Quick Update

I have definitely not done enough (or any!) blogging in the past week and I hate when I do that.  I fall into a slump and even though I think about it, I just don’t do it.  I find it happens in multiple areas of my life and it’s a personal flaw I’m working on.

So some updates:

Over the weekend, I went back to New York and surprised the Shen Dance Team by being at their end-of-the-year banquet.  I even did a solo for them; they really loved it and it was a wonderful night.  The team even gave me another set of their black and silver performance poms which I’ll keep with the green and silver ones I already have.  Hopefully I’ll be heading back there to run their camp in August.

I haven’t done much cooking since I was away but last night, my mom requested my Bouef Bourginion.  It was delicious, even though I couldn’t eat the potatoes because of Lent (although I may have slipped a few by accident!)  I also made a crustless banana cream pie, which only my boyfriend had a piece of because we kinda forgot about it.  Oh well, there’s always tonight.

Couch to 5K-wise: I completed Week 4, Day 1 yesterday.  I thought I was going to die; no seriously, just crash right there on the treadmill.  For you runners out there, I’m know running 5 full minutes is absolutely nothing.  Well, I’m not quite a runner yet and those 2 5-minute intervals were pretty tough.  But I did them.  I had to reduce my speed for the second one because, in reality, I’m training for distance, not speed at this point.  The important thing is that I’m doing it and when May 14th rolls around, I hope to be at the starting line of Marblehead’s Beach to Beach 5K donning a sports fanny pack and my very own number.

In regards to grad school, I already mentioned that I was accepted into BU’s Broadcasting program.  I found out a week later that Emerson also accepted me.  Dilemma…because, honestly, I wasn’t really banking on getting into either school (my GRE scores were a little less than adequate in my opinion), now I have 2 of the best journalism programs in the country to choose from.  Well, it didn’t take long for me to make my decision.  BU was always in the back of my mind; call it a gut feeling.  My dad and grandmother both went there, its a big name school (aka BIG MONEY) and I dream of the day I have a beautiful Master’s Degree with the BU emblem on it… :sigh:

Finally, I will be doing some spring cleaning around the blog to give Chocolate & Wine a facelift.  Bear with me.. it could get ugly.

Happy Wednesday!

Oh.. and just in case you wanted that pie recipe…

Crustless Banana Cream Pie
Recipe from Hungry Girl

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups cold light vanilla soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 tablespoons Brummel & Brown margarine spread
2.5 medium bananas, sliced into thin disks
Cool Whip Free

Combine sugar, cornstarch, Splenda and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Whisking constantly, slowy add the milk and bring mixture to a boil.  Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture thickens and resembles a custard.  Remove from heat and stir in the margarine and vanilla.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice bananas and lay about half of the banana slices in a single layer to cover the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan.  Pour half of the custard over the bananas in an even layer.  Repeat layering the rest of the bananas on top of the custard and spread the remaining custard on top.  Let sit out for 10 minutes and then place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, spread Cool Whip Free over the top of the pie.  Garnish with extra banana slices and cocoa powder if desired.

Weekly Gratitude

My friend Christine recently went to Barcelona and had fellow bloggers guest post for her while she was away.  One day, Tatiana from Love, Life, Lace posted.  Naturally, I clicked into her blog and found that she was the founder of Weekly Gratitude – a way for her to post about how thankful she is about what she has in her life.  She has extended it into the blogging world and it is rapidly growing into a very powerful movement.

I love the idea Weekly Gratitude and told Tatiana that I wanted in immediately.  This is my first Weekly Gratitude post and I am thankful for that.  Check out Tatiana’s site – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

  • Thank you to my family – the ones who love me, support me and push me.  And are always willing to try my food.
  • Thank you to my professors who wrote my grad school recommendation letters.  I’m convinced they are the reason I was accepted and have the opportunity to go to a school that until this point, had always been a reach.
  • Thank you to DanceWorks Boston.  Without you, I would have no outlet to dance, choreograph or do what I love to do.
  • Thank you to the Radiology department of Union Hospital, especially the women I work with.   Not only do I have a job and money to pay my college loans, but also the opportunity to work with some amazing people.  Others may not understand our humor but that’s what makes it fun.  Sink or swim, people.
  • Thank you to the Couch to 5K program.  It gets me to the gym and guarentees at least at least 30 minutes of cardio per day.  Bless whoever came up with it.
  • Thank you to my Shen Dance girls.  You inspire me and give me another reason why I love to dance.  You don’t know it now, but you are also giving me a reason to make one more weekend trip to New York to see you before camp in August.
  • Thank you to my good friend, Miriah.  You are like an older sister to me and your heart is bigger than anyone’s I have ever met.  You brought a beautiful little girl into the world and I know you will be an amazing mother.
  • Thank you for the patience to deal with people on a daily basis without losing my mind or blowing a gasket.
  • Thank you to Tatiana for creating Weekly Gratitude.  It makes me examine my life and take the time to appreciate every aspect of it.

Warm Scallop Salad & Comfort Food for Wisdom Teeth

For those of you who have never had your wisdom teeth out, consider yourselves VERY lucky.  I had mine out a week before I turned 18.  I ate way too many McDonald’s chocolate milkshakes and looked like a chipmunk for about a week.  Then proceeded to go on a roadtrip with 3 friends to New Jersey to go to 6 Flags for my birthday – still puffy.  Not the most attractive week of my life.

                                          Me and Melissa in Barcelona, Spain

My sister had hers out a week ago and her surgery didn’t go as well as mine.  Poor kid – she hardly ate all week so when she needed “substance” the other night, I made mac and cheese from scratch for the first time in my life.  I had to overcook the pasta a bit so she could chew it but you don’t have to.  I’m happy to say that she liked it and is now (almost) fully recovered from her not-so-great experience with her wisdom teeth.

Easy Homemade Mac & Cheesy (ew, how cheesy is that title? Leaving it.)

2 cups whole wheat macaroni (I used spirals)
1/4 cup Brummel & Brown margarine spread
3 TB flour
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
2 cups grated cheese (I used mild cheddar but it’s up to you)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

Cook macaroni according to the box directions, drain and set aside.

In a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  When melted, add the flour and seasonings and stir consistently to form a roux.  Cook an additional 3 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste – you will notice the mixture begin to thicken.  Add wine then gradually add the milk. 

Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until sauce is thickened and smooth.  Add cheese and continue stirring until it has fully melted and the sauce tastes like cheesy heaven.

Combine the macaroni and the sauce and pour into a generously greased 2-quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle top with extra cheese and bake in a 350 for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve while hot.
Serves 4-6.

I will say, I wanted to eat it SO badly.  I resisted.  Instead, I bypassed the carbs (and the meat since it was Friday) and had a craving for scallops instead.  While at the grocery store, the strawberries looks particularly good and I knew I already had walnuts at home.  I grabbed a few cans of mandarin oranges, some fresh baby spinach and a red onion.  A summer salad complimented by warm, seared scallops.

Light, delicious, perfect.

Warm Scallop Salad

Ingredients: (Makes 1 salad)
Fresh bay scallops (the BIG ones!), about 5-6 per person
Fresh baby spinach (approximately 2 cups)
1 14-ounce can of mandarin oranges (in Sugar-Free juice), drained
Fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
2 TB red onion, finely chopped
2 TB chopped walnuts
Dressing: Total optional.  I have a feeling that citrus-y dressings would be divine on this salad, but I dressed it with about a tablespoon of plain Balsamic vinegar.  Plain would also be great.

Bring a non-stick skillet generously sprayed with cooking spray to medium-high heat.  Sear scallops 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through.

Place a large handful of spinach leaves into a salad bowl.  Top with strawberries, orange pieces, walnuts, red onion and dressing if you like. 

Place warm scallops on top and enjoy your nutritious, delicious, carb-free, meat-free salad!

St. Patrick’s Day Treats – Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I promised green treats and here they are.  Okay, so they aren’t green but they are a dessert take on a traditional Irish-inspired drink.  I brought them to my DWB dance rehearsal last Thursday night and a few to work on Friday morning.  Not to brag, but everyone loved them. (Yes, I know that is bragging. Forgive me.)

I couldn’t actually eat the cupcake portion (Lent…) but you can bet I had a serving or two of the buttercream by itself.  I just couldn’t resist.  I don’t think you could either.

For those of you who have never had one, an Irish Car Bomb is a drink consisting of Guinness, Jamieson and Bailey’s.  You take a 16 ounce glass and fill it a little more than halfway with Guinness.  You then take a shot glass half full of Jamieson and half full of Bailey’s, drop it into the glass of Guinness and chug the whole thing before it curdles together.

Apparently, it’s supposed to taste like chocolate milk.  They don’t – I had my first one on Saturday night.  I’m a much bigger fan of this dessert.  These cupcakes (without the Jamieson part – I decided against the whiskey ganache this time) are a piece of Irish heaven.  And there is no chugging involved.

— I’m sorry that there are no pictures yet.  Unfortunately, I have a horrible reputation with cameras and I either need ANOTHER new one or I have to charge the one I have now.  Sad.  I’ll get them up ASAP!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked Perfection

Guinness Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup butter (I use Brummel & Brown)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup splenda (or another calorie-free sugar substitute)
1.5 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup low-fat sour cream

Bailey’s Buttercream
3/4 cup butter (Brummel & Brown)
Powdered sugar (I never measure it; I don’t like it super sweet so I just add it in small amounts until I reach the sweetness I like.. it’s probably around 2 to 2.5 cups)
Capful of Bailey’s (literally use the Bailey’s bottle cap – probably about a tablespoon)

Optional garnish:
Green sugar sprinkles

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with liners.  I made 24 mini cupcakes and 17 standard size from one batch of batter but you can make 24 standard cupcakes or 48 minis with the same amount. 

Bring Guinness and butter to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until fully combined and smooth.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl together.  In another large bowl, beat sour cream and eggs together until just combined.  Slowly, add the Guinness mixture to egg.  Gradually add the flour and continue to beat until it is all incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cups filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake until tester comes out of the center clean – approximately 14 minutes for mini cupcakes, 17-19 minutes for the standard size.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream:

Cream butter until smooth in a large bowl using a hand mixer.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until desired sweetness and consistency are reached.  Finally, add the Bailey’s and fully combine.

To decorate:

Using a pastry bag (or awesome mechanical piping set), pipe frosting onto each cupcake.  Garnish with green sugar sprinkles. 
Store in airtight tupperware at room temperature.

Bun&Borough Guest Post!

I know I promised St. Patrick’s Day treats and they are coming, I swear!  At the moment, I am experiencing problems with my camera and I want to get the gorgeous photos on with the post.

In the meantime, I have guest posted again!  This time, it is for my good friend, Christine.  She has a beautiful blog about good style and good living as she chases her dreams in NYC.  Her blog, Bun & Borough, covers everything from food to gratitude to running.  She is truly an inspiration and as she says in my intro, we’ve been friends for 14 years – back to the days when my mom picked out my clothes and I had a not-so-cool hairstyle.  She stuck with me through it all.

My guest post features an entire 3-course meal.  Let me know what you think! Bun&Borough Guest Post!

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  Although I’m not Irish, I usually take part in the traditions anyway.  I mean, how can you not get into the spirit when you’re a college student and there’s green beer to be had?

Well, I’m not an undergrad anymore and to be honest, I don’t like green beer at all.  But there are things about St. Patrick’s Day that I do love.  The color green is one of them, boiled cabbage is another.  But it seems that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just an excuse for a free-for-all drinking binge (which, I will not be taking part in but if you head to South Boston, you definitely won’t be alone) but its the perfect time to try out some great Irish-inspired recipes.  I have selected a few of my favorites from some fellow cooking blogs.  I hope you enjoy them!

Oh – and yes, I made St. Paddy’s Day treats for my dance rehearsal tonight.  Check back for my next post to see how pretty they turned out!

Hungry Girl’s Shamrock & Roll Shake

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Double Fudge Irish Cream Cookies

Traditional Irish Car Bomb 

Plaid St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes (Video Tutorial)

And speaking of cupcakes…. Well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Very Exciting News, No Meat on Fridays & A Little Something Special

I’m not going to lie – the past two days have been incredible.  First, I won an orange iPod at work yesterday.  Today, I got an interview for a marketing company I applied for  (fingers crossed I do well) and found out that I got into Boston University’s prestigious graduate program for journalism.  Needless to say, I’ve been bouncing off the walls with glee for the past 36 hours.

And, as we’ve already established, it’s Lent… 3 days in and the no-carb promise is going strong.  As is my 5K training, of which, I have successfully completed 2 days.  I know it’s baby steps but 2 days is a lot to a non-runner and my calves are definitely feeling it.

Being Catholic, Lent is 40 days of repentence, remembrance and no meat of Fridays.  Today is Friday and I’m craving fish – good thing since it’s practically the only thing I can have today.  A simple tuna salad for lunch (a can of tuna and a 2 teaspoons of low fat mayo – I hate it when it’s super mayo-y) and salmon for dinner.

Salmon is one of my favorite foods of all time.  Ask my boyfriend – I get it almost every time we go out to dinner.  So tonight, I figured I’d make my own.

I chose a simple recipe and it was delicious.  The lemon sauce was the perfect compliment to the lightly peppered fish.

Broiled Salmon with Lemon Sauce

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 TB cornstarch
2 TB honey
4 5-ounce salmon filets, skinned removed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat broiler to low.  Place salmon filets on a broiler pan that has been greased lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, chicken broth and cornstarch.  Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat until sauce thickens, stirring constantly.  Stir in the honey and remove from heat.  Cover and keep warm while you cook the salmon.

3.  Broil salmon for 8-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Serve salmon and top with sauce.  Season with black pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

On a completely different note, I have some very exciting dance news.  I work for a company based in Texas called the National Dance Alliance.  With them, I travel to different states during the summer to teach at their high school summer camps.  This past summer, I worked a total of 9 camps in 7 states.  This upcoming summer, I will be a 3rd year vet with NDA and it is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.

My last camp of Summer 2010 was with a high school team north of Albany, New York.  While they weren’t the most technical team I worked with during the summer, they by far, had the most heart.  By the end of the 3 days, I felt as though I was a part of their team, despite the fact I am (significantly) older than them.  They cried when I gave them a bid to NDA’s High School National Championships and I cried when I pulled out of their parking lot to go home.  5 months later, I was back in their gym.  This time, however, it was all about nationals.

After 2 intense days of choreography, 3 months of practice with their amazing coaches and 1 more cleaning day with me, the team is now in Orlando, FL to display their hard work at nationals.  Diamond-themed routine under their belts and shimmering, new, black and silver poms in their hands, my girls will take the stage on Saturday morning with hopes of making finals and ranking as one of the best teams in the nation.

But regardless of whether or not they place, I am so proud to say that I am their choreographer.  They are one of the most loving teams I have ever come across.  They not only love to dance but they love each other, their coaches (and me!)  And I love them back.


Lent: My No-Carb Promise

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. 

Every year, I attempt to give up something.  A few years ago, I gave up milk because I used to drink an abnormal amount of the stuff.  Nowadays, that would be easy because I don’t drink milk that much anymore.  This year I have decided to give up carbs.  Why?  There are a few reasons.

First, I don’t need them.  Carbs, you are harmful to me despite how much I love you.

Second, I am going to the Bahamas in 3 months…enough said, right?

Third, it’ll definitely be a challenge and I need more of those in my life right now.  (Ahem, 5K training….)

So, for the next 40 days, I will be carb-free.  No bread, pasta, crackers, etc. etc. It will impact my cooking but I don’t think it will be so dramatic that I will slip into a boring routine.  I’ll do my best to change up the proteins, veggies, soups, even the desserts since I consider cakes, cookies and the like to be serious carbos. 

Nevertheless, with my dance schedule, new 5K training and Jillian Michaels ab routine, I think a bikini in 3 months just might be possible.  Maybe, we’ll see.

Spaghetti Squash & Exciting News

I was in New York all weekend for dance but before I left, I made a spaghetti squash casserole for dinner on Thursday night.  It’s made with low-fat ingredients but you’d never know because it was so delicious.  And talk about easy – your oven does most of the work!

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite foods because it doubles as a pasta swap.  It’s is great for you without harming your waistline.  Being so low in fat and calories also means you can add things like low-fat cheese to the squash without throwing your diet (or lack there of) completely out the window.  Did I mention it’s delicious? I did… and I just did again.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 medium-large spaghetti squash (about 12 inches in length)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup part-skim/low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
Handful of breadcrumbs
Handful of parmesean cheese
Non-stick cooking spray, for sauteing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out all of the seeds and stringy flesh and discard.  Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with non-stick spray.  Gently prick the outside of the squash halves with a fork (to allow the veggie to steam while cooking).  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan generously with non-stick cooking spray.  (Don’t be afraid to get it nice and slick; the spray is taking the place of olive oil.)  Saute the onion, garlic and basil together over medium-high heat until soft and translucent.  Add the tomatoes and continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture is dry. 

When spaghetti squash is tender, scrape out the flesh into a large bowl using a fork.  It should resemble very thin spaghetti, almost angel hair.  (Use a heat glove to prevent burns.)  Get as much of the flesh out of the squash as possible – this could get a little messy.

To the squash, add the onion mixture, mozzarella and cottage cheese.  Mix gently to combine.  Spread squash mixture evently into a 9×13 baking dish that has been coated lightly with nonstick spray.  Top with the handful of parmesan and breadcrumbs.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly around the edges.

And as for my exciting news… well, I will be guest posting again for a different blog sometime within the next week or two.  My good friend Christine writes a beautiful blog called Bun & Borough.  She posts daily (an accomplishment in itself) and covers all topics from fashion to music, running to food.  She is truly an inspiration and destined to be a famous writer, I’m convinced.  I will be doing all of that cooking tonight and will let you know when it will be posted on her blog!

Oh – I also start my 5K training today… 3 days a week for 9 weeks.  I’ve never been a runner.. EVER.  So, we’ll see how this goes.  The goal is to run my first 5K sometime in mid-May before I travel to Oklahoma for dance.  I hope to get through it.  30 minutes may not seem like a long time to run for some people, but for me right now, it seems like an eternity.

I’ll keep you posted!

My First Guest Post!!

Today is an exciting day.  Why?  Well, not only am I going to create a wonderful dinner for me and my mom tonight but it is also the day that my first GUEST POST has been published!!

Karly from Buns In My Oven is currently in the Bahamas (lucky girl; I’ll be there in just a few months!) and needed bloggers to write posts while she has been away.  Her blog, popular and sophisticated, was one of the first I stumbled upon when I became obsessed with food blogs.  I follow her daily.  When she answered my e-mail, I immediately began working on my post: Spinach Brownies & French Onion Soup. 

I must say, my post looks pretty awesome up there on her blog.  Visit Buns In My Oven today to read it!  And thanks Karly!!!