Saturday, May 30, 2009

Orange-Berry Muffins

Orange Berry Muffins

I love my apartment. For one, it's cheap considering it's a large-ish one bedroom apartment in a good area. Plus, it's an older building that's built the way it should be. I've lived in a few newer complexes with absolutely no sound proofing and it was AWFUL. But most of all, I love, love, love my balcony that faces east. It gets a ton of morning sunlight. Now that I've bought a table and chairs for outside, I can read a book in the sun while eating my breakfast. It's a weekend luxury I really enjoy.

This morning I had one of these leftover little beauties from my co-worker's birthday breakfast yesterday. I made Orange-Berry Muffins from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. These turned out a smidge dryer than I would have liked. I didn't have to use quite 3/4 cup of buttermilk and while finding an online version of the recipe I realized I accidentally left out the honey. So maybe that's my issue. Any one with any baking experience know why they were dry-ish? Not really dry, just sort of.

I also had some scrambled eggs and a couple slices of center cut bacon because the pickings at my household are slim. I'm out of bread, out of fruit and out of cereal. Once I get a few loads of laundry out of the way I'm definitely hitting up the grocery store.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

I guess I took a bit of a blogging hiatus. It wasn't exactly intentional, but I ended up working late just about every night this week and by the time I got home, I just didn't have the energy to blog.

My real job is a full-time writer, and I write and post content to the web all day long. Sometimes, especially when I have to work late, blogging seems like a chore rather than something fun. So that's why my posting is so sporadic. I love what I do, I just don't always feel like doing it 24/7.

I'm like that about everything, though. A few years ago I worked retail on the nights and weekends to pay off credit card debt and save up a down payment for my car, and during that time I did not fold laundry — ever. I lived out of laundry baskets or I dumped clothes in drawers all balled up. Sounds insane — and it was — but I worked at an extremely busy department store clearing their fitting rooms and spent 6 to 8 hours folding and hanging clothes and putting them back on the racks. I had nightmares about folding clothes. The absolute last thing I wanted to do on my precious evenings or afternoons off was fold clothes. So I didn't. If people came over I just hid the baskets.

I've also been a slug this week and haven't worked out since Monday. I pulled some muscles the the back of my legs cleaning my carpet of all things, and I could barely move. So I took it easy until I could at least walk without being in pain. To my defense I also ran a few miles that day, walked around a plant nursery for an hour and planted flowers on my balcony. I'm still pretty out of shape.

I've been busy cooking, though! Last night after dinner I made muffins for a co-worker's birthday breakfast and made focaccia for these grilled vegetable sandwiches. I cheated and made the bread in the bread machine. I don't own a stand mixer so using my mom's old bread maker to make the dough is my little trick. It's better than nothing, and you can't beat a free bread machine.

I liked these sandwiches a lot. I used focaccia because it seemed easier than ciabatta for some reason. I do have a ciabatta recipe I'd like to try next. Not every bread dough comes out great in the bread machine.. so some day I'll have work up the nerve to make bread by hand.

I found this sandwich recipe while trying to find a similar one I made like 5 years ago. But I can't find it in any of my cookbooks and I couldn't find it online. I was just beginning to learn to cook back then so it had to have come from my Cooking Light subscription or one of the two cookbooks I owned back then.

That's one great reason for this blog. I can look up just about every recipe I've ever made. It's an online recipe file — until one of the sites I cook from starts retiring pages or the bloggers I get recipes from delete their sites. I guess there's something to be said for pen and paper.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chipotle Nachos

Chipotle Nachos

It feels like it should be much later than it actually is. They let us leave at 2:30 today, which was a pleasant surprise. Too bad much of the day was stressful.

I worked off the stress downstairs in the gym before I left and even had time to get the carpet cleaner from my parents. Since I have a long weekend and all, I thought I would catch up on some overdue chores on Monday while it's supposed to rain. I can also maybe get some planting done on my little balcony this weekend. I'm planning to plant basil, maybe chives, and some other herbs.. whatever I can find. I don't have a green thumb, so I'm hoping just to find mature plants to stick in some dirt. I might buy another planter and put a few flowers in them as well. Who knows.

Last night's dinner is nothing to write about (a fried egg sandwich — my favorite quick meal) and today's lunch was a riff on this salad minus the cheese but with grilled salmon instead of chicken. It was also over arugula instead of spinach and mixed greens.

The other night, though, I did make Chipotle Nachos. They're supposed to be vegetarian, but I'm not generally a fan of faux meat substitutes, so I used 93/7 ground beef instead. It was on special this week for $2.79 a pound, which is UNHEARD of.

I used my favorite baked chips — the blue corn baked ones from Trader Joe's. Overall this wasn't terrible, but it wasn't my favorite either. I loved all of the toppings except for the beef/bean mixture. It just didn't have enough oomph. I prefer my taco meat to have a kick.

So far, I think I like the taco filling I usually make better. I could always add beans to that and cut back on the beef the recipe calls for.

Tonight's dinner is in process and I'll post about that tomorrow. Apparently I'm craving bar food because I'm making homemade pizza tonight. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad

Tortellini with Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

This Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad looks better than it tasted. Unfortunately, it wasn't very good.

Maybe it was because I tried the whole wheat tortellini, but it was probably just bland. I agree with one of the reviews that said you should have used your favorite vinaigrette instead. It might have been better that way. I could possibly play around with this and get it to where I would like it, but I don't feel like putting in the effort.

Like most Wednesdays I feel like I could drop and fall asleep at any moment. My afternoon was so busy and I didn't get time to work out, and lately it seems like through the week if I don't go downstairs and workout in the afternoon I'll make an excuse why I "can't" go after work.

Usually, hunger just gets the best of me after work. No matter what kind of snack I have between lunch at noon and dinner at 6 p.m., I'm starving by the time I'm done with work. Plus by the time I make it to my actual gym, it's packed. I don't think I could convince my dad to stay an extra 1/2 hour so I can workout right after work at the gym downstairs.

How do you get past the excuses?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

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I was ravenous yesterday. I snacked all day long. And I was legitimately hungry. Believe it or not, I know the difference. The problem is stopping myself from eating too much.

Last night I had a mishap while making dinner. I piled some portobello mushrooms and pita to grill to make this recipe on a plate and set it on the side of the grill. Then, I proceeded to scrub down the grill with the bristle brush. Not my brightest idea. I have an el cheapo grill that wobbled back and forth while I scrubbed and knocked the plate off food off the grill. It landing top down on the deck, ruining dinner. Ugh.

Luckily was much, much better. No falling food and no eating everything that's not nailed down.

Considering my dinner mishap there were no photos, but I did make Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables on Sunday night. I was actually looking for a way to use up the ton of zucchini I have. For some reason I'm compelled to buy the 3-pack at Aldi. And one person doesn't really need three giant zucchini.

But then I found this recipe and it was fantastic. Even my coworkers noticed how good it looked and smelled the next day. And that's saying a lot. Leftovers don't often look appetizing no matter what they are.

Plus, this was another simple recipe that even the cooking impaired could handle. Just saute a large zucchini with salt, pepper, and a garlic clove or two in oil while you're cooking the gnocchi by the package's directions. Add in some halved grape tomatoes, cook for a couple more minutes, then add in some of the cooking water, the gnocchi, some chopped basil and a sprinkling of parmesan.

I know it will be even better when summer vegetable start making their appearance at farmers markets. I do plan to plant some basil when it gets warm and stays warm, and my mom planted a couple of tomato plants this summer that I can steal from.

In other words, I'll definitely make this again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

Here's another ant-friendly meal. :) I had to slice the onion, but otherwise, it wasn't a very crumb-inducing prep.

This month Bon App├ętit has an entire feature on 15-minute meals. Not only are they quick, but many of them, including the Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry, look pretty healthy.

I'm looking forward to trying several other recipes from this feature because this one was fantastic. I love stir fries, and this one goes toward the top of my favorites list. I made a few modifications, of course, but don't I always?

I ended up making two decent-sized servings by using a 1/2 cup raw brown rice instead of 3/4 cup it would have called for if you split the recipe in two. I also ended up using 1/2 pound boneless skinless trimmed chicken breast, only 1/2 tbsp canola oil, and I used more sugar snap peas than the recipe called for. Mine came out to be about 6 ounces of peas. The rest of the recipe was as written, but halved so I would only make two servings.

My version came to 389 calories, 6 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber. (Complete nutritional info) You can also switch out the protein used for shrimp, beef or even tofu and add all sorts of veggies. You may need to increase the amount of sauce if you use more veggies, but maybe not. That's what's great about stir fries is that you are free to experiment.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chipotle Pork Quesadillas

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My apartment is infested. Carpenter-like ants are crawling everywhere in every room and so far I haven't been able to stop it. In fact, I woke up and had one crawling on me and in my bed — even though I thought my bedroom was a safe zone. YUCK.

The exterminator comes on Monday, but I noticed them Wednesday night — so unfortunately I have two more days of living among the ants and it's only getting worse. My dad came over this morning with some spray he had in the garage and I'm buying more ant traps at the store this afternoon. Hopefully that will slow them down. A bug in my bed is straight out of my nightmares.

The bug infestation does make cooking a bit of a chore. I'm pretty good about keeping up with dishes, wiping down the counters and sweeping crumbs off the floor every night after dinner, but I've been extra thorough and it's kind of tiring! I admit I've been looking for recipes with little prep like these Chipotle Pork Quesadillas. I ended up lightening up the recipe quite a bit, but it wasn't hard to do so.

For one, I used whole wheat tortillas and cut the number used by half. A tortilla a person makes sense. I just folded it over rather than using two of them. And I also cut the oil drastically by using only a couple of teaspoons to cook the onions in. I seared the pork in my cast iron skillet so I wouldn't need oil to get a crust on the chop and I used cooking spray on the tortillas. I also used low fat cheddar for monterey jack. I usually use the full fat and less of it for most recipes, but the quesadillas need to be cheesy. It's the glue that makes them stay together. So, I used a lighter cheese so I could use the full 1/4 cup per serving.

And they were great. If you like chipotle peppers in adobo, you'll love these pork quesadillas. They'd also be good with seared flank steak or even chicken if that's what you have on had. It's a great affordable, quick weeknight meal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I don't know what it is about Wednesdays. After dinner all I want to do is lie down and go to sleep. And today's no different. It's like I hit a wall or something. Tomorrow I'm leaving early from work because my family bought tickets to the circus.

It could be lame, but you know, I haven't been to the circus in ages. The last time I went I was maybe 10 and I couldn't see anything because I needed glasses. I didn't know it at the time, of course. I just remember my sister pointing out some vendor walking up and down the stands on the opposite side of the arena and I couldn't see the person — looked like a sea of blobs from my viewpoint. I thought she was crazy, especially since she was claiming this guy looked like Santa. My sister would have been 6 or 7 years old at the time, so these were matters of great importance. Santa selling cotton candy at the circus was a huge deal and the fact she saw him, well, that's something to brag about. I probably told her to stop making things up.

Last night I met an old friend to play arcade games. I'm pretty terrible at video games. I never really got into them. So when I beat someone who's as in to them as my friend is, well, it's time to gloat.

I didn't have much time to make dinner last night. I was late getting out of work, traffic was bad, and I didn't leave myself enough time cook. I managed to heat up the grill, cook some chicken I had put out, and make a salad inspired by this dish. It had the main components of the actual recipe — grape tomatoes, goat cheese, pecans, spinach. But the rest I kind of just tossed in just because. I also made the Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette.

That was one of the best parts of the entire salad. I love making my own salad dressings. They come together quickly and taste better than most of the bottled varieties. Plus, with a basic pantry, I can make a different vinaigrette for every salad. Whatever the mood strikes me. And when I make my own, I know I'm hitting Weight Watcher's healthy oil requirement because I know how much oil I'm getting per serving. If you make a standard vinaigrette you have to watch the serving size because they're caloric, but if you choose a strong one like the balsamic one, a little goes a long way.

It was a pretty good salad and a great meal for a warm, sunny spring evening.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Linguine with Arugula Pesto

Linguine with Arugula Pesto

I have been such a terrible blogger lately! I just haven't even had the energy to post. That sad. Sad as in pathetic. The other issue has been my forgetfulness.

I planned all sorts of great meals last week, and I'm finally getting around to eating one of them tonight! I bought almost everything I needed, but would forget to put out the meat, forgot couldn't find an important ingredient, etc. So I ate a lot of Kashi frozen pizza, egg sandwiches, whatever was in the fridge. And I still managed to lose two pounds. Go figure.

Over the weekend I did make this arugula pesto, which is similar to this post, but healthier. And less grassy tasting. Probably because instead of an arugula and parsley blend it was arugula and basil which made it seem more traditional — or at least closer to the pesto I'm used to. I loved it. Definitely would make this again next time I have extra arugula. And I'm trying to grow basil on my balcony, so I see lots of pesto in my future.

I made the same garlic bread I made last time, which isn't even close to being healthy. It's made on whole grain bread this time, though! At least I'm having some whole grains with my saturated fat. And isn't garlic good for cholesterol levels or whatever? So that should cancel out the fat, right? A gal can dream.

Anyone have a healthier version of garlic bread?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Southwestern Corn Chowder

Southwestern Corn Chowder

Tired doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling. My butt is dragging! I did get a chance to workout this afternoon, though! I almost jogged the entire 25 minutes, which was quite a feat considering I'm still pretty out of shape and not at all a runner. I was cheating by using a 0% incline, but I've got to work my way up, right?

I also learned something interesting today. Did you know that round plastic gladware containers will shatter if they are frozen and fall from the freezer? They do. And they make a mess.

My workday was also pretty challenging. I ended up being there 45 minutes late tonight, so by the time I actually ate dinner it was 8 p.m.

Good thing this Southwestern Corn Chowder came together quickly. And it wasn't bad. It just needed more chili powder and maybe a little hot sauce. I made it as written except I used evaporated ff milk because I wanted to make sure it was creamy without having to use 2 percent or whole milk. My version came out to 7 points per bowl, and it was a pretty good serving size. You could probably get away with three servings per recipe even.

Do you have a favorite quick soup?

Here's the eats for today:

Breakfast: Strawberry orange smoothie, whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp peanut butter

Lunch: Leftover pasta and a salad with carrots and tomato and vinaigrette

Snack: veggies in hummus with 4 kashi party crackers

Dinner: Corn chowder, big salad with veggies and Newman's Own lime vinaigrette, a few multigrain tortilla chips and white wine

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cinnamon-Oat Pancakes

Cinnamon-Oatmeal Pancakes

I'm finally out of my cooking rut. I made so much good food this weekend, I don't even know where to start. I guess I'll start with today's breakfast, since breakfast is the first meal of the day.

I started off my day with these Cinnamon-Oat Pancakes. I was a little worried about the recipe given my first attempt at oatmeal pancakes. Turns out the recipe I used was not entirely complete — at least according to a commenter, which I tend to believe. The didn't turn out at all.

The cinnamon-oat pancakes called for grinding up half the oats with the flour, which worked well. They came out maybe slightly more dense than a normal pancake, but still fluffy. And the cinnamon is probably the best part. I love cinnamon. I doubled the amount the recipe called for, in fact.

The nutritional info on these are pretty good, too. They're 296 calories for four pancakes and they're pretty filling. They even reheat well.

And here's the eats for today. I woke up fairly late and the pancakes were kind of like a brunch.

Breakfast: Cinnamon-Oat Pancakes, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp powdered sugar, and about 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries

Snacks: I had a Kashi strawberry cereal bar on my way out the door at 1:30 p.m. and ended up making a strawberry-orange smoothie around 4 p.m. because I was starving. I just realized I ate a ton of strawberry stuff today.

Dinner: Pasta with asparagus and goat cheese, salad

Snack: Not sure. Maybe some veggies and some hummus since I think I've had my fill of strawberries!

Overall a more balanced weekend, although I didn't find time to workout. Shame on me. Definitely will carve time out of my day to go tomorrow.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

This soup was a dud. A big, fat dud. And I was so disappointed. The photo with the recipe I used looked great. But in the end, it tasted like it was missing something.

Plus, it looks just like a bowl of green vegetables with broth, despite the fact I had roasted grape tomatoes in there and added corn for color. Maybe I was expecting too much from the soup.

I had a crappy week at work. One day I'm stopping random strangers asking to take video of them for the intranet. Not surprising, people were not exactly welcome to the idea. In a large corporation, most people would like to stay anonymous and just do their jobs, I think. There are always people who love the spotlight, but those are few and far between and my chance of finding one of those by standing in the lobby and stopping random strangers on their way to lunch aren't good.

And there was lots more nonsense on Thursday morning. So I came home, tired, still a little angry from the morning's events, and wet from the constant downpour. Soup sounded good, but this one so wasn't.

I had to eat it the next day for lunch, too. I had an all-day training session yesterday and eating lunch in the cafeteria on a Friday is never an option, unless you love greasy fried fish.

I will say it got a little better the next day. But definitely not worth making again.