Thursday, December 24, 2009
I have been spending a lot of time writing, addressing and mailing out Christmas cards, and it's only right to give one to all of my fabulous bloggie friends as well! We wanted to show off our new home to all our friends and relatives that are out of state or we don't get to see very often, and really, that's most of you, too! I am so grateful for the gift of your friendship and the kind words and caring support that have been shown to me as I have worked through the blog.
Hope your holidays are the best ever! Love each of you so much! xoxo
Monday, December 21, 2009
Anyway, let's get to some eats shall we? As I mentioned, I did have an office shindig to attend Saturday morning. It was a brunch at a big fancy hotel downtown that is famous for their spread. It was also at 10:00 a.m., which kind of put a cramp in my eating style. Usually I wake up at 5:15, have a good sized breakfast, workout and then have a snack around that time. Being a creature of habit (a.k.a. rigidly enmeshed in routine), having an actual meal at snackie time was kind of throwing me into a quandary. So I tried a little switcheroo: lighter breakfast and pretty darn big brunch.
Because I was opting for something a little lighter, I strayed from my old faithful CCC and celebrated Sammie Saturday instead. Remember how I told you I am obsessed with this cinnamon raisin bread? Yep, still crazy for it!
Semi-inspired by a sweet/savory wafflewhich I spied on Tay's blog way back when, I manufactured a most excellent sammie out of toasted cinnamon raisin bread, egg whites, turkey sausage and ketchup (obviously).
So good, but wait! Something's missing!
Oh yeah. More ketchup! Added for dipping. Much better.
Oh, and a couple of you were interested to see what I ended up cooking for D's family during our Christmas celebration. And since I regretfully only had one delicious sammie to show you this week, I will show you my Friday night festivities instead! I had to take individual pics since it didn't look as tantalizing all glopped on my plate together, but you'll get the idea :)
Ginger glazed ham for the main course. This was actually my first attempt at glazing a ham, and this sucker was huge! I didn't catch any pictures when I first took it out of the oven all dark brown and bubbly--I was too worried about hefting it (and my Pyrex baking dish) onto the counter without damaging anything. It was beautiful though, and perfectly sweet, smoky and salty.
I also made my version of Cauliflower Mac n Cheese from Real Simple. I've linked to the recipe. The only modifications I make are using fat-free sour cream and reduced fat cheese blend, plus a little feta and paremsan thrown in for extra flavor. I sub in some Fiber One for part of the breadcrumb mix and usually use less than the recipe calls for (still plenty). I also usually use a couple of bags of frozen defrosted cauliflower instead of fresh. It cuts prep way down and makes this dish much easier to prepare. My bacon grease, meat and potatoes family actually loves this and so does D, so how bad can it be? Be aware though, that it does make a lot. A lot. The recipe says only six servings, but this fed 6 of us, plus leftover for me and D twice and a tupperware for the sis. Not that I mind--I always like things second day!
I added in some sauteed brussels sprouts for me, with a balsamic reduction a la Janetha. I think my reducing technique needs a little work though. Practice, practice! Still tasty.
Yum. Glad everyone was here and gave me an excuse to show off my mad cooking skillzzz, um, or at least do what I enjoy the most. My philosophy: "I love you, let me feed you!" I really feel like one of the greatest reflections of affection is to share a meal with the people that you care about.
I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. Ready for the Christmas countdown? Only 4 days to go!!! xoxo
Friday, December 18, 2009
You may recall from my previous post, my love for all things spicy, and my affinity for gingerbread. I've melded the two nicely together in this delightful dandy of a breakfast bowl:
Cottage cheese, copious amounts of cinnamon, slightly more judicious amounts of ginger, cloves and nutmeg (to taste), cereal trio,the requisite Fiber One and the mightiest of maple peanut butters, all drizzled with molasses.
Puts me in the holiday mood just thinking about it :)
I've also been in particularly cheery mood since receiving my goodie box loaded with fun things to try. My latest experiment involved the salt-free Chili Lime Seasoning blend by Mrs. Dash.
I love all the spices used in this blend including chili peppers, cumin and cayenne, plus the sour lime. But I also really liked the fact that this didn't contain any added salt. D likes to pour half a slat shaker on his food at meals--more out of habit than anything I think--so it's always nice to know I'm not contributing to any premature hypertension :) I have been obsessed with salmon lately, and this seemed like the perfect thing to pep it up. easiest thing ever (seen here with Tina's roasted broccoli and rosemary acorn squash). I just squirted a little lime juice on my salmon fillets, then sprinkled on the seasoning blend before popping them in the oven. They came out perfectly spicy and delicious, and I don't even think Dustin swiped the salt to douse his plate. But he probably just did it when I wasn't looking ;)
And now for the freaky part! I know you all missed this last week when I flaked out ( or maybe not), so I tried to come up with a real doozy for this installment. Guess what this is?
No, not worms, slugs or seaweed...
Pickled cactus! Awesome! Way back in the summer, I joked about munching on some pokey plants, and I finally found some that are safe to eat!
Well, these prickly pickles may not taste like worms, but they kind of felt that way all sliding around in my mouth.
Suggestion: do not eat these plain. Instead, dice them into a quesadilla or mix them up with some bbq sauce and cooked ground beef on top of a taco salad. That way they add a nice smokey and subtly spicy taste without the disgusting sluggy side effects.
Well, I have to peace out because Dustin's entire family is coming over for dinner tonight to celebrate our Christmas with them (they're headed to NYC *jealous*) and I am in charge of whipping up our holiday meal.
At my parents' house, we always have steak and lobster (neither or which I really care for) on Christmas Eve and then turkey on Christmas day. I actually got into a huge argument with my mom over whether or not we had ever had anything besides turkey on Christmas (for the record, we HAVE, Mom!). I've got some yummy things on the menu for tomorrow, but tell me--what do you usually eat for your Christmas dinner?
P.S. You all were so sweet to compliment my gingerbread cookies in the last post--makes me smile! xoxo
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Luckily, on Friday, I received an awesome package from Rachel who represents some fun products like Mrs. Dash Seasonings, Ronzoni pasta and my all time favorite sweetener, Sun Crystals!
One of the reasons I love Sun Crystals so much is that it is all natural, with only two ingredients on the label list, as opposed to most sweeteners with chemical-laden lists a mile long. The Sun Crystals baking blend is no exception and still contains only cane sugar and stevia. The only difference is that the ratio of sugar to stevia is slightly higher to maintain the delicate balance required in baking.
- 1/3 c. shortening
- 1/4 c. Sun Crystals Baking Blend
- 1/3 c. molasses
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 1/2 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/ tsp. cloves
After dough has chilled, roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes (or non gender specific people) using a four inch cutter.
And because we're all kids at heart, I made some for all Dustin's and my siblings who came over on Sunday for dinner...
The cookies turned out beautifully with the addition of the Sun Crystals baking blend. They weren't dry or crumbly like baked goods sometimes turn out with other granulated sweeteners (I'm looking at you Splenda!!!). Plus, I felt much better about feeding this healthier, chemical-free cookie to my little class and family.
How about you guys--what type of ethnic food is your favorite to prepare or eat out? Are you a mild, medium or hot kind of gal?
You'll notice that this is Part 1, so never fear my friends! There is more nice n spicy goodness coming your way later on. Love and kisses for now! xoxo
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I tired to hit up Whole Foods for a salad bar lunchie to better my day, but it was totally lacking. Ugh! Someone needs to raise the bar (ha ha) for reals, cuz when I got there, there were like two pieces of dried up chicken, shriveled beets and some wilty-ass greens. Sick. I had to jet to another appointment, so by the time i got home, it was 4:00 and I hadn't even had lunch yet. For Pete's sake. Plus I had to clean the house and get all ready for Knitting Club. Sometimes being an old lady can be very stressful.
Luckily my sister arrived a little later and we got to work making two different batches of Chex mix. I think this is the quintessential holiday/party food, yet I have never made it before. Rando.
Anyway, one batch I made with a specific blogger in mind--I am her blogger Secret Santa, so no names named, but chick digs the hot sauce--so I churned out a batch of suppa hot n spicy mix for her. Hope she likes it!
And my sis was mondo craving some of this delight...
We call it puppy chow, but the back of the box calls it Muddy Buddies. What do you guys call it? I think I just call it good :)
Of course, the day wouldn't be complete without the requisite display of delicious sandwich creations, and since I left you hanging for FFF, I couldn't possibly flake out on Sammie Saturday, too!
I located the most wonderful cinnamon raisin bread at the Sunflower Market a couple weeks ago and have been in love with it ever since. It has minimal ingredients and is blissfully free of nasty preservatives and stuff I can't pronounce. This bread has been delightful for breakfast with peanut butter or dunked into some cottage cheese, but it boast fantastic savory possibilities as well. Seen here grilled to crispy brown perfection with laughing cow and gooey mozzarella oozing from between the slices, garnished with just a hint of cranberry jalapeno preserves.
Next up, a Roast Beef Reuben:
Toasted whole grain bread spread with laughing cow and a sprinkle of feta, thin shavings of roast beef, honey mustard and a generous amount of sauerkraut.
The other day, I was just minding my own business is Target when this young women with severe eyebrows and a very European fashion sense came up to me a demanded to know if I was from Bulgaria. Ummmmm, if by Bulgaria you mean Wyoming, then yes. Otherwise, no. I responded politely in the negative and she replied that I looked like I was Slovakian and that I should take it as a compliment. Why, yes I will. My great-grandmother would be proud. And I think she'd like this sandwich, too. I'm just getting back to my roots--well, my food roots that is. My other roots are now a lovely shade of four hour platinum. Blondie bean. That's me.
What's your heritage? I was kind of flattered that homegirl thought I looked Slovakian, because I am. I'm also Irish, French Canadian and a wee bit Algonquin Indian.
Hope you're having a great weekend! xoxo
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Anyway my sister and two of my sister in laws came over to help me with my holiday cookie creations on Sunday afternoon. I am so mad at myself for not taking pictures of us in action! It was so much fun, and I wish I could have documented us going to town in our "Santa's workshop," but I guess we were just too busy getting down with our bad sugar cookie selves. At least I remembered to take pictures of the final product!
Ever since I received the December issue, I have been peeing my pants over these sugar cookies from Real Simple Magazine. Easy pee-sy (ha ha), and look how pretty they turned out! Since the whole idea from the mag was 1 batter, 10 ways, I couldn't resist making another batch...
This time with a peppermint twist. Yummers. Are you a thick or thin sugar cookie person? I definitely love the THICK (TWSS)! That's just the way to go for me--plus more surface area for things like sprinkles and chocolate :)
I have also been experiencing an embarrassing display of incontinence over Abby's delightful recipe, so of course I had to hug it out with tray after tray of these babies:
Just a word to the wise--1 bag of Hugs is not enough and a medium sized bag of pretzels is deceivingly large.
You will need to go back to the store multiple times to purchase more candy, and inevitably other items that you need/want/that were on sale and more candy. Sorry babe!
Also, since I had quite the plethora of pretzels, I tried another variation on the theme--Turtle Doves (get it? Turtle Doves for Christmas? Oh never mind). Perhaps you have seen these before, but I have not and I thought they were pretty rad.
Changes--sub Rolos for Hugs
and add pecans. I can't take complete credit for these, though. Remember the church shindig I went to as part of my old-lady in training last week? Some of the ladies there were talking about making these, and since I was already making Abby's little pretzel pieces of goodness and light, I thought these would fit right in.
I actually thought the Rolos melted a little more easily in the oven without getting too runny. And now my mind has been in constant creation mode, thinking of more variations on the theme. Maybe (probably) I will make some more.
And last, but not least, I made what I had actually set out to make all along! My cinnamon apple trail mix, crafted from only the finest apples courtesy of my hugeormous apple tree. When we "suffered" through our apple madness this fall, we ended up dehydrating a BUNCH of apple slices, and it was probably the most efficient use ever. We managed to condense about 10 stuffed grocery sacks of apples into 1 large gallon bag (also stuffed).
I love trail mix, and it's a good thing this is all going to our neighbors (and my mom. Don't panic Mom, I saved some for you!), or I would be in big trouble!
In the mix: cinnamon dried apples, dried cranberries, white and dark chocolate chips, almonds and sunflower seeds.
My sister made fruitcake, too. but alas, no pics. It smelled amazing and came out almost more like a spice cake with dried fruit than a traditional (much maligned) fruitcake. She made it gluten free (for her bf) and used dates, dried apricots, cranberries and mucho nuts. I *think* she is saving some for when we're all home at Christmas, though, so maybe I'll get the chance to put it up later.
Have you ever tried fruitcake? I have once and I don't remember feeling one way or the other about it, really.
Happy humpday to everyone--is your week/month just FLYING by?? Good grief. It will be Christmas and the New Year before we know it! Gotta start thinking of some resolutions...but for now I resolve to stop talking, tell you I love you, and peace out! xoxo
Saturday, December 5, 2009
- 3rd yoga sesh of the week--I am a rockstar (hey, if this counts as strength training, I am at FOUR for the week--right on!)
- Hit up grocery store (also number four in the last day) to hunt down some Minute Maid light lemonade in a liter bottle and Hershey's Hugs. Who knew they were such a disaster to find??
- Produce copious amounts of Christmas goodies, using afore mentioned Hugs (check out Abby's sweet recipe here) and other yummy tummy things.
- Hit up a baby shower for my co-worker's son's girlfriend. Yeah...I am going and I even bought a present in spite of the fact that I have never met this chick before. I am nice. And I'm hoping there's cake ;) JK. She deserves some support and fun baby things, so I am happy to go.
- Wrap some presents and stick 'em under the treeeeee! We never put presents under the tree when I was growing up, but I kind of like it. I mean, obviously putting your kids' presents in plain view is just asking for trouble, but D is pretty good about keeping his hands off. Plus I already know what I'm getting and it doesn't fit under the tree, so I will be safe too. Any guesses?
In the meantime, here are a couple of luscious sammies for your viewing (and hopefully eating) pleasure:
First up is my own creation. I have to do this one first because it kind of pales in comparison to the masterpiece my super sis-in-law created.
Anyhoo, I give you my first turkey creation.
Panini style whole grainy bread with turkey, laughing cow and sliced pears. Yes , that's a side of pickles. Of course. Perfection. Melty.
My mom says she doesn't quite "get" the whole cheese and fruit thing. Trust me, Ma, if you had this sammie, you totally would.
Next up, the true superstar of this post, my sister in law Jessie's super sammie. She made this hunka hunka burnin love for out knitting club a couple weeks ago and seriously, everyone could NOT stop raving about how delicous it was! She made it for our family again while we were up for Thanksgiving andn I convinced her to let me put it up on the blog.
Accoridng to Jessie, this is a Giada de Laurentiis inspired mashup from a couple of recipes. Jess totally owns this version.
Thick loaf of bread cut in half and spread with garlicky pesto, topped with an ultra think layer of eggs and turkey breast on one side and provelone on the other.
But, wait! There's more! The love of my (food) life--onions! Jsut look at how happy that spoon is, surfing in that oniony gloriousness :)
Crowned with a luscious layer of sweet carmelly onions and finally assembled...
Love ya Jessie! You are quite the little chef, and you can make sammies for me any day of the week!
Oh yeah! One more thing I have to do this weekend--announce my super duper giveaway winner! I was so psyched to see how many people entered in such a short amount of time, and I LOVED everyone's staples. I mean, it's no Chobani giveaway, but ya'll made me feel like I'm not so lame after all :) Love you for that!
So gettin to bizznass......the winner is.....
Elizabeth aka peanutbutterlover!! Whoo hoo girl! Just send me your info and I'll ship your package out as soon as I can get my a** to the post office.
Whew! Well, what are your cookie/treat making plans for the holidays? Anything special you're excited to make for you friends and negihbors (and let's be honest, yourselves!)? Also, do you guys put presents under the tree or save them for later? xoxo
Friday, December 4, 2009
Obviously, I am taking a page from Janetha's book with a little flashback action. Not that we're flashing that far--just to last weekend. This is so I can show you the frigid adventure I suffered through. No, no, not the in laws--that part was fine! This part:
was the cold one! Yep, that's really me in the back of a pickup truck on a frozen dirt road, bouncing up into the mountains (aka the freaking arctic) to cut down a Christmas tree. yee haw! After nearly suffering hypothermia for approximately 20 minutes, we found our perfect little tree. I sawed it down all by myself...and by "all by myself," I mean that a cut a few gouges in the trunk and got about two inches in before Dustin had to to take over. After that I just stood there and watched. But I did help carry it down!
Don't mind that my boots are like three sizes too big. I'm pretty sure I got them when I was in the 6th grade. We thought I'd grow into them. Ha! Obviously I don't get out that much in the snow anymore, either. Snowboots will last ya that way :)
Here's Dustin's fam with their little one, too. My mother in law swore she wasn't decorating this year (they are going on a cool trip instead), but I think she really wanted to go up and get a tree anyway. Aren't they precious?
They really are, and I loved spending the weekend with them. Dustin has two brothers and two sisters, plus one brother is married, so I get a bonus sister, too! Of course we had lots of holiday food (no pics of the Thanksgiving feast--I didn't want to ruin the mood), and lots of treats, including some of these bad boys:
Tell me you don't love rice crispy treats! I don't think I have had these probably since I bought those snowboots, so it was kind of fun to eat a big gooey hunk on the way back from our Christmas tree expedition. I needed my strength to fight off the icicles.
We also found these fancy things on another freezing-ass cold outing to the North Pole, aka the grocery store.
Screamin' Dill Pickle. Hells yes. Freaky for sure, but disappointingly not as pickle-y as I would have hoped. I was expecting a sharper salt and vinegar type tang, but these screamin chip were really more like a whisper. Just a hint of pickle--and that's really not enough for yours truly, the Pickle Queen. Loveeee me some pickles, so I think next time I will just opt for those over the pickle chips--better for ya anyway :)
Speaking of stuff I love, don't forget you only have until midnight tonight to enter my giveaway. But if you are boring like me, that will be plenty of time for you since you're probably doing something like sitting with a nice book (or blog) and a cup of tea on Friday night. Yesssss!
Actually, I will be kind of a party animal tonight. We are going to our church Christmas dinner to mix and mingle and jingle. I may even be out past 8:00. P.M.!!! Lordy, lordy. We'll see if I can keep my eyes open ;)
However, hope you keep your eyes open for some cool stuff up on the blog tomorrow, including an amazing sammie courtesy of my sister-in-law and, of course, the winner winner chicken dinner. Hopefully that is what we're having tonight, and not some weirdy casseroles with wilty salad and funeral potatoes. Oh well--beggars can't be choosers. Fortunately for me, if the food is a little less than acceptable, I am sure the company will make up for it, and I can always have some of my favorites when I come home. Have a good night, yo! Any non-boring (or boring) plans for the evening? xoxo
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
In other news, wait--there is no other news. Sorry guys. I am boring. My food is boring, my pics are boring, my thoughts are boring. Boring Boring Boring. Anyway, since I can't think of anything new, I thought I'd introduce you to some old favorites...
Besides the stuff that I talk about all the time and you all know I love, like cottage cheese and green tea, here are some more yummy products I can't live without:
P.S. You;ll just have to excuse my gross old lady hands in every.single. pic. Obviously I am too boring to even crop these or jazz em up a little. Lame.
Goes in everything, on everything. All the time. Yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce, oatmeal, tea, salad dressing, sliced fruit--the works. Everything is better with cinnamon, and all cinnamon in recipes must be multiplied by at least 2 to get it right. And guess what? This shiz is only a dollar. A dollar! Best investment EVER.
I call this my tiger tea. It just sounds better than Bengal Spice as far as I'm concerned. If I run out of this in my house, it's a sad day for sure. I think it is perfect with dessert, especially ice cream, and the spice warms you up perfectly. meow!
Ah lover! You can check out my full review of Sun Crystals here. But suffice it to say that I think these are the bomb dot com, compared to traditional chemically laced sweeteners. This is made out of just two ingredients: stevia and cane sugar, so I don't think it gets much more natural than that, but you can still use a lot less than regular sugar and get the same sweetness bang for your buck. I put this in almost as much stuff as cinnamon. Stevia and spice, that's me.
Have you had this??? OMG. It is to die for! Sweet and salty is definitely a combo I adore and this definitely fits the bill. It comes in a pretty big bar, with large thin squares that can be easily broken up for portioned consumption. It tastes so, so indulgent. And coming from someone with a mad sweet tooth, you can take me at my word when I say that even I am satisfied with just one piece. It's that good.
Ok, seriously, has anyone NOT tried this yet? So delicious. If I had to choose between this and peanut butter, it would be one tough call. It's slightly sweeter than most pb's, but the salty contrast is much sharper and the crunch is so luscious!
Is there anything that little Quaker man can't do? This is the best cereal of all time. I don't even know how I survived 25 years without it. It makes the perfect finishing touch to any yogurt mess, cottage cheese concoction, cereal trio (or quadruple, whatever), or ice cream, too. Yeah, it's dessert. It's amazing.
Another fantastic multi-purpose product. I am still weary of cheese in general, but I just slather this little 35-calorie wedge onto anything that required a nice cheesy bite, and I've got it made. Especially handy in sandwiches. My favorite combo is turkey slices spread with laughing cow, cranberry jalapeno preserved and Dijon mustard, stuffed with tons of spinach and crammed into a whole wheat pita. Yum.
So there you have it--some of the best foods ever that I eat on a pretty regular rotation, hence the boring-ness.
Anyhoodles, just because I am boring, doesn't mean you have to be! As usual, I am turning to you guys for some inspiration, but even better, in an effort to be NOT-boring, I am hosting a GIVEAWAY!!!! Yay!
Everyone needs a little extra holiday cheer and a little more love (and presents!), so here is something to get December started off right! Winner receives all my fave products featured above, plus some super yummy homemade treats and maybe a couple surprises (so as not to be TOO boring).
So easy to enter (same old boring way)--just leave a comment down below with some of your old favorites and "boring" standbys, and link back for an extra entry if you're feeling generous. Or maybe if you're just feeling boring, too and need something to post about ;) xoxo and love you lots!
P.S. Giveaway ends Friday at midnight, so try not to be extra boring and enter before then :)