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March 14, 2012

Hi friends, thank you so much for your patience – I know I’ve made you wait for the official winners of the giveaway. Life, as you may well know, gets in the way 😉

I won’t make you wait much longer. Here are the winners! If you see your name below, send me an email at with your mailing address so I can get you your gift pack. For those of you who didn’t win, I’m sorry 😦 but go ahead and still try out Hodgson Mill wheat bran – you should be able to find it at your local grocery store – it’s good stuff! And who knows? I may have some more giveaways in the future . . .



In other news, I’m currently 35 1/2 weeks pregnant. Definitely more tired now than the last several months. Energy zapped by the second half of the day. Work hours reduced to just 6 hours in the office. Body aches and pains galore (thankfully no labor pains yet!). Brain fog a lot of the times.

I’ve got a quick recipe to share with you but I remembered that I have yet to eat the actual thing – it is a freezer meal recipe that I prepared and froze, but we have not gotten around to eating it. Soon, though!

You know, I am SO excited to meet my baby boy. I mean, EXCITED! But you know what else I am excited about? Having the energy again to cook meals the night of, instead of freezing them in advance. But I know, I know. I’m going to have a baby – who knows how much time or energy I will have? Here’s to wishful thinking.

By the way, do you have any quick or easy meal ideas (though, not casseroles) for this soon-to-be mom?


omelet love.

March 8, 2012

Remember the omelet I mentioned yesterday? Ohmyword, it was so good.

You see, I had lunch with a good friend on Monday. We decided on IHOP because it was near campus and we both wanted to eat breakfast (after all, breakfast can be eaten any time of day, in my opinion). However, instead of my usual fare at IHOP (I almost always order the swedish pancakes with hashbrowns, eggs and bacon), I decided on something healthier (from the IHOP website):

SIMPLE & FIT Omelettes
Our SIMPLE & FIT omelettes are made with egg substitute and served with seasonal fresh fruit.
photo credit here
I got the SIMPLE & FIT Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette (With fresh spinach, mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese. Topped with diced tomatoes. 330 Calories).
I definitely have come a long way – I actually enjoyed the taste of the raw tomatoes that topped my omelet (omelet, omelette, whichever one). That’s a big deal for me, considering I used to not eat raw tomatoes.
Ever since Monday’s lunch, I have not stopped thinking about this omelet (maybe it’s the pregnancy craving??) so I made it for dinner last night. My omelet didn’t turn out as pretty as Bon Appetit’s omelet below or IHOP’s omelet:
photo credit here
But you know what? It was equally as delicious and way cheaper. Had two slices of wheat toast with Smart Balance butter. My omelet (made with farm-fresh eggs) had slightly cooked spinach, browned mushrooms and some shredded pizza cheese (eh, what can you do if that’s what you have on hand?) and my husband’s omelet was a bit fancier – his had sauteed onions & diced green bell pepper, a little bit of savory, spinach, mushrooms and cheese. Both were topped with diced tomatoes.
Does that omelet not look amazing? It tasted amazing to me. My husband praised my cooking as he enjoyed his. We were both happy campers last night.
My omelet cooking method can still use some improvement and that’s okay. I just can’t wait to make this again.


March 7, 2012

Hi friends, sorry it’s been a few days since I last posted. I promise, I haven’t forgotten about the giveaway. Thanks to all of you who entered! I’m thinking I probably won’t have time to do what I need to do for it until this weekend so thanks for being patient with me, my pregnant self (gotta throw the pregnancy card when I can, right?).

At this very moment, I am reclining on the couch, precariously holding my netbook on my lap as I type these words. My feet are up, I’ve had a small snack to tide me over before dinner and I’m ready to relax. I know I don’t get too personal on this blog (it’s just my preference; besides, I promise you, my life is NOT exciting) but I will say that today, like yesterday, was a whirlwind. Not bad but just super busy! If only you could see how my desk looks. I am buried in paper and I’m barely keeping up. Thank goodness for strength that the Lord gives me. Physical AND mental strength.

So if this post rambles into different topics, forgive me. Preggo-brained, scatter-brained.

On my way home from work just now, I stopped by this little local grocer. It’s very convenient for me, even if the price is just a little bit higher than the major grocery stores in town. It’s a family-owned establishment and they get their produce from the Dallas farmers’ market. Local and fresh! To tell you the truth, I started shopping here for my produce when I recently heard that it was in danger of closing because of low business. I hate that it’s taken me so long to support a local store, but I can’t live in the past so I am just forging ahead.

I picked up some mushrooms and tomatoes for an omelet dinner tonight (I had an omelet for lunch on Monday and it was sooo good!), plus only the best banana chips I’ve tasted here in America. I had a pleasant talk with the cashier (I think she’s the daughter of the owner?) and she told me it’s better to keep tomatoes out on the countertop (away from the stove’s heat, of course) than putting them in the fridge. I can’t wait to eat these tomatoes with the omelet (made from farm-fresh eggs, taken from a farm about 30 minutes away from where we live).

I am 34 1/2 weeks pregnant and today, I really really felt HUGE. I was really uncomfortable with the weight of my belly and all that entails, but at least my Braxton-Hicks contractions were at a minimum. I need to remember to take it easy!

Tomorrow night, my husband and I are going to see a Grammy-award winning double-bassist/composer/conductor perform with our university’s Grammy-award winning jazz band. I say “our” because we both work at the university, and as I’ve mentioned before, I work in the music college. We’re so excited, as this is our first big concert to attend in a couple of years. There’s also a music festival happening in town this weekend, but it’s more of an outdoor thing (though there are some indoor venues); plus, it’s pricey and we’re not familiar with a lot of the bands playing. And maybe we’re just getting old . . . we prefer to sit in nice, cushioned chairs in a state-of-the-art performance hall where there’s air conditioning and nice, accessible bathrooms. (Quick access to facilities is very important for a pregnant woman.)

This Saturday will be my third baby shower, with family. I am excited and looking forward to seeing my parents and relatives, especially my grandmother who has been sickly. She is quite a woman! She birthed 13 children and has a slew of grandkids and great grandkids. I know she is super excited for my husband and I.

The dishwasher is almost done doing its thing. I think I’m going to wait until my husband comes home to get his help in unloading it. This momma-to-be is just going to continue sitting on this comfy couch in the meantime!

Enough randomness. I hope you have had a great week!

a “bran” new giveaway!

February 28, 2012

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m lame. I like puns!

But yes, back to the point – a giveaway for you, my friends. As I mentioned in the previous post, I am giving away one of my favorite products ever, which is the Hodgson Mill Unprocessed Wheat Bran (hence, the “bran” new giveaway, hehe). I always have a box of this in the pantry and tend to put several tablespoons of it in most things I bake. Here are some recipes that I’ve used wheat bran in:

fruit & spinach smoothie
double chocolate banana muffins
bran apple crisp (using bran muffin recipe below)
bran muffins
granola bars

Before you keep reading, I promise I was not paid by Hodgson Mill to write this blog post nor was I approached by the company – I approached them. And you know why I’m sharing this with all of you? Because I believe in this product, I love that it adds nutrition (niacin, iron and fiber – especially insoluble fiber, which helps your digestive system to work properly) to baked goods (and smoothies!) and I really like how the wheat bran helped the texture of my new favorite muffin – the double chocolate banana muffins I baked recently. So I did what any normal, food/lifestyle blogger would do . . . contact the company!

I sent a quick email to Hodgson Mill to let them know how much I love their unprocessed wheat bran and requested a sample box that I could share with you. I figured, it didn’t hurt to ask. And you know what? They went above and beyond – the company (special thanks to their representative Carol!) sent me SIX, regular-sized (14 oz) boxes of the unprocessed wheat bran, plus six dry & wet ingredient conversion table magnets and six teaspoon/tablespoon scoops, all to give away to my readers and friends – how awesome is that? I was so so so excited when I saw the box on my front porch the other day and even more excited when I opened it up to see the loot. What a great product and what a great company! I appreciated the fact that they really care about their customers and their customers’ health.

Now some of you may never have even heard of (let alone, use) unprocessed wheat bran. Well, don’t be afraid – here is your chance to try it. Six winners will receive a box of wheat bran, a magnet and a scoop:

All you have to do is:

1) For ONE entry, FOLLOW this blog if you don’t already, leave a comment with your name (and make sure you include your email address when prompted) and tell me if you have OR have not used unprocessed wheat bran before, on this blog post.

2) For another entry, FOLLOW me on twitter – @thecookinglife, tweet the following message – hodgson mill wheat bran giveaway @thecookinglife – check it out! – and leave another comment (including your name) on this blog post to let me know you’ve done so.

3) For yet ANOTHER entry, find “Hodgson Mill, Inc.” on Facebook and “like” their page. Leave another comment (including your name) on this blog post to let me know you’ve done so.

That’s three chances you have of possibly winning. Just make sure you leave a separate comment for each chance/entry. Easy peasy, right? You have until Saturday morning (March 3, 2012) 9 am CST to submit your entries. Winners will be announced on a future blog post – probably sometime next week (can’t make you any promises on exactly when; working full-time and being 8 months preggo has my brain all topsy-turvy). And . . . go!

Disclaimer: any and all typos or sentences that don’t make sense here stem from 8-month-preggoness and still recovering from a six day work week last week. Thanks for understanding.

upcoming giveaway!

February 27, 2012

Ahhh! I’m so excited – I’ve got a giveaway coming up this week – for one of my favorite products ever. Seriously, I can’t wait to tell you guys about it! It’s something I use a lot and always have a box of it in the house.

And best part – I’m giving away SIX of these prizes. Not one, but SIX!

So stay tuned.

(I apologize for my nerdiness in being this excited. Hehe.)

recipe: fruit & spinach smoothie.

February 25, 2012

Whew! It has been a long day. I woke up at 5:15 am this morning, fell back asleep for ten minutes then finally got up to get ready for my work day. On a Saturday. Go ahead, pity me.


Today marked the last audition day our music college had. I had to be on campus from 6:30 am til 4 pm, to man our music education table in registering applicants for their interviews. Nothing exciting but it was fun to interact with high school seniors, excited yet nervous to try their hand at music.

But yes, it was a long day. Thankfully I had plenty of help, with a teaching fellow assisting me (running up and down the stairs to update interview lists, etc) – as my 33-week pregnant self couldn’t handle too much movement. When I got home, my husband surprised me with a Dove bar of chocolate (with toasted almonds) and a nice BBQ dinner from a local restaurant. I am loved! Followed by a nap, lounging around and reading random internet articles. Since the BBQ dinner filled me up, I wasn’t in the mood to eat anything but I needed a pick-me-up so I could work on baby shower thank you cards. What to make? A smoothie!

I got a hankering for a smoothie the other day and attempted my first “green monster” – a fruit & spinach smoothie mixture.

(not so green – I was a bit nervous putting spinach into a smoothie mix but you can see bits of the leafy green here)

I used our almost 6-year old blender and while the smoothie was great, I was frustrated because I think the blender is on its last leg. When I was out and about running errands after work yesterday, I saw a one-serving blender on sale so I made the splurge. It was only $16.99. I can’t afford a Vitamix at this point in time so this Hamilton Beach blender had to do:

image credit here

As soon as I got home from my errands, I made a smoothie. Another good one! After posting a status on Facebook about it, several friends asked if I had a “recipe”. Here’s my take on this fruit & spinach smoothie tonight:


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup spinach leaves (stems removed, divided into 1/2 cup portions)
  • 4 oz Dannon Activia light blueberry yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen fruit (I used a mixture of strawberries and a tropical fruit blend from Target, divided into 1/2 cup portions)
  • 1 tsp Hodgson Mills unprocessed wheat bran

The instruction booklet didn’t say much (and had no recipes) except that you should put the liquid in first. So here’s what I did:

1. Add water, yogurt and first 1/2 cup portion of frozen fruit to blender. Blend for 5-10 seconds or so.

2. Add first 1/2 cup portion of spinach, then blend for 5 seconds (or until the spinach leaves are blended into bits).

3. Add second 1/2 cup portion of fruit, wheat bran and remaining spinach. Blend to desired consistency.

A lot greener, huh?

If you’ve got a workhorse of a blender, by all means, add ice if you want. I don’t think this personal blender can handle ice (the blades are pretty small) but I’m fine with the smoothies that I’ve made so far (just using frozen fruit). Feel free to experiment and add whatever ingredients you want. This smoothie was not too sweet, but not too tart either. I think it was perfectly balanced. Next time, I may add walnuts – mmmmm! Hope you enjoy this!

my first bluum box.

February 23, 2012

I’ve had the blessing of being given two awesome baby showers, by co-workers and friends. Our baby boy has gotten so much stuff! And as parents-to-be, my husband and I had no idea how much stuff babies would use/need.

One of the most fun and creative presents I’ve received (notice how I didn’t say “we” – you’ll see why in a bit) was from my friend Megan. She bought me a 3-month subscription to bluum. What it is, according to their website:

  • discover 4-5 baby care and mom wellness samples to pamper you and your baby
  • bluum’s curated monthly box themes make discovering new products fun
  • each month’s selection stays a secret until your box arrives
Basically, it’s a fun box of goodies! And today, I received my very first box. I knew it was coming because I got an email saying it was on its way, with a tracking number. After a long and busy day at work, it was great to see this box waiting for me (plus a really cute card with a sweet message from Megan).
And, up close . . .
a baby rattle from angeldear
a delicious snack bar of sesame seeds and almonds from bumblebar
a sample tube of diaper rash ointment from pinxav (pronounced pink-salve)
3 portion storage bags from fresh baby
I already ate the sesame & almond snack bar – it was delicious! And I’m looking forward to using the storage bags for when I make baby food, the rattle to keep my baby boy entertained and the ointment to help with any diaper rash he accumulates. PS – I forgot, the box also included two packets of Emergen-C (we used to drink that stuff all the time!).
Isn’t this box awesome? I’m already looking forward to the next one. Thanks, Megan!
Megan and me at my baby shower – holding up the onesie she decorated!
And for fun, here’s me at 32 weeks & 3 days . . . (will be 33 weeks along on Saturday!)