Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Almond Mini-Muffins

It was muffin time again on Thursday!

I had just finished off the last Banana Blueberry Crumb Muffins that morning and I was looking for my next fix. The hubby was apparently very disappointed when he found out my muffins last week weren't Banana Chocolate Chip, so I gave him some chocolate chips this week.

I got a mini-muffin pan for Christmas last year and I had never used it, so I decided to break it in. These are so good, I'm going to try some mini-cupcakes next.

These plumped up so nicely in the pan. They have a very subtle almond flavor which pairs nicely with the chocolate chips. I'm loving the combination. But as I've said before, chocolate chips makes almost anything better :)

I will also note that the recipe was supposed to make 24 mini-muffins but I had enough batter for another 19. Don't worry, they won't go to waste around here!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 egg
3/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup mini-chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix until batter is smooth.
3. Line a mini-muffin pan with mini paper liners. Fill cups about 3/4 full.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely before storage.

A Life-Changer

The hubby and I's house hunt is over.

In an amazing twist of events, it is actually going to be cheaper for us to... build a house!

I still can't believe the way things have worked out. We looked at everything Wheelersburg had to offer. In our price range, it was nothing but garbage. We would have had to pay our entire budget just to get into a home, when the homes themselves were in need of thousands of dollars of work. And that was just to get them move-in ready. The only house we looked at that was move-in ready was over our budget and it was tiny! We hated it, it would have been a serious compromise to pick that one.

About 8 months ago, the hubby's mother deeded a 2-acre piece of land over to him. We hadn't given much thought to building, but when we finally decided to give that option some consideration, we realized "Hey, we already have land". So the research began, and the more we looked into it, the better it looked.

Also, the land is in Kentucky. So alas, we won't be defecting to Ohio after all!

Last weekend, we drove up to Columbus, OH to meet with a consultant for a builder. We received a quote and looked at one of their model homes. We knew then this was what we wanted to do. On Monday, after my neurologist appointment, we stopped at the builder's location in Cincinnati to look at their model home there because their model home was the layout we picked. The model we picked is about 1900 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths.

The hubby took tons of pictures, of course :)

All of the homes this particular builder we chose builds have a full, poured-concrete basement. A necessity for me!

The stairwell leading up from the basement. Ours will be slightly different, as ours will have full walls surrounding the staircase instead of these railings.

First look at the gorgeous, open kitchen!

Open living room, kitchen, and dining area. If you can see that open, stone fixture in the very back, we won't have that. There will be a wall there, but there will be a door to the backyard.

Looking from the living room down the hall.

Eating area looking into kitchen. So happy I'm going to have a place to put our dining room table!

Master bedroom. Yay, room for our dresser!

Master bedroom looking into the hall.

Master bath. I finally get a tub that I like! Ours will only have the back window, not the side window.

Walk-in closet in the Master bedroom.

One of the guest rooms. The model home has it set up as an office, which I think we are going to do too.

Main bathroom. Definitely won't be choosing lime green to paint it!

Guest bedroom.

The beautiful foyer.

I'm so excited! The hubby and I signed our intent to buy today, so many more updates to follow over the next couple months, I'm sure :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Adventures in K-Cup Land

The hubby and I have been immensely enjoying the Keurig coffee maker. I think the only time we have used the old coffee maker was when his mother came up to stay the night. She drinks a lot of coffee, so we had to make her a pot.

The hubby is still loving the Sumatra blend, he's been making himself a to-go cup every day before work. I've been using the "My K-Cup" attachment (which allows you to use your own coffee by putting it in a K-Cup holder with a little filter) and using the house coffee. Call me crazy, but I think our regular coffee tastes 100 times better from the Keurig.

I found a sale last week on Amazon and was able to order more K-cups. They arrived yesterday as I was in the middle of making muffins.

It also arrived at 5 pm, so I wasn't able to sample it right then. Boo.

I ordered Jet Fuel for the hubby. It was described online as "extra-extra-bold", so I figured it was right up his alley. I was right, he loved it this morning. The sale was also on a 50-pack of coffee, so this package should last him quite awhile. I ordered French Vanilla cappuccino for me. Yum, yum!

I was so happy to see these little things!

This flavor is perfect for me. I'm not a fan of black or strong coffee and I love flavored coffee. This coffee is not strong. I found it delicious.

It was an indulgent Friday morning started with a French Vanilla Cappuccino and a couple of Chocolate Chip Almond mini-muffins. TGIF indeed!

A Week of Salads: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

I. Hate. Bees.

The grilled chicken for the salad was nearly ruined by the dastardly things. The insanely smart people that built this house put in an all-wood carport (unpainted, of course). The wood serves to be a feeding frenzy for carpenter bees. They have most of their tunnels right under the spot that the hubby parked (and chained down) the grill. There weren't any bees out when I started grilling the chicken and they actually didn't show up until it was time to pull the chicken, which was when 3 HUGE carpenter bees appeared. I took a deep breath, ran to the grill, grabbed the chicken as fast as I could, and sprinted back to the house.

I waited about 10 minutes for the bees to go away before I could turn the grill off. Sorry for wasting propane hun!

So it's Night 5 of A Week of Salads. This is just a traditional Caesar salad with some chicken and pasta thrown into the mix. I love pasta, I can figure out how to put it in pretty much anything.

I'm going to tell you a secret. I haven't bought Caesar dressing since I discovered the recipe that I've been using for a couple of years. It's yogurt based, so it's a lot healthier than prepared Caesar dressing. It tastes exactly like regular Caesar dressing though.

It looks like real Caesar dressing too.

A Week of Salads is over. I've pretty much been eating salad non-stop all week since I've been eating leftover salads everyday for lunch. I'm pleased to report that every salad kept well for next-day leftovers. I'm looking forward to a little weekend splurging now :)

1 large chicken breast
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic powder
6 oz penne pasta
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup croutons
6 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Drizzle chicken breast with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Heat gas grill over medium-high heat. Grill chicken breast 12-15 minutes, or until done. Remove from heat, let rest for at least 5 minutes. Roughly chop and set aside.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Run under cool water until pasta is cold. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add romaine lettuce through Parmesan cheese to the mixing bowl. Add chicken to mixing bowl.
4. In a separate, smaller mixing bowl combine Greek yogurt through black pepper. Stir vigorously with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

Creamy Caesar dressing brought to you by Cooking Light

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Week of Salads: Tortellini Pepperoncini Salad

It's Thursday y'all!

That means Night 4 of A Week of Salads. No one is starving yet, I've gotten some good workouts in, and I've lost 1 lb this week! That's a pretty good week in my mind.

Tonight was Tortellini Pepperoncini Salad. It might as well be called Everything and The Kitchen Sink Salad, there were so many appetizing elements to this salad. Lots of spinach, fresh tortellini pasta, slightly spicy pepperoncini peppers, salty capers, and more! It's definitely a meal in itself.

It's a superfast salad. Everything came together 30 minutes, making it perfect for a weeknight. The salad was chilling in the fridge, the dishes were done, and the kitchen was clean by the time the hubby got home from work. I love when that happens because that's more time I get to spend with the hubby :)

Tomorrow night is the last night of A Week of Salads, however since our weather has been summer-esque and bikini season is around the corner, I think the healthy eating is going to continue next week.

After some weekend cocktails, of course. Hey, I've earned it! :)

1 (9-oz) package fresh tortellini
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup pepperoncinis, sliced
6 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 (16 oz) can chickpeas
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Combine tomatoes through chickpeas in a large mixing bowl. Add cooled tortellini to bowl.
3. Vigorously whisk lemon juice and olive oil together. Drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Week of Salads: Chicken and Black Bean Salad

I can't believe it's Wednesday already! The week is rolling right along. I fit in time for a workout today and did some circuit training consisting of a cardio rep (elliptical), crunches on the stability ball, planks, squats, and some arm exercises. I repeated the circuit 3 times and I was exhausted! I'm obviously out of shape, I've got work to do.

It was Night 3 of A Week of Salads. On deck was the salad I was supposed to make last night, Chicken and Black Bean Salad.

It's salad with a decidedly Mexican flair. Grilled chicken, black beans, and chopped green peppers and tomatoes. And like last night, there's lettuce under there somewhere.

The vinaigrette is so different than other dressings and gives the salad tons of flavor. It actually uses chopped tomatoes in the dressing, something I don't see a lot in other recipes. It's also supposed to have fresh cilantro in the dressing, however the cilantro at the grocery store was less than inspiring. I added a pinch of coriander instead and didn't regret it!

I'm already feeling better from the healthier eating this week. A good start to Project Bikini Season :)

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
Drizzle of olive oil
Taco Seasoning
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (15-oz) can of black beans, washed and drained
1/4 cup tomato, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove, chopped
Fresh grated cheddar cheese (garnish)
Crumbled tortilla chips (garnish)

1. Drizzle olive oil over chicken, then rub chicken with Taco Seasoning.  Let rub sink into chicken for 1 hour. Heat grill over medium high heat and grill chicken for 12-15 minutes, or until done. Remove from grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Roughly chop chicken and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine romaine lettuce through black beans. Add chicken to mixing bowl.
3. In a food processor, combine diced tomato through garlic. Pulse until mixture is smooth. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss to combine.
4. Place salad on a plate and garnish with fresh grated cheddar cheese and crumbled tortilla chips.
5. Inhale :)

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light*

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Week of Salads: Greek Salad with Shrimp

It's Night 2 in A Week of Salads at my house!

This is an old standby for us. It's fast, full of veggies, and delicious. Kalamata olives lend saltiness to the dish, while feta lends creaminess. I realize I had feta and kalamatas in my salad last night, but I forgot to defrost chicken for the Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salad. Whoops. Guess I'll be saving that one for tomorrow.

Greek salad is full of my favorite foods. I love those cucumbers. I have an affinity for cucumber skin but most people peel them. Not me :)

Also, there's lettuce under there. I promise.

Shrimp is sauteed in just a tiny bit of olive oil with minced garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Week of Salads is off to a good start with no hungry people thinking ravenously about McDonalds as they nibble on rabbit food.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved
4 pepperoncini peppers
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook shrimp until they are done, 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Add romaine through pepperoncinis to a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate small bowl, vigorously whisk vinegar through pepper. Add shrimp to large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Week of Salads: Take Two!

Here's the deal peeps.

It's getting too darn close to bikini season and according to my skinny jeans, I am up a couple of l-b-s's. Argh. Instead of consoling myself in a chocolate wonder-fall, I've got a plan to hit it hard this week!

I've got serious cardio planned for the week, ab exercises, squats, planks, and strength training as well. I also informed the hubby we were doing another week of salads.

He was actually ok with this.

The salad up to bat Night 1 was Tuna and Broccoli Pasta Salad.

It was actually supposed to be an orzo salad, but I scoured my pantry for a good 5 minutes in a fruitless attempt to find the orzo. I thought I had a couple of boxes, it turns out I don't have any. I decided to throw in gemelli pasta instead (one of my faves!).

The salad is fairly economical to make since I used a bag of frozen broccoli and a can of oil-packed tuna. I had feta leftover and used kalamata olives, which I always keep on hand. Yum! It was an excellent start to A Week of Salads!

8 oz pasta of your choice
1 5-oz can oil-packed tuna, chilled
3 cups frozen broccoli, defrosted
1/2 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup parsley, minced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
lemon zest (garnish)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Run under cold water until pasta is cold. Add to a large mixing bowl.
2. Add tuna through parsley to mixing bowl.
3. In a separate small bowl, vigorously whisk lemon juice and olive oil together. Drizzle dressing over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix well.
4. Zest lemon over salad and serve.

The Daily Headache
Today was my first appointment with my new neurologist. The hubby and I drove all the way to Cincinnati to meet with her.

It was a good first appointment. She was friendly, nice, and warm. Very comforting. She reminded me of someone's grandma. She spent about 50 minutes with me, discussing my history. She wanted to consult with my family physician before trying any new options, but she promised to call me later in the week with what they decided. All in all, I thought it was a pretty good appointment.

I don't like her as much as my neurologist in Oregon, however. I had been seeing my previous neurologist since I was 16 though, so I may be a little biased.

I'm a sucker for cute animal pictures, in case you were wondering. Do you want to see some more? I thought so :)
Apparently I'm not the only one who gets headaches!

On the way home from Cincinnati, the hubby and I took the backroads home. We drove through a tiny town in Ohio called Otway. Otway was randomly hit by the tornadoes from last month, so the hubby and I got to see a tornado's destruction first hand.

This was a HUGE tree pulled out of the ground by the tornado. The scary part is that this was about 10 yards from someone's house! The hubby and I can't imagine the amount of noise it must have made when it hit the ground. We also can't imagine how scared the people living so close to this must have been.

This was the old firehouse in Otway, completely destroyed by the tornado. We pretty much stared in slack-jawed amazement as we drove by this.

Otway is about an hour and a half away from us, so there was a lot of distance between us and this tornado. Not enough distance though, if you ask me!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

I love tzatziki sauce! I salviate just thinking about its creamy, salty goodness. It's the perfect complement to a very healthy, boneless skinless chicken breast grilled to perfection.

This sounds like a complicated dish but that's only because it's Greek. It's actually very simple and one of the first Greek dishes I ever tried to make. Those Greeks knew what they were doing with olive oil, lemon, oregano, cucumber... I could go on.

But I won't :)

It all starts with a very simple marinade of lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt, and garlic. Who knew these ingredients all marry each other and create a super flavorful marinade? I know now. Cut the chicken into chunks, throw it in the marinade, and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Now, about that tzatziki sauce.

You'll need lots of fresh grated cucumber. I grate my cucumber on my box grater. Works like a charm.

Again, the tzatziki sauce is super simple to make. Mix your grated cucumber with Greek yogurt (it has to be Greek yogurt to get the right texture), lemon juice, salt, and garlic.

It will be love at first taste, I promise! Put it in the fridge to chill and let the flavors meld for a while.

Slice up lots of fresh zucchini. It's the perfect dipper for the tzatziki and bonus! It's healthy too.

Right before it's time to grill, skewer your chicken and your zucchini. The hubby informed me I skewered the zucchini wrong, but I thought they grilled perfectly. They still had a little crunch once they came off the grill, which is key for me.

Ok, so the zucchini didn't get the awesome grill marks on them, but isn't it the taste that really matters? I thought so :)


1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
8 garlic cloves, minced (you can use less based on your preference)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks

Tzatziki sauce-
1 cup cucumber, grated
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large zucchini sliced

1. Mix lemon juice through garlic cloves for marinade. Place in a large ziploc bag and add chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.
2. Mix grated cucumber through garlic sauce in a small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Slice zucchini. Skewer chicken and zucchini.
4. Cook skewers on a gas grill over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes or until chicken is done.
5. Remove chicken and zucchini from skewers and serve with tzatziki sauce.

Recipe brought to you by Cooking Light