Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

The other week we reached some pretty high temperatures for spring and I did not feel like warming up the house any more than necessary to made side dishes to go along with dinner. I looked around in the fridge to see what we had and found a roma tomatoes and half of a very large English cucumber.

Wanting a light and fresh dish, I opted to use fresh basil on this and go minimal on the other flavors to really make the veggies stand out.



Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Source: A Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 3
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1 small English cucumber, diced
    • 2 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
    • salt and pepper, to taste 
Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled.

It doesn't get much simpler than that does it? I love me a good tomato and cucumber salad throughout the summer. Perfect side dish to burgers, chicken, steaks...just about anything! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pepperoni Calzones

For Christmas I asked for Not Your Mother's Make Ahead & Freeze Meals by Jessica Fisher. With a bit of extra time on my hands around the holidays I planned to spend an entire day in the kitchen and stuff the freezer.

When I received the book I immediately stopped what I was doing and started flipping through the recipes choosing which ones I was going to make. More than halfway through the book, I landed on Pepperoni Calzones and immediately added them to my list...although I may have read quickly and called them a stromboli by mistake. My many apologies to the Italians out there who I know I have gravely insulted by switching up those two dishes. ;)



Pepperoni Calzone
Source: Not Your Mother's Make Ahead & Freeze Meals 
Servings: 8
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
pizza dough:
    • 1 1/2 cups  warm water
    • 2 tbsp. sugar 
    • 1 tbsp. dry active yeast
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. salt 
    • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
calzone:
    • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 64 pepperoni 
    • cornmeal, for sprinkling
    • 2 tbsp. butter, melted 
    • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning 
    • pizza sauce, vodka cream sauce, red sauce, etc. 
Directions:
1. Add the water and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to proof for 5 minutes or until foamy.
2. Add the olive oil and salt, then add in the flour 1 cup at a time until a shaggy dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and continue adding in the remaining flour, Mix until the dough is tacky but not sticky, 3-4 minutes.
3. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
4. Use greased hands to divide the dough into 8 equal sized portions. Flatten into a 6-inch round.
5. Preheat the oven to 475. Grease 2 large baking sheets then sprinkle with cornmeal.
6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over each dough round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Arrange 8 slices of pepperoni over the cheese.
7. Fold the dough in half and press to seal the edges. Use a fork to crimp the edges fully closed, then place on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Cut 2 to 3 slices in the top of the calzone in order for the steam to escape.
9. Repeat with remaining calzones.
10. Brush each calzone with melted butter then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp and golden. Allow to cool for 2 minutes before cutting. Serve with warmed dipping sauce.
To Freeze: Allow calzones to cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and then placing in a ziptop bag. 
To Cook from Frozen: allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat the oven to 350. Place calzones on baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes before heated through. Serve with warmed dipping sauce. 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekly Menu and Happy Easter!

This post is going to be short and to the point because I'm exhausted and have absolutely nothing else blogged for this week. 

This is all somewhat subject to change depending on the amount of leftovers we have from dinner today. 

Sunday - Easter Dinner 

Monday - leftover ham, mashed potatoes, green beans 

Tuesday - bell pepper Philly cheesesteaks, fries 

Wednesday - coconut chicken tenders, lemon rosemary parsnip fries, green beans 

Thursday - naan pizza 

I just realized I have nothing planned for breakfast this week but I have a ton of leftover blueberries, so some quick muffins may be in order. I don't have a definite for lunches all week either, but there will be leftover ham and leftover Philly cheesesteaks in bell peppers so that should suffice for the week. 

Happy Easter! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Improv Challenge: Swiss Roll Cake

The theme for the Improv Challenge this month is "ebony and ivory". I had absolutely no idea what to make using something black (brown) or white (ivory) so I decided to pick Tom's brain. We went through a bunch of different ideas and finally he decided that I was going to make a swiss roll cake.

To be honest, I am not a swiss roll cake fan. I think they're pretty but I'm just meh on the flavors. Probably because I am one of those rare people in life who doesn't really care about cake. Ice cream cake...now that's another story.

But because I enjoy a challenge and rolling up a cake, then unrolling it and adding frosting, then rolling it again is definitely something I consider to be a challenge, I agreed that a swiss roll cake is exactly what I would make.

Finding another recipe proved to be a bit more difficult, because Tom only wanted one that had the chocolate glaze on top. Finally, I came across this recipe and decided to go for it.



Swiss Roll Cake
Source: Kraft Recipes
Servings: 10
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 6 oz. Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, divided
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2/3 cup water 
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 3 cups Cool Whip, thawed
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray, then place a sheet of parchment paper on top and spray that with cooking spray.
2. Add 3 oz. of chocolate and the butter to a large microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate has fully melted.
3. Add the sugar to the chocolate/butter mixture and stir until fully combined. (The mixture will be gritty.)
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment affixed, add the 4 eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until they have thickened. Scrape in the chocolate mixture, then 1/4 cup of the flour and the baking soda. Allow the flour to be combined before adding more flour, alternating with the water until both are fully combined. (The mixture is thin and watery)
5. Pour the batter onto the prepared jelly roll pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for `5 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched lightly.
6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cake with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Quickly invert the cake onto a clean dish towel. Remove the parchment paper, and starting with the short end, roll the cake up in the dish towel. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
7. Beat together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the thawed Cool Whip.
8. Gently unroll the cake. Spread the frosting mixture onto the cake, completely covering the surface area of the cake. Gently roll up the cake again and place seam-side down onto a plate or platter.
9. In a large plastic bowl, combine the remaining 3 oz. of chocolate and the 1 1/2 cups of Cool Whip. Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the chocolate has completely melted. Stir until the mixture is blended. Cool for 2 minutes then spread over the cake.
10. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Store leftover cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


As you can see, my cake broke on one side. I'm fairly certain that this has nothing to do with the recipe and has more to do with the fact that I used a waffle-printed dish towel. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that this was really tasty! Granted, it will never be better than ice cream cake, but it was a decent slice of chocolate swirled goodness. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

I love pot stickers. I could eat them all of the time, but unfortunately, there are not many places around here that sell them. Which makes absolutely no sense to me, but I just deal with it the best that I can.

A few weeks ago, I was at our local grocery store who does a deal where you can purchase 5 meat products for $20. They are pre-portioned out and vary all of the time. The constants are ground beef, london broil, chicken wings, pork chops and sausage. I just happened to notice one week that included in the 5 for $20 happened to be ground pork. It is not always easy to find ground pork at that particular store so I immediately added two packages to my cart.

When I got home I went searching through my recipes to see what I could make using up the pork and I found this recipe for the pot stickers I had saved. Shiitakes are hard to find at most stores here too, so I ventured out to the wonderful world of Wegman's and picked up the remaining ingredients.



Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 40+ pot stickers
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:

    • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 3/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced, divided
    • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
    • 4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped
    • 5 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, divided
    • 1 tbsp. hoisin
    • 1 lb. ground pork
    • 40 wonton wrappers
    • cornstarch 
dipping sauce:
    • 1/4 cup hot water
    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. sambal oelek 

Directions:
1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, garlic, ginger and mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly.
2. Combine the mixture with 1 tbsp. soy sauce, hoisin and ground pork in a medium bowl. Add a pinch of black pepper.
3. Lay out 8 wonton wrappers and cover the remaining ones with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. Fill a small dish with a little bit of water.
4. Spoon 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pork mixture into the center of each wonton wrapper. Dip your finger into the water dish and trace around the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold over and press with fingertips to seal.
5. Place on a large baking sheet dusted with cornstarch. Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers.
6. Prepare the dipping sauce by combining 1/4 cup hot water with brown sugar in a large bowl and stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of green onions, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sambal oelek, stirring until fully combined.
7. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Add 10 pot stickers to the pan and cook for 30 seconds or until browned. Flip over and then add 1/3 cup of water to the skillet and quickly cover with a lid. Allow to steam for 3-4 minutes or until no water is left.
8. Repeat with remaining pot stickers. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Freezing Instructions: Prepare recipe to step 5. Place baking sheets with wontons in the freezer for 20 minutes or until firm, then transfer (with cornstarch) to a zip-top bag and freeze for up to 2 months.
To Reheat: DO NOT thaw pot stickers. Start recipe at step 7 and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more on each side until pot sticker is cooked through. If dipping sauce was frozen, microwave in 30 second intervals until warmed through.



These are delicious. I really need to make a few batches of these to keep in the freezer all of the time. I had my pot stickers with some steamed veggies. Tom enjoyed his along with some fried rice. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Menu

As I have mentioned many times after sharing holiday recipes with you, I have a tendency to make too many appetizers and my family has a tendency to eat too many of those appetizers. A few hours pass and we're all still full, but there's an entire dinner still waiting to be eaten. I did debate on having Easter be full of nothing but appetizers, but I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to go for an actual dinner route, with a limited amount of appetizers so we can actually enjoy the main dishes.

We're having Easter on Sunday at 2 pm. Here's the plan:

Appetizers:
deviled eggs (made by my aunt, as usual)
tomato tart
cheese tray

Main and Sides
ham (my mom always picks one up from Heavenly Ham)
sauerkraut and kielbasa (brought by my aunt)
rosemary roasted baby potatoes
crispy parmesan asparagus

Bread
hot cross buns
Easter bread (Tom's grandmother's recipe that he won't allow me to blog)

Dessert
egg nest cups 
fruit salad
lemon blueberry layer cake
truffle (also made by my aunt)

While not a completely balanced meal, I feel like it's definitely a start in the right direction. I have realized that I don't have the traditional Easter recipes to share with you because they're made by family and I plan on changing that. I like ham other than just for Easter and Christmas, so while I won't be buying a 20 pounder any time soon, I will start sharing ham recipes with you. I might also take my chances and make deviled eggs one day. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rachel Sandwich (The Turkey Reuben)

I like a hearty overflowing, drip all of your fingers Reuben sandwich as much as the next person, but for some reason, I prefer them only after St. Patrick's Day when you can use up all of that leftover corned beef.

That isn't to say that in the middle of the summer (or even winter) I won't order one from a restaurant, because I will, but I will never seek out sliced corned beef at the grocery store to make them at home. Instead, I opted to use turkey, switching the name of the sandwich from Reuben to Rachel.

(I wonder how many couples there are out there named Reuben and Rachel and how many times they hear terrible sandwich related puns and jokes.)

Calling the sandwich a Rachel doesn't flow easily from my mouth and instead I like to refer to it as a turkey Reuben. Same difference, right?

So here's the homemade variety we enjoy pretty much anytime I have leftover sauerkraut or a desire for this sandwich.



Rachel Sandwich (The Turkey Reuben)
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1 sandwich
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 slices rye bread (I like seeded)
    • 1 tbsp. butter, softened
    • 2 tbsp. thousand island dressing (recipe below)
    • 2 oz. thinly sliced turkey deli meat
    • 1 slice Swiss cheese
    • 1/4 cup sauerkraut, warmed 


    Thousand Island Dressing:

    • 1 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1/4 cup chili sauce
    • 1/4 cup sweet relish 
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • salt and pepper 
Whisk ingredients together to taste.

Directions:
1. Preheat your griddle to medium-high heat or place a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Slather 1 tablespoon on the other side of each slice of bread.
3. Add the sliced turkey to one slice of bread. Add the cheese to the other. Divide the sauerkraut among both sides of bread, and top one slice with the other.
4. Place on the heated griddle or saucepan and cook 1-2 minutes per side or until the bread is golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side.



If only this were a healthier sandwich. I could easily eat these on a weekly basis, no problem. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weekly Menu 4/13 - 4/17

Easter is next weekend! When did that happen? I realized I never even finalized my menu and shared it with you, so I'm going to work on that day and I'll share it later this week.

The weather this weekend has been absolutely incredible. I serious debated on not having anything prepared to share this week in order to spend the entire weekend outside, but I thought you might miss me, so I comprised and spent a bit of time outside on Saturday.

Yesterday we also went out to dinner for my birthday to Pairings Bistro which recently switched over to their spring menu. I had a really hard time deciding what to get, but ended up doing the 4 courses with wine pairings. I had cream of crab soup for an appetizer, followed by a strawberry spinach salad, then grilled shrimp over tomato grits and for dessert a strawberry lemonade sorbet topped with moscato. It was all delicious.

Tom had the same soup as me, tried the orzo salad and his dinner was cola braised pork belly with whole grain mustard and cornbread puree. That was damn magical. I think I'm getting that next time we go there. For dessert he had a chocolate brownie and inhaled it before I even had a chance to ask for a bite.

I kind of fell off the clean eating bandwagon with all of the stomach issues I was having but after this week I'm going to make more of an effort to eat clean. The menu for this week is kind of random. I never made the breakfast risotto the last time I planned on it, so I added that back in. The spare ribs were an impulse buy from the store because I've never made ribs before. The stromboli is a freezer meal I made a while back. The hoagie is from when I stupidly decided to watch Food Network while doing a juice cleanse and saw a sandwich with so many wonderful ingredients I couldn't wait to make it. I really hope this one turns out pretty enough to photograph because I am so hopeful to share it. And the tot-chos are because my internet friends have been talking about them and then Taste of Home magazine provided me with a recipe and I figured, might as well!

Sunday - breakfast risotto

Monday - bbq spare ribs, fries, salad

Tuesday - stromboli, salad

Wednesday - hoagies and fries

Thursday - tater tot-chos 

For breakfast this week I'm having a blueberry granola bar with a Greek yogurt glaze. Lunches will be spicy basil beef salad because my basil plant is growing out of control.

I'm crossing my fingers while typing this but I think I may have finally found the secret to growing herbs indoors. It appears a self-water planter is the way to go! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birthday Post: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Hot Fudge Sundae

Birthdays, at least to me, are about indulgence. It is one of the few times a year where calories do not count and you can do anything you want to dinner. Dessert for breakfast? Why not. Dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Sure, if your sweet tooth can handle it!



Today is my 29th birthday. In case you aren't interested in my musings about turning 29, I'm going to share the recipe with you first then I'll babble a while about my age.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Hot Fudge Sundae
Source: Le Creme de la Crumb
Servings: 2
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
cookie dough batter:
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 tbsp. milk
    • 2 tbsp. mini chocolate chips 
ice cream and toppings:
    • 4 large scoops vanilla ice cream
    • hot fudge sauce
    • caramel sauce
    • sprinkles
    • maraschino cherries 
Directions:
1. Add butter and brown sugar to a bowl and beat with a stand mixer until fully combined and creamy. Then mix in sugar and vanilla until fully combined.
2. Add flour, milk and mini chocolate chips and mix until it resembles a cookie dough batter. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Place a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream into a dish or glass. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the cookie dough batter, then drizzle with hot fudge sauce and caramel. Repeat then top with sprinkles and a maraschino cherry. Make the second sundae the same way.



Cookie dough ice cream is both my favorite and Tom's. Having a recipe to easily whip some of it up on hand is a very, very, very dangerous thing. I will be exercising all of the willpower I have not to make this a daily dessert. I decided to splurge and have this before dinner. Simply because I could.

And now onto the birthday stuff. A couple of days ago I was texting with a friend who turned 29 back in February about getting older. She said she couldn't believe this was the last year in our 20's. I joked that we could always just celebrate our 2nd 29th birthdays next year.

I'm not actually upset or anything about turning 29. It's just a number. I've never felt any particular age and as a kid and teenager I've always felt older than I was. I don't feel particularly old now but it does sometimes shock me when I think that I'm as old as I am. Not saying I'm old...just that I seem to have no idea where the past 6 years or so actually went.

There are a few things that make me feel....older. Like when I thought Matty on MTV's Awkward was really cute and then I looked him up and realized that he is like 23 and I felt a little guilty for thinking he was cute. Or when I look at my friends daughter, who will be 10 this year and realize she's been around for a decade and I remember everything that happened in those 10 years. But honestly, the thing that gets me the most is my family. My mom is the youngest of 6 children so my older aunts are in their 60's and maybe even 70's. Which I really have a hard time with. It was actually only last year that it dawned on me that if I'm getting closer to 30, I probably only have another 15-25 years with them and that's completely unacceptable in my brain.

But to end this on a happier note, I leave you with this Buzzfeed link for 29 Awesome Things About Turning 29, because I was doing a bunch of nodding while reading these.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/29-awesome-things-about-being-29

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

20+ Recipes to Make for Easter

I'm not going to lie, I'm still impatiently waiting for the day that Easter is going to fall on my birthday. The best I've ever gotten was Good Friday. I don't even know why I want to share my birthday with a holiday. It's not a holiday that we really go all out to celebrate. I guess I just think it'd be kinda cool to see "April 10th  Easter" on the calendar and know all of these people would be celebrating something on my birthday.

So in honor of the holiday, I've compiled a list of recipes perfect for your Easter (or my belated birthday, if you so choose) celebration!



Appetizers
Soft Pretzel Bites
Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips
5 Layer Humus Dip
Caprese Skewers
Mini Tomato-Parmesan Tarts

Mains and Sides 
Brown Sugar & Spicy Mustard Ham
Brown Sugar & Pineapple Pork
Garlic-Herb Pork Tenderloin
Herbed Roast Beef
Cheese & Onion Quiche
Veggie Frittata 
Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
Macaroni Salad 
Corn, Onion & Tomato Salad
Glazed Carrots
Parsnip Puree
Stuffed Zucchini 
Parmesan Roasted Fingerling Potatoes 
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
Parmesan Asparagus
Alton's Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Desserts
Easter Kit Kat Cake 
Egg's Nest Cupcakes 
Mini Fruit Tarts
Oatmeal Raisin Bread Pudding
Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake 
Angel Food Cake
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins 

Monday, April 7, 2014

SRC: Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

I almost didn't participate in the Secret Recipe Club again this month. It was pretty late into March when I realized I hadn't received an assignment so I checked out the participation form and saw that my name was not on there. Clearly remembering signing up, I emailed my hostess and she managed to get me added back into the group!

This month I was assigned to Della Cucina Povera, which is written by Francesca. I feel like in another life, I could be like Francesca and live in different countries, trying out all different types of foods.



It was really hard for me to pick a recipe. I was first intrigued by how many recipes called for Za'atar since it is not something I can easily find here. My first thought was to make the seasoning and then find a recipe that called for it, since there were many, many options. I was also very intrigued by the dishes similar to meatballs. I even saw a pie dish that I spent some serious time contemplating. But then, I saw this wonderful bright vegetable dish and knew I had to make it.

The deep red of the tomatoes contrasting against the white and green of the zucchini just screams warm weather to me. While we are not quite there yet, and this dish would probably be better in the summer when we have an absolutely abundance of tomatoes, I could not wait. This also fits in nicely with my plans to eat healthier, so I all but ran to the store to get the ingredients.



Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
Source: Della Cucina Provera
Servings: 3-4
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
3 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Drape the tomato slices around a colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, or until much of the moisture has drained out. Pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Preheat the oven to 375.
3. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauteed until golden brown, 2-4 minutes.
4. Layer the tomato and zucchini slices in a baking dish, alternating them to create a pattern. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle garlic, Parmesan and mozzarella on top.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use Parmesan and mozzarella. I thought we had enough Parmesan in the fridge and it turned out we did not. Not wanting to run out to the store again, I opted to use some mozzarella in it's place. I would also suggest using Roma tomatoes or other ones similar in size to the zucchini rounds so it's easier to layer. I was just drawn to the beefsteak tomatoes.



This could easily be a meal for me. No meats or starches needed, just give me this wonderfully tasty dish of tomatoes and zucchini and I am one happy camper.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekly Menu 4/6 - 4/10

What a week this has been. Last Wednesday I drank my smoothie while driving into work. About halfway through the smoothie I started getting sharp pains in my right side. I didn't think much of it, other than it was really weird and continued onto work. For the next 45 minutes I had a dull ache followed by intermittent sharp pains. A few hours later I tried to eat something again and the pains came back even sharper, to where I was folding myself in half to get through it.

I called my doctor and she was able to see me that afternoon. She took a blood and urine sample, advised me to eat a very bland diet and had me schedule an ultrasound, which I did the following morning. Looking at your internal organs is kinda weird. Anyway, the ultrasound came back perfectly fine. Then she decided that I needed to have a hida(hyda?)scan, which is where they shoot you with radioactive stuff and take pictures of your gallbladder for 2 hours as the radioactive stuff works it way through your body. I have this scheduled for Wednesday, which sounds like an absolutely wonderful way to spend the day before my birthday. Not.

I told my doctor that on Friday I started trying less bland foods and I've been fine. She doesn't care, I still have to do this test. Which, I do understand, but I am really, really not looking forward to this at all. I'm kind of terrified by the idea of it. Combine that with being really busy at work and having to miss time, plus it being right about my birthday and I'm just generally cranky about this.

However, since I can seem to eat perfectly fine I'm refusing to change my menu plans for the week unless something happens. Here's what I've chosen:

Sunday - spicy grilled chicken breast, baked potatoes, tomato and zucchini gratin

Monday - shrimp and crab etoufee

Tuesday  turkey bacon cheeseburger meatloaf cups, fries, green beans 

Wednesday - turkey Reuben's, chips and pickle

Thursday - spice-crusted filet, cheesy grits and parmesan roasted asparagus 

For breakfast this week I'm having breakfast cookies and lunch is a salad with candied almonds and blackberries.

Although my birthday is Thursday, we are going out to dinner on Saturday to celebrate. I can't wait!

Minus the panicking about the test I need to have done, this has been a pretty good weekend. We've decided to go with a weekly cleaning instead of bi-weekly which reduces an incredible amount of stress from me. The grocery store was empty Friday night which made shopping a breeze. On Saturday I got a pedicure, ate lunch at a new nearby restaurant and then took 2 hour walk with a friend at a nearby park.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Heart-Smart Granola Bar "Cookies"

I'm always looking for new breakfast recipes and I recently came across these. Chocolate, cherries and oatmeal? Where do I sign up?

I opted to go the "cute route" and cut these into heart shapes with a cookie cutter. In a 9x13 dish, I got 7 heart cookies with what I believe is a 2 1/2 inch heart. (I'm too lazy to get up and go measure it). I also used a smaller maybe 1 inch cookie cutter to cut out smaller hearts.



Heart-Smart Granola Bar "Cookies"
Source: The Jey of Cooking
Servings: depends on cut
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar 
    • 1 cup dried cherries
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine oats, flours, flax seed, baking soda and salt together in the bowl of your stand mixer.
3. Over low heat, melt the butter, then remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar until smooth.
4. Add the sugar mixture to your mixer and beat until well blended.
5. Add the cherries, egg, vanilla and nutmeg and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate by hand.
6. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
7. Allow to cool partially before cutting into bars or using cookie cutters to cut out shapes.



The only way I can think of to describe this is to tell you to picture adding chocolate chip cookie dough to an oatmeal cookie and then mixing in dried cherries. These were absolutely delicious! I cut hearts out of mine and had them for breakfast each morning. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Egg's Nest Rice Krispie Treats

Easter recipes have been popping up on Pinterest since the beginning of March. As much as I try, I just can't get into making recipes for holidays months in advance. I'd like to, since it would probably make things easier, but I just don't see it ever happening.



I did, however, start pinning those recipes back then and thinking about which ones I wanted to make and share with you before the actual holiday. These rice krispie treats were an instant pick. Everybody loves rice krispies, right? So why not add in some colored coconut and candy to make them even more delicious? And adorable.



Rice Krispie Egg Nests
Source: Kellogg's Rice Krispies
Servings: 22-24 egg nests
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup flaked coconut 
    • 2 drops green food coloring
    • 1/4 tsp. water
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 10 oz. mini marshmallows
    • 6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
    • jelly beans, candy, eggs, Peeps Chicks 
Directions:
1. Place the coconut in a zip-top bag. Add in food coloring and water. Seal the bag and toss around to coat the coconut and turn it green.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add in the marshmallows and stir with a silicone spatula until fully melted.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice krispies cereal until fully coated.
4. Quickly spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop the rice krispie mixture into each of the muffin wells and use the back of a rounded tablespoon to press down in the center of each. Work quickly as these cool fast.
5. Allow to cool completely, then remove from the pans.
6. Add a heaping teaspoon of the colored coconut into each of the nests and top with your desired candies.


Aren't these adorable? The adorableness is killing me, I tell ya. These are so easy to make and something you could easily involve your kids in. And it sure doesn't hurt that they're extra tasty!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Suja Juice: A 3 Day Cleanse

Last year, Tom and I were visiting his parents at the beach. He was playing some video game with his dad and his mom and I started talking about this documentary she watched called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It's the story of this guy name Joe who has medical issues and decides to come to America and start a juice cleanse.

I have no idea why you'd come to America, New York especially, to do nothing but drink juice, but he pulled it off. We added my Netflix account to her Tivo and started watching. Ever since then I've been fascinated with the idea of juicing.

Not because it's supposed to be some quick weight loss miracle but because I do believe that we all get stuck in ruts of not eating the healthiest and some times it's just really hard to get back on track. I'll be the first to admit that I use this blog as an excuse not to eat as healthy as I could. Which is crap, really.

I pick the recipes, not the blog. I choose what to share with you and if I really wanted to eat nothing but fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, I'm sure I could find enough recipes to keep my readers interested. However, I enjoy sharing the decadent stuff with you. I like making it. I like eating it. (In moderation, in most cases.) Some days you just need dip a piece of bread deep into a pile of warm cheesy goodness like in the Warm Bacon Cheese Spread and some days, your sweet tooth controls your life and you need a Cannoli Cupcake. Basically what I'm saying is you shouldn't allow food to control you. Indulge when necessary and moderate the rest of the time. It's a good motto.

So for almost a year I thought about doing a juice cleanse. I debated on buying a juicer, but thought Tom might divorce me if I bought another small kitchen appliance. I researched different companies that sold juices. The flavors, the ingredients, the costs. I read reviews. And I finally decided on Suja juice because I thought I could handle the drinks, I knew of a store that sold them, and they had pretty decent reviews. Then I played the waiting game with myself, because juicing isn't cheap. Three day cleanses range from $125-$300. That's a lot of cash to drop on liquid.

Then, about 2 weeks ago I typed something wrong in the Amazon search bar and it showed me that they sell Suja juice. For less money than Suja's website. (Only a few dollars, but combined with Prime to get free shipping, it was worth it) So I ordered the 3 day cleanse. (The price has actually dropped another $6 since I ordered)

For the last 14 days I've been on a fitness kick. I've done some form of exercise every day, I have a playlist of music that makes me happy to be working out and I think I've really put my mind to the whole weight loss thing.  While I may never be as skinny as I once was, there's no good reason why I can't tone up and look better in general. (I try not to set weight loss goals for myself because the scale and I have issues and I get discouraged when it doesn't move.)

The first adventure was lugging 33 pounds of juice up to our third floor apartment. Workout complete!



I started the cleanse on Saturday March 22, 2014.

To Begin: Suja recommends cutting out dairy, caffeine, red meat, sugars, white flours, etc. I'll be honest, I half assed this because I completely forgot about it until the day before. 

Before Your First Drink: Mix warm water with lemon juice and a splash of apple cider vinegar and drink that. Yeah I choked down maybe 1/2 a cup. I can't drink warm water. There are 6 juices that you drink throughout the day, in order.

If You Need to Eat: Suja recommends fresh fruits, veggies, broth-based soups, half an avocado or a baked sweet potato.

The Juices, in order:

Glow: apples, celery, cucumber, collards, kale, mint 
This basically tastes like celery and cucumber with a hint of apple. However, I like vegetables so I didn't think this was bad at all. 

Fuel: carrots, orange, apple, pineapple, lemon and turmeric 
This is really sweet. I had no problems finishing the entire bottle though. 

Purify: carrot, apple, celery, cucumber, beet, and lemon 
I was not looking forward to this one and it proved to be correct. It tasted like sugary dirt. 

Fiji: apple, celery, cucumber, spinach, collards, kale, lemon, ginger 
I don't know if it was because I already had a ton of celery tasting drink this morning or I was still grossed out over the last juice, but I wasn't a big fan of this either. I don't know whether you're supposed to slowly drink these or not, but chugging is what got me through this. 

Green Supreme: apple, kale, lemon 
The smell of this one bothered me more than the taste. It's very high in sugar and made the back of my thoat feel gritty and sore after drinking it. 

Vanilla Cloud: coconut, honey, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg
Since every review raves about how much everyone likes this one, I was excited to try it. I like it, it's probably my second favorite after Fuel. Tom tired it and said it reminded him of drinking potpourri which made me laugh really hard.  

Day 1 Thoughts: I didn't feel my best before starting the cleanse. I went to the chiropractor the night before and woke up sore, with a charley horse in my leg and feeling dehydrated. I have a small stomach so it was hard to finish some of the bottles because I felt full halfway in. These are high in sugar so I've been drinking them through a straw and drinking water after. I don't think I drank enough water because my throat has been sore all day. I want to eat just for the mere sake of chewing but nothing is really appealing to me. I know I can have fruits and veggies but I guess I don't want them enough to actually go get them. A baked sweet potato would also be wonderful now just for the fact that it would be something warm. I had a slight headache all day but it may not be cleanse related. I've also been pretty tired all day, but again, not necessarily cleanse related. Watching Food Network wasn't a good idea. Just sayin...
Cheats: none

Day 2 Thoughts: I woke up with a headache and didn't really feel like doing this again today. My goal is to keep myself occupied so I can get through the juices that I don't like as much. It's going to be a long 6 hours for Purify, Fuji and Green Supreme.
Cheats: I woke up at midnight (after day 1) and wanted a banana. I don't even like plain bananas so I decided to cave on that craving. I only managed about 3 bites before I was full. I made a vegetable soup with veggie broth to have after the cleanse and I had about 2 tablespoons of that to test the flavors.

Day 3 Thoughts: I don't know if I've just finally adjusted to the flavors or what, but Fuji and Green Supreme went down much smoother than before. I still dislike Purify. This was the first time I experienced actually feeling hungry too. I had the last drink only an hour after the previous one because my stomach was growling and water wasn't helping. I'm looking forward to real food tomorrrow.

Because everyone cares,  weight loss: I took my weight on the morning I started the cleanse (Saturday) and then the following morning after completing the cleanse (Tuesday). I lost 6.4 lbs.

After the Cleanse: Suja recommends that you slowly reintroduce things into your diet and start off eating smoothies, salads, soups, etc before adding in carbs, red meats, etc. This worked out well for the first two days. Then I had a work dinner on Wednesday where I opted for a crab cake and green beans. I did cheat and have a few bites of creme brulee too because I just can't pass that up anywhere, but paid for it the rest of the night where because I felt extremely sick. Friday Tom decided to surprise me and we met his brother at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had the blue cheese chicken sandwich with no blue cheese or a bun and ate a side salad with it. 

1 Week Later: 
Weight: I gained 1.4 lbs. back after the cleanse, which isn't all that surprising. So, a total of 5 lbs. lost which is actually a lot more than I expected. I think it was all water weight since I don't think I look any different. I feel like my stomach shrunk because I'm full very soon after starting to eat. I still haven't reintroduced red meat after trying a bit of ground beef and not feeling well afterward. I've had very small amounts of dairy (cheese only) and mainly whole grains. I plan on keeping this up as long as possible because I definitely feel better. I am quite content to eat piles and piles of fruits and veggies.