Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Southwestern Succotash

We enjoyed some of my tamales for dinner, so I needed a quick side dish. Working with what I had on hand, this is what I whipped up.

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 green onions/scallions
1 cup frozen corn
15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 cup leftover grilled bell peppers
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the scallions. Once they're softened, add the frozen corn and stir until it comes up to temperature. Add the can of beans and grilled bell peppers. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, stirring to mix everything. Put a lid on the skillet and let it slowly heat through.

The house is coming along pretty well! My dad and cousin got here Monday and have already finished the drywall job downstairs that Johnny and his brother started. The downstairs bathroom is re-drywalled and the shower gutted. Next comes some tile work for the bathroom and fireplace, then they'll be able to paint! It's exciting to see so much work get done in such a short amount of time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Firsts - Breakfast Nachos

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody!

My first for this week was making Biz's breakfast nachos as a midnight snack. Yummy yummy!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breakfast Nachos

Truth be told I'm a night owl.

Actually, the more I read about the subject, I think I probably suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome. This is the inability to awaken and fall asleep at socially acceptable times but no problem with sleep maintenance. Or, where your timing of sleep is off, or shifted. I sleep full nights, I just go to bed way later and sleep in. My peak period of alertness has always begun at about dinner. I feel my most awake from about 8-midnight.

I remember when I was little my parents would tuck me in bed and I'd read book after book after book. It was not uncommon for me to plow through one or two Baby Sitter's Club, Boxcar Children, or Nancy Drews a night. I also had a variety of cassette tapes my mom would play for me, ranging from nighttime prayers, to songs, and sounds of nature.

So it is of no surprise that most of the time I'm up late reading your blogs or snacking on something tasty.

Tonight I finally got around to making a treat I've wanted for a long time:

Biz's Breakfast Nachos!!!!!

Mine are a slacker's version, nowhere near as gorgeous as hers.

I heated some refried beans in a skillet while I scrambled 2 eggs. Then I mixed the two together. I spread this over some tortilla chips and doused everything with taco sauce. Had I been motivated to, I would have added sour cream or perhaps green onions too.

Either way they were delicious! So filling and tasty. I loved them!

I wonder why it took me so long to try them, or why I didn't think of them myself! I love making breakfast burritos - so a breakfast nacho isn't too far of a stretch.

Packing progress! I've gotten all of the clothes I won't need for the next few months packed. Now I'm working on other unnecessary items like books, photos, and knick knacks.

Because we're still working on the house while living in it, it's going to be a wild dance of musical chairs, but in box form. I'm trying to get as much of our stuff out of the way as possible to make this easier. My goal is to leave just the bare necessities of furniture and stuff to "stage" the house, while having the rest of it packed away neatly and out of our way!

Monday, March 21, 2011

PFP Week 10 Update

Hello everybody! Happy Monday and start of spring! It's nice to see some sun and warm weather, even if it's supposedly temporary.

I've kind of got a lot going on in my life right now. I'm finishing up my last class before I get my BS and start working on my MBA. My dad is wrapping stuff up in NC and is headed here shortly to help us finish the house in the next month. We're going to be moving back home to NC, so I've started the first stages of packing. I've also got the wedding planning almost done, with some hiccups along the way (including my dress ordered in the wrong size grrr).

I just want to let you guys know that I still love all of you, still love the blog, the blogging community, etc. but please understand if I'm not as active in the next few weeks with my posting and commenting.

My progress for the week:
I weighed myself mid-week and had gained, but weighed myself now and am 1 pound less than last week's weight. Phew! That's stil a -2lb. weight loss from the start. Enough with this yo-yoing!!! Still holding strong on the "no soda challenge."

Beth (aka Biz) checked in on Facebook:
She's down ANOTHER 2 pounds! A grand total of 8.8, and only .2 lbs from her 5% weight loss award from WW!!

She is staying the same, but would like to lose something next week. Her total weight loss is still around 7 lbs!

Menu Plan for the week:
I'm going to take a hiatus from the menu plan in the meantime. I want to work our way through the freezer and pantry before the move, so I'm going to be more in a "throw meals together" mode instead of planning and purchasing specific menu items.

Tip of the week:

There are some really great food documentaries out there. If you have Netflix, quite a few are on streaming, otherwise you can rent them.

Health wise I've watched Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat and Food Matters. Both of these really wake you up about some of the goings on in our bad health, FDA rules, food production, etc. Some obvious shock and awe bits, but for the most part they are really informative and compelling.

Entertainment wise I've also watched Kings of Pastry and Pressure Cooker. These are really awesome if you're into food and competitions. Kings of Pastry follows french pastry chefs fighting for the highest honor in France and Pressure Cooker follows a Philadelphia high school culinary class as the students compete for culinary scholarships to go to college.

There is a HSN Spring Weekend Event being hosted by Bon Appetit March 26-27th. Click here to check out the schedule, which features some well-known chefs, and some of the great products they're offering.

*Disclaimer - I'm receiving a $10 HSN card for posting the above notice and link. I'm going to be selfish and keep it for myself since we have the upcoming move and wedding which require tons of purchases.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Firsts - Lipton's packet

Friday Firsts

Hi everybody, sorry I'm so late with Friday Firsts this week! After taking a few days off from the blog world while out of town, it's hard to catch up and jump back into things.

I always have some Liptons packets in the pantry. I mix them with sour cream for dip, since the majority of salad dressings and dips have whey in them. This week I used one in a recipe. That is the first time I've cooked with the packet and it turned out pretty good!

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

The inspiration for this recipe is really wacky, so bear with me.

The last night we were in Florida, it was just me, Johnny, and my brother Michael. I was in the kitchen of the rental home cooking fruit filled pancakes and scrambled eggs for our dinner. Johnny and Michael were lounging in the living room talking, with Hoarders playing in the background.

All of a sudden I heard both of them scream "ewwww" and other loud outbursts of disgust. I ran into the room, spatula still in hand, to see what was going on. Apparently, the teenaged daughter of the hoarder had boiled pasta, spooned huge spoonfuls of Miracle Whip in with it, and stirred it together with canned tuna and peas. She put this concoction in the microwave to heat it up, and then they ate in their car, since it was the only place for both of them to sit.

That was Sunday night, and it's kept replaying in my head since. It was so disturbing, especially since both of them were overweight and battling diabetes. I kept thinking "why would they make something so unhealthy?"

I had to make something like it myself, but I wanted to make it healthy. I really don't know why, but I felt like that was the only way I'd be able to get over my disgust of the situation.

1 pound of elbow macaroni
1 cup fat free sour cream
1 packet Lipton's Recipe Secrets mix (I used vegetable)
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup frozen peas
1 can of albacore tuna, packed in water

Bring a pot of water up to a boil. Season with salt and boil the pasta 2-3 minutes short of being done (very al dente).

While the pasta is boiling, mix the sour cream, Lipton's packet, veggies, and tuna in a covered baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Drain the pasta and mix with the other ingredients. Put the lid on the baking dish and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PFP Week 9 Update

Hi everybody! Sorry this update is a day late. I was in Florida for my cousin's wedding and we just got back yesterday.

This is me with my little brother. Michael before the ceremony. The 3 piece suit and shoes he's wearing were my dad's from the 70's.

Here I am with my two cousins at the reception. The one on the left, Michele, is the Maid of Honor, and the one on the right, Alicia, is the bride (duh).

It was nice to be in some sunshine for a few days, I even got a little bit of a burn!

My progress for the week:
I weigh the same as last week. I was a lot more active in the past week with all the walking around airports, out with family, and shopping. I think that countered any of the good food I ate while out of town. I DID have one of those small airplane cups of ginger ale on the flight out. Technically that goes against the "no soda" mini goal, but my stomach hurt and it was such a small serving I went for it anyways. The rest of the trip and the return flight I successfully avoided soda.

Beth's update:
She has not weighed in because she feels like that will trigger some ED thoughts. She has successfully avoided binging and other set-backs!

Beth (aka Biz) checks in to say:
She is down another 1.8 lbs. She also ran her fasted 2 mile at 22:40, or an 11:20 mph pace!

Mel needs some motivation!
She is up another pound, but still down a total of .6. Let's help her out with some motivation here and on the Facebook page!

Laura checked in:
After a month of illness and teen drama, she is back, feels good, and is ready to go! She thought of healthy meals and made them, has been drinking copious amounts of water to cleanse her system, and walked her dogs 40 minutes.

Menu Plan for the week:
tuna noodle casserole (recipe will be posted soon)
New England Boiled Dinner (for St. Pat's)
Taco Pie (also posted here- Revisit: Taco Pie)
Meatloaf (J's request)

Tip of the week:

Raw nuts! They're a great, healthy snack that packs a punch of super-filling protein.

Here is a great article about raw nuts (and seeds) here.

I highly recommend for all your nuts and seed purchases. Everything I have bought from them arrives quickly and they have amazing prices and quality.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Firsts - 3 new ingredients

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody!! This week just flew by, for me at least.

This week my first was definitely using a bunch of new ingredients. I used just three alone in my fish tacos: coconut sugar, Tepin chilis, and Szechuan peppercorns.

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Ridiculously Delicious Challenge - Stage 3

Thank you for your votes, everybody! Because of you, I have successfully made it to Stage 3 of the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge, hosted by Marx Foods!

In this stage of the challenge, I had to choose one of the other 14 blogger's recipes who advanced and makeover their recipe utilizing three of my unused ingredients from the original eight mystery ingredients.

After perusing the widely diverse recipes, I chose to interpret the Moroccan inspired fish tacos and coleslaw by Lawyer Loves Lunch in a new way.

My makeover uses a different flavor inspiration - the lively Jamaican jerk seasoning. Jerk seasoning is such a unique spice/marinade. It uses sweet, spicy, hot, salty, all in one burst of unmatched flavor. I looked through recipe after recipe until I found a list of must-have inclusions. In place of the traditional brown sugar, habanero chilis, and black pepper I used the coconut sugar, Tepin chilis, and Szechuan peppercorns, respectively. I feel like these ingredients still represent Jerk seasoning's complexity, while adding a diverse spin.

Jerk seasoning:
1/3 cup coconut sugar
3 gloves garlic, minced
7 or 8 dried Tepin chilis, ground (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, ground
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground Thyme
1 small onion, minced (can use green onions/chives)
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 wedge of small green cabbage
2 Tbsp mayo
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp celery seed
salt and pepper, to taste


1 lb. cod fillets
10 6" tortillas (your choice of corn or flour)

Begin by mixing the Jerk seasoning ingredients in a shallow glass dish. Taste and adjust seasonings to your personal preference.

Liberally cover the cod fillets in the Jerk and allow to marinate for at least two hours.

Chop the cabbage into bite sized pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients together with the cabbage. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours for the flavors to develop.

Heat a griddle pan to high. Cook the cod fillets through, until they begin to flake.

Plate your fish tacos using the warmed tortillas, generous chunks of the Jerk marinated cod, and a healthy forkful of the coleslaw.

This is such an explosion of flavors. The Jerk seasoning covers every tastebud on your tongue with heat, sweet, spice, warmth, salty, and peppery. The coleslaw is very tart and refreshing, a nice addition to the other complex flavors.

Only 10 of the 15 Stage 3 competitors will move to Stage 4, so wish me luck! There will be no voting for this round. The 8 recipes chosen the most times to be made over will move up and Marx Food's opinions will determine the other 2 advancers.

Edited to add: My 2nd choice makeover choice would have been Snippet of Sue's salmon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

PFP Week 8 Update

My progress for the week:
Up 1 pound. I stuck to my meal plan throughout the week. Then we ate unhealthy things over the weekend. Week 1 of no soda a success!

Janelle's progress:
Despite it being her daughter's birthday week, she was still down .8 pounds!

Beth (aka Biz) reports:
She checked in with WW for the first time in 3 weeks, since having to concur her husband's cancer and hospital stay. She only gained .6 pounds during all of that stress! She gets to keep her -5 pound sticker! Awesome news!

Jenn's goal this week:
To get her ass in gear and workout in the morning, despite not being a morning person.

Menu Plan for the week:
I also need to do a freezer and pantry inventory

Tip of the week:

Water!!! When trying to get healthy it is so important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Some important health benefits:
  • can decrease your appetite
  • contains important nutrients and oxygen
  • helps remove waste from the body
  • helps regulate body temperature
  • keeps bowel movements normal
To calculate how much water you should be drinking, begin with your weight and divide by two. The resulting number is how many ounces of water you should be drinking daily.

I have some "fun" glasses that I devote to my daily water intake . I chose these glasses because it's easier to get excited about drinking water and to remember to refill them multiple times throughout the day. Invest in a reusable, refillable water bottle. I never leave the house without filling up my Sigg.

If plain water starts to bore you, you can thinly slice lemon or cucumber to "fruitify" your water. It adds a crisp, refreshing taste without the unhealthy addition of flavored packets, added sugar, or empty calories.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

If you're not interested in a healthy version, my usual fried version can be found here.

This was kind of a science experiment of a dish. I wasn't sure what would or wouldn't work, but I'm happy to report that it turned out well enough to share with you guys!

I started with my usual way of doing things, and made some healthy substitutions along the way, both in the ingredients and cooking methods used.

3 medium to large eggplants
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1 24 oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup low fat mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Begin by washing and slicing your eggplant in 1/4" thick pieces. Lay out on baking dishes and sprinkle with Kosher salt to draw out some of the moisture.

While the eggplant sits, combine the flours, salt, and pepper in a large, flat Tupperware style container. In another large, flat container, whisk together the eggs, skim milk, salt, and pepper.

Use a few paper towels to firmly pat down the eggplant, grabbing any excess moisture that has been drawn out. (I only did one side because I'm lazy.) Preheat the oven to 375°.

Start your assembly line, which will go like this: a feather light dusting of the flour mixture on the eggplant, a dunk into the egg mixture, and another feather light coating of the flour mixture. Lay the battered eggplant pieces on a greased baking pan. Pop the pan in the oven, and continue with the eggplant pieces until all are battered, on a sheet, and in the oven. Each pan should bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant has softened and the batter is browned (at least on the bottom).

Mix the jar of sauce with the water to thin it out a little bit (helps with easier spreading). Grab a very large casserole dish and spread the bottom with a thin layer of sauce. Remove the first pan of eggplant put in the oven. Lay the pieces out in the casserole dish. Pour 1/3 of the remaining sauce overtop, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and a few Tbsp of the Parmesan. Remove the second pan of eggplant put in the oven, and repeat the process. Finally, remove the last pan of eggplant from the oven and lower the temperature to 300°. Repeat the layering process, omitting the cheese, using your spatula to firmly press down the layers. Pop back into the oven, covered for 30-45 minutes until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the foil, sprinkle the last of the cheese, and finish under the broiler.

Serves 5-6. Reheats well. You can also assemble and freeze the dish before baking. When ready to bake, just thaw and bake until the sauce is bubbling.

I'm not going to lie, this is a tedious dish to make, with a lot of hands-on time. It took me about an hour and a half from washing the eggplant to popping the assembled casserole into the oven for the final bake. I personally love the battered eggplant, but if the coating isn't your thing, you could certainly skip the battering steps and just roast slices of eggplant and make the dish the same way from that point on.

It's definitely worth the effort, though!

Friday, March 4, 2011

ABCs of Christina

A = Age: 26 which I can't believe. I always act feel much younger than what I really am.

B = Bed size: King, but I wish it were bigger. Then I could further myself from J's snoring self and actually get some space of my own without a cat and a dog all up in my business.

C = Chore you dislike: I hate dishes. Hate them.

D = Dogs: Corky who is 7! (This is his presidential shot if he ever runs for office)

E= Essential start to your day: Amazing Grass

F = Favorite color: Green (as if you couldn't tell)! It just makes me really happy.

G = Gold or silver: Silver or white gold.

H = Height: 5'4"

I = Instruments you play(ed): Piano and flute

J = Job title: Lazy ass student/bum

K = Kids: negative

L = Live: Chicagoland

M = Mom’s name: Debbie-Lyn

N = Nicknames: Mystina and when I was younger Stina, occasionally Teeny and other "small" names because I was tiny.

O = Overnight hospital stays: When I was 9 months old I had meningitis, so that was a bunch of hospital stuff. Then when I first moved out on my own when I was 20 I got tonsilitis really, really badly and ended up in the hospital for two days.

P = Pet peeves: Too many to list! Ignorant people. Disrespectful people. Bad grammar. Bad driving. People that don't understand stop signs. Knuckle cracking. I'll stop there.

Q = Quote from a movie: I quote movies all the time, but I have a feeling I'm the only one that gets them. Hmm.. let's choose "I'm a good girl I am!"

R = Righty or lefty: Righty

S = Siblings: One younger brother, Michael.

T = Time you wake up: Depends on when I got to sleep the night before. Usually around 8 or so when J is up and leaving for work. If I'm being an insomniac, it can be as late as 11 or so. Occasionally J and I stay up all night (watching movies or shows on Netflix) and then I'll sleep until like 3 pm

U = Underwear: Current pair? blue with turquoise edging

V = Vegetables you don’t like: Um I was going to say tomatoes and mushrooms, but neither of those are technically a vegetable. So, really I think I like them all!

W = What makes you run late: Not wanting to get out of my warm bed.

X = X-rays you’ve had: Dental ones, obviously. Chiropractor ones. My tailbone when I fell down the stairs here and broke it. My foot when my toe got caught on J's Doc Marten's and turned all shades of hideous blue, black, and purple. Observations with acid reflux.

Y = Yummy food you make: See: my blog archive

Z = Zoo animal favorites: Caruso, the white cheeked gibbon at Lincoln Park Zoo. He sucks his thumb and always recognizes me and goes apeshit (no pun intended). We have millions of photos and video evidence of his affection for me - ranging from shrieking and running over to the glass, sitting pressed up against me, or doing a little mating dance.

Friday Firsts - Quinoa Crust

Friday Firsts

Happy Friday everybody! Today is my little brother's 23rd birthday! Happy Birthday Michael!

If you haven't already, could you please take a second to vote for my Lucia Buns? It's one click to vote, no registration required. (Voting ends TODAY!!) Thank you!

This week my first is baking a dish with a quinoa crust! It turned out really cool and I hope to use the method in the future with more dishes and casseroles! I tend to forget about this little grain and how versatile it is.

To participate in Friday Firsts create a blog post featuring a "first" of yours. Next, link that blog post below and tell us about it! If you don't have a blog or a specific post to link to please tell us about your first in the comment section! Any and all participation is welcome!

If you would like to display the Friday Firsts button as a badge in your post or on your side bar, you can copy and paste the following code:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Vegetable and Quinoa Bake

I've been turning to my health cookbooks more and more lately for inspiration. This Healthy Heart Cookbook had a recipe for a rice and broccoli bake. I thought it sounded like a really good idea, so I took it and ran with it. I changed the rice to quinoa, added way, way, wayyy more veggies, and left out some of the cheese.

2 cups plain cooked quinoa
1 egg
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup frozen spinach
1 bell pepper
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 jarred, roasted red peppers
5 eggs
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

Note: This can be made in a single 11 x 7" casserole dish, or separately in two pie plates.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg for the crust. Fold in the cheese and quinoa until evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Spray your baking dish or pie plates with non-stick spray and turn the crust mix out into them. Using the back of a spatula or your hands, carefully form the crust along the bottom of the dish(es) and up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, add the veggies as you chop with the cheese. Feel free to add any combination of vegetables and cheese according to your individual tastes or preferences. You could even add beans, potatoes, or salsa - get creative! Reuse your medium bowl to beat the 5 eggs. Add to the large bowl and keep folding with the vegetables until everything is mixed. Season with salt and pepper.

Gently pour the egg and vegetable mixture into the crust(s), using a spatula to even out if necessary. Pop in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Check the center for doneness with a knife. Let stand a few minutes before cutting. For breakfast or lunch, I would say this could serve 5-6. For dinner it serves closer to 3-4.

I was nervous about this one, but it really knocked our socks off! The quinoa crust was delicious. It held up really well, and the crunchy bits were really nutty and delicious.

I loved the combination of all of the vegetables. It was a really colorful meal, which always makes me feel like I'm eating healthy!

If you haven't already, could you please take a second to vote for my Lucia Buns? It's one-click to vote, no registration required. Thank you! (Voting ends March 4th)