Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lazy Saturday

Today has been such a great day so far. Both lazy and productive. Perfect combo!

After making our pancakes this morning, Matt and I decided to finish watching a movie we started last night but were too tired to finish. Watching a movie on a Saturday morning feels so wonderfully lazy. I love it! Around noon, I had plans to meet up with some of my best girlfriends for lunch at an Italian bistro called Artisan’s.  We hadn’t all seen each other in a while, so it was really fun to chat and catch up.

Cathleen and Heather, who is nearly 8 months pregnant – doesn’t she look great?

…and me and Lindsay J

For lunch I opted for the Goat Cheese Salad, which had mesclun greens, roasted tomatoes, carrots, pistachios and goat cheese with a Cabernet vinaigrette. It was delicious!

After lunch I had to pick up some things for a little get together we’re going to tonight with some friends from college.  One errand took me to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine, and of course I grabbed a new Dogfish Head beer that was on display while I was there. I can never resist a new DFH brew!

The beer, Saison du Buff, is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Matt and I split the bottle while I was cooking yesterday afternoon, and it was really good. It was light and refreshing, and had a nice lemon and herb flavor. I could actually smell the thyme while I was drinking it.

Speaking of lemons and herbs, while I was sipping on my beer I made these little gems for tonight’s gathering:

Crab and avocado crostinis...this is definitely my new favorite appetizer. Recipe coming your way tomorrow!

After I made the appetizers, Riker was sleepy but wanted nothing to do with his crib, so I decided to just hold the little guy while he slept, which gave me a great excuse to finish reading The Help.  I never get to read during the day…a movie AND a book on one Saturday? Awesome. The book was great – I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet!

Now we’re off to north Jersey for the night. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

It's no secret that we like special breakfasts around here on the weekends.

Pancakes and French toast of course don't grace our breakfast table every weekend, but on a rainy Saturday morning? There's really nothing better.

Matt was in the mood to make pancakes this morning, so he got to work on the 'cakes while I made the blueberry sauce to go with them. I like making fruit sauces because they're an easy way to get a fruit serving in for the morning, and they're a healthy alternative to dousing our pancakes with maple syrup. Of course they're delicious, too. We used frozen blueberries this morning, and they were just as tasty as fresh ones.

These pancakes are based on a Joy of Cooking recipe; the original recipe is great, but the addition of oatmeal gives the pancakes a nice chewy texture as well as a little more fiber and staying power.

This recipe makes quite a few pancakes, so you can either cut it in half or do what we do - freeze the leftovers and throw them in the toaster whenever you want 'em.

What a delicious way to start the weekend!

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes and 2 servings of compote
Pancake recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking's "Pancakes or Griddle Cakes"

Ingredients - Pancakes
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 3/4 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients - Blueberry Compote
1 1/3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 tsp. (2 packets) Truvia
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

To make the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine milk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix the liquid ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients; do not overbeat, just mix enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 6 hours. Pour batter onto hot griddle greased with cooking spray (use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake); cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for 1 more minute, until golden brown and puffed up.

To make the blueberry compote: While the pancake batter is resting, make the compote. Pour blueberries, Truvia, vanilla and water into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once bubbling, reduce heat to low and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes, until blueberries start to burst and sauce thickens slightly. Add more water if the sauce becomes too dry or thick. Just before serving, add the lemon juice.

Friday, March 30, 2012

April Meals Roundup

I have a bunch of errands to run later this afternoon, one of which is tackling grocery shopping for the next few weeks. As I mentioned the other day, I wanted to come up with some fun dinners to have at home so we wouldn't feel the urge to go out midweek quite so often, so I spent some time this morning making out a meals and grocery list.

Call me crazy, but sipping on my coffee while coming up with meals for the week is one of my favorite things to do. For some reason it's so relaxing. A lot of times I'll also watch Food Network or Cooking Channel while doing this since it gives me inspiration. And also because I'm addicted to cooking shows.

I actually learned how to cook by watching Molto Mario and Essence of Emeril on Food Network after school way back when. True story! I'd watch what they were making, then try to recreate my own versions at home using whatever ingredients we had in our pantry - which were usually pretty different from what Mario and Emeril were cooking with. Winking smile My family had to taste a lot of interesting concoctions, but most of the time things turned out pretty well, and I learned early on not to be afraid of getting creative in the kitchen. Thanks, Food Network!

We're doing some traveling in the next few weeks, so I wanted to keep this month's menu short and sweet. Here are some of the fun things I'm planning for April:

April Meals

1. Asian Salmon over Kale Salad
2. Stuffed Artichokes
3. Tofu with Peanut Sauce, Veggies and Rice Noodles
4. Vegetarian Tamales
5. Coconut Shrimp (baked) with Mango Rice

The one item I'm really excited about is the tamales. It was Matt's idea to try these, and it'll be our first time ever making them. Be on the lookout for the recipe in the next week or so!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Skinny Coconut Rice Pudding

I had to go into the city today (New York, that is) to deal with some work things, so I was on the go pretty much all day. My meals were a bit rushed and nothing you haven't seen before, so rather than going through all that I thought I'd tell you about this coconut rice pudding.

Matt actually made this a few weeks ago - I can't believe it's taken me this long to share the recipe because this stuff is really good. I've said before that I'm normally not a fan of rice pudding; typically I think the flavor is pretty bland and the texture is unappealing, especially when it's soupy. This rice pudding, however, is neither bland nor soupy. It's thick, creamy, chewy and filled with the flavor of coconut. I actually like it even better when it's warm, right out of the pot...but Matt says that's weird.

I have to give all the credit to Matt on this one since he concocted this deliciousness based on MomMom's rice pudding recipe. Most rice puddings are made with half & half or whole milk, but he used skim milk and it still had plenty of richness. The original recipe also called for a lot more sugar, but he cut it down to a little less than half a cup since he added coconut. You can add even less than that if you like it less sweet - just add a little at a time and taste it while you go.

He also used sushi rice because we don't usually have white rice in the house, and even that worked fine.

This pudding is really easy to make, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. So if you don't have any dessert in the house and are craving something sweet, make this!

Skinny Coconut Rice Pudding

Makes 5 Servings

1/2 cup rice
4 cups skim milk
1 egg
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp. coconut extract

Pour the rice into a small saucepan and add enough water to cover the rice. Bring to a slow boil and cook until all the water is absorbed. Add most of the milk to the pot, saving a little in a separate bowl. Beat the egg with the remaining milk, and then add the milk/egg mixture to the pot; stir well until completely combined. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often. When rice is cooked, add sugar, coconut and coconut extract, then cook for about 5 more minutes.

Spoon rice pudding into 5 small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap (make sure the plastic is touching the rice pudding so a "skin" doesn't form). Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fins and Ice Cream

Today was another busy one! The day was broken up nicely, though, with an impromptu afternoon walk with my neighbor, Meryl and and then an unexpected visit from our good friends Heather and Kevin. Before everyone got to the house, I threw together a veggie sandwich for a late lunch.

I made my sandwich with toasted whole grain bread, a Laughing Cow Light swiss cheese wedge, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and a slice of cheddar cheese. I snacked on some baby carrots alongside as well.

Summer is coming, bring on the veggie sandwiches baby! I can't wait until we have fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden - you can bet you'll be seeing these for days on end. Winking smile


We had our last appointment this evening to finalize our new life insurance plans. Our friend Dave has been helping us with our plans, which has been really nice; we usually don't get to hang out with him very often, so it's been fun getting to see him so frequently the last few weeks. By the time we wrapped things up at 6:00, though, we were of course not in the mood to cook. The sunny weather didn't help either, it just made us want to stay out of the house. We mulled over our dinner options for a while before we finally decided to give in to our itch to go out, and ended up at Fins, a "TropiCali" restaurant not from from our house.

I love this place! The food is always fresh and delicious, the staff is super friendly, and they play surfing videos and reggae music while you eat. It's BYOB, so we're thinking this summer we need to go hang out on their patio with some burritos and buckets of Corona.

I wanted to try something I'd never had there before, so I decided on the Oahu Wrap. It had seared Ahi tuna, mango, avocado, romaine lettuce, black beans and a mandarin sesame slaw. It was delicious, but I should've gone with my gut and gotten a burrito since I really wanted something warm, not cold.

I ended up eating the entire thing, though. Ooph. Thank goodness I only had a couple of their homemade chips and salsa; I packaged up most of them to give Matt for his lunch tomorrow.

Of course I used my self-control with the chips as justification for saying, "Sure!" when Matt suggested we stop for ice cream on the way home. I told you this warm weather thing is terrible for my ice cream addiction...

Our favorite local ice cream shop was right on the way home, so we made a pit stop for his and hers chocolate & vanilla twist creemees (or soft serve, depending on which state you live in Winking smile ). Matt gets chocolate sprinkles, but I always get rainbow.

Isn't that thing huge? If that's a small, how in the world does a large not fall right off the cone? Matt had to help me eat about half of it, and I still felt a little sickly by the time I was done.

Tonight was a fun little evening out for sure, but I feel like we've been having these midweek dinners/ice cream runs more frequently lately due to our busy schedules and the gorgeous weather. I'm going grocery shopping in the next day or two, and plan to come up with a list of dinners that sound enticing and are easy to prepare so we are less likely to make these little trips out quite so often.

What kinds of meals do you make that are tasty and easy to prepare? I'd love some new ideas!

I'm turning in early tonight since I have a big day tomorrow and have to be up at the crack of dawn. Enjoy your night!

Quickie Arms Routine

I woke up this morning determined to get a workout in first thing, before the morning got away from me and I decided to just skip it for one more day. The buck stops here!

Breakfast had to be first, of course, so I made myself another bowl of Kashi Island Vanilla mini wheats with skim milk. I added some raisins to the mix as well.

After that, it was time to get busy! To keep things easy, I turned to my workout board on Pinterest to find a good cardio circuit to get my heart rate going. I settled on an At Home Circuit Workout I pinned from Peanut Butter Fingers. I liked this workout and it only took about 30 minutes.

I wanted to do some strength training as well, but I could already hear Riker waking up from his nap, so I had to keep it speedy! I grabbed my weights and quickly completed a few arm exercises, which looked like this:

Finished just in the nick of time! This wasn't the most intense workout I ever had, but I felt better to just get things going again after a few days off. 

Now it's finally time to enjoy my morning coffee and to get things going for the day. I'm loving my chunky Martha's Vineyard mug - doesn't drinking your morning beverage out of a favorite mug just make things tht much better?

Have a good one!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weekday Eats

What a busy day! Right from the get-go, it felt like I was running from call to call, appointment to appointment. I'm about to settle in for the night to beat Matt at Scrabble...

...but let's first run through the eats of the day, shall we? Winking smile


For breakfast this morning, I toasted up my last two pieces of Red Hen whole grain bread (can you believe it lasted this long?) and topped one slice with PB2 and the other slice with Polaner All Fruit blackberry jam. It was a simple breakfast, but paired with my ever-present morning cup 'o joe, it was tasty.

You might have noticed I didn't post a workout today, or yesterday...or the day before that. Um, yeah, I realized this morning I'm kind of in a workout funk. Once I don't exercise for one or two days in a row, it just gets easier to keep riding that train. Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to? I really need to jump back on the wagon tomorrow, though. I have nothing but good intentions for a sweaty Wednesday morning.


Before I knew it, lunch time rolled around. I kept things simple today with some Muir Glen Organics vegetable soup. I love this stuff because it's all natural and I can pronounce all the ingredients. Winking smile

Whenever I have canned soup, I add extra veggies to the bowl to pump up the nutrition value. It's an easy way to get all my veggie servings in, and it just makes the bowl of soup seem that much bigger. Today I microwaved some frozen cauliflower seasoned with Adobo to add to the soup.

On the side I had a stick of low-fat string cheese and two everything flatbread crackers.


Dinner tonight was Indian-made-easy thanks to a package of curried chic peas I snagged at Wegman's a while back.

I whipped up a batch of my ginger-garlic tofu, cooked some more frozen cauliflower - this time seasoned with salt, cumin and curry powder - and tossed it all with the saucy chic peas. It was a little sweet with just the right amount of heat.

This looks like kind of a mess, doesn't it? I promise, it really tasted better than it looked. I suppose I could've cleaned the sides of my bowl to make this look a little prettier for you, but I was too starving to wait. Winking smile

So I really want to tell you about dessert, but I'm still in the process of tweaking this recipe before I deem it "blog worthy." Here's a sneak peek:

Healthy chocolate-peanut butter cake for one! You'll be seeing this again soon, my friends...

Have a good night!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sweet & Spicy (Meatless) Sloppy Joes

Remember this?

 I was never big fan of sloppy joes growing up, but when I married Matt he convinced me to give them another try - a vegetarian version of course, using Morningstar Farms soy crumbles. I had to admit I actually really did like them; they make a fun dinner when you've had a long day and just feel like eating something with your hands off a TV tray while watching last night's episode of the Worst Cooks in America. Or am I the only one who watches that show?

Rather than relying on the stuff from the can to make our sloppy joes, though, we wanted to make our own version of the sauce without the use of any preservatives or corn syrup. This stuff is awesome! We add cayenne and hot cherry peppers since we like our joes with a little kick, but you could definitely leave those ingredients out for a more mellow sauce.

After mixing up the sauce tonight, which took all of ten minutes, we added it to some soy crumbles and then sandwiched the filling inside soft potato buns. Obviously you can use ground meat if you're not a veggie. Winking smile

We served the joes alongside some fresh cauliflower I cooked with cumin, garlic powder and paprika. I love this dinner because it's quick and feels like junk food, but it's actually low in fat and high on protein. Good stuff!

Sweet and Spicy Sloppy Joes

Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients - Sauce
3/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients - Meat Mixture
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 hot cherry peppers, chopped
12 oz. soy crumbles or ground meat
3 rolls

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

While sauce is cooking, saute onion, garlic and hot peppers in pan with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add soy crumbles/ground meat and cook until browned. Once meat is cooked, add to sauce and mix until blended. Spoon onto rolls and serve!