Friday, January 6, 2012
Since working from home, and being able to consume anything and everything anytime I want, I've gained a few pounds. And after working really hard early last year to lose some! How could I let this happen? Oh well!! I'm not really dwelling on it and I'm going to try to lose it again. This time without eating the absurd amounts of protein.
On a [totally different] side note, Tuesday I got a job offer!!! And it's a really great one working with an amazing company. I've had the opportunity to work for them onsite a few weeks now, and we worked great together! I'm so excited I don't even know what to do with myself. It just goes to show you kids, if you work hard enough (and I'm mean completely out of you comfort zone) good things will happen. I went from not even knowing what a graphic designer was 10 years ago to becoming a Senior Designer at a well-known strategic planning firm in Houston. I'll be designing and conceptualizing all sorts of things. But what really impressed me was their drive for the success of their clients. They work with lots of non and not-for profits, and lots of other organizations related to improving our world and community. It's a great feeling to have such an amazing company recognize my level as a designer and think that adding me on would take them to a whole other level of design! This year is going great for me so far!
Another thing that I really like about my new office is its location. I can actually walk to places for lunch, something that is rare in this city. So with a few walking lunches, cutting down on calories, and adding in some weight-lifting I'm confident I'll be able to get back down to my old size. Here are some things I'll be eating/doing/working on over the next few months to help me get there:
Low fat sloppy joes
I tried this recipe the other day and it was really good! The changes I would make is use half the celery (too overpowering) and add some tomato paste. I like a little more tomato flavor in my Sloppy Joes.
Just made this and it was very delicious. I have no complaints and wouldn't change a thing. Not normal, I know.
Butternut squash Lasagna
I'm in love with butternut squash, so when it's in season I like to try new recipes for it. Unfortunately BJ isn't a huge fan. Maybe he would be willing to try this.
Part of healthier eating is smaller meals, or snacking all day. So I need to have goods snack lying around.
Kashi Dark Chocolate Mocha bars
These things are a gift from God. Literally, since they are made from all natural ingredients. These are a must try! The other flavors are okay, not as good as this one, though.
Just for One frozen veggies
Sometimes it's nice to have a hot snack. I tried the cauliflower version of these, and they were nasty. But since they're only $2 I'll continue to try the other veggie varieties.
Santa (my mom) got me a food processor for Christmas this year, and my first concoction was hummus. It tastes so much better than store bought! It's a great low-calorie snack in moderation, and satisfies my need for chips and dip.
**The recipe I used: 1 can chickpeas (store brand) drained but keep the liquid and add a few tablespoons for consistency, 2 tablespoons tahini (good-quality), juice from half a lemon, 2 garlic cloves diced, 1/3 cup of fat-free greek yogurt (Oikos), a few sprinkles of cumin for extra flavor, and blend in a food processor. They are great with reduced-fat Triscuits or Wheat Thins (taste just like the regular).
LIGHT LUNCHES (if I remember to actually take them with me)
Kashi frozen meals
I'm so glad this company is around. Their frozen meals are simply the best out there. My favorites are Southwest Chicken, Chicken Pasta Pomodoro, and Spicy Black Bean Enchilada.
I made this recipe the other day and they were great! What I like about them is I can use the pre-made shrimp cocktails at the grocery store and cook the peanut sauce in the microwave. It didn't drain all of all my energy by the time I was done. The next day I took the leftovers to my mom's office and we had them for lunch. They were still delicious. But don't be like me and strain the noodles and forget about them and admire all your beautiful rolls only to realize you left the best ingredient out... of course.
Asian-style pot stickers (Lean Cuisine)
Now I wouldn't normally promote Lean Cuisine because the sodium count is too high for me, especially packed into that one tiny little meal. But I tried this one and it was actually pretty good with some sriracha sauce.
Sweet potato skins
I've never been a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but lately they've grown on me. I tried this after seeing the calorie count and am hooked. I replaced the chickpeas with chopped chicken. Sweet potatoes (in my opinion) are best served as savory dishes, not packed with brown sugar and marshmallows. Really people, marshmallows on a potato? That's just weird. This recipe makes 4 skins, and 1 with a side salad is very filling. They reheat great in the microwave, so they are an ideal light lunch.
OUT TO EAT
When I was counting calories last year I went here probably twice a week. I could make one of their salads for about 400 calories and still feel full! My winning salad: mixed greens, ancho dressing on the side (use about 1-2 spoonfuls) white meat chicken, mixed veggies, queso fresco (they don't offer it, you have to ask), red salsa, lime juice, 2 scoops of corn salsa, guacamole, chips sprinkled on top.
Best soup and salad bar in Houston. No question. And if I'm feeling like a hot meal, I can buy one of their many grilled meats and side items.
They have the best grilled chicken out of all the burrito places. Put that on either white rice, corn tortillas, or their crispy corn (I'm pretty sure they bake them) and get a low-cal, fast lunch. The carne guisada is also excellent. They list their nutrition facts online, so it's easy to add up your ingredients for a winning meal ahead of time!
This place is made for a healthy eater. Nutrition facts are also listed online, and they are in the Livestrong.com database. So if you count calories there, just type in the meals and BAM! Insta-counted.
My Fit Foods
The gym I trained at was owned by these guys, so on occasion I would pick up their food. It's a little pricey, but buying a large size ($10.25) would last me two meals. The turkey pasta is my favorite by far. I recommend trying them if you've been curious. All the meals are gluten free, too. Michelle, if you're reading this: I'm going to buy some for you the next time you come down. I think you'll like them.
I'll have to find some new places near my new office! I already walked to Jenni's Noodles and My Fit Foods. I can also walk to Pot Belly's, Cafe Express, Luby's, Berry Hill, and Panera Bread. There is a Rice Epicurean within walking distance, but I'm pretty committed to the CM.
Monday, November 7, 2011
When BJ and I went to New York earlier this year, we made a special trip to the Chelsea Market specifically to try Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate. BJ has always loved hot chocolate. More in the past few years since my mom bought him a hot chocolate maker. This things is amazing! It's like a blender with a heating mechanism at the bottom, and a slow stirrer instead of blades. After about 6 minutes everything is blended with a frothy top, making the first few sips bearable. I ALWAYS burn my tongue on a hot drink. Which is the biggest reason I don't drink coffee. No patience.
When it got cold last week we busted the hot chocolate maker out, and I attempted to replicate that wicked mix. It was pretty close. Definitely a great substitute. I have a feeling Jacques included a stick of butter in his, which might be the real reason for the "wicked", not the cayenne pepper. Since Houston is delightfully unpredictable when it comes to temperature, this week it's hot again. So I made turned the hot chocolate into ice cream!*
*That's not actually the reason, I just love ice cream.
Spicy chocolate ice cream
!!!WARNING!!! This is the chocolatiest thing I've ever made!!!!!
2 cup heavy cream
4 heaping tbsp good cocoa (I use Ghirardelli)
6 1/2 ounces good dark chocolate 62% or more
1 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 heaping tsp cayenne (less if you're a wimp!)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
TIP: Chocolate quality matters here. Get the best dark chocolate you can get your hands on and make sure it's something you actually like to eat on its own.
In a medium pot heat 1 cup of heavy cream with cocoa; whisk well to ensure the cocoa gets integrated properly. When cream is bubbling at the edges, remove from heat and add dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds then give it a good stir until it's all incorporated.
Add remaining cup of cream to pot, stir to combine, then pour the contents into a medium sized non-metal bowl, scraping out the pot as well as you can, and place a strainer over the bowl. Place the pot back on the stove, and add the cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, salt, and the rest of the spices.
Heat the milk and sugar gently on the stove while you get your egg yolks ready. Whisk the egg yolks together and then grab the pot from the stove. SLOWLY drizzle warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time (this is called tempering) until everything's all combined. Then dump the liquid back into the pot. Stir constantly (so you don't cook the eggs) with a wooden or other heat-safe spoon or spatula over medium heat until the eggs thicken a bit, into a custard.
Pour custard through the strainer into the bowl. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine the chocolatey goodness. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, literally touching the entire surface of the ice cream base. (This means you won't get any nasty "skin" on top of the liquid.)
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours then prepare according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
Once you've got it into your final container, freeze again for at least 6 hours - trust me this stuff tastes WAY better cold, cold, cold. Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before eating so it has time to soften a bit before serving.
Makes many small servings - like fine truffles, this ice cream works best in small doses.
Working at home has actually made me lazier with my cooking. I used to make sure I had a balanced breakfast and a healthy snack with me on my way out the door. Now if I eat anything before noon I feel accomplished, even if it's just a granola bar. It's so easy to loose track of time or not realize how hungry I am. I think it's because I always feel like I'm doing something worth my time. Working 40 hours a week can sometimes mean having ___ hours of design work, ___ hours of production work, and ___ hours of [drawing blank]???? Or at least that's what my brain would say. "Hey, maybe the closet needs organizing. Nope, did that last week. What about the cutting mat? Do I need to get rid of the paper trimmings? Nope. Oooo! I know! Stretch my legs by doing a lap around the office, maybe even to the deli! Hmmm... no cash." Well, you probably get it. And then I would start to think about food. "When's lunch? If I leave at ___ that means I'll only have ___ hours until I leave. Which then means I'll be hungry at ___ time. Which will give me ___ hours before dinner." I'm pretty sure I can take medication for these in-head conversations. Nowadays I need quick snacks because there's no time to ponder the hunger. Those extra hours I'm not designing, I do what I want. Like poke Cora, she loves it. There's no waiting around until clock-out time doing ___. If you work at Smart and are reading, yes, this did happen to me.
BJ and I have been into granola bars lately. But since they can be a little pricey at $3-4 for a box of 6, I decided to try making them and compare costs. Also, since I'm a picky eater I can put exactly what I want in them. They turned out really good, and were extremely simple.
Chewy Nutella granola bars
3 cups of rolled oats (not instant)
4 cups of assorted mix-ins*
1 can sweetend condesed milk
1/8 cup of molasses**
1/2 cup of Nutella, warmed in microwave
*I used 2 cups dry roasted almonds, and a mixture of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, unsweetened coconut. Some other suggestions are crushed flax seeds, wheat germ, dried fruits, some other nut, pumpkin, cereal, marshmallows...
**Honey would also work. I actually used a little of both.
Combine everything in a bowl. Press into a greased pan and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. I used non-stick foil with cooking spray and it slid off pretty easy. Drizzle on Nutella. Cool on a rack and cut after about 10-15 minutes.
They are delicious, and definitely a cost-cutter!
Monday, September 12, 2011
I started this blog to write about how my favorite foods are intertwined with my life. Not sure why it took me so long to write about the s'more cookies, but here they are! If there is one recipe that follows me everywhere, it's these cookies. No other cookie comes out of my kitchen because these are my signature.
When I first started researching food blogs (i.e., looking at Tastespotting and Food Gawker at least 3 times a day) I saw a picture of this cookie. And it was love at first sight!!!! As a child we would take little marshmallows and roast them over the gas stove fire. Then search for anything chocolate and/or graham crackers. Luckily my mom always bought us chocolate covered graham cracker cookies, which are a perfect base for a s'more when you're desperate. Since I'm not a camper, I didn't usually eat real s'mores. These cookies will satisfy that craving, and possibly destroy your love of regular s'mores. Not to brag, or anything.
I bring these cookies all over the place. Baby showers, get-togethers with family and friends, trips, vacations, parties at the office, any occasion where BJ and I are in the car for more than an hour... This past weekend I took them with me to the Ad2Houston retreat in Galveston, which was so much fun! And I'm glad I ate a bunch before I left the house so there would be some left for when we got there. Or else the car-ride-munchies would have kicked in!
BEST COOKIE RECIPE EVER!!!
3/4 cup softened butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
2 Hershey bars, chopped up*
*I crush these in a food processor, super easy! But they need to be as fine as possible or the dough will crumble after baked.
*Not a huge fan of Hershey's milk chocolate, so I buy a bag of Dove dark chocolates for the top. I use a little over half the bag.
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, graham crackers, salt, and baking soda, and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto cookie sheets (I didn't use parchment, and one tray of cookies stuck a bit to the sheet, but the other was fine, so you may want to use parchment just in case). Bake for 6 minutes, and remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of hershey bar into each cookies. Return to the oven and bake an additional 5-6 minutes until fully cooked. Cool cookies for 10 or 15 minutes. Unless you like melted chocolate like me. Then risk burning your mouth for a fresh one!
Makes 3 dozen normal-sized cookies, or 2 dozen big ones.
Just writing this makes me want to bake them right now!