Day 12: Red, Red Wine

13 Jan

Still a day behind in my blogging, but I’m keeping up to date with my cooking and jogging (hey, that rhymes). Last night, a few friends and I had one of our favorite traditions — Top Chef Potluck. Every week or two weeks, we gather to watch Top Chef together, and each bring a dish for a potluck. We started with country themed potlucks (Cuba, Italy, etc) and progressed to fancier themes (colors of the rainbow — I had blue — and miniature foods). In honor of New Year’s resolutions, last night’s theme was foods under 150 calories per serving!

Daily Achievement
I went to several fitness magazine websites (Women’s Health, Self, etc) to look at their “healthy party foods” recipes. I ended up finding this recipe for Sweet Potato-Coconut Fritters, which looked delicious! I’ve recently discovered how tasty sweet potatoes can be, and coconut never goes wrong.

I cooked up the fritters last night after work. I thought they’d be quick, but it ended up taking longer, due to a few disasters. First, I was pulling out the ingredients for the recipe and realized I needed an egg yolk. Unfortunately, I had eaten my last 2 eggs that morning. I stood at the fridge for a while, debating whether I had time to dash out and get eggs, and googling “egg replacements” on my phone. I then realized that I was also out of minced garlic. At that point, I started looking around my kitchen to see if I could make anything else that would be tasty and healthy, but I didn’t think my friends would appreciate a bowl of pretzels accompanied by string cheese. Finally, I figured “Screw it” and decided to use vegetable oil in place of the egg yolk and garlic powder in place of the minced garlic.

I dumped everything into a food processor, plugged it in…. and the food processor didn’t work (it was a hand-me-down that I hadn’t tried out yet). Cursing to myself, I scraped everything out of the food processor and into my beloved Magic Bullet, slopping chunks of sweet potato all over the place. The Bullet did the job, and I assembled the fritters and stuck them in the oven.

The recipe said they’d be done when the coconut turned brown, but my fritters still seemed really wet and doughy, instead of nice and crunchy. But I didn’t want the coconut to burn, so I just took them out anyway. I offered Jim a fritter, and he took a bite, pulled a face and said, “Is this supposed to taste like this?” Not exactly a resounding endorsement… I may have overdone it with the garlic powder. I think my friends enjoyed the fritters anyway, but they definitely weren’t one of my better potluck contributions! At least the red wine I brought tasted good. 😀

Song of the Day
UB40 – Red Red Wine. Man, I love this song. I think everyone can relate to the lyrics at some point, right? “Red red wine you make me feel so sad, Any time I see you go it makes me feel bad…” Plus, watching the video cracks me up to see all those ’80s yuppies grooving to the reggae.

Day 11: Throw the Ball to the Stick

12 Jan

Another delayed blog… not having a working computer at home right now is a major pain in the neck! And it seems that the boyfriend has come down with the flu, so I’m not sure it’ll be fixed anytime soon. Poor guy…

Daily Achievement
Last night I finally stuck to my training plan and banged out 3 miles! One of the nicer things about running is that you start to see improvements quickly. I was able to jog for a mile nonstop before taking a walk break, and then another mile nonstop (although I did have to take breaks in the 3rd mile). Maybe the difference is jogging after work instead of in the morning — I think I’m just too groggy and/or hungry in the mornings to do well. I actually felt some endorphins after the run! I never feel the euphoria during runs (I’m always focused on when I can stop running), but I do usually feel good afterward.

Song of the Day
The Black Keys – Howlin’ for You. I grabbed the Black Keys’ album, Brothers, off of Amazon MP3 on a whim after seeing it on Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 10 Albums of 2010” list, and I’m so glad I did! They’re a blues-rock duo with some incredibly catchy songs. This one is my favorite from the album (I immediately added it to my running playlist), but the rest are worth a listen too. They remind me a bit of the White Stripes and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Day 10: I’d be Sad and Blue if Not for You

10 Jan

Brr, it’s really cold in DC today. I’m hoping for snow tomorrow since it’s just not winter to me without a blanket of snow. Since it’s so cold and wintery today, I thought it was only appropriate to make a delicious, icy smoothie for breakfast. Okay, maybe not the best weather for it, but I really do love smoothies in the morning. They’re really quick, and I can drink them in the car on my way to work. I use the Magic Bullet to make my smoothies. I know it seems cheesy and “seen on tv,”, but I honestly love the Bullet. It’s easy to make one serving at a time and I can throw the cup into the dishwasher afterwards instead of having to deal with washing out an entire blender. Plus, some of the cups have handles!

Daily Achievement

For this smoothie, I threw in the following ingredients: soy milk (regular milk is fine too, I just happened to have this instead); Greek yogurt (richer and creamier than regular yogurt); protein powder (I have to make sure to mix this up really well w/ the milk before blending; otherwise, the powder is a gross texture); frozen berries (I had a mix of blueberries and raspberries on hand); baby spinach; agave honey (for sweetening). The inclusion of the spinach may sound weird, but I promise you can’t taste the spinach once it’s been blended, and it’s an easy way to get a serving of veggies. It does turn the smoothie an ugly color, though (as shown in the picture above). Next time, I’ll probably add some peanut butter or almond butter for a kick of fat, because the smoothie didn’t really keep me satisfied as long as I would have liked.

Song of the Day
George Harrison – If Not For You (Live at Bobfest). My dad sent me this clip today, and I thought it was cool! It’s George Harrison performing at a 30th anniversary celebration of Bob Dylan’s music in 1992. His purple jacket is kind of insane, but check out all the talent he has performing behind him, including some of the band members from The Blues Brothers. George may not have gotten as much attention/credit as John and Paul did, but he was definitely a great talent in his own right and a lot of his solo stuff is worth a checkout.

Day 9: It’s a Secret No One Knows

10 Jan

This is a delayed blog for Day 9, since Jim’s computer went kablooey (imminent hard drive failure). Until he has a chance to fix it, I’ll have to blog from my work laptop, which isn’t exactly ideal. But the dish I made last night is too good not to be talked about!!

I knew that I wanted to make some kind of baked goods for my kickball game on Thursday, since I owe a friend for donating to my cause. I had to buy a bag of coconut flakes for another dish I’m making later this week, so I started thinking about what else I could use the coconut for. Immediately, my favorite Girl Scout cookie popped into my mind… Samoas (also known as Caramel De-Lites). These are my favorite cookies ever — I buy multiple boxes from the girls in green, but they never last long. So I started googling around to see if I could replicate them at home, and found a recipe for Samoa Bars!

Daily Achievement

These cookie bars were fairly time-consuming, because there were a lot of steps. First, I made the base, which was a shortbread recipe. The raw dough for this was so delicious, I think I consumed a pound of it during the cooking process!

While the base baked for 20 minutes, I worked on toasting the coconut. Toasting the coconut was a lot easier than I thought it’d be; I just dumped it in a dry skillet and stirred it around on medium heat until the coconut turned somewhat golden-brown.

While that cooled, I made a semi-homemade caramel sauce by melting caramels (wrapping each caramel was pretty much the most annoying part of the whole process) with milk and a bit of salt. I dumped the coconut into the caramel sauce and smeared it all over the cookie base.

Finally, I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, put the chocolate into a ziploc bag w/ the corner cut out, and piped chocolate all over the top. The final step is to dip the bottoms of the bar in more melted chocolate, but I’ll probably wait until later to do that, since these bars won’t be consumed until Thursday.

I only tried a small piece of the bars, but they tasted pretty good! I think the shortbread base is a little too thick compared to the caramel topping, but maybe dipping them in chocolate will alleviate that problem. They’re definitely not exactly like the real Samoa cookies, but they’re a great substitute until the real thing starts arriving!

Song of the Day
Hanson – MMMBop. I’m concluding ’90s weekend with one of the biggest singles of 1997. Back in the day, I was a huge, insane Hanson fan. I was convinced I was going to marry Taylor (thank God I didn’t, because I’d have like 6 kids by now). I had all the CDs, DVDs, went to the concerts, etc. MMMbop was actually never my favorite song of theirs, but it’s definitely iconic, and watching the video instantly takes me back to being 15-16 yrs old. Hanson is still around, and they’ve matured into talented musicians and songwriters, so I’m sure some of their more current stuff will be featured in this space sooner or later. But for now, enjoy the mmmbop!

Day 8: I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

9 Jan

This will be a quick entry, since it’s 4am after my kickball league’s kickoff party. I did absolutely no cooking today (mmm, Capitol City Brewing Company has the most delicious pulled pork sandwiches), but I did get a run in!

Daily Achievement
My training plan called for 4 miles on Sunday, but I decided to move my run up to Saturday, since I had a feeling I might not be too functional tomorrow morning after the kickball party. I count this run as a big mental victory for me. I planned ahead of time to do just 3 miles instead of 4, since I’ve been a little behind all week, and I don’t want to overdo it. I started off with a nice pace that I felt I could maintain for a while, with my walk breaks at regular intervals. However, between 2 miles and 2.5 miles, painful blisters started to form on my feet. I should have used Body Glide on my feet, or at least worn my fancy “running socks”. However, my running socks keep mysteriously disappearing (which I’m sure has nothing to do with the sock thief that shares an apartment with me, ahem), so I was stuck w/ regular old athletic socks. Anyway, I thought maybe I should just quit since the blisters were getting more and more painful. At 2.5 miles, I started walking, with the intent to stop completely. However, after a minute, I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. I only have about .4 miles left… if I do it fast enough, I can complete that in under 4 minutes.” So I set the treadmill to an even higher speed and ran the last 4 minutes flatout, for a grand total of 3 miles. When it comes to running, my mind is my worst enemy — today was proof that I really can control my motivation. I just have to keep that in mind for the future when I next want to quit early… quitting early isn’t going to get me across the finish line of the half marathon.

Song of the Day
Chumbawamba – Tubthumping. My unofficial ’90s weekend continues, with one of the most pervasive one-hit wonders of the late ’90s. Just mention the word “tubthumping”, and this song gets stuck in my head. I felt it was particularly appropriate for the night of the 90s party, since my kickball friends certainly enjoy “pissing the night away”. I have to say, it was a really odd feeling going to a ’90s party. I love ’80s parties, but the ’90s just don’t seem that long ago to me. They were formative years, but not exactly a style highlight for me. I mostly wore tee-shirts and jeans back in the day, but Jim and I hit up a thrift store and found some gems. I had great big ugly Spice Girls-esque platform boots and a babydoll dress, and Jim had a track suit w/ a DARE teeshirt (anyone else remember DARE)? It was definitely fun times; I just hope nobody throws an ’00s party too soon.

Day 7: Let the Rhythm Move You

7 Jan

Many thanks to Cutter and Dan for being the first donors to my fundraising campaign!! I’ll be bringing some awesome baked goods to kickball next week for these guys. It’s been a long week around here in Slow Cooker Country… so glad it’s the weekend. Tonight was the first night I didn’t cook dinner all week — I had Thai food, and it was delicious. I still cooked a meal from scratch today, though!

Daily Achievement
To change things up a bit, I’m featuring a breakfast. I’ve been making my own breakfasts all week, but they haven’t really been worth talking about. Monday’s frittata was a disaster (I forgot to put the ricotta in so it wasn’t fluffy at all), and Wednesday’s scrambled eggs were kind of gross because I didn’t cook the mushrooms long enough. Eggs are hard, you guys. Maybe I should just stick to hard boiling them. This morning’s egg dish was awesome, though.

One of my favorite meals is the turkey bacon and egg white sandwich from Starbucks, so I decided to make a modified version. In a small tupperware container, I stirred up two eggs, some Lawry’s seasoned salt, and shredded cheese, and then microwaved the whole shebang. Microwaving eggs may sound odd, but it works really well for egg sandwiches. The eggs turn into a omelet, and if you use a round tupperware container, they’re the perfect size and shape to put on top of an English muffin. I’ve also done a version where I add chopped veggies to the egg mixture and eat it alone as a mini omelet. So I had a toasted English muffin, the eggs, and a slice of deli turkey. Super tasty, and even quicker than going to Starbucks.

Song of the Day
C + C Dance Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now). This weekend, my kickball league is having their kickoff party, and the theme is the 90s, so I’ll be featuring 90s songs all weekend. I didn’t really get into current music until the late 90s when I started watching MTV and listening to the radio, but since those days, I’ve listened to a lot of early 90s hits, and there’s some good stuff there. This song in particular is one of my favorites… how can anyone sit still while listening to it?

Day 6: Hail the Winter Days After Dark

6 Jan

As you all know, I have a lot of ambitious goals for this year, but one of the more important ones is raising money for Girls on the Run as part of my entry into the National Half Marathon. There are a lot of important causes out there that I could have run for: breast cancer, leukemia, diabetes, the list goes on and on. I decided on Girls on the Run because in this age of screen addiction (computers, tv, video games), I think it’s so important to get kids active and outside. Especially for girls, the pre-teen years can be a tough time because everything around you and about you is changing. Playing sports is a great way for girls or anyone to improve self-esteem and activity, but sports isn’t necessarily right for everyone. Running is awesome, because you don’t need special equipment or special skills — you can just put on a pair of sneakers and go. I just found this newspaper article about a Girls on the Run chapter in Louisiana, and I think it perfectly encapsulates why this cause is worthy. Check it out! And if you feel inspired, please feel free to donate to my fundraising page. 🙂

Daily Achievement
In the spirit of self-esteem, I felt pretty good about my run this morning. It was a lot better than my experience two days ago. I still only did 2 miles, but I actually slowed down my pace a bit. I still finished with the same time, because I didn’t have to take as many walking breaks, and I didn’t feel like death afterwards! Slowing down my pace is tough for me, because a big part of it is ego. I think I should be able to go at 6mph (10-minute miles), so I’m reluctant to go slower. And I’m green with envy when I see people that can run 3 miles in 21 minutes. But going slower really does make a difference, so I guess I just have to adjust my mindset.

Song of the Day
The Decemberists – January Hymn. I was randomly listening to NPR’s online radio station today, NPR All Songs 24/7, and they were playing the entire Decemberists album. This song stood out to me in particular… it’s a nice soulful, wistful track for a cold January day.