Loving. Learning. Engineering. Life.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Toast to Friends & Finger Foods

With Summer being so busy, my hunnie and I haven't had the opportunity to host a housewarming party yet.  This past week was no different.  With it being the final opportunity for my hunnie and me to visit with two close friends that are moving cross country to Jersey, we decided to take this opportunity to host a "Non-housewarming, Goodbye V&I Get Together" at our new place.  After less than a week of planning, I ended up putting together quite a spread of party snacks (recipes for a few of them are below).  We were so happy to have all our friends over to toast (and roast) V and I, and V and I were happy to be able to see our place (and enjoy food and drinks with friends) before they moved. 

 Peanut Butter Fudge
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter

Cover a 9x13x1 pan with foil and lightly grease foil with butter.  In a saucepan bring sugar, brown sugar butter and milk to a boil.  Let boil for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove mixture from heat and add marshmallows, one cup at a time.  Stir until marshmallows melt and combine.  Add peanut butter and continue to stir until peanut butter melts and fully combines to mixture.  As mixture cools it will begin to harden, so as soon as all ingredients are combined, spread mixture into greased pan.  Gently use hands to level fudge in pan.  Let cool on counter for a minimum of 6 hours before serving.  Yields about 40 pieces.

 Egg-less Chocolate Cake Bites {recipe to come soon}

Summer Squash & Tomato Tart
1 Puff Pastry sheet
1 Zucchini
1 Yellow Squash
3 Tomatoes
4-5 Sage Leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Fresh cracked black pepper, dash

Set stove to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove pastry sheet from freezer and let defrost 5-10 minutes.  Thinly slice squash and tomatoes and marinate in bowl with olive oil and sage.  Sprinkle some flour on a rolling board and roll out puff pastry sheet until it is the thickness of a saltine cracker.  Lay pastry on large cookie sheet.  Use hand or butter knife to spread goat cheese over pastry.  Then arrange vegetables on pastry.  Top with feta crumbles and pepper.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  Let cool and cut into 2x2 size pieces.

Triple Berry Slab Pie {recipe to come soon}

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cornbread Muffins

Busy days don't leave me much time to cook dinner.  Although generally less exciting than a freshly prepared meal, it's always great to pull something home-cooked out of the freezer and know that when work/exercise/errands end all I have to do is reheat on the stove top (or microwave).  We had some leftover turkey chili in the freezer this week, and after a full days work, spin class, and walking/jogging with little Georgia, these leftovers made for a quick and easy dinner.  To make things more exciting, and in an attempt to bulk up the meal for my hunnie, I decided to make cornbread muffins.  Unlike my buttermilk cornbread, this recipe is on the lighter side (no buttermilk needed).  Not to mention, I was able to throw these together in under an hour as I got ready for work yesterday morning.  These cornbread muffins have the potential to rejuvenate just about any plate of leftovers without spending hours in the kitchen.

Cornbread Muffins
1 egg
1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease muffin tin with shortening.  In mixing bowl, beat together egg and milk with a fork or whisk.  Then whisk in honey.  Pour all dry ingredients into bowl with wet ingredients and mix until well combined.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffin comes out clean.  Let muffins cool; then use knife to loosen muffins from tin.  Yields 6-8 muffins.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Pup at the Lake & Perfect Brown Rice

After 11 straight days of work, my hunnie finally had the day off on Sunday, so we headed up to the lake to visit his folks and introduce them to their first grand-pup.  We're finding out she loves being in vehicles...a true engineering pup if ya' ask me.  She loved being in the boat and watching me stand up (and fall) on my first attempts at water skiing.  I'm finding out that with rescue dogs, the key is exposing them to as much as possible, but doing it at their pace.  We're pretty certain Georgia had never been in water before, seeing as how she's a desert pup.  It took more coaxing to get her to step in the water along the shore than it did to get her in the boat.  I got her through it in puppy steps...I'd take two steps into the water, wait a bit, talking to her the whole time...and then eventually she'd take two steps into the water.  With the water halfway up her legs, I took off her leash, and within 30 seconds she dove towards the deep end of the lake and started doggie paddling.  I felt like a proud mama watching little Georgia swim.

We're back in the desert and I have to admit, I'm a bit sore from our water skiing adventure.  The thought of making a complicated dinner made my muscles ache even more, so instead I went for something easy after work today.  Brown rice can be a challenge to get right, especially if you attempt to cook it the same way you cook white rice.  I've come up with the perfect brown rice recipe, which by the way does NOT require you to hover over the stove top, stirring for an hour.  Meaning you can turn on the heat, sit down and rest those achy muscles (or be productive if you so choose) for near an hour. 

Perfect Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon butter

In a saucepan, pour 1 cup of rice.  Pour about 1/2 cup of water into pot and use fingers to move rice around.  Then use your hand (or a strainer) to drain out all the water and any gritty stuff from the rice.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water and the butter to the rice in the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until water begins to boil.  Stir rice with spoon; then reduce heat to low, place lid on saucepan, and let rice simmer (undisturbed by fork or spoon) for 45-50 minutes.  Serve with sauteed veggies and/or meat. Pin It

Monday, July 16, 2012

50-day Fitness Challenge {Week 7}

The 50-day fitness challenge is officially over tomorrow.  Week 7 was a change of pace to say the least, but no less successful.  Here's the overview of Week 7:
  • Ran 9 miles
  • Walked 12 miles
  • Outdoor workouts 6 of 7 days
You may be wondering why all of a sudden my workouts are taking place outdoors.  Well, there's a new someone in my life (and my hunnie's) and she's got quite the energy.  Please meet our Queensland Heeler rescue pup, Georgia Mae. 

She's a bit of a scaredy dog (especially with the thunder that rolls in during the monsoons), but a true athlete.  My hunnie and I take her out twice a day, and she can keep a jogging pace for a good 20 minutes or so.  I honestly have a little trouble keeping up with her sometimes...especially when she's chasing lizards down the desert paths.  Did I mention she's pretty?  She gets compliments from people at the park all the time (and lots of barks from the boy dogs).  As with any rescue dog, she's going to need some extra time and attention, but as with most dogs, time and attention is exactly what she wants.  With the 50-day Fitness Challenge near its end, I'm ready for the new challenges that Georgia will bring.  It'll be a learning experience for us both.   

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spicy Dill Pickle Medallions

About a week before the move, my hunnie and I scored an insane deal on cucumbers at the local Mexican market: 9 for 99 cents.  Having a hunnie that loves pickles and all things salty, it didn't take much coaxing to convince me it was time to take the plunge and make my own pickles.  I'd been mulling over the idea for a while, and after several pickling discussions with our friends (and some tips from a few blogs) I had a pretty clear idea on how to make them.  So in the midst of packing that afternoon, my hunnie unexpectedly became my assistant in the pickling endeavor in the tiny kitchen of our 3rd floor apartment.  Three weeks later, my hunnie's closest friends were in town from "up North", giving us the appropriate celebratory moment to crack open our pickles and taste the results.  Bottom line--they were delicious, and really tasted like pickles.  The honey added a nice bit of sweetness to it.  I personally wish they had more of a kick, but the spice is just right for our "Northern" friends. 

Spicy Dill Pickle Medallions
6 large cucumbers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 yellow hot pepper
6 cloves garlic
3 cups distilled white vinegar
3 cups filtered water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
6 dill sprigs

Firstly, I suggest following the USDA's recommendations/methods for food canning.  Thoroughly wash all cucumbers, peppers and herbs.  Slice the cucumbers into medallions, throwing away the ends.  Slice peppers lengthwise into quarters, removing all seeds.  Peel garlic cloves.  In a large nonreactive pan, bring to boil vinegar, water, and salt.  Add tablespoon honey.  Stir and let boil for another 7-10 minutes.  Wash jar and lid with hot, soapy water.  Sanitize jar and lid either by boiling or washing in the dishwasher.  (It is also recommended to use a new lid every time you can).  While jar is still hot, carefully pour peppercorns and mustard seed in.  Begin filling the jar with cucumbers.  At 1/4 of the way full, add the dill and garlic.  Then add the remaining cucumbers.  Turn off boiling brine mixture, and after a minute of letting it rest, carefully pour into jar over cucumbers.  Leave between 1/2 inch and 1 inch of headspace in jar.  Use the handle of a sanitized wooden spoon to circulate the inside wall of the jar, in order to release air bubbles.  Place heated lid on jar and tighten.  Immediately refrigerate in order to create a tight seal.  Let rest for 3 weeks minimum.  Consume pickles within one month of opening jar.  Yields two 1-quart jars.            Pin It

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

50-day Fitness Challenge {Week 6}

Week 6 was the busiest I've had in quite some time. Between unpacking, organizing, working and the 4th of July holiday, I felt like the energizer bunny last week. My hunnie and I ended off the weekend in Bisbee, where we walked the stretch of oldtown at least 3 times.   We enjoyed the sites of this old mining town, whose city motto is supposedly "Keeping it Weird". 

After that, we ventured on to Patagonia, where we hiked out to a private sandbar and enjoyed an evening swim.   Here is a breakdown of Week 6:
  • Ran 11 miles + Walked 4 miles
  • 3 Outdoor workouts
  • Evening swim    
This week is off to a good start, although the days are very hot and humid.  I did my Monday run after the sun had set, and still I was sweating like a Popsicle at Miami Beach in July.  Week 7 is the final week of the 50-day Fitness Challenge, and it ends with a hearty distance run early Saturday morning.  Here is the plan for Week 7:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
3 mi Run* Bikram 3.5 mi Run* SpinCore Rest 6 mi Run* Rest

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

50-day Fitness Challenge {Week 5}

My hunnie and I are all moved in to our little house with the blue trim, and we love it! The kitchen is bigger than what I initially thought, and now my hunnie and I can cook together without being in each others' way. I've already made star shaped sugar cookies, red white and blue pancakes, pickled cucumber coleslaw, salsa, and patriotic skewers (recipe below).

Week 5 of the 50-day Fitness Challenge was also a big success.  I enjoyed a few early morning runs, even encountering 3 little coyotes on the hunt for some breakfast.  Luckily I didn't look very tasty to them.  Here is the breakdown:
  • 2 outdoor workouts + 2 days of moving
  • Ran 16.5 miles
  • Group Strength class 
Week 6 is halfway over and I've already racked in 8.5 miles.  Here is the workout plan for the rest of Week 6 of the 50-day Fitness Challenge:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
2 mi Walk* 3 mi Run 3.5 mi Run* SpinCore Rest 5 mi Run* (or hike) Rest

Patriotic Skewers
1 container strawberries
1 container blueberries
1/2 bag marshmellows
12-15 wood skewers

Wash fruit.  Skewer fruit and marshmellows in any combination you choose, leaving 2 inches of space at the flat end of the skewer for holding. Pin It