Monday, April 29, 2013

Brown Baggin' It

Hello out there!

How are you guys?

Things have been going incredibly well here. This past week we've had some amazing weather. I've been doing a little gardening and Sunday we spent the whole day at the lake with friends, enjoying the water, some refreshments and  of course, BBQ!

So...there is this amazing little tool on my dashboard here on Blogger, and it tells me that there has been a crazy spike in new readers lately. I have to say it took my breath away and I am extremely grateful. I feel that I am falling in love with this blog more and more everyday. I find myself missing it on my days off! And you all are a part of that. Knowing that somehow, I have reached all of you and that *hopefully* you're enjoying what you've found...well, that makes it all worth while.

Today we are going to talk about LUNCH. I used to hate packing my lunch for work. I would always end up with some soggy messy sandwich at the bottom of my bag by lunch time and there is nothing worst than that, is there? Then, once my stomach started revolting against gluten (and bread was no longer an option) I found myself taking packaged foods to lunch because they were so easy. Stuff from the frozen foods section or canned soups that were laden with sodium and not super filling.  Over the years and through much trial and error, I have figured out a way to have healthy, delicious lunches packed and ready to go at all times. All it takes is a little forethought, some prepping and the right tools to create some wonderful lunches that will not go soggy on you. I was posting a lot of my lunches on FB recently and many of my friends starting begging asking me for some tips. So here we are.

Even though I work at a restaurant, I still pack a lunch nearly every night. I really really want to eat at the restaurant every night, but that would be a horrible thing for my waistline, so I don't.

Chopped Salad with Roasted Turkey Breast
Of course, while I am packing my lunch I also pack some for Mike, who is the easiest man to cook for. He will eat nearly anything and he does not need variety like some people (me). I pack him a lot of wraps, salads or whole wheat crackers with tuna, because of my gluten sensitivity we don't keep bread in the house so we almost never do sandwiches. This is good news for you, my dear readers, because if you've come here to get some ideas for non-sammichy lunches, you have come to the right place!

Here's what we are going to do...I am going to give you a little shopping list for the beginning of the week. Then I am going to give you some ideas (with photos) of how we do it at the H.N.E home. And here's the most important part...I want you to report back. Yes, some homework! Tell me how it is going and what you're packin.'

Deal? Alrighty, here we go...

Utilizing Leftovers, Chickpea Patty Parmesan. Veggies and Fruit.  
I start off "our week" with a trip to the grocery store that is solely dedicated to lunches. And I say "our week" because we work, respectively, in Law Enforcement and Food our work week is not the typical Mon-Fri schedule. I assume that some of you also have unconventional work weeks, just go out the day before you go back to work and fill up that fridge. Make sure that you have an hour or two to dedicate to packing all this stuff too. And double check that you have all the little helpers you will need to pack effectively.

Things like, multi compartment plastic containers, dip holders, plastic baggies, foil, cello-wrap, even cupcake liners are SO helpful in packing the perfect lunch. Some other things to take into consideration is how many people you're packing for. If you have 2 children, your shopping list will be much larger than the one I am giving you! What are your families favorite snacks? How well will the foods you're choosing hold up in a sack lunch? Does the person taking the lunch have access to a fridge or a microwave? It would be a super lousy idea to give Mike potato salad, for instance, because some days he doesn't have access to a fridge. His lunch just sits in his back pack all day.

Shopping list:
(remember, this is the one I use. Take this as a guide and make the necessarily changes to suit your family)

1 lb low fat deli meat (turkey, usually, or turkey pastrami or roast beef)
1 package single serving cheese snacks (baby bell, mozzarella cheese, laughing cow)
1 package of whole wheat crackers (we love Ak-Mak crackers, or anything from Trader Joes!)
A bunch of veggies (avacados,cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots- pre cut is nice)
Salad greens- rinsed and chopped
A bunch of fruit (strawberries are my favorite, blueberries, cherries, grapes, apples etc. I never do chopped bananas though! Ick!)
Tuna fish- if the recipient of this magnificent lunch has access to a fridge (or if you're brave enough to just go with an ice pack)
Whole wheat or Gluten free pasta
Pasta Sauces
Canned Beans (black beans are our favorite)
Ground Turkey- pre cooked w/ salt and pepper only!
Chicken Breasts- pre cooked w/salt and pepper only!
Bacon- pre cooked
Sweet Snacks (chocolate covered raisins, sugar free cookies, 100 calories brownie bars, sweetened dried fruit, yogurt with jam)
Salad Snack Packs with cheese and berries. 

The idea here is to do all your prep ahead of time. Before the groceries even hit your fridge, you want to rinse all the produce and get it chopped up and ready to go. Then when you are ready to pack lunches, it's all about assembly. Most weeks my fridge looks like my walk in at work- with all my veggies cleaned, cut and ready to cook.

The first thing I do is check to see how many days Mike and I work that week. Mike and I both work 4 days this week and I also have class on 2 of those days. Now that I know how many lunches I need to prep, Then I check my cabinets to make sure I have enough clean plastic lunch containers. If I don't I buy more find them and clean them up.

 Then I take a look into the fridge, all my prep is there, but I make sure there aren't any left overs I can use up. Peeking in the fridge now I see some chili beans and smashed potatoes (made yesterday for our BBQ) that I can use as sides. I also see some chicken and broccoli pasta I can use as a main or a side, knowing I made that day before yesterday I will remind myself to take that lunch first!

Now I move on to the new lunches. I make a smallish batch of pasta and leave it undressed. Throughout the week I use that in our lunches with some pasta sauce as a side or toss it with oil, vinegar and veggies for a cold pasta salad.

Chicken Taco Salad with Sour Cream & Guacamole
 With the precooked ground beef, I make 2 taco salads using a little less than a cup of meat per lunch, a bunch of salad greens, tomatoes, olives and some chopped avocado. I pack us some sour cream in little dip containers and put a baggie of flax seed chips from TJ's into each of our lunches.

With the sliced deli meat, I make clubs with lettuce, tomato, pickles, bacon, spicy mayo and meat, no cheese. If I had pesto sauce or hummus made I would use that instead of mayo. I make 2 of these for Mikes lunches, slice them in half and, wrap 'em.

I make two giant salads with the prepared tuna fish, for me, since I have a fridge at work. I make a large green salad with all the fixins (lettuce, tomato, olives, pickles, carrots, radishes!) and scoop about 1/4c to a 1/2c of prepared tuna on top.

Now we each have the minimum amount of 4 lunches per person. However, I need a little variety and I have 2 extra lunches that need to be packed for my school days. So I take the cooked chicken breast and make 2 large chicken salads with greens and lots of chopped veg. I pack some dressing into my dip cups and keep the chicken wrapped separate from the greens so Mike can warm it up- he hates cold chicken!
Sandwich wraps all ready to go! HEY- Did you know if you click on
this photo, it will get bigger? I JUST found that out!

In each plastic lunch container I give us a healthy side- black beans for the taco salad, chopped fruit for the wraps and salads. I also give us each a cheese snack and a sweet snack. If I am feeling particularly energetic I might throw together a few small snack packs that have cheese, cracker, meat and fruit in them. On really busy days these little guys have saved my life (and probably the lives of a few innocent bystanders).


Chop the cooked chicken breast and mix with mayo to taste. Add salt and pepper, a tbsp of curry seasonings and a splash of hot sauce. Use as filling for a wrap, with salad greens or with whole wheat crackers.

Use the cooked ground turkey and black beans to make a yummy low fat burrito, add cheese and avocado and wrap tight with a paper towel and cello-wrap.

Mix a cup of the prepared pasta and sauce with a cup of ground turkey meat and some cheese as a nice filling main course.

Wrap 1 slice of deli meat around a mozzarella cheese stick, pack some marinara dipping sauce and crackers for a delicious high protein snack.

Try and have fun with it. I love cutting my veggies into cute shapes and using my brightly colored cupcake liners, remember we eat with our eyes first!

Now that you are armed with all the basic know how, I hope you will start brown bagging it! Now more soggy ham sandwiches in your future kids, get packing!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Eaten Anywhere Good Lately?

Yes! I have. I have been busy busy busy eating EVERYTHING and taking massive amounts of notes so that I can share with you some of my "Off the menu" recipes. Restaurant quality meals that you can whip up at home on the cheap and they are so easy! Be patient, geez. You can't rush genius like

I know I have been seriously slacking on the recipe front lately and I promise to make it up to you. I have some real treats planned for you in the coming months.  The entire month of May will be guest blogger month here at H.N.E. And in June I will be unveiling a new exciting project I've been working on! Well a few new projects, and I am so excited to share them with you. I just need some time to get everything in order and that is why I have asked some of my favorite bloggers to come "babysit" you while I am busy doing grown up stuff. Okay?

So...In no particular order I will be leaving you in the capable literary hands of:

One of my very best friends, Jenn over at  Life Behind the Uniform. Child development guru and my favorite camping buddy, Angela from Sing, Dance, Play, Learn. And last but not least, you will be hearing from my accountability partner Sumi who is going to share some diet and exercise tips with us.

 In Angela's case, she bravely embraces cooking with the children in her daycare center. As a former nanny, I can tell you this is no small feat. Angela will highlight some of the benefits of cooking with your little ones, complete with a wonderful photo recipe tutorial.

Jenn has had the opportunity to travel all over the United States as a military wife and she loves to sample the local fare just like me! She will be sharing some of her favorite foodie finds, from coast to coast.

Sumi is also a fellow foodie, but she somehow finds a way to keep herself in amazing shape. I've asked her to share some of her favorite healthy recipes and to give us some tips on getting and staying motivated with work out routines. You all know how I feel about exercise, but if she can kick my butt into gear, you know she MUST be good.

So I will leave you now, with that teaser. Visit their sites, get to know them because they will be taking care of you for the month of May. I promise, I leave you in very capable hands. And don't worry, I will be here still...lurking in the background...


Friday, April 19, 2013

Not Pregnant...Again....Finding The Silver Lining Around That One Pink Line

Since January I've taken one pregnancy test roughly every 2 1/2-3 weeks. Since I have no regular cycle I don't get that natural cue from my body (a missed period) to test. I have cut my consumption of caffeine and processed foods substantially and I am trying to stay away from booze entirely, although I have allowed a few splurges in the days after a negative pregnancy test since I have confirmation that I am in the to speak.

                            Dealing with a negative pregnancy test while TTC

I can't quite describe to you how testing day feels. It is a mix of nerves and hopes and deep pain and sadness. Obviously, we haven't gotten pregnant yet (I stopped myself just now from saying "succeeded in getting pregnant")

The rest of the day is spent feeling a mix of emotions ranging from disappointment, sadness, anger, jealousy (we just found out another of our good friends is pregnant), a twinge of relief, which then makes me feel guilty.

Yes I feel relieved after a negative test.  I feel awful admitting that! I feel like I am betraying all my fellow TTC'ers, but I have to imagine that other women may feel similarly and are, like me, afraid to admit it.

 Why do I feel relieved? I don't quite know exactly ALL the reasons but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that being pregnant will change everything! I was just talking to a dear old friend of mine, Leigh Ann, who fell pregnant a few short months after she and her boyfriend became engaged. They were blessed with an adorable baby boy, Michael, right around they were supposed to get hitched. To say he was a "surprise" baby is an understatement, but I see them now and there's just no "surprise" about it. Baby Michael was absolutely meant for Leigh Ann and Christopher, proof that destiny doesn't give a crap about your time table!

 Anyway, she and I were talking on the phone (from her brand new home! eeek!!) and she was picking my brain about hiring childcare. I listed some of the pro's and con's of all the options, from daycare to finding a quality nanny. At the end of the conversation I could just hear this big overwhelmed sort of sigh or a breath of frustration coming from her end of the phone. You could tell she just had so much to consider and it was weighing on her. It occurred to me then, that no matter how destined you are to become a parent or how amazingly good at it you will's still really flippin hard! There are just so many variables to consider ...every.... single.... day, once you're a mother.

Being a parent means thinking about some other little person all day long and sometimes forgetting to eat breakfast (and lunch) because you're so busy changing diapers, washing burp cloths and trying to figure out where little Jr. is going to hang out for 12 hours when/if you go back work.

Of course I knew all of this before hand, I mean we've been trying to get pregnant for almost 6 months now and we've talked about everything we could think of for even a year before that. What schools we like, names we hate, how to convince our families to move closer etc. BUT thinking and planning are completely different than doing. Saying you'll sacrifice sleep, clean clothes and much needed grown up social time is a nice sentiment until you're going on day 11 of no sleep and all your blouses have nursing spots on them.

So, yes...when I see that damned one pink line on my pregnancy test I feel a lot of things and one of them is a little relief. I think to myself, "Alright, this sucks...BUT I guess that means a few more months of sleeping in and going on spur of the moment road trips." It's not an easy transition for me and it usually takes several hours/days of tantrums sulking and even some pints of ice cream weeping on Mikes chest.

                           Hey, did you know next week is National Infertility Awareness Week?

I want to be a mother. More than anything. As a matter of fact, Mike and I decided that in May, we will start ovulation induction meds adding a whole other dimension of stress/anxiety/hope/excitement to testing. Testing days are already the hardest days of the month for me so going forward I think it's important I learn to start looking for the silver lining. The silver lining keeps me sane. The silver lining holds me over until the next test. It reminds me that I still have a life to live, and the reason we've chosen now to try and get pregnant is because our lives are in such a great place.

I might not be pregnant yet but when I finally am pregnant I am guessing I will wish I took advantage of this pre-baby time while I still had the chance. So, here's to a quiet house, mimosa's on the back porch, sleeping in till 10 am and girls night out!

I am curious, if you're having trouble TTC, what are the days like after a negative PT for you? Can you think of some silver linings in your own situation? Please share!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Accountability Partners" Keeping You On Track and A Low Fat Quevos Rancheros Recipe

I hate dieting...

Don't you? Forcing yourself to eat like a bird in the hopes that by summer time you will be frolicking on the beach in a two piece bathing suit looking like Carmen Electra.

You won't. I promise. Brownies are too good. And pizza can be delivered to your door faster than you can remind yourself that you're even on a diet.

So, if you're like me, and find food just too damn good to give'll have to start working out more. Since discovering my fertility issues my doctor has recommended that I try and lose a little weight. Apparently losing just 10% of your body weight can increase your chances of conceiving. Of course I'll try anything so here I am, attempting to make small changes without sacrificing too much on the food front.

 I have an accountability partner encouraging me keep up with work outs and to make better food choices. She sends me text messages in the morning or the afternoon reminding me to walk my dogs. Or to play one of my work out games on the X Box Kinect and we discuss what each of us has eaten so far. Her meals, are decidedly "more healthy" compared to mine, and I hate to admit that it has forced me to take a serious look at how many calories I eat in a day.

We've been doing this for just a few weeks and I have to say it really is working. Especially on the days I get a text in the morning, knowing she is going to check back in later. I won't lie to her if I didn't exercise, and I don't want to look like a lazy kid, so I have no choice but to work out. I get honestly a real kick out of reporting back to her too, like "Yeah, I totally woke up at 5am and ran 17 miles before having half a grapefruit for breakfast, duh". Okay, that hasn't happened...YET.

 Really though,  she has been such a great motivator. I chose this particular friend, Sumi, because she is in stupid great shape and she shares her work out tips with me. She also diets, which as I've said, I hate doing... But I am realizing that I can make smallish adjustments to my favorite recipes to make them a little less naughty. Some small adjustments I've made recently are things like using turkey meat on burger night and eating a large salad with it instead of making oven fries (I missed the hell outta those fries though!) and it was surprisingly satisfying/filling. On my turkey wraps at lunch, I've started smashing up a small amount of avocado and using that as a spread instead of mayo, I've found hummus works well for this too and it's super flavorful!

One of my very favorite things to eat for breakfast is quevos rancheros, a delicious fried egg dish with enchilada sauce, cheese, beans and usually served with delicious golden brown salty greasy fried potatoes. In the version I am about to share with you, I nix most of the cheese, utilize protein rich black beans (less carbs & calories compared to pinto beans) and the egg is poached over the beans and baked in the oven instead of fried. I also got rid of the fried potatoes and tortillas all together. So what we're leaving out is: All the fat from traditionally used yellow melting cheese, oil from frying the eggs & all the carbs and fat from frying the potatoes. What we're getting: all the basic flavor components of your favorite quevos rancheros recipe, smoky, spicy creamy and indulgent!

I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully delicious and so similar in flavor to the naughty version this was. I'd  typically eat 2 eggs with breakfast, but I've found that when I limit myself to one egg and something more nutritious and filling like low fat yogurt and fruit, I have more energy and feel less weighed down after breakfast. Obviously, everyone's appetite is different and I know for my husband one egg would just NOT do the trick, so feel free to throw in another egg or two depending on how many people you're serving and their eyes to stomach ratio. This recipe is for one person and is made in a small sauce pan. You can do like I did and eat it right out of the pan (no I didn't...Yeah, yeah I did) or you can slide everything out of the pan onto your plate/bowl like a real sophisticated grown up. Pre-cooked black beans add to the easy nature of this dish. It comes together nice and easy making it the perfect "healthy" "go to" breakfast.

"Not So Naughty" Quevos Rancheros
(Serves One)

1/2 cup pre cooked black beans
1 large egg
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
juice from half a lemon

thinly sliced avocado
cilantro, chopped
a small sprinkling of feta cheese


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a small sauce pan warm cooked beans with a little of the cooking liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the beans to a gentle simmer. Crack your egg over the beans and reduce heat to low. When the whites of the egg set up slightly, place the sauce pan in the oven and bake until yolk is set. I like a runny yolk, so it took about 5 minutes. If you light a soft yolk continue on a few minutes until the outer membrane of the yolk is no longer clear.

Top with some avocado, cilantro and feta cheese. I served this with some fresh fruit one morning and with baked potato slices on another. I loved it with both (but obviously potatoes on the side was my FAVE)

I put this recipe into this calorie counter I found online and it appears this delicious "Not So Naughty" recipe including cheese and avocado clocks in at under 300 calories! If you add 1 small potato sliced up and baked in the oven (flavored with salt, pepper and lightly greased with cooking spray) And you add about 120 calories. I would stay away from the tortillas if you're really trying to cut the calories. Just one flour tortilla could add over 200 calories to your meal!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Polenta Palooza Photo Shoot!

My friend Autumn is an up and coming photographer here on the Central Coast. We worked out a nice barter system where she photographs my food looking all sexy and I feed her face. It's a win win really...

Creamy Polenta with wilted greens, poached egg and spicy mayo.
This kind of food is like a HUG in a bowl for me...

Herb polenta and tomatoes in white wine 
with basil chicken sausage

Great shot! 

Now, tell me that ain't some fan-fricken-tastic
 food porn right there!


"Make it" Link to come!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

I'll be back!

Oh dear.
I am the worst.
I am the scum of the Earth!

Ok...maybe that is a bit harsh. I am definitely in trouble though. I've left you hanging for a while and I am sorry. I'd like to say I've been too busy, but that's not entirely true. I mean, I AM busy, just not "too busy" to update. I am just lousy at keeping this thing up.

Luckily for you ;-)  I am trying to be better about this. I will be setting aside one hour a day to work on editing, uploading photos, recipes and new updates.

This is my promise to you: more entries, better pics and mouthwatering recipes!

See you soon!

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