A Favor To Ask

With the new year comes resolutions. If you’ve read my blog at all this week, or any other blog in the world for that matter, this is quite obvious. Any excuse to come up with some extravagant goals…I’ll take it!

I want to be honest here. I may not have made it known to everyone over that past few years, but losing a little bit of weight has always, in a little-tiny way, been a secret resolution of mine. Since recovery from my eating disorder I have never thought of doing anything drastic…I just maybe wanted to drop a few. Did I need to lose weight? No way…but I just thought what the heck, it wouldn’t hurt.

This is the first year in quite a long time that I’m not even secretly making that goal.

This week as I’ve joined my running gals several times at 5:30am at the local community center where we meet up for runs, the parking lot has been nearly packed full. I think that is great! It may not be the most desirable situation to have to wait for cardio machines or make your way through a crowded gym, but isn’t it great that so many people are there to make a healthy change for themselves? I think so.

With the new year I know that there are a lot of people hitting up the gym with the goal of losing weight, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing…if you need to lose weight to be healthy. However, my concern lies in the motive behind the goal. Are we seeking to shed a few pounds because we think it will make us happier?

Because I will tell you right from my heart…losing weight will not make you happier. It just doesn’t work. (Please note, I’m definitely not a doctor or a psychologist or a nutritionist or any kind of medical professional. I am only sharing my opinions based on personal experience.)

With that being said, I have a favor to ask.

In two thousand and twelve, as we seek to live happier and healthier lies, let’s not focus on the number on the scale, but rather ways in which we can truly make ourselves happy people. Like by …

…finding something you love to do. This can be anything! If you love to run (like me!), run! If you hate running but love to cook (unlike me!), find new healthy recipes to try…or even make up your own. If you love to be around your friends and family, try planning get-togethers, and better yet, plan get-togethers where you all can do something active together. Who doesn’t love a good game of bowling?!

…ditching the scale. That silly thing can be evil. Weight is not the only way to measure healthiness or if you’ve slimmed down, and it’s definitely not the way to measure happiness. It may not be an easy task, so take baby steps. If you are a daily weigher, try every other day or once a week. If you are a random weigher, just ask yourself why you are weighing yourself (a tip I need to listen to more myself). If your goal is to slim down, there are other ways to measure your success. How do your clothes fit? Have you lost inches? A number on the scale can be deceiving, especially if you are getting healthier by fitness or strength training.

…eating breakfast. I know this is my specific goal, but I highly recommend it. Eating a good breakfast makes a great start to the day, and by golly, I feel happier!

…giving yourself positive affirmations. You didn’t think I’d forget to give you your first Friday affirmation of the new year, did you?

…finding a reason to smile every day and take note of it. Did your dog just do the cutest thing (Tia always makes me smile!)? Did you finish a great run at a great pace? Did you laugh at someone’s joke? Did you make a delicious meal? Whatever the reason, remember the little things that can make you happy each and every day.

…eliminating the word “fat” from your vocabulary. You are not fat, you don’t look fat, so please stop saying it (or any other word that has the same negative meaning). It is a mean, mean word, and it should definitely not ever be in the same sentence as the word “happy.”

…being silly. Sing in the shower…or obnoxiously in your care at stoplights without worrying if the car next to you is watching. Dance. Leg-wrestle with someone. Do cartwheels. Have a food fight or throw a pie in someone’s face (as long as you’re sure they will think it’s funny, too!)

…donating clothes that you don’t feel comfortable in. Whether they are too big or too small or just don’t hug you the right way, get rid of them. Donate them. There are not many things more daunting than a pair of “skinny” jeans hiding in the closet. Why not just wear the jeans that make you feel sexy and confident and comfortable right now? Right? So do it!

…reminding yourself that you are beautiful just the way you are. You probably get tired of hearing me say this at least weekly. But it’s true. And if you tell yourself it enough, you will start to believe it. I promise…both that you are beautiful and that you will believe it soon enough.

ang

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

“Who made the chocolate cookies with the hidden cherries?????”

Why, that was me!

Let me rewind. Last Thursday evening I went to a cookie party at my lovely aunt Terrie’s house. Everyone brought three dozen of their cookies of choice. We all set out our cookies and admired everyones’ work. Then we formed a conga line (quite literally due to my aunt Andrea!) and went around the kitchen taking two of each different type of cookie and putting them in our own cookie boxes to take home.

A sweet tooth’s dream.

I have a big italian family, so there were many people at this feast of sugar, so most of the cookies, aside from my sister’s super-creative melting snowman cookies (ummm…cutest cookies EVER…definitely deserved best in show!), went pretty anonymous.

That is why I was ecstatic when I received an e-mail from my auntie on Friday demanding, “Who made the chocolate cookies with the hidden cherries?????”

Me me me me me me me me me me me!!!

They were not the prettiest cookies there. Definitely not. They were just brown blobs. The icing was brown and crackly instead of smooth and beautiful looking. The cookie part itself looked dull and not at all enticing. They probably appeared overdone, although they were not. Somehow though, someone was not afraid to bite into one, and that is when the surprise was revealed…

…a maraschino cherry!

You all know that I am not creative in the kitchen, so I cannot take credit for the recipe…I can only take credit for recreating a much uglier version, but still just as good.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained, reserve juice
  • 1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed mil

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and soda, blending well; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter or margarine and sugar on low speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; beat until smooth and well blended. With hands, shape dough into one inch balls; place on ungreased baking sheet. Press down center of dough with thumb. Drain maraschino cherries well, reserving juice. Place cherry in the center indention of each cookie.
  • In small saucepan combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk; heat over low heat until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the topping over each cherry, spreading to cover cherry. If frosting seems too thick, thin with a little more cherry juice. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until done. Remove to wire rack to cool.

I’ll admit it. I forgot to add the salt…but what difference can 1/4 of a teaspoon make, right? And at first my dough was too sticky so I just added an unknown amount of more flour. I was confused at the fact that you put on the frosting before you baked the dough, and I almost didn’t do it…but then I remember what usually happens when I make up my own directions in the kitchen. Maybe all these little facts contribute to the overall less than appealing aesthetic of the little cookies…

…but at least they tasted delicious!

Thank you to all those who braved my cookies and then actually loved them. I do believe I am going to make them again!

ang

Pumpkin Train

Yes. I know it is December, which means that all of the hype over pumpkin-flavored food, desserts, and drinks is now over.

However, I just jumped on the pumpkin train only a few short weeks ago, and I’m not ready for this ride to be over quite yet. That’s right, until this year I never ate anything pumpkin. Not even the pie. But this year I have become just a little bit braver when it comes to food…I’ve eaten jalapenos (and loved them), onions (and loved them), mushrooms (and, oddly enough, loved them), and now pumpkin-y things and yes, I also fell in love with them. That picture of pumpkin pie…I ate it in December.

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to bring the dessert for dinner club’s Thanksgiving gathering. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend (tear!), but I still wanted to make sure my family of friends had something sweet to eat after all their ham and casseroles.

Of course, I reached for my handy-dandy phone to open up my AllRecipes app for this recipe. It’s always my go-go cooking source. I know that all of you are over the pumpkin thing, so I’m not going to bore you with the recipe, but if you are interested in these pumpkin pie chocolate chip cookies, click here!)

I was baking away when the husband got home from basketball practice, and with a very concerned look on his face he asked me, “What are you doing, honey?” When I explained to him that I was baking cookies for dinner club he asked even more concerned now, “From scratch?”

Yes. I made these from scratch, and if I do say so myself they were pretty darn tasty. The term “myself” might actually be completely correct, because even though all my dinner club friends texted me telling me my cookies were delicious, I can’t be for sure they weren’t just trying to make me feel good. I did have to force my husband to eat one…and the word “force” is not an exaggeration…and I’m pretty sure my sister never ate one.

I can’t be for sure if anyone actually ate any at dinner club, but I guess I’ll take their word for it. They must not be too afraid of my dessert-making skills because I volunteered to make dessert for next weekend’s Christmas dinner club and nobody tried to stop me.

I promise, though, I’ll jump off this pumpkin train soon (probably when my pumpkin spice coffee creamer runs out) and I’ll be jumping on a new one soon. I’m expecting some very delicious peppermint and chocolate combinations in my very near future. Maybe this one from Miss Julie!

I mean, it is December after all.

ang

My Best Dinner Ever

Last week I made what most people would think of as a pretty bold statement.

Pretty bold, right? Well, coming from me that’s not really saying much.

Nonetheless, I was pretty darn proud of myself when the husband said, “Honey, you can make this dinner anytime you want!”

I can’t take credit for the idea behind the recipe, because if it weren’t for my allrecipes Dinner Spinner app on my phone I’d be lost. Completely lost. So, via Jackie at allrecipes.com, here is my best dinner ever…

Linguini with Peppers and Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package linguini pasta (I used bow-tie pasta!)
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (Removing the casings was one nasty job, but it had to be done. I also added one large, seasoned chicken breast!)
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped (I used green!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine (I skipped this…I drank all the wine!)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Saute sausages in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until light brown, breaking up clumps with back of spoon. Add peppers, onion, and garlic; saute until tender. Add wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 6 minutes.
  • Drain pasta, and add to the skillet. Toss to combine. Add cheese, and toss to blend. Serve.

  • Pour yourself a glass of wine.
  • Enjoy!

ang

Weekend Recap

This weekend ended up being extremely successful, productive, and downright delightful!

I tried a new food (which I ended up loving!), I made a new food (smashing s’mores!), I got to see my family, I got to see all my friends, and I achieved one of my October goals! The only negative to the weekend is the fact the the Pretty Pretty Punters lost their first game to the Battling Bruisers, putting them in a tie for second place. I blame it on the Greenbay Packers. Catches by twelve different players…seriously? Why not just the three players I had? And Finley, why don’t you try not dropping so many passes.

Oh my goodness…where is this blog going?! When did My Pinky toes become a place to talk football and trash talk professional football players? I’m sorry Finley, but for real…try catching a few more, please…for me!

Now…back to where this post was supposed to be going…

Saturday morning I woke up nice and early to meet my running gals for a nice long run. I’m seriously in love with my running group right now…they helped my seven miles absolutely fly by! I really think a long run is the best way to start a weekend!

After my morning run I cleaned up and headed to town to make a visit to my mom and mamaw at their craft show, my sister, and then do some shopping! I have been dying to go shopping since my birthday back in August and I finally found some time to do so…and to make it even better, the shopping trip ended up being successful (more to come on that tomorrow!) After shopping it was time for some dinner club action!!!

(Left to right: Kellie, Heather, Casey-on top, Megan-on bottom, me, and Lauren)

The beautiful Lauren hosted Saturday’s dinner club and we had a bonfire! She made chili and chicken tortilla soup. I have never tried a tortilla soup before, but it smelled so good I knew I had to give it a try. After asking what all the ingredients were to make sure there’d be no surprises for me, I whipped myself up a bowl. It was delicious, and I’m pretty darn proud of myself for trying it! Thank you Lauren…I must get that recipe!

(Left to right: top row-Nate, Caleb, and Lance, bottom row-Brandon, JR, my hubs, and Seth)

As for my smashing s’mores (recipe from Jessica’s blog)…

…they were definitely a hit! I don’t have an after photo of them because they were all eaten!!! I managed to snag a couple for myself, and they were pretty darn good if I do say so myself! Make them…now!

We all had a great time catching up, meeting the new baby of the group, awing and googling over both babies of the group, eating, drinking, and of course, always laughing.

Oh, and for achieving one of my October goals…

…I tried something pumpkin flavored…pumpkin beer! Yummmm….!

How was your weekend?!

ang

Dinner Club

A little over two years ago my best friend came up with the greatest idea.

She’s an organizer and a planner. She always makes sure that there is time penciled in to see each other. We have dates set out months in advance. She always has to remind me to update my planner. Frequently.

She came up with this idea that once a month all of our friends would get together and have dinner together. One couple will host the party and provide the main course. Every other couple will bring an accompanying side dish…and of course, B.Y.O.B.

Hence, dinner club.

I, not being the greatest cook in the world, usually just bring chips and salsa since that is the one thing I’m pretty darn good at making, but for tonight’s dinner club I decided to step out of my box!

Homemade Smashing S’mores, recipe via Jessica, a recipe-maker of all things ridiculously delicious looking! Mine don’t look quite as nice as hers, and when I was finished I had chocolate just about everywhere…even on the kitchen walls…don’t ask me how! I’m hoping they’re a hit tonight!

Back to dinner club…

I think that everyone should be a part of someone’s dinner club. It is a great way to learn new recipes, eat good food, but best of all, it is the best way to stay in touch with all your good friends (and even make new ones!) It is also a time when it is okay to act like a teenager again (at our very first dinner club get-together we ended up going and tee-peeing another friend’s house…true story!)

We have had so many different dinner clubs over the past two years and each one is as exciting as the last. We have had italian themed and mexican themed dinner clubs, we’ve had barbecues, I hosted a pizza bar dinner club, we have had tailgating dinner clubs, and we even brought dinner club to Mexico this summer!

The truth is, it is easy to put your friends on the back burner when you have so much going on in your life. I know that I’m guilty of that a lot. I love my friends, and I know that they love me, but when you have so much going on it can be hard. Dinner club gives us an excuse to forget everything else that is going on and see each other. It gives us something to look forward to every single month. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve counted down the days until a dinner club!

…and now in just nine more hours I’ll be in some good company! 🙂

ang

 

Laugh in my Kitchen

This morning has been spent killing a few birds with one stone.

First of all I have practiced what life might be like when I have a child someday. No, I’m sorry, this “someday” is not going to be any day soon, but when I am a mother, I will be forced to be somewhat domesticated. This means that I might actually have cook for my family and occasionally vacuum the kitchen floor. Yes, I vacuum linoleum.

True story: I cut all my vegetables with a steak knife. In fact, I cut everything with a steak knife.

Oh dear, my  poor future little family.

Secondly, I have started the process of redeeming myself with my mother…and aunts and uncles…

Um, I think you get the picture.

However, don’t let me fool you. I am not being creative and making my own recipe here. That typically ends up as a failure that only the raccoons outside at night would enjoy. My husband now knows that he needs to have a plan B in mind if I ever decide to “get creative” with food, but he knows to talk some sense into me before I hit up the kitchen.

Thirdly, I have had the opportunity to talk to my mom on the phone this morning, which I know she appreciates more than she lets on, even if it was just to ask her how long to boil the chicken. (I have another question about her recipe, but she is not answering her phone!)

Fourth of all, I have learned that even though Tia adores carrots that does not mean she likes celery. And in fact, I have also learned her secret hiding place for the foods that I drop that she does not like…under the kitchen table on the dark rug where I cannot easily see it.

And last but not least, I have created what is going to be a delicious dinner for tonight. My family will be so proud!

I think it’s very fitting that I have decor that says “laugh” in my kitchen.

ang