Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Work from home bean and barley chili

Although I’m from the northeast (upstate NY) when it snows in DC, I do all I can to keep my butt at home. I can handle the winter weather, it’s the people around me I worry about. Last Tuesday we had an overnight ice storm and it took me 2 hours to get to work. Yes, 2 hours. So when I woke up to some snow and saw that the area schools were closed (we go by the county school schedule) I knew it would be an awesome day for some chili.

I always have beans and cans of crushed tomatoes in my cupboards. And 9 times out of 10 we will have onions and garlic as well. What we didn’t have were peppers.

Hmmm. Chili with no peppers? Yeah, it’s doable. Peppers give me heartburn anyway, so why not? (turns out, this chili is awesome without the peppers, and no heartburn! YAY!)

I was woken up at 5:30 a.m. by my mischievous kitties who were downstairs knocking things over. After checking the news and seeing schools were closed, I thought, “ehh what the hell? I’m already up.” and started chopping.


In a pan, I cooked up:

  • One whole white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T olive oil

Cook for about 5 minutes, until they start to sweat.

Next, add:

  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 T cumin (or less, depending on what you like)
  • 1T Sambal *

Stir everything together and turn off the heat.

Into the CrockPot:

  • 1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15.5 can pink beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer red kidney beans for chili but we didn’t have any)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper, about 1 tsp. each

Since I wanted to eat this for lunch, I set it on high and cooked it for 6 hours. You can also cook it on low for 8.

*Sambal is a is an Indonesian chili based sauce that you can find at any International or Asian store. I use Sambal because it has the perfect spice to sweet ratio. However, if you can’t find it or just don’t like it, you can use jalepeno peppers, chili sauce, or whatever else you use to spice up your food.

There is nothing better than walking through the front door and smelling good food. Since I didn’t have to waste spend an hour driving to work this morning, I started work early so I could hit up the gym for a 12:00 Body Pump class (can I just tell you that this class KICKS MY ASS? If I’m not buff by my birthday in May, I will be shocked.)

I walked in from the cold, wet, crappy weather outside and inhaled the deliciousness.



Topped with plain Greek yogurt (only 2% will do for me)

And then I realized…you know what would be REAALLYY good?


IMG_1324IMG_1327 IMG_1323

Oh how heavenly was this…I baked a sweet potato in the microwave on 50% power for 10 minutes. This keeps it from drying out and it’s the closest method to baking it in the oven.


The best post-kick my ass fuel I’ve had in a while.  And you know what else made this lunch awesome? I’m not sitting in this:


The view of the highway from our home office. I would be sitting in that if I had to drive into work today. Except for the HOV lane, they are not moving very fast at all. Thank God I have a job that allows working from home!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oatmeal Soda Bread

I love bread, but I’m still trying to get over the rolls on Thanksgiving that didn’t rise. Oh, was Dennis sad. He was going to buy rolls just incase mine didn’t rise, but he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Thankfully there was a locally owned shop open … it saved the day.

So now, I’m experimenting in other ways.


The best part of this recipe is that it’s simple. The ingredient list is short and I had mostly everything I needed in my cupboards (and fridge.)

Oatmeal Soda Bread (from 101 Recipes)

I meant to make this a little differently than Heidi’s, but I was afraid if I changed it up too much it would ruin everything. Next time I make this, I’m going to use spelt flour instead of oatmeal. Don’t get me wrong; this was a great loaf of bread. It was slightly sweet from the oats and next time I want to try something a little more versatile.


butter, to grease pan
2 cups rolled oats

~2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and kneading

1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

1 3/4 cups buttermilk, plus more if needed, and 2T. for brushing *

mixed seeds - sesame, caraway, poppy, etc.

* If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make it by adding 1 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk. Let it stand for a few minutes to let the acid do it's work.


Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. I free formed my bread but you can use a bread pan if you wish.

To make the oat flour, use a food processor to pulse the rolled oats a few times. Then process into a fine powder - another minute or two.

Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.


Make a well in the flour and pour in the buttermilk.


Stir just until everything comes together into a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 30 seconds or so, just long enough for the dough to come together into a cohesive, slightly flattened ball without many cracks. (you can ignore the crack at the bottom of my dough)


If your dough is on the dry side, add more buttermilk a small splash at a time.

Brush all over the top and sides with buttermilk and sprinkle generously with mixed seeds or flour, 2 tablespoons or so. Slice a few deep slashes across the top of the dough.


Bake for about 30 minutes, then quickly (without letting all the hot air out of the oven), move the rack and the bread up a level, so the top of the bread gets nice and toasted. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until a hard crust forms and the bread is baked through. It will feel very solid and sound hollow when you knock on it.

IMG_1266 Boy was this bread tasty.


This bread will stay good for a week or so if you leave it wrapped in parchment and foil in the refrigerator. Or, you can slice and freeze like I do. It is much more dense than regular bread, but it can still be used just like sliced bread to make sandwiches. I actually used this bread to make one of my Glorified Egg Sandwiches. It’s also really good with Nutella. Yes, I went there.

Are you afraid of making bread? Do you have any bread disasters?

I have a recipe that I’ve used before (with help) that might be broken out this week…

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Glorified egg sandwich

I love eating eggs for dinner. My days are so long between work, gym, and commuting that I have to find ways to eat something quick, healthy, and not TOO filling since I don’t get to eat until around 8 p.m. Breakfast seems to be my new dinner, with my bigger and more nutritious meal being lunch. So yes, I basically eat two breakfasts. Don’t judge.


That being said, I like to find ways to spice up these simple meals. I say, nothing works better than fresh herbs.


The other thing is make sure you have some really good bread.



What I used:

  • One egg plus one egg white
  • 2 slices of Pain de Campagne (or any other type of sliced, crusty bread)
  • 1 slice of provolone (or cheese of your choice)
  • One small handful of fresh parsley

Fry that bad boy up to perfection, add the parsley while the egg is still cooking, put the cheese on top, fold over. Place on toasted bread. Eat.

Do you have tips for glorifying up otherwise simple, bland foods?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Breakfast Quinoa

I am so excited to have been able to restore the pictures from this a-MAZING breakfast recipe I got from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. I was so excited to share this with you all, especially since I’ve been trying to experiment with using different grains at breakfast.


One thing about food blogs is that you get so many ideas for new ways to try old things. I simply Google an ingredient and so many recipes will come to me. The best part is that most of them are from blogs I already read and love, which makes it even better.


I also needed to get out of my oats with bananas and peanut butter rut. I mean, I still love them, but a girl needs a little variety in her life, you know what I’m sayin’?


Once you try things out, you can then fiddle around to make the recipe your own.  You can find the original recipe here. 

I changed it up by using things I already had in the house.


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
  • A little less than 1/4 pecans, toasted
  • Coconut butter (just a bit  for some added sweet and creaminess)

Combine milk, quinoa and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium low heat and let simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. (I don’t cover my quinoa because every time I do, it bubbles over, so I just let it cook with the cover off and it’s fine.) Take off heat and let stand for five minutes. While the quinoa is simmering, toast the pecans on a dry skillet for about 4 minutes.


I make this the night before and reheat in the morning. When I re-heat, I add a small amount of milk to help fluff it up a bit. Then I add a small squirt of coconut nectar, and a little bit of coconut butter.


It’s a little untraditional but filling and oh so tasty. It’s my new go-to and a definite must-try!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Cream cheese frosting

My computer has officially crashed. Dead. Done. I have to share now with Dennis, so we’ll see how this goes. It’s funny how we rely on technology so much. I mean, whatever will I do with myself? (I’m kidding. I’m in front of a computer all day at work. In a way, it’s actually kind of liberating.)

Which brings me to this:


Angela at Oh She Glows is amazing. This is one of the first recipes I’ve attempted of hers and why I was nervous is beyond me. (maybe I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice.)  It was everything I expected it to be and more.

I will admit that I made a slight change. Her recipe called for a buttercream frosting and I went for a cream cheese frosting instead. What can I say? I’m a sucker for cream cheese. You can get the original recipe here. 


The middle is moist and chewy, just the way I  like it. I made this originally for my company’s Thanksgiving potluck and they loved it. It was completely vegan (well, minus the cream cheese) but they were completely clueless to that fact. I’m sneaky like that, I guess.

Are you more of a baker or a cook? I’m definitely more of a baker, but I do love to get my cook on. Since Dennis likes to cook, it gives me more leeway with the oven.  He just doesn’t like it when I mess with his peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Raw Coconut Nectar approved!

I love finding new “superfoods” to try, so when I was wandering along the natural food section at our local grocery store this weekend, I shrieked with joy when I came across this.

Raw coconut nectar? This is definitely something I did not hesitate to put in my cart. I knew absolutely nothing about it, and wasn’t even aware it existed. And with an ingredient list that simply reads, "Raw Coconut Sap grown without chemicals, pesticides or herbicides," I thought, "What the heck?"

I went home and started doing a little research. Apparently, raw coconut nectar is better nutritionally than agave nectar? Ok, let me do so more research on this.

Apparently there is only one brand available, since it’s the only brand I’ve seen on everything I’ve searched. Here are some of the reviews:

Coconut Nectar is raw, unprocessed and naturally sweet, making it a great, nutritionally superior alternative to agave syrup! This Raw Coconut Nectar is:

  • Raw processed - no heat, no chemicals
  • Full of 17 amino acids, minerals, Vitamin C, broad spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH
  • Organically grown - certification pending
  • Low Glycemic - rating of 35
  • FREE of gluten and dairy
  • Vegan

The first thing I used it for was as a sweetener for my salad dressing.

2 T red wine vinegar
1 T Olive Oil
1 tsp. whole grain, unsalted mustard
2 tsp. Coconut nectar

Yum. The coconut nectar is thick, more like a syrup…thicker than agave nectar. It doesn’t taste like coconut, just in case anyone was worried about that. It has a rich flavor but not overpowering. It’s definitely a distinct flavor, but nothing like maple syrup or honey. Much less defined than that, but definitely noticeable.

Next thing I used it on was this Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa recipe I borrowed from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks (I’ve mentioned before how much I love her recipes) This recipe calls for agave and I replaced it with the coconut nectar … it would so well with the roasted pecans. It brought out the flavor much more than the agave did.

I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweetening alternative. Oh, and it was only $6.99 so it wasn't any more expensive than agave. Give it a try!

OH and a heads computer is on the verge of dying. I don't have a lot of money to spend on a new one, but would really love suggestions. Something affordable but also, a name brand that I can trust. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What’s this Zumba thing all about anyway?


I have a confession to make…..I can’t dance.

I know, I know…a Latina that can’t dance? How can this be possible? Maybe it’s because when I was growing up and all the women were in the kitchen cooking and dancing, I was outside playing football with the boys. (My grandmother told me once that I needed to stop spending so much time doing boy things because they wouldn’t look at me as a girl…I wasn’t feminine enough. HA!)

I have rhythm. I love music, and I love to shake my booty. But when it comes down to it, I just don’t have it. This is one of the reasons I’ve avoided Zumba. I envisioned myself bumping into the person next to me,(check!) tripping over my own two feet, (check!) and being so far behind that I’d have to stop so I could catch up (check!) Oh, and laughing at myself for being so uncoordinated. (DOUBLE CHECK!)

Did I mention I can’t dance?

I looked like a fool out there, arms flying in the wrong direction, booty shaking one step behind everyone else. Truth be told, I really didn’t care what I looked like, but it may have been because I spent so much time trying to figure out which side of the room I was supposed to be facing.

I did like the energy of the class though. The instructor was cute…not sexual cute but happy cute, and I’d probably go back just for him. Well, him and the old ladies that were trying so hard to keep up. They all had smiles on their faces and I couldn’t help but join them.

Have you gotten hit with the Zumba craze? I’m afraid I’ll end up hurting myself … my knees hurt with all the “gettin’ low” that was going on.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gym etiquette #17: The towel pick-up


gym towel

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been running on the treadmill and had to watch helplessly (and try not to trip) while my towel goes flying off the hand rails. It happened to me again today and while there were about five people around me, not one person had the decency to grab it for me when they walked by.

Really guys? You can’t see that I’m sweating profusely and I really REALLY need that damn towel? You all saw it happen. I know you did. Every time I see it happen to someone else, I’ll grab it for them if I’m walking by.

Is it just me or is that rude?

In case you’d like to know, I have not had the chance to try a new detergent or do any laundry for that matter, but I have been hearing some interesting stories. Kristina at Life as Kristina asked mentioned trying a different bra type and it made me realize that all the bras that stink are the same brand. Bummer. I’ll have to work on  that.

Here’s a question for you…when you have a short amount time to fit in a workout, what do you do to make the best of it?

I did a quick 25 minute sprint routine on the treadmill that left me so sweaty, even a shower didn’t help. It still took an hour to cool down. Would using weights and walking on an incline be just as suffice, without as much sweat?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Help me get the stank out!

I know I’m not the only one out there with this problem, but my workout clothes stink. Bad. Washing them doesn’t help either, because as soon as I start to sweat, the funk returns.

Take today for instance. I took a spin class, and toward the end of the class -  like, the last 20 minutes – I started smelling fart. Not rotten egg farts, but just stank. I thought it was the girl in front of me and was starting to get annoyed…until I realized that it was my bra.

I was so embarrassed that I skipped the stretching at the end of the class and booked it out of there.

It’s  not like I’m not washing my clothes either. I’ve tried pre-soaking, I’ve tried washing twice (which sucks because I don’t want to ruin my clothes!) and nothing is working. I use Tide right now, which I kind of have a weird obsession with (I love the smell of Tide and I really feel like it works best) but now I’m really disappointed.

My sister, a fitness instructor and activities director at L.A. Fitness, is having the same problem. We looked up detergents, but I don’t want to fork out mad moola for something that won’t work. We found one called WIN that we’re looking to try, and I also found a Tide Sport with Febreze but I only found it on Amazon; I have yet to see it in the stores.

HELP!! I don’t want to have to throw out my workout clothes! They aren’t cheap!!! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bowling, the mental game

My mom was an avid bowler when I was growing up. I spent a lot of time watching and learning from her techniques. When I was 6, I decided I wanted to bowl too, so she put me on a kid’s league where I learned the basics. By the end of the program I ended up with a bowling pin for my Christmas tree and my very own eight pound ball.

I was on leagues all the way up through middle school with people much older than me and I usually kept up. Then I got to high school and started focusing more on soccer, boys and ‘being cool,’ which meant bowling went down the tubes. So when my co-workers asked if I liked to bowl, without missing a beat I said, “hell yes I like to bowl!” and signed up as a part time member.

I showed up all excited, ready to rock….and ended up bowling worse than I ever had in my life. I started out with a 111 average and was barely hitting it. I made myself out to look like this pretty decent bowler (hey, my highest game is a 217 dammit!) and I just sucked. I called my mom for counseling and she gave me tips, but nothing was working. I was about ready to tell my co-workers to count me out because I was seriously bringing them down.

Until today.

I decided not to get worried about my scores this time. Everyone pretty much thought I sucked anyway, so they really weren’t expecting much from me. But I got on the line, found my sweet spot and banged them out like Ron Jeremy. (Uh did I just make a porno joke? Yeah, I did.)


First game, 120….ehhh not bad but the best start I’ve had so far.

Second game, 157. Hey, nice job!

Third game…170. I was so excited I nearly split my pants. Seriously.

My mom told me she has a book about bowling being a mental game which really made me think…aren’t all sports mental? Instead of going into the bowling alley today thinking, “I’m a good bowler and I should bowl well,” I went in thinking, “Well they all think I suck, we’re in last place, so really, who gives a damn?” And I rocked it.

It’s all about the mental game. But really, isn’t it always?

Sunday, January 2, 2011



happy new year 2011

Well well well. It’s a new year already. How the heck did that happen?

Oh, and yeah I know I’ve been gone a while. In brief-a new job with a LONG commute, a nasty virus on my computer, and spending my Christmas break sick are three of my excuses for being MIA. I had a bunch of pictures ready to share from my holiday work party where I made Angela’s pumpkin gingerbread with spiced buttercream, but the demons that took over my computer didn’t allow me to post them. And I’ve lost more than half of my pictures from the year, so needless to say, I was hesitant to even start posting again.

Thanks for forgiving me.  I knew you’d understand.

I wish I could do a recap of all the fun and exciting things I did in 2010 but without pictures, that will just suck. So instead, here is a list of goals I have for 2011.

  • Spend more time with my family (this one is huge!) 
  • Stop talking so much (I hate uncomfortable silence. This has GOT to stop. I don’t always need to be talking)
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff! (I got the book for Christmas and I’m really trying to take it seriously)
  • Focus on strength - both physical and mental. This means more yoga and Body Pump classes
  • Be a better spender. i.e. I'll be spending money on yoga and a gym membership and also visiting my family in NY and AZ, so I still need to find a way to be better with my money
  • Run the Marine Corps Marathon. This is last on my list because I don't want to make it of high importance. If it happens, it happens. But I don't want to over-stress. I was just reading about it so that's probably why I'm thinking about it. This one definitely may change, but I figure it's nice to see it written out!

I will wish you all a Happy New Year with all the bells and whistles, health, prosperity and happiness you deserve. I truly believe life is what you make it. I am a pretty positive person overall, but I do have the tendency to let things get to me. “Let it go!” is going to be my daily mantra when I’m stuck in traffic and get cut off by that jerk-off who OBVIOUSLY saw me trying to merge in…