Vices to victories

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”– Benjamin Franklin

I’ve always liked this quote and think it’s particularly fitting when setting New Year’s resolutions, something that I’ve really struggled with this year.

In the past two years, I have made a lot of changes in my life. I am more healthy and fit than I have ever been, but still have things to improve upon. Which things do I want to focus on this year?

I love Diet Coke. However, priding myself on being a rather logical person, how can I continue to drink it when I know that is not good for me and could actually cause me to gain weight? Well, I can’t. Fake sugar is out the door in 2012.

Since Brian and I have moved in together, I’ve noticed that I have been eating a lot more meat. I want to start making a minimum of two vegetarian dinners every week. It should be too difficult as I used to be a vegetarian and we both like vegetarian dishes. It’s just a matter of putting it into practice.

In terms of fitness, I will probably be setting a series of smaller goals. One large goal to accomplish by the end of the year seems too daunting and unattainable. I’ll probably set out to have a new fitness challenge every month while maintaining my running. In an effort to combat winter weight, I have 3 races in January, including a New Year’s Day 5K tomorrow.  Posts to come soon.

These aren’t as large-scale goals that I have set in the past, but I feel like I am in a constant state of improvement and this year will see a lot of smaller tweaks to my life that will result in big improvements.

2012 is being welcomed with open arms.

Happy New Year!

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Get glowing for 2012

One month of winter is over and I’m happy to report that I’ve only worn my winter coat once. I’m happy with the unseasonably high temperatures, however my skin is starting to get dull and dry. I need to get a gorgeous glow for the New Year!

So, after work I came home and made a batch of Martha Stewart’s body scrub. I’m not sure that Martha actually uses it on her body, but I got the idea from her. I used this all last winter and it saved my skin. It’s amazing and very inexpensive to make. Just be careful to wash out the bottom of your shower after use or the next person to get in might slip.

I’ve been missing my chocolate coconut peanut butter. Since I was in the kitchen, I might as well make some. Mmm mmm mmm.

Happy Friday everyone!

Brown sugar pecan baked brie bites

These are a tasty and flavorful appetizer that are super easy to make and impressive enough to serve at parties. I made them as an app for Brian and I to snack on while I cooked our Christmas dinner for two.

Ingredients:

  • brie
  • chopped pecans
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • mini phyllo tarts

Preheat oven to 350.

Place mini phyllo tarts(found in freezer section) in mini cupcake pan. You could also cut down phyllo shells, crescents or frozen pastry puff and use those too. Cut a cube or slice of brie and place in the bottom of tart. Top with a few chopped pecans.

Put a pinch of brown sugar on top of the pecans.

Squeeze a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup on top of the brown sugar.

Bake in the oven 15-20 minutes or until brie is melty.

Serve warm. These are a taste sensation. The crispy shell, oozy cheese, sweet honey and wonderful nuttiness. A sure hit at your next party.

Deep dish skillet pizza

Pinterest has been added to my list of addictions. More places to get recipes and ideas? I die.

Everybody Like Sandwiches is on my list of regularly read food blogs, but I happened to run across this recipe from them on Pinterest. Since I got a new porcelain enameled cast iron skillet, braiser and grill pan for Christmas, I thought I should put one of them to use.

Start by pre-heating the oven to 500F.

Make your favorite crust. I did a variation that combined the crust that Everybody Likes Sandwiches used in their post and my easiest no-rise pizza dough. Once you have your crust ready for the pan, oil the inside of the skillet. Using oiled fingers, press crust into pan and about one inch up the side of the pan.

Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese on top of the crust.

Spread a layer of pizza sauce over the cheese.

Place toppings on top of the sauce. I recommend pepperoni and jalapeno.

Top with more cheese.

Place skillet in the oven. Bake at 500F for 12 minutes. Then lower oven temperature to 400F and cook for an additional 8 minutes or until crust is light brown on the edges.

Let cool 5 minutes before cutting.

This pizza is out of this world delicious. It’s the closest thing to pizzeria made pizza I have made.

Easy all-in-one breakfast

After flying home yesterday afternoon, I didn’t have the energy to go to the grocery store. Being that I was supposed to work today and wasn’t planning on making Christmas dinner until tomorrow, there is a lack of groceries in our fridge.

Fortunately, we have a fully stocked pantry.

While I was boiling water for oatmeal, I had realized that we still had a few eggs and in the fridge. So, I cut the amount of oatmeal in half and we split a bowl of peanut butter oatmeal with a few chocolate chips on top.

I cooked up 4 slices of bacon, poured off most of the grease, and returned the skillet to the stove top. Then I used a biscuit cutter to cut circles out of two pieces of bread. I placed them in the skillet and broke and egg in the middle.

Let egg cook until set enough to be able to flip the egg and bread over. Continue cooking until egg is done.

Enjoy.

Holiday happenings

It’s only Christmas Eve and my Christmas is pretty much over.

I have spent the last 5 days in Iowa with my family and had a great time. On Tuesday my parents invited their neighborhood in for a holiday party. When it comes to fixing food, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s easy to see where I get my love for cooking.

Mini fruit pizzas:

A (very delicious) biscuit and veggie tree:

And loads of candies and treats. My mom sure knows how to feed a crowd!

We had my favorites, Ritz cracker peanut butter sandwiches dipped in chocolate.

Made loads of homemade soups:

Stayed warm playing ping pong:

While we got a little snow:

Merry Christmas from Spatoola! May all your wishes come true.

Honey and soy chicken thighs

We eat chicken multiple times a week, but almost always in a boneless, skinless form. I’m not a big fan of bones in my meat but needed to mix things up a bit. I’m glad I did. These thighs were extremely moist and tasty. Recipe adapted from she wears many hats.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tables spoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 ground pepper
  • 6 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 425F.

Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a large ziploc bag. Add the chicken to the ziploc bag and toss to coat. Put in refrigerator and let marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

When ready to bake, place chicken in a baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes with the skin side up. I had to put them in two separate dishes as all the thighs wouldn’t fit in one dish.

Turn the chicken and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the chicken back to skin side up and bake for another 10 minutes to let the skin crisp up.

I served it on top of some long grain and wild rice and it was the perfect combination.

Gluten-free chocolate cookies

Do you need a quick, easy and inexpensive gluten-free dessert for the holidays? How easy? You probably have all the ingredients in your house right now. How inexpensive? The entire recipe cost me about $7.00 to make about 2 dozen cookies. That makes them about 29 cents each. If you eat gluten-free, I dare you to tell me the last time you were able to walk into a bakery and buy a gf cookie for less than $1.00. At that price, I think the recipe is worth a shot.

Adapted from Kumquat.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and chocolate chips in a bowl.

Add in egg whites and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Once combined it should be the consistency of school glue. Very chocolately school glue with chocolate chips. If school glue looked and smelled like this, I think there would be a lot more glue eaters.

Spoon batter onto parchment lined baking sheets with a 1 1/4 inch cookie scoop(about 2 tablespoons).

Bake for about 14 minutes. When done, they will be shiny on top, starting to crack and the edges will look done. And your house will smell like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It’s amazing.

Let them cool slightly, then slide parchment paper on to cooling racks. Let them cool completely then peel them off of parchment paper.

Tip: After they cool, if you put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes, they peel off the parchment paper much easier.

MEGA NACHO: a meal

What’s better than nachos? MEGA NACHOS!

That’s what I had for dinner tonight. I made tacos for dinner last night and had some seasoned chicken meat left over and didn’t want tacos again.

Problem: I wanted nachos, but they aren’t very healthy And I didn’t want to negate all the time I’ve been spending in the gym.

Solution: A modified version, now known as the mega nacho.

I started with the base of a half of a hard taco shell. I spread a small layer of jalapeno hummus on it, because I’m addicted to it, it’s wonderfully spicy and it will work nicely as a moisture barrier for the shell. Then a layer of chicken, topped with salsa. I placed some cheese on the salsa and some jalapeno on top of the cheese. I microwaved that until heated through and the cheese was melted. Then I topped everything with a little Greek yogurt(it’s healthier than sour cream).

So amazingly delicious. It’s plenty to eat and much healthier than a giant plate of chips and accomplishes the same flavor. Healthified nachos…I’ll tip my sombrero to that!

Pumpkin gingerbread doughnuts

To die for…and I generally am not a doughnut lover. I feel like they are waste of calories. I would run 3 miles just to get to one of these doughnuts. The ingredient list looks daunting, but I assure you that they are much easier than the recipe looks and worth every second it takes to make them. Your boyfriend, neighbors and co-workers will love you, too. The recipe makes plenty to eat and plenty to share.

Adapted from Peanut butter and Julie:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • canola oil for frying

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

In another bowl, beat shortening with both sugars until well combined. Add the eggs one at time, beating well. Add the molasses and beat for one more minute. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream and pumpkin until well combined.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream/pumpkin mixture to the shortening/mixture, mixing after each addition until well combined. The dough will now be very sticky and resemble a biscuit dough.

Transfer dough to clean bowl, cover and chill for at least one hour. When ready to make doughnuts, heat enough canola oil in a large pot to reach 1 1/2 to 2 inches in depth over medium heat.

Transfer the chilled dough to a generously floured surface and roll out to a 1/2 inch thickness.

Cut out doughnuts and doughnut holes. Reroll any left over dough and cut out more doughnuts and holes.

Once the oil has reached the temperature of about 325F, very carefully add the doughnuts and holes, a few at a time to the hot oil. Fry the doughnuts for about 15 seconds, then flip them. Fry them for about one minute then flip them to the other side and fry for an additional minute, until dark golden brown.

Transfer the doughnuts to a wire rack covered in paper towels to drain off excess grease. Continue the process of frying the rest of the doughnuts and holes.

To top the doughnuts, I made a ginger and lemon zest glaze. Peanut butter and Julie recommends a spiced sugar-coating and a maple glaze, if you would like more ideas. To make the ginger and lemon zest glaze, combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar, grated ginger and some lemon zest with a few tablespoons of milk(adjust to make a glaze that is the thickness that you like). To be honest, I didn’t measure the ginger or lemon zest but would say I had about 1/4 teaspoon of each. I dipped the doughnuts in the glaze and put them back on the wire rack.

The only thing I would change about this recipe in the future is to add some freshly grated ginger to the actual batter.