Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Recap

After all the preparation, it's hard to believe the holidays are almost over.  Our two younger children have come and gone and our oldest daughter and son-in-law have just left to celebrate New Year's Eve with friends in Grand Rapids.  My husband is napping and I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.

The past week has been a whirlwind.  It was great having the kids home. Here are a few pictures of our holiday.

Annie opening the last door on the advent calendar.  
It's always a race to see who can get there first on Christmas morning.

 Katie opening a gift while Peter (her boyfriend) looks on.
It was great to finally meet him.

Annie and husband Jason admiring her Nook.

 My sister-in-law with her sweet grand daughter, Makinley.

 The dinner table.

 Do we really have to take another picture?

 Katie and Peter just before leaving for the airport.
We obviously had a green Christmas.

 We met up with Dave's girlfriend and her parents in East Lansing
the day after Christmas.

We had my extended family over on the 27th.
My niece's little boy, George, Jr.

 My nephew's daughter, Makinley.

 My other nephew's little girl, Ava.

My nephew's wife, Amy and their little guy, Ryan.

I love spending time with my family at Christmas.  It's truly what makes the holiday so special.  
Happy New Year to everyone.  May it be filled with blessings.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homemade Christmas Gift

I stumbled onto this recipe a number of years ago and then altered it to fit my taste.  It is soooo good.  My kids love it.  If fact, when I talked to my daughter on the phone today, she asked if I was making this.  (She's bringing her boyfriend home to meet the fam and this delectable treat will hopefully make up for any oddities in our clan.)  

White Chocolate Crunch

1 pound white chocolate
6 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Honey Nut Cheerios cereal
2 cups pretzels
2 cups cashews
1 cup dried cranberries
12 ounces plain M&M's (Christmas colored for the holidays)

Melt white chocolate in a double boiler or microwave.  Mix together dry ingredients (except M&M's) in large roasting pan.

Pour chocolate over dry mixture and gently mix.  Add M&M's.  Pour mixture onto wax paper and let cool.

Break into bite-sized pieces and store in airtight container.

I like to package this up in Christmas food bags to give away as gifts.  I usually double the recipe as it tends to disappear quickly.  Also, feel free to change the ingredients to whatever cereals and nuts that you like best.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Mayhem

Why do we put ourselves through this every year?  Decorating for days, spending hours wrapping gifts, writing in and addressing Christmas cards, and baking endless treats that make our clothes too tight.  Basically, because it's tradition.  Unfortunately, it takes our focus off the real reason for the season--the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Every year, I say I'm going to make everything more simple so I'm not so frazzled.  I was going to get our Christmas cards done last summer.  We took our picture when everyone was home for Christmas last year.  I even had the cards to put the picture in so I could address them in July.  Of course, it didn't happen.  So once again, I'm getting them out at the eleventh hour.  Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men.....

Next year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Festive Lowfat Torte

One of my go-to recipes for the holidays is a white chocolate torte served with a raspberry sauce.  You can't beat it for the Christmas colors.  It can be dolled up for company with some greenery.  I originally got the recipe from a cooking class, but changed it up to make it more heart healthy.  When buying an Angel Food cake mix, go for the plain white cake.  I must have been in a catatonic state when I went to the store.  I thought I bought the plain mix, but when I got home, I had the funfetti flavor in my bag.  It must be perimentalpause perimenopause .

White Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce

1 box Angel Food cake mix
1 large container Cool Whip
4 ounces White Chocolate
12 ounces frozen raspberries
Sugar or sweetener to taste

Mix angel food cake according to package directions.  Line a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool in pan on wire rack.

Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over low heat.  Mix into Cool Whip.

Loosen edges of cake from pan with a knife.  Cut cake into thirds with a serrated knife.  Invert one layer onto serving platter.  Spread layer with Cool Whip mixture.  Repeat procedure with remaining layers.  Frost top and sides of cake with remaining Cool Whip mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.

For raspberry sauce, puree raspberries in a food processor.  Strain raspberries to remove seeds.  Add sugar to taste.  Serve sauce with cake.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Workout

Aaah!  The decorating is finally done.  The tree is decorated, the garland is up and the stockings are hung.

I have to say, men have it made this time of year.  Women do all the decorating, all the shopping, all the wrapping, all the cooking, and all of the cards.  Men just show up.  On the positive side, we burn off all those extra calories from the goodies we've consumed by doing all the work.  I wish I knew how many trips up and down the stairs I've made, retrieving all the decorations from the basement--hundreds, at least.  I've probably done the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest....well, maybe not, but close.  No wonder my glutes are feeling a little sore.  We women will be fitter than ever by the time January rolls around, while the men in our lives will be nothing but a gelatinous mass.  Kudos to being a woman!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Crafting

My daughter showed me this card wreath from the Martha Stewart web sight.  It looked pretty easy, so I decided to give it a try.  I wasn't crazy about the natural wood look, so I bought some spray paint to jazz it up a bit.  Aside from the painting, you can make this in about ten minutes.

14 inch embroidery hoop
1.5 - 2 inch clothes pins
2 inch wide ribbon
Hot glue gun

Glue clothes pins to hoop, alternating directions.  Add ribbon and hang.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lights, Please!

I'm so thankful to have a husband who's a good sport.  Every year, I ask him to climb into the attic and get the wreath down for my car.  Then he gets out the wire ties and attaches it to the grill (of my car) for me.  He never complains or makes a fuss about it.  His reward--chocolate chip cookies.  (See post from 2/7/11 for recipe.)

I've done the wreath on my car since the kids were in middle school.  I remember that because they complained about how embarrassing it was when I would pick them up.  I've never figured out why they would be embarrassed about it.  A wreath is way more classy than reindeer antlers and a Rudolph nose.

The only thing I haven't figured out yet is how to light it.  Last year, I saw a pick-up truck with a lit wreath.  Now that would be the ultimate.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

I normally am not a fan of meatloaf.  But years ago, I found this little gem and have made this recipe several times every year since.  Even my kids liked it when they were growing up.

Pizzaburger Meat Squares

1.5 pounds lean ground beef
1    (15 ounce) can pizza sauce
3/4 cup fine Ritz cracker crumbs (about 20 crackers)
1    egg, slightly beaten
      salt, to taste
4    ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix 1 cup of pizza sauce, ground beef, cracker crumbs, egg, and salt in large mixing bowl.  Pack firmly into 8x4 inch loaf pan.

Bake 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Drain grease.  Spread remaining sauce on top of meat.  Sprinkle cheese over sauce.  Bake for 10-15 minutes more or until cheese melts.  Cool 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

Serves 4-6

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Skinny on Spray Butter

I'm always trying to cut a few calories where ever I can, so when "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" came out with their zero calorie spray version, I was ecstatic.  But I've always wondered how it can have zero calories, zero fat, zero carbohydrates, basically zero everything, and taste so good.

The truth of the matter is this:  There are over 700 calories in one bottle!  So when I take the top off and pour the "butter" on my vegetables, I'm getting much more than I bargained for.  How is this so when the bottle says zero calories?  Legally, they can list it as zero calories if there are less than five calories in a serving.  (A serving size is 5 sprays, as if anyone uses only 5 sprays.)

Sigh!  Ignorance was bliss. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Rehash

This was my second year to host Thanksgiving.  Last year, my mom handed off the baton to me, but last year I had a secret weapon--my son.  He's a really good cook and he helped a lot--especially with the gravy.  He couldn't come home this year (bummer), so I was on my own.  Thankfully, I found a little book tucked away that I had totally forgotten about.  It's from Cook's Illustrated on sauces and gravies.  I followed the instructions and my gravy came out pretty tasty.

Also this year, I used a cooking bag for the turkey and I'm sold on it.  The turkey was moist and so flavorful.  And it produced enough juice so that I didn't need to use any canned broth for the gravy.

But the best thing on the menu was the sweet potatoes.  It was a new recipe and everyone raved about it.  It was so simple and I was able to make it the day before, store it in the refrigerator and just pop it in the oven.  The orange juice is what made it.  Although my husband and brother would say it was the praline topping.

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

1 (16 ounce) can sweet potatoes or yams, drained
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons orange juice
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons chopped nuts
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Lightly grease a 1-quart glass baking dish; set aside.  Mash the sweet potatoes.  Add the melted butter and orange juice; blend thoroughly.  Spoon into the casserole.  Combine the brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon; mix well.  Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Makes 4-6 servings.  [They must be really small servings, because I more than doubled the recipe (we had 8 people) and it was gone.  Either that or we're a bunch of gluttons.]

If you make this ahead, you may need to bake it longer since it will start out cold; bake approximately 45 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Yummiest Pumpkin Muffins

This morning, one of my co-workers (Donna, if you must know), brought in the most incredible pumpkin muffins I've ever had.  When she told me the ingredients, I had to ask her to repeat it three times.  It was too easy to be so good.  I forgot to ask her the official name, so I'm making one up.

Easiest, Yummiest Pumpkin Muffins Ever

1 Betty Crocker French Vanilla cake mix
1 29 ounce can pumpkin
1 12 ounce package white chocolate chips

Mix together.  Spoon into greased muffin tins.  Bake 375 degrees for 17 minutes.  (Take them out of the oven even if they don't seem quite done.)

I figure they can't be that bad as far as fat content goes.  These muffins are truly incredible.  I promise you will get rave reviews when you make these.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tolerable Treadmill Workout

I loathe running on the treadmill.  Monotonous and so boring.  So today, I decided to do something different.  I did intervals, which totally made a difference with the boredom factor.  And bonus--interval training is great for improving aerobic capacity and speed.  I ran for four minutes at a faster than normal pace (a 17-18 on the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion scale) and walked for two minutes at a moderate pace (about 3.8-4.0 mph).  I repeated that nine times for a total of 60 minutes.

Of course, I still needed a diversion to make the time go faster.  So I did this workout while watching the Michigan Wolverines obliterate the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  The only real difficulty was singing the Michigan fight song while running, but I managed.  I even did the fist thrust during "Hail, Hail to Michigan...".  It turned out to be a great workout.

Workout Summary
Treadmill time: 62 minutes
Distance: 6.2 miles
Calories burned:  639
Maximum heart rate: 184 bpm
Weight training: 40 minutes

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guilt-Free Pumpkin Dessert

Since I decided to join the HEART Center team for "Holding it Through the Holidays", and have to weigh in every week between now and New Year's, I thought I'd better pull out some low fat recipes.

Here's one for a pumpkin ice cream dessert.  When I first made this (back in the stone age), I don't believe I had ever seen pumpkin ice cream in the store.  Well, now they have it.  But I haven't seen low-fat pumpkin ice cream, so maybe my recipe isn't obsolete.

I whipped this up last night.  The beauty of this recipe is you can make it days ahead of the holiday and throw it in the freezer until you need it.  It's really quite scrumptious, aside from the brain freeze I always get from inhaling eating it too quickly.

Guilt-Free Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

1/3 cup honey
1    cup canned pumpkin
1    teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 quarts fat-free vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

Mix crust ingredients together.  Press into 9-inch pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.  Cool

For filling, combine the honey, pumpkin, spice, and salt in a saucepan and mix well.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Cool completely

Add pumpkin mixture to the ice cream and mix well.  Spoon into the pie shell.  Sprinkle with the pecans.  Freeze until firm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Must Have Kitchen Gadgets: Part 7

I love french fries, but I rarely order them due to my cholesterol issues.  So in order to satisfy that occasional craving, I purchased a french fry maker.  Instead of deep-frying them, I bake them.  That way I can have guilt-free french fries.  

Last night, I decided to have sweet potato fries.  They were great.  I cut the potatoes, spread them on a baking sheet and sprayed them with olive oil Pam.  Then I sprinkled them with salt and baked them for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.  Yum!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holiday Weight Gain

Every year, the average American gains 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As much as I hate to admit it, I'm average.  At work alone, it's a continuous lovefest with goodies that our patients bring in for us.  Normally, I would never eat all those yummy treats, but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  And I often have seconds just to make sure they know how much I enjoyed their gift--hence, the weight gain.

This year, things will be different.  My employer is challenging the entire organization to stay within two pounds of their pre-holiday weight.  The initiative is called "Holding it Through the Holidays".  We have to weigh-in every week between now and January 1st.  It's voluntary, of course.  I decided to take the challenge and hopefully will stay motivated throughout the next seven weeks to tone it down by ingesting less unhealthy food and drink.

So, today, after lunch, we weighed in with my boss.  I wanted him to sign a confidentiality agreement, but he  (being a guy) didn't think that knowing how much I weigh was a big deal.  He is the only person, besides my doctor, who knows the total poundage.  Oh well, at least I'm not Kate Middleton.  On the news yesterday, the camera honed in on her abdomen, contemplating before the world if she has a "baby bump".  If my abdomen was the one being scrutinized, they'd see the "bump", but it most definitely is not a baby.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Real Hula Hoops

I did a blog post last spring about hula hooping.  I had purchased a child's hula hoop and it worked fine.  Since then, we had a weight management group move into our building at work and they brought some heavy duty adult hula hoops with them.  I tried them out and they are the real deal.  They are heavier and much larger in diameter.  Ideally, a hula hoop should come between your waist and chest when it's standing on end.  The child's hoop that I was using only came up to the middle of my thighs.

I asked my co-workers where they purchased their hula hoops and found out that a local woman makes them.  She charges $45.00.  I thought that was a bit extreme (my Dutch heritage coming out), so I decided to make one for myself.  I went to Home Depot Friday evening and bought the supplies.  Forty five minutes and ~$14.00 later, I had my own real adult hula hoop.

Supplies:  1-inch irrigation tubing (you'll need about 10 - 12 feet)
                Insert coupling
                Hot water pipe insulation
                Duct and/or electrical tape

I used plain old gray duct tape for my prototype.  Next time I'll use colored duct tape.

$45 Hula Hoop 

$14 Hula Hoop

My core will never know the difference.

For hula hoop exercises, see post from 5/19/11.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Must Have Kitchen Gadgets: Part 6

 How did I survive before I had an avocado slicer/pitter?  This gadget is pretty nifty.

First, it grabs the pit and pulls it out--well, not by itself.  You have to help.  And it doesn't damage the avocado's fruit while doing so.

The other end helps get the fruit away from the peel and cuts it into even slices.  It's super easy to clean and is dishwasher safe.

It's available at Williams-Sonoma for $15.00.  If you eat a lot of avocados, you'll definitely want this tool.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sight For Sore Eyes

A little over a week ago, one of our patients went into complete heart block while exercising on the treadmill.

(Complete heart block is a condition where the electrical signal that causes the lower heart chambers to contract gets blocked.)

He stated that his knees felt weak and then he was down.  To make a long , scary story short, he was quickly transferred to the hospital where a pacemaker was inserted, which takes over and causes the ventricles to contract.  (My lasting vision was of him lying on the floor with his eyes rolled back in his head.)

Yesterday, he walked into the HEART Center.
Big Hug Time!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


 (From left to right) Dave; my hubby, Mike; Dan; my brother, Mark

Seven weeks ago today, my husband's best friend and business partner, Dave, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  A glioblastoma multiforme, to be exact.  He had had no complaints of headaches nor had he had any seizures, something the doctors were amazed at because of the size of the tumor.  His wife and my husband had noticed some subtle changes--he was more quiet and he was leaving things in odd places.  Dave died early Wednesday morning after spending three days in a coma.

A few words about Dave:
He was the perfect example of selflessness.  He always thought about everyone else ahead of himself.

When we would pick him and Karen up early Saturday mornings for the Michigan football games, he would have gone out to get everyone coffee for the trip.  And Dave didn't even drink coffee.

He always made sure Karen's car was filled up with gas. (She's had to learn how to pump gas these last few weeks.)

He took his mother-in-law to her class reunion last summer.  Now that's a great guy!

In high school, he would carry his younger sister's books to school for her.

These are just a few examples of the kind of guy he was.  We are going to miss him so much.  He and my husband both have December birthdays, so we always celebrate their birthdays together.  We've gone on countless fall golf trips together and we always have them over to watch the Super Bowl.

In keeping with Three Good Things (see blog from 10/26), here are three good things about this past week:
  1. Dave never complained of pain until this past Tuesday.
  2. Dave's mom and sister, from Alabama, arrived in time to have four good days with him before he went into a coma.
  3. Dave, on Tuesday, was able to tell Karen and his daughter, Joy, that he loved them.
  4. Dave knew Jesus Christ as his Saviour and is in heaven today.
Okay, I know that was four good things.  I couldn't help it.

Please keep Karen and Joy in your prayers.  When all the extended family have gone home, they are going to need them.

We have a huge hole in our hearts with his passing, but we're so thankful to have had him in our lives.

Dave and Karen at a Michigan game with us.

Last July at a fish boil.