Cutting the Cable: Part 2

February 11, 2013

So far so good with reducing cable channels. My husband misses CNN, but that’s it. However, I was not happy with my Apple TV, and, as a result, it is going back to the store.

The main reason we got Apple TV in addition to the Roku was so we could use the mirror option to watch shows from the apps or online. And this was mainly for CBS shows because just about everything else is available through Hulu. Well, CBS has some kind of issue with Apple, I guess, because this was a big bust. First of all, CBS does not have an app that allows streaming of full episodes. Secondly, while episodes are available through their website, they won’t stream on an iPad, only a computer. Without these options available, the Apple TV quickly became redundant–pretty much everything it could do the Roku already did, so there was no need to have two.

I have to say this is disappointing, and I don’t know what CBS is thinking. Unfortunately, we like a lot of the shows that air on CBS, and we aren’t usually up to see any of them live. I really hope they get their act together soon. With more people going this route, their ratings will plummet if they don’t do something for the viewers, who, if I am not mistaken, are supposed to be their primary reason for existing, right?

Back on Track!

February 5, 2013

Well, I am officially blaming the presidential inauguration, and my daughter’s party in honor of it,  for my weight gain two weeks about. Last week I was back on my plan, and I not only lost what I put on, but another pound as well. Yippee! However, I don’t know what this week will bring, what with some relaxing of the dining rules because of the Super Bowl. But I know that, whatever happens, as long as I rededicate myself going forward, I should be OK.

Actually, we didn’t go too overboard with football inspired snacking. I did make some chocolate ice cream on Saturday, and that has been the biggest culprit. But I had a week of lunches to prepare for, so it couldn’t be all treats!

Still working through Appetite for Reduction, I went back to the Masala Tofu recipe since that was such a hit. We were out of bottled pasta sauce, so I tried the recipe for Mom’s Marinara. It was easy since it called for canned tomatoes, and it came out quite good. Since I imagine canned tomatoes are less expensive than bottled sauce, that will also help my grocery budget! I also made the Black Eyed Pea and Tempeh Beanballs, and they were also delicious. I would just leave them in the oven a bit longer next time, and I would like them a little browner.

At the end of last week, I made a box of Lundberg Farms Roasted Brown Rice Couscous, so that has been the starch this week. I made a microwaveable dish for my husband yesterday with the beanballs, marinara, and couscous. He still eats limited dairy, so I sprinkled some cheese on top. He has lost over six pounds so far with our revised eating plan! The rice couscous is quite good, you just need to follow the directions exactly.

Rice Couscous, Marinara, and Tempeh Beanballs

Rice Couscous, Marinara, and Tempeh Beanballs

For those interested in the Weight Watchers points, the couscous has 5 per cup, and, according to the nutritional data included with the recipe, three beanballs are 4 points. The recipe is supposed to make 20, so that is what it is based on.

A TV Junkie Cuts the Cable

January 28, 2013

Unemployment can be a strong motivator. For a long time, we have been thinking about cutting back on our cable services, but all we did was talk about it. Now that trimming expenses is critical, the cable bill was the first thing to hit the chopping block. I do love TV; my husband does as well. We used our DVR to record just about everything we watched. We didn’t want to give up our shows, but we needed to make it all more budget friendly. I had read and heard about a lot of people who had dumped cable, so I knew it was possible and potentially painless. So now that we were motivated, we set about making changes.

We didn’t completely sever ties with Time Warner, who is our local provider. We kept our Internet, because that has become an essential utility. And it makes the rest possible. For right now, we also have our landline, although we are considering cutting that as well and just using our mobile phones. Lastly, we did keep Basic Cable for local channels and access to news and sports. However, even that reduction cut our bill almost in half.

To fill the TV gap, we turned to streaming. We’ve had a Roku box for a long time, and we love it. We had Netflix’s streaming service already–although up to now we’ve used it primarily for movies and to re-watch Alias and The X-Files when there was nothing on cable, which was happening more and more. To this we added Hulu to get access to first-run shows shortly after they air. We did upgrade to a newer Roku box so we could also add Vudu, which allows you, among other things, to rent movies to stream. Although for that, I think Redbox is still cheaper.

This all happened last week, so this will be the first week we are depending on streaming to watch the shows we like. Luckily, just about everything is available on Hulu, so I have high hopes. I was leery of Hulu because there are a lot of negative reviews, particularly regarding the commercials included. However, we got the free trial to test it out, and I didn’t mind the commercial breaks at all. For what we watched, they were short–I think the ad breaks when watching through the network apps or their websites are far longer. And, as someone noted in a review I read, they have to pay the networks to get access to these episodes so soon, so it is either ads or higher monthly fees. I’ll take the ads. So, we’ll see how that goes. The only shows missing at those that air on CBS, so we will have to stream those from the website.

I have an iPad, so to complement our Roku, we also got an Apple TV. This allows us to mirror the iPad on the TV screen and watch shows via the apps or website. We went back and forth about needing both, but the Apple TV doesn’t allow streaming from Amazon, and since we have Prime, which includes free streaming of a lot of their video, we wanted to have access to that. While there is overlap, both have enough different features to justify having one of each. And, while it was a bit pricey to get these new toys–and the cables and whatnot to connect it all–a few months of lower Time Warner bills will cover it.

I have to say the worst part of the whole thing was trying to negotiate something with the cable company. Everyone you speak to, it seems, has different information and access to different deals. At first we were being told that reducing our channels would be more expensive as they are all about the bundle. That was just crazy. But after several calls, the last of which lasted 52 minutes, we got our current package. Although we intended to drop the phone, we were told that was not possible to do and keep the bill low, so we have it for now. I have since been told by another TW representative that we were given mis-information, but I didn’t have the strength to make further changes at that point. We’ve just decided to try ignoring our landline for a month to see if we can really go without it.

So, I will post more after we have spent some time with this new system, but I figure if I can take the leap, just about anyone can!

Menu for the Week

January 8, 2013

Just about everything you read says that the key to eating well is to prepare in advance–that way, there is less temptation to eat something you shouldn’t. I did my best to embrace that on Sunday, making up a bunch of things for the week. Trying to find recipes with less calorie impact, I turned to Appetite for Reduction, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have several of her other cookbooks, and I am a big fan. I’ve had this one for awhile, but had yet to make anything out of it. So this was my chance!

My husband had been asking for soup, so that was my first task. Canned soup is way too expensive, and we are trying to reduce our grocery budget. I like the idea of making soup, but I just don’t do it that often. I’m not really sure why, because I always find it much less complicated and time consuming than I think it is going to be. Anyway, the first soup recipe listed is Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup, and I had just about everything on the list, so that is what I went with. I did use regular green lentils instead of the French ones, but, as the notes promise, it still tasted good. Everyone in the family gave it a thumbs up. The recipe says it serves six, but those are huge portions. I was able to get eight-nine out of it when I divided it into containers. And for those who are curious and use Weight Watchers, according to my calculations, at six servings, it is 4 points per bowl. At eight servings, it is 3 points.

Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup

Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup

Baked tofu is a staple in our house. My daughter takes it with her lunch; I eat it in salad or a sandwich; it is an easy add-in to rice or pasta. I routinely make up two pounds a week. I have a perfectly good recipe, but I thought I’d see what this cookbook has, since it is particularly slanted to dieting. The Basic Baked Tofu uses broth instead of oil as the base, and, having all the ingredients on hand, I decided to try it. Now every baked tofu recipe I have ever made calls for one block of tofu, but there is always a ton of marinade left over, so I always increase the tofu to two blocks so it doesn’t go to waste. This recipe made so much marinade that I poured half of it into a container to use next week–so I will get four batches instead of the recipe’s one–isn’t that thrifty! It didn’t come out as crunchy as it did with an oil-based marinade, but it is good. My daughter took some for lunch yesterday–without being told anything new was going on. She did realize it was different, but she said it was very good. I find it a bit bland–next time I will add some Dijon mustard or maybe some horseradish to add some kick. And it did come in at 2 WW points instead of the 3 for the usual recipe I use. Every point counts, right?

Baked Tofu

Baked Tofu

To round off my preparations for the week, I made a big batch of brown rice. A rice cooker is a lifesaver. I was skeptical for the longest time, but eventually I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and it really does make life so much easier. I have since upgraded to one with a timer, so I can set it in the morning, or whenever, and the rice is ready when I want it to be. Both of the cookers I have bought were made by Zojirushi. They are a great company, and their products are tanks. I swear by their bread machines as well.

After all that healthy stuff, I could make one thing that didn’t exactly qualify, right? After all, my daughter needs snacks for school. Have I mentioned that I can rationalize just about anything? Since my husband is also trying to eat better, I wanted a sweet that wouldn’t tempt him, and that means peanut butter–he won’t touch a baked item containing it with a ten-foot pole. Unfortunately, I can happily sit down with a jar and a spoon and eat my way into a stupor. So this would be a test of willpower! Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, by Ms. Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, had a recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. I would have made them with regular flour if I could–to remove the temptation for myself as well–but I didn’t have any, so they would be gluten-free and calling to me from the fridge. Even with making them small and getting 32 out of the recipe, they still come in at 3 points each. That’s where saving the point on the tofu helps!

photo (2)

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Kim Harrison

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