What I’ve Been Chewing Lately

Very few of these…

And lots of these…



Needless to say, I’ve gotten a bit off track with healthy cooking and exercising. (I’ve only exercised 5 times in the past two weeks.) I’m not a complete loss though because my weekly breakfasts and lunches tend to be clean eating for the most part, aside from the day I had two slices of king cake along with my cafeteria made veggie soup/grilled cheese combo at work. It is mainly the dinners and weekends that cause me to go astray.

I put blame on the stress and exhaustion that comes with being a teacher and also these financially trying times that the country is facing, including myself. I guess charging fast food or take out was the easier route rather than charging an entire baskets worth of groceries. Or perhaps it is just laziness on my part.
Either way, it is no excuse for putting my health on the line…not to mention I can certainly feel and see the fat accumulating in my belly and thighs as I see my belly hanging over my pants and feel the snugness of my jeans surround my thighs.
So I want to get back on track today. It is the start of the lenten season, which to many means giving up something that you can’t generally resist. I guess in a sense that means giving up my unhealthy ways. But more so adding back healthy eating and exercising into my life.
On a final note, yesterday was Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday. It is that day of celebration, to eat and drink and have a final shebang before the 40 Days of Lent. So I certainly got my fill of hot dogs and chili, hand rolled hot tamales, and spicy jambalaya.

So Happy Belated Mardi Gras! And can anyone answer that? I here it’s mostly diet and exercise. 😉

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Family Tradition Continues On

Ever since I can remember, my dad’s family has gotten together prior to Mardi Gras Day (aka Fat Tuesday) to carry out a family tradition.  My grandparents’ home is right along the parade route in Metairie just west of downtown New Orleans, so we’ve always celebrated the carnival season at there house.  I will tell you that last year we did not stick to tradition because my grandparents were feeling tired and overwhelmed with the whole situation.  But this year tradition continues. 

On Sunday, several of my family members got together at the grandparents’ house to roll hot tamales.  Long ago, when I was just a kid, I remember my very Italian Great Uncle Leo who led the tamale making process.  It was his recipe after all.  He had a strong personality and was not the most appealing to watch mix the meat by hand in his white, ribbed tank of an undershirt.  Mom always reminds me of the way he tasted the raw seasoned meat mixture to ensure it was correct prior to beginning the rolling process.  Yuck!  Unfortunately,  he is deceased, but through the hot tamales he lives on.

Yesterday we had eight people helping to roll the two large pots full of tamales.  There are several important jobs that are done throughout the process.  There is the squeezer who uses an icing bag with a wide tip to squeeze the meat into long skinny tubes.

 IMG_0446 IMG_0442 Then there is the person who cuts the longer strips into about 2 inch bite sized pieces and tosses them into cornmeal.IMG_0443 Another important job is the paper wetters.  They dip the tamale papers into a bowl of water so that they can be manipulated and rolled.  Above you can see my two cousins—one is putting the rolled tamale into one of the pots that will be filled and the other partially seen cousin in the background is separating the papers.

Here I am; I have been rolling these bad boys since before I was a pre-teen.

IMG_0444  IMG_0447 First the tamale is lightly coated in cornmeal.

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Next, it is placed on the corner of the pre-soaked tamale paper.

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Then the tamale is rolled halfway, the excess paper is folded over on top of the tamale.  And then it is rolled the rest of the way.  I don’t have pictures of the exact technique but there is one.  Below is my attempt at showing you.

tamale process

Then the tamale is put into the pot that will be heated on the stovetop with the addition of a tomato spiced sauce.

IMG_0441 So that is how I spent my Sunday–along with pizza and fried chicken and brownies courtesy of my aunts for helping out.  My husband tagged along to help out as well and he without me knowing snapped all of the above pictures, so to him I am grateful.

Now, the feast is ready all for Mardi Gras Day!  Just in case you don’t know, Mardi Gras is a celebration of feasting and partying the day before the start of the Lenten Season leading up to Easter.  The celebration actually starts two weeks prior to Fat Tuesday with parades and king cakes well before just after the New Year.

Today I went and purchased two king cakes for tomorrow.

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King Cakes are cinnamon twisted doughy cakes covered in purple, green, and gold sugar in honor of the three kings who found their way to baby Jesus.  So inside the cake you will find a tiny plastic baby representing bay Jesus.  Tradition has it that the person who gets the baby will have luck and they must also bring the next king cake to the next social event.  As for the colors, purple represents justice, green faith, and gold power.

I leave you with a video of a parade we went to on Friday night out in Metairie.  The guy with the jacket is a good friend of ours who had one too many drinks as you might be able to see.

Walking and Barking

Have I mentioned how much I really, really loooove weekends? :)  They just seem to always go by super duper fast. :(  This weekend was no exception. 

Well, Friday evening was pretty lackadaisical since my day was spent on a field trip to the Aquarium of the Americas and IMAX 3D Theatre. 

The clip is not completely clear, but there are some massive turtles, sharks, and stingrays in the aquarium.

DSC00537DSC00541 DSC00561 DSC00568  Other than fish, you can see birds, penguins, otters, and white alligators.  The IMAX Deep in the Sea was also fascinating and my 9-11 year old students loved it.

Saturday started with a visit to the park with the dogs.  While Chris played with the dogs, I did my own cardio circuit.  It consisted of lots of jogging, jumping jacks, lunges, high knees running in place, planks, side planks, basic crunches, and girly push-ups.  I did two sets of the circuits and then jogged around the field for a bit.  It was about twenty-five to thirty minutes of exercising and the lunges left me in some serious pain in the rear.  Chris actually joined me on one set of lunges and he is still whining about the pain claiming he will never do lunges again. LOL!

Sunday was a fun filled day which began at church.  Shortly after, hub and I met some friends downtown for a Mardi Gras parade.  We went to the Krewe of Barkus.  It was our first time attending and it was like no other parade I’ve ever been to. 

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As you can see it is not an ordinary float parade with riders that I am accustomed to. It is animals on large floats, homemade floats, grocery baskets as floats with the pet owners walking along side pushing the floats.  It is animals dressed up as people, animals dressed up as animals, people dressed up as animals, and people dressed up as other people.  In the end, this parade in particular is for a good cause in support of helping animals in need of homes.

And here is a few other sites as we were walking through the quarter.

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Mardi Gras Decor on the historic buildings.

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While walking around downtown, you will see street performers standing on streets trying to make a buck.  Here is one of the mimes, but there are also magicians, artists, singers, tappers, and more.

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Crowded streets awaiting the Krewe of Barkus!

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We walked around for about 3 and a half hours downtown and then I headed over to my sister’s house to babysit until 10 o’clock last night.  Needless to say, I am a bit exhausted today.

Well, I did do a small amount of cooking this weekend, but for the most part I ate on the go from fast food type restaurants for dinner both Saturday and Sunday night which was not optimal, but hey I’m not perfect.

If you prefer to bake cakes using a boxed mix, I highly recommend doing what hungry-girl suggests.  I mixed one box of cake mix with one 6 oz. container of greek yogurt and a cup of water.  I then baked the mini-cupcakes according to what the box stated.  The cupcakes came out so moist and satisfied my sweet tooth cutting out much of the fat and calories and adding some protein from the greek yogurt.  I went with a lemon cake mix and used the peach chobani yogurt.  Hungry-girl states that her favorite is devil’s food cake mix with plain greek yogurt, but use what you have or prefer.  She does have some other 2 ingredient cake recipes which can be seen here.

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I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top and they were great—much like a lemon poundcake.  I would probably make a whole cake rather than the mini-cakes next time, but either way would work.

Have a good night!  Have you ever been to Mardi Gras here in New Orleans?