Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye, Old Girl.

You always thought you were a puppy no matter how old and blind and deaf you got, didn't you? And when you weren't nipping my best friend's hand (so bizarre! What did you DO to her, Seen?), you were a sweet, goofy lover that had to be wherever we were. So we'll miss you. RIP, Mattie.

And btw...I'm currently obsessed with Pearl Jam's Just Breathe. According to the hubby, it is the saddest song ever. And having now listened to it 5 times in a row, one of which while writing this, I am apt to agree. Just beautiful. Go have a listen.

A week of anything goes.

I was scolded this afternoon for not posting all week, so I'm sorrrry...but I've had good reason...Basically, I've been making a lot of truly bizarre dinners. We've been doing a lot of pantry pasta meals (aka, we've been broke), and while some have been amazing (brie mac and cheese? Hel-lo!), some have been just plain weird (pasta with feta sounded better than it was), and none have really been anything I can easily track for you.

Case Study 1:

Last night's Artichoke and eggplant...thing..which consisted of a jar of eggplant caponata from Trader Joe's (which is a tapenade type spread made from tomato, artichoke, eggplant, capers, and oil), some sauteed garlic and artichoke chicken sausage, a bit of leftover marinara sauce, frozen baby artichokes, capers, pasta...some salt, pepper, red pepper flakes...and who knows what else I threw in there.

Case Study 2:
Brie Mac & Cheese...which started with a box of gluten free mac&cheese mix. But the hubby was in a mood to play, so he ended up cooking the pasta (plus some GF spiral pasta) in 3 cups of 1% milk and a tbsp margarine...when it was done, he added the cheese mix and about 3 oz of cut up brie, salt, pepper, and I threw in a tad of nutmeg. So good I don't even want to know how far the cals set me back for the week.

Case Study 3:

Mango Martinis. Of course, the only thing I can give actual directions for isn't a meal...sigh. They were a great way to use up frozen mango, since the only other thing I use frozen mango for is to eat with nonfat greek yogurt and a dash of cinnamon. Makes a great breakfast or dessert (the yogurt, not the martini...although...) Be careful who you serve these to...they were too 'strong' for my non-vodka drinking other half, so I got to have the whole blender full (Yes!) Anyway, here you go:

A cup or so of frozen mango pieces
Mango vodka
Raspberry vodka
Regular vodka
(I don't know why he thought they were strong)
couple leaves mint, plus some for garnish

In a blender, combine mango and vodkas, some mint, and add a splash of grenadine. It's not super sweet, so add some simple syrup or more grenadine if you like. Blend. Feel free to add ice if you want.

I had, like, three of them. And no hangover, so this is weeknight approved. I love that.

I am also happy to share that I inspired an old friend to try a stuffed chicken recipe for her gorgeous family this week. At least someone cooked something yummy! I love that she even sent me a pic. Glad to see/hear it was a success, Jess! And glad it got your hubby involved! You're such an you do it all with two little ones is beyond me...keep it up, girl!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Or I could pay for lunch every day...

I think most people have a love/hate relationship with leftovers. I totally do-I like the act of making food almost as much as I like eating, so the prospect of leftovers is pretty unexciting. But I'm a huge fan of taking them for lunch. I mean, I make a lot of food. So we could either eat it all (no), toss it (no), or save money and eat it again the next day (fine).

But over the past few days we've somehow gotten to the point where we have far too many options that we either have to eat like, immediately, or toss. Turns out a giant pot of pumpkin soup is great for a dinner party...not so much for two people. One of whom has eaten it for breakfast and/or lunch 3 of the past 5 days. I'm done. But we also have campechana and beef stroganoff (Delicious, recipe below) to kill.
And because I can't leave well enough alone, I also added some stuffed portabellas (the dried-herb no-mozzarella version, unfortunately. Still so good) and grabbed some 3-minute Trader Joe's brown rice (which, yes, is totally fair cheating) to go with the stroganoff. Which means my whole dinner came together in roughly 6 minutes, which gave me time to sit and watch Jeopardy and enjoy my Christmas presents. (My dear, those olives are ridic. Thanks again.)

The Stroganoff picture is from when we originally ate it this week, by the way. I totally count canned veggies as side dishes. Without shame, thank you. And the hubby likes them cold, so I don't even have to heat them up...which I probably shouldn't admit. Whatever.

1 package stew/stir fry beef strips
1/2 cup flour (I used Bob's Red Mill GF bread mix. Sometimes you make do with what you've got.)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 large shallots, halved and sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup broth
1/2 cup sherry
Worcestershire Sauce
2 packages sliced mushrooms
water as needed
1 container light sour cream

Combine flour, a large pinch each of salt and pepper, and beef strips in a bowl. Toss til well coated.

In large stockpan, heat butter over medium. Saute shallots and garlic a couple of minutes til soft. Add beef, and brown about 4 minutes. Add sherry, and scrape up the browned bits in the pan. Add broth and Worcestershire. Mix well. Stir in mushrooms, reduce to medium low, and cover. Stir occasionally, and add a bit of water if it is sticking or too thick.

Let cook about 5 minutes. Reduce to low and stir in sour cream. Serve over rice or pasta.

Serves about 8. (Make extra rice for leftovers.) About 230 cals, .5g fiber, 13g carbs, 17g protein.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The sun! I've missed you!

The problem I have with training programs or rigid exercise routines is that you really need to do them regularly. And I am not good at that. Case in point...I finally got a chance to get to Day 2 of Week 1 of the Couch to 5K this morning. Five days later. Terrible.

But while I was out on the first gorgeous day all week, I realized how good I am at excuses, cause this program really isn't bad. Yeah, the running parts tend to come too soon, but the walking sections always come at just the right time. But even still..the excuses are amazing. I love the crap my brain comes up with...even during my jog:

Why do I try and work out in the mornings? My legs aren't awake yet. And it's cold, my teeth hurt in the cold. At least I wore a hat so my ears aren't cold...but now my head's hot...why did I wear this shirt? I couldn't just wear my own stupid I look like a bag lady. Bad enough I jog like an old man, now I look homeless. Awesome. And now I'm sweaty. Damn come everything hurts? My toe hip that a headache? I wonder why my knee doesn't hurt...I'm thirsty. Hmmm, I'm by K's house...she's out of town, but I know how to break in...she wouldn't care...but I should at least have a better excuse than wanting I need to pee? Damnit, no. Sigh... I'll make it.

Wah, wah, wah. Ridiculous.

Luckily, when I got home, I had a Christmas present waiting from the Parallel. (She, like me, has her own holiday schedule.) And it was fantastic. Olives and cute olive picks, which I may have actually informed her she was going to buy me not really thinking she would (darlin', you win!) And not only that-she totally made my dream of a ridiculously girly ice scraper come true.(Sadly, I'm not being sarcastic.) Best.thing.ever.

And now, since I've cleaned the kitchen and did my grocery store run, my jogged-out body and olive-filled tummy are going to spend the rest of the husbandless day catching up on tivo. It's a rough life, kids. Especially when my dinner is going to consist of campechana, chips and tequila. I'll try and survive.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A pumpkin challenge? Yes, please!

As many of you may already know, my friend Laura rocks. Not only did she motivate me to get my ass in gear and start running this week (though it's generally not starting that's my problem...), she also has been pestering me to make a Spiced Pumpkin soup that she tried for Thanksgiving.

As adorable as her version was, it was a bit time consuming, not to mention fairly fattening. So her challenge to me was to simplify/lighten it up.

Challenge accepted!

I was pretty happy with the outcome. A bit thick (I only used 3 cans of broth and probably should have used 4. But I ran out.), but quite tasty and filling. And super low cal. Plus, as an added bonus, I got to have a super color coordinated cooking experience. Holy crap, I love my new dutch oven. Isn't it gorg? I wanted a green one, but the Parallel convinced me that it would be less than appetizing. Plus it was like, twice as expensive. Details, details. Either way, now I love the red.

The only suggestion the hubby had was for more, little pieces of it. You could always saute another piece or two, chop it up, and add it when you put in the half and half. I was fine without it, but dudes like bacon. I'm pretty sure it's in their DNA.

So congrats, L. You win my muse of the week award. But I'll definitely need a review—let me know how it compares to the full fat, full afternoon version.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
1 tbsp butter
2 slices bacon, chopped (2 oz)
1/4 cup chardonnay
1 large onion, chopped
1 serrano chili, broiled til skin is charred. Seeds removed, roughly chopped
2 large cans pumpkin puree
4 cans chicken broth (about 6.5 cups)
1/4 + 2 tbsp cup maple syrup*
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper
2 cups fat free half and half
Green onions for garnish

* If you like sweeter stuff, use grade B, or regular grocery store syrup. If you're not so much, use grade A. I get ours at Trader Joe's.

In large stockpot, heat butter and bacon over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion, stir occasionally for about 15 minutes. Add chili, mix well.

Add wine, and try and get up all the browned bits in the pan. Stir in pumpkin and 3 cans broth. Add syrup, paprikas, cayenne, about 3 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir til mixed. When it starts bubbling, reduce to low and cover. Stir once in a while for about 20 minutes.

Remove soup from heat. Using a blender (upright or immersion), puree the soup til smooth. Return to heat. Stir in half and half. If you want it thinner, add some or all of the 4th can of broth. Add more syrup, salt or spice to taste.

About 12 servings. About 100 cals per serving, 2g fat, 6g fiber, 16g carbs, 6g protein.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Next time I'll make him Pad Thai, I promise.

Ever get stuck with a rather random ingredient and need to find something to use it in? I feel like that's a fairly common occurrence for me, especially since I like using, well, random ingredients. And I have a really bad habit of just kind of ignoring them until they go bad. So I was glad when the husband saw the half full bag of bean sprouts and requested a dinner using them last night.

I know what he really wanted was Pad Thai, but since he didn't specifically ask for that...sorry honey. You got Lemongrass Shrimp Salad instead. Since I based it off a Cooking Light recipe (Lemongrass Shrimp over Rice Vermicelli and Veggies), I'm going to repost theirs and just mark the things I changed.

Honestly, I was hoping it wouldn't take as long as it did to make, but I prepped everything while the shrimp marinated and still had time to sit down with a martini and the new People (damn you Heidi, you train wreck, you). So I can't complain too much. Especially cause it looks pretty impressive. It got a "whoa-oh!" from the hubby. I love that.

Lemongrass Shrimp Salad
1/3 cup Thai fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh lemongrass (I used the kind in a tube in the produce department)
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
About a lb Medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

About 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
handful shredded carrot (I bought a bag of them)
1/4 cup sugar
About 3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
Squirt of Sriracha (about a tsp, vary depending on your taste)

Shallot oil:
1/4 cup canola oil
One large thinly sliced shallot

Remaining ingredients:
About 2 oz Bean thread noodles
One chopped head of romaine lettuce, divided
2 large handfuls of fresh bean sprouts, divided
2 large handfuls shredded carrot, divided
1 medium cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced, divided
Cooking spray
handful chopped fresh mint
About 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

To prepare shrimp, combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove shrimp from bag; discard marinade.

To prepare sauce, combine the lime juice and next 5 ingredients (through sriracha), stirring with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

To prepare shallot oil, heat 1/4 cup oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 5 minutes or until golden brown. Strain the shallot mixture through a sieve over a bowl. Reserve oil. Set fried shallots aside.

To prepare remaining ingredients, place noodles in a large bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes or til soft. Drain. Combine the noodles, shallot oil, about 3/4 of the lettuce, 3/4 the sprouts, 3/4 the carrot, and 3/4 of the cucumber, tossing well.

To cook shrimp, prepare the grill to medium-high heat. (I used an indoor grill)

Place shrimp on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill about 3 minutes on each side or until done. Divide the remaining lettuce into bowls. Divide the salad mixture into the bowls over the lettuce; top each serving with shrimp, about 3 tablespoons of sauce, and about 1 tablespoon fried shallots. Serve with remaining, bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber, mint, and peanuts.
Serves four. My calories should be about 50 cals lower (because I use less noodles, and you could lower them more by omitting the shallot's not really necessary), but their recipe is about 420 cals, 13g fat, 4g fiber, 52g carbs, 26g protein.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting off the Couch.

My scale hates me. I know it has nothing to do with the fatkid weekends, the booze, or the whole avoiding-the-gym business, so the scale must be possessed/evil/broken.

Sigh. Seriously, I've got to do something about these last 10 pounds. According to Self magazine, as a lightly active 5'10 woman who enjoys eating, my "Happy Weight" is between 151-160. And while I currently reside at the top end of that, I would much prefer the lower.

When I was working out a lot, losing weight was easy for me...and when I don't, it's not. (Weird how that works). Which has led me to the painful realization that I have GOT to get back in a cardio routine.

So. Thanks to one of my favorite college friends/fellow fondue lover (Laura), I got my ass up and off the couch tonight. She's been doing the Couch to 5K challenge, which she swears is easier than it sounds. You download the iphone app (oh, iphone, my love for you grows every day), and it keeps track of everything-what day you're on, how long you've been working out that day, and as it's an interval based training program, it even tells you when to walk and when to run. Without me having to look at a clock. It even integrates my ipod playlist. Brill.

And seriously...when homeboy tells you to "Run," you run. Like Laura, I do as I'm told. We're very well behaved like that.

I even convinced Hubby to go with me, which was a bit of a shocker, since the weather seems to be doing some intervals of its own today (Rain. Wind. Pouring rain. Wind.) and we weren't sure it would cooperate. But we chanced it, and got lucky. Besides the enjoyable company, having him alongside was fun for me cause I got to be bossy and tell him to run. And then walk. And then run. (Which he did. Go Hubby.)

I wouldn't really call this the Couch to 5K...I'd call it more the somewhat-used-to cardio to 5k. When I first got off the couch 2 years ago, this would not have worked. At all. I couldn't even jog for 30 seconds, much less 60 seconds at a times. I definitely am not used to running even now, but I'm glad I'm quasi in shape, cause otherwise I'd probably be discouraged.

I guess I should have gone to the store on my way home from work (who wants to go to the store after the gym? I want a shower. And a couch), but we had enough in the fridge for some leftover creativeness. Additional jogging bonus? You get to eat. And we know I like that. Cooked some onion and garlic, sliced up leftover grilled top sirloin, and mixed in some jarred marinara. Quite. Delicious.

But anyway...Week One, Day One. Check.
Eight and a half more weeks to go. Starting Thursday. The program says to rest between workouts. And we know I do as I'm told.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fresh? Sure. Easy? Ehhhhh.

Dear Fresh & Easy,
Since you came to town, I have been nothing but supportive of you. A store with obscure items a la Trader Joe's, but with name brand products so you aren't stuck with unscented natural deodorant? Excellent. You may have built an excessive number of locations at one time and you don't seem to feel like actually opening them all (um, Brimhall and Jewetta...Coffee and Hageman), but the important thing is that you did open one in incredibly close proximity to my house.

And I've appreciated this. But I've also assumed that with your easy access and cheap beer prices comes a guaranteed pleasant shopping experience. Unfortunately, however...not so much.

Exhibit A
The far-too-frequent union picketers. Um, when all the big grocery stores had picketers, I had to hot step across town to find stores where I didn't have to fight my way through ornery/bored people in my face. Gah, horrible. I'm a big ol' liberal, but my boss doesn't have to give me health insurance either(under current law...moving on). He does (not the point), but if he didn't, I wouldn't get to picket. I'd get my ass fired. (Yes, I'm oversimplifying, I realize that. No offense, I swear. Do your thing, but don't expect me to get involved. Either way, I need to buy toilet paper.)

Exhibit A.1
The being owned by Tesco bit. According to the OC Voice paper (March 6, 2008), "One Tesco manager admitted, “I can’t afford to throw away [expired food] because that is what they [corporate bosses] keep using to judge my performance. If I keep throwing things away, I’ll be in trouble with them, and I don’t want any of it.”"

Ew. Add that to the fact that Tesco's been called the Walmart of Europe. And we know how I feel about Walmart. Oh, you don't? I hate them.

Exhibit B
I went on Wednesday and bought some fresh soup, some copppa ham, and a salad for lunch. Paid $12.45. On Friday, I checked my bank statement. I was charged $12.45 on both Wednesday AND Thursday. Awesome. I have since been reimbursed. But still.

Exhibit C
The bitchy lady that works at the branch up the street.

C.1: (4 months ago)
No Coor's Light to be found.
Pammy: Do you have any Coor's Light in the back? Looks like you're out.
Bitchy Lady: It's in the cooler.
P: No, it's empty.
BL: Then it's at the end of the aisle.
P: No, I checked there, too.
BL: (blank stare)...It's there.
P: ...But it's not.
Pammy waits patiently. Patiently for her, anyway...5 minutes later...
BL: We're out.

C.2 (Today)
$40 purchase. We have a coupon for $5 off purchases of $25 and more. The coupon machine eats our coupon and doesn't give us the discount.

Husband: Excuse me...the machine ate our coupon.
BL: (blank stare)...didn't you scan it first?
Pammy:, we put it in the "insert coupon here" slot.
BL: SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. I'll have to go get the key and get it out and rescan it.
Husband:...thank you?
Pammy and Husband wait patiently. Patiently for them, anyway...5 minutes later...
BL: Heeere (scans)...This coupon won't work.
P: ...why not. It's over $25.
BL: This coupon is only good if it's $25 not counting alcohol or dairy....(Judge McJudgerson glances at the cart).
Pammy and husband converse amongst themselves "$40 minus $20 of beer/champagne and greek yogurt...yeah, lame"
BL: You can't use it. You bought too much alcohol. Maybe next time.
Husband:...yeah, we got that.

So, F&E, my one time have some 'splaining to do. Cause, really? Such high hopes. Don't let me down.
Love, kinda...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yes, they're from Brussels. Shocking, I know.

Even after seeing pretty much the grossest thing ever this afternoon, I was still in the mood for steak and brussels. Though I've never exactly been one to lose my appetite...unfortunately.

But not the point. I've liked brussels sprouts since I was little. (I feel like my sister liked them cause they made her feel like a giant. Though that may have been me.) My mom wasn't super creative in her veggie presentations, but she did introduce a lot of them early on, which I assume is why I like them as a whole so much.

But as we know, I like to play in the kitchen and fancy up everything, including my veggies. So when the parallel sent me over a new brussels recipe, it quickly went on the try-immediately list.

I cut it down to a more manageable size, but otherwise followed the Cooking Light recipe pretty closely. The coppa was good, but you could leave it out and it would still be quite tasty as a vegetarian...veggie.

Honey glazed Brussels
About a dozen so brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 package pearl onions
Cooking spray
One oz chopped capocollo or prosciutto
large pinch freshly ground black pepper
large pinch salt
About a tbsp honey

Boil water in a medium stock pot. Throw in the onion (unpeeled), let cook about a minute, then fish out with a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water. Add brussels to boiling water, and cook about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Peel the onions (the boiling is meant to make this easier). If they're big, cut them in half.

In large saute pan coated with spray, cook capocollo for a couple of minutes until it browns and gets a bit crunchy. Remove and set aside. Reheat pan, and add onions. Saute about 5 minutes until they start turning golden. Add brussels and about a 1/4 cup water or broth. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked to your liking.

Turn off heat, add salt and pepper, mix gently. Add honey, toss gently. Sprinkle ham over top and serve.
Serves 2-3. For half the recipe, roughly 140 cals, 3g fat, 3g fiber, 20 carbs, 10g protein

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I forget things. Gym clothes, know, the usual.

Well, I was all on top of things and ran to Fresh & Easy at lunch for some prosciutto/coppa to top my brussels sprouts with (F&E has an awesome cured meat selection. Go figure.), and of course left it in my work fridge. So, moving on to plan B. (Though I really wanted to go with plan C, which was to drink dinner at Jacalito Grill...our fave bartender was working tonight, which is always tempting, but I ended up working late, and since we were already there twice in the past 6 days...sigh. Why must a cantina be within walking distance?)

Anyway, I had some herbed goat cheese, shallots and basil, and figured those would be as good as anything else stuffed in a big piece of chicken (have I mentioned how much fun it is to stuff things?). Added some creamy polenta and a veggie, and we were good to go. (The chicken was FAB, btw. I carmelized the sliced shallot first. Sooo good.)

The husband isn't the biggest polenta fan (he thinks it's too much like cream of wheat and I think it freaks him out a little), but I'm persistent, so I'm determined to figure out a way to make it hubby-friendly. I figured cheese would be a good start (plus it tied it in with the chicken, I love doing that)...add some fat free half and half and ta-da...creamy polenta.

Verdict? "Babe, it's ok-I don't have to have any, you don't have to try and make it better."

Whatever. I liked it a lot. (And he still had some!) So if you're down with polenta, need an alternative for rice or potatoes, and/or like goat cheese...carry on.

Creamy Polenta
1/2 cup dried yellow polenta
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 tsp pepper
dash of basil (fresh or dried)
1 oz goat cheese (I used herbed, or you could actually just use parm if you want it a little less strong)

Boil liquids in a rice pan (if you don't have half and half, use 1 cup milk and 1 1/2 cup broth-or whatever combination to equal 2.5 cups). Whisk in polenta, reduce to simmer, and let cook about 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Stir in cheese, basil and pepper. Serve hot.
If you want the fat kid portion (half recipe), it's approx. 195 cals, 5g fat, 3g fiber, 31 carbs, 11g protein.

Quick, easy, and just a bit smelly.

On Sunday afternoon, I planned and bought for another week of yummy meals (I remembered my wallet this time, thank you). On Sunday night, I realized the hubby's back to school this week and has pretty much all night classes, which makes things a bit more domestic side likes eating together, what can I say?

On Monday, he wasn't due home til 7:30, which gave me enough time to roast a chicken. Which I found incredibly impressive. Hello, who roasts poultry on a weekday? Or a non-holiday, for that matter? Per a suggestion by the lovely Squirreligirl, I stuffed a ton of spices (thyme, sage, garlic, rosemary, pepper, etc.) and basil leaves under the skin, sprinkled it all with salt & pepper, and roasted it for about an hour twenty. Side of mashed sweet potatoes and I was in comfort food heaven.

Last night, however, I didn't have nearly enough as much time. I had a rough evening at the salon (just terrible to be next door to a wine bar that lets you take it to go), followed by yoga-so by the time I started cooking, it was too late for anything elaborate. Plus, he had class til 9:30, which meant I was eating alone. Perfect excuse to experiment with the bag of tofu shirataki noodles I've been dying to try.

Before you make a face, realize that it's 40 calories for a good sized amount of pasta-one that would be worth 150-200 calories normally. I wouldn't recommend it for Italian dishes, per se, but for Asian food, it worked great. You really don't taste them...but they do have a bit of a slippery texture. Just rinse it smells kinda rank when you first open the package.

I'm guessing I'm not selling this to many of you. But seriously, it's worth a shot.

I used them in a pad thai, tossing a couple cloves of minced garlic, a minced shallot, a handful of shredded carrots, grilled tofu, drained noodles, with (cheater alert) pad thai sauce (Thai Kitchen brand) and a dash of fish sauce. Sprinkled chopped peanuts, cilantro, green onion and a ton of bean sprouts...and finished with sriracha and lime juice. So fast. And super easy, I hardly even had to chop. And the husband said the house smelled fantastic when he got home. Which made me feel bad for picking out all the noodles and sticking him just with tofu as leftovers. Oops.

As for the rest of the week, I'm looking at steak and roasted brussel sprouts, pearl onions and prosciutto tonight, Stuffed chicken with creamy polenta and zucchini on much do I love Cooking Light recipes? This stuff all sounds like total fat kid food, and it so isn't.

Though even if it was, I've got zero excuse not to go to the gym now that I can make dinner a bit later. Except when I pack my gym bag and forget a t shirt...which means the gym starts tomorrow. I'm always amazed at my ability to procrastinate, even when it's not my intention. Just one more thing to thank my mother for.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Feels like July! ...go with it...

Feeling tired of winter? Need a summery dinner that's totally doable even if it's freezing outside? (Or, like, 55 if you live in Cali. Sorry Parallel, love.) Let me introduce you to Black Bean Quesadillas. Easy, colorful, and healthy...which pretty much makes summer food for me.

I took a Cooking Light recipe and changed it up a bit to make it gluten free and a bit spicier. Always chancy. Even though it's been a long time and the hubby is a super good sport about my alterations, I'm still always hesitant that it may not taste quite right. Especially when I change out flour tortillas for corn...depending on the recipe, it can change the flavor a lot. But Hubby had no complaints. He liked it a ton, actually. Yay.

Black Bean Quesadillas
Corn Tortillas
Shredded Mexican cheese
Cooking spray
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 can whole black beans, drained
2 cups frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, chopped
About 5 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
2 large handfuls chopped cilantro, divided
Hot sauce (Like tapatio)
Juice from a lime (plus more to taste)
Couple stalks green onion, chopped

In sauce pan, saute half the garlic with a bit of cooking spray for about a minute. Add tomatoes, half the cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. If you want it a bit hotter, throw in some roasted green chilies, too. Cook about 5 minutes.

Take tortilla and add about a 1/4 cup bean mixture to one side. Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of cheese, fold other half of tortilla over (Or just keep them flat and use a second one on top, depending on how big you want them). Broil, cook on stove top, or on a griddle about 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and they start to brown.

In the meantime, combine remaining garlic, bell pepper, corn, and lime juice in a spray-coated medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Let cook a couple minutes til corn is hot. Add green onion and remaining cilantro, toss well. Add hot sauce to taste. Serve with the quesadillas.

The original Cooking Light recipe calls for more olive oil and flour tortillas, but I also added more corn, so adjusted this is roughly 400 cals, 11g fiber, 18g protein.

Serve with sour cream, avocado, regular salsa, whatever. This is a fun one to play with.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm sure the husband would put meat on it.

In college, one of my many jobs was working at Boudin's, a sandwich and soup place...I'd think that's partly why I'm not big on sandwiches, cause I was sick of looking them, but I still love soup, so...anyway. They had the best Vegetarian sandwiches. Three kinds of cheese, sun-dried tomato aioli, roasted bell pepper, cucumber...all kinds of deliciousness on squaw bread. Amazing. So when I was looking at a half full jar of roasted bell peppers this afternoon, wondering what the hell to do with them, I decided it was sandwich time.

So good. I wish I had squaw bread and some pepper jack. Actually, I should clarify-I wish I had pepper jack without mold on it. Buh.

Quick Veggie Cheese Sammy
Sun dried tomato
Three slices of white cheese (Havarti, swiss, pepper jack, etc.)
Roasted red bell pepper
Thinly sliced onion
Cucumber slices

Mix mayo and tomato (only if they're pieces-if they're whole just layer them in with everything else), spread on bread. Layer everything else. Mmm.

Friday, January 8, 2010

...and she's just my type.

I've been Miss Artsy Fartsy lately. I don't know if it's cause I've been trying a lot of new dinners lately and I've been inspired, or cause I'm totally brainblocked on a design for work, but I'm all about interesting things to do for home decor this week.

Thanks to my other dad, I had gift certificates for Bed Bath & Beyond and World Market to spend, which has been awesome in a monster way. I've been searching forever for a decent coat rack online, and finally found one. (which was assembled late last night after one too many kamikaze shots. Me=zero patience.).

I tackled a charcoal Zen series (two down, two to go). I devised a somewhat brilliant plan to organize/display my spices (I'll share when it's done, but it involves a chemical supply store.). And I decided to finally paint a wall. But when exactly is TBD.

Paint samples are going to be the death of me, let me tell you. But look at this amazing wall I found on Design*Sponge. Holy crap, I'm in love with it. They used two finishes in the same color (matte and gloss) to make a pattern, and it's fabulous. I've already decided to do different sized circles, it's just the color I have to figure out. And I'm armed with about a million samples to weed through. Should be fun.

Pictures to come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tweet Tweet.

I'm currently feeling like I've let myself down. The reason? The new little button on the side of the page there.

I've entered the evil world of Twitter.

I feel about Twitter the way I used to feel about facebook. And the way I still feel about reading any of the Harry Potter series. That it's just.not.necessary. I'm stubborn, ok? I'm a's not my fault. But, as I'm also fickle, sometimes I change my mind. Plus, when you've been put in charge of your ad agency's social networking, it's helpful to be familiar with, you know, social networking tools. And so this is why I now tweet. So follow me! I base my self worth on how much people like a sista out.
I heart so much.

But I also am loving my week of new meals. I may be resistant to trying some new things, but food is generally not one of them. After Monday's fabulous salmon, I tried for two in a row with a vegetarian Mediterranean pizza last night. Tonight, I attempted artichoke lemon chicken. Good. Not fantastic, but good. And super quick, which is always a huge plus mid-week.

Both recipes were based on Cooking Light recipes, but I really didn't change much on the chicken. My only variations on the original recipe were to use the juice of 1.5 lemons, 1 cup of regular uncooked rice instead of instant, a pinch of red chili flakes, and about 3 minced cloves of garlic. And while I liked it, I know not everyone is a big lemon fan, so you might not want to use more than the 1/4 cup they call for.

But as for the pizza yesterday, I have no complaints. Other than my wanting to eat way more than the two slices I allowed myself. And two were twice as many as I should have had. Whatever. They were both delicious. Moving on.

Mediterranean Veggie Pizza
Large Pizza Crust (I made a great one from the Bob's Red Mill line)
About a cup marinara sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a can of unmarinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
About a cup roasted red bell pepper, drained and sliced
half a small red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp capers
1 cup finely shredded mixed Italian cheese (mozzarella, etc.)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
chili flakes and parmesan, for topping

Mix the garlic into the marinara sauce, spread evenly across the pizza crust, leaving as much or as little room for crust as you like. Spread onion across sauce. Top evenly with both kinds of cheese, and then add bell pepper, artichoke and capers.

The hubby chopped up some cooked chicken and used those instead of the bell pepper. I only had a tiny taste, but I gave it a thumbs up for a non-veggie option.

Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and the crust is golden

Monday, January 4, 2010

I did lunges...that's gotta count for something.

Starting the new year is always a good excuse to get healthier and/or work out more. Theoretically, anyway. I actually used the excuse that the gym would be too crowded with resolutioners for me to go this evening. Sad, but true.

So, with my Cooking Light cookbook (a gift from the Parallel) to give me ideas, I'm getting back on track this week. Baby steps. Gym tomorrow...I swear. Also tomorrow...Veggie Pizza. I'm hoping it'll be as colorful as tonight's dinner. With green beans and baked sweet potato fries, we had vitamins A, C & K-plus up to 10g fiber-all in one tasty little number.

Orange Salmon
Two 6oz salmon fillets
1.5 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
large pinch pepper
zest from one orange
juice from the orange
Olive oil spray for grill

Mix together the spices (sugar through pepper) and the orange rind (it should smell and look yummy).

Rub onto salmon. Pour half of the juice over fish. Grill for about 6 minutes a side or until it flakes easily. Pour remaining juice over cooked fish, serve immediately.
Per fillet, about 300 cals, 6 carbs, .5g fiber, 36g protein

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Too bad I don't even like breakfast.

I hope he's hungry.

And more so I can remember next time I'm in a giving mood...since I hardly ever get breakfast right...I present Fat Kid Breakfast. Serve and be loved. No, I didn't eat any. Even if I could...I'm good, thanks. I'm not running a farm, so I'm not really needing that sort of ridiculousness. Besides, that's what leftover Posole is for. (Fabulous the next day, btw. Received a "pretty damn good" from the hubby.)

Fat Kid Breakfast
Couple slices bacon
2 Eggs over Medium
Big scoop Hash Browns
Couple scoops Country Gravy (below) over Bisquick biscuits (use recipe on box)

What to do:
Preheat oven to 450. Make biscuits, prepare them for the oven.

Make bacon. As you pan fry it, save the grease between each batch in a glass cup. Place the bacon between pieces of paper towel and cover to keep warm. When the bacon is done, pour just a bit of grease in the pans you'll use for the eggs and hash browns.

Start the hash browns. Put biscuits in oven for 8-9 minutes. Follow the directions on the bag for the potatoes, but if you use less oil than it calls for, you have to cook it quite a bit longer than it says. Cover when done to keep warm. When biscuits are done, let sit on a baking rack til you need them.

While the potatoes and biscuits cook, make gravy (Thanks to Paula Deen and my Father-in-Law for help with this one): return the rest of the grease (mine was a little less than 1/4 cup) to the pan over medium heat. Whisk in about 3 tbsp Bisquick mix(or flour). Whisk for about a minute as it gets bubbly. Slowly whisk in 1.5 cups milk. Keep mixing as it comes back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and keep whisking til the thickness you like (about 5 min or so). Add 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper or to taste. Cover to keep warm as you make eggs. He's a fried egg guy, so I went that route. Serve. Eat if desired. He says it was good...I believe him.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mmmm, Posole.

I started the day with a ton of ambition-husband had to work all day and I felt bad about it, since my whole giant plan today was to make Posole and start rewatching the first season of LOST. (I'm convinced the 6th season will mirror the 1st, so I need a refresher. I'm a nerd, remember?) So I decided to go to the store and get everything for a perfect hubby-friendly-food Sunday.

He's a giant fan of fat-kid breakfast, which I never let him have at home, so I decided I'll attempt one of his favorites...but as I have zero idea what biscuits and gravy are supposed to taste like (or even look like, really), I turned to Paula Deen for help with a recipe. I figured, for once, I could depend on the butter queen for this one. I'm planning Bisquick biscuits and gravy, hash browns, eggs, and bacon. We'll see how it goes.

And I really wanted to do a good Pad Thai for dinner, since he's been wanting Asian food, but I wanted to try Bobby Flay's recipe for it, and Von's doesn't carry tamarind. Ehh...he'll be just as happy going for sushi, and that's one less thing to cook this week. Cause like I said...ambitious. I'm planning on Orange Salmon, Black Bean Quesadillas, Mediterranean Veggie Pizza, and a lemon chicken thing. All new, all to be documented, natch.

And so, after a ginormous shopping trip, I finally found everything I needed, got to the register, and realized my wallet was sitting on my kitchen counter. At home. Siiigh. So the nice girls at Von's bagged up all my stuff, stuck it in the cooler, and waited for me while I drove all the way home and back. All the while feeling like the biggest jackass in the world. Though it did make me feel better that I had made an effort to get cute before going to the store. (The 60 degree weather meant I could wear a mini and my Steve Madden boots, which the female checker got to see twice. Almost worth it.)

But today, this is about soup. I've been wanting Posole, but we haven't been to Las Salsas in awhile, and theirs is the best I've found (though the Posole Verde at Cazuelas Mary on Oak is also fantastic). I love it. It's totally the Mexican version of Pho. A bit spicy, brothy, and total comfort food. So here it is. Personal Posole attempt #2, and soup attempt of the week #3. Took awhile, but it wasn't exactly labor intensive. And turned out infinitely better than my pho attempt, so I'm happy. Let's hope tomorrow morning's fat-kid food attempt goes as well. I also did all the laundry and cleaned up the house, so he's got nothing to do but eat tomorrow...and maybe go get the massages(plural, one for me, too) I gave him for Xmas. Yes, best wife ever. I know.

About 1.5 lb boneless pork shoulder
Half white onion
Whole onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cloves
olive oil
1 tsp oregano
6 whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp salt
olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Large can hominy, drained and rinsed
Large can diced green chiles
2 cups chicken broth
Chopped cabbage
chopped cilantro
Chopped onion
Lemon wedges

Take the onion half and stick the two cloves deep into the skin. In large stock pot, put pork, onion half, whole garlic, peppercorn, salt, oregano and cumin seeds. Add water til it just covers the meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.

Remove meat and cut into large bite-sized pieces. Pour pork broth into a large bowl. In stock pot, heat a tbsp or so of olive oil, then saute chopped onion and garlic a couple minutes. Add pepper, cumin, cloves and red pepper, mix well. Add hominy, green chiles, pork and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook about two hours. Add more salt and/or red pepper to taste.

Garnish with cabbage, cilantro, onion, and lots of lemon. Goes great with warm tortillas and cold tequila. About 8 servings. About 370 cals, 10g fat, 7g fiber, 30g protein, 37g carbs.

Friday, January 1, 2010

We're supposed to say Twenty-Ten, you know.

After 5 years together, the hubby and I still haven't gotten down the art of a great New Year's Eve celebration. We had one involving champagne being sprayed across a room full of people (I so don't miss his bachelor pad), but that was the most exciting to date. It generally ends up being us on the couch or in bed, half heartedly yet stubbornly staying up til the ball drops. And falling asleep pretty much immediately afterward.

Which means I'm glad to say we did have a fabulous New Year's Day. We're still half sick, so we slept til about noon, then got up, watched football and listened to reggae on our new home dock for the Sirius, and I read Brothers Grimm fairy tales and drank a mimosa til we finally decided to get out of the house. We tried to hit up Prime Cut for a late lunch, but they unfortunately only had one poor girl working, and we definitely needed Bloody Marys faster and more often than that was going to allow. He wanted to watch the Bowl game, so we plan B'd it to BJs.

Sidenote: One of my many pet peeves in life is when awesome restaurants with tiny menus think they need to expand their choices to get a bigger clientele. BJs and Islands are my two best examples of this...they both had, like, 15 menu options total for years and years. And then suddenly both have expanded to enormous menus, and the food, the staples in particular, isn't as good. Boo to that, BJs and Islands. Boo.

So needless to say, we don't go there very often. But were pleasantly surprised this time. The calamari was amazing, and you can't really mess up a wedge salad. Add half a plain baked potato for me and a mini pizza for him, and we were full and happy.

After we rolled out of there, stuffed and a little tipsy from their fabulous bloodys and Piranha ale(how nice to realize it was only Friday and could take advantage of happy hour!), we strolled through the huge new Target to get ourselves the gifts we wanted but didn't get each other for Christmas. (A beard trimmer for his somewhat-existent beard and a new scarf and Garnier eye roller for me. I know.)

So yeah, really can't complain. Especially after we ended the day by watching Public Enemies-AKA Johnny and Christian, yum-and a couple hours of the Twilight Zone marathon (a yearly tradition, I heart it so). It doesn't take much to make me happy. Good food, low-key QT with the hubby, and some sort of brainless entertainment. I don't do resolutions, but if I can keep that up, I'll be a happy girl.

So, cheers. Here's to an easy, delicious 2010!