Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Season Is This?!

It looks like fall...

...and Halloween is just a couple days away...but it feels like summer! I went for a short 3 mile run today and couldn't believe how hot it felt. Then I got in my car and looked at the temperature...79 degrees! As much as I love the fall, I have to admit that I haven't totally hated this burst of warmth. I'll never turn down a few days of t-shirt and flip flop weather!

After work I met Pat at the gym for a back and biceps session. I looked up at the TV to see Julie Andrews and the rest of the cast of The Sound of Music on Oprah...I had this on my calendar for tomorrow! We finished up with the weights and I rushed home to catch the rest of it, but I still can't believe that I messed up the date! I am a die hard Sound of Music fan and had been looking forward to this for so long. Ugh. Luckily Chrissy said that she would save it on her DVR for me! Lifesaver! :)

I didn't feel like cooking tonight, so I had some roasted butternut squash soup from last night (even better today!) with Stacy's Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips (the sweet with the spicy was a nice combination)

and sliced pear with Gruyere cheese. Yum!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Oh, how I love butternut squash. I love it mashed, with pasta, on pizza, and roasted in the oven. I really love butternut squash soup, but you need a food processor to make it, and I am without. Or should I say, I was without, until I saw that I could use some of my credit card reward points to get the 7 cup Cuisinart food processor that I wanted! So I immediately ordered it, and as I waited for it to arrive I started looking up recipes for butternut squash soup.

Finally my long awaited food processor arrived! Actually, it wasn't long awaited, I think it arrived within 3 days of ordering it!

But now I had a dilemma...all of the recipes I selected looked so good...I didn't know which one to use! After reading through them all about 5 times, I ended up using some elements I liked from each and making my own version of the soup. Mmm I'm glad I did, because it is absolutely delicious!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Start by peeling your squash. Whenever Pat is around I give him the fun job of peeling, so thank you Pat!

Cut squash into cubes, removing seeds in middle, and put in a large mixing bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and whatever spices you like. I used red chili powder, green chili powder, paprika, pepper, and a little bit of salt. After tossing the squash with oil and spices to evenly coat, transfer to a glass oven dish. Add 1 cup of chicken broth to the pan.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until squash feels pretty tender.

When the squash is getting close to being done, prepare the onion:  first chop, then saute on medium in a large pot using 1 1/2 tablespoons butter.

When the squash is done, transfer squash and all liquid from roasting pan into the large pot of onions. Add 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup apple juice and more fresh ground pepper. Cook on medium-low for 20 minutes.

Then transfer contents of pot to the food processor, and puree until it reaches your desired consistency.

Now its time to enjoy some delicious roasted butternut squash soup!

I had this with a glass of B.R. COHN Zinfandel, which I bought in Sonoma, California.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I used fat free, 50% less sodium)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • Spices (I used red and green chili powders, paprika, salt and pepper)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, seed and cube your butternut squash. In a bowl, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, paprika, green chili powder, red chili powder, salt and pepper. Transfer contents of bowl to a large glass oven pan (lasagna sized). Add 1 cup chicken broth, and put in oven to roast for 30-35 minutes.

2. Chop onion and saute in 1 1/2 tbsp butter until translucent (saute in large pot that will fit all contents of soup).

3. When squash is done roasting, transfer squash and liquid from pan to the large pot with onions. Add 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup apple juice and more fresh ground pepper. Cook on medium-low for 20 minutes.

4. Put entire contents of pot into food processor (it just barely fits in a 7 cup food processor). Puree until smooth, or desired consistency. Serve hot and enjoy!

This was sooo good. Totally worth ordering a food processor for! It had a hint of spiciness, just a little bit of warmth...yum!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early Morning Workouts and Lots of Oatmeal

The past couple days I've gotten back to doing some early morning workouts. My favorite time of day to exercise has always been first thing in the morning, but usually isn't possible due to my work schedule. I did a little schedule juggling this week and its been great. I feel so much better after working out in the morning, have tons more energy, and am in a better mood all day.

Yesterday I did my interval workout (10x400 at faster than a 5k pace) at 6:00am, followed by an hour of weight lifting (legs and shoulders). By the time I left the gym my legs were sooo tired, but it felt great!

For breakfast I had some Omega Orange Carrot Juice (from Trader Joe's). I don't drink juice very often, but this stuff is really good. It has 50mg DHA and EPA Omega-3 Fatty Acids from fish oil in each serving (don't worry - it doesn't taste fishy at all!). One serving also has 130% of your Vitamin A, 120% of your Vitamin C, and 13% of your Potassium (very important when recovering from a hard workout).

You won't be surprised that I had oatmeal for breakfast. When it comes to morning food, I'm incredibly predictable. I mixed in pumpkin butter, dried cranberries, and some walnuts...tasted like Thanksgiving dinner (minus the turkey).

This morning I got up at 5:30, walked to the gym for a warm up (about 1 mile) and did chest and triceps exercises. For some reason triceps are one of my favorite muscles to work out. Now they're pretty sore though! I'm going to go for a run later in the day.

For breakfast I had oatmeal...this morning with fresh chopped apple and some cinnamon.

Great start to the day. Happy Wednesday! Halfway to the weekend!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cookie Monster

After work I went for a 5 mile run down and around Jamaica Pond. It was so warm that it felt like a Spring day! Its always nice to have a few warm days mixed in with chilly fall days.

I raced home because today I had a mission: to make lots and lots of cookies! I'd promised Pat that I would make cookies for him to bring to hang out with his friends, since apparently several other guys had brought some baked treats recently and he hadn't brought any. Its also been a while since I made cookies from scratch, and I'm excited to bake. So I set out to make two kinds of cookies - lots for Pat's friends, and also some for my friends and to bring to my dad!

Cookie #1 - Chewy Chocolate Chip

I found this recipe while blog hopping a couple weeks ago. It is Jenna's recipe, and I'd never been to her blog before, but it is funny because her blog name is very close to mine! Check it out! My blog is just in the toddler stages, but her blog is quite large and impressive.

Makes about 75 cookies.

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt (or sea salt if you have it!)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 bag chocolate chips (about 1 3/4 cups)

Before you get started:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Let butter sit at room temperature for a good while to soften (or if you're making these last-minute, you can soften in microwave)

Cream together the sugar and butter using a wooden spoon.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Then add the Vanilla extract and mix together.

Add the flour to the dough, mix to combine. Then carefully stir in the chocolate chips.

Put cookies on baking sheet. If non-stick sheet you can use as-is, otherwise use cooking spray or parchment paper to prevent from sticking. Cookies before:

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden.

Cookie up close:

Pile of cookies:

What I learned halfway through this batch of cookies...they look much more appealing if you roll the dough into little balls rather than just slapping a spoonful of batter onto the cookie sheet.

This batch yielded 71 estimate is that I would have had 75 cookies if I hadn't eaten a ton of dough while belting out "I'm so excited" - I got pretty into these cookies. And I'm happy to report that they were beyond delicious! Pat couldn't believe how good they were, neither could his friends or my friends. All that remains of the 71 cookies are 2 that I set aside for Pat to have with lunch today. So these were definitely a hit!

Cookie #2 - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cherry Cranberry

I found this recipe in the January/February 2010 issue of Cooking Light. I ripped it out of the magazine months ago, excited to make them, but it didn't happen until now. The magazine's name for the cookies are Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies because these are actually better for you than a typical wouldn't be able to tell by tasting them though!

Makes about 35 cookies.

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried cherries (I used half dried cherries and half dried cranberries)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 2/3 cup chocolate chips, because that's what I had at home)
  • Cooking Spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flours, oats, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk:

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat (or in the microwave). Remove from heat and add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until well blended.

Add cherries, cranberries, egg and vanilla, then mix until combined. (I forgot to beat my egg before mixing in).

Fold in the chocolate. Here's the dough:

This dough is much different from the dough of my Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies. This almost looks like granola, and instead of spooning it onto the cookie sheet, you need to form dough balls with your hands and roll so they stay together.

Ready to go in:

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (the recipe calls for 12 but mine were done by 10 minutes and were nice and chewy). Allow to cool on pans for a couple minutes before moving them to plates or wire racks.

These cookies wanted their own fashion shoot. See how cute and yummy these look! Irresistible! The cherries and cranberries gave a nice bite which was perfectly paired with the earthy oat flavor and sweet chocolate. A lot of these went to Pat's friends as well, but I was able to save a dozen to bring to dinner with my dad and Jim!

While my cookies were baking, I also had some food on the grill for dinner...


I sliced 3 small potatoes and covered them with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Transfer potatoes to a piece of tin foil and wrap up, making sure seams are closed.

Grill on medium for about an hour.

 And the rest of my dinner was grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.

Now all I can think about is cookies, and what other kinds I can make!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

Sunday morning I woke up with plans to go to the Farmer's Market. I love going on Sunday mornings to pick out fresh produce for the week, and its always fun talking to the farmers about what they've grown and how they like to cook it. I got dressed, warmed up a zucchini oatmeal muffin, and enjoyed my breakfast with a glass of skim milk. I waited (and waited) for Pat to get up so we could go to the market together, and in the meantime ate another muffin.

We headed down to Main Street when a sad realization dawned on me...last week was the last Farmer's Market of the year! I'd missed it! Disappointed, we headed for the grocery store instead, but on our way saw this little farm stand:

Though it was little, it had everything we were hoping for! We loaded up with over a dozen apples (Macoun and Empire), 2 butternut squash, a zucchini and a summer squash, 1 red tomato, and 3 green tomatoes. The green tomatoes inspired a tasty snack I'd make for the Patriots game later.

After the farm and grocery store we came home to unload all of our food, and before we could change our minds, we headed back out for the gym. Today was just a weights day, since I ran 10 miles yesterday. We did backs and bis, which ended up being 4 back exercises, 3 bicep exercises, and 1 that tackled both back and bi - we did 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each, and used both machines and free weights.

Back at home I got to work on our football snack...fried green tomatoes! I've had these a few times before , mostly when I traveled down south, and they are so delicious. They're definitely not very good for you, but sometimes you need a little grease when watching football.

My tomatoes:

Look how beautiful they are sliced! I almost didn't want to fry them...

Here's my workstation. After slicing the tomatoes, I sprinkled salt and pepper on them, then lightly dusted both sides with flour. Then submerge the tomato slice in the beaten egg, remove and let excess egg drip off. Next coat both sides of the tomato in the bread crumbs (I used a mixture of Italian seasoned bread crumbs and Panko).

Pour about 1/4-1/2 inch oil in a pan and head on medium. Once the oil is hot (you'll see that it becomes very thin, or you can test by dropping some crumbs in the oil to see if it bubbles a lot) place the tomatoes in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

I placed the tomatoes on paper towels when they were done cooking to drain some of the excess oil. After letting them cool for a couple minutes, I sampled them. Wow. These are incredible!

I decided to go Italian themed on some of them, so I put some marinara sauce on top of the tomato, then topped that with mozzarella medallions. I microwaved them to melt the cheese (but in hind sight, it would have been even better if I'd baked them for 5 minutes instead). Pat holding our plates:

And an up close look at these babies:

I can't tell you how delicious these were! I snacked on several of the plain ones, and ate both of my Italian-style tomatoes.  I was a little bit nervous about frying them at first (since I haven't deep fried anything before) and even asked Pat if I should try cooking them in light butter instead of oil. He made the good point that these aren't good for you anyway, so there wasn't much of a point in trying to make them a little healthier. So I decided to go big or go home and fried them in the oil! If you've never had fried green tomatoes before, I strongly suggest you try them.

  • Green tomatoes 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Flour (for dusting)
  • Bread crumbs (I used half Italian seasoned and half Panko)
  • Oil
  • Marinara sauce
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

Slice the tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dust both sides lightly with flour. Dip the slices in egg, allowing excess egg to drip off, then cover both sides in the bread crumbs. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side in a pan with about 1/4 - 1/2 inch hot oil on medium.

If desired, add marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella slices to the fried green tomatoes and either bake for 5 minutes or microwave for 2 minutes to melt cheese. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Running and Shopping - Two of My Favorite Things!

I got up at 4:30am every day for work this week, so sleeping in until 7:30 this morning was heavenly. Then I read in bed for a bit, fell back asleep, and got up at 9:15! I can't tell you how much I needed that. Callie and I had planned to meet at 11am for our run, so I still had extra time. I was about to watch some bad TV when I decided to make some muffins instead. Turned out to be a good decision!

Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

I eat oatmeal almost every morning of the week, so these muffins were just another method of getting my oatmeal! I'm obsessed.
My ingredients:

Everything in the bowl:

Looks promising!

I made 12 muffins without nuts, and then added a small handful of walnuts to the remaining batter for the last 5 muffins.

In they go!

And they're done:

The kitchen smelled like apple crisp as these baked...and when I tasted a muffin I realized why. These taste like apple cinnamon crisp muffins!

I found the recipe on but made some adjustments.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup baking splenda)
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs (I used 4 egg whites and 2 full eggs)
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used 3/4 cup organic unsweetened apple sauce, as usual!)
  • Walnuts (small handful that I added to mix for 5 remaining muffins)

The recipe said that this makes 12 muffins, but the batter was enough for 17 muffins.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Grease muffin tins or use muffin papers to line the tins
  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes
Word to the wise: since I substituted apple sauce for the oil, my muffins stuck to the papers a bit. If you are going to use apple sauce instead of oil, I'd suggest spraying the muffin tins with cooking spray instead of using muffin papers so they'll come out easily!

After taking my muffins out of the oven and quickly scarfing one, I headed up to Manchester to meet Callie for our run. It was the perfect fall day for a run, a little chilly but not too cold, red and orange leaves filling the trees and decorating the sidewalks.

We ended up running 10 miles instead of 11, and afterwards wanted a few treats. First stop: Dunkin Donuts for my favorite cool weather post-run drink.

This is a 50/50 which is half black coffee and half hot chocolate. I love this because the milk and chocolate provide some fat and calories which are needed after a long run, and the coffee gives me a little boost which is also needed.

After Dunkin's I chugged the 4 cups of water in my nalgene, ate half a banana (the potassium is great for rebuilding muscles) and a sweet potato that I'd cooked this morning. I always try to eat something as soon as possible after a long workout because I've found that the longer I wait the harder it gets to stomach anything.

Then for our second treat: a little shopping trip to Macy's. I've been so good lately about not shopping, so today I felt like I really deserved to buy myself some things. See how quickly I justified spending money? I always seem to come up with good excuses to shop. Today I bought a top and two dresses...but today was also their big one day sale, so I think I got some pretty good deals.

Now for a long hot shower and a little downtime until Callie and I head down to Southie for an Octoberfest party at our friends' new place!