Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New (To Me) Kombucha!

Ever since Whole Foods, and basically every other store in town that sells Kombucha, have pulled all my favorite Kombucha drinks off the shelves, I have been dying for one.  I’m guessing from this article, that they won’t be returning very quickly either. 

So, what is a crazy kombucha craving addict to do?  Search out stores in other states of course!

This past weekend while in Minneapolis for my brother’s wedding, I headed over to The Wedge, an upscale community coop, which is only a few blocks from where he lives.  In addition to about a zillion other treasures I found there, I came across this.

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A brand of Kombucha that I hadn’t seen before.  Turns out it was local! Unpeeled. I couldn’t decide which flavor, but anything mango usually wins.  At $3.69 per bottle, it was priced the same as my favorite Synergy drink.  I needed instant gratification and immediately opened it on my way out of the store. 

The verdict:  not as good as Synergy Kombucha.  I liked it, but it didn’t have that tang that I’ve come to crave about Kombucha.  It was smooth and slightly sweet, but not overly so.  I noticed that it also had added fiber, in the form of inulin.  Not sure if I need fiber in my kombucha, but I guess it adds to the probiotic claims.  If I had access to this regularly (it’s only sold in select stores across the midwest) I’m not sure I would buy it again.  It just tasted like a watered down juice to me. 

Do you drink Kombucha?  What are your thoughts on the alcohol content controversy?  Personally, I never really felt much – but I only usually had a half a bottle at one time.  I also knew that it might have a small percentage due to the fermentation process, so I felt forewarned. 

 

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I’m Back…with Muffins!

I’m sure you’ve missed me and were on pins and needles wondering where I was.  Well, we took a quick trip to MN to attend my brother’s wedding!  It was a small wedding outside near their house on Lake of the Isles, in Minneapolis.  Here is the beautiful couple walking toward the lake on the way to the ceremony.

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We celebrated throughout the weekend with some yummy eats. 

A light lunch of scallops, cheese and fruit, and raspberry mixed greens salad. 

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Followed by a not-so-light dessert of gluten free chocolate cupcakes and cheesecake.  Delicious decadence!

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Evening celebration with unpictured bubbly constantly flowing.  

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Getting home yesterday to 112 degree heat, did not put me in the mood to bake.  Luckily, I had baked some muffins before we left and froze a few.  These are from Lindsay at Cotter Crunch.  I’ve mentioned that I’m not much for baking, but these sounded to terrific to pass up.  Check out her blog to read about how they make a great recovery type food because of the cherries and chia seeds.  (Not to mention a little extra boost of protein.)  I hadn’t worked out much over the weekend, but they made a great snack after a travel day, and held me over while able to get to the store and stock up the fridge.

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Cherry Chia Nut Muffins (Gluten Free w/ extra protein)

adapted from Cotter Crunch

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c Buckwheat Flour       (I didn’t have buckwheat or Peanut flour and sub’d spelt flour)
  • 1/2 c 12% light Peanut Flour
  • 16 grams Vanilla Protein Powder ( I used MRM)
  • 2-3 tbsp chia seeds (I used 3)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz plain goats milk yogurt (about 1/3 cup) I used Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted cherries
  • 2 packets of stevia or preferred sweetener (optional)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar (you can add more if you don't use a sweetener)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other preferred milk)
  • cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp water
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • meanwhile, mix dry ingredients together
  • slowly add in wet ingredients and folding in the egg
  • whisk until smooth
  • spoon into a greased muffin pan
  • top with the additional cherry pieces
  • bake for 20 minutes

These were fantastico!   The only thing I would change next time is to add about a 1/4 tsp of salt.  I think salt in baked goods brings out the sweetness and enriches the flavor.  These were moist and had just the right crumb.  Sometimes lowfat baked goods are chewy and “gummy,” but these were not.  I can’t wait to make them again!

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(Notice fancy china in the background – because all the cool kids use Dixie!)

What was the best thing you ate or drank over the weekend? 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Wine and Appetizer Party

Happy Monday Bloggies!  (Also, a belated happy Father’s Day to the dads out there.)

One of the highlights of the weekend was a little cocktail party at our friends’ house.  With 4 couples, 4 babies all under the age of 11 months, and 4 bottles of wine, we all had a great time! 

Ava found a boyfriend, he’s 4 days older than her.  Shhhh…don’t tell – we were watching.

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We drank some delicious wines.  This was one of my favorites of the evening.  The 2007 Schug Pinot Noir.  While I usually favor bigger, bolder reds like merlots and cabs over pinot, this one was smoother and had a little more body than many.  I liked the medium body and rich fruit flavor.  I think it even tasted a bit of vanilla.  An excellent red for the 100 degree evening!

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The Confluence is the one I wrote about last week from our weekend trip to the winery. 

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It was good, but I think I was still savoring the delicious pinot to much to really enjoy it. 

Sarah made some simpe, light and tasty romaine boats.  You would never guess that a little sea salt, pepper, Girard’s Light Caesar dressing, and fresh grated parmesan could taste so good.  Caesar salad without a fork!  (A few had anchovies…swoons!) 

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The rest of the spread.  I brought spring rolls and peanut sauce, they are hiding to the top right behind my wine glass.

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One of the women that was there is a cheese conisseur.  Check her out at www.cheese-chick.com.  She brought some amazing cheeses, but unfortunately, I forgot to keep track of the names/types.  I definitely have a lot to learn about cheese. 

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What a fun night with a great group of friends! 

What was the best part of your weekend?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Finally Friday!

Does anyone else feel like this was a long week?  We’ve been keeping very busy so far this summer.   Yesterday was Ava’s last day of swimming lessons for this session. 

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She even got a “report card.”  I think we will do another session at the end of July.  She loves it, and I love that it wears her out!

Besides that, I’ve been getting in some good workouts.  Yesterday I did the P90X Core Synergistics + Arms and Back.  Today, I did Back and Legs, but didn’t do the back portion since I worked back yesterday.  Like I mentioned before, I am not doing P90X in order, or as plan.  But, I am keeping track on the worksheets of my reps and weight each time, and I’m already seeing that I’ve gotten stronger.  I can pound out more pushups and increase the weight I’m using on my arms.  Woohoo!  My goal is to gain strength and build some muscle as opposed to losing weight. 

Now, on to the food!

This recipe is loosely based off Mellissa’s recent dinner of Salmon with Blackberry Arugula Salad.  I use the term loosely, because I read the ingredients and thought I knew what I was doing.  I also sub’d blueberries for the blackberries, since the blackberries didn’t look very fresh at the grocery store that day.  Instead of using most of the berries in the dressing and just a few on the salad, I did the opposite.  So, my dressing wasn’t nearly as thick as Mellissa’s. 

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The other change I made was to use Trader Joe’s frozen Grilled Asparagus Spears, since fresh asparagus is $3.99 per lb. here. 

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Arugula Salad with berries, jicama, and shaved Parmesan and Asiago cheese. 

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Altogether:

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Enjoyed with:

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Fabulous meal!  Since I didn’t have to clean the asparagus or roast it, this meal took me less than 30 minutes – nice!

What are your weekend plans?  Do you celebrate Father’s Day?

We are going out for pizza and wine tonight, and tomorrow night we have a wine and cheese party to attend.  It should be fun! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quick and Easy “Brinner”

Ah, Wednesday…we have a love/hate relationship.  This midway thru the week day sometimes makes the week feel so long.  Then, there are times when it seems like I’m saying “it’s Wednesday already?”  Does this ever happen to anyone else?  My Wednesday started with a nice 3 mile run.  I typically do 4 miles when I run, but I’ve noticed my knees bothering me a bit the last few days.  I don’t really know why, well, except, cough, cough…my age.  ;-/

If you’ve been reading my blog at all the past 11 months, (since Ava was born) you know that I love ‘quick and easy’ meals almost as much as I love cooking in general.  I’ve done bowl meals, leftovers, sandwiches, etc.  But, one thing I haven’t done is eggs.  You see, most of the time I don’t care for eggs, I don’t tolerate eggs very well, and just plain avoid them.  Too bad, because eggs are an excellent (and cheap) source of protein, and the yolk contains a lot of iron and vitamin D.  So every once in a blue moon, something egg-y sounds pretty good.   Well, I don’t know if it was a blue moon outside, but I decided to make omelets for dinner the other night.  Since Ava is a good egg eater (egg yolk only please,) we always have an abundance of eggs in the house.  It fit the bill for being quick and easy, and made a nice light dinner.  (Translation:  more room for dessert!)

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2 eggs, stuffed with a bit of green onion, chard, and mozzarella cheese, topped with a little Greek tomato cucumber salad. 

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What do you put in your omelets?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wine tasting in Arizona…yes I said Arizona!

Yes, wine is not just for California anymore.  Actually, there is wine produced in almost every one of the United States.  Not sayin’ it’s all good, but that’s another story.  That said, we’ve had some pretty fantastic Arizona wines. 

About 2 years ago, we made our way down south to some of the vineyards in Sonoita Arizona. 

The first vineyard in Sonoita started in 1973. There are now 14 vineyards and wineries. According to the Arizona Wine Grower's Association, climate and soil studies show that this region is similar to Ribera Del Duero, Spain; Southeastern Australia, Southern France and is almost identical to that of Paso Robles California.  Neat huh? 

Well, until recently, all the talk has been about Arizona’s southern wine country.  But, the new buzz is in Northern Arizona.  So, this past weekend, we packed up the baby, packed up a few friends and their baby, and headed ‘up north.’  Our destination:  Alcantara Vineyard

We have been to this beautiful winery before, nestled deep in the Verde Valley, and loved every breath taking moment.  Not to mention, so delicious wines. 

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(sorry, I took this picture a year and a half ago, in the winter.)

This past weekend:

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This past Sunday it was sunny, green, and about 80 degrees.  Perfect grape growing weather, and perfect for a picnic!   Alcantara has a beautiful yard and welcomes guests to bring family, food, and friends and enjoy their beautiful land. 

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Ava, my friend Sarah, in the background with her baby, Sophie.  

I enjoyed a tasting flight many times in previous visits, so today I went with a glass of the Confluence.  (70% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon)  This medium bodied red has a bit of spice, but nothing that the full berry and plum flavors couldn’t handle.  I had a bite of chocolate with it as well, and it really brought out some chocolate notes in the wine.  One of their most popular bottles, and I can see why. 

I also had a non-pictured glass of the Pinot Grigio.   Oh my…off the hook!  I don’t know if it was the beautiful sunny weather outside, the picnic food, or what, but this wine just tasted like liquid sunshine.  It was dry, but not bone dry…it somehow had the aromas of a viognier, but the light body of a pinot grigio. 

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Ava enjoyed her picnic on the blanket and happily stuffed her face with blueberries, butternut squash and applesauce.  Gourmet huh?

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See the grapes behind us?  Beyond that is the Verde River and then Sedona.  I wished I had a hammock and could just spend the night right there. DSC00528

 

This picture is quite different than the one when we came here last summer…

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Have you ever been to vineyards outside of the well known areas like California?

Besides California and Arizona, we’ve been to wineries in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, and New Mexico. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peach Pizza and a Plethora of Grilled Veggies

Happy Monday friends!  Did you have a good weekend?  We sure did!

I finally saw Sex and the City 2 Friday afternoon with some friends.  Of course there was wine and margaritas consumed before the movie (we were going for martinis, then we weren’t in the mood…oh well.)  I loved the movie!  I know it’s gotten mixed reviews, but it just seemed like it was something I could relate to so well.  (As did the series, because I was single when the series was on, and now married with a baby.)  I also got in some great workouts, hung out with our friends, and went on a little road trip to a winery in Northern Arizona yesterday.  More coming on that tomorrow. 

Remember the crazy amount of peaches I picked a few weeks ago?  Well, I have made peach salsa, peach crisp, peach and tomato salad, arugula and grilled peach salad, you get the picture right?  Well, last weekend we made…

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On a whim, I threw some sliced fresh peaches on some Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough.  A little bit of prosciutto, goat cheese, and parmesan added some saltiness to the super sweet peaches. A few mushrooms and a drizzle of balsamic reduction after slicing rounded out this pie.  Not knowing if we’d really like it, or how it would come out, I went out on a limb here.  Pizza is very sacred to us, and we usually have some pretty amazing combinations.  Well, I’m happy to report this was a winner!  If you like the combination of sweet and salty, and fruit and savory, you will LOVE this pizza.

Since we can not live on pizza alone, (oh, wait a minute, we have) we also eat a good amount of fresh veggies.  A couple of time a week, we fire up the grill and whatever protein we’re having, we also add a beautiful assortment of fresh vegetables to the mix.  Here is an example of one night this week;

Butternut squash, baby bok choy, red bell pepper, sweet potato, eggplant, and green and yellow summer squash.  Colorful!  This amount gets us 2-3 meals.  I love having the leftovers to throw in sandwiches, bowl meals, etc.  If you think you don’t care for veggies, grill them! 

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What is your favorite way to eat veggies?

stay tuned tomorrow, I will talk about our trip to the winery. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday’s Wine

Yes, I know – it’s Thursday, but it’s the wine we drank last night, on WEDNESDAY.   More on that in a bit.  We must talk about today, Friday Eve.  I’ve mentioned several times how I really like Thursdays.  We can officially talk about weekend plans now.   I’m finally going to see Sex and The City 2!  A couple of girly friends and I are playing hookie from work/being new moms tomorrow afternoon and seeing a matinee.  Not before grabbing a martini first (and probably after too!)  I can’t wait!   So, what are you all up to this weekend?  Doing anything fun?

If you need a good wine for your weekend plans, let me tell you about the 2003 Raymond Reserve Merlot.

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The first time I tried this merlot (about a year ago) I wasn’t crazy about it.  I found it a little to acidic and tannic.  But, a year later and another bottle to try, I went in with an open mind.  I poured this small glass in the picture, to “test” it first.  It was good!   Not as jammy as some of my favorites, but really opened up with food.  It had a great finish, and didn’t give me that tannic feel that I remembered from the last bottle.  I even noted hints of vanilla, which I really love in a good red wine. 

Don’t go looking for this vinatage in your local wine shop.  Unfortunately, it was sold out a while ago.  This was part of a case we received from Scott’s aunt at our wedding.  (She works in the wine industry and was able to get her hands on this vintage.)  That said, there are newer vintages that would be worth trying.   Raymond also makes a line called “The R Collection” that is a more ‘everyday’ price point – also worth checking out.  They make great cabs and chardonnays as well!

Do you drink merlot?  What is your favorite wine?  

I think if I had to choose just one, it would be a red blend. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grilled Scallops over Spaghetti Squash

Don’t you love when you make a dish that is so easy to prepare, yet comes out looking and tasting “company worthy.”  That was the case when I cooked up some jumbo scallops over the weekend. 

I had some lovely fresh jumbo scallops planned for dinner.  But, until about 30 minutes before cooking, I had no idea what the rest of the meal would include.  As Scott was getting some crackers out of the pantry, he mentioned we still had a spaghetti squash in there to use.  DING, DING, DING, we have dinner. 

While I sipped this,

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I thought about what to do with the squash.  To not heat up the oven, I chose to microwave “bake” the squash.  (It was 109 degrees when we started dinner.)  When it was done, I scraped out the strands into a bowl and added 1 Laughing Cow cheese wedge, a heaping tablespoon of whole milk Greek yogurt, capers, salt, pepper and a quick dash of nutmeg.  Microwave until the cheese and yogurt melt together with squash.

While that was cooking, I did a quick sear of the scallops in the grill pan.  I used a couple of teaspoons of lemon flavored omega-3 fish oil in the pan, for searing.

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Serve over the spaghetti squash mixture and wallah…dinner!

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We had another batch of the Summer Peach and Tomato salad that I made here, on the side.

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It was such a great meal, we both kept exclaiming how great something so quick and easy tasted.  The perfect post-busy weekend elegant dinner, without much fuss. 

 

Question:  what have you made that was so simple, yet came out oh, so good?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Waffles

Happy Monday Bloggies!  I hope everyone had a fantabulous weekend.  We had a hot one here, 109 yesterday in Phoenix.  In fact, when I got up this morning at 5:15am, it was already 82.   As you can guess, we spent a lot of time in the pool and a lot of time in the air conditioning.  We had to make our own fun inside, so Ava and I got our dance on.

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(Imagine a little Black Eyed Peas on in the background.)

Despite the heat, we did a little cooking and baking. 

Scott loves all things waffles, so when we saw the recipe for “Waffle Cookies” in the Spirit of Southwest magazine on our last trip, we saved it.  When our chocolate chip cookie craving hit Friday afternoon, we pulled out the saved recipe.  Not only would we have fun playing with a new recipe, it got double bonus points for not needing to heat up the oven.  You see, they are “baked” in the waffle iron! 

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For some reason the color came out weird on these photos.  But, they were tasty!!

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Waffle Cookies  adapted from Spirit Magazine

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled  (I used salted butter)

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup + 2 Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry, as it’s all I had-ooops)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. instant espresso powder  (I used instant coffee)

1 cup bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips

1.  Heat waffle iron.  In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until smooth.  Whisk in the egg and vanilla. 

2.  Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and espresso powder, then the chocolate chips.  Coat the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray.  Use a Tablespoon to portion out a cookie onto each waffle square.  Close the iron and cook until beginning to brown, about one and a half to three minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and repeat with remaining dough.

The cookies were very chocolaty, crispy on the outside and slightly soft on the inside.  A really fun twist on chocolate chip cookies!  I recommend “baking” these yourself!

I   guess having the waffle iron out, got us to craving breakfast waffles, because Scott mentioned making waffles with Ava, and it sure sounded good.  While I was at the gym yesterday morning,  Scott whipped up some waffles…from scratch!  Not only that, he didn’t want me to undo all the hard work I just done at the gym, so he “healthified” them to make it a great post-workout recovery meal. 

Scott’s aka “Waffle Master” Healthy Waffles

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup spelt flour  (ran out of all other flours – time to go to the store!)

1/2 scoop protein powder (We used MRM Egg White –vanilla flavored)

2 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 1/3 cup skim milk or non-dairy milk of choice

1.  In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add milk and egg and stir just until flour is moistened.  Let the batter rest for 5 minutes while waffle iron heats up.  Then stir gently one more time before using.

 

I like mine simple – just a little light maple syrup.  But, it seems to be missing something…

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mmm…fresh blueberries, much better!

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Question:  Are you more a waffle and pancake type breakfast person, or do you prefer the eggs and omelets?