Archive | September, 2012

Sip Wine Bar, Huntington, WV

27 Sep

Good morning!
I have been the worst lately about getting up and going to the gym in the mornings. I could make excuses all day long, but basically it’s because I’m tired in the morning. I don’t know why. I feel like I’m sleeping well, but obviously something is off. I need to figure out what it is, and get back to my regular schedule.

But, all in all I’m not doing too badly on the fitness front. I’ve been off since I got back from vacation, and that’s bad because the half-marathon is only slightly more than a month away. This week feels like it has flown by, and my training has suffered. I did wake up early for a weights class on Monday, and I actually ran 4 miles after work as well, but then I took Tuesday off. Yesterday, I didn’t get out of bed and go to the gym, but I did get a nice speed work treadmill run in after work:

In typical fashion, I can’t get through a treadmill run without accidentally stopping the treadmill or having to dash to the bathroom and it resets.

I did 400 repeats at 5k pace, and I took 200 m walking breaks after every repeat (hence the slowish pace). But I got through it! I really hope this half marathon goes well for me. I was feeling so great about training before I left for the beach, and now it’s a struggle to make myself run.

After my run, I met up with my lady friends Susie and Mandee to hit the local wine bar, Sip. My neighbor Ashley (who is leaving in two days to go to Costa Rica for a whole month to get certified to teach yoga! Lucky!) works there  and so does Susie’s boyfriend, Shane. This was my first Sip experience.

I just love the decor of this place, don’t you? We sat at the bar so as to be near Ashley and Shane, and just chatted. They have small plates, and you can order wine in flights, which  has three different 2 oz servings or as a 6 oz glass of one wine. I decided to go with the flights, because wine isn’t cheap and I wanted to try as much as I could for the money I was spending there. I started out with the Sparkling Flight:

I ❤ sparkling wine! (I call it all champagne because I’m uncultured)

My favorite of the three was the Gruet Extra Dry. It had a really full flavor for a dry sparkling wine. The Rose wasn’t as sweet as I imagined it would be (I think everything pink is going to be sweet). They were all very good.

Next up, I decided to go with the Unusual Red Flight:

This was my favorite, by far. I didn’t take a great photo of the descriptions, but the Ken Forrester Pinotage claimed to have ‘nuances of bacon’ and as weird as that sounded, it was great! It had a bacony, smoky finish that I really liked. The other two wines were rich and complex. I highly recommend all three of these wines.

I was only planning on getting two flights, which is why I had the unusual red, but Susie had just gotten another glass of wine, and I was a little tipsy so I felt like having a third flight. At this point, please remember these glasses are only 2 oz. glasses, so I’m really not going overboard here! Here is a photo comparison of the glasses to my giant engagement ring (haha) so you can see how small they were:

So even though I drank 9 tiny glasses of wine, it was really the equivalent of three regular glasses of wine. I went with the unusual white flight for my third flight:

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my photos get worse as time passes. In retrospect, I should have done sparkling, unusual white, THEN unusual red, but oh well. My favorite of these three was the Gewurztraminer. It was delicious! It had a floral bouquet (??) — I’m not very good with wine descriptions, but it was much more complex than your usual white.

In addition to the wine, we also shared two cheese plates, a bread plate and a small piece of cheesecake. Good thing I went running first!

I would highly recommend Sip! It’s a little on the pricey side, but as a once-in-a-while thing, I think it’s a great night out.

Recipe: Pumpkin Roll Pancakes

26 Sep

For book club on Sunday, I had to bring something. Since I also went to try on wedding dresses that day and I was running late, I just picked up something at the grocery store. I had to get a pumpkin roll:

Ohh, pumpkin roll. With your moist pumpkiny cake — and that frosting in the middle! I could probably eat my way out of a vat of that frosting. I definitely will be eating my fair share of pumpkin roll this winter. My mom’s recipe is the best (well, I think so, but I’m sure you think your mom’s recipe is the best too!), and she taught me how to make a while back. I really do think that pumpkin roll is the perfect dessert.

This morning, I wasn’t feeling my normal egg/bacon on a whole wheat bagel thin. What I really wanted for breakfast was pumpkin roll! But, as we know, pumpkin roll probably isn’t the healthiest way to start your day. Enter, the pumpkin roll pancake:

Oh my word, these were delicious! They were also filling, and healthy!

Pumpkin Roll Pancakes
by: Kristy
Makes about 12 2″ pancakes (4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. almond milk (plus a little more), mixed w/ 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Pour the almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate (bigger) bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. Stir with a fork until combined. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and egg to the bowl with the almond milk and whisk until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined (batter will be lumpy). At this point, I felt that the batter was a little too thick so I added a little more almond milk.

Heat a small pan on the medium heat. Spray with cooking spray (I used my misto) and let the pan heat up a little . Add two heaping spoonfuls of  the batter to the pan (until  you have about a 2″ pancake). Let cook about 2-3 minutes (until the pancake is golden brown on the bottom) and flip. Cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. (you can check the doneness of the pancake in the middle with a fork).  Move the pancake to a plate.

Take about 1/2 tablespoon of neufchatel cheese and spread it on top of the pancake. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and stevia. Repeat two more times until you have a stack of three pancakes.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 3 2″ pancakes. Calories: 195, Carbs, 34 grams, Fat 5 grams, Protein 8 grams, Fiber 6 grams 

Ok, it doesn’t taste exactly like a pumpkin roll, but it definitely cured my craving! Yum!

 

Wedding: Favor Idea!

21 Sep

I generally hate wedding favors. When I started planning this wedding (uhh, less than a month ago? haha), I decided I wanted something people would enjoy as a favor. My first idea was this:

Which, while not exactly original, is adorable. But the more I thought about our budget, the more I realized that if we want to have up to 150 people at our wedding (which I really do!  I realized that keeping it small wouldn’t make me as happy), this could get pretty pricey. While the handle-less mason jars are slightly less expensive, I realized buying the jars and even making the chalkboard labels was going to set us back at least $300, so I started looking around at other ideas.

Again, I’m pretty down on ‘traditional’ favor ideas. Nobody likes Jordan Almonds. Nobody. They are gross. Sorry, but they are.

So, today on Offbeat Bride (does anyone else freaking love that blog!?) there was this post, which taught you how to make these cookie favors, super easy and pretty inexpensive, but most importantly personal and something people might actually enjoy!

Photo Credit: Offbeat Bride

I immediately ran with the idea! I figured I could totally personalize these to my wedding colors/style. Here’s my inspiration board for it:

See below for cookie picture credit

I already snagged those CD covers in the middle from Amazon, for less than $10 for $200 (thrifty!). The cookie recipe and photo can be found here. I printed out a basic lemon cookie recipe, but I love the vegan recipe found on that blog. The most pricey part will be the stickers, which will cost about $50. If I can get the ingredients for the cookies for about $40, that would put me in for about $100 for favors.

But you know, I don’t want to get too caught up with making everything cheap. That’s why I like this idea. My bridesmaids and I can get together and make these beautiful favors, which are inexpensive, but also very personal and thoughtful. Because I want my wedding to be a labor of love. I want it to look nice, but I want it to feel absolutely amazing. 🙂

Question of the Day:
What did you have as wedding favors at your wedding? (If it was Jordan Almonds, I apologize!)

I’ve got the Cell Phone Blues.

21 Sep

Warning: What you are about to read isn’t related to health or fitness, much. And there is a distinct lack of photos (you’ll see why as you read on). Sorry! 

I’ve been having some trouble with my phone for a while. Back when Zach and I went to Louisville for Lebowski Fest, I spilled some liquid on it while it was charging next to the bed in the hotel (I tend to flail around in my sleep in unfamiliar surroundings), and the charging port never really worked the same way. I could only find one charger that would actually charge my phone and that one pooped out yesterday. I feared the problem was the phone and not the charger (obviously), but I went out and bought a new charger anyway. Of course, it didn’t work.

This is when I began to freak out. I’m pretty easy on my phone in general. I’ve had a cell phone for about 6 years now, and I’ve only had three phones. A few months back, after I’d had my phone (it’s an HTC Evo 4G, in case you’re curious) for two years and was eligible for an upgrade, my mom called and asked if I would be willing to transfer my upgrade to my cousin, who is also on our family plan. I agreed, because at the time my phone was in perfectly fine shape. But now, my cousin’s upgrade (which is now mine) isn’t until January, and phones are expensive. Even if I took a giant step backward in regards to phone quality, it looked like I was in for over $100 in fees for a new phone.

Of course, I was in tears, so Zach offered to drive me to the Sprint store to see what they could do for me. Since I don’t have insurance, I was sure I was screwed. I had a protection plan on my phone for the first two years, but after my upgrade became available, I stopped paying for it because I’d be able to upgrade my phone, not even thinking about renewing it when I gave my upgrade away.

So, I got to the store, and gave them the spiel. The first question he asked is if I had insurance. I asked him to look just in case I did, but as I suspected, I didn’t. After that he told me I had two options:

  1. I could buy a battery charger, which I would have to take my full battery out and charge it independently. This didn’t sound like a bad option to me, they had them there at the store and they were only $25. Sure, it would be annoying, but it would be a cheap option for a few months.
  2. He could replace my phone for $35!!! Uh, what? I even had him clarify. He said, “Yeah, you just give us this phone and we’ll order you a new one.” To which I replied, “For $35!?” and he said, “Well, $37.10 after tax.”

Naturally I took option #2! I would highly suggest getting Sprint service to anyone. I’ve never had a problem with them, and it seems like when I run into trouble with my phone, they always have an affordable solution. Not to mention, their ‘Everything’ plan really is the cheapest one out there.

However, they did have to order the phone so I am sans phone until Monday. Which is ok, I can live without a phone. I won’t be posting here much, however, because my phone is how I take photos and a big long block of text with no pictures is boring!

Look at this!

Have you seen the Gangnam Style video on YouTube yet? The video is hilarious, and the song is incredibly catchy. Zach and I had quite the dance party this morning listening to it on repeat while we got ready for work. Happy Friday!

Question of the Day:
What kind of cell phone do you have? What service do you use? Are you happy with your phone/service? 

Wedding: We have a venue!

20 Sep

I knew that the first thing I wanted to do was to book a venue for our wedding. Zach and I are on a budget, as I’ve mentioned (over, and over again), so it was important to find a place that was a good fit, but also inexpensive.

My first thought was to look at our local parks board, because they have several buildings that  have pretty outdoor space (we want to get married at the same location as our reception) for a cheap price. Everything was too small, unfortunately, for our guest list of about 120 guests.

As I branched out to other venues, I noticed that a lot of places have strict restrictions on catering and alcohol service. One place (that I loved), charged $1,500, plus $300 for each additional space you wanted to utilize (they have a beautiful rotunda and veranda), and you had to use a list of preferred caterers (all very expensive) and you had to use their alcohol service (with the alcohol prices marked up, obviously).

Other places that weren’t as expensive, once you start adding in chair, table and linen rentals, became very expensive.

I knew hotel spaces are typically very expensive and restrictive as far as catering and alcohol goes, so when I first saw the price of the Ramada Limited in my town (even though I had heard that their space was lovely) at $1,500, I counted it out almost immediately. When everything started being out of our price range and too small, I decided to call to see what the price entails.

While I never really pictured myself having a hotel wedding, I like the way this room looks. The building is separate from the rest of the hotel, so you have to actually leave the hotel to get to this area. It’s very new and modern while also very neutral, so my own decorations won’t clash with the decor. There is a separate entryway (shown on the left there) with big leather couches and plenty of room for a bar or hors d’oeuvres. I love the round tables, and the best part is that all the linens, chairs and tables are ours to use. We don’t have to rent anything except glassware (but I have an idea for that anyway), plates and flatware (which the caterer, whoever that may be, should provide). The best part is that the staff at the Ramada acts as a wedding coordinator. Shelley (the awesome lady we spoke to for booking the room) said she was available for anything prior to the wedding, and the day of, she will take care of making sure all of our vendors get there when they should.

The very best part is that there is NO restriction for catering or alcohol service. We can do our own beer and wine service (she said if we decided to have a bartender they can set that up for us), and hire whomever we want to do the catering. Despite the high price tag of the venue, I think we will save money overall doing it this way.

When we went yesterday, I just felt like this was right. Shelley was super nice and excited for us, she praised us for doing our planning so early — so much so that she gave us a discount on the price (a really nice discount). We only had to put $100 down yesterday and then we can do as many payments we want as long as it is paid off the day before the wedding. Easy!

I’ve already got so many ideas on how to decorate the room, but the next step in wedding planning is to find a caterer and get the Save the Date card photos taken.

Question:
If you are married, what venue did you choose? Was it a good choice? 

Some random news…

20 Sep

Good morning!

As you may or may not know, I work in the Public Library system. I’m not a librarian, I work in the Administrative side of the library business. The library where I work is a Service Center library for many smaller libraries in our state, which means we handle all their administration so they can just be a library.

Yesterday, we had the job of moving one of our smallest branch libraries to a new room. Previously, this library was located in one room of an old school building. This building was dilapidated and is now being torn down. While we would like to build a new library in that area, for now the library is borrowing a room in an (0perating) elementary school. My boss asked people to volunteer to take the day off of their regular jobs to go help move all the books across the street to the new location. Despite this library being very small, it was no easy task. Basically, we had to take the books off of the shelves, load them onto book trucks (a book truck looks like this):

 

…and then push the truck across the street (completely filled with heavy books) to be unloaded onto the new shelves. Since I work in Administration and don’t know much about shelving books, my job was to load the book trucks and push them across the street. Talk about a workout! After doing this for six hours (with an hour break for lunch), my arms, back and legs were like jelly and I was completely wiped out. I went ahead and counted that as my workout for the day.

This morning I needed some extra sleep, so my speed work will have to wait until after work. I’m happy to report, however, that I’ve had my first pumpkin-flavored thing of the season:

Breakfast this morning (even though you can’t really see the smoothie) was a whole-wheat bagel thin with some neufchatel and a pumpkin spice smoothie (a banana, some pumpkin puree, almond milk, protein powder and lots of pumpkin pie spice). Ohhh, pumpkin. I think football and pumpkin flavored things are our gifts for having to suffer through winter.

I forgot to mention that when I got home from work yesterday, I opened the screen door to see that the tomato fairy had come to my house:

 

My friends Shane and Susie have a ton of tomato plants. They are overrun with tomatoes right now, and they know where to get rid of produce they can’t use!

Zach and I also booked our wedding venue yesterday! More about that in a separate wedding post, though.

Finally, I’m happy to report that my weight has settled back to the normal 149 lbs after my vacation weight gain. I attribute it to eating healthy and exercising regularly, naturally!

Question of the Day:
What is the best thing that happened to you yesterday? 

 

Half-Marathon Training Series #2: The long run

17 Sep

On Saturday, two things were going on in my town:

One, it was the day for the annual Chilifest! I look forward to this day every year, because I love chili.

It’s tough to find a chili that is both spicy enough and has enough flavor. I went to one booth and they said that they had a ghost pepper chili that was very spicy. Since I’m a lover of spice, I told them to bring it on. They acted as if it would blow my socks off. It was basically cold tomato sauce with some ghost peppers thrown in. Yeah, there was some heat, but there was absolutely no other flavor at all. I almost thought it was a joke. That photo in the middle of Zach is as he is eating the only true spicy chili that we found, and that was only after the addition of the “hottest sauce in the universe” — it was incredibly spicy! It burned the back of my throat, and it also had a good flavor. I think that people are afraid to make things too spicy because not everyone is a fan.

After Chilifest, we went to a Marshall University Football game. Zach and I both graduated from Marshall, so we are big Herd fans!

It was a perfect day for football. Early fall heat in the afternoon with a nice chill once the sun set.

I took the first photo and Zach said, “Wait, my eyes weren’t open!” So that is what happened when I took another. haha.

Our team ended up losing  a really close game! We were pretty bummed about that, but we were impressed with how they played.

Somehow on Sunday morning, I felt fine when I woke up so I immediately got ready to go out for my long run of the week. I haven’t had a long run since before we went to the beach, so I was kind of nervous on how I’d handle the 7 miles I had on my training schedule. Which brings me to the point of today’s post.

Half-Marathon Training: The  Long Run

A ‘long run’ when you are training for a distance race is basically the longest run you’ve done on your schedule thus far, plus one mile. Ideally, you do one long run a week during your training. If you’re a beginner and you are training for a half-marathon, most likely the longest run on your schedule will be 10 miles. The first time I trained for a half-marathon, I did 10 miles exactly one week before my race (no tapering). I wouldn’t suggest doing that, but I didn’t really follow a training program per se. I just knew that I was supposed to get my mileage up to 10 miles and, according to the sources I’d read, the adrenaline would carry me through the last three.

Well, that is true, but after 11 miles, I was pretty spent. I’m glad that this time around I’ll be up to at least 12 before the race:

The Long Run can be a bit daunting. I usually have to really psych myself up for them, and (this is a personal preference) do them first thing in the morning or they just don’t work out.

First, let’s talk about the logistics of the long run, starting with why they are important. The point of the long run is to build your endurance for running distance races. You shouldn’t focus on speed on your long runs, in fact, you should try to run them slower than any other training race. The reason for this is that while you will get the same endurance benefits, but you will recover much more quickly so you can continue your training the next week (or even the next day) without taking too much time off.

If you find yourself huffing and puffing (where you wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation) during your long run, you are going too fast. It’s even important to take water, stretch or walk breaks during your longest runs of the week. The point is to take it easy, but keep running for a sustained amount of time.

Despite the fact that I sort of dread getting started on a long run, I never, ever, ever regret completing one. Sure, there have been times that I’ve not completed my mileage because I just wasn’t feeling it, but I always try to get at least a few miles in. Also, a good tip is that even if you split up your mileage (do half in the morning and half in the evening), it still counts as a long run on your training schedule, but remember that on race day, you won’t be able to take a several hour break at the halfway point.

One point that Jeff Galloway makes when talking about long runs (and one that is often overlooked), is the mental benefit of the long run. There is something about finishing the longest run of your training schedule that really builds you up for the rest of the day. Also, I love ending my week with a long run in the morning, because when you’ve completed 1+ hour of running, you get to be completely lazy for the rest of the day 🙂

What about entertainment on long runs? Well, for me, music is fine for a run that is less than 5 miles, but once I get into higher mileage, music gets a little old. Two things that have really gotten me through longer runs are the NPR  This American Life app (a great radio show about remarkable things in everyday life), and audiobooks. If you have a smart phone or an iPod touch, these two things are right at your fingertips.

While we were at the beach, I read about half of a book that was at our beach house. Of course, I had to leave it behind when I got home, so I picked up the audiobook from the library and I’ve been listening on my longer runs. It’s the perfect way to get in some “reading” while running!

Question of the day:
What is the longest distance you’ve ever run? 

Turning that Frown Upside-Down

14 Sep

Well. This week has been, interesting to say the least. Let’s start at the very beginning:

Monday was a crazy hectic day, as Mondays tend to be. We both slept in after not getting a lot of sleep the previous evening (due to Zach’s birthday celebration), so we were running late getting to work. I took my running clothes with me to work, and instead of going home after work, I went for a 3 mile run and then met Zach out for trivia. We didn’t get home until late and pretty much went straight to bed.

Tuesday morning I got up and went to the gym, and got quite the great workout in. I did a true tempo run for 30 minutes:

It’s hard to get a non-blurry treadmill photo.

I kept half marathon pace the entire time! I was very proud of myself. I even hit the weights pretty hard after this run. When I got home, I made some breakfast and noticed that I couldn’t see one of my three cats, Posey.

Isn’t she pretty?

I didn’t think much of it, because she is a great hider and almost never comes when you call her name. So, I started getting ready for work. When Zach came out of our bedroom, he said, “Where’s Posey?” to which I replied, “You know, I don’t know. I haven’t seen her all morning. I think she’s probably hiding somewhere.” So, we started searching for her. After I looked in all her normal hiding spots, I started to get concerned, so I pulled out the big guns: the wet food. If you ever can’t find Posey, a surefire way to get her out of hiding is to pull out the dishes I use to feed them wet food (very rarely), and clink them together. She will come running from afar. When she didn’t come out after that, I knew we were in trouble. Zach and I went outside and called and called her, but nothing. I called into work and told them I’d be in after lunch and started my search.

To make a long story short, I didn’t find her. I ended up going into work and just being a teary eyed freak the whole time. My neighbor and friend, Ashley, made me some fliers to hang up around the neighborhood, and I shared photos of her on all the social networking sites to get the word out that I was looking for her.

After work, Zach, my friend Mandee and I walked around our neighborhood endlessly looking for her, and banging those damn dishes together….nothing. I hated going to bed that night without her in the house. I left some food outside for her, along with my sweaty gym clothes (so she could find my scent, haha) and her litter box. The next day, I woke up very early (it was still dark), so I went to the gym and then searched with Zach before going to work. We told all the neighbors about her and just did all we could. I was texting with my neighbor Ashley and she said, “By the way, just in case you thought it was Posey, there was a raccoon on our porch eating that food last night. I had a friend over and he looked out the window and said, ‘Uh, why are you feeding the raccoons?'” — Which caused me to laugh for a very long time.

Zach’s sister (and my friend, and my bridesmaid) Courtney made me more fliers to hang up around the neighborhood. I wish I had photographed one, because this photo was prominently displayed at the top:

Photo courtesy of Courtney Bell Photography

!! She said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I figured the way to catch people’s attention is to put a picture of a pretty girl in red lipstick at the top of the flier.” I didn’t mind, but I did think it was funny. After work that day (Wednesday?), we met up with Courtney and exhaustively went around putting up fliers some more. I’ll admit at this point I was starting to lose hope. Although I think Posey is a unique flower, her coloring is actually very common, and there are a LOT of stray cats in our neighborhood. The chances of someone finding her, in my eyes, were slim. I knew that she would have to either make her way home on her own, or someone would pick her up and take her home — or the unthinkable would happen. I’m not going to talk about that option.

After flier-ing the neighborhood, I told Zach, “I just want to relax this evening. I’ve been stressed out about this for days, and I just want to change into my pajamas, drink some wine and watch a movie.” — So that is what we did. I was on my second glass of wine when the doorbell rang. Zach and I both jumped up, and I ran as fast as I could (in my inappropriate-for-outdoors pajamas) to the door. Our neighbors across the street were out there and he said, “I think your cat just ran under those cars!!”

Sure enough, I went to where he said and heard a scared little “Mew!” come from under the car. I called Posey and eventually she crawled out. I can’t even tell you how happy I was, as I grabbed her and ran indoors. She was obviously completely freaked out (I neglected to mention that I’ve had Posey for six years, and she’s only ever been outside in a carrier on her way to the vet), and the other cats were hissing at her, probably because she smelled like other animals, but she was healthy! After a minute of pure joy, I ran outside again to say thank you to the neighbors for looking out for her. I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to them. Sure, she may have made her way up to the door and let me know she was out there, but what if she got scared and ran off again? The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

What a little stinker! Photo courtesy of my dear friend, Jenni.

With Posey found, I was ready to get things back to normal, but Thursday was a nightmare workday. I got some disconcerting news regarding a family member’s health, work was just crazy, and I had a little financial hiccup. None of these things I can or care to go into too much detail about (mainly because this post is getting so lengthy), but it all lent to having quite a stressful day.

When I got home from work, I walked in the door and immediately smelled the Chicken Taco Chili (recipe from Gina at Skinnytaste here) I had put in the crockpot earlier, and was greeted by Zach. Both of these things made my day brighten quite a bit. Food and Fiance do wonders for my mood! I threw together a quick recipe of Isa Chandra’s cornbread (recipe here) and put on my running clothes. I told Zach (and I quote): “I’ve decided to cheer up. I figured out all my work stuff, I talked to my family member and the prognosis is better than I thought, and the financial hiccup has been taken care of. Now I’m going to go for a run and when I get back, I’ll be in a great mood”

So, that’s what I did. I went for a run. I decided that I would run around my neighborhood and take down the Missing Posey signs. I really can’t tell you how liberating that was. I only ran about 1.5 miles, but I broke a little sweat and had a big smile on my face when I got home. So, we dug into our delicious dinner:

Of course I can’t ever show you a photo of food that hasn’t been half-eaten already.

That chili is sooo good, but let me tell you about this cornbread. Whenever I make baked goods that typically call for buttermilk, I usually try to find a vegan recipe. Have you ever used the vegan buttermilk trick? Basically, you take one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and mix it with one cup of soy or almond milk. You will see it curdle right up, and it acts just like buttermilk in a baked goods recipe, and it is much healthier! This cornbread is out of this world. Moist and tasty! All of Isa’s recipes (Isa Chandra is the genius behind many Vegan staple cookbooks, like Veganomicon, which is basically the Vegan recipe bible) are incredible, but this cornbread is one of my favorites. I always cook it in my perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet to give it that rustic feel. I much prefer triangular pieces of cornbread to squares.

This must be my very longest post to date, but I promise I’m almost done!

After a nice evening of chili, cornbread, beer, football and friends, I’m ready to tackle the weekend with a smile. This weekend, Zach and I are attending a football game for our Alma Mater (Go Herd!) and I’ll get to see some friends I haven’t seen in quite some time. I hope you have a great weekend!

Question of the Day:
What do you do to unwind after a rough week? 

Happy Birthday, Zach!

10 Sep

Yesterday was my fiance’s birthday!

Happy Birthday Honey!

Isn’t he handsome? I wanted to make his birthday special, but because we just got back from vacation, I wanted to stay close to home. So, on Friday night we went to dinner with some of his old friends from high school, then on Saturday we went to dinner with our friends in town. On Sunday, I hosted a football party for his Fantasy Football league (including a few others). We had lots of great food:

Looks awful, but it’s sooo good!

Buffalo chicken dip (made by Zach’s sister). This stuff is addictive, delicious and probably not health food. Ok, it’s definitely not health food. But oh is it good.

I had never made a meatball before yesterday, but it wasn’t that hard! Zach specifically requested “the meatballs in the crockpot”. After doing some research, I realized that meant meatballs in a crockpot with sauce made from grape jelly and chili sauce. Courtney said she usually buys frozen meatballs, but they didn’t have any at the store when I went so I decided to make my own. It wasn’t as hard as I thought, and the meatballs turned out great.

Football staple.

I also had never prepared chicken wings prior to yesterday. I made a copycat sauce of the Buffalo Wild Wings Spicy Garlic sauce (my favorite). I baked the wings in the sauce, but next time I’ll bake the wings separately and then toss them in the sauce. They were good, but the sauce did weird things when cooked.

You can’t have wings without raw veggies and creamy ranch dip. I cut up the veggies myself, which saved some money. I had  half a carton of plain yogurt in my fridge so I made my own yogurt ranch too. It was very good. Everyone made fun of my labels though. I think I spend too much time on Pinterest.

Of course, what is a birthday party without cake? I made this yellow cake from a box mix, and bought the frosting. This is the first time I’ve ever made a layer cake though. The presentation isn’t great (the frosting on the plate in this photo is driving me crazy, but I was holding hungry party-goers at bay while I took this picture), but it sure was good.

So, as you can see we had a very healthy day yesterday.

Just kidding! But it was delicious.

Today for lunch, I took some of the leftover raw veggies, steamed them, and tossed them with some whole-wheat pasta, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Much healthier! (Although I did follow it up with a slice of leftover cake).

I think Zach had a great birthday. His birthday present was two tickets to see our Alma Mater play next weekend, so the birthday festivities continue next weekend!

Healthy Steps Portion Control Utensils Upgrade

8 Sep

I subscribe to Bulu Box, which is a monthly box service for health and fitness supplements. Well, I also follow them on Twitter and last week they had a contest to win a Utensils Upgrade, with the prize of a set of Healthy Steps portion control utensils, and I won!

 

The box arrived today and it was like Christmas! Kelsey at Bulu Box wrote me a very nice personalized card and I got six awesome utensils. Of course, the kitties were thrilled with the box full of tissue paper. Who needs toys when you have garbage? The first thing I busted open was the Portion Control Dressing Cruet:

This thing rules. Not only does it have  a portion control lid, but it also has marked measurements on the side with ingredients so you can make your own dressings. The emulsifier in the bottle is also really great. I like making my own dressings, so this will come in handy.

The next exciting utensil was the perfect portion Pasta Basket:

I’m really excited to use this one, too. The handle has a hole that measures out a serving of long pasta and you can measure out small pasta directly in the basket. You can even cook the pasta directly in the basket! I’ll be buying one more of these so I can perfectly cook two servings of pasta every time for myself and Zach.

The third utensil I broke out was the Herb Multi-Tool. This is more of a healthy living tool than a portion tool, but it’s also super cool. It has a lock on the blade you can store it closed. The blade has circular cut outs for stripping herbs from their stems, and if you open the circular part at the top, there is also a rotary blade. Pretty cool.

 

 

I also got these other three tools:

 

On the top left, that is the Chicken Rotisserie tool, which claims to skin and debone a chicken or turkey perfectly. On the bottom left is a cereal portion scoop and on the left is the Tea Infuser.

You can purchase all of these products in the Healthy Living category of my Amazon Store. I’m in love with these products. There are tons of other tools that Healthy Steps offer. I love the starch server, the protein server and the ladle. They would be perfect for families wanting to watch their portions. The other tools they offer that I’d love to try are the cookie pro (makes uniform cookies for portion control), the nut bowl (perfect for portioning nuts for work snacks), and the cheese grater bowl.

Thanks so much to Bulu Box and Healthy Steps for the opportunity to try out these great products!

Question of the Day:
How do you watch your portions?