Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sprinkled in my eggs or on top of hummus...mmm...Za'atar. I'm not sure what comprises this particular blend that I purchased, but it's weirdly yummy. It's a Middle Eastern spice mix that I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the North Market from North Market Spices. The seller said it was good on hummus or chicken, so of course I thought it would be perfect for eggs. Usually I sprinkle on some oregano or chili powder (when I'm not dipping them in ketchup).

Speaking of eggs whites, I think I've had 9 of them since the new WW plan started. Thankfully the points for 3 whites hasn't increased! The husband is sick and only wants (canned) soup, so my go-to meal is always egg whites with some sort of vegetable. Tonight it was green beans and mushrooms; the last two have been kale. Mmm...kale. Fresh, maybe drizzled with some Olivier balsamic vinegar...heaven. I need to try making those kale chips that are all the rage in some of the blogs I read. I haven't tried cooking kale at all.

I'm really digging this new plan. I'm not stressing about spending points on dairy, plus I've been able to enjoy the homemade bread (with jam!) I made yesterday without going over my daily points allotment. The online tools are pretty cool so far- I love stuff like that! I used to track all manner of nutritional info on Sparkpeople, so this really isn't any different from that. The only downside is entering in recipes or foods that aren't listed (I entered a TON of stuff in Sparkpeople), but in a way it's kinda good because then I'll know for sure how many points something is...especially when baking. I'll be able to indulge responsibly instead of estimating the cost of deliciousness.

As for my adventure with bread baking, I think it turned out pretty great for a first time! The dough was wetter than I think it was supposed to be and didn't rise as much as I would have thought. In any case, it's pretty delish- even the sick man has had some (with jam!), and he's pretty picky. I was hoping for a lighter/taller bread that he would be okay with for sandwiches. I'll just have to try again! It's been really hard to not sit and eat all of it; I'm so proud there's still some of the first loaf left! Then there's the second one to contend with. How long will this stuff even last before it goes bad?

Sneak peak of what I hope to make this weekend: Pumpkin Focaccia andPumpkin, Fig, & Pomegranate Upside-Down Cake. The last time I was at the North Market, Omega (?) was sampling some pumpkin focaccia that was SO good. I thought about purchasing some, but it was some ridiculous price- I think it was by the pound? And the cake just recently popped up on The Front Burner as Emily's entry into the latest round of Project Food Blog. She's had a lot of great recipes since I started following her blog- I even tried TOFU! Which, turned out to be a major fail on my part.

Ugh, I can't wait for the weekend. So many things I want to do and delicious things to bake!


I'm totally obsessing right now about wanting to attend A Splendid Holiday in December. It's an event to benefit Local Matters, which is a organization that promotes local, healthy, sustainable, and accessible food. I'm totally on board with all that.

This is the list of companies they have on the invite- I wonder if there are samples from all of them? OMG, drool!

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Small Business Beanstalk, 3 Babes and a Baker, Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, Pistacia Vera, Pattycake Bakery, Sassafras Bakery, Middle West Spirits, Rockmill Brewery, Brothers Drake Meadery, and Barley’s Brewing Company

I love Jeni's. When I travel to the North Market, I make it a point to have a scoop (or three) for my breakfast...followed directly by a steaming cup of hot coffee. Pattycake Bakery is also yummalicious. Oh, and don't forget Pistacia Vera's macarons. Basically this party sounds like a sugar coma waiting to happen!

Speaking of breakfast ice cream, I should be indulging my sweet tooth this Saturday at the North Market Holiday Open House & Craft Extravaganza. Looks like there will be a lot of vendors selling their wares just in time for holiday gift giving. I'm hoping to pick up some local wine for my dad and some other fun local foodie items for my mom. And I'm sure I can find plenty for me!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

...and cream cheese icing for dinner

Since I made extra icing this morning, it's sitting in the fridge, calling my name. I miss those days where I didn't like cream cheese frosting. I'd always scrape it off of my carrot cake. It was never (and still isn't) as good as real sugary birthday cake frosting. You know, the kinda that makes you sick when you eat it, but you keep on eating it because it's so good?

I brought along the cookie assortment that I put together...and managed to leave ALL those cookies with mom! WIN! Well, I ate one of the thumbprint cookies because I spied a cat hair stuck to the jam. She liked the rum balls, remarking first about their resemblance to doughnut holes- must be the sanding sugar. She even ate a few of the other cookies, which was a surprise since she "only" eats once a day or something like that.

As usual, the brunch spread was delicious: ham & green onion quiche (in place of leeks), corn chowder, fruit salad (sweetened with cranberry relish), and regular salad. Both the quiche and chowder were rich and yummy. I also had WAY too much fruit juice mixed with vodka. I had a food/drink baby!

While our food digested, J peppered my mom with genealogy questions. Needless to say, we stayed past the point where I'd be able to make it to a WW meeting like I'd planned. Oh well, hanging with my family on the last day of a long weekend was much more pleasant! In any case, I went ahead and signed up to be an online member. I've never used eTools, but I've heard it's pretty easy. Can't wait for the update tomorrow with details on their new plan!

Cream cheese icing for breakfast

Why not? I'm currently enjoying a piece of the Cranberry Bliss Bars I baked last night along with a cup of coffee with Bailey's. Mmm...

The cake part seems a little dry even though I had it fully covered overnight. Even still, it tastes (and smells) delicious. I took a shortcut by not piping the white chocolate drizzle, so there are some tasty white chocolate clumps.

Today we're heading over to my parents for brunch since we didn't get to spend time with them on Thanksgiving. Since I made the Rum Balls in part for mom, I put together a little cookie plate to take with. After spending the night in the fridge, the balls look really nice, but unfortunately they don't taste rumalicious. Maybe dark rum would have made a difference? Or the coffee powder I added was too strong? They taste like dark chocolate coffee balls with a (very) slight hint of rum. With the brand we normally buy smelling/tasting extremely strong, I'd have to think next time I'll just have to add even MORE rum.

I wonder how these would be with Bailey's...

Depending on how long we're at the parents, I might be heading off to rejoin Weight Watchers this evening. I've been stuffing whatever in my face and not exercising, which is never a good combination. They have a brand new program that's launching, so I'm excited to try it out. My first run with WW was successful (years ago), but any other times haven't been so great, but that's due solely to me not following the rules.

If I can't get there today, I'll have to check out a lunchtime meeting tomorrow. Can't wait to get started!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Using the Force to make cookies

I have two aprons that each serve their own unique function in the kitchen. My orange one is used strictly for cooking, and for baking...I channel my inner Jedi with my nifty Star Wars apron. This is actually the kid's apron because initially they didn't offer the adult size. Williams Sonoma has a bunch of Star Wars items available, some of which are new additions just in time for the holiday gift-giving season. I have the pancake molds and cookie cutters that feature the faces of some famous SW characters already, but I'm hoping the present fairy brings me the new cookie cutters for the vehicles (I already know the present fairy is getting me the super cool Darth Vader spatula).

I've been meaning to get in the kitchen to try out some recipes and figured the long weekend would be the perfect time, especially since I wasn't going to be out shopping nonstop. First up are the Lemon Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Preserves that I found at The Chic Life (a pretty cool blog I've been following for awhile now). At first these sound a little strange- rosemary in a cookie?- but with the lemon it's a nice  (and not overly sweet) background for the awesome strawberry preserves that I used. I used the Bonne Maman brand that Diana suggested, which just happened to be on sale this week at Whole Foods. Best. Jam. Ever.

Funny (in my mind) side story: while the dough was chilling, we went to go see the new Harry Potter movie. After purchasing our overpriced snacks, I followed the husband into the theater, which was already dark as expected, but the movie had started even though it was only two minutes past the start time. Where were the previews? Also peculiar was that lack of rustling/chewing that goes on at the start of movies as people are eating. Then it dawned on me- were we in the WRONG theater? I went out to check, and sure enough, WRONG theater! LOL. That's never happened before!

Anyhow, since the oven was already on (and butter was softened), I decided to see what else I could easily whip up. Flipping through my Martha Stewart Cookie book, I spotted a recipe for Rum Balls. Mom had just recently lamented not being able to locate rum balls at her nearby World Market, so I thought, why not give these a try? Plus it gave me the opportunity to use the two tiny bottles of rum we had left over from a friend's wedding gift bag.

 First you bake a batch of brownies. I used part semisweet chocolate chips and a 70% dark chocolate Green & Black's bar. I also used a lighter spice rum instead of the dark rum the recipe called for...hopefully that won't make too much of a difference. And since it was brownies, I added some Starbucks Via to the mix to bring out the chocolate. Might have been too much, but oh well!
After the brownies cool, you smoosh them up with the rum and roll them into balls. Then you roll the balls in some sanding sugar. I wish I'd had chocolate sprinkles to roll them in like the rum balls I'm used to. These ones are also twice the size of the ones I've had in the past. What a long process to hand roll each cookie, plus it's weird to serve people food that you've essentially manhandled. But hey, my hands were clean!

Oh, and any errant cat hairs I was able to find- removed! 

While the brownies cooled, I mixed up the batter for a recipe I collected sometime LAST year and never got around to making. I don't remember where I found it, but it did reference MrBreakfast.com. They're the homemade version of Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss Bars. So far all I have is a picture of the cooling cake; I'll try to remember to take a crappy photo of the finished product once it's frosted. I'm not going to mess with that until the morning. I was tired of cleaning the bowl for my stand mixer! 

I didn't realize how much ginger goes into the cake itself. Not only is there ground ginger, you also add in candied/crystallized ginger.

Can't wait to try the Bliss Bars and Rum Balls! I had hoped to make some no-knead bread this weekend, but I'm not sure if that will happen tomorrow. I also need to to make caramels again while my $9 locally made cream is still good. The last batch was too light and too soft for my liking and tasted a bit too buttery. This time I'll try the recipe in the latest Barefoot Contessa cookbook that I picked up from the library yesterday. Lots of great stuff in here, so I might actually cave and buy this one. I think I only own 8 cookbooks, which I know is WAY less than most people- prolly even less than people who don't cook!


If I eat a cupcake and no one is around, did I really eat a cupcake?

This morning I was craving an iced sugar cookie from Pattycake Bakery, so I stopped in at the location closest to me that I knew carried their goods. Unfortunately, Raisin Rack was all out of the iced cookies, but they DID have carrot cake cupcakes. I also almost picked up a spelt brownie, but somehow talked myself out of it. Pattycake's baked goods are all vegan and EXTREMELY delicious. You'd never guess they're vegan.

My goals for the day are to watch the new Harry Potter movie, try out some cookie recipes (and eat far too many), play Rock Band 3, and hopefully score some cheesy popcorn. Still not in the shopping mood although I did run to the thrift store and a resale shop this morning. Didn't find anything good. :(

In the meantime, you should check out one of the local blogs I recently found. She's also doing some giveaways of fun local products just in time for the holidays. More details can be found at Persephone's Kitchen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tree is up!

Yep. That is our tree for real. This year it's in a new location instead of its usual spot on top of a stereo speaker because that is currently occupied by a Halo: Reach statue (the other speaker holds the Halo 3 Spartan helmet).

My mom used to set this tree up in my bedroom when I was little, although at that time it was decorated with tiny pink and cream ornaments to match my room. It wasn't until I was 20/21 that I set it up in my cube at work complete with the Star Wars ornaments you see pictured.

Oh yeah, Darth Vader is my tree topper. I totally went there! And that ribbon? It has gingerbread men on it.

Since I acquired the ornaments, I've added a small string of lights. Last year I happened upon the tree skirt on super sale at Joann's. The tree is finally complete!

Someday when we have a bigger house (or a kid!), we may put up a bigger tree. At that point, we'll be switching to a real one since the hubs is against fake stuff. I think I can only get away with the tiny fake tree because (1) We already had it and (2) It's covered in Star Wars ornaments and therefore funny.

Overall we don't have much in the way of holiday decorations because we tend to stay away from knickknack type things (video game items seem to somehow be excluded from this). There's basically the tree, holiday throw pillows, a wintry centerpiece on the dining table (complete with REAL pinecones and REAL cranberries), and a stocking for the cats. Yes, the cats get a stocking, LOL. Also, we're not really Christmas celebrators- we only participate because our families do so it's "tradition."

I'm looking forward to reading the holiday postings for all the blogs I follow, especially the ones of people who live near me. Even though I've lived in and around Columbus my whole life, I feel like I'm learning more about the city through these other blog writers.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! I'm obviously not participating in the Black Friday craziness (for once). Hopefully those of you who are out there today are scoring great deals!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Motivation Dress

Today I ordered my first eggnog latte of the season from Starbucks...and prolly my last since it didn't taste like I remembered. Not enough nog or something. I'll have to either make my own or do without. Not a biggie since that should save me some WW points as nog costs more than milk.

I spent my day wandering around the fancy outdoor mall since money tends to burn a hole in my pocket. Figured I might as well spend it on something for me to wear instead of something for me to eat. After scoring some deals at Eddie Bauer and J Crew (and talking myself out of jeggings and a sequin mini from F21), I wandered into Anthropologie to peruse their holiday decorations. Anthro has the prettiest (and expensive!) clothes and trinkets, but nothing ever seems to look good on me. Too frilly, too girly, too...artsy?

In the sale section I spied the Babergh dress I'd seen on My Superfluities that was pretty and had received good reviews from other Anthrophiles. It was a size 10, which I assumed wouldn't fit, but I gave it a shot.

It fit.

Perplexed, I twisted and turned as I surveyed myself in the mirror. Surely this couldn't fit me. Not this size. Not in this store. And not only did it fit, it looked really good on me. It made me look skinny even though I just packed on a couple pounds from an overindulgent holiday weekend. So of course I wanted it. Needed it. Even though it was half of the original price, it was still more than I would normally spend on an item, especially something that's not really practical. Where am I going to wear it? We don't go to many fancy events and now that I work from home, I don't even need to wear real pants, LOL.

So I opted to not buy the dress this afternoon. I came home, made dinner, and poked around on the internet for blog reviews of the dress. I obsessed over it, even resorting to posting about it on Facebook. Eventually I decided I needed to go back out and purchase it. Even though I asked my husband to talk me out of it, he was a sweetie and offered to buy it for me. Not sure how that happened, but I'll take it!

The dress is now mine. I cannot gain ANY weight or it won't fit. If anything, it will look better when I've dropped a few pounds. It's now my motivation dress- I will look better in it! I'm going to hang it up where I can see it every day to remind my of my goals.

Who knows, maybe I'll wear it one day while working at home. With my fuzzy slippers.