Extreme Couponing

Hey guys!  Did you miss me?  Kidding. 

Anyway, did you see that new show that aired last night on TLC?

 

Extreme Couponing goes into the lives of people who go to extreme lengths to get a deal or shall I say steal.  On the show last night, one families’ grocery total amounted to over one thousand dollars.  They paid $30 for the entire bill.  Yes, thirty dollars on a thousand dollars worth of purchases.  That just amazes me!  How does one go about saving $970 on his or her grocery bill?

I have a lot to learn in that department.  I generally pay little to no mind at the cost of items when grocery shopping.  Well, I take that back, I do compare the different prices for tomatoes, for example, and go with the cheaper variety.  However, I do not go with the store brand mustard just because it is cheaper.

Funny how I happened to catch the show this week.  On this coming Saturday, I am actually invited to a brunch hosted by some ladies who are sharing information on “Maximizing Your Grocery $avings.”DSC01177       

After watching the show, I can’t wait to learn more.  I wanted to start clipping coupons immediately–if only I could save a fraction of the money the shoppers saved.  Though I do worry I won’t be able to save all that much because most of the shoppers on the program appeared to be purchasing a lot of boxed goods.  I do have some staples that come in boxes like pasta, rice, cereal, but for the most part my shopping time is spent around the perimeters of the store.  I hope I learn some useful tips on Saturday and if so I’ll definitely share with you.

Now for the regularly scheduled program—the food.

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Breakfast Smoothie in a Bowl:

~1 frozen banana

~handful frozen strawberries

~cup lowfat milk

~scoop vanilla whey protein powder

~teaspoon blueberry flaxseed meal

All blended in the blender.

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My meat free lunch hit the spot.  I had a salad with greens, a roma tomato, a tablespoon of goat cheese, a few sesame almonds, and 2 tbsp. of light raspberry vinaigrette.

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I enjoyed a Chobani Peach Yogurt for some protein and sweetness.

On my way to the gym I had a Cinnamon Roll.  Larabar that is.  My energy bar fueled me through 33 minutes on the elliptical and some strength training that went something like the following with very little resting between sets to keep the heart rate up.

Machine Weight Reps/Sets
Pectoralis 35 lbs. 15/3
Triceps 30 lbs. 12/3
Biceps 15 lbs. 10/3
Crunches Bodyweight 25/1
Torso Twists Bodyweight 25 per side/1
Hamstring Curl 50 lbs. 12/3
Leg Press 60 lbs. 10/3
Low row 40 lbs. 10/3
Lunges Bodyweight 25 per leg/2
Wall Squats Bodyweight 25/1

I ended with a couple minutes of stretching before deciding I was super-hungry.  I called Chris once in the car and we decided to get take-out from Come Back Inn.DSC01169

I ordered a 9” veggie pizza with onions, bells, mushrooms, olives, and jalapenos.  I ate about 1/3 of it plus I had half of an Italian salad and two of the hub’s mozzarella sticks.  Underneath all of that cheese on the salad is an olive salad which has lots of flavor and some oil to coat the entire salad so no extra dressing is needed. 

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I still have not satisfied my cupcake craving, but I did come across this several.month.old. cookie in the back of the pantry cabinet to satisfy my need for something sweet.DSC01172

Big Question of the Night:  How do you pronounce coupon?  Do you say cue-pon or coo-pon?  I say the latter, coo-pon.  My friend from AL says cue-pon.  I’m thinking cue-pon is more of a southern country accent.  If you reply, please let me know where you’re from as well.  Just curious if the phonetics of the word is dependent upon region of the country in which people reside.

Taste Test Tuesday: Crispy Oven Baked Fries

I do have weaknesses when it comes to eating.  Give me some fries and I will devour them in o.2 seconds.  As a child, my family would head over to the ballpark to watch my sister play on the softball or basketball all-stars team.  I would sit in the bleachers and not five minutes after arriving I would ask Mom if I could have $2.00 to get fries and a coke.  Surely I got my fries topped with lots of ketchup most nights and would sulk when I didn’t.

Still, at times I crave the crispy fried sticks and will eat them occasionally from a fast food joint, but I try to avoid them when eating out by swapping the deep fried salty goodness for a vegetable.

Last night I was on a mission to find the “best” crispy oven baked french fries to go alongside our pork sandwiches.  So I did what any normal foodista would do, and searched the net.  I found three techniques  that had potential, yet I wasn’t sure which method to use.  So I thought, “Why not test them all and see ‘which reigns supreme’?”  Iron Chef anyone!?!

Technique 1: Emeril’s egg white coated fries involve whisking an egg white until foamy, coating the fries in the egg whites, and baking on a greased non-stick pan.  I did not use the Essence seasoning as stated instead a simple salt and pepper shake and also chose to spray my pan with cooking spray instead of using vegetable oil.

Technique 2: Parboiling the fries was required in this method prior to coating with oil, salt, and pepper.  The baking was a bit more technical requiring not only baking, but also broiling.

Technique 3: A preheated oven and a preheated pan is required in the third technique.  The fries are coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper then they are layered on the preheated pan and baked in the oven.

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Fries three ways are shown above in the order of techniques listed previously—1, 2, then 3.  All three techniques took more or less thirty minutes with flipping fries half-way through cooking time.  And for the results:

1. The egg white coated fries had a nice french fry flavor and a crispiness that Chris related to a beer batter coating on the outside.  The coating wasn’t that evident to me.

2. The parboiled fries had me hesitant half-way through cooking time when they appeared limp and soggy as I flipped.  In the end after broiling, they did come out crispy and tender on the inside though not as crispy as #1.  Chris and I both agreed some of the potato flavor was missing with the pre-cooking of the potatoes.

3. The preheated pan did leave the fries super crispy.  Thirty minutes was not necessary as the recipe calls for.  Also, I had my oven set for 425* not 450*.  I was slightly disappointed because these fries were overdone and crisp almost to the point of being burnt.  It may have also been due to the fact that I cooked them on the second to lowest shelf in the oven since my parboiled fries were above.

Outcome: My preference for taste and crispiness were the fries cooked using…[drumroll please]…technique number 1-Emeril’s Oven Crispy Fries.  Chris actually preferred the third technique using the preheated pan which resulted in near charred french fries.

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And to summarize today’s enjoyable eating:

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Whole wheat tortilla topped with peanut butter, banana, and nutmeg + Earl Grey Green Tea

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Next up, lunch.

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Spinach/arugala mix, a roma tomato, a tbsp. gorgonzola cheese, and sesame almonds topped with raspberry vinaigrette + chobani peach greek yogurt.

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Banana Bread Larabar for an after school snack–

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And breakfast again for dinner (x2)–

1st Up

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A veggie sausage patty, laughing cow light swiss, and a fried egg on a wheat bun.

2nd Round–

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Chocolate Almond Oatmeal

1/4 c quick cooking oats

1/4 c water

1/4 c lowfat milk

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/8 tsp almond extract

pinch of salt

1 tsp brown sugar

10 bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:  Combine oats, water, milk, cocoa powder, almond extract, and salt in a small pot over medium low heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir continuously until desired thickness is reached.  Top with brown sugar and chocolate chips.  Enjoy the chocolaty almond flavored oatmeal.

Oh yeah, I also exercised prior to eating my 2nd breakfast of the day.  I headed straight home from work since severe weather was on the way.  I took advantage of free Exercise TV On Demand and did three workouts.  The first was the Metabolism Booster which was about 20 minutes of strength training mixed with spurts of cardio.  The second was a 10 Minute Buns and Thighs video, and lastly 12 minutes or so of 6 Pack Abs.  By the end I was hot and sweaty and in dire need of water.  I also came to the realization that I need to invest in some weights that are less than Herculean because I couldn’t do all of the moves with the 10 pounders I have.  Regardless, workout accomplished!

I Haven’t Told You Lately

First let’s look at today’s eating habits.

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Half Bagel with Peanut Butter, Banana, and some specs of coconut butter from a sample pack.

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Lunch was a leftover salad from Whole Foods with additional spring mix and Gorgonzola and an apple.  The salad had a couple different bean salads underneath the lettuce and veggie mixture.

I had a Cashew Cookie Larabar for my after-school tutoring snack, but no picture was taken.

For dinner, I attempted to defrost red beans from the freezer, but upon opening the container I realized, well Chris realized it was gumbo.  I was in the mood for some traditional Monday Red Beans so I ordered take-out from Come Back Inn instead.

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I gave Chris one of the sausage links and ate most of the beans and rice plus one piece of bread and a small serving of potato salad.  These hit the spot after a liberal dash or two or three of Crystal hot sauce was added.

Lately, I’ve been uninspired. I am uninspired to do my day job—teach with just one nine weeks left, but I’m doing it. I am uninspired to cook—lots more eating out has been happening with SOME cooking. I am uninspired to work out—I gained a few pounds and have been working out only 3 days a week. I am uninspired with blog writing—posts have been few and far between.

I am not quite sure where this lull has come from, but I am trying to get back on track. So, I figured I’d start by sharing a few things I haven’t told you lately.

1. Remember when I stopped biting my nails back in September, well I started biting them again. 

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I am trying to cut the habit again and may need to go get that gel polish put back on since it lasted for about three weeks.  Please pardon the dry skin shown above. 😉

2. I eat my apples like my dad eats his rib bones.  Oh wait, I eat my ribs like that too when I eat ‘em!

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I really gnaw on it ‘til all the flesh is gone. Now I don’t do that at work, but in the privacy of my own home that’s how I roll.

3. I have a serious addiction to chips (pita or tortilla) and hummus.DSC00797

This container is just after two days.  Whoops!  Maybe the husband helped a tad, but not by much.  I have always had a much larger love affair with salty foods than the sweet stuff.  Give me fries; give me chips.  Well, you can have the fries just don’t eat my chips!  Seriously, I need to work on self control with the chips and dips. 

4. I bought this book back in January and began to read it.  But…

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I have yet to get past Chapter 1.  I have picked it up about 5 times and just can’t get into it.  It references many German words and places and it just doesn’t capture my attention—so far.  I may still try to read it, but I picked up Water for Elephants at Target on Sunday and it looks a little more my speed.

5. The past several Fridays I have attempted to eat “Meat-Free on Friday.”  I do well with breakfast and lunch, but then dinner time comes and I eat meat.  Since I am Catholic and the Lenten season has arrived, I will be sure to make that sacrifice on Fridays up until Easter Sunday.  So, here is my eats of the first “Meat-Free Friday” in Lent.

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That’s a Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burger in case you were questioning my Meat-Free Friday.

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Gotta get going now because The Bachelor Finale is on.  My guess is for Chantell, but ya never know.

Did You Take a You Day?

This week I have been trying to wake up a few minutes early to ensure I am to work on time.  We’ve started a new program at school called “Breakfast in the Classroom” where all students and teachers get a breakfast meal that is consumed together in class.  I actually do not have a homeroom class so I’ve just been monitoring in the hallway to make sure things are running smoothly.  I have chosen to forego the breakfast offerings after seeing the cherry pastries and granola bars and yogurt cups that the students have been given.  Today it was a pancake wrapped sausage on a stick.  Luckily, I ate prior to “Breakfast in the Classroom.”

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I topped a cup of plain greek yogurt with a 1/2 c. blueberries, a drizzle of maple syrup, a spoonful of almond butter, and an oatmeal chocolate chip muffin was mixed in.

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Instead of the usual Chai, I went with Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea.   I don’t care for the flavor that much, but was hoping for some stress relief (which hot tea usually has that effect on me anyway).  The past couple of days I have been feeling some tension or stress pains in my chest.  It feels like tightening or pressure near my heart.  I think it could be due to my students’ standardized testing coming up and I am overly-anxious to get it done with.

On my way to lunch just before noon, I was stopped by two coworkers who wanted to know if I had begun to plan for a parent event we have yearly at school.  I went on to explain that my heart is feeling tightness and stressed and I just had not gotten to it yet.  One of the ladies asked, “Did you take a you day?”  My response was no as I don’t generally take off just because I need a break.  But I do like the sound of a “you day” or “me day” for that matter!

I then proceeded to the lounge to eat my scrumptious salad composed of spring mix, romas, pecans, reduced fat feta, blueberries, a few chicken chunks left from Sunday’s grilled chicken, topped with a tbsp. of olive oil, and 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.  I enjoyed a banana on side.

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Today I made it to the gym to get in some strength training and cardio.  I started with 10 minutes on the stair climber, followed by 30  minutes of weights, and finished up with 20 minutes on the elliptical.

After my workout I followed my Mom to her house to pick up some roast that she cooked in the slow-cooker last night.  It was a great help because I wasn’t left struggling with “what’s for dinner” tonight. I ate the roast on a sandwich thin with lowfat mayo, a reduced fat slice of swiss, and tomato slices.  I added some steamed snap beans for some greenery and veggies.

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I decided I would try a few sips of a white wine I was given for Christmas to try and take the edge off.  I rarely drink alcohol and just can’t seem to acquire a taste for it.

Do you have any tips to relieve tension/stress?

Don’t Choke on the Artichoke

It’s getting late so I am going to try and make this snappy. 

This A.M. I started with a quick breakfast because I woke up a few minutes late since my husband failed to wake me up before he left for work.  Normally he tells me bye and I wake up. (He claims he said goodbye and I responded, but I have no recollection of it.)  Anyway, I had a slice of whole wheat toast with some peanut butter, sliced banana, and a handful of blueberries.

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Lunch consisted of a delicious salad composed of tender greens, grape tomatoes, yellow and red bell pepper, sliced scallions, reduced fat colby stick, rotisserie chicken pieces, and peach salsa for dressing.  I had a Fage Honey on side and I added a couple of spoons of the plain greek yogurt to my salad before digging in.

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On my way home after my meeting, I munched on this pecan pie Larabar all thanks to my sister for snagging me one when we stopped at the grocery on Sunday afternoon.

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For dinner I ran over to Fisherman’s Cove Seafood Market to get some fresh fish to prepare at home.  I knew I wanted to have roasted asparagus as a side, but I also picked up  a stuffed artichoke to share with Chris. 

I cooked the mahi filets loosely following a recipe for a topping involving miracle whip, Worcestershire, dijon, bell pepper, scallions, and cayene.  However, I wasn’t at all happy with the dressing so I won’t be sharing that recipe.

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As for the star of the show, the stuffed artichoke made an appearance.

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Just in case you want to stuff your own artichokes, here are the ingredients.

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And for those who have never eaten a stuffed artichoke which is actually a type of flower…

How to Eat a Stuffed Artichoke:

1. Pull a petal from the flower.

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2. Put the entire petal in your mouth crumb side up and scrape the entire thing with your top teeth pulling the petal out of your mouth.  (Don’t eat the petal.  Just scrape the soft top layer from the top with the crumb mixture.)

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3. Discard the scraped petal.

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4. Once all of the petals are removed you get to the choke or hairy covering over the heart of the artichoke.

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5. Peel off the entire choke layer to reveal the edible heart.

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6. Now that does not look all that appetizing, but it can be eaten in its entirety.  It contains the most flavor of the artichoke.  Many people only scrape the petals and stuffing and bypass the nutritious artichoke heart altogether.

In this area, I only see stuffed whole artichokes at seafood restaurants, po-boy shops, etc.  However, no stuffing is necessary.  Artichokes can be steamed and the petals can be dipped in lemon butter or vinaigrette prior to scraping the leaves.  Hungry Girl sent out a recipe last year for the steamed artichoke which can be seen here.  I made it and preferred the lemon butter dip over the salsa- yogurt dip she suggests.

Have you eaten artichoke before that did not come from a jar or can? 

A Saturday Game of Scolf

On Saturday the weather was absolutely gorgeous—sunny and highs reached 68*.  The husband and I headed out to City Park in uptown New Orleans to play a game of Scolf with friends.  I thought some of the wives/girlfriends would be going along, but it turned out I was the only girl in attendance.

Several years ago a friend of the family invented a game which he originally named Scoobat.  Later, he renamed it Scolf.  Scolf, similar to golf where a ball (the size of a tennis ball) is scooped into different sized baskets with different point values, and is played in teams.  We had three teams of three.  My team consisted of myself, Chris, and our friend Timmy.  Later on in the day we added another player to our team who came late.

photo 3 Here are my teammates—Timmy left and Chris right.

Each player has a paddle and a ball.  To start, each team member hits the ball off of a batting tee as far as he or she can hit it toward one of the other baskets a couple hundred feet away.  A player can opt to hit the ball out of hand as opposed to using the tee.

scolf basket Off in the distance between the yellow flags is one of the baskets valued at 2 points.  Three other baskets were scattered valued at 3 points, 4 points, and 5 points with the smallest basket being valued the most.

photo 2 The basket above is the 3 pointer.  After each team member hits off the tee, the “best” ball is chosen for all team members to play from, which is why you see four balls in line in the first picture next to my teammates.  Once close enough to the baskets, players must then use the paddle to scoop the ball in the basket.

photo 4 Here I am scooping my ball for a 4 point gain for my team. 

All members of one team attempt to score until one person makes the basket or no member makes it. (It is not that easy!) The other teams then attempt a basket until 1 team earns the  points.  Then we move toward the next basket of the scoring team’s choice.  (The man in the background above on the right is the inventor of the game.)  The team that reaches 22 points first is the winning team. 

The game is fun, but loooong.  We were there for about three hours until another team beat us at the 5 point basket earning their 22 points total.  The game requires lots of walking, but it was a beautiful day so I didn’t mind much though it was tiring having done an hour of cardio and abs Saturday morning.

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Monday’s breakfast was a half whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, plain 0% greek yogurt, sugar free syrup, and a sliced banana.

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Today’s commute was blanketed with morning fog over the entire city causing traffic galore so I was a few minutes late for work.  What a way to start the week.  Ugh!

Lunch included an Everything Bagel Thin with turkey and reduced fat swiss heated in the microwave at school, a simple spring mix and tomato side salad topped with balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil, with an apple.

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My after school tutoring snack was two handfuls of peanuts…

Plus I stopped on the way home to get a Mardi Gras King Cake filled with Raspberry Cream Cheese after talking with hubby about him wanting a good one.  Oh my yum!  Confession:  We bought a cream cheese king cake just yesterday at the grocery, but we ate it all in one day.  Oops!! :/

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Dianne’s bakes their cakes each morning so it was super soft and fresh.  More to come on King Cakes in the future.

For dinner I cooked a potato in the microwave and topped it with leftover chicken from last nights “beer in a chicken.”

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I added some BBQ sauce, reduced fat mexican cheese blend, a dollop of greek yogurt, jalapenos, and salt and pepper.

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….All mixed up.

Does Scolf sound like something you might like to play?

Husband Turns 32

Yesterday was Chris’s 32nd birthday.  After work I asked him if he wanted to do anything to celebrate and he just wanted to stay home and get some pizza.  So I went to Come Back Inn to pick up a pizza with Italian sausage, onions, green pepper, jalapeños, mushroom, and black olives.  The pizza crust was thin and crispy just the way we like it.

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We also had a large Italian salad on the side which was full of mozzarella cheese, olive salad over iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, sliced egg, and salami.

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I had a slice and a half of pizza with some of the salad.

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Then I had some of the cake I bought for two.

DSC01604 It was not all that great because it was more chocolate candy than actual cake, but still a sweet treat nonetheless.  Rather than blog last night I decided to spend some QT with Chris since after all it was his birthday.

Yesterday morning I just wasn’t feeling my hot oatmeal so this morning I went with another favorite—peanut butter, yogurt, banana, and sweet potato pecan topped whole wheat toasted English muffin.

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Plus some hot chai tea.

For lunch I started with a bed of spring mix.

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Topped with some of the Italian salad from last night.

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I also had an apple for some sweetness.

After work I headed straight over to the gym.  I grabbed a Ultramet Lite Vanilla Smoothie at the cafe since my stomach was talking to me.  Then I proceeded to do 15 minutes on the elliptical, 40 minutes of weights, and 7 minutes on the stair climber to finish.

Dinner had to incorporate some of the broccoli from the husband’s garden. 

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I picked up some flank steak the other day with intentions on making fajitas, but I nixed that idea two nights ago to make bean enchiladas and saved the beef for tonight’s beef and broccoli.

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I used a recipe I found online that used a marinade of dry sherry, soy sauce, and cornstarch (used flour instead).  It was a good thing I didn’t salt the dish because the lite soy sauce made it super salty.  The beef and broccoli was served over brown rice.

Finally, I had a small handful of granola and 2 dates since I was feeling snacky.  I also took a bite of last night’s cake too.

Now it’s time to hit the hay; only one more work day ’til the weekend! Yay!