, so you just toss the whole thing in the freezer to be sorted later.  When later finally rolls around, and you decide you want to make hamburgers out of that thriftily priced protein, you have to haul out this large, frozen lump of ground meat and wait forever and a day for it to thaw, wash your hands, portion it, wash your hands, patty it, wash your hands, then cook it.

While my time saving idea won’t do you much good if you toss the burger in the freezer, it WILL help you save lots of time & mess if you’ll take the initiative to go ahead and portion it straight away.

First, while portioning, rip off a small piece of plastic wrap and cover the weighing portion of your scale with it.  If you have a scale with buttons, pull off another small piece and cover the ON/TARE button.  Now you don’t have to worry about any nasty bacteria because you can simply remove and toss the plastic wrap when you’re finished.

There’s nothing fancy to this part.  I simply weigh out 4 oz amounts of ground beef until the container is gone, putting each one in it’s own zipper lock sandwich baggie.  The last portion very rarely has an even 4 oz, so I like to have a permanent marker on hand to write down the precise weight (I measure almost everything in grams, for more precise calorie counting, but I’m occasionally neurotic, so…).

After everything is weighed and bagged, simply toss into the freezer for when you’re ready to make burgers.

Again, if you’re like me, you grew up eating ‘Momma Burgers’.  You know the kind I mean; they take 15 minutes (if you’re lucky!) to cook, and by the time they’re done, they’ll give you lockjaw just trying to get a bite that includes both sides of the bun, the burger and all the fixins.  This is the precise reason I rarely ever ate burgers-by-mom once I reached a certain age.  While they were delicious, they were just too much of a pain to try to eat.  Hot dogs were just easier.

I’m going on the assumption that if you’re on SparkPeople, you’re not making ‘Momma Burgers’ (a 4 oz serving would more closely resemble ‘Momma Meatballs’!)  so you’re intending a nice, thin, uniform patty.

Pull out your previously portioned burger and thaw.  Open the zippered baggie (but don’t take out the burger yet!), add your desired spices (I prefer garlic powder and onion powder on mine), reseal the baggie, and smoosh the meat around so your seasonings get worked into the meat to your satisfaction (you may find you need to let some of the air out or allow some in, it’s what is easiest for you).  Once you’ve gotten the seasoning worked through the meat, let most of the air out of the baggie and reseal it.

Now make your patty as usual INSIDE THE BAGGIE.

With this method it is quite possible to never touch the meat after you’ve weighed it out after purchase.  I do, because I don’t feel like taking the time to cut the baggie open as I’m putting the patties on the grill or in the pan, but technically, you don’t have to touch it if you don’t want to.

This saves countless minutes of time, especially if you’re trying to make several dishes while you’re making your patties or your phone rings, or you have little ones who need your attention or help, because they’ll always need it once you’ve put your hands in the burger!

Hope you found this tip useful!

~A

As Promised…

6 Apr
Burger & salad.  662 cal.

Burger & salad. 662 cal.

Here’s the pictures of our respective dinners last night.  First, mine.  I had a salad and a burger that was so good I moaned the whole time I was eating it!

What You’re Seeing:

Salad: Green Leaf Lettuce, Iceberg Lettuce, Red Onion, Cucumber, Tomato, Scallions, Feta Cheese & 3 tbsp Lite Zesty Italian dressing.

Burger: 4 oz. 80/20 ground chuck (270 cal.) filled with 25g. Feta cheese (66 cal.) topped with Sargento’s Ultra Thin Provolone (40 cal./slice), Tomato, Lettuce, 2 tbsp. Lite Mayo (50 cal.) on Arnold’s 100% Whole Wheat Flax & Fiber Sandwich Thins (only 100 cal., but with 5 g. each of fiber & protien!).

When I tell you this burger was delicious, I ain’t kiddin’!  I don’t know if it was because for the two previous days, I’d had omelets for breakfast, salads for lunch and stir fry for dinner, or if it was Just. That. Good.

Tonight, I’ll be eating another burger, but this time, I won’t be filling it with Feta, I’ll be topping it with sauteed onions & mushrooms and a slice of Ultra Thin Provolone… and only 1 tbsp of mayo this time, lol.  And a big side of broccoli.  Yum!

His dinner:

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry w/ 1 c. White Rice - 659 cal.

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry w/ 1 c. White Rice – 659 cal.

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry with 1c. white rice, the whole plate of which ran about 659 cal.  He ended up only able to eat about half of it, and took the other half for lunch today.

I’m still terrible about spreading the calories out through the day, unless I plan our meals the night before, as evidenced by our calorie-heavy dinners, but I’m trying.  Hopefully, once I’ve retrained my brain and eyes as to what proper portions are, I will be able to do this by sight, not having to weigh out every single little thing, but until then, this is such a pain, lol.

As a side note, I used to drink about 540 calories A DAY in sweet tea alone, so cutting out the extra sugar/calories and only consuming water (plain water!  No artificial sweeteners in my drinks, thank you.  Blech!  They taste disgusting.) instantly had me drastically reducing my calorie intake.

According to my scale, I’ve lost 9 lbs since Thursday.  I presume most of that is water weight, and my 1-week weigh-in will show a more realistic number.  I can’t find my fabric tape to measure my waist/hips/arms/etc, so I haven’t a clue as to whether I’ve shown any improvement in those areas that aren’t reliant on the scale to show progress.

Jamaica Me Crazy!

5 Apr
Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry w/White Rice - 618 cal.

Beef Teriyaki Stir Fry w/White Rice – 618 cal.

So, my Love and I have decided to go to Jamaica for our first trip.  Passports are on the way!

We have approximately two months before we leave, and my Love has decided that he wants us to try to shed a few pounds between now and then.  Urg.

After much debate, I decided that I didn’t want to go on some diet where I couldn’t have something I wanted, so I decided that we’d just do the eat healthier thing and count calories in addition to working out.  We joined a gym yesterday, which we will go to on the days he doesn’t work.  On the days like today which he works, he walks a bajillion miles (okay, I may be exaggerating, slightly) and I will walk around the neighborhood.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble spreading my calories out through the day like I’m supposed to.  There’s this little voice in my head that keeps whispering ‘Don’t eat that now… it’s early, what if you’re hungry later and have already eaten up all your calories for the day?‘  It’s not that I have a problem with being hungry, I usually feel hungry several times a day when I’m counting calories, it’s just that I want the option to be there to be able to eat more if I am still hungry.  If I haven’t left enough of a ‘calorie-cushion’, I can’t do that.

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