Thursday, January 29, 2009


You didn't think I'd let this pass without a comment, did you? And I thought you knew me so well.

Maybe you remember me posting this last year. Well, unless you were hiding under a rock (or for shame, you don't care about college basketball!), you know that it happened yet again last night. And while I'm proud to be a Deac every single day, there is a certain air that we Deacs walk on after each victory over Duke. Can you blame us?

And while I'm at it, I'm way past due for addressing another very important matter... I hereby vow to mute any basketball game (or at least any game during which I have control of the volume) that Dickie V calls. I've been tolerant, I tried. When I wanted to throw the TV across the room last night after his 20,000th comment about why Duke is the greatest team to ever grace a basketball court, I held back. But no more - really, it's just silly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Yes, in theory (and when sitting in a warm and cozy home looking out at it), this is a beautiful scene... however, when reality strikes and you realize every last inch of it, especially the (kinda, sorta important) steps and walkway, is covered in ice, your (or at least my) image of a lovely white blanket of snow is gone with the bitterly cold wind.

Not complaining - just realizing that it's true what they say... "you can take the girl outta Georgia, but you can't take the Georgia outta the girl". This was not one of those mornings that made this pseudo-Southern girl swell with pride to have moved north.

I'm not usually one of those wimpy girls either (or so I thought??) - it's just that I don't enjoy feeling like I have to walk down the sidewalk with the speed and fragility of a 90-year old woman (thanks to the thick layer of ice glistening across my path). *though it must be said, if I'm moving as well as I did this morning when I'm 90, I will be a happy camper

And, don't think that this is an automatic reaction every time the mercury drops below freezing, I definitely don't mind bundling up in my warm sweaters and scarves (let me rephrase, I enjoy bundling up) - but add snow and ice which inevitably means everyone starts acting all sorts of silly... that, I can do without. True, when this is all I can see out of the windshield of our car, it's time to take some precautions, but everyone should take a good dose of common sense before emerging into these conditions. *is that too much to ask?

Maybe it was best to stay in la-la land, dreaming about homemade ice cream.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Red Envelope For You!

According to Chinese Astrology, 2009 is the Year of the Ox. Happy Ox Year! (doesn't that have a nice ring to it?)

In preparation for the Lunar New Year, I did a little research and found out that most of the dishes traditionally served for this celebration are symbolic of something optimistic and positive.

- Chicken and fish symbolize happiness and prosperity - especially when served whole.
- Dishes made with oranges represent wealth and good fortune because they are China's most plentiful fruit.
- Noodles represent longevity, therefore, they should never be cut!
- Duck symbolizes fidelity, while eggs signify fertility.

1 for 4 ain't too shabby, right? At least our meal didn't include bean curd or tofu - both avoided because the white color suggests death and misfortune.

Traditional Chinese or not, I'd eat this meal anyday. And pay no attention to the fact that the noodles I used are Japanese. I'm only half-Chinese anyway!

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlic and Chili Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light

1/3 c fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry sherry
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
a pinch of white pepper
1/2 TBSP canola oil
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 c (1-inch) slices green onions
1/4 tsp dark sesame oil
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Prepare all ingredients including mincing garlic and finely chopping jalapeño.

2. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add canola oil to pan. Add shrimp to pan; stir-fry 1 minute or until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño; stir-fry 1 minute.

3. Stir in broth mixture; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done and sauce is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in onions and sesame oil. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

*I increased the sauce ingredients and decreased the heat - made as the recipe states online, it's very hot, so adjust to your liking.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

We All Scream

For (BLUE) ice cream!

And by "we all" I mean, a certain favorite 3.5 year old.

Truth be told, I don't know if Charlie was more excited about the blue ice cream or riding the carousel. He and his granddad have developed quite the tradition, aptly named "horsey ice cream"; translation: (utterly sugary sweet) Cotton Candy flavored ice cream followed by a rousing turn on the mall carousel.

And once again, I didn't mind even the teeniest bit spending another evening with my favorite nephew and niece.

*yes, we've seen lots of Charlie and Caroline lately... hopefully tomorrow night's healthy Chinese New Year meal turns out well so I can share it with you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Whole Package

There's not a whole lot to this recipe so I don't have much to say about it except to applaud the (extreme) ease of making it and the deliciousness that resulted.

It was another winner of my buddy Christie's that definitely went straight into the "go-to" meals file... and she's right, this Roasted Herbed Pork Tenderloin is fancy enough for entertaining even! Plus, we are in the middle of re-adjusting our grocery budget for the year and with Costco's $2.99/lb pork tenderloin, this isn't just tasty - it's new year's resolution (read: healthy!) and budget friendly, too!!!

*for the two of us, I only cooked one of the tenderloins in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes and it was perfect!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good For Something

It seems that in the eyes (and hearts and minds) of my niece and nephew (throw my brother and sister-in-law in there for good measure), I am good for only a very few things. Is it wrong that I'm okay with that? After all, they say to capitalize on what you're good at, right?

First things first, and I have to give credit to Chris here too... babysitting. Charlie and Caroline don't really get a say in this one... but all I have to do is beg to babysit (read: hang out with my two favorite cuties) and my brother gets a night out with his lovely wife. Works out well for everyone. (and in the process, of course, Charlie and I get caught goofing off)

A close second... making cookies, though there are really numerous benefactors of this one. Jacob, Chris and I all enjoyed Susan's delicious Chocolate Chip, Cherry, and Pistachio Cookies.

And lastly, taking pictures (I didn't say I was good AT it, but I do always have my camera around...practice makes perfect, right?). If nothing else, no one can say I played favorites with my niece and nephew... Caroline's definitely had her picture taken more than a few times; one day I will get just that perfect shot - good thing her cuteness more than makes up for my lack of skill.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Beating the Cold

Walking to work this morning, I made a decision... that the only way I was going to survive the 12 degree weather (disclaimer: while I know there is colder weather right now in other parts of the country, people - this is COLD for me!!!) would be to set my mind on something cold that I actually LOVE, rather than the miserable blast of frigid wind whipping against my face at that very moment.

So... my cold comfort? Ice cream. Especially homemade Peppermint Ice Cream. Even in the bitter cold temperatures of a DC January, as long as I'm in the comfort of a good heating system, a scoop of ice cream makes any day a good one for me.

For now... no recipe, just a pretty picture of our favorite homemade peppermint ice cream. Maybe it'll be helpful to any of you who are also in a place where just a glance out the window makes you shiver.

*****OH! And for anyone coming to our great nation's Capitol in the next few days (rumor has it, there are something like 1-2 million of you), consider yourself warned. Sure there are tons of websites like this, this and this with Inauguration Planning tips, but all you need to know is this: It will be freezing on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not Hiding

You know me too well already so I'm sure this is a foregone conclusion but it's officially American Idol time... so you know where to find me.

Although you might not recognize me this year as I'm wearing my fancy new slippers... thanks to some friends in Mobile who apparently thought my old red slippers had paid their dues!

*Oh, and of course I love the new judge (or at least her name)...

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Keeper

Excuse the reference, but all I could think about as I pulled the incredibly tender and fragrant chunks of chicken from the slow cooker the other night was "I think I'm gonna like it here" (absolutely sung in true Annie fashion).

And although I probably lost some readers with such an antiquated musical reference, I really think there's something in here for just about everyone - so stick around.

Remember this? When I not so eloquently begged and pleaded for your slow-cooker suggestions... hints, and sage words of advice? Thanks to one of my favorite readers, I believe we will never go roasted-chicken hungry again in this house! But let this be a warning, from now on, don't get between me and a sale on whole chicken roasters in the Northern Virginia area.

Perhaps I'm still living on beginners' luck (though I really can't claim beginner status any longer), but it seems that risks in the slow cooker are well worth taking. If you start with this roasted, slow-cooked chicken, the options are limitless.

Slow-Cooked Roasted Whole Chicken

Whole chicken, rinsed and patted down to dry
2-3 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP cumin
1 1/2 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP smoked paprika
salt and pepper, sparingly

Rub rinsed and dried chicken on breast side with olive oil. Sprinkle oiled chicken with 1/2 of all spices. Turn chicken over and place in slow cooker on top of 3-4 balls of aluminum foil (to act as a rack). Rub down the dry side of the chicken with oil and spices. Cook on low for 8 hours. Chicken will fall off the bone making it easy to separate the tender, juicy chicken.

I had seen these sandwiches in my Bon Appetit and thought that they would be perfect for gameday... and would be an ideal use for the roasted, shredded chicken.

The Warm Chicken Sandwiches with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Cheese did not disappoint - AND I was left with about half of the chicken. I was quite content to pop that portion into the freezer - and this weekend, I will add some BBQ sauce and a whole wheat crust and voila, instant BBQ chicken pizza. Yes, the slow-cooker DOES make (multiple) affordable and delicious meals - it's true!

And since this was such a delicious and EASY way of roasting chicken (and the added bonus of that incredible slow-cooked flavor and limitless versatility with the finished product), I'm submitting this to this month's Monthly Mingle: Healthy Family Dinners.

I know without a doubt, using this roasted chicken there are many more healthy dinners suitable for families, large or small, in our future.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One For the Little Guys

Having gone to an ACC school, I am completely spoiled by our conference. Yes, people probably think Wake is DII since we are so small and more known for our academics than our sports, but we really were lucky to have the best of both worlds; a great mix of incredible academics (admittedly sometimes a little "too" incredible as we are often called "Work Forest") and big-time sports.

However, the other side of my family has been born and bred cheering for Navy (of the small but formidable Patriot League - all you Wake fans are surely laughing at the formidable comment)... and as you all know, I don't mind donning my USNA gear and taking one for the team. And while not as big a rivalry as our favorite Army-Navy, when Bucknell is in town, it's a rivalry in this house.

So when we heard Bucknell was coming to take on Navy in mens basketball, a couple of us headed over to Annapolis to cheer on our respective teams. Unfortunately, I am sad to report that save for the last 30-seconds of the game when Bucknell decided to make a last-second showing, the half-time show may have been the most exciting part (see! I'm so spoiled by ACC basketball!).

Anyone seen the ZOOperstars before? Yeah, we hadn't either...

Luckily, it's hard to beat a night out with good friends and food - Federal House made for a great dinner spot (if they have the crab quiche on special, try it!) and Galway Bay for some post-dinner fun. I absolutely love Annapolis - admittedly better in the summer than a bitter cold winter night, but we made a fun night of representing our teams.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Doing My Research

I don't know whether to call the dish we enjoyed last night spicy, "herbed" or sweet salmon... I may just have to leave it at some mix of all three.

Yes, the sweet flavor was unmistakable... and I certainly detected and enjoyed the subtle smoky paprika flavor, but then the addition of cinnamon and thyme? Are all these flavors considered spices or herbs anyway... or does it even matter?

I've actually been wondering this for a while now but this recipe was the last straw - it turns out that both spices and herbs "can consist of flower buds, bark, seeds, leaves or many other parts of a plant" and that "[o]ver time the definitions for spices and herbs have changed a bit. In the past, spices have been categorized as fragrant, aromatic plant products like cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper. These spices are found in plants grown in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. While herbs have always been recognized as the more green, leafy products like mint, rosemary and thyme grown in more temperate areas.

But according to the American Spice Trade Association, today spices have become known as 'any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes.' This all-inclusive definition seems to cover a wide range of plants like herbs, spice seeds and even dehydrated vegetables and spice blends."

Admittedly, it felt good to find out that I'm not the only one who's pretty confused about these things... and we can all be comforted that no matter what you call the ingredients, this Smoked Paprika Roasted Salmon with Wilted Spinach is still delicious!

*as usual, I made very few changes... this time only adding some thinly sliced, sauteed garlic to the wilted spinach

Monday, January 05, 2009

Lightening Up

If this is what is considered eating healthier, then count me in (well, at least for the dinner part - we do still have a few more Oreo truffles staring back at me from the fridge)... maybe I will draft a few 2009 resolutions after all!

While we try very hard to be healthy eaters - and for the most part, we do a good job and have at least a serving of salad or fresh veggies with each meal (if not both) - I don't tend to seek out light recipes. My mom was the queen of no non-fat cooking or baking... but she has amazing will-power and a good eye for portion control (or so I've come to assume those are her secrets). I have followed somewhat in her footsteps - and I especially don't bake light - it's just not worth it to me... but I do, on occasion, when I think I can get away with it, lighten an otherwise hearty dish with some success.

So it came as quite a surprise that this recipe for Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup caught my eye... I'm attributing it to the fact that I had some chicken breasts awaiting their demise in my refrigerator and with only the purchase of two (very inexpensive) cans of beans, this recipe was already in my pantry. And wouldn't you know... those inexpensive and flavorful ingredients made one delicious soup.

*the only changes I made were to add another 1/2 can of navy beans, and I split the difference on the spices using 1/2 of a chipotle chile and 1/4 tsp smoked paprika - oh! and I skipped the olive oil, by mistake... the results were still delicious

And go figure, thanks to this soup and our side of veggies, we had a (very quick) delicious, hearty and healthy dinner!

Resolution #1: try more light recipes... but don't eat more just because they are light!

I'm sending this recipe to Joelen who's hosting her monthly Chef Spotlight Dinner; this month the spotlight is Health Conscious Chefs!

Friday, January 02, 2009

On a Roll

Busy starting (or trying to start!) the new year off right - especially after such an auspicious beginning - so this will be quick. I just wanted to pass along my second new recipe of the year... which incidentally is my second recipe of the new year to go in the "will make again" archive.

This began as our lazy day snack and appetizer yesterday and turned into our dinner - we highly recommend serving this with Pepperoni Dip with our favorite Trader Joe's Spicy Flaxseed Chips.

*the only change I made was to use turkey pepperoni - because that off-sets the amount of this yummy dip we consumed, right?

**UPDATE: duh, I also used reduced fat cream cheese and reduced fat sour cream and it still tasted great!

I've seen similar recipes before but if this isn't already in your football-watching, Super Bowl party appetizer repertoire, add it now!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Own Crystal Ball

Around here, being the sophisticated folks that we are... two (very important) criteria are used to predict how the new year will turn out... the state of our stomachs (i.e. the food) and Annabelle's state of mind.

After repeated hints from my husband, I finally joined the world of Oreo "truffle" makers. We'd had these a few times before at different events in Atlanta and Chris (and anyone else in the near vicinity) would line up at the tray popping them as fast as possible... so I thought as a special treat, I'd give these cute candies a try - only I dipped them in white chocolate and sprinkled some sanding sugar on them for a little new year's "glisten". And... it turns out that I have now officially had people lined up waiting to get their hands on something I made; had I only known it was this simple!

Oreo Truffles
makes approx. 50 candies

1 pkg Oreo cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
about 8 oz. of your choice of dipping chocolate

In a food processor, blend all the cookies and the cream cheese until well blended. Shape into 1 inch *I made mine slightly smaller as these are very rich candies balls. Refrigerate the Oreo mixture balls for around 20-30 minutes so they are firmly packed.

In the meantime, melt your dipping chocolate according to the directions provided. Dip balls into the chocolate so they are completely covered and let dry on a wax paper-covered baking sheet. Top with any sprinkles you wish (suggestions are remaining Oreo cookie crumbs, sprinkles, colored sugars) and refrigerate truffles for about an hour, or until firm.

Store truffles in the refrigerator until ready to use.

And then there's our sweet Annabelle; really, we just throw her into the mix because she can pretty much make anyone smile - and we have yet to see her in a bad mood (momentary bouts of 'why are you doing this to me, I thought you loved me' when we are bathing her or brushing her teeth, but she forgives immediately and within seconds, is back to being your best friend).

I found her here today, enjoying the sunny first day of 2009. How can you think anything but good thoughts with this adorable and cuddly furry friend around?

So you might be wondering... the verdict is in and by all accounts, it looks like 2009's gonna be a good year. Oh, and while we're on the subject, I wouldn't mind if a lot (and no, I did not say "all") of this came true, too.

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