Friday, March 18, 2011

The unluck of the non-Irish

As we know, I'm a mutt. There's some Irish in these veins, I'm sure, but I can't prove it other than my affinity for pint glasses and Mumford & Sons. And, you know, they're British, so...

Either way, Hubby and I like St. Paddy's Day. Mostly cause we have an excuse to eat and drink in excess (see Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Birthdays, Arbor Day) and cook a themed meal. So it was a bit of a disappointment to not get to celebrate at all this year. He's had non-changeable plans all week, so there has been no good excuse to spend the time cooking. And let's face it, St. Patrick's Day cooking isn't exactly something Rachael Ray could concoct in one episode...I like to make Corned Beef and Cabbage, serve some Black and Tans, and basically just act like fat kids looking for an excuse to be drunk....hmm. I swear it's less like every other weekend than it sounds.

And so I'll leave this oh so drunken, wish-I-were-more-Irish holiday to the pros. Let me point you back in the direction of my favorite fellow central cali'an Jessica. Homegirl knows how to rock a shamrock, so I'm going to invite you to join me in living vicariously through her...

The Wearing of the Shamrock

The Irish eyes are smiling, doll, and they're saying the next holiday is one we need to celebrate together. Let's make something happen :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Counting calories.

Hubby has decided he's on a diet, which I am hoping is the boost I need to get my ass in gear and take my own diet seriously. Cause I've been half-ass dieting, apparently…I've been cutting my cals and hitting the gym at least 3-4 times a week, and so far the only thing I've lost is a pair of Reebok EasyTones (oops.).

I keep hearing it's harder to lose weight the second time around, but it seems like it came off SO much easier 3 years ago. I'm sure my body has aged a bit, but come on…it's frustrating, to say the least.

I'm glad for the excuse to obsessively count calories again, honestly…I know it works. But don't be surprised when I start cursing about him losing faster than me…as a male, he somehow gets to still eat 2000 a day in order to lose 1.5 lbs/week. Me? I have the same goal, and my calorie goal is 1350. So when he informed me his tall boy of beer wouldn't hurt since he has a good 1200 LEFT for the day after lunch…well, it was a struggle to not pour it right on his head...Iiiii want a tall boy. (pouts)

At least he likes salad and other green stuff, cause that makes low-cal cooking a ton easier. Tonight I just did a greek salad and he grilled some boneless pork chops…easy, summery (well, at least springy) and delicious. And low-cal…I'll prove it. The recipe amounts given are total, but the calorie count is per person. Makes enough for 3 big restaurant-size salad servings (yay for free lunch tomorrow!), but I was nice enough to do the math for you. You're welcome.

For the dried spices, oregano would be good in here (in addition or instead of something), but I'm all out. Use what you like.

Greek Salad with Creamy Dressing
(190 cals)
8oz nonfat greek yogurt (45 cals)
Spices (dried): A good pinch each of pepper, garlic powder, thyme, rosemary, dill, and tarragon (like 2 cals)
Juice of half a lemon (6 cals)
1 tbsp or 2 of roughly chopped fresh mint (another 2 cals)
12oz Grape/Cherry tomatoes, quartered (35 cals)
3/4 of an english cucumber, peeled, sliced and quartered (12 cals)
2 stalks of green onion, sliced (3 cals)
8 kalamata olives, sliced (30 cals)
5 cups chopped lettuce (20 cals)
3oz fat-free feta (35 cals)

Dressing: combine the spices and put about 1/2tsp in medium bowl (save the rest to use as a rub for the pork), and stir in yogurt and lemon juice.

Combine mint, tomato, cucumber, green onion and olives.

Arrange lettuce on each plate. Top with dressing, veggie mix, and then sprinkle with feta.

Grilled pork
(160 for 3 oz)
Sprinkle both sides with remaining spice mix before you grill it for about 4 minutes a side or so. Yes, that's as detailed as I'm getting tonight, I'm sorry.

Our enormous meal was only 350 calories. If you need some reference for that, Panera's Greek Salad (without meat) is 440 cals. Islands'(with chicken and a piece of bread) is pushing 1000.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Steamed veggies a la microwave.

I'm kind of in love with the new(ish) Steam Fresh line of frozen veggies. We've tried a handful of them—green beans, a few types of Asian mixed veggies...they're always 2 or 3 for $6 bucks, so I tend to just grab a couple kinds. Yesterday I grabbed some baby brussel sprouts. Gotta the rest, they're not bad at all.

In fact, according to hubby, "all vegetables should be cooked this way."

Well, ok! Pretty much the best veggie review ever—especially when all I did was saute a little bit of butter (about a large tbsp of the light fake stuff, actually) with a couple minced garlic cloves, then added the microwave cooked sprouts and tossed with salt and fresh pepper. Took a total of 6 minutes. And look how cute they are!

Yes, I just called veggies "cute." But they are. And quite tasty, too...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Losing, pt. 2.

I have checked my twitter feed five times in the past eight hours.



Charlie Sheen has affected my life this week. Not due to his blatant love of winning, tiger's blood, hookers, and illicit drugs...not because his now-hiatused (is that a word?) sitcom provided moral and intellectual value to our society (it does/did not. God, it's awful)...not because I even give a rat's ass about what happens next to this freakshow. Wisely, I think, cause his days are pretty much numbered.

No, Carlos Estevez has actually affected me for two good reasons.

Reason #1: I hate Tweeting.
My train-wreck loving self finally got back on twitter to follow said wreck (why? Whhhyyyyyy???), which meant I a) finally got caught up on ShhhDon'tTellSteve (best.feed.ever) and b) remembered that I hate twitter. Both good things.

Reason #2: Reinforcement that my husband has the best boss in the world.
Enter Charlie Sheen Night with the Bakersfield Condors. Dude, it's made national news. That's freakin' hysterical. Talk about having a sense of humor, even with all the local morality police throwing fits about it. (OMG! BY PROMOTING HIM, YOU ARE PROMOTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!"...apparently the morality police are fine with illegal drug use and hookers. It's nice to know where they stand.) And I appreciate that. These guys know how to jump on a bandwagon and get some seats filled.

Even my normally pop-culture/current event stunted officemate Opie is getting in on this madness. And this is a guy who's never even seen Two and a Half Men. Ever. Yet everything out of his mouth today has to do with Winning...and he is soooo stoked for the game and doesn't at all seem to appreciate my (nor his wife's) ambivalence towards this man.

Following yet another Winning joke...
Pammy: I effing hate Charlie Sheen right now.
Op: You do not.
Pammy: I do.
Op: Come love him.
Pammy: Normally I'd say I don't hate the player, I hate the game...but really, he's the only one playing, soo...

And unfortunately, he seems to be winning. Damn you, Charlie Sheen. I just can't look away.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I've been holding out.

I know about something awesome, in so many ways, and I haven't gotten around to telling y'all about it. So for that, I apologize.

Man, I just got myself on the edge of my seat with that intro. No, people, it's not THAT kind of announcement (one of these days, just hold your horses)…what it is, however, is something delicious and special and virtually unknown in this part of the world: Kampot Pepper.

The boss lady and her husband are quite the world travelers, which is awesome in and of itself, namely cause they always bring me back a little something (xo!)…but it seems that they have finally chosen one place—Cambodia—as one, if not the one, of their favorite places to visit, learn from, and form a lasting bond with. They fell in love with the people, the culture, and the country's stories of perseverance, and decided to dedicate a large part of their own lives to bridging the gap between Cambodia and the rest of the world. Starting from their home in the OC.

Seriously, I can't ever write those two letters together without hearing "Californniiaaaaa" in my head. I wonder what Mischa B. is up to these days…and now I also apologize for getting that song in your heads, too. You know it's there and will be for bad. Sigh. I miss Seth.

Anyway, all that being said, let me introduce you to something that really is worth thinking about, and my whole long-winded point: The Pepper Project. The site explains what and why, but here's the gist, in their own words:
"The Pepper Project is a not-for-profit enterprise devoted to introducing the unique products of Cambodia to the United States. Pepper from the Kampot region of southwestern Cambodia is our primary offering. The pepper has long been used in the finest restaurants of Europe and our goal is to make it available at an affordable price in the U.S.

We are working with various groups, such as the Kampot Pepper Promotion Association (KPPA) and Starling Farm to make this a reality. The packaging is created by Daughters of Cambodia, a fair trade organization that reaches out to victims of sex trafficking and teaches them the skills needed to live independently and achieve a higher quality of life."

In other words, my boss and her hubby are a selfless, amazing couple. Especially since they know how much I cook and sneak me some samples now and then (I can make anything about me, it's amazing...and I will be paying for my pepper next time, I swear). I have pretty much completely replaced my 'regular' pepper with kampot, and for good reason…it's so fresh and interesting tasting—far better than the store bought stuff.

If you're interested in learning more or trying some out for yourself, visit their website at or find their page on Facebook. They also offer a wide range of Cambodian cooking and beauty products, so make sure and check out the products page.

They also have quite a few recipes on the site, a few of which I have tried, but for the most part, I just use kampot for my everyday cooking (I grind enough for a week or two at a time in a coffee spice grinder to keep it fresh). Especially good when you're using quite a bit of pepper in something…it's mild yet flavorful enough to actually inspire me to use more than I normally would. Last night, for example, was filet mignon with a light mushroom/stroganoff style sauce, and I used lots of pepper both as a rub on the steaks as well as in the sauce. And all was fantastic.

Filet with Mushroom Sauce
(based off of Cooking Light's Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Gravy )
Cooking spray
2 6-8oz cuts of filet mignon
Fresh ground pepper
Sea salt
1 package presliced mushrooms
1 medium brown onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
broth (about a 1/2 cup or so)
About 1/3 cup 0% greek yogurt or fat free sour cream
small handful minced fresh parsley

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with pepper and salt, rub in just a bit. Add steaks to pan; cook about 5 minutes a side or or until cooked—we like filets rare; do the finger test to get it how you like it. But if you purposefully overcook a good piece of steak, I will hunt you down and remove your eating rights.

Remove meat from pan and loosely cover with foil. Add onion to pan, and move around a couple minutes until it begins to brown just a bit. Add mushrooms and garlic to pan, and stir in a good pinch of pepper. If it seems too dry, add a splash of broth. Add more broth now and then until the veggies are cooked—there should be a bit of liquid still in the pan when everything is done, so if there isn't, add about 1/3 cup or so before you turn off the heat.

Place yogurt and parsley in a medium bowl. Gradually add mushroom mixture, stirring the whole time until all is combined and it thickens just a bit. Season with more S&P, and serve with the steak. Good with simple mashed red potatoes.

Serves between 2 and 4 servings depending on cut size. One 4oz serving is about 200 cals. Not bad at all for steak and sauce!