Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In the Big City: Go Pretzel

A few weekends ago, Hubby and I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.  We had several stops planned along Liberty Avenue, so we took the opportunity to stop at a place I has heard about a few weeks ago:  Go Pretzel.

Now, this gal loves some salty doughy soft pretzels.  Many a night the Hubby has made a late night Sheetz run to fulfill my soft pretzel craving, so the idea of a new shop opening in Pittsburgh made me super happy!

When we got there, I was kind of surprised how small the place was.  This is really just a counter, there is no seating.  When the weather is nice, that is no problem, but it was a chilly November afternoon, so I was sad that we could not sit inside and enjoy our delicious pretzel treats.  It would simply have to wait until we walked to the car.


The next thing I noticed was how yummy all the different pretzels looked.  We had a hard time choosing!!  I went with toasted almond pretzel with dutch cocoa dip.  I actually liked the pretzel better without the dip, so I must remember that in the future.  Hubby got the jalapeno, of course.  I tried it, and it was ok, but the peppers were too pickled for my liking.  Hubby really wanted to try the pretzel dog, but decided it would wait until our next trip.

All in all, the place is a winner.  While the storefront and the website are the epitome of minimalism, I hope to see this grow into a franchise, much like some other beloved downtown snack providers have over the past few years.  If you have not tried Go Pretzel, I really encourage you to do so.  I know we will certainly be back, more than once.

So, my final ruling?  Go Pretzel, or Go home.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Let me tell you who We Are...

I told myself and told myself I was not going to write about Penn State, but I just can't hold it in anymore.

I see so many PSU alumni and fans who claim no one knows what they are going through.  That only those who chant WE ARE can understand the complexity of this situation.  And perhaps they are right.  They are fans, they are hardworking, they are proud of their alma mater, and they are heartbroken for many many reasons.  But let me tell you who WE are...

WE ARE parents of small children who cannot stand living in a world where these things can happen to them.

WE ARE adult survivors of sexual abuse whose hearts break for those boys.

WE ARE the mothers of those who were molested.

WE ARE social workers and advocates who try to speak for victims who are not allowed a voice.

WE ARE the Pennsylvania taxpayers whose money went to support such a corrupt cover up.

WE ARE college graduates from other schools who would be horrified had it happened where we were.

WE ARE everyday people whose faith in goodness and rightness has been shaken to its core.

WE ARE unable to understand why child rape was being enabled for the sake of people's jobs and football games.

WE ARE disappointed in the way this situation was handled.

WE ARE human enough to know what happened was wrong, regardless of what school issued our degree.

WE ARE as entitled to our opinions as anyone else, regardless of our alma mater.

WE ARE angry.

WE ARE justified.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tiffany Trivia: When I Grow Up

As you may have figured out, I was not your typical child.  My mom could tell so many stories that confirm that statement.  I was always very vocal about my plans and goals for my life, what I wanted and did not want, but there was one thing I kept to myself -what I wanted to be when I grew up.

You see, while other kids were dreaming of being marine biologists (a popular career among my female classmates when we were 7), teachers, doctors, or stay at home mommies to kids with names like Laken and Trent, I had my eyes set on the Great White Way.

Yes, indeed.  I wanted to be a singer and dancer on Broadway.  At the age of 7, I could sing every word on the cast recording of Les Miz.  By 9, Phantom was added to that list.  By high school, also Miss Saigon, West Side Story, The King and I, Grease, Oklahoma, Guys and Dolls, and Jesus Christ Superstar.  

Cabaret.  Wicked.  Mary Poppins. Rent. Chicago. Sweeney Todd.  Jekyll and Hyde.  The Lion King.  They are more than shows to me, they are old and trusted friends.  I know them and love them all.

Unfortunately, I suffer from terrible, horrible stage fright.  Paralyzing.  I did sing a bit in high school, and college.  Several times I took private lessons.  And you know what became of it?  I sing show tunes, halfway decently, in the bathtub.  But only if I am home alone.  After 5 years, I rarely even sing in front of my husband, the fear is so great.

So, I have never been in a musical.  Never even auditioned.  It is my one great regret in life, that I never tried a little harder.  Sure, I would never have made it to Broadway, but maybe something much smaller scale could have happened for me.  Now, I am relegated to a life in the audience.  But that is ok, the view is still pretty amazing, even from the cheap seats.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Cups

One of the hardest things about trying to eat a healthy, low fat diet, after years of, well, not, is that I find myself craving comfort foods.  Particularly in the fall.  So when I found myself craving chicken pot pie, I knew I was in trouble.  Every healthy modified version I found was either still to fat laden for my liking, or just sounded disgusting.  So, I came up with these....


I started off with won ton wrappers.  Using olive oil cooking spray, I lightly sprayed a muffin tin (I found metal works better than silicone in this instance), then I put two won ton wrappers in the bottom of each muffin cup, so that they overlapped and filled the cup.

Next, I created a mixture of the following: 8 ounces of boiled chicken breast tenders which I had shredded, 3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, 3/4 cup fat free cheddar cheese, and one can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup. I mixed this, along with parsley and poultry seasoning, until blended.  Then, I spooned the filling into each wonton lined cup in the muffin tin.  I popped them into a 350 degree oven until the won tons were crispy and slightly brown.

After removing from the oven, I carefully removed the cups and placed on wax paper to cool, while I repeated the process.  The first dozen was for freezing, the second was for dinner.

I served with oven roasted red potatoes with herbs and reduced fat Parmesan cheese, and more peas and carrots.

Nutrition information (just for the pot pie cups)
Serving size: 2 cups
Calories: 184
Carbs: 25 g
Fat: 2 g
Protein: 15 g
Fiber: 1g
WW Points Plus: 5

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Giggle fest

Have you ever had something that, never fail, makes you giggle each time you think of it?  The moment it pops into your mind, giggles escape your lips?  Well, Hubby does.

One night, Hubby discovered a clip of a the mascot from the Toronto Raptors tripping and falling on the court.  It does not sound terribly funny, and then you watch it.

It is especially hilarious in gif form.

For me, this is a "ha ha that is funny, let's move on" thing.  For Hubby, any time he thinks of it, instant giggles.

Last night we went to bed.  Lights were out, pets were asleep, and I was trying to make myself relax when I heard giggles coming from Hubby's side of the bed.

I knew the answer before I even asked the question "Are you thinking about the Raptor".

*giggle giggle*


Best part is, this is not the first time this has happened.  And I know it will not be the last.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thankful for.... a messy kitchen

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These days, it seems my kitchen is always a mess.  Dirty dishes piled up in the sink, trash that needs to be taken out, groceries to be put away.  And truth be told, it makes me incredibly happy.

Do not get me wrong, I hate the mess, and I hate extra clean up.  I am blessed the Hubby is always willing to help clean up in the kitchen.  It is the reason behind the mess for which I am so thankful.

I have always loved to cook.  I grew up in a family where both parents cooked and we went or ordered out to eat.  Going out to eat was a special occasion thing, but there was nothing as comforting and bonding as the family sitting down at our own table for a home cooked meal.  I started cooking when I was in high school.  Just easy things at first, following simple recipes.  As I got older, I began being more adventurous with cooking, plus I paid more attention to how my parents cooked.  So, by the time I moved out on my own, I was well equipped to cook up a storm.

The only thing lacking.... someone to eat it.  I quickly realized I hated cooking for just one person, and began a lot of poor eating habits that plague me to this day.  Every once in a while, I would plan an elaborate dinner party for friends, but for the most part, my life was a table for one.

Then, I met Hubby.  And he was pretty excited that he had a girl who could cook.  When we were dating, he would come to see me, and I would cook up full meals, including dessert.  I was thrilled to be able to cook for him, and he was thrilled to have home cooked meals.  When we were engaged and house hunting, it was the kitchen that sold me on our home.  It was short on storage space, but had wonderful appliances with which I could create culinary masterpieces.

Lately, I have been extra motivated to cook.  It helps keep my diet healthy, and saves us money in the long run.  I am sure you can tell I am in cooking mode, given the number of recipes I have posted lately.  You can imagine the mess all this cooking has done.  Actually, if you look closely in some of the pictures, you can probably see it ;)

I love my messy kitchen (though I also love it clean) because to me, it signifies that I am happy, motivated, and providing healthy meals full of love for my family.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

(I swear to you, I do actually do things besides cook.  It is just, lately, I have been in a cooking mood, so I go with it.  And when things turn out delicious, I want to share them with all of you!).

This morning, I woke up craving pancakes.  I had a few options.  I could order take out from a place in town that has awesome pancakes, then lament the calorie and fat content later in the day.  I could get pancake stuff from the store, and make a huge mess in our kitchen.  Or, I could try the easy, healthy alternative recipe I saw on this blog.  I went with option 3.

So, I assembled the ingredients and embarked on yet another cooking adventure.

First, I mashed a banana in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Once the banana was all mashed, I added 2 packs of instant oatmeal.  Any kind will do, but I went with Lavish Dark Chocolate Oatmeal.  It was already smelling great.

Next I added 3 tbsp of egg white, the equivalent to one large egg.

Finally, 1 tsp each of baking powder and vanilla extract.

I mixed everything up to a nice, well blended chocolaty concoction.

I used olive oil cooking spray in a skillet over medium heat. Once this was nice and hot, I used the 1 tbsp measuring spoon to drop spoonfuls into the skillet. These were going to be small but hearty pancakes, each about the size of a large no bake cookie. It was a little tricky knowing when to flip them, since they did not bubble like traditional pancakes, but with a little testing of the edges you are able to tell when the underside is done, and flip accordingly.

The batch made 2 servings of 4 small pancakes, which was perfect. As I said, they were small, but really hearty. I added 2 tbsp low calorie syrup to mine, and they were sheer perfection.

This one was a little tricky to calculate nutrition and WW points. I am going based on the nutrition information on the label for each individual item, plus the generic info for the banana, and plugging that into a WW Points Plus calculator.  The nutrition breakdown, with syrup us:

Calories: 279
Carbs: 61g
Fat: 3g
Protein: 7g
Fiber: 9g

Now if you plug all that into a WW Points Plus calculator, the result you get is 7. Yet the only individual ingredient that has any points is the Oatmeal, with is 4.5 points per packet. So, I guess go with 7 point to err on the side of caution.

Without syrup, it is:

Calories: 229
Carbs: 48g
Fat: 3g
Protein: 7g
Fiber: 9g

Again, plug that into a calculator and you get 6 WW Points Plus.  Yet if you only ate the oatmeal, it would be 4.5, and then if you later ate a banana, it would be 0.  Again, I guess go with 6 to err on the side of caution.

The possibilities are endless with this really easy recipe.  I am thinking, next time, strawberry banana oatmeal pancakes!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mini Pizzas

In case you have not caught on, I am in cooking mode big time.  I am trying to reduce portion size and fat in my diet.  That sometimes means I have to pass on my favorite foods.  So, today, I came up with a way to satisfy one of my most common cravings: PIZZA!

I decided to make mini pizzas for lunch today.  Since Hubby and I like different toppings, this is a good way for us to both get what we want on pizza, and have it be healthier that if we ordered it from a pizzaria.

First I started with Arnold's Multigrain Sandwich thins.  I used Contadina Pizza Squeeze sauce.  One serving of pizza sauce is 1/4 cup, which covers three thin halves nicely.  I used a pastry brush to spread it around the thins.

Next I added fat free mozzarella cheese.  Once again, 1 serving made three mini pizzas.  So far so good.

I made three minis for Hubby that had mini pepperonis on them.  Since I do not like pepperoni, I used some low fat thinly sliced ham and a few pieces of pineapple for mine.

I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, so that the cheese was melted and the crusts were crisp.

That was it.  How easy was that?  The possibilities here are endless.  And best part was they tasted delicious!

Nutrition info for my ham and pineapple is as follows:
Serving size: 3 mini pizzas
Calories: 250
Carbs: 42g
Fat: 3g
Protein: 19g
Fiber: 9g
WW points plus: 6

For Hubby's pepperoni:
Serving Size: 3 mini pizza
Calories: 295
Carbs: 41g
Fat: 8g
Protein: 19g
Fiber: 9 g
WW points plus: 8

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Foliage

Each year, the local Tourist Bureau sponsors fall foliage tours.  This year, the weather did not cooperate for a couple of the tours, but there was one really fun day of touring through the county, with the final destination being the Renshaw Family Farm Pumpkin Fest.

The morning was a little gray and drizzly, but we still got to see some gorgeous fall colors, and lovely sites on some scenic county roads.


I personally loved seeing a lot of the rural areas and animals along the way.

The final stop was Pumpkin Fest.  I just love the Renshaw Farm.

They always decorate it so nicely, and the scenery is beautiful.  For Pumpkin Fest, they have crafts and decorations for sale, and tons of activities kids.  New this year was an animal park.  It was probably my favorite part of the entire day.





By the end of the day, my boots were covered in mud, my hair was windblown, and I was exhausted.  I would say, that indicates it was a good day indeed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

That awful moment when you learn a lesson the hard way

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I have been a cell phone owner for 12 or 13 years.  For the first few, I never really used the cell phone much.  So, for about 10 years I have been an avid cell phone user.  For the last several year, we have used cell phones exclusively, without having a land line.  I use my phone to track appointments, write grocery lists, to track calories, and as my alarm clock.  So, my cell phone is pretty much my main way to keep track of life.

As long as I have been an avid, daily cell phone user, I have always talked on the phone while I was in the bathtub.  It was a way for me to relax and talk to my mom or my girlfriends.  Never, ever, not once, have I ever gotten even a drop of water on my phone.  Sometimes, I even use my kindle or tablet to read in the tub.  Again, never a problem, because I am super careful.

I guess there is a first time for everything.

The other day, I was taking a bath to de-stress.  I had tried to call my mom, and was unable to reach her, so I sat the phone on the edge of the tub (like I have done a million times).  At precisely the moment I took my hand away, my cat jumped up and knocked the phone into the bath water.

I just could not move fast enough to prevent it.

I wanted to throw up.  And strangle the cat.

Quickly, we removed the cover, tried to dry out the phone as best we could, and put it in a container of brown rice for 24 hours.  Miraculously, the phone does seem fully functional.  In the time where my phone was drying out, I had to use an old one, which seemed so clunky, so I am glad to have my phone back.

I have completely learned my lesson.

My cat will no longer be allowed in the bathroom.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Coconut Manna

I have been trying to reduce fat, specifically the bad fats, in my diet lately, and try to find ways to increase fiber without eating things that taste like cardboard, so when I had a chance to try coconut manna, I jumped at it.  The packaging says it is a healthy substitute for butter, and can be used as a spread.  My mouth watered at the idea of a bit of this, some nutella, and a banana wrapped up in a whole grain wrap.  The potential here was exciting for someone who loves coconut like I do.

The packaging indicated that the oil separates from the coconut, and you must put the container in hot water for five to ten minutes for everything to soften, so that you can stir it all up to a nice smooth consistency.  Sound pretty easy right?  Wrong.  I found after leaving the container in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes, it was still too hard to stir.  It took three rounds of hot water bath-vigorous stir cycle to get this to wear I could use it.  I tasted it, and was sad that it did not taste nearly as good as I anticipated.  It also had a weird gritty texture, and overall I was not crazy about it.

Since clearly this was not going to work as a spread for me, I instead used while cooking mulligatawny soup.  I had created a low fat version of the soup without butter, cream, or milk, so the coconut manna helped add a bit of richness to it.  However, it is still a bit high in calories to be something I would use daily.  I will probably continue using olive oil for much of my cooking, but I do plan on experimenting with the coconut manna when making smoothies, sauces, desserts, and ethnic dishes.  It did nicely in my soup.

I am not completely sold on coconut manna, but I am not ready to give up on it either.

I received this product for review as part of the Amazon Vine program.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Out of Town: Fredonia

A few weeks ago, when the leaves were just starting to turn, I began my annual lament that our area does not get the vibrant color changes like some areas do.  It is my dream to drive to the Adirondaks or Catskills to see the leaves change color, and some year we will.  But since both locations are about a 7 hour drive for us, we will have to plan and schedule in advance to get the vacation days.  In the mean time, this year we opted for a one day trip to a part of New York a little closer to home: Fredonia.

There is no specific reason we chose to visit Fredonia.  We just woke up one morning, and I said, "let's go to New York".  Hubby agreed, and we found a pet friendly inn that was within a 4 hour drive for us.  We called, and got their last room, packed some clothes and the dogs, and off we headed.

 The drive on highways would have been less than 3 hours, but we like to avoid major highways on leisure trips, particularly with the dogs, so we got to see gorgeous sights along the way.

Finally, we got to the inn and it was adorable!

 Our room was so charming!

Hubby and I settled in, fed the dogs, and went exploring.  We only had a couple of hours of daylight left, so we drove along Lake Erie,

went to Lake Erie State Park,

then watched the sunset in Dunkirk.  Finally, we headed to dinner.



After we ate dinner, we headed back to the inn.  We had dessert in the inn's restaurant, and I said to Hubby, "this feels like we are on a date", to which he replied "who says we aren't?".  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

The next day we got up and headed out.  Our trip to New York was a short one, but enough to satisfy me for another year of leaf peeping.

More pics from our trip and the drive home can be seen here.