Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Been a While

The holidays were extremely busy this year.  All of the travel and festivities were a lot of fun (from San Diego, to Orlando, to Atlantic City), but I am really looking forward to getting back into my normal routine... although, that still won't happen for about another week or so.  Right now, I am preparing to host a little New Year's Eve party in our 700 square ft apartment, which takes a lot of creativity - and I am trying to get some of the prep done early.  Sunday was rainy and dreary outside, which everyone knows is perfect for baking!  I made the most amazing maple glazed mini pumpkin muffins and darling (darling?  who am I?) little peanut butter drop cookies for the party.  These two were some of the best desserts I have ever had in my life (I know I exaggerate a lot, but on this, I am serious) - check out the recipes below.


There were way too many amazing food experiences over the past two months since my last update, but I will call out a few highlights with pictures:

1)  Fresh simple grilled halibut at Fish 101 in Encinitas, CA
 

2)  Bagel breakfasts at home at Mom and Dads (I love them but never let myself buy them):
 

3)  Homemade Apple Carmel Pie for Thanksgiving (tears were shed, curses words were yelled, but overall I would deem it a successful family baking night):
 

4)  Christmas Eve cocktails at the Willard's Round Robin Bar in DC (to understand the full experience, just think bow ties and talk of the old Soviet Union):
 

5)  And a lovely/lonely Christmas with me and my guy (the tree looked so much better after the champagne was consumed):

 


Now for the recipes:

Soft Gooey Mini Pumpkin Muffins with Maple Glaze

For the Muffins:
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg

For the maple glaze:
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 ¼ cup of powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, then gently fold batter together with a spatula.  Pour batter into greased mini muffin tins.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  Make the glaze in a small pot on the stove by mixing all ingredients into the melted butter.  Pour over the top of the muffins (after muffins have cooled completely).


Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookies
½ cup salted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cups of all purpose flour
½ cup Reese's Pieces

Mix all the ingredients with a hand mixer, except the Reese's pieces - add those last.  Chill dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Scoop bite sized cookies onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  They may appear too soft, but will firm up after they cool.

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Peanut Butter Lover’s Cookies

New Year's Resolution is to start posting more frequently








Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dinner Omelets and Picnicking


I know it is a random pairing, but I grouped these two topics together, omelets and picnicking, because they are two of my favorite food activities.  I wish I could add food trucking to my list of tops, but they just don’t make the grade, mainly because I like to sit comfortably while eating my meals and food trucks don’t really cater to that…unless you are near an area with picnic tables...?  My digression has some meaning, I will circle back to food trucks later. 

I think my favorite part about picnicking is that for me, it always comes with wine.  Last weekend Travis and I drove out to the boons of Virginia to a cute little winery called Pearmund Cellars.  We enjoyed a tasting of about 12 different wines - much more generous than the California wineries we used to frequent.  And the wines were delicious.  We purchased a Viognier, a Cabernet Sauvignon and an awesome late harvest white wine which tasted like a softer version of the heavy ports we like to enjoy on cold winter nights.  We got free glasses of wine from the fermenting steel barrels (not sure if that is correct wino terminology) to pair with our picnic.  It was great because it was still on the sweeter side and went perfectly with our cheese and sourdough.  BTW we finally found REAL San Francisco sourdough at Trader Joes – they don’t have the real stuff in the grocery stores out here on the East Coast.


Later last week I was craving breakfast for dinner so I made some hearty omelets with a plethora of leftover meat and veggies we had lingering in our fridge.  So random, but it definitely hit the spot.


Now back to the food truck craze.  I honestly have never been wowed by food truck food until this particular lunch.  It just seems like a “dirty” concept and I am totally all about the ambiance when I dine out.  But this food was MIND-BLOWING.  The truck is called Hula Girl and it serves Hawaiian food.


I had to get the huge “Mixed Platter” because I wanted to try everything.  So glad I went for it – this $13 lunch lasted for three full meals.


So maybe I wrote off the food trucks too soon.

And one last random note.  Never buy your baby cabbages still on the log.  As if the prep work for roasting those guys is not enough already...


Check back soon for an awesome chili recipe I am working on this weekend!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shar-cut-are-ee

I see the word charcuterie and I instantly retreat into this little cave of foodie self-doubt.  But I am taking a stand.  Now that I have the pronunciation down pat, I am ready to start ordering charcuterie menu items when I am out for drinks.  Last night, I started simple.  We ordered the charcuterie sampler platter at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, District Kitchen.


We absolutely love this place.  The food is amazing, the vibe is welcoming and unpretentious and they have the best cocktails in town - I always order the "Paper Heart" - bulleit bourbon, cynar, orange, grapefruit bitters. 

I love going to happy hour on Fridays, so it is nice to have such a great spot so close to home.  It allows us to sit for a couple of hours, enjoy some delicious drinks and snacks, then venture home for a hearty dinner.  Lucky I had a snack to hold me over before happy hour.  Am I the only one who craves the texture of a mashed up homemade pumpkin muffin mixed with plain Greek yogurt? MMMmmmmm!


Topped with a heap of pumpkin butter of course.

I pre-cooked dinner during the day yesterday, so we came home from happy hour and just feasted!  I love cold dishes for dinner, especially on hot days.  This was one of the best meals I have prepared in a while, a real stand-out...


Cold Shrimp and Quinoa Bowls

1 cups uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth (or water)
Jumbo shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Garlic salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon honey
couple small squirts of siracha (optional)

Rinse the quinoa in cold water.  Add to a pot with the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until broth is absorbed and quinoa is light and fluffy (stir occasionally).  Season shrimp with garlic salt and pepper and sear in a skillet (sprayed with cooking spray or oil).  Careful not to over-cook the shrimp (no body like chewy shellfish!).  I usually let them go about 3-4 minutes per side and only flip the shrimp once in the pan.  Whisk together the soy sauce and everything else on the ingredient list.  When the quinoa is finished, pour the sauce over top (reserve some for the shrimp as well), and gently toss the quinoa to fully coat it.  Let the shrimp and quinoa come to room temperature, then chill in the fridge until dinner time.



 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday is Bride Day!

I was never that girl who grew up dreaming about her wedding day.  I never envisioned myself walking down the isle, and I never dreamed about what my gown may look like.  But for some reason, I am COMPLETELY obsessed with Fridays on TLC.  From "Say Yes to the Dress" to "Four Weddings" to "I Found the Gown", I just can't seem to get enough of TLC's Friday lineup.

Which is why I was so excited to attend a real wedding last weekend!  My close friend and her long time boyfriend tied the not in Temecula, CA on Saturday.  Travis and I flew out to California to attend.  Saying we had a "good time" is quite the understatement.  Weddings are fun to watch on TV, but a hundred times more fun to actually attend.  Not to mention, I finally got to try out Rent the Runway, an awesome online service that allows you to rent a designer dress for a special occasion.  I couldn't have been happier with the dress I chose - they even send you multiple sizes to ensure one of them fits!  I am also happy to report that I wore the larger size and I didn't even feel bad about it. On the contrary, I felt amazing!


After a great weekend in California, we were happy to get home to our little DC apartment. Fall has just begun and the colors of the leaves are slowly changing, each day I notice a very slight shift in their shade.  Being a California native, it is always so neat to see.  And it always makes me crave pumpkin.  This week, I decided to experiment with a new muffin recipe.  As you know, I am all about my pre-workout muffins.  And these were an AMAZING success.  Fluffy, melt in your mouth - pure pleasure :)  By the way, the picture below shows all the muffins I have left... I have got to stop eating the batter.  I swear, if I drop dead, you can probably assume it was salmonella. 


Bakes 6 muffins
Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately and then combine (careful not to over-mix)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/2 cup of whole wheat flower
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.4 cup stevia extract
1 teaspoon bakng soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 egg whites
1/2 cup almond milk of choice
1/4 cup nonfat greek yogurt of choice (I used plain, but vanilla would be good)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin

ENJOY!

Now tell me, do you like weddings?  

Any ideas for leftover canned pumpkin?

Did you dream about your wedding day growing up?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Polenta Veggie Bake, and a PERFECTLY Cooked Steak

You guys.  I have finally completed one of my life's goals.

I COOKED A PERFECTLY MEDIUM RARE STEAK.


Travis helped of course.  We watched those steaks like hawks, and man did it pay off.

We marinated two pieces of filet minion in teriyaki sauce and let them sit out on the counter to get to room temperature.  We put them on our little indoor grill and we let them go for three minutes on one side and two minutes on the other.  Took them off and let them rest for about five minutes and then dug in.

To accompany our steaks, I made the most delightful side - a polenta veggie bake.  This was a surprisingly outstanding dish - healthy, hearty and fresh.

I made a trip to the farmers market that morning and just went wild (although I did not use the plums in this recipe, they were just meant for pre-dinner noshing).


First I sauteed the summer squash and zucchini with the leeks, garlic and onion. I added a couple of spoonfuls of store bought marinara sauce and seasoned the veggies with salt and pepper.


I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and laid out  thin slices of prepackaged tubed polenta and topped each slice with a little store bought pesto sauce (this is definitely a semi-homemade meal).


Then I topped with the squash mixture and added another layer and topped with more squash mixture and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.  And you get this beauty...


SOOOOO GOOD!

This was a successful start to my weekend.  It was followed by some wine drinking and dateline watching, which was followed by an early bedtime and an early morning spin class.

I was feeling so good on Saturday morning, I decided to let loose with friends on Saturday afternoon and attended a four hour all-you-can-drink beer festival at Nationals Stadium.  Some of the standouts were Capitol City Brewery, Firestone Walker (of course), Devil's Backbone, and Troegs.


Then continued the festivities to Adams Morgan...my DC friends need no further explanation about where the night went from there.


Overall, it was such a great weekend.  Felt pretty gross on Sunday morning but proud to say I was (fairly) successful at fighting off any guilty/regretful feelings about my indulgent weekend and powered through the day.  Travis kept me in check :)

Breaking Bad helped too. That show is mind-blowing.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Healthy Blueberry Muffins


Every weekend for the past two months, I have made some version of a low fat, sugar-free blueberry muffin.  I go to spin three days during the week and need something that I can grab and eat on the metro on the way to my 7am class.  These muffins are perfect, they are light, easy on my stomach, and hold me over until my breakfast at around 9am.  I like to store them in the fridge and eat them chilled.  Or sometimes I mash them up with Greek yogurt, fruit and peanut butter as an afternoon snack like this...


But back to the muffins...

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of whole wheat white flour
2/3 cup of quick cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon stevia
1 egg white
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup of almond milk (I used original)
3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Mix all of he dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients separately.  Add the two mixtures together, gently folding the batter to combine - do not over-mix.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  Makes 6 muffins.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WIAW: Thankful for Burrito Bowls

Labor day weekend has come to an end, sigh. Summer is almost over, the leaves are already developing a slight tinge of orange, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. At least now I no longer have a reason to be jealous of people with pools - on the east coast, pools close this weekend! Woohoo, now we are all in the same boat you pesky pool owners...

I was so thankful for this three day weekend. Thanks to some fellow bloggers, I decided to make this weekend about gratitude. Being thankful for great moments, meals, conversations, etc. is so important - when you start to take these small things for granted, it is easy to focus on the negative.

So for this "What I Ate Wednesday" post, I am telling you about the things I ate that reminded me to be thankful last week.

At one point this weekend I attempted to bake peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. All seemed to be going well until they stuck to the pan like glue.


Despite this sad finished product, I had to remind myself how thankful I am that peanut butter exists in this world. That, my friends, it what is REALLY important. So rather than posting the recipe, I advise you to follow this one instead:

Buy some crunchy peanut butter.
Grab a spoon.
Scoop up a big heap of peanut butter.
Eat it slowly off the spoon and enjoy.

Moving on to the savory...

:

Burrito bowls are the perfect weeknight meal, and you can improvise with whatever pantry items you have on hand. Last week I created an insanely good combo.  When you are not in the mood to cook, but you don't want to spend money, be thankful for those random pantry items that can be combined into the perfect easy, delicious meal.

Chicken breast tenders
Fresh sliced green pepper
1/2 sliced red onion
Can of black beans
Boil in a bag brown rice
Store bought pico de gallo
Scoop of plain Greek yogurt (used like sour cream).

Saute the chicken breasts with the peppers and onions.  Rinse the beans and cook the rice.  Combine the rest of the ingredients and add some hot sauce for a kick if you'd like.

I am also thankful for my ability to give into random afternoon cravings.  Lately, I have been into these creative yogurt messes.  I know they look strange, but they ALWAYS hit the spot.  This one is a mashed up light blueberry muffin (recipe soon to come), some plain Greek yogurt, a fresh sliced nectarine from the farmers market, and a swirl of peanut butter.



YUM!  Check back soon for that healthy blueberry muffin recipe - I really nailed them this time ;)

Here is a little preview of the finished product...


Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Weekend of Gluttony

What makes the perfect weekend?  For me it is any weekend with sunshine, low humidity, a good spin session, a long run, a trip to trader joes, a BIG beer, and a free froyo.  And that, my friends is exactly what I got last weekend!  I know, I know, it is already Thursday and I am JUST now getting to this post.  Just needed some time to really plan out what I wanted to say :)

It is often a struggle for me to relax, let go of anxieties and just live in the moment.  So I have made  a mid-year resolution to do just that.  On Friday, it started off with a half pitcher of margaritas...


Do some people really say no to salt?  That is cray.

And then on Saturday there were BIG beers at Biergarten Haus....



Followed by some greasy grub...


And finally dessert...


I am pretty sure this is the best chocolate bar I have EVER eaten.  Don't worry, my self-restraint kicked in after a couple of bites.  So I have been breaking small pieces for dessert each night this week.

Overall, I had such a fantastic weekend, no meltdowns, no mood swings, and only a little bit of guilt about the number of indulgences I enjoyed.   I decided to cook something super healthy for dinner on Sunday to make me feel a bit better about all of the treats.  This meal is one of my staples, I probably eat it 2 times per week.


Baked sweet potato topped with salt and Greek Yogurt, a baked chicken breast with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and oven roasted broccoli.  So simple, I don't think I need to even write out the instructions for you :)

Wish me luck on my attempt to have another fantastic weekend, free of worries and fear, but without a shortage of indulgences.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pork and Fried Rice and a Gas Leak

I always crave Chinese takeout.  This Friday night Travis and I decided to stay in and watch a movie, but instead of paying for delivery, I decided to make my own version of pork fried rice at home.  The only problem was that we didn't have any eggs because I have been indulging in a lot of these lately...


But on to the pork...


This meal was super easy to make.  I just marinated two boneless pork chops in teriyaki sauce and pan seared them until they were cooked through (only takes about three minutes per side - pork cooks quickly!)  Then in a separate pan, I added oil, let it get nice and hot - then added cooked brown rice, whatever mixed veggies I had on hand, and a blend of sweet and sour, hoisin, and soy sauce.  Travis thought it was great, but I wish there were a few scrambled eggs mixed  in :)

The rest of my weekend was nice.  I didn't make it to the gym, but did some running/walking downstairs in my apartment complex "gym", which basically consists of two treadmills, an elliptical and a few mis-matched free weights.  It is pretty dank and lonely down there, so when it's nice I try to run outside. But unfortunately, it has been a long, rainy Sunday in DC.

After the gym Travis and I thought we smelled gas in our apartment, we both also started feeling light-headed.  We checked the stove and the gas was not left on, so we opened the windows.  But we still smelled something funny and both were getting a little loopy.  We decided to call the emergency weekend phone number for our apartment building to report what may be a gas leak. 

As it turns out, there was no gas leak - they sent someone out to check.  We have since come to the conclusion that lack of food after a workout, paired with our hungover state and lack of sleep after a late night of bar-hopping was most likely the culprit.  Just another reminder that it is very important to fuel yourself properly, especially after strenuous exercise and/or consuming copious amount of alcohol.

And with that - I am off to watch Breaking Bad on this quiet Sunday night.  After I finish my snack of course.







Sunday, August 11, 2013

West for a Week

Last week we headed to San Diego to visit our families for what has become an annual trip the week of our parents anniversaries (yes, mine and Trav's parents have the same August anniversary!)  I haven't been back to California since Christmas, so I was due for some beach time, Mexican food, and shopping with mom.  Vacations like this make me slightly nervous - I get anxious when I am out of my comfort zone and can't follow my normal routines.  I am not used to indulging in treats like this, but oh it felt so good...

One of my absolute favorite meals, NACHOS with lots of meat :)

I stuck with my plan to do a few long morning beach runs, so I felt less guilty about enjoying treats like these every evening -


I came back to DC with a nice tan and much a more relaxed outlook.  It was great spending time with my parents and younger brother.  But I love being home in our cozy apartment on our peaceful tree-lined block.  Most of all, I missed our quiet breakfasts together, laden with runny eggs :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WIAW: Missing California

This is my first attempt at a "What I Ate Wednesday Post."  I love the idea of sharing one full day's worth of eats.  It's a great way to get new recipe ideas and to snoop into other people's everyday lives...something I obviously love, just take one look at my reality television-laden DVR list.

I wait to eat breakfast until I get to work, I keep cereal and oats in my desk drawer and usually decide on my walk from the metro which choice I am craving.  On the weekend I like to cook a eggs or pancakes, but I don't have that luxury at the office.  This morning, oats were calling my name.  I usually top them with almond milk to make them slightly soup-y and today I swirled a little peanut butter over top.


For lunch I had my usual turkey wrap (only half is pictured below...it is so hard to remember to take a picture BEFORE you start eating!)  filled with laughing cow creamy Swiss cheese, honey mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and avo.  With an apple to keep me full - which typically still only lasts until about 4PM.


For an afternoon pick-me-up I turned to a bowl of puffins mixed with vanilla yogurt and peanut butter.  One munchy is never enough, so I also had a handful (or two) of Pirates Booty that I keep stashed in my desk.  So cheesy and addictive!


Dinner was special.  I love it when Travis gets pumped up to help me cook (this is rare unless he gets to man the grill).  The weather wasn't cooperating well so we used out little electric indoor grill, which was a GREAT East coast purchase.  In Califorina, when you picture grill outs and BBQs, you assume the menu will consist of carne asada tacos.  Here, it is hard to even find carne asada in your local grocery store.  Luckily Trader Joes came through for us last weekend.  It was quite the feast!


And special thanks to my dad for sending us this awesome new beer to try.  The Lost Abbey Devotion Ale, produced in California, was a perfect compliment to the meal.  It's a hoppy but light beer - robust, flavorful, and PERFECT for our grill-"in"! 

 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

My mom makes the most juicy, flavorful burgers there are.  She uses lean ground sirloin, marinates them overnight in soy sauce, and tops them with provolone cheese.  These "burgers" taste so similar, are just as filling, but are completely vegetarian!  I saw this recipe and its reviews on on of my favorite blogs and had to try it.



2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
sprinkle of salt
2 portobella mushroom caps, gills removed
2 slices of provolone cheese
burger buns and fixins

Poke holes in the mushroom caps and marinate in the liquid mixture overnight in a sealed container in the fridge.  Grill or pan sear the mushrooms for 5 minutes per side twice, meaning flip them three times (20 minutes total).  Top with cheese during the last 2 minutes.
*Recipe courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie

You will LOVE, promise :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lunch

For the past few years I have relied on the same favorite go-to lunch.  A turkey sandwich on toasted bread with lots of avocado and a big heap of honey mustard.  Followed by a Fugi apple.  It really HAS to be Fuji, they are the perfect amount of sweet and crunch - the ideal fiber-y finish to any meal.  It is so good and I never get tired of it.  But I am starting to worry that all that processed turkey is going to give me cancer...if the microwave popcorn I eat everyday hasn't already.  And people at work giggle when they see me carefully assembling my same turkey sandwich every single day.

Another thing I like about my turkey sandwich is that I have complete control over what is in it.  But in an effort to start steering away from that obsession - I am going to start branching out a little.  Please don't be grossed out by the mid-bite pic.


So this weekend I drove allllll the way to Virgina to go to Trader Joes, I actually made Travis drive me because I am afraid to drive through the city. It is the only place I know I can find some fresh new lunch ideas - making salads and utilizing leftovers is too overwhelming for me.  I think I was successful with these, but I will have to let you know how it goes:



Does anyone else have control issues when it comes to food?  A little obsessive about what goes in your sandwiches, on top of your salads, rolled in your sushi?  I have realized that I get anxious when others prepare my food, or when I don't know what ingredients are used.  I know this isn't good - so I am taking small steps to just "let go" and "branch out."  Wish me luck!