We are on a mission in the Riley house to eat healthier. One of the first things that had to go was fried foods (we’ll mourn later). Since one of my favorite meals to make is fish tacos (batter fried of course) I decided tonight to make a few revisions to the meal to healthify it. First to change was the sauce. No more mayonnaise or sour cream. Instead I blended up an avocado with jalapeno, cilantro, lime, onion, and a tablespoon of white vinegar (plus a teensy bit of water and salt).
The next big step was to skip over using beer batter, and to grill the lightly seasoned fish. Of course since the grill was already hot it was perfect to toss the tortillas on allowing for warm soft tortillas without frying them in oil.
While the fish is cooking toss up some cabbage salsa (cilantro, tomato, cabbage, sweet onion, and lime).
Aww, the fish is done (its tilapia by the way).
There you have it, fish tacos healthified. Nothing fried or saturated in fats.
Last night for the fun of it we decided to make dinner as a family. Of course whats funner than letting the little (and not so little) ones put together their own pizza. There’s nothing like flour and cheese all over the place to make the kiddos happy. However pizza is hardly healthy eating. In an attempt to make it a bit lower in carbs and lower fat I picked up light mozzarella cheese and substituted steak tomatoes for the crust. Wow, talk about delicious. I am not even a tomato lover but these babies were to die for. Meanwhile I saved about 400 calories and over 70g of carbs with this simple substitution and it took only about 5 minutes to assemble. Let me know what you think if you give it a whirl.
No Crust Pizza
Marinara Sauce of your choice
Cut tomato in approximately 1/4 inch slices.
Smooth 2T of marinara sauce atop the tomato slices.
Top with grated mozzarella and pepperoni and finish with sprinkles of garlic salt and basil.
Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees or 12 minutes under the broiler set on high.
As pictured here 2 Slices made with Ragu traditional sauce & reduced fat mozzarella (1.5 oz):
Calories 226; Fat 13; Carbs 8.85; Fiber 2; Protein 17; Weight Watchers Points Plus: 5.5
Most thoughtful: As a few of you know I had lap-band surgery nearly two years ago. Part of the process involves going on a pure liquid diet for three days pre-op, then another five days post surgery. There’s more, but in a nutshell the last real meal you eat before Weight loss surgery becomes known as “The Last Supper” because not only will you not eat anything semi normal for weeks to come, you will never eat the same again. This wasn’t something I whined about to my husband because I was still trying to keep him on board with the process and didn’t want to utter a teensy complaint about it given that it took me a year to get his support as it was. So, four days before my surgery he surprises me with a baby sitter and sweeps me off my feet for a long drive giving me no clues as to where we were going. Two hours later we arrived at the front door of Ruth’s Chris, the best steakhouse ever. He said he wanted my last meal to be the best.
Most creative: Damien has never really caught on to buying jaw dropping gifts. In fact in the early years he didn’t buy them at all. Not entirely his fault since we have almost always been on a mega tight budget and we share a bank account, but he has been in the dog house once or twice regardless. Last year however on my birthday (which also falls on or within days of Mother’s Day) Damien got super creative and took me to Big 5 to pick out my own gift. If you are confused, so was I… at first. But he soon explained that my gift was to spend time with me, in the form of playing tennis together. We picked out rackets and headed to a court for my birthday…it was awesome.
Most Spontaneous: Damien and I hit it off very early. In a matter of three weeks we had a huge list of dates we had been on, including dinners, movies, meeting parents, Disneyland and more. However in our fourth week we ended up on the road to San Diego heading out to Sea World. I had never been, so it was a very magical trip, however I would have never guessed what was to come next. On the drive home we had this mad idea to get married and have a baby. So sure enough, after an official proposal, four weeks later we met at the alter and began our wild adventure toward the Party of Five. I’m not sure he will ever top the spontaneity of proposing one month in and pushing for a wedding 30 days later, but the best may be still yet to come.
I have been making a major concentrated effort lately to keep up on housework over the weekends (something I am generally not very good at). That way when I get calls to sub during the week I don’t end up overwhelmed or living in chaos. Today however I chose not to take a job since I have a temperamental head cold. With the laundry, shopping, and meal planning done I had nothing to do but sit around and get better. A couple of hours doing nothing was indeed great but pretty soon Julianna and I started looking at each other like “what’s the fun in this?” So I decided to try my hand at a No Knead Bread recipe, with a three year old assistant of course. The simplicity of this might I add was amazing, but it takes all of 8 minutes including clean up to put together, the rest is waiting (and Julianna was not a happy camper about the “no kneading” part). As you can imagine that didn’t put a dent in my day so off to the next project, Homemade Pasta. I looked the recipe up just to see if I had the right ingredients and to my surprise it only takes egg and flour, done!
Please don’t ask why I decided making homemade noodles sounded entertaining. My brain was considering it something like this, “I think I’ll spend a bunch of time and make a mess for lunch, sounds fun!”. However since I rarely turn back once I set my mind on something, here is how my pasta making adventure went.
First of all I didn’t want too much pasta so I started with a 1/2 cup of flour and 1 egg (oh and a sizable amount of flour on the counter which as it would turn out added way too much to my dough making it extremely tough and landed it in the garbage). On to attempt two. Even though the recipe said 1 egg per cup of flour and I was cutting it in half I decided I had better add no more than a heaping quarter cup of flour after failed experiment one. That with the “lightly floured” surface was precisely the right combination. Five minutes of kneading then five more minutes of rolling it flat as flat can be later and it was time to cut the pasta (which was I might say rather exciting to be doing since I wasn’t entirely sure I was ever going to end up with anything that resembled real pasta). Pizza roller in hand…
From beginning to end it took about 30 minutes to make about 2 cups of cooked pasta and really didn’t make the big mess I was expecting (plus it only took 3 minutes to cook). The final touch was to toss it with butter, garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Oh and the littlest food critic of the house gave it two thumbs up.
If you have ever seen the popular TLC show What Not To Wear then you have definitely heard a broad range of advice on which of your wardrobe items should already be on their way to the local Goodwill. Ranging from bold print to lousy undergarments the hosts frequently remind viewers to be modern, modest, and bold but never tacky. I have only seen the show a few times but I imagine they also teach what fashions are suitable for given venues.
Now lets jump off topic for a minute. See I happen to be a substitute teacher. Which means I work at multiple schools in a given week and sometimes I end up at sites where I am not known. Which means I walk past multiple teachers in a day who slap on a smile and perky demeanor for their peers only to drop it as they round the corner. Note: in this scenario I am virtually invisible. I walk through the same office, eat in the same break room, and make copies in the same work room only to be ignored, which I can live with. However sometimes I feel a slight temptation to say to these “professionals” that even though they may have cute shoes, an adorable skirt, and flattering top they happen to be wearing a hideous scowl on their face which destroys the rest. Might I add its not just a scowl that ruins the image, attitude and body language can sabotage a perfect look as well. So here’s the point. Don’t frump around sporting a nasty frown. Stand tall, don a smile, and say hello to strangers even if it kills you.
2. “Lets go“: I love getting out of the house.
3. Lively music: Having waitressed for 11 years, I found myself driving to work with a scowl on my face way too often. Instead I would play my favorite tunes to lift my spirits. It still works! No matter what my mood, upbeat music always makes it better.
4. “Mommy!” (when said with enthusiasm) Mostly the girls call out for Daddy, but when I hear them call out for me I LOVE it!
5. Live Piano: When Damien first brought home his childhood piano I thought it would make a nice addition to our decor, but I never knew I would love hearing him play it so much. It is very relaxing.
6. “I Love You!” Who could get tired of hearing this?
7. Laughing: One of the best sounds ever, esp. when it is kids.
8. The final “schools out” bell of the day…awww sweet harmony!
9. Silence: This is actually quite the opposite of sound, but it tops the list anyways.
10. Running water (like rivers and streams)
11. Holiday Jingles: As soon as the time of year comes when they start playing Xmas music it starts to feel so magical.
12. Rustling Leaves: No explanation, just love it!
13. Anthony Hopkins & Morgan Freeman: These guys could turn the “books on tape” market in to a multi million dollar business with their calming voices.
The first four years of his life, my oldest was an only child. Luckily we lived right next door to two of his cousins so playmates were close by. Still though friends go home, and he was left all by himself. To this day we tease him about trying to bribe them with candy to stay and play, and when that didn’t work, throwing himself in front of the door screaming so that they couldn’t possibly get out. Oh the life of an only child in a single parent house can be a touch lonely.
Now, however, our home situation is very different. There are five of us, two adults for the entertaining, and three kids to keep each other busy. The youngest Riley doesn’t quite view this as a positive though. She never gets anything to herself, and has to share everything. Given that I was the youngest of three I feel like I can relate to her frustrations, but afterall she is only two so their isn’t much I can explain to her as of yet.
For all that, times are changing. See the big sister just started school. So now, when mom isn’t working, all attention is on her. The first day all by herself she was pampered with a manicure, pedicure, and haircut (thanks to a good friend). Now today is day two. She got to pick the cartoon, has all the toys to herself, doesn’t have to cut the banana in half (which I learned was apparently a very exciting thing), and is getting ready to go out to run errands with mom…all by herself. Out of the blue she said with more enthusiasm then I have seen in a while “I get to play all by myself” (to which I replied) “is that a good thing?”…”uh HUH!”
One thing for sure, her demeanor is very different, from the aggressive child who screams and shouts when big brother and sister are home to a reasonable one who is almost serene when they are gone. Poor thing just needed to get some time to herself.
I was stumbling today when I found a quote that read “the best things in life aren’t things”. I instantly thought of how true the statement was, since as I see it the best things in life are moments. Moments we spend with family, friends, and even strangers. So why do we focus so adamantly on obtaining “things”?
As a society we strive to have the best house on the block, drive the finest car, or show off our newest purchases. Yet year after year these items fade, get older, and stop being exciting to show off. So what do we do? We get more things to show off. It seems like such a silly practice when in the long run we hardly remember our loved ones for what they owned. We remember the times we spent with them and how happy we were when we were with them. We remember the moments.
Yet here I sit writing this thinking about how infrequently I invite others over because my lawn is all weeds, or because the furniture is worn and the pool is missing tiles. I certainly do not want to be remembered for the car I drove, nor for having the biggest television set, but for being friendly, and willing to adapt. Don’t most people want the same? We hear this message in sermons, in music and find it spliced into movie scripts. It really shouldn’t take much thought to put into practice, but it simply does not come naturally for most. When you think about it, it takes far less effort to put experiences before objects. So the challenge for myself and for you is to stop being concerned with surroundings and things, but to live for the moment.
Companies spend a lot of time and energy marketing to kids. In fact I’d guess that kids may be one of the biggest audiences in their business. They grab them with commercials, magazine ad’s, and product placement in their favorite shows. But the real kicker is when they use their favorite cartoon characters to sell the product. Well my oldest daughter just turned five and got what would seem to be the new hot ticket item for her birthday. A Zhu Zhu pet. These things are a wonderful replacement for a real hamster, however they have about 20 accessories to be complete. Ranging from housing attachments. to toys, the price can go pretty high to get your Zhu Zhu pet complete. So the little one noticed right away on the side of the box that wonderful attention grabbing image of a Zhu Zhu in a carrier. I’m thinking, “oh that’s cute, can’t cost much just for a little carrier that’s smaller than my hand”…um, thats where I was wrong. When I looked it up, the cost was…prepare yourself…$20. For less than eighth of a yard of low quality fabric. Holy Moly, time to improvise. So we decided to make one. Let me give you my disclaimer: I am not a seamstress. I have a sewing machine I have used 4 times and not very well I might add, but what the heck…she’s five right, who will notice crooked stitches?
Here’s what I started with: the Zhu Zhu pet for sizing, two pieces of coordinating fabric, thread, scissors, and rick rack (would have used ribbon but this is what I had on hand).
I made a basic square with rounded corners, stitched it together inside out, turned it right side out and attached the rick rack sloppily around the edges.
Lastly I attached some handles and slipped the hamster into his new carrier. Not quite what the commercial advertises, but the five year old was happy.
(sorry for the fuzzy cell phone images)
Listen here, if I can put this thing together, anyone can. The best part is that instead of marketing forcing us parents to spend $20 for a piece of cloth that will be lost in the laundry in a week, I managed to make the little one extremely happy in less than an hour. Improvising rocks!
As a kid I can tell you my dad helped just about anyone we crossed paths with. He was by profession an auto-mechanic, but really he was just handy with almost anything. If someone needed help, stranger or not he was the guy who stopped, and he would never accept anything in return other than a thank you. As I have grown I can’t say that I see many good samaritan acts like these, but times have changed so drastically its easy to understand why. For one, just about everyone has some sort of roadside assistance and a cell phone to get help out to them. For another it is hardly safe to stop and check on strangers, especially in remote areas or at night. I also think as a general rule we own newer cars (unlike the days where we drove a car for 20 years until it was on its last leg) so there are fewer break downs. Still though, even in modern times, gas runs out, tires go flat, and on the rare occasion that you either do not have your cell phone or happen to be in between roadside assistance plans, help is always desperately wanted. On with my story.
Yesterday wasn’t one of our luckiest days in the Riley house, a few flips and flops through the day (nothing major), but we didn’t manage to be driving home from work until it was dark, slushy, and pouring down rain. On the darker “short cut” home though, we got a flat tire. Since I was certain that I opted out of the roadside assistance to keep our insurance policy low, Damien started out in the cold to change it. This is where I should mention that trying to find where the factory jack is installed in your vehicle, is like playing Where’s Waldo. Then getting it out of the housing is another puzzle. Ten minutes in the rain and we haven’t even taken the spare of the back of the car. The kids and I got to stay tucked away for the grueling 40 minutes that followed while Damien knelt in soggy snow and was getting soaked with fresh rain, but the good ol’ factory jack still refused to get the car high enough to put the full sized spare on. So just as we are about to freeze to death, a car pulls up and a guy steps out offering to help. In less than 10 minutes he uses his (far superior) factory jack and has us on our way. It was unbelievable to both Damien and I that someone would stop on a pitch black road, in the slush, with rain pouring down, and help change a tire for strangers.
Oh and when I called later to add roadside assistance to our policy I learned we already had it…go figure.