Monthly Archives: July 2012

Baking a Giant Cookie at 7 in the Morning

That’s right, this AM before I began working, I baked a cookie the size of a pizza.

Why?

Because today is my hubby’s birthday!

I blogged about celebrating his turning 26 a few days ago, but today is Adam’s actual birthday. My, how far we’ve come since our first birthdays together…

New York City, 2007:

Since our birthdays are only 6 days apart (yep, mine is next week!), the first summer we were dating, we went skydiving together to celebrate both of ’em:

It was so much fun, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

On the menu for tonight:

Dinner: my spaghetti squash casserole  + fresh bread

Wine: A bottle of Mark West  Pinor Noir (<– pretty cool website!), which I actually broke out our wine chiller for to set it to the ideal temp. Their wine is near and dear to our hearts – it’s what we were drinking when Adam proposed! I love it because it’s yummy and not pricey.

my favorite new wine glass

Dessert: The giant chocolate chip cookie I mentioned before (recipe found here), with light vanilla bean ice cream. Although I made a few switches to the recipe to make it not quite as sinful [light butter + less sugar + less chocolate chips + flax eggs], eating this cookie with light ice cream is like ordering a Big Mac and fries with a Diet Coke. Okay, maybe not as bad, as I made it myself and no animals were killed in the making of this dessert!

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t quit my day job… but I have a feeling it’ll taste pretty good!

Post dessert, I’ll probably roll myself onto my couch in a wine hazed sugar coma (it’s a good thing I worked out today!!) and watch the Olympics. I’ve been staying up late watching gymnastics and swimming every night since it started. On that note, I’m off to enjoy my night!

Zucchini Cakes

Let me start off this post on a totally random note.

Yesterday at the dog park, I got peed on…yeaaaaahhh.

A dog just walked up to me, lifted his leg, and started peeing on my leg and foot.

Hmm, what? Has this happened to anyone out there? Was he marking me as his territory?

All I know is that it was definitely my strange moment of the day!

Moving onto a more pleasant subject, on the menu for dinner tonight were these bad boys:

What some people refer to as vegetarian crab cakes – zucchini cakes! This recipe from The Vegan Table is pretty simple and quick. I served mine with light sour cream and cocktail sauce.

Zucchini Cakes

Serves 4

What you need:

  • 4 medium zucchini (mine measured out to 5 cups grated)
  • 2 TBSP light butter, melted
  • 1 c seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 minced red onion
  • 1 TSP Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 TSP salt, or to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • About 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c canola or vegetable oil

Grate the zucchini in a food processor with a grating blade (the harder way: with a grater or mandolin). 

Spread the zucchini on a kitchen towel, and roll it jelly-roll style. Twist the towel tightly to wring out a lot of the liquid.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini with melted butter. Stir in the bread crumbs, minced onion, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.

Coat your hands in a bit of oil, then shape the zucchini mixture into 12 patties. Dust each patty with flour.

In a skillet, heat half of the remaining oil over medium heat. Fry half the patties until browned on both sides. Repeat with the remaining 6 patties.

Nutrition stats (per 3 patties): 425 calories, 20 g fat, 11 g protein, 50 g carbs

On this day in another year…

On June 30, 2010, I was on vacation in Hawaii with Adam for our version of a honeymoon (aka 9 months after we tied the knot and in the midst of a deployment, we met up in Waikiki for a week!). 2 years ago today we were at Pearl Harbor:

I got to meet a Pearl Harbor vet, who was the cutest old man ever!

That vacation, I was highly obsessed with wearing flowers in my hair. I think I bought a new gorgeous little arrangement every day! Case in point:

I love vacation memories!

I’ll leave you with my quote of the day: “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.” – Leo Tolstoy

Kayaking & Beer

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Yesterday I planned a day of fun for Adam’s birthday, which is coming up on Tuesday. I made up these mildly corny but funny little poems that were clues as to what activities we would be doing and what his presents were. Oh yes, I’m quite the poet! 😉

First up, I rented us a kayak in La Jolla. We paddled around near the caves there and checked out the seals, who were mostly just hanging out basking in the sun as usual. One seal was swimming around us just a few feet from our kayak, which was pretty cool.

 The birthday boy:

Though we got kind of crushed by a wave heading out, we managed to not tip over getting back to shore on the choppy waters. WOOHOO! After kayaking, we hung out on the beach, ate lunch and relaxed.

Next, we headed to a local brewery we’ve never been to called Ballast Point for a tour and beer tasting…

I’ll be honest, I really do NOT like beer. One of them was not too horrendous, but the others…. ick. I kind of wish I did, but I gave up trying to like it after years of attempting to drink it in college. But, Adam likes beer and I thought it’d be fun to go to a brewery as part of his birthday fun. And it’s a place we had never been to, and we’re all for seeing as much as we can in San Diego!

The last time I forced myself to try beer was when we were in St. Louis at the Anheuser-Busch brewery a few years ago. I thought that the tour was really interesting, but I enjoyed seeing the Clydesdales more than trying the beer…

Yes, I’m a wino all the way!

I digress.

After the brewery, we headed to Adam’s favorite Japanese joint for dinner. I forgot to snap photos of our grub, but the food was good as usual.

Following dinner, we made a stop at the mall to look for a motorcycle jacket for Adam (a birthday gift from me), though we had little luck.

As another birthday gift, I surprised Adam with tickets to a Chargers pre-season game in a few weeks. We both love football and have yet to go to a game here, so it should be a good time!

Our night ended fabulously by eating fro yo and watching the Olympics.

It was a pretty awesome day together!

Next on the agenda for my Sunday is seeing the new Batman movie. To anyone who has seen it, what did you think??

Broccoli Mac & Cheese: Take 2

Happy weekend! I’m excited for this weekend for a few reasons –

1.) The Olympics are about to begin any minute now!

2.) Adam’s birthday is in a couple of days, and tomorrow we’re celebrating it. I have a few surprises up my sleeve for his pre-bday day of fun! More on that later, but now onto food…

Last week, I blogged about my failed mac & cheese attempt. As I mentioned then, I was eager to buy more ingredients to give it another try, and tonight I did just that.

Macaroni & cheese is such a classic dish, but there are so many ways you can jazz it up a bit. Pasta, cheese, butter, and breadcrumbs obviously make for an indulgent dish, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit for a few reasons: #1 – so that I didn’t feel guilty about eating a dinner with a ton of calories and fat, and #2 – because I don’t like feeling too overstuffed and full, and a heavy pasta dish can and will give me that uneasy feeling afterwards. So what did I do to healthify (I think I’m making that word up) it and make it a little more waistline friendly, while still keeping the creaminess and flavor of the dish?

  • First, I used reduced fat cheese and low-fat milk.
  • Second, I used smaller portions of ingredients. For instance, the recipe called for 2 cups of breadcrumbs. 1 cup was plenty enough as the topping, and reduced the dish by 500+ calories.
  • I used multigrain pasta and added broccoli to the mix to amp up the nutrition factor.

Cheddar & Monterey Jack Broccoli Mac and Cheese  

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Serves 6 

  • 14 oz multigrain or whole wheat penne, or other type of pasta
  • 1/4 c butter + 1 TBSP
  • 2 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 2 c low-fat milk
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 7 oz reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese (a bit over 2 c)
  • 3 oz monterey jack cheese (a bit under 1 c)
  • 2-3 c chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1 c seasoned bread crumbs (whole wheat and/or fresh ones are best)
  • Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook your pasta according to directions. 

Meanwhile, mix the topping: melt 3 TBSP of the butter, then stir the garlic in. Put the breadcrumbs in a medium sized bowl and drizzle the butter over the crumbs. Add a pinch of salt, then toss well to combine with your hand or a wooden spoon. Set aside.

Begin steaming the broccoli, cooking until tender.

Grate both the cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.

Next, melt the remaining butter (2 TBSP) in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, and continue to whisk for a few minutes until the mixture gently bubbles.

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer, still whisking. The sauce should be smooth at this point. Turn off the heat, and slowly add the the cheeses in. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm until the pasta is done cooking.

When penne is cooked al dente, drain and return back to the pot. Add in the cheese sauce and broccoli, stirring to combine well.

Pour the pasta mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Evenly scatter the breadcrumbs on top.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition stats per serving: 580 calories, 20 g fat, 31 g protein, 68 g carbs

Off to watch the opening Olympic ceremonies and drink a glass of wine!

 

Balsamic Portobello & Mozzarella Pizza

As some of you may guessed by now, I’m a big fan of pizza.

But not just any old pizza, delicious pizza.  If I’m going to indulge in pizza, which I do probably every other week, it’s got to be good. The best way to ensure that the pizza I’m eating isn’t full of grease and extra calories is to make it myself – hence, homemade pizza night happens pretty often around here.

The “classic” pie in this house is one loaded with veggies (most often zucchini, tomato, and spinach), mozzarella, and marinara (like the one I posted about here), but I do veer away from that sometimes to experiment with other combos — such as this goat cheese & arugula pesto pizza. And then there’s my most recent pizza creation…

Balsamic Portobello Mozzarella Pizza

Makes 8 slices 

  • 1 whole wheat pizza dough ball (Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 vine ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1/2 c roasted red pepper & artichoke tapenade (optional, or you can sub it for marinara or another kind of veggie tapenade)
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Flour for rolling dough
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for around 10 minutes, until it becomes syrupy.

Add the portobello and onion slices, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, roll out your pizza dough, dusting the rolling pin and surface with flour to make it easier.

Place the dough onto your pizza pan. If you’re using a tapenade or base sauce, pour onto dough and spread evenly.

Once the mushrooms are tender, remove from heat. With a large spoon, place the balsamic mushroom and onion slices onto the pizza. Use the spoon to drizzle a bit of the balsamic onto the pizza.

Evenly add the tomato and mozzarella slices onto the pie, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until dough is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly.

Per slice stats: 220 calories, 7 g fat, 10 g protein, 32 g carbs

Adam and I both liked this one, but agreed that our favorite pizza remains my classic loaded veggie pie!

Do You Date Yourself?

Today’s post is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for awhile — dating yourself.

Out of all the important relationships in your life, the one you have with yourself is the most significant of them all. This idea is central to healthy living, because if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, it makes it difficult to have meaningful, strong bonds with others. Having positive friendships and connections is pivotal to being your best self.

A few months back, my friend and I were talking about her recent therapy session. They had talked about whether my friend makes an effort to do enjoyable things on her own to help strengthen her mental, physical, and emotional health – what her therapist deemed as ”dating yourself.”  I had never heard it coined that way before, but when I heard her explanation of what it means to date yourself, I said, ”Oh I totally date myself!” Her response was something along the lines of, ”I know, you really do! That’s one of the things I love about  you. Whether Adam’s home or not, you make time to do things for you.” 🙂

It’s true, I like to think I make a continuous effort to thrive in all my relationships, whether it be with my husband, family, friends or myself. I think it’s important to never lose yourself in a romantic relationship. I know people who are great examples of maintaining separate hobbies and interests while also being well-connected with their partner. Then there are those who take it to the extreme, either having too much of a separate life from their significant other, or not having one at all. Like most things in life, I believe the key is balance.

Quite honestly, I’m crazy about my husband and just adore being around him a lot. However, I’ve found it beneficial – to both us a couple and me as an individual – to have my own gratifying things going on apart from us as a team. Dating yourself looks different to everyone. For me, it means doing things like volunteering at the Humane Society, challenging myself with exercise, blogging, and occasionally pampering myself. To someone else it might mean taking art classes. Though I love doing active things with Adam, I also look at my workouts as my ”me” time when I problem solve, clear my head, and recharge, so a lot of the time, I exercise alone. Last Friday I dated myself when I hiked alone with Harley, then went to get a fabulous, relaxing pedicure. Giving yourself time to strengthen your relationship with YOU gives you the chance to better figure out who you are, which in turn builds your confidence, which enables you to be a happier person, which equates to you being the best YOU you can be, for both yourself and those you share your life with. What’s the downside to that?!

I understand that this idea of carving out time for yourself is challenging to people with demanding jobs, children, hectic schedules, and the list goes on and on, as life sometimes gets crazy for most people. Ideally, a lot of your passions can somehow be shared with your partner in some way. For instance, Adam loves surfing, and I love to relax in the sun, so we head to the beach together. I love cooking and baking, and Adam enjoys eating my creations. It’s a great thing when some of your interests intertwine, but the idea of dating yourself is to make an effort to do something by yourself, for yourself from time to time.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you date yourself? 

Apple Pie Oatmeal Bowl

Random tidbit of the day: According to a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, exercising for at least 2 hours a week makes you 70-85% less likely to be depressed, anxious, or experience burn out. Add that to the laundry list of reasons to workout! That’s just a minimum of about 17 minutes a day, so what’s your excuse?

Speaking of exercise, when I was talking about mountain biking in yesterday’s post, I neglected to mention the fact that I always have some sort of injury after biking. This time it’s a nice ugly bruise on my calf:

Nice right? Totally worth it though!

Moving onto eats, my day was full of getting work done and being busy with the usual shenanigans, and I didn’t devote a lot of time to prepping my meals. But contrary to what some may think, eating healthy doesn’t equate to slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end. While my dinner was a little boring — a veggie burger with tomato and avocado, with edamame on the side — my lunch was a new combo that I loved:

An apple pie oatmeal bowl!

I haven’t eaten oatmeal in awhile, but I brought it back today after smelling the sweet apple scent of it last night when my hubby snacked on a bowl of oats. So when lunchtime hit this afternoon, oatmeal was on my brain.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 packet of Quaker Oats apples & cinnamon oatmeal
  • 1/2 chopped apple
  • 2 TBSP slivered toasted almonds
  • 1 mini box of raisins
  • 1/4 c Kashi Go Lean Cinnamon Crunch cereal
  • Sprinkled cinnamon

I microwaved the apple in with the oats to make them hot and soft, apple pie style. The other ingredients were added in after the oats cooked. Yum!

I’ll leave you with some food for thought: “The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” – Marcel Pagnol

Broccoli Red Pepper Quiche

Adam running down a bike trail hill

Yesterday marked my first mountain biking excursion of the year.

Biking on a rocky, mountainous trail is both exhilarating and scary. One of the things I love about San Diego is that we have access to so many things in such a short distance — from the beach and wineries, to mountains and countryside. The place where Adam and I went biking yesterday is just a couple minutes away, yet it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. It was a lot of fun and a nice workout.

Speaking of bikes, this weekend my hubby got another kind of bike:

That’s right, I suppose I’m going to be a biker babe now! Adam has been wanting a motorcycle, and what better time than soon after he returned home from a deployment, right?! He’s in the process of getting his motorcycle license, and soon we’ll be cruising around town together.

Moving onto food, today’s recipe is a tasty dish that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner…

Broccoli & Red Pepper Quiche

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 deep dish frozen pie crust
  • 2 c chopped broccoli
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 c milk (I use almond or cow’s milk)
  • 1 1/2 c shredded mozzarella, cheddar, or other cheese of choice
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP butter or olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Heat the butter/oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.

Add onions, garlic, broccoli and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are soft, stirring occasionally.

Place your pie crust on a baking sheet. Spoon veggies into the crust, then spread the cheese on top.

In a bowl, combine the eggs and milk, whisking to combine. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mixture over the veggies and cheese. Bake for around 35 minutes, until quiche is lightly browned.

Nutrition stats per slice: 190 calories, 11 g fat, 8 g protein, 15 g carbs

The Mac and Cheese That Never Was

(source)

Like most food bloggers, I usually share my experiments in the kitchen that turn out well.

But today that’s not the case.

Cooking is a metaphor for life in that sometimes things turn out as planned, sometimes they turn out even better than expected… and sometimes they totally bomb, for one reason or another.

Earlier this year, I was reading an issue of Fine Cooking magazine and came across an article about macaroni and cheese. It went through the steps of making the homemade classic dish, but gave you tons of options as to what ingredients you incorporated – from the kind of pasta, to the types of cheeses, to the choices of add-ins. I wanted to give their version a go, but knew that with my hubby deployed, an entire pan of mac & cheese would either take me weeks to eat, or would come out so delicious that I’d eat too much of it. So I waited until my Marine came home to pull out the article and attempt my own mac & cheese combo, using their suggested steps of creating it.

Last weekend while perusing the Little Italy farmer’s market, I spotted a stand for a company who makes homemade breadcrumbs. I purchased a package of whole wheat breadcrumbs with mac & cheese in mind.

I decided on cheddar and pecorino mac & cheese with broccoli, but from the start, this recipe just wasn’t meant to be.

I came home from the gym famished, which is never a good state of mind to be in when attempting a new kitchen creation.

My planning was not the best either. Since I usually use light butter, that was all I had on hand. I quickly remembered that light butter doesn’t break down the same when heated and combined with other ingredients – say, flour to make the cheese sauce. It was already looking a little funky when I opened the fridge to get milk and….

I had a flashback to 5 am that morning, when Adam told me that his milk had gone bad and he was tossing it. I obviously forgot this tidbit, as my brain is not really functioning at that hour.

But now that I needed it, I was reminded. I could have run to the store, but I already had things cooking, plus it was prime time for madness at the food store.

So I made a choice that sealed my mac & cheeses’ fate (for that day at least). I decided to throw soy milk into the mix instead, hoping that it wouldn’t be that big of a difference. I’ve done this with other recipes and it didn’t turn out to be a big deal. But not this time. I think the fact that the soy milk was vanilla flavored certainly did not help.

I gave Adam a taste of the cheese sauce, already knowing I was screwed, and his response was, “Hmm, what’s this supposed to be?”

I had already ruined a whole block of good cheese, but I couldn’t bear the thought of tossing a whole package of $8 breadcrumbs, (which I had already mixed with butter, garlic, and cheese), not to mention the pound of macaroni I had cooking.

After a few moments of sheer disappointment, I came up with Plan B. Dinner wound up being another kind of mac & cheese. It actually tasted pretty good, but it was just not the one I had in mind…

Baked macaroni with marinara sauce, chopped broccoli, & mozzarella cheese, with the breadcrumb mixture on top:

So I guess the moral of the story is that things don’t always work out on the first try, in the kitchen and elsewhere. But you better believe that I have this mac & cheese dish on my meal list for next week to try it once again! What’s the proverb? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again 😉

Off to spend the afternoon going on a long walk with Harley, then mountain biking with my hubby!

Banana PB & Jelly Muffins

Late last night I decided I was in the mood for making muffins. I resisted the urge to bake right before I went to sleep, but may or may not have been deciding what kind of muffins to make and concocting a recipe while laying in bed. My requirements were that they came out yummy and moist, yet under 200 calories a piece. First thing this AM before beginning work, I whipped up these babies:

Banana PB & Jelly Muffins

Makes 12 

Ingredients:

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 1 c (soy) milk
  • 3 TBSP (light) butter
  • 1/4 c fruit preserves (I used raspberry)
  • 2 TBSP baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin cups.

In a saucepan, combine the butter, peanut butter, and sugar over medium-low heat. Heat until everything is melted, mixing together well.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine flours, baking powder, mashed banana and soy milk. Add the peanut butter mixture and mix everything together well.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until they’re halfway full. Spread 1 TSP of fruit preserves onto each muffin, then fill the cups up to the top.

Bake until lightly browned, around 20 minutes. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack before eating.

Nutrition Stats: 175 calories, 6 g fat, 5 g protein, 27 g carbs