Archive for June, 2010

Retro Recipes

I’ve been gettin retro up in here!  Last week it was the Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles from Cooking Light ’06 and lastnight it was Polenta Lasagna from Cooking Light ’05.  The chilaquiles were an old recipe that was new to me, but this polenta lasagna is an old recipe that is old to me, forgotten about (but don’t mistake that as being forgettable), and rediscovered in 2010.

I made this several times before I was married when I had people over for Girls Nights complete with currently on air Sex and the City episodes and long beofre a movie was even a gleam in the writer’s eye .  It is healthy, easy, and versatile.  You can change it up with different meats (or meat subs – perfect when you have vegetarian girls at Girls Night) and play around with the types of veggies. 

It had been put away in the vault post-marriage because of the husband’s dislike of polenta.  Since he had only had it as a side dish (like grits) or prepared and grilled with no toppings, I thought maybe he would change his mind if it was IN something.  What’s the harm in experimentation?  He might like it.  And he did! 

I didn’t make too many subs or changes this time around except for replacing meatless crumbles with ground lean bison (the man is a meateater and we don’t want to push this too far) and I doubled the zucchini leaving out the mushrooms.  I also only made a half batch as I tend to do with most recipes since we are still sans microwave therefore leftovers are a bit difficult.

Makin the sauce

I sauteed the meat in the pan to cook it prior to starting where the recipe begins, but then followed the rest of the steps to a T.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 piece)


  • 1  (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 1  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1  cup  meatless fat-free sausage, crumbled (such as Lightlife Gimme Lean)
  • 1  cup  chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2  cup  chopped zucchini
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 18 slices
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) preshredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 350°.

Spoon 1/2 cup marinara sauce into an 8-inch square baking dish to cover bottom, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in sausage; cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring frequently. Add remaining marinara sauce; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Arrange 9 polenta slices over marinara in baking dish, and top evenly with half of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese over vegetable mixture; arrange remaining polenta over cheese. Top polenta with the remaining vegetable mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Plated and ready for ma belly

The last bit

 While cleaning up the kitchen after, Jensen asked what I was going to do with the one piece leftover?  He wanted it for lunch for tomorrow ( eaten at work where they have a microwave).  He wants more?!  Yes!  Polenta success!


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Berry Berry Good

What is one thing that I know for sure?  Texas in the summer is HOT!  I’ve lived here all my life and there has never been such thing as a mild summer.  A few of my favorite things are a mere means to stay cool…pools/lakes, tank tops, flip flops, veggie filled salads, and SORBET! 

I love sorbet!  I’m not a huge fan of icecream (*gasp*), but I love chilly confections of the fruity kind such as sorbets, popsicles, and fro-yo.  Jensen and I got an icecream maker for a wedding gift several years ago which we have used to make some pretty good icecream even for a non-icecream lover.  Homemade is the exception to almost every rule (such as not being a huge fan of icecream 🙂 ), but I wanted to give sorbet-making a go. 

I trolled the internet for a good berry sorbet recipe since there is an abundance of summer berries about, they are crazy cheap at the moment, and they’re good for you.  I found a winner and decided to use blueberries and blackberries.  They were 2 for $4 at Sprouts, so I bought two containers of each and headed home.

Kosher Blog provided the recipe and I provided the mess.  Purple berry juice wound up on me, the counter, the floor, and one of the kitchen rugs (a scar that rug will carry for the duration of its life) but it was all worth it.  Luckily the rug is multi-colored stripes, so it actually blends ok 🙂 

I made a few tweaks to the recipe based on what I had and liked (wine instead of vodka for example), cut back a bit on the sweetener (though I would actually cut it down by another 2 tablespoons or so next time and maybe use less juice…maybe more wine 🙂 ) and once again I only used blackberries and blueberries.

Berry Sorbet
makes about 1 quart

1 pound (about 4 cups) strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, or a combination
3/4 cup apple juice (I used blueberry pomegranate juice)
3/4 cup maple syrup (I used 1/2 c agave and 2T maple syrup)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vodka (I used red wine)

Blend the berries with the apple juice in a blender or food processor. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl, to remove the seeds.  Stir in the maple syrup, lemon juice, salt, lemon zest, and vodka. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Let the sorbet sit in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

Zested and ready for a stir

I put mine in the before-mentioned icecream maker where it whirled about for 3 hours or so and then transferred it to a storage container and popped it in the freezer overnight. 

berry bliss

Jensen and I both had a small taste lastnight and it was FAB!  A bigger bowl is on the menu for tonight. 

I have to also mention I did try to strain it, but it was too thick to go through my fine mesh strainer.  I bailed out of that step and ended up with a seedy result, but neither of us sees it as an issue.

Anybody else have yummy warm weather creations to share?

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Intense Saturday

I get bored easy.  It’s weird to say that because honestly I like routine and am not a huge fan of change when it comes to the big stuff.  When it comes to workouts, however,  I get bored. 

I love to run.  I have been a runner as long as I can remember.  I ran 5 and 10Ks as a kid with my family, track in middle school, track and cross-country in high school, and ran at least 5 days a week all through college.  I had a few years where I was a Body Combat and Body Pump enthusiast, though I still ran several times a week.  Even now with my new-found (within the last year and half) yoga love, I still run 6 days a week.  I may split my hour cardio between running, elliptical, and the bike, but there is always running involved.  

A while back I began to get bored with the steady state cardio.  Even the machine hopping wasn’t helping.  I began throwing in  some weight workouts with shorter cardio sessions (45 min rather than the 60) a couple of days a week and tried some HIIT (high intensity interval training) work too.  I am no exercise expert and wasn’t sure I was doing intervals right, but I just created similar plans to what I had seen on other blogs.  I have to say, I really like HIIT (or love to hate it 🙂 )  It’s a nice change and really HARD!  I’m a glutton for punishment.

I decided this morning to actually research HIIT a little.  I found a great website with several types of HIIT and I was pumped!  Not only now can I break up the monotony with HIIT, but also can keep from that becoming routine with several variations.  There are four types of interval training according to this site and it gives charts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts within each type.

  • 30 second HIIT training – good for beginners.  30 seconds of run-as-fast-as-you-can followed by 30-90 seconds of recovery (90 for beginner and advancing to just 30).  Repeat 6-12 times
  • 60 second intervals – longer intervals completely exhaust your muscles.  60 seconds at almost your max followed by 60 seconds to 2 minutes recovery.  Repeat 6-12 times
  • Tabata training – the single most effective interval training.  Only 4 minutes long but the most intense.  Push for 20 seconds (10/10) then recover around a 4/10 for only 10 seconds.  Repeat 8 times. 
  • Body For Life intervals – 4 sets of increasing intervals.  Each interval is 1 minute and each set is 4 minutes.  Each set begins with 1 minute at an intensity of 6 followed by a minute at 7, 8, and 9.  The last set will add one extra minute at a 10.

This morning I chose to go with the 30 second intervals with 90 seconds of recovery. 

  • warm up half mile (2.5 minutes at 6.5/2.5 minutes at 7.0)
  • 30 seconds at 9.5 (about 6:20 min mile) foll0wed by 90 seconds at 7.0 (just over 8.5 min mile) Repeated 8 times.
  • 30 seconds at 10 (6 min mile) followed by 90 seconds at 7.0.  Repeated 4 times
  • cool down half mile (2.5 minutes at 6.5/2.5 minutes at 7.0)

It was a little over 3 miles of the HIIT, 1 mile total warm up and cool down, and then I did a few minutes increasing the incline for a different kind of intensity.  30 seconds at each of the following. 

  • 7.5 at an incline of 2
  • 7.4 at an incline of 4
  • 7.5 at an incline of 4
  • 7.2 at an incline of 6
  • 7.5 at an incline of 6
  • 7.0 at an incline of 8
  • 7.5 at an incline of 8
  • 6.5 at an incline of 10
  • 7.0 at an incline of 10

That was about a half mile and then I jogged at a 0 incline for another half mile to finish. 

Random, all over the place, interval workout totaling 6 miles (with my half mile to and from the gym and 5 on the treadmill).  Sweaty mess!

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Recipe Rotation

Monday Night I made Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquilles for the first time.  Yum is all I will say about that one.  Oh and it will be added to the regular dinner rotation around here as well since both the hubby and I both gave it two thumbs up.

A quick note on the dinner rotation:  I have a few recipes that I know we both love and pop up quite often.  This week the chilaquilles were a new recipe to me that will be added to the faves list.  A few others:

Back to the reason I bring up the Monday night dinner.  The great thing about a recipe like that is the leftovers.  Sort of.  There were no leftovers of the actual dish, but I had some extras of the components to be used throughout the week.  The two main ones…shredded chicken (breasts in a crockpot covered in salsa and set on high for 6 hours then shredded) and black beans (I only made a half recipe of the chilaquilles, so that left  half a can of black beans for later consumption).  Those two ingredients have made it into my lunches or breakfasts for the last 4 days.

  • Tues – green salad topped with shredded chicken black beans, salsa, and avocado
  • Weds – wrap with shredded chicken, black beans and cream cheese
  • Thurs – chicken salad made with the shredded chicken, greek yogurt (in place of mayo), and salsa
  • Fri – egg white scramble with shredded chicken (the last of it 😦 ), black beans, cream cheese, onions, and red bell pepper

The last shreds

This morning’s breakfast may be a bit ugly but it was uber good!

ugly but delish

That shredded chicken recipe is so easy (set it and forget it) and the chicken is so versatile.  Love it! 

What are some of your favorite recipes that you make over and over? 

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Perfectly Portuguese

I think we have established I’m a soccer lover.  On top of the constant movement and relatively short games that appeal to my ADD, the players themselves appeal to my eyes.  Some like football players (Ahem Kelly 🙂 )  and others lean towards baseball.  I’m in the soccer camp.  What can I say?  Soccer guys are nice!  Luckily for me, my husband is one! (doing the happy dance 🙂 )  A  former soccer player and a current extremely handsome  HOT man!

As we were watching the Brazil/Ivory Coast game this past Sunday at my in-laws house, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and I discussed the attractivesness of futbol players.  Jensen’s mom made note of the fact that one of the guys from Brazil was quite good looking and I mentioned that Becks is on my Top 5 list. 


I also (slightly embarrased) revealed that I DVRed the first Portugal game just so I could watch Christiano Ronaldo play because people had told me how nice on the eyes he is.  Ok, not just so I could watch him.  Again, I do actually like soccer, but it didn’t hurt. 

Christiano Ronaldo

My mother-in-law then revealed a nice little fact of her own.  Her family (who have very distinct dominant features of dark eyes, dark hair, and though not technically dark but easily tanned and far from pale skin) have Portuguese heritage.  YES!  My husband has all those features and people have always asked me where he or his family is from.  I always say the US  🙂 and his mom said she’s always been asked, too, but never really knew.  She just recently found out her maiden name is Portuguese.   

In honor of my new found Portugues-by-marriage status, I thought I might make a Portuguese inspired dish for dinner lastnight.  For some reason thinking that would be similar in flavor to a Spanish or Latin dish, I researched it a bit with the taste for something spicy already on the tongue.  Nope.  Their cooking is more similar to Mediterranean.  Ok, well, I really want to make Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles, so I decied to leave the heritage celebration for another day.  Mediterranean cooking (fish, olive oil, wine) is common around here, so it is bound to pop up naturally soon.  I think I’ve made a pretty good show of my support by just writing this particular post 🙂

On to the Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles straight from Cookinglight.com

Yield: 6 servings


  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced onion
  • 5  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups  shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1  (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (7 3/4-ounce) can salsa de chile fresco (such as El Pato)
  • 15  (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1  cup  shredded queso blanco (about 4 ounces)


Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add chicken; cook 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in beans. Add broth and salsa to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Place half of tortilla strips in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of chicken mixture over tortillas; top with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Pour broth mixture evenly over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned and cheese is melted.  – Julianna Grimes Bottcher, Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2006

Oh, and one more note.  While I chose to run outdoors yesterday morning and was so graciously attacked by the mutt from hell, I could have been watching Portugal and Ronaldo play soccer as I ran chomper-free on the treadmill.  I totally forgot they had the early AM game.   It was one of the few times I will say it was a bad idea to shun the gym for the great outdoors.  Dog bite vs. soccer game.  Call me crazy, but its gonna be soccer everytime.  I did tape the game, so I was able to catch it lastnight.
Also, if you have any ideas of what to do with hoards of huge cucumbers please share!  We’re being taken over 🙂

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What happens when you neglect a garden and its harvest?

cukes on crack!

Our cucumbers should have been picked a bit a while ages ago!  Unfortunately cukes are about all our garden is producing (aside from a few little yellow cherry tomatoes…notice to the lower left).  Fortunately they are our FAVE!  Even a bit overgrown, these cucumbers on steroids are still divine.  I cut one up to snack on this afternoon and enjoyed every bite, though I only ate about half of the giant before placing the rest in the fridge to enjoy with dinner.

A little perspective

Seriously, HUGE! 

We actually do have quite a few little yellow cherry tomatoes that are still green, so I’m anticipating a tomato harvest in my near future.  Finally, the herbs (rosemary, oregano, and basil) have made it along with one yellow bell pepper that, after weeks of getting bigger and staying green, is finally taking on a yellow hue.  I was beginning to think we accidentally had gotten a green one.  Our garden is a semi-success and more importantly a good learning experience for next year’s garden round 2.

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This past weekend was full of activity (hence the blog-neglect).  So, a quick recap:

Friday – AM cardio,work, lunchtime yoga, work, dinner at Peche with the hubby and our good friend John.  We had never been here before and it was yummy!  I had scallops and the caprese salad (one of my faves) and they actually hand pulled the mozzarella to surround the little cherry tomatoes rather than the usual tomato/cheese/tomato/cheese/tomato stack they have going at most restaurants.  It was like a whopper (the candy) but with cheese instead of chocolate and a tomato in place of the malted milk ball.  An A++ for plating and near the same for the overall taste of the dinner and wine.


Sat – cardio, farmers market, yoga, grocery store, help hubby with floor, babysit for friend (enter ankle-biter #1).  One of my besties from college was in town with her husband and 8-month old baby girl for a wedding.  Since weddings are much more fun sans child, I offered to stay with the baby while they partied down at the reception.  She was only awake for the first hour.  It was enough time to play a bit with various things that light up and/or make noise (admittedly entertaining for all involved) and feed her before she passed out for the rest of the night.  I caught about 4 episodes of Criminal Minds on A&E while she snoozed.

Floor in progress

Sun – Help hubby paint baseboards (to be put up later) while sipping coffee, drive hour to Jensen’s parents house for Father’s Day lunch, watch first half of Ivory Coast/Brazil World Cup game , drive hour back to Austin, shop at favorite store who was having a SALE! and to which I had a giftcard (Anthropologie), help finish floor and baseboards and move furniture back into room.

Floor finally finished!

Ok, on to Monday morning.  I knocked out a 6 mile run bright and early followed by some weight work.  I ran the 6 miles outside because, though it was still humid this morning, it didn’t seem quite as warm or sticky as it has lately. 

As I was running through one of the parks I pass through, there was a smallish dog (minus a leash) on the trail.  I had a moment of concern as the dog turned and looked at me with that gleam in his eye.  I immediately glanced at the owner who was sitting on a nearby bench and he made no move to come grab the dog.  Ok, so he’s clearly not concerned.  I guess I won’t be either. 

The dog sorta tucked tail and ran away as I got closer (big sigh of relief) only to do a total 180 and charge back toward me teeth bared, barking ferociously and nipping at my legs (OH SH**!).  This was no “please pet me” hop around as I would have happily obliged that request.  This was an “I would eat you if only I was a big bigger” situation.  Look at owner.  Nothing.  Still sitting there on same bench relaxing as if he hasn’t noticed the all out war that is taking place.  The only reason the man got any closer is because I was running towards him as I tried to outrun ankle-biter #2.  He did stand up but made no movement or attempt to end the attack and so I finally just stopped with the thought that the agitated dog may chill if I became less of a moving target and in the mean time I could put my hands on my hips, screw up my face to my meanest glare, and challenge the owner to a good old fashioned stare down.  My meanest face at 6:30 am while still slightly sleepy, a lot annoyed, and it being Monday to boot was actually probably border-line scary.  The tactic worked and the dog finally gave up.  The man still did nothing.  

Look, I love animals.  I have three of my own and am married to a veterinarian.  I do not however, appreciate irresponsible owners.  I only ask a few things of others when I’m on a run.  1)  If you are walking 3 or 4 people wide on a trail or in the street and I come upon you, it would be nice if one or two of you move over so I can avoid being nailed by the oncoming car or end up in the ditch next to the trail.  This is not a hard and fast rule, just a courteous request.  2)  If you own a dog, please keep it from biting me.  Fairly simple, I think.  Leash it if it is clearly unstable.  RULE!  Not a request.

Hope your Monday started a bit better.  Mine is sure to be a positive upswing for the rest of the day 🙂

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