Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week 10 of the 12 Week Challenge & a Recipe for Creamy Pasta with Asparagus

Sometimes I don't know what we are supposed to eat... cut the trans fats, the sat fats, the carbs, the sugar,  don't cook your veggies... umm really???? 
Everything in moderation. Make it your motto. Practice it. 
We are going to moderate our meat this week and throughout the rest of the challenge. Meat is one of the highest sources of sat fats in our diet. Cutting down on meat portions is a great way to cut down on the saturated fats without cutting out the protein and satisfying that need for meat.  The recommended portion size of meat is usually  3-4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. Now think, how big is the steak you ate last night? I am willing to bet it was bigger than the size of a deck of cards. ;)

Cutting down on meat intake not only reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer, it also cuts down on your grocery bill! Yay for saving some money! Think about it, a pound of ground beef is about 4 bucks. B/S chicken breasts are usually around $4 a pound. I can go on and on. But you buy groceries. You know how expensive it can be! A can of beans will cost you about 99 cents and provide just as much protein in a healthier form! 
 The first part of the challenge is to cut down on meat portions overall. The second part is Meatless Monday. Google it for tons of great recipes. I added one that I made up on a whim this week. I had not thawed any meat so I grabbed some random stuff from the fridge and prayed that it turned out! In about 20 minutes I had a meatless meal that was totally satisfying and so yummy! I included that recipe!  By the way, your meatless meal does not have to be on Mondays. It can be any day of the week, Meatless Monday just sounds neat! 
Another benefit is that you often add more veggies into your diet when cutting down on meat. 

I don't cut out all animal products (milk, cheese, etc) in Meatless Mondays, just meat. I also don't count eggs as a meat, because their not. :) 
Try oatmeal for breakfast and a salad for lunch. Here is the recipe for dinner! :) 

Creamy Pasta with Asparagus
1box Ronzoni Garden Delight Fettuccine
1 lb or so Asparagus, cut into one inch pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cups half and half
1 stick of butter or margarine
1 or 2 cloves of garlic (could use garlic powder)
Basil (fresh use about 1/8 cup chopped. Dried use about 1 tsp or so)
A few grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters. 
mozzarella cheese

1. Begin by boiling your pasta according to the directions on the box. (Cook, drain, rinse)
2. Bring a few cups of water to a boil, then add asparagus, cook for 3-4 minutes, drain.
3. Melt your butter over medium heat in a skillet. 
4. Add half and half and garlic. Bring to a boil while stirring intermittently.
5. Boil sauce for 3 minutes being careful not to scorch it. 
6. Add the onion and asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes.
7. Add your pasta, toss or stir to cover.
8. Add the basil and tomatoes. Remove from heat.
9. Season with salt and pepper and top with some mozzarella cheese. 

Side note: I like the garden pasta with this because it adds a layer of flavor and the pasta is made from veggies! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Handprint Flower Mural

I love brightening up the hallway outside of the classroom. A few weeks ago we made this colorful spring mural. It is so simple! 
I just rolled out freezer paper and had the kiddos choose a color that they wanted their flower to be.  My assistant teacher, Natalie, and I painted their hands (to save time and mess) but they could totally paint their own. Then they pressed their hand somewhere on the paper. After they were finished, I painted stems and grass. It looks bright and happy in the hallway! :) I will cut the flowers out and send them home at the end of the year. :) 

( PS- I wrote their names in matching marker near their flower so I could identify them later.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Week 9 of the 12 week Challenge!

So I have been saving this challenge for a week such as this. I am very busy this week, as you followers will know since I am posting Sunday's challenge on Tuesday :/ Unfortunately, my sleep schedule is all out of whack. I am tossing, turning, dreaming... feeling like I did not sleep at all. Can anybody empathize? It is awful. I don't feel rested. 
Consequently, this can be detrimental to your weight loss and more importantly your health. Not only do you feel unrested, sore, achy... the list goes on, it messes with your serotonin levels and hormone production, which often occur during sleep. It is kind of a double edged sword. First you produce hormones while you sleep. Serotonin is one of them. Serotonin is directly connected with sleep. Low levels can equal restless nights. If you are not sleeping well, you will not produce as much serotonin to keep your sleep cycles healthy and your mood up. 

Loosing sleep can also cause your leptin levels to lower, causing you to feel unsatisfied after a meal. Because leptin works closely with ghrelin, lower leptin will cause your ghrelin levels to rise, which will stimulate your appetite. Ugh! 

So do see the problem with not getting enough sleep or quality sleep?

Too much sleep can also be detrimental causing you to feel sluggish and unmotivated. A healthy night of sleep is different for everyone. But the general recommendations are between 7-9 hours. I need 8 hours minimum. I cannot go several days in a row with less than that. I get cranky and hungry and not so much fun to be around. :( 

So your challenge is simple. Well, maybe not... Get enough quality sleep. If that means shutting the TV off earlier... do it. You already should be avoiding soda, but if you are drinking tea or coffee, cut down on it, especially after 5PM. Try an evening shower to relax you, or a work out a few hours before bed. If you are getting enough quality sleep, then yay! :) Keep it up! If not, good luck and good night! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preschool: O is for Octopus

I am a little behind on my preschool blogging. And my cooking blogging. And just blogging in general. Life has been a little uncooperative lately. Shame on it. ;) Sometimes that happens and sometimes we just have to deal. :)

But, no fear! I am back! :) And I am super excited to share this super cute octopus craft with you! I came up with this idea a few years ago after seeing octopuses (and yes, that is the correct plural form according to Mr. Webster, see my rant about that here, as well as some other great 'Under the Sea' play ideas.)  made out of TP tubes. I knew that my kiddos wouldn't be able to cut those apart. So I made a template and copied it onto construction paper, which they can handle chopping through. To access my free printable, click here. If you want to make your own, it is fairly simple. Here is a screen shot of my PDF. You will want your paper to be set to landscape. Then make 8 vertical lines that go a little over halfway up the page. This will create 9 strips after the kiddos cut them. But don't worry, you will overlap the ones on the ends and staple them together, thus creating 8 tentacles. :) 
(You will see what I mean.)
So print it out on colored paper, or copy onto construction paper ( I usually cut my 9x12 construction paper down to 8.5x11 before running it through the copier. Running through the bypass always seems to jam the copier up, so my co-worker, Jan, told me that she cuts her paper down and sends it through the regular paper tray. Works like a charm! Wish I had known that sooner. Like 4 years ago sooner!)

The kiddos cut the lines, then added wiggly eyes and reinforcement labels (the kind you use to protect your paper hole punch outs.) as "suckers". Technically the suckers are on the wrong side, but who cares? This craft is just so darn cute. :) 

I then staple the octopuses together by overlapping the 2 end strips and stapling at the top and bottom. 
When we head to circle time, I use an Octopus Fact Sheet that I created to teach the kiddos some things about our mysterious ocean friends. The students really love it, and actually pick up on a whole lot of facts. I usually "quiz" them on it at Closing Circle or Circle Time the next day. :) I am always surprised at how much they remember. :) 

Print the free PDF of my Fact sheet here. :)
(Here is a screen shot of the printable to give you an idea)
It is a really fun and educational project. It hits the fine motor with the peeling and sticking the labels and maintaining correct scissor grip. This would make a great summer project to do with your kiddos, so pin it to your "Summer Fun" board! ;)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week 8 of the 12 Week Challenge

I can't tell you how many days I think that I have not eaten very much all day long. Only to realize that I had eaten a cupcake, a peanut butter sandwich, some crackers, etc... If I don't sit down to eat a meal, I often feel unsatisfied and continue to snack all day trying to find that one thing that will satisfy me. Most times, it is just that I need to stop and sit down to an actual meal!

Also, when you feel unsatisfied, it is easy to think that you have not consumed much throughout the day. In reality, you may have even consumed more calories than you do when you sit down to regular meals.

Find yourself a little notebook, journal or calorie counting app for your iphone or computer, like Lose It!  Keep track of what you eat, serving size, the amount of calories in the serving, etc. If you are like me, count your carbs as well. We will be talking about carbs again, and it will be beneficial to you to know what your carb intake is. 

Calorie intake needs vary from person to person. It depends on age, sex, weight, level of physical activity, and whether or not you are looking to lose or maintain weight. 

Lose It! Is also a website where you can track your calorie intake and physical activity online, at It is free and easy. I highly recommend this or the app, if you have an ipad or iphone. It keeps track of how many calories you need, how many you have had, how many calories you burned and your weight. It is easy to use and a great tool to take advantage of! 

You start by setting up a free account with your email address. Then you put in basic info, age, height current weight, weight goal. It lets you choose to make a reachable goal of losing 1-2 lbs a week. It tracks you and encourages you. Yay! :) It gives you a healthy calorie budget for the day. Then you input what you ate and the exercise you did and it keeps track for you. It tells you to eat more, less, etc. Most importantly, it keeps you accountable. 

If you don't want to use the free Lose It tool, then keep track yourself. Keep yourself accountable to what you are consuming each day. You may be surprised at how much you actually eat. For example a serving size of cereal is usually 1/2 -3/4 cup. Who eats that????? I usually have 3 or 4 times that! So when I think I am only taking in 200 calories for breakfast, I have really had 600! WOW! Not good! 

So the challenge this week is to some how journal or keep track of your serving size and calorie intake.  Make adjustments to your intake as necessary. For example, make sure your serving sizes are in accordances with the labels on the box. Measure your portions. You might be surprised in what you were really eating! :) Also, make sure you sit down to a meal. Try the table instead of the couch or the car on the way home from the drive thru! :) Keep up with your other challenges, water, physical activity, etc. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week 7 of the 12 Week Challenge!

The word of the week is Trans Fats. I hear that word tossed around all the time. I see "0 Trans Fats" plastered on the tops of some bags. They must be bad right? Yep, but do you really know what they are and why they are bad for you?

Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to solidify it. You may have heard the term partially hydrogenated oil... fancy word for trans fat. Trans fats are popular because it gives food a longer shelf life and gives foods a less greasy feeling, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here is the bad news: Trans Fats raise your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower you HDL (good cholesterol) levels more than other fats. It clogs arteries and contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

Foods that contain Trans Fats include baked goods, crackers, donuts, etc. Shortening and margarine usually contains high amounts of Trans Fats. Read the labels. If it a label says 0 Trans Fats, check the back. Anything .5 or less can be labeled as zero Trans Fats. But think if you had multiple servings. Not so much like zero anymore.

Also check the labels for key ingredients like "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "hydrogenated vegetable oil" These mean Trans Fat. BUT if an ingredient states "fully hydrogenated vegetable oil" then there is no Trans Fats in the oil. Sounds counter intuitive doesn't it? The process that makes "completely" or "fully" hydrogenated oils do not produce the same fatty acids.

 Some people will tell you to choose regular butter over margarine because of the Trans Fat. However, butter is high in cholesterol raising saturated fats. Butter is super high in Sat Fats like 7.2 grams per TBSP, though it is low in trans fats (it has almost none). Stick Margarine has 2.8 grams of Trans Fats per TBSP (average) and 2.1 grams of Sat Fats.  So maybe reducing butter and margarine use is the best option. However, tub margarine is usually low in both Sat Fats and Trans Fats. That is a good swap. When cooking or baking however, you will just have to choose Sat Fats or Trans Fats. UGH!

Also keep an eye on packaged cake mixes, cookies mixes and things of that nature. They usually have some Trans Fats.

Fast food restaurants are a huge culprit, often pre-frying things in partially hydrogenated oils. Agh! An order of fries can have 14 grams!!!!!  These are hard to account for, as most of the time we don't check the nutritional information before eating out.

Challenge this week: Cut the Trans Fats. Cut them as completely as you can. Watch your use of stick margarine and shortening. Think about bakery items before you buy them. You can probably make a healthier version at home by swapping out some ingredients. And here is a big part... Cut out the fast food. I know that this may be inconvenient. If you MUST eat out at at FF joint, then look up their nutritional info online or ask for it when you get there. Make a healthy choice. And no going through the drive thru. Get out and walk in. Burn a few calories on the way in and out. :)

Cutting Trans Fats is such a healthy change. In fact cities like New York City is attempting banning Trans Fats and Philly is right behind them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quick Chicken

As my husband and I headed away for vacation, I was prepping some meals to take along. I also wanted to leave some meals for my MIL, BIL and Brother to eat while I was away. So I made some Spaghetti Pie and froze it. It freezes extremely well. Just thaw in the fridge a day before you want to cook it! I made one for the fam too! 
     I needed some chicken for my Chicken Alfredo Pizza. (Recipe coming soon!) Chicken breasts were BOGO, so I grabbed 2 packs (about 15 chicken breasts). When I got home I decided to go ahead and bake all the chicken and freeze the leftovers. My wonderful husband got me Food Saver for Christmas!!!! (I was super excited!!!) So, I knew they would freeze well and keep forever. (Ok, well not forever, but about a year! It won't take us that long to go through the chicken though.) So anyway, I sprinkled some seasoned salt and pepper over the CB, and baked them at 350 (convection)  for a little over an hour (since I had two trays in the oven at the same time). When they were no longer pink, I cooled them. We had some for dinner that night that I served with leftover rice. The rest I packaged two at a time and sealed them in the Food Saver. My intentions were for the family to grab a bag or so and prepare however they wanted. They could get a nice seer on them by tossing in the skillet. They could add whatever seasoning they prefer. They could shred it for chicken salad. Options are endless. The big deal is, they are already cooked. YAY for time saving! I shredded 2 breasts for my pizza and froze them to take along, packaged the rest and froze them. And I had another surprise... I had several cups of chicken broth! Yay! I dumped that into a gallon bag and froze it as well! This is super exciting for me, because it is a time saver, money saver, and so easy and convenient. And it never really occurred to me before that I could cook a relatively plain (although super yummy) CB and then just pull them out whenever I wanted a chicken sandwich for lunch or chicken for a meal. So, go ahead, buy some chicken on sale and save yourself some time, money and hassle! And be as excited as me about it! :) :) :) 

 Packaged in twos.

 The chicken stock- frozen for the next time I need it! So much better than buying the stuff off the self!
 Shredded chicken for my Alfredo Pizza, but it could be for chicken salad as well! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 6 of the 12 Week Challenge

What's your weakness? It can be something that we have already worked on, but you are still struggling with. Or it can be something completely different. Chips, candy, snacking, etc.

Your challenge this week... Beat the weakness. Put on your motivation and determination and kick your vice in the butt. If it is a food choice that you struggle with... March right into your kitchen and toss out whatever it is that is your vice. Empty the bag of chips in the trashcan, dump the soda down the drain. Quit buying the tempting foods. If you beat the temptation in the grocery store, then there is nothing to fight when you are at home. 

Trade that snack for a healthier choice. If you are a chip-a-holic, try Kale chips. They are yummy and easy to make.  Here is a recipe from Food Network for them. 


  • 1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.

If it is chocolate, then try a 90 calorie chocolate Fiber One bar. You still get to have some chocolate, but it is a better choice then a candy bar. I know with Easter right around the corner the candy is calling to us! But let's make healthy choices this week.  
If you are not keeping up with your work out schedule, then focus on that. Your health is worth the time and sacrifice this challenge takes! 
You identify your addiction. You find the will power to change it! Good Luck! :)