Thursday, May 27, 2010

Making stuff up as I go


I've been "winging" it a lot and I feel really good about that, actually. I've always been a stick-to-the-recipe kind of girl. Maybe because I didn't feel confident enough in the kitchen.

My reasoning behind it has always been that if I spend money on the ingredients and take the time to make it, I want the end result to be edible. Not sure why I've used this as a reason — especially since some dishes made from recipes still end up in the trash. (See here, and here)

But times are changing. A few weeks ago, I pulled random stuff out of the fridge and just cooked.

The results weren't anything fancy. In fact, it ended up being a simple potato hash with peppers, onions, klondike potatoes, garlic and some Mrs. Dash spicy blend for a little zing. But it was something that wasn't planned and wasn't a recipe. It just happened.

Are you someone who cooks on the fly or do you strictly stick to the recipe?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

Confession. I haven't been cooking much.

Why? Because somehow I've jacked up my back. And yes, that's a medical term.

I saw my doctor yesterday and she says it sounds like it's siatica. I thought that was something only "old" people had. Not a 28-year-old.

All I know is that it feels fine until I sit. The longer I sit -- the more it hurts and unfortunately for me, I have to sit all day long. I'm trying to rest it by lying down as much as possible. It worked this past weekend, too. Hardly any pain.

But after sitting all day yesterday I was super sore again. All I wanted to do was lie down. So, no cooking for me. In fact, I'm planning take out the next two days.

Last week, though, when I thought this back pain thing was just a little pulled muscle, I cooked a bit -- including Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives. I'm not sure I would call this something spectacular. Like, I wouldn't bust this recipe out for a dinner party or anything like that.

But, it's full of basic pantry ingredients (at least for me anyways), comes together quick, and is satisfying. In other words, perfect for a night where, say, your back hurts and you really don't want to be spending much time in the kitchen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Races and Tabbouleh

It was a busy weekend and so far a busy week, too. Saturday, I ran the Race for the Cure — my first official 5K race. I think I kept a pace of about 11 minutes per mile, which isn't great compared to most actual runners, but is an improvement for me.

I didn't actually sign up for a timing chip and I forgot to start my watch right away, so I don't really know for sure, but that's my best guess.

Sunday, I made tabbouleh. I've been craving a grain salad for weeks now and I'm just now getting around to making it. It's actually what's for lunch today. See how pretty it is?

Grilled Chicken with Tabbouleh Salad

I grilled the chicken, basting it with a vinaigrette. It's been raining so much lately that whenever it's not raining I'm taking advantage of it and grilling as much as possible.

I stuck closely to the same Cooking Light recipe I've use for years. I quartered grape tomatoes, though, because that's what I had on hand and used red onion instead of green onion to give it a little more bite.

Definitely looking forward to lunch today!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taking help from the store

Broccoli Soup

I like to make things from scratch as much as possible. For the most part, meals just taste better that way. Plus, I like know exactly what went into my dinner.

But last night I cheated. Just a bit.

I made Broccoli Cheddar Soup from a bag. A bag of Creamy Potato Soup to be exact.

I've made this a couple of times before a few years ago after my mom had her back surgery and I was temporarily living at home while I was waiting for a one-bedroom apartment to open up in my complex. She requested a broccoli cheese soup and this just seemed easiest.

And it is.

Last time I made it, I used half chicken broth and stirred the cheese in first. I was even lazier this time. I used only water and added broccoli in at the same time I added the contents of the bag. At the end I stirred in a little bit of cheese and pureed it so I didn't have big chunks of broccoli. The broccoli was whatever bunches they sell at the store, the entire package. I cut of the stems and just chopped up the florets. I used about a cup of shredded cheddar. It wasn't very cheesy though.

It also ended up being the perfect choice for leftovers for today's lunch. It's so rainy, cold and yuck that the soup really hit the spot.

Nutritional info (Makes 8 servings of about a cup each.. ignore the grams on the NI): 259 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams fiber

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tex-Mex Sweet Potato

Tex-Mex Sweet Potato

I am ridiculously tired today. I went to a online video seminar this morning but picked up my coworker on my way because I wasn't really sure where the heck I was going. The seminar started at 8 a.m. so I picked up my coworker at 7:15 a.m. I went to bed SUPER early last night but it didn't help much. My body is normally waking up at 7 a.m. — not showered and on its way to work.

The seminar wasn't even that helpful. Also good that I ate before I left. The only breakfast options at the seminar were fruit, giant bagels and McD's breakfast sandwiches. In my tiredness I would've caved and ate a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, which is my absolute favorite.

Looking forward to my awesome leftovers was maybe the only thing keeping me awake this morning. Last night's tex mex sweet potato was really good. Not sure exactly why. It just was.

Tex-Mex Sweet Potato
Adapted from Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (approx. half a can
3/4 cup frozen corn
3/4 cup salsa, preferrably fresh (I used Garden Fresh Gourmet's Jack's Special: Medium)
1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Poke the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high for 10 minutes total. After the first five minutes, turn the potatoes over and rearrange.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet coated in cooking spray over medium high heat. Add on onions through chili powder and cook until softened, about three minutes. Add beans, corn and salsa; bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer until heated through. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

When potatoes are done, split them and top each with 1/2 the bean mixture, 1/2 the cheese and some cilantro to taste.

Serves 2.

Nutritional info: 378 calories, 6 grams fat, 14 grams fiber

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grilled Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

Grilled Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

Wandering aimlessly through the grocery store without a real list can be bad, but also good. Actually, I had a list. But, by the time I pulled up to the store and grabbed my cart, I decided I didn't want to make any of the meals I had planned.

Instead, I wandered through the store — aisle by aisle — throwing random items in my cart.

Which should I give first? The good for bad news? People say I'm a pessimist (although I prefer the term realist) so I might was well go with the bad news first.

Bad news: I ended up forgetting a whole bunch of items I actually needed AND spent like $70 on just myself. Ouch.

Now for the good news: I ended up making a super simple and really fantastic dinner on a whim last night. Grilled steak with roasted potatoes and asparagus. YUM.

No real recipe for the steak. I just brushed on some olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled it. I wouldn't even call the potatoes a recipe, but I'll include my method, anyhow. I added the asparagus to the pan after the first half of the potato's cooking time and let it go until tender.

Roasted Potatoes
1 pound potatoes (I used a klondike mix)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut the potatoes into chunk and toss with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.

Roast without stirring for 20 minutes. Stir the potatoes and add more oil if they stick. Continue to roast until tender but brown and crispy another 20-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The total baking time depends on the kind of potato and the size of the chunks. Mine were done pretty fast.

Serves 4.

Nutritional info: 108 calories, 4 grams fat, 2 grams fiber

Friday, May 7, 2010

Second 5K done!

Today was a super busy day at work, which included taking photos of a dance demonstration for a story I'm writing:


Very Bollywood.

After work I "ran" my second 5K in preparation for my first race next weekend.

2nd 5K run down!

Phew. I'm sure now that I can make it through the race next weekend. I'm definitely NOT a runner, so just finishing without walking is the goal.

I'm not fast. I averaged about 11:30 minute mile tonight. It was windy, sort of hot and really humid so maybe I'll be faster come race day.

Hopefully my friend, who's actually a runner, doesn't get bored going at my pace! I've told her she's free to run ahead if she wants. I don't want her to feel like she's running in place. I kid -- sort of.

No photos from tonight's dinner. I made a roasted red pepper sandwich similar to the one I've made before. I used a light vinaigrette to dress the vegetables, added feta and used hummus I made a few days ago. I think that hummus recipe is a keeper, by the way. I usually use a Cooking Light recipe, but I really like the roasted garlic in the recipe I used this time -- much more mellow.

My entire workout burned 600 calories, so the sandwich really hit the spot.

I'm off to chill out and relax. I'm up early for my last photo class tomorrow and then off to Cleveland for a Mother's Day celebration. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Apparently they're turkey meatballs

Turkey Meatballs

Sometimes, when a recipe makes a lot of servings or will freeze well, I'll stash the leftovers in the freezer for quick meals on nights I don't want to cook.

Last night was one of those nights. I came home tired and over-hungry, which is never a good combination.

I found these in my freezer:


I love how I didn't put much information on the label at all. I'll be the first to admit I'm bad with organization. At least these were labeled. Occasionally, I forget to label things altogether. Then, I think I'm thawing a chicken breast when it's really a pork chop.

Even with a label, I was a bit suprised with what thawed. The appeared to be cooked, but they were really raw. Good thing I included cooking instructions on the bag, right? Ha. Too bad I didn't think to do that.

I ended up Googling a few recipes and found I could brown them for 10 minutes and then cook them in sauce for another 12 minutes or so until they were done.

I'm still not sure where these came from. I'm pretty sure they're the turkey meatball recipe from Everyday Food. It says to freeze them raw.. so it's a pretty safe bet that this is what I made.

I would like to say they taste as good as the day I made them, but because I didn't date the package and didn't blog about them, I'm not quite sure what day I made them or what they tasted like to begin with.

I liked them well enough, which is a good thing because I found another bag of them in there.

Nutritional info (assuming I have the right recipe.. for 5 meatballs per serving): 194 calories, 9 grams fat, 1 gram fiber

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oatmeal for dinner? Yes, please.

The whole plate

Last night's dinner was completely random. But I didn't mind.

For lunch, my friend and I took our dads (who work at the same company we do) to the minor league ballpark near our office. It was a day game and somehow we ended up with free tickets. I ended up eating a Rooster's buffalo chicken wrap and splitting some fries with my dad. In other words, lunch was not the healthiest.

After work I let my friend beat me up at the gym. Not literally of course, but she's used to strength training and I'm not.. so I often make mean faces at her as I try to keep up the best I can.

By the time I actually made it home, I didn't feel like cooking and I wanted something light. So oatmeal it was.

Because I was super lazy I chose a packet of Kashi GoLean Hearty Honey & Cinnamon hot cereal. Not bad for an "Instant" oatmeal, actually! I topped it with fresh blueberries and some ground flaxseeds.

Kashi Hearty Honey & Cinnamon Hot Cereal

Next, I sliced up an apple topped it with a couple tablespoons of shart cheddar and popped it under the broiler to melt the cheese. It was melty goodness, I'm telling you.

Broiled Apple w/ Cheddar

Not shown, but I also had Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet for dessert. If it wasn't so pricey I could see it becoming an obsession. DELICIOUS! If you haven't had it, I highly recommend it!

How do you balance a not so healthy lunch?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turkey Taco Salad and a 5K

Turkey Taco Salad

Tonight I accomplished something I have never done before. I jogged a 5K outside without walking.

Sure, I've done a 5K on a treadmill a bunch of times -- on a completely flat surface with the treadmill helping me keep pace and not burn out too early.

But tonight I finished it with hills AND by pacing myself. I think it helped to reverse my route so the hills were in the middle/end rather than in the beginning. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but when I ran it with the hills in beginning I was pooped by the time I made it up and down the hills. The rest of the run was just harder.

This way I got to start slow and end with a downhill-ish sprint. Much better!

Then, I came home to make a Turkey Taco Salad. The key to this salad is the right salsa. There's no other seasoning other than salt and pepper so if you pick a salsa that's just OK that's what you'll end up with -- a salad that's just OK.

Good thing I lurve the salsa verde I have in the fridge. I've been dunking chips in it all week. :)

The salad had tons of veggies, too. Zucchini, red pepper, romaine lettuce, onion and tomatoes. Plus a sprinkling of sharp cheddar and tortilla chips and extra salsa verde. YUM!

I realize the fat/calories might seem high for some people. You can definitely make it leaner by choosing a low fat cheese, choosing a baked chip, and or using ground turkey breast instead of the 93/7 I used. Full nutritional info is below.

Nutritional info: 450 calories, 25 grams fat, 7 grams fiber

Let's talk pants... and waffles


I have six pair of pants I'm giving away — all because they're too big. Which gets me thinking: what do you do with your clothes that are too big/too small?

I tend to give away the big stuff. But I have under-the-bed boxes full of clothing that's too small. Not too long ago I was a size 6. Then came "relationship" weight and "I just got a new job with new hours and can't find time to exercise" weight and then the "OMG I just ate six giant cookies in one sitting" weight.

I kept all the small clothing in hopes that I would be at that size again some day, all while buying new clothes that actually fit. I guess keeping the smaller clothes was a good call. I shouldn't have to buy any new pants for a while. The stack of too big pants will be going to charity soon because I plan to never need them again.

Now let's talk waffles. Funny, how I talk about too big pants and then transition into these indulgent waffles. Oh well! They were pretty good!

Brown Sugar Bacon Waffles

Maybe not good enough for 500 calories per waffle. The calorie count wasn't a suprise. They're brown sugar bacon waffles afterall. I have the complete nutritional information here, if you're interested.

I washed it down with coffee.

French press coffee

The rest of the day was pretty normal. A banana with leftover rice pilaf (not pictured).


Also Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugala:

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugala

Nutritional info for the pasta: 350 calories, 9.5 grams fat, 10.7 grams protein, 58.2 grams carbs, 5.2 grams fiber

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I'm dragging today. I didn't get much sleep last night, but was still up for my 9 a.m. photo class. I slammed down a Trio bar and headed to class.

I got in the car, made it all the way downtown and got stuck in traffic. Turns out, the half marathon weaves all around the campus of the local art college where I take my classes. There was hardly a way out of the traffic jam, nevermind finding a way to class. Boo.

So, I turned around and went home. Oh well. Next week is supposed to be my last class. The prof will probably try to extend it one more week, but I have the Race for the Cure on May 15 so next week will be it for me.

One word can describe the rest of my afternoon: Errands. The grocery list this week was a monster one:

Grocery List

That's what I get for not really grocery shopping at all last month.

Like usual, my weekend eating is unstructured. I don't really worry too much about my choices. I try to make them healthy ones, though. So, here's the rest of the day's eats in photos. Click the image for more info.

Grilled Turkey and Pepper Jack Sandwich

Venti Iced Coffee w/ Soy

Herb-Crusted Salmon, Pilaf and Veggies