Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nom Nom Gumbo

One of the dishes my Mom had in her dinner repertoire when I was growing up was Gumbo. For those of you who haven't had it before, let me give you a quick explanation. Combine spicy sausage, chicken meat, shrimp, bell peppers, celery, lots of herbs and broth, and serve over rice. Now a question....

How could that possibly be bad?

Oh that's right, it can't. It's delicious. And healthy to boot.

Serves 2 (with excellent leftovers)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 chicken andouille sausages
4 chicken tenders
1/2lb of shrimp (if you want, but I omitted them)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
2 cups bell peppers
1 container reduced-sodium chicken broth from Tj's (32 ounces)
32 ounces of water
3 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teapsoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1 cup prepared white rice

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized soup pot. Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the andouille sausage and saute until slightly browned.
Put the chicken tenders in and saute until light brown, then take them out, give them a rough chop and put them back in the pot.
Add the celery and bell peppers and saute for several minutes, until the veggies begin to soften.
Pour the broth and water in, and then add all the herbs/spices.
Simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Taste for salt, and add some if needed.
Serve over white rice.

This is a super delicious, 1-pot meal. Very hearty and filling. I asked Mike while we were eating if he would give it two thumbs up and he replied with, "ssshhhh...eating" so I'll take that as a compliment.

Have to give my Mom props for emailing me her recipe, thanks Mom!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beef Stir Fry

This is a kickass recipe. It's spicy, super-healthy and delicious. Hadn't done a stir-fry in what seems like forever, so it was time. And it turned out great. Hope you all try it and love it as much as I do!!

Beef Stir Fry
Serves 2

1/2lb. lean beef strips (round steak or something similar)
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small broccoli heads, chopped
2 stalks celery, thinly chopped
1/2 frozen bell peppers
1/2 cup frozen green beans (or snow peas, whatever you have!)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper

Place the beef strips in a ziploc with half the soy sauce and half the garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Allow to marinate for an hour or so. This really helps the flavors come alive in the stir fry.
Get all your veggies cut up and set them aside.
All of these, plus a bunch more only cost me $1.77.

Heat up a wok that has been sprayed with Pam until it's super-hot and then drop the beef strips in and sear quickly. Like a minute on each side, max. Remove the beef from the wok and set aside.
The beef, post-sear
Once the beef is done, take the frozen veggies and allow them to steam for a couple minutes.
Once frozen, now hot and tasty!
And after the frozen veggies are up to temp, toss in the rest of the veggies, along with the remaining soy sauce and spices. Mix well, then add a couple tablespoons of water and throw a lid on the wok for 3-4 minutes so the veggies steam. Be careful not to overdo it. Mushy veggies are no one's friend.
After steaming, the broccoli should be a vibrant green color.
When you take the lid off the wok, the veggies should be slightly tender but have bite to them still. Nab a  piece of broccoli and test it. You want it to still have nice crisp bite. Also, this allows you to taste for seasoning. With the soy sauce, you shouldn't need to add any salt, but if the garlic-level isn't too your liking, go ahead and add more. Then toss the beef back in the wok, and mix everything together. Turn the heat off on the stove and place the lid back on the wok.
You jealous bro?? 
It'll only take a minute for the meat to heat through. Most of the time I would serve this kind of dinner with some rice, but in keeping with the health-kick, I just had some raw veggies instead.
Yea, you jealous.
God said let there be stir fry. 

And there was.

And it was good.

Actually. It was pretty freaking great. Light, but filling. Absolutely nom-tastic.
And now it's Wednesday evening. Time to work out and make dinner! Have a good night everyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miyagi Sushi

As last week neared it's end, several things happened:

1) I had a successful (still waiting to hear back) interview
2) The realization hit that Insanity is molding me into a hotter version of myself
3) It had been a week or 2 since Mike and I had gone out with our friends

So...because of all these things, we decided to try a sushi place here in San bernardino that we had heard great things about, Miyagi Sushi.

I know what you're thinking...Marga, a sushi San Bernardino??? WTF are you thinking??? 

Well, I can now assure you, that although located in a questionable (at best) area, this is a solid sushi joint. And even better, the chefs are all Japanese. Very encouraging.
  • Atmosphere: 4 Spatulas. It's a small place, and there is pretty much always going to be a wait, but the place is clean and the turnover is quick. It looks like a sushi place, not a crappy restaurant pretending to be a sushi place.
  • Service: 4 Spatulas. The servers all have smiles on their faces and the sushi chefs are super entertaining. Not only that, the food practically flies out of the kitchen. It's very efficient. They have their dance steps down. Considering we ordered a metric shit-ton of food and they didn't forget or miss anything, I was impressed.
  • Food: 5 Spatulas. The food, most amazingly, was delicious. I was incredibly suspicious of a place in the Inland Empire offering fresh sushi. Now my doubts are history. The fish was fresh. And plentiful. And artfully presented. And most important, completely delectable. I will definitely be going back. We went with a group of 6 total people, and tried 17 different rolls. Every single one was fantastic. That's a damn good record if you ask me. Also, the appetizers were great too. Their fried calamari wasn't too chewy or tough. Yum, yum, YUM! I'd definitely recommend the Dynamite if you's baked scallops with crab meat, rice and sauce. Over-the-top good.
  • Overall Value: 4 1/2 Spatulas. We went for the "all-you-can-eat" option for our dinner. Spent $24 a person. Considering the average cost of one of their rolls is $10, we ate our fair share. Meaning, between the 6 of us, we needed to order at least 12 rolls to make it worthwhile. And we ordered 17. Plus miso soup. Plus appetizers. So we did good. Oh so good, if you ask me. It had been a while since I'd had amazing sushi, and this was like a religious experience. As in, you take a bite of your first roll and your eyes glaze over and you feel such unbridled pleasure you could just die, right then and there. Will I be back? Hell yes. Will I do the "all-you-can-eat" again? HELL YES!
God. Just thinking about it, I want to go right now. Sigh.

And although doing an "all-you-can-eat" dinner experience may not exactly be on my "diet" plan right now, it was so worth it. This week I'm back to eating like a bunny-rabbit. Hey, if you don't enjoy yourself from time to time, what's the point??? You only get 1 go-round in life, so I'll stuff my face with sushi till I can't walk every now and then. My advice would be for you to do the same.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feta Makes it Bettah

Last week was busy. As Wednesday neared, I was getting all kinds of anxious prepared for my interview, and time was slipping away from me. So Wednesday, while the Curry in the Crock Pot simmered away and filled the house with its essence, I also made Thursdays' dinner ahead of time and stuck it in the fridge. Multi-tasking-magic.

Went with a super-easy, super-delish meal that both Mike and I love. And, as it sits overnight, it just gets better. Pasta Salad. Combined with some yummy feta...because, of course:

Feta Makes it Bettah
Serves 4

2 cups rotelle pasta (or shells, or penne. go nuts.)
1/2 big cucumber, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small can black olives, chopped
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can corn, drained & rinsed
3/4 cup feta, crumbled
1/2-3/4 cup italian dressing

Get a big pot of water on the stovetop and bring to a boil.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, prep all the veggies and toss them into a big bowl.
When the water is boiling, salt liberally and add the pasta. Cook to al dente.
Drain the pasta when it's finished, and add them to the veggies.
Top the pasta salad with the feta and italian dressing and mix well.
Cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge till you are ready for it!

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Got to love it!

Another reason I love pasta salad, you can pretty much put anything in it and it'll taste great. Don't have black beans and corn? Don't shed a tear. You can put olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots...etc. There are no rules!!

We ended up eating this Thursday night...and then had the leftovers at the beach on Saturday...Bonus!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Curry in the Crock Pot

Alright, so I've been craving some spicy, hearty food this week. So I contacted the curry goddess Evelyn and asked if she would share her recipe with me. She gave me loose guidelines, and I went for it.

Mine turned out a bit different from hers. Not better or worse, just different. But still very delicious and filling. Was a fun experiment. I literally measured nothing. Just did it by feel, which is, actually, strangely liberating.

Also, this dish perfumes the whole house with the smells of love and caring that only a good crock-pot meal can produce. So it was a win across the board.

All the amounts in the following recipe are my guesstimates. And yes, I just used a fake word.

Chicken Curry (adapted from Evelyn!)
Serves 2 with massive leftovers

1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 big carrots, peeled and chopped
4 small-to-medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup of the Melange a Trois bell peppers from TJ's
2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
4-6 chicken breast tenderloins, depending on how much you want/size
1 1/2 cans coconut milk
1 can chicken broth
Several heaping tablespoons of curry powder (I probably used 4-5)
Granulated garlic (I think I did 2 tablespoons or so)
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
Salt to taste

The beginning of this process is the only part that requires any real work. It'll take you about, 10-15 to prep all of your veggies and spices. After that, all you do is lay them in your Crock-Pot and crank that thing up to high for 6 hours. I put the onions in first, followed by the carrots, potatoes, pineapple and the chicken on top. Then add the liquids to cover. Put the spices in last and stir a bit to combine. After that..put the lid on a go have a productive day!
I came back about half way through the cooking process and tasted for seasoning. At this point I added a little bit of salt and some more garlic. Because that's how I roll.
After 6 hours, this meal is ready to roll. Just boil some rice and serve it up.

This meal is super easy to prepare, and the results are fantastic. You could trick people into thinking you slaved away all day at the stove! But I don't encourage lying. I actually served it on top of rice and with Garlic Naan from TJ's which is super-addictive and delicious. Two dollars buys you 4 big pieces of Naan that are covered in garlic.....MMMMMMM!

And..of course...this was a pretty healthy meal. The only fat comes from the coconut milk. But..what can I say. You can't make good curry without coconut milk. It just wouldn't work. There's something magical that happens when you combine curry powder and coconut milk. It's the same as beef broth and wine. Shouldn't taste good together, but after a couple hours on low heat, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't lick the bowl. All the bowl-lickers out there know what I'm saying. Happy Friday people!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The World's 50 Most Delicious Foods....

So I stumbled upon this article:

World's 50 Most Delicious Foods

I have to say, this is a pretty comprehensive and impressive list. Although I have not had the pleasure to try all the items, after reading the descriptions I would love to try them all. Of course, accomplishing this goal would require extensive travel, and therefore monies, so it will probably be awhile till I get to check any off. But oh well. I'm going to keep the faith.

They list Thai Curry as the coveted #1. Do you agree??? I'm not sure I do. However savory and yummery curry is, especially when the flavor is authentic, I do think some things top it.

For instance....ever had Bulgogi or Bibimbap while sitting in South Korea?? I actually have. And it's amazing. Or what about Falafel from a street vendor in downtown Jerusalem?? Didn't think so.

While this list is indeed a great compilation, they need to include some other items. Anything you guys think should be added??? Comment!!!

And I realize, I sound a little critical...but this is food people. Food is life! It's important stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Matzo BOMB Soup

What an interesting week it has been so far. Let's henna disaster is healing (And let all the brother's and sister's say, AMEN!), finally have an interview lined up at a company I really want the privilege to work at, and Mike and I have been chugging along with the Insanity.

Last night was Day 15 for our we had our second Fit Test and then took measurements. So far, after 2 weeks, I've lost 5lbs and several inches. Considering the fact that these workouts are building muscle, I'm pretty happy with the progress. The numbers are headed in the right direction. And with all the hard work we're putting in, I'm happy to see it starting to pay off. So...15 days completed. 48 to go. 

Of course, the food-stuffs as of late, have been slightly more focused on being health-conscious. Last night, I made Matzo Ball Soup. I call it Matzo Bomb Soup. Why, you ask?? Because it's a cuter name. And this soup is ALWAYS delicious. Add to that the fact that it's high in lean protein due to the chicken, and pretty much fat-free. Very excellent post-workout food. 

Also, it's one of those concoctions that is practically impossible to muck up. In fact, the longer you leave it the hell alone, the better it tastes. So, have bills to pay? Or need to flat iron your hair? Or change a tire? Or have a gopher to blow up with dynamite Caddyshack style?? Go for it. This soup will be waiting for you when you're done. I would go so far as to suggest you listen to the Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to accompany it. Because it's da bomb.

See what I did there??? Cookies to whoever guesses the correlation in the comments!

Alright...enough goph....errr..monkey business. Here's the recipe!

Matzo Bomb Soup
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts
4 stalks of celery, cleaned and chopped
4 baby carrots or 2 big ones, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (any color will do, the long simmer mellows the flavor)
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 cups water
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 packet of Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Start by adding the chicken broth and water to a large pot. The pot I would have normally used was MIA, so I ended up using a ginormous one. But the result is the same.
As the broth comes up to a boil,  prep your veggies and add the chicken and bouillon powder. I used frozen chicken, so adding it to boiling water will defrost and cook in one simple step.
Once all your veggies are chopped, throw them in the pot. Turn the heat to medium. Now is your time to escape for a good hour or so. This gives the broth a chance to really come together flavor-wise.
Your soup will look something like this
before you run away and enjoy your free time.
Note the freakishly large pot.
When you return from doing..well..whatever with your lovely free time, the chicken should be cooked through. Take it out of the pot and shred it with 2 forks and then return it to the pot.
At this point you can finish the soup, or turn it off and walk away for another hour or so, like I did. Mike was on his way home, and we had our Fit Test to do.
When you're ready, mix up the matzo balls as per the packages direction, and let sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
I should get paid for all the plugs I give lol

Turn the stove back on, and bring the soup to a boil. When it's bubbling happily, take the matzo mix out of the fridge and roll out little balls with your (clean) hands. Drop them gently into the soup. They only take a couple minutes, and when they're floating, they're done.
Here's a fun series of pictures with the Matzo Bombs beings dropped in:
Ready to drop!

Ladle some of that love into a bowl and dig in!

Notes on this recipe: this is my adaptation of the way my Mom makes this soup. Over the years, she started adding dill, and although that makes for a delicate herb taste, I prefer my Jewish Penicillin (the anecdotal name for this soup) unadulterated. Meaning, jacked up chicken broth with lots of meaty chicken and light, fluffy matzo balls. The veggies have a way of simmering down into melt-in-your-mouth goodness. It's so damn good.

Also...this recipe won me the "Matzo Ball Smackdown" a couple of years ago with some friends. And I proudly hold this title. I think it's a real winner because it's so simple, and the flavors are so clean and light. And it's healthy to boot.

Enjoy your soup kids. Boom!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sloppy Jo's

Hey kids....Happy Saturday! I'm so happy it's the weekend. For everyone, this entire week really seemed to just.....completely suck. So...hey, we all made it. We're alive. Yay!

Before I get to the important stuff (aka the food), has anyone out there ever gotten a black "henna" tattoo? Either home or abroad?? Let me tell you...if you have, I'm sorry. And if you haven't...DON'T!!! For serials. This is no joke. I thought I'd have a little flower for 2-3 weeks, and now I have steroids to take for 2 weeks. Basically, I had the allergic reaction from Hell. Not fun. So please, be safe. If you must get that fun henna tattoo while on vacay, make sure it's real henna. Which. Is. Never. Black. Spread the word.

Ok...jumping down off my soapbox. But yea..that was some dramatic ish this week. Really freaked me out. When your dermatologist, within 1 minute of seeing the problem tells you to drop your pants for a shot in the know it's serious. Ok...moving on.

Aside from the dermatologic crisis this week, it's just been a stressful week. Mike was feeling it too, and the Insanity workouts were both helping and not helping. Meaning, neither of us wanted to get off our fat asses and actually work out. But we did. And every time, we were glad we did. However, I wanted to make some comfort food for Mike and I for dinner. Of course, needed it to be slightly I ended up making Sloppy Jo's Thursday night. Here's the breakdown, plus some pretty pictures from the NEW camera Mike bought me because he is the best man/boyfriend/friend/person in the universe.

Sloppy Jo's
Serves 2 (with enough leftovers for 2 more sammies)

1lb. lean ground beef
1/4 chopped onion (which I was out of, but if you have it, add it!)
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (I use the Melange a Trois from TJ's)
3/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or if you're Mike & I, closer to a tablespoon)
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 Hamburger buns (2 for Mike, 1 for me)

Begin by adding the frozen bell peppers to a dry saute pan and warming them through.
When the peppers are warmed, toss in the ground beef and begin to break it up with your spatula.
Depending on how lean your meat is, you will either need to drain off the fat or not.
The bell peppers and meat will release
a lot of liquid, so drain it!
Once the meat is cooked through, set it back on low heat and mix up the sauce. 
Combine the ketchup, mustard, garlic, worcestershire and brown sugar in a bowl and mix well.
Turn the heat under the meat back up to medium and add the sauce.
Yes, my spatula is pink.
And says love on it. It's cute!!!
Then mix the sauce in with the meat and heat thoroughly.
Heat until the sauce begins to bubble.
While the sauce is mixing in with the meat, you may want to toast your hamburger buns. That is, if you like toasted buns. Ha. Ha. Toasted buns. Ok, it's early and I'm silly. 
Pile some of the delicious meat mixture onto a bun and devour. Remember, it's called Sloppy Jo' make a mess!!!
As you can see, I served ours with some steamed
Haricots Verts from TJ's and a simple salad..
the feta being on Mikes', mine was plain.
So again, very simple, delicious, comfort food. By the way...for any of you out there hating on me for using the frozen bell peppers from TJ''s like, $2 for the bag, which will last for 5 or 6 meals, when these days you're lucky to get 1 or 2 whole peppers for that price in the produce section of any market. Remember, I'm cooking on a budget here. And honestly, I don't think I'm missing any flavor by using the frozen. And if you treat them right, you don't miss out on any texture either. So there.

So now I'm off to enjoy the weekend. Oh, today is the first double Insanity day. We have 2 routines to run through. The hardest one, and a 17 minute one focusing on abs. FUN! But yea, it'll be worth it.

I think I can. I think I can. I think...I can....!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Black Angus

Sunday night Mike and I decided to out to eat. Being the cheap-os that we are we looked at what we had coupons for. Black Angus, Campfire Feast for 2...$12 off?? Winner!

Also, neither of us had been there in years, so it seemed like a good choice. And it turns out, the food has, from my memory, improved quite a bit. So that's a win. Here's my breakdown:

  • Atmosphere: 3 Spatulas. I know when you think of a steakhouse, romance probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But whoever designed this place gave the guests a little extra privacy by making the booths super tall. Which is nice. And considering it was just Mike & I, we enjoyed not having our neighbors in our faces.
  • Service: 3 1/2 Spatulas. Our server was prompt, and friendly, without hovering and being annoying. And she checked back to make sure our entrees were what we wanted. Which they were. 
  • Food: 4 Spatulas. As I mentioned earlier, we ordered their Campfire Feast for 2. Basically, this means you get an appetizer, 2 entrees, and dessert for a combined price. And the food was very high quality. Oh, and to start you off, they bring you their Honey Molasses Bread, gratis. Which is nummy. Warm, slightly sweet bread with crispy oats on the outside. Yum. For our appetizer, we chose the Crispy Garlic Pepper Zucchini which was also very good. Although fried, it did not sit heavily on your stomach. And it came with a yogurt-cucumber dip, which I liked and Mike loved. The entrees came with your choice of 2 sides, one of which could be a salad. So we both ordered the Wedge Salad with bleu cheese. Umm...YUMMY! Nice, crisp iceberg lettuce topped with bleu cheese crumbles, bacon, fresh tomatoes and bleu cheese dressing. What's bad about that??? Exactly. Nothing is bad about it at all. Except for the fact that our entrees hadn't even come yet and we were well on our way to stuffed. On to the main courses, Mike had the 12 ounce ribeye and he liked it. Had nice grill marks on it and a slight smoky taste. I had the 8 ounce top sirloin, which was cooked to medium, as ordered and was a nice piece of meat. Mmm. Tasty Cow. I had the garlic mashed potatoes with mine, which were lumpy and only lukewarm, so meh. Mike had the sweet potato fries which were good, served with a maple dipping sauce that reminded me of french toast. For dessert we had their seasonal offering, the fresh-baked sugar cookie topped with berries and vanilla ice cream. So. Damn. Good. 
  • Overall Value: 3 1/2 Spatulas. This was a decent meal. However, not sure we would have gone with the coupon. They usually charge $52 for what we had. And I feel like the $39 is more appropriate. It was a ton of food, and we took home leftovers, which is always a good thing. And the leftovers held up, which is even better. Will we go back? Yes. Without a coupon? Probably not.
Oh.....big disclaimer here....THIS IS NOT HEALTH FOOD. But it was our rest day from Insanity, and we had a really good day, so we splurged. Sue me. 

And now it's Wednesday...I have a dermatologist appointment later for a "henna" tattoo from the cruise gone amok. Wish me luck folks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

So, Friday night I worked my domestic magic. While Mike and I were doing our daily Insanity workout, I was running into the kitchen, bringing pizza dough up to room temp, pre-heating the oven, etc...during water breaks. All in a sports bra with sweat dripping off my face. Hey Martha...stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

BBQ Chicken Pizza-the Super Mas Easy Way
Serves 2

1 cup shredded know like the kind from the Chicken Tortilla Soup...
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe's (Garlic and Herb baby!)
1/4 cup sliced red onion
Cilantro to sprinkle on top
Olive oil, granulated garlic and salt

Allow the pizza dough to sit out on the counter for about 20 minutes. This makes it a lot easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
If you're using a pizza stone (which I am not, most likely because I do not own one) remember to leave it in the hot oven for a good 1/2 hour or so to get it smokin' hot. Otherwise, spray your pizza pan with some Pam so you don't have to pry your delicious pie off the pan with a spatula and risk compromising the integrity.
Coat your hands with flour and start working with the dough. Get it into a nice big ball and then put in on the pan.
Using your hands, gently spread the dough towards the edges of the pan. Keep it as round as possible, but a little oddly-shaped pizza never killed anyone.
Once its spread out, pour the BBQ sauce on and use a brush to evenly cover the dough leaving a half-an-inch border of crust dry.
The chicken that came out of the leftover soup, wring out as much excess liquid as you can, or you'll end up with soupy pizza. And that's not a good thing. Place the chicken on top of the sauce.
Now top that with the mozz. If you have shredded, go nuts. I had a big log of it from Costco, so I made thin slices of it and casually placed them to get even coverage.
Throw the sliced onions on top of that.
Using a brush, or your fingers, coat the dry crust with olive oil, then sprinkle with the granulated garlic & salt. This gives the crusts some character.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven, and how well-done you like the crust. The cheese should be nice and bubbly and the crust should be at the precipice of golden brown.
Cut the pizza into 8 small slices and serve with a big salad. Enjoy!!

Homemade pizzas are very near and dear to my heart. First off, it's simple comfort food. Secondly, it's easy to throw together in a pinch. Just about anything can go on top. Feeling a little crazy? Throw some salami and artichokes on top. Or whatever really. Be creative. Making pizzas at home is supposed to be fun, so go nuts.

Oh, and about crust. Short of making it from scratch in "Big Red" nickname for my KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, Trader Joe's is, in my opinion, the best on the market. It's cheap, easy to use and delicious. I love their Garlic & Herb dough, but they also over plain and whole wheat.

One more thing...I'm serious about spraying with Pam kids. The very first time I cooked for Mike, I forgot and we ended up with "Franken-pizza." Of course I had talked up my cooking skills to him beforehand so I felt like a grade-A jackass. Luckily he thought it was cute and here we are a year and a half later. But please...please....please avoid this mistake. Not every guy out there is as forgiving ladies. So look like a goddess in the kitchen and spritz your pan!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


1. The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.
2. Extreme foolishness or irrationality

This definition from Google describes Mike's and my current state of being. As in, we are currently insane. The day after I got home from the cruise we started the Insanity Home Workout program. This is a 60 day program hell bent on getting you in better shape. Trainer Shaun T. leads you in a series of DVD's that push you to your physical limits. Meaning, he is yelling at you through your TV's speakers to "Dig Deeper." 

Basically you watch and follow along with a different workout every day, with 1 day a week to rest. For 2 straight months. And this crap is hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. A typically workout consists of a 10-ish minute warm up...which isn't really a warm up. It's cardio from the beginning. You start with 30 seconds each of jogging in place, jumping-jacks, heismans, 123's, butt-kicks, high knees and mummy-kicks. You do 3 sets of this, each time getting faster. Mike and I are both complete sweaty messes by the end of the watm up. Then you stretch for 5 minutes or so. Then it's into the hardcore cardio training for 15-20 minutes. So far, the DVD's have increased in difficulty, so I can only wait with trepidation to see what the second month has in store for us. 

Today finishes week one for us. I know in another week I'll be more used to the routine and my sore muscles will be better. I also know, this will be a worthwhile endeavor for Mike and I to accomplish. Moreover, it's awesome having someone to work out with, we motivate each other to keep going when one of us wants to say "F**K YOU SHAUN T.!!!!!!! TAKE YOUR SUICIDE DRILLS AND SHOVE 'EM UP YOUR INSANE ASS!!!" 

And yes, it's happened. Maybe more than once. But we'll stick with it. So keep reading the bloggy-blog here for updates. And any encouragement is of course welcome. Or if any of you have been through Insanity and just want to commiserate...I welcome it. Comment away.

Predictably, the recipes I post over the next couple weeks/months will be slightly more focused on being healthy and replacing nutrients lost during these strenuous workouts. Lots of proteins and low-fat. Again my dear readers, comments/ideas would be amazing.

Hope you all are eating well and staying healthy!!!   

Chicken Tortilla Soup

More Mexican-inspired food. Anyone seeing a theme here? I just can't seem to help myself. Plus this is one of Mike's favorites. As soon as I got home this was the first thing he really wanted me to make. Who am I to object?? What can I say, I'm a giver. LOL.

Chicken Tortilla Soup for the Crock-pot
*Important note, this is a recipe I developed on my own after doing some research. I do not have specific measurements for the spices. I play it by ear each time and do it by feel. Like a real Italian. Except this is Mexican-ish food. I digress.

Serves 2 with a ton of leftovers (perfect for Mike to take to work)

2 chicken breasts
2 cans chicken broth
4 cups of water
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Chicken Bouillon
Granulated Garlic
Chili Pepper
Ground Cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips

Combine all ingredients except the salt in the Crock-pot and turn on high for 6 hours. What you do with the seasonings here is up to you. I would guess that I use about a tablespoon or so of each. In my opinion, you cannot over-flavor anything with cumin because it is freaking delicious. If you like a spicier broth, add more chili/cumin. You really can't go wrong here. It always turns out fabulous. When the chicken is cooked through, an hour or so into the process, take it out and shred it with two forks. Add it back in with the soup. Close to the end of cooking, taste for seasoning, and add salt accordingly. When the soup is done, ladle it into bowls, then top with a sprinkle of cheese and broken up tortilla chips. We use the Kirkland Organic Chips from Costco. They are delicious with much less salt than other brands. If you have fresh cilantro on hand, chop a little and add that on top too. Gives it a nice fresh taste.

As you can tell, this is an incredibly easy meal. You throw some junk in a pot and walk away for most of the day. And the flavors just keep building overnight in the fridge too. It's always better the next day. This is a pretty healthy dinner too, with the only fat coming from the cheese you add at the end...but if you don't add a huge amount it's negligible. Mike gives this soup 2 thumbs up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm Back!!!

Hey kids! Hope the past week and a half has been kind to all of you. It certainly was. For 7 nights I was spoiled rotten on the Carnival Valor. Long story short, had a fabulous time. Let's see, the non-food highlights: spending time with my lovely Grandma, Aunt and cousin, running down the street in Georgetown in a bikini and towel, going to Hell and back, holding a baby turtle, drinking a margarita in the ocean off the coast of Honduras, having the time to read a book for pleasure, kayaking/paddle-boating/water-trampolining on the island where they film the Corona commercials, drinking way too much rum-punch on said island...and above all else, eating more food than was healthy or reasonable. Truly. I was a big fat oinker on this trip.

And it was fabulous.

Every night at dinner, we had the option to pretty much order as much of every item offered as we pleased. So if there was something that looked interesting, I went for it. And you know, I'm happy I did. Not only because of the obligatory vacation rule, "do as you please" but because I was regularly surprised by the thoughtfulness and quality of the food. The Chef de Cuisine on that particular ship is doing his job well. And moreover, he is making sure all of his sous chefs are as well. I was consistently impressed.

Before I left, I did some research. It seems there are a lot of people out there who have been on that same ship and found the food horrible. Personally, for the most part, I have no freaking idea what they're complaining about. The kitchen staff on that cruise ship has an incredibly difficult task ahead of them every day. They have to feed 3,600 people, daily. This means the buffet, the snack bars, and 2 huge, multi-level dining rooms. So for the quality to be anything above satisfactory is mind-boggling to me.

So...for the greatest hits of my culinary journey on the Carnival Valor, away we go:

Spicy Gazpacho

Carnival's Signature Dessert, the Warm Melting Chocolate Cake

Puff pastry sheets with custard in between and caramelized apples

Fruit from room service, the attention to detail is what surprised me

A Tastee Pattie from Grand Cayman, filled with spicy chicken. Kind of like an Empanada.

Prosciutto and melon rounds. Beautiful presentation.

Braised Short Ribs with green beans, fried eggplant and fried rice with fresh ginger
And on July 27 we had the pleasure of attending the Chef's Table. This experience included a private galley tour with the Chef de Cuisine, Mathew Gregory, champagne and appetizers (Ahi Tartar on Wasabi Crisp, Duck Pot Sticker, Steak Taco and Avocado Cheesecake) in the galley, and a 7-course meal prepared by the Chef in a private room off the main dining room. It was...the best meal of my life. Truly. All of the dishes were thoughtful and complete. The contrasts of flavors and textures was perfect.

Norweigan Salmon Tartar
with Avocado Mousse and Salmon Caviar

Fire Roasted Tomato & Poblano Chili Bisque
with grilled corn and cilantro drizzle

Rock Shrimps & Apple Beignets
with tapioca crunch and garlic-lemon aioli

Chopped Mediterranean Salad
with Shaved Squash and Feta Crumbles

Fillet of Chilean Sea Bass,
with wine-stewed shallots & chives vinaigrette,
leeks emulsion and peas risotto

Aged Filet Mignon
on a bed of onion streusel
with homemade 3-pepper mustards
(also included creamed potatoes and broccoli)

Raspberry Sorbet, Almond Cake, various sauces.
Was accompanied by the melting cake and ice cream!
Just a note: please excuse for awful photography. I'm learning, but it's a slow process. And my camera is not really made for food-photography. So bear with me. It'll get better, I promise.

So as you can tell, I did a great job of doing nothing but enjoying myself. Takes some practice, after being a busy-bee at home. But it's all good. I had a really fantastic week. Got a lot closer with my family and got to have a lot of fun in the process. Also brought home a great tan, so it's safe to say I had fun on vacation!