Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Barking Mad

Meet Finn. Finn is our houseguest for the week. His mom Heather is a friend of ours and was kind enough to take care of Penny the weekend we went away for our anniversary. 

It's quite possible that I've found a dog with more energy than Penny. The good news is that they entertain each other all day and wear each other out. They actually go to sleep when we do however, the minute my alarm goes off (at 6:15), so do they. I'm used to Penny sleeping while I take my shower, have my coffee, and get ready for work, and then she goes out. Now that she has a friend around, she's ready to run outside the minute that alarm starts beeping. I have to say, though. Finn is a very sweet pup and gets along great with Penny and chances are, she'll sleep for an entire week after he leaves. 

This is a rare moment...

Aside from dealing with 2 mad mutts, I've been getting into a new hobby lately - sewing! My mom gave me her sewing machine and I took a class at this great local place called The Beehive here in Atlanta. I'm making a baby blanket for a friend, so I'll post some pics soon once I'm done. I might also practice my stitching by making some dog bandanas. Or doggie straight jackets...

Monday, June 17, 2013

So, About That Raw Food Challenge...

Hey kids - remember when I told you about that raw food challenge I was doing for a week? Well, it's over now, and here's what I came home from Publix with today:

Not only 5 super sweet products, but 5 brand new super sweet products. I've actually had the coffee creamer already - I bought it once before, a couple of weeks ago when I first spotted it at Target, and it was so freaking good. God bless those awesome Girl Scouts.

I also opened the peanut butter and the Goldfish since cravings curiosity won me over. The Goldfish taste exactly like french toast drizzled with syrup, and the peanut butter tastes like a tub of chocolate-peanut butter frosting. It's actually lower in fat and calories than regular peanut butter (not by much, but every little bit counts. Right?). I'm sure I'll dive into the Special K bars tomorrow.

Anyway, now that I've kicked your sugar cravings into high gear, I'll tell you about my raw food week. It actually wasn't too bad. I didn't really know what to expect from it to be honest. I pretty much stuck to the same thing each day. Here's how my week went:

Smoothie made with honey, pineapple, frozen peaches, strawberries, and bananas

Fruit (usually grapes, an apple, a pear, or watermelon)
Handful of mixed nuts (pistachios, peanuts, almonds, and cashews)

Salad made with kale, red leaf lettuce, red onion, yellow pepper, tomato, black olives, garbanzo beans, avocado, zucchini, and a light dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Fruit or a Lara Bar

Salad made with tomato, cucumber, red onion, and avocado, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with basil

Grapes or watermelon

This was fine for the first 3 days, but then it got a little old. I did cheat a little on Thursday and Friday. I had my monthly girls' wine night at a friend's house on Thursday, so I had a little wine and some cheese. On Friday, I went to my friend Natalie's house and had a drink and a few snacks. I would probably do it again in a few months, but only for 3 days. I think it's a good way to give your body a detox every now and then, and I could definitely feel a difference after 3 days. 

Now excuse me as I go dip my pretzel thins into my chocolate peanut butter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Make it Raw

Last week, one of the girls I work with said that she was doing a raw food challenge, and asked if anyone would like to join her. Her trainer suggests going "raw" once every quarter, to cleanse out your system and stay healthy. It's only for a week, so I decided to give it a shot. I think there are about 6 of us who are doing it. Some people do it to lose weight and some people do it for the health benefits. I'm doing it for the health benefits, especially since it's great for your skin and hair. I'm also curious as to how it makes you feel. I eat healthy with little splurges every now and then, but this takes it to another level, so I'm wondering if it will help me sleep better and have more energy.

Basically, you eliminate processed foods, sugar, carbs, etc. for one week, and you don't cook the food, since cooking vegetables can actually take away some of the nutritional value of them. You eats tons of fresh fruits and veggies, plus nuts and beans for added protein. You can also eat pure honey and agave nectar as sweeteners. Today, I went grocery shopping and stocked up on tons of fresh produce (yes, I will be making Mike his own separate food since there is no way on earth he'd do this challenge with me). I figured that my meals would consist of a smoothie for breakfast (no dairy, obviously - bananas, berries, etc), a salad for lunch with a light splash of olive oil and vinegar (although I will miss my cheese. Sniff, sniff :( ), and another salad for dinner. For snacks, I'll munch on fruit, carrot sticks, and nuts, and if I'm craving something sweet, some strawberries with honey.

This should be interesting, since I know there are going to be times that I'll be dying to reach for my pretzel chips and I'll definitely miss my Greek yogurt for breakfast. And my dark chocolate granola bars. And my Coffee-Mate Girl Scout Cookie Samoa coffee creamer. Wait a second - now that I think about it... No, no - I can do this.  At least it's only for a week. And who knows, maybe I'll love it so much, that I'll want to stick to it! Although, I'm sure my hankering for sweets and my anti-vegetable husband would veto that idea real soon ... ;)

My shopping trip consisted of:
  • Apples (golden delicious and braeburn)
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Red grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers (green and yellow)
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Kale
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red onion
  • Baby carrots
  • Black olives
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Mixed nuts (pistachios, cashews, and almonds)
  • Lara Bars (these have no preservatives and are made with raw, natural nuts and fruit)
I washed and pre-cut mostly everything, to make life easier. I'll keep you posted on how this goes. I could love it, or I could end up curled up in a corner, crying for a piece of chocolate or an entire block of cheese...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pork Chops with Cinnamon-Pear IPA Sauce

Yes, you read that correctly. Odd combination, but I promise you, it works. It works really well, in fact. Publix had a huge sale on pork chops last week - lean pork chops were dropped to $4.99 a pound and were buy one get one free. I stocked up on them since that was a killer price, and I froze them in portions of two. However, this now means that I have a freezer full of pork chops, causing me to come up with some new pork chop recipes. Fortunately, pork is pretty versatile and can be made so many different ways.

I hadn't made the Stout-Glazed Pork Chops in awhile, and was thinking about those earlier, when I realized that I didn't have any stout beer in the fridge. I did have some IPA, which happens to be Mike's favorite. I figured I'd test drive something new, and started playing around with what I had on hand. As I was staring blankly into my cabinet, I noticed a bottle of pear-infused white balsamic vinegar. I was intrigued, so I mixed a little bit in a small Pyrex dish, along with some of the beer. Surprisingly, it was really good! It almost had a cider-like taste to it, so I added a dash of cinnamon, and I was sold.

Any kind of IPA will do. We had some of this from Trader Joe's, so I decided it would be my guinea pig, mostly because it was the cheapest bottle in the fridge.

There are so many different flavors of vinegars out there. If you have a favorite kind, give it a try! Just make sure you mix it up beforehand to make sure the tastes work together. I also mixed it with regular white balsamic, but there was something about the pear that gave it a much better flavor.

Pork Chops with Cinnamon-Pear IPA Sauce

- 4 boneless lean pork chops, about 1 inch thick
- 1 1/4 cups of IPA style beer
- 2 Tablespoons of pear infused white balsamic vinegar
- Small vidalia onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon of butter
- salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Season chops with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and add to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes per side.

Remove chops from heat and set aside. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Add onions to the pan and cook them, stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and add to the plate with the chops. Keep covered with foil.

Add the beer, vinegar, and cinnamon to the pan. Whisk for several minutes until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken up.

Once the sauce has thickened, add the onions and pork chops back to the pan. Cover and cook for 3 minutes per side.

As a side dish, I made this Tomato Vegetable Casserole from my Giada deLaurentis cookbook. It was SO good! Definitely a keeper.

As you can see, my sauce was a little thinner than it should be, but that's because I was being impatient. It was still super delicious. Next time, I'll give my sauce a few more minutes. It's definitely worth the wait :)