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Monday, October 20, 2008

Dealing with a few issues, but I have exciting news (x 2)!!

Sorry I haven't been around in awhile. I have been keeping up with everyone else's blogs in the past few weeks, but I feel like I have NO time lately for anything other than work and school. Full time work + full time grad school is really taking a toll on me, especially these past couple weeks before fall break. I didn't have any midterms, but the assignments have been very large and time consuming.

I've also been dealing with some health things, mainly pain in my right hip/thigh/knee. Eventually I went to the doctor (after it was excruciating to even sit down, we won't even talk about driving) and found out I have bursitis in my hip. At first I felt like an old lady, but after a little research I found out it can happen from repetitive activity (kind of like carpal tunnel, I guess). Luckily it was not infected! The pain is still lingering, but steadily going away. Forcing myself to exercise has helped.

I did manage to make some food during my busy weeks, though. A friend from school had a copy of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine in class one night and I saw some interesting recipes, so I bought my own copy and tried the Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna. It was delicious, but a little salty from the prosciutto. Next time I will cut the amount in half, or even omit it completely, because I think it would be just as good without it. Also, I recommend cutting it into six servings instead of four. It was extremely filling - I could never eat 1/4 of it in one sitting!

OK, on with the good news. First of all, I found out that I will graduate a semester EARLY! How often does that happen? I guess it paid off to work my butt off and take 27 graduate credit hours in three terms. I only have one class and a practicum left, then I'll be finished!


The Boyfriend is now....the FIANCE!! That's right, as of Friday night, I am engaged!

My ring:

Even closer up:

I'll admit that I'm a little nervous about planning a wedding, but I'm so excited! And it really helps to know that I'll be graduating early so I don't have to worry about that while finishing up wedding plans. We don't have a specific date yet, but we're thinking November of next year.

If anyone has tips to help me get started, they would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great night!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Experiments with cooking techniques

After reading Jenna's blog the other day, I was intrigued by whipped cottage cheese. I found some at the Fresh Market, so this morning I had some cottage cheese oats.

I used:

1/3 c. thick rolled oats
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. whipped cottage cheese
1 T. ground flax
splash of vanilla extract
pinch of salt
sprinkle of cinnamon
handful of walnut halves

(Do you like all of my descriptive words for "just a little bit?")

This was an awesome combination that kept me full all morning while I ran errands.

Last night, I tried my hand at poaching. I had never poached food before (not even eggs) so I did a little research online and experimented on some salmon. I forgot to take pictures of the poaching process, but this is what I put in my liquid:

1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
8 oz. chardonnay
whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
zest of one lemon (in strips, not grated)

I poached two pieces of salmon for approx. 10 minutes, and it was very good! The fish really picked up the flavors, especially the pepper. I also made some corn and stuffed summer squash, so I only ate half of my salmon. I ate the rest for lunch.


After, as salmon salad, with a few Kashi crackers.

For the salad, I added:

diced red onion
S & P
dried parsley flakes
capers (I love the little bursts of salty flavor!)
1 T. fat free mayo

I've never had a salad made out of fish other than tuna, so this was a nice change. I think I'll start cooking extra salmon when I make it for dinner for some new lunches.

I'm going to be traveling this weekend, so I'll see everyone on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everyday with Rachel Rhea

Once upon a time, my best friend and I decided we should start a restaurant. Since my first name is Rachel and her last name is Rhea, we decided to call it Rachel Rhea's. Both names are spelled differently than Rachael Ray, so that's not copyright infringement...right?

Back to the present - last night I made one of Rachael's recipes, Honey-Mustard Chicken With(out) Potato Wedges. It was quite good and a nice change from my regular barbecue sauce. The lime juice in the marinade gave it a little bit of a tangy taste, but it wasn't overwhelming.

I marinaded it for around one hour, then grilled it on my stovetop grill pan. With steamed broccoli and Annie's Organic Shells & Cheese:

The shells & cheese was my first Annie's purchase. I didn't think it was spectacular, but I do like that it's organic and it went well with the meal.

Instead of Rachael's potato wedges, I made squash "fries." They were a big hit with the boyfriend! I tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and baked for around 25 minutes at 400 degrees. My trick to getting them really crispy (which I read in a magazine article years ago) is to bake them on crumpled aluminum foil.

Also, my free Kashi cookie sample came today! It was a nice perk after a boring day. I've had this kind before, but a free sample is always good. I had mine this afternoon with some cashew butter.

I hope everyone has a great night!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday is now Bar Day

I've actually had these bars over the past few days, but I decided to wait until today to review all of them.

First, I bought some Larabars after reading about them on all of your blogs. I got three varieties of the Jocalat bars (Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, and Chocolate Coffee) because they were on sale.

I had the Chocolate first, and I really wasn't that impressed. It was dry and crumbly, but I did like the flavor. Next was the Chocolate Coffee, which was much better than the first. I liked the texture and could taste the coffee flavor, but it was subtle. I actually decided the first bar must have been stale - probably why it was on sale in the first place.

I haven't tried the chocolate orange, but I am hopeful because that is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations!

And speaking of good flavor combinations, I had an Honest Foods Cran Lemon Zest country square for breakfast one morning (with coffee, of course). This is my favorite one out of all of them! I have also tried the Choco Peanut and the Apple Ginger (I think?) and the Cran Lemon is the only repeat purchase I have made.

In exciting news, my Clif Z Spooky S'mores came! I found them on, and I was rather impressed with their service. I got free standard shipping for a purchase over $25 and it came in three days.

I really enjoyed this bar. It tasted a lot like my favorite one, Honey Graham, with a marshmallow flavor. I didn't really taste any chocolate, but I was looking for the marshmallow flavor anyway.

I also got a box of Honey Graham.

So, my question is this - do you think it would be okay to freeze the Clif Z bars? Or just put them in the fridge? The expiration dates are far off, but I know it will take me awhile to get through 36 of them.

Also, if any of my faithful readers (all two or three of you) would like a sample of either Clif Z Bar, just shoot me an e-mail with your address and I will be glad to share!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cooking Light

I bought the September issue of Cooking Light several weeks ago, but didn't have time to really look at it until a few days ago. I think this issue had a lot of great recipes. It's probably not on the shelves any more, but you should definitely search for this month's recipes on their site.

The first recipe was Turkey-Ricotta Meatballs. Sorry, the recipe isn't posted on their site yet, but I'll try to remember to link it once it it. These meatballs were great - they were very easy because they are baked, and they stayed moist due to the addition of ricotta cheese. The recipe called for part-skim, but I used fat free since that is what I had on hand.

I think my favorite part of the recipe is that it did not give specific directions on how to serve them, and I have found that they are extremely versatile. I put one half of the batch in some homemade tomato sauce (more on that later) and served it with pasta, and tomorrow we are having the second half in a stroganoff-type dish. I imagine they would also be tasty in some barbecue sauce or something similar as an appetizer.

Here they are, straight from the oven:

Now my dilemma is this - I have over half of a container of ricotta left over, and I don't like it on its own. Does anyone have a good recipe that incorporates ricotta?

Tonight I made the Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp. I really like Thai food (and by that, I mean all I have ever had is pad thai), so I decided to try making it. I have to admit that I have never ordered a curried dish at a Thai restaurant before because I was didn't think I would like something with coconut milk in it, but this recipe was quite good and very light.

I only made one substitution - I used dried basil instead of fresh because I couldn't find any at the grocery store.

With brown rice and steamed broccoli:

We also had some frozen and thawed mango for dessert. Yum!

I think I may subscribe to Cooking Light. I have really cut down on the magazines that I subscribe to due to so much paper used and the fact that I can find them online. There are some that I still really enjoy reading in print, though.

What magazine subscriptions do you have?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Move over, peanut butter.

I had been holding off on trying cashew butter for two reasons:

1. I don't like almond butter, and didn't know if I would like nut butters other than peanut.

2. It's very expensive, and I didn't want to waste the money if I didn't like it.

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and went to EarthFare yesterday. I was pleased to find a half size jar of MaraNatha:

My review: Oh my. OHHHH MY. This has to be one of the most delicious things I have eaten. Ever. In my whole life, all 28 years of it.

I tasted it alone first, then decided the best delivery method was 1/2 mini whole wheat bagel:

I quickly went back for the second half. It's official - I'm in food love.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More highlights from the weekend.

The boyfriend's sister and I went to the farmers' market on Saturday. I am so lucky to have one close that is open all of the time - every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I intended to just browse during this trip, but of course I came back with several purchases.

When I got back, I had some goat cheese on a mini whole wheat bagel and an Americano:

This goat cheese is fabulous. They actually had 7-8 different flavors of spreadable goat cheese, as well as come marinated in oil and herbs and several hard cheeses. I'm a sucker for a free sample and bought a whole container:

I also got some veggies. I mentioned a few posts ago that I am trying to incorporate at least one new fruit or veggie per week, whether it is something completely new or just a new variety/color of something I already like.

Clockwise from top left: yellow tomatoes, carnival squash (isn't it festive?), baby eggplants, and Cherokee purple tomatoes

My dad bought some of the Cherokee purple last time we went and gave one to me - it is seriously the best tomato I have ever had.

I also got two Honeycrisp apples, which was amazing because I usually dislike any apple other than Granny Smith. These were very tasty, however, and I will buy more. They are kind of sweet, a little tart, and very crisp (I HATE grainy apples!!).

Also a big chrysanthemum plant. Definitely not a necessity, but pretty. I ♥ orange flowers!

Finally, some pink roses from my sweet boyfriend. Not to take away from the farmers' market theme, but they are too beautiful not to include. I think I'll keep him.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do...

I'm on a mission to end my relationship with Splenda. As of right now, I only use it in oatmeal (when it's not cooked with banana) and hot tea. I have stopped using it in iced tea, iced coffees, and on top of frozen berries.

Today, I had my first cup of plain, non-fat yogurt. I had planned on mixing in thawed cherries, but I tasted it by itself first so I could get a "feel" for it. I immediately wanted to add a packet of Splenda to ease myself into eating it plain, but I resisted and only added the cherries. I have to admit, it's going to be an acquired taste, but I think I can do it!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

River Twist Kitchen

My boyfriend's sister is visiting this weekend, so I was looking for a new restaurant to try. There is a restaurant review in the entertainment insert of the local newspaper every Thursday, and this week it reviewed the River Twist Kitchen. It is a renovated Esso station located in Jamestown, NC that is also a garden and gift shop. The menu consists of several salads and sandwiches and a couple burgers, and they also offer catering.

Note: This is the first time I took pictures with my phone instead of my camera - I think they turned out well!

Since it is such a nice day and there was limited seating inside, we (boyfriend, his sister, and I) decided to eat outside. I took some pictures while we waited on the food:

The owner was extremely nice and helpful when we mentioned that we had never been there before. He said they had been slammed since the newspaper article and they were actually out of today's special. He did offer us a sample of their most popular item, the Sugar Breast Turkey Salad, which my boyfriend's sister and I both ended up ordering (she ordered it on a croissant, I got it on salad greens). It is so good - turkey, celery, dried cranberries, sugared walnuts, and mayo dressing. My boyfriend got the the owner's personal favorite, the Honey Onion Turkey sandwich.

My plate:

I ate the entire salad, but didn't use any of the dressing. The dressing in the turkey salad was enough, especially with the other flavors of mandarin orange and additional walnuts.

I also had one bite of the boyfriend's sandwich:

It was a little pricey, and the drive was longer than we would normally do for a meal, but well worth it. The scenery was beautiful, and the food was excellent. We will definitely go back!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three weeks later...

I'm back! The whole full time job + full time graduate school schedule took a little longer to adjust to that I expected. Anyway, I'm settled in at the job, and I turned in my first major assignment. I decided to celebrate tonight by doing a little blogging and NO homework!

Since it has been awhile, I'll just hit some highlights from the past couple weeks.

In "Eat a different fruit or vegetable each week" news, I bought a personal seedless watermelon:

Let me start by saying that I have never liked watermelon, but I was willing to give it a another try since I am trying to eat a diet with a lot more water-rich foods. Since watermelon is 92% water, it was the logical choice. Also, it has loads of lycopene! The verdict: I still don't like it.

Question: Has anyone eaten other colors of watermelon? Yellow or orange? Also, has anyone tried watermelon rind in any form (stir-fried or pickled)?

In "Rachel, get off your lazy butt" news, I bought a pedometer:

I was talking to my boyfriend's mother, who wears a pedometer daily and aims for 10,000 steps. She walks her dog twice a day and also tried to get in some extra steps at work. This picture was from my first day, but my numbers have ranged anywhere from 13,000 to 2,000 (bad, but in my defense, I was sick that day). By the way, with my stride length, 11,795 steps = 5.63 miles.
In "comfort food is good for stress" news, I made a childhood favorite for dinner one night:

Spanish Rice
(named this even though I'm fairly sure there is nothing Spanish about it)

1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. hot water
1 cup raw brown rice (the 10 minute kind)
1 T. yellow mustard (bottled, not the spice)
salt and pepper

Brown the meat, onion, and pepper, then drain. Add all of the remaining ingredients and simmer on medium-low heat until the rice absorbs all of the liquid (approx. 25 minutes).

This makes a huge batch, so I freeze half for another meal. I also serve this with garlic toast and corn, just like my mom did when I was little.

And finally, in "I can't resist a sale" news, I bought some cute square shaped bowls at Target:

And I filled them up with stir-fry. I stir-fried onion, mushroom, broccoli, water chestnuts, and shrimp and put some of that fantastic Garlic sauce and served it with some brown rice. Also, notice my new placemats, which were a gift from my boyfriend's mother. She made them - aren't they pretty?

Anyway, I'll be back again soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PB&J Oatmeal

As predicted, I was pretty hungry when I got home from class. I was craving some peanut butter, but I wanted to stretch a small amount of it rather than eat a lot on a sandwich. Peanut butter is a total trigger food for me and I have to be careful with my intake.

Also, I haven't had time to make oatmeal in the morning lately, so I decided it was time for it! I made a small portion (1/4 c. oats, 1/2 c. water) and added vanilla extract, cinnamon, and 1 T. ground flax. Then I stirred in about 1 T. peanut butter and topped it off with around a teaspoon of blackberry preserves.

This was really good, and the small portion was very filling. I think I might have this again tomorrow morning with a piece of fruit. Too bad I'm out of bananas!

Back to school

Ugh, I need to be more consistent with posting. This week was tough because I'm still adjusting to my new job and a new eating schedule, then I started my graduate classes tonight. I only have four classes left, though!

I think I am getting pretty good at the whole lunch packing thing:

Today for lunch I had a pita (Joseph's Oat Bran & Whole Wheat) with some turkey, spinach, cheese, and mustard. I am starting to like turkey more now, but I still eat it in very small quantities - basically one or two thin slices, enough to add a little protein to my meal. I also had some grapes, a small cup of cottage cheese, and a seltzer.
My work schedule goes from 8:15 to 3:45, then my classes start at 5:30. Right now my choices are to eat a small lunch, then get dinner at 4:30ish and have a snack after school (I get home around 9:00 p.m.). The other option is to switch dinner and a snack, which would put dinnertime around 9:00. Tonight I did option one and ate a mini sub from Subway before class, along with an orange and a granola bar. I'm thinking it would be better to keep it light before bed time, but I know sometimes I'll still be really hungry when I get home at night. Thoughts?

Friday, August 22, 2008


I ate breakfast at home the past two days in spite of the breakfast buffets at school to try to avoid overeating, although I did have some fruit and coffee both days as I mentioned in my last post. On Thursday I had some corn bran and the last of my blackberries:

I need to make another trip to the farmers' market this weekend.

One of the fantastic (wait, I mean bad) things about my new job is that I pass a drive-thru Starbucks on the way. I made a deal with myself that I would only go on Fridays, so today I had the orange mango banana Vivanno.

Unfortunately, traffic near this Starbucks is particularly bad in the morning (two lanes condense into one and it's a school zone). I sat in traffic for almost ten minutes this morning trying to make it through one intersection (while my school is only 15 minutes away normally) so I think I need to investigate a new route. So, maybe I'll have Starbucks Friday and maybe I won't.

I started my new job!

I woke up bright and early Wednesday morning, way before I had to be at work, so...I made a big breakfast! I wasn't sure when my lunch break would be scheduled or if I would have time for a snack, so I wanted to be nice and full for my first morning. I made the Whole Wheat Oat pancakes I posted earlier, but I added the last of my fresh blueberries. You can't see them in the picture, but they were there and really added a lot to the pancakes.

With one scrambled egg and one link of turkey sausage:

I also packed my first lunch, not knowing that the school was providing lunch the first day. Luckily we have a big refrigerator and a microwave in the library workroom, so I saved my lunch for Thursday. I made a wrap with a La Tortilla Factory Olive Oil Softwrap tortilla (I like these because they have 13 grams of fiber yet don't taste like cardboard), Jarlsberg light, cracked black pepper turkey, dijon mustard, spinach, and tomato.

I also took some sliced kiwi:

And a seltzer:

I'll close this post with a warning for new teachers:

Teachers, especially in large groups, really like to eat. If you start a job at a school, be prepared to take your willpower to work with you. So far, I have worked three days and have been provided with two breakfast buffets and two lunches and it has been very hard to make good choices. So far I've loaded up my plate with fresh fruit and tried to avoid the bagels and casseroles, but a piece or two of bacon may have found their way onto my plate.

Also, I may have had two or three (or four) cups of coffee over the past two days. At least it was decaf.


When I went to the Fresh Market for the chicken sausage, the friendly guy behind the meat counter talked me into buying some boneless, skinless chicken breast that was on sale for this week. I think their chicken tastes so much better than what I usually buy, so I got enough for two nights.

I didn't feel like making anything special or new, however, so the first night we had barbecue chicken. Sometimes I have a hard time cooking thick pieces of chicken to the right temperature, so I put this in the oven. I browned the chicken on both sides in a skillet, then stuck the pan into a 350 degree oven for around 10 minutes. After I took it out of the oven, I brushed the chicken with sauce (Kraft Spicy Honey tonight) and let it stay in the hot pan until the sauce thickened.

I also attempted to make a noodle dish with my leftover ricotta salata, but it didn't turn out quite like I wanted it to. My aunt used to make a baked dish with egg noodles and farmer's cheese, which melts and browns in the oven, but the ricotta just stayed the same while the noodles dried out. We ate part of it anyway just so it wouldn't completely go to waste.

Barbecue chicken and noodles with steamed broccoli and 1/2 baked sweet potato:

I was feeling nostalgic on Friday night and wanted some comfort food, so I made one of my favorite dishes from my childhood: Chicken Casserole (and yes, the word casserole does signify that cream of mushroom soup is included).

The good thing is, the amount of this can easily be altered to feed one person or twenty. Just mix the following things in a bowl: boiled chicken (which has been torn into small pieces), mushroom soup, low sodium chicken broth, paprika, salt, and pepper. Put it in a baking dish and top with dry herb seasoned stuffing mix. Bake at 375 until the top is brown and the liquid is bubbling.

Even though this is definitely not a fancy dish, it is one of my favorite things in the world to eat. The boyfriend likes it too, and I think he may have tried to hide the leftovers from me.

With green beans and 1/2 baked potato with light sour cream and lots of pepper:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spicy Chicken Sausage and Penne

Well, I went to the Fresh Market, but I only came home with some chicken Italian sausage and mushrooms. I decided to make a pasta dish and use up some of my pantry staples.

I literally threw this together. It was one pan dish (well, two since I had to boil the pasta) that was easy to make and clean up. I used the following ingredients:

2 chicken sausages
8 oz. mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped onion
minced garlic
1 14 oz. can Italian tomatoes, drained
crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
4 oz. dried penne, cooked according to package
1 1/2 oz. ricotta salata

I browned the sausage, mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a skillet while the pasta boiled. Once browned, I added the tomatoes, capers, red pepper (to taste, I measured in my palm), and S&P. I drained the pasta, mixed it in, and crumbled the ricotta on top.

It was very filling and not too bad calorie-wise since I used chicken sausage instead of pork.

The final product (with a guest appearance of my favorite spoon from Williams Sonoma):

I will be making this one again.


I still have lots of berries left, so I started out my day with them again. Here's a bowl of Quaker corn bran, milk, and blueberries:

I ate the leftover steak salad for lunch, so no picture. I was hungry again around an hour later, though, so I ate a handful of Triscuit thin crisps. They were salty and crunchy and really hit the spot!

I think I'm going to make something new for dinner, and I'm using that as an excuse to make a trip to Fresh Market. I'm off to shop!

Steak and potatoes (and a huge salad)

I was planning on making this for lunch on Sunday while my parents were still here, but it ended up as Monday's dinner for me and the boyfriend. First, I made the Crash Hot Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman:

The herbs are interchangeable in this recipe, and I had chives and parsley in my fridge. That picture was taken before baking.

For the salad, I took my basic salad mix (lettuce, spinach, red cabbage, red onion, and cucumber) and added blue cheese and the purple tomato from the farmers' market. I grilled a London broil and sliced it thinly to top the salad. I also added a small handful of walnuts and some Kalamata olives to my salad and topped it all off with some EarthFare olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

My plate, with the baked potatoes:

There was a big serving of the salad leftover, so that will be lunch tomorrow. See you then!