Monday, October 24, 2011

Baby Lips


I am not a big chapstick person - I never carry chapstick around.  I usually put a bit of gloss on in the morning, and it wears off a few minutes later, and that is that.  However, I was at Walmart yesterday, strolling through the makeup and came upon this stuff.  There were only two flavors left and it was clear this was a popular item.  Even better, it only costs $2.97.

I picked peppermint, which is a totally clear chapstick.  Baby lips is perfect - it is like a mix between chapstick and lip gloss.  It goes on as chapstick, but doesn't feel waxy and instead feels smooth.  It gives a bit of shine like a gloss.  The peppermint flavor is awesome because it is slightly tingly.  Also, this might seem weird, but the chapstick doesn't taste TOO good, which I think is great because it doesn't have me licking it all off.

I would absolutely recommend Baby Lips.  In fact, I am probably going to buy more so I can keep them in various places.  This is the one chapstick that might have  finally made me a chapstick convert, and I love how affordable it is.

Also need to point out - the packaging is super cute too.  Plus, it has SPF 20!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peas and Proscuitto

Yesterday, someone asked me what I usually eat, and it took me awhile to respond.  It threw me off, because I cook almost every day but I didn't have an immediate answer.  I began by telling them "vegetables mostly."  Then I realized that might sound weird, so I tried to throw out other options - "Oh you know, pasta, rice, that kind of thing."  In reality, I rarely eat either.  I try not to eat rice and instead use quinoa, and I typically save pasta for when my boyfriend makes it for me.  My main staple is a lot of vegetables, olive oil, vinaigrettes, eggs and soup.

I am in love with vegetables, and this isn't anything new.  I was always the one, even at a young age, hovering over the vegetable tray at Christmas and other holidays.  I begged my Mom to buy me heads of red cabbage to snack on.  I ate canned asparagus and sweet pickles with my Dad. I was ecstatic when Grandma brought kohlrabi from the garden.  I ate peas from the freezer.

Meals mean a lot to me. I sometimes agonize over what I am going to buy at the grocery store.  It is a process for me.  I plan out each of my meals and I research, decide, and then go on a mission. In fact, I am even a bit sad when I get invited out to dinner with friends, because that means I miss the opportunity to cook something.  When I was younger, I would look up recipes and then try to figure out ways to get my mom to buy the ingredients (not always to high success).

This morning, I woke up naturally early at 7:45 am which I think is one of the first times that has ever happened and I was VERY excited!  Waking up so early had my stomach grumbling around 8:30 and I wanted to eat something that wouldn't take too long to cook but I also wanted something healthy to offset all the sugar I ate yesterday.  I decided on Orangette's Peas and Proscuitto.

I have never had proscuitto before.  I have always associated it with fancy - appetizers wrapped in proscuitto? You know that must have been a fancy party.  It is usually really expensive at the store, and not being a big fan of meat, I haven't been able to justify the purchase.  However, yesterday I was at Fred Meyer and proscuitto was on sale for $5 for 3.53 ounces.  Still not cheap, but affordable. Also, you get very little meat for your money, so at least I didn't have to worry about wasting it.

So on to the recipe.  See the link for the original recipe - I changed things a little bit (biggest change: olive oil, not butter).

Here is what I made.

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Garlic, to taste
3 green onions
1 pound peas
4 slices proscuitto
pepper, salt, turmeric to taste

1) Turn the stove to medium.  Add olive oil to the pan - enough to swirl it around and cover the whole pan.  Let the oil heat up, and add one diced green onion and about a teaspoon of garlic.  Let cook for thirty seconds or so - I let mine brown a bit because I love browned crispy garlic.

2) Add the peas, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for ten minutes.  You can add the peas frozen if you didn't have a chance to defrost.  About halfway through, add two more diced green onions and more garlic, to taste.  I found that the original cooked onions/garlic weren't as flavorful as fresh, which is why I added more.  After ten minutes, some of my peas were nicely browned.

3) Cut the proscuitto into little pieces.  I tried to make things easier and stack the four slices on top of each other, then cut them.  Don't do this - it was really hard to separate the little pieces.  Instead, cut each slice separately.  Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the same burner, and add the proscuitto. Cover and let sit for five minutes.

To eat mine, I added salt (I didn't add salt during cooking) and turmeric.  SO TASTY!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Butterscotch Cookies

Perfect Friday- Pomegranites, cookie baking, Say Yes to the Dress and memoirs to read.

I got this recipe for Butterscotch Cookies from Orangette.  It is super easy, and you probably have most of the ingredients at home (besdies nonfat dry milk!).

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
14 Tbsp. (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375*.  Grease the cookie sheets (I used cooking spray).

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.  After adding the salt (table salt) I also used a sea salt grinder, and added some to the mixture - do this! The extra chunks of salt add an amazing touch.

In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter.  I always cheat and melt the butter first in the microwave - it makes it a lot easier to cream together. Add the egg, dry milk, and vanilla extract.

I found the dry milk in the baking aisle, near the evaporated milk and coconut.  I had to stare at the shelves for awhile, but eventually found a row of dry milk.  I have NEVER used this stuff before, but it is NOT the same as evaporated milk.  In fact, you are supposed to be able to make milk out of it by mixing the powder with water.  Don't get too excited.  It does not taste the same, I was very disappointed to find discover.  I momentarily thought my problems were solved and I wouldn't have to agonize over buying a gallon of milk and wasting it.  Instead, I could just make my own with powder :) But no, that is not the case.

Anyway, after you mix all the wet ingredients, try not to eat all the batter.  I was in love with the brown sugar/butter mixture.  SO DELICIOUS.  Then, add the flour mixture - I did this in two batches.

Now, decide whether to add the pecans.  If you are adding them, do yourself a favor and buy chopped pecans, or make sure to chop them into very small pieces. I did half and half and with the sea salt, I felt the pecans went with the flavor of the cookies very well.  I think if you wanted to go half and half, it would be easiest to split the batter in half and add the nuts to one batch.  I was lazy and added it to one cookie at a time, and that was a mess.  I just wasn't sure how much batter I wanted nutty.

Then, drop cookies by heaped tablespoon-fuls onto the cookie sheet. I had to use a pizza sheet, and fit seven cookies/sheet.  The cookies flatten out a bit, but not tremendously, after cooking. However, I would have preferred them a bit smaller.  Then get your fingers damp (I almost didn't bother - DO it!), and pat the cookies into circles abou 2.5-3 inches in diameter.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes.  I always have an awful time deciding how long to bake cookiers for.  For these ones, 8 minutes was absolutely perfect. I waited five minutes and then transferred to a rack to cool.

These cookies aren't going to blow anyone's minds, but they are simple and tasty.  They aren't too sweet or too overwhelming, and they are a nice treat to have around the house.  They are also super easy to make - it is nice to have a standard cookie you can always whip outta your back pocket.

The recipe says it makes 30, but I only had enough to 21.  Maybe I ate too much batter?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Turkey Chili - Slow Cooker

My Mom was nice enough to give me one of her old slow cookers, and this is literally the first time I have ever used a slow cooker.  I have a feeling I will get obsessed...Going to bed at 10 and waking up to delicious turkey chili for lunch? Count me in!

I got the recipe from my Mom, who got the recipe from Laura's Quick Slow-Cooker Chili.  All I needed to buy to make it was one onion and two cans of tomato soup - I was thrilled how cheap it was to make.  Definitely something most people should be able to throw together with what they have on hand. 

*I put stars next to all the changes that were my additions.  You can check out the original recipe if you would like to know the other version.

1) To start, cook the turkey (which makes me happy because I can safely sample the chili while it cooks).  I used 1.25 pounds* turkey and a tablespoon of olive oil, heated over medium, and cooked until brown (about 8 minutes).  I sprinkled my turkey with turmeric* and pepper*, to ensure the meat was flavorful.  I try to add turmeric whenever possible, because it is such a healthy spice.  In fact, my food is starting to look weird when it DOESN'T have a yellow tinge to it :) When done, drain the turkey. I used a slotted spoon and put paper towels under and over the meat, to soak up most of the fat.

2) Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray.  Add the following to the slow cooker:
  • Cooked ground turkey
  • Two 10.75oz cans of tomato soup
  • Two 15oz cans of kidney beans
  • 15oz black beans
  • One medium onion, chopped*
  • Two tablespoons chili powder
  • Two teaspoons red pepper flakes*
  • Half Tablespoon garlic powder
  • Half Tablespoon paprika*
  • Sprinkling of curry powder*, pepper, and allspice
3) Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours  - I went for low.

I will let you know how it turns out in the morning!  I have a feeling it is going to be delicious. The only thing I might need to change is it doesn't look like there is much liquid.  However, I am not familiar with slow cookers, so not sure how much I will end up needing, plus I prefer a chunkier chili, so we will see what happens.

The ultimate test will be if it is better than this chili I made previously in the year: MOPS Chili

*Update: The chili turned out great.  There was definitely enough liquid- after it cooked for 8 hours, it got perfectly juicy, so I wouldn't change the liquid.  I like this better than the MOPS Chili because I like ground turkey better than chunks of beef.  The MOPS chili was closer to a stew.  However, I do think this turkey chili would be great with the addition of diced tomatoes and potentially the juice of a lime.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday - Eggs, Mags, and Legs

Today was one of those Sundays I live for and also help contribute to my "old lady" reputation.  I wouldn't change it for the world.

I spent about two hours stretching out my legs with various yoga poses while reading the newest edition of Elle magazine.  Elle was a fantastic touch, as I wasn't even expecting it when I made an impromtu run to the grocery store. In addition, there was a four episode marathon of one of my guilty pleasures - Most Eligible Dallas.  The rain has been pouring all day and was accompanied by some phenomenal thunder claps this morning.  Of course that means my blinds are open so I can enjoy the drizzle, and I am wearing my most comfortable lounging clothes.

Even better, tonight, Pan Am and Desparate Housewives are on.  Score!

I also have been enjoying an awesome menu of food - fresh juicy peaches for breakfast, turmeric scrambled eggs for lunch, and asparagus with a vinaigrette dipping sauce tentatively planned for dinner. 

Last night we went out to Matador for a friend's birthday dinner.  Matador is a Tex-Mex restaurant and tequila bar -- you have to be 21 just to eat dinner there.
The inside is really beautifully decorated and the lighting is dim -- really great atmosphere.  We were able to eat outside, which was surprising for October.  Yes, it was a tiny bit chilly, but not uncomfortable.

I ordered two different margaritas - cucumber-jalapeno and tamarind.  The tamarind didn't taste much different than a normal margarita...I was expecting some sort of exotic flavor.  However, it did have a cinnamon and sugar rim instead of a salt rim, which was delicious.  The cucumber-jalapeno margarita was spicy, but didn't taste like cucumber at all.  I was pleased with myself for being adventurous, but neither is the kind of unique drink I would want to order again.  Also, both margaritas were $8 each, and after drinking two quickly, I barely even had a buzz.  Definitely not a cheap drink if you are looking to get drunk.

For dinner, I got the Braised Pork Sandwich.  To start with, I was really excited they let me order extra cilantro (restaurants always get bonus points for indulging that wish).  Also, the bun was absolutely fantastic - perfect fluffy texture, wonderful crust, and good size.  However, the sandwich was composed of chunks of meat - I was expecting more of a shredded type meat and the heft of the chunks made it difficult to keep them in the sandwich. 

Another thing I didn't like was that the sandwich wasn't pre-assembled.  I felt like I was wrestling the sandwich as I tried to add the lettuce and tomato.  Even odder was it didn't have ANY of the mayonaise already applied.  I was a bit confused about how to proceed, but ended up making it work.  I had to squish the sandwich down, and my fellow dinner mates commented on how difficult the sandwich looked to eat.  However, my fries were delicious and the chipotle mayo was very tasty.  AND, once I was able to eat the sandwich, it was great.

Overall, the price of the food at Matador is reasonable - my sandwich was $8.95, salads were around $7.50 (fairly small for a dinner salad), enchiladas/fajitas were around$14, and appetizers were $7 or $8.   Everyone's display was beautiful and everyone seemed to enjoy their food.  Thinking of your other choices for Mexican food, this is the classiest and doesn't seem to cost much, if any, more.  Coupled with the great atmosphere, this is definitely a place I would want to go again (but I probably won't opt for the sandwich).  If you are looking to save money, walk somewhere like Bittercreek or Red Feather beforehand, and get a few drinks there.  
You also get chips and salsa with your food (of course!) and this was the first restaurant table salsa I have had that actually has a bit of a kick to it.  The chips were very fresh and nicely salted.

None of us had room for dessert (my sandwich actually kept me stuffed for hours) but the desserts sounded out of this world yummy.  They have Coconut Flan, Banana Crown (a banana filled fried pastry),  Chocolate Decadence (a cake served with ice cream and pineapple rum caramel) and some fancy ice creams/sorbets.  I would definitely go for the Coconut Flan -- I LOVE FLAN!! All the desserts range from $5-$6.

Finally, the service aspect.  Our waitress was one of the best waitresses I have ever had, and yes, I made sure to tell her repeatedly how wonderful we thought she was.  She was friendly, funny, fast, and eager to get us whatever we needed.  She was everything you could want in a waitress.  I was also only drinking water at the bar, and the bartender made sure to fill it up as soon as it got a little low.  I really appreciated that -- sometimes if you aren't paying for anything at the bar, service can be less than stellar.

*I took all the pictures from the Matador website because the dim lighting made photos difficult, so don't give me any credit for the photography!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peaches for Breakfast

I am really not much of a breakfast-food eater.  Yes, I do eat breakfast, but you are more likely to find me eating a salad, soup, or some other dinner item in the morning hours.  If I do go for breakfast food, it is normally just a few fried eggs with salt and turmeric.

However, on the weekends, I love to have a quick and easy brunch composed of peaches, spices, yogurt and preserves.  It is so easy to make, and very tasty.

Chop one peach up into bite-size pieces.  It doesn't need to be tiny pieces - an inch or so will do.  I even use slightly unripe peaches when they aren't in season - the other ingredients make it taste good anyway.

To the peaches, add two teaspoons of water and two tablespoons of raspberry (or your flavor of choice) preserves.  I use low sugar raspberry (also with no artificial sweetners).  Then add  a pinch of apple pie spice (it comes in a little spice container in the spice aisle).  I add more cinnamon to get as much of the super-spice as I can, and I sprinkle the whole thing with Truvia, to taste.

Truvia is a sugar substitute with way less calories and a taste I think tastes "brighter" than sugar.  It is hard to explain if you haven't had it, but I would highly recommend trying it.  It doesn't have the chemical taste other sweetners have.  If you don't have Truvia, just use normal sugar.

Stir everything together and then add plain non-fat Greek yogurt.  I add about a half cup, but you can add as much as you prefer.  Stir it up once more and you have a simple, tasty, delicious breakfast.

It is also really filling - I sometimes struggle to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.  Also, the calorie content is low if you use Truvia and low sugar jam.  Truvia calories are minimal (probably less than 10), the jam has 25 calories/tbsp, and the yogurt has 60 calories in a half cup. With a peach having approximately 60 calories, you are looking at a filling breakfast with approximately 175 calories.  YUM!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Toasted Parmesan

Well I think it is time to let the cat out of the bag.  If you haven't caught on by now, it is time you know the truth...I LOVE PARMESAN!

I also love salads, homemade salad dressing, and my coworkers.  Why my coworkers?  Besides being all around fantastic, many of them seem to have an affinity for growing tomatoes and sharing the wealth.  I have picked up about a dozen or so home grown tomatoes in the last week, and they are fantastic.  I eat them plain with a bit of salt on top, but I was looking at my last remaining beauties tonight and decided I needed to do something special with them.  I decided to roast them in olive oil, balsamic and a spice mix of ground mustard/cilantro/cayenne whilst preparing a salad to go along with the fresh veggies.

Now back to my love of parmesan -- I had shredded parmesan for lunch in a chickpea salad and it was the first time parmesan just didn't do much for me.  I could have done with or without it, so I didn't want to just sprinkle some over my dinner salad.  I decided it was time to get creative, so I picked up some grated parmesan (the kind that looks like powder) at the store.

This creation was pretty genius.  You can jazz it up however you want and I didn't use precise measurements, but it went somethin' like this:

  • Preheat oven to 375* F
  • Lay parchment paper over my version of a cookie sheet AKA a pizza pan
  • Pour about half a cup of parm into a bowl
    • Add garlic powder to taste
    • Add pepper to taste
    • Add Italian seasoning to taste
    • *If you prefer solid measurements, I would estimate about a quarter teaspoon garlic powder, a tablespoon Italian seasoning, and a half teaspoon pepper
  • Mix it all up in the bowl and add to the parchment paper.

Here is where I would change things if making again.  My original intent was to melt the circles into individual servings.  Well I had never really thought about it before, but realized grated parmesan doesn't melt!  When they were done in the oven, I expected to pick each circle off the paper, but they all crumbled, which ended up being a happy accident.  If I were doing it again, I would just spread the cheese in a thin layer over the pan (use parchment paper though).

Cook for five minutes -- mine started to brown at four minutes, so pay close attention and don't exceed five minutes without a VERY watchful eye!

When done, remove from the oven and crumble up.

Now you have something that tastes like a deconstructed crouton -- breadcrumb-like, flavorful, adds a bit of crunch, and, even better, much lower calorie than croutons!  One tablespoon of this stuff is only 20 calories and because of the crumb-like consistency, it sprinkles over your salad quite well.

I ALSO JUST REALIZED THESE TASTE EXACTLY LIKE BREAD CRUMBS! I really think they could replace bread crumbs in any recipe someone is looking to make gluten free.  The flavor options are endless, and the cheese doesn't melt, so it will retain its crumbly texture.  I am going to have to try it out and report back, but I can't imagine there is much more exciting for the gluten-free world than gluten-free breadcrumbs...imagine the frying possibilities it opens up :) Compared to breadcrumbs, the calorie content is about 1/3 to 1/2 as many calories.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coco Mademoiselle

I have been trying to decide on a new perfume since JUNE 23rd (see: Perfume) when I was trying to decide between an orange-y or floral Lancome release and ended up picking neither.  Since that time, I have conducted multiple perfume shopping trips, two of which involved my boyfriend and his opinions, and I FINALLY have chosen a perfume!

My most recent perfume shopping trip was to Macy's in Moscow, which I think has quite a limited selection (probably a good thing as I was left with fewer choices and thus fewer decisions).

We started out by smelling Taylor Swift's Wonderstruck
This is supposed to be a "charming gourmand" - floral with sparkling fruity tones on a wooden background. It has a lot of positive reviews (a lot saying it is "light and sweet") but we thought it was just blah -- pretty boring for a perfume.

Next we tried Ed Hardy Villian.
This scent features lychee, watermelon, water lotus, citrus, magnolia, freesia, sandalwood, orris and crème brulee.  It smells great, but is very girly and fruity.  Jake said it smelled like a stripper and I was reminded of a middle school locker room.  Smells yummy, but not the smell for me.  Plus, I just can't help but associate Ed Hardy with douchey.

We also smelled Very Irrestible by Givenchy:
We might have smelled a different Givenchy because I am pretty sure the bottle didn't look like that, but we both thought it smelled like diapers.
Coco Mademoiselle was the clear winner - tasteful, mature, professional but sexy.  It is the perfect perfume to put on in the mornings and feel like a businesswoman, but put on at night and feel great.  I am super excited because I have started wearing scarves for winter and I love when scarves start to take on the smell of a perfume.

The only negative for Coco Mademoiselle is it is REALLY expensive compared to most perfumes.  You get what you pay for, I guess.  I got the smallest bottle for $90 (1.7 mL) and got the Eau de Toilette.  The same size Eau de Parfum was $110.  I can't imagine you would really need the Eau de Parfum for normal wear -- the Eau de Toilette retains it's scent well.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweater Shopping

I ventured out to the mall today in the attempts to buy a new sweater to celebrate the rain we have been having lately. 

First stop was Forever 21 - I never go into Forever 21, but I wanted to try and find something stylish but cheap so I decided I should try to stop being a baby and give it a shot.  Whaddoyaknow, I walk in there and feel completely overwhelmed.  I walked from rack to rack, touching things here and there to avoid looking like a total weirdo just speed walking from rack to rack, not really sure what I was looking for.  There are WAY too many colors and styles in one store, just placed haphazardly everywhere around.  If anyone knows the organization scheme behind Forever 21, please let me know. 

After the Forever 21 disaster, I decided to check out Aeropostale.  Buying children's clothing is always a long shot but sometimes you can get cute clothes for a big discount.  I walked through this store for about ten seconds and decided I might finally be too old for Aero -- I was making excuses in my mind about shopping for some "ten year old friend" who happens to be the same size as me....yep, I was in and out of that store too.

Next up was American Eagle.  This was a bit more promising, and I did find one sweater I had to try on:
I LOVE the colors -- I think the marbled pink with navy is adorable.  However, in true American Eagle style, this sweater fits in a super weird way.  I don't know what it is about their clothes lately, but they are all really short and wide -- exactly the opposite of long, slim fitting tops I prefer.  I even got three different sizes to try on (small/medium/large) because I know how goofy AE sizes can be, and none of them fit properly.  Big bummer -- the sweater had a lot of potential.

Soon I am going to hit up Loft in the sweater search and if that doesn't turn up anything, I am leaving sweaters in the dust and am going to instead embark upon a journey for the perfect long-sleeveed shirt...or maybe a cardigan....or maybe a purse....I need something to celebrate the start of Fall!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brussel Sprouts

My apologies for being such a negligent little blogger lately!  I have been so busy with work, and with the drizzly (which I love!) weather and the fantastic fall television, I come home from work, cuddle up on the couch, and veg out on the best shows ever.

While I work on a super amazing French toast recipe for you, here is what you need to eat when cuddling up while it rains outside: Braised Brussel Sprouts (courtesy of with a few changes).

1) Chop up your brussel sprouts into quarter wedges - cut lengthwise in half, then cut those halves in half.  Hit up your Costco for delicious big brussels for a good price -- I used 2 pounds.
2) Heat up olive oil in a big pan over medium high heat.  When hot, add your brussels and cook for at least five minutes.  I thought mine were burning but realized the tastiest parts were the brown spots, so keep that in mind.  Also, I eyeballed the olive oil -- added enough to get things cookin'
3) Pour in one cup of heavy cream, turn the heat to medium low, and cover and cook for 35 minutes.
4) Add the juice of one lemon and cook for two more minutes.
5) Realize you never knew vegetables, let alone brussel sprouts, could taste so fantastic.  Cuddle up on the couch and watch fall TV!!

PS - I thought this would be a cream sauce, but the brussel sprouts somehow soak it up.  I think this is 3482093 times better than the hashed brussels with poppyseed I made and so much easier.  It is about par with my roasted brussel sprouts (and I think the roasted way is still my favorite).

In other news:
Go buy your bread and apples so you can be prepared to make french toasts with me.  I rarely even buy bread, but french toast I can never say no to.  That should be my next post!