Weekly Menu 6/30 - 7/4

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When 4th of July falls on a Thursday, both Thursday and Friday should be considered holidays. As far as I know, I have to work on the 5th and I am going to be the only person there. I typically spend my Fridays at the showroom and I'm pretty sure its going to be completely dead. I'm assuming everyone with vacation time is taking off Friday and having a super long weekend.

But speaking of, I'm totally not ready for the 4th yet. I always consider that midway through the summer and I'm not ready for summer to be halfway over yet! I've only managed to finally get a significant amount of sun yesterday!

In farewell of Google Reader and the fact that I spent like 20 hours going through and pinning all of my starred recipes to Pinterest, I decided everything I made this week would be a pinned recipe, dinner each night, breakfast, lunch and my usual random desserts.

Sunday - Blue Cheese Burgers, Corn on the Cob, Salad

Monday - Coconut Shrimp with Texas Skinny Fries 

Tuesday - Spicy Crusted Filet with Sweet Corn Risotto

Wednesday - Bacon Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken, Baked Potatoes, Salad

Thursday - Pierogies 

Yes, I plan on making boxed pierogies for the 4th of July instead of having the traditional burger. But, for all I know, we may end up making the pierogies for lunch and going out to dinner for a burger.

For breakfast this week, I'm doing banana peanut butter muffins and lunch will be a Panera copycat recipe of their Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich.

My sister-in-law introduced me to that sandwich last summer when we stopped there after an afternoon of shopping and it has been my go-to sandwich ever since. I'm thrilled that I found a recipe so I can make it at home.

In the world of desserts, I'm trying out two-ingredient ice cream that doesn't require an ice cream maker and maybe some smores brownies. But I also have some apples that are going to go bad if I don't use them up, so maybe apple turnovers instead. I'm not sure yet. 

Farewell, Google Reader

I'm still hoping that by some chance of fate, Google will realize that discontinuing their reader is an incredibly stupid idea. However, with less than 3 days to go and no word from Google yet, I find this unlikely. :(

After getting comments, my favorite thing was to receive a notification that someone was following me. That's a big deal to me. Knowing that you want to come back, day after day, to see what I've shared is really cool. I appreciate that you like me that much. And now I'll never know again.

Sorry, that came off a little more depressing than what I was going for. The point in this post isn't to share with you how sad I am, but to offer you some options if you are a procrastinator to the largest degree and still haven't found a way to follow blogs.

Feedly: This is one of, if not the most, popular reader out there right now. I immediately signed up and tried it out and found that I didn't like it at all. It was just too different with too many options for me to enjoy it.

Bloglovin: This one bothers me for it's lack of a "g" at the end, but I prefer the format. It's easier to follow, easy to customize and I appreciate that it takes you directly to the blog page which increases your page views/traffic.

My biggest pet peeve with both of these readers is a lack of a search option. What, exactly is the point, in me starring or liking a recipe only to need to scroll through ALL of them in attempts to find it again.

It was mentioned on the cooking board that I frequent that some people had went through and pinned all of their starred posts. Not having any other immediate solutions for all those precious recipes I was going to lose, I immediately started doing this. Even if a search option wasn't possible, at least the chicken was with the chicken and the cupcakes with the cupcakes.

Then another internet friend told me she started using InoReader. I immediately went to check it out, and ended up very, very happy.

InoReader looks practically identical to the Google Reader. You "star" items you like, you can organize by folders, and best of all, it comes with a search function. InoReader is definitely going to become my new reader.

However, I am now jaded because of Google and have decided I will just continue to pin my recipes instead of star them.

So whatever method you take, I hope you will still continue to follow me and check out my recipes.  

Tennessee Burger with Bourbon and BBQ Sauce

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It's funny that right after I participated in the recipe swap using alcohol, I found this recipe. I had an incredibly hard time choosing something for that swap because I apparently don't cook with as much alcohol as I thought.

I guess that's good or bad depending on how you look at it. However, if I was ever to participate in another alcohol-related swap, I would definitely choose these burgers.

Many many moons ago, I participated in a food swap with some of my internet friends. The point was to share local foods/ingredients with someone not from your area. I received a cool basket of stuff from Kentucky, which included a tiny bottle of bourbon. I had no idea what to do with it, and it hung out in my pantry for ages.

Then I saw this recipe and realized it probably used exactly the amount of bourbon the bottle. Win!



Tennessee Burger with Bourbon and BBQ Sauce
Source: Cooking Light, July 2013
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 6 slices bacon
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
    • 5 tbsp. bourbon, divided
    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 2 tsp. honey
    • 2 tsp. hot sauce
    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/4 tsp. paprika
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
    • salt and pepper
    • 6 burger buns
    • 6 slices sharp cheddar cheese
    • 6 thick tomato slices
Directions:
1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer to a paper towel to absorb grease.
2. Add the oil to the skillet and then onions. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until onions are browned and very tender. Stir in 3 tbsp. of bourbon, the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt.
3. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat.
4. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining bourbon and ketchup through onion powder. Stir together with a whisk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened.
5. Heat a grill to high heat.
6. Chop 3/4 cup of the onion mixture into fine pieces. Combine with the ground beef, salt and pepper and form into 6 patties.
7. Grill patties for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Add cheese until melted.
8. Assemble sandwich by spreading BBQ sauce on both sides of the bun. Place the burger on the bottom bun, followed by the tomato slice, bacon and a generous heap of the remaining onions.

I was slightly hesitant to use 5 tablespoons of bourbon in a recipe because I thought the flavor would be really strong. I honestly didn't taste any liquor in this at all. I thought the burgers were absolutely delicious and even used the remaining BBQ sauce to dip my fries in.

I asked Tom what he thought and he said he wasn't a fan of the burger because he could taste the alcohol in it. I have no idea how he tasted it so strongly and I didn't taste it at all.

The original recipe didn't call for cheese, but I don't believe in burgers sans cheese and a sharp cheddar seemed like the best option for this. Smoked gouda would probably also be delicious with this. 

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Roasted Corn Hash

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This is one of those perfect summer recipes that I could eat over and over again. Unfortunately, I appear to be the only one to think so since Tom wasn't a fan of the corn hash. I don't get it. He likes corn, he likes red pepper, he likes bacon. Combine the three ingredients and he's not a fan? Does.not.compute.

More for me though. So it worked out. This does take a bit of time to prepare (close to an hour) so it might be a dish you'd like to have on a Sunday or just an evening where you don't have a lot of plans.



Panko-Crusted Chicken with Roasted Corn Hash
Source: Cooking Light, July 2013
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 4 chicken cutlets
    • 4 ears corn with husks
    • 1 cup Panko
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 3 slices bacon, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 4-6 oz. jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
    • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
Directions:
1. Place buttermilk, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and chicken in a zip top bag. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, turning once.
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Place a large baking sheet on the second rack. Place the ears of corn, still wrapped in their husks, directly onto to the top rack. Bake for 30 minutes.
3. Let the corn cool slightly, then remove the husks and silk. Slice the corn kernels from the cob into a large bowl.
4. In a shallow dish, add the Panko and kosher salt. Dip the chicken into the Panko mixture until fully coated on both sides. Set on a plate.
5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the skillet and cook until done. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.
6. Add the oil and the chicken cutlets to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
7. Meanwhile, add the bacon pieces, roasted red pepper, green onions, and parsley to the bowl with the corn. Toss to combine.
8. Plate the chicken and serve with the corn hash.

I opted to not to include the buttermilk dressing that goes with this recipe because I knew Tom wouldn't enjoy it, but also because I don't purchase actual buttermilk for recipes. I use a substitute of milk with vinegar, which works for baking and marinades, but I don't think it would be all that appealing as a dressing. 

Rocky Road Rice Krispies Treats

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It always surprised me that for how easy they are to make, my mom never made Rice Krispie Treats for me when I was a kid. She is kind of dangerous around melting marshmallows so that might be the reason. I've made the standard Rice Krispie treats before, but never thought to add anything else into them.

Luckily, others have, because these Rice Krispie treats were super tasty. I love Rocky Road ice cream so I figured these would be good, but they were much, much better than anticipated.



Rocky Road Rice Krispie Treats
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: 24 squares
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Ingredients:
    • 10 oz. bag + 2 cups miniature marshmallows, divided
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (or generic version)
    • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
    • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, partially melt the butter. Then stir in the bag of marshmallows and the cocoa powder. Once melted, remove from the heat.
3. Stir in the Rice Krispies until they are evenly coated in the mixture. Then quickly stir in the remaining 2 cups of marshmallows, nuts and mini chocolate chips.
4. Pour into the prepared dish and spread out evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Cut into 24 bars and serve.

The bag of what I thought were chopped walnuts were actually pecans, so I decided to just go with it. I found that the easiest way to stir the marshmallows and the cereal is to spray a rubber spatula with non-stick spray. I didn't even notice that the recipe called for almond butter until it was too late, so I opted to just leave it out. I don't think it made a difference at all.

We gobbled these up quite quickly and I was planning on making a second batch when I realized that Tom ate the rest of the cereal. I swear, I can't leave cereal unattended in this house, ever! 

Poblano Mac and Cheese

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I am very sad to tell you that it was quite some time ago that I made this recipe, but I am only getting around to sharing it with you now. This is really something you should have the pleasure of introducing your taste buds to. I'm sure they will thank you immensely.

If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that there are two different types of pasta in this dish. The traditional penne that it calls for, but also some tri-color rotini. Why? Because apparently I can't manage to keep 8 oz. of any one type of pasta in the house. So we had about 3 oz. of penne and about 5 of the rotini. I think the orange rotini noodles match nicely with it, no?

I somehow managed to skip right over the cilantro and the lime juice/zest while writing the ingredients I'd need for this recipe, so I just omitted them.



Poblano Mac and Cheese
Source: Cooking Light, April 2013
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. pasta (Rotini, Penne, etc.)
    • 2 poblano chiles
    • 1/3 cup Panko
    • 2 tsp. olie oil
    • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 1 cup low-fat milk
    • 1 cup low-sodium or unsalted vegetable stock 
    • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
    • 1 clove garlic, minced 
    • 5 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
    • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
    • salt and pepper
    • cooking spray
Directions:
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Slice the poblanos in half length-wise and remove the seeds and membrane. Place skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.
3. Broil for 5-6 minutes or until blackened. Transfer peppers to a paper bag, fold closed and let sit for 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, peel off skins and chop pepper into bite-sized pieces.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
5. In a small bowl, combine the Panko, oil and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
6. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 3/4 cup milk, stock, flour and garlic. Whisk together and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
7. Remove from the heat and stir in the chiles, remaining milk, cheese and sour cream until combined. Pour over the pasta and stir until combined.
8. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour pasta mixture into the dish. Sprinkle with Panko mixture and broil for 1-2 minutes or until browned.



Absolutely delicious. I rarely go back for seconds of any meal, but I couldn't pass it up with this one. Cheesy pasta poblano love. 

Weekly Menu 6/23-6/28

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I am just completely baffled as to how June is practically over. The only thing I've managed to accomplish this summer is eat a decent amount of burgers. But I have no tan, I've barely been to the pool and this weekend was the first time we were supposed to visit Tom's parents, but too many events lead to too much traffic and we decided to reschedule for another weekend.

I don't like it. I need to rewind back to Memorial Day and then pass through these past almost 30 days in super slow speed. I'm not ready for the 4th of July. That signals that summer is half over and I don't feel like it's even begun!

In other news, the demise of Google Reader is quickly approaching. I've tried both of the other main readers and I am not exactly impressed with either one since there is no search function. I seriously can't comprehend how one would not include a search function in a blog reader! We've talked about this on the cooking board I frequent and someone mentioned that they went through and pinned all of their starred recipes from their reader. My current option of just being incredibly upset that I would no longer have access to those recipes wasn't working for me.

So I jumped on this like white on rice. In the process, I also decided to give my 18th and final attempt at having a Pinterest for this blog. See, every time I tried to sign up as a business, Pinterest would crash and not save my info. In the few times I made it past signing up, I would go to verify my website, which is kind of a necessity when you're using Pinterest as a business and it wouldn't work. However, the Pinterest gods must have been with me that day because not only was I able to create a Cookaholic Wife Pinterest, but I was able to verify the site AND get it to where if you hover over an image, it allows you to pin it directly from there. YAY!

I've made it through pinning all of my 2012 and 2013 starred recipes from the reader. I'm slowly going through 2011 and debating on whether or not to really save a recipe that I haven't made in almost 2 years. So if you choose to follow me, please bear with me if you see a gazillion pins from me a day.

Anyway, to follow me, you can either click on the P over in that Stay Connected section to the right, or just click on this pretty little link here: http://pinterest.com/cookaholicwife1

And now for the menu this week.

Sunday - Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches with Fries and Corn on the Cob

Monday - Chicken Marsala with Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus

Tuesday - Mongolian Beef over Rice

Wednesday - Jalapeno Popper Pasta

Thursday - Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus 

I've had a problem recently where I purchase potatoes for one dish and they end up going bad before I can use them again, which is why I decided to have the same side dishes for two different meals.

For lunches this week, I'm reverting back to an old favorite, the prosciutto egg cup. I realized that I feel more full from lunch when I don't get a typical lunch. These week I'm going to have cheese and crackers, some fruit and some type of salad.


Recipe Swap: Penne with Vodka Sauce

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This Recipe Swap almost didn't happen because there weren't enough participants, which surprised me since I figured most people cook with alcohol (the theme of the swap) on a more regular basis than I do. Apparently this was not the case. I had a really hard time finding a recipe that I could even submit!

However, the one I got in return is absolutely perfect. When I received the email and saw the assigned recipe I maybe kinda made a squee'ing noise. I've wanted to try a pasta with a vodka sauce for I don't know how long now. However, every time I wanted it, we didn't have any vodka in the house and since we very rarely drink it, I decided it was easier to just make it some other time, rather than schlep to the liquor store for only a tiny, tiny amount.

The last time I was at the liquor store, stocking up on an unhealthy amount of wine, I noticed there were quite a few different flavored tiny bottles of vodka near the register. I grabbed a few different ones, figuring I'd eventually find a recipe that called for them. It wasn't until I got home that I realized one of them was just plain vodka. Which works perfectly for this recipe.



Penne with Vodka Sauce and Italian Sausage
Source: So Tasty, So Yummy
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 4 links Italian sausage
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
    • 3/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 lb. penne pasta
    • 2 tbsp. vodka
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Slice the sausage into 1 1/2" slices and add to the skillet. Cook 3-5 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring until the garlic has browned.
3. Add crushed tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook penne according to package directions. Drain.
5. Add the vodka and heavy cream to the skillet and bring to a boil again.
6. Stir in the pasta and reduce heat to low. Cook for 1 minute.
7. Stir in the basil, then serve.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting this to taste like, but it definitely surpassed it by about a hundred times. The cream sauce was incredible and nicely lightened up when you got a piece of the basil mixed in. I was concerned this would still have a liquor flavor and Tom wouldn't like it, but he didn't and he actually said twice that he really enjoyed it. This is getting added to the "make again" list. 

Improv Challenge: Crabby Crab Puffs

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My first thought for this Improv Challenge was "uh oh". Of all the foods I eat, fish is really not one of them. There are a few I like, but I don't really enjoy preparing it myself. Then I remembered that we don't need to take the two Improv Challenge ingredients (fish and chips) quite so literally and a recipe idea immediately came to mind.

If you're not familiar with the Improv Challenge, it is a monthly challenge hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics where we have two ingredients to use. As previously stated, the ingredients don't need to be taken literally, as anything from salmon to goldfish crackers to Swedish fish candies and the chips can be of the potato variety or the chocolate/peanut butter/etc. variety.

I decided to stay pretty literal to the ingredients, using (shell)fish (crab) and (potato) chips. And then I couldn't resist coming up with a catchy name.

I don't expect that unless you live in Maryland or Pennsylvania that you'll be able to find the chips I used in this recipe. Utz is a snack distributor located in PA and one of the type of chips they have is called Crab Chips. They are your standard potato chip, but seasoned with Old Bay, which is what us Marylanders cover our crabs in. If you aren't able to find these chips and still wanted to try out the recipe, I'll list a substitution at the end of the recipe.



Crabby Crab Puffs
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 12-15 puffs
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. crab meat, picked through for shells 
    • 1 slice bread
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. mayonnaise
    • 1/2 tsp. mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. parsley 
    • 1 1/2 cups Utz Crab Chips, crushed 
Directions:
1. Remove the crust from the bread. Break into tiny pieces and place into a medium sized bowl.
2. Add the mayonnaise, mustard and parsley to the bowl. Stir well to combine, then gently fold in the crab meat.
3. Roll the mixture into balls, about the size of a tablespoon and place on a plate.
4. Pour the crushed Crab Chips into a shallow dish. Roll each of the balls through the chips and return to the plate.
To Bake: Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick.
To Fry: Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry for 1 minute, turning over so all sides are cooked through.
5. Serve with optional tartar sauce. (Not the Grumpy Cat, recipe below)

Tatar Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. sweet relish
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

* Chip Substitute: Add 1 tbsp. Old Bay (or Cajun) seasoning to the crab mixture and use plain crushed potato chips.

Unfortunately the fried ones took on a burnt appearance, but this wasn't the case at all. The flavors were much more pronounced than in the baked version, but they were both tasty little puffs of crab.

Next month the ingredients are peaches and herbs. I'm already beginning to think of ideas! 

Shake Shack Burgers

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Sarah's blog, Taste of Home Cooking, is pretty much my go-to when I need a sandwich/burger idea. We must have incredibly similar tastes when it comes to what should be stuffed between some bread because I'm fairly confident in saying that 99% of the sandwich/burger recipes she posts, I immediately think "yep, need to make that."

This is just another one of those recipes. You must make it ASAP.



Shake Shack Burgers
Source: Taste of Home Cooking as seen on What's Brewing in the Kitchen, originally from Serious Eats
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 tbsp. ketchup
    • 1/2 tbsp. mustard
    • 2 dill pickle slices, finely chopped
    • pinch each of garlic powder, paprika and cayenne
    • 1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 tbsp. butter, softened
    • 4 potato rolls
    • 4 large lettuce leaves
    • 4 tomato slices
    • 4 American cheese slices
Directions:
1. Preheat a grill pan to high, flat side up.
2. Combine the mayo through cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Form the burger patties and season each side liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Place the burgers on the grill and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side or until a thick crust forms. Add the cheese and cook until melted.
5. Place burger rolls on the grill for 1 minute or until lightly toasted.
6. Spread the mayonnaise mixture on both sides of the bun. Place the lettuce on the bottom side of the bun, followed by the burger and tomato slice. Top with the burger bun.
7. Wrap in parchment paper and let rest for 1-2 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

In.credible. I mean, really, incredible. I loved these burgers and kind of wish I had made extra of the sauce to dip the burger directly into it. I could easily eat this weekly. Hey, that might be an idea...

Caprese Pasta Salad

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I try not to let Tom's long list of disliked foods get to me very often, but the one that drives me the most crazy, especially in the summer, is his dislike for cold pasta salads.

I would love to be able to serve burgers with potato salad or add shrimp to macaroni salad one night and just have that for a meal, but he refuses to eat any of it.

So when I first saw this recipe, I was saddened that it was just another pasta salad that I wouldn't get to make. Then the idea hit me that I could make this and bring it for lunch during the week. I don't really have access to a microwave at work (well, I do, but its in the owners kitchen and its just awkward) so I'm always looking for something other than a sandwich or salad to bring. This, I immediately decided, would be perfect.



Caprese Pasta Salad
Source: LaaLoosh
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
    • 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, roughly chopped
    • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. oregano
    • 1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Place the tomatoes and the garlic on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic, olive oil and oregano. Pour over the pasta. Add the roasted tomatoes and garlic and the mozzarella cheese. Stir well to combine.
5. Plate, and garnish with basil, salt and pepper.

This was a perfect lunch. It was different enough that I finally felt like I wasn't eating the same thing all of the time and it kept really nicely in the fridge for an entire week. I definitely plan on making this again, and maybe even making it for one of my mom's pool parties where people who actually eat cold pasta salads are present. 

Hawaiian Burgers

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Of all of the cooking personalities on The Food Network and The Cooking Channel, Nadia G is one of my least favorites. I associate her with a character, an attitude, a persona, not someone who simply cooks food because they like it.

That's probably not the case because Food Network/Cooking Channel tends to go for "real" people, but it's just not something I can get over long enough to watch her show.

I had initially planned on making a Hawaiian turkey burger but for whatever reason didn't pick up practically any of the ingredients at the store. I don't know what I was thinking there. So I decided instead of stopping at the store to pick some things up, I'd Google "Hawaiian burger" and see if there were any recipes I could create based off what I'd have.

I had to make some slight adjustments here, the burger buns, the type of cheese, the tomato and I opted not to include brown sugar on the pineapple, but otherwise the recipe is pretty much the same.



Hawaiian Burgers
Source: Nadia G
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
              Burger:
    • 1 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
    • 2 tbsp. fresh chives, minced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 tbsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • salt and pepper

    Mayonnaise:

    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
    • 1 tsp. adobo sauce
    • pinch of salt and pepper 

    Toppings:

    • 4 slices bacon, cooked
    • 4 slices Swiss cheese
    • 4 slices fresh pineapple 
    • lettuce 
    • tomato
    • pickles
    • burger buns 
Directions:
1. Prepare the burger patties by combining all of the ingredients together in a bowl and then form into 4 evenly sized patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preheat a grill to high heat.
3. Prepare the mayonnaise by mincing the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and mixing it, along with the extra sauce, into the mayo in a small bowl until well combined.
4. Grill the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top with the Swiss cheese and cook until melted.
5. Transfer burgers to a plate. Place the pineapple on the grill for 1-2 minutes per side.
6. Spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the burger bun. Place the lettuce on the bottom, followed a slice of bacon, broken in half. Top that with the burger, a slice of tomato, the pickles and the pineapple. Top with the other half of the bun.

I think I might have used just a tiny bit too much of the chipotle mayo on my burger since it was a nice dry kick to the back of the throat, but otherwise I really, really enjoyed this burger. I opted to serve my pickle on the side and Tom, who previously used to hate pickles, told me that he thought he'd really enjoy it diced up and in the mayo, kind of like a spicy Thousand Island dressing.

I definitely plan on making these again! 

Weekly Menu 6/16 - 6/20

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It's the middle of June! How did this happen? The weather hasn't been typical for this time of the year which makes it seem even weirder that June is already half way over.

So you probably heard about that evil bastard of a storm that started over in Illinois and beat cities and counties and states straight through to the Atlantic Ocean right? Well, one of those is a derecho. The same type of storm that left me without power last June for nearly 48 hours.

We were extremely lucky this time and missed the brunt of the storm, however from the significant rains that we've had recently, there was a lot of flooding. Luckily every dried out nicely yesterday and we spent the day at my mom's house. It was a perfect 82 degree sunny day with just enough clouds in the sky to provide you with shade once you got too hot. If I could capture my perfect summer day, it would be just like yesterday was.

Today and tomorrow however, we have a chance of thunderstorms. I really hope it doesn't happen because if I don't see rain for another month I'd be okay.

Sunday - Panko Chicken with Corn Hash 

Monday - Maryland Crab Soup 

Tuesday - my recipe swap meal

Wednesday - Tennessee Burgers with Bacon and Bourbon and Fries 

Thursday - Philly Cheesesteak Calzones

I'm going simple for breakfast and lunch this week, fruit parfaits and BLT sandwiches. 

Restaurant Review: Pairings Bistro

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I don't know if I should tell you this or not, since it kind of gives you license to stalk me, but I'm just going to assume that you're all nice non-internet stalkers out there. I live in Harford County, Maryland. From June 3rd-15th Harford County is having a restaurant week.

In case you live somewhere that doesn't offer something like this, its an excuse for restaurant owners to get people to their restaurants. They create a specific meal with a fixed rate (many are $20.13 per person in this case) which could easily convince someone to check out a new restaurant because of the discounted price.

Baltimore also has 2 restaurant weeks, I believe. I haven't attended either since all of the restaurants are downtown and while I appreciate a discounted meal, the purpose is kind of defeated by $15-$30 parking. So when I heard my own county was doing a restaurant week, I was all over that.



I chose Pairings Bistro because my coworker recommended them to me, plus its right up my alley. Pairing food with wine? I'm in. By no means am I food critic, but I did entertain the idea long enough while we were there to actually google "how to become a food critic". I'm not sure Tom is interested. Ah well.

Anyway, we opted for the 4 course meal with wine pairings. This was $51 a person, regularly $57. In reality, it wasn't that much of a deal, but hey 12 bucks is $12.

Course 1: 
We both opted for the Maryland Crab Soup with Hawk's Hill Cheddar Crisp. This was paired with a 2010 Echelon Pinot Noir. 
For Maryland crab soup, I'd say this was pretty average. It was what you would hope to receive in any restaurant, actual pieces of crab meat and not incredibly salty. The cheddar crisp was really good; it surprised me to have seafood and cheese paired together, but I liked it. The wine was pretty nice and definitely enhanced the flavors of the soup. Grade: A 



Course 2: 
Tom: Baby Arugula with chevre, toasted pecans, pomegranate and apricot vinaigrette - 2011 Kenwood Chardonnay
Me: Local grown tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction and fried basil leaves - 2010 Ladoucette Les Deux Tours Sauvignon Blanc 
Tom doesn't like salads to begin with, so I was shocked he went with the one he did. He didn't end up liking the arugula at all. His wine was very fruity and almost mimicked the apricots in the salad.
My salad was delicious. You could tell the tomatoes were home grown (something I definitely appreciate), the balsamic had a great flavor and OMG fried basil leaves are INCREDIBLE. I really enjoyed my wine and wouldn't have minded another glass. Grade: A




Course 3:
Tom: Deer Creek Beef Steak with Blue Cheese Fries and Pickled Vegetables - 2009 Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon
Me: Grilled Shrimp with Peach Barbecue and Cajun Rice - 2008 Duas Quintas
Tom's steak was delicious and had that melt in your mouth quality to it. The blue cheese fries were also really tasty and even though he didn't enjoy the pickled vegetables, I thought they were great.
I, on the other hand, was pretty disappointed with my dish. It was barely lukewarm. The shrimp were a tad overcooked and the tomatoes in the Cajun rice just took over the entire dish. It tasted like nothing but tomatoes and mushy rice. Tom's Dish: A My Dish: C = Average: B 



Course 4:
Tom: Chocolate Cake with Mint Strawberries  - 2009 Rosa Regale Spumante Dulce 
Me: Bresilienne-Broom's Bloom Coffee * Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel, Hazelnuts and Chantilly Cream - Ramos Pinto White Port 
The chocolate cake was really nice. I think it might have been flourless. It was made with a bittersweet chocolate and I'd love to know how they infused the strawberries with mint. The freshness was really nice. Tom's wine was really sweet. I might have the name wrong, it was smudged on the menu and Google isn't giving me many choices.
My ice cream was really good. The coffee flavor was a nice touch with the cream and really rounded out the dish. I didn't like my wine, I thought it was too fragrant to even sip. Grade: A 




Now for the restaurant overall, its very nice inside and they have a decently sized wine cellar mainly with wines I've never heard of before for pretty reasonable prices. The staff are really friendly. They had live music outside tonight and I'm kind of jealous we didn't get to sit outside. The guy had a really nice singing voice.

Unfortunately we were seating in a small room with 3 very drunk women who did not understand proper conversation levels or etiquette. I am almost positive when an attractive couple sat across from them and one heard that the guy had an accent, she told him and the woman he was with that she'd "totally f--- you both." Once they left the noise level was quite nice.

The restaurant was pretty busy when we were there and we didn't receive our wines exactly with our dishes but we weren't waiting long either.

So my overall grade for the restaurant would be A-. I definitely want to return again since not only do they offer pairings, but wine tastings, cooking classes and various other things that just seem like a lot of fun.




We do need to return soon though, because they have crispy Maryland scallops over a spring pea risotto which I absolutely can't pass up trying.


Strawberry Pretzel Salad

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When I first saw this recipe, I made my "I can't picture how that would taste" face which involves pursing my lips and raising one eyebrow. It's really an unattractive face, you should try it sometime.

The words "strawberry pretzel salad" conjures up an image in my head of strawberries and pretzels that got soggy from the strawberry juices. Not exactly pleasant. However unsure I was, I was intrigued enough to click on the recipe and view the ingredients.

Once I read that Laura was also skeptical of the recipe, but ended up really enjoying it, I was sold on making it. I am a huge fan of salty and sweet combinations and I love pretzels and strawberries individually, so I figured it was probably a safe bet.

I had all of the ingredients out on the counter to make this while Tom and Calvin were working on a computer. Calvin looked up at the ingredients and said "Are you make pretzel salad? That's my favorite dessert ever." I know he's told me this multiple times before but how I managed to not put two and two together that this was the salad he was talking about was beyond me. He did make one suggestion; that he has always ate it with pineapple mixed into the whipped cream layer. As we had some pineapple in the fridge, I decided to go for it.



Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Source: Tide and Thyme
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels
    • 1 cup + 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
    • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/3 cup pineapple, finely diced 
    • 6 oz. box strawberry jello
    • 2 cups boiling water
    • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Place crushed pretzels in a bowl. Sprinkle the 3 tbsp. of sugar on top and stir in 1 cup of butter.
3. Bake for 6 minutes then place in the refrigerator to cool.
4. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese and remaining 1 cup of sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth.
5. In another bowl, combine the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar and beat with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and then continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream cheese mixture and pineapple into the whipped cream.
6. Spread the whipped cream mixture on top of the pretzels and return to the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
7. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then stir in the jello packet until combined. Refrigerate until almost solid. Stir in the strawberries and spread evenly over the whipped cream mixture.
8. Refrigerate again for at least 1 hour.

On this week's menu post, I mentioned that this recipe comes along with a funny story. If you are friends with me personally (not just my page) on Facebook, you'll have already read this, but I think its funny enough to share again.

I'll start off my first saying that cream cheese mixed with sugar is a perfectly acceptable dessert to me. I don't need anything to dip it in or anything to put it on. Just give me globs and globs of it and I'm completely content. Well, after spreading a decent amount of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture on top of the pretzels, I noticed the spatula was still decently fully. So I decided I'd just eat the rest.

As I'm licking the mixture off the spatula, I look over and Itty is staring at me with a look on her face that can only be described as "Do you really think you need to eat that?" I can't help that I've apparently raised judgmental cats. However, I don't appreciate when they judge me, so in a moment of mature defiance, I licked the remaining mixture off the spatula, smirked at the cat and said "You can't judge me. You lick your own ass!"

Not exactly my finest moment. However, when you taste just how delicious this Strawberry Pretzel Salad is, you'll completely understand. I can't wait for my mom to have another pool party so I can bring this along! 

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

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Strawberries rank in the top 5 of my favorite fruits. I pretty much love anything that comes in a berry form, but strawberries usually end up at the top of the list. It's not uncommon for me to have a cup of strawberries with breakfast from the second they hit the shelves in stores until they're hardly in season any more.

I have a slight problem where I overestimate the amount of strawberries one person can eat before they go bad. Recently, I bought 4 lbs. of strawberries from Costco and told Tom of course I could eat them all! Obviously, I couldn't which is why I had some taking up valuable freezer space. There is also the problem of Wegman's who sells strawberries in those 2 lb. containers for only $1 more than a smaller one. I can't help it,  I have to buy the huge thing of strawberries. There is even a nearby farm who keeps blasting me on Facebook with "Pick Your Own" Strawberries and I want nothing more than to do so, but I'll end up doing something silly like spending $30 on 20 lbs. of strawberries. And then what will I do? Buy a deep freezer, I guess.

Anyway, I needed the freezer space back and this recipe just happened to catch my eye when I was going through the blogs I follow. Plus my basil plant was kinda growing out of control and producing leaves faster than I could use them.



Strawberry Basil Lemonade
Source: What's Gaby Cooking?
Servings: 1/2 gallon
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Ingredients:

    • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 8 cups water, divided 
    • 10 strawberries, tops removed
    • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
Directions:
1. Pour the lemon juice in a large pitcher.
2. Combine the sugar and 4 cups of water together and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Place the strawberries and basil leaves in a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Add the water/sugar mixture and the strawberries to the pitcher. Pour in the additional 4 cups of water. Refrigerate until cold or serve with ice.

The original recipe calls for only 4 cups of water but I found this to be much too strong and tart. Instead of adding sugar, I opted to add another 4 cups of water. Its still a pretty strong lemonade, so if you prefer a lighter version, you might want to start at 8 cups and increase by 2 cups until it reaches your preferred taste.

Tom thought this would be completely gross because of the basil and refused to even try it. I don't think the basil came through very strongly at all. Also, if you are not a fan of pulp in orange juice, I don't think this recipe will be for you as I was left with quite a bit of pureed strawberry mixture in my glass each time, as you can see from the picture. 

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

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Sometimes pictures say more than words. I don't have anything specific to tell you about these, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking instead.

Hope you don't mind. 



Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
Source: Branny Boils Over, adapted from Eating Well
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 24 jumbo pasta shells
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 large onion, minced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced 
    • 2 cups spinach, chopped
    • 2 cups ricotta cheese
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • salt and pepper 
    • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
2. Add the pasta shells and cook for 15 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet and add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
4. Then add the spinach in batches until lightly wilted.
5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add in the onion/spinach mixture and stir until combined.
6. Fill each shell with a generous helping of the ricotta mixture.
7. Pour 1/3 cup of the marinara sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Place the shells in a single layer and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, then let rest 10 minutes before serving.



I haven't had stuffed shells in a long time and these were delicious.



Cowgirl Chicken Sandwiches

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One of my favorite things about the warmer weather is everyone starts blogging an abundance of burgers and other grilled sandwiches. Since I'm typically too lazy to walk down three flights of steps and around the building carrying food, we rarely ever use the grills provided by the apartment complex and opt to use the Griddler instead.

It doesn't absolutely nothing for flavor, but the clean up is incredibly easy and it makes grill marks so at least you can pretend like it was made on a grill. My logic is flawed though. Because I don't need to go outside for said burgers, I could easily just have them year-round, but there is just something about having a burger in warmer weather than makes it more burger-like. (Just agree with me here, okay?)

I try to vary up my grilled sandwiches since its not all that healthy to eat so much ground beef. Tom gets easily tired of ground turkey and I can rarely find ground chicken, so that usually isn't an option. When I saw this recipe called for a chicken breast, I was all over it. I even rearranged the menu I had initially planned on just to include it.

Now that's a dedication to burgers and sandwiches, eh?



Cowgirl Chicken Sandwiches
Source: A Taste of Home Cooking as seen on Sparks from the Kitchen 
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half 
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 8 pieces bacon, cooked
    • cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
    • BBQ sauce
    • sliced tomato
    • lettuce
    • 4 burger buns
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat a grill to high.
2. Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle the olive oil over the grill and place the chicken breasts on it. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Brush liberally with BBQ sauce.
4. Add the cheese slices on top of the chicken and allow to melt.
5. Assemble the sandwich by placing a piece of bacon (broken in half) on the bottom, followed by the lettuce. Top with the chicken and tomato slice and another piece of bacon.

I opted not to go with the mashed avocado that Sarah used on her burgers, but I think I should have. I really enjoyed the burger as is, but Tom who won't put lettuce or tomato on a burger needed more than just BBQ sauce for flavor. And yes, the strange husband who doesn't eat most fruits and vegetables would have been completely content with a mashed avocado/sauce on his burger.


The Military Diet: Days 4-7

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I realized after I shared my experiences on The Military Diet with you, that people would probably be curious as to what happens when you stop the diet. As in, do you immediately gain all of the weight back or can you actually keep it off once you return to eating normal foods?

First, I'm still not as hungry as I was before starting the diet. My meal portions are much smaller and probably much closer to what a normal portion size would be.

So here is what happened on Days 4-7, which included a weekend, my 10 year reunion and being hungover.

Day 4: I had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast with a banana and skim milk. I actually found the cereal to be really sweet. Interesting. Lunch was leftover poblano mac and cheese that I had made for Tom the night before. This was incredibly delicious. I had some pretzels as a snack later on and was surprised to find that they made me very feel very lethargic. We always get fast food on Fridays and this was no exception. I had a Chicken Soft Taco Supreme from Taco Bell. Usually I feel as though I can eat 3 or 4 of these, but this time one was enough.

Day 5: I got on the scale and saw that I gained 0.5 pounds back. I didn't even bother to fret it. Like I said in the first post, my weight fluctuates between 2 pounds so, 0.5 is nothing to worry about. I was so busy running around that honestly, I hardly had any time to eat. I had a skinny iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks while shopping with a friend at Target. Before going to the pool, I had 6 cracked black pepper Triscuits with a thin slice of cheddar on each and a handful of baby carrots. After getting my hair and make up done, I had 3/4 of a #4 from Jimmy Johns with light mayo. Then I had about a bottle of wine at my reunion.

Day 6: Hangovers suck. I had coffee, a cup of strawberries and 10 saltines. My early lunch was chicken ramen. I watched a movie and had a full-sized bag of 94% fat-free popcorn. For dinner, I picked at the lunch I made for this week - whole wheat pasta, roasted tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. I maybe ate 1/2 a cup.

Day 7: I reverted to my previous breakfast of 2 whole wheat waffles, 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and half a banana. Lunch was 3/4 cup of the salad listed above, a handful of baby carrots and a sugar-free cup of applesauce. Dinner was a Mexican-style stuffed pepper. I had one pepper full. The scale this morning said I had gained 1.1 pounds back. TMI Alert: Its that time of the month, so to be honest, 1.1 pounds is shocking. Usually at this point I'm ready to steal ice cream and pretzels from a baby. 

Weekly Menu 6/9 - 6/13

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I can't believe that it is June already! I love the warm weather but I don't want it to go by too quickly!

This month already feels like it has been super busy. I still haven't adjusted to having something to do every weekend so I'm sure that's not helping. If the weather holds out today, I'd like to go to the pool. I'm still kinda pale.

The menu for this week is full of all kinds of summery items.

Sunday - Maryland Crab Cakes, Fries, Corn on the Cob

Monday - Spicy Basil Pork over Rice with Green Beans (I didn't get to make this last week)

Tuesday - Bang Bang Shrimp with Stir Fry Veggies

Wednesday - Shake Shack Burgers, Fries, Salad

Thursday - Mojito Chicken Tacos 

I'm going to try out a cheater's version of The Military Diet and just do it for breakfast and lunch each morning and have a regular dinner.

The desserts I'm making this week are a peach upside down cake, Oreo cookie and cream muffins and a strawberry pretzel salad that comes with a funny story I can't wait to share with you.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!


Recipe Swap: Mexican Stuffed Peppers

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The category for this Recipe Swap was Mexican. Mexican foods are one of my favorite types of foods to make. I blame this on the fact that I didn't have my first taco until they build a Taco Bell in town when I was 12.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but for some unknown reason, my mother refuses to eat tacos. She doesn't like the tortillas, she doesn't think the ingredients of a taco go well together and she doesn't like cheese! I sometimes wonder how we can be related since tacos and cheese, together or separate are both amazing in my book. 

For this Recipe Swap, I was assigned  Becoming Pigzilla's Mexican Stuffed Peppers. If that names sounds familiar, its because its also where those delicious Deep Dish Cookie Pies came from as well. Our swap host, Sarah, tries to make sure that don't receive the same blogs too closely together, but personally, I never mind a repeat blog. Usually it just leads me to finding more recipes to make, which is never a bad thing. 

I made a few substitutions in the recipe, but nothing serious. Just rice for quinoa, chives for cilantro and Mexican shredded cheese instead of pepper jack. And all because I didn't remember to write down everything I needed for the recipe and had to make do with what was on hand. Oops! 



Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Servings: 3

Ingredients:
    • 1 cup rice, cooked 
    • 3 tbsp. taco seasoning
    • 3 bell peppers, sliced in half and seeded 
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
    • 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
    • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese, divided
    • sour cream and chives for garnish 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. 
2.  Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the onions, jalapeno, corn and black beans and cook for 5-7 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook another minute. 
3. Remove from the heat, then stir in the rice, taco seasoning and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. 
4. Scoop the rice mixture into each half of the pepper and place filling side up in a 9x13 baking dish. Repeat with remaining pepper halves. 
5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the pepper halves and bake for 20 minutes or until the peppers have softened and the cheese is browned. 
6. Garnish with sour cream and chives if desired. 


I knew immediately what Tom was going to say about this recipe. The same thing he said when I had another stuffed pepper dish for a recipe swap. For the silliest reason ever, he's not a huge fan of stuffed peppers. And what is that reason you ask? He doesn't like that he needs to cut up the pepper. I still don't understand how this is any different than needing to cut up any other food that he eats on a regular basis. 



However, I really enjoyed this recipe, as I expected. It was the perfect combination of all the ingredients. 

My Experience on The Military Diet

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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, it is just my opinion on low calorie diets, like The Military Diet. As stated on everything "Diet-related" you should always contact your doctor before doing any diet. 

I don't really believe in those diets that claim you will lose 5, 10, 15 pounds in a week. The only way to lose that kind of weight is to essentially starve yourself or to take pills that have you running to the bathroom quite frequently.

On website A,  they tell you that you need to eat a minimum of 1200 calories per day in order for your body to survive. Eating less than this may cause weight loss, but it's only because you are starving yourself and your body has no choice but to burn its fat reserves in order to keep you alive.

On website B, you'll read that as long as you don't eat less than 1200 calories consistently, it's a great way to lose weight! It jump-starts your metabolism and you can drop those pesky 5 pounds and look great for a Friday night date.

So which one is telling the truth? I think it's a combination of both, but I also think it's going to vary per person. Say you are 5'1 and 110 lbs. All of your weight is around your middle and no amount of continual stomach exercises is getting rid of that flab. Many websites tell you to eat 1200 calories and you'll lose weight. However, you already struggle to eat 1200 calories so a website telling you to only eat 1200 calories to lose weight probably isn't going to work for you.

Let's set the scene as to why I even bothered to try out something like this.

It's 5 days before my high school reunion. Since high school, but mainly in the past year I have gained a significant amount of weight. I blame it on the birth control pills I was taking and my gynecologist is convinced I have a thyroid issue. We're currently waiting on the results of the blood work. (I almost hope she is right because then I can take medication and the weight will go away, hopefully) For the past 3 weeks I have made a huge effort to eat exactly 1200 calories and exercise as much as possible. 

On a regular basis, I already eat pretty healthy to begin with, so those common tricks like "stop drinking soda" or "don't eat fast food" don't exactly apply to me. I don't drink soda and I rarely have fast food. What's your next suggestion know-it-all internets? Oh, cut 3,500 calories from your weekly caloric intake. Done. Next? 

The scale, however, refuses to budge. I fluctuate between 2 pounds, which is pretty common for most people. So I see one of my friends mention that she has done this Military Diet before and lost 10 pounds the first time. She had just finished it for the second time and lost 4 pounds. 

10, 4, either are significant enough numbers that would show on the scale that would return even the slightest amount of hope that I can actually lose weight and my metabolism hasn't packed up and headed for the hills. So, I decided I would try one of those crazy "lose 10 lbs. fast" diets. 

However, I know what I am going into. If at any time I begin to feel faint or get really dizzy, this diet is over. I have no interest in causing significant damage because I want to lose weight. It's not THAT important to me. I'd rather live and be fat than be skinny and die, ya know?

Day 1: Breakfast: 1 slice honey wheat toast, 2 tbsp. all natural peanut butter, 1 cup coffee, 1 apple
I already adjusted the diet because I don't eat grapefruit and the alternative (baking soda and water) is just to vile to think about drinking. I can't fit all of the peanut butter on the toast, so I dip the apple slices in it. I also cheated by adding a splash of creamer into the coffee. I'm sorry, but black coffee is nasty.

Day 1: Lunch: 1 can plain tuna, 1 slice honey wheat bread, 5 baby carrots, 1 bottle water with cucumber
I cheated by eating the baby carrots. It wanted me to drink black coffee again. No thank you. I sprinkled the tuna with Old Bay seasoning.

Day 1: Dinner: 3 oz. lean grilled/broiled meat, 1 cup green beans, 1/2 banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream, 1 small apple, 2 cups Turkey Hill Diet Green Tea w/ a slice of lemon
I seasoned boneless, skinless chicken breast with a rotisserie chicken seasoning and grilled it. I steamed the green beans and sprinkled garlic powder on them. Since I had an apple for breakfast, I skipped the apple and just had the banana slices over the ice cream for dessert about an hour after dinner.

Day 1 Feelings: Surprisingly, I'm not hungry at all. I logged everything into My Fitness Pal and found that it is 1082 calories, which is much more than I was expecting for this diet. I know it depends on the type of bread, peanut butter, and ice cream (mainly) that you eat, but I was thinking this would only be around 700 calories for the day. I'm also not tired or anything. Overall, I feel the same as I usually do.

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Day 2: Breakfast: 1 slice honey wheat toast, 1 egg over easy,  1/2 banana, 1 cup coffee w/ a splash of milk
You can have the egg however you like, so I opted for over easy made with non-stick cooking spray. I seasoned it with salt and pepper. The coffee isn't part of the plan, but I require caffeine.


Day 2: Lunch: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 slices bacon, 5 saltine crackers, 1 bottle water with strawberries and mint leaves
This did not go as planned. My hard-boiled was not hard-boiled and I needed to find something I could quickly make in the morning. That left me with bacon. Which was really hard not to eat with my breakfast. I substituted the yogurt for cottage cheese.

Day 2: Dinner: 2 chicken hot dogs (no buns), 1/2 cup carrots, 1 cup spinach, 1 cup vanilla ice cream, 1/2 banana , 2 cups Turkey Hill Diet Green Tea w/ a slice of lemon
I opted for chicken hot dogs over beef ones since I can stomach them a little better, but not much. I did cheat and dip the hot dogs into 1 tsp. of yellow mustard. I ate the carrots raw but sauteed the spinach with spray butter. Again, I had the vanilla ice cream and banana for dessert after dinner.

Day 2: Feelings: I don't really like eggs so I knew today was going to be hard for me. Breakfast was fine aside from the bacon temptation. By 11 am, I was already hungry and it didn't help that my coworker was munching on chips. I had a hair appointment right after work and knew I wouldn't get home until late, so I wanted to eat lunch as late as possible. I only made it until 12:30 but I nibbled on my lunch to make it last as long as possible. I didn't "feel" hungry but I wanted to keep eating. I didn't get home from my hair appointment until 8:15. I was starving and had a serious headache. And was seriously tempted to run into the Papa John's next to the hair salon and inhale a pizza. I ate the carrots while the hot dogs and spinach cooked then immediately followed dinner up with ice cream and bananas. I'm still hungry. Tomorrow isn't going to be fun. It's the least amount of food of all.
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Day 3: Breakfast: 1 egg over easy, 1 slice honey wheat toast, 1 cup coffee with splash of milk
I made this the same as yesterday.

Day 3: Lunch: 5 saltines, 1 slice cheddar cheese, 1 apple
This was really listed as breakfast, but I switched them around

Day 3: Dinner: 1 can plain tuna, 1/2 banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream
I seasoned the tuna with Old Bay again. It was much harder to eat this without bread. Same as before with the vanilla ice cream and banana

Day 3: Feelings: I woke up with the same headache as last night. I was going to take Excedrin when I got to work, but I found out we didn't have water. At lunch I realized that I forgot my knife for my apple. I can't bite directly into an apple without it cutting up my gums/hurting my teeth. Hunger prevailed though because I just took teeny tiny little bites to eat the apple. It took me like 20 minutes, which definitely filled me up. I was not amused at just eating tuna for dinner when I was making poblano mac and cheese for Tom, but the thought that I'd have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow got me through it.
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Final Thoughts: Isn't that what Jerry Springer says? Ugh. This wasn't the hardest nor was it the easiest diet I've ever done. There is nothing in the diet that tells you how much (if at all) you are supposed to work out. I only managed to do 20 minutes of cardio each day. I got on the scale the morning of day 4 and noticed I had lost 3.8 lbs. Which, for a diet that supposedly "guarantees" 10 lbs, I think that's not very impressive. Maybe it would have been higher if I could have put in a real workout, but then the likelihood of me feeling much worse would have been much higher. The diet says you can do this diet once a week as long as you have 3-4 days of eating regularly in between.

I kind of would like to try it again with a more intense workout to see if I get better results but I don't know if I'll actually do it.

Oh, and I talked to my doctor on day 3, my blood work came back normal, so there is absolutely nothing thyroid related to me not being able to lose weight.

Additional Disclaimer: Please note that I chose alternatives from the Military diet food list and shared my real experience, which involved changing around meals and adding seasoning. I am aware this could have affected the progress. Leaving comments such as "Are you stupid? Why would you lose 10 pounds if you can't even follow rules?" are completely inappropriate and will not be posted. Thank you for your opinion. 

Secret Recipe Club: Tiramisu

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In case you didn't know, procrastination is a really bad idea. This post is going live in about 13 hours and I have absolutely no idea what to write. I blame this on the fact that my high school reunion was last night and I had more to drink than usual. I'm functioning, just at a much much slower speed. Apparently my creativity is still sleeping.

It was pretty easy for me to chose a recipe for this months Secret Recipe Club. I was assigned An Italian Cooking in the Midwest.  Before I even clicked on Pola's blog, I immediately knew that I wanted to make an Italian dessert and hoped that there would be some choices for me. Then as soon as I saw tiramisu, I knew it was what I would make.

I've only had tiramisu a handful of times, the first time being on an impromptu trip to the beach. We went out for dinner and it was one of the rare times I wasn't too full for dessert. The waitress highly recommended the tiramisu so I had to try it.



Tiramisu
Source: An Italian Cooking in the Midwest
Servings: 8-10
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 16 oz. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature 
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 4 eggs, separated
    • 1 1/2 cups strong coffee or espresso
    • 12 oz. ladyfingers
    • unsweetened cocoa powder
Directions:
1. Place the mascarpone cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg yolks one at a time until fully combined.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
3. Quickly dip the ladyfingers into the coffee and place side by side in an 8x8 baking dish. Break the ladyfingers as necessary to cover the entire bottom of the dish.
4. Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites until fully combined. Spread half of the mixture on top of the ladyfingers.
5. Top with another layer of coffee-dipped ladyfingers and the remaining mascarpone mixture.
6. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder.
7. Refrigerate until fully chilled.

The original recipe says to put the ladyfingers into a square dish, which I assumed meant an 8x8 dish, but I didn't have enough ladyfingers to make three layers. I'm also wondering if there are different kinds of ladyfingers. The ones I purchased were very light and tasted like angel food cake. I couldn't even dip them in the coffee without them starting to fall apart. I thought I remembered them being a bit sturdier.

Either way, I thought the tiramisu turned out nicely and I really enjoyed eating it the second day when all of the flavors had really become enhanced. 

Weekly Menu 6/2 - 6/6

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Ugh. I feel as though I could sleep for a month. Last night was my 10 year high school reunion. We didn't have a 5 year, so other than randomly running into people sometimes, it was the first time I'd really seen anyone in 10 years.

The reunion started off pretty typically, the cliques of people that were friends in high school were now just grouped together in a bar with drinks in their hands. It took a good 2-3 hours before people really started mingling but then practically everyone was talking to everyone. The highlights of the evening would include the fact that I actually danced (well, barely), I got to wear a glass of wine I was previously drinking (no bueno) and somehow about 10 people in my 9th grade science class all ended up in the same spot at the bar at one time, which was pretty funny. I will admit that I'm kind of embarrassed at how long it took me to recognize some people and even longer before I was confident I knew their name. I was impressed though at the amount of people who remembered me. I was pretty quiet in high school and didn't really socialize with people so it was funny to hear someone recall a story with me in it.

As much as I would like to spend the entire day sleeping, there's unfortunately stuff I need to do today. Like share the menu for the week with all of you.

Sunday - recipe swap! 

Monday - Spicy Basil Pork over Rice with Green Beans

Tuesday - Cowgirl Chicken Sandwiches with Corn on the Cob and Korean Cucumber Salad

Wednesday - Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells with Salad and Garlic Bread

Thursday - Hawaiian Turkey Burgers with Fries and Korean Cucumber Salad 

For breakfast this week, I'm going to enjoy the Banana Pecan Waffles again and for lunch, a Caprese Salad. 
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