Chicken & Rice Casserole with Healthy Recipes for 2016

Chicken and Rice Casserole on Whisk Together

Happy New Year Everyone!  I hope you all had a great couple of three day weekends or some time off.

I have my photography website up and running again!  I took it down after my last child was born and her bedroom took over the indoor studio.  Some of my absolute favorite photographs of the kids were in the studio and I want to set that up again.

 

Here’s the website at www.maryrileyphotography.com.

Here’s the business card I finished making.  The large border is the trim that will later be cut off at the printing lab:

Back template business card verson 2 on Dec34

Exercise:
I have still been working out with my pals Daniel and Kelly for the past two years or so with great results!  What I eat is still about the same.  I was 135 pounds consistently from 2011-2013.  From 2014-2015, I have been around 138 pounds.  Sometimes 140 pounds.  But, the jeans still fit (for the most part) and nothing else has changed but my routine.  I think the extra 3 pounds is muscle.  Jillian Michaels uses 3 pound weights in her routines.  I purchased the Power Block weights* that Daniel and Kelly use.  These weights go up to 48 pounds total which might attribute to the weight gain.

**Note:  ALL of my Amazon links are not affiliated.  At all.  I make no money and just like linking to them so you know exactly how much the weights are.  I live in the state of Missouri – which passed a law that made Amazon cease all affiliates here.  For the weights, keep an eye on the price – it may change in January since a lot of exercise equipment goes on sale in January.  Last January (2015), the price dropped $40 around the 16th.**

January will be a GREAT month for Exercise!  Fitness Blender will do a new 60 minute workout every Monday.  January 11th they post a new 1000 calorie workout, and Monday (the 4th) will be a new 5 day challenge!

If you are new to exercise, try the 5 day challenge!  It is always fun and you can pick between high and low impact because Kelly and Daniel switch.  All you ever need is a set of weights which can be dumb bells, medicine ball, sack of flour (5 pounds usually), a gallon of milk (though… the milk might go bad…), etc.

If you are not new to exercise, the 1000 calorie workouts are SO much work but you feel amazing afterwards.  They are worth it and great if you are trying to get those last extra few pounds off.  Or, if you miss a workout day like I did on Christmas – then I just went ahead and did a 1000 calorie workout on Saturday to make up for two days of workouts.

Recipes:

Here is a collection of some recipes we make all the time at home and are really healthy for you while tasting amazing.

Greek Yogurt Egg Salad

Sweet Potato Soup

Pork Tenderloin and Beans

Light & Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Nacho Chili

Steak and Broccoli Stir Fry

Honey Ginger Chicken

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Green Lemonade (Kid Favorite!)

Paleo Swirly Crustless Quiche

Creamy Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

Harvest Salad

Butternut Squash Salad

Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe:

One of my hubby’s favorite meals is chicken and rice.  It was hard to find a recipe online that didn’t use cream of something soup or onion packet of MSG.  Instead this comfort food classic was re-invented with using just ordinary pantry items and real food from the fridge.

Real food and real comfort.  Whether trying to lose weight or just eat healthier  – here is a go to way of making a homemade classic.

Chicken & Rice Casserole
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 carrots, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 5 ribs of celery, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup wild rice, brown rice or white rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 Tb. butter
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground sage
  • 4 Tb. flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk, warm preferably
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Into the pan, add the onion, celery, carrots, rice and broth.
  3. Cover pan with foil. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium pot on the stove, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, salt and sage. Stir together for 1 minute.
  5. Whisk in the milk. Keep on medium heat until the sauce becomes a little thicker.
  6. Once timer is up on the rice, add the raw chicken and sauce you just made. Stir together.
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Cook 20 minutes. The chicken should all be cooked through. Cook longer if necessary.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

 

Roasted Tomato Soup and Saving $3,800 Per Year

Roasted Tomato Soup-3858

Hi ya’ll!  I’ve been taking and editing about 75-100 photos per night for Vacation Bible School this week!  Not a lot of new recipes going on, but here is….

What I did learn this week in the kitchen:

1.  You can double the Whole Grain Chia Waffle recipe.  It does great!  I add an extra 1/4 cup of milk because the batter is a little on the thick side.

2.  You can use a whole pound of Italian Sausage or Italian Turkey Sausage instead of 1/2 beef and 1/2 sausage in the Tortellini with Italian Sausage.

3.  Making a Taco Braid is fun.  But using Whole Wheat Pizza Crust instead of the regular Pizza Dough is not as tasty. I love Whole Wheat Pizza Dough… but not with taco meat.

How to Save $3800 per year on Whisk Together

In addition, I wanted to include how we save $3800 per year.  I know there are a LOT of lists out there.  I tried to keep this practical and thought-provoking and hopefully something new.

Where did I come up with the $3,800 figure?  Here is my breakdown:

1.  Haircuts at Home ($240)

I purchased a Wahl Hair Cutting kit back in 2004.  The new one they have looks really cool!  Mine’s all black and boring.  This kit that I bought in the past did come with a DVD to help learn how to cut hair.  Back to our regularly scheduled program…
I help cut my husband’s hair about once every 4-6 weeks.  At $15 per cut (and that’s not including a tip) and 8 cuts per year = $120 (or $1200 over 10 years!)
I use the same Wahl clippers to cut my son’s hair once every 6 weeks or so.  Let’s say he is cheaper at the hair salon and we don’t tip (which would be bad… but I don’t want a tipping debate on how much to tip and how I skewed my numbers) = 8 cuts at $10 each = $80
Now my daughter’s hair needs cut only every 12 weeks or so.  That’s $40.

For guys, it is relatively easy to cut hair.  Use the right clipper guide for his hair (we like 1/2″ guide for overall and 1 and 1/2″ for the front).  The instructional video is now on Youtube as well.

For girls, it isn’t so easy.  But wait!  There’s YouTube!  In this 6 minute video, my daughter and I figured out how to cut her hair.  Nothing fancy, but it’s what she wanted.

I can’t cut my own hair.  If you need a cheap place to get a haircut, locate a salon school nearby.  Our salon school charges $6 for a haircut.

2.  No cable/satellite and no landline ($900)

Charter would LOVE to sell us cable and a telephone line.  We played that game before – hook us in with a great intro rate and then after 12-18 months we are way in over our heads!  Our family watches a handful of shows which are almost all on Netflix or Hulu.

I signed up for their free trials.  I put the “Cut off” date for the trial on my calendar to alert me that my trial would end.  But, instead we let it go and kept them both and cut off cable.  I do miss watching “Elementary” and the “Food Network”….  Sometimes.  But we DO get to watch: all the seasons of “Merlin” (I can’t believe it ended!), “The Good Wife”, “Castle”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Agent Carter”, “Marvel: Agents of Shield”, “Frasier”, “Third Rock from the Sun” and many others.

Amazon Prime has movies and TV shows as well.  But it doesn’t work with Chromecast since they have their own “Amazon Firestick”.  It might work for you though.  Or we could just get the stupid stick.  OR Amazon could change it so I can Chromecast without buying their stick!  Ha!

3.  Saving my money at Vanguard instead of a brick and mortar bank ($63)

Back when I had a full time job at Citibank, I was one of those weird people who listed to the afternoon radio talk shows.  Here in St. Louis it was always about how to save money.  Or in other words – the best way to use the money you have.

US Bank and many others have a savings account and/or money market account rate set for .05%.  It used to be higher before the recession.  But for now, it is .05%.  You could get a tiny bit higher if you lock your money in a CD or deposit over $1,000,000 into a savings account that would earn .05% more and that would be silly.

At this rate, $1000 in a money market account would earn you 50 cents…..for the ENTIRE year.  Putting that same amount into a mutual fund at Vanguard could earn $63 per year.  (Assuming that the rates are going to be about the same… the past year earnings have been as high as 9%, but the lowest I have seen is 6.3% so I’m using that number).

Now #1:  this is money invested.  No future guarantees of course.  But since the stock market will more than likely be higher in 10 or 20 years (we hope) then it is a better return.  Actually with inflation, money sitting in a 0 or .05% account is losing money because of inflation.  The best way to save is not to spend your money.  True.  But letting it sit also causes you to lose money through inflation depreciation.

#2: This is only money that you have AFTER  you have an emergency fund in a liquid account like those savings and money market accounts that don’t make any money.  In case something were to happen, an emergency fund is necessary and Dave Ramsey gives a great “baby steps” outline on how to get there and why.

#3 This is also money AFTER you have paid the debts off or refinanced the house.  Say you have a mortgage for $100,000.  Over 15 years, the interest is $24,305.  Over 30 years, the interest is $56,567.  That’s $27,000!  (Based on 3% 15 year and 3.5% 30 year.  30 year mortgages are always higher because the bank is at a greater risk.)

Vanguard is one of the least expensive management firm out there and never changed or sold my accounts like other companies do.  I did a search and some other people have done the same as I have: tried different places to invest and moved EVERYthing to Vanguard.  Just a .5% change in the management fee can mean tens of thousands of dollars lost at retirement age.  (I’m 35 years old, so gives you an idea as to why that would matter to me.)

Fees can destroy your return.

Why do I have a Vanguard account?  I taught public school for two years and therefore had money in a 403B retirement account.  It’s like a 401K in the private sector.  When I quit teaching, I wanted the money to earn a better interest rate somewhere with low overheard fees.  So hence why I did all this research.  No, we don’t have tons of money.  I wish!

4.  Investing in a toaster oven (my pizza oven) in order to eat out less ($1780)

I think I might spend more than average at the grocery store, but we started eating out a LOT less.  Gas money saved, time saved, healthier eating and just better food over all.  For our family of 4, eating at a fast food restaurant costs about $25 per meal.  Do that once a week and you have $1300 per year.  Eating at a sit down restaurant costs about $40 per meal – Do this once a month- at about $480 per year.

A few years ago, I purchased a toaster convection oven.  What prompted me?  It was 115 degree heat index here in St. Louis for almost 2 months and over 90 degrees for 3 months.  Too hot to grill and too hot to turn on the oven.

I use the toaster oven every single day to toast bread, broil 4 grilled cheese sandwiches at once, bake pizza, roast vegetables, bake oatmeal, keep meals warm, bake appetizers, extra oven space during the holidays, and reheat leftovers so they are crispy and not soggy.  Eating leftovers is super frugal.  But sometimes they are not very good out of a microwave and 2 extra minutes in the toaster oven turns a cold, soggy pizza into a crisp, fresh slice of pie.

I know it was a little money to buy it in the first place, but avoiding eating out several times a year over the past five years as saved us ten times what it cost.

Where do we shop for food?
1. Aldi:  produce, butter, cheese, cream cheese, raisins, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, canned pumpkin.
2.  Trader Joe’s:  dried fruit, nuts, tea, seasonings, chips, cage free eggs, milk, mascarpone cheese, baking powder, cookies, chocolate, frozen fruit and vegetables, lasagna, turkey corn dogs, white whole wheat flour, and the kids get a treat for finding the stuffed animal in the store.
3.  Costco:  fruit and nut bars, yogurt, meat, fish, frozen wild blueberries, fresh spinach, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, lemon juice, olive oil, strawberries in season.

None of these places take coupons I know.  But after kid #1 got sick and almost ended up at the doctor’s office because of a “freebie” I found while clipping coupons, I stopped clipping them and started shopping at other stores.

5.  Exercising at home instead of the gym ($840)

Our local YMCA charges $70 per month for a family membership ($70 x 12 months).  This does include childcare and all kinds of cool things.  People have different goals.  People need the motivation of a gym membership and I get that.  Being a healthy weight will save time and money in the long run as well.

One of the commenters on my blog mentioned “Fitness Blender” workout videos, and I have been hooked ever since.

1.  I like their upbeat personalities
2.  I like that there is no music.
3.  They have a variety of low impact and high impact/challenging workouts.
4.  They have a great website where you can put in your desired time, workout level, target area, etc.
5.  These workouts really work!  I gained 5 pounds this past year, but my clothing size stayed the same.
6.  They wear normal workout clothes.  (Sorry… watching bikinis every week 5 times a week?  Doesn’t motivate me.)
7.  Every video 100% quality and is 100% FREE.

I’m not saying Jillian Michaels does not work.  I still love those workouts.  But after 3 years of the same one, it is nice to pull from a different variety.

Link: FitnessBlender and Youtube Channel Fitness Blender

The past 3 years I have been at 135 pounds.  This year recently I am up to 140 pounds.  Truthfully though I tried on my jeans and they fit just fine.  I think it is the heavier weight lifting on Fitness Blender that caused the weight gain.  That or the Twizzler Bites cherry flavored 🙂

**Note:  I am not paid to promote or post about any of these blogs, videos, websites or products.  They are just items I use on a daily basis that help save us money and make every day go a little smoother.**

Roasted Tomato Soup-3851-on Whisk Together

 

This soup is PERFECT for this time of year!  Tons of tomatoes and basil are at hand and ready for picking right now.  Not in the mood for hot soup in the summer?  No problem!  Cool to room temperature and freeze until winter.

 

Roasted Tomato Soup
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 -28 ounce can plum tomatoes, whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Lay the tomatoes cut side up on the sheet. Spray with more olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40-45 minutes.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until translucent and turning brown – about 10 minutes. Add garlic. and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients: canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken broth or water. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices as well.
  4. Turn heat to medium high and get the soup up to a boil. Turn heat down to medium or medium low and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. At this point, you can use a blender to puree the soup in batches, or an immersion blender, or a food processor, or a food mill with a coarse blade.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to sprinkle shaved Parmesan cheese on top.
Notes
Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa[br][br]Recipe will easily cut in half

 

Orange Carrot Soup

Orange Carrot Soup: Whisk Together

Exercise/Diet Update:  How I lost 5 pounds this week.

I know many readers here have subscribed or came from my “How I lost 33 Pounds…”  blog post that went live on Money Saving Mom last year in July..

It’s been a strange year to say the least.   I gained 5 pounds – which I know I know isn’t TERRIBLE.  But when it is enough weight that you can’t put your pants on, then might as well lose the weigh.  Lose 5 pounds or pay $100 for all new pants.  We’ll just lose the stinking 5 pounds.  Here’s how I did it this week:

1.  I started the Total 10 Diet by Dr. Oz.  I printed out the plan which gives you 3 smoothies to choose from, vegetable broth is unlimited, un-starchy vegetables are unlimited, 12 oz. of protein (poultry, eggs and fish), 1/2 cup quinoa and snack options.  I used the snack options on exercise days.  I really liked how he told you WHAT to eat.  It’s much simpler rather than a list of things not to eat.  Once you get into diet and exercise, it seems to me that limits and rules are actually much less stressful than “what am I going to have for dinner??”

2.  So, the vegetable broth is kinda gross.  It’s something to consume I guess.  But after all the hassle, I gave up on it after day 2.  Personally, I think it is included because after drinking it… you pretty much lose your appetite.  If I had to lose more than 5 pounds, I would have stuck to this part more I think.

3.  The “no wheat” rule went out the window on day 3.  I ate my 35 calories piece of toast, and I liked it!  And still lost weight.  Call me Wheat Belly.

4.  I followed the no eating rule between 8am-8pm.  Brush your teeth after dinner – it makes it easier.

5.  I lost weight fast because I did this diet in conjunction with several workouts including a 1000 calorie workout, 45 minutes on the elliptical, walking more and continuing to workout 5 days per week.  Eating 1300-1500 calories per day and burning 200-500 calories per day created a large deficit.

6.  If you can’t workout for an hour and 20 minutes, then don’t. Just workout for 20-30 minutes.  The weight will come off slower, but that’s okay.

7.  Breakfast:  I used ground flaxseeds instead of flaxseed oil in the recipes.  I loved them all and surprised how good the pumpkin one tasted.

8.  Lunch:  This was a lean protein and some salad of spinach and tomatoes.  Or Greek Yogurt.  The diet plan says to eat it plain Greek yogurt, but that’s just gross too.  So, I ate the Chobani all natural Greek yogurts with fruit.  And more tomatoes.  I hard boiled a bunch of eggs for lunches as well.

9.  Dinner:  Pretty much what we normally eat:  protein and veggies.  I made BBQ Turkey Chili in the slow cooker which is heavy on the tomato and light on everything else.  I had salmon, chicken, pork tenderloin and more eggs.  For sides, I had more salad or broccoli with some quinoa.  We ate out once at Ruby Tuesday – that is a great place to find lower calorie options with chicken, fish or steak and lots of tasty vegetables.  You can definitely taste that they do not heavily butter their vegetables or at least not the green beans and broccoli.  They taste steamed and the squash looks roasted.

Lots of green tea, coffee and lemon water!

I weigh myself after I wake up.  It’s fun to weigh yourself before and after a good workout, too (before drinking water).  Why?  Because after a good workout, I weigh less!  Why?  Because fat does NOT exit the body as fat.  Fat exits the body through about 80% carbon dioxide (breathing) and 20% water (peeing or sweat).  Which is why you can weigh less after a workout.  The 80%/20% comes from using stoichiometry – which hurts my head remembering high school Chemistry.

Orange Carrot Soup-2480 on Whisk Together

Recipe:  Well… this recipe is not on the Total 10 diet because of the carrots and oranges… But…. this soup was velvety, flavorful low calorie and zippy.   I have never had oranges in my soup!  Packed with Vitamin C and fiber from the oranges and Vitamin A from the carrots, this soup would be perfect for a summer day or good for the immune system if you are feeling like you might be getting sick.

Using 8 serving sizes as a guide, this soup has 99 calories, 452 mg of potassium, 2.2 grams of fat, 70% Vitamin C, and 193% Vitamin A.

We made this soup on the stovetop for the most part.  But, we also made a tomato basil soup cooked in the Vitamix blender that was delicious and will post that as well.  Crazy how hot it gets on the soup!

Orange Carrot Soup-2475 on Whisk Together

If you ever have questioned whether you want to invest in a Vitamix machine, do it.  I wish I had years ago.  Green smoothies here at our local coffee shop are $5.99 each.  I can make them for about 50 cents of leftover fruits and vegetables.  After a month, it’s paid for itself!  **Vitamix didn’t pay or endorse me to say this.  Though that would be nice 🙂 **

Note:  When I ate this the next day, the soup gelatinizes (is that a word?) and becomes much thicker.   Thin with broth and reheat, or eat as is.

 

Orange Carrot Soup
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Ingredients
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 pound carrots, finely chopped (shred in food processor or use knife)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1″ cube ginger root in 1/4″ pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 oranges, peel and halve (blender) or juice (1/2 cup juice for stovetop)
  • 1/4″ square of orange peel (blender) or 2 tsp. orange zest (stovetop)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. For both methods: Heat up a large skillet with butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and ginger. Cook until soft – about 6-8 minutes.
  2. For Vitamix blender: Add 2 cups broth and simmer until tender – about 10-20 minutes. (Depends on how small the carrots are.) For Stovetop method: Add 4 cups of broth and orange zest and simmer until tender – about 10-20 minutes.
  3. For Vitamix blender method: Add the hot vegetable mixture, oranges and orange peel to the blender. Turn it to Variable 1. Then, to maximum 10/high and blend for 45 seconds. Add 2 cups of more broth until it is as thick or thin as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For Stovetop Method: Puree in a blender, food processor or use an immersion blender. Stir in the 1/2 cup orange juice. Heat through over medium heat – about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
Recipe adapted by Vitamix

 

How I Lost 33 lbs… & Kept It Off for 3 Years

Lose 30 pounds

**Update August 6, 2015: I have an update on still keeping off the weight and saving money from 2014-2015 and point #5 details what I changed since this post.  **
The main goal of this post:  Yes, you CAN lose the baby weight.  And more importantly, you CAN keep it off.  You CAN do it for less than $30.  You CAN do this with a toddler in the house.  I’m not a superwoman.  I’m not an athlete.  I’m not someone who can do 10 reps of 20 pound bicep curls.  Heck, I can barely do 30 seconds of push-ups.  I still eat waffles or oatmeal for breakfast almost every day.  I did not purchase any special ingredients either:  no coconut flour, chia seeds, raw goat milk or anything normally absent from a typical grocery store.

Why I am writing this post:  I get asked about how I lost the weight, etc. many times, so I thought I would post about it.  I have many blog followers because they are trying to eat healthier just to be healthy or maintain their weight.  The #1 hurdle is actually NOT losing the weight, but keeping it off.  Kellogg’s and all those other brands will happily help sell you stuff to lose weight.  However, studies show that only 20% of us maintain the weight loss.  I created this post into two parts because I have had to go through two phases:  Phase 1 is Losing Weight and Phase 2 is Maintaining Weight.  Why are they different?  Because when you have different goals, you set up different rules.  No one can keep losing weight forever and shouldn’t.  Here is my journey, tips and how-to’s.  Anyone can promise to lose the weight – and I’ve seen many of my friends on various “diets” just to gain it back because the diets were not able to be sustained.  I don’t believe it is the person’s fault.

I have read so many books on healthy eating and exercise that I have lost count.  Reading books really helped because it is very hard to NOT exercise when your books state all the benefits of exercise.   I found it harder to eat cake, cookies, and fried potato chips when reading books about how unhealthy they are.  So, if you need some extra motivation, merging your other hobbies with diet and exercise might help.  It did for me.

My current weight is 135 pounds and has stayed between 133-138 pounds for 3 years.  I know I was at 200 pounds and that is a weight loss of 65 pounds, but technically half of that was baby weight.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m skewing my results or playing the “she had a baby” game so of course I lost weight.  Before giving birth, I was consistently around 150 pounds and 5’9″.

The Basics of What I Used: **Update**  Some of these videos are now FREE on YouTube in HD.  Making out of pocket $0.

formula

Photo of me on September 27, 2010:

FB 2010

The Journey:

September 2010:  200 pounds.  The largest I have ever been.  I gave birth to Juliana at the end of September.  She weight 10 lbs. and 21.5″ long.  I have no idea what size I am.

December 2010:  168 pounds.  For the past 4 weeks, I have been steady at 168 pounds.  The first 20 pounds of course fell off easily because… well, I had baby!  But starting December, I was consistently 168 pounds that whole month.  Juliana started sleeping a little better through the night.

January 2010:  168 pounds.  Size 12-14.  I open an account at LoseIt.com.  It says I need to eat 1500 calories to lose 1 pound per week.  January 1st seems a good time to start because it is the new year and also my baby girl is 3 months and starting to sleep better at night.  I write a list of foods I can eat on the fridge that are really low in calories, so I can feel better about eating a lot of them:  carrots, celery, lettuce, broth soups, cauliflower, tea and coffee.

February 2010: 164 pounds.  Size 12.  Weight coming off really slowly.  I exercise at night for two reasons:  1, I know the kids will be asleep for sure or the hubby will be home in order to take care of it while I exercise.  I can’t count on them being asleep at 5:30-6am.  The kids… not the hubby.  #2, my most trying time to NOT eat is night time.  I love dessert and just want to go crazy because the evening makes me hungry.  After exercising, I’m too exhausted to do anything but read for an hour and go to sleep instead of pigging out.

March 2010:  156 pounds.  Finally!  It took two months of exercise and eating right, but finally saw some progress and the weight fell off.  Again, I used Loseit to track the calories and did my exercise routine in the evenings (routine is below).

April 2010:  150 pounds.  Size 10 or 12 (my old clothes).  This was my weight before having kids actually and “my goal” weight in Lose It.  I can fit back into my size 10/12 clothes again.

May 2010:  143 pounds.  Size 8.  I stopped tracking my calories in LoseIt.com, but I have been so accustomed to eating a certain amount of calories that I just keep doing it without thinking.  Still exercising 5 times per week, but not the same videos as before.

June 2010:  135 pounds.  Still not tracking calories, but continue to workout 5 times per week for 30-45 minutes depending on the workout.

July 2010: 128 pounds.  Well, this isn’t good.  It’s too low.  So, I eat a lot of nuts, beef and fuller fat dairy products in addition to what I normally eat to get my weight back up.

August 2010:  135 pounds.  Size 6.  Pretty much stayed here the whole time.  Continuing to exercise 5 times per week.  Continuing to eat the same meals you see here on Whisk Together.

July 2014:  135 pounds.   I exercise 5 times per week for 30 minutes each or 4 times per week at 45 minutes each.  At least, anywhere that has a basement or gym.   I learned that once swimming pool season hits to start exercising in the morning.  Why?  Being out in the sun and playing with the kids drains my energy.  I have little internal motivation to exercise after swimming all day.  Figuring that playing in the pool was “exercise”, I quit for a few weeks.  And what happened?  I gained 5 pounds.  So, I started back to exercise in the morning instead when I had the energy.  Ate the same things though!

Workout with Kids

 

 Notes on my diet:
1.  It was all calorie based.

2.  I didn’t cut out any certain food groups (or not on purpose anyway).  I ate grains, dairy, meat, cheese and all that other stuff that some websites state are not “healthy”.  If you look, you can find a website or doctor to back up almost anything.  It’s hard to sort through the studies and even harder to read the original study done.  That requires me to remember Statistics class from college… which involves math… which hurts my brain.  But can be done when necessary.  (Healthy is in quotes because it is whatever healthy means to you.  It means different things to different people.)

3.  If you have been to a Dave Ramsey/Financial Freedom class or read about budgeting your finances, you probably came across the envelope idea.  Money goes into each envelope labeled $$ for groceries, entertainment, gas, etc.  Same went for calories.  Because just like calories, we have only a limited amount especially when trying to lose weight.  And the minimum consumption of course is 1200 calories.  Don’t go below 1200 calories!  Then, the body thinks it is in famine and starts to put on weight instead of lose it.  This is how I thought of it and planned out my meals.  It is NOT as bad as it seems.  Like most people, I eat the same things over and over for breakfast and lunch!  So, I just ate those things and put them on rotation over and over into the LoseIt app to keep track of the calories.

Calorie Diet

300 Bonus Calories were for “dessert”, or snacks when I was really hungry, or just omit if I didn’t think I was hungry.  Dessert is in quotes because much of what I ate for dessert was really breakfast.  Like cocoa puffs in milk is only 200 calories and just seemed so tasty after a workout for some reason.  Yes, it isn’t great for you – but it was only temporary and while trying to eat fewer calories.  If you eat real food ALL day long, I don’t think a bowl of cocoa puffs once in a while could kill you.  But, I’m sure there are websites to say I’m wrong.  There’s a website for everything!

Rules = Freedom 
When you have rules on your budget, you create freedom to do what you want with the rest.  Similarly with calories, when I have 2000 calories per day to spend, I spend them according to my rules.  Dieting rules are listed below.

Diet Rules

My current rules are:

1.  Real food if possible.
Yes, Cool Whip has fewer calories.  But, I don’t want to eat sugar, wax and condom lube.

2.  If you really, really want it and can’t stop thinking about it, then eat it!  Because you’ll probably eat 400 calories of other food trying to avoid the 300 calories of ice cream that you were trying to avoid anyway.  Believe me… I’ve tried.

3.  If the real food is REALLY high in calories, then maybe we can go with a lower calorie equivalent with not-so-terrible ingredients.  Sometimes we use sugar free syrup from the store and sometimes the natural Joseph’s sugar free syrup.  It is cheaper to buy Joseph’s online than at Whole Foods.  Whole Foods charges $7 per bottle.

4.  Yes, you CAN eat out.  And, of course, I had rules for that, too!

Places We Ate Out:
Chick Fil A:  #2 Chargrilled chicken sandwich, medium fruit cup and large diet lemonade (or carrot salad or tea) 400 calories
Panera/St. Louis Bread Co.:  Pick 2 French Onion Soup 200 calories and tuna salad on wheat 260 calories or Broccoli Cheddar Soup 220 calories and many others!
McDonalds: Southwest Chicken Salad 320 calories
Most Other Places: Checked out ahead of time.  Most places I could get a veggie and salmon or sirloin steak for around 500 calories.   If the place had the word “fried” in the title… I probably couldn’t find much to eat there.

 

Continue to Exercise and Eat Right and….

1.  Your blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels will be awesome!
2.  Your immune system will get a HUGE boost!
3.  You can rock that dress without a care in the world.
4.  Your optimism will soar!
5.  You will be less likely to develop certain cancers.

Unexpected Consequences of Losing Weight:

1.  You have to buy all new clothes, bras and underwear.  This might actually be fun for some.  I hate shopping for clothes, so it was more of an arduous task for me.

2.  You have to eat less than you used to… ALL the time.  When you lose weight, you need fewer calories to maintain that weight.  Someone who weighs 200 pounds needs more calories than someone who weighs 160 pounds (given that their calorie expenditure is about the same and for most of us, we don’t change our calorie expenditure too much unless perhaps you change jobs or totally change your routine).

3.  That flab that you thought might FINALLY go away?  Nope, still there!  I know there are people that exist that have had children and get their fabulous 6 pack tight abs back.  Unfortunately, the truth is that it just isn’t possible (for me anyway).  (Or maybe it is if I had a trainer and an MD supervising me… but that costs money.)  My lowest weight was 128 pounds, and I still have the flabby stomach and the inner thighs that don’t see the light of day.  So, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

 

My collection of videos.  Yes, there are 13 of them… but I’ve collected them over 3 years and spent less than $130.  That’s about 2 months of a gym membership at the YMCA.  There are other videos with Jillian out there, but I didn’t like them for various reasons.

FREE Videos:  Some  of these video are FREE to Amazon Prime Members as well!  Some people don’t like what she says… just mute her!  The girls are doing the moves for you right there.  A few of the videos, and their levels, are free on Youtube as well.  The computer, especially a laptop, can be hooked up to a bigger TV with an HDMI cable or regular cable depending on how new the TV and laptop are.  And they are in HD!!!!  WOW!!

No More Trouble Zones:  45 minutes of strength training.  Good beginner modifications.  Still one of my favorites.  Really listen to when she tells you to breathe.  My workouts were better after I knew to exhale on crunches and inhale on the way down.
Banish Fat Boost Metabolism:  45 minutes of cardio.  Requires NO weights.  So, you need one video and 6 feet of space.   If I haven’t kept up with this workout, my hamstrings will sometimes be sore the next day.
30 Day Shred:  3 workouts that are 30 minutes each.  Beginner workout starting out.  So hard at first, but after 30 days you really do see a difference.
Kickbox Fast Fix:  3 workouts that are 20 minutes each.  GREAT for when you really don’t have a lot of time.  Or, combine 2 of them for a fun 40 minute workout.  Beginner workouts where you can go as hard and fast for more advanced workout.
Extreme Shed and Shred: First workout is 30 minutes.  Second workout is 45 minutes.  Even though she says in the video and on the cover that it is 2 – 30 minute workouts.  It isn’t.  The first one is fairly easy.  The second one is intermediate.  Doing them together nearly wore me out.  It’s really hard to do them together, but a great way to do a full 1 hour and 15 minute workout if trying to lose weight and you have the time.
One Week Shred:  2 workouts that are 30 minutes each.  One is labeled strength and the other cardio.  These workouts are created to be done in the same day – in the morning and night.  Preferably, I’d rather do cardio in the morning and not at night.  But anyway, they are definitely intermediate to advanced moves depending on who you pick to follow.  As usual, there is a beginner modification.  I think I used it on some moves.  It really works you hard.
Killer Buns and Thighs:  3 workouts that are about 35 minutes long.  Beginner level.  This one is fun and brings back the 30 Day Shred girls that we all know and love.
Yoga Inferno: 2 workouts that are 30 minutes long.  Level 1 is relatively easy.  Level 2 is moderate.  I start at level 2 each time because I found level 1 not challenging.  This is a Yoga hybrid.  There are yoga moves and there are high intensity intervals mixed in as well.
Yoga Meltdown:  Probably my least favorite of the videos…  Some of the moves I am still working on doing like knee on elbow.
Killer Abs:  3 Workouts for 30 minutes each.  Great ab workout.  Sometimes I think that level 2 is harder than level 3.  This happens quite a bit to me in several videos.  Love the moves, the results, everything.  Definitely a beginner video.
Ripped in 30:  4 workout levels at 30 minutes each.  If I had to pick just ONE video to take with me to a desert island, this video is IT.  First, there are four whole workouts!  That’s like $2/workout!  Level 3 actually feels harder than level 4.  Why?  I think it is the jumping lunges in level 3.  This is difficult towards the end of a workout which she includes in circuit 3 out of 3.  Jillian Michaels works everything in this video from abs to arms to glutes.
Hard Body:  2 – 45 minute workouts.  Level 1 was not so bad.  Level 2 is exhausting.  I do likes this video a lot because of the variety of moves.  I know some people don’t like the DJ in the video, but I find it amusing.
6 Weeks 6 Pack:  2 – 35 minute workouts.  Level 1 is beginner.  Level 2 is intermediate.    If I find myself doing a lot of elliptical and cardio in a week, I will throw this video in for sure.  It seems like if the abs are not worked consistently, then they tend to go first.  Great fast paced workout that really gets you sweating.

 

Jillian Videos

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