Friday, July 30, 2010

Eating Right and Losing Weight

Once upon a time I ate 3 bags of potato chips per day, I rarely cooked dinner, almost always ate out, and I couldn't care less about calories, sodium, or fat and it showed. I wasn't morbidly obese by any means but I wasn't happy with my appearance at all. Here I am a few years ago at my rehearsal dinner with my best bud Ann:
That's me in the pink.
Not horrible, not great. I wore shirts that were too small because I couldn't come to terms with having to buy a larger size.

My issue was with food, I seriously love food and that had become a problem because I ate really unhealthy things like the super greasy (but delicious) chicken fingers from Chilli's. I still day dream about those regularly and I haven't eaten them in 3 years. Or greasy, cheese smothered enchiladas with flour tortillas, refried beans, and rice from El Chapparel. We would go out to dinner and I'd save my left overs and eat them for breakfast the next morning or lunch. Then when we moved to 29 Palms I was plagued with intense boredom and when I quit smoking I used food to satisfy my cravings and relieve some of that boredom.

Here I am last summer with Miss Haley. I was 2  months pregnant and that's where the health kick began:
At Encinitas weighing 169lbs

When I found out I was pregnant I really started watching my calories because I didn't want to have that eating for two mind set, plus I weighed in at 169lbs when I was 10 weeks pregnant. As much as I wanted to  believe it was all baby weight I knew that wasn't the case. Alice was a huge help because she made it to where I got nauseous from eating fatty foods and I craved cold, raw, and fresh fruits and veggies. After 4 months of eating a healthy diet and staying within the recomended calories I started to feel better. I just felt healthier and cleaner. I know that sounds strange but I had been eating so much crap like oils, and sugars and just nasty stuff that when I purged all of it from my diet I felt more pure, it's hard to explain. Still to this day if I eat something fattty like pizza or something deep fried I will feel downright gross the next day, I feel greasy and swollen, it's weird.

Anyway, once I had Miss Alice I felt like a veil had been lifted and within a couple of weeks I was wearing my pre pregnancy jeans. A month or so after that those jeans were loose:

Now 6 1/2 months post partem the jeans fall down, I have had to put my engagement ring away because it falls off and I own all jeans in a size 8 size 4!

I look (and felt) exhausted in this pic and Alice was in mid blink but you get the idea.

This is how I lost the weight and how I maintain it:

  • Stay below 2000 calories, aiming for about 1700-1800
  • Pay attention to portions!!! You would be shocked at what some consider a portion. Even meals served at restaurants are sometimes considered 2 or even 3 portions! It's appaling and misleading. Know the portion size before you order or purchase something.
  • Think of calories as cash. You only have so much to spend per day. When purchasing groceries try to get not only the most for your money but the most for your calories (look for bigger portions for fewer calories)
  • Don't forget to include drinks as part of your diet. Opt for zero calorie beverages or water.
  • Choose whole wheat when possible
  • Don't assume that reduced fat or fat free is good for you
  • Always compare and read labels

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I was born with a fascination of bad weather. I just love it unless people are dieing from it. When we briefly lived in Indiana I was in awe over the thunderstorms, the tornado warning was music to my ears, and our crazy snow storm that was declared a state of emergency was pretty cool too. So naturally, I enjoy a good sand storm. I've only been in two of them since we've moved here and it is truly amazing how quickly they approach.

A week or so ago Alice and I were sitting on the back porch. I could smell rain, hear thunder, and the clouds were dark and heavy, I was waiting for the storm hoping it didn't miss us. Things were looking very promising and the wind began picking up, I was in heaven, certain that I would soon be enveloped in a nice summer thunderstorm. Then I saw what looked like a distant sandstorm and I thought 'hmm, I wonder if we'll get any of that'. 30 seconds later this was my back yard:

Notice that things are still pretty clear at my place and the sky isn't looking too bad.

Another 30 seconds go by and there's this:
Things are getting a little hazy.

A few seconds later:
Ok, time to go inside.

Taco Salad in a Baked Tortilla Bowl w/ Sour Cream Dressing

Sorry these photos aren't really up to par but my good camera is packed and ready to go to Texas this weekend! Yay!

These, like all my recipes, are super easy, super tasty, and very healthy, oh and they're man approved. Nick really likes these :) I think they're only about 500 calories which to me is pretty stinkin good since it's an entire meal.

Baked Shell:

Burrito sized tortilla

tin cans - labels removed and washed

cooking spray

Spray both sides of tortilla with cooking spray.
Place cans on cookie sheet, open end facing down, then place your tortilla over the can and fold 4 corners into the tortilla. Bake at 375 degrees until crisp, about 15 minutes.

Sour Cream Dressing:

1 cup light sour cream
1/2 fresh jalepeno
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 of an avocado - diced
1/2 tbs ranch dressing

Mix all igredients. If you have a food processor that works best because it really unleashes the flavor of the jalepeno and emulsifies the avocado making the dressing green. I do have a food processor but I was lazy last night and didn't want to deal with washing its 1 billion parts.

Salad Filling:
1 lb ground lean turkey
romain lettuce
1 can pinto beans - rinsed
1 can kidney beans - rinsed
diced onion
1 can of black olives, sliced
4 pepperocini - diced
tomato - diced
1/4 avocado diced (or more if you like avocado a lot)
sliced jarred jalapeno
cheddar cheese

Brown your turkey and season it with either a taco seasoning packet or use a mixture of cumin, cayenne, chili powder, paprika, salt, and garlic powder. Then simply mix the remaining ingredients except for the cheese into a salad.

Fill tortilla bowl about 2/3 full with salad mixture then top it with ground turkey, cheese, and sour cream dressing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Decadent, Healthy Chicken Enchiladas

Yum! These were so good it's really hard not to eat the filling before it makes its way into enchilada form. Typically chicken enchiladas have a sour cream base which is tasty but I prefer cream cheese. I love cream cheese, it is so versatile!

Sometimes when I make dinner Nick repeatedly says "This is really good baby" but he says it with this strange tone as if he's saying it as a way of convincing himself that it's not awful and then once we're done eating he'll admit it wasn't his favorite dinner. He doesn't always share the same enthusiasm for food that I do so when I incorporate a new food into our menu I never know what he'll think. Well he kept telling me how amazing these enchiladas were last night so naturally I thought he was lying but it turns out he wasn't, he truly loved them.

•2 whole Chicken Breasts

•½ packages McCormick Baja Citrus Marinade

•¼ cups Diced Onion

•½ whole Diced Jalapeno

•⅓ packages Light Cream Cheese

•2 cans Herdez Salsa Verde

•1 can Diced Green Chillies

•2 dashes Salt

•½ teaspoons Cumin

•8 whole Corn Tortillas

•½ cups Shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Marinade chicken according to McCormick package instructions and then grill it. I grill a couple of pounds of chicken in this marinade and save it for recipes through out the week.

Shred or dice two chicken breasts and place in a bowl. Add diced onions, jalapeno, cream cheese, salt, cumin, and one can or herdez salsa. Mix it together until creamy.

Stack 8 tortillas on a microwave safe plate. Lightly spray every other tortilla with cooking spray and microwave for 1 minute or until tortillas are soft.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture into each tortilla and roll tortilla up. Place tortilla, seam side down in a 13×9 baking dish.

Mix can of diced chillies with 1/2 can of herdez salsa verde. Pour evenly over the top of the enchiladas, sprinkle cheese over the top and bake for 20 minutes. Then broil or about 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browned in spots

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Greek Night - Gyros and Greek Salad

Talk about easy to make! These took very little skill and about 15 minutes of my time, mainly because every thing is store bought and just thrown together. When I order gyros from a restaurant I always order the lamb but lamb is not readily available to me here in 29 Palms and Nick doesn't like it anyway so I used roast beef from the deli. We also used naan bread which I found in my deli, but any flat bread will do just fine.

Gyro filling:
1/2 pound of roast beef from the deli
a splash of worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
dash paprika
dash lemon pepper
black pepper
1/2 tbs olive oil
diced tomato
diced cucumber
sliced black olives
sliced red onion
feta cheese

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add  beef and seasonings heat it through and let it sit on low until ready to serve.

Tzatziki Sauce:
Tzatziki sauce is traditionally served on gyros and I love it. I'll dip anything in tzatziki sauce. This may not be a very traditional version of tatziki but it's good and it makes me happy so I don't mind much.

Small container of Greek yogurt (the commissary now sells this, yay!)
finely diced cucumber
finely diced red onion
1/2 teaspoon of dill
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of lemon pepper

Mix it all together and there you go, it's done!

Once your beef is heated and your sauce is ready spray a little bit of cooking spray onto your flat bread of choice and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes, until it's nice and warm and soft. Then put a generous amount of roast beef in your flat bread followed by an insane amount of tatziki sauce, top it with onions, tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese and you're ready to go!

The salad is super easy too:

Romaine lettuce ( I use Romain as opposed to iceberg because iceberg has ZERO nutritional value, it's like drinking water)
red onion
feta cheese

Chop up all of your ingredients and throw them together saving the feta for last. Then add your dressing of choice. We used a Greek vinaigrette but I prefer a basic olive oil dressing made by Kraft I believe. We were out of it unfortunately. Tatziki sauce might be delicious too :) I told you I loved my tzatziki sauce!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Borracho Beans and Carne Asada

Last night we had some of the left over borracho beans I was telling you about paired with home made flour tortillas, recipe from Homesick Texan, filled with carne asada, red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and a few dollops of sour cream. The meal was amazing. I love carne asada because it has this rustic, fresh, summery flavor to it and it can be a little chewy so it has this primal nature to it, you really have to tear at it with your teeth to get a decent bite. To some that may sound odd but to me it evokes memories of backyard bbq's in Texas on warm summer nights.

We get our carne asada from a Carniceria place in Yucca Valley. It's funny because growing up my mom occasionally got meat from the Culebra Meat Markets and I hated those places, they seemed unsanitary. Now I love visiting the carniceria, although I am still a little reluctant to eat many of the foods prepared there. Anyway, our carne asada comes pre-seasoned and smothered in onions and cilantro however my cilantro hating husband can never taste it. We just throw it on the grill and let it cook low and slow until it's got this amazing dark crust of flavor. Now they do sell a low fat version of this and you'd think I'd be jumping for joy over this but that is not the case. I choose the fatty version because it's just one of those things in life that I can't compromise on.

Now for the borracho beans. These are typically cooked with beer however I use water and tomato juice instead. I think it tastes better and it is healthier but if you like beer just substitute half the water for beer.

Borracho Beans:

2 cans pinto beans drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

fresh jalapeno diced

half an onion diced

2 slices of bacon diced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

a couple dashes cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tbs vegetable oil

Saute onion, bacon, and jalapeno in vegetable oil until onions are translucent.

Add beans and tomatoes and season with cumin, salt, cayenne, and garlic powder. Stir in a can of water. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes and you're done.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Super easy, relatively healthy, and perfect nachos

I love nachos but I have a little problem with being a perfectionist, therefore traditional nachos bother me. There is just so much inequality with traditional nachos, some get more beans and cheese than others, a chip may be larger here or there, and the toppings tend to fall off of them. While they are delicious I am often left slightly saddened by how imperfect they are. But I have a solution... mini nacho bowls. We eat them for dinner paired with my healthier Mexican rice and my borracho beans however they're good as appetizers as well.

Mini Nacho Bowls:

Baked Lays corn tortilla scoops

half a fresh jalapeno

1-2 grilled chicken breasts

1/2 can pinto beans

canned red enchilada sauce

jarred jalapenos

Monterrey jack, pepper jack, or cheddar cheese (whatever you like)

Take your chips and line a pan with them, I like to use only intact scoops. Fill each one with about 3 beans then top the beans with a bit of diced fresh jalapeno.

I like to grill my chicken in bulk and use it through out the week and I love McCormick's baja citrus marinade packet so I use that on my chicken. Shred a couple of chicken breasts and place a bite sized piece of chicken in each scoop.

Drizzle a little bit of enchilada sauce (just a little bit) over each one, don't go crazy or your nachos will be soggy.

Top each one with a sprinkle of shredded cheese followed by a jarred jalapeno slice.

Bake for a few minutes about 400 degrees and you're good to go!

So that's it, pretty easy, huh?

Now for the rice:

I use a rice cooker for this because it's easier and healthier than if I didn't.

2 cups of rice

1 can of tomato sauce

2 teaspoons cumin


a dash or two of cayenne pepper

water (amount depends on your rice cookers instructions)

Dump it all into the rice cooker, mix it around, and let it do its thing! I used to saute the rice with onions in some oil before I added the water and tomato sauce and you can do that if you want. It really does taste better that way but it adds a lot of fat and calories so I omit that step now.

I'll post my borracho beans recipe later!

Monday, July 19, 2010

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...

Or in this case if you give a photographer a really big client that accounts for 85% of that photographers income, she's going to cry if she thinks she lost that client. Then rejoice and thank God when that client calls and schedules the session. Then silently freak out when she is told the session is in less than 24hrs. Then freak out some more, not so silently, when she realizes she has no childcare because the CDC is full.

I think this stopped being anything like that mouse/cookie scenario a while ago.

In other news we just got back from San Diego where we stayed at MCRD, went to Coronado island, I ate a sea salt chocolate truffle and did not care for the salt, then we went to Coronado Naval Base. We like to go to other bases and see what they've got to offer. So far 29 Palms is the worst in terms of retail on board the base (MCRD has a wine store!!) but strangely I found myself missing home. I was sitting on a beach, on an island in the Pacific (albeit an island only 1/2 a mile from the mainland ) and I was missing my desert home. Something is not right about that. We also ate Mexican food and it truly irritates me that California severely under estimates the power of a freshly made flour tortilla. Fresh tortillas are amazing, truly amazing and they're so easy to make so why do these restaurants buy mass produced tortillas? I think I'm just going to give up entirely on California Mexican food. Maybe one day I'll open up a Tex-Mex diner and show them what it's all about. Yes, a gringa running a Mexican food place, it could work.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. - Daniel J. Boorstin

I've been getting my bachelors degree for just about eternity now. Looking back at things I don't know why I didn't think a degree was important, ok well actually do know why I thought a degree wasn't important. It was because when I was around 20 or so I was making a lot more money than most 20 year olds and my job was way cooler and had more responsibility than most 20 yr old jobs. I was under the impression that a degree was nothing more than an expensive piece of paper. I thought I was so cool because while all my buddies were wasting their parents money on college I was already making my own money. I thought I had beaten the system. Isn't that a funny story?

Unfortunately after about a year or so of having that really awesome job I got really tired of it, it wasn't challenging me and I got transferred and my boss was a crazy women from Switzerland who constantly commented on how lazy Americans were and how stupid I was. She never actually called me stupid but I was reprimanded almost daily for the most mundane things. It truly sucked. So I started looking for jobs elsewhere only to find that I wasn't really qualified for much else, I had gone as high as I could go without a degree so I started attending college at a local community college and I really loved it. Then the Marine Corps stationed us here in 29 Palms and we all know how I feel about 29 Palms. I tried to continue attending the community college via online courses but I knew I couldn't get very far that way because most of the courses were taught at the school. I decided then to transfer to Copper Mountain Community College out here and I enrolled in one class and quickly decided that CMCC was not the school for me, I felt like it was a joke, like I knew more about the subject from watching the discovery channel. Plus, even though I had from 8:30am until 3pm to attend school not a single class fit my schedule; they all either began before Haley was at school or ended after she got out.

I didn't know what to do, I felt very hopeless, I didn't want to go to an all online school because I was worried that my future potential employers wouldn't like it. I took a really long break, about a year or so. And then I decided that I needed to just suck it up and go to school online because a degree from an online school is better than no degree at all. So I enrolled in American Military University and I really loved it. I felt challenged which was great and I truly felt like I was gaining knowledge. But it still really bothered me that it was an online school so after about a year at AMU I decided to look into the University of Texas and low and behold they offer an online program. So in April or May I applied to University of Texas at El Paso and after months of waiting I finally got accepted today! I am officially a UTEP Miner!!

Yes, it's still an online program but it's from a school that my potential employers will recognize, they won't have to google it to make sure it exists and is accredited. I'm so happy, it's hard to explain why this is such a big deal to me but it is. Maybe it's because lately I have felt in limbo with everything and now something has finally happened to thrust me closer to where I want to be in life. Now if only the Marine Corps would follow suit and give us orders to Hawaii or something, that would be great :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1/2 a year old


I can't believe it's been 6 months since our little angel came into our lives. These last couple of months have been really busy for Miss Alice. She's been traveling quite a bit and she's been learning plenty of new things, like how to sit up on her own, how to roll over, she learned how to growl, how to blow rasberries, the list just goes on and on.

She also began teething. That is really no fun at all.


This is her signature look:

It involves her sucking on her bottom lip pretty much anytime she finds something fascinating. It's her look of concentration.

And with her sister already in Texas she's learned to lower her standards for what she considers funny and now she laughs at mommy and daddy just as much as she did with her sister.

She's a happy little girl, that's for sure!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Felling So Much Better

While I'm still not in love with 29 Palms I feel so much better about being here right now. Nick and I had an amazing weekend and we didn't even leave the Morongo Basin. This past weekend we watched Lost like it was going out of style, we (and the term we is used loosely here) built a garden, Nick painted his bike, I made a flag cake, some roasted red pepper puff pastry things, and some focaccia bread, and we just hung out. It was great because Nick wasn't exhausted and I wasn't feeling like our time together was too short so nothing seemed rushed at all. It was just a nice laid back weekend. Oh, and I booked plane tickets to San Antonio. I'll be there July 31st for 2 weeks.

A lot of the time Nick leaves well before I'm awake, usually before sunrise, and he doesn't get home until sunset or later. He barely has time for sleep but he does his best to spend as much time with us as possible, usually 2 hours a day. Unfortunately half the time he's so tired that what we get is this left over, barely coherent, shell of a man. To say that it sucks is an understatement. Even on weekends he's usually so exhausted that he spends a good chunk of time recovering from his hellish week. And he's always trying to spend as much time with us as possible while still making time for errands he has to run for himself. This is how it has been since he went back to work after paternity leave and it's all because of a certain Marine with a serious attitude problem, but I won't get into that here.

Anyway, this certain Marine is gone for 8 weeks. Thank God is all I can say. This is a much needed break, as you can tell from my previous posts I was feeling pretty down lately but this Marines absence has just made a world of difference. Nick has been coming home at reasonable hours, going in at reasonable hours, and getting a lunch. In no other occupation would getting a lunch seem like a luxury, but here it is. Nick told me the other day that most days all he eats is dinner. Lately he has been coming home for a 2 hour lunch. It's been great, it really has. It reminds me of when we first got here, before this Marine came to Nick's battery and began making things hell for everyone. I remember when Nick would be home at 4 everyday and he had a 2 hour lunch most days and I, for some reason, complained about the Marine Corps. What was I thinking? Well, I had just come from civilian life so everything about the Marine Corps seemed incredibly unfair, the rank inequality, the deployments, etc.

Anyway, I am going to soak it all in until Nick leaves for training. I cannot even express how important this break from evil Marine is. After months of his bs my perception on things had become a little distorted. I had forgotten how things are supposed to be, it's weird but this crazy schedule felt normal and I felt like I was the one with the problem, like I wasn't cut out for this lifestyle because I couldn't handle the late nights, early mornings, exhausted husband, etc. I felt like a failure which was pretty sad to me because I have really tried so hard to adapt to this lifestyle. Oh, and I am the only spouse who deals with evil Marine because Nick is the only married Marine in his section. So when I would vent to other women in the unit sometimes, well most times, they made me feel like I was just not strong enough because they couldn't relate to what I was going through. I know that was not their intention. The point is that I feel better and I'm going to make the best of my time with my husband before evil Marine returns.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moving "Home"

Whenever a unit is set to deploy a common question amongst spouses is whether to stay here or go "home". I completely understand that the couples who haven't had children will go "home" during a deployment, I mean what reason would you stay here? In fact, I think marriages might even be safer if the spouse goes "home" since there are so many Marines just waiting for a lonely married woman to walk their way. However, when you throw children into the mix things get complicated.

Take Haley for example, if Nick is going to deploy from May-Dec I can't just uproot our lives and enroll Haley in a school in Texas for half the year, then move her back here and enroll her in a California school. Well technically I can do that but at what expense? It might not seem like a huge change but it is and it would have a huge impact on Haley's emotions.

Aside from issues with school schedules there is the question of housing. I've seen families give up their homes here for a 7 month deployment to go back "home" to live with their parents, only to be homeless upon their return, living with friends for two months.

Lastly, I feel like my home is wherever I live. I haven't called my parents houses my home for many years now so the term going home doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But it does sound much better than if I would say I'm going back to my place of origin. That's just weird sounding.

So although I understand the concept of going "home" for a deployment I never really agreed with it when children are involved. But now I find myself debating whether or not to go "home". And Nick isn't even deploying, he's going to a course for 6 weeks. I just get so lonely here. I've never been so lonely and so bored in my life. I'm always looking forward to 5 or 6pm when Nick comes home, it's the highlight of my day and the only thing that makes being here worth it because I'm only here because he's here. So when you take him out of the equation my entire purpose for being in 29 Palms, the so called oasis of the desert, is gone. So why stay? Especially why stay when I don't have to?

I found myself thinking this crazy plan this morning where we move all our stuff into storage, drive to Texas, Nick drops us off there and takes a plane back to Cali so he can go to his course, I enroll Haley is school and we stay there until December, well over the 6 weeks that Nick was gone for. By then Nick will have picked up rank and we would be due for orders any day. It's an almost perfect plan. Except for a few minor problems such as not seeing my husband for 5 months, he might not pick up rank for some reason, and I have no place to live in Texas for 5 months. Plus, I love having the Marine Corps to blame for family separations. If we did this I would only have myself to blame for being separated from Nick. And Nick would have left Alice at age 6 months to return to her when she's almost a year, that's too much time away. Now, I know Marines deploy for longer time periods and miss more of their children's lives but I can't do that to my family.

So I guess we'll be staying here after all for who knows how much longer. But I have to remember that I did this for 2 1/2 years now, and one of those years I was alone here, so I can do this. I really, really, don't want to though.