Monday, April 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal!

As you may remember, earlier this month I joined Lindsay's (the fab Lean Green Bean blogger) Foodie Pen Pal's group! The short overview is--each month a huge number of people send a package with some wonderful foodie gifts, totaling $15 or less, to another foodie. You then receive your own package from a different person. Ok that's a horrible explanation...basically you send a $15 package to one person and another person sends you one! If you're interested in joining, head on over to Lindsay's blog to sign up. 

The fabulous Amanda who, I'm sorry to say, doesn't have a blog (although with the great gift she sent me, she SHOULD--get on that girl!) was my pen pal this month. After exchanging a few emails, she realized I'm a displaced Southern girl...ok so maybe four years in Nashville doesn't necessarily qualify me for Southern, but I did give her the "hell yeah" to sending me some of her favorite local stuff and, I must say, her faves are now my faves!!

Bone Suckin' Sauce: I used to have this barbecue sauce ALL THE TIME when I was in Nashville and little did I realize how much I missed it until I had it again. It is amazingggg--and gluten free! Find it online here.

Cajun almonds: Ok almonds are one of my favorite snacks--they're healthy, they're crunchy, they're delicious...and now they're cajun! I've never even heard of Cajun almonds but I'm now going to go on a quest for some cause wow was that wonderful twist!

Nana's Carolina Praline: Want to hear something embarrassing? Until Amanda sent me my pen pal package...I've never had a praline. I KNOW. I'm so embarrassed. Well, fear not, loyal readers, that situation has been rectified!

Polka Dot Sweet Potato Cracker: In Amanda's note, she told me that she always keeps these crackers around for any house guests and I totally understand why! They're much better (read=tastier AND healthier) than regular chips or white crackers and go spectacularly with a ton of different dips. And we all know how I love my dips and salsas...thanks for making me just a bit less of a fatass Amanda!!!

This was an amazing first month as a Foodie Pen Pal and I want to thank Amanda SO MUCH for my great package--and AGAIN say you should start a blog...or at least guest blog...for me :-)

If you're interested to see what I sent to my lovely and healthy pen pal Monica, as well as read about her inspirational weight loss story and new healthy lifestyle, trek on over to Run Like Hell -- I highly recommend checking her blog out, she's absolutely hilarious and puts a great spin on working out and eating healthfully!

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And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  Here’s some info on what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! -The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 

-Foodie Penpals is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for May, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by May 4th as pairings will be emailed on May 5th!

*If you're from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send Lindsay an email and she'll see if there's enough interest this month!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Menu Planning Sunday

Sorry for being the worst food blogger ever and like...not blogging about food. Ever since my vacation I just have not gotten back into the swing of cooking every night. But that is going to change this week! Mainly because my wallet/bank account says that I need to stop buying takeout every night. And I always listen to my wallet...

I've also decided that I need to blog more of my side dishes. Sometimes I have a really basic main course but a unique side dish, but I never end up blogging about them for some reason. But, that is going to change starting this week! 

My promise to you is to blog at least THREE recipes this week. Between now and next Sunday, three new delicious dishes will be up. Wish me luck!

Monday: eggplant rollatini

Tuesday: seared scallops with warm tuscan beans

Wednesday: chicken bundles (a delicious family recipe)

Thursday: salmon with sweet corn, tomato and avocado relish

Friday: roasted vegetables over quinoa

Saturday: a friend is in town; going out to dinner but making wild mushroom bruschetta as a snack to have with wine during our happy hour!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Easiest Breakfast Ever

As I've admitted before, I'm not a big breakfast person. It's not that I don't like eating in the morning, it's just that I really don't like very many breakfast foods--at least not in big enough portions to be a legit meal. My mum LOVES herself some pancakes and waffles, and I like taking a bite, but I could never finish an entire plate. I'm also not really a plain eggs person, although I do enjoy a ham and cheese omelet. Which isn't exactly the healthiest way to start your day.

After going to Miraval, I got hooked on oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal! Not that crappy kind from a bag that takes a minute in the microwave though (yuck--and so much sugar added!) Nope, I became addicted to steel cut oats. Which are a miraculously easy breakfast to make. On Sunday, it took me about 30 minutes to make a pot of steel cut oats that will last me literally an entire week. And, since we all know I get bored easily by eating the same thing, I can add different toppings and make the oatmeal a new meal every single day. It's perfect for me, who is not a morning person and does not want to spend time cooking in the a.m. Instead, after making the pot, I simply microwave the oats for about a minute, stir in my toppings, and eat! #breakfast victory

Steel Cut Oatmeal


1 c. steel cut oats
4 c. water
Toppings (for example, brown sugar and cinnamon; fruit like blueberries, bananas, strawberries; dried fruit; maple syrup; etc.)


1. Bring your water to boil on the stove top on high heat. Once it has boiled, add the oats into the pot.

2. Cook the oats, with heat still on high, for about five minutes, until the oats start to thicken. Lower your heat to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed, about 30 minutes or so.

3. Once the oats are cooked, you can eat immediately and store in the fridge. To reheat the oatmeal, simply place in a microwave safe container and microwave for one minute or so. I like to add a bit of milk once hot, and my favorite toppings are brown sugar and dried cranberries.

This is the perfect breakfast for people who don't have a lot of time in the morning but don't want to buy breakfast or eat a granola bar, or someone who just wants a healthy start to their day! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Menu Planning Sunday

Ugh. Back to real life this week. No vacation, no holiday, nothing to look forward to besides five days of solid, stressful work (we have a big medical meeting this week, so emphasis on stressful). 

I've decided I'm going to do a Sea Salt n Pepa version of the Tone It Up 7 day slimdown. I'm going to follow the basic principles of their diet but design my own dinners rather than using their recipes. The results that have been shared in the community is pretty much ridiculously impressive, so I'm hoping to get less-intense results since my meals won't be as strict. Wish me luck!

For breakfast/meal one, I picked up a big thing of Fage plain greek yogurt from Trader Joe's, strawberries and blueberries to mix in; I also got a big thing of steal cut oats which I'm making tonight and going to eat with a tiny pinch of brown sugar, dried cranberries and blueberries.

Here are my dinners:

Monday: sushi dinner with one of my girls

Tuesday: roasted vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, etc.) served over tri-color quinoa

Wednesday: salmon with strawberry salsa and served with broccoli and asparagus

Thursday: white fish served over sauteed brussel sprouts and baby bellas (a recipe from my new Fast Fresh and Green cookbook)

Friday: stuffed portobello mushroom caps

Saturday: seared sea scallops over sauteed spinach with cauliflower puree

Sunday: steamed mussels in chardonnay broth with pesto drizzle

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Vacation Food

You know how on most vacations you sit on a beach, eat like a fatass, drink like a fish and then come home shocked that you weigh more than you did leaving (or is that just me?)

Yeah...not this vacation. As you saw from my post yesterday, this vacation involved very little sitting or resting. Just like it involved very little "eating like a fatass". All breakfasts were less than 400 calories, lunch less than 300 and dinner less than 500. There is the aforementioned smoothie/juice bar which doled out protein shakes for those of us lifting weights (or, those of us, aka me, who is only 24 years old--when the average Miraval guest was significantly older--and still has a speedy metabolism that rocks through that many calories with one workout, much less six.

Breakfasts and lunches were served buffet style, as seen with the first two pictures, but also offered a couple of specials. The breakfast burrito (pictured below) is now my favorite start to the morning ever, and I will be making it every weekend and every week day I'm not scrambling to get out of the door. In addition, the buffet had a few hot options that rotated (including the stuffed french toast), but always included steel cut oats, fresh fruit, teeny tiny freshly baked muffins and breads, a selection of homemade yogurt and a healthy sausage (chicken apple was my favorite).

Lunch included a salad bar, a couple of chef-made salads, like the first two pictured below, more fruit, at least six hot options, a selection of cured meats and cheeses.

Below were some of my favorites that I remembered to take a picture of prior to gorging myself on. I loved the food so much that I got the Miraval cookbook, and have already flagged about half the book to try to make!

Thai Roasted Chicken Salad

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Honey Mustard Marinated Salmon with Broccolini and Wild Rice Pilaf 

Grilled Filet Mignon with Basil Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Balsamic Tomatoes and Roasted Veggies

Breakfast Burrito
(my favorite breakfast EVER)

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast
(that is a very very small piece, which is how Miraval managed to keep the calorie count acceptable)

Tortilla Crusted Chicken in Mole Sauce with Pico de Gallo, Spanish Rice and Grilled Asparagus

Chef's Table

The last night we were there, my mom booked us at the chefs table! It was absolutely amazing; we got a tour of the kitchen with Chef Chad, had a small app made for us personally by his sous chef and had an absolutely delicious dessert. I went a little buckwild with pictures, but it was a really great experience and all of the kitchen staff were very welcoming of having four women, including one wielding a camera with a flash, sitting in the middle of their kitchen!

Here are some highlights from our tour...

The line, with a giant window for diners to look in to. I always think restaurants with open kitchens are the best, since they're clearly not going to take short cuts while their paying customers are watching!

Making polenta for the next day's meal

Can you imagine having spices in this MASSIVE size? Or cooking for enough people that spices in this size are necessary?

HUGE pantry that stocks about $50,000 worth of food...and has to have supplies reordered every couple of days

Chef Chad at the line expediting!

The fabulous chef!

In addition to a wonderful tour, the food was great too! We had a four course meal, plus a glass of champagne (of course). We had a choice for the appetizer and entree and the chefs designed the first course and our absolutely glorious dessert. I even managed to take pictures of both mine and Freddi's dishes! Victory, all around.

Watermelon cored with basil ricotta, arugula and balsamic
Pre-appetizer appetizer from the sous chef--a first taste of summer. Yum

Sauteed Sea Scallop with Sweet Corn Relish
My appetizer--cannot believe the serving size for a scallop app is only one scallop! My world has been rocked down to its foundations.

Freddi's appetizer! It was delish, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the heck was on it. The day before I had this amazing flatbread with proscuitto, canteloupe and goat cheese. Just wanted to share that.

Beef bistecca in a red wine reduction with roasted veggies and garlic mashed potatoes 
Fuzzy pic, so obviously its my entree that I'm trying desperately not to gorge on prior to taking a picture. The meat was so tender and the potatoes were amazing. How is this considered healthy?!

Seared Halibut with Red Pepper Sauce
Freddi's entree. Ate half of hers too. Seriously, while my mother was perfectly content with the serving sizes, I felt like the fat kid at the table and ate half of hers too. So what? I'm a growing girl...

White Chocolate Mouse with Crushed Graham Crackers and Fresh Fruit
Best dessert ever. No joke. I downed this poor thing in about 2 minutes. And, more impressively, my mom downed it, and she does not "down" desserts. That would be beneath her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Today is my first day back from vacation and let me tell you...I am not happy about it. This vacation was absolutely ah-mazing. Barely describable. It was probably one of the least relaxing vacations I've ever been on, but, in its non-relaxing state, I ended up coming back more mellow than I have from beach vacations. 

For those of you who don't should. Just kidding! I went with my mum to Tucson, Arizona, for a girls weekend! We started off the weekend at the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain. Now let me tell you, this resort was absolutely amazing. I've never had such good service, even at other Ritz's! There we did fun things like sit at the pool when we got in around 3:00, a wine tasting, dinner at their golf club, a hike and a cardio class that kicked our butt...and a mani/pedi and massage to make us forget how much we hurt.

After two nights, we moved to Miraval, a destination spa. I'm already planning my trip back--it was SO MUCH FUN. This is where it was not relaxing and yet the most relaxing vacation ever. I went to about six fitness classes a day, was in bed by 9:00 and up by 6:00, and I cannot wait until I get to do it again. The classes I went to included a meditation class, restorative yoga, "power, punch and plie", a bosu-circuit class, a boot camp, everything! I HIGHLY recommend everyone who can go to a destination spa like Miraval or Canyon Ranch--they really jump start you into having a healthier lifestyle. All of the food are under a certain amount of calories (depending on which meal it is), a smoothie bar offers snacks for in between, and the whole atmosphere was of people really focused on wellness. In addition, each guest gets a credit to the spa each day! While there I got a prickly pear scrub (and bought all of the stuff to do at home, that's how amazing it was) and an aloe vera wrap. 

Some select picturas from my trip are below! I'll post more about the wonderful food tomorrow.

By far my favorite part of the trip, the desert tightrope challenge. That cable I'm walking on is 30 ft. in the air (which we climbed to on a telephone pole) and the only way to move across is to use the swinging ropes...which were affected by things like, you know, the wind whipping through the canyon we did this in. I went first in our group and the experience was absolutely amazing. If anyone ever goes to miraval, you MUST do a challenge--there are tons of options!

Dinner at the chef's table, which included a full tour of the Miraval kitchen, including a pantry that boasted $50-60 thousand dollars worth of ingredients. Bonkers!

My new, and highly recommended, Miraval cookbook!

the beautiful (and calming) entrance to Miraval

The view from Miraval's outdoor dining room--I already miss the heat!

The fabulous view from Dove Mountain

Tomorrow expect food pics and more details on our wonderful meals, as well as our dinner at the chef's table.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Quick Pics

On Monday, my parents were switching with my aunt, who owns a timeshare in NYC. On Sunday, my parents took the apartment so that we could do Easter at my brothers, but after my dad's business meeting on Monday, they headed home and my aunt came up for the second night at the share. 

My mom and aunt overlapped some while my dad was working, so the two of them decided to get lunch together. Ironically enough, the night before at my brother's I was discussing how I really want to go to ABC Kitchen for my birthday, but that the reservations are basically impossible to get for a larger group. I say ironically, because at 12:04 my mom calls to tell me that they're outside my office and that they're going to lunch at "some restaurant in ABC Carpet & Home that Elena loves". Uhhh didnt see the connection between ABC Kitchen and ABC Carpet? Nothing? Not a nugget of similarity?

Well, after she told me that, there was a pause...and I told her I'm coming and would be down in a minute. I literally RAN out of my building to meet them and had an absolutely delicious lunch. Pictures of my courses are below--my mother had the most amazing veggie burger any of us had ever tasted and my aunt started with the chicken liver toast (ew?), she followed it with a carrot and avocado salad. We were all extremely satisfied with our meals.

I then proceeded to have a fatass day, as my aunt and I were meeting for dinner at A Voce Columbus, one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city. So much for my diet, huh?

So my quick pics this week are mostly from my wonderful Monday meals. I'm going on vacation until Tuesday, so apologies in advance for being MIA!

crab toast from ABC Kitchen

shaved raw fluke from ABC Kitchen

Stracchi fresh pasta with porcini sauce at A Voce Columbus

brussels sprouts with chilies, breadcrumbs and parmesan at A Voce Columbus

I did things other than go out to dinner. I went to an absolutely fabulous Workout and Wine class at Uplift Studios, which I HIGHLY recommend. It's women only (sorry boys) and after your workout you get healthy snacks (last night included carrots and celery with hummus, cheese and crackers and a chickpea and artichoke salad) and wine! What more do you need to inspire you to work out? (apologies if my blog has become an ad for Uplift, I just loved the experience and really respect the women who quit their corporate jobs to open the gym)

Also, since I decided I need to increase my recipe repertoire for vegetables and vegetarian meals, I ordered two new cookbooks (yay!) And since I was ordering two, I decided to throw in a third fish cookbook, since as we all know, fish is my fave. 

I've just started looking through them, and I'm already obsessed with Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton. The book is organized so well and really focuses on getting you to eat more veggies as sides with a basic protein to make cooking on weeknights simpler. She teaches you multiple ways to cook, including quick-roasting, quick-braising, hands-on sauteing, walk-away sauteing, etc. I normally put flags on recipes I like, and I looked at the pages I've flagged and it's almost every single one!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Sunday

Happy Monday after Easter. Isn't this Monday awful? Most Sundays I have a routine-- I menu plan, I food shop, I clean, I do laundry, etc. Useful things around my apartment. This Sunday, however, I was at the dog park with my dog (isn't she cute!)...


...on my brother's roof, with my family for Easter dinner, then a bar, then walking my dog some more and (finally, after 18 months) putting up drapes in my apartment. Doing so many Saturday-like things seriously confused me this morning when I had to wake up even EARLIER to take this little (60 lb) nugget to the dog park.

However, it was worth it as our Easter dinner was delicious and also super-healthy, which is important to all of us. We're no longer ham and mac and cheese people, we're now ham and roasted veggies and salad people. My how we've grown...

Below are some of the pics of the delish food we ate. Sadly I didn't get pics of our appetizers that we ate on the rooftop of my brother's apartment building, but those included olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers, toasted bread and cheese and a red pepper spread. These pics are from our mains, before (for the veggies) and after.

before: carrots and rosemary potatoes for roasting (the pearl onions made their way to this tray after a recommendation from yours truly that they're better more well-done)

before: zucchini, summer squash and pearl onions

green salad

Vermont Natural, uncured ham 


After: roasted vegetables