Thursday, September 30, 2010

Will Bridezilla rear her ugly head?

So, seeing as how today is the last day of September and the last time I posted was the first day of August... I've been a wee bit negligent on the blog. So much has been going on, but it hasn't really seemed blog-worthy and I've been un-inspired on the nutrition front. I haven't been cooking much, but I did cook 2 yummy, healthy, easy Rachael Ray dishes in the last week... Bel Aria Chicken and Pasta and this yummy balsamic chicken with spinach and cannellini beans. As Rach would say, DELISH!

How many days to your wedding, you ask? 37, not that we're counting. Its a little surreal at times. We're both so excited about the quickly approaching date of the big day, being married, going on our honeymoon, etc... that I forget about what that really means. Like the fact that my name is going to change. Am I really going to introduce myself with a different name than the one I've used for the last 29 years? And develop a new signature? Not that the name change is the big thing about marriage, I guess its just one of the most obvious to me at the moment. Am I really going to share a home with someone, a home that will be "ours"... bills, paychecks, responsibilities?? I am really excited about seeing R on a daily basis... right now, I'm lucky to sneak in 5 minutes with him during the week as he's coming in to work and I'm leaving.

I'm positive I'm not the only bride to be who gets anxious as the wedding gets close, but man, I wish it wasn't that way! My friends before me seem to have handled it so well, I don't even remember them being anxious. Probably because I was oblivious :) I am trying not to "sweat the small stuff" but it is not easy! I know this isn't the first time in my life I've been anxious and it dawned on me that the Bible has a lot to say and a lot of comfort to give on this topic... I was reminded of one of my favorite passages yesterday:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7

I think it's normal to be anxious. I'm praying, though, that instead of anxiety, my heart can experience and display that supernatural peace that just doesn't make sense to others because it transcends our human understanding. I especially want my gentleness to be evident to others instead of Bridezilla rearing her ugly head, mouth, and attitude. I covet your prayers too!

I would also like to say that the anxiety that comes with planning a wedding has been more than matched with an incredible outpouring of love from my family, friends, and church family. I am amazed over and over again at people's generosity and willingness to demonstrate their support and love.

In other exciting news, R and I are part of a church plant that is officially launching this Sunday at 10am! Living Stones Church will be meeting at Trent InternationalE School behind First Colony Mall. Learn more about this exciting new church committed to not existing for itself: My good friend, Amanda, has been using her administrative and other gifts to serve alongside her husband, Brian, who is the associate pastor. We are eager to see what God has in store for us there! Join us :)

No promises on future updates. It might take a while, or you might be sick of hearing from me. We'll see!!

Love, B

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Peanut, Peanut Butter... (and JELLY!)

Peanut butter is a staple in most pantries and a common part of the American diet. It is inexpensive and requires no refrigeration. For a long time, I wouldn't eat peanut butter. Like many things I wouldn't eat for several years, I claimed I didn't like it but, truth be told, I was avoiding it more because it is notoriously high in calories and fat. And I was a calorie counter. Or a fat gram counter. It depended on the day. Since then, though, I've started to look at food more from the angle of the nutritional value it provides, rather than the calorie/fat stats on their own. And also, I appreciate convenience. PB&J was my Saturday morning staple before my long runs during marathon training. The bread and jelly provided carbs and the peanut butter "stuck to my ribs" (thanks to the fat and protein) without making me feel sick. Not sure of the science behind that, but it worked for me! I also appreciate puppy chow and peanut butter m&ms, although I can't really justify the nutritional value there :) But if you need to put on some weight, that's the way to go! (Not that I have ever had the need to gain weight, sadly.)

2 tablespoons, the suggested serving size, provides on average 190 calories and 16gm of fat. To put this in perspective, the average person needs about 2000 calories in a day and the recommended dietary allowance of fat at that calorie level is about 65 grams. I would like to point out that "average" doesn't necessarily describe most people's needs. A lanky teenage boy who is active might utilize 3000 calories a day. A sedentary elderly woman might use 1200. A sedentary small-ish woman in her late 20s might use 1500. That same woman might use 1800-2000 if she exercised regularly. There are many factors: age, activity level, gender, weight, height, muscle mass, metabolism, genetic factors... blah blah blah. So it is hard to just throw out a number that covers everyone. Bottom line: if you're gaining weight, you are eating more calories than you are burning; if you're losing weight, you are eating less calories than you are burning. In addition, the number of carbs/protein/fat you need are generally proportional to the number of calories you need.

A general recommendation of where you should get your calories from is 50-60% from carbohydrates, 25-35% from fat (no more than 10% from saturated fat), and 10-20% from protein. I am not advocating figuring out exactly what you are consuming, the point here is everyone should eat a balanced diet! No fat-free or carb-free diets please. Unless you want dull skin and hair (if you had no fat in your diet) or no energy (if you had no carbs).

Back to the topic at hand: peanut butter. I take issue when peanut butter is promoted for it's protein content because I think its misleading. It would really be hard to get enough protein from just eating peanut butter. 2 tablespoons has 7gm of protein, appx the same amount in 1oz. of meat/poultry or 1 egg. I'd have to eat 14 tablespoons of peanut butter to meet the low end of my protein needs for a day. Nothing wrong with it and yes, it does contribute to your protein needs - but not the most dense source out there. I also object when peanut butter is blasted for it's high fat content because it is actually reasonable in its saturated fat content (3gm/serving or 16% of the RDA) and provides a good amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (according to my Hill Country Fare jar, 7gm of the total amount of fat are from monos). Fat is higher in calories but also helps you to stay feeling full longer and may prevent you from going for a snack soon after you've already eaten. Peanut butter can definitely be incorporated in a healthy diet without fear of weight gain if you eat it in reasonable quantities and with consideration to the rest of your meals.

The question proposed to me on this blog many weeks ago was from the girl who forced me to eat massive quantities of afore mentioned peanut butter m&ms - she wanted to know about the differences in types of peanut butter and if she must continue to eat the natural kind. Generally, brand to brand, the nutritional content is very similar. Here is the breakdown on 4 types of Jif peanut butter (all for 2tbsp serving):

Regular Creamy (Regular Crunchy has the same breakdown)
Calories: 190
Fat: 16gm, 3gm saturated
Carbohydrates: 7gm (Sugars 3gm)
Protein: 7gm

Reduced Fat
Calories: 190
Fat: 12gm, 2.5gm saturated
Carbohydrates: 15gm (Sugars 4gm)
Protein: 8gm

Natural Jif
Calories: 190
Fat: 16gm, 3gm saturated
Carbohydrates: 7gm (Sugars 3gm)
Protein: 7gm

Simply Jif
Calories: 190
Fat: 16gm, 3gm saturated
Carbohydrates: 6gm (Sugars 2gm)
Protein: 8gm

With the exception of the reduced fat variety, you can see that the basic nutrition profile is essentially the same. The reduced fat kind has 25% less overall fat but only like 15% less saturated fat than the original. There is 2x the amount of carbohydrates than the original. That is because generally when you remove a essential ingredient you have to replace it with something else - in this case, it appears to be corn syrup solids (and a crapload of random stabilizers). Yum! I am not a proponent of reduced fat foods when they are altered in this way, especially because the calories are the same here. (Reduced fat dairy is different - they generally make it the same way, just skim off various amounts of fat.) The Natural Jif is unique because you probably recognize all the ingredients that fall into that 2% category. The Regular and Natural are comprised 98% of peanuts and sugar. Simply Jif is comprised of 98% peanuts, the sugar is included in that last 2%. However, there is only 1gm less sugar in the Simply Jif than the regular or natural. In my opinion, you should eat the one of those 3 that you like the most because nutritionally there is very little difference. If you are a purist and don't like not recognizing those last few ingredients, stick with the Natural.

Hope this was useful information for you. Feel free to leave your thoughts on peanut butter in the comments and any other nutrition topics you're curious about!

Love, B

PS - 97 days to the wedding!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 weeks and 1 day of being a homeowner

Phew! What a busy summer this has been! I'm officially in the last year of my twenties and the summer is more than halfway over... Not that summer coming to an end is nearly as much of a bad thing as it was when I was younger and didn't work year round. My summer is no different from my fall, winter, or spring except for having the privilege of enduring the excruciating heat and humidity. Not to mention all the rain - which at least has kept it from being as hot as it could have been. The discussion of the weather only furthers the point of my rapidly advancing age...

Today the realities of homeownership really set in. I mean, I started getting the point when I was bombarded with bugs and had to quickly enlist an exterminator and then realized the grass does not cut itself - nor does a lawn boy cut lawns for free. I was excited to get my very own lawnmower for my birthday and got to break it in last weekend. I must say that mowing my own lawn feels like much less of a chore than doing it at my parents'. (Not that that happened very often. My dad would swear to you I never did.) Nonetheless, I can't wait for Richard to be back to 100% and living here so it can be his job! Also, did you know that when you own a home, there is no one in the "office" to let the maintenance man in if there is an issue that needs attending to? So you have to be home... or find someone to fill in for you. I need a stay at home wife :)

My morning started with my dishwasher causing water to shoot all over my island (which shockingly was not free of clutter). I quickly opened it to stop the machine and the water stopped gushing. When I did my walk through the project manager warned me this could happen but made it sound like any water that backed up would shoot neatly into the sink - not all over my counter. I ran the disposal (thought I was so clever) and tried it again - to no avail. So I called the Perry project managers and they arranged for a plumber to come out - thank goodness for the warranty. It was a little bit more of an ordeal arranging for someone to let the plumber in, but it got taken of :) There was a kink in some hose so they replaced it. After work, I got home to my working dishwasher... and a stack of bills. GEEZ!! Did you know that utilities cost more to cover a house that's 3 times the size of my apartment? I expected it, sort of... but the reality doesn't set in until you open that envelope! Plus, there was a leak in my water line which I believe is the reason for my exorbitant water bill ($150 for just the water - not the deposit, sewer, or mud fees - it was $300 in all!). And my electric bill includes the apartment... can't wait to get rid of that sucker!

All that to say... I LOVE my new house! I love looking out at the water from the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom. I love my huge master closet. I love my beautiful kitchen. I love being able to just walk out my front door and go for a run (not that it's happened alot - but I foresee this in my future!) I love that neighbors I don't know wave at me when they drive by and I'm in the driveway.

I keep ticking off items on my wedding to-do list. My wedding dress is in and I go next Monday for my initial alteration appointment! I have officially accomplished the dress, finding a reception, reserving the church & minister, cake, choosing a florist - we have yet to iron out the specifics, choosing a dj, ordering save the dates (except I underestimated - don't be hurt if you don't get one!), choosing bridesmaid dresses. I won't talk about what I have left because I may start hyperventilating! Actually I'm fairly calm about it - maybe because I'm in denial and therefore procrastinating. Also, in case you're wondering - only 101 days to go! Not that I'm counting :)

I have done leg work on the peanut butter topic so get excited because it is coming soon!

Love, B

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

0 weeks to closing! I'm a homeowner!

Thank goodness! And you will also be glad to know I have cooled off a bit since my last post, and realized that my world is not actually going to end. The photographer sent me a link to my pics Monday afternoon, and I was pleased with her work overall. Unfortunately I turned out looking like myself and not a supermodel... haha... so it wasn't everything I hoped :) I have to pick 20 for my little book and 10 additional ones that may make it in, plus one to get a big print of. The link is - if you feel like flipping through it, I'd love your input on which ones to choose.

I didn't really expect to be nervous about the closing, but I definitely was. Looking back, there was evidence of that in how anxious I was over not getting calls back and whenever they asked for something else. I really knew it when I almost cried getting a cashier's check at the bank this morning! It didn't help that the mortgage people called at 4pm yesterday saying they needed documentation on 2 deposits made in March - both legitimate checks from work, but I had no stub because... it was in March and the money had gone through to my account! Apparently, they want to know where every bit of your money is coming from when you are getting a loan! I had no idea how I was going to get documentation, but 2 different people in our business office saved the day! The closing was much less painful than expected - probably because I wasn't dealing with the mortgage company, just the title company.

As I sit on my couch in my apartment, like I have done every night for the past several years, it still does not feel real that I own a house! I'm guessing it will start to kick in when I actually move in on Saturday. I feel incredibly blessed. Richard and I drove from the title company to the new house and stayed long enough to get the keys and walk through the house again. We then drove back to Houston in the midst of the horrible rain that ultimately flooded the road my apartment and office are on and lightning struck a light pole at the Kroger between I-10 and the apartment. Took an hour to go 3 miles. What an end to the day!

On a side note: Bachelor, anyone? It's the show I love to hate and just can't stand to miss. I blame this blog - The author writes HILARIOUS recaps every week. I manage to watch the show despite being gone Monday nights and not having DVR... thank you! The book I need to finish and boxes I need to pack and apartment I need to clean do not thank you, however... sigh.

Still to come: The peanut butter debaucle (is that a word?) - really, one of these days...

Hope your week is going well! Thanks for being excited with me about my house and listening to me blab about it and willingly looking at the pictures on my camera I have shoved in your face :)
Love, B

Friday, June 18, 2010

Am I being unreasonable?

Ok peeps... I need to know if I'm unnecessarily upset. Let me set the background here by saying that I have had several incidences of frustration recently stemming from people (generally companies I am wanting to give my business to) not doing what they say they're going to do when they say they're going to do it. Example numero uno, my mortgage company - this woman refuses to return my calls. She has to "prioritize" her work, and my closing on Tuesday apparently is not priority. All I want is a $%^&* return phone call to say she received my fax!!! Oh, and to look at the documents I sent, but that's secondary. Just give me the freaking time of day! I have talked to my wonderful Perry saleswoman, Santosh, who has tried to intervene for me and assures me that everything will be ok. So I'm trying not to sweat that one too much.

Here's the one that is seriously irking me: Remember the engagement pictures Richard and I took 3 weeks and 2 days ago? The ones the photographer told us she would get the proofs to us for in 3 weeks? I thought 3 weeks seemed like MORE than enough time, but I'm not a photographer... whatever. Mind you, this is her full-time job and I don't think she's all THAT busy. So today, 2 days after her own deadline, I emailed asking what the status of the pictures was. She emailed back, saying oh, I was about to email you... my husband had an appendectomy on the 8th and I've been playing nurse and then my computer got a trojan, which made it really slow. Ok, this is a nice girl, and these are fairly legitimate excuses. She says she will try to have them to me next week. My main gripe here is that she didn't bother to let me know on or before when she said she'd have the pictures to me. Where's the line between being a demanding jerk and letting people walk all over you? People I'm paying thousands of dollars to? She did apologize, but it really seems like an afterthought. What would you do? I want to let her know I'm not happy with how she handled it... and also I wonder if this is just a really bad sign for the important event: the actual wedding.

I think I'm extra annoyed because I do work in a field where the customer is #1 and there are such high expectations for customer service. I'm also extra annoyed because between my realtor and salesperson I have had great customer service and the bar is set high. Honestly though, I don't think my expectations are that high except that I think you should follow through on your commitments... is that so much to ask?

Coming soon: The low-down on peanut butter :)

Love, B

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blueberry Oat Buttermilk Pancakes (Cuisinart)

These are my favorite pancakes... I make them for dinner probably more often than I make them for breakfast :) Then I refrigerate the leftovers (or you could freeze) and put them in the toaster (2 cycles, I turn them over so they are completely reheated) in the morning. The recipe actually came in the manual for my Cuisinart Griddler. These are low-fat and full of whole grains and fruit so you don't have to feel too guilty about eating them!

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (actually calls for 1 cup but I switched up the proportions)
1 1/3 cup rolled oats (regular, not quick oats)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (this is where I switched it up - the recipe calls for 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk (I use 1%)
1/2 cup egg beaters (actually calls for 2 eggs)
3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce (calls for 3 Tbsp vegetable oil)

Place the blueberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the flour and toss to coat; reserve. Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees F.

Place the remaining flour, oats, wheat flour, brown sugar (break up lumps), baking soda, and salt in a medium-large bowl; stir with a whisk. Place the buttermilk, egg beaters (or eggs), and applesauce (or oil) in a medium-small bowl; stir.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until blended.
Gently fold in the blueberries. (Spray the griddle with Pam or lightly oil it)
When your griddle is preheated, drop the batter onto the grill plates, using a scant quarter cup measure. Bake the pancakes for 2-3 minutes. When pancakes are bubbling on the top, turn and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes.
One of the few sugar free products I'm a fan of: pancake syrup. Also on the list: diet soda (not to say that it is good for you, I just like it and don't think its particularly bad in moderation, plus no empty calories)and sugar free gum. There is a significant calorie difference in the light vs. sugar-free versions of syrup. I'm pulling this from my memory, but if I recall, the serving size for syrup is 1/4 c. and the regular version has 220 calories. The light version has about 50% of the calories, or 110, and the sugar free version that I use has 30. The light and SF versions do contain sugar alcohols, that can cause "gastric distress" in large quantities, but I have never experienced any side effects from SF syrup. The margarine shown here - Brummel & Brown is a favorite of mine as well. It is yummy, has about half the fat and calories of regular tub margarine and ZERO TRANS FAT! Stick margarine has trans fat and stick butter is high in saturated fat. This is a pretty good compromise nutrition-wise (and I honestly like it more).
Ta-da! Blueberry Oat Buttermilk Pancakes!

They really don't take long to prep. The only problem I have is I want to eat the first batch, but am usually still baking the rest of the batter and forget to turn them :(
Hope you enjoy!
Love, B

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1 Week to Go!

On Friday, I am going to do the walk through on my house and one week from today, I will be a proud homeowner! It seems like it happened fast and took forever all at once :) Oh, I should say that I will be a homeowner provided my mortgage company gets their act together. Few things upset me more than when someone says they are going to do something and don't do it. I would switch mortgage companies but I get a significant discount in my closing costs for using the company associated with Perry. Ugh. But I like to save money.
Paint is complete! The "model home coming soon" sign has been in my garage, then front yard and now driveway for some reason. (The new model home is across the street and a couple doors down.)
I don't think I've posted a pic of the finished back porch yet... can't wait to get some patio furniture!
There are pluses and minuses to the "open concept" living/kitchen area... the plus being that I can do dishes and watch t.v.!
The finalized kitchen - appliances are in. My fridge comes the Saturday after closing and will match!

Hope you're having a great week so far!
Love, B

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Please excuse me while I get on my nutrition soapbox...

I don't often do this, but the title of this blog is "Diary of a Dietitian" so you are about to be introduced to my neurotic side. Sweet R stopped at the store to buy a few things, including bread, a few days ago. I usually get Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat and that's what he typically buys because he knows I like it. I went to make him a sandwich and realized he had accidentally bought the "sugar free" Nature's Own 100% Whole Grain bread (the package is almost identical except for the darn "sugar free" label. Which led to me leaping on my soap box and educating him on what I think about sugar free bread (and most sugar free products). **Please note, I was not upset with him, and was not fussing at him - just ranting in general about the erroneous ways of the food industry :)** I know you are dying to hear my thoughts on this - not to worry, I will not leave you in suspense for long!

I'll start by giving you a picture of the nutrition profiles of the two products so you can make some observations for yourself:

Original Sugar-free

Serving size 1 slice (26gm) 1 slice (25gm)

# servings/pkg 22 slices 18 slices

Calories 50 50

Carbohydrates 10gm 11gm

Dietary Fiber 2gm 2gm

Sugars 1gm 0gm

Sugar alcohol (maltitol) 0gm 1gm

Protein 4gm 3gm

Fat 1gm 1gm

Whole grains 14gm 12gm

First of all, who do you think the target market for "sugar free" bread is? #1 - Diabetics. #2 - people watching their weight/trying to be healthy. These 2 categories encompass a large percentage of the population so you can understand the company's strategy.

I just got off on a biochemistry tangent but deleted... you're welcome... The long and short of it is diabetics are supposed to monitor their carbohydrate intake. (Hear me here: Diabetics need carbohydrates, just like people without diabetes need carbohydrates. We all should eat balanced diets, which is basically all the diabetic diet is.) The "sugar free" bread has 1 more gram of carb (which are all ultimately broken down into "sugar" or glucose) than the regular kind, but is lacking that 1gm of sugar that the regular kind does have. Instead of 1 gm of a normal simple sugar, it substitutes a sugar alcohol (maltitol) - a chemically altered sugar molecule that has 2 calories/gram versus 4 calories/gram of regular sugar. It also can cause gastric distress (really only if in large quantities). Is it significant that there is 1 more gram of carb in the bread that people likely regard as more "diabetic friendly"? Not really, other than the fact that it is misleading people to think that it better. PLUS!! The sugar free kind is 16 oz. versus the regular kind that is 20 oz... and they are either the same price or the SF kind is slightly more expensive - so you're paying more (or the same) for less bread and MORE carbs. And a large percentage of the population with diabetes are minorities who often have lower incomes or are elderly on fixed/low incomes! The injustice and irresponsibility just hurts!!!!!!

On a side note, I really try to keep my nutrition-related opinions to myself unless asked. I have to hold myself back at times from giving strangers advice at the grocery store. I know they could benefit from my vast wealth of knowledge... right?

Phew! So glad I got that off my chest :) Now maybe my feathers will un-ruffle.

Love, B

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2 weeks to closing!

As of last week, I had air conditioning! I got news of the updates below on Monday from my new neighbor and also my dad, who makes regular trips by the house. It's nice to have an engineer in the family to check in on things! I wasn't able to go by until this morning... and I already got news that my appliances are in and the garage door has been painted!
My beautiful new front door!

My stainless steel appliances - stove, microwave, and dishwasher - yay!
Hello carpet! This means the end is in sight. My dad referred to it as "shag" but it's not what I'd call shag... its like the carpet I have in my current apartment... kind of twisted. I like it :) The design person also talked me into getting an upgraded "stain master" carpet pad... hope its worth it!
Yup... carpet in the dining room. Seeing why that stainmaster carpet pad could likely be a good investment. Maybe after we strike it rich, we'll upgrade to wood floors throughout the house!

My apartment is still very much not packed, regardless of the multitude of boxes donated to the worthy cause by my recent new homeowner friend Amanda. I am a major procrastinator when it comes to tasks that are a pain in the boo-tay. Aye!
Love, B

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

3 weeks to closing!

Well... as of Saturday, my lawn and landscaping were done, I have water to go along with the electricity, and the shower stall is done in the master bathroom :) We are getting down to the wire and I just can't wait for it to all be done! After checking out the progress on the casa, we ran in to our soon to be neighbors, the Goodmans. They are a really nice couple - the wife is almost exactly the same age as me and the husband is an Aggie, also close to my age and not too far off from ol' R. Their house will be done on Friday, so they are about two weeks ahead of us.
In other exciting news, we took advantage of the Memorial Day sales and purchased a refrigerator! It was 15% off plus we didn't have to pay sales tax, which saved us almost $500. Yay! Still a huge chunk of change. We are also big spenders because we went and picked out our wedding bands on Saturday... they won't be in for a while, but man oh man, am I shelling out money every time I turn around!

My lovely undermount kitchen sink now has running water!
View of the backyard WITH a lawn from the living room.
Yay! Shower stall!
All that's left on the outside is to paint the garage doors and little box on the 2nd eave to match the paint trim on the rest of the house. Oh, and to put in the real front door! Don't worry, I will keep you posted on the progress!

Love, B

Thursday, May 27, 2010

26 days to closing!

Lots can happen in 3 1/2 days -

A few things to notice here: 1. See that pile? That's one of several piles of sod for my lawn! Soon I will have grass! 2. See the tree on the left? That is the first of 2 or 3 I will get in the front yard. 3. See that light to the right of the door? A "coach light" is the official term, and that was an upgrade! They really can nickel and dime you for these "extras" that seem like they should be included... but whatevah!

See my FENCE?? That's right, stay off my property! One of the perks of being on the lake is that I get a pretty wrought iron fence. The downside is that it doesn't offer much privacy. Ah, and another shot of that tree!
Here's the master bedroom - notice the light fixture that is emitting light! We have electricity!
This is the living room in the foreground and the breakfast room in the far off area. The tile is done, but the carpet is not in yet.
Master bath! Double vanity - yay!! I don't share well.
Guest bath
Shower/tub and toilet in the guest bath - sadly there is no handle (or lid) on the toilet so I'm guessing it's not workable yet ;)
This backsplash was a very inexpensive minor upgrade from the large tile squares - my friend Sarah who recently built a Perry home gave me this hint, and she has great taste! I'm so happy with how the granite, cabinets, and tile look together. My microwave and stove will go in the slots here.
A better view of the kitchen! Can't wait to get in there!

Love, B

sorry, no recipe updates... but my recent eating adventures nonetheless

I've hardly been cooking! I haven't had it together enough to identify recipes, make it to the store with a list, and find a time to actually cook. Plus my apartment is currently so overwhelmed with stuff - all the contents of the office I moved out of in November, house stuff, wedding stuff, now boxes... its a mess. I did make turkey burgers Sunday night that were nothing to sneeze at, but also really nothing to brag about.

Monday night - I had my usual Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls from Pei Wei. They are so yummy! I regularly pick them up after step class to take with me to Girls' Bible Study on Monday nights. Pei Wei (pronounced "pay way" although R pronounces it "pee wee" to be difficult) is really good, but no one loves it as much as Richard. He would eat there every day if I didn't need a little more variety.

Tuesday night - I had yummy (ground) turkey enchiladas at Audra's (boyfriend's) house for Book Club. She gives credit to "The Pioneer Woman". I should post here a bit more about book club. My good friend Eva had been talking for a while about starting a book club with some girls she knows. I like to read, and I like Eva so I was agreeable. We started meeting last June and it has been so much fun! Gives me a reason to read at least one book every month - which I enjoy so much, but for whatever reason find lots of reasons not to - and enjoy the company of ladies I wouldn't know otherwise. Plus there is usually wine involved! This month we read a book called The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. The storyline was very compelling, plus there were no chapter breaks, so I read through the 256 pages in less than 2 days. The basic premise of the story is about an odd teenage girl who gets committed to a psychiatric hospital for 61 years. If you're a reader, pick it up... and better yet, join our book club! Next month we're reading Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah... sounds like a winner to me! Will let you know how it goes...

Wednesday night - Richard and I took our engagement pictures! Due to the "golden hours of photography" we met the photographer, Melissa, at 6:15 in the Heights. We took a bunch of pictures, hopefully some came out that I will be happy with! Mr. Photogenic loves having his picture taken and had a lot of fun. After a couple hours of playing model, we were STARVING! We debated where to go and finally decided to try Genghis Grill at Bunker Hill and I-10, this Mongolian stirfry place. Sounded interesting. Big fat mistake. We got there, and first of all, being hungry makes me CRANKY, and it was really loud. But we were there, and hungry so weren't going to leave. The hostess eventually sat us at a table and told us our waitress would be there to explain how it worked since we had never been there. Eventually the waitress showed up and took our drink orders and then scooted off without giving us any explanation for the little silver bowls we were sitting there staring at. We continued to sit there, assuming she'd be back with our drinks and tell us the procedure. We sat there for what felt like 30 minutes, but was probably more like 10, no sign of the waitress in sight, just watching 4 idiotic 18 year olds who worked there being obnoxious and noisy at the hostess table, probably 30 feet from where we were sitting. Finally the waitress reappeared - bussing a table a few feet away. She made eye contact with us and the realization that she had forgotten our drinks came over her. I managed to ask her before she ran away again what we needed to do to get food. She very sweetly, to her credit, walked us over to the line and told us how to pick out what we wanted and what to do. We did this and when we got to the point where we dropped off our food to be cooked, the guy asked me "what kind do you want?" I was like "Huh?" He said "It's on the wall" and pointed to a list - you get to choose white rice, fried rice, brown rice, noodles, tortillas, or something else. I took it to be rude and defensively said "I didn't know! I was just asking!" for which R reprimanded me, saying he wasn't being rude and its never smart to piss off the person responsible for cooking your food. Truth. So we went back to sit down. Still no drinks. A couple minutes later, she came down and handed R his beer. (What's up with servers showing so much favoritism when you BUY a drink versus when you order water?) I was practically in tears that she didn't bring my water. She did come back, a few more minutes later, with my water and I couldn't even look her in the eye, I was so irritated and at the same time embarassed for being so mad about the horrible service. Thankfully, it didn't take long for our food to come out and I ignored any ideas of food contamination and it was actually good. However, not worth the price (9.99 for a bowl) in my opinion. Especially for the lousy service. Sometimes being in a customer service driven industry makes me more sensitive to the people doing the work and sometimes it just makes me extra mad because I have the expectation that people should try to make the customer happy!

Tonight - I had dinner with my work buddy Cristina at Cyclone Anaya's... it was a margarita kind of day, and Cyclone Anaya's does not disappoint in this respect. My chicken soft tacos were decent, too. They were served more like enchiladas, which was a little weird, but still tasty. They are horrible, however, with large groups of people! Seems like as soon as they realize they're going to get their obligatory 18% gratuity for a group over 6, they don't care at all if you have your food or drinks. Plus, they won't split checks at all, so imagine the chaos of 18 people after multiple drinks trying to figure out the tab. Why are people so cheap about this? I have never had a problem remembering how many drinks I've had and giving the proper amount of money, but other people who make more than me with multiple college degrees are at times quick to forget... grr! So it's no longer a happy hour spot for the VW crew, but it served well for our party of 2!

Yeah, so this is a random post about my eating habits... maybe its just a confession because I feel guilty for eating out so much this week. Or maybe I'm just obsessed with food... considering my profession and love of the Food Network. I do always think what people eat is interesting, but not as much as my friend C who is very quick to quiz you on what you, your mom, dad, and brother had at a meal... and then can recall it weeks later! Great party trick ;)

Love, B

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guess who has a closing date!

That would be me!! My fearless saleswoman Santosh called me yesterday to let me know my house would be ready for the walk through on June 18th! That's a Friday, so we scheduled to close on Tuesday June 22nd. The end is in sight! We went after work to check out the progress over the last few days.
Driveway and sidewalk! According to Santosh, it was poured yesterday 5/18
Front entrance - tile waiting for grout. Still need baseboards, too.
Kitchen... should be getting the granite any day now!
The breakfast nook - The tile is done, I think, because it was apparently wet - maybe they had washed it off??

Can you tell that I'm excited? Hope your week has been equally exciting!

Love, B

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Adventure and House/Wedding Update!

Just to prove that we do not live up to our team name "High Maintenance" I will share these awful pictures!

About a month ago, friends from work invited R and I to join their marathon relay team. At first all I heard was "marathon" and I thought "NO WAY!" Sadly, after completing 26.2 miles only 4 months ago, I have not maintained that level of fitness and 3 miles may or may not be tough to complete at times, especially in this lovely hot, humid weather. Then I heard the "relay" part and that the team consists of 6 people - which averages each leg of the relay to be only about 4.4 miles. Much more manageable. So we decided to start training... then we got engaged and wedding planning took over my life, so I didn't do quite as much as I would have liked.
Nonetheless, we headed to Corpus Christi on Friday for their 35th annual Beach to Bay Relay Marathon which is held on Armed Forces Day each year. The rest of the group planned to leave at 1pm, but I had to work so we were going to try to leave at 3... of course I ended up being stuck with work until about 4pm. Once I got home, I hadn't packed, hadn't eaten lunch... so we didn't end up leaving until about 4:45pm. I was not looking forward to Friday afternoon traffic on southbound 59, but that ended up being minor compared to the deluge that we encountered. Who knew a 60% chance of thunderstorms meant a tropical storm class rain was on the way?!?! Richard, ever mindful of my safety, decided to stop at the Target in Rosenberg to kill a little time and buy some supplies (read: junk food) in hopes that the rain would let up. It seemed a little better, so we got back on the road. Didn't take long to realize that R was putting his precious cargo in danger, so he suggested stopping at my parents' for a bit since it was only a couple exits south. Mom and Dad happily hosted us for about 45 minutes before we set out again for our destination. The rain was better, but pretty steady for the majority of the rest of the trip.
We arrived about 10:45 that night, exhausted, but assuming that was the end of the rain. Everyone got up the next morning and it was overcast but no rain. R and I were legs 5 and 6 respectively so we didn't have to be at our start points until after the others. We left around 8am and it was super windy. Leg #1 was already completed and our teammate had a good time, so we were looking forward to getting to our parts. Again, still didn't realize what was coming. Started raining on our drive but kept hoping it would get better. He dropped me off to stand with the other several hundred people waiting for the shuttle to our start. So I stood there for oh, 15 minutes in the POURING DOWN rain, which I thought was bad... until we got picked up and dropped off to wait for over an hour in the POURING DOWN rain, no shelter, for my teammate to pass off the baton to me. We had all brought our phones so we could communicate with each other so I stood with the other fools running my leg and texted Richard, hunched over trying to keep my phone dry and warm myself up, keep some rain off (impossible). I was trying to come up with an escape plan while simultaneously praying that someone would cancel the run since it was lightning all around us. Had 5 other people not been depending on me to do my part, I would have hightailed it out of there. A little girl behind me was crying, begging her mom not to make her do it. I felt like crying, too!
Anyway, the rain finally let up right before Lisa handed off to me. It misted/rained lightly for my entire 4 miles, but I kept a good, consistent pace with the promise of shelter and seeing R ahead of me! We finally met up with the team and I realized it could have been worse - I didn't have to run in the intense wind or when it was pouring (would have busted my butt) like some of the others. All in all, it was a success (our team's time was much better than I expected!) and we definitely made some memories. And I learned that I CAN be tough when it comes down to it :)
Now we have to find our next event to train for!

In other news, the house is progressing very nicely!! Still hoping to close mid-late June - only about a month away!

The kitchen! This was Friday, before it was stained.
Mid-staining Sunday afternoon... also, there is paint on the walls and trim around the doors!
Up close view of the stone I almost didn't get to have! (Sunday)
This was Friday - the brick is done!
The stone and brick are done! Pretty much all the exterior to the house was done before the horrible weather hit Friday evening/Saturday morning. I am thankful that God withheld the rain until my house was prepared to take it! I'm sure the rest of the homeowners in the area aren't quite as happy about it.

Finally, for wedding news, we have set a date - November 6th! As of today, we have 5 months and 20 days to go - not that we're counting! The ceremony will be at Calvary Baptist in Rosenberg and the reception is going to be at the Golf Club at Cinco Ranch. We went to a Marriage Prep seminar at Second Baptist with good friends Debi and Jeff last weekend to hopefully help us start off on a good foot. I have signed a contract with a photographer so now the biggies left on my list are bridesmaid dresses/groomsmen tuxes/suits, flowers, cakes, and deejay. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!

Love, B

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fish Tacos a la HEB and Cilantro Lime Rice with homeade tortilla chips and guac

Most people hate grocery shopping, but I actually look forward to going to the wonderful HEB Market at Bunker Hill, off of I-10. Since early on, R has accompanied me to the grocery store, which makes it all the more fun. My #1 favorite part of grocery shopping is SAMPLES, which this store is fabulous about. The sushi station passes out samples, the cheese shop, the bakery, the wine section, the "Central Market on the Run" deli... but the best one is the Cooking Connection station where they whip up easy, quick meals and let you taste and take the recipe card. The caveat here is that it generally involves their gourmet salad dressings and/or seasonings so it can be a bit pricey but it's worth it... and sometimes those "pricey" (5.99-8.99) items can be used on more than one meal.

Any-hoo, after our excursion to Corpus Christi this weekend, we stopped off at HEB on the way back to my apartment so I wouldn't have to make another trip out. I didn't have a list prepared, but crossed my fingers that the Cooking Connection would be preparing something tasty that I could do at home for dinner. I was in luck!

Fish tacos are one of my favorite things to order (ever since I was introduced to them at La Bodega, back when I was a college kid at good ol' Texas A&M - whoop!) at Tex Mex places, but I had never attempted to make them at home. Plus, R has turned up his nose at the mention of this delicious dish until he actually tasted them today. He had been wanting a good seafood dinner when we were in Corpus but ended up eating steak at the only "real" meal we had while we were there, so it was an even better choice for tonight.

Richard's guacamole and baked tortilla chips (learned this trick from my good friend Eva)

For the guac, he mashed up two avocadoes, threw in 1 chopped roma tomato, and added a little salt and mixed together... yum! Love those monounsaturated (heart healthy) fats!

For the tortilla chips... I hate to buy the standard chips because I'll eat them as long as the bag is in my pantry, plus they're high in saturated fat and calories. My fellow nutrition fiend, Eva, gave me this great hint for making baked chips: Preheat the oven to 400-425. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Cut CORN tortillas (depending on how many you want, probably 2 tortillas per person) into quarters and spread out on the tray. Coat lightly with the non-stick spray and then lightly salt the tortillas. Put them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Voila! 10-13 calories per chip (depending on the tortilla, look at the package for calorie count per tortilla, then divide by 4) and very little fat as opposed to an average of 20+ calories and 1 gm fat PER CHIP of the standard kind... seems small but it adds up, because who eats only 4 chips? Not me. (Probably Eva!)

Cilantro Lime Rice - so yummy at Mission Burrito and Escalante's, I had to try to recreate it!

Google is a great tool :) I figured this must be pretty simple to make, so I just used to recipe I found on Rockin' Robin's Note that the recipe calls for basmati rice, and although you can substitute regular rice, the basmati is really yummy.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (you can use regular white rice, just follow the directions on the package)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (I didn't have this so I used water. The recipe was already on the salty side, so I imagine it would have been even more so had I used the broth)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
zest from one lime
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. salt (I think you could get away with 1/2 tsp)

Add the oil to a sauce pan and heat on low. Add the garlic and rice to the oil and saute for 2 minutes on medium heat stirring frequently.
Add the chicken broth (OR WATER), salt, lime juice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes or according to rice package directions.
When the rice is done, add lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir to mix in. Serve immediately.
If you are using regular long grain rice, follow the cooking directions on the box regarding the amount of liquid to use and the cooking time.

Now the star item: Seasoned pan-fried tilapia
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat (didn't specify amt, I used about 1 Tbsp). Season 4 fresh filets (I used 3 filets, about 1.1#) on any fish (tilapia is relatively inexpensive and very good in this) with a rub (recommended Adams Southwest Ancho rub, they sell this at HEB and I have also used it on steak and chicken - I imagine any steak rub would work, maybe even Tony Cachere's). Add seasoned fish to hot pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side.

Delicious cole slaw made with Red Jalapeno Dressing

Mix together 1 jar of creamy salad dressing (recommended Chef Dean Herring Red Jalapeno Dressing 12 oz - I used this but probably only 7 oz of it) and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Then add pico de gallo (HEB conveniently pre-packages this, but you could make your own, probably about a cup). Mix in 1 bag of cole slaw.

To put the tacos together, heat tortillas (I prefer corn and they are lower in calories and carbs) in a dry skillet and fill with fish and then cole slaw. Serve with rice and chips/guac as desired!
There was alot of cole slaw left over and probably 1/3 of the fish - I had two tacos, R had 4 (he was stuffed!) if that helps you to gauge the quantity it makes!
Love, B

Monday, May 3, 2010

Salsa Verde Enchiladas ( Housekeeping)

So... I am marrying a Mexican - who requested enchiladas. The extent of this white girl's Mexican food cooking skills is making tacos - browning meat with a package of taco seasoning and heating up tortillas :) Oh, I can also combine velveeta and rotel to make queso and heat up a can of beans. To make it worse, R's mom and aunt are great cooks, so of course my enchiladas would never compare. Anyway, I scoured the internet to find a recipe that sounded a) good b) reasonably healthy and c) easy/not messy and this is what I found. We were very pleased with the results. (Note: I only made half of this recipe since I didn't know how it would go and was lazy... but wish I had gone ahead and made the whole thing and freezed the 2nd dish - or shared - as suggested)

Step 1: Make stupid faces - the food tastes better in the end
Heating the tortillas in the salsa verde sauce (note: instead of frying in oil!) - the 10 second rule is important because otherwise your tortilla falls apart

Filling the heated tortillas with the meat mixture

As you can see, there's not a whole lot of leftover sauce to pour on top. I was worried it would be dry, but it wasn't. After this, you add the cheese.

Finished product!

Serves: 8

Yields: 2 casseroles
Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
Prep Time: 50 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Oven Temp: 350
2 rotisserie chickens
2 jar(s) (16- to 17.6-ounce) mild salsa verde
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup(s) fresh lime juice
1/2 cup(s) (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
16 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 container(s) (8-ounce) reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 package(s) (8-ounce) reduced-fat (2%) shredded Mexican cheese blend
Remove meat from chickens and coarsely shred; place in medium bowl (you will need 5 1/2 cups; reserve any extra for use another day). Discard skin and bones. Stir 1/2 cup salsa verde into chicken to evenly coat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 13" by 9" glass or ceramic baking dishes; set aside. In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining salsa verde, green onions, and lime juice to boiling on medium-high. Boil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro; keep warm over very low heat.
With tongs, place 1 tortilla in salsa verde mixture; heat 10 seconds. Place tortilla on waxed paper; top with about 1/3 cup shredded-chicken mixture. Roll up tortilla and place, seam side down, in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture, arranging 8 tortillas in each dish.
Stir sour cream and broth into remaining salsa verde mixture in skillet; spoon over filled tortillas. Cover one baking dish with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil; sprinkle with 1 cup cheese and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese melts. Meanwhile, sprinkle remaining cheese and cilantro over second casserole and prepare for freezing (see Thawing and Reheating Tips).
Tips & Techniques
To reheat after thawing:
Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 350 degrees F 45 minutes; uncover and heat 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Microwave oven: Not recommended; baking dish will not fit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I have shingles on the roof!

Kitchen 5/1/10

Breakfast on the back porch 5/1/10

Shingles 4/28/10

Our little casa has come a long way in the last 3 weeks when there was barely a frame, not even a concrete slab yet. I have walls, windows, a roof, bathtubs - it's crazy! Brick and stone is piled up in the front yard right now and the dry walls are piled inside the house so I see major things happening in the next week or so. The house that's being built across the street from us is about 10 days ahead of ours and is looking very much like a liveable dwelling! The stone and brick are done and look beautiful and the walls are up, along with cabinets in progress. (Yes, we have been walking around in the other homes that are being built. Promise not to do it once there are locks on the doors!) My dad called me Thursday evening - he was over at the house and chatting with our soon to be neighbors. The husband is an Aggie, so I think Dad is going to let me go ahead with the move!

We're hoping to be able to close at the end of June. God has been good in keeping the rain away during the critical early building stages so hopefully the rest will continue to go as scheduled. We'll keep ya posted on the progress!

Love, B