Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meat-less and Meat-full

Happy Snow Day!
Usually the hubby and I do Meatless Mondays.  We occasionally even do a Veg Week.  After a few vegetarian weeks we adopted the Meatless Mondays.  This past Monday wasn't meatlesss.  It was meat-full and deliciously so!  But we have a rule that if scheduling requires us to have meat on a Monday than we take off another day that week.  Our occasionally veg diet is both for a healthy cleanse and in small part maintain the sustainability of our environment.

So Monday's noms were absolutely delectable!  We tried a new steakhouse in Howard County.  It is the Venegas Prime Filet Steakhouse located in Maple Lawn.  Previously in that spot was the OZ Steakhouse which we found quite disappointing.  Think Ruth's Chris prices at Bennigans quality.  The Venegas Steakhouse was quite a different experience!  I originally wasn't going to blog about this as I didn't take any pictures but it was too good not to.  We were presented with a gift from the chef - goat cheese and cranberry in puff pastry.  We were there to try the Howard County restaurant week menu. I got an arugula, pear, and goat cheese salad (which I am trying to recreate tonite for dinner - that's the linking piece to this post).  Next a 4-5 ounce petite filet that came with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus,  then chocolate pate for dessert.  I shared a side of mac and cheese with our other table-mates.  Everything was phenomenal and our waiter was awesome too!  A definite win!  All the specials he described sounded awesome. I wanted to eat more meals there.  They had an Italian flag salad with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and avocado.  There was a veal dish and a lamb dish.  Neither are meats I eat but it just sounded so amazing. ( HoCo@@@)

So anyway back to today.  It was a surprising snow day.  I was in the shower when the hubby said school was closed.  I got a salad for lunch with my girls Erinn and Mo then hit up Trader Joe's for some fresh ingredients for dinner.  I went to the doc the other day and the scale said "Eat More Salad." Tonite we are recreating the salad I had at the steakhouse but with some extra touches!

Open up a bag of arugula and put in a pretty bowl

Get a couple of good looking pears (I think these are anjou and bose??)

Slice up the pears.  Mine were a little too chunky.  I have not yet perfected
knife skills.  The restaurant had them cut matchstick style. Note for next time.

Pears and arugula

Add dried cranberries.  I also found orange flavored cranberries.  oooh ahhhh

Goat cheese!  I got the regular (no reduced fat here because you're not really using that much anyway.)
I also found goat cheese with honey.  Thought that would add some fun flavor

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top.
Fresh cracked pepper, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil!

Ok so I had a little fun photographing the salad...the wine bottle and flower vase made for a nice background.  The rest of the living room not so much.  Hmmmm will have to work on that.
Tomorrow for dinner a more winter crockpot meal.
Happy Snow!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sidelined? Smoothies to the rescue!

Just like my beloved Ravens I too have been sidelined all week.  I have whatever the current nasty-cold-knock-you-upside-the-head-virus that is going around.   This swimmer hasn't been able to swim or anything!  In honor of the end of the Ravens season I present to you a Ravens-berry Smoothie!  This is loaded with antioxidants from the berries, potassium from the banana, protein from milk and whey powder.  It has a great berry flavor with a hint of chocolate in the background.  You don't actually taste the banana for you non-banana folks.  No need for filler ice cubes here, frozen berries will keep this nice and frosty.  In the summer this is a nice cook drink.  All year round it works as a fabulous recovery meal.  Yes this is definitely a meal!  I usually eat my smoothie with a spoon.  Let me know how you like it!
(As you can tell it is the off season and I don't have many events to talk about so instead I present food.)

You will need:

  • A blender
  • 1 ripe banana per person
  • 2 scoops of chocolate whey protein powder per person
  • about 1/4 cup each of frozen raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
  • Vanilla soy milk

Ingredients!  You don't have to buy the berries separately.
A pre-mixed berry medley bag will do as well.

1 banana per person and 2 scoops of protein powder per person

Add no more than 1/4 cup of vanilla soy milk so that everything blends nicely

Banana, vanilla soy milk, chocolate protein powder blended

Add your berries! About 1/4 cup per berries or 3/4 to a cup of a berry medley.
Add another 1/4 cup or so of milk so your blender doesn't get stuck!


All done! I like my smoothie thick but if you like yours thinner than add more milk

Pour into a cold glass and Enjoy!!
Not a berry smoothie fan? No problem the No Meat Athlete has a great read on creating your own smoothie.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Salad season is here!

Did you look at the title and say ummm Cindy salad season is a long way off?  But the Target's clothing section begs to differ. The bikinis are out and situated across from non other than the wool coats! Yup it's time to start thinking about bikini season and therefore salad season has begun.  The hubby and I are in love with a new salad we have come up with.

If you didn't know currently citrus fruits are in season.  I always find it funny that such a bright colors and flavors are in season in the yucky winter.  I guess Mother Nature has her reasons.  So I present to you for your cooking pleasure -

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Chicken Milanese

You will need:
a head of Red Leaf lettuce
2 avocados
2 grapefruits
wedge of percorino romano cheese
blood orange olive oil
grapefruit balsamic vinegar
(or Lemon olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar)

Package of chicken tenders ( you need 2 tenders per person)
1-1.5 cups of toasted breadcrumbs
2 eggs
a couple tablespoons of half and half
your favorite spices and herbs
couple tablespoons of olive oil
lemon slices (2 per person)

So here's how you do it:
Wash the lettuce and shred into acceptable sized pieces.  Place in a salad spinner or in a colander to dry.

Cut the top and bottom off of your grapefruits (so they sit steady) then cut around the grapefruit to get the pith (white part) off.  You should be able to see the segments of the grapefruit. Use a paring knife to cut out the segments.  Put the segments into a bowl and put to the side.  Still not sure?  Here's a quick video

Crack eggs into a bowl splash in some milk and beat.  Place breadcrumbs in another bowl and add whatever spices  you like.  I generally add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, italian seasonings, parsley, and oregano.  

Place two of your chicken tenders between two pieces of plastic wrap and get out your frustrations that's right pound them thin like you want to be thin!  Make sure to try and get them to a uniform thickness. Coat the chicken in the egg mixture then dredge through the breadcrumbs.  Repeat with however many tenders you are doing.  By pounding them out two tenders per person looks like a lot when usually you would eat 4-6 tenders per person!  See already reducing intake but fooling your eyes.

 Coat the bottom of your pan with olive oil and turn up to med high heat.  When the oil starts to ripple its ready.  The chicken cooks about 4 minutes per side (if that).  When its golden brown flip it over.  Place on paper towels to get off excess oil while you finish all of them

While chicken is cooking.  Peel and slice up your avocado.  Here's how

Assemble lettuce, grapefruit, and avocado.  Sprinkle some salt on top and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of vinegar then the oil.  Toss well.  Squeeze lemon over chicken.  Use a vegetable peeler to shave some cheese on the top! Dish out salad place chicken on plate and enjoy some bright flavors in the drab of winter!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ditching the Coke habit or how I learned to love the leaves

Hello, my name is Cindy and I am recovering from a Coke addiction.  I started when I was young. I don't remember my first taste but I am sure I was hooked right from the start.  It was always in our house.  Really I think it was a family addiction, my mom, myself, and my brother.  My dad would only take it occasionally.  Initially it was only on weekends, then I added afterschool, finally as a senior in high school preparing for college I started needing it in the morning.  I was taking a class at our local community college and it was so easy for me to get some in the morning before class.  It really took the edge off of being the youngest person in the class.

In college it was so easily accessible, free flowing, you could have as much as you wanted morning, noon, and night.  The habit got worse.  I told myself I could stop at any time. My boyfriend, now my husband, tried to turn me on to the leaves.  He once had a habit supplied by Dr.P and has turned to leaves as a substitute.  He claims they are better for you.  At the time I was fully engrossed, there was no way out.  I tried his leaves, they were way too bitter for me, I needed my sweet smooth Coke.   I was an athlete in college but the Coke seemed to have no negative effects.  I actually think my Coke before some meets actually enhanced my performance.

After college the habit started to take a toll on my body, I gained weight and felt bloated all the time.  Things were starting to get out of control. I started getting my Coke at school.  Something had to be done.  I told my students of my desire to break the addiction.  They had the power to call me out if they saw me with any Coke.  Unfortunately this led me to use more inconspicuous containers to hide my Coke so they wouldn't ask any questions. I had to create some rules for myself.  I decided that I could only have fountain Coke no more bottles, cans, or vending machines.

Wait what's the you say?  Why are you questioning cans or bottles?  Wait by you Coke you thought I meant...? What kind of person do you think I am?  You know by leaves I meant iced tea right.  Oh and I don't do that diet stuff. I have rationalized if I want it I want the good stuff that has slightly less chemicals.  I feel like diet is drinking a can of chemicals, not that the regular stuff has that many less chemicals.

So now that we have established the context of this post is not drugs but perfectly legal to any age beverages its time to discuss my road to recovery.  I kept trying the iced tea every once in a while but did not find it very tasty.  I realized that what I was actually addicted to was the bubbles. I love feel of the bubbles.  A friend growing up hated soda for that exact reason, for her the bubbles hurt her mouth.  I started trying carbonated water.  Carbonated water by itself really isn't that good so I add some lemon juice and its like a Sprite without the HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).  It is an acceptable substitute when you really need the bubbles.  The downside is that the bubbles are smaller, not really sure how I know that, and it goes flat much quicker.  That sufficed for awhile but it doesn't have caffeine and well the bubbles still made me feel bloated.  It was time to take the next step and embrace the iced tea, unsweetened of course.  Sorry to my southern friends but based on the amount of sugar in sweet tea I may as well just drink a soda.

I started with the Starbucks Shaken Tea which is surprisingly strong but when shaken gets a cool little froth on top and its pretty yummy.  I forced myself to get iced tea when we went out to eat about 50% of the time and gradually I was able to order it more and more.  Many restaurants brew their own ice tea and its pretty good.  At some high end restaurants they charge you for each refill of soda but they may not for tea.  This past summer we went on a cruise where there was all you can drink iced  tea but you had to pay for every soda you drank.  I definitely saved money by not drinking soda on the trip.  Tea is really cheap to make at home or when you are traveling.  There are many restaurants and retailers that make awesome iced tea. Chik-fil-a makes great tea and even sells it in gallon jugs.  The Cheesecake Factory makes a really unique passion tea that makes for a good transition tea.  I won't drink the fountain Nestea, it just seems wrong and if I am going to drink chemical tea I may as well just drink a soda.  There are some good bottled brands of iced tea.  We like Honest Tea and Gold Peak.  It's really hard to find unsweetened Gold Peak tea though.  The Harris Teeter store brand is pretty yummy and actually has a unique flavor.  Lipton even has tea bags made especially for a cold iced tea brew!  These are a new product and we love them!

Courtesy of Chick-fil-a

Don't get me wrong I still drink an occasional soda but usually when I feel I  have really earned it and I only go for the fountain variety.  I am also very choosy about where I get it from.  They have to have the right syrup to water to carbonation mixture.  I don't want to waste the calories on a bad mix.  The places that usually do it right are chain sit down restaurants and chain fast food restaurants.  Gas stations are not usually as good. They tend to be heavy on the syrup and not enough carbonation and I need my bubbles!

So you want to make iced tea at home?  Well good news it's really easy!  Here is your step by step picture guide to iced tea making.

Fill pitcher with water.  I am using a Lock and Lock pitcher and my filtered water spigot

Lipton Cold Brew - new product and it is fabulous, we were weary at first but pleasantly surprised

Directions say 2 quarts is 2 bags for 3 minutes. Yay 0 calories!

Since this is a bigger container we are doing 4 bags for 6 minutes

The color is starting to come in. Give it a swish and stir before serving

Serve with ice and lemon! (Flash made this look very light)

But what about when you aren't at home?? While on a recent trip to Key West our hotel at the Doubletree has a coffeemaker, tea bags, and fridge so after paying for a few bottles of iced tea we decided to make our own!  Here are the steps to making your own iced tea in a hotel room!

Hotel room coffee maker

Earl Grey tea provided by the Doubletree

Notice two bags per cup. Make the tea super concentrated.

Let tea steep for at least 30 minutes to make it super concentrated

Place super concentrated tea in the fridge til you are ready

You also need a bucket of ice when you are actually ready to drink.

Get yourself a nice glass of ice

Add your super concentrated tea to the ice.
 Fill about half way depending on how strong you want your tea.

Fill the rest of the space with water

Use your provided coffee stir to mix it up or pour into another glass and pour back

Enjoy iced tea at your home away from home.
Hopefully you too will consider ditching your Coke habit.  Now when I choose to have one I enjoy it that much more!