Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Food Review: Trader Joe's Rice Cauliflower Stir Fry

I love me some homemade stir-fry.  It helps us feel like we're not missing out.  (Given we just had our first "real" Chinese take out a few weeks ago in eons, I can confirm, we're not really missing out by doing it our way.  Except for crab rangoon.  God, I love that stuff.  Huh?  What?)  

While perusing with the masses at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago, I spied this in the freezer section:

You guys have seen me post some stir fry meals where I rice my own cauliflower but I was feeling lazy and thought we could give it a try to see how it stacked up.

Here's a peek at the nutritional info and ingredients:

Pretty decent though I wish I'd paid more attention to the sodium, that's about 450mg of sodium if you split the bag compared to the 100mg we get if I DIY it and for twice the amount of cauliflower.  But still, not bad in the scheme of things.

Just basically dump it in a skillet frozen...

...and let it come to temperature.

I paired it with a nice mango glazed tuna filet.  So what did we think?

The flavor was really good but I know some of that is from the salt.  It was not nearly as filling as when I do it but if I'm not feeling like going through the whole shebang for healthy stir-fry, this could fit the bill sometimes.  If you're looking for a good, quick stir fry option then you should give it a try if you have a TJ's near you.  As a reminder, this IS  TJ's which means the likelihood of it sticking around long term is a crap shoot at best.  Stock up but don't get attached.

What are your favorite stir-fry ingredients?

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Current Pre-Christmas Crushes

Look, I know it's not even Halloween yet, I get it.  You're not ready to see Christmas stuff yet.  But my God man, they need to stop sneaking it in my magazines or in my social media feed because you know mama's gonna be all over that!  So for you Halloweeners (ha!), you should probably skip this one.  It's not long though.  You know you kind of wanna peek.

I was scrolling my feed one day and this baby popped up from L'OCCITANE en Provence:

It's an advent calendar that is full of beauty products from them to count down to Christmas!  At $70, I'd never splurge on it for myself but how fun and it won't add calories to the waistline like chocolate advent calendars.  ;-)  How cool to have little travel sized stuff you can throw in your bag for vacays!

You all know my go-to store for Christmas is Pottery Barn and they're not disappointing!

I saw these Vintage Holly Berry Salad Plates and about squee'd myself!  MUST get these.  How cute would Christmas breakfast look on these!?

(Why can I already feel the Mr's gaze boring through my head saying "no more Christmas plates everrrrrrrrrrrrr!")

Ooh, ooh...Mr. Kot-tear, look at these Nostalgic Santa Tidbit Plates!  Perfect for portion control so I think I should get them.  HA!

And just in case I want to wrap up in a Christmas blankie, the Fair Isle Fur Pom Pom Throw would remind me of our first Christmas in Vermont!

I know any day now, they're going to drop even more Christmas goodness upon all of us so you'd better brace yourselves.  I'm sure I'll have another Christmas Crushes post but I had to share these few things that were getting me fired up for the season!

Do you do advent calendars?

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Friday, October 13, 2017

What I'm Reading This Week #41

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you've had a wonderful week and are ready to par-tay.  We are firmly anchored into the season of Fall so you can imagine my delight.

That will be pretty evident in...

U.S. national parks with stunning fall foliage  (We're at peak people, just throw your plans for the weekend out the window and road trip!)

This PG-13 Haunted Train Ride Will Scare the Bejeebers Out of You  (Okay, Love Saves the Day where Madonna traded her jacket for the boots in Desperately Seeking Susan is in New Hope so yeah, I now have a reason to road trip here!)

The 10 Best Small Towns to Visit for Halloween  (We can absolutely vouch for Sleepy Hollow.  Do the night lantern tour at the cemetery, it is FANTASTIC!)

10 Simmer Pot Recipes That Will Make Your Home Smell Like Fall  (Can't wait to bubble bubble toil and trouble!)

55 Utterly Adorable Homemade Halloween Costumes for Kids  (I would give extra candy to these cuties!)

42 Country Ideas for Decorating Your Fireplace & Mantel  (That's it, I need multiple fireplaces!)

Kids Ranked Their Favorite Halloween Candy  (Looks like you'd better buy pucker power for them and chocolate for you!  ;-)  )

Trader Joe's FINALLY Released Its Pumpkin Products  (Ignore the piss and vinegar reviews, the Mr LOVES the pumpkin cream cheese and the pumpkin cinnamon rolls are really good.  Just remember if there's anything you don't like, you can take it back for a full refund even if it's an empty box!)

How to Watch Scary Movies With Someone Who's a Total Weenie  (I can relate to most of these because while I liked scary movies in the 80's and the Scream movies in the 90's, once it turned to uber gore and torture stuff, I couldn't watch anymore.)

20 ghost-busting trips to take for Halloween  (Holy crap, I didn't know our favorite Christmas destination was full of dancing ghosts!)

10 of the Best Quotes From It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown  ("I wouldn't want to be accused of taking part in a rumble."  So funny!)

A yummy cookie for Halloween  (Caramel Candy Corn is my favorite and even if you're a candy corn hater, the cookies alone are like Snickerdoodles.  Take most of 'em to work for the dingoes)

Culinary aromatherapy for sure  (Make this now if you like holiday baking!)

What are you up to this weekend?  Any plans for a pumpkin patch?

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Get Pumped in the Pumpkin Patch!

You may think I've lost my ever-lovin' mind and you're probably right.  I was thinking about our trip to the pumpkin patch and how it was basically a field of medicine balls/free weights of varying sizes just waiting to be utilized!  

(Working out or offering a sacrifice to the pumpkin king?  Twas an overhead press.)

You know those places almost always have delicious seasonal treats like pumpkin doughnuts and cider to end your pumpkin picking experience.  I think it only fitting that we be prepared to work off what may be waiting for us at the farm stand.

**I am not a health/fitness professional.  This workout should not be construed as medical advice.  Always consult your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine- especially ones involving pumpkins.**

Pumpkin Squats- Grab a goodly sized pumpkin between 8-12 lbs and holding it in front of your belly button as a stabilizer, squat pushing your booty back when you go down and squeezing the glutes as you come back up.

Overhead Pumpkin Press- Using two smallish pumpkins (think kettlebell sized), do an overhead military press to full extension and lower into 90 degrees and repeat.

Pumpkin Curls- Using the same two smallish pumpkins and holding them underneath, do a bicep curl keeping your elbows pinned to your hips as you curl.  You may be holding pumpkins but you still need good form.  ;-)

Pumpkin Twists- A take on the Russian twist.  Grab a medium sized pumpkin and hold it close to your torso if you have a weak core or slightly in front of you if your core is stronger.  Twist side to side keeping your hips forward as you twist.  Do not hyperextend your twist.

Pumpkin Halos- A classic kettlebell move with a not so classic kettlebell!  Holding a small kettlebell sized pumpkin in front of your chest, bring the pumpkin around the left side of your head, behind it and around the right side of the head back to the starting position in front of your chest like you just drew a halo around your head then reverse the action starting on the right and ending on the left.  Be careful and don't thump your gourd on your melon as you do these!  (Yes, I know it's not truly a gourd)

Pumpkin Lunges- Grab a goodly sized pumpkin and hold it in front of your chest.  You can do walking lunges, forward lunges or reverse lunges.  If you're doing multiple sets, switch it up each time.

Pumpkin Upper Cuts- Grab two smallish pumpkins holding them underneath and do alternating upper cuts punching away from you and to eye level.

Pumpkin Kick Backs- Grab a medium-sized pumpkin and hold it to your chest.  Balance on one leg and kick back with the other making sure you're not standing on super uneven ground or near vines you could trip on.  Switch legs and repeat.  Holding the pumpkin will help work the core as you balance.

Pumpkin Tricep Extensions- Using a smallish pumpkin, hold it with both hands over your head and slowly lower behind your head making sure not to hit your head as you lower or raise it back up.

Single Leg Pumpkin Deadlifts- Grab a small to medium sized pumpkin and hold it to your chest or allow it to hang in front of your hips depending on your preference.  Balance on one leg and slowly hinge forward allowing the other leg to raise as you bend.  Make sure the balancing leg is slightly bent and you're not standing on uneven ground or near vines you could trip on.

Be prepared for double takes and whispering but you never know who you could inspire.  I mean think of the kind of dedication someone must have to pump some pumpkin to get in their strength workout!  Talk about breaking out of a rut...just make sure you don't step in one as you're doing it! Yes, this workout is somewhat tongue in cheek so if you think I'm joking, I am.  If you think I'm fall fitness genius, I am.  ;-)   I demonstrated the squats to the Mr with their pumpkins and I don't know why he kept looking around.  Again, should you choose to do it, you do it at your own risk but you can bet I'm personal going to be doing it.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Food Review: Orton Bros Pumpkin Pie Cookie Buttons

Have you guys heard of the Vermont Country Store?  Well, if you haven't and you're big on nostalgia, let me tell you, this is the website/store for you!!  We got the chance to visit the actual store in Weston, VT last year for Christmas and you guys know what a nostalgia/sentimental nerd I am - I was in HEAVEN!  Do you have A Christmas Story freak in your circle of friends or family?  Buy 'em some Lifebuoy soap.   Do you love Christmas decorations from your childhood?  Peek at their holiday shop.  It's not just a holiday place though.  Missing that fragrance Grandma used to wear?  You might just be able to find it there!  

While perusing the store, the Mr's sample radar went off.  I swear that man can sniff out a sample within a two-mile radius.  Well, HE was in heaven when we hit their food section which you could literally make a meal from between cookies, crackers, cheeses, and fudge!  When he told me I had to try these cookie buttons he tasted, he didn't have to twist my arms. They were the zesty lemon flavor and holy hellcakes!  Remember McDonaldLand cookies from your youth?  Well, they taste exactly like those!   Needless to say, we bought two boxes.  Since we weren't familiar with Vermont and the amount of time between towns with restaurants was getting longer, we split a box for lunch.   No regrets.

We've since ordered more and shared with friends, they are that good.  So when they came out with seasonal flavors like this pumpkin pie, I knew we had to try them.  They only sell them in 3 packs online (darn) so I ordered pumpkin pie, cinnamon, and maple.

Today we'll be trying the pumpkin pie.  Here's the nutritional info.

To me, this is how you can tell they're a little more homemade than your mass produced gigantor cookie company...

See how no two cookies really look the same?  Plus that pic of my giant paw gives you some scale on their size.

But how do they taste?

Okay, remember when Violet Beauregard swiped the 3 Course Dinner Gum and could taste each element as she chewed?  That is exactly what this cookie tasted like to us.  The first chew or two tastes like plain pumpkin puree which honestly turned me off a little.  But as you continue to chew, the spices kick in and then it truly tastes like pumpkin pie.  I think it's because of its more natural, unprocessed as possible way of being baked that lends that taste when it's a more layered cookie. Like the zesty lemon is just like chew and bam...lemony goodness because there aren't other spices competing for your taste buds.  The pumpkin spice was good but not a flavor either of us would have to have again.  We're definitely looking forward to the maple and cinnamon flavors because they are straight up, non-layered flavors.  (Edit:  We just tried the maple and while they're good, neither of us tasted maple...at all.  So I'm beginning to think zesty lemon should just be ordered for all 3 boxes from now on and that is just fine with me!)

If you like light, crispy cookies full of flavor, the Orton Brothers Cookie Buttons are one of our favorites and we don't typically buy cookies on the regular to keep in the house.  Plus they're low enough in calories that even if you went ape poo on a whole box, it'd be the equivalent of a meal, not all of your meals for the day.

What's your favorite seasonal cookie?

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Hey man, what's the rush??

If you're a person of a certain age, you may remember fun PSA's like the one below whilst watching Saturday morning cartoons....

It might've seemed juvenile at the time but those PSA's still ring true 30 years later especially when it comes to importance of slowing down and chewing your food.  I always thought I did just fine in that area, after all, the Mr was the one who always proclaimed himself the fast eater.  Sometimes I would be shocked at how fast he ate on occasion like if we'd done a particularly hard workout.  I'd be just as hungry too but he could be halfway done when I was barely into my veggies.  (We make a point to eat our veggies first just like grandma's for generations have been telling us!)  Well, on occasion I would notice I was swallowing hard or not even remember eating a meal because I had stuff I needed to get done.  I'm actually eating lunch as I type this and last night I had a horrifying reveal the night before.  I don't chew my food properly.  If I'm eating something crunchy I tend to chew everything properly like say celery or apple slices.  But everything else?  At times, I've been one and done.  Yep. I caught myself last night taking a bite of something at dinner, meaning I stuck it in my mouth, chomped and swallowed.  For the love of God, no wonder I only "vacate" 2-3x per week!!! Something I noticed from time to time in the past was when I took a bite of an entree or more specifically meat, my tongue had this tendency to toss the first chew into the back of my throat.  Like to a point where it was basically irretrievable so I had no choice but to swallow it whole unless I wanted to yarf it from back there and I think the Mr wouldn't appreciate that bovine trick.

So a few weeks ago, I made a point to start really paying attention to each bite I took and chewing until there were no lumps left in each bite.  I also focused on intentionally keeping each bite at the front or side of my mouth so I had control over it.  I don't know if that even makes sense that half a bite can just automatically go to the back of your throat but it does for me.  I don't know if I learned that really young and just never paid attention but now I'm going to have to totally relearn how to eat. I know you're not supposed to eat while doing other things like watching TV or surfing the web but I think most of us just do.  No one really wants to sit there in silence while eating and if you work from home together, you pretty much know how each others day was so there probably wouldn't be a whole lot of chatter.  Although who knows, maybe we should turn off the tube when we're eating too. I just finished a typical lunch for me which is a fruit salad, raw veggies and some tuna fish with 5 whole grain crackers.  I'm actually full.  This is a meal that would have me feeling somewhat hungry again by the time we go to workout or at least knowing that I would be famished by the end of it.  I don't know that this meal has ever filled me up under normal circumstances so this is actually very encouraging.

In doing some research about chewing food just to see what the internet has to say about it, here are the things I've found:

1)  Just the act of chewing signals the body to begin digestion.  It ramps up the saliva to lubricate the food and move it efficiently down your esophagus.  (How many of us have scraped said esophagus with a bite of food we didn't chew enough first?)  It signals the stomach and pancreas to get ready to break everything down and even relaxes the lower stomach muscles.

2)  It allows you to actually absorb the nutrition from the food you're eating.  You know how you eat apples for the fiber and carrots for Vitamin A and sweet potatoes for beta-carotene?  Well, those things don't get absorbed when the body has to work too hard to break down what you didn't chew so it gets flushed on down the line and you get up to 50% less absorption!

3)  Not chewing food properly can result in acid reflux, weight gain, gas and even moodiness from the gas because it's painful and yes Virginia....constipation.

No, this isn't rocket science and are probably things we already know in the back of our minds but don't think about it when we're eating.  Life is so rushed and we're trying to cram so much stuff into a day that it's no wonder we're cramming our food in as well.  I know I've talked about this subject before but the whole chew or two that I've been noticing lately is just too scary for me to ignore.  I mean one of the scariest episodes of Six Feet Under to me was Emily Previn who was just a normal lady, doing her crossword puzzle eating her TV dinner and she choked on a piece of food, died and no one found her for a week.  I can relate to the no one finding her because we can go literally months without hearing from people.  We had a situation where we were without power for a week and seriously, no one came despite our house being on the news as ground zero for an event.  So if that episode scares me so bad, why on Earth would I up my chances of dying the same way?!

It's been a few weeks and the Mr has gotten on board with it.  We've said out loud before each meal, "eat slowly!"  It's very hard especially when you're super hungry and just want to inhale.  I will feel a little more full but I have to say I have a side effect I didn't particularly care for...getting hungry sooner.  If I eat at noon, I can start getting painfully hungry by 4-4:30pm and before I could easily go for six hours or so with no problem and I very rarely got hunger pain but I'm getting them now.  I'm trying to drown them with water when I feel them which might stave it off for about 15-20 minutes.  I'm proud of us for attempting to finally slay this dragon because it's been a lifelong problem for him and a more recent problem for me trying to juggle a lot work wise.  It's not like I'm eating more but I need to get on a 'regular' schedule if you get my drift.

So chewing my food, especially my entree or bigger chunks of food that I'm bad about chewing thoroughly has got to be my focus.  Obviously, it helps actually feeling full sooner too and that can help with weight loss.  I need to make sure that the first bite doesn't get rocketed to the back of my throat so I'm not tempted to swallow it like I have been.  I know this will take time to be a habit but I really think so many things could improve if I just buckle down and make it my default.

Do you rush through your meals or chew your food less than you should?

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Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Been Awhile!

A dear friend of mine got married last weekend.  She was almost related by marriage, unfortunately, things didn't work out in that respect but I remained friends with her.  She is much too wonderful a person not to have in my life just because she became an "ex."  She is about 13 years younger than I am and it's always so nice to have someone younger (and older) than you are as a friend because it helps keep you young or to see what to look forward to as you age depending on the friend.  I'm so happy that she was kind enough to invite us to the wedding and it was beautiful.

I'll be honest, it's been a while since we've been to a wedding.  The last wedding we went to was my friend's brother whom I've known since he was eight and they are pretty traditional.  It was a big Italian wedding and was very similar to the weddings I saw as a kid, which I loved.  A nice, big church wedding with Catholic aerobics (I can say that, the Mr and I were raised Catholic- HA!) and off to a decorate it yourself banquet hall with a huge cookie table in addition to the cake and such. But nowadays you see these weddings on Pinterest of bride and grooms chucked in a field or barn with farmhouse chic weddings and dreamy filters at golden hour.  What would've been a pretty cheap affair given the surroundings 20 years ago is now a pretty penny given the trend.  So this was our first "trendy" wedding and we had no idea what to expect.  Would everyone be watching the nuptials through a screen?  Do they still do gift tables?  Do they still do Dollar Dances and the Chicken Dance/Electric Slide?  Would we be seated at the misfit table since the bride was the only person there we knew and it's not like we'd really get to see her at all?  So yeah, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a bit of anxiety going into it especially with a 90-minute gap between the ceremony and reception for a cocktail hour...we don't drink, so yeah.  We get to watch strangers guzzle open bar before the newlyweds even get there.  (And drink they did.  Are we the only ones that think it's highly inappropriate to be guzzling beer at the ceremony!?  It reinforced we made the right decision to have a dry wedding, which we informed people of ahead of time, because there was some serious tomfoolery that I'm sure people would be embarrassed about in the light of day.  But I digress.)

So, not only were we not at the misfit table, we were at table one.  Like before her family that flew in from another country!  No pressure.  LOL  We got to visit with her way more than I imagined despite so many people and when she introduced me to her maid of honor, she gushed at how she felt like she knew us because the bride talks about us all the time.  She said she cried at the beautiful gift I gave her the previous week.  I bought a journal on a Hobby Lobby run and made some pockets for the front and back that said "honeymoon mementos" and told her how the Mr and I have journaled every single vacation...except our honeymoon.  It was because of that and little details we lost that I didn't want another couple to lose that.  I told her I knew it was old school but seeing the other person's handwriting and re-reading your honeymoon adventures was something I think she'd cherish in the years to come.  If they kept up the tradition, she could be like us and have over 20 years of vacations to read about (like The Notebook but without all of the depressing sobbing parts- won't ruin it for those who still haven't seen it!)  The whole thing was beautiful and her brother even proposed to his girlfriend!  It was the bride's idea to throw her the bouquet and then bam...on one knee he went after a short dance to that country song "Hey Pretty Girl" or something like that.  To answer the question, yes they still do the Electric Slide...always have, always will I suspect.   Still don't know how to do it.  It was a night filled with love and I'm so excited for them to start their adventures together.

We got them a pretty sweet carry-on suitcase and a set of canisters for their bridal shower but by the time the wedding came, the registries were a little picked over.  I was going to get her a cookware set but when I checked her other registry, I saw someone had already gotten her one so I wasn't going to buy her another one because you know darn well one of 'em is going back.  So knowing how they love date nights, I messaged her and told her the registry was getting a little picked over would she prefer I stuck to the registry or went rogue.  (I know I'm not good with people going rogue on me.) She's like "go rogue!!  It'll be that much more special!  I trust you!"   So I decided to get two "experience" based date nights for them that they may not typically do for themselves.

I got this book that is by the "love languages" dude that gives you date night ideas and there's a prayer or scripture reading that is thrown out as a talking point to bring you closer together as a couple. (She has made it a goal to become more spiritual and pray more this year so I'm not forcing religion on her or anything.)  Some dates are more extravagant than others but they've been together for 5 years so you can always use some pointers in the right direction.  Our two dates we gave them are for them to take a cooking class together and the other is for an afternoon tea at a patisserie.  Both are gift cards so if they wanted to just blow it on cookware and pastries then they could, they're not locked into those ideas but I'm pretty sure she's going to love them.  He's game for anything as long as he gets to spend time with her.  (She works full-time in the health industry and part-time as a photographer when her schedule allows.)

I figure this way they can see what class appeals to them and they both learn how to make a dinner and can take that forward.  I've been dying to take a cooking class to make croissants so I'll have to see how they like the experience and the Mr said he'd be down with doing that too.  The afternoon tea is all about taking the time to slow down and just enjoying themselves. It's the same place the Mr took me for my birthday and it's close to the park where he proposed so I suggested an afternoon tea and a stroll in the park to reminisce about that day.

What was your favorite wedding gift you've given and received?

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