Thursday, March 29, 2012

Notes On Things (and things of note)

  • Listening to my iPod in alphabetical order by song has proven to be a better song shuffler than the "shuffle" option itself.
  • Upon listening to my iPod in this way has also proven to me that many artists have blocks of songs starting with the same letter.... here's me: "Hm, I haven't heard any Muse in awhile."  Here's my iPod, on the letter "S": 8 Muse songs (I'm only up to "G", *sigh*)
  • For some reason, 8GB of music is not enough and I struggle every time I want to put new music onto my iPod with the decision of what songs to leave behind, as if I will never hear them again.
  • Discovering Pinterest has made my days at work far less boring.  Follow me here
  • With my current obsession with Cookie Butter (and the unfortunate discovery of it being sold at my local Whole Foods store), it's a terrible thing to have found this (don't worry, I'll  make it soon.):
  • I have a friend crush on my Zumba instructor.  We should totally be bffs, if only because we live in the same town (and all my other friends live 25-50 minutes away).  Found out that her b-day is the day before mine!  We should hang out.  All.The.Time.
  • I have too many places I want to go before the world ends end of the year, how to decide?!?
  • One of those places is North Carolina.  I miss my old bestie.
  • Another place is Montana.  I miss my physics friend.
  • Neither of those states were ever on my bucket list until I had friends move there (p.s. please come "home").
  • For some strange reason, I like planning things.  Camping trips, Costa Rica vacations, birthday parties, dinner... Am I a closet control freak?  Maybe.
  • Currently planning my birthday (which happens to be the day before Easter this year, blah) here:Pinned Image
  • When did volunteering become so tiring?  When my telescope operator training last night lasted until 11 pm, when it was scheduled to end at 9:30 pm.  And really?  How is learning the History of Telescopes (again) going to help me operate one?!?  Ok, I may just be super tired.  I was probably the only schmuck there who decided to start volunteering somewhere that takes 45 minutes to get to from their house.  But who's counting?  (That's actually less than my commute time to work, believe it or not)
  • Thinking about buying a house-soonishly.  Any idea how much I need at contract signing?  20% isn't looking very feesible in Marin County, even with house prices on the low side.  Also, any idea how much additional monthly costs can range (for insurance, etc... anything that isn't the mortgage payment)?  Trying to create a budget is hard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cream Puffs - B-Day Girl Request #1

Ok, so I've never even considered making a cream puff before.  Although, admittedly, I find them absolutely delicious!  So, when one of my besties requested them as her special birthday dessert last weekend, I decided to take on the challenge (with a back-up plan, of course... Lemon Bar recipe to come).  I was a little hesitant, mostly because we were going out salsa dancing and I was nervous they would completely melt before anyone could have a chance to try one! 
I waited as long as I could to assemble them and once assembled, I threw them in the freezer (while my boyfriend and I went out for dinner). As we were heading out the door to make it to the salsa lesson before the party, I put them in a carrier with an ice pack, topped a few with toothpicks so the foil wasn't smooshing the chocolate glaze too terribly, and hoped for the best! The chocolate got a little smooshed, but not too bad and no one seemed to mind anyhow!
I didn't have a recipe on hand (I don't have many dessert or baking recipes in my big binder of recipes at home), so I took to the internet. I found the basic recipe on Joy of Baking's website and used the chocolate glaze from a different recipe I found on  Yummy in the tummy!
Cream Puffs with Whipped Cream and Chocolate Glaze
Makes 12 small puffs
194 Cal, 14 g fat, 16 g carbs, 2.4 g protein, 68 mg sodium, 77 mg chol, 19% Vit A, 2% Calcium, 4% Iron

Choux Pastry:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, or to taste

Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 (1 oz) square unsweetened chocolate
Dash salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Choux Pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 400° F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly butter or spray the pan with a non-stick vegetable spray.
2. In a small bowl, sift (or whisk) together the flour, sugar and salt.
3. Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. (Make sure that the butter melts before the water boils to reduce the amount of evaporation.) Remove from heat and add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes).
4. Transfer the dough to your electric mixer (or hand mixer) and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about a minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon, this will take several minutes).
5. Spoon or pipe 12 small mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.
6. With a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg (you can probably skip this step if you're planning on using the chocolate glaze, the glaze will cover up the nice shiny shell top anyhow - but it made for nice pictures).
7. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. Continue to bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color.
8. Turn the oven off, poke a couple of holes in each puff and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells completely cool (and dry out).

Whipped Cream:
1. In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine.
2. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
3. When chilled, whip the cream just until stiff peaks form (this took several minutes).

Chocolate Glaze:
1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water, chocolate, and a dash of salt. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, several minutes.
2. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cool to warm.

To Assemble:
1. Split the pastry shells in half with a sharp knife (should be completely dry inside).
2. Place the tops of the shells on a rack and spoon chocolate glaze over the top (I did this as a separate step to avoid melting the whipped cream by spooning over the top of the assembled shells).
3. Fill (or pipe) the shell bottoms with the prepared whipped cream.
4. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and refrigerate to keep cool. Enjoy cream puffs the same day you assemble (they become soggy on standing).

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Day In The Life... (Monday)

Hi, friends!  I decided to give you a little sneak peek into what a day in the life of me looks like on a Monday!  Don't worry, there will be plenty of food posts to come, I promise! 

  • 5:00 am: Wake up, find clean gym clothes and get dressed (brr!), brush teeth, pull up hair and fasten bangs out of the face, locate book/ipod/gym towel/water bottle, wonder why this takes so long...
  • 5:25 am: Warm up the car and drive to the gym
  • 5:35-6:10 am: Read Clash of Kings while doing intervals on the elliptical, level 7 (-388 Cal)
  • 6:10 am: Stretch and head back home
  • 6:20 am: Hop in shower and quick rinse (washed hair last night), find something nice-ish to wear to work, pack breakfast/lunch/snacks, make coffee (thank you, Keurig!), pack gym bag and walking shoes, and head out
  • 6:48 am: Walk down to the mailbox to throw in the Netflix we watched yesterday (Apollo 18, only 2 stars for that bad-boy) while the car re-warms up (yeah, it's that cold in the mornings still)
  • 6:50-7:30 am: Commute to work, finish coffee (+5 Cal)
  • 7:30 am: Catch up on work emails; fill up on mint tea
  • 9:00-9:30 am: Morning meeting
  • 9:30 am: Breakfast - 1 large organic banana (+105 Cal) and 1 hard-boiled egg (+78 Cal); I know I'm supposed to eat within an hour of waking up, I just never really have been a breakfast person
  • 10:00 am: Workie workie; refill mint tea (sneak in a fun sized Twix bar, shh +80 Cal)
  • 12:30 pm: Take a brisk walk around the block (-90 Cal)
  • 1:00 pm: Read Tao of Physics while eating lunch - 3.5 oz chicken breast leftovers (+194 Cal), 3.5 oz sliced cucumber (+12 Cal), 2 oz sliced organic carrot (+26 Cal), 1 green onion (+5 Cal), 1/3 small organic avocado (+91 Cal), 1 tsp olive oil (+40 Cal), 1 Tbsp chopped dillweed (+0 Cal), juice of 1/2 lemon (+3 Cal)
  • 3:00 pm: Snack - 6 oz cantaloupe (+58 Cal), 1 low-fat string cheese (+65 Cal)
  • 4:00-4:15 pm: Tidy up desk, change into gym clothes
  • 4:15-5:00 pm: Commute back to the gym
  • 5:00-5:55 pm: Pilates (-200 Cal)
  • 6:00 pm: Drive home, drink lots of water, shower
  • 6:30-7:30 pm: Prepare and eat dinner - 1/2 large chicken breast (+147 Cal) marinated and grilled in 2 Tbsp Chaka's Zesty Sauce (+17 Cal) with a side of 1/2 head cauliflower (+72 Cal) smashed with 1/4 cup lactose free 2% milk (+30 Cal), 2 Tbsp romano cheese (+27 Cal), and 1/2 head of roasted garlic (+60 Cal)
  • 7:30 pm: Take muscle relaxer for twitchy calf so I can sleep later, catch up on DVR'd shows (tonight it's the new show, Missing), enjoy dessert - Tofutti Cutie (+130 Cal)
  • 8:30 pm: Take other pills for cramping calf so I can sleep later, do 15 minute hand weight routine (-43 Cal), wash dishes/clean kitchen from dinner, get lunch ready for tomorrow, catch up on Frozen Planet (Summer episode)
  • 9:30 pm: Brush teeth, floss, face primping routine, crawl under the covers
  • 9:45-10:00 pm: Try and fall asleep!
Total calories in:                                      +1,241 Cal
Total calories out (exercise):                        -724 Cal
Total calories out (mostly seated lifestyle): -1,782 Cal
Difference (Cal in-Cal out):                       -1,265 Cal

I wish I could say every day was this successful!  But I don't usually hit the gym 2x in one day... so there is that.  But today was pretty much a success, which is all I can count on!  Only 11 more lbs to meet my ultimate weight loss goal, then I get to start in on maintenance mode... we'll see how that goes!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Herbed Scallops with Couscous and Steamed Carrots

Hey, look at me!  I added a Print Friendly button to my posts so you can print out recipes with ease!  I also added an email widget so you can sign up to receive emails when I post.  If any of you like that sort of thing (as much as I do).

Now on to more important matters... food!  We made this gorgeous scallop dish a few Fridays ago with much success!  Look at that crazy nice sear down there - yum!  The secret was, of course, butter.  So from this point forth, I will most certainly be adding a smidge of butter to the oil I sear my scallops in.  In my house, we eat scallops about once a week.  We buy them in a huge bag from Costco (wild caught, of course).  A serving is really probably 3 scallops, but we up it to 4 per person since they don't have that many calories anyhow.  The recipe below is for the scallops alone, I have them pictured over a bed of Whole Wheat Couscous (cooked in chicken stock instead of water) topped with 10 steamed baby carrots (steamed in our rice cooker which came with a steam rack) and a sprinkle of the parsley that I've somehow kept alive in a pot on my patio all year round!

Herbed Scallops with Couscous (adapted from Family Circle's recipe)

4 servings
338 Calories, 14 g Fat (5 g sat, 2 g poly, 7 g mono), 78 mg Cholesterol, 311 mg Sodium, 17 g Carbs, 3 g Fiber, 35 g Protein

• 1/4 cup wheat flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
• ½ teaspoon dried oregano
• ½ teaspoon paprika
• ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
• 8 large sea scallops (approximately 13 oz.)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoons chopped parsley
• ½ lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a shallow dish or pie plate, mix flour, lemon pepper, oregano, paprika and thyme. Coat both sides of scallops in the flour mixture, shake off excess and set aside.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Saute the scallops for about 3 minutes per side or until nicely browned and cooked through. Set scallops aside on a plate and keep warm. (when doubling this recipe, cook your scallops in 2 batches so as not to overcrowd the pan)

3. Garnish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, couscous, and cooked baby carrots on the side, if desired.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sausage, Basil, and Mustard Pasta

It's been so long since we made this, I almost forgot how yummy it was!  Yummy enough to warrant a picture with a big, fat glare on it - oops!  That's what happens when it gets dark before dinnertime so I have to use a flash.  That's Trader's Joe's garlic bread taking up half the plate over there.  Yeah, I know.  It totally cancels out all the calories I saved up all day, but man is it good!  (Check the freezer aisle and eat it ASAP. Maybe try and split amongst 4 people instead of 2 like we do)  We might just have to make this again soon, it's so easy on a weeknight after Zumba, for example.  Plus, mustard?  Love it!  I always put it in my mac and cheese, but it really pairs well with the white wine in the sauce for this recipe.  Enjoy!
Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard (adapted from Food and Wine)
2 servings
410 Cal, 9.8 g fat (1.7 g sat, 0.8 g poly, 2.9 g mono), 90 mg chol, 277 mg potassium, 940 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (2.5 g fiber), 30 g protein, 5% Vit A, 7% Calcium, 3% Vit C, 14% Iron

  • 4 ounces macaroni
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces chicken or turkey sausage, crumbled (such as Isernio’s Hot Italian Chicken Sausage)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fat free half and half
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (may omit if using hot sausage)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil


1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5-8 minutes.
3. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper (if using) and simmer for 2 minutes.
5. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Avocado Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

I know, I know... it's been awhile since I've posted anything.  It is certainly not due to lack of cooking on my part (just lack of motivation to upload pictures haha).  The past 2 weeks, I've been waking up at 5 am and hitting the gym early instead of after work to see if that helps my calf cramping/twitching issue.  It was maybe helping a little bit, but I'm keeping at it!  As hard as it is to wake up over an hour earlier than usual, I do feel better after my workout and I think it might be helping boost my metabolism too.  I saw a neurologist last week, to see if there were other options for my cramping calf.  She put me on a dopamine supplement, used for people with Restless Leg.  It's only been just under a week, but it might be working.  I have seen a pretty good reduction in twitching and cramping so far.  Not sure if that's from my exercise time change or the meds, but I also don't really care so long as I can sleep at night!  I'll keep you posted.  Since I am not going to the gym after work as often (still going to Pilates and one Zumba class after work twice a week), that gives me more time to cook!  I have five recipes to share with you, all with pictures!  Here is by far my favorite of the lot, it will surely enter our "what should we cook tonight?" rotation when we run out of steam.  It's easy and pretty quick.  You can cook the chicken and the bacon and the noodles at the same time, they all finish together.  Next time, we might add a side of roasted mushrooms and broccoli, it did need a little something to go on the side (or you could just eat more of the pasta, of course!).

I am so excited to share this recipe!  When I found it a few weeks ago, I immediately pinned it onto my new-ish Pinterest account.  I seriously cannot believe I never thought to do this myself, I love avocados so much!  This recipe was all the more perfect, because we usually have all the ingredients on hand.  I made a few tweaks, mostly to the cooking of the chicken.  My crock pot is 7 qt, and it seemed awfully silly to cook 1 chicken breast in there.  Maybe someday I will try, but I simply poach the chicken in my version.  See the original post here, as posted by The Realistic Nutritionist.  I kept it at 4 servings because I really wanted to have leftovers for lunch.  Ate it cold the next day and it was just as good!

Creamy Avocado Pasta with Chicken and Bacon
4 servings total
350 Cal, 11 g fat, 41 g Carbs, 9 g Fiber, 21 g Protein, 311 mg Sodium

• 1 large 8 ounce chicken breast
• 1 can low fat, low sodium chicken broth
• 8 ounces dry spaghetti noodles, cooked
• 1 avocado, pitted and scooped out of skin
• 4 tablespoons fat free half and half
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 3 tablespoons lime juice
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 pieces of crispy cooked bacon


1. Poach the chicken: Place the chicken breast in a small saucepan and cover with the stock, about ½” above the chicken (you can use just water or a combo of chicken stock and water, if you'd like. We save the poaching liquid after, skimming any fat or scum off the top, to reuse for making rice or couscous, etc). Bring to a boil and then partially cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes (it should barely have bubbles). Remove from heat and let sit for 10 more minutes with the lid still partially on. Once done, shred using two forks and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, place avocados, half and half, lime juice, salt and pepper. Blend until soft and creamy. If mixture is too chunky, add additional cream. Add additional lime juice to taste.

3. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, pasta and avocado sauce together. Crumble bacon on top and enjoy!