Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Can I Cook With This?

Wow.  Talk about coincidences.

A couple weeks ago, there was absolutely nothing on TV (surprise surprise!), so, as we invariably do on a Saturday like that, we turn to the Food Network.  

Because I'm on a diet.

And nothing says "IN YOUR FACE, LOSER!" like being on a diet and being forced to watch Food Network.

The show that happened to be on was the Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) cooking show about Pantry Cooking.  I believe it was called Stocking Up.  I could be wrong, though.  That's the name of her post that goes with the show, so I'm going to assume that they're all the same thing and go with it.  OK?  OK.

I wish I had that kind of time and space to cook like she does, but I'm not Doctor Who, and there's not a TARDIS anywhere around, so...  I do what I can to get by.

Then, last Saturday, a friend of mine posted a picture of the inside of her refrigerator on Facebook.  It was mostly bare, but it had a few things sitting on the shelves.  What I could see was a jar of jelly, two cartons of some kind of berries, a carton of cherry/grape tomatoes (I couldn't tell which), an opened bottle of wine, some hot dog buns, some butter, some ketchup, some coffee creamer, a jug of (possibly) tea, and some mustard.

And she wanted to know what she could make herself for breakfast.

I will admit, there's not a lot going on there.

Someone did say she could make a "poor man's sandwich" out of the buns, ketchup, and butter.  But that's just not right (IMO).

Here's what I suggested.  And, no, it's not located anywhere on my diet.  So if you're on a diet, I don't recommend it.

  1. Put the berries, some wine, and a quarter cup of sugar into a saute pan, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are starting to burst.
  2. Take 1 tsp corn starch, mix it with a little cold water, then stir into the berries until it becomes thick and bubbly, then reduce the heat to low (just to keep it warm).
  3. Take one of the hot dog buns (or two or whatever she wanted to use), butter them, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar, and broil for just a minute to toast them.
  4. Spoon some of the warm berry compote over the toasted hot dog buns, and it's one heck of a breakfast!
Shortly after, I saw that Pioneer Woman had put a list of Stocking Up items on her website, and posted it to Facebook.  This got me to thinking that, hey, what are the bare minimum of ingredients you can have to making some incredible dishes?  Those things that you might be down to the last of, have no clue what you're going to do with, and it's still a day or two away from Pay Day and you still need to eat something?

Here's some quick and easy recipes I've come up with.  And please note, these aren't necessarily something I'd consider "diet food."  Some are, but not all of them.

All Day Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 Frozen chicken breasts
2 dried-out carrots (or 8 dried-out baby carrots--you know, the ones with the white stuff on them?), diced
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
That limp celery that's still in the back of your crisper (as long as it's NOT slimy!), thinly sliced
bay leaf or 1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder (you can use garlic salt instead, but DO NOT add the regular salt if you do!)
any kind of pasta you have on hand anywhere

  1. In a slow cooker, place the chicken breasts, carrots, onion, and celery.  Put enough water in it to just cover the ingredients--you don't want too much water in there.
  2. Drop in the bay leaf/dried oregano and garlic powder/salt, and salt/pepper (remember:  if you use garlic salt, DO NOT use regular salt here!)
  3. Cook on low all day long while you're at work.
  4. When you get home, boil a pot of water, add in a little salt, and then drop in your pasta to boil.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, take some kitchen shears and chunk up your cooked chicken breasts into bite-sized (or smaller) pieces.
  6. Drain your pasta, and drop/stir it into the chicken and veggies in the Crock Pot.
  7. Serve immediately.
That's it!  That's all there is to it!  Oh!  And one more thing:  If you happen to have an old cube of chicken bouillon in a jar somewhere in the back of your cabinet, feel free to drop it into the Crock Pot in the morning, but DO NOT use salt if you do.  Unless you like salt.  Then use as much of it as you want.

"Fresh" Tomato Soup (assuming you don't have a can of Campbell's sitting in your cupboard)

1 large can tomato sauce
1 large can diced/stewed/whole tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup water
dried oregano
garlic powder/salt to taste
salt (if you're NOT using garlic salt) and pepper to taste

  1. Put everything into a pot on the stove, turn it to medium, and let simmer.  If you're using stewed or whole tomatoes, chop 'em up in the pot with some kitchen shears.
  2. Serve hot, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich.

This is quick, it's easy, and it's not too terrible.  Even the Cub Reporters enjoy this!

Pasta with Buttercream Sauce

Enough pasta to feed your family
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
dried oregano
garlic powder/salt to taste
salt (if you're NOT using garlic salt) and pepper to taste

  1. Boil some water, put some salt in it, and add the pasta (if you're using spaghetti/linguini/something long and thin like that, break it up as best you can).
  2. When the pasta is done, drain it.
  3. While the pasta is draining, put the butter, milk, and spices in the pot, stirring until the butter is completely melted and everything is incorporated.
  4. Put the pasta back into the pot, and stir to coat everything.
  5. Because this is all you had in your refrigerator, make plans to go to the store AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

Yes, people, I've been there, too.  I've looked into the abyss that is my refrigerator/pantry/freezer and thought "Lord Jesus, please help me figure out something I can feed these kids using this box of bisquick and some ketchup!" before.  It's pretty amazing what you can do when Jesus is your sous chef!  After all, if He can feed 5,000 on a few loaves of bread and a couple fish...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh Sole MiO!

(This is not a paid advertisement, nor any kind of endorsement.  Although, if it were, that would be kind of cool.  I mean, I've never gotten any kind of endorsement from anyone before.  And to get one from the makers of MiO?  HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?!?!?  But I digress.  On to the post for the day...)

Three pigs went out to dinner one night.  When the waiter asked for their drink order, the first one said he wanted the best red wine the restaurant served.  The second one asked for a Diet Coke, and the third one asked for "water.  Lots and lots of water."

When the waiter returned and inquired about the pigs' meal order, the first one asked for roast beef with garlic mashed potatoes and buttered green beans.  The second pig ordered a salad.  The third ordered "water.  Lots and lots of water."

The waiter thought this was odd, but went on about his business.

After the pigs were finished with their meal, the waiter inquired about dessert.  The first ordered New York Cheesecake with Cherries Jubilee, the second ordered some meringue cookies, and the third ordered "water.  Lots and lots of water."

When it came time for the check, the waiter said that he really had to ask a question.  He understood the first one must be the piggy who had roast beef, and the second must be the one who had none.  But the third?  "What is it with all this water you keep ordering?"

The third pig responded with "Well, how else am I going to go wee wee wee all the way home?"

I know it's a lame joke, but I do enjoy it.

Especially with that's pretty much how I feel right now.

You see, since I started this diet I'm on (I started it January 9, 2012), I've been trying to drink at least eight cups of water a day.  Eight.  Cups.  Of water.



I'd like to meet the guy who decided we need to drink eight cups of water every day, and give him a high five.

In the face.

With a water cooler.

I hate water.  I truly do.  It's just water.  There's nothing special about it.  It's just there and it's wet.  And, if it's bottled and has an "Aquafina" label on it, it's got a chemical whang to it.

So since I've started this water kick, I do have a question that directly relates to the joke I told earlier:  Why is it that when you drink eight cups of water a day, you pee ten?  Seriously.  I have to drink it all by three o'clock in the afternoon, or I'm up all freaking night running back and forth to the bathroom.  I learned this the hard way.  On the third night of only getting to sleep in hour-and-a-half increments, I was ready to give it up or dramatically change the way I'm doing things.

Enter MiO.

This stuff has GOT to have Crack in it!

Zero calories, expensive as all get-out, but two or three little squirts into a 16.9oz water bottle?  It makes all the difference in the world.  Right now, my favorites are Black Cherry MiOEnergy, Berry Pomegranate, and Peach Mango.  Ooooh YUM!

Yes, as I said, it is expensive.  Around here, it's roughly $3.50 per bottle.  BUT the regular MiO makes 24 servings.  The MiOEnergy makes 18.

While the MiOEnergy doesn't give you the energy of, say, a cup of coffee, it is still delicious.  I don't recommend the Green Lightning (or whatever it's called) flavor though.  IMO, it tastes like very flat, been-sitting-there-so-long-its-started-to-turn Mountain Dew.  But the Black Cherry is most excellent.

If you're on a diet and trying to get all that water down you?  I highly recommend this stuff.  Plus, it has ZERO Aspertame.  So, no headache for me!  Bonus!

I now no longer have any problems drinking all that water.  Heck, I get it drunk by noon.

Unfortunately, this means that I spend the second half of my work day running back and forth to the bathroom.

Gotta go!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Water Aerobics from Hell

I'm overweight.  I know it.  Anyone who looks at me knows it.  It's just a reality that I'm living with.  But, I'm slowly coming to terms with it and trying to change my life.  I decided not too terribly long ago that, when I turned 45 (just three and a half more years to go!), I would compete in a Sprint Triathalon.

Sprint Triathalons are the sane-man's version of a triathalon.  Instead of running 3,000 miles, then swimming the ocean, then biking the Tour de France, a Sprint Triathalon consists of running a 5K, swimming a half-mile, then biking something like 12 miles.  Easily doable.

Unless you're out of shape.

And I'm out of shape.

So I mentioned this desire to my work-wife (we are the only ones who do what we do here, we sit right next to each other, and, over the course of the past several years, we have gotten to be pretty close friends.  We're always together, so she's become my work-wife.  My real wife is OK with this.), and she says to me "Hey!  That's a great idea!  Why don't we do it together?"

Why not indeed?

So, we started walking in the tunnel system here (they don't let us run in them thar tunnels) every day at lunch, started walking the track at our neighborhood (yes, we live relatively close to each other) YMCA, and have even signed us up for not one, but TWO 5Ks--one at the end of March, and one at the end of April (the Oklahoma City Memorial 5K, which is part of the Memorial Marathon).  Because we are INSANE.  ME?  RUN?  WHO ARE WE KIDDING HERE?

Since my family is going off on an EXPENSIVE vacation at the end of the year, I have chosen not to fork over the hundreds of dollars to have a personal trainer help me with my weight loss.  My accountability partner has.  I'm very proud of her.

Which brings me to the point of this post:  Water Aerobics.

You see, she got me involved in water aerobics.  It's a low-impact, full body workout.  Oh, I know you may scoff at the idea, saying it's only for "old" people, and they don't do much, and that's fine with me.  But you haven't been to the water aerobics classes I'm in.

Our instructor, Danielle, is trying to KILL US.

Take, for example, our workout last night.

Y'all, she made us do crunches.

I know, I know, crunches aren't that big of a deal.  And, normally, I would agree with you.  Yes, they hurt me, but then, I'm overweight.  So exercise of any kind hurts.  But, I can still do some crunches.  (Note the word "some".  It comes back to haunt me later.)

However, this is WATER AEROBICS.  Do you know what is required to do crunches in WATER AEROBICS?  First, you have to float.  Not a problem for me.  I'm naturally buoyant.  THEN, not only do you have to float, but you have to push your butt down into the water, bringing your head as close to your knees as possible, and then back out again into a lying flat position.

Think about this for a minute.  You're floating, and you have to curl up into a ball.  While floating.  And, preferably, NOT DROWNING.  That's pretty key, here.  Trying not to drown while doing this is NOT EASY.

And to make matters worse, she made us do FORTY of these things!  4-0.  HOLY.  SCHNICKEYS!

And all this was at the END of the workout.  This was AFTER the "let's cross-country (ie, you scissor your legs out all the way like you would cross-country skiing while using your arms to pull you through the water since your feet don't do diddly) the entire length of this Olympic-sized pool TWICE (once is all the way down, then all the way back), then go BACK DOWN to the deep end.  From there, we "flutter" (I hate that word.  I prefer to call it "shimmy") our legs for one, then two, then three minutes, plus a few other things.  Between these activities, we have to kick-box our way back and forth across the width of the pool, shadow-box while running in place, and the list goes on. 

We do all these things for an HOUR.  Any part of me that's out of the water is usually drenched in sweat by the end of it.  Heck, last night there was a new girl joining us--a cardiac nurse--who thought, because I was sweating, had gotten flushed, and had lolled my head at one point and closed my eyes (I was actually plotting Danielle's death at that point), she thought I was having a heart attack.  I was so painfully embarrassed by this. 

After these workouts, I can barely crawl out of the pool.  Thank God there are stairs.

Even sneezing (my allergies are acting up) is painful today.

So, as I said, go ahead and laugh and poke fun at me doing water aerobics.  I will tell you this:  on the days that I do them (three times a week), I actually lose more weight than the days that I just do the walking/running thing.  Typical weight loss is an extra pound to a pound and a half.  And that's with eating my normal 1,500 calorie diet.

Yep, I'm staying with this class.  At the very least, it'll help get me ready to swim that half-mile...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And Then I Started This Blog...

After feeling a bit of pressure from several people I know, I've decided to go ahead and start this blog. I will do my very best to update it every day, but please be aware that, well, sometimes that's not possible.

Let me explain.

You see, I'm an American Dad. To four children (current ages are 3, 5, 9, and 11). Why do we have four children? Because our three-year-old has killed any remaining desire to have more. And I use the word "have" loosely. It's more like we refuse to allow any more children to come live with us. You see, all four of our children are adopted. They were each one of our many foster children we've had during our ten-year tenure as foster parents. And then we closed our home. Praise the Lord.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the experience of being a foster parent, it's just that, well, it's not exactly the easiest thing I've ever done. It's rewarding, though!  Just kind of tough.  And you don't "get over it" when yet another child leaves your home. It's hard each and every time you have to go through it.  Although I will admit that there are times when it's far easier than others... But I digress. I was telling you about me.

After all, this is an op-ed about my life and times, as the name on the blog up there suggests.

As an American Dad, there are certain things that go along with it.  I'm sure that many are universal, but since I'm not from, say, Switzerland, I can't say for certain that the things that make up my being a Dad are necessarily the same as they are anywhere else in the world. So let's just get on with it.

Between my wife and I, I am the creative one. Yes, that means that I get to do a lot of things that are normally reserved for what many would call the "woman's" job. But not being a sexist pig, well, I just say these things are a parent's job. For example, I bake and decorate all the birthday cakes for my children. That includes making a mountain of cake, then carving whatever shape suits their fancy out of said mountain of cake, then decorate it as they see fit.

I also make--yes, make--my children's Halloween costumes. If that includes sewing, well, I taught myself how to sew and follow a pattern, so that's what happens.

I also do the scrapbooking. If you think this makes me less of a man, I really couldn't care less. 

I have coached my younger two children's soccer teams (my older two sons are excellent at the sport, so they get better coaches), as well as take them out running, playing various sports, hiking, you name it. The normal stuff an American Dad does. Including taking my children to church. 

It's very important to me that my children grow up in a church environment. Yes, I do cling to my God and my guns. Sorry to disappoint. Well, maybe not *too* sorry. It's just who I am.

And, yes, I cook. You'll probably see a lot of recipes I have created put up here. You can always skip them if you prefer, but I'll still put them up for anyone to use.

And, like a very great many American Dads out there, I struggle with my weight. This is all changing this year, as I'm going to lose ten pounds a month for the entire year. That's my goal. I will do everything within my power to do it. Be prepared for some posts on it. Don't say I didn't warn you.

What you will *NOT* see on here are things like cursing. Yes, I do follow several blogs where they routinely do things like drop the F-bomb. I do not think I'm better than they are in the slightest. I will just do my best to make sure that this is a family-friendly site. If I won't say it in front of my children, I won't say it here.

Please keep in mind that I can be very sarcastic about things, as well as get on my soap box. You will most likely see some posts on things you may not agree with. I'm OK with that. I can't expect everyone to agree with me 100% of the time. Although I can encourage you to come over to my side of the argument, as things are so incredibly clear over here. 

So, that's it for today, my friends. I hope you'll be back tomorrow, as I've already got several ideas for some posts that interest me.

Leave you comments below, but be forewarned: they are monitored. If I believe it's spam, or gratuitous language is used, well, it's my site and I can deny the comment if I want.