Ham & Bean Soup

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I constantly steal recipes from my Sister in Law (SiL) and rework them depending on what I have in my cabinets. Yesterday, I did this and completely transformed a Vegan Bean Soup recipe that Beth found on Pinterest.

I will share my version of the recipe. The link above is to the original recipe if you’re more diligent about following recipes than me.

Easy Ham & Bean Soup

  • Generous dash of olive oil
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped20140226_125018
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ~4 cloves of garlic minced

Saute veggies in a medium sized soup pot until they are a bit soft–for about 10-15 minutes then add: 

  • 3 cans of (whatever you can find) black beans, pintos or mixed beans—Or if you’re cabinets are like mine, one of each. Drain and rinse.
  • 2 cups of your choice broth (I had beef broth on hand)
  • Roughly 1 1/2 or 2 cups of chopped pre-cooked ham
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 tsp powdered curry
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes20140226_125013

Slap a lid on that puppy and set it to low-medium or just above a simmer for about 30 minutes. I forgot to add but I do recommended 1-2 TBSP of lime juice.

This would make a fine meal by itself, but if you really want a happy belly: 

Throw some tortillas in a skillet and put some cheese in the middle. A cheese quesadilla pairs beautifully with this hearty soupy meal.

20140226_132722

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Kat’s: Food and Exercise Updates

It has been ages since I’ve mentioned anything on my blog about my progress. I don’t want you all to think I’ve given up on this whole healthy thing. If you please, follow my twitter I update followers frequently on my eating/exercise progress. I also share articles, snarks and videos that are amusing to me.

Here’s the run down: I went from a size 14 to a size 6 since January 3rd. I truly hope you didn’t believe that. I haven’t changed sizes at all in fact. Haha! Getting fit is a slow process for me. I have been exercising almost daily at the YMCA since January 3rd. My worst streak of going without working out was three days.

Food & Exercise Tracker

Since the end of January I have been tracking and trying to reign in my calorie intake. I am trying to stay at or under 1,720.

When I first started I struggled because there was no

mfp

baseline for how many calories typically I consumed in a day. I would hazard to guess around 2,500 to 3,000 given how many sweets and snacks we have around the house. I am a terrible habitual snacker and could probably can eat a family size bag of chips all by myself.

The fitness tracker app I chose to help me with my calorie count is My Fitness Pal (MFP). You can also just used the regular website if you choose to.
MFP has an awesomely huge food database and a code scanner if you are having trouble finding a product by search terms.wtrackerexcel

The exercise tracker aspect of MFP isn’t quite as refined so I only keep about half of my exercise logged. I consistently use a spreadsheet to track the times, weights, speed and reps of my different exercises. It may sound tedious to keep two trackers but it doesn’t bother me too much. And it only takes about five minutes out of my entire day to input stats.

Water and Vitamins

I haven’t been doing so well on these goals. It is all too easy to reach for coffee in the AM and then lightly sweetened homemade iced tea throughout the day.
My goal is a formula that PBS mentioned in one of their health series:

The old adage of 8 glasses a day is no longer true.
Instead, think about how much you weigh and divide that number in half. That’s how many ounces of water you should drink per day.

I have realized that adding a touch of lemon can make water taste a little less watery. I like the taste of it but I am a bit sporadic about drinks. Each time I refill my glass I want a different type of drink. Just ask my husband how long it takes me to pick a drink at the gas station.

Taking a multivitamin slips my mind most days. I tried setting up a reminder in MyFitnessPal and one on my phone. Neither one pops up to remind me, much less at the correct set time. I don’t take any other meds on an actual routine so it

jellybracelets

is hard for me to start this. Forreal, I only take an allergy pill in the mornings when my nose is stuffed up and even then I tend to forget.

I found a whole blog with tips on how to remind yourself to drink water. Starting today I’m going to do my best to follow the bracelet trick. I recently re-discovered my jelly bracelets from when I was a teen–Don’t judge me.

Exercises

I don’t really have a well defined plan here. If I can’t make it to the gym, I do have an extensive at-home workout plan that requires only free weights and a chair. I say extensive because I’ve never made a 45 minute at-home plan like it before.

I broke it down into the basics: Some warm ups, arms, legs and core and cool down stretches. All the warm ups and cool down exercises must be completed.
There are about six exercises in each of the arms/legs/core categories and am challenged to pick three from each group. I feel less trapped into one particular routine. If anyone is interested, I can share my plan. It includes instructions on how to perform most of the exercises but no photos or diagrams.

Not a picture of me

Not a picture of me

Mostly, I get to the gym when I can because I feel accountable to do a good job. My favorite classes of late have been the Pound Fitness class that is offered three days a week at my YMCA. If you’ve never heard of it you must Google a video! You use lightly weighted drum sticks to drum along with songs. Mostly focusing on the core. I feel like a badass akin to the sensation a non-musician gets from playing guitar hero. Accomplished even if it isn’t exactly the way the pros do it.

Another favorite class of mine is the Aqua Zumba class. The instructor stands on land to lead and you follow except all the arm and leg motions are intended for under the water. This is an ideal exercise for me because I stay cool in the water and can feel the water resistance. Also, no one can see how badly you mess up under water.

When there is not a class at a convenient time, I do my own thing in the small weight room. I do a mixture of treadmill walking and machines that focus on my arms, legs or abs and back. I have been upping my weights on those machines when I don’t feel worn out after my sets.

Extra full belly--post lunch weigh

Extra full belly–post lunch weigh

Weight

I honestly should be going by measurements. That is a justification for my pitiful progress, but also I am told a more accurate way of telling how your body changes. My heaviest that I weighed since starting—Oh yeah, brace yourselves, the reveal is coming!!was 181.2 lbs on the gym scale. The lightest I have weighed and what seems to be consistent is 176.6 lbs.
It is a slow slogging struggle but I am keeping at it.

Looking ahead

I have a feeling that things will get easier once I begin my season at MACA. I will be average hiking four to six miles in a day depending on my schedule. Some of those days I will be doing the crawling tours which will engage even more muscles. I do not intend on slacking off of my gym time. I may go three to four days a week instead for five to seven days simply because work will keep me busy.

couchto5kI had a tipsy revelation last week regarding me and running. A good buddy of mine—actually many of my peers—are runners for health. One program that several have suggested to me is the Couch to 5K program. The thought of it excites and terrifies me. Afraid of failure but also willing to try to beat the stitches in my side and coughing to catch my breath. Yes, I really do suck at and hate running.
I also hate sweating all over myself, being out of breath and red faced in front of others, YET I have kicked serious ass the last two months at a gym!

Art Day: Artist Trading Cards

For many years, my sister has been re-branding Valentine’s Day as not a day to buy overly expensive material things to prove your love but a day about appreciating beauty and creating art. Way more classy than an Anti-Valentine’s Day party in my book.

We celebrated Art day on February 15th this year–because we had the weekend off–by making Artist Trading Cards. Apparently this is a big thing, but it was my first time hearing about it. My mom gave us a brief oral presentation about history and such. If you want to know more I encourage you to do your own batch of Google searching, there are tons of links.

I think the Wikipedia page offers a good summary:

Artist trading cards (or ATCs) are miniature works of art about the same size as modern trading cards baseball cards, or 2 12 by 3 12 inches, small enough to fit inside standard card-collector pockets, sleeves….Cards are produced in various media, including dry media (pencils, pens, markers, etc.), wet media (watercolor, acrylic paints, etc.), paper media (in the form of collage, papercuts, found objects, etc.) or even metals or fiber. The cards are usually traded or exchanged. 

There are tons of lesson plans and how-tos around the Interwebz. One I found fairly decent was a Wikihow page in 11 Steps where they suggest using playing cards if you can’t cut out the typical size for the cards.

The School Arts Room website offers a more standard layout of a classroom lesson play for the teacher types of the world. The Student ATC website has several great sub-pages with some theme ideas to get your brain or your pupils’ brains working. It also includes a little history and a how-to.

We all had Valentine’s Day and love related things on the mind but our official theme for our Art Day was Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love. Yeah, inspired by some Moulin Rouge loveliness.

collection1

There were several different artists present and art styles. Forgive me if you don’t get our sense of humor. We had a blast and created art cards for almost five hours.
Sorry I didn’t get a picture of our hugely messy art table. There were stacks of colored paper, stickers, markers, paints, crayons and tons more stuff. We had a blast cutting and pasting and creating. Our art cards were cut out of index cards and my mom purchased a package of 100 trading card sleeves for storage once finished. 

PATC

Ideally, these are supposed to be traded, not sold. I’m not sure if anyone would pay for mine, but there are some really inspired pieces in here. I’m saving mine for last so you can be sufficiently unimpressed by my work.

LATCOn the backs of the art cards we wrote our artist name, state and month/year it was created. A couple of the cards even got named and those were written on the back. By the end of the evening most of us didn’t want to immediately trade our hard work, but we’re looking forward to creating more and maybe trading them or giving them others.

All--ATCThere is whole cluster of our pieces together.

All--ATC2

Sorry for the fair bit of fuzz-o-vision. I didn’t have a good camera with me and the light wasn’t ideal. You get the idea here though.
Below is my cluster of cards:

atcroseAnd one of my personal favorites of the ones I created:

visitparks art cardDoctors have started prescribing their patients with visits to National Parks. I have known for a long time that getting a daily dose of nature and light exercise can make huge wonders of difference. Recreation–my major–is hugely important to me.

Questions for my readers—-

Have you ever heard of artist trading cards? 

Have you been inspired by this blog, searching or the links provided to create your own mini-trading art cards? 

Do you have any fun alternative ways of celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Greek Valentine’s Date in Review

You may recall my blog about my Greek Valentine’s Day expectations. I shot a little high considering my super lazy attitude from last week. However, we still ate very well and had a lot of fun.
I tried to get pictures of everything, but had been running flat out since 6:30A and was a determined just to get supper done at a reasonable time.

hummuspeppersI made the mistake of laying around on the couch on my day off which left us with having to make the pita bread the evening of our date. We threw everything together in the bread machine to save time and while that was mixing and rising I got to work on the other parts of the meal. Kit had gotten the steak marinating early so we didn’t have to worry about that at least.

Pictured above is the garlic and lime hummus that I made. It looks like boatloads of hummus but we killed it after supper and some for lunch the next day. I cut up two big bell peppers for dipping. Notice the three tiny crackers….I forgot to buy crackers as an alternative dipper. Oh well!
After grinding up the chick peas and spices in the super teenie tiny food processor, Kit washed it and I prepped the next thing to blend up.

The tzatziki was easy to make, there were just several semi-tedious steps. I bought plain yogurt and set it up over a bowl in a sieve with a little bit of cheese cloth. It probably would have been find in the sieve alone, but I didn’t want to lose any deliciousness. After the yogurt was set to draining, I peeled, scraped out the watery seedy center of the cucumbers and cut them in pieces. I placed those pieces in a colander, salted them and left them alone to drain.

pita

Once the bread machine finished the pita dough we got them prepped for the oven. I doubt I will follow the bread machine recipe again. Out of the eight pita circles we baked we only got three that came out of the oven puffed up and perfect for making pocket sandwiches. We had plenty for supper and don’t you worry, we are eating our very flat pita bread with our meals. They act as lovely food shovels with scrambled eggs, just so you know.

veggiestation

 

Sadly, I couldn’t find the dill weed in our cabinets and had to substitute thyme into the tzatziki, but I thought it was delish anyway. After I blended up the tzatziki and put it in the fridge to chill I set about to chopping veggies and Kit cooked the steak on the Foreman Grill. I found feta cheese on sale–yessss–, chopped up some more cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives and opened up the bag salad I bought at the store.

sweet tater fries

We were hungry mungries at this point but since the hummus had distracted our appetites we decided to go ahead and make the sweet potato fries. They turned out quite yummy, but as always there will be changes to the recipe next time we try it. gyro closeLike I said, because I had been running wide open all day I decided against making the lemon brownies and the suddenly salad that night. Although I still can’t wait to try those recipes, we were super duper stuffed like ticks after we finished our steak gyros.

gyro2

 

Of course during our food coma we enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I hadn’t seen it in a while and had forgotten how much I loved the movie. There are some hysterical points in that romantic comedy. All in all, a successful evening.

Did you Valentine’s Day live up to your plans and expectations?

 

January–Popcorn & Movie in Historic Theatre

I went over the crazy complication over our botched January date in my overview blog of the 12 Months of Preplanned dates that I gifted to Kit for Christmas. I finally got things worked out! The theatre gave me complimentary tickets to the popcorn & a movie feature that we chose and, to my surprise, gave me the gift card for my trouble. They had awesome response time to my problem when I called them.

pre-date

Sorry for the overly-cheesy upshot selfie here. It was the best I could manage. I really didn’t want to show up late. The two dollars was for our boxes of popcorn. We ended up spending about five bucks on concessions because we wanted candy and drinks too. I always feel better buying things from a not for profit arts group anyway.

darkenedtheatre

The theatre was super dark (as it should be), but I managed another cheese photos with bright orange tix and popcorn.
The movie was the 1930s Little Princess starring Shirley Temple. Eerie as it was, she passed away within a week after our date. When I was a kid I had watched the 1990s version which is a bit more fairy tale-ish. This was fun because the whole time I was comparing the two versions. Kit had seen a bunch of Shirley Temple movies as a kid.

Even though the movie itself wasn’t very romantic it turned out to be quite an enjoyable date. The theatre wasn’t overly packed, ate cheap concessions,  movie was a little grainy and the historic auditorium just added to the fun.
We don’t have many more day left in February to do our Blindfolded cookie baking date, but hopefully we can get it done before March!

~Kat

Valentine’s Day Greek Date-Night

We came up with a themed date night for our Valentine’s Day by a sort of happy accident. We started off by saying how much we wanted to make this or that. Then we realized that all those things went together in a way.
All of the photos belong to the original bloggers. Please click the hyper-linked text to find their amazing recipes they shared with the world.

The important stuff—What are we eating!?

We have had gyros before and my Sister in Law (SiL) swears that if I can make naan then I can make my own pita bread. I’m not going to use the more traditional lamb because of the cost. Instead we are going to use some beef steaks I found on sale.

Our appetizer will be relatively simple. I’m planning on doing hummus and sweet bell peppers for dipping. Maybe some carrots if we have them on hand too, but I don’t want to overeat before we get to the main event. There will be plenty of food. If you’ve never made hummus before then don’t worry. It is much like guacamole. There are some essentials and after you get them dumped in the bowl you fix it to your taste. A can of chick peas, lemon juice, salt, garlic and pepper. You’re pretty much in business if you have those things.

To alleviate crunch time stress I am going to make the pita bread the pita day before. Allow them to cool, cut them into halves to create the pockets and put them in zipper bags until our supper the next night.
Here is the recipe for pita bread that I will be following. Looks simple, right?

I will also likely make the tzatziki sauce the day before. As with most

tzatziki infographic

sauces, I feel like it will be more tasty after sitting over night anyway. Tzatziki sauce is basically cucumbers pureed, yogurt and some herbs/spices. It is awesome! Of course if you hate yogurt and cucumber then stay away. Here is the recipe I will be following for Tzatziki sauce. I will however point out that I will not be allowing the yogurt to drain for 2 hours. 30 minutes will suffice.  Check out this cute little infographic on how-to make tzatziki or click the link above for word directions.

gyro

The gyro recipe will more or less follow the one found on Tide and Thyme (again). I figure as long as I add some lemon and thyme and other Greek-ish spices that the meat will be just fine. For veggie stuffing in my gyros I am planning: Olives, spinach, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Sidedishes: The sides will be relatively simple since they are not the main and delectable main stage player that the gyros will be. We are going to make up a box of Suddenly Salad. Yeah, I realize that is silly with all the homemade things surrounding it, but I really enjoy those pasta salads and the lack of work they entail. The second side dish is going to be homemade sweet potato fries. I haven’t completely nailed down a favorite recipe but I’ve been scrounging on Pinterest for one that speaks to me. I kinda want to do an olive oil, salt and rosemary topping for them and I definitely want to cut this fairly thin so I get a good crispy fry. Oh, I should clarify that by “fries” I mean that I bake them on a cookie sheet.

The final thing on our menu for the evening is less Greek, but much more realistic and easy. I decided the most important thing was the gyros

lemon brownies

and I don’t want to spend hours slaving over the dessert too. I have been wanting to make these Lemon Brownies for ages! I love lemon desserts, chocolate desserts or chocolate and fruit desserts. Yeah…I kinda have a sweet tooth. This recipe is of the mix and dump persuasion so I think it will fit our evening the best.

My mom suggested this last part and I figured, why not dive in?!
Mom owns a copy of My Big Fat Greek Wedding  so we’re going to greekweddingwatch that as we eat our gyros, salad and fries. I hope that we’ll be full as ticks by the end of the evening. Seeing as the hubbster doesn’t drink wine or champagne I’m not sure what specialty drinks we might have. He will probably stick with his sweet tea or diet coke. I might get a small bottle of something special just for me. And you know that once you remove the cork is spoils if you don’t finish it in one night. 

Questions for my Readers:

Is a themed Valentine’s date too cheesy for you?
I’ve got a lot riding on if all these recipes turn out right. Would you try a new recipe on a special night?
Are you
, like us, trying to avoid going out on the 14th at all costs? I gave up trying to battle the crowds years ago. Staying in are where it is at!

Valentine’s Day Movies on Netflix Instant Part Two of Two

If you haven’t seen it, check out Part One of my Valentine’s Day Movie List.
As I mentioned in Part One, these are movies that I found on Netflix instant. Sure, you can peruse the Romantic movies section of streaming all by yourself, but I find lists on the Internet to be extremely helpful. Also, if you have to type one painful letter at a time to search for a movie on a Wii console or Roku, this list can be helpful. All photos belong to IMDB. Titles in bold are those that I’ve seen before.

  1. The Jerk Theory (2009)–Acting like a jerk wins girls, but can the sweet girl of his dreams change his tune?

  2. Carolina (2003)–I love me some Julia Stiles. This is a Rom-com jerktheoryabout a girl trying to escape her wacky family. Description makes it seem like a Boy-next-door romance.

  3. The Decoy Bride (2011)–Famous author and actress hope to get married on a remote island, but have to come up with a decoy bride to throw off the paparazzi. David Tennant. Nuff said.

  4. Charade (1963)–Woman finds herself running from bad guys who are looking for money her recently-murdered husband stole. Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant star in this classic.

  5. Clueless (1995)–Ditzy high school girl loves playing charadematchmaker, but her latest matches don’t go as planned. This is the updated version of Emma that I mentioned in Part One. 
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo (1998)–This is the four part TV mini series. A wrongly imprisoned man escapes after 18 years, he seeks revenge and his lady love. More of a swashbuckler than romance. 
  7. Like Water for Chocolate (1992)–Star crossed lovers and food in Spanish. Subtitles and some raunchiness (warning). The book is just as fun! 
  8. Maid in Manhattan (2002)–Important political candidate accidentally falls for the hotel maid when he mistakes her for a wealthy lady. 
  9. Tonight You’re mine (2011)–Two rival musicians get tonightyoureminehandcuffed together at a festival where they must later perform. I am really looking forward to watching this one.
  10. McLintock! (1963)–Stubborn John Wayne comes to town to meet his daughter returning from college and is reunited with his hot headed estranged wife. 
  11. New York, I love you (2008)–A slew of actors with nothing better to do made a movie with several love stories entangled. 
  12. Safe Haven (2013)–Woman on the run shows up in a small town and falls for a widowed man with kids. They both have shit they need to get over. 
  13. Say Anything (1989)–The unexeceptional guy at school falls for the gorgeous head of the class. No one told him he was John Cusack.sayanything 
  14. Waiting for Forever (2010)–Street performer childhood friend stalks the girl of his dreams next door. He finally confesses his love to her. This will either be great or a wretched train wreck. Stars the gal who plays in the TV show Hart of Dixie.
  15. Serious Moonlight (2009)–Woman tapes her adulterous husband to the toilet. And then they both get tied up by burglers. Super weird, I haven’t finished this yet.

  16. The Host (2013)–Unseen evil is erasing people’s memories. A book to movie adaption by Stephanie Myer. 
  17. Shakespeare in Love (1998)–Young writer finds a beautiful shakeyinlovemuse high above his social status. TONS of awesome reference to Shakespeare plays we know and love, this is treat for Bill S. lovers. 
  18. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)–Gilbert has to care for his challenged brother and ill mother. He is bogged down until a free spirit moves into town. Apparently more moving than romantic, but supposed to be quite good.
  19. TiMER (2009)–Modern invention has taken the unsettling guesswork in finding your soulmate. Everyone has a countdown to their soulmate…but what if you love someone else? Pah-lease watch this movie!