National Popcorn Day

January 19, 2017

National Popcorn Day

Every once in awhile I let Joseph eat something completely nonsensical for breakfast. It’s not that often so I don’t carry any guilt for it. It’s usually something like a donut or piece of coffee cake but today it was popcorn. Why? Because it’s National Popcorn Day. And why not?

Confession: I don’t love popcorn like most other people do. I actually went through my 20’s despising microwave popcorn altogether. I blame my sister and her love of microwave popcorn, as well as my very first college roommate who loved microwave popcorn perhaps even more than her! I suppose if you smell popcorn every time you open the microwave, you might be disgusted by it too. I’m not entirely opposed to passing along the popcorn bag at the movie theater too, unless it’s just soaked, dripping in that fake neon liquid butter! I’d much rather toss back a box of Junior Mints or Twizzlers (NEVER EVER Red Vines because they’re vile and should be outlawed! I don’t even respect the divide of Twizzlers fans and Red Vines fans. It actually upsets me that some of my best friends are Team Red Vines. It’s embarrassing!).

Joseph munched on some plain popcorn while I threw together a delicious concoction of my own. I had the hardest time deciding on whether I wanted to do a sweet popcorn or savory popcorn based on my search for the fluffy stuff on Pinterest. I was really interested in making my own batch of homemade caramel corn for the first time ever (brown paper bag and everything!) but savory won when I took a look at the remaining week of this blog and noticed that it’s ALL sweets! No joke!

Dill Parmesan Garlic Popcorn (from The Gold Lining Girl)
1 – 3.5 oz. bag microwave popcorn, plain or light butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Prepare popcorn according to package instructions
Place popcorn in a large bowl
Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn, and toss gently to evenly coat
In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and garlic powder until thoroughly blended
Spread the Parmesan cheese mixture and the fresh dill over the popcorn, and toss gently to evenly coat
Salt and pepper to taste

Tomorrow is National Buttercrunch Day, not to be confused with National Almond Buttercrunch Day which I already celebrated back in June.

National Gourmet Coffee Day

January 18, 2017

National Gourmet Coffee Day

That might not look like coffee, but it is! It’s actually a coffee smoothie. Sweet mother of pearl, yes, that exists, and it’s pretty tasty, plus it totally did it’s job and kept me full all morning long, even through two hours of activity. Joseph and I walked to the park and met the Stroller Strides girls for a workout. My shoulders were incredibly sore from yesterday’s Body Back assessment night, but I was no less motivated to get in a workout while the weather is nice. Apparently we are only allowed three days of sunshine at the present moment because we’ve got four days of rain to look forward to…

 

Energizing Coffee Breakfast Smoothie (from KitchMe)
4 ice cubes
1 banana, sliced
1/4 cup oats
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon almond butter
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup strong coffee, concentrate, or espresso

Place ice cubes, banana, oats, honey, almond butter, almond milk, and coffee in a blender. Cover and process until smooth

After my workout, we returned home and I enjoyed a real cup of gourmet coffee, not just a smoothie by the same name. It was just what the doctor ordered for this afternoon slump I’m experiencing. (ha, get it, doctor…Dr. Conkey’s…? I’m so punny…) Since my Body Back journey just began, I’ve got my work cut out for me with some meal planning, so sorry to cut this short, but I’ve got some stuff to make and freeze! There’s nothing I love more than a good pre-cooked meal that’s ready to go after a few minutes in the microwave!

Tomorrow is National Popcorn Day. Joseph thought it was yesterday, when I let him eat some microwave popcorn in the car. Silly boy!

National Hot Buttered Rum Day

January 17, 2017

National Hot Buttered Rum Day

Baby it’s cold outside! Well, it was this morning anyway. Now that the sun’s shown up to do its job, it’s a lot more tolerable than it was when I dropped Joseph off at my girlfriend’s house so that I could blow hot air into a balloon as a medical test…Yeah, that happened. In the newly-developing series “Let’s find out what’s going on with Maria’s stomach,” today I had to go in for a breath test. 5 times. Apparently the first 4 weren’t done right. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s only one way to blow up a balloon, right? How does one do that wrong? Thank God for rum! Amiright?!

In an attempt to cut back on dairy when I can, I wasn’t completely sure a dairy-free version of something that contained “butter” in its very name could have a suitable substitute. I found a recipe though on good ol Pinterest and made it work for today’s made up food holiday. I have to say that this tastes more along the lines of what I expected from National Hot Toddy Day. But like the hot toddy, I don’t really see a need to ever drink this again. End of story.

Vegan Hot Buttered Rum (adapted from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter substitute (I used a coconut spread)
Dash cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
1 ounce rum
1/3 cup almond milk
1/3 cup water

In a mug, use a fork to mash together brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, & nutmeg
Add rum and stir to combine
Heat milk and water in a separate cup
Add liquids to rum mixture until brown sugar dissolves

Seeing as I’m being held accountable for what I eat starting this week, I thought that hot beverage didn’t seem like the best option to call lunch, so I went ahead and whipped up a breakfast burrito too. I start my journey with Body Back tonight and I’m so excited to watch my transformation over the next 8 weeks. I hope to increase my strength and speed and energy. I also tend to be a bit of a bad eater, so when I’m told to share my daily food intake with other people, I’m more inclined to make healthier choices knowing that it’s completely unacceptable to write down “Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger” or “In n Out Cheeseburger Animal Style” or “McDonald’s Chicken Sandwich” in a health and fitness environment.

So what’s in that breakfast burrito? Cheddar cheese, eggs, avocado, spinach, garbanzo beans, and salsa on a whole wheat tortilla. It was so delicious and satisfying that I might be living on breakfast burritos for the next 8 weeks! Why garbanzo beans? Because I had them open in the fridge already and they need to be eaten.

Tomorrow is National Gourmet Coffee Day and if you know anything about me, you know that I LOVE coffee so I can’t wait to celebrate all day long!

National Fig Newton Day

January 16, 2017

National Fig Newton Day

Today is all about the copycat recipes, though there’s no way on Earth I could ever package and sell my version of the popular Fig Newton! Mine are just straight up ugly. Let’s not even talk about how hard these are to make because that’s something I really don’t want to revisit at the moment. Not to discourage you from making these on your own, but I kind of am. I think that stepping outside of my personal comfort zone and actually making these, despite how difficult they were, has now earned me the title of Braver Baker. Don’t you think? Check it out.

Dairy-Free Fig Newtons (adapted from The Faux Martha and BraveTart)
Dough:
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons non-dairy buttery spread
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon orange juice
Filling:
3/4 cup dried black Mission figs
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Make the dough and filling:
Sift the flour and set aside
With a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter through orange zest on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula halfway through and continue mixing. With the mixer still running, add the yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition
With the mixer on lowest speed, add in the sifted flour all at once. Drizzle in the orange juice. Continue mixing until fully incorporated. The dough will be very soft and wet
Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap over the dough, flatten it into a disc, and refrigerate overnight
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the figs, applesauce, honey and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula and pulse again to ensure no chunks remain. Transfer the fig paste to a large plastic ziploc bag. When ready to use, cut a tip off the corner edge for filling to flow
Set aside until needed
Shaping and baking the cookies:
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
Even after chilling, the dough will be significantly softer than the typical rolled dough. By dusting the rolling surface with plenty of flour and using thoroughly chilled dough, you shouldn’t have a problem
Dust the rolling surface heavily with sifted flour to prevent sticking, and dust the surface of the dough generously as well
With a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4” thickness. Frequently lift and move the dough, dusting with flour if needed, to ensure it does not stick
Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into several 3 1/4” wide strips. It is easiest to handle the pieces if you cut these strips into 6” lengths
Down the center of each dough strip, pipe the fig filling into a 1” wide, 1/4” thick strip. (You may have to make more than one pass if your tip is narrow)
Fold one side of the dough up and over the fruit filling, then roll the log over to cover the remaining portion of dough. You’ll have a cookie log with smooth dough on top and a seam along the bottom that is double thick where the two strips overlap. This will give the cookies their characteristically bowed shape. Repeat this folding process with remaining cookie bars
Transfer the uncut bars to the prepared cookie sheet
Place prepared newtons in freezer for 20 minutes before baking to help hold their shape
Preheat oven to 325°
Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the bars have puffed and browned lightly. They will be just slightly firm to the touch; if they feel puffy or moist, continue baking a few minutes more
As soon as you have removed the cookies from the oven, use a sharp knife to trim each bar into however many 1” long cookies. While the cookies are still warm, transfer them to a plastic container with a lid or large ziploc bag. If you need to stack the cookies, place a piece of parchment between the layers
Seal the container or bag tightly. This will trap in heat and moisture and slightly steam the cookies, ensuring they remain soft and cake-like from end to end. Skipping this step will result in newtons with a slightly drier texture, more like a cookie and less like cake
The cookies will keep, at room temperature, for about two weeks

 

I was completely overwhelmed by the length of these instructions, but it was the task I told myself I was going to do, so I went ahead and finished what I started. I’m pretty sure this might clock in as the longest recipe I’ve shared on the blog in this past year. I even went through and changed the instructions according to what I struggled with after the fact, so you’re welcome. This dough is pretty difficult to work with! It’s incredibly sticky and soft so I had to work with it pretty quick and might have had an easier time if I hadn’t let it sit out for just a couple minutes before starting to roll it out. I had to constantly continue flouring every single thing that touched the dough! Then when it came time to roll these puppies up, I had to slide my largest, sharpest knife under the dough to release it from the countertop surface. I highly suggest using that method! It got the job done!

I prepped the dough and the filling yesterday afternoon. The filling just hung out in a ziploc bag at room temperature but the dough went into the fridge to get a little harder. When it came time to pipe the filling today, I simply snipped the tip of the bag and squeezed the fig as instructed. It was pretty tough to squeeze since it’s a fairly hearty filling. I ended up having leftover dough and filling but those got dumped in the trash after getting 4 fig newton rolls out of my first flattening of the dough. There was no way I was going to put myself through doing all of that again!

Like I said, today’s post is all about copycats so I’ve got an amazing copycat Panda Express recipe that I made for dinner last night and I would be doing my 8 subscribers a great disservice if I failed to share it with you.

Copycat Panda Express Mushroom Chicken (from Dinner, then Dessert)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
8 ounces white mushrooms
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then in ½ inch slices
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
sliced green onions, for garnish (optional)

Toss the chicken with cornstarch
Heat the canola and sesame oil in the pan
Add chicken and cook on medium-high until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side
Remove chicken from the pan, and turn the heat up to high
Add in the mushrooms and zucchini and cook until they start to brown
Add the garlic and ginger and cook/stir for 30 seconds
Cook for another 2-3 minutes as vegetables soften a little
Add the chicken back in and stir to coat
Add in the soy sauce, sugar and rice wine vinegar and stir to coat
Serve with brown rice

This meal is absolutely insane! I devoured two bowls of it immediately and I’m not entirely sure that I breathed for that entire time! Good thing I went for a great run this morning! I love taking advantage of the beauty San Diego has to offer so I took the little guy over to Mission Bay Park since he didn’t feel like going to Stroller Strides. Gotta get run ready for the Ragnar! I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be doing this! Still trying to figure out what I’ll do with the little guy during that time though, so if you’ve managed to read this entire post and would like a free place to stay in San Diego, let me know and we’d love to have you come for a visit (as long as you’re totally ok with me taking off and leaving you with the little guy for a couple days…)!

 

Tomorrow is National Hot Buttered Rum Day. Seems a little late to be celebrating such a Christmasy drink, if you ask me…

National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

January 15, 2017

National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

2017 is taking off at rapid speed in the direction of health and fitness for me! I start Body Back on Tuesday, I’ve got my very first Ragnar to look forward to in April, and most importantly I’m continuing to prepare for the physical fitness test for that dream job. Body Back is what I’m counting on to get me in the best shape of my life. I’m already currently there, but this girl needs to be fully prepared for anything so I’ll continue getting in the best shape of my life.

Being in shape means I also need to think a little further about what goes into my body. I’m so excited that the Body Back program also includes emphasis on nutrition. There are some amazing recipes and shopping guides as well as weekly meal plans. How much easier could they make it?! I’m planning to do even more cooking at home than usual and a lot less food cheats. Hopefully I can do it! Yesterday was basically a cheat day all day long! Tonight I’m planning to make a Panda Express copycat version of their Mushroom Chicken and I’m pretty excited about it! I love that dish at their restaurant but I’m not a huge fan of their chicken so I’m taking back the control and doing things my way! I’ll update tomorrow with the recipe and how things turned out.

Today I made some homemade ice cream, but not just any ice cream. I made a strawberry ice cream with coconut milk. It’s dairy-free and full of flavor with very simple, real ingredients. Well, I guess I’m not entirely sure just how “real” xanthan gum is, but the recipe called for it, so I invested in some. After using only a teaspoon of the stuff, I have plenty left, so if anyone needs some xanthan gum, hit me up. In the original recipe, it was said that the use of the xanthan gum really makes the ice cream truly creamy so I didn’t want to miss out on that. This stuff was super creamy, so I suggest you use it too. I know I said yesterday that I don’t really care for strawberry ice cream but this one was so different. It was fresh and smooth and had only real strawberry flavors that stood out. I was a bit skeptical with using the maple syrup, thinking it would taste like waffles, but not, it didn’t!

No-Churn Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Strawberry Ice Cream (from Nurture My Gut)
2 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 can full fat coconut milk (13.66 oz)
½ cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until creamy
Add to a loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 4-5 hours for a soft serve ice cream and 5-6 hours for a “firm” ice cream or overnight. Allow to thaw for 5 minutes before serving

Tomorrow is National Fig Newton Day and believe it or not, I’ll be attempting to make some of my own! Wish me luck! I’m actually pretty excited!

National Hot Pastrami Day

January 14, 2017

National Hot Pastrami Day

I knew immediately how I was celebrating National Hot Pastrami Day! After having my first Capastrami sandwich from Capriotti’s a few months ago, I’ve been craving it again! It’s kind of like a Reuben walked into a sandwich joint in the south and came out on soft baked bread. Yeah, that’s about right. So what makes this sandwich so good? Hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw were meant to be…in my mouth!

I went with their combo option today and had half a Capastrami sandwich (which actually made the sandwich Maria-sized) and a bowl of tomato bisque. I wasn’t even able to finish all of the soup. There was a ton! I gobbled down ALL of that sandwich though and even stole a few pieces of Joseph’s turkey from his plate to dip in my sloppy mess of leftover coleslaw that fell out of my sandwich. I’m his mom, I can do what I want.

Today wasn’t all about the hot pastrami though. I have been salivating over these breakfast rollups I found on Pinterest earlier in the week and decided today would be the perfect day to finally make them. As you can see, I have zero issues with order and balance in the world (see above photo). I do swear that I didn’t mean to lay all of this out so perfectly, it just happened like that. And I rather like all the symmetry going on. These things were pretty difficult to roll up once I loaded them with all their stuffings!

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Roll-ups (from Pillsbury)
3 eggs
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 fully cooked breakfast sausage links
4 slices (sandwich-size) cheddar or American cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350°F. In small bowl, beat eggs. Reserve 1 tablespoon beaten egg for brushing on tops of crescent rolls. Scramble remaining eggs
Unroll dough onto work surface; separate into 8 triangles. Cut cheese slices in half; place 1 half on each triangle. Top each with spoonful of scrambled eggs and 1 sausage link. Loosely roll up triangles as directed on can; place on ungreased cookie sheet
Brush reserved beaten egg on top of each crescent. Sprinkle salt and pepper over each
Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown

I was thrilled with how these turned out. Joseph? Not so much. He didn’t even give ’em a try! His loss! I went ahead and ate two for breakfast and then bagged up the rest of them to freeze for future quick breakfasts when I’m feeling like something more than just a couple of eggs in the morning.

Today has been so tasty that I don’t know how I can top it tomorrow on National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. Confession: I really don’t care for strawberry ice cream one bit. We grew up with a constant flow of neapolitan ice cream in the freezer and it was always the strawberry third that would be left to be eaten last… Coincidence? I think not.

National Peach Melba Day

January 13, 2017

National Peach Melba Day

Uh oh, guys, it’s Friday the 13th! I’ve heard so many people reference that today but I’ve never considered it a day to be scared of. Maybe that’s because I kind of love scary movies though. I seriously grew up watching Child’s Play and Dead Alive as often as Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid. I’ve never really been the sort of person that lost sleep over scary movies, especially ones with such outlandish plot lines as killer My Buddy lookalike dolls and wiping out a crowd of undead man-eaters with a lawnmower.

Peach Melba Pavlova (from Tidy Mom)
4 large egg whites at room temperature
a pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180° F
Prepare your pan by drawing a circle on a piece of parchment and then flipping it over so you don’t get pencil on the pavlova
Place your room temperature egg whites into your mixing bowl and whip on high until you have soft peaks
Add your vanilla, salt, cornstarch, and vinegar and whip on high again, slowly adding your sugar
Once the sugar has been fully incorporated, pinch a little bit of the egg whites in-between your fingers and make sure it doesn’t feel gritty and the sugar has been dissolved
Place the mixture on your baking sheet and spread into your circle
Place into the 180° oven for 2 hours
After 2 hours, turn off the heat, open the oven door and let the pavlova sit for another hour or two
Top your cooled pavlova with a thick layer of whipped cream and top with peaches and raspberries. Drizzle with a raspberry sauce

Pavlova is no joke! It takes quite the time commitment! Plus, it’s totally easy to screw it up…I found that out, but luckily you won’t find me in the corner devouring peaches from the can with raspberry covered fingers as I alluded to yesterday. I went ahead and took a real bite of a real pavlova.

And now I’d like to taste what an authentic pavlova is supposed to taste like. This thing was straight up sugary sweetness! And it appears to not have “cooked” in the center. The edges cracked as I moved it around and there was no removing it from the parchment paper so instead, I just ripped the paper off where I could, to make the dessert more presentable. Overall, I would probably never bake this again but I’d love to go to Australia and try an authentic one and get some tips on how to do it right. But I could be wrong and have done all of this right but it just seemed wrong…Does that even make sense?

Tomorrow is National Hot Pastrami Day and I’m already salivating just thinking of the trip to Capriotti’s for their Capastrami sandwich! Mmmm!

National Curry Chicken Day

January 12, 2017

National Curry Chicken Day

Can you believe that I, a (previously) Midwestern white girl, made curry chicken at home today?! I’m a little shocked myself. I’ve always had this strange aversion to curry and even just the word “curry” because of a co-worker many years ago who didn’t like curry so I assumed I wouldn’t either. And I never gave it a shot. But now that I’ve tried it for myself, I’m bummed over what I’ve been missing out on! This stuff is good! It doesn’t hurt that I made some pretty amazing rice to go along with it!

Growing up, my ethnic food knowledge was limited to spaghetti and lasagna in the Italian food category, tacos and fajitas in the Mexican food category, and stir fry in the Chinese food category. Strangely enough, the foods that I never had interest in eating were the really hearty ones that included egg noodles. I didn’t like stroganoff or goulash at all, and after National Noodle Ring Day, that really ruined egg noodles for me! I didn’t even give guacamole a chance until I was in college. I assumed avocados were gross. Silly, silly girl I used to be…

Since I’m a newbie to the world of curry, I followed this recipe exactly, and it turned out perfect. The cayenne pepper really does give it some solid heat though, so beware of that if you’re sensitive to spicy food. I used frozen chicken breast tenderloins, the kind from the 5 pound bag in the frozen aisle. They were smaller pieces but I threw them in frozen. I assumed defrosting was unnecessary when it was about to jump into a hot sauna of curry for the next 4 hours of its little lifeless life. It worked just fine! The chicken was tender and delicious! Go ahead and top with plenty of cilantro afterwards! That really added to the flavor. I know of a few friends who are grossed out by cilantro and I’m still questioning just how valuable our friendship is to me…

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry (from The Lemon Bowl)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion thinly sliced
15 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and diced
1/2 cup coconut milk light
1/2 cup chicken stock
15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
1 cup green peas frozen
2 tablespoons lemon juice
cilantro (optional garnish)

In the bottom of the slow cooker, whisk together coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato sauce, curry powder, salt and cayenne
Add chicken breasts, onion, chickpeas and sweet potatoes. Using tongs, gently toss ingredients together to ensure evenly coated
Cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours
Stir in peas and lemon juice 5 minutes before serving
Serve over rice and with plenty of fresh cilantro

Tomorrow is National Peach Melba Day and I wasn’t real sure what that even meant until I looked it up. It’s now my very elementary understanding that “peach melba” means peach and raspberry together. I’m planning to make something that is quite different from anything I’ve ever attempted before, so please excuse me ahead of time if it’s a complete disaster and accept the photos of me sitting alone in the corner with a can of peaches and raspberry-covered fingertips as my apology. But I’m going to go ahead and keep a positive attitude and hope everything turns out for the best! Go me!

National Hot Toddy Day

January 11, 2017

National Hot Toddy Day

Ummmm…

So things went horribly wrong today. I chose an alternate recipe to celebrate National Hot Toddy Day and now I’m really regretting that decision. This recipe looked amazing and sounded like it was full of floral flavors, without having to use alcohol as an ingredient. I really thought that this might be a great option in the future when I’m feeling sick. No. It is not a great option and I will not be finishing this entire glass.

Lemon, Ginger & Lavender Hot Toddy (from The Kiwi Cook)
2 cups water
Fresh juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lavender buds
1 teaspoon ginger (or a small peeled knob of fresh ginger)
1 to 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar, to taste
2 green tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose green tea

Combine water, lemon juice, lavender, ginger, honey, and tea in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and steep for at least 5 minutes
Strain the brew and pour into a cup or glass. Enjoy warm or cold

I really wanted to like this hot beverage but unfortunately it was another open and shut case of beautiful photos of an awful recipe. Just look at her photos! They’re amazing! Mine are from an iPhone! Ever since giving up my life as a professional photographer a year ago, I haven’t had any interest in picking up my “good” camera again, yet I also can’t commit to selling it either, knowing fully well that I won’t get much for it and the moment I don’t have it any longer will be the moment I want it back in my hands. I can be a little indecisive like that sometimes.

So now I’d like to take this moment to really appreciate the true beauty of this afternoon’s celebration of the most awful food of the day – that glass. I just picked it up at Anthropologie last night on my way to the farmer’s market in our neighborhood that’s hosted at the local outdoor mall. I walked past the store once and then got drawn inside when I saw they were having a big sale because their location is closing down. I love Anthropologie, but “Going Out Of Business!” is the only way I can afford anything other than a coffee mug from there. And then I almost died when I saw they are also selling many of the furniture pieces and display cases. OMG there was some beautiful pieces priced to sell but I didn’t feel right buying something in the hundreds (or thousands) without a place in mind for it to go. Call me sensible… This cup though, that I could afford, and I knew it would have a purpose immediately. It was going to become my dedicated cocktail glass, seeing as I don’t have a proper set. And I didn’t buy a proper set, I just picked up one for myself, so sorry friends. It’s the only thing that made this fancy pants hot toddy worth a damn today!

Tomorrow is National Curry Chicken Day. It’s also National Glazed Donut Day, but I think I’ll skip the donut and go for the meal option that actually includes real food. Check back in tomorrow to see if I change my mind. I tend to do that.

National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

January 10, 2016

National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

I have so much fun to jam-pack into these next 16 days! You guys! Can you believe we’ve almost reached the end of this journey?! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just as surprised! I can’t wait to look back on the past year, but I’ll wait to do that until I’ve finally finished this thing up. For now, let’s embrace National Bittersweet Chocolate Day in a big way! I’ve got two amazing recipes to share with you today! The only thing missing is your tastebuds, so come on over and eat some of this delicious cake with me!

While browsing Pinterest, I put in “bittersweet chocolate” and the very first recipe was this one for a Death by Chocolate Zucchini Bread. You know what I loved about the recipe so much? That it had hidden veggies! That always gets me excited. I get so down on myself that my son has refused to eat veggies on his own ever since he became fluent in English. Prior to that, when I was just introducing him to new foods, he’d eat avocado and peas and broccoli and carrots all day, every day. Now? No interest at all. It also dawned on me that I’m not the best example either, so with the new year, I’ve made some positive changes to start eating more real veggies on a daily basis. My secret to success? Chopping up veggies ahead of time and keeping them in plastic storage containers in the fridge to pull from for any mealtime. I’ve been using spinach, red & green bell peppers, mushrooms, and green onions in my egg white scrambles at breakfast time, and I’ve been making fresh salads at lunch or dinner with mixed greens and spinach, mushrooms, grated carrots, cucumbers, peppers, beets, garbanzo beans, deli turkey, and hard-boiled eggs with light balsamic vinaigrette. I love my sweets, as you all know, so I have to balance that out with regular exercise and some healthier meal options. If I can do it, anyone can! Trust me!

Death by Chocolate Zucchini Bread (from The View From Great Island)
dry ingredients
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
wet ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (two medium)
2/3 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet)

Set oven to 350F
Lightly spray and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment, leaving the ends long so you can lift the cake out for slicing after it has baked
Whisk the dry ingredients together. I like to sift the cocoa powder to get rid of any lumps. Set aside
Whisk the sugar and eggs together until pale and smooth. Beat in the butter and vanilla, then fold in the zucchini
Blend the dry ingredients into the wet, in three stages, blending just until incorporated after each addition, and don’t over-beat
Fold in the chocolate chips and spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center doesn’t come out with wet batter clinging to it
Cool completely on a rack before frosting

Brown Sugar Frosting (from A Treats Affair)
2/3 cup Imperial Sugar Light Brown Sugar
2/3 cup butter, diced
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 cups Imperial Sugar Confectioners Powdered Sugar

In a small saucepan and the butter and brown sugar
Cook over low heat until the butter is melted and the mixture reaches boiling point
Remove from the heat and stir in the whipping cream
Cool for 30 minutes
With a spatula fold in the powdered sugar
Frost the cake
Decorate with mini chocolate chips, cut into squares and enjoy

I ended up turning my zucchini “bread” into a zucchini cake (which meant it only baked for 35 minutes) and using a different frosting recipe than the original bread recipe because I’m honestly NOT a fan of “death by chocolate” anything. Yes, I swear I’m a real girl, but I also like multi-faceted flavors. I like layers. I like levels. I like options and differences. I like the ying and the yang, the dark and light, the complementary pieces. Death by chocolate really is like a little piece of myself is going to die, and who’s got time for that? Not this girl! I barely have enough hours in the day!

Tomorrow is National Hot Toddy Day and I feel like it’s a drink that you’re only supposed to indulge in (or forcibly drink) when you’re sick or unwell…so I’m really hoping I don’t wake up feeling like garbage in the morning. I know who to blame if so – myself, or the blog. I suppose those are one and the same though. Have I just stepped into Fight Club/Mr. Robot territory…?