Food and Drink

4
Mar

I made it to the finish line!

Whole Living Challenge

I made it to the end of week three, and I have to say that the transformation in my eating has been really good.  I feel like I am back on track with healthy eating and limited sugar intake.  I have lost a few pounds too.  I am definitely planning to keep a few of these recipes in my regular repertoire. Here is my review of the food for Week Three:

Category : Food and Drink | Recipes | Blog
25
Feb

Tofu is in the House!

tofu

So I am feeling good and I have lost a few pounds (so exciting!) and the food is tasty, but I am still finding a lack of motivation for the third week of detox.  I do find myself occasionally thinking about eating a giant burger, but I can resist that.  I think I just don’t want to put in the effort of planning the next week, which is a slippery slope to eating junk.  Good thing I decided to blog about this so I feel like I have to plan, otherwise I might be getting off the Whole Living train right about now.  So here we go. The third and final week…

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Snacks

Category : Food and Drink | Recipes | Blog
24
Feb

Two Weeks and Feelin’ Good

Whole Living Challenge

Week two was much easier than week one.  My overwhelming afternoon sugar cravings have greatly diminished and I feel like I have more energy (could also be because Emily is sleeping better).  So here is what I liked and disliked from Week 2 (I had more leftovers than expected so I haven’t tried nearly as much as I thought I would for week 2):

Category : Food and Drink | Recipes | Blog
18
Feb

Fish is in the House!

I am pretty excited to add fish, brown rice, and quinoa into my diet!  This week looks promising.

Whole Living Challenge

Fish is in the House!

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Snacks

Category : Food and Drink | Blog
16
Feb

First Week Summary

Whole Living Challenge

The first week went well (minus Valentine’s Day – you can’t attend a cookie party and not eat a few cookies).

The Hardest Part

The afternoons were brutal for me.  I truly have an addiction to sugar (especially chocolate) and my craving is strongest in the afternoons.  I was able to eat fruit after dinner in substitution for dessert, but not in the afternoons.  I found myself thinking about eating something sweet a lot in the afternoons.  I came very close to cheating a few times, but I made it.  The trick will be continuing to limit my sugar intake after this three week detox is complete.

The Best Part

Having every meal of the week planned out ahead of time was great.  I never came home at night without any idea what I was going to make for dinner.  Also, I felt really healthy. It felt good consuming so many veggies, and I really enjoyed it.  My refrigerator looks like the produce section at the grocery store, and it is great.  I really hope to change my cooking habits through this.  I definitely want to incorporate more veggies along with our meals from now on.  I always felt too tired to cook dinner and a veggie side dish, but I am learning new way of making quick veggies, and I plan to keep it up after this is all done.

The Most Surprising Part

Most of the recipes have been really tasty.  I think my favorite so far was the cauliflower stirfry.  I couldn’t believe how much flavor it had with just garlic, ginger, and lemon juice!

Recipe Reviews

Here is what I thought of the recipes I have tried so far:

  • Mango and Tahini Smoothie I really did not enjoy the tahini in this.  The flavor combination just did not work for me.
  • Creamy Broccoli Soup Yum.  Very green.  The avocado made this soup very creamy.  A great addition.  It had nice flavor.
  • Curried Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup This soup was very good.  I ended up making it with red curry powder because I was all out of regular curry powder, and it was really tasty.  It was nice hardy soup.
  • blueberry smoothie This was really good, but next time I think I will leave out the mint.
  • Cauliflower stirfry As I already said, this was one of my favorites.  Definitely a keeper even after this detox is done.
  • Lentil Salad A keeper with a few modifications.  I add some red wine vinegar and topped the salad with sliced avocado.  Much better with these additions!  Also a keeper.
  • Kale and White Bean Soup I felt like this could benefit from more flavor.  I think next time I would make it with veggie broth instead of water.
  • Roasted Chickpeas Good flavor but the texture was too mealy for me.

The plan for Week 2 is coming soon.

Category : Food and Drink | Blog
11
Feb

A Healthy Eating Restart

When I was pregnant, I gave up a lot of unhealthy foods.  After I had Emily I went on a little binge of all the things I gave up for 9 months.  Then the sleep deprivation kicked in and I found myself craving anything with sugar (in large quantities).  To top it all off, those cravings were combined with the insatiable hunger that comes with breastfeeding.  In the beginning, I watch the pounds I had gained rapidly disappear and I thought I would be back to my pre-pregnancy self in no time…ha!  The wight loss definitely bottomed out and then plateaued and then started to rise again after the first few weeks.  Of course another problem with thinking I would be back to my old self in no time was the fact that my stomach was all stretched out.  So here we are, 10 months later and I need to reboot myself in the health arena.  I have a two part plan.  First, I was reading All Things G & D (one of my favorite blogs) and saw the Whole Living Challenge.  Perfect!  This is exactly what I need to start over.  It is a three week (four if you feel ambitious) healthy eating plan.  It involves reducing your diet to the basics (fruits, veggies, lentils, and nuts) and then slowly adds things (fish, grains, eggs) back in.  The part that scares me the most is giving up any added sugar (no candy or cookies or chocolate – ahhhhhhh).  Caffeine is also off limits, but since I gave that up when I got pregnant, I won’t miss it.  The second part of my plan starts on February 19th.  I am taking a postnatal yoga class that targets all those areas that got stretched during pregnancy.  It is a six week class, which will hopefully whip my core muscles back into shape by the time Emily is 1 year old.

Veggies

Week One Starts now (as I sip on my mango and tahini smoothie – yum?)

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Day Six

Day Seven

Snacks

Stay tuned to find out which recipes are keepers, and how I am doing.

Category : Food and Drink | Recipes | Blog
27
Dec

That was some steep competition!

3 Little Pigs Gingerbread

The results are in for the gingerbread house competition this year.  There were some amazing gingerbread constructions involving moving parts and engineering genius.  42 groups entered houses (I use this word loosely because many of the creations did not involve any sort of house)  in the competition, and over 2400 votes were cast.  This year was the first year they put the houses up on facebook, and they added a category for the group who got the most “likes” on facebook.  Had we known this we would have pushed harder for these votes…next year.  OK, so you want the results.  Looking at Facebook, we came in fourth place.  Overall I have no idea where we stood.

In First Place…”Santa’s Radiation Workshop” created by Radiation Oncology.  In this scene, Rudolph is lying on a table getting a scan done and his nose is lit up.

Rudolph Gingerbread

I was happy they won because their idea was so creative.

Second Place: “Angry Birds” by Rehabilitative Medicine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of this one.

Third Place: “Building 1″ which is the main administrative building on the campus.

Building 1 Gingerbread

The Facebook Winner was “Bridge to the Future” by the Office of Science Education

Overall, it was a fun competition.  We learned from our first time around and next year we will be in it to win it!  Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy…

Happy Feet

Santa climbing washington monument

Peace on Earth

Once Upon a Time

Merry go Round

Category : Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
25
Dec

Family, Friends and Food!

The holidays filled our house with family, friends and food.  It was such a nice way to open up our house to the people we care about, and made us feel very lucky to have such a wonderful home. There was a lot of hustle and bustle getting ready – cooking, cleaning, decorating…  Here is an overview of what was happening at our house.  We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and wish everyone a happy new year!

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Gets Decorated

The Tree Gets Decorated

Cookies Get Baked

Cookies Get Baked

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Food Gets Set Out

Food Gets Set Out

Drinks Get Chilled

Drinks Get Chilled

Yum...Cookies!

Yum...Cookies!

...cupcakes, and more!

...cupcakes, and more!

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
5
Dec

A Gingerbread House Competition – Who Could Resist?

Brick House

When I got an email at work about a gingerbread house competition, the wheels in my domestic diva brain immediately started turning.  The benefits: 1) I get to build a gingerbread house (who wouldn’t want to do this – turns out a lot of people, but I will get to that later); 2) A little friendly competition to up the ante – what could be more fun; 3) It will be on display for all of the children in the hospital where I work – definitely the best part.

The Theme: The 3 Little Pigs

Here is my beautiful original sketch for the gingerbread house plan:

Original Gingerbread House Plan

The drawing skills are incredible – I know.  What can I say?  My brain thinks in rough sketches, and usually they end up on paper.  So anyways, this was the original plan, but of course things change as you encounter reality, or in this case – gravity.  Check out item number 3 above in the drawing.  When your pig ends up being 5 times larger than your table, and your chair won’t actually stand up because you accidentally (despite your best effort) made the legs different lengths, you learn to let go and move on.  So instead, we ended up with what we like to call “alien pig” inside the stick house…

Alien Pig

As part of the competition, everyone has to pick up a gingerbread house kit and use all the pieces from it.  We also learned that one of the rules was that everything that could be seen has to be edible, so we could use glue, and styrofoam, and whatever else we wanted to construct our scene as long as they were all covered with edible things.  While shopping, we decided to go with fast drying industrial strength glue to hold everything together.  We later learned that this glue was not so fast drying and the fumes probably killed about a hundred brain cells per second.  Halfway through the night we had all the windows open (even though it was about 40 degrees outside) for ventilation.  One of my coworkers also discovered the magic of glue guns for the first time, and was totally enamored with it for the rest of the night.

Okay, backing up…Team Gingerbread got together after work, started sorting the million pounds of candy we had purchased, ate some pizza, drank some wine, and began the journey into the world of gingerbread construction.

Our best moments: building the snowmen/lady, the shingles on the brick house, using pretzels to make the stick house.

Check out those shingles!

Shingles

Our most challenging moments: constructing the pigs and the wolf.  One of our pigs was accidentally decapitated multiple times, lost an arm and a leg, and was definitely not going to stand up on his own.  Alien Pig has no legs so that he would A) stand up and B) fit inside the stick house.  The wolfs legs started out long and ended up being reversed so they just look like feet coming out and so he could stand on his own (with a little help from a candy cane).  Gluing sugar to wood also presents some challenges.  Full protective gear was used in this process.  The wood was taken outside, placed on newspapers, and sprayed with glue (while wearing a face mask).  It was then sprinkled with sugar, sprayed with more glue, sprinkled with more sugar, sprayed with more glue…you get the idea.

He is intact and somewhat upright now, so we are pretty darn happy!

Piggy with Problems

Four hours later, we were exhausted, brainfried from glue, but pleasantly surprised by the final product…

The Three Little Pigs Gingerbread Style

The Three Little Pigs Gingerbread Style

Go Team Gingerbread!  Results will be in on December 19th!

Category : Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
27
Apr
Shower Time!

Afternoon Tea

Naturally as someone who loves to plan parties, I was all about the prospective baby shower when I found out my sister was pregnant.  I wanted to do something small, intimate, and classy (with a few stupid games thrown in for fun).  I am a huge fan of afternoon tea (a brilliant concept – let’s all take a break in the afternoon to relax, eat, and drink tea.  What could be better? It is an afternoon snack perfected!), so i knew right away that the general concept for the shower would be an afternoon tea in my home (that part saves a lot of dough).  Being a list maker to my core, I started with a checklist of everything needed to plan the shower:
Baby Shower Checklist

Color Scheme
My sister is having a girl, but is not into girlie girl pink so I chose to go with a neutral green and yellow palate.  I used this palate with the table setting and linens, the balloons, and other various accents like prize bags and favor bags.

Theme
Themes can get really cheesy really fast – not that that is a bad thing, but like I said, this was going to be a classy afternoon tea, so I went with a mild sprinkling of rubber duckies (rubber duck to top the diaper cake, little duck stickers to seal the favor bags, and little duck chocolate candies).

Rubber Duck Chocolates

Tea, Teapots, and Teacups

Obviously the tea and the teaware are the most important items at an afternoon tea, so this was not a decision to be taken lightly.  I enjoy tea, but I would not consider myself a tea snob, so I was thinking about quality, but also about looks when making this decision.  I was debating between several different options for the tea.  There was Upton Tea Imports. They have an unbelievably large selection of tea (overwhelmingly large).  I love their tropical chai spice tea (thanks to the recommendation of a friend), and they have great sample size bags, which is great if you have no idea what you want.  The sample bags also make great gifts, but for this I decided that loose tea would be too messy since I wanted to offer people different teas to accompany different foods.  Another option was Adagio Teas.  They had really nice options, but in the end Tea Forte won for design.  I love the little leaf that comes out of their teabags:
Tea Forte Teabags
I also liked their teaware options, and they offered a bulk purchasing option that made their price the best.  I decided it would be unique and fun if everyone got their own pot of tea at the table instead of just a cup of tea, and Tea Forte’s Solstice option was perfect. I wanted to go with white teapots and teacups because white dishes are easier to mix and match, they provide a blank backdrop for the food and beverages, and with tea, I think it is nice to be able to not only enjoy the flavor of what you are drinking, but also the color.  I also liked the modern twist that the Solstice offered with its square handles, bottoms, lids, and saucers.  I continued the square theme by using square plates for the food.  I was so happy when the teapots arrived and I tested them out for the first time. They poured beautifully with no dripping (good for my white linen tablecloth)!  This is not an easy thing to accomplish.  I used little white bowls to serve the jam, clotted cream, lemon curd, honey, and sugar, and I got raw sugar for the tea because it has a more interesting look than white sugar.

Table Linens and Decor

I knew I wanted something in light green or yellow to go with the color scheme, and I ended up getting a great deal for a table runner at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  It was sitting, unwrapped with no tag in the clearance bin.  I took it to the register to find out how much it was, and the cashier called over the manager.  He said, “Let’s play the price is right” and the cashier said, “$3.99″ and I am thinking that is ridiculously cheap, and then the magical words came out of the manager’s mouth” Sounds good to me.”  Score!  $3.99 for a table runner.  That was the deal of the day.  Overall it was a good shopping day because I had just come from Michael’s where I got all the craft supplies for the shower and I had a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase there. Under the table runner, I put down a white tablecloth (I loved this tablecloth when I bought it – I got a great deal on it at the Crate and Barrel Outlet), but have been too scare to use it since it is white linen.  I decided that I needed to take the plunge sometime, so I just went for it with the afternoon tea.

Tea Table

To add a pop of color I placed 3 small square glass vases filled with bright green glass stones and yellow miniature carnations down the middle of the table.  Whenever I have people over for food that involves sitting at the table, I like to make small, short flower arrangements so they don’t get in the way of people talking or eating.

Each guest also got a menu previewing the upcoming meal and listing the tea choices.

Menu

Music

I put together a compilation of children’s songs to play throughout the shower.  Of course the mix included “Rubber Ducky” to go with my theme. :)  The music played softly in the background, with occasional excitement from the guests when they recognized songs from their childhoods. Once the shower ended, I gave the cd to my sister to take home for the baby.

Games

This was a small shower so I tried to keep the games to a minimum.  I included a game with baby trivia, like “How heavy was the heaviest baby ever born?” Answer: 23 lbs. 12 oz.  Yikes!

I also included a game where guests had to right down the baby name for each adult animal.  I never knew there was a difference between a hare and a rabbit until I found this game (in case I have you wondering now, check out this website: http://www.orcca.on.ca/~elena/useful/bunnies.html).  I also learned a lot of new baby animal names. For example, did you know that a baby ant is an antling and a baby raccoon is a kit?  This was a very educational baby shower! ;-)

I also had guests try to guess the number of diapers that were in the diaper cake.  Guesses ranged from 60 to 120. Who knew that my sister is some kind of math genius and actually calculated based on the number of diapers on the outside and was only off by 2 diapers – the answer was 72 and she guessed 74.

The final game involved hearing a bunch of stories about my sister when she was a baby and people had to guess which ones were true.  I got the false stories from other people I knew, which was great because they included things like a 2 year old screaming for beer in a restaurant and taking one bite out of every piece of fruit in a bowl before her parent’s had a dinner party (I’m sure that was a fun surprise).

Prizes

I tried to do nice prizes for the guests.  They included various gifts from Bath and Body Works like their stackable line of fragrances, lotions, and soaps…

Bath and Body Works Prize

as well as body butters from The Body Shop (thanks to a fabulous Groupon!).  All of the prizes were wrapped in identical yellow bags with cute baby tissue paper, and guests were allowed to pick a bag when they won a game.

Party Favors

The party favors consisted of little green bags filled with bath balls from Me!Bath, and sealed with little yellow ducky stickers.

Party Favors

Diaper Cake

Okay, so this is at the cheesier end of the baby shower spectrum, but a secret part of me loves this because it can end up looking very nice, it is very useful for the mom-to-be, and it can double as decoration and a game.   For those who do not know what a diaper cake is ( I was only aware of the concept because it was featured on the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda has her baby shower), it is a cake-looking structure made from diapers that are rolled up and placed in tiers and tied together with ribbons to form a cake.  A picture is probably better than a description, so here is my first attempt (and probably last) at a diaper cake:

Diaper Cake

Finally, The Food!

Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to food…

First Course: Sandwiches

Honey Infused Goat Cheese, Watercress, and Pear on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Honey Infused Goat Cheese, Watercress, and Pear on Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I also served egg salad on whole grain bread, and vegetable cream cheese and cucumber on miniature rye bread.  I couldn’t bring myself to serve butter and cucumber sandwiches, but I also did not want to completely get rid of that option since it is found at so many afternoon teas, so I opted to replace the butter with vegetable cream cheese.
Second Course: Scones

Apricot Almond Scones
Apricot Almond Scones
Third Course: Dessert

Miniature Cheesecakes

Miniature Cheesecakes

Miniature Strawberry Cupcakes

Miniature Strawberry Cupcakes

Making Ducky Chocolates

Making Ducky Chocolates

Putting together this tea party for my sister was so much fun.  Everyone had a really good time, and it was great to spend some time with my sister before this baby rocks her world.  I can’t wait to be an aunt, and have tea parties with my niece and all of her stuffed animals.

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Blog