Thursday Thoughts (on a Friday) 33.0: February Recap

Why hello there! Yes, I am indeed still alive, but the last few weeks have been a disaster (work-wise). Things are sort of returning to a normal-crazy instead of the crazy-crazy I’ve been dealing with so I should be posting more regularly again. But only time will tell if this actually happens. Anyway…I know we are already well into March, but I still want to re-cap my February (and besides it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want ūüėõ ).

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[1]

First of all, this:

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In addition to all the work-crazy, I slipped on some ice and messed up my wrist and hand. Luckily, nothing was broken and it is “merely” a bone-bruise. I have merely in quotes there because it hurt WAY worse than any other bruise I’ve ever had. Needless to say it really halted progress toward any personal or professional goals for a few weeks which was super frustrating. I’m out of the brace now and on the mend, and overall am VERY grateful that nothing was broken (this time).

[2]

I read three books in February…not my best month but certainly not the worst. I started reading Middlemarch in the middle of the month (which I’m loving by the way), so that has slowed my reading progress considerably.

Books read:

1.  Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

2.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3.  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

Books Reviewed:

1. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

[3]

As I hinted at above, the wrist injury significantly slowed progress toward my fitness goals, especially since it happened on February 3 (I think I had like a whole 3 miles for the month before that happened). However, as I started to heal I really made a real effort to get to the gym. So, although 43 miles is far from ideal I am still satisfied with this number. Here’s to hoping I hit much higher numbers in March!

February

[4]

February Nail Art:

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Base/Top Coat: Sally Hansen Flawless

Nail Polish: Revlon Cherries in the Snow

Glitter Polish: Revlon Sparkling

[5]

Recipes Posted:

Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

Cajun Chicken and Rice

[6]

Fun things I did in February:

1) Good times with friends at a karaoke bar

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2) Awesome dinner at Devon Seafood and then concert at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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Mmmm scallops!

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3) Celebrated a lovely friend’s birthday (with a really bad picture of me)

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***

Hope you had a good week and have a great weekend!

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Cajun Chicken and Rice

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you are having a great weekend!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe I recently made and really enjoyed. While it is not necessarily an authentic Cajun recipe, it was really delicious and is very easy to cook. It also makes A LOT and reheats well. I will definitely be making it again!

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Cajun Chicken and Rice

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks

6 slices bacon

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1 large stalk of celery, chopped

1 6 0z can (the small can) of tomato paste

*5-6 cups chicken broth

2 cups long-grain white rice

1 cup frozen peas

*salt to taste

*See notes at the end of the recipe

Instructions:

In bowl, combine paprika, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne, black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of spice mixture in a gallon size plastic bag, and toss chicken with spice mixture.

In 6-quart Dutch oven, cook bacon on medium-high 5 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel.

To same pot (don’t clean it!), add oil, then chicken. Cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.

Add onion, red pepper, celery, and remaining spices to pot. Cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste. Cook 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in broth, rice, peas, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. Stir in chicken and any juices. Cover; simmer 27 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked. Top with bacon.

Notes:

There are several for this recipe:

1. I doubled the amount of spice from the original recipe. If you are hesitant to use 1 full teaspoon of the cayenne, you can just use 1/2 teaspoon.

2. The original recipe called for smoked paprika, but I didn’t have any on hand so I used regular paprika.

3. I used an entire 6 oz can of tomato paste (the small can), while the original recipe only called for two tablespoons.

4. I omitted the salt from this recipe and I thought it tasted just fine.

5. The original recipe calls for 3 slices of bacon. I love bacon so I added 6. I say include as much or as little bacon as you like!

6. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of chicken broth. This was not quite enough to adequately cook the rice, so I would increase to 5 or 6 cups next I make it.

Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

Many apologies for the lack of posting last week–I had a winter weather related injury and I’m still sort of recuperating. More on that another day…maybe.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you are undoubtedly experiencing plenty of very cold and yucky weather (apparently the Southern U.S. isn’t even immune this year!). I think THE ONLY good thing about this weather is that it gives me plenty of excuses to make soup. Especially this soup. I’ve made it a couple of times already this winter and I think it is delicious. Enjoy!

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Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

Adapted from: Butter, With a Side of Bread

Beef Stew

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1-2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels

1/4 cup of flour

2-3 Russet Potatoes (I left the skins on but you could also peel them)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups sliced carrots (about 3 good sized carrots)

2 cups sliced celery (about 2-3 stalks)

1 cup of red wine

1 cup beef stock or canned beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz)

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Instructions:

Toss the beef in the flour. Refrigerate beef for 20 minutes (this helps retain the flour coating during the subsequent frying step).

Put potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and celery in the crockpot.

Heat a frying pan up on medium-high and add in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Next, add in the garlic. Cook garlic for a minute or so. Then, add beef to the pan. Cook beef for 4-5 minutes, stirring twice. The beef should be seared on both sides, but not necessarily fully cooked.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the seared meat to the crock pot. DO NOT clean the pan.

Return the pan to hot stove top and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Once oil is hot, add in the onions. Cook the onions for about 3-4 minutes. Add in cooking wine and beef broth, and heat to boiling. While the liquid is heating up, add in the spices, except the bay leaf. Once the liquid begins to boil, turn off the heat and pour entire mixture into the crock pot.

Add the bay leaf. Stir soup to combine and cook on low for 9-10 hours, medium 7-8 hours, high 6-7 hours.

About 30 minutes prior to serving, ladle out about  1/2 cup of liquid from the stew. Whisk in 2 tsp cornstarch and add it back to the stew, stirring gently to combine.

Notes:

You can substitute the red wine for an additional cup of beef broth if you don’t have/don’t want to use the wine.

Thursday Thoughts 32.0: January Recap

Happy Thursday everyone! Can you believe we are already at the end of another month? Neither can I! I liked doing these monthly recap posts last year, and I think I will keep doing them this year. So, here is my January in review:

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[1]

January was a good month in reading for me–I read six books!

Books read:

1.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

2.  Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

3.  The Call of the Wild by Jack London

4. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

5. White Fang by Jack London

6. The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Books Reviewed:

1. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

2. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind

3. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

[2]

At the end of last year when it became clear I was not going to make the 1000 mile cardio goal I had set for myself, I decided to try again in 2014. So how am I doing so far?

January

….Not that great apparently. In my defense it was really (really) cold in January, and because of that I worked from home a lot (and thus had less access to the gym). I also caught a cold in the middle of the month…excuses, excuses I know. On the bright side, 41 miles is not the lowest number I’ve recorded in a month or even the second lowest (o.k. by one mile…but WHO’S COUNTING!?!?!) so that’s something! January is a little early to throw in the towel, but I will have to step it up the next few months.

In other fitness related news, I also set myself a goal of completing three strength/resistance training sessions a week this year. I decided to implement this change to my fitness regime because I kept reading all these articles about how muscle burns more calories than fat and speeds up your metabolism, plus I know I’m pretty weak. I’m happy to report that so far this goal is going really well. Although I have yet to actually fit in three strength sessions in a week, I haven’t yet missed a week. I’m also stepping out of my comfort zone and participating in group exercise classes at my gym (just core fitness and the like…I’m still scared of body pump). Thus far, I’m enjoying this addition to my workouts!

[3]

January Nail Art:

January

Base/Top Coat: Sally Hansen Flawless

Nail polish: Sally Hansen Midnight in NY, Essie Good as Gold, Essie Silver Bullions

January2WaterMark

Base/Top Coat: Sally Hansen Flawless

Nail polish: CoverGirl Outlast Vio-Last

Accent Nail: Sally Hansen Hi Ho Silver

[4]

Recipes Posted:

Healthier Chicken Piccata

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Peanut Butter Cookies

[5]

Fun things I did in January:

1) Finally met my sister’s BFF Tanya

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2) Played a game Battlestar Galactica (in which the humans lost very badly)

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3) Endured The Polar Vortex/General Cold (o.k. this one wasn’t fun, but was noteworthy)

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Photo Credit: Dana

4) Fun night with friends at Schubas

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I didn’t even know they served Schlitz on tap, let alone in these fancy flutes…

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Hope you had a good week and have a great weekend!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Happy Thursday everyone! Today I’m sharing a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies. I made these a long time ago and really liked them! These are unique in that they have white chocolate chips in them in addition to the peanut butter chips, which I think makes them extra delicious. After writing this post, I’m totally craving them and am going to have to whip up another batch soon!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Adapted from: Stylish Cuisine

PeanutButterCookiesWatermarked

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium/large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt.  Set aside.

In a large(er) bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Then, add the sugars and beat until smooth. Next, add the egg and mix well. Last, add the milk and the vanilla extract.

To the butter and peanut butter mixture, add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Place sprinkling sugar on a separate plate. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets. Be sure to leave several inches between for expansion. Finally, using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Notes:

This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Happy Friday everyone! Today I am sharing my favorite muffin recipe. Admittedly, these are a bit labor intensive, but trust me they are WORTH IT. This is a great recipe–I’ve made it several times!

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Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Adapted from: Add a Pinch

applecinnamonmuffins

Ingredients:

For the Muffin:

2 cups all-purpose flour (plus 2 teaspoons for coating apples)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (plus 1/2 teaspoon for coating apples)

2 cups diced apples

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

For the Topping:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar (original recipe calls for 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup ground cinnamon (original recipe calls for 1/2 cup)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375¬ļ F. If you are not using paper cupcake liners, be sure to grease the muffin tins.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Toss together diced apples and 2 teaspoons of flour to coat apples in a separate bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until lightened in color. Add an egg, one at a time, taking care to fully incorporate before adding the other. Mix in vanilla.

Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until just combined. Then, fold in diced apples.

Next, scoop mixture into prepared muffin tins, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes (my oven runs hot, so I only bake about 23 minutes).

While the muffins are baking, prepare the topping for the muffins. First, melt the butter in a bowl that can easily accommodate the top of a muffin (for dipping) and allow it to cool slightly. In a separate bowl, mix together granulated sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside.

Once muffins have baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the muffin tin. Then, remove each muffin and dip first into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place onto a plate to finish cooling.

Notes:

Since this recipe makes enough muffins to last for days, I usually reheat them in the microwave for about 15 seconds (on 70% power) to recreate that “fresh from the oven” deliciousness.

Healthier Chicken Piccata

Happy Tuesday everyone! Hope you are staying warm wherever today finds you!

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Healthier Chicken Piccata

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 pound thin-sliced chicken cutlets

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

In 12-inch heat skillet, heat olive oil on medium.

Next, in shallow bowl, beat eggs. Sprinkle flour onto large plate. Dredge chicken in eggs, then in flour.

Then, add 1 tablespoon butter to olive oil in skillet. When butter melts, add chicken in batches if necessary. Cook chicken 6 to 8 minutes or until browned, turned over at least once. Transfer to platter and set aside.

To drippings in skillet, add garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Cook garlic 30 seconds, stirring.

Stir in broth and capers. Simmer on medium-low 3 to 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in vinegar and lemon juice.

Finally, return chicken to skillet and spoon sauce over it. Cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes on medium or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley to serve.

Notes:

I’ve made this a few times now and it is quickly becoming a new favorite!

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