October in Orlando

Filed Under (Personal) by Lisa on 16-10-2011

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Just over a week ago my boyfriend Tyler and I returned from a lovely vacation in Orlando Florida. This was the first time either of us had ever visited Florida. I am head over heals in love with the climate and weather in Orlando. I love the heat SOOOO much, and the humidity too. It was very humid there (much more so then our most humid days here in BC) but the humidity felt different. It didn’t feel like that sticky hotness we get here in BC. It was a really comfortable heat. The humidity was also my best friend. At home I suffer from allergy (mainly environmental) and sinus issues most of the time, and in Orlando it was as if all of my health issues related to that were completely gone.

The only thing that I didn’t care for in Orlando was the water (for drinking or even showering). That is one thing that makes living in BC much for desirable for me.

Our trip was my birthday gift to my boyfriend Tyler so I did all the planning and paid for a majority it too. Our flights to Orlando were lovely but when we got to our hotel things became much less lovely. I had booked The Ramada International Drive for our trip, but upon arriving there, I was very shocked when it didn’t come anywhere come to what the photos online looked like. I knew it wasn’t a resort, but it was a dump. In the morning I called Disney and they were able to get us a room at one of there moderately priced resorts within just a few hours of calling. We took a taxi there, and from then on out trip was just lovely.

We stayed at Disney’s Coronado Spring’s Resort. From the moment we arrived literally everything was magical. We had a lovely lake view room, but all of this resort was exceptionally beautiful. There were actually hardly any kids there which made it an very nice and peaceful place to stay. It does seem like this Disney resort might be more couple friendly then kid friendly.

Here are some photos of our resort.

view from our room balcony

a message in the clouds above our resort. Maybe a marriage proposal

These little lizards were everywhere!

We visited Disney World and Universal Studios while in Orlando, but could have spend even more time even at these attractions. Unfortunately Tyler and I both got sick with bad colds while on our trip so we didn’t do that much on the last few days, but that was okay with me, because being sick in such a beautiful and warm humid place is a pretty pleasant experience (compared with being at home anyways).

Here are some photos from Disney World and Universal Studios

Me with some monkeys in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Tyler with the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Lego Dragon in Down town Disney

Tyler and I with the train to Hogwarts (from Harry Potter) at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Hogwarts (from Harry Potter)

I loved our trip and hope to go back to Orlando (and maybe the Florida Key’s) one day.
I love you Orlando 🙂

Oat Scones with Raisins

Filed Under (Breakfast, Scones) by Lisa on 20-09-2011

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I have always been a huge fan of scones. Whether it’s for breakfast or a nice afternoon snack scones are perfect for both.

This morning I whipped up one of my favorite scone recipes for breakfast. The oatmeal, raisins, and yogurt make this recipe healthy enough for breakfast, and it’s low sugar content is an added bonus. Using a flavored no fat yogurt (I used strawberry) is key in making these scones very flavorful.

These scones are melt in your  mouth yummy. The texture is perhaps a little bit more moist then a typical tea scone, soft, and slightly fluffy.

Here is the recipe

Oat Scones with Raisins (Inspired by: High Flavor Low Fat Vegetarian Cooking)
(serves 4-5)

1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup unsweetened shredded medium coconut
3 tsp  ground almonds
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp salted butter
1 serving container of no fat berry yogurt
2 large eggs
½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl add the: oats, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda ground almonds, and coconut. Mix well. Add the raisins. Stir to coat. Cut in the butter. Add the yogurt, and eggs, and stir to form a soft dough. Knead the dough to form a ball. Place on a large cookie sheet. Flatten the ball to form a ½ – 1 inch thick scone. Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven. Serve warm.

My 20 lb Weight Loss Journey

Filed Under (Personal) by Lisa on 03-07-2011

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College and university wrecked havoc on my body, and caused me to gain over 20 lbs. I’m 5 foot 4 and after 5 years of college/university my weight was a sad 165 lbs. Yes I was overweight a state I never wanted to be in. It was always my greatest fear when I quit gymnastics at age 15 that one day I would get fat ( I had a stunning gymnast body through out my kid and teen years).

Back in 2000 at age 15 weight 125 lbs

For the last 3.5 years I have been trying to loose the 20 + lbs that I gained while in nursing school. While I did lose a little weight here and there over the past few years, I always gained it back, until this year. Since January I have lost 20 lbs and kept it off (for 6 + months). My current weight is 145 lbs (a much nicer number).

Summer 2008 a photo I cringe at. I'm somewhere between 160 and 165 lbs here (cringe)..

July 2011 at 145 lbs.

I didn’t plan on 2011 being my year to finally lose the weight that I have wanted to lose for years, but things just ended up happening that way. Early in the year I had some stress from my dog’s health issues and shortly after that month or so of stress, I went to work a night shift (working with 2 sick coworkers) and was sick myself before the 12 hour night was over. My illness lasted over a full month. Although I didn’t loose much weight being sick I did realize the importance of eating enough healthy food (I hadn’t been eating too much when I was stressed with my dogs health issues I ate roughly half of my usual portion sizes for a month). Being so sick for so long I was eating heaps of healthy food and no junk. I was doing everything possible to try to boost my immune system and get well. Eventually my healthy eating, rest and antibiotics kicked in and I finally got well (sometime mid March). From January to March I lost roughly 14-15 lbs.

Since I had lost a fair bit of weight I wanted to continue with the trend (in a more healthy way), so I continued with the no junk food diet, and eventually I lost 5 more lbs.

I should mention that I have a HUGE sweet tooth. I didn’t totally deprive myself of sweets to become healthy or lose weight, but I did instead replace my desserts (cookies, cakes, chocolates,  (which I use to eat almost every night after dinner), with fruits (berries peaches, watermelon) which satisfied my cravings for sweets and gave me more vitamins that boosted my immune system.

Even before I lost any weight in 2011 I had decided this year I wanted to start consistently exercising more ( I exercised  on and off before 2011 but not consistently). I had kept track of all my workouts in 2010 and from that information I decided that doing 8 workouts consistently (every month) should be something that I could do. So far this year I have maintained my 8 workout/month goal and even surpassed it a couple of months of this year. My workouts can consist of anything from walks, jogs, runs, conditioning (sit-ups, wall handstands, leg lifts, arm weight exercises, and various stretches).

I have learned a lot about weight loss and health from my weight loss this year. I have learned that portion size makes a HUGE difference in both maintaining weight and losing weight. However restricting portions too much can lead to a lowered immune system which is more susceptible to illness. Consistent amounts of exercise makes maintaining a healthy weight much easier (then inconsistent amounts). Eating little to no junk food (I have let myself eat a little bit more sweets such as chocolate in the last few weeks) and instead eating fruit strengthens the immune system greatly.

I’m hoping to lose another 5-10 lbs this year before Tyler and I go to Florida in October, because I’m sure that our trip will cause me to pack on a few more pounds. I’m very happy with my current weight though, and hopefully it will be my new forever weight (or several pounds lower).

What is your weight loss story?

My First Pad Thai Dish

Filed Under (Pasta, Supper) by Lisa on 02-06-2011

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This afternoon I decided I wanted to make some kind of new noodle dish. I thought an Asian style dish would be a nice change from our usual Italian pasta dishes. I found a recipe for Pad Thai that sounded simple to make and fairly quick, so I gave it a try. I made huge changes to it, since it really had hardly any vegetables in it, and I love vegetables.

The result was a super yummy Thai noodle dish! It was slightly spicy and very flavorful.

This was my first time cooking with rice vermicelli noodles, and I cooked them exactly according to the package instructions (place in boiling water, and remove the heat, let stand for 5 minutes, then rinse in cold water), but my noodles seemed fairly clumpy after. I used a fork to get them less clumpy, but I am still wondering if there is a trick to make the vermicelli noodles free of clumps. Any suggestions?

Here is one of my special ingredients: coconut vinegar!

Pad Thai Noodles
Adapted from allrecipes.com
*serves 4

8 oz rice vermicelli noodles
1 red bell pepper
½ small package lean ground turkey
½ lb precooked shrimp (peeled and shelled tails removed)
3 cloves garlic
3 green onion stalks
3 carrots
3 handfuls broccoli
2 stalks celery
½ vegetable bouillon cube  (dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
½ cup organic ketchup
½ cup lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp coconut vinegar
Garlic powder
Ground black pepper
2 cups bean sprouts
Chopped peanuts to garnish

In a large frying pan brown the turkey. Meanwhile prepared all vegetables (dice and chop them). Add the green onions and garlic cloves to the browned turkey. Season with garlic powder, and ground black pepper. Add the precooked shrimp. Cook for a couple minutes. Add all the remaining vegetables (except the bean sprouts). Cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the lime juice, ketchup, coconut vinegar, fish sauce, and dissolved bouillon cube  (in water). Stir to form a sauce. Sprinkle on more ground black pepper and garlic powder. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. In a large pot boil water. Once boiling at the vermicelli noodles. Remove from heat. Keep in the hot water for 5 minutes. Rinse well in cold water. With a fork separate the vermicelli noodles to get rid of any clumps. Now add the bean sprouts to the noodles (stir them in). Pour the sauce over the noodles and mix everything well. Serve hot!! ( I microwave mine again to make it steaming since the rinsing the noodles cools off the dish a bit too much I think). Garnish with peanuts.

I’m an Oatmeal Addict!

Filed Under (Breakfast, Review) by Lisa on 13-04-2011

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Lately I just can’t seem to get eat enough oatmeal. I have been eating it every weekday for several weeks now. Sometimes I even contemplate having it twice a day. I don’t ever let myself though.  I love the texture, and taste of this yummy breakfast. Adding almonds to it gives it the perfect crunch.

The oatmeal I have gone gaga for is Western Family Organics Oatmeal, the maple and brown sugar variety. Each packet has 190 calories (which I increase dramatically with the almonds I eat it with).

This oatmeal is made with pretty pure ingredients which makes it a big winner in my eyes. This oatmeal contains (organic whole grain rolled oats, organic evaporated cane juice, natural flavor, sea salt, organic maple sugar, organic light brown sugar).

I have never been some one who is really big on eating organic, but I do try to eat foods with the purest ingredients possible. I don’t like eating foods that have ingredients listed that are difficult to pronounce. If I have to ask “what is that” for something listed in the ingredients the food looses much of whatever appeal it had.

What are your favorite varieties of oatmeal?

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Filed Under (Breakfast, Rolls) by Lisa on 09-04-2011

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In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a thing for cinnamon rolls. A while back when I was perfecting my pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe, I was also perfecting my apple cinnamon roll recipe.

My apple cinnamon rolls are marvelous. The apple flavor is very subtle, but pairs well with the cinnamon and raisons. Nothing beats, soft warm, cinnamon goodness warm out of the oven.

I don’t frost or ice almost anything I make because I’m really not a fan of icing (it’s way to sweet for me, and loaded with calories), but a cream cheese icing would go well with these rolls, if you like icing.

In my recipe the apple is purreed and kneaded into the dough, however, this recipe could be adapted to add the apple into the roll portion with the raisons either instead of the dough or as well as the dough.

Apple Cinnamon Rolls
(makes 12 medium to small rolls)

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp white sugar
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp ground almonds (for the dough)
1/3 cup salted butter (melted)
1- 1 ½  cups apples (peeled and diced)
½ cup skim milk
½ cup brown sugar (not packed)
3 tsp cinnamon
½ cup golden raisons
2 tbsp ground almonds (for the roll)
* You will need parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease medium muffin tins. In a large bowl add: the flours, white sugar, baking powder, salt,  and 2 tbsp ground almonds. Mix well. In a blender add the diced apples, melted butter, and the milk. Blend until smooth. Pour into the flour mixture. Knead the dough to form a soft ball. Roll our the dough on the parchment paper to form a long rectangle. Sprinkle on the raisons, cinnamon, 2 tbsp ground almonds, and the brown sugar. Roll up to form a log. Cut into 12 equal pieces. Place in muffin tins. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the rolls are lightly golden and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Orange Pumpkin Muffins

Filed Under (Breakfast, Muffins) by Lisa on 19-03-2011

It’s Saturday morning, so in keeping with the tradition of making a more involved breakfast (then toast) I decided to make some muffins. Since we still have an abundance of pumpkin in the freezer I decided to make muffins using pumpkin. I had been eyeing a recipe in Company’s  Coming Mostly Muffins for quite some time for orange pumpkin muffins, so I decided to give it a whirl. I changed the recipe greatly as usual since the original recipe just wasn’t healthy enough for me.

My muffins turned out vary well. The pumpkin flavor combined well with the orange, to give the muffins an overall light mellow flavor, and the ginger and orange almost gave the muffins a hint of a refreshing flavor to them. I’ll be making these again soon!

Orange Pumpkin Muffins
(adapted from Company’s Coming Mostly Muffins)
(makes 12 medium to large sized muffins)

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 large orange peeling and in pieces
2 eggs
1 – 1 ½ cups pumpkin cubes (frozen or canned)
½ cup golden raisins
½ – ¾ cup sour milk (skim milk with 1 tsp white vinegar)
¼ cup salted butter melted
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tins. In a large bowl add the flours, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and mix well. Add the pecan pieces and raisons and mix well. In a blender add the pumpkin, orange pieces,  melted butter, sour milk, and eggs. Blend until smooth. Pour into the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Spoon into muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Filed Under (Breakfast, Rolls) by Lisa on 19-02-2011

Hello blog, we meet again. It’s been ages since I’ve done a post. No I haven’t forgotten or completely abandoned my blog. Somehow January went by and I just didn’t have the desire to post.  Well thankfully that is going to change soon. I have a special and probably long post planned for sometime in the next month or so,  that will explain my blogging absence at least partly.

Anyways I’m back. This morning I made one of my favorite breakfast treats: pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  These cinnamon rolls are perfect for breakfast or snacking. They are vary low in sugar (compared to most), and the ground almonds give them a bit more protein and substance to keep you going through out the morning. The whole wheat flour (though a small amount) also adds a little bit of wholesomeness to them. The pumpkin flavor is quite subtle. It combines well with the cinnamon, and adds, a few more vitamins to these rolls.

The recipe I used is my own. I made these rolls many times tweaking the recipe a little each time to make it perfect.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
(makes 12 medium sized rolls)

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp white sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp ground almonds
1/3 cup salted butter (melted)
1- 1 ½ cups pumpkin cubes (I used frozen, canned should be okay)
½ cup skim milk
½ cup brown sugar (not packed)
3 tsp cinnamon
½ cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tins. In a large bowl add the: flours, baking powder, salt, white sugar, and 1 tbsp of ground almonds (save the other tbsp for later). Mix well. In a blender add the pumpkin chunks,  melted butter, and milk. Blend to form a thick pureed mixture. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and mix and knead the dough into a ball (it will be a little bit sticky). Roll the dough out on parchment paper into a rectangle. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, raisons, brown sugar and 1 tbsp of ground almonds. Roll up the rectangle into a log. Cut into 12 equal sized pieces. Place in muffin tin. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Serve warm.

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

Filed Under (Cakes) by Lisa on 24-12-2010

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Merry Christmas to all! It’s hard to believe it’s Christmas Eve already! Yesterday my mom and I made our favorite holiday family traditional dessert: mini strawberry cheesecakes. These cheesecakes are amazing and so simple to make. The prep time is only about 5-10 minutes tops, and the baking time is roughly 10 minutes. The result is everything a strawberry shortcake should be in a mini version. These delightful treats are totally guilt free since they are so small. Give them a try!

Here is the recipe which comes from  a coworker of my mom’s about 25 years ago.

Carol T’s Little Cheese Cakes
(makes 24 little cheese cakes)

2-8 oz packages light cream cheese
¾ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 box vanilla wafers (or 24 home made vanilla wafers)
24 medium cupcake liners

Line 24 medium muffin tins with cupcake liners. Place one vanilla wafer in the bottom of each liner. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and well blended. Spoon over the vanilla wafers.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool.

Strawberry Sauce
½ package or 300g whole frozen strawberries
¼ cup white sugar
2 tsp corn starch

Puree the whole frozen strawberries. In a saucepan combine ¼ cup of white sugar and 2 tsp corn starch, stir in strawberry puree. Cook on medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for about 1 minute until thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Spoon about 1 tsp onto each cheese cake. Serve chilled.

Our Christmas Tree

Filed Under (Personal, Uncategorized) by Lisa on 10-12-2010

I love Christmas. Everything about it, from the food, to the decorations, gift giving, and the festivities. I always look forward to decorating the tree. This year our tree is an artificial slim tree. Since moving into a much smaller house just over a year ago, it was only appropriate to get a smaller tree.

Here is a lovely tree, and some of  my favorite decorations.

A little gingerbread man. I made him when I was a little girl in school. I'm not sure how he lost his leg.

My dog Sasha when she was a puppy. Her first Christmas meeting Santa.

A Christmas mouse

My dog Sasha when was middle aged.

Pretty pointsetta

Colorful snowflake

Pasta wreath

Musical bear

Croched snowflake, made by my mom many years ago

Moccasins of unknown orgin

Pretty gold ball