Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guilt Free Drinking

Moving back to the United States was not good for my waistline. It didn't help that the first three weeks of being back (in January) we were staying in a hotel and eating out nearly every meal. Bdubs, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, Coffee shops like EC's Acoustic Cafe-- I love them all! I just don't love what they do for my body. 

I've been trying to work out regularly and just make smarter food and drink choices. For the past month I've been trying to abide by a self-made rule: No Alcohol during the week! So far, I've been doing pretty good. Although I’ll confess that the week of 4th of July was a TOTAL failure.  Since then I've done much better. When a beer sounds good or I want to have a glass of wine while watching the Olympics after dinner, I try to think of the calories saved. My favorite beer-South Shore Nut Brown Ale- 200 calories. A glass of wine- around 100 calories. 

Inspired by a sangria recipe, I whipped up this drink to see if it would satisfy my taste buds. I was happy that it did! Soooooo refreshing!!!!!

I used a margarita pitcher I got as a wedding gift and rarely use to make the tea. Next I tied my tea bags to the stir stick so that they would be easy to take out. I only used 3 bags for this batch, but next time I will definitely use more. Once you add the ice and soda water the peach flavor is diluted a bit. I like how there's a reflection showing our backyard on the side of the pitcher. This drink just calls to be drunk outside! 

Virgin Peach Tea and Fruit Sangria

Peach Tea
* Use Pitcher of your choice
3-8- Peach Tea Bags to brew a pitcher of tea. 

Put thyme, fruit, and ice in your glass first then add equal parts tea and soda
* I used a wine glass just to make it fun, but use whatever looks for you!
3 Sprigs of Thyme
1/2 C Mixed fresh fruit-(I used blueberries, raspberries, and grapes)
3-4 Ice Cubes
Soda Water

Monday, July 30, 2012

Menu Monday: 7/30-8/3

Menu Monday

Monday: Strawberry & Spinach Salad, Sweet Corn
Tuesday: Ginger Beef & Green Bean Stir-Fry
Wednesday: Black Bean Soup (leftovers from freezer)
Thursday: Chicken w/cashew Stir-Fry
Friday: (with Z,M, and H visiting from Iowa!!) Slow Cooker BBQ Pork, Corn, melon, lemon squares

Every Monday I hope to post the dinner menu that Greg and I will use to guide our dinner cooking for the following week. Greg and I have planned a menu for as long as I can remember. If you don’t menu plan, I encourage you to give it a try. Here’s what we usually do…it seems like a lot, but it's really not too bad...

o       Greg and I discuss what we want to eat
o       Greg and I discuss what we should eat
o       See what is in our fridge and freezer that we need to use up (I’ve been really trying to use things before they get bad and not to throw food away!)
o       Try to consider what things will have leftovers for lunches, what can freeze, etc.
o       Glance at the Friday/Saturday grocery ads to see what’s on sale, what’s in season
o       After we “research”--Choose and Record meals on our fridge whiteboard.
o       Gather recipes I need to use for the week
o       Go through them and make a grocery list (every week I seem to miss something!)
o       Consider what other food items we need for snacks, breakfasts, lunches.
o       Go grocery shopping at the store and/or farmer’s market

I’ll attempt to post recipes throughout the week for our dinners listed above. If they don’t make it on this week though, you’ll discover that Greg and I repeat favorite recipes quite often. Monday's Recipe is listed below, so simple, so good. Happy Eating!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

*Mix everything right before eating
1 Pound- Strawberries cut up
1/2 to 1 bag- Spinach (chopped), or fresh spinach (chopped) filling medium salad bowl (use however much you want!)
1 Cup- Pecans (chopped)
1/4 Cup- sunflower seeds
Sprinkle- of light feta cheese (optional)

Store bought Creamy Poppy-seed Dressing- each is to their own, just put on table!

I use my 2.5QT. Pyrex bowl for this salad. Everything is ready to go before I head to the Y for my "Just Pump" class. When I get home I'll combine everything, get the corn going and it will be ready in less than 15 minutes. 


Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Place I'll Always Call Home: IOWA

I love Iowa, it's not a secret. Tell your friends. It's where I lived for the first 23 years of my life. This past weekend we went back for the second time since moving back to the US.  Greg loaded his bike in the car with the goal of riding in at least one leg of RAGBRAI with his best bud David. The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa is a week long ride across Iowa that 8.5000 official riders complete every year and even more (like Greg) who just join for a 1 or 2 legs. Greg rode Friday and the ride's last day Saturday. Next year he wants to do the whole thing.(click for this year's route)
Friday Morning: Greg and David are ready to go!

On Friday my nephew, sister in-law and I were among the spectators in the small town of Anamosa as the riders came into the city. We caught Greg riding in and he stopped for a photo op by the official entrance. It was a great morning.

After 42.2 miles on the road, Greg riding into Anamosa, IA. The city's motto for their stop was "Ride it like  you stole it!" playing fun on the fact that  Anamosa is home to a large state penitentiary. 
H and Molly hanging out in the shade watching the riders arrive. 
Greg ended up running into some old high school friends who rode together the whole week and they invited him to ride with them on their last day: Anamosa-Clinton.  So, I dropped him off at 6:30 Saturday morning to start his ride again!

While Greg was riding Saturday, I was hanging out in the park  with my mom, brother, sis-in law and our nephew at an event celebrating Puff the Magic Dragon's Anniversary. H enjoyed dancing to the music and loved watching the man making balloon characters. I don't know who was more interested, my brother or H?
Watch out! It's Spiderman!

Greg after his 69.4 mile ride. It's so nice to see him so happy!!!
We spent Saturday night grilling out at my brother's house. One highlight was singing, "She'll be Coming Around the Mountain, " with H while Greg pushed him on his swing. We somehow met up with friends most evenings and we both felt like it was great weekend! Now back to the real world: Eau Claire edition. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Welcome to Midwest Girl! Take a chance to read the About Midwest Girl  tab at the top and get to know me a little bit. I’m just getting this blog going so it may look a little bit different each time you come back, until I get it just how I want it to be. Let’s not waste anymore time….

I thought I was going to get to sign my new teaching contract today for the Eau Claire Area School District, but it turned out just to be HR paperwork. Background check, check. Internet Policy, check. Payroll form. CHECK in the bank$! I’ll be back for more paperwork once I get approved by the board.

Some how I knew I needed to get a tiger hawk in on my first post!
I’ll start my fifth year of teaching in August as an elementary special education teacher. After graduating in December 2006 from the amazing University of Iowa I spent my first year and a half subbing (including 3 long term positions) in Minnesota. The 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 school years were spent working at HLWW Middle School as a special education teacher.

Wasn't my class in Bangkok adorable?! They were pretty smart too! This was taken on Loy Krathong, the Thai New Year where everyone wore traditional clothing.  

The 2010/2011 and the beginning part of the 2011 year was when I did a 180 and taught 4/5 year old kindergarten at a small international school in Bangkok, Thailand. Floods came to Thailand though, so we moved back to the US where I began subbing in Wisconsin. One long term turned summer school position in Mondovi, WI, 3 interviews with different schools, 2 job offers, and 1 acceptance later I have a job!!! Can I get a hallelujah?

One of the best parts of my day today was dinner. ..Tonight for dinner I made an amazing summer salad. Not just any salad, but "The Best Salad EVER"~my husband Greg . I know avocadoes are not in season right now (are they ever in season in WI?) but I'll probably be making this one all year: Avocado and Mandarin Orange Salad. Greg and I eat it as a meal.  Recipe is first then some pictures incase the title doesn’t make you hungry enough…

Avocado and Mandarin Orange Salad
*From my mother in law, Cathy who got it via her sister Aunt Barb

*Put everything together and mix!
½ bag fresh baby spinach chopped
½ bag of iceberg lettuce or any other mix chopped
1 small to medium red onion sliced thin
1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
½ lb(9 slices) bacon, cooked and crumbled (turkey bacon is good too!)
Slivered almonds, toasted
1-2 avocados, sliced into chunks
Romano or Parmesan Cheese

*Combine everything and whisk together.
*I always double up this recipe so I can have extra on hand and because Greg and I eat this every week right now.

¾ C Canola oil or olive oil
¼ C White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2-3 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp dry mustard
1/3 C sugar
½ tsp salt

In the summer I like to get all the ingredients chopped up and ready to go for later assembly. The lime juice bottle is filled with the dressing! Everything can go into the fridge and be taken out right before dinner!

When it's dinner time I dump in the oranges, then the avocado and red onion.

Next comes the chopped turkey bacon (already had on hand) and then top with some Parmesan (do you know why spell checker capitalizes this? ) cheese! So hard not to nibble on thiswhile I was waiting for Greg to get home from his bike ride.

Don't forget the toasted almonds and the dressing for the table. Our meal was rounded out with some delicious sweet corn and a glass of milk.  Seriously this is one of the best salads ever!

I hope you enjoyed this first post. More to come next week! I'm off for a bike ride, then packing for my weekend in IOWA!