Asia or Bust! #DTour Asia here I come!

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 OMG, it's really here. Someone pinch me! I am heading to a tour of a lifetime as one of the official #DTourist for DoubleTree by Hilton traveling the continent of Asia!

I just literally finished packing and I just remembered that I never got to share this on my personal blog. I will be hitting several countries starting with China and will be sharing lots of pictures and videos via Chicagonista.com and my social networks:

Twitter: Twitter.com/mjtam 
Facebook: Facebook.com/mjtam
Make sure you follow the hashtag #DTour 

You can read more about what exactly I'm doing in Asia here: http://chicagonista.com/category/dtour/ and check out my video below to show you all the other places I am hitting.

Cooped-Up & Souped-Up

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Today's weather news is more of a nuisance. Yes, yes - another snow storm will be hitting us again. Like always, temperatures are going to drop to extreme negatives after a few days of non-stop snow and we're back at it all over again. And like many Chicagoans, I'm SO done! At this point, more snow will not make things any harder than it already is. Roads are iced up and the snow that has been dropping since the start of this year has nowhere to go but look unsightly black on street banks.


There's a sunny side to this winter though. No, really - there is! I'm talking more about my disposition and not so much the warmth of the sun that we are badly needing. I'm thinking positive here because another subzero temp day is almost our normal here in Alaska. I mean...Chicago. Sigh. So while we're all cooped-up inside, we've also souped-up!

Ever since I've signed on to be a Campbell's Wisest Kid Ambassador I've found so many different ways in making some quick warm meals just like my favorite Campbell's®  Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.


Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com
I've also tried a couple of recipes found in the CampbellsKitchen.com and a new recipe that I found recently is our new family favorite called Shortcut Alfredo Lasagna made with a Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. The recipe is easy, fast, and delicious!

Photo from the CampbellsKitchen.com

Another new family favorite is the Creamy Risotto-Style Chicken and Rice. This one is made with a can of
Campbell's® Healthy Request® Condensed Healthy Request® Cream of Chicken Soup. This recipe is also American Heart Association Certified. (Hey, it has rice! Said by my happy Asian family)

I have a feeling that we will not see the end of this Polar Vortex for quite some time so I will probably try a couple more of these recipes.

Wait, I know some of my friends reading this are laughing. Me, cooking more? This is normally a rare occurrence in my home and THAT my friend is what being cooped-up is like for me. So being souped-up is really the sunny side of winter that I've been talking about!

For the next few weeks my husband will be taking over the home. I am off to travel for 31 Night in Asia and so I will be leaving him with Campbell's Wisest Kid in the Whole World to help him along in planning the meals. Good luck husband, you're in good hands!

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Shaking Up Breakfast

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It's been a couple of weeks now that I've been truly vigilant in getting the proper breakfast to start my day. While it is still quite a struggle most mornings, I have seen the difference in how I feel when getting my proper breakfast. I used to run out of the house without any breakfast and by 10 or 11am at work, I'm usually starving in the worst way. I easily lose focus and patience very easily. I'm quick to make rash decisions and in need of nourishment. So now I make the extra effort in making my breakfast that keeps me satisfied all the way to lunch time. Thanks to my Registered Dietitian partner +Victoria Shanta Retelny , I've learned to shake up my breakfast! Something different! For me, anyway. In fact, I'm finding that my kids enjoy doing this as much that they make an effort to get dressed and ready to make their own shake before heading to school. Heck, if I knew that this was the magic I needed in the morning to get things going - I would've done it a long time ago! One example Victoria shared was the:

One cup milk + frozen cherries + handful semi-sweet chocolate chips + a mint leaf

Sounds delicious, right? For more shake recipes - check out Victoria's blog here: http://victoriashantaretelny.com/blog/shake-up-your-breakfast/


Photo Credit: http://Instagram.com/vsrnutrition
Now if you knew that you can be more focused at work (or school) by maintaining in eating a proper breakfast with the protein that your body needs, would you make the changes too?

According to What America (Tw)eats, there are more than 1.6 million number of tweets on skipping breakfast. Just imagine 1.6 million grumpy office workers everywhere! This could mean budget miscalculations, poor judgement calls, etc. So, let's change the culture together and get your protein in the morning!

Free Milk Every Minute The Got Milk Got Protein campaign is also helping Americans win their own free gallon of milk every day. The promotion – at GotMilkGotProtein.com – is designed to encourage Americans to get into a healthy routine by starting each morning with milk’s high-quality protein. To instantly see if you’ve won a buy one get one free milk coupon go to GotMilkGotProtein.com.

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Polar Vortex Yummy: Crunchy French Toast

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One thing I realized is that I don't do well just hibernating (#Chibernating for Chicagoans) when Chicago shuts down for what we have learned here in Chicago as Polar Vortex dubbed as #Chiberia on Twitter. We all know that Chicago is not a stranger to extreme cold but this is something new. Crazy snow and winds brought in as low as -45F windchill! In fact, just in January alone, the city and schools closed down TWICE! Unbelievable.

So what do I do instead of taking advantage of the time off with the kids? Well - cook, of course! If you know me at all, you are probably laughing at this. Me? Cook? Well, well, well....look at my creation below.

Introducing my Crunchy French Toast! (and yes, that's my own picture)

I first had it at a local hotel restaurant for breakfast and I knew I had to get the kids get there to try it. Polar Vortex part deux came along and so I gave in and made it myself. No, for real! Check out the the recipe below to warm your tummy!


Crunchy French Toast
Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 slices of bread, cut into quarters
  • 1 large cornflake cereal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 drops of vanilla
  • Butter and pancake syrup
To follow the step by step instructions here's where I found that recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/crunchy_french_toast/

Oh, and here's my other Polar Vortex Chocolate Goodness - a microwave lava cake recipe

Let's Talk Soup!

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January is a National Soup Month, so let's talk soup!

I don't know about you but the thought of soup warms me up especially with the kind of winter we're experiencing here in Chicago. But truly in this household, winter or not - my kids are soup monsters! Yea, just like me.

Chinese HotPot
My kind of girlfriend outings lately are done over hotpot. There's nothing like sitting and gabbing with a group of my girlfriends over steaming Chinese hotpot that keeps our conversation going on for hours. HOURS!

Filipino Sinigang
When my kids visit my parents (gramps), they request that he makes Sinigang. A tamarind flavored soup that my kids love and enjoy.

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup
And my husband also always make Chinese tofu or winter melon soups for us.

All of which are quite an undertaking just to prep and make a pot of these soups. But cooking is simply not my cup of tea...or my BOWL of sugar. (Going with my blog name here). So when it's left to me to keep my family all souped up, I turn to their next favorite thing in the world. Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup! And did you know that Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup turns 80?! Yes! Here's a quick fascinating fact that I learned about the Chicken Noodle Soup.
"Introduced in 1934, it was originally called "Chicken with Noodles" and enjoyed only moderate success. Later that same year, an innocent misstatement on a popular radio program caused sales to sky-rocket. One of the famous on-air personalities misread his copy and accidentally called the product "Chicken Noodle" soup. Suddenly, Campbell started receiving large orders for their "new" product. The soup was formally renamed "Chicken Noodle" after the erroneous turn of phrase caused high demand for the soup."
Happy Birthday! 


 Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador compensated by the Campbell Soup Company -The Wisest Kid in the Whole World. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

I Got Milk and a Game Plan!

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My Registered Dietitian +Victoria Shanta Retelny partner for the Milk Mustache campaign said,"Cut Back NOT Cut Out".

I was really happy to hear her say that because it meant that I don't have to go cold turkey on certain foods I enjoy. We were talking about my rice obsession and carving out some of the carbs (sugar) to get me back into feeling/getting healthy. I was on my own completely substituting Quinoa with my rice and although I'm not hating it, I certainly miss it. Now I'm glad to hear that I don't have to give up rice fully. I told Victoria that I just really want to feel comfortable wearing my clothes without having to wear a scarf or another layer to hide the mommy muffins and all that. I think some of you may know what I'm talking about here.

Watching my daily caloric intakes and making sure I'm meeting my protein needs was important and high on our game plan. She calculated with my weight (not gonna tell) and semi-active lifestyle that I should take in about 1200 calories with 60-65g of protein intake that on a daily basis.

Even better, she drew out a game plan I can easily get onboard with.

  • BREAKFAST 6am (My Power Hour) 300 cal ( a glass milk about 86 calories on lowfat milk & 8 grams of protein, a banana, 100 cal, a hard boiled egg, 78 calories)
  • SNACK 9:30 - 10am 150 cals
  • LUNCH (by 1pm the latest) -  400- 500 cals
  • SNACK - 150 cals. (apples, oranges, grapes, veggies)
  • DINNER - 400-500 cals.
  • SNACK - 150 cals.
I really love the guideline she's given me and her @vsrnutrition Instagram shows many recipes and healthy tips in how I can keep score and live healthier! Below is a warm Brussels Sprouts salad and is just one of her many recipes on there.
Instagram by @vsrnutrition 

"Brussels sprout lovers unite! I am enjoying shaved Brussels sprouts in salads lately - they are popping up everywhere on restaurant menus, too. This one is a warm salad with a tbsp of olive oil, a diced shallot, a clove of minced garlic, a cup of shaved Brussels sprouts, 3 halved cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup of black beans tossed in a skillet over medium heat. Cover to steam sprouts for 5 - 10 mins. Serve alone or wrap it "

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

My Protein Fight Club - My Sanity Saver

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Busy! Busy! Busy! I don't know any mom who's not busy!

In my case, early morning breakfast is always a struggle. For myself and for my family. Just simply not enough time to prep, cook, serve, and clean up breakfast for my family of five. Even too much for a family of two! Adding that to the most important part of  my morning is getting my kids ready or more like dragging the kids off their beds and in to the shower, so forth and so on. And before I can do all that, I need including myself ready too. There's no other way. Every single morning! Yes, a struggle I tell ya!

Morning latte to start my day right! Just like what@vsrnutrition prescribed. #GotMilkGotProtein@milkmustache

What I really found helpful is that I grab myself a glass of water and then walk around carrying my cup of latte or glass of milk as I battle my morning routine. By the time I'm done getting all prepped up for myself then the madness continues with the kids. Kind of like in flight and the flight attendant instructing us in placing our own oxygen mask first before helping others. Thanks to my Registered Dietitian partner of VictoriaShantaReletny.com @vsrnutrition, she suggest that I do that with my own health.

This is why I love this commercial that speaks true to what I feel about taking the time to do breakfast! Why do all that when you can get your required protein intake in a jiffy! Check out all the other videos here: http://www.youtube.com/user/MilkMustacheCampaign/ProteinFightClub

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?"Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Who Got Milk? I do!

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I stay away from making any New Year resolution every year - partly because I don't like leading myself in to disappointments. But then, a great opportunity came along that fell along the lines of the "New Year, New Me" and didn't hesitate to happily say yes. And because good intentions are what New Year's resolutions are all about, so why not just go with it.

So to kick off my 2014 I just signed on as the new Milk Mustache Blogger Spokesperson and I couldn't be more excited. The program is to learn and promote healthier beginning of our days with balanced protein intake for a day long success. Yes, easier said than done, of course. Because if you are anything like me, and I suspect like all moms are, the mornings are the craziest part of the day. As much as we'd like to take that extra few minutes to get ourselves ready, moms like me usually bolt out of our beds running to get our kids and ourselves ready for school and work. Often times for me, breakfast is composed of a quick cup of coffee from Starbucks and an oatmeal if I can carve out that extra minute. Not too bad for breakfast choices but I'm not sure if I am getting enough of the nutrition that my body really needs.

Thankfully, the program also comes with some guidance from an assigned Registered Dietitian partner, Victoria Shanta Retelny (author of Healthy Healing Foods) who will help me figure out how I can meet the protein intake I should be getting.

According to Victoria, I should be consuming about 60-65 grams of protein per day. I learned that protein makes you full faster and longer and it also offers my muscles good fuel and will keep my blood sugar stable. Just to give you an idea, a cup of milk has about 8 grams of protein so we looked into how I can start with incorporating a portion of that in my breakfast and the rest on all of my meals and snacks.

To start me off, she has suggested the following ways to enjoy my milk for breakfast everyday.

A cup of low fat milk in/with:

  • a bowl of whole grain cereal + berries
  • a bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • a latte or cappuccino sprinkled with cinnamon
  • a fruit and/or veggie smoothie
  • a bowl of low-fat granola + berries
  • a whole grain english muffin + a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • a slice of whole grain toast + all-fruit spread
  • a bowl of berries and a tablespoon of flaxseed

This is an easy enough guideline to follow so I never have to worry about disappointing myself on my new great intention of a healthier me this 2014 and beyond. I really appreciate the time I spent with Victoria and all the new things I am learning from her. She will continue to work with my progress and will be able to share my experience on this program for the next few weeks.

So here's to the a healthier new year! I hope you will follow along for the next few weeks.

Disclosure: I’m a paid spokesperson compensated by The National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign. My opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Polar Vortex is to blame for Chocolate goodness!

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This subzero Chicago temp is even dubbed as #ChiBeria and so incredibly dangerous that another day of cancelled classes were announced. The windchill reached as low as -40F! It's crazy! Cabin fever has set in and we've been doing all sorts of experiment to keep the kids busy that resulted on this video below. This is  just to show you how crazy it is out there!

The rest of the day we napped, watched movies, and then suddenly we want some lava cakes bad! Dominos Pizza normally have them but I am not hauling my butt out there so I checked for the recipe online. I found this MICROWAVE MUG BROWNIES recipe and it promised less than 2 minutes of nuking. We decided to make it and IT WAS A SUCCESS! OMG - it was so good so I decided to share the recipe below.
Recipe:

Mix the dry ingredients below:
1/4 cup of flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tbsp of cocoa powder
A pinch of salt

Then mix in the liquids:
2 tbsp of olive oil (regular oil is fine)
3 tbsp of water
1/2 tsp of vanilla (optional)

Microwave for 2 mins

Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream if you have some and ENJOY!

An EXTRA Exciting New Year!

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2014 greeted us with freezing temps and lots of snow without any signs of it stopping soon. This is of course making it even harder for those of us who still have to haul our butts to work especially after the merry making (and eating) during the  Christmas & New Year holiday celebrations. But not to fret because the kids are having quite a ball, and that makes me very happy.


To make things more exciting, we just received news that school is cancelled on Monday due to extreme Chicago weather forecast. It is supposedly the first day of school back after 2 weeks of Christmas holiday and you should've seen the excitement when I announced that I received an email from their school! It was like opening another box of present from Santa! 

Just look at that picture on the left. Can you believe how crazy this is? Chicago will be hitting down to -52F windchill! The last time this happened in our area was about 30 years ago. Oh, and this is besides another 15 more inches of snow we are also supposedly getting. Yikes! Quite a scary thought and like the kids, we have decided to work from home too. We're a bit afraid to drive and walk in that kind of weather. I'm imagining cars will be slipping and sliding everywhere. 

But back to the good part - the family is making the most of the extra long weekend before school and so we armed the house with lots of groceries and even listed some must-see family movies! But before Monday hits, the kids took some fun time to play in the snow as we shoveled our alley before another pile gets dumped on us. The cold weather has nothing on the warmth we are feeling in the family. 
Happy New Year!