Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 5 Tuesday

When I first started working out regularly a few years ago, I discovered indoor cycling, or as many of us know it, spinning. I think the most appealing thing for me is that I get to sit on my tush and still get an awesome workout. While I don't get to attend a class as often as I'd like, I've been trying my best to make it to Saturday morning classes as the 10:45 instructor is hilarious and plays the best music. Sometimes I even find myself dancing in my seat...

Here's my top five tips for anyone who's never gone to a spin class:

1. Bring a towel and PLENTY of water.
2. Go at your own pace. If your instructor tells you to add resistance and you're struggling, stay where you feel like you need to be. It's OKAY; you're not racing anyone but yourself!
3. Let the instructor know this is your first class so he or she can help you set up your bike.
4. Attend a class a good 2-3 times before you decide whether or not you'll never go again. In my experience, it takes that long for your bum to recover from that seat!
5. Have FUN!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

That Time I Went to My First Weight Watchers Meeting

I've been doing Weight Watchers online on and off since about 2007. Believe me, this ain't my first rodeo.

With 5-10 (depending on the time of day) MEASLY pounds left until I hit my healthy weight range, I am somehow losing all motivation and steam. Plus, looking at my future, I don't want to be dropping $17.95/month for all eternity to access Weight Watchers. I want to get to Lifetime and do Weight Watchers for free.

Enter Weight Watchers meetings.
Yes, I'll be paying $40 a month instead of $17.95, but I'm crossing my fingers that this will be the extra push I need every month. I don't want to be spending all that money and go nowhere on this thing! I feel like my health is definitely a worthy investment.

I've been looking forward to this meeting all week, yet very nervous. Are they going to think I'm too big? Not big enough? Too young? Most importantly, were they going to notice I haven't shaved my legs in 4 days?

No worries on that one, folks. I doubt anyone noticed.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the meeting! I felt like I was in school again, but for something I was actually interested in. The leader was very encouraging and positive, they didn't weigh you on some massive scale and shout out your weight, and it was great to see people from all walks of life there (older and younger, male and female) and there seemed to be people at every stage in their weight loss journey.

I'm really hoping this gives me the motivation I need to finally get to goal and lifetime. I feel like I've started all over again, but I don't have so far to go this time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Buying in Bulk

Dave Ramsey recommends buying food in bulk, but when you've got a small family to feed (or just yourself...), how do you know what's a good deal for you and what food will last?

Mint.com posted an article on their blog this week about which foods to buy in BULK!

Check it out and go get you some Costco.

Happy Friday!

PS--While you're there, be sure to buy yourself a smoothie or some ice cream after the checkout. They have AWESOMELY low prices on those, but they only accept cash.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Teach a woman to won ton...

Do you ever buy a cart full of groceries with the intention of making some amazing recipe you found, but then have no idea what to do with all the extra ingredients you spent so much money on? It's frustrating that you put so much time, effort, and money into something and simply get one meal out of your entire purchase.

I believe that being able to plan meals surrounding similar ingredients is an art. An art I very much intend to master over the coming months. To do that, I figure I should start small.

Remember those s'mores brownies I made a couple weekends ago that nearly burned the kitchen down? I've got half a bag of semi-sweet morsels left over from this. And I've got half a package of won ton wrappers left from lasagna cupcakes I made that weekend as well.

Enter: Chocolate Peanut Butter Won Tons! Don't worry. It's easy peasy.

And the recipe is pretty straightforward. Just drop a little dollop of peanut butter and a couple semi-sweet morsels on a wrapper. Wet the edges with some water, and fold over, making a triangle. Spray the wrappers with cooking spray, then bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Don't forget to sneak in a few chocolate morsels to snack on. 

Once the won tons start to turn brown on the edges, take them out of the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on each, and enjoy!


Tonight's baking music brought to you by Adele.

And because my boyfriend enjoys when I post pictures of my pup...

Have you mastered the art of using multiple ingredients throughout the week for multiple meals? Share!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Conversation with Emily (Bites!) Part 2

What or who inspires you in the kitchen?
I find inspiration everywhere! The food blogging community is amazing and there are so many great at-home cooks and creative recipes out there. I follow a ton of different blogs. Can You Stay For Dinner, Baked Bree, Annie’s Eats and Skinnytaste are some of my favorites. My family is inspiration. My mom is a great cook and my sister’s vegetarianism influences me to include more meat-free options. I find a lot of inspiration browsing “food porn” sites like foodgawker and foodie boards on Pinterest. My readers are also amazing inspiration. I love receiving ideas, recipes and challenges, and though I don’t make every one for the blog, they often lead me to other ideas.

If you were being executed tomorrow, what would be your last meal?
Oh wow, this just got morbid! What was my crime? I’ll say my mom’s spaghetti & meatballs with lots of Parmesan cheese. Probably cheesecake with some sort of berry topping for dessert.

What has been your favorite post on your blog?
I don’t think I can pick one! I’m particularly proud of any of the recipes that are “Emily Bites Originals” because they show how far I’ve come since starting to cook 10 months ago. A few favorite recipes off the top of my head: The Best Lasagna Ever, Spicy Black Bean Burgers, Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins, Cheeseburger Pizza, Italian Farro Bake, Black Forest Cupcakes, Pasta with Feta & Roasted Vegetables, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Baked Blueberry & Peach Oatmeal and Taco Cupcakes. That’s ten. You asked for one? Oops.

How has emilybites.com affected your life?
Becoming a food blogger has had a huge effect on my life over the past 8 months. I’ve always loved food, but I’ve developed a fresh appreciation for it and a newfound passion and confidence for cooking. I started my blog with the goal of proving that people could eat the foods they love, without sacrificing flavor, as part of a healthy weight loss plan. A lot of people think of “diet food” or “eating healthy” as boring, tasteless and an unavoidable concession to be thin. It doesn’t have to be that way! A weight loss plan (or healthy lifestyle maintenance plan) that doesn’t allow me to love what I’m eating will never work for me long term, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve received such great feedback from readers of my blog saying things like they feel like they’re learning to cook because of my site or that I “saved” their weight loss journey by breaking them out of their food rut and letting them love what they’re eating again. Comments like those mean so much to me. I’m learning as I go too and I’m definitely not perfect! I love feeling like my readers are discovering an excitement for cooking and eating these recipes right alongside me.

I’ve also realized that I love writing about food and sharing my excitement about flavors and ingredients. I would love to extend this passion I have into potentially doing some articles or reviews – my new dream is to be published as a food writer! I’m participating in the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans at the end of the month and I can’t wait to attend workshops and get tips to improve, as well as networking and socializing with other food bloggers.

I spend so much of my free time now on my blog. Between searching for recipes, grocery shopping, running ideas through the Weight Watchers recipe builder to determine Points+ values, cooking, photographing*, editing, cleaning up, writing the posts and communicating with my readers on various social networking sites, it’s taking over my life! I love it though. It’s not just a hobby, it’s my obsession.

*Next step: Buy a real camera and learn how to use it. I still take all of the photos on my blog with the camera on my phone!

Thank you so much for taking the time to let me pick your brain, Emily!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random Helpful Money-Saving Tip You Wish You Would Have Thought Of

See that? That's the center console in my car. And that's a quarter. That's my safe keeping spot for my Aldi quarter. Keeping it here means I never have to rummage around for a quarter for the shopping cart when I hit up Aldi!

Unless, of course, I spent it on a .25 Cherry Coke Zero from the vending machine at work. That, my friends, is worth every penny when 3:00 hits.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Conversation with Emily (Bites!) Part 1

If you've never heard of Emily Bites (and even if you have!), you're in for a real treat today. Emily is a recent addition to the food blog circuit whose goal is to create healthy meals without forfeiting flavor. Her recipes (whether adapted or original) are increasingly popular to Weight Watchers fans old and new alike.
I recently took the opportunity to catch up with Emily and learn more about her. I was shocked to learn that she only very recently started workin' it in the kitchen!

What was your experience in the kitchen growing up? Did your family cook a lot?
My mom is an amazing cook, but I had almost no experience with cooking growing up. When I was a kid, my mom (or sometimes my dad) would cook dinner and my brother, sister and I were responsible for setting the table and then washing the pots and cleaning up. 

Consequently, when I graduated college and moved out on my own I didn’t really know how to cook. I spent many years living mostly off frozen entrees, pasta, fast food and other convenience foods. I even did Weight Watchers a few times in the past and never really cooked (I ate a LOT of Lean Cuisines…), but eventually I would always get bored of always eating the same things or I’d try “real food” again and fall of the wagon hard after remembering how good it tasted. Now I’m definitely never bored with my meals! I love food and I am so happy to find I can eat delicious, flavorful meals and fit them into the Weight Watchers plan. 

Best cooking tip for a novice?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Start by planning to cook 1-2 nights a week. Find recipes you’re excited about. The more experience you get cooking, the more comfortable you’ll become and the better of a cook you’ll be!

What's the one kitchen gadget you can't live without? 
I make such a variety of different foods that it’s hard for me to choose just one I can’t live without. I’ll just give you three of my favorites. I love my immersion blender, it makes everything easier. I love my muffin tins! They’ve come in handy lately with all the “main course muffins” I’ve been making, like the Mac & Cheese Muffins, Lasagna Cupcakes, Meatloaf Muffins and Taco Cupcakes. I also love my frosting gun. Just the words “frosting gun” make me happy. Plus, when I make traditional dessert cupcakes it makes me look like a pro, and it’s so easy to use!

Any kitchen disaster stories?
Oh, of course – they just never make it to my blog! A few weeks ago I decided to put together a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Ravioli using wonton wrappers at the request of one of the regular posters on the Weight Watchers message boards. I was super excited about it and mentioned it to a few other posters and they seemed enthusiastic as well. Unfortunately…it was a total disaster. I decided to use ground chicken, which I coated in orange Buffalo wing sauce. I sealed little mounds of it between two wonton wrappers. Everything was going well until I boiled it. The squiggly mounds of orange-colored ground chicken underneath the now-translucent wonton wrappers looked exactly like brains. Talk about unappealing. I tried to make a blue cheese sauce to go with it using blue cheese flavored Laughing Cow and modifying their Alfredo recipe, but the wedges wouldn’t melt and the sauce was too garlicky and ended up lumpy. The whole mess of it didn’t taste too bad, but it wasn’t blog-worthy and it looked hideous.

I cooked it while dog-sitting at my parents’ house and when my dad came home and saw the leftovers in the fridge he actually recoiled and said something to the effect of “ew…what is this?” Needless to say, it was not my best work. I was hoping everyone forgot I ever mentioned making it but I ended up being asked about it several times by readers and having to explain that it just wasn’t blog material. That’s just one example, but cooking is all about experimentation and you can’t be afraid to fail. I learn from every mistake or failure and they all make me better in the kitchen. I already have some ideas to re-tool that recipe and try again!

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of my interview with Emily!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 5 Tuesday

Favorite Workouts I'm Loving (or not cursing under my breath and kicking and screaming over) Right Now.

I've joined the ranks of many able-bodied women and have initiated myself into the New Rules of Lifting for Women club. If you're unfamiliar with the workout, this is a 6-month, no-fussin', this ain't your mamma's type of strength-training program. After years of lifting "Barbie" weights with The Firm, I decided I'd give this a go. Five weeks in, I'm loving it. Hereto, five weeks in, five NROLFW workouts I'm loving:

1. Swiss ball crunch. HOLYFREAKINGCOW can my ab muscles feel this one! I'm telling you, Jiggle-Free Abs, Abs of Steel, they got nothin' on this.

Oh, hello Mr. Abs. I'm glad to see that swiss ball crunch working for you.

2. The squat. What else is there to say? Who else is going to shape up my buns and thighs into working order? Nothing like the classic squat.

3. Deadlifts. This is the one move that I'm struggling with, yet I love. As a devoted Firm-ee since 2007, this program made me realize I've been doing deadlifts wrong. For 4 years. That explains my fanny, no? Yeah, it's either that or those s'mores brownies I set on fire (and I am STILL ENJOYING, thankyouverymuch).

They sure do start 'em early down here.

4. Step-ups. Come on! Any Firm graduate should have mastered these. Obviously, another awesome workout to tone the gluteus maximus. Obviously, something I want toned.  Enough said.

5. Cool down and stretch. (I'm totally counting it.)

Have YOU recently tried a new workout that you're loving? Share it!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Ironically enough, I just set fire to something in the kitchen.

It was worth it for this little puppy:

My $30 Challenge

With only me to grocery shop for, my grocery budget is pretty low every month. I try to aim for around $30 at the store every week. I recently discovered that one of the best places to get the most bang for your buck is Aldi.

If you've never heard of Aldi, it's a no-frills store straight out of Germany. Aldi is actually the parent company of Trader Joe's. These are some of the highlights of what sets Aldi apart from other stores:

  • To "rent" a shopping cart, you deposit a quarter, then retrieve your quarter when you've returned the cart to the cart corral. This cuts back on hiring employees to wrangle the shopping carts, thus saving YOU money.
  • Items are not stocked on shelves like in most grocery stores. They are placed in boxes in bulk in stacks on the floor. This cuts down on shelving units, saving YOU money.
  • Most items you see are Aldi brand, limiting the amount of product they place in their stores. This keeps the stores smaller, saving YOU money (are you seeing a trend here?). 
  • Aldi doesn't accept coupons or personal checks, nor do they provide you with plastic or paper bags (unless you'd like to pay a small price in case you forgot yours).
  • There are never any more than a handful of employees at any given time there, thus keeping operating costs low. 
I know you're probably thinking, if the prices are so low, the food can't be that great! Au contraire, blog readers! I would rank Aldi's produce miles ahead of most of the grocery stores I frequent. There is something about their bananas that make them supremely delicious, and somehow they take much longer to brown than those I get from anywhere else. 

Check out what I got for $33 today:
A bag of onions, a dozen eggs, 3 cans of diced tomatoes, 2 cans of tomato paste, cream of chicken soup, swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, crescent rolls, ground turkey, cubed ham, diced potatoes, and a bag of chicken breasts. 

Indeed, the lactose intolerant portion of me is cringing inside, but check out what I'm doing with all that food this week:

Supposing I don't set the kitchen on fire, these recipes could find their way back to my little corner of the internet later this week. Fingers crossed!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Food on Wheels

Louisville is known for a lot of things. We've got the Derby, we've got bourbon, we've got baseball bats.

Little known secret? We also have some of the most mouth-watering food around.

Exhibit A:

Look what decided to park its big yellow rear-end outside my office today!

Okay, I'm not going to lie, I didn't actually get a taste of it because I wasn't willing to spend $8.00 for a sandwich that I would have blown all of my money and calories on. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean I can contain my excitement for the idea that is the FOOD TRUCK arriving in Louisville!

I've always been so jealous of the trucks that New Yorkers get. I don't know what it is about people selling food out of their car. It's so...rough...and exotic...and potentially tasty! So imagine my delight when my Louisville busted out the food trucks, too. They even have a website that gives all the 4-1-1. I will FOR SURE be trying this again one day in the near future, just so long as I can keep my wallet and my belly happy.

Have you ever had a food truck experience?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Come on down! You're the next contestant on...

Raise your hand if you like budgeting your money.

Put your hand down, boyfriend!

Is YOUR hand up?

Let’s be honest, budgets can be a pain.in.the.arse.
I’m probably one in a handful of people who ENJOYS budgeting. Whether that’s budgeting my daily food intake, my money, what I’m going to do with my weekend, you name it.  I LOVE to budget and plan. It's the control freak in me. 
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with everyone. 
Budgeting your money doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to make you feel like the world has sucked you dry out of every imaginable joy in life. One of my favorite blogs, Get Rich Slowly, recently featured an article about turning money management into a game. Now THIS is a game I can get behind!
J.D. offers up some pretty sweet suggestions:
· Think of your income as your score. The more you bring in for the month, the higher your score.
· Make a game out of dining out. What are coupons you can find? How far can you stretch your dollar?
· Make a paper chain representing your debt. Each time you pay off a certain amount, cut a link off the chain.
For me, I feel personal gratification at the end of every month when my budgeted categories did not exceed my initial budget. I WON the game for the month! It's ESPECIALLY exciting when I've got money left over. 
It’s almost like watching The Price is Right. Can YOU get as close to that value without going over? 

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to lose weight

Step one: Find a support system.

I recommend one that talks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Once upon a time...

This story is about a girl, the almighty dollar, and one very large fanny.

Let’s take a little trip back in time to 2006, shall we?

That’s right! That’s me, Journey, and a bottle of Fanta in a Florentine hotel room.

One month in Italy and 15 pounds heavier (you read correctly, 15 pounds in four weeks. I deserve some sort of medal for that one!), I had to do something. Since then, I've lost over 50 pounds, yet I find myself learning something new almost every day about how to take better care of my body.

In the mean time, post-college, student debt suddenly became very overwhelming, especially when it eclipsed my annual salary. After beginning Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, I learned that I don't have to spend the rest of my life in debt. Today, I am determined to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

The more I read about getting out of debt, the more I realize how similar money-saving principles are to losing weight. It's with that in mind that I am determined to snag