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Archive for August, 2010

Southern Girl

I’m a Southern girl.  I was born in Texas and have lived here all my life.  Three different cities (born and raised in Tyler, college to now in Austin with one year held hostage in College Station while Jensen was in veterinary school) but Texas only. 

When you think of Southern cooking, what do you picture.  BBQ?  Fried food?  It’s no wonder Southern states top the obesity list every year.  

Case in Point: 

Since we are headed to Boston in about a month and are going to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway and there are sure to be hotdogs and beer involved, I decided to look up what a Fenway hotdog is like.  Turns out there are regional hotdogs just like the regional BBQ and sauces I’ve mentioned before.  Chicago has one, NY another, Fenway has what’s called a Fenway Frank served in a New England-style bun (I’m not sure exactly what that is, but I’m excited to find out).  Texas?  Texas fries theirs.  Of course 🙂  The Texas State Fair is famous for their corn dogs.  Cornbread coated and fried “hotdog”.  The Fair actually offers pretty much anything fried from cheesecake and Snickers to butter and beer (I have no idea, so don’t ask 🙂  )  The corn dogs are great, I have to admit.  I prefer the battered and well-greased weeny to the in-a-bun one everytime.  I’ll let ya know how the Fenway Frank stands up. 

Really,though, I’m not much into fried.  My mom always cooked pretty healthy growing up and I tend to think most things are just as good in a non-fried version.  Oven “fried” chicken (rolled around in buttermilk or egg whites, coated in something crushed and crispy like cornflakes, fiber one, nuts, or a combination and baked) is one of my favorites from childhood and oven sweet potato “fries” are often better to me than the real deep-fried variety.  My mom did fry quail and that was a delicacy in our house.  We only ate what dad had hunted himself and so we only got it a few times a year.  All in moderation, though that particular dinner was always a gorge-fest.  Hey, I said it was only a few times a year 🙂  It was the only thing she fried and to this day even the high-class restaurant quail dishes done with fancy sauces can’t compete. 

Kelly (another born and bred Texan) and I have had the discussion before about what is truly better fried.  She says okra and I used to agree.  However, once discovering the wonders of roasted okra, I have to bail on that one.  To me its chicken liver (groan if you want, but as we have established I am from the South) and quail.  

With all of this background information, I bet you can guess what I did last night.  I fried y’all!  

Fry It UP!

Even though I have lived South of the Mason Dixon line all my life, I have never fried a thing.  I am happy to indulge in a greasy goody on occasion outside of the home.  Since we don’t go out to eat all the time, I order whatever I like at restaurants and consume anything that looks good at parties.  However, I am health conscious in my own kitchen.  We eat at home for 90% of our meals and that leaves our indulgent dinners out 100% guilt free. 

Lastnight, though I decided to channel my inner Paula Dean a bit.  I just have to stop and say I LOVE her!  It feels like you’re getting a big hug just to hear her talk.  Her recipes don’t touch healthy with a ten foot pole, but when in need of something truly decadent, they are the way to go.  She’s my go-to when I want a full-fat, holiday worthy dish.  

Anyway, back to lastnight.  I did use a Cooking Light recipe for the fried chicken, but it was still fried.  Fried and relatively healthy, so WIN/WIN.  

Pan-Fried Chicken 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half or 1 thigh and 1 drumstick)
 Ingredients

  • 1  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  whole-wheat flour
  • 1  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 1/2  teaspoon  hot paprika
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2  teaspoon  fine sea salt
  • 2  bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 2  bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 2  chicken drumsticks, skinned
  • 1/4  cup  peanut oil

Preparation

1. Sift together first 6 ingredients; place mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Sprinkle salt evenly over chicken. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to bag; seal. Shake bag to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour. Place chicken on a cooling rack; place rack in a jelly-roll pan. Reserve remaining flour mixture. Loosely cover chicken; chill 1 1/2 hours. Let chicken stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Return chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture, shaking bag to coat chicken. Discard excess flour mixture. 

 2. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 25 minutes or until done, carefully turning every 5 minutes. 

 3. Line a clean cooling rack with brown paper bags; arrange chicken in a single layer on bags. Let stand for 5 minutes. 

 Kitchen Notes:  The key to success with this recipe is even heat. If the oil gets too hot, the chicken may brown too quickly before fully cooking. You can lower the heat, or brown the chicken on the stovetop and then cook in a 350° oven until done. If the oil is not hot enough, the chicken will absorb too much of it. Omit spices in the breading, if you prefer. 

 Nutritional Information 

Calories: 245      Fat: 10.1g (sat 2g,mono 4.1g,poly 3g)     
Protein: 28.2g     Carbohydrate: 9g     Fiber: 0.8g    
Cholesterol: 87mg     Iron: 1.8mg     Sodium: 240mg    
Calcium: 17mg

 Cooking Light, JUNE 2009 

 It was more like a crispy crust than the thick breading on traditional fried foods, but it was yummy and got a two thumbs up from my completely Southern through and through husband.  It was incredibly juicy.  Roasted okra as a side completed the meal  

dinner Southern-style

What’s your favorite indulgence or comfort food?/  Do you think anything is better fried?

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Pancake Power

I am a big fan of protein pancakes.  There were a few months there where I had them for breakfast every morning.   I made many varieties with blueberries or strawberries, topped with banana, gingerbread and carrot cake versions, and chocolatey goodness with chocolate protein powder to name a few.  The different ingredients and toppings are endless and they kept me satisfied for hours.  I have moved on a bit with so many other yummy breakfasts out there to try, but I still make these at least a couple of mornings a week. 

With my love of the power pancake, I was pumped to discover Lisa’s version.  I like this one because it still packs in the protein, but doesn’t rely on protein powder and has the addition of oats.  Protein + carbs=winning combination. 

I only made a half version because I like to eat a snack mid morning rather than a big breakfast, so half was the perfect amount for me.  I also added spinach (you can’t taste it, so why not throw in some extra veggies) and reduced the oats a bit to add some flax seed.  These are REALLy good!  Dare I say better than the original protein pancakes?

Green mean potein machine

What I did:

1/2 cup cottage cheese

3 egg whites

1/3 cup oats

1T flax seed meal

handful of spinach

cinnamon

Throw all above ingredients in a blender (I use my magic bullet).  Pour pancake-style in a hot skillet sprayed with cooking spray and add blueberries to each pancake.  Turn over and finish cooking, pressing lightly so the blueberries smoosh in a bit.  This is all very technical, I know  🙂

Do you eat the same things over and over when you find something you like?/Any one thing in particualr at the moment?

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Perfect Timing

After writing yesterday’s post, I began to think more about the things I love.  What makes me happy?  What makes me smile?  Do I pay attention to those things regularly or run pass them and miss out some on the little day-to-day happinesses?  Happinesses, huh?  Really, is that a word?  It’s my blog and I’ll make up words if I want to, words if I want, words if I want to (sung to the tune of It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to).  So one of those little things that makes me smile…what I just did there.  Being a huge dork and finding myself HI-larious 🙂  Learning to not take myself so seriously is an ongoing lesson that my husband has been a huge help with.   

As I was reading September’s Cooking Light lastnight, I came across an article titled “Deciding to be Happier”.  Perfect timing.  Underneath it says, “Yes, deciding”.  I mentioned yesterday that our life is OUR life and we make of it what we want.  We get to DECIDE how we feel and react.  Even if something is totally out of our control, it is our decision how we will react to it.

Though, I’m not a self-help type person, I did hear a motivational speaker once whose main point was “Attitude is a CHOICE”  I think it’s so easy to get down about things that are going on and throw a bit of a pity party (often justified) when things are happening TO you.  I think it’s important in those situations to realize that even when you can’t control the events, your reaction and decisions on how to handle them are all up to you.  Positive or negative, it’s a choice.

This article in Cooking Light basically had the same idea about happiness.  Psychologist Dan Baker wrote a book called What Happy People Know followed by one titled What Happy Women Know.  The writer of the article asked Dan Baker if he really thought women were so different that they need their own happiness book.  

“Well, yeah, you do.  I’ve sat down with thousands of women and the predominatn thing they talk about is relationships, but they tend to overlook the most important relationship – the one with themselves.  You can’t have a healthy relationship with anyone else until you have one with yourself, because you are the common denominator.” 

The he said something that really caught my attention.

“Women are critical and hard on themselves in a way that they wouldn’t be on anyone else”

Why?  Why do we do this? 

Words of wisdom from the motivational speaker were “Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a little child.”  We are the one person that truly knows us.  We are most vulnerable to ourselves.  We are like impressionable, sensitive children to ourselves and therefore we should treat ourselves as such.  Would you ever tell a child they have fat thighs?  Would you ever tell a child they are ugly?  Would you ever speak to a child as if they are unworthy?  Would you ever point out to a child that they don’t have enough?  NO!  So don’t do it to yourself.  Stop being so critical.  You are the one person who should love yourself in and out and instead we often are hardest on ourselves.  Self-worth has a lot to do with happiness and nobody else can provide that for you.

You have to be active in your own happiness.  You can’t rely on others, events, money, etc to make bring you joy.  Mr. Brown gives several ways to focus on happiness and among them was “Don’t Miss the Little Things.”  He says that happiness is like exercise or healthy eating.  It’s a great concept, but the work is constant.  Happiness is like a muscle that requires exercise and can be difficult if you are out of practice.  He suggests that three times a day you conduct an Appreciation Audit.  Think of a person, event, or something in your life you deeply appreciate.  It becomes a habit to focus on the good stuff and then even when you come to a bump in the road, you still have a meaningful, fulfilling day. 

Choose happiness.  Rather than focusing on flaws (that we ALL have), focus on what your body does for you everyday.  Instead of focusing on what you want or wish you had or comparing your life to others, think of the little wonderful things that make you and your life unique.  It’s all about perspective and you get to make of it what you want.  If you want to make a change, make a choice to change.  If change is out of your control, choose how you look at the situation all together.  Be active in your happiness.  Participate in your life.  You can’t rely on anyone but yourself to make YOU happy.  You have to appreciate YOU before you can appreciate anyone else.   

 

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Summer Hiatus

Clearly I am not keeping up with the blog well.  I have been reading everyone else’s (not to worry), but I have slipped on consistently writing my own.  I guess I took a summer hiatus.  Students and teachers across the nation take the summer off.  So do most of my favorite tv shows (hurry up with the new seasons already!)  School started back here today (not that I attend anymore  🙂 ) and that always seems to mark the beginning of fall.  Even if it is over 100 degrees outside.  Time to get back on the bus.    

While I’m rejoining, hopefully with some consistency, we are losing a lovely blogger.  Kelly has decided to take a leave of absence.  Go say bye to her if you haven’t already. Since I get the pleasure of hanging with her in person quite often, I’m sure you will see her shining face in the blogworld via this site on occasion.  Wipe the tears 🙂 

 Her reasons for quitting are valid.  Extremely reasonable.  She doesn’t want to miss out on life.  There is so much to experience.  The little things can be so enjoyable but also so easy to miss.  It made me think of all the things in life, large and small, that I love and reminded me to focus on and cherish every single one.  The whole reason this blog was started was to learn to appreciate the smaller things in life.  Learn to find a balance between the real world rat race and the small everyday things that make a happy life.  My happy life.  I have a hard time slowing down and seeing the beauty in it all.  Writing about it helps with that, but I don’t want to miss out on any of those little joys because I’m too busy writing about them.  Haha!  The balancing act continues  🙂  Maybe that’s why I have been a bit less consistent than I was at the beginning.  Sometimes we just need to stop and smell the flowers.  STOP and smell the flowers.   

Here’s to making the best decisions for you and being an active participant in your life.  It’s YOUR life!  You have a right and an obligation to enjoy every minute.   Make of it what you want.  It’s yours.

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Fruitful

 My favorite summer meal is a nice crisp salad with some sort of fruit involved.  My salads don’t have to have a lot going on, but the addition of some sort of fruit, be it berry, pear, pineapple, or otherwise and I’m a happy camper.  When I’m hot and sweaty there is nothing more refreshing.  One of our favorite restaurants here called Z Tejas has a great steak and mango salad that I partook (if that’s not really a word, I’m making it work) in on Friday and Jensen and I made our own grilled pear and chicken salad a while back that was perfect for a hot summer night.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it was over 100 degrees here yesterday…again (and today and tomorrow and so on for the forseeable future).  And we had no air…again!  And all I could bear to think to eat was a cool crisp salad with fruit.   

Lastnight our electricity went out.  Big storm, high winds, heavy rain, lights OUT!  I was busy preheating the oven to make a pimiento cheese stuffed chicken and roasted asparagus for dinner and while it preheated I went out to watch the storm.  I love to watch a big storm roll in and just open up and pour.  Not sure why, but I enjoy it.  Anywho, while I was standing in the garage enjoying the monsoon and comforting the cat that was beside himself with all the noise and water dumping from the sky, the power failed.  I came back in all prepared to pop the chicken in the oven and realized the oven was no longer hot.  What?!  Try the light switch.  Nothing.  No lights, no cooking, no air conditioning.  Evacuate the premises immediately.  Dinner plan B…Chilis.  The husband and I headed for relief and nourishment at our local Chilis.  Luckily for my sweaty self, they have a wonderful Carribean Chicken Salad with pineapple, mandarin oranges, and tart dried cherries.  The only thing that could make it better would be mixed greens rather than the iceberg.   I’m just not an iceberg girl, but it was yummy despite that fact.

 Do you like fruit on your salad?/What’s your favorite salad topping?

After dinner we still had no electricity so we hung out on our driveway with the neighbors until miraculously out of nowhere the power came back on.  It’s always funny when that happens hours later and all sorts of thing fire up that you didn’t even remember were on.  Our house lit up like the Griswolds from Christmas Vacation. 

Every light came on as did the oven.  Too little too late little oven, but thanks for trying. 

30 Days of Insight

Day 17- What you want to be remembered for.

Wow.  Um.  I want to be remembered as a good mother.  Someone who my children love and respect and who they know love and respect them.  I want to be a good role model for them like my parents were for me and provide a stable and happy beginning to their life.  I want my children to remember me as their biggest fan and supporter.

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Bucket List

I have a bucket list.  I never called it that before the movie, which I still haven’t seen, but I get the general idea.  I’ve always had things I wanted to accomplish or do in this life. 

Almost two years ago in November of 2008, my bestie Kelly ran her first marathon in San Antonio.  I was running my first one in Dallas a month later and decided rather than doing my long weekend training run alone, I would jump into her race a few miles in and run with her a bit.  I jumped in at 2 miles and planned to jump out at 22.  I guess my plan had a 20 mile run scheduled, or I was an over-achiever (or over-trainer as it turned out).  When we got to the 22, I had some energy left.  Where did that come from?Where did it go?!  Wish I could’ve bottled it for future use…like now!  Anyway, I finished with her.  We had 24 miles of talking about everything under the sun and one of the topics was things you wanted to do in your life.  Running a marathon was on it for both of us and was a check-off in the making.  

When I came upon today’s 30 Days of Inight question, it made me think of it again.  I need to actually write it down, so I can get the pleasure of checking things off as I go.  Check marks are near-impossible (I think they are impossible, but I’m sure someone much more computer savvy than me knows how) on the computer, so a hard copy old-fashioned pen to paper version is being created right after I type this. 

Today’s question:

Day 16- Something that you want to do within the next five years.

I know this does not include the rest of my life.  Only the next five years.  Let’s pump it up a bit, though, shall we.

Next 5 years:

  • Have children.  I’d like 2
  • Become certified to teach yoga
  • Become a certified nutrition consultant

In My Life:

     Travel:

  • Machu Picchu
  • Europe – anywhere
  • Africa
  • Bora Bora – I want to stay in one of those over the water huts
  • Gallapagos Islands
  • New Zealand

     To Do:

  • attend the World Cup
  • own my own yoga studio
  • ski the Swiss Alps
  • safari in Africa
  • learn a second language
  • learn to make baklava (I’ve heard it REALLY hard)
  • write a book (about what, I’m not sure)

Already checked off: 

  • run a marathon
  • white water rafting
  • scuba dive
  • own a home
  • go to a Red Sox game at Fenway (almost…we’re going in Oct.)
  • marry the man of my dreams
  • graduate college

What do you REALLY want to do?/  What’s on your bucket list?

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From Scratch

Ok, so I will admit when it comes to baking, generally I take the healthy approach.  Cookies, cakes, and other desserts come via Cooking Light, Eating Well, Clean Eating magazine, or my Best Light Recipes cookbook unless it’s a holiday (then it’s on!  Real pumpkin pie…there are no substitutes).  I do indulge in decadent desserts on occasion when out of the house, but when I make them and they live in my house for an extended periods of time, I tend to over-indulge.  I have found that I like the healthy versions often just a s well.  My favorite all-time cookies are the Yummy Molasses Crackles from Eating Well that I make every Christmas and nobody knows they are relatively healthy (guess they do now 🙂 ) and they are LOVED by all.  That being said, usually when I bake for others, it’s the real deal. 

The husband has had a rough week.  ROUGH!  It was a long week and then he has worked all weekend to top it off.  I decided yesterday to make him a pick-me-up.  He loves brownies.  From a box.  I looked around and had no box mix.  I did, however, have all I needed to make from-scratch brownies.  I have never made real brownies.  Always cookies from scratch.  Usually cakes and other desserts from scratch.  But brownies?  For some reason not.  The box mixes are so easy when it comes to those little chocolate indulgences.  Come to find out, scratch is almost just as simple.  No need even for a mixer!

I looked to my The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for a good recipe and came across their Bake Sale Brownies.  The whole point of this recipe was to make simple brownies no harder than a box mix, but much better and preservative/chemical-free.  Success!  The great thing about Test Kitchen is that they make recipes over and over and over until they get the perfect ingredients and process.  They have the BEST recipes! 

Bake Sale Brownies

     8 T unsalted butter cut into chunks

     3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

     1 cup sugar

     2 large eggs

     1t vanilla

     1/2t baking powder

     1/4t salt

     2/3 cup flour

Heat oven to 350 and place rack in the middle position.  Melt butter and chocolate together in the microwave (or preheating oven in my case…still no microwave!)  stirring often.  Let cool slightly.  Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder,a nd salt together in a bowl.  Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.  Scrape the batter into an 8×8 pan sprayed with cooking spray and spread out evenly.  Bake for 22-27 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool before cutting.

YUM!

That missing piece?  That was me.  You have to try it before you serve it to someone else, right?  🙂  These were leaps and bounds above a box mix and JUST as easy.  I used Ghiradelli baking chocolate.  It’s rich and comes in pieces rather than a block or bar, so no chopping chocolate necessary.

Rich Chocolate

It is important to use UNSWEETENED chocolate.  These are sweet enough without any sugar from the actual chocolate.  Mine were a little cakey and I’m more of a chewy brownie lover, so next time I may omit one of the eggs.  Other than that, these were DIVINE!

30 Days of Insight

Day 14- Best mashup you’ve ever heard.

Not sure I even know how to answer this.  The first time I ever heard the work “mashup” was on Glee.  I love that show!  I missed the original airings of this first season, but I’ve been catching up with the summer re-runs and am hooked.  I like all the mashups they did on there, but am not sure I’ve heard many other than that.  Definitely no fave.
Day 15- A moment, phrase, or song that has changed your life the most.

“The Fear You Won’t Fall” by Joshua Radin.

When Jensen and I were dating we were long distance the entire 5 years.  For the first 2.5 years, he was in College Station, TX and I was in Austin.  They are about and hour and a half apart and we saw each other almost every weekend.  Then he went to vet school.  In the Caribbean.  We were thousands of miles apart and only saw each other every 2 months.  He would come home at the end of each semester (4 months) for 2 weeks.  I would go there in the middle of each semester for 7-10 days.  It was hard.  When he first left, we decided to break up.  It was heart-breaking to say the least, but it seemed so far and we were in such different places.  I was ready to get married and begin our lives together.  I had been out of college and was ready to move on with my life.  He had to focus on his career and the years of school it would take to get there.  We e-mailed some that first semester but didn’t see each other.  He came home at Christmas and we hung out a couple of days.  I was still so in love with him, but when he wasn’t there, I thought I could move on.  I tried to be the tough guy (er..girl) and act like it just didn’t work and now we move on.  I cried A LOT, but never said anything to him.  He went back to the island in January and I went back to my life.  Without him.  And it sucked!  After I saw him at Christmas and realized how much I loved him, I wanted to try to make it work.  I called him and asked if I could come visit.  I booked a ticket for April (our 3 year anniversary would have been in April 4th).  Just before I went, I heard the above song on Grey’s Anatomy.  I loved it and immediately downloaded it.  When I listened to the whole thing, I teared up.

It hasn’t felt like this before
It hasn’t felt like home before you
And I know it’s easy to say but it’s harder to feel
This way
And I miss you more than I should
Than I thought I could

Those words resonated.  He WAS home to me.  It HAD never felt that way.  I was amazed at how much I missed him.  I was determined to repair what we’d tried to leave behind and I flew down on a mission.  It all worked out and my life is better everyday with him.

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