Jan 30, 2013

Foodie Pen Pal - January

This is my third time participating in this program.  I love it because I get to buy for one person and another person buys for me.  It's a challenge to buy for someone who I've never met.  Getting a box in the mail also makes me feel special and is exciting.  

This month I sent to Nicky.  My box was sent from Alex who lives in Iowa.  She did a great job because not only did I enjoy the goodies but so has my family.  

Here's a picture of the goodies I received.


My husband and I went away for a quick overnight trip the day I received the box.  We took the Popchips and yogurt raisins with us.  While we were at the zoo, we snacked on the yogurt raisins.  Oh my goodness, they were so good!!!:)  After we were finished walking around the zoo, we opened up the Popchips.  My husband loved them.  (He's had some salt and vinegar Popchips before but not the plain flavor.)  I loved them also.

I'm saving the spaghetti sauce for a special meal.  We love spaghetti around here so it will be enjoyed by my whole family.

The Iowas honey was used in a salad dressing.  It was good and I love the bear shaped bottle!  

At night, I treat myself to a few pieces of dark chocolate.  I love letting them melt in my mouth.  I also love coffee so I couldn't wait to try the candy bar.  It is delicious and something I normally wouldn't have bought for myself.

The brown bag is ground coffee from a local coffee shop.  Before leaving for my overnight trip, I had planned to brew a cup of coffee to take with me.  I had woken up at 3:30 and fell in and out of sleep.  I knew I was going to be staying up and not able to get a real nap.  This coffee came at a great time.  

Thank you so much Alex!  You did a great job!

And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for November, please CLICK HERE (www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/) to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by February 4th as pairings will be emailed on February 5th!

*If you're from Europe, please CLICK HERE (www.thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/) to signup.

Some of my eats week of Jan. 26

Spicy chicken and black bean burrito bowl

Steak and cheese sandwiches on pretzel roll

Salad I ate with my steak sandwich.

Pork and Asian salad - delicious

Broccoli and feta egg mug

Breaded pork with sweet potato and steamed broccoli

Spicy chicken with black beans, cilantro lime brown rice

Salad with blueberries, balsamic dressing, salsa

Roasted chicken

Jan 28, 2013

My Journey Part 3

The First Part of the Journey

The Second Part of the Journey

My other grandma's health declined after her fall. We gradually began going through her belongings and cleaning out her house. She was unable to live on her own anymore.

I maintained my weight during that time but I was not as focused on my health because of the stress in my life.

Fourteen months after her fall, I received the call I was dreading. Grandma was slipping fast.

For the next 5 days, I sat by her bedside with the rest of my family. Christmas Eve of 2008 was the day she left her Earthly body.

I gradually gained about 10 pounds and went up 2 pants' sizes during the next year and a half.

Then I was transferred from the elementary school to the middle school.

To be continued. . .

Jan 27, 2013

What's For Dinner? - Week of Jan. 28

I can't believe it's the last week of January.


bacon and corn quiche

oatmeal, cranberry overnight oatmeal

feta and broccoli egg mug (x2)

chocolate overnight oatmeal

blueberry almond coffeecake muffin


zucchini pizza

spicy chicken wraps

Asian pork salad

spicy chicken and black bean burrito bowl

baked ziti with roasted veggies

gyro salad

steak salad


spicy chicken and black beans

crispy pork tenderloin

skinny chicken gyros

baked ziti with roasted veggies

maple chicken

steak and cheese sandwiches

sausage, kale. and white bean soup

Jan 26, 2013

My Journey Part 2

The First Part of the Journey

During the last Saturday of October 2007, I talked to my grandma (Grandma H.) for the last time about life and supper. Soon after that last conversation, her foot fell asleep and she tried to walk on it. She ended up falling down and breaking her leg. Soon afterwards her health began to decline.

The next day I got a call from my father's sister (my aunt). My other grandma (Grandma B.) was dying and was not expected to live past the evening. At 3 o'clock in the morning, I woke up suddenly. My grandma was saying good-bye to me.

While at work the next day, I got the call from my aunt that Grandma B. had died at around 3 o'clock that morning. I left work, went to the hospital to visit Grandma H. who broke her leg, and then went home to pack. My sister and I left the next morning to drive to Pittsburgh.

We went to her funeral on Halloween. Ironic because she had a big sweet tooth.

Although Grandma B. and I were not close, I associate a lot of memories with her. Her twin beds in her guest bedroom - one had plastic covering the mattress. You would slip and slid all night long if you were the unfortunate one to get that bed. She did not cook. How much she missed my grandpa who died in 1992.

Her death has impacted me but not as much as what was to come.

To be continued . . .

Jan 25, 2013

My Journey part 1

Five and a half years ago, I saw my weight creeping upwards. My youngest was almost 2 and the "I'm going to lose the weight when he's 1 no longer applied." It was time for action. Memorial Day 2007 was the official day I decided to take over my life.

But at that time, I believed and thought I almost needed to starve myself in order to lose the weight. I joined Spark people and realized I needed to eat differently not starve myself.

I kept eating some of the same foods but in smaller quantities. It became a numbers game instead if a real lifestyle change. (I love math so this was perfect for me.).

My biggest supporter was my maternal grandma. She and I would talk daily about life and what I was going to cook for supper.

By the time, I was back at work that fall I was down almost 30 pounds and wearing the smallest pant's size that I had ever worn as an adult.

Then October of 2007 came and my life completely changed forever. . . .

To be continued

Jan 22, 2013

Chicken Scampi

My family doesn't like shrimp so traditional shrimp scampi is a no go at my house.  So I decided to make scampi with chicken instead.  You know a meal is a winner when hubby, the Wee One, and Imaginative One all love the meal.  There was no complaints about the meal.  

About five years ago, I got a spaghetti pot that cooks the spaghetti whole.  The boys loved eating the whole pieces of linguine.  They loved slurping up the pieces.  It made the meal fun for them.

Chicken Scampi

IMG_0706Stars of the recipe:

  • 1/2 box of linguine, cooked (reserve 1 cup of the cooking water) - I used whole wheat pasta.

  • 1 lb. of chicken, cubed

  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 5 Tbsp. butter (seperate into a 2 Tbsp. piece and a 3 Tbsp. piece)

  • 1/2 onion, diced

  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic

  • 1 c. white wine

  • 2 lemons, juiced (microwave them for 10 seconds before juicing them)

  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley or 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley


  1. Cook the linguine, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

  2. In a skillet, heat the oil and 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat.

  3. When the butter is melted, add the chicken, onions, and garlic.  Cook until the chicken is cooked.  (5 to 10 minutes)

  4. Remove the chicken, onions, and garlic.  Tent a piece of foil over the chicken to keep it warm.

  5. Place the skillet over high heat.  Add the lemon juice and white wine.  Deglaze the bottom of the skillet and then cook until boiling.  Add the cooking water and 3 Tbsp. butter.

  6. Lower the heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the chicken, onions, and garlic.  Cook for about 3-5 more minutes until the sauce is thickened.

  7. Add the parsley and remove from heat.

  8. Pour over the cooked linguine and combine.

  9. Serve and enjoy!


Jan 21, 2013

What's for dinner? - Week of Jan. 21


Homemade Egg "McMuffins," fruit (x3)

yogurt, cereal, fruit parfait (x2)

Nutella banana muffins, fruit (x1)



Derby chicken salad, veggies

Broccoli cheese quiche, bagel thin

teriyaki  chicken salad

chili mac

Shepard's pie



teriyaki chicken


chicken cacciatore

shepard's pie

pepperoni pizza

roasted chicken, baked potatoes, veggies

Jan 17, 2013

Spinach and pear salad


This is an easy salad to serve on the side.  It's full of flavor!

Spinach and Pear Salad

Stars of the recipe:  (Serves 1)

  • 1 c. spinach or spring mix

  • 1/4 pear, diced into big pieces

  • 1 Tbsp. feta cheese

  • 1 Tbsp. dried cranberries, optional

  • 1 Tbsp. walnut pieces, optional

Stars of the dressing: (Makes enough for 2 salads)

  • 1/4 tsp. garlic

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil


  1. Place spinach or spring mix on a plate or bowl.

  2. Top with pear and sprinkle with dried cranberries, feta, and walnut pieces.

  3. Combine the dressing with a whisk or in a blender.

  4. Drizzle the dressing over each salad.

  5. Enjoy!

Jan 15, 2013

Pork (or Chicken) Stir Fry

My husband loves Chinese food and had been craving some when I had planned to make stir fry.  So he was excited when I told him that was for dinner.  

Since I don't have much time to cook dinner before I need to have it on the table, I cut the pieces smaller especially the broccoli.  My husband does not like broccoli but ate it when I cut it into smaller pieces.

During dinner, the Wee One made chopsticks out of two spoons so he could scoop up the food better.  It as so funny!  (I wish I got a picture of how he was eating dinner.)

This meal can be adapted to your likes.

Pork (or Chicken) Stir Fry


Stars of the recipe: 

  • 1 lb. pork chops or chicken, chopped into smaller pieces

  • 3 c. vegetables, diced into smaller pieces (Examples:  celery, carrots (peeled first), onions, peas (do not dice), broccoli) - Use your imagination and clean out your vegetable drawers

  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I used low sodium.)

  • 2 Tbsp. ground ginger

  • 1 Tbsp. granulated garlic or 2 Tbsp. minced garlic

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


  1. Heat up 1 Tbsp. of oil in a saute pan on medium heat.

  2. Once the oil is heated up, add the pork or chicken.  Cook the pork or chicken until no longer pink.  (5 to 10 minutes)

  3. Once the pork or chicken is cooked, remove from the pan.  Tent a piece of foil over it to keep it warm.

  4. Add another 1 Tbsp. of oil to pan.  Add the diced veggies except for the peas.  Cook until softened. (5ish minutes)

  5. Place the pork or chicken back in the pan with the veggies.  Add the peas, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes longer.

  6. Serve over rice.

  7. Enjoy with a fortune cookie!


Jan 13, 2013

What's for dinner - Jan. 14

Another week has come and gone and it's once again time to plan for the next week's dinner.

Breakfasts this week:

waffles with strawberries and blueberries, cheese stick
apple jack smoothie, cheese stick
sausage apple quiche cups, fruit
Power up smoothie, cheese stick
oatmeal with fruit and chia seeds

Lunches this week:

Everyday I'll have a Chobani Greek yogurt, crackers or air popped popcorn, veggies, and fruit with either a sunbutter sandwich or a cup of soup.

Dinners this week:

tilapia, rice, broccoli
chicken in pita bread, roasted greek potates, salad
raspberry pork tenderloin, garlic mashed potatoes, green salad
chicken scampi, spinach and pear salad, bread
taco, Spanish rice, refried beans


hard boiled eggs, tangerine, Larabar, Greek yogurt bar, or nuts


Jan 8, 2013

Buttermilk Doughnuts

Who doesn't like a good doughnut?  As part of my resolution to keep making healthy choices, doughnuts don't fall into that category.  However, I healthified (my new catch phrase - I guess) them a little bit and Sno from Finding Joy in my Kitchen is excellent about providing food that is healthy and fulfilling.

The Imaginative One took one taste and declared it as no taste.  However he only took one small taste so he's opinion doesn't count.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law tried them and told me they were delicious.  

These would be great baked and then frozen for easy breakfasts.  If you freeze them, don't put any topping on them until you serve them.

P.S.  You need a doughnut pan like this or this.  I used the second so my doughnuts were smaller.  

Buttermilk Doughnuts

Finding Joy in My Kitchen


Stars of the recipe:

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour

  • 4 Tbsp. corn starch

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 c. sugar (I used 1/4 c. Truvia baking blend instead.)

  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (I used Chinese 5 spice.)  Use more depending on your taste

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 3/4 c. buttermilk (Or 3/4 c. milk with a 1 Tbsp. vinegar)

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter (I used 1 1/2 tsp. unsweetened applesauce.)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Measure out the flour into a mixing bowl.  Remove 4 Tbsp. of the flour and put back in flour container/bag.  Replace that 4 Tbsp. with 4 Tbsp. of cornstarch.  Using either a flour sifter, wire whisk, or a mixer (put mine on low), blend the cornstarch and flour.  It becomes whole wheat cake flour.

  3. Add the sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt to the flour.  Sift or whisk together.  (I used the mixer on low.)

  4. Pour in the buttermilk and butter (or applesauce).  Add in the eggs and vanilla.  Beat the wet and dry ingredients until combined.

  5. Fill the doughnut molds, 1/2 full with the batter.  (I sprayed mine down with cooking spray before putting batter in the mold.)

  6. Bake at 375 for 10 -12 minutes.  After letting cool for about 5 minutes, remove them to a cooling rack to completely cool.

  7. Add toppings.

  8. Enjoy!

Possible toppings:  Make a simple glaze of powdered sugar, vanilla, and water, chocolate frosting, spray with a butter mist and then add either cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar

Jan 6, 2013

What's for dinner? January 7

As I've said before, as soon as I walk in the door, the boys will ask me those three words over and over again.  I sometimes give them silly answers and sometimes I will tell exactly what we are having.  They will then ask me again and again "What's for dinner?"

I sometimes think I need to have a tape recording of my answer and then press play whenever they ask me those words.

Another question that drives me absolutely bonkers is What's in the soup, dinner, etc. . .?  Hubby will just tell them to eat it and not to ask any question.  The Imaginative One will sit there and dissect his dinner before choosing to pick at it, complain about it, or eat it.  It gets so frustrating.  He likes familiar foods for dinner and sometimes I trick him up.  The Wee One is better at trying new food.  Sometimes he likes it and sometimes he doesn't like the dinner.  It all depends.  At least he tried it.

The one menu item the Imaginative One is tired of is soup.  It's probably because I have been putting things in the soup that he can't figure out what they are.  His response when I say soup is "Not again."  I don't let his response influence my decisions for supper.

Without further ado, I'm going to answer those three simple words - What's for dinner?


B - hard boiled egg, oatmeal, fruit
L - sunbutter sandwich, Greek yogurt w/ granola, fruit, veggie
D - steak, mashed potatoes made half with potatoes and cauliflower, veggie
S - Larabar, nuts


B - green smoothie, hard boiled egg
L - soup, Greek yogurt w/ granola, fruit, veggie
D - pork stir fry, brown rice, salad
S - Kashi cereal bar, nuts


B - hard boiled egg, oatmeal, fruit
L - pizza veggie burger, Greek yogurt w/ granola, fruit, veggie
D - bow tie pasta w/ sauce, salad
S - Larabar, nuts


B - green smoothie, hard boiled egg
L - soup, Greek yogurt w/ granola, fruit, veggie
D - monte crisco sandwich, chips, veggies
S - Kashi cereal bar, nuts


B - hard boiled egg, oatmeal, fruit
L - sunbutter sandwich, Greek yogurt w/ granola, fruit, veggie
D - eat what ever you want night
S - Larabar, nuts


B - whatever the boys ask for breakfast
L - ???
D - homemade pizza night, salad
S - ???

Jan 5, 2013

Wilted Spinach


My hubby does not like raw spinach or lettuce. He calls them rabbit food. I've gradually started having him actually like eating cooked spinach. This recipe is one of the ways.

It's a simple side dish and is quite tasty.

Wilted Spinach

Stars of the recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 2-4 c. baby spinach

  • 1 clove of garlic (more if you like garlic) or 1-2 Tbsp. minced garlic


  1. Heat a skillet on medium heat.

  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Add the spinach and cook until it's wilted. (It only takes a few minutes.)

  4. Enjoy!

Jan 3, 2013

Biscoff Mug Cake

biscoff mug cake

When I participated in Elf 4 Health, one of the challenges was to make a mug cake. Some of the participants gave recipes or web sites with mug cake recipes. I was intrigued when I saw this recipe so I decided to try it. Delicious!

Oh, I made some adaptations to make it a little bit healthier. I will list the adaptations when I give the Stars of the recipe so you can make it either way.

P.S. Biscoff is also known as Cookie Butter if you get it at Trader Joes. It is made from Biscoff cookies and sort of reminds me of graham crackers with a hint of cinnamon.

Biscoff Mug Cake

Kirbie's Cravings

Stars of the recipe:

  • 4 Tbsp. all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour.)

  • 3 Tbsp. white granulated sugar (I used Truvia instead.)

  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 egg

  • 3 Tbsp. Biscoff or Cookie Butter (I used 2 Tbsp. instead)

  • 3 Tbsp. milk

  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used 1 1/2 tsp. unsweetened applesauce.)


  1. Combine all ingredients in an oversized coffee mug. (I sprayed mine with cooking spray.)

  2. Whisk well with a fork until it is all combined.

  3. Microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes and then take out to check if it's done.

  4. If need be, continue microwaving it in 30 second increments.

  5. Don't overcook it!

  6. Enjoy!!!

This is what it will look like when finished:


Jan 1, 2013

Healthier Mac and Cheese

What is it about comfort food that warms your soul? The day after Christmas brought us lots of snow. We were under a winter storm warning but the counties around us were under a blizzard warning. The day after the storm, I decided to go grocery shopping. I still have to walk around snow piles to bring the groceries in. So I was craving some comfort food.

This macaroni and cheese warms your soul and is also healthier then the boxed stuff. So I was happy to serve it to my family. :)

The Imaginative One said it was good. Hubby went and took a second helping so that must mean he loved it.


Healthier Mac and Cheese

Skinny Taste

Stars of the recipe:

  • 12 oz. high fiber pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste rotini. You can use whole wheat pasta if you want.)

  • 2 tbsp. butter

  • 1/4 c. flour (I used white whole wheat.)

  • 1/4 c. minced onion

  • 2 c. skim milk

  • 1 c. chicken broth (I used 1 c. water with a chicken bullion cube.)

  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, reduced fat

  • salt and pepper

  • 2 c. baby spinach

  • 1/4 c. panko bread


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

  3. Meanwhile spray a baking dish with butter flavor cooking spray.

  4. In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter.

  5. Add flour and cook over low heat stirring with a whisk. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes.

  6. Add milk and chicken broth and continuing whisking. Raise the heat to medium heat until it begins to boil and becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

  7. Once the milk mixture becomes thick, remove the skillet fro the the heat, add the cheese and mix until cheese is melted.

  8. Drain the macaroni and put back in the pot. Add the spinach and cheese sauce. Stir to combine.

  9. Pour into baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs.

  10. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

  11. Take the dish out, spray with a little more butter flavored cooking spray on the top.

  12. Broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

  13. Enjoy!


Top Clicks of 2012

According to my stats counter, these are the top 10 recipes that were clicked on.

Taco Crescent Bake was #1 - It was published in February of  2011.

Sloppy Joe Pizza was #2 - It was also published in February of 2011.

Watermelon Cookies was #3.  These continue to be my kids and students favorite cookies.  It was published in July of 2010.

[caption id="attachment_2286" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Watermelon Cookies Watermelon Cookies[/caption]

Makes It Own Crust Apple Pie was #4.  It was published in November of 2011.

[caption id="attachment_1692" align="aligncenter" width="228"]Makes It Own Crust Apple Pie Makes It Own Crust Apple Pie[/caption]

Baked Spaghetti was #5.  It was published in January of 2012.

[caption id="attachment_1790" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Baked Spaghetti Baked Spaghetti[/caption]

Homemade hamburger helper was #6.  It was published in October 2010.

[caption id="attachment_1185" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Homemade Hamburger helper Homemade Hamburger helper[/caption]

Charleston Cheese Dip was #7.  It was published in January 2012.

[caption id="attachment_1787" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Charleston Cheese Dip Charleston Cheese Dip[/caption]

Ranch Chicken Legs was #8.  It was published in March 2011.

Peanut Butter Blossoms was #9.  It was published in October 2010.

[caption id="attachment_1656" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Peanut butter blossoms Peanut butter blossoms[/caption]

Green beans, potatoes, and ham was #10.  It was published in April of 2012.

[caption id="attachment_2037" align="aligncenter" width="240"]Green beans, ham, and potatoes Green beans, ham, and potatoes[/caption]

Here's to a successful 2013!