Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meatballs--flash of genius

Last week we had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Here's the recipe, FYI:

Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs ground beef
1 large egg, beaten
1 C Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 medium onion, chopped fine
5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano
¼ C grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine beef with other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Roll mixture into 1 ½-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, or until meatballs are no longer pink in the center.

Right before I was about to roll the balls, I had a brilliant through. "Instead of cooking the meatballs on a baking sheet, as suggested, maybe I could use a MINI MUFFIN PAN?!" I sprayed each muffin hole with some nonstick spray, threw the balls in the pan, slid the pan in the oven, and baked them for about 25 minutes.


Cooking meatballs in a muffin pan= MIND. BLOWN.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to: Survive a Government Shutdown

Yesterday was my first day of work after a 16 day government shutdown. I thought I'd share how I coped in case anyone experiences the same situation. In the 12 weekdays I was workless, here's a list of a few things that helped me get through:

1. Walk the dog. Multiple times a day for different periods of time. Taking a variety of routes is key here. Also, you haven't walked enough unless you say "walk" to your pooch and he or she gives you a look like, "Really, another walk?!?"

2. Walk yourself. One time a day, for at least 4 miles, with an iPod turned up loud.

3. Bake. Now you'll want to make sure to give these baked goods away because baking and then leaving the fresh bread in the house does not help someone prone to eating her emotions (me).

4.  Watch Sex and the City reruns on the E! channel. I was able to relive Carrie's relationships from Aiden through Burger.

5. Do laundry. Even things that really don't need to be washed; throw them in!

6. Set the table for dinner at 11am each morning. You'll feel like you are really on top of things.

7. Go out for lunch. Even if you don't buy lunch, just go out. For instance, try reading for two hours in the sitting area at a Whole Foods.

8. Go to the mall. Again, don't buy anything (because you'll feel bad spending money since you're workless), but rather sit in those nice leather chairs in the middle of the mall that always seem to be occupied by bored men any other time of the day.

9. Reorganize closests and drawers. If you're up to it, throw things out too.

10. Run weekend errands. Complete tasks that are normally a pain because everyone else is doing them Saturday morning. For instance, the grocery store or the dogstore. Get them over with at 10am on Tuesday.

11. Watch old movies. Miracle for example. And cry when USA beats the USSR in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games.

12. Fill out your 2014 calendar. Wow, you are really on top of things!

13. Build a pumpkin topiary. This task is seasonal, of course. If it's springtime, you might try planting flowers, for example.

14. Get up early, shower, and get dressed. You'll also want to blow dry your hair and put make up on. It'll help you feel "normal."

15. Have lunch with friends who are also workless because of the government shutdown. It's nice to commiserate with others.

And check out my pumpkin topiaries....so proud.


Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday FUNdamentals

Good morning and TGIF. I realize it's been over a month since I've posted something. Have I been busy? Sort of. Am I unsure where the month of August went? YES. Am I sick of my job and is that sickness bleeding through the rest of my life and draining all of my optimism? YESSSSSSSSSSS.

I found a few tidbits around the web that are worth a look-see. Check them out:

2) 50 rules of vacation. Always good to have!

And a parting shot of my dog because he makes everything better:


Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Birthday

To me. Yes, it's my 32nd birthday today. I do actually feel older, not wiser, but more crotchety and achy than I did yesterday at this time. I tend to be in a bad mood every July 15th. Don't ask me why, ok? It's like I don't want a fuss, so then I don't get a fuss, but I really did want a fuss. You know? To commemorate my day, check out this website in celebration of cakes gone wrong.

And here's what I've been thinking about all morning:





Friday, July 12, 2013

A recipe and a reflection

First a recipe, then a reflection. I cooked this last week, so I'm a bit behind in sharing. I served this dish with a grilled flank steak. The meat broke up the semi-heaviness of the pasta. Oh and let me toot my own horn because snap peas are now in season.....so I gave myself a little pat on the back for "cooking seasonally." Woot. Anyway, here we go

Pasta with Pancetta, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream (adapted from food52.com)
Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta
4 shallots, minced
1 pint cream
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 lb fresh snap peas, whole, chopped
1/2 C fresh mint, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 box orechiette pasta (I used bow tie pasta, and it was fine)

Directions:

  • In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the garlic for 2-3 minutes until just beginning to color.
  • Add the pancetta and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften, and season with a pinch or two of salt and a turn or two of fresh black pepper.
  • Meanwhile, bring your pasta water to a boil, salt it, and add your pasta. You will want to time the pasta to be finished just as the sauce is finishing so that the cream doesn't sit long.
  • With about 3 minutes left on your pasta, add the peas and cook for 2 minutes. We want them to retain their crunch. With one minute remaining, add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cheese, stir, and reduce the heat to low.
  • Drain the pasta, and toss with the sauce to coat. Sprinkle liberally with fresh mint, and serve with black pepper and extra Parmesan cheese.

My pictorial progression:




The original recipe from food52 called for thick prosciutto, but I knew my Giant didn't carry that, and I wasn't really in the mood to go search for it. Pancetta worked just fine. I'll tell you, this dish only got better the next day too. My husband and I can attest to that because we enjoyed it for lunch the following two days.

And now to a reflection. Last weekend I met up with two old friends. Old meaning I've known them since basically birth (but I guess we are getting oldER.....I turn 32 on Monday. I had nearly forgotten until my Mom reminded me today. Thank you Mom.). These old friends and I share a hometown, an elementary, middle, and high school, mutual friends, life experiences, and memories. We're all married now, and both of these old, but good, friends have children. It's really amazing that we've known each other and cared for each other through it all. Old friends really are the best. It had been a few months since we'd all seen each other, but it felt like it'd had been only a day. We so simply fell right back into our candor and conversation. It was wonderful and felt safe. I just love these women, and you know who you are!

Happy weekend.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A picture's worth a thousand words, no a thousand feelings

It's true. I just saw pictures from a wedding my family attended two weeks ago. I was stunned to see how big I am. You have an image of yourself in your head, but until you are actually forced to look at a real picture and face reality, that image stands. I don't feel obese. Well, I mean, I feel obese when I'm winded after walking my dog up the hill in our backyard. I feel obese when my jeans cut off the circulation to my gut. I feel obese when I can't get into yoga poses I used to be able to do with ease.  Otherwise I stick by the image of myself at 155 pounds. Ha, and can you believe I thought I was fat then?! I would KILL to be that weight right now. KILL.

And do you know what I did this morning, after viewing the wedding slideshow? I took a few of those wedding pictures, copied them to a Word document and circled the parts of my body I didn't like. I printed it, clipped it, folded the piece of paper up and stuck in my wallet. My thought being that if I'm debating between, let's say, baby carrots and cake, I'll reference the piece of paper with the fat pictures and chose the baby carrots. There's gotta be something wrong with this, but at this moment it's the best punishment I can come up with for how fat I am.



I'm about halfway through Big Brother by Lionel Shriver, and it's very appropriate right now because the two main characters are undertaking a radical diet. I'm so tired of diets and thinking about diets and considering diets. I just don't know what to do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In books: a recommendation

Good morning. No (notable) recipe to share with you today; a book/author recommendation instead. Lionel Shriver. A woman who's written quite a few books. I've read one, and am in the midst of reading her newest. Do yourself a favor and pick these up:






Kevin is very provocative, and has since been turned into a motion picture with Tilda Swinton. It's one of those novels that sends chills down your spine and makes you think hard about things, having children, in particular, and the whole nature vs. nurture argument.

Big Brother focuses on obesity in the family and how we tend to focus on it, deal with it or not deal with it. I find her writing to be so fluid, but still engaging. I'm not yet half way through but so far so good.

We have a big family wedding to attend this weekend, so we're leaving tomorrow for Pennsylvania--today is my Friday. Yahoo. I had a panic attack earlier in the week over the dress I'd been planning to wear. WOULD IT STILL FIT?? I bought it a month or two ago. And thanks be to god it still fits....and has sleeves, so no one will be subjected to my fat, white arms. I should get an extra piece of wedding cake for being so considerate, don't you think?

Ok, more next week. Read these books.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Good recipe, bad news

Well, I have a good recipe to share, but I also have some bad news (that directly impacts me, not to worry). Let's start with the good recipe:

Caprese Tarts (http://sweetpaul.typepad.com)

Ingredients:
1 large sheet puff pastry
All-purpose flour
1 fresh mozzarella, sliced
20 cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh basil

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Cut the pastry into 4 squares and roll it out to double size. Use a little flour so that the dough doesn’t stick to the surface.
  • Place each pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Place mozzarella and tomatoes on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
  • Bake until golden, about 12-15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, serve hot or cold with fresh basil on top.
Here's a pic of how this turned out:


Delicious and easy, let me tell you. Now, since the puff pastry box comes with 2 sheets, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try different ingredients for the second tart. For this one, I used pre-baked chicken breast, cubed (I had that in the refrigerator to use on salads or just to gnaw on), red onion, chopped garlic, mozzarella, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I was trying to model California Pizza Kitchen's garlic-chicken pizza. And this option turned out just as good! Evidence:


So bottom line: make these for an afternoon snack or use as an appetizer for friends. I thought the tarte went perfectly well with a beer and a bad Lifetime movie!

Ok, onto the bad news. I had my annual physical yesterday. In addition to the appointment starting nearly an hour late, and then waiting another 15 minutes to have my blood and urine samples taken (so I was in a bad mood already), my doctor laid down the law, with this undertone: "Ellie, you're obese. It's time to do something about it." She gave me a piece of paper with food suggestions and menu ideas and told me I should restrict my calories to 1500 per day. Well sh*t, where has this piece of paper been all my life?! It's an easy plan; I shouldn't make fun. And I'm really going to try, but I'm an emotional eater. I know what I should and shouldn't eat. So for me it's, "Hmmm, I'm bored, let's have some cheese and crackers," instead of "Hmmm, I'm not hungry, I don't want dinner."  I downloaded a calorie counting app to my phone, so maybe that will do me some good. We'll see, I guess. I'm just glad I found this tart recipe (and made it and ate it) BEFORE yesterday's appointment!

Cheers.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A 'fishy' thing happened on the way to the forum

I didn't go to any forum....the title is just a play on a play, well, a musical. But something is fishy because I cooked fish not once, but TWICE this week: lobster risotto on Monday (because it was a holiday, and I forced myself to do SOMETHING) and crispy chipotle tilapia last night. Let me give you the recipes, then after each, I'll dish on my experiences. Buckle up because these recipes are gonna get you hook, line, and sinker.

Simple Lobster Risotto (myrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
4 C fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ C water
3 (5oz) American lobster tails
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 C uncooked Arborio rice
¾ C frozen green peas, thawed

Directions:
  • Bring broth and 1 ½ C water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lobster tails; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Remove lobster from pan; cool for 5 minutes.
  • Remove meat from cooked lobster tails, reserving shells (I used a kitchen scissors to do this). Chop meat. Return the shells to the broth mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Strain shell mixture, reserving broth, discard solids and shells. Return broth mixture to saucepan; keep warm over low heat.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 C broth mixture, and cook for 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
  • Reserve 2 Tbsp broth mixture. Add the remaining broth mixture, ½ C at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next portion (about 22 minutes total).
  • Remove from heat, and stir in lobster, the reserved 2 Tbsp broth mixture, 2 Tbsp butter, and green peas.
*************************

Risotto is not for the faint of heart. Stirring constantly for 22 minutes is a lot (let me tell you, my wrists felt it the next day. See how out of shape I am?!); and not something one could likely do after a day's work. This is not a set it and forget it meal, that's for sure. So make this one on a weekend or a holiday, and/or when lobster tails are on sale!

The recipe turned out well, but it was a little too rich for my taste. My husband ate it right up, though, second helpings even. And the good guy took the leftovers to work on Tuesday and today. Kudos. The recipe is a keeper because it incorporates a decadent ingredient in a fairly simple way. Growing up my family ate lobster on rare occasions, and it was always a big to do, so it's a luxury to me. Bottom line on Simple Lobster Risotto: do it.

Crispy Chipotle Lime Tilapia with Cool Avocado Sauce (allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 Tbsp adobo sauce from the can (no need to buy extra adobo sauce, the sauce from the can is plenty)
¼ C salsa
1 Tbsp lime juice
4 tilapia fillets
2 C tortilla chips, crushed

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
¼ C sour cream
1 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Combine the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, salsa and 1 Tbsp lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth (I used an immersion blender; worked like a charm.); brush the mixture over both sides of each tilapia fillet.
  • Spread the crushed tortilla chips into the bottom of a deep dish; dredge the coated fillets in the chips to coat. Arrange the fillets on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake the fillets for 15 minutes; at 15 minutes, flip the fillets and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • While the fish bakes, place the avocado, sour cream, and 1 Tbsp lime juice and blend until smooth (again, I worked that immersion blender....perfect tool for this). Stir in the milk 1 Tbsp at a time until the consistency is similar to ranch dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the baked fillets to serve.
*************************

Ok, this one was easy and tilapia fillets, unbeknownst to me, are cheap. My go-to meats are chicken and beef. Fish is uncharted territory. Tilapia is a nice, white fish, not fishy at all or even slimy. The lobster tails were much worse to work with. Gah.

So I came home from work yesterday, changed, hugged my dog, and immediately mixed up the two sauces needed for this recipe. That was the way to go because I was able to relax a little--the sauces were the most time consuming part of this. I also cut up fingerling potatoes, tossed them with olive oil and salt/pepper, and baked those for 45 minutes at the same temperature as the fish. So that worked well.

AND, I took a fillet, potatoes and corn for lunch today, with the avocado sauce! The meal warmed up well. Oh and I had extra avocado sauce, which really was the cherry on top for this recipe, so guess what I did? Instead of throwing the extra sauce away, a sin in my mind, I went to the mini-mart down the street from my office and bought a bag of pretzels to scoop the rest of the sauce into my mouth. Nice, huh? Here's the evidence of that, and you can also see what a nice color that sauce becomes. Bottom line on Crispy Chipotle Lime Tilapia with Cool Avocado Sauce: DEFINITELY do it.


Well, it's Friday tomorrow. Cheers to that.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What I've realized

I had been teaching swimming lessons part-time in the evenings and on the weekends for the last year and half. On average, I had 8-10 lessons each week. It was alot when I factored in my full time day job. But the work was fun (most days!), I really enjoyed the kids (most days!). Well, last week was my first full week of no lessons--I decided to throw in the towel and take a break from part-time work for a bit. I made this decision because it felt like it was time to, hmmm, I don't know, get back on a regular schedule, do more house-related projects, work on myself for a little (and I do need a lot of work), cook more, read more, and on and on. Well, here's the kicker: having more time doesn't necessarily mean you spend the time productively.

I did make it to the gym last Thursday (see my "Fat Friday" post from 5/24), and Saturday was a good day. That day, I dismantled an IKEA dresser--honest to God, it took less than 5 minutes to do that (I poked it and it basically just fell apart)--moved a new dresser into its place, repainted the trim in our guest bathroom, swam laps, did all the laundry, walked my dog a few times (more than he wanted or needed, I suppose, but I was on a roll, god damnit!). So Saturday was a GOOD day. Then came Sunday.....now I started off with excellent intentions: I'm going to swim, take pooch for a long walk, volunteer (I visit with someone for a few hours each week), cook, bake, clean up the house. Well, I managed to accomplish two of those six well-intentioned tasks. I told myself, "it's ok, it's a holiday weekend, you'll do better tomorrow. You have all of Monday to be busy." WELL, now it's Monday morning. Again, I had a very nice list of to-do's: get up early, walk dog, hit the tile shop, swim laps, cook risotto for dinner, clean up the house (notice that one carried over from Sunday)....and guess what? I did cook the risotto, because, well, it's food, and we all know where my heart lies. I didn't swim, I didn't clean up the house, I didn't make it to the tile shop, BUT I did walk the dog, oh and I did watch Les Miserables, which wasn't on the list in the first place (and I'm embarrassed to say, I fell asleep....good lord was that a long movie or what?!).

So here's the conundrum: I now have more time to do more things, but it's like this extra time is just letting me slack more. I know a lot of people struggle with this concept. I was thinking this morning, maybe instead of making a list of things to do, I'd make a list of challenges? For example, "Ellie, here's your mission, should you choose to accept: do a load of whites, swim 50 laps, walk the dog for 30 minutes." And maybe if I accept (and complete) my "missions" I get an ice cream cone or something?!

Oh check this pic out, it's the IKEA dresser I took apart! Look at all that duct tape....it was holding the drawers together. haha. The pieces are sitting in our yard. I'm sure the neighbors are loving that eye sore.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fat Friday

So last night I actually went to one of those places where they conduct workouts, physical fitness workouts....I think it's called a gym?! It's been so long since I did any real working out, that I forget, excuse me. I have two images that describe how I felt.......

1. Because it's been so long, this was me:
Source: imgur.com
2. Oh and then I tried a pilates reformer machine, this was me:
Source: imgur.com
Maybe one of these days, instead of "Fat Friday," it'll be "Fit Friday." Ah, wishful thinking.

Well cheers to the holiday weekend and PICNIC FOOD......

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just say gnocchi

Last night we took a a trip to gnocchi land. It was a nice visit: very rich with diverse flavors but simple ingredients. It's a not a trip I could take everyday, but rather once in awhile. Here's the recipe:

Baked Gnocchi with Pesto, Peas, and Pancetta (followed to a T from biggirlssmallkitchen.com)

Ingredients:
2lbs gnocchi
4oz pancetta, finely diced
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 C flour
3 C milk, at room temperature
¼ Tbsp nutmeg
1/3 C pesto
1 C frozen peas
¾ C grated fontina cheese
1/3 C bread crumbs

Method:
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees (yes, really, 500 degrees).
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes. They cook extremely quickly and will finish off in the oven, so don’t overdo them.
  • In the meantime, fry the pancetta in ½ Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Set aside.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When fully liquified, whisk in the flour to create a rouĂ©. Add the milk and nutmeg, and simmer until reduced by half. Add the pesto, peas, pancetta, and gnocchi. Stir to combine.
  • Place mixture in a large casserole dish and cover with the grated fontina. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the cheese has become brown and crispy. Remove from oven, cover with bread crumbs and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
Now when I dumped the mixture into the casserole dish, I was worried it was way too liquidy, but I gotta say, by the time I took her out after 10 minutes, things were looking up! After the bread crumbs and extra 5 minutes in the oven, the top was crispy and the inside creamy.

I ate a side salad to start, so I couldn't eat much pasta--even someone of my size (over weight), with my so-called hollow leg. My husband said the pasta would make a nice side dish, to a steak possibly? I'd agree with him.

So bottom line: JUST SAY YES TO GNOCCHI!


Source: http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/

Friday, May 17, 2013

Three words for you: Small. Town. Security.

Last night I stumbled upon a new reality television show: Small Town Security. Do yourself a favor and head on over to AMC....you've got to check this out. The show is the perfect combination of quirky people, strange situations, small town havoc, and southern accents. Here's a little preview to wet your appetite:


It was after 10pm when I was partaking, and I was laughing out loud. I could have been super tired or wired or whatever, OR MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, THIS WILL BE MY NEW FAVORITE SHOW. I love shows like this because I can watch them, not think, laugh, and be entertained. It's perfect. So thank you, AMC and Small Town Security, and Joan (pictured above there).

In other small town news, tomorrow is McLean Day....and I'm in charge of my women's club booth space. I have a duck pond planned, signs to hang, water to hand out, oh and a 10'x10' canopy. Get this: the canopy's instructions say it takes "less than a minute" to set up. Ok, sure, we'll see about that. So hey, if you're reading this and you're a McLean, VA resident, stop by Lewinsville Park tomorrow between 11-5pm.......and check out booth #52!!

Oh and I cooked cod this week. I'm not a fish person (a fishy person, sometimes yes, but not a fish person. ha.), but the recipe turned out alright. I'll include it here just because a fish recipe will be few and far between on this blog, I'm afraid. I'd rather just 'trust the Gorton's fisherman.....'

Parmesan Crusted Salmon or Cod (fountainavenuekitchen.com)

Ingredients:
4 6oz (1 ½ lbs) salmon fillets (may substitute cod or other flaky white fish)
2 ½ Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
2 ½ Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:
·        Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
·        In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, chives, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.
·        Place the fillets on a lightly greased baking sheet.
·        Spread mixture evenly over top of fillets.
·        Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the fillets are just cooked through. You might want to use the top rack, which helps to brown the Parmesan mixture a bit.

Have a nice weekend.......

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hungry, not thirsty, Thursday

We try to do a home cooked meal two times a week. Last night I gave chicken potpie a whirl. AND LET ME TELL YOU.....it was glorious. Not only did it taste good, but the recipe required a minimal amount of prep, AND it called for store bought, already cooked rotisserie chicken. Love that. My husband did the shredding of the store bought, already cooked rotisserie chicken, so it was even more glorious! Oh and to make matters just a little better, the recipe made not one but TWO potpies, so we have one frozen for another night. SCORE. Here are the recipe details, with a few candid food shots of Wednesday's potpie progression.

Simple, Classic Chicken Potpie (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
6 C roasted, shredded rotisserie chicken
2 (15oz) packages refrigerated pie crusts
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
3 small stalks celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
2 C chicken broth
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1/3 C butter
½ C all-purpose flour
¾ tsp dried thyme
¼ C dry sherry or white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ C fresh parsley, chopped
1 (16oz) package frozen peas and carrots, not thawed

Directions:
1) Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. If using whole rotisserie chicken (uh, duh, yes please), separate meat from skin and bones, and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard skin and bones. Then remove pie dough from its box and follow directions for bringing to room temperature.

2) Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onions, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl along with the shredded chicken; set aside.


3) Meanwhile, microwave chicken broth and milk in a microwave-safe bowl until steamy, 4 minutes. Heat butter over medium heat in the empty Dutch oven. When foaming subsides, whisk in flour and thyme; cook until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in hot chicken broth/milk mixture. Bring to a simmer, and then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute more. Turn off heat, stir in sherry or wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper (I used a generous amount of salt and pepper).


4) Stir shredded chicken/onions/celery/garlic mixture, parsley, peas and carrots into the sauce. Lay the bottom pie crust in each 9-inch, deep-dish pie plates. Divide mixture between the two plates. Top each pan with the other pie dough, and flute crust by pinching with your fingers (I trimmed the top crust before fluting it). Make a slice or two on top. Set pie on a baking sheet and bake until pastry is golden brown and bubbly, 30-35 minutes (I took it to the full 35 minutes).



(do you see those trimmed bits of raw dough there, off to the right side of the pic....yep, I ate those...appetizer, what can I say?!)

5) Option for extra potpie: Wrap second potpie in freezer wrap and freeze for a later meal. When you’re ready to bake, remove wrapping, place potpie on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden and bubbly, about 1 hour.

And voila, here's the finished product:


For the last 10 minutes or so, I placed a piece of aluminum foil over the potpie so the crust wouldn't burn. That was a good decision, I think.

I have a piece of potpie for lunch today.......oh goodness, I can't wait. It might be one of those days where lunch is at 10am......and so what?! ha.

Really, try the recipe, it's a keeper.

Friday, April 26, 2013

T. G. I. Funny

Last night I taught a swimming lesson to a sweet 5-year-old girl. Here's a little of what we talked about in between floats, kicks, and big arms.

Swimmer: "Miss Ellie, one of my school teachers looks just like you."

Me: "Really? What makes her look like me?"

Swimmer: "Well, she has the same eye color as you, she wears her hair in a bun like you, and her skin is really white, just like you."

Me: "Wow, maybe she's my twin sister?!"

I got a good chuckle out of that! Kids are honest, that's why they're great. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday's "Ten Things I Hate" (but not about you)

10 recent things that really got my goat (some more than others):

1) This article about the modeling industry.

2) Again, Real Simple, you boned me (see May's edition): slow cooker baked rigatoni with mushrooms recipe. Bleh.

3) This:

Source: theobamadiary.com

4) A hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

5) This. Sorority. Girl. Is. Nuts.

6) Maybe I don't understand fashion, but, this.

Source: Red Carpet Fashion Awards

7) Oh Gwyneth.

8) It's awful, don't buy it. Not sure what I was thinking.

Source: kozyshack.com

9) Catcher in the Rye is not available in e-book/Kindle form. Gee, maybe I'll have to use my local library, which is perfectly ok. But I ended up accidentally downloading an e-book ABOUT Catcher in the Rye and J.D. Salinger....so Amazon.com, you boned me this week too.

10) J. Crew's shoe prices (damn you, Jenna Lyons).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Diet defiance: chicken fried steak

To spit in the face of all diets, I (almost) cooked and (almost) ate chicken fried steak last night. Up until that point I had done neither, so it was a real experience for me.

Recipe from Real Simple (which makes the meal a tad less tacky, I suppose):

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds sirloin steak (1 inch thick), cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 C buttermilk
1 C flour
¼ C canola oil

Directions:
  • Pound each piece of steak into a ½-inch thickness. (Really pound this steak down so it's nice and thin.) Season with ½ tsp each salt and pepper.
  • Dip the steak first in the buttermilk, then the flour. Fry the steak in two batches in the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until golden, 2-3 minutes per side. (Make sure the oil is good and hot).

We served this little doozie with a side of home fries and scrambled eggs (at my husband's request). You can call it a breakfast-for-dinner night.

Source: buzzfeed.com
So here's where the 'almost' part comes in. I failed at chicken frying the steak: the buttermilk/flour coating fell off, the steak was too thick, the oil wasn't hot enough, it was just bad news. So husband rescued this damsel in distress and cooked the remaining pieces of meat outside on the grill. This actually made the steak a lot healthier (but don't worry, I still loaded up on home fries and eggs!). Husband did try my attempted fried steak, and he said it wasn't terrible.

I'm now in the almost-successfully-cooked-but-didn't-eat-chicken-fried-steak club, will you join me? Please....I don't want to be fat and alone.

Oh and, P.S., I would not recommend this recipe.....out of 5 stars, I'm giving it 2. Sorry Real Simple, love your mag, but sometimes your recipes, hmmmm, how can I put this, they aren't 'real simple.' I'd take tacky over a badly constructed recipe any day.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crash (and burned) diet......

Here's my new theory on dieting: it doesn't work. Well, not for me anyway. I believe I worry too much about it, which causes my body to go into a tailspin, and I mentally block the fat from leaving. Oh and here's my new t-shirt that captures exactly how I feel:

Source: wanelo.com
I tried starving last week and that didn't get me anywhere. So why deprive myself and make everyone else around me miserable because I'm hungry and therefore nasty when I end up not losing any poundage at the end of the week anyway?! Tell me why, Jennifer Hudson, oh great Weight Watcher's spokesperson! Tell me why! Here's MY version of Weight Watchers' latest slogan: "...because it DOESN'T work."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Difficult

Activities that are difficult with an extra 30 pounds:
1)      Getting dressed
2)      Taking a shower
3)      Exercising
4)      Painting a small guest bathroom
5)      Cleaning
6)      Bending over
7)      Shopping for big clothes
8)      Backing up my car
9)      Playing with my dog
10)   Riding the metro


Source: realitytvgifs

Monday, April 8, 2013

White as white bread

That's me. But this recipe is not: pandesal. Now, it is white bread, but it has something more than Wonder Bread ever could. Ok, here she is...

Ingredients:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (I just used 2 packages)
¼ C warm water
1 C lukewarm milk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
½ C sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
4 ½ C all-purpose flour or more as necessary (yes, you'll need more)
Plain breadcrumbs

Directions:
  • In a big bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¼ C warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, and then stir well.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the milk, butter, eggs, sugar and salt.
  • Add milk mixture and 2 C flour into the yeast mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, adding more as needed.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough, adding flour, until dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky (around 10-15 minutes).
  • Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until dough is double in size.
  • Again transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into 24 even pieces. Shape each dough piece into a ball, roll in breadcrumbs and place on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake in a 225 degree oven for 20 minutes and then increase the oven temperature to 325. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
And here's my proof:


My husband found this recipe--he's Filipino and these just happen to be Filipino breakfast rolls! Pandesal (Spain: pan de sal or "salt bread") is the most popular yeast-raised bread in the Philippines. Hubby's reaction after trying one: "they're good, nice job, but could have been lighter," he said. Now any bread to me is heaven, but I was pleasantly surprised when I broke open a roll and smelled its sweet, but not overly sweet smell and noticed a fluffy consistency. I was happy with the result, because hey, FRESH, HOMEMADE BREAD, nothing better.....but he's the expert on this pandesal stuff.

I'm not sure what could have been done to make these rolls "lighter." With me and bread baking it's simple, I jump the gun and knead when I should have left the dough alone or get a wee bit lazy and tired of kneading and don't add the proper amount of flour or I don't work the dough long enough. But this time, I was a well-behaved bread baker: I was busy with something Saturday afternoon during this recipe's first rise, so the dough actually sat for closer to 2 hours. And I know I added more like 5 cups of flour than the called for 4 1/2. Could it have been the type of yeast I used? Maybe my butter and milk weren't at the right temperature. Gee, guess we'll just have to make this awful tasting recipe again...ha.

Anyway, that's the pandesal saga.....I ate two rolls Saturday and haven't had one since because I'm on some crash diet that my mom and I swear will be the answer to our prayers. We'll see. I told my husband to hide the remaining rolls somewhere so I wouldn't be tempted. We froze 12 of them too. If I finally lose weight, I'm celebrating with pandesal!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pasta for breakfast

So, yeah, I've opened the flood gates, and it came to a head this morning: I had leftover pasta with bolognese sauce for breakfast. Oh and I also inhaled a chocolate coconut egg (thanks, Mom, for sending me back to Virginia with NINE of those!). I think I've already exhausted my Weight Watcher's points for the day, and it's only 7:30am.



(Source: realitytvgifs)

Oh what a week this has been. I tell ya. I'm losing weekly diet battles and yes, my troops are retreating from the diet war. I just don't know what it's going to take. What will put me over the edge to where I finally say, "enough is enough, Ellie, stop eating." Here are a few things I'm dealing with, and any of these should be snapping me into terminator diet mode, but guess what? They're not.

None of my clothes fit. And I refuse to buy new things because, let's be honest, who the hell wants to go try on clothes when you have an extra 30 pounds hanging around? I simply say, "Hmmm, ok, none of my pants can reach their closures, oh well, guess I'll just wear a big, blousy dress then." I weigh more than my husband. A normal woman would not accept that, but apparently I'm not normal and that's not doing the trick either. Oh and here's another one. Everytime I try to put on my bathing suit to teach swimming lessons, it's a workout. I sweat, for real. Don't even try to imagine what it's like when I try taking the bathing suit off. That's the thing nightmares are made of.

So if none of these scenarios are embarrassing enough to force my jaws closed, I ask you: WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE? Hmmmm, maybe if I got stuck somewhere? Like in my desk chair or in my car and fire fighters needed to come to get me unstuck with butter (yummm, butter)? Or what if an elevator that I'm in can't go up because I've forced the lift to its weight maximum? Maybe something like that will finally put me over the edge? I wonder.

And I have no answers, but all this talk has me anxious, and I think I need a snack...AHHH!

Walking around the office looking for treats,
Ellie

Friday, March 29, 2013

What's on you happy list?


So what's on your happy list?

I was sitting at home last night, watching the Millionaire Matchmaker and came up with a few of the "small" things that make me happy....here we go:

1) crisp, clean sheets on the bed
2) an empty dishwasher
3) a package at the front door (even if I know what it is because I ordered it!)
4) a new toothbrush
5) a hot shower after a cold swimming pool
6) reality television shows

Maybe the video is right and these ARE the best kinds of happy.

Cheers,
Ellie

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Back from the dead

She's ALIVE, she's ALIVE! Not much to share, so I thought I'd list a few of my favorite websites. Some are indulgences, others are well written, and then others are, I don't know, just fun to be around:

1) http://whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com/  (indulgence)

2) http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com/  (indulgence/just fun to be around)

3) http://www.redcarpet-fashionawards.com/  (indulgence)

4) http://www.manrepeller.com/ (well written/just fun to be around)

5) http://whatkatewore.com/ (indulgence)

And a video of our dog because he's indulgent, well written, and just fun to be around!

video