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Oct. 16th, 2015

Miso Ramen Shirataki (201 calories)

Here is a diet version of our yummy Japanese Miso Ramen made with no-calorie Shirataki noodles. I cut out the egg and sausage & topped it with chicken and turkey bacon instead. The noodles are also mixed with shredded cabbage and mushrooms so it ends up being a giant bowl of noodley soup for a fraction of the calories.

Miso Ramen Shirataki

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything. Anything marked with an asterisk* may vary based on what you buy, so you may want to compare your label.)

Miso Ramen Shirataki

2 Tbsp. awase miso (60*, or sub with red/akai miso)
1.5 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce (45*)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (0)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (10)
1 tsp. grated ginger (1)
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (0)

3 cups water (0)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (10)
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds (52)
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (25)
1 cup shredded savoy cabbage (19)
1 pack shirataki noodles, rinsed several times (0)

2 oz. cooked, chopped chicken (68)
1/4 cup corn kernels (38)
1 green onion, sliced thinly (5)
2 slices diced, cooked turkey bacon (70*)

1) In a large pot, add the miso, Hoisin sauce, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Warm over medium heat until the miso has melted & is well mixed.

2) Add the water, bouillon, sesame seeds, mushrooms, savoy, and shirataki. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, warm the chicken, corn, or bacon, if necessary. Pour the soup into 2 bowls and garnish with the chicken, corn, green onion, and turkey bacon. Serves 2.

Calories - 201 for 1/2

Oct. 9th, 2015

5:2 Update - Week 38, Month 9

This is the last weight loss update I'm going to leave for a while. I'm still exercising and doing the 5:2 diet (2 days a week), but after losing 30+ pounds, progress is a lot slower. I'm at the point now where I'm only loosing a pound or two every month, so there's no point in giving updates that often! I'll probably wait until the year mark to update again.

As you can guess, I lost about a pound this month and 1/2 inch off my waist. (Which is probably good considering how many festivals & fairs & events we had this month!) Perhaps I'd have better results if I switched things up a bit, trying a different diet or exercise plan, but I'm content as long as the numbers are going down, even if it is super slow! I still want to lose more, but I'm also pretty happy where I am now... I don't even mind wearing a swimsuit, or going clothes shopping anymore! :)

By the way, a couple of our friends recently started the Whole 30 diet, eating more natural & cutting out a lot of sugars & carbs for 30 days, and they lost a *ton* of weight during that month (like 30 lbs. each I think)! I don't think I could give up diet sodas (and all of the other stuff) for that long, but I wanted to mention it in case it sounds like something that would work for you.

Oct. 6th, 2015

Recipe Trials

Here are a few more pictures that I've pulled out of the archives of recipes that weren't quite finalized or worthy enough for their own post.

Thai Style Stir Fry

For a while I was trying different Thai style stir-fry combinations. I would always use some chicken, medium rice noodles, a sliced onion, garlic, egg, and some kind of veggie (french cut green beans here). Then the sauce would be a few tablespoons of oyster sauce with a little brown sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. They always turned out tasty!

Chicken Mein Fun

I love getting Mein Fun at Chinese restaurants, filled with chicken and shrimp and all kinds of meat. I worked for a while recreating my own Chicken Mein Fun at home. I turned out well, but maybe a little dry (I'd probably need to drown it in oil to taste like the restaurant version!). One day I need to test it out again & get the recipe up here.

Sometime I get overly excited about trying a new ingredient, but can't decide on a recipe, so I decide to make mini batches from a few recipes. It actually works out really well, because then I'm not left with a giant portion if the recipe is a flop! One day I grabbed a Spaghetti Squash and made...

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Spaghetti Squash Bacon Alfredo

Spaghetti Squash with this yummy fake alfredo sauce (from pureed cauliflower) and some bacon.

And then I totally forgot to take pictures of the Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns before we ate them! All of the recipes turned out pretty good, better than we expected, but they weren't amazing. I'll probably revisit the spaghetti squash for a diet meal one day, but I don't think it will be a regular side dish for us any time soon. (Btw, I love winter squashes, but not summer squashes. This was a lot closer to yellow squash than butternut.)

We've found that there are so many vegetables that you might not like other ways, but they are absolutely delicious roasted. Our kids will devour roasted kale and Brussels sprouts & ignore the cheesy chicken & noodles on their plate. When one of my friends was raving about roasted beets, saying she makes some every week to toss on salads & such, I had to give them a try.

Raw Beets

The color was soooo gorgeous (this is before roasting), but the finished product ended up tasting like dirt. I haven't had beets any other way, but I'm not sure that I want to try them again!

Roasted Purple Yam

I also roasted some purple yams at the same time. The color ranged from purple to a purple & white mix, but it all got a little brown after roasting. I didn't like them as much as a normal sweet potato, but it would be a nice way to mix in a little color.

Speaking of roasting, I often try to make 'chips' out of things, with varying success. One day I tried to make banana chips, because I never know when my kids are going to eat bananas or not & often have to throw out bad ones. Big fail!

Banana Chips Fail

They cooked at a low temperature, and at first I had to pull them out of the oven early to make dinner. They were still chewy, so I put them in for the rest of the time and they came out burn to a crisp! Later I tried another batch and still was never able to get them past the too-chewy point, so now I've got a dehydrator on my Christmas list!

Loco Moco

On to something a little nicer! I made this tasty Japanese-Hawaiian dish called Loco Moco from Just One Cookbook. The recipe turned out well, but the hamburger steak was basically the same as the Japanese style steak we'd cooked before from her site (kind of a Worcestershire sauce instead of a brown gravy). Serving it with the egg on top was a fun addition, but with so many different things to cook for this recipe, it was not really worth it to add another pan & another step. It was nice having rice on the side though!

Hawaiian Breakfast Rice

And another Hawaiian style dish, Hawaiian Fried Breakfast Rice from Our Best Bites. This one also turned out yummy, but if we make it again we'll change the ratios to have a little less rice & a little more of the fillers.

I've still got quite a few more of these pics stored away, but I think that is enough for now!


Oct. 1st, 2015

Japanese Broth

Sometimes, when I want to make a quick lunch soup, I grab a few frozen potstickers (also called shumai or gyoza), slice up a little savoy cabbage, and boil it for 5-6 minutes in this yummy Japanese-style broth. So good! I can't remember where I got the recipe for this broth originally, but it is similar to some Kitsune Udon we made before. Very savory, with a hint of sweetness.

Japanese Broth

Japanese Broth (one serving)

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. dashi bouillon granules
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (to taste)
1 Tbsp. sake
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. mirin
1/8 tsp. salt

If you've cooked Japanese recipes before there is a good chance you have the dashi, sake, and mirin on hand. Toss in some chopped veggies, meat, noodles, or rice, and you've got a tasty soup in minutes!

Sep. 23rd, 2015

Miniwax Polyshades Review

A few months ago we had some money budgeted towards house improvements and I went on a massive hunt for new bedroom furniture. We love our bed frame, but we desperately needed a new dresser and some nightstands. Every night I scoured Craigslist and Wayfair and every site I could think of, but I kept coming back to a few Craigslist listings for a vintage furniture store an hour away. After a few weeks I decided to bite the bullet and just make the drive, since I knew they had some great pieces & great prices. Luckily I was able to squeeze a dresser and two nightstands in the back of our HHR (and close the back!), so the trip was well worth it!

I was planning on painting the furniture to match the dark brown espresso color of the bed, but after seeing how close the nightstands already were to the bed, I started wondering if there was a way to just darken them a little.

Nightstands, 1

After some quick Googling I found a few blogs raving about Miniwax Polyshades, a tinted poly coat that you can brush right over an existing stain to darken it. I was sold! I ran to the store and grabbed a can in the Espresso color in the Satin finish and got ready to work.

Miniwax PolyShades

If you're looking for a quick review, let me tell you up front that this stuff was TERRIBLE and I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND IT! Now that that's out of the way...

First the nightstands needed a light sanding. On the left you can see one with the knobs removed and sanded, and un-sanded on the right. You can see that the nightstands had quite a few knicks and scratches, but the stain did fill those in nicely.

Nightstands, 2

Then I used a cheap brush to apply the first coat. It went on super streaky, but I could tell the color would build up and it would work better with a nicer brush so I was still optimistic. I was so glad that I applied most of the stain with the stands upside down like this, because the stain was very drippy and it would have been a mess if they had been turned the other way.

Nightstands, 3

I bought a fancy $8 natural bristle brush (which ended up getting ruined & tossed) and the stain did go much smoother, but it dried so fast that you ended up with brushstrokes and streaks no matter what. After a few coats it still looked pretty crappy in some areas. The front of this nightstand looked particularly beaten up ~

Nightstands, 4

And the top showed every brushstroke ~

Nightstands, 5

At this point I went online again looking for help, and came across the Home Depot site. PolyShades had absolutely terrible reviews there, with people complaining about streaking, dripping, and all of the problems I had been dealing with. Most said the project would have been so much easier if they had just used a normal stain to begin with, and it took forever fighting with the PolyShades to get a half-decent result. The only positive reviews were by people who had sprayed on the stain instead, which supposedly works well, but even those reviews agreed it was terrible brushed on. At least I knew I wasn't alone!

Several reviews recommended wiping it on with a sock, so I raided my husband's drawer, grabbed some gloves, and tried another coat. Once again, the stain did go on much smoother and I was able to work quicker. Finally the color was pretty uniform, though there was some streaking between glossy and matte on the tops ~

Nightstands, 6

Some of the reviews I read mentioned painting two things with the same can and one would end up glossy and one matte, so there is definitely some issue with getting a uniform shine. I figured this was the best that I could get with the Polyshades and hoped that my topcoat would cover up the shine difference.

For a topcoat I used Miniwax Wipe-on Poly ~

Miniwax Wipe-on Poly

It did even out the shine a bit, though you could still see some streaking under a strong light. Luckily I don't think you'll be able to see it at all in our bedroom ~

Nightstands, 7

I attached some new knobs and a new magnetic clasp and the nightstands ended up looking almost new! With all of the coats of stain, they ended up looking more black than 'espresso', but they look fine next to our bed.

Nightstands, 8

So, I was able to get a pretty decent result, but only after much fighting with the PolyShades & the problems they create. For the dresser I'm going to try a 'real' stain, although this process has made me a little nervous about it! If all goes wrong, I'll break out the paint after all.

Nightstands - Before & After

Sep. 17th, 2015

Mini Biscuit Pizzas

When I saw these Mini Biscuit Pizzas, I thought they just might be a big hit with the kids. The dough is a little tricky to spread out thin enough, so I do that part and they have a great time loading on the sauce & toppings (with a little guidance!). We've made them several times lately, and one morning I even whipped one up to stick in Orson's lunchbox (then Pandora and I made some of our own at lunch time).

Mini Pizzas, kids working

Just take one Grands Homestyle Biscuit and spread it out a little in your hands. Lay it on a baking sheet and press (or roll) it out more until it is about 6 inches wide. You can fit four per pan.

Mini Pizzas, kids

With my narrowest pan I had to make long ovals rather than circles for them to fit.

Mini Pizzas, long

Spoon on some of your favorite sauce and spread it out with the back of the spoon. The kids like to use tomato/spaghetti sauce, but I always reach for BBQ sauce or ranch dressing for mine! (With chicken, bacon, onion, and sometimes mushrooms. So good! I've converted many people to Chicken Bacon BBQ pizza.) Sometime soon I really want to try for something Asian with a creamy peanut sauce. Yum!

Mini Pizzas, BBQ & Ranch

Sprinkle on a little shredded cheese, most any kind is fine, and then round up your favorite pizza toppings. Pepperoni, chicken, bacon, sausage, peppers, pineapple, onions... whatever you like! Everyone can customize their own, so picky eaters will be happy. And it's a great chance to experiment with new flavors!

Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown, and serve.

The kids were so proud!

Mini Pizzas, Orson

Mini Pizzas, Panda

If you are in a rush, I recently made a similar pizza on a tortilla for a quick kid lunch. (Just broil for a few minutes until the cheese is melty.) It wasn't quite as good, and seemed a little greasier, but I've always got tortillas on hand!

Sep. 14th, 2015

Spinach Roach?

Is that a roach crawling across my spinach?

Spinach roach?

A closer look...

Spinach roach?

It's just a really badly designed logo (upside down)!

Spinach Logo

Sep. 11th, 2015

5:2 Update - Week 34, Month 8

This month I am down another 2 lbs., which is not bad considering I've been doing less. I've missed 1-2 exercise days each week just from being busy & bumped up my calorie amount on diet days (700 calories) to keep me from getting burnt out. I'm just happy to keep the number going down!

I don't mind the slow progress, but some times I think, 'I should really bust my butt the next few weeks, and I could knock off another 5 lbs. easy!'... And then life happens, and there are yummy foods around, and I continue to do the bare minimum. It's really hard to avoid food when you work at home, 1 foot away from the pantry!

5:2, 8 months, down 32 lbs.

Panda managed to sneak into my 8 month pics! They don't look much different from the 4 month pics, but I thought I'd share anyway.

The funny thing is, at 178 lb. I am just under the 'obese' mark now on the height/weight charts. I've always been pretty muscular (and even more so now with my daily strength exercises), so I think my numbers rub a bit high.

Sep. 10th, 2015

Using Baby Wipes to Remove Carpet Stains

I'll admit it. I only vacuum if we have guests coming over. And whenever I do manage to clear the floors and vacuum, I find that not everything disappears ~ there are always new little spots on the floor. This happened before we had kids too, but of course it's much worse with two little ones running around!

I used to get down on the floor & scrub out the stains with carpet cleaner, water, a toothbrush, and paper towels. Until one day I happened to be cleaning up a fresh spill with a baby wipe, and realized that it cleaned up an old spot too. Now I always reach for the baby wipes, and I've only come across one or two mystery stains that they didn't remove. Here's a little before & after from a recent cleaning day ~

Baby Wipes on Carpet Stains - before

It doesn't matter what brand you buy, but personally I would avoid the 'unscented' type, because ironically, those things really stink! Just grab a wipe and rub at the stain. Use your nails/fingers to really dig in there, and the spot should disappear pretty quickly (some are more stubborn than others, or course!). It does take a little elbow grease, but no more than my old carpet cleaners did. And we always have baby wipes on hand!

Baby Wipes on Carpet Stains - after

Sep. 8th, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Ring

A few weeks ago I shared a low calorie Chicken Pot Pie Stew and I'm already back with another pot pie recipe! This one is not diet fare, but is a super simple & pretty Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Ring recipe from the Pillsbury site.

Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Ring

Have you ever made a crescent ring before? They are easier than they seem and end up looking so gorgeous! Just lay out the pieces in a circle (overlapping in the center a bit), pile on your filling, fold the ends in, and bake.

Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Ring

I sprinkled on a little dried parsley for color, but most any herb would work. And make sure to drag everyone in the kitchen to ooh and ahh over the pretty ring before you start cutting it up.

Chicken Pot Pie Crescent Ring

The finished ring was delicious! In the past I've always avoided using the frozen veggie mix in my pot pies, cutting and measuring out my own so I could choose the mix. And I've got to say... I think this was as good if not better than my veggie mix! Just make sure to grab the bag with no lima beans, haha. This recipe used Cream of Chicken soup, but I'll probably switch to Cream of Potato next time.

I also want to see if I can cut down on the bread a bit. I make a killer breakfast crescent ring with scrambled eggs, ham, and cheese that I need to share on here soon. It divides the dough into triangles instead of the rectangles and forms the ring with only 1 tube of crescent rolls instead of 2. Perhaps this recipe has too much filling to cram into 1 tube of dough, but it's worth a try!

Even without these changes this one is a winner, so give it a try! You can find the full recipe here.


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