Thursday, January 26, 2012

My favorite healthy cooking gadget.

For 364 days of the year I keep a "wish list" in my head of items I want, but that I can survive without purchasing for awhile. I save this list for that one blessed day... Black Friday. When it is likely that most of the random gadgets I have been wanting all year long will be on sale SOMEWHERE for 40-70% off what I would have otherwise paid.

One of the best purchases I made from 2011's sale was one of these guys.

Why so miraculous? Because I am lazy. And this little guy works with my laziness in 3 ways.

1) Crock pot meals are inherently easy. You throw it in, you season it, you turn it on, and then it is ready when you come home. It's kind of like magic. Slow cooking magic of laziness and awesome.

2) A lot of my fatness is a by-product of tiredness. I come home from work, I don't wanna cook, so I order a pizza. I definitely save calories and money and time by using my slow cooker instead. Equally as easy, but better in every way.

3) I specifically like this model because there are three different 6 cup crockpots. That means you can make three different things at once. So ideally you could get like 3 meals out of the way in 15 minutes. And that makes me excited in ways I shouldn't explain.

Let me show you.

Most recently I made pinto beans, a beef roast, and pulled pork. The crock pots are pretty small and there's only two of us so I cut my beef and pork roasts in half if they are too large. (I simply wrap and freeze the portion I'm not cooking immediately.)

I love cooking beans in the crock pot because I always, always, always, without fail, forget to soak them. Guess what? When you cook them in the crock pot you get to pour them in straight from the bag. (Uhhh just watch out for rocks. Cuz ow.) Isn't that awesome? Bags of beans are way cheaper than cans and I think they are tastier as well.

I add salt and garlic powder after they're done cooking. And then what?

I make "tacos" by wrapping 1/4 cup of cooked beans in a warmed corn tortilla and topping with salsa. Each one is 110 calories, 150 if you add a half ounce of reduced fat cheddar cheese.

I fry an egg in the morning and top with 1/3 cup of beans, cilantro, and 1/4 c enchilada sauce for about 230 calories.

I mix 1/3 c beans with 1/2 c brown rice, add salsa or tomato sauce or cajun seasoning or whatever strikes my fancy, and vegetables for around 300 calories.

As for the beef roast, the possibilities are practically endless. Stroganoff, any type of mexican, soup, shepherd's pie, sandwiches, salads, and on and on. I typically just keep it in the fridge and reincarnate it into something new each meal.

Today I slapped some on whole wheat bread, added reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese and panini-fied that sucker for 350 calories. Better than Wendy's and better for ME.

And as for the pulled pork? Well that mostly becomes sandwiches for the husband. He isn't a fan of traditional lunch meats so this is a good option.

I like it on top of a toasted whole wheat pita with chopped cabbage and hot sauce for about 400 calories.

So if you are lazy like me and the thought of eating something that's been in the fridge for 4 days doesn't skeeve you out, definitely consider a triple slow cooker.

I get to dedicate alllllll the time I spend NOT cooking dinner to walking the dog and catching up with the DVR.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Let's face it. I'm fat because the wrong kinds of foods make me super happy. (This means YOU Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese, In n Out well-done fries, and Red Robin vanilla milkshakes).

I was raised so as to believe that all "diet" food was complete crap. Anything that resembled "healthful" could not possibly taste good.

Maybe you're like I was. Maybe the idea of eating a turkey taco or whole wheat pasta or low fat cream cheese sounds absolutely revolting.

That's how I used to feel. But now I really like all of those things.

Being calorie conscious has expanded my palate in a way that I have never experienced before. I am constantly trying out new products. Some things I really love and some things are total busts.

So I thought I'd document my favorite finds and some of the OH-DEAR-GOD-NO! ones as well. Maybe you'll be inspired to try something new and fall in love, or maybe you'll be able to avoid spending your money on a bust.

That said, let's get started.

1. Chobani 0% Fat Blood Orange Greek Yogurt: WIN

For anyone who has never had greek yogurt... it is thicker and more tart than average yogurt. It also has a lot more protein.

In general, I am not a Chobani loyalist. I prefer Oikos 0% vanilla. But I am passionately in love with blood orange italian soda and so anything "blood orange" flavored catches my attention. This yogurt is dead-on. I love it. If you like orange flavored things, you will love it too.

I paid $1.27 for 6 ounces at Target. Yowch. But well worth the price tag, in my opinion, because there is nothing else like it on the market.

140 calories per 6 oz serving. 0 g fat. 19 g sugar. 14 g protein. 8% DV vitamin C. 15% DV calcium.

2. Zico Chocolate Coconut Water: WIN

Coconut water has a lot of potassium and other great vitamins/electrolytes. I have read that some athletes like to drink it as a more natural "Gatorade" type of recovery drink.

I don't taste the coconut, but what I do taste is a delicious and deep chocolate flavor. It is more chocolate-y than any chocolate milk I've ever had. I was expecting the consistency to be more like water, but it isn't. It's similar to almond or soy or skim milk. If you like chocolate drinks, you'll love this.

If it were cheaper, I'd buy it ALL the time. I got my 14-ounce bottle for $1.50 on sale but it's typically $2.00-2.50.

110 calories for the entire 14 oz bottle. 19% DV potassium, 18 g sugar, 1 g protein, 6% DV calcium, 7% DV phosphorus, 16% DV magnesium.

3. Silk PureAlmond Dark Chocolate Almond Milk: WIN

I crave chocolate milk like no other... clearly. I am really glad I found chocolate almond milk because at 110-120 calories per cup, it saves me 50-100 calories when compared to actual milk.

I don't feel like I am sacrificing any chocolate-y or cream-y goodness either. In fact, I actually prefer almond milk because the slight almond flavor makes it taste like a chocolate bar.

That said, I was expecting the "Dark Chocolate" to be more... well... DARK chocolate. It's not, it's definitely more milk chocolate.

The coconut water has double the chocolate flavor and half the calories.

But the almond milk is cheaper and has a different nutrient profile.

$3.19 at Target for I think 8 cups. If you like chocolate milk, try this.

120 calories per 8 oz serving. 3 g fat. 3% DV potassium. 1 g fiber. 22 g sugar. 1 g protein. A BUNCH of other vitamins. Most notably, 45% DV calcium (more than milk), 50% vitamin E and 50% vitamin B12. Check out the rest here.

4. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Winter Dream Tea: WIN

Flavored teas save my butt from getting any larger. I sweeten them with my favorite sweetener, sometimes add a dash of non fat half-and-half, and sip away happily.

Spice teas are some of my favorite and this one doesn't disappoint. My husband is also a huge fan. We don't live in a city that has a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, but we found this at our local Fresh & Easy. You can also order it online.

I managed to get 16 bags for $1.50 (originally $4) at a really great sale but I have and would pay the regular $8 price tag as well.

If you are a fan of chai, you'll like this.

0 calories.

5. Healthy Choice Chicken with Rice/Chicken Noodle Soup: FAIL

I bought a big case of these soups at Costco when I first started trying to lose weight. The nutritional stats were great and I thought it would be a good option for when I don't have time to prepare food before going into work.

I think I got 10 cans for $10-15.

The problem? They taste so completely bland. They are not the worst thing in the world but 90% of the cans are still sitting in my pantry. And it's been a year. I think I'm going to donate them the next time I happen upon a food drive.

The problem might be that I am kind of a salt addict and this soup is low in sodium compared to other brands. I tried adding my own salt, but it didn't help. The broth just lacks a certain... depth.

Not a fan.

110 calories for half the can. 2 g fat. 16% DV potassium. 2 g fiber. 5 g protein. 10% DV vitamin A. 4% DV vitamin C, calcium and iron.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I love my ugly shoes.

I am a girl who loves shoes.

I especially love shoes that are as tall as skyscrapers, extra glittery, or have a bow. I am not a girl who wears converse or sketchers or nikes in every day life.

Tennis shoes make my feet depressed and a little suicidal.

I have possibly 80 pairs of shoes. As much as I love shoes, I am also a cheap bastard. I can confidently say that MOST of the shoes I have in my closet cost less than $20.

There was that one time last year in San Francisco when I realized that cheap $20 flats from Target are NOT awesome for being on your feet 6 hours a day. So I spent $50 and bought a comfy pair of moccasins. My feet thanked me, but I still died a little on the inside. $50 for a pair of shoes! That was more than I had EVER spent. Ever!

But then? Two days ago? I hit a new all-time high.


On one pair of shoes.

You would think that if someone as cheap and girly shoe loving as me was going to spend $100 on a pair of shoes, they would have to be pretty dang special.

Well they are special.

But also? They are hideous.

In fact, they are possibly the most ugly shoes I have ever seen.

Wanna see?

Those are them. I have this exact pair in all their froggy glory.

Aren't they disgusting?

They are, I know.

If you aren't hip to the trend, they're called Vibrams. Supposedly they do all these miraculous amazing things and can teach you "how" to run.

I don't really care about any of that.

There is one thing I love as much as putting a beautiful pair of shoes on... and that is taking them off.

I love being barefoot.

As soon as I step inside, I take my shoes off. Frequently when I go outside I leave my shoes off. My feet are dirty, blackened, and calloused permanently. My husband looks at me like I am insane when I walk around naked-footed on hot, rough asphalt or cold, sharp rocks like it is nothing.

But I will never change.

So you know why I spent $100 on a pair of Vibrams?

Cuz when you run in them... it is like running barefoot.

And now every day I wake up so excited to go outside and pound the pavement all free and wild and unencumbered by bulky tennis shoes and without worrying about razor sharp shards of glass.

It's kind of... amazing.

I love my ugly shoes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So failed, so fat.

Okay. The old adage is true.

Slow and steady wins the race.

After day 1.5 of fad diet I am DONE.

The pizza is totally on it's way.


Don't judge me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

17 Day Diet- Day 1

I did pretty good today.

I realized that I totally forgot to drink my lemon water first thing so I'll be sure to do it tomorrow morning. I drank it with lunch.

For breakfast I had a serving of frozen strawberries blended with water and 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder. (We were unfortunately out of eggs.)

I also ate a pink lady apple.

For a snack I had a salmon patty. I was cooking them up for my husband's dinner and they just looked soooooooo good.

I also had 2 ounces of chicken breast for the same reason that I was cooking them up to have on hand and it was calling my name.

On my way to the grocery store I had one of the Oikos vanilla yogurts and some baby carrots.

When I got home I realized that I had not had ANY green tea (oops) so brewed a cup and a half and snacked on some roasted cabbage.

Also I poured some of that yummy blue cheese over the last of the iceberg lettuce mix.

Around 4 pm I had some soup I made a few days ago with chickpeas, kale, tomato and a tiny bit of chicken chorizo sausage. The chickpeas are a semi-cheat. I think the carbs slow down weight loss but they're allowed on the vegetarian plan which I'll be switching back and forth between.

For proper dinner I had 4 ounces of chicken breast with a bunch of broccoli and a tbsp of the caesar dressing for dipping.

Finished off the night with my last probiotic. 6 ounces plain greek yogurt with 2 tbsp sugarfree jam and 1 tbsp slivered almonds. The almonds count as "healthy fat". I don't cook with olive oil generally and I don't like it plain on salad so most likely I'll be using nuts in place of oil.

I've drank all 3 cups of green tea and 8 cups of other liquid. Tea is supposed to count against your water intake but I have a trick for taking the caffeine out. I'm assuming the caffeine is the reason they don't want you to count tea as water.

Estimated total calories are 1,250.

Also I weighed in today. 135.1.

I'll weigh in again next Sunday or Monday.

Haven't done my 17 minutes of exercise yet, but I'm gonna do that riiiighhttt.... now. Yay elliptical!

17 Day Diet

So I've decided to do something that's possibly incredibly stupid.

The 17 day diet.

The diet is actually a series of 17 day cycles. For the first cycle you cut out starchy vegetables, all grains and breads, all sweets, and limit your sugar.

It's basically low carb.

You get 2 servings of approved low-sugar fruits, 2 servings of approved probiotics, and unlimited amounts of approved lean proteins, and approved vegetables.

The list of approved foods can be found here.

In addition to that you are supposed to take a multivitamin, drink 3 cups of green tea a day, have 6-7 glasses of water, and drink a glass of hot water with lemon as soon as you wake up.

You aren't supposed to eat your fruits after 2 pm (8 hours before bed) and you're supposed to do light aerobic exercise for 17+ minutes a day.

You only do this for 17 days, during which time you are supposed to see rapid weight loss results. The book admits that much of this is water weight, but that it will also help reduce sugar/white flour cravings and give you a confidence boost to push on with the next cycle.

The next cycle adds starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and more kinds of lean meat in. But I'll explain more about that when I get there.

I'm going to try to stick to "the plan" as much as possible.

That said, I've already decided on a few cheats I've got to allow myself to be able to do this.

1) Coffee is permitted but non-probiotic dairy is not in cycle 1. I can't drink coffee black so I'm allowing myself 3-4 tbsp of non-fat half and half daily.

2) You're not really supposed to use artificial sweetener. Stevia based sweeteners are encouraged. I don't mind stevia in drinks but can't do it in my yogurt. Gonna use equal or splenda in my yogurt.

3) The flavored yogurts I bought my husband and some of the ones I bought myself have a little more sugar than recommended. I'm not gonna worry about it because that's the only added sugar we'll be having.

4) I have a few unapproved fruits and vegetables in my fridge that I need to use up. Gonna do so in the next few days.

5) You're allowed "non-fat" cheese in moderation. I bought a non-fat feta and a reduced-fat cheddar I'll be using sparingly.

6) In the vegetarian version of the diet you replace meat with beans and faux meat among other things. So I'll occasionally be having beans and maybe a boca burger or two.

7) I might eat fruit after 2 pm.

8) The thought of drinking a glass of hot water with lemon totally disgusts me. I need to research why the water is supposed to be hot. In the meantime I made lemonade with fresh lemons and stevia and will be drinking that (cold) in the mornings.

9) My husband is doing this with me and so I'm definitely going to have to "pump" up his plan to make sure that it's calorically enough for him. Especially because he is on his feet at work moving around 30-40 hours a week. I will probably be adding in extra fats for him.

That's all I can think of at the moment but if I stray at all from the plan in any other way, I'll explain it as I come to it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

17 Day Diet- Groceries.

What I bought for groceries and how much I spent!

Meat, lots and lots of meat.

FYI, I didn't take pictures of multiples.

In the photo and in my freezer I've got a total of 2 pounds of chicken sausages, 1 pound chicken chile lime burgers, approximately 14 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast and approximately 6 pounds ground turkey.

3 lbs salmon burgers, 3 lbs tuna steaks, 1 lb ruffy, 14 oz tuna in red curry sauce and 14 oz tuna in green curry sauce.

For marinades and dipping.

Hot & sweet mustard, tequila lime marinade, balsamic dressing (which I dropped and busted so I won't be using it, clearly), sesame soy ginger, mojo criollo, and garlic and herb.

3 bags brussels sprouts, 1 giant bag green beans, 2 bags broccoli florets, 2 bags asparagus spears, 2 bags cauliflower.

A basil plant.

2 pints cherry tomatoes, 4-5 roma tomatoes.

Celery, baby carrots, purple cabbage, Kale, iceberg lettuce salad mix, bunch of onions and garlic, 4 avocados, mushrooms, yellow pepper and a cucumber.

Dressings for salad. Light balsamic, salsa, poppy seed and caesar parmigiano yogurt. (Oh my gosh that stuff is AMAZING!)

Leftover 1/2 bag cherries, leftover 1/2 bag peaches, 1/4 bag black berries, 2 bags strawberries, 2 bags blueberries, leftover frozen red grapes.

Oranges, 5 pound bag of pink lady apples, lemons.

3 pears, 2 small containers of blueberries, pomegranate arils (cheat).

Crazy yogurt stash.

2 quarts of nonfat plain greek yogurt, 4 Oikos vanilla, 5 nonfat strawberry, 5 nonfat vanilla, 4 nonfat key lime, 4 nonfat vanilla (different brand), 4 nonfat orange creamsicle.

Sugarfree blackberry jam for stirring into my plain greek yogurt. (It's allowed.)

Lite sharp cheddar cheese (cheat) and fat free feta cheese (allowed). Also I have a ton of laughing cow wedges I may or may not use in swiss and chipotle flavor (cheat).

And low fat mozzarella and full fat cheddar and pepper jack I will probably use for the husband (super cheaty).

My fat free half and half (cheat), my fresh lemon-water-truvia concoction (lemonade) and miso. Miso counts as a probiotic. I really like having yogurt twice a day so if I make miso I'll be cheating and having 3 probiotics in a day (cheat).

Tea, lots and lots and lots of tea. I didn't buy all this grocery shopping. I collected it over time.

I had to make a second shopping trip today. On impulse I got bolthouse blue cheese yogurt dressing. (SO GOOD. HOW DO THEY DO IT?! I swear magic has to be involved. Uhhh I also dropped this bottle and it smashed open but thankfully only about 1/4 c spilled out and the rest I put in a tupperware. WiFi is a fan of blue cheese dressing. Good to know.) Enchilada sauce, generic splenda (I may or may not use this in cycle 1 to make these as a cheat or if not I will definitely be making them in cycle 2), italian lettuce mix, spinach, head of red leaf lettuce, ranch dip mix, onion dip mix, country gravy mix (cheat), taco seasoning, 2 18 count cartons of eggs, light sour cream (cheat), 2 jalapenos, 3 limes, and a green bell pepper.

So far I've spent $200 on groceries although some of that was definitely on unnecessary perks (like the basil and pre-seasoned meats and marinades and flavored yogurts). Bear in mind this was also for two people. And one of us is male. (Hint: Not me.)

I'll definitely be spending a lot more on yogurt, eggs, and meat though... Especially cuz I've gotta feed my husband like 1-2 pounds a day to keep his calorie count high enough.

Eeek. We'll see how long my meat stash lasts and what comes up on sale. I might have to switch myself to the vegetarian version to cut costs.

Good news? I have my tentative meal plan for myself and my husband already planned. Woohoo!

Friday, January 6, 2012

So stupid, so lazy.

Tried on a jacket the other day only to realize my arms weren't quite fitting into it.

Uh oh.

Put on some jeans the other day only to realize they were a little more snug than usual.

Double uh oh.

So finally I was prompted to check the scale.


It said 140.

I hopped on again the next morning to get a more accurate picture and it said 137.

One way or another (see also: by stuffing my face with whatever I felt like) I gained 5-10 pounds back in the past couple of months.


So I'm back to calorie counting. And I've made a resolution to exercise for 20 minutes a day, in whatever form I feel like.

Yesterday I ate 2100 calories and I'm still kind of cringing over that, but what can you do?

I'm clearly still learning.

It's weird because I'm actually having an easier time with the exercising than the eating part of things right now. Usually the eating is easy and the exercising is the bane of my existence.

I'm considering doing something drastic for a week just to exercise my will power.

Not like totally starving myself or liposuction or chopping off a limb drastic.

But maybe cutting out sugar and flour or sticking to veggies and lean protein or some other super "diety" thing that I could never maintain realistically forever.

Baaaahhhh. I know that's just the crazy girl inside of me who hates feeling all flabilicious.

Shut up you! Go eat some broccoli!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WIAW: Big Family Lunch Edition

Woohoo! Yeah yeah! Go check out the party!

I'm gonna celebrate by telling you about what I made/ate on a little celebration we had this past weekend. We seriously started off the new year right.

On January 1, 2011 the husband and I moved out of his mom's house and into our own apartment. One of the first things I vowed we would do as "grown ups" with our own place was have my husband's grandparents over for dinner.

Yeah... Except I didn't.

Not in 2011 at least.

BUT on January 1, 2012 I finally made my 2011 resolution come true.

Well sort of. We didn't have dinner, we had lunch.

But it was a great lunch and I think it was worth waiting for!

I decided to turn lunch with my husband's grandparents into a big family affair.

We invited my husband's grandparents, mother, stepdad and two younger brothers. On my side of the family we had my parents, younger brother, aunt and uncle.

That made 12 of us.

What'd I make?

Well I actually remembered to take pictures this time! Aren't you proud?

3 kinds of meat to satisfy everyone's tastes.

A roast beef. Or... what was left of a 4 pounder anyways.

I was really nervous about making the roast beef because I was not at home for 2 hours in the morning and had to let it cook for 4 hours total.

I ended up buying two roasts. (I don't do holidays but oh how I LOVE holiday meat sales!!) One I made the day before to "test" how long it would take. SO GLAD I DID THAT. It was overdone and so for the actual lunch I turned the oven down another 15 degrees and it was PERFECT. Exactly how I wanted it.

We love red meat 'round here.

And for the few wimps among us who don't I also made chicken legs.

Marinated them in beer and then cooked them in the crock pot the day before with honey and ketchup until almost done. Slathered them in bbq sauce and then the day of popped them in the oven for 30 minutes. They were deelish.

Made my own bbq sauce too. I love this recipe but I sub the red wine vinegar for apple cider vinegar and add sriracha at the end to give it some spice. I really love the Jack Daniel's line of store bought sauces but making your own is cheaper if you've already got molasses on hand and it's really easy.

Lastly pulled pork.

I had wanted to do ribs. I went to my local mexican store and bought what was labelled as pork ribs for $1 a pound. When I got them home I realized they were not ribs in the traditional sense. There was a loooonngggg flap of meat with absolutely no bone but then down at the end there was one long bone that was an L shape. So pulled pork was born.

I rubbed them with cinnamon, smoked paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, onion flakes and garlic salt and wrapped in foil then piled them in the crock pot for exactly 8 hours the day before. So moist. Totally fell out off the bone. Tasted exactly like rib meat... just without the bones.

I separated the meat from the few pieces of fat that hadn't melted down and the couple pieces of bone and then the next day warmed in the microwave with my homemade sauce and a touch of Jack Daniel's and then set it in the crock pot for 30 minutes while everything else finished cooking.

The pork got rave reviews.

The obligatory starchy sides.

Mashed potatoes. Or more fittingly, duchess potatoes, casserole style. I used this recipe and they were so ridiculously delicious. Ridiculously bad for you, but also delicious. They were pretty much gone, as you can tell.

Unfortunately I COMPLETELY forgot about them and they didn't go in the oven until way late in the game. They weren't as browned on top as I would have liked but thankfully they heated through pretty quickly.

I need an app on my iphone that will play audio reminders at certain times. I always schedule out at what time to do what things but then I get so busy doing things I don't have a second to check my schedule. If my phone could play a previously recorded sound bite of me saying "Put the potatoes in the oven" at exactly 12:30 pm that'd be awesome.

There was also gravy.

This is a country gravy made with bacon fat and milk and flour and a bunch of pepper. There was also a roast beef gravy I made from the first roast's juices.

And chili.

This chili was phenomenal thanks to a few things.

First of all, beer. I love beer in chili. I used a dark pumpkin ale my husband had in the fridge.

Second of all, I had big plans to roast my own cumin seed and do all this other stuff to season the chili but then something amazing happened.

I was at the store buying some ingredients for the lunch and I randomly happened upon Chili-O seasoning. I fell in love with Chili-O when my mom started buying it and using it to make chili while I was a teenager. Then when I got married it disappeared from every store in my area. I ranted and raved and went hunting at 5 different stores for this stuff one day during our first month of marriage. I have been looking for it for TWO YEARS.

And then it was there. Just sitting there all beautiful and easy and perfectly spiced. So I ecstatically called my mother (who also loves Chili-O) and threw 20 packets for us to share into my cart as everyone in aisle 10 stared at me like I was insane.

Lastly and most importantly... the meat? I used chicken chorizo sausage, some of the medium-well tester roast beef and pieces of pork roast in this chili.

The pork roast pieces were a very happy accident. I made them a few days before to top nachos and decided to chop up the meat and then melt down some of it's own fat to fry it in before simmering it in the crock pot with spices.

It got all smokey and delicious and awesome. It's probably horribly unhealthy but it was so dang good and the smokiness of the leftover pork plus the beer gave the chili an amazing depth of flavor.

Possibly one of the best things I have ever made, this chili.

Also, mac and cheese.

It got all clumpy after it set out while we ate but it was originally nice and creamy. I used truffle cheese from trader joe's, sharp cheddar, and a smoked gouda to make the cheese sauce. 'Twas delicious. I love truffle cheese.

And for balance there were a few veggie sides as well.

Corn on the cob. (4 for a dollar at the mexican store!)

Mezgaldi onions. Recipe here. These were awesome. They tasted like the inside of an onion ring.

Fresh green beans with onion, garlic and bacon.

Caramelized carrots. Loved the cooking method, didn't love the spices.

And salad.

Specifically? Caesar salad. Dressing recipe here. I have tried making Caesar dressing from coddled eggs and it tastes exactly the same to me either way. Stick with the mayo, it's easier. I always sub low fat mayonnaise for the regular and it still tastes delicious. I also use anchovy paste in place of the anchovies. The only other thing in the salad was homemade croutons and parmesan.

My husband's grandpa LOVES this salad. I think from now on when they come to visit (they live about an hour away) I'm going to send him home with a bag of salad mix, homemade croutons, parmesan cheese and a big fat tupperware of this dressing.

And there was fruit too.

Drunkin' apples in the crock pot.

And baked pineapple. I got a whole pineapple for a dollar at the mexican store too. Love that place, dang. I rubbed it with a little cinnamon and brown sugar before heating.

There was also bread.

Garlic cheddar biscuits.

And corn bread. The moisture and texture of this recipe was just awesome. I will use less sugar next time though.

There was also, of course, a dessert table.

Let me break it down for you.

Peanut butter pretzel chocolate chip cookies. Sounds intense? It is. In a good way.

Chewy gingersnap cookies. These were perfect. I opted not to roll the dough in sugar because I don't feel like it adds anything to them.

Double chocolate chip cookies.

Mini pumpkin muffins. I actually made these "donut holes" but didn't brush them with the butter/sugar/cinnamon combination. I'm sure that would have been extra delicious but I was making them ahead of time so I left them as muffins.

I didn't plan to make these originally but I had pumpkin in my fridge that needed to be used up and the recipe jumped out at me on pinterest.

So glad it did. Best pumpkiny thing I've tasted this season.

Blackberry pie bars. Another thing I fell in love with on pinterest.

Blondies that I added chopped cashews and swirled caramel sauce into. I love blondies and that recipe is perfect.

This is flan. Puerto rican flan. My mother in law recently taught me how to make it. Traditionally there is caramel on top, as pictured. It's one of the best things I've ever tasted. I am not allowed to share the recipe, but there are similar ones online everywhere.

The "flan" itself tastes sort of like a sweeter version of cheesecake. So I thought "What the heck? Why not try it with lemon instead of caramel?" Glad I did, cuz it was great.

I also tried it with some blackberry jam. Also good.

The traditional caramel is still my favorite.

And last, but greatest of all, panna cotta. My husband's 13 year old brother text me the night before lunch and asked me to make creme brulee. I'm kind of famous for my creme brulee (actually America's Test Kitchen's creme brulee, shhhh) but my torch is broken. I asked him why he wanted it, figuring he just wanted to be able to play with the torch and melt the sugar.

But he gave me a really sweet complement instead. "Yesterday I went out to eat and ordered creme brulee. It was HORRIBLE. I need a good one to get that disgusting taste out of my mouth so I want you to make it."

So even though it was 11 o clock at night and I was pretty dang tired, I was melted. He's a typical younger brother and doesn't say many nice things, so I offered to make panna cotta. I told him I think the taste is very similar to creme brulee, just minus the hardened sugar. He said it sounded good so it found it's way onto the table as well.

He loved it. And so did my dad. And my dad doesn't love ANYTHING. So that was kind of awesome. Now I have a new go-to dessert.

At least until I buy another torch.

And that was it! That's everything I made for our great big family lunch!

I'm already planning another one in a month or two.

Tamales, enchiladas, carnitas, carne asada, homemade beans, homemade rice, tres leches and flan will be featured. And possibly homemade corn tortillas.

Those people in aisle 10 were totally right. I AM insane.