Drumroll, Please...

After tracking this week,
After a wedding over the weekend,
And after oversleeping a few mornings and not having time to plan a breakfast and lunch,

The results are in!

I weighed in yesterday, and had a loss of 2.8 pounds.

Woo Hoo! I'm pretty close to the big 3-0 (both in years and pounds lost).

I hope you have a very Happy Friday!



Need some inspiration for new meals to try? Let me point you in some new directions...

I only recently found this website, but I so love this website! The goal is to make food that's good for kids and grown-ups to eat but will also be enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike. There are sections for first foods, toddler foods, and school lunches, but I spend most of my time on the Family Meals section (tagline: One Family, One Meal). She just released a cookbook, and someone has a birthday coming up... ;)

This has been on my frontpage for about two years now, and hardly a recipe goes by that I don't want to devour (chocolate swirl buns, anyone?) Not all of these recipes are Weight Watchers friendly, but a lot of the salads and vegetarian recipes are easy enough to lighten up. And did I mention the pumpkin cinnamon rolls?

This is another relatively new find for me, but its come with high recommendations! From the website: "To feel good, they choose to eat clean and eat from nature instead of natural foods stripped to form processed foods such as crackers, spreads/sauces and sugary snacks." I eat clean as much as possible, but not 100% of the time. These recipes make it look much more attainable!

Easy recipes, common ingredients, and nutrition information right on the page to make cooking, shopping, and tracking super-easy. I love that you can browse through their recipe collections based on dietary needs or season of the year. 
It would have been a really good idea for me to provide a recipe from one of these sites this evening, eh? 

Well, one thing I've learned by tracking publicly is that I'm in a bit of a food rut. I grab what's easy to eat on the run for breakfast, I don't think too outside-the-box for lunch, but dinners are all right. Maybe I'll have to shake things up a bit for week #2?


  • Pumpkin muffin (tasty, but... yawn...)
  • Banana
  • coffee


  • English muffin sandwich (whole wheat English muffin, 1 laughing cow light wedge, 1 serving chicken breast lunch meat, romaine lettuce)
  • Grapes (1 cup)
  • Popcorn (3 cups)


  • Breakfast for dinner! Woo Hoo!
  • Pancakes (2 - 1/4 cup scoops onto the griddle is 4 points) topped with agave syrup
  • Turkey kielbasa, 4oz
  • bananas & apples


  • Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked FroYo (Really? You haven't gone out to try this yet? Its actually overall better for you than their Greek FroYo.)

Tomorrow is the day of truth... boy I really hope this week is a decent loss after putting this all out there!



Ah, Pinterest.
How crafty you make me think I am.
And how much time you help me to waste when I could be teaching myself to be crafty.

But let's talk about Pinterest as a source for recipes! Really, just type in whatever you're looking to make, however you're trying to cook (gluten-free, dairy-free, butter-laden), or in my case, "Weight Watchers." You'll likely come up with dozens to hundreds of pins from other pinners who have found these tasty posts on blogs, websites, or other pinners boards.

See here, if you're not familiar...

This could very quickly turn into a list of all the things on Pinterest that I want to try but haven't had time yet. So instead, just let me tell you that as much as I love browsing on Pinterest, its so useful to me as a meal planning tool. Whenever I come across a recipe I'd like to try (wait for tomorrow's post for a list of favorite blogs and sites), I "pin" it to my board "Food I Want To Eat." (I also have a "Weight Watchers" board, but these two are overlapping more and more.) Then, on Saturday or Sunday, I browse through the pins and pick out three or four that I'd like to try that week. I try to plan for at least one meal in each of these categories: pasta, vegetarian, seafood, poultry, beef/pork. Variety is the spice of life. Or maybe its pepper.

Today, my meals and two Pinterest recipes!


  • Get Balance Fiber Cereal from Aldi (1 cup)
  • Skim Milk (1/4 cup)


  • Grapes (1 cup)
  • Pizza (1 slice)
  • Pumpkin Muffin


  • Cottage Pie (1 serving)


  • Fall Fruit Compote (1/2 cup) with 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Cheeze-It Crackers (1/2 serving) *this falls under the category of "so not worth the points." Two points for 14 little crackers? I think not.*
  • String cheese

Cottage Pie
Borrowed from SparkPeople
My take on the recipe - it was just okay. The egg yolk wasn't enough to keep the potatoes together and there really wasn't any gravy/sauce to speak of. Maybe I'd add some Worcestershire sauce next time...

2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 egg yolk
12 ounces lean beef (I used 90/10)
1 cup onions, diced
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups carrots, shredded
1 cup green beans, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375.

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, then cover with cold water. Cover the pot with a lid, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

While potatoes are simmering, prepare the filling. Place a large saute pan over moderate heat, add the beef and onions, and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Add the carrots, beans, spices, and tomato paste, stir to combine, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock and corn, then stir to combine. Place the meat and vegetables into a casserole dish and set aside.

Drain the potatoes and mash well, using a potato masher or ricer. Add the egg yolk. Spread on top of the meat mixture. Bake 10 minutes, until the potatoes are browned. 

Serves 4 (7 points)

Fall Fruit Compote

Pretty close to a Weight Watchers recipe
This we loved! Its really tasty with a little brown sugar (like I had), it would make a bowl of oatmeal fabulous, and I bet it would be really good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (which I did not have). Adjust the recipe to accommodate the size of the fruit you have.

2 medium apples, cut into 1/2" dice
4 small pears, cut into 1/2" dice
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 dried cranberries (these added lots of points but not a lot of flavor)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 orange, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice

Combine all ingredients, except orange zest and orange, into a sauce pan. Cook over medium-high to high heat until most of the liquid is gone, about 20 minutes.  Add orange zest and orange sections. Cook until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Makes 6 - 1/2 cup servings (3 points)


Yesterday was a day off of work - hooray! It was a great day yesterday, lots of productivity, lots of family time, a nice walk in the forest preserve, gymnastics class, and a not-too-unreasonable bedtime (for me, not so much for H who was still yelling "Mama, I have a question for you..." at 9:15pm.

No recipes today, I more pieced together my meals, but while I have your attention, here's a line of salad dressings we loooove at the Even-House:

Bolthouse Farms* has a line of creamy salad dressings that are yogurt-based, and the oil-based dressings are fat-free or reduced-fat. The yogurt thing is cool, but even better is that these dressings don't have any weird things in them - the list of ingredients is short and pronounceable. 

Ingredients in Classic Ranch: Yogurt, Soybean oil, Apple juice from concentrate, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, salt, spices, onions, xantham gum, garlic, vitamin A

The only things that raise an eyebrow for me are "natural flavors" (what does that mean exactly?) and xantham gum. Xantham gum is a product from fermenting sucrose and fructose, so it is an added sweetener, usually used to thicken mixtures. Many gluten-free recipes call for xantham gum to keep the mixture together in place of gluten. Different people have different opinions, but I'd rather have a tiny bit of xantham gum than tons of sucralose or high-fructose corn syrup in my food.

For Weight Watchers, 1 Tablespoon of dressing is 1 point. Allow me to get on my high-horse for a moment... you might be thinking, "But I can eat other reduced-fat or fat-free dressing for fewer points than that." Sure, but do you know what all of the ingredients are? And does that ranch dressing make your three-year-old break out every time he eats it? Just sayin'....

And this three-year-old I mention? His favorite is the blue cheese. Seriously.

  • Pumpkin Muffin (I edited yesterday's recipe to add in the spices)
  • Eggs (1 egg white, 1 egg)

  • Turkey wrapped around a pickle spear (2) - H calls these "roll-up sandwiches." Its for when we don't have bread in the house:)
  • Pizza (2 slices thin-crust)

  • Carrots & celery with ranch dressing
  • Black bean burger with tomato, onion, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard on a white bakery bun

  • Apple
  • Pretzels

*Bolthouse Farms has no idea who I am, I just like their dressings.



Woah, almost didn't make it up today!

A note about water... I drink a lot of water. Obscene amounts. Fish-like quantities. And as much as people say "when you think you're hungry, you're probably just thirsty" they are absolutely right.

Even if you're not ready to start a major lifestyle change or if you don't need to but want to tweak a few habits for your health...


My travel coffee mug is by my side for 50% of the teaching day (I cut myself off at noon).

And for the other 50% of my teaching day, this cup is by my side.

This reusable cup holds 32 ounces of water, meaning that drinking just two of these equals my daily requirement. I usually shoot for three (96 ounces), just because with all of the talking and singing, I need to hydrate a little more. I didn't usually take this cup home with me over the weekend, but I've started to, so that I'm encouraged to carry this cup around the house with me and drink just as much water at home as I do at school.

BTW - the recipe that's included today is "inspired" by a popular recipe from Weight Watchers members. It is simply a cake mix combined with one can of pumpkin and 1 cup of water. I didn't want to use a packaged cake mix, though, so I did some digging on Pinterest and found a few substitutes that I worked in. Enjoy!

  • Pumpkin muffin (see below)
  • Nonfat blueberry Greek yogurt

  • Green beans, 1 1/2 cups
  • stuffing, 1/2 cup
  • chicken tenderloins pieces, 2
  • Trader Joe's pumpkin bread, baked into cake form for a birthday (Happy Birthday, Asheley!)

  • Thin-crust pizza, cheese and tomatoes, 2 slices (or rather, squares to equal 2 slices)
  • Apple

  • Pumpkin muffin (I had to sample them to make sure they were good before serving them!)

Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from here and there

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/3 cup sugar
1-15oz can canned pumpkin
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional - will raise the points value)


Preheat oven to 350. Place muffin liners in cups of a standard muffin tin, and spray liners with non-stick spray.

Mix together all ingredients until well-combined and mixture is mostly smooth. 

Spoon into 24 muffin tins and bake for 20-24 minutes.

Makes 24 muffins, 2 points each


AWITLOL* - Day 3

* A Week in the Life of Lori

Admittedly, yesterday was a weird day in my food world. Breakfast was a bit of a rush, due to me heading out for a haircut, lunch was actually at 3:30 (because we were going to catch a movie between the wedding ceremony and reception, but the movie we wanted to see was at a time that didn't work, so we got lunch instead), and then dinner was at a wedding, so it was completely out of my control.

But all said and done, I think I did okay. I justify it by all of the walking around downtown, a little dancing at the reception, and how hard my internal system had to work to keep my core body temperature high enough while I was walking around downtown for two hours without a jacket and in my dress.

I was a bit disappointed that the fish wasn't the healthier option, though every single thing that came out looked great. I just made sure to eat my vegetables first, then the fish, sans crumbs, and lastly the deep fried starchy goodness with cheese.

And last, but not least, congratulations to Al and Tatiana!


  • 1 slice of bacon
  • 1/2 apple
  • (I told you it was weird...)
  • Skinny Combo at Burrito Beach (1 chicken taco, southwest quinoa salad, and veggie chili)
Cocktail Hour
  • Soda water with lime
  • Melba toast with creme fraiche and caviar, boursin stuffed mushroom (one of each, just to sample, but I did pass on the deep fried appetizers)
  • White wine, 1 glass
  • Spinach salad with citrus vinaigrette
  • Whitefish with buttered breadcrumbs (scraped the crumbs off and it was still delish)
  • Roasted asparagus with capers
  • Fried risotto cake (I wish I was joking... it was really rich, and tasted really good. I had about 1/3 of it and then traded the rest to Steve for one of his carrots:)
  • Fresh fruit with creme anglaise (kind of pudding-like)
  • Champagne, 1 glass
No recipes today, but here's a tip for you - when you're cooking bacon, use a metal cooling rack set inside a rimmed cookie sheet. The fat will drip off of the meat and end up in the tray, not your arteries. And speaking of fat, if you bake it at 325 for about 40 minutes, more of the fat will render out so you still get crispy bacon that isn't totally burned.

Have a great week! Tomorrow's another day...


AWITLOL* - Day 2

* A Week in the Life of Lori

Day 2 - Tracking publicly is definitely keeping me honest. And I'm trying harder at making balanced choices. Thanks for the accountability!

I realized that tomorrow could be a tough one - we have a wedding to go to downtown (Yay! I love weddings! Especially swanky downtown weddings!) but that means I'm giving up control of what food is available and how food is prepared. But I think I ordered the seafood entree, so as long as its not deep-fried fish dipped in butter or something, I should be okay.

But as for today...

Breakfast - Egg Sandwich
  • Sandwich thin with one Laughing Cow light wedge, one egg white
  • Starbucks grande cinnamon dolce skinny latte
  • Banana
  • Romaine salad (3 cups), reduced-fat feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
  • Blueberry greek yogurt

  • Acorn Squash Salad (see below) - this idea came after eating an interesting type of salad a few weeks back at an Italian restaurant near our house. It was roasted butternut squash with arugula, toasted hazelnuts, whipped goat cheese, and apple cider vinaigrette. It was fabulous. The only thing I wish I would have done differently with my take was to use goat cheese instead of feta. It would have raised the points value, but the sweeter taste of the goat cheese would have been better - the feta was a little too tangy and overpowered the squash.


  • Apple
  • Pretzels (1/2 serving size) and hummus
  • Ben & Jerry's Half Baked FroYo (Yes. Again. Don't judge.)

Acorn Squash Salad
1 acorn squash, cut in half
cooking spray
4 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
4 Tablespoons reduced fat feta cheese (see note above)
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper


Heat oven to 350. Spray both halves of the squash with cooking spray, and roast until tender, about 40-50 minutes. (You could also do this in the microwave.)

Put walnuts in a small saute pan (dry, no oil or spray), and turn up to medium heat. Toast 2-4 minutes - once you can smell the nuts, then they're finished.

Whisk the oil and vinegar together until well combined.

Once the squash is finished roasting, peel the skin off and cut into 1/2" cubes. Lightly toss squash with feta and walnuts; drizzle vinegar and oil and toss a few more times until evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2


A Week in the Life of Lori

This summer, against everything exercise-related that I believe in, I started running. I realized that running was the only exercise that would give me high returns in a 20-30 minute workout. But the problem was that even though I could run a 5K, I didn't see the other returns I was hoping for.

With all of that running over seven weeks, I gained three pounds. (Seriously?!) I had to change something else if I wanted to see results, so in the last week of July, I joined Weight Watchers. 

And according to my meeting yesterday, that was 26.4 pounds ago.

I've had lots of comments that people are noticing, and yeah, that does feel pretty good. But I also have lots of comments along the lines of "I wish I could do that" or "That's something I really should do." And I'm telling you straight-up, even if its not Weight Watchers, even if its another program or one of your own making, there's no reason you can't.*

And to show you that you can eat good food, you can eat wholesome (read: not fake-y diet food), and still be successful, I'm going to "track" what I eat here on this blog for one week. For those of you who are familiar with the program, you know that writing down every single thing you eat or drink every single day is a key part of the program. And hopefully, you'll see that it isn't something you should do, but its something you totally can do.

* This is, of course, excluding people who aren't supposed to work on weight loss right now for other health reasons.

Breakfast - Egg Sandwich

  • Whole-wheat sandwich thin with one Laughing Cow light wedge and one egg white scrambled with reduced-fat feta cheese (thanks, Steve!)
  • Coffee, black

  • Subway Black Forest Ham 6" sandwich on 9-Grain Wheat with spinach, cucumbers, red onion, tomato, and mustard
  • 3 cups 94% fat free popcorn
  • Apple
  • Quick Cassoulet (see below)
  • Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked FroYo, 1/2 cup

Quick Cassoulet
Adapted from The Dinner Doctor

1 onion, chopped
1 package turkey kielbasa, sliced in 1/2 inch slices and then in half
2 cans great northern white beans, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and throw in the kielbasa and onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally  until sausage is slightly browned and onions are soft.

Lower heat to medium-low, and add both cans of beans, the can of tomatoes, and garlic powder. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure its not sticking. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the water and cornstarch until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Slowly pour this into the cassoulet, stirring constantly. Allow to cook 5-10 minutes more until slightly thickened.

Serves 6 (1 cup servings)


Short and Sweet {Tea}

Short post.
Sweet tea.
Short and sweet!

Just like the recipe.

We drink a lot of this during the warmer months - its cheap, its easy, and there's not a lot of extra stuff in this tea. Play around with what tea you like best, but know that whatever flavor you choose, it'll be extra-concentrated. Fruit tea, like raspberry zinger, comes out tasting a lot like fruit juice, but you could probably get away with no sugar if you use it. Black tea is a little more bitter but goes great with the added sugar and lemon. 

Whatever tea you choose, enjoy!

Iced Tea
Borrowed from Paula Deen and Friends

7 tea bags
1/2 cup sugar

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. In a heat-proof glass bowl, combine the boiled water with the tea bags. Steep for 1 hour, then stir in sugar. Mix in 4 cups of cold water. Refrigerate and serve over ice with mint and/or lemon slices.

Makes  8 cups

Photo borrowed from wikipedia. I needed a pic for a pin. :)


Bound and Determined

Early last summer, shortly after this sweetie pie was born...

I embarked on a "10 Days of Real Food Pledge" mentioned before.  About that time, Steve was heading out on a golf weekend in Wisconsin, so of course I had to send along some home-baked cookies. What kind of road trip would it be otherwise? But since I was starting a kick of "real food," I made some alterations. I also found myself short on key ingredients, so I tweaked here and there in addition to the other alterations.

Later on, I found out that the cookies didn't make it across the state line. And since then, I've been gently reminded that the cookies are going to be a necessary part of future golf trips. Here's the wrench in the plans... did I write down the alterations to the recipe? Of course not. So, with this year's golf trip looming, I've thrown myself into recreating the cookies. Its been a mission and I'm not sure if the motivation is providing the guys with a tasty cookie or just being able to recall and recreate a recipe so that I don't have to go through this again.

And, last night, I did it! I finally cracked the code to the infamous Golf Trip Cookies.

You know that scene in My Fair Lady right before they sing "The Rain in Span"? That's what I felt like singing out, but it was 10:45 and I didn't want to wake up H and E.

A few words before jumping in...
~ Rather than using a tablespoon to dole out the cookie dough, its easier to use a small ice cream scoop. I also use the same scoop for making muffins (one scoop for mini-muffins, three scoops for regular muffins.) Here's a reference to how big the scoop is that I use:

Then you get nice, even, consistent cookies to bake:

Apologies for no photos of the finished products. As soon as they were cool enough, I tried one or two for quality control and put the rest into the freezer so we wouldn't go crazy eating them this weekend.

You know what's really tasty?
Frozen chocolate chip cookies.

~ If you do any amount of baking with whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour), go ahead and grab some Vital Wheat Gluten. Because the shells/bran of the whole wheat flour cuts apart the gluten in the batter, adding some in at the end will eliminate that crumbly texture that sometimes comes in whole wheat baked goods. Figure about 1 teaspoon per cup of flour (more or less).

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
12 oz. (1 bag) dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

In a mixer, beat butter with raw sugar and brown sugar until mixture is fluffy. Add egg and vanilla.

In two additions, add the flour, then mix in the soda, salt, and wheat gluten. Mix in chocolate chips and stir just until combined.

Scoop batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes (mine are perfect at 9 minutes). Cookies should be slightly spread, rounded, and still look a bit under-cooked on top. Let sit for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.


Making Mornings Easier

I have a getting-ready routine firmly ingrained into my self, and that routine follows an evening routine of the same nature. These routines are so much a part of my day that even during times of the year when I don't have to get myself or the kids ready by a certain time, I still find myself going through these motions.

The nighttime routine goes a little something like this:
~ Set out H's and E's clothes
~ Wash any bottles so they're ready to go at 6am and we're not fumbling around to clean them
~ Wash any dishes in the sink
~ Make my lunch
~ Check all doors to see they're locked
~ A few more paranoid things to check that I won't share here to avoid being made fun of...

Right now, we don't have to get the kids dressed and out the door in the morning and I cannot begin to express how much that has made things easier. But even so, I find that I have a hard time getting myself out the door with everything I need, so I stick to the routine.

Last summer, we decided not to buy any more cereal because for as much as we ate it for a convenient breakfast, we also ate it for a convenient 10:00pm snack. And really, that's not so much a necessary part of our day. We've stuck to it, probably for the best. But what that meant was now I had to figure in time to make toast and eggs that morning, or have something ready to go the night before. And really, that wasn't happening.

So when I came across this recipe on Pinterest (yay, Pinterest!) I had to try it, and we've been using this constantly since then. Its economical, healthy, and tasty to boot!

I even did the math to figure out how economical it is to make your own oatmeal.

Quaker Instant Oatmeal - Maple & Brown Sugar
15.1 ounces - $3.79 - $0.25 per ounce

Homemade Oatmeal Mix
65.25 ounces - $11.32 - $0.17 per ounce
(using brand name items - even less if you're using store brand!)

I know that a difference of $0.08 per ounce might not mean much, but that means for the same amount of Quaker Instant Oatmeal, you'd be paying... $16.31! Would you make your own oatmeal if you go through one whole batch a week like we do?

Plus, did I mention that it tastes so much better than the Quaker mix?

It totally does.

Homemade Oatmeal Mix
From Frugally Sustainable found via Pinterest

6 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup dry instant milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make oatmeal: Measure 1/2 cup oatmeal and 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on full-power for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Allow to cool slightly and enjoy!

If you want to make a bigger bowl, use 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1 cup water. Heat for approximately 1 minute 15 seconds, depending on your microwave.

Mix-Ins (after cooking, before cooling):
Raisins, sliced or slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cranberries

Makes approximately 16 - 1/2 cup (dry) servings


Simply Slicing Strawberries

Quick tip for you tonight, just before a week back to work and just as strawberries are coming into season.

In the coming weeks and hopefully month or two, you may find yourself making something that requires cut-up strawberries. If you're lucky, you'll have some great strawberries and find yourself making things like jelly or jam, fresh fruit salad, or in the case of my dad's birthday dessert, strawberry shortcake.

Instead of standing over a cutting board with a knife, chopping away, just tear off the green leaves, use a paring knife to cut out the center "core", and then use an egg slicer to cut them neatly into slices.

An egg slicer, you may question?!

Believe me, it works. See for yourself!


Sharing is Caring

I love baking, and of course, love eating those things I bake too. But unfortunately, its not always a good idea for us to have all kids of sweets and carb-a-licousness sitting around our house. So, this year, I decided to start sharing a bit more - not only will this spread the love a little, but it'll also help the waistline. Which is necessary. So I'm caring for myself and caring for the people around me too.

(If those people around me are also looking to help their waistlines, well, I'll have to think about that one...)

This is one that went over particularly well. Think of these bars as being just like fruit streusel bars. Except swap out the fruit for a really creamy, chocolaty filling. But the best part is that it makes a huge pan of bars, so there's enough for you and enough to share! (Or, as in our case last week, even enough for you, enough for your husband to share at work, and enough for me to share at work.)

And since we're sharing, one tip for you today. I've started using dark chocolate chips almost exclusively in my baking. And the most reliable source for buying them (in my case) has been Aldi. The chips don't use corn syrup, only sugar as a sweetener, and since the chips are 60% cacao, they're not super-sweet. So even if you're making somehting with lots of sugar, it doesn't turn out to be over-the-top sweet. And dark chocolate is healthy, isn't it?!

So look for these when you go to make these bars:

Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Bars
From my mom's recipe box, credited to my aunt, Linda Rinsema

Crumb Crust
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt

12 oz dark chocolate chips
1 can Eagle sweetened condensed milk (fat-free is fine)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugars. Add each egg one at a time. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until it forms sticky crumbs.

Press 2/3 of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a jelly roll pan (10x15), lightly greased with shortening. The layer will be thin, just make sure none of the pan is showing through.

In a medium saucepan, melt together all of the filling ingredients over medium heat. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Once melted smooth, spread chocolate over bottom layer leaving 1/4 inch around the sides. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top of the chocolate and press in lightly.

Bake for 25 minutes until oatmeal mixture is set. Cool completely before cutting.

Makes 24 bars


Worth the Wait

This is not a recipe to start at 4:15pm on a Tuesday.
This is not a recipe to skimp on.
This is not a recipe to brush aside because its "too complicated."

Sure, there are lots of steps and requires lots of patience, but its not a difficult recipe to make! If you're looking for a really special dish to make, this is the one. I can say this since it wasn't my recipe, but these ribs are amazing. Really. Totally worth all of the work.

I originally saw this recipe on "Paula's Party" on the Food Network when Sugar Ray Leonard was a guest. Then, about 4 years ago, I made them for my sister and brother-in-law as a "thanks" for letting me take a Spring Break vacation at their house in Arizona. Mark then said they were the best ribs he's ever had, and since he's quite the connoisseur of ribs, then I took this as a pretty high compliment!

I told Steve that I was making a recipe from Sugar Ray Leonard and he started laughing. Then I told him I was making ribs and he did this:

Here's what he was getting so excited about:

Here's a great veggie to go along with the ribs:

And here are the recipes!

Finger Lickin' Ribs
From Paula Deen, who featured the recipe from Sugar Ray Leonard
1 rack ribs, about 3 pounds (not baby-back, the full-size)

Dry Rub
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cups salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons paprika

Barbeque Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all of the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub onto all sides of the ribs. There may be some leftover, but you should rub a good amount in, and then also leave some excess on top, so that as it marinates, even more can be integrated into the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set on a baking sheet (with a rim, just in case...). Marinate in fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, unwrap ribs, and place in pan. Cover tightly with additional foil and roast for 2.5 hours.

While ribs are roasting, make barbeque sauce. (If you want the sauce to pack a little more punch, make it at the same time you apply the dry rub to the ribs and then let it sit in the fridge.) Combine all ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer on low for 25 minutes, being careful to not let it scorch.

Once ribs are finished roasting, heat the grill. Cook approximately 6 minutes on each side, until the thickest part registers 150-160 degrees. Remove from grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Cut ribs apart into 2-rib sections, cutting down right next to the bone. Reheat barbeque sauce and serve alongside the ribs.

Serves 4

Sauteed Zucchini
4 medium zucchini (don't use huge ones; they tend to decline in flavor and texture)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, trim the ends off of zucchini, slice lengthwise, and then into 1/2-inch half-moon slices.

Add butter and oil to the pan, then add the zucchini. Don't stir it around too much, just enough to make sure its not sticking. Once the zucchini is nice and golden brown, turn off the heat and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Give one or two more stirs and serve.

Serves 4