Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easy Chicken Pasta, The Zone, and Cupcake Wars

I spent four hours yesterday blazing through about 250 pages of my nutritional fitness texts and completing the mandatory quizzes.  My brain is officially on overload.  What has really surprised me about it is that the material is MUCH more dense than I had realized.  The writers/editors/whoevers do not seem to follow much logic in terms of actually defining terms (or acronyms for that matter) prior to just throwing a whole crapload of information out.  I'm also getting nervous that the text is pretty dated...  I'm pretty sure The Zone is not a new trend.  Argh.  Oh well.  Learn it to get certified and then the continuing ed classes had better be more impressive or my money is going elsewhere.

All that reading about nutritional deficiencies led to making a healthy, quick dinner.  Chicken Pasta with Broccoli and Asparagus.  This pasta has no real sauce per se, making it a really clean, yet still flavorful, dish that actually tastes like what it is.

What you need for 2 huge servings or 4 small servings:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of pasta ((use whatever you like...  I had this gemelli left))
1 head of broccoli ((or about 2 cups))
10 or so asparagus stalks
2 tablespoons of EVOO ((extra virgin olive oil))
1/4 c of chicken broth
1/4 c of diced onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
Black pepper

What to do:

Boil the water for the pasta and cook it according to the package directions.  When finished, drain in a colander.

While that is coming to a boil, heat up a skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of EVOO in it.  Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions are becoming translucent.

While that is cooking, cut the chicken breasts in small pieces.  ((Always be sure to use a separate, designated cutting board for raw meats!  XO, the Salmonella Fairy))  Add them to pan and sautee them around until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Trim the asparagus ((see below)) and chop it into smaller pieces and then "tree" the broccoli.  Add them to the pan with a little bit of chicken broth.  Cover and allow to cook until the broccoli is bright green, stirring it every so often.  I like asparagus "tender-crisp," meaning not turned to mush.  I only let this steam for about 3 minutes.

Tip for asparagus:  You do need to remove the woody stem at the bottom.  Luckily, if you bend a raw piece of asparagus, it will snap exactly where it needs to in order to remove that part.  Mother Nature is one crafty bitch.

Mix together with your drained pasta.  Add another splash of olive oil, a huge squeeze of lemon, crack some black pepper on top, and throw on a little Parmesan.  Done!  This would also be excellent served cold as a salad the next day if it makes it that long.

Nutritional Info:  For 1/4 cup of the pasta and about 4 ounces of the chicken breasts with lite cheese, let's call it about 350 calories.  Victory!


All righty.  I have a menu to finalize for a birthday party on Friday.  The debate is currently raging between White Russian Cupcakes ((with kahlua and vodka)) or Bailey's Irish Creme Cupcakes.  I'm leaning toward just making both and waiting to see what jackassery unfolds.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stuffed Turkey Burgers, Sweet Corn, and Tomorrow Piles

I had declared today a day off...  and then 6 am hit.  I'm trying to catch up on all of the things that continually get put on my Tomorrow Pile.  The beauty of the Tomorrow Pile is that you get to say, "Oh, I'll do that tomorrow."  Then when tomorrow comes, the pile still says "Tomorrow."   Rinse and repeat.

One of the things that has been looming is doing something about the condition of my refrigerators.  Yes, refrigerators plural.  As I was putting things away on Sunday after the brunch, there was quite a bit of rearranging going on.  ((Had you been here you would have seen that the door had to be closed quickly to prevent things from falling out.))  I finally decided an intervention was needed.  I took absolutely everything out, washed all the shelves, etc etc and cleaned out what was questionable and prioritized what needed to be used.   Let's just say it took so long that the upper level light bulb finally overheated...  It didn't burn out, it was just so hot that it had to shut down.  Yikes.  But it is now nice and sparkly and it turns out that I don't need to go to the grocery store ((at least for myself)) probably until October.


Two of the things on the "Use Me Now" list were ground turkey and spinach.  Until about a year ago, I had never had a turkey burger.  I'm from Beef Country.  If you are having a burger, it had better have moo-ed recently.  I think I thought they were dry or just generally gross.  Wrong again.  Certainly not the same as a regular burger or even a buffalo burger ((which I strongly advocate)), but still good and good for you.

What you need for two:

1/2 lb of ground turkey ((I buy the 99% lean variety, but 93% is good))
1 cup of fresh spinach, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of shredded parmesan
Various spices: garlic powder, onion salt, black pepper

What to do:

In a medium bowl, using your hands, mix together all of the above until it seems pretty consistent.  You can use whatever spices you like.  Just throw in a couple, three, four dashes of each.  Once mixed,  I like to use a burger press to shape them, because they stick together better.  I think I got mine at Target for like 99 cents.

Preheat your grill and then oil it.  I use GrillMates grill oil which comes on a little pad that attaches to your grill brush.  You heat up the grill, turn the burners down until you basically can't any further, and then rub the oil over it.  Nothing sticks.  It's like fricking magic.

Cook the burger over a medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side.  Again, this will depend on how thick your burger is, the fat content, and how medium your medium is on the grill.  Don't flip it a million times!  Once is enough.  Either use a meat thermometer ((cough, hypocrite, cough)) or cut into the middle to assess doneness.  You do NOT need to cook the living shit out of it.  This is why people think turkey burgers are dry.  This turned out moist and juicy.  ((I hate those two words so I had to use them both.))

I served these on multi-grain thin sandwich buns and topped with a little more spinach and roma tomatoes.  No need for any other sauces or condiments or anything.

On the side I had sweet corn, the first of the season from the co-op.  I LOVE sweet corn with a passion unknown to anything but my diet coke.  In case you didn't know, I grew up on a farm in the middle of Nowhereville North.  My friend Angie and I used to anxiously await the sweet corn being ready.  We would walk out to the field and and check on it, sometimes several times a day.  Nothing was ever more tragic then when the raccoons got it before we did.  ((Which now that I think about that, I think I just figured out something that I hadn't thought of in 20 odd years...))

ANYWAY, sweet corn is super easy to prepare.  Shuck it, boil some water, and throw it in for about 8 minutes or until the kernels turn a bright yellow.  I just then baste it with a little bit of real butter and maybe some salt.

Nutritional Info:  About 350 calories for the entire plate, assuming you have a 6 ounce burger and a large ear of corn.  VICTORY!


Let's see what else?  I wrote my first ad this morning...  That was frustratingly fun.  I have no idea how it will look once the editor gets a hold of it, but it should be up in May!  I'll provide a link when that happens.

Now I'm going to go delight in my clean refrigerators.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sangria, Shows, and Sugar Highs

The brunch and trunk show can be deemed a success!  I think I had about 30 people here for brunch and some day-drinking by the pool while shopping.  As previously mentioned, I had gone on a massive bake-a-thon to sell baked goods and promote my new venture; Tammi brought jars of preserves, apple butter, and some of her crocheted items; Allie brought her Elodee headbands and hair clips; and Brandi had jewelry.  Everyone thought it was a great idea and a good way to get together.  I will definitely be doing it again.


It is HOT.  I think we hit 105 today.  You know what that means:  It is officially pool time in Arizona.  While I understand the allure of a cold beer by the pool, sometimes you need something a little fancier.  Today, I made white wine sangria.

Previously described as summer in a glass...  Also pictured, fresh limeade.

What you need:

One LARGE bottle of white wine
Diet Gingerale
Various Fruits  ((suggestions:  orange, lime, strawberries, grapefruit))

How to:

When shopping, look for the biggest and probably the cheapest bottle of white wine you can find.  I found Barefoot Pinot Grigio in a 1.5 liter bottle for 7 bucks so I went with that.

The night prior, pour the wine into a glass pitcher.  If you are using a normal person sized bottle, it will only fill one pitcher about halfway and you will really feel ripped off.  I split the 1.5 liter into two separate pitchers.

Cut up various kinds of fruit.  You can really use anything that you have.  In the pic above, I used oranges, limes, frozen raspberries, and strawberries.  For today ((pictured below)), I used oranges, strawberries, lemon, and kiwi.   ((I intended to throw in some mango, but they were past their prime.))

Take the fruit and squeeze the living bejeezus of it into the pitcher.  You can also take a wooden spoon and smash the hell out of it in the pitcher as well.  This will not result in the prettiest presentation though.  If you want it to look more "polished" or something ((I can't come up with a better word)) don't smash it, just throw it in.  Refrigerate overnight, covering the top of the pitcher with a piece of saran wrap.  I usually secure it on with a rubber band as well since for some reason saran wrap doesn't always seal that tightly.

The following day, fill the pitcher the rest of the way with diet gingerale.  Give it a few stirs and add a few handfuls of ice.  Done!  Some people add more sugar to it, but I think that is completely unnecessary.  We are sugary enough.  I'm drawing the line.  

Here's a kind of crappy picture that I took today:

Both of these pitchers disappeared within about an hour, so I'm going to assume they were good!  ((I personally was into the strawberry vodka lemonade which was also really fracking good.))


Okay kiddos.  It is time to get serious.  I have 60 days to pull my act together so here we go: CLEAN LIVING.  No more risottos.  No more cheesecake.  No more sugar bombs.  Oh who am I kidding?  I'll still be making that stuff for other people, so there will still be some treats around here.  BUT, you can also expect more healthy, yet still interesting and flavorful recipes.  In the mean time, cheers!