Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WDW - Vegetable Quinoa Soup

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Awhile ago, I mentioned my need for a little weight loss. Well, since then I'm happy to report that I've gotten 6 out of the 10 pounds off so far, mainly by good old-fashioned calorie counting. I enlisted the help of http://www.myfitnesspal.com/- a website where I record my daily food intake and exercise. To get started, the website helps you determine what a good calorie intake would be for you personally, depending on the rate of weight loss you're after, how much you currently weigh, how active you are, etc. I decided that 1 pound a week would be a reasonable goal for me. So, I've been hovering around 1200-1300 calories a day and it's working. I find the website to be very user friendly and I can even use their app on my phone.

I'm really good about eating right at home. I'm not one to be tempted by food in the house - I'm not a snacker and I don't eat out of boredom (probably because I'm never bored - ha). I will stick to my plan with no problems. The only challenge of course comes when dining out, which we do at least once weekly, but one place that I think is delicious and keeps me from falling of the wagon is Panera Bread. They even post their nutritional facts online, which is super helpful. I could eat there every day, but of course, my pocket book would not appreciate that.

Recently I tried their new vegetable soup with pesto. It was SO good! Like most recipes I make, it usually starts with an inspiration of something I've tasted and want to be able to make at home. This was no different. And, since I love soup, what better thing to have around for healthy meals than a pot of yummy vegetable soup? I took note of the ingredients and decided to give it a go this week.

The Panera soup appeared to have barley in it, but, I wanted my soup to have a bit of protein in it so I decided to try adding quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quinoa is one of the highest protein grains available and one I've been wanting to try. So, eyeing a box of it yesterday at TJ's (and organic, to boot), I decided to give it a try. I actually just microwaved it according to the box's instructions, and it couldn't have been easier.

While the quinoa cooked, I got the rest of the soup together quickly. I started with a box of vegetable broth and a can of fire roasted tomatoes, which I pureed. I had about a half of a box of TJ's Roasted Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup in the fridge, so I tossed that in, too. Then I added the veggies, which I finely chopped: onion, garlic, cauliflower, zucchini, frozen green beans, and a red bell pepper. For a bit of Italian flavor (which pretty much all my cooking has), I added a bit of dried basil and oregano. It would have been nice to add fresh basil, but I didn't have any. I was going to buy the pesto to imitate Panera, but decided I probably wouldn't use the rest soon enough, so I passed.

I simmered the veggies a bit and then added the quinoa. That thickened the soup up quite nicely and gave it a great texture. I noted that the soup at Panera had some kind of leafy green in it- I'm guessing kale- but I had baby spinach on hand, so that's what I used. The result was a quick and easy soup that tasted super delicious and healthy. I topped the soup with a little grated Parm-Reg, and it was stick-to-the-ribs good. My family LOVED the soup. Maybe next time I will try the dollop of pesto, as Panera serves it. But I really don't seem to miss it. I daresay I like my soup even better than theirs!

The amount below would generously serve 6. It would be a cinch to double the recipe. If your soup comes out too thick, simply add a little water.

Vegetable Quinoa Soup

¾ cup dry quinoa
1 box organic vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz) TJ's organic fire roasted tomatoes, lightly pureed (or just regular tomatoes if you don't want the 'kick')
½ box organic Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup (TJ’s)
2 zucchini, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup green beans, chopped coursely (frozen is OK)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp each: dried oregano and basil
2 cups fresh spinach or kale, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare quinoa according to box instructions. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients except spinach, salt and pepper. Simmer over stove until vegetables are tender. Add quinoa and spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook until spinach wilts and serve. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

dimanche matin avec Riche - breakfast Panini

How to be the husband of a very happy wife -
4 easy steps.

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Step 1: Put on your cute new red apron that your wife got you for Valentine's Day (it says "Riche" but you can't really see it.)

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Step 2: Layer scrambled eggs, sharp cheddar cheese, and applewood smoked bacon on your wife's favorite whole-grain sourdough bread. Brush on a little olive oil for nice browning.

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Step 3: Shut the door of the press and let the magic happen.

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Step 4: After you are done serving the beautiful sandwiches, clean up all the dishes.
Repeat next Sunday morning for optimum wifely happiness.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WDW - Lemon Pound Cake

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My Drew loves Starbucks lemon pound cake. And if you've tasted it, you probably love it, too. It's moist, lemony, and just melts in your mouth. Not too rich - and perfect with a strong cup of Four-bucks Starbucks.

I have a lemon cake recipe from Ina Garten, which is pretty good, but I knew that I needed to go for a pound cake recipe for this one. So, I turned to my The Best Recipe Cookbook (I couldn't live without it!) and found a good basic recipe for pound cake, then tweaked it a bit by adding lemon rind and lemon extract. Then, of course, who could resist adding that yummy thick and lemony-tart white frosting to the top. That's pretty much the main reason to eat the cake to begin with, right?

So, I think I did OK. It certainly was delicious. I would know, as I ate a piece for dinner (can you tell Rich wasn't home?). I guess the true test will be when Drew tastes it tomorrow. Hopefully he'll give me two thumbs up!

You can make this in your 9 x 5 loaf pan, but I made mine in mini loaf pans - the perfect size for giving to Drew to munch on in his dorm. And, that way there are always a few extra loaves that he can pass onto his Waldock buddies. I score big time with them when I send goodies!

cut piece of cake

Lemon Pound cake

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 egg yolks, room temp
3 eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp. lemon extract
1 ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
Zest of three lemons
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups cake flour

In electric mixer, beat softened butter and sugar for 4 minutes on medium speed. Add egg yolks, eggs, lemon extract, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Beat well.

Remove mixer bowl and slowly fold in the cake flour, a little at a time.

Pour batter into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 70-80 minutes (for 9 x 5) or 40-50 minutes (for mini loaves). Cool 15 minutes, turn loaves out to cool. When almost cool, frost with glaze.

Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Beat together in mixer until smooth and creamy.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Whatever - Costco {again}


OK, so why do all my "whatevers" happen at Costco?

Yesterday, I was checking out with Drew, and I told the checker that I had two separate orders. I buy supplies for the Juniors ministry at Grace, and have to submit the original receipt for reimbursement. So, that means I need to get a separate receipt to turn in. More often than not when I am at Costco I have my (giant) load along with a smaller order that contains cookies, candy, and paper goods for the ministry. And, until this day it had never been a problem.

When I told the checker that I had two separate orders, she replied, "Oh, we no longer allow members to do that. We will only ring one order on the same membership card."

Seriously?

OK, so here's what the pop-off in me would have said: "You're kidding! You really won't ring up two orders? You want me to not buy the second order. You actually want me to put it all back on the shelf and you don't want my money? What if I leave my second order here, go out the door and leave, and then come back in, would that be considered a new order and not a second order?"

Thankfully, the spirit-filled side of me took over and kept that response from leaving my mouth.

Instead, I conversed with the checker in a nice tone of voice about the reason why I needed two receipts. She called over her supervisor who looked at my membership card. I'm thinking, I'm an "executive" member, she's gonna say that it's no problem. But instead, she gave me the same answer. "Sorry, we can only ring one order."

I plead a little more, telling her I do it all the time, telling her there is no one behind me in line to hold up, and can't she just ring up the two items I have in the second order? (Excuse me, but am I mistaken, or is it that I'm trying to give them money.) She just won't budge. Then I have no choice but to say, "I guess I'll just have to do my shopping for my church supplies elsewhere, if you really won't let me buy this second order."

That did it. The manager then reluctantly said, "Well, I can let you do it just this one time." But next time, she said, it would be NO (assuming I get her again at the checkout, or was she going to warn everyone about me and my tactics?).

So I won. Sort of.

Now I have to decide if I want to have this conversation every time I go to Costco, or just stop by Smart and Final instead. Smart and Final is looking good to me.

OH, but wait, there's more!!

I had a couple of coupons I had forgotten to use the last time I went to Costco, so I brought them in with my receipt so I could get an adjustment. When it was my turn in the customer service line, the girl looked at my receipt in a puzzled way and said, "What Costco did you buy this stuff at?" (Nevermind that the top of the receipt clearly said "Costco Burbank"). Then she proceeds to tell me that she cannot do the adjustment because I have to take the coupons to the Costco I purchased the items at (I was at the Santa Clarita one last night). She mumbled something about 'inventory' problems and how she couldn't do it. Puleez! I have returned things to different locations of companies and never had a problem. And essentially that is what you are doing to get an adjustment - you are returning the item and buying it back with the coupon. What a scam!!! Costco is a corporation, for crying out loud. She just didn't want to take a loss on her books, that's all. I've worked retail, and I know that it isn't fun to take a loss when someone returns an item to you that they bought at another branch of your store, but you gotta do it. The customer is entitled to it. I complied, but once I thought about it, I realized that she was giving me a line.

But what can you do when Costco won't give you money you're entitled to, or take your money to buy something they are selling?

You can only say....

Whatever.

***UPDATE 2/19***

So, I went to Costco Santa Clarita again this afternoon to pick up Drew's new glasses and decided to get a few items while I was there. It just so happened that I needed to buy snacks for Juniors at church, so being my feisty self I decided to see what would happen if I tried to do separate orders again. Rich was with me, and I promised him it would be no trouble because he was with me (what is it about a woman alone that is sure prey?). So, a guy is checking, and I say to him, "I have two separate orders." His reply, "Do you have a divider between them?" "Yes." End of story. No "this isn't our policy..." No "Let me get the manager for you...." Nothing. He checked me out with both orders and told me to have a nice day. I was thinking I should probably nark on him for violating policy, but then I figured that probably wasn't in my best interest.

Whatever.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WDW - Mocha Ice Cream Terrine for Valentine's Day

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I got this gem of a recipe from Amy Finley, winner of The Next Food Network Star a couple seasons ago. She won, then suddlenly realized that being a Food Network Star sort of interfered with her family life and promptly dropped out. Good for her, but could she not have thought of that before she tried out? In my opinion, she stole Rory's win (my pick), and then threw it away. But hey, I'm not bitter. I managed to catch this recipe the one season her show was aired, so I'd say the air is cleared between Amy and me.

I love this recipe because it's conceptual; you can take the basic idea and do anything you want with it. I really like Amy's choice of ingredients, though, because the flavors she chose are so complimentary to one another, plus she adds another one of my favorite things - chocolate covered espresso beans! If they would only make those little morsels decaf, though.... well I guess it's just as good that I stay away from them. Anyways, this recipe is super easy and presents itself spectacularly. You simply layer and freeze different flavors of ice cream in a loaf pan, and sandwiched in between each layer is a sprinkling of the crushed chocolate espresso beans. When it is finished, you pop it out, and cut into beautiful slices which feature a stripe of every flavor and a yummy crunch and burst of intense chocolate/coffee from the beans. You can simply serve it over a drizzle of chocolate sauce, or use it as an accompaniment to cake.

I am serving this terrine at a Valentine's Day dessert for 8 couples, along with two kinds of cupcakes (Red Velvet and Coconut) and chocolate-dipped strawberries. I love food you can do in advance - it leaves me time on the day of the party to get the house ready and be a relaxed hostess. Tip - I even baked and froze the cupcakes ahead of time so on party day all I need to do is frost them, and dip the strawberries. Easy!

Mocha Ice Cream Terrine
Amy Finley

1 pint premium vanilla ice cream, softened
1 pint premium coffee ice cream, softened
1 pint premium chocolate ice cream, softened
8 ozs. chocolate covered espresso beans, finely chopped


Overlap 2 (18” long) sheets of plastic wrap at their centers, forming a cross. Use the plastic wrap to line the long and short sides of a metal 9 x 5 loaf pan, letting the excess hang over the sides. Empty the softened vanilla ice cream into the loaf pan and smooth into a level layer, using the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the chopped espresso beans. Return to the freezer until firm, at least a half hour.

Remove pan from freezer and smooth a layer of coffee ice cream over the vanilla ice cream and espresso beans layer. Return to freezer until firm. Repeat with chocolate ice cream layer and remaining third of espresso beans. Fold over the excess plastic wrap to enclose the terrine and return to the freezer until very firm, at least a couple of hours.

To serve, remove the terrine from the freezer and unmold onto a chilled platter, peeling away and discarding plastic wrap. Cut into slices with a knife dipped in warm water and wiped clean after each slice. Serve over a bed of chocolate sauce, if desired.



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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

WDW - Confetti Salad

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This recipe is a breath of freshness in winter! I made a big bowl of this healthy salad this week and it's been great having it in the fridge to munch on. It contains about 250 calories per cup (and I'm counting calories right now), and is chock full of veggies and all healthy ingredients. And hidden in the fresh crunchiness is actually protein, since rice and beans make a complete protein together. So this salad will hold you for awhile. Next time I think I'll make it with brown rice for more healthiness! This salad is super tasty and super good for you. Enjoy.

Confetti Salad

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 1/2 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup diced carrots
1 red bell pepper, diced finely
3/4 cups corn kernels
3/4 cups finely chopped tomato
1/3 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2 T. finely chopped red onion

Combine all ingredients for salad in a large mixing bowl. Make dressing and pour over salad. Toss to combine. Keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

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