Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Show me your peppas!!!

The other night our neighbor's dog ventured down to say hi- our's is the first stop on his neighborhood tour. Usually he heads to our creek to splash around and get dirty, but this time he hung out and played fetch- I think he is rallying for a new playmate! In due time he will have one, we've been approved by the bully breed adoption agencies WOOO HOOO!!!!

When retrieving their pup, my neighbors brought us some banana peppers from their garden. They were so pretty- they begged for a photo shoot!

Ideas for these babies quickly flooded my mind- I decided to stuff them with pulled pork.

Sometimes I make decisions 'spur of the moment' before checking out the pantry and freezer- lucky for me I had a bunch of super thick pork chops in the freezer and decided to defrost a couple! So into the crock pot this morning went two chops with some Mojo marinade and chicken stock.
I let them do their thing on high for 4 hours!

When I returned home from work- with another bag of farm fresh tomatoes from a student!!!- I decided that I would make enchilada sauce from scratch. WHY have I not done this sooner?!

I could have taken out the seeds, but naaawh- not tonight! Into the blender went whole tomatoes, olive oil, cumin, cayenne, salt, garlic, onion and chipotle peppers! I simmered it on the stove, and added about 3 Tbsp of tomato paste.

I stuffed the peppers with the pork and covered them with the delicious bubbling red sauce- I even had enough meat to make 2 enchiladas in whole wheat tortillas - which I baked with the peppers at 375 for about 20 minutes!

I LOVED this spicy dinner, and hubs well, I think he'll keep me around for a while after this one!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cruel, cruel summer...

Only cruel because it's almost over.

The summer is quickly winding down... and I mean QUICKLY! We have headed back to work this week to participate in workshops and meetings, and my the real world has hit me head on...
I've had to tweak my methods, but will hopefully maintain my 'OM' state of mind- acquired this summer by kickin' workouts, kitchen creations, and ME time!

Workouts happen first- out the door between 5 and 5:30! WOOOOOOO EARLY BIRD!!!! If I don't do it early, typically I don't do it- at least I'm honest with myself! Double duty- working out keeps me happy and gives me my time to myself... or with my hubs...

Food is still fun (I don't start cooking at 4PM anymore though-insert mega sad face). More extravagant meals are saved for the weekend...but that doesn't mean no healthy eats during the week. Did you see what hubs happened to make last night?! Super light and flavorful!

Lunches are put together the night before... so long midday grazing! This may be a good thing... but I will surely miss it! To help with back to school lunches I threw together a batch of black bean burger with chipotle peppers, and have them waiting in the freezer for an easy lunch option. I actually made these during my mood boosting cook-a-thon Friday night- however they sure are coming in handy now that it's that time...

Black Bean Burgers:
2 cups black beans
2 chipotle peppers in adobo-diced
1/3 cup cooked brown rice
2/3 cup cooked Bulgar wheat
splashes of olive oil
2 Tbsp garlic powder
dashes of worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp wheat flour
1 egg white
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
salt and pepper

I put 1 1/2 cups of black beans in the mixer with all of the other listed ingredient. I like the beans to be mashed up. Mix in the 1/2 cup of whole beans. Form burgers. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 ish minutes. Let cool, and CAREFULLY because they are a bit soft- put in baggies to freeze.

Ingredients are roughly measured. The burgers should have a sticky-slightly wet- feel to them. Ingredients can also be tweaked- I get SUPER creative based on what's in the pantry! Mushrooms make a great addition/ substitution!

With that it's time to makes tomorrow's lunch!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Homemade Pizza

My poor, poor hubby- God Bless him! As my live in taste testing, Guinea Pig, he has endured some pretty awful homemade bread. Four years ago, I set out to make homemade bread- and not the sweet kind with baking powder and baking soda. Not this chick, I wanted to make the fresh baked farmhouse loaf that was perfect, with a slab of butter, and steam rising off.




I am not one to be defeated- especially by a tradition such as bread making. Hello, I was the new proud owner of a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. I could make anything.


Bread= science. You have to check the weather, the water, the flour, the oven. You have to enlist the help of bricks in your oven, steam misting water bottles, countless cookbooks, countless websites, and yes countless loaves of bread that were dense, tasteless, and just wrong!

Over the past four years I have definitely plugged away at finding that feel of the dough- somewhere between sticky and smooth. I have stopped rushing the kneading process (how hard is it to let the mixer do the work for 8 or so minutes). I have made rolls, loaves, pretzels, and a beloved pizza crust!

It is no question we love pizza! When we lived in Richmond, we would get pizza from Leonardo's. Heaven. Now, with limited options-and the desire to make everything THAT tiny bit healthier- we do our own thing!

Pizza crust presents the same pain in the rear problem as all yeast breads. If you mess it up, you have a load of tasty toppings atop of cardboard. There is no disguise for a bad crust. Dough being the science that it is, is best followed from a tried and true recipe. I happen to use this one from my Cooking Light cookbook. I use highly active yeast, and white wheat flour. No it's not dripping in butter along the crust- but you absolutely could brush some on.

The recipe says it yields 2 crusts- I make 3. When I first started making it, the crust was hanging over the pizza stone and was a bit chewy for our liking. By dividing the crust into thirds, we had a thin and crisp crust that suited us better- and it fits on the pizza stone perfectly! I had never frozen the dough before, but popped one of these guys in the freezer this time. If the crust turns out just as tasty after being frozen, then there is never an excuse not to have homemade pizza-unless I'm being lazy...

With our his and her's pizza, a bottle of Horton Mourvedre dinner was served!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stuffed 'Maters

When I am happy, I cook. Mad- cook, sad- cook, pretty much any emotion results in me celebrating or not in the kitchen! About the only time I don't feel like cooking is when I'm sick. So it only seemed fitting to spend all of Friday afternoon in the kitchen.

Per the request of a dear, dear friend I wanted to do something different with tomatoes. Enter Quinoa stuffed Tomatoes! This figure friendly dish packs a major protein punch-without meat!

To prepare the tomatoes, I cut off the top and discarded the seeds. I scooped out the flesh. I saved the flesh and mixed it in with cooked quinoa, spinach, garlic, carrots, olive oil, and salt and pepper in the food processor. I spooned the mixture back into the tomato and baked in an oven at 375 for about 20/25 minutes.

*** Due to my propensity for over stuffing, one totally exploded on me! Learn from my mistake once it's full, don't continue to pack it in!

'Licious and low fat! We didn't eat them for dinner, but they made an excellent Saturday lunch! Throw on top of a mixed green salad and you have the perfect light lunch! The texture of the quinoa almost fooled hubs into thinking there was lean ground meat in the mixture!

Check back for more food we didn't eat until Saturday... homemade black bean burgers, pizza- with dough from scratch, and sun dried tomato dip- made with Greek yogurt!


Before we knew Blitzie was sick we entertained getting another dog. With her age, we thought it would be the perfect time to rescue another dog without a permanent home. After our vacation, and things started spiraling down for her we decided to wait until she had passed to look- we didn't want to confuse or upset her anymore! We poured all of our time into taking care of her and keeping her as comfy as possible.. until... well you know until what!

After many tears, and not the cute tears either-I was a slobbering, snotty mess- phone calls, flowers (thank you seeeester and Whit!), and LOVE over the last few days we woke up feeling better! We miss her to death, but were definitely starting to feel better. We thought it would be fun to go out looking to see what dogs were at the adoption stands today. We love all dogs, but are so fond of Pit Bulls. We made it our adventure!

We set out to many different spots- 7 to be exact. At the 7th stop we finally found a pit bull rescue group. Ring Dog Rescue was set up at Strange's Florist in Short Pump. Ring Dog is a rescue group for pit bulls! We had only seen 2 other pits today. Out of 6 agencies, 1 had 2 pits. They all seemed shocked we were looking specifically for this bully breed- pleased, but shocked! I quote "We typically don't bring our pit bulls out because they get overlooked."

Heartbreak I tell ya!

I could JUMP on my soap box now about what wonderful dogs pitties make, and how in the 1920's they were THE family dog, nicknamed "nannie dogs" because of how well they are with children.... but nobody likes a soap box!

Anywho- we were talking to the adoption lady, as we were playing with a cutie, and mentioned losing Blitz. As we chatted her face lit up and she said " I saved her!" We were with the woman who brought our precious lil' lady into the Henrico Humane Organization. She remembered everything about her, where she came from, her foster home, and the pictures we sent to Henrico Humane after we adopted her- camping, and playing in the ocean! What are the chances of meeting the person who saved your dog 5 years after she was adopted?!

As we were talking with the woman about Blitz, we held onto the leash of a fun lil' gal- lab mixed with pit. She was PRECIOUS- playful, smart, sweet, and cuddly- but we had to leave pup with the rescue group. We have much to think about and don't want to follow up having a great dog, with dog that 'will do.' We want to visit with a few other groups and see a few other faces before we make our decision.... but our hearts did melt today (and not because it was 104 outside).

Check back for pics and recipes from yesterday- I am pretty certain that hours in the kitchen cooking will help fix just about anything!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Heaven is where... meet all the dogs you ever loved- from a sign on my parent's wall.

I am not the type of person to let my heart stay full of negative thoughts and emotions. I try to welcome each day with optimism, love, wonder, and kindness. When a large space in your heart, that has only known love and happiness, suddenly turns blue, it takes extra effort to find the positive, keep smiling, and remember the wonderful blessings you have in life. Today that place in my heart went blue.

In October of 2005 we went to the grocery store, where Henrico Humane had set up outside. I fell in L.O.V.E. with this white dog with the brown eye. She was calm, happy, cool as a cucumber. Her picture stuck with me and through constant pressure the boyfriend, now hubs, finally cracked!!! He adopted her and brought her home 1 week before Christmas. He knew it was highly frowned upon in the pet adoption circles to give dogs as a gift.... we live dangerously! For almost 5 years this precious white dog has given all of her love and energy to being the best dog a human could ask for. She learned to sleep in a sleeping bag, ride in a car crammed with camping gear, chase bubbles in a mountain stream, and catch crabbies at the beach. She has given licks and love to everyone that has crossed our threshold!

We are so sad to see her go, but so happy we were lucky enough to have adopted her. She is a part of our family and will be missed tremendously.

Love you Blitzie!!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The prized pig!

While 'hubs' was at work floating down the James River with a buddy I was a whirlwind of activity! It started with an hour long Pilates/Yoga class that kicked my butt! I love Pilates- but I have limited yoga exposure. Yoga makes me feel so good when I'm done, so great in fact I have high hopes to keep it up once summer winds down- and the inevitable school year begins!

After a relaxing (core burning) session I headed to the my classroom to move desks in 10 different configurations and set up my computers!

Saving the best chore for last, I went to Costco to restock our freezer/pantry (I love grocery shopping). I was drooling over super thick pork chops when I decided they had to be mine, had to be stuffed, and had to be for dinner tonight!

Throwing a few more staples in the cart (flank steak, tomatoes... in bulk..., Tortilla Chips, pita crisps, hummus, and flat bread for wraps), I went on my way- out to pick up wine and beer for the weekend. Something about this bottle of Pinot Noir begged to be brought home.

Kitty Approval

After over doing it on the white wine consumption lately, I was really craving Pinot Noir. For me it's too hot to enjoy a Cab or Petite Sirah (my go to wines in cooler months), this was the perfect choice for a warm summer night- with spotty thunderstorms and all!

A super quick salad was thrown together with Organic Spring Mix (salad mixes make life so easy!), tomatoes, fresh basil, and cucumbers.

The salad was fine and all -but oh my noshing stars! Dinner tonight was yum!

After picking out the pork chops, I immediately knew they would be perfect for stuffing and grilling. I wanted to make something a bit different so I googled stuffed grilled pork chops. A lot of the usuals popped up including traditional stuffing, apples, and more fall friendly fare. Unhappy with the results, I changed my search to shrimp stuffed pork chop and found this inspiration for dinner. Did you happen to catch the nutritional chart to the right?!

When looking for din-spiration, I will often checkout favorite restaurant menus online- or put a couple of ingredients in a search engine. This usually helps get the creative juices flowing enough to whip up something with my own spin. My spin will change many fat/calorie laden ingredients to something with more nutritional value! Sometimes the method of cooking will create it's own problem- after all french fries are potatoes... right?! Instead of dropping them in the fry daddy, using non-stick spray cook them on the grill.

I digress... back to dinner!

I made more than a few changes to the recipe. We didn't have any crab, so I used scallops and crayfish along with the shrimp. I used olive oil in place of butter, and lightened the cream sauce by using 1% milk instead of heavy cream. Of course this changed the richness of the sauce- we just never have heavy cream laying around. To thicken the sauce I added a tiny bit of white wheat flour before putting in the milk. Instead of wrapping the pork chop in prosciutto, I used bacon-not so healthy but I only used 1/2 of a slice on each chop! I threw them on the grill for a couple of minutes before finishing in a 350 degree oven.

We enjoyed it over basmati rice and loved every tasty bite! The pork and spicy sauce compliment each other. Throwing in the seafood stuffing added a bit of sweetness that totally balanced out the meal.

Today's food has had a definite lightness to it- smoothies stole the show for breakfast! Hubs has plans to fire up the grill tonight! I hope grilled veggies make an appearance. Gotta love watching a man and his grill!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eat Your Veggies

This post was carefully written under the watchful eye of Blitzie- who is feeling so much better after a 1 1/2 weeks of being sickly!!!

We love all kinds of foods! I've never been one to turn down a juicy burger, or perfectly pulled pork platter, but recently veggies have been coming in 1st place on my plate. This could be due to a number of factors-
1. I hate throwing away food- such a waste! After vacay all I wanted was salad, so I bought WAY to many veggies and we've been veg eating machines!
2. It's summer time and slowly people are sharing the fruits of their labor with us (as well as our surplus of cucumbers).
3. After a sweaty workout, I really crave something light- veggies typically fit the bill. The downside is realizing you've started to get hungry again when trying to fall asleep!

Whatever the case may be I present 3 super fun ways to squeeze extra vegetables into your diet.

Spinach and White Bean Dip
When hubs came home from an EXCEPTIONALLY long stretch of work, I new he'd be ready to nosh. Usually tortilla chips and salsa, or cheese and crackers will do-but I wanted something a little different (and we are totally out of snackie foods)! Into the food processor went 1 can of rinsed cannellini beans, 1 clove roasted garlic (and the Olive oil I roasted the garlic with (maybe 2 Tablespoons), handful of baby spinach, lots of fresh basil, sea salt and pepper! It needed some help with its 'smooth-ification' so a tad more olive oil was added! The dip was a hit- the leftovers will make an appearance in a wrap today for lunch!

Gazpacho Accessories
Somewhere on my despised treadmill run- hate running on a treadmill, especially when I forget headphones and can't get my GaGa on- I started thinking about Gazpacho! I wanted it to have roasted garlic and basil accents.

So into the blender when 1 carrot, 3 tomatoes, 2 cloves of roasted garlic, 1 cucumber (15 inch cuke), a couple of splashes of white vinegar, a bunch of fresh basil, and salt/pepper.
After the soup pureed for a bit, I topped it with the diced fresh veg-accessories. We had cherry tomatoes, green/red peppers, onion, basil, zucchini, and cucumber.

Gazpacho with Roasted Garlic and Basil

The third way to sneak them in is to make a salad-not so sneaky! This one included spinach, arugula, grilled endive, onion, and sun dried tomatoes- drizzled with balsamic vinegar!

These 3 options made the perfect dinner for me! Knowing my hubs would want something a bit more substantial, he had an unpictured Chicken Parm and left his salad (for me to devour with lunch I assume)! I will be sure to post this recipe in the future, it was the best one yet!!!

I am sure there will be grilled carnivore action this weekend- and I'm okay with that!

On that note, I am off to get my Pilates on- only a couple more weeks of AM gym classes before I head back to the classroom! I wonder if I can teach reading groups while holding a plank?!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Date Night In

One of the many amazing things about living in the country is the fresh veggies everyone grows! Even though our little garden is producing, it's incredible what others are able to grow! I envy their full sun- 5 hours just isn't enough for tasty 'maters! A neighbor recently dropped by with a few goodies- to include more cucumbers! My savvy hubs got to work creating a cucumber mocktail, for us to enjoy while we cooked away in the kitchen!

This tasty cucumber creation included ginger, lemon, and brown sugar- to name a few of the ingredients! It reminded me of a cucumber lemonade, and I can't wait for my next one (hubs are you reading this?!)

Next we munched on an arugula spinach salad with homemade blackberry vinaigrette. Last week I was invited to pick blackberries with a couple of my teacher buddies. Though my extreme fear of slithering creatures would normally prevent me from putting my hands into a bush -EEEEEEEK!!!- I sucked it up and bravely collected quite a few berries. Not really feeling a cobbler, I went home and googled blackberry vinaigrette and followed this recipe closely. We enjoyed it so much we had it a few nights in a row- sorry hubs, sometimes I get on a kick!!!

We rounded out our dinner with homemade mini crab cakes and Garlic and Rosemary Trout. The trout and crab meat were purchased at Whole Foods. I love their seafood case, and was drooling over all of the fish! The crab cakes were from made from memory. I make these as an appetizer for Christmas dinner when the family makes the trek out here! I don't measure my ingredients, merely eyeball and feel for the texture! If they aren't sticking together something is missing! They include:

lite mayo

dijon mustard


chopped green and red pepper


salt and pepper

old bay seafood seasoning




After rolling and flattening out the mini cakes, I browned each side on the stove top- before popping in the oven to finish cooking!

No yummy wine was consumed with this meal- shocking! Some nights you feel 'winey' and some nights you don't! I was definitely okay with decision while we were on our run the next day. Wine headaches do not equal happy runners.

What is your favorite date night in meal?! I love crab cakes!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The beginning of a love affair

We recently returned from a trip to Portsmouth Island, our third adventure there. Portsmouth Island was our home away from home for 6 days, and it offered us a chance to relax and unplug for minute! It's a place that touches your soul, and has you planning your next trip before you even leave.

Let's rewind to June 2008- my hubs was reading his monthly issue of Outside Magazine and found a small blip on a magical place that offered beach camping, ON THE BEACH!!!! WHAT?!?! No houses, no shopping, no pavement, hardly any people- does this really exist!!? Well yes my friends, it most certainly does!! We both knew that a trip that summer wouldn't be possible, as I was already gearing up for my next school year- in a new location!

We did make a pact that NEXT SUMMER- 2009, we would go and experience all of the beauty that an uninhabited island would have to offer!

Fast forward to June 2009 we spent a week camping on the beach, catching fish, and loving life! We were hooked- literally!

April 2010 brought us back to the island, but this time it was SPRING!! What a difference- the wind was blowing hard - ALL WEEK! Sand was pummeling us, and all of our gear! It was amazing in it's own right, but definitely different.

April's trip did not satiate our desire to unplug and relax on the beach, so we had to squeeze 1 more trip in this year!

We wrapped up June and brought in July down around milepost 8! This trip was pushed back- due to a sick dog, but I wouldn't change a THING about it. The planning and execution were a total success in our adventure book (I even managed to squeeze in a run and a few pilates moves during all that laying around soaking up the good vibes action)!

Who knows what type of trips lie ahead for us- there were rumors of a backpacking getaway, and canoe camping trip in the upcoming weeks! For now I'm happy keeping the laid back vibe, this trip to Portsmouth Island bestowed upon me. Morning dips in an ocean will do that to you.

Interested in PI?! Here is how we got there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Keepin' the beach vibe alive.... at home!

What makes coming home from a 6 day adventure on an uninhabited island with the man of your dreams okay.... homegrown cucumbers are always a good start! We left the house and kitty in the hands of our SUPER neighbors. They took excellent care of the "Grey Baby" and watered our first attempt at a little country garden. With our arrival home we found our attempt was a full blown success in the end. We had 4 big cucumbers, basil, jalapeno peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green peppers growing!!!

These bad boys made a tasty accompaniment to our lunch sliced up nice and thin. We tossed them with salt, pepper, and cider vinegar!!! We may have fought over the last one.... just maybe!

Lunch was easy, but dinner took some creative thinking. We ate up all of our fresh veggies and meat before leaving on vacation. Nothing is more heartbreaking than throwing away rotten veggies! With that being said- dinner was grilled Mahi Mahi over Basmati Rice with a black bean and chipotle sauce..... say that 5 times fast.

I love fresh fish! I would always prefer to have fresh fish over frozen, however I keep a bag of frozen fish and shrimp in the deep freezer for a healthy option to an elegant weekday meal (or for when you come home and there is NOTHING to eat!!!)
The whole reason this dinner came about was a STRONG craving for black beans and chipotle peppers! Everything else just went along for the ride. The Mahi Mahi and Shrimp were grilled and topped with garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper.
They rested on basmati rice with a diced jalapeno pepper (straight from the backyard) that was cooked using chicken stock!
Throw in a few frozen ( I know, I know...) bell pepper strips with the rice and enjoy!
The star of the show was the black bean sauce (the term sauce used lightly- it was a rich and creamy). The ingredients came to mind as I pulled them from the baren fridge. In the food processor went:
1 can of black beans
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
splash of lime juice, and a squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper
low fat mayo- about 2 Tbsp
red onion
about 1 tsp Canola oil
Throw it all on a plate and enjoy.... nom-tastic!
It was quick, and easy! Hubby even said it actually put him in a better mood (unpacking a car in 103 degree heat is no bueno).
Next up a recap of a trip everyone should try once!!!