Crockpot Breakfast for MOPS Meeting

One of the many things I’ve discovered while raising my children is that I can’t do it on my own. I can’t even do it with “just” my husband’s help. It really does take a village. With our extended family spread all over the country, however, and our immediate family having to move every time my husband gets a new promotion, having even one person to help us has been difficult to find. A village has been near impossible.

With our most recent move, we were lucky enough to move to a town that had a ready made village: MOPS, or Mothers of Preschoolers. I had the pleasure of belonging to a MOPS group in Michigan and was eager to be back in the supportive arms of a group of women–mothers–who were more or less just like me.

What does this have to do with food? Well, we have meetings twice a month, and at every meeting there are two tables of women who are responsible for bringing morning type foods for a crockpot style breakfast. Today, my table was one of the ones in charge of food. And I had a heck of a time picking out what I was going to take. Last time it was jello cake and chocolates. I figured this time it would be chocolates and…well, I finally decided on this recipe for Creme Brûlée  French Toast.

When I was prepping the bread cubes, I came up with the idea to leave the rolls in their cardboard tray while I cut them. It was less mess and made for a pretty quick job of cubing them. After cutting them, I pulled a handful of the rolls apart and dropped them in the crockpot.

The next section of the recipe called for mixing the wet ingredients, plus sugar. I don’t know why, but I decided to dump all the wet ingredients together, mix them, and then add the sugar. Because there is so much milk in this recipe–and I had used a relatively small mixing bowl–it made it very hard to mix it up thoroughly. I actually had a decent amount of sugar in the bottom that I had to scrape out. If I do this recipe again, I will beat the eggs, add the vanilla, salt, and sugar, mix it up well, and then add the milk.

After refrigerating it for four hours, I popped it into the crock pot and let it cook over night. It smelled REALLY good when I woke up, but I was a little disappointed by the color and the denseness of it. When I got to my MOPS group and we finally started dishing it out, it was rather formless and dense. I found it to be a little too sweet, and thought that the look of it was off-putting, but it tasted pretty good and the other women at my table thought so too. I’ll probably try to tweak the recipe some–and if I do, I’ll make sure to update this post–but I do plan to try this again some time for my family. I think it I can get it to look a little nicer, my kids will really enjoy this!

Questions for my readers: How do you keep bread pudding–or other recipes similar to this one–from looking unappetizing?

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Long Time No Post

It’s been rather a long time since I have posted, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating (obviously) and certainly doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on expanding my food experiences.

We took the family to the Blank Park Zoo’s around the world experience (don’t quote me on what the day is actually called) back in Fall of 2011. We got to taste some great foods from a variety of cultures. I especially liked the dessert tamale I tried right as we were leaving. I -still- hope to learn how to make these at some point. I thought this one, from the Food Network, sounded good (especially since I have had good luck with liking Guy Fieri recipes in the past).

In spring of 2012, I received a Fit Book for my birthday. It was awesome and I will probably do a more in depth review of it at some point, even though I am not currently using it (because my now three year old daughter has appropriated it as her own notebook). Suffice it to say that it provided motivation (through quotes), a method for setting (and tracking and achieving) goals, a location for tracking food, and a spot for tracking exercise.

The family has also moved (in late Spring 2012) to a new town and a new house (after initially moving into an apartment in the new town). We ate out a lot during the move (boo!), but have been working hard since then to cut back on the amount of food we have been eating.

In Fall of 2012 I was accepted to the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program, with a popular fiction specialty. It was a drive towards reclaiming myself and my health that inspired me to do this. Along with the renewed interest in writing, came a renewed interest in exercising. Pain from fibromyalgia made it difficult to accomplish. I finally bought a recumbent exercise bike and began watching Biggest Loser to motivate me. I started keeping track of my calories, got back to paying attention to vegetable in take, and began loosing weight.

Of course, the holiday’s rolled around, as they always do. My weight loss ground to a halt (as did my exercise). New Year’s was followed soon after by my very first graduate school residency. I got to spend 10 beautiful days in Freeport, Maine. I spent the whole time at The Harraseeket Inn, eating their gorgeous breakfast buffet every morning and eating their delicious pizza and cake at the Broad Arrow Tavern. I took pictures of a lot of the food I ate and plan on doing a post devoted to the food I had while at the residency.

2013-01-04 13.38.42Needless to say, this amazing experience caused me to gain back some of the weight I had lost. It also killed my body, making it incredibly difficult to exercise or even stretch–or, on some days, to have enough energy to care about eating, let alone what I was eating. But as I have jumped in to my graduate studies, gotten a new pain specialist, and felt the approaching warmth of spring in the air, I have felt a renewed burst of energy directed at my health endeavors.

So while I don’t know yet how frequent my posting will be, I have decided to return to chronicling my efforts. It made me more aware of what I was consuming when I began this site a couple years ago. It also made food more fine, despite the fact that I was trying to restrict and change what I took into my body. Hopefully it will do the same things for me this time around. I’m glad to be back and look forward to opening up discussions again.

Question for my readers: What helps motivate you in achieving your goals (food and non-food goals alike)?

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Kitchen Sink Cottage Cheese

One of the biggest difficulties of doing a healthy eating plan is all the eating that you have to do. Spreading the calories out through several meals and snacks during the day is nice because it helps you feel fuller longer, but it’s difficult because you don’t always want to be having the same snack. No matter how much you like carrots, you don’t want carrots as a snack twice a day, seven days a week. So even as I am always looking for new meals and foods to try out, I am also always looking for quick, easy snacks to add to our list so that we can rotate in some more variety. Here is a cottage cheese snack that I stumbled upon when I was hungry and not wanting to really make anything. I just grabbed a few things out of the cupboard that sounded good, tossed them together, and ended up liking it. So, without further ado, here is my “Kitchen Sink Cottage Cheese.”

Kitchen Sink Cottage Cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 can pineapple tidbits
1 tablespoon honey roasted sunflower nuts
1 small handful of dried cranberries

This snack is easy to make and easy to eat. The toppings make the distinctive cottage cheese flavor more mild but do not completely cover it up. The pineapple provides a fresh sweetness, the honey roasted sunflower nuts provide an earthiness, and the dried cranberries add a bright pop of color and flavor. Over all, it provides a variety of complementary flavors that can add a bright note to any day’s food line-up.

To my readers: What’s your favorite way to eat cottage cheese?

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Part of Your Complete Breakfast

So for free day yesterday, we went a step closer to a healthier day. It started out with a “classic” complete breakfast. We went with our normal cereal and fruit, because that’s healthy and we actually like it–and we were running low on eggs, which is what we normally have on free day. Then, because it was free day, and we wanted it to be special some how, we added two pieces of bacon per person (which we needed to use up any way) and some orange juice. This got me thinking about the classic “part of your complete breakfast” commercials. I’d already decided that there was a lot of food on our table, but I figured, for curiosity’s sake, why skip the last ingredient of the classic breakfast: toast. We also had some bread we needed to use up anyway.

Now, after having eaten it, I want to know who decided that that was the complete breakfast that everyone should be having? It’s a lot of food, even if you believe that breakfast–as the food that jumpstarts your body for the day–is the most important meal of the day and can be made up of more of your calories (percentage-wise) than the other meals. I actually took the time to figure up the calories of what we ate:

2 pieces bacon: 104 calories
1 serving cereal: 120 calories
1 serving 2% milk: 120 calories
1 serving mandarin oranges: 80 calories
1 slice of toast: 60 calories (although I’d like to point out that two slices is listed as having 130 calories, which doesn’t work out properly going by the math I learned in school…)
1 serving of margarine: 100 calories
1 serving of cinnamon & sugar: 15 calories
or
1 serving jelly: 50 calories

Total with cinnamon & sugar: 599 calories
Total with jelly: 634 calories

Now, if you’re going by a 2000 calorie diet, which is what all the DRV information is based off of, and which is generally accepted as a “healthy” calorie amount for people–although I feel obligated to point out that it really depends on age, gender, height, current weight, activity level, and whether you want to maintain weight or lose weight–then that leaves you with 1400 calories left for the day (approximately). Factor in five more “meals” left to eat for the day and you’ve got only 280 calories per meal. Now, I’ll admit that that’s doable, but it’s also a small enough amount that you have to be careful. It’s easy to hit that 300 calorie mark without even thinking about it.

And if you’re trying to loose weight? You’ve only got (for me, anyway) 1000 to 1200 calories left for the day, meaning 200 to 240 calories a meal. If you notice above, I would hit the 240 calories just by having 1 serving of cereal (3/4 cups of Life, in this case) and 1 serving of 2% milk. That really isn’t a lot, even if I have it five times. The couple of days that we’ve had just cereal for breakfast (without the addition of the fruit), I’ve ended up hungry within about 1 or 1 1/2 hours, which is half the time it takes me to get hungry normally.

So, my conclusion? The complete breakfast is, really, more calories than I would want to put into one meal (even though it’s doable) and when I look at the components of it, is more carbohydrates than I’d want to invest in one meal. However, if you stick to portion sizes, it’s not as bad as I initially thought. It’s just not the way I want to spend my calories.

To my readers: What’s your complete breakfast?

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Pizza Bread

I am a huge fan of pizza. I have been all my life. It’s a comfort food when I’m feeling blue and it’s a celebratory food when I’m feeling good. Last night we came up with yet another version of homemade pizza and it was totally delicious, so I thought I’d share it here.

Pizza Bread:
1 loaf french bread (cut into four pieces–like if you were making a sub sandwich)
Fruit salsa (we used Peach Pineapple Chipotle)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced swiss cheese
Shredded fiesta blend cheese
Pizza toppings (I had pepperoni on mine and Jared had pepperoni and Canadian bacon)
Preheated oven at 350 degrees

1. Put aluminum foil on a baking sheet, place bread on the foil, and place slices of swiss cheese down on top of the bread.
2. Spoon desired amount of salsa on top of the Swiss cheese (this is in place of pizza sauce).
3. Sprinkle on the two types of shredded cheese. Feel free to be generous. This is a nice, ooey, gooey, cheesy pizza.
4. Place pizza toppings on top.
5. Place in oven for ten minutes.

This was a really good pizza. The bread, the Swiss cheese, and the salsa all added a delightful hint of sweetness, while the chipotle flavoring of the salsa and the pepperoni’s added a mild spiciness to balance out the sweetness. I also found it nice to not have a strong tomato taste. By using the salsa instead of the normal pizza sauce, I was actually able to taste more flavors overall, instead of just tomato. It was a nice meal and will probably be something that we repeat–on free days, anyway. After all, it was neither healthy calorie-wise nor portion-wise and I’m not sure if I could eat a smaller amount of it.

To my readers: What’s the most unique topping you’ve ever put on a pizza?

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Foil Pouch Tilapia

After posting my experiences with the Parmesan Tilapia recipe, an old acquaintance shared her favorite tilapia recipe via Facebook. Not only did it look easy, but it looked tasty, too, so we decided to give it a try tonight. Here’s the recipe:

Foil Pouch Tilapia:
4-4 ounce tilapia fillet’s
3 tablespoons fruit salsa (we used Peach Pineapple Chipotle) per filet
Oil spray (like Pam)
1 teaspoon dried minced onion per fillet

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Get on square of aluminum foil per fillet and spray it with Pam.
3. Place tilapia fillet’s on foil squares.
4. Place 3 tablespoons salsa and 1 teaspoon dried minced onion on each fillet.
5. Wrap the aluminum foil around the fillet’s, place on a baking sheet, and cook for ten minutes or until the fish flakes.

This was definitely the best tilapia I’ve had, so thank you very much for sharing this recipe, Shelley! I loved the salsa and it was super easy to make. However, I am fairly certain now that I just don’t like tilapia. It’s tolerable, and there’s at least one way to eat it that makes it good. However, as easy as the recipe was and as much as I ended up liking the fruity salsa, I should have loved this–if I liked the protein. Since it only fell into the “pretty good” category, I can only conclude that tilapia is not my fish of choice. Still, we’ll probably make at least one more of our remaining batches of tilapia this way.

To my readers: what’s your favorite variety of salsa?

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Squash Casserole and Wisdom Teeth

No, we didn’t have them together at the same time. However, because I recently had my wisdom teeth out (and consequently haven’t been doing much related to food other than pick at it and wish it was softer) I thought I would talk about a squash casserole we had the other day.

It’s a Paula Deen recipe and (for once) we made it just like the recipe called for. We had it the other day with our Parmesan tilapia. The recipe can be found here. Here’s the picture of how it turned out for us:

It turned out pretty good. The buttery-ness and the crunch of the Ritz crackers was great, and I loved the fresh taste of the squash. And of course, who can pass on the gooey goodness of anything cheesy? It worked well together and complimented the sauce on our tilapia very well. Of course, it didn’t add a whole lot of color to the meal. Still, I plan on having it again and have been happy to have the leftovers as an option for my still tender mouth.

On a side note, I never realized how few “soft” dishes there are to choose from. When going for something healthy, something soft, and some variety…it gets rather difficult to plan meals rather quickly.

To my readers: What’s your favorite soft dish?

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