Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Bowl Mac-N-Cheese

Great game, great commercials, great family & friends, great food! I love Super Bowl!
This week I will share 3 of my favorite recipes that will feed a crowd and always get rave reviews. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, they are just as good the next day. Check back later this week for Crock Pot Lasagna and Almost Better Than Sex Cake!

This Mac-N-Cheese recipe may sound small (only 1 box of pasta), but don't be fooled. It makes a huge pan of deliciousness! It is a hit with or without the chicken. But I always use bacon. If you love bacon but are not a fan of having splattered bacon grease all over the stove, check out how to make perfectly crisp bacon every time!

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!


1 Box of Pasta (I like one that will collect cheese, like shells)
1 Cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese 
1 Cup Grated Pepper Jack Cheese  
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (NOT the sprinkle kind)
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
2 Cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
3 Large Chicken Breasts, grilled and cut into bite size pieces
1 lb Thick Cut Bacon, cooked and crumbled into large pieces (click here for how to cook perfectly crisp bacon every time)
1 med-lg Onion, diced
1-2 Cups Bread Crumbs
3-4 Cups Skim Milk
4 Tbsp Butter
4 Tbsp Flour
Red Pepper Flakes

Preheat oven to 350*. Get a LARGE pan and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
***This recipe will probably come close to filling two 9x13 pans if you don't have one really large pan***

Boil and drain pasta. Cook til al dente or "right before it's 'done' done" consistency - this will let the cheese sauce really stick to the pasta.

While pasta is cooking, start the sauce. In a large sauce pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter on high heat. Add onion and cook til onions are soft and clear. Add 3 more Tbsp butter. When melted, add 4 Tbsp flour. Stir with a whisk. The butter and flour should turn a nice golden brown - about 2-3 minutes.

Add 3 cups milk and stir. Reduce heat to medium high. Get this to a boil, creating a roux, or white gravy. Whisk vigorously til all lumps are out of the flour, then turn the heat down to medium low.

Add the cheese. Stir while melting. Add 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes. Once the cheese is melted, I use the "taste and eyeball" method. If it is too thin, add more cheese (best to add Cheddar, Mozzarella or Pepper Jack). If it's too thick, add 1/2 cup of milk (put in microwave for 30 seconds to take the chill off before adding). If it needs a little kick, add more red pepper flakes.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce. Add the chicken and stir til everything is covered in sauce. Pour the mac-n-cheese into the pan. Spread the bacon on the top. Sprinkle bread crumbs over everything.
Ready to go in Oven
Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, til the top is golden brown. Broil for a few minutes if needed for more color on top.

Question: What food do you traditionally make for your super bowl get together?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Think YOU Had A Tough Day At The Office?

Jerry is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!" He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested. "Yes, it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gun point by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?" I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. “The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live."

 "Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked. Jerry continued, "...the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man.' 
I knew I needed to take action." " What did you do?" I asked. "Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.'"

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Healthy Habits: Not Your Mother's Oatmeal!

Cold winter months are a perfect time to have a healthy bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Are you thinking, "yeah, I can do that for about a week, then I get bored with the same old oatmeal"?

Today's "Healthy Habits" offers a way to step up the flavor of your oatmeal. Once you try these and get the hang of it, you can make all kinds of flavor creations. Heck, I even know someone who adds a big spoonful of Peanut Butter to her oatmeal. Personally, I don't want to add that many calories to it, but I might try it one day just because it does kind of sound good.

Try these two versions and let me know what you think. Then be sure to share other ways of preparing oatmeal that you like so I can try them.

BANANA NUT OATMEAL   (270 Calories)
1/2 Cup Almond Milk (could use Skim Milk)
1/4 Cup Water

1/2 Cup Oats
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Banana (the riper the better)
3 Walnut Halves

Put the milk, water and oats in a small pot on the stove on low-medium heat. Cook slowly, stirring frequently. Takes about 10-15 min to cook fully.

Meanwhile, smash the half banana in the bottom of your cereal bowl. Break the walnut halves into pieces with your fingers on top of the banana.

When oatmeal is fully cooked, add vanilla and mix completely. Then pour the oatmeal into the bowl over the banana and walnuts. Stir to mix banana in and enjoy!

Note: The riper the banana is, the sweeter the finished oatmeal will be. There is no need to add any sweetener unless you are using a really firm banana,

1/2 Cup Almond Milk (could use Skim Milk)
1/4 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
Cinnamon, to sprinkle

Put the milk, water and oats in a small pot on the stove on low-medium heat. Cook slowly, stirring frequently. Takes about 10-15 min to cook fully.

Meanwhile put applesauce in cereal bowl.

When oatmeal is fully cooked, pour the oatmeal into the bowl over the applesauce. Stir to mix, sprinkle with cinnamon, mix again, and enjoy!

If you don't have time to make oatmeal in the morning you may want to check out this post on Gourmet Overnight Oatmeal.

Do you have a favorite oatmeal recipe? Please share...I'd love to try it out.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekly Weigh In: Why Go Public?

Last week I put my personal weight loss goal out to the world. If you know me, you know that I am a pretty private person and wouldn’t normally do that. So why now?

Several of you have told me of your personal battle with weight loss. You tell me you desire to eat healthy foods but aren't sure how to do that with such a busy schedule. You wonder how to get your kids (and spouses) to eat healthy foods if they are already accustomed to packaged and fast food.

It's easy to think that everyone else has these things under control and doesn't struggle with the things that we find difficult. Well, I'm here to tell you that everyone else DOESN'T have it under control and there are many people struggling with the same issues that you are.

Some of you have been overweight your whole life, or at least as long as you can remember. Others gained a little more with each pregnancy until now you find yourself with a significant amount of excess weight to lose. Others got stretched so thin establishing a career and/or taking care of the family that they just quit taking care of themselves. Are you in one of these categories? Please share your story in a comment below, it is helpful to others to know they aren't alone.

Here's my story in a nutshell. At age 16 I was diagnosed with a serious illness. I cheated death and my body responded to "last resort" chemotherapy. I went from being athletic and participating in sports to spending 3 months in bed, then progressed to being up and around but barely leaving the house. I missed my entire Junior year of high school; a teacher brought assignments for all of my classes to me and picked them up the next week as he dropped off new ones.

Chemo is not medicine...it is poison. It is intended to go after rogue cells in your body, very aggressively, and kill them before they kill you! Unfortunately, while it is killing the bad cells, it is also killing good cells. It is a trade off. You are alive, but there is always damage to your body...most of which you won't likely know for years to come.

I learned through this experience that my body responds differently than most people in many situations. Many people get quite ill and lose a lot of weight when taking chemo. Not me. I got quite ill, and gained 65 lbs.

About a year later, as my strength returned, I again became active and began what would be a lifelong struggle to lose that weight. I was able to lose it and get back to my athletic condition, however, I was soon to learn that my medical issues (and weight gain with them) was only beginning.

Fast forward a bunch of years (let's just say I was in my late 30's). After gaining and losing weight with each health issue that came along, I was in great shape. I ran mountain trails every morning before work and worked out in the gym 4 days a week. I felt great.

I met an amazing man and knew very quickly that I wanted to spend eternity with him (after having gone through divorce and spent 10 years as a single mom). Four months later we were married. Four months after that I was diagnosed with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). (How's that for 'long story short'? I'll save that whole story for a future post)

IBC is very aggressive and has no lumps associated with it (again, future post). I was told of the diagnosis on a Friday afternoon and was in chemo Monday morning! In 12 months I had 6 major surgeries and 30 weeks of chemo, and you guessed it, I gained a bunch of weight. 65 pounds to be exact.

Through a series of other medical issues and surgeries (again, chemo is poison and damages the body), I carried that extra weight for almost eight years. You can read here  How I Turned it Around and Lost the Weight. I did lose the 65 lbs and was in great shape. I even started running, something I have never been inclined to do.

I was running 5-8 miles a day when another series of medical issues cropped up. 18 months and 5 surgeries later I was up 42 lbs. HOLY CRAP!! Here we go again!

So, back to the question of why I put my weight loss goal out to the world. It's my way of making a commitment that I can't (or won't) allow myself to back out of. I am fully aware that there are additional medical issues for me to deal with in the future. Instead of giving up and letting myself go, I feel the need to get myself back into the best physical shape I can so I will be strong and able deal with whatever comes my way.

So, once a week I will check in with my Weekly Weigh In and share highlights of my week, good or bad not so good, and even how much weight I lost.
We all have issues to deal with that are the cause of our weight gain. Yours are as valid and difficult for you to deal with as mine are for me. I always have a good attitude and think positively, but that doesn't mean that every day is easy when it comes to losing weight.

I am motivated by your success and your ideas and tips. In return, I hope to share something that enlightens or motivates you. Let's start conversation on how we do it so we can learn from each other.

This week I lost 3 pounds. Great start. I need to stay focused to meet my goal by June 7th.

What's your story of weight gain and/or weight loss? Whether you share your goal publicly or not, share your tips and ideas that might help someone else on their journey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do You Have A Weight Loss Goal? Here's Mine.

So how did you do on the 7 day challenge to record everything you ate?
Did you choose to use pen and paper, an APP on your phone or a website on your PC?

What did you learn about yourself and your eating habits?
Are you eating as many veggies as you thought you were?
Are you consuming more (or less) calories than you thought you were?

I didn’t pay particularly close attention to what I ate, but I did record everything I ate. Hubby and I attended a couple of events centered around food, and Sunday (being cold and drizzly) was a perfect day to dive into a huge pan of homemade Mac-N-Cheese (five cheeses and bacon…Mmmmmm, SO good!) and curl up on the couch to watch football. ( I can’t believe I didn’t think to take a pic of it and post the recipe; I make it so rarely. Might have to make it for Super Bowl now just to get a pic.)

I didn’t lose any weight this week, and I didn’t gain any weight this week (whew!). So what I learned is that I have pretty good instincts on eating enough to maintain my weight. However, my goal right now is to take off a few lbs that I’ve put on over the past two years while recovering from surgeries that didn’t allow me to be physically active. So maintaining is not going to work for me!

Has participating in this challenge motivated you to make changes to your eating habits? It has me. It was a good jump start to tracking food and exercise with a goal in mind.

I've heard that when you really want something it helps to tell someone so you have accountability for following through. So here's my goal. I WILL LOSE 38 lbs by my birthday, June 7th. Lofty? Maybe. Unreasonable? No! Reachable? ABSOLUTELY!

Yes, I realize that I am putting my goal out for all the world to see. Here's how I'm gonna do it.

I will continue to log everything I eat on http://www.loseit.com. I will also log my exercise there. Putting in some calories burned is always motivating! If you choose to use this website/phone APP you can connect with me there: mhobbs2001@gmail.com.

I know how many calories it takes to maintain my weight and I know how many calories I need in order to lose. I will cut some of those calories out of my food intake and I will burn some of those calories through exercise. Click here to figure out how many calories you need. I am going to give myself a range of 1200-1400 calories a day. I will eat at least 1200 but no more than 1400 calories per day. I will exercise a minimum of five days a week. I will give myself one day a week to splurge on something special or try out new recipes that I will post.

I will reach my goal by tracking everything I eat so I can stay within my calorie allotment and exercising at least five times a week. This might be walking (outside or treadmill), bicycle (outside or stationary), aerobics, video (love Bob & Jillian's Biggest Loser workouts)...anything that gets me moving and sweaty.

Now I feel accountable knowing that I have to keep you posted on how I'm doing.

What is your health goal? Take a leap and share it. Let's do this together.
What information do you need to help you?
What will motivate you to achieve your goal?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Have your kids heard you (or others) talking about New Year’s Resolutions?
Have they asked you about it and what it means?
Should kids be encouraged to set New Year’s Resolutions?

These questions were the topic of a discussion this week.
What’s your opinion?
Here’s mine.

If you read my post Start, Stop, Continue! you know that I am not a huge fan of ‘resolutions’ but I am very much in favor of regular personal evaluation and setting ‘goals’. What does setting a resolution on the first and breaking it by the 15th teach kids?

In comparison, walking a child through the process of setting and working towards a goal helps them develop thinking and reasoning skills and allows them to make choices and decisions and feel success in their efforts.

The process of evaluating their life, deciding where they want to improve, setting a goal, documenting their own progress and working towards that goal can be adapted to children as young as preschoolers. The beginning of the year is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about goals and resolving to be a better person.
So what kinds of goals can improve the lives of kids while teaching them a lesson or two along the way? Here are a few ideas.

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day.
  • I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I will be kind and loving towards pets and all animals. I will keep my fingers and face away from their mouths so I don't get bitten.
  • I will drink water three times each day and limit soda to special occasions.
  • I will find a sport or activity that I like and do it at least three times a week.
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding my bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car.
  • I will apply sunscreen before I go outside on sunny days, and wear a hat and sunglasses when I won't be in the shade.
  • I will be nice to other kids and friendly to kids who need friends - like someone who is shy or new to my school.
  • I will never give out personal information (including name, address, school name, or phone number) on the Internet.
  • I will never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parents permission.
  • I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day.
  • I will limit the soda I drink to special occasions.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.
  • I will choose nonviolent TV shows and video games and I will spend no more than two hours a day on these activities.
  • I will help others by volunteering in my community - either working with community groups or joining a group that helps the less fortunate.
  •  I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust when faced with a difficult situation.
  • I will take a break when I feel angry or stressed out and find constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as writing in a journal, exercising, reading or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.
  • I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help friends if I notice they are struggling or engaging in risky behaviors.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence. I will expect the same good behavior in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try drugs or alcohol.
  • I will not use a cell phone or text message while driving, and I will always wear a seat belt.
Have you talked with your kids about goals or resolutions? What other goals have your kids set? Do you have a differing opinion?

Some goals listed above courtesy of American Academy of Pediatrics.

Monday, January 9, 2012


If you haven’t seen the challenge, check it out here: If You Bite It, Write It!
Join in, it starts today! This is an opportunity to find out the truth about how many calories you eat each day and the nutritional content of that food.

I am using LoseIt.com, but you can use any website, any phone app, or pen and paper. You can search online for the calorie count of any food or purchase a paperback book at the bookstore that lists thousands of foods including restaurants.

It takes about 15 calories per pound to maintain your weight. So if you weigh 200 lbs and eat 3000 calories a day you will do a great job of maintaining your weight, but you won’t lose weight.

If your goal is to lose weight, cut your caloric intake to between 7-10 calories per lb. So if you weigh 200 lbs, eat between 1400-2000 calories per day. Obviously, if you eat 1400-1500 calories per day you will lose weight much faster than if you eat 2000 calories per day.

Keep in mind that you need to recalculate your caloric intake as you lose weight. I recommend recalculating every 10 lbs. So when you hit 190 lbs you would need to eat 2850 calories (15 per lb) to maintain, and 1330 – 1900 (7-10 per lb) to lose. It is not wise to ever go below 1200 calories per day. As you get closer to your weight goal you may notice that the weight comes off slower because you don’t have the large caloric deficit that you had when you were heavier.

Are you joining the challenge? What mode of tracking are you going to use? Is your goal to learn how much and what you are eating or is it to lose weight?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Is one of your goals this year in any way related to your health…lose weight, eat less, eat more fruits and veggies, exercise more?
Do you not have a clue how many calories you eat each day and you’d like to know?

If so, join me in this seven day challenge: IF YOU BITE IT, WRITE IT!

For seven days write down everything, yes every single thing, that you put in your mouth. Every almond, every cracker, every M&M, every grape, every taste of food as you are cooking…EVERYTHING!!

It’s been proven that most of us consume more calories than we think we do. If you have no idea how many calories you eat each day, this is a great way to find out. Don’t change your eating habits, just write down everything you eat. If you do it in an online program it will figure the calories for you.

If you do have an idea of how many calories you consume and want to cut it back or change the ratio of protein or fruits and veggies in your diet logging your intake is an excellent way to do that. Most of us underestimate how much we eat. Tracking it in written form shows the cold hard truth.

Losing weight is a simple formula of calories in, calories out. You must expend (calories out) more calories than you take in, creating a deficit and forcing your body to burn stored fat for energy. The more fat used, the more weight you lose!

Many studies have proven that those who record everything they eat lose more weight. My own experience is that recording every single bite I eat sometimes prevents me from eating something because I don’t want to look it up and write it down, or I don’t want to see it on my daily log. If I also have a predetermined number of calories allotted for the day it helps me make better food choices. Better choices means I get to eat more food while consuming less calories.

So here’s the challenge…if you eat it, write it down. Simple as that. Can you do it for seven days?
You can use pencil and paper or one of many websites available or an app for your phone.

I will use www.LoseIt.com which allows me to make my entries from either my computer or my phone. If you choose this site as well, we can connect. You can find me on www.LoseIt.com by my email, mhobbs2001@gmail.com. This site also allows you to record any form of exercise.

Other good websites and apps include Fitday.com. Livestrong.com, CalorieCounter.com. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, just that you do choose one!

Today choose your method of recording. Tomorrow, Jan 9th, 2012, we start tracking. I will post my progress and experience and look forward to hearing your comments and experience as well.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Happy New Year!
Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Are they already broken?
If you don’t like resolutions, but you do want improvement in your life, keep reading!

Here we are, at the beginning of a new year.
What does that mean to you?
Are you excited about the beginning of a new year?
Or, are you just glad to be rid of 2011?

I love fresh starts. I love evaluating my life, revisiting my goals and looking at what I am going to Start, Stop and Continue.

I’m not crazy about the word ‘resolution’ in relation to changes I want to make at the beginning of the year. In my observation, when people resolve to do something, and then don’t follow through with perfection, they consider themselves a failure and drop it all together.

I AM a believer in setting goals however. I am also a believer in reviewing my goals a couple of times a year to see what’s working and what’s not. These reviews are where I make changes to goals that may be affected by circumstances around me. I also make adjustments and fine tune my goals now that I have a few months ‘experience’ working on them. Maybe I was a little too ambitious, or not ambitious enough when I set the goal. This method allows me to realize success in my goals and move forward instead of giving it up all together because it did not go as planned.

I ask myself THREE questions in my goal setting process:
What do I want to START that I haven’t been doing in my life?
What do I want to STOP that I have been doing?
What have I been doing well that I want to CONTINUE?

It’s easy for most people to think of a bunch of big goals: stop smoking, start exercising, lose weight, get finances under control, etc.  But don’t discount the small things; small changes have big effect.

START might be something as simple as “get up at 6am every day” or “drink a glass of water before eating anything every morning” or “read one verse of scripture every morning”. I’m sure you can see how each of those ‘small’ actions would lead to a happier, healthier, more productive you.

In my opinion, every day is a good time for a fresh start. The beginning of a new year, the beginning of a new month, the beginning of a new week, my birthday, my anniversary, the first day of school, the first day of a new job, well, you get the idea. But my FAVORITE day for a fresh start is, the day I think of a new goal that I want to incorporate into my life!!

It doesn’t always fall on the first of anything, but it always falls on the FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE!