A Quick Update

Things have been rolling along here, just puttering through this winter that suddenly got 10 times worse when Blizzard Nemo decided to dump close to 30 inches of snow on Massachusetts last weekend, but hey, shoveling is part of life too.

Snowball fight BEFORE the storm actually started.
Snowball fight BEFORE the storm actually started.

Now that things are cleaned up a bit, here’s what’s been going on lately.

My wonderful boyfriend turned 27. Or as I like to remind him: the end to his mid-twenties and the almost-approaching-30 years. Needless to say, that doesn’t necessarily thrill him. But I did get him Bruins tickets for an April game against the Islanders and made this…

#masterpiece
#masterpiece

… so he was pretty happy.  I found this beauty on Pinterest (follow me!) and followed this recipe to put it together. I highly recommend it even though it was a lengthy process.

I successfully made Honey Oat Bread from scratch.

photo-38

I’ve only attempted a yeast bread one other time and this one was way better. I usually shy away from recipes that call for 3+ hours of resting/rising time just because I usually don’t have that much time and I’m not very patient. But on a cold day with nothing to do and a lonely packet of instant yeast in the cabinet, why not?  I recommend this recipe.

– My friends threw me a surprise Master’s graduation party…. and I had absolutely no idea. My best friends and dance friends were there and I got presents and drank (a lot of) Asti in celebration. It was wonderful.

This is my "What the hell is going on here?" face.
This is my “What the hell is going on here?” face.

– DanceWorks Boston Season 6 started!

I’m in 4 routines this time around, and choreographing my 5th DWB piece to “World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies.  I’ll take a group photo at our next rehearsal.

– I’m going to host my 2nd giveaway soon!

Freshly baked cookies may or may not be included … don’t miss it!

Tell me! What’s new in your life? What would you like to see as a theme for a giveaway that includes cookies? 

February Restaurant Review: The Landing at 7 Central

Happy Valentine’s Day all!!  Welcome to my February edition of Chocolate & Wine’s Restaurant Review.

This month, I wanted to find something completely different than anywhere Stephen and I have been.  Plus, being Valentine’s Day, we decided to go out on Friday for a nice, quiet evening instead of fighting the crowds today.

I’ve gotten lots of restaurant recommendations (Thanks! Keep ’em coming!) but this is a place I found via Google.  I wanted something in the “hidden gem” category and that’s exactly what I found: The Landing at 7 Central in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.

I made a reservation for two at 8pm (ya know.. just in case) and we found it pretty easily.  It was elegantly lit and very inviting.  The hostess sat us right away, directly across from a cozy fireplace.

The Landing in Manchester-by-the-Sea

Our waitress, who’s name escapes me, was friendly and attentive.  She took our drink orders and returned quickly with ice waters, freshly baked rolls that were still hot and the most delicious olive oil I have ever tasted.  A few minutes later, my Argentinian Malbec and Stephen’s Sam Adams-something-or-other-beer was in front of us.  It was efficient service without the feeling of being too rushed.

The menu itself was ridiculous.  There were so many options and everything sounded incredible.  Things like “Chicken Jessica” and “Pan Roasted Salmon” jumped out at me but in the end, I settled on what I really wanted but rarely get: Seafood Risotto.  Stephen got the Prime Rib special.

Seafood Risotto... Yes, please.

My risotto was flawless.  It had muscles, tender scallops, perfectly cooked shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, all wrapped in a not-overly-cheesy bed of puffed up rice.  I had to stop myself from eating too much of it, knowing that I could devour the whole bowl if given the opportunity.  (Not that it made it until the next day anyway due to a midnight snack craving but that’s besides the point..) Stephen’s prime rib was perfectly medium rare, accompanied by a blue cheese butter (amazing) asparagus and thick, garlicky mashed pototoes – comfort food for a chilly night.

Seafood risotto - sorry the photo is a little blurry, but check out all those beautiful colors!

Tip: Always ask what the special is!

That prime rib was HUGE!

There was only one thing that threw me about The Landing.  The tables were set with white linen tablecloths with a blue overlay, lovely cutlery and a single candle.  And then, resting on the dinner roll plate, under said cutlery was… a paper napkin?  Wait, come again?  A beautiful restaurant with paper napkins?  Again, it’s small.  Tiny even compared to the wonderful time we had but I think a place like that should reconsider the paper and switch to cloth.  Just my two cents.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.

Just like January, we had another terrific restaurant experience.  Wonderful, friendly service, gourmet food, good prices and the perfect atmosphere for any romantic date night out.  Be aware that for young adults and students on a budget, it may be a little pricier for you, but still 100% worth it.

But please Landing friends, lose the paper napkins…

I want to know:  Do you have a restaurant you’d like me to review?  Been to The Landing and have a difference experience than I did?  Let me know!

Virtual Bake Sale!

Attention Chocolate & Wine Readers!

I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference.  A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity.  And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!

My good friend/fellow Boston blogger and bruncher, Amanda, is running the Boston Marathon for the first time.  She is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is attempting to raise $4,000.  Right now, you can attend her blog’s virtual bake sale and bid on a variety of baked goods by some of her favorite bloggers (myself included!!!!)

These are my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls. You should probably go bid on them.

Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items.  All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal.  Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity.  YOU can help her make it happen.

Questions?  Shoot me an e-mail!  And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!

MY PLEDGE:

For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity.  For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity.  And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!!  Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!

Rules:
(PS – these are based on the honor system.  If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)

1.  Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did.  Include what you bid on and how much you bid.

2.  If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.

3.  If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it.  Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!

I mean... yum.

I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!

November

It’s officially the middle of November.. when the hell did that happen?

I only have 3 full weeks left in my first semester of grad school.  That is an amazing sentence.  I could do a cartwheel with that sentence.

The beginning of November included lots of filming, lots of editing, some friend-filled parties, more editing, a trip up the the Tonry Tree Farm in New Hampshire, applying for the London Summer program at BU, dancing, running, and some freaking out.  There is always a little bit of freaking out.  Here’s the first half of my month picture-style:

My best friends from undergrad and I have pulled Secret Santa names and determined a theme (let’s just say it centers around sports).  This is going to be an interesting gift swap!  I already bought my gift and it’s AWESOME.

Best Friends at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grille

This is RD Sahl.  You may know him.  He was an anchor on NECN forever.  He’s now one of my teachers. 

We're his favorites.

This is what we call a Live Shot.  It took a few tries but we got there.

I want to be on TV when I grow up.

And when my DanceWorks friends get together, well, wine and dancing are always the most populat combination.

Is that white wine in my glass? All the red must've been gone.

And we learn dances sometimes.

Check out that pose.

And this is Fred.

He’s a great snuggle buddy.

That’s been my month up til now.  Running has been more of a priority this month and dance has been the top priority in my workout world.  The DanceWorks Boston show is less than a month away (only 2 rehearsals left!) and I’m so excited. 

So what’s coming up?

This weekend:

I’ll be driving up to Hampton Falls, NH again this weekend but this time, it’s to film for my final project for my Visual Media class.  The Tonry Tree Farm (where we get our tree) has agreed to let me capture their beautiful farm and their history on camera.  I think it’s going to be the perfect Christmas ending to my semester.

Family dinner to follow that night… my parents, Stephen’s parents.  They’re best friends, it’s all very cute.  I’ll be going to bed on the early side because I have my fourth 5K race, the Lynnfield Turkey Trot, on Sunday morning.  I’m gunning for that PR and my goal is to run it around 32:00 but anything under 32:30 works for me!

Next week is a 3 day week school/work week!  2 days of class + 1 day of work + 1 amazing holiday + Black Friday = Happy Marie.

Next Thursday is obviously Thanksgiving and I will be creating some healthier versions of my favorite holiday foods.  Example: Hungry Girl’s stuffing with apples and cranberries.  I’ll also be sticking to lots of veggies and some white meat turkey.  And probably a small slice of Boyfriend’s apple pie because it’s just that good.

Black Friday is not a typical shopping day for my family.  I don’t enjoy the 5am rush to the mall.  I don’t enjoy being pushed and shoved for “on sale” items that are still over-priced.  I do enjoy listening to Christmas music and driving an hour to New Hampshire.  We spend the day shopping for something very special: our Christmas Tree!  Together, Stephen’s family and my family go up to the Tonry Tree Farm, find our (very large) trees, make Stephen cut them down, strap them to the hoods of our cars, make a pitstop at Market Basket for some tax-free beverages and then head home to put the trees up  and decorate all. night. long.

Well, I’m certainly not going to do that…

Next Saturday means homemade raviolis and my 5-year high school reunion.  Strange.  5 years.. seriously?  I’m kind of excited though.  I get to see people I haven’t seen in a really long time and I think it’ll be fun.  And Sunday is my friend Sandy’s 24th birthday which we will be celebrating the following Tuesday night.  The rest of the month leaves a couple of paper deadlines, lots of filming and editing and getting ready for the end of the semester/my dance show/Christmas!!

 
I wanna know… what are you looking forward to most this month?  What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?  Is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music?  (I don’t think it is….)

Weekend Recap & My First Race Week!

As you can see from my previous post, I have lots of RUNNING related things going on this week.  But I don’t want to miss out on recapping my wonderful weekend because it was jam-packed and full of fun.  Makes me wish every day was the weekend.

On Friday night, my friend/co-worker/Work Mama, Tracie, invited me to a wine tasting at a friend’s house.  We drank copious amounts of wine, ate lots of crudites, hummus and oreo truffles (made by me, which everyone loved!) and I met lots of wonderful people.  I took an extensive amount of notes during the tasting, per the English major in me, and learned quite a bit.

The party host, Dawn, from The Traveling Vineyard brought 5 wines for each of us to sample: 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 dessert.  She encouraged us to grab different finger foods to try with each.  The wines included Sauvignion Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignion.  Dawn told us that the proper way to try a wine is to use four categories: color, aroma, taste and legs.  Yes, legs.  The more “legs” a glass of wine has, the more alcoholic it is.  For example, if you swirl a glass of Sauvignion Blanc, the drip lines down the glass will be few, if any, and very thin.  But if you swirl a Cabernet and glance at the legs, they will run thick and numerous.  This is because the alcohol content is much higher in red wines than whites.  It was a great educational experience as well as an excuse to drink lots of wine.  Win-win.  Thanks Tracie!

Saturday was my dad’s 59th birthday.  (Happy Birthday Daddy!)  He took the day off from work to…work.  Around the house.  He likes that sort of thing.  Boyfriend and I went out for a walk along my 5K route in Marblehead around 1 but after a mere mile, it started pouring.  HARD.  We quickly abandoned the walk and headed to the mall to buy gifts for Mother’s Day where we waited in the obnoxious Pandora line for an hour.  Good thing he’s funny.  I would’ve been so bored alone.

On the way home, we picked up additional Mother’s Day gifts (a bottle of Midori for his mom from me and a bottle of red wine to my mom from him), a new bottle of Merlot for us, bought dinner ingredients at Hannaford’s and by the time we got back to his house, we had gotten it into our heads to make homemade wheat bread (a 3-hour process), turkey chili and profiteroles for dessert.  Perfect for a Saturday night at home.

Let me just say – the worst part about breadmaking is the WAIT.  We used this awesome recipe from a blog I found called Hot Mess Cooking.  It is a lengthy process so I’ll let you jump over there for it’s entirety.  The yeast expanded, the dough rose, we punched it, it rose again but it just takes patience…which we all know I don’t have so I proceeded to throw flour around the kitchen and boss Stephen around to pass the time.  He always loves when I do that.

Here’s what the bread looked like. It was so good.

The chili recipe, adapted from Weight Watchers, is easy and requires 1 (maybe 2) pots/pans for the entire cooking time.  We like to throw in a few extra things (mushrooms, turkey kielbasa, a jalapeno, red pepper flakes and hot sauce) but a little heat never hurts.  Just make sure to chaperone the pot if your significant other is heavy-handed with the Sriracha sauce.  That stuff hurts.

Dessert was a classic from 17th century France: profiteroles.  Simply put, these are hollow pastry puffs, light and airy that are split apart making the perfect canvas for ice cream, whipped cream, pastry cream, etc.  We made ours from a basic combination of flour, nutmeg, eggs, butter and water,placed a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream in the middle and then doused the tops in semi-sweet chocolate.  It was hard not to eat all of them.  Warm and dainty, but so light you don’t feel (as) guilty about that extra scoop of ice cream on the side or eating the chocolate sauce out of the bowl.  All-in-all, a good Saturday.

Sunday = Mother’s Day and I got to spend it with the fam at my sister’s college.  After a mid-day dinner at Bertucci’s (I got the special salad: arugala, orange, roasted red peppers, grilled chix with a lemon dressing and balsamic glaze) and a Mocha Light Frappuccino from Starbucks (happy hour, dur), we headed home.

I sat around for 10 minutes and decided to head to the gym.  I figured I’d do a short run (20 minutes or so) and get some strength training in.  I settled myself onto the treadmill with a new playlist and told myself I would run to the end of it.  At the end of it, I replayed a 5:22 song Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan” and decided to finish that.  At that point, I took my sweater down from the tread to see my time and I was at 3.01.  Since I started the run at .33 after a 5-minute walk, I decided to push the end of the 3 miles.  I clocked it at about 32:20 and marked the completion of my Couch to 5K training.  I was so happy, I thought I was going to cry.  I walked to cool down, did some strength and some abs, drained 2 water bottles and left feeling accomplished (and very very sweaty.)

Looking ahead to this week…

So it’s my first race week ever, but since this is no 26.6 mile race, I don’t feel that “tapering” really applies to me yet.  Here’s what I’ve got planned for the week workout-wise…

Monday: Cross trainer, arms, Dance 7-8
Today: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms
Wednesday: Cross trainer, thighs, sides, abs, Dance 7-9
Thursday: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms, Dance 7-8
Friday: REST!
Saturday: Well.. duh.

Peanut Butter Oat Bread

I have a confession to make… I don’t like Jif Peanut Butter.  I’m a Skippy girl, always have been, always will be.  But the other day at the grocery store, they didn’t have any of my beloved Skippy Reduced Fat.  (I’m not a full-fat PB lover either.) So I opted for the Jif Reduced Fat instead.

Right out of the jar, I immediately wasn’t happy.  Skippy PB has a way of inviting you back for more, which is probably why the jar is always half gone the day I open it.  I had a tablespoon of Jif on a piece of toast and to be honest, the burnt bread was the better of the two.  Sad.  Either way, last night, I was determined to use some of this peanut butter just to get it OUT of the pantry.  Who knew that I would love the finished product?

Every once in a while I get the urge to bake something out of ingredients I already have in my house.  A lot of the time, I won’t have every ingredient a recipe calls for and I end up making a quick trip to the store just for a tablespoon of one thing.  But yesterday, the whole jar of Jif Reduced Fat was sitting in my cabinet begging to be used.  Begging.  I also had a cylinder of Old-Fashioned Oats that haven’t been touched in a while.  My idea? Peanut Butter Oat Bread.

It was a simple recipe that made the whole kitchen smell like a toasted peanut butter sandwich.  Divine.  Chewy from the oats and loaded with peanut butter flavor, it’s more of a breakfast bread than a dessert but hey, to each his own.

What’s your favorite peanut butter? 
Up there with Skippy Reduced Fat, I also enjoy Better ‘n Peanut Butter Low Sodium spread.

 

 

Peanut Butter Oat Bread
Adapted from Cooks.com

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats
1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 TB baking powder
1 cup smooth peanut butter (whichever your favorite)
1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9in x 5in x 3in loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, Splenda, baking powder and salt.  Add the peanut butter and mix until crumbly (I dug in with my clean hands). 

In a seperate bowl, whisk milk, vanilla and egg substitute until combined.  Stir wet mixture into dry until just moistened.  (I know, I know.. this is totally a no-no in Baking 101 but it’s better to use all of the dry ingredients and a little less of the wet in this case!)

Bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool before serving.

My Not-So-Lazy Weekend

This past weekend, I decided to forgo sleeping in until 2pm and managed to pull myself out of bed early enough to have a productive two days.

On Saturday morning, after an quick and easy breakfast of a banana and my favorite yogurt (Light & Fit 80-calorie Vanilla!), I watched the tube for a bit before completing a Jillian Michael’s workout DVD and taking a quick jog around the neighorhood.  Sweaty and pumped up, I showered and decided to grab a coffee and visit my Grammy.

During my visit, my Aunt Deb reminded me of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer (the one that was my Grammy’s that she was giving to me) and I noticed it sitting on the kitchen table.  I had completely forgotten about it (seriously, how could I?)  I dragged it home (it’s a heavy sucker) and immediately began figuring out ways to use it right then and there when an opportunity presented itself.. more about that in a bit.

My boyfriend, Stephen, and I had made plans for Saturday night to cook dinner together at his house and spend the night drinking wine and watching movies.  When our parents caught wind of this, they decided to join in the fun (and gave me an excuse to make chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting in my new mixing toy.)  Let me preface – my parents and Stephen’s parents get along well, really really well.  Like they’re best friends.  I don’t hate it.

When Stephen mentioned to me that his mom had a Weight Watcher’s recipe for Turkey Chili, I knew it was going to be a good dinner.  Unfortunately, he and I planned on (and executed) a double batch of the stuff before realizing that our parents ordered pizza instead.  Minor blunder.  The chili, which we added extra veggies to on top of what the recipe called for, was hearty, warming and simply delicious.  I made Hungry Girl Cornbread Muffins to go with it.

Oh and the cupcakes?  Hungry Girl’s recipe (I know, I’m on an HG kick.  I love her, what can I say?) for simple chocolate-y cupcakes and my own simple buttercream.  I dusted some green sugar sprinkles over the top.  For some reason, maybe the use of the mixer or maybe I just didn’t add enough powdered sugar this time, but my frosting was, well… very thin, this time around.  Still delicious and very shiny but not the thick buttercream I am used to.  Oh well, they got eaten anyway.

I spent the rest of the night drinking a new red wine, Black Opal Cabernet (circa Australia 2009), which was deep and full with cherry flavor.  It defintiely wasn’t my favorite of all time but for approximately $7.99 and a night with the fam, I would drink it again.  It paired nicely with the chili anyway.

Waking up Sunday morning posed a bit more of a dilemma.  I pulled myself out of bed around 8:30, called Stephen to make sure he was awake, made him promise me that he would be ready for the gym when I picked him up in an hour and sleepily made my way downstairs. 

Since I don’t like to eat heavy before the gym, I grabbed an apple and plopped on the couch to watch Hairspray.  Before I knew it, I was changing into my gym clothes and getting my iPod ready, all the while the Couch to 5K Week 5, Day 3 lured – no, haunted – every thought in my mind.

At the gym, we met up with our two friends and I immediately hit the tread.  My friend Kimmy is using the Couch to 5K training plan too but the lucky bi-otch is in the early stages where you run 90 seconds and walk 2 minutes.  Man, I miss those days.  I began with my 5 minute walk that ended all too quickly.  With my music set and my sweatshirt covering the timer, I kicked my run into a higher gear (approximately 10:54/mile) and just ran.

20 minutes later (my quota for the day), I was sweaty, out of breath and feeling GREAT.  I even got high-fives from Kim during the last 2 minutes because I thought my lungs were going to explode.  But overall, I felt accomplished and was elated telling Stephen and Kim’s boyfriend, Matt, about my epic run.  Yes, epic.  Whatever – it was epic to me.

After parting from the other couple, I dropped Stephen off at his house and went home to shower.  I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Boston University Barnes & Noble in Boston with Kim… aka wandering around the BU section trying to decide what to buy.  I finally decided on a red t-shirt, a red sweatshirt, 3 car stickers and a shot glass.  Grand total: $80.. well played BU, well played.

At least my car looks cool.

That night, I went back to Stephen’s (I kinda like the kid…) and we watched Little Fockers with his parents and sister, Nina.  It was hysterical; go rent it.

Overall, it was quite a successful and productive weekend.  Hopefully next weekend will be too!

Oh – by the way, today is my friend/co-worker, Tracie’s 40th birthday.

Happy Birthday Work Mama!

Turkey/Veggie Chili (HUGE AMOUNT. Great for leftovers and parties)
Adapted from Weight Watchers

Ingredients:
2 pound lean ground turkey (94% fat free works great)
2 (14.9 ounce) can black beans (not drained.. you’ll need the liquid)
3 (14.9 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
3 (14.9 ounce) cans fat-free, low sodium beef broth
8 ounces whole button mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 jalepeno, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
2 zucchinis, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 yellow summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces

Brown turkey in large pot sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Add all vegetables and canned items and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 

Lower the heat and let simmer at least 1 hour. 

Serve hot with cornbread muffins.  If desired, sprinkle parm cheese over individual servings.

Cornbread Mega-Muffins
From Hungry Girl’s 300 Under 300

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional.. I accidentally left it out and they still tasted good)
1 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 small can (8 ounces) cream-style corn
3/4 cup egg substitute
3/4 fat-free plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, sugar (if using), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix well and set aside.  In a seperate medium bowl, mix corn, egg substitute, and yogurt.  Whisk thoroughly.  Add contents of medium bowl to the large one and mix until completely combined.

Generously spray 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly distribute batter among the cups (they will be FULL.. that’s okay!)

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

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.

Pasta alla Vodka

Last night, I really wanted to put together a stellar meal for my parents.  I planned a 3-course meal, complete with everything a dinner should have.

Still keeping with my appetizer project, I made lemon-rosemary chicken.  Technically, they are supposed to be on skewers and served with a dipping sauce.  Unfortunately, we had no skewers and I did not have enough marinade to make the sauce but the chicken itself (although it didn’t look too great) tasted fantastic.  I think I will grill it for my parent’s dinner party.  But all in all, we’ll call it a win.

For the main course, I made rotini alla vodka.  The vodka sauce was quick-cooking and delicious; I even threw in a little dried tarragon just because and added a little extra vodka.  I slightly overcooked the pasta (total rookie mistake – I was so mad) but it turned out delicious anyway – my parents ate all of it! (For the recipe, visit my Tried & True page!)

To go along side, I attempted a recipe I found on My Baking Addiction: Beer Bread.  Since we didn’t have any self-rising flour like the recipe called for, I used all-purpose instead.  Mistake number 1.  The bread hardly rose and was dense and wet in the middle with a heavy beer flavor.  The edges and top that were done were golden and tasty, slightly sweet from the 1/3 cup of sugar the recipe called for.  I would definitely make it again, except this time, I’ll use the correct flour.  Oops.

Finally, to round out my meal, I made chocolate-chip biscotti.  Well, almost chocolate chip.  No mini chocolate chips in the house?  No need to panic.  Hershey kisses chopped up into chunks works just fine!  They were almost all gone and were fantastic.  Sweet but not so that you couldn’t eat them all without being sick.  Plus, the chunks of didn’t all melt so every once and a while you got a nice, big, warm piece of hershey’s milk chocolate – what’s not to love about that?

My only regret is that I totally forgot to take pictures.  Next time for sure.  Anyone wanna give me a really nice camera so I can take photos that I see on other blogs?  I promise to love you forever.

Slow start, good food

After a few reluctant days, I have dedicated myself to my Weight Watchers program and some of it’s recipes.  Last night, I tried two: mashed sweet potatoes and mini chocolate cheesecakes to go with my Hungry Girl “Tried & True” Inside-Out Cheeseburgers.

The verdict? Delish (for the most part).  The sweet potatoes used fat-free plain Greek yogurt to make them thick and protein-enriched.  The best part was that you couldn’t taste the somewhat-bitter tang of the yogurt; it was more of a thickener than anything else.  Both of my parents liked them too and my dad even guessed the secret ingredient.

The mini chocolate cheesecakes, though not as successful, were still pretty good.  Since it called for two packets of unflavored gelatin, the promised “cheesecakes” came out more like jiggly pudding molds.  Nevertheless, with the addition of a chocolate wafer, one (about the size of a muffin cup) definitely satisfied my sweet tooth for the night, which I was more than pleased about.

Tonight, I will be trying WW focaccia bread!  At 2 points a serving for bread, it just can’t be beat – especially in my book.  I could eat bread all day, everyday if it wouldn’t make me look like a loaf.  The recipe surprisingly uses no oil, a common key ingredient in focaccia, so I suppose we’ll see how this little experiment goes. 

Oh, and I have not abandoned my appetizer project; it’s just on hold for the moment.  I have to spread out my culinary genius after all.

Until dinner…!