Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crafty Idea. I has one.

I have neglected my blog. I get that, but for good reason...too much on my plate! With the fall semester rolling to the end (today actually), I have exactly one week and 3 days until summer semester and it's going to be ROUGH. So I need to get my butt in gear and do some planning. I will have to maintain my 40 work week along with class three nights a week until the end of June, then I pick up an internship. The internship will consist of one evening seminar a week and 3 hours of consultation one morning per week. We also are going on a week vacation in July to TN and will be taking a trip to OBX in August. Within all this fun, I still need to maintain a sense of sanity, keep house, make meals for my family, and take care of the boy. How do I do it all? Seems impossible, but it always works out in the end.
There is one other thing I want to do. A hobby of sorts. I want to impart my creative skillz and try my hand at decorated cakes/candies. I've tried scrapbooking, that just didn't last. I love too cook though, so that's why I thought incorporating my cooking skills into a hobby would be more exciting. I am a horrible baker though. I can make a cake, but anything else usually ends up in ruins. So it will also be a challenge. I'd like to do something that other people would like to take part in. Have you seen Etsy? I mean just look at all the awesome handmade goods out there! And I'm seeing more and more local farmers markets and locally made products around town as well. I think we should all get back to homemade/handmade products. It's cheaper, higher quality, and more natural.
So I have my work cut out for me. I'll have to make a plan, schedule out dinner menus for the fam in advance, especially when I get home late every night of the week. And did I mention I need to work with my child on Kindergarten prep too? That's a whole other ballgame there! If I gather up what I need for this cake/candy idea throughout the summer and brainstorm, I should be set up to try it out in the fall. It may fail, but it'll still be fun trying!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our New Addition

I was in the bathroom one day picking up newspapers (don't ask) and happened to flip through the classified section. I saw a great big ad for cocker spaniel puppies and suddenly my maternal instincts kicked in and I had the sudden need to go out and get a puppy. Jeff probably thought I was crazy, but he said if I really wanted a puppy, we could get one. I was on the would be a lot of work considering we have 2 dogs and a rabbit already, a preschooler, we both work full-time, and I'm in school part-time. But I REALLY wanted one. So all last week I looked at puppies online. Then the guilt kicked in. Why are you going out to buy a puppy from a breeder when there are so many homeless animals out there. "You should adopt a dog" said my co-worker. I came up with so many excuses why I didn't want to. Then I changed my mind. A cat wouldn't be as much work and I still mourn the loss of my sweet kitty Thomas (long story, he's still alive, just has another owner now) so Jeff and I would both really like to have another cat plus we could easily adopt one.

So today, on a whim, we went out to PetSmart in Short Pump where C.A.R.E. was having an adoption event and we adopted Kashi. She is between 6-9 months old and we got to speak with her foster mom who told us all about her sweet demeanor. Her foster mom had named her "Sugar" but it wasn't fitting.

She's been really good since we got her home despite our idiot cocker spaniel (world's dumbest dog, but gotta love him) irritating the living crap out of her. She's purring up a storm and exploring everything. Very affectionate too.

The only thing we know about her history is that she comes from Caroline County, where her owned dropped her off because they didn't want her. She's spayed and is good with her litter box and she's so sweet. I don't know why anyone would just drop off their animal because they no longer wanted them, but that's sort of the story behind our Pug as well and both are such wonderful animals. Jeff said that my need for a little extra estrogen should be fulfilled now (2 male dogs, husband and son = way too much maleness!)

Oh I also dyed my hair red today (needed a perk to my drab medium brown). Today is full of positive changes!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Take that, stinky face!

So the stinky AcneFree Redness Solutions stuff I've been using was a major waste of money. I know it's only been a few days, but my mild redness has gotten MORE red and that blemish that popped up due to feminine housekeeping, yeah, it hasn't been touched by the stuff. On my way home I made a stop at Sephora and with the help of the sales woman, picked up some Murad Redness Therapy cleansing gel and a jar of Ole Henriksen's Nurture Me moisturizer, which I LOVE. It smells good and made my face really soft and the burning I was feeling during the day has lessened as well with just two applications. Note, I had been using a moisturizer with the AcneFree system too because it did dry my already dry skin out even more. I think after I finish the Murad cleanser, I might stick with all Ole Henriksen products. At least now I'm not walking around smelling like sulphur! Anyone want a free AcneFree kit to try? :)

On different note, last night I made another recipe from Relish Magazine. Chicken Saltimbocca to be exact, which is a fancier, slightly lower calorie version of chicken cordon bleu. Although this recipe wasn't quite as "light" as I would have liked it (around 420 calories per serving), it was still fun to try, albeit a little expensive to make due to high quality ingredients. Hubby found a good sale on chicken breasts at the store at least. If you haven't checked out Relish before (namely because you aren't a Richmond local), then take a look at their website: If you are local, you'll find it in the Times Dispatch on the first of every month.

I hope that Jeff has been enjoying my new recipes lately because once I start the Master Cleanse, I'll be back to fixing the boys crap, like Hamburger Helper and tacos...things that I can easily turn my head to and not be tempted. The hardest part will be weekends. That's when we go out. Guess I'll be staying home for a weekend and working on the house. I have a tentative start date for Monday. My friend at work encouraged me to get it done and over with before Jan 22nd as we're having a girls night out at James River Cellars that night. Something tells me it would not be good to break the cleanse with a bottle of wine! Why have I not started it already? Because I felt it was necessary to cut down from the massive quantities of rich foods that were consumed over the holidays by eating lighter and fresher foods this week so as not to upset my system too badly. It's the pre-detox detoxing I guess you could say. Hey it's helping, I lost 2 lbs already! (Don't laugh, it's still something.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Great product alert!

I went to Ukrop's yesterday to get the sea salt for the Master Cleanse project. I'm still debating about a start day for that...weekday or weekend? We'll see. Anyway, as I was looking through the organic section I found a tube of Herbamare. I had heard about it from one of our doctors in the office that prefers to take a holistic approach to medicine. She used it on a salad in place of dressing, which I thought was odd, but I wanted to try it, so I bought some.

It's an all organic herb seasoning salt, where fresh, organically grown herbs are combined with natural sea salt from marshes in France and allowed to steep for up to one year before the moisture is removed. It's not cheap though, a 3.2 oz tube will run you about $5-6, but it will last. Remember, this is salt, so you don't ever want to go overboard. A little goes a long way.

I tried it last night on steamed asparagas. It was good and there was no need for any butter or additional seasoning. Today, I brought it to work with me to try on my salad for lunch and shared it with my co-worker who also is crazy like me and likes to try unique new foods/dieting strategies. Again, great experience with the stuff. I am not a big fan of dry salad and tend to go heavy on the dressing, but today I used 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegrette and a little sprinkle of herbamare. My salad was GOOD and mostly dressing free. I highly recommend giving it a try if you want to cut back on salt intake or are looking for lots of flavor in your food without excess fat and calories. Look for it in the organic section! 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bon App├ętit!

Even though we have a subscription to Netflix, during our holiday vacation, Jeff and I had the opportunity to try out Redbox. Jeff rented 7 movies from various Redboxes. I didn't watch them all because he's a history buff and I'm not really into a lot of the war movies that he enjoys. Occasionally, I get suckered into watching one, like Inglourious Basterds, which turned out to be really good! We also watched Up!, The Ugly Truth, and Julie & Julia, all of which I highly recommend.

Julie & Julia of course was probably my favorite only because I love cooking and it was inspiring. After I watched it, I told Jeff I wanted to buy Julia's original cookbook and make her beef bourguignon if nothing else. I didn't run out and buy it though, but I did find the original recipe via Barnes & Noble's take-a-peek version of the cookbook online.

Then the Saturday newspaper came and included an insert called Relish. I'd never seen it before, but it was loaded with some great classic recipes that had been slimmed down from the original versions. I flipped through it making notes of the recipes I wanted to try when lo and behold, there it was, Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon - the slimmed down version!

I made it last night with my own modifications. It was much less time consuming than the original recipe, which takes 5 hours plus an hour prep time to make. This version of the recipe only took about 3 hours. The result was AMAZING. It was so so good. Similar to a pot roast, but in the format of a beef stew (minus the beef stew flavor). I don't think I'll ever make regular pot roast again after eating this. The best part: I researched nutrition information on Julia's original recipe. Ready for this.....

913 calories per serving and 54.2 grams of fat!!!!
My version: 250 calories per serving and only 8 grams of fat. I'll take it!

So if you're feeling adventurous and still want to watch your waistline, you're in luck because I've posted the recipe below.

Beef Bourguignon (Modified)
Makes 6 Servings
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs lean stew beef (don't go cheap on this, go for quality! I used premium Angus beef)
2 cups of sliced onions
2 cups of sliced carrots
1 (10-12oz) pkg of sliced portobello mushrooms
1 (14oz) can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14oz) can of beef consumme plus 1/2 can of water
1 1/2 cups of dry red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, strip leaves from stems or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp coursely ground black pepper
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, softened

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven and add beef, in batches if needed. Do not crowd it. Sear until brown on most sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.

2. Add carrots, onion, and mushrooms to the pan, stirring occasionally until starting to tenderize, about 5 minutes. Add beef and juices back to the pan. Add tomatoes and next 8 ingredients (through black pepper). Cover and allow to simmer. Cook for 2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf.

3. Before beginning this step, make sure you de-bling as your fingers will get messy!
In a small bowl, combine flour and butter with your fingers until mixture becomes a paste. Ladle about 1/2 cups of the pan juice into the flour mixture and whisk until very smooth. Add to the pan and stir well. Adjust salt/seasoning to taste.
 (NOTE: I found that a lot of the juices had cooked down, so I added about a 3/4 cup of hot water to the beef mixture before adding any liquid to the flour and butter may need to do the same)

4. Ladle into soup plates and sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Out with the old and in with the new

As my holiday vacation comes to an end, I have had a chance to reflect just a little. The year 2009 wasn't spectacular, but did have a few high points. The biggest being, Jeff and I finally got married. It was a lot of work planning a wedding on a budget, but it was beautiful and our honeymoon in Florida was the highlight of my entire year. Loved every minute of it and wish we could go back. I also started taking classes at VCU and was accepted into their M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education program. I hope that 2010 will be even better. I don't typically do resolutions...okay well I have, and I always fail. This year I just want to focus on getting healthier, being happy, and face new challenges with a positive outlook.

I always feel like the new year gives me a clean slate to work with so after reading a friend's blog, I was inspired to try the Master Cleanse. I am planning to start next weekend after I've pulled back on all the junk I've been consuming over the holidays. We took a trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's yesterday and I stocked up on some healthy kitchen staples. I'm even going to try my hand at making my own gluten free sandwich bread. If it works out, we can stop buying store bought stuff. Jeff isn't a big fan of healthy foods or dieting, but I figure if I can make just one healthy meal a day for my family, that's better than nothing. I personally have no problem eating salad multiple times a day, so the only real challenge is when I have to cook for both of us at dinner.

I'm also trying to get myself on a better routine. It's always important to take care of ourselves on the outside as well as the inside, and for me, that's been challenging as well because I'm always rushed or at work or in class. I don't do much with makeup very often and even though I don't have horrible skin, it's not great either. I have mild Rosacea and haven't really found anything over the counter that does much for it. My mother-in-law bought me a redness relief kit from Clinique, but it made my skin feel really oily. Yesterday I went out and bought the AcneFree Redness Relief kit. I used it this morning for the first time and it made my skin feel really smooth, but it has a horrible sulfur smell due to it being an ingredient in the facial cleanser that lingered with me all day. I had Jeff come close to my face to see if he could smell it and he could if he was REALLY close to my face, but I've been smelling it all day. I guess I'll try to stick it out for a week and see if it really does anything for my skin, but if I don't see any improvement, I'm not going to continue walking around smelling like a natural gas leak!

Speaking of smells, I picked up a bottle of DKNY Be Delicious Fresh Blossom perfume yesterday too at Ulta. I got a sample of it with their catalog in the mail and fell in love with it. It smells SO GOOD. I had been looking for a new perfume for a while too, so it worked out great. I'll make sure to spray it good on my neck tomorrow morning so no one will notice my sulfur face!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Change...

Happy New Year!
I don't normally do resolutions because I can't stick to them, but this year I've decided that if I don't do anything else, 1.) I WILL get healthy and 2.) I WILL maintain this blog. This change is all due to several influences/inspirations over the past few days. I have decided though that I am no longer going to focus this blog on cooking, but also on my family and life in general. So, with that said, look for some changes to come soon. I've already started with the layout and we're working on merging an old site domain with this one.