Baking Flips and Flops

I love it when you put something in the oven, close the door, dust off your hands on your apron (or your sweatpants in my case), and walk away while it bakes; crossing your fingers that everything turns out better than you imagine – and it does.

Almond and Lemon Biscotti with White Chocolate Drizzle

But sometimes you encounter a baking flop.

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Vegan funfetti “cupcakes.” so much for a valentine’s day surprise.

Or two.

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And you feel a bit defeated. Especially when you are not making your own recipe, but following someone else’s beautiful recipe. Like I did last night. I attempted to make Mama Pea’s Brown Sugar Bars because I had all ingredients on hand and they looked downright scrumptious.

At the mention of baking, Eric gave me a look and said “the kitchen is going to be dirty, isn’t it?” One thing you must know about Eric is that he is a neat/clean freak. I love him for it because it’s got me amped up on cleaning. In fact, on Friday evenings when we get home from work we vacuum. And we enjoy it. Yes, we have very little social lives.  Anyway, I laughed at him thinking this impromptu baking urge would be a breeze and he really should be thanking me for baking him such tasty treats. 

Unfortunately it did not pan out this way. I did however keep the kitchen squeaky clean, and even stirred everything over the sink to avoid a messy stove top, cleaned the dishes IMMEDIATELY, and tidied up parts of the kitchen that I didn’t even use (bestgirlfriendeverawardthankyouverymuch), but the end baking result was not pretty. I think somewhere I must have missed a step. Because the outcome was not nearly what I was expecting.

Enter “unintentionally picture framed (literally), deflated, wannabe brown sugar bars”

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Even though they looked dreadful, they still taste divine. They are just impossible to eat because they are not so much bars as they are a pile of chocolately, brown sugar goop trying to find a way to grasp on to any bit of solidness (is this even a word?) they have. Once I tried to cut them they actually got uglier. I told Eric I refused to even look at them. I then proceeded to eat a bite with my eyes closed.

Sometimes you have a baking flop or two. It happens. I was a bit discouraged after this, and I kept whining to Eric (which he just loathes let me tell you) because I felt like a stupid idiot who couldn’t even throw a bunch of stuff into the oven to produce some bars to feed my man. I mean I’m supposed to know this stuff. Anyway, it’s refreshing because it just makes me want to keep on chugging along to bake something even more delicious and outrageous.

Anyone have any amazing baking recommendations?

Costeaux French Bakery

I found a new love. A cute little French bakery in Healdsburg called Costeaux French Bakery.

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After a grueling 13 mile run on Saturday, followed by an evening playing with a 4 year old with more energy than anti matter, I was ready to dig in BIG time at this French bakery the next morning. I typically don’t go out to breakfast, so this was a real treat while we were visiting Eric’s mom in Healdsburg (she just bought a gorgeous house)!

We were lucky to get gorgeous weather during our drive out to Healdsburg.  IMG_3636

This bridge was extremely narrow and high. I freaked out a bit, but it provided amazing views of San Francisco. After the 1.5 hour drive we arrived at Costeaux French Bakery.

I was immediately drawn to the huge, open interior of the bakery/restaurant. There was a bakery on one side, while the entire restaurant was on the other side.

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I loved the old, rustic feel – including the adorable painted words on the walls.

We were lucky enough to snag a table outside under the heat lamp. Even though the weather was nice, it was still cold (yes. 60 degrees is down right bone chilling to my So Cal blood).

We started off with hot coffee and Eric asked the waiter to bring him a muffin. A beautiful pumpkin muffin. It was probably one of the best muffins I have every had. But the waiter did not stop there. He also brought a morning bun. Just because. I could get used to that .

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After devouring those two, it was time for the entrée. I ordered the Costeaux omelet:

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From the bakery’s website: Applewood smoked bacon, spinach, sun dried tomato and French brie.

Wow. this was incredible. Needless to say I devoured it in about 3 minutes flat.

I have a feeling I will be making more trips to this little bakery. Especially since they have amazing home made bloody mary’s. Something I have never been fond of, but after tasting this one I was sold. Sign me up.

Their bathrooms also gave me inspiration in home decorating! Every wall in the women’s bathroom was covered in a collage of old, vintage wine labels.

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I mean, how adorably clever is this?

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Now, I’m not thinking of covering my entire bathroom in old wine labels (but please know that we drink enough wine to easily allow for this), but more along the lines of a big framed poster to hang above the couch or our bed.

Costeaux, you have won my heart.

These are a few of my favorite things…

Some things I’m loving right now:

  • These amazing brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookies. I made these on Monday evening and I kid you not, one cookie is almost the size of my face. I’m obsessed.
  • These awesome city posters by Ork. One of my co-workers introduced me to this website. She just ordered the San Francisco print, and I’m kind of obsessed. I am trying to restrain myself from ordering from every city (granted I haven’t been to most of them). they are so funky chic and will look fabulous over my couch.
  • Cute, cuddly bears

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our five year anniversary trip to Monterey!

  • Baking bomb pizzas

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margherita pizza (in the back), and a pear, prosciutto and smoked gruyere pizza in the front

  • Apples to Apples (best.game.ever.)

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  • this boy.

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In fact – we are heading to a Jackson Browne concert tonight becuaseilovehimsomuch.

What defines a blog?

Where do I even begin? so I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus (okay so that’s the understatement of the year). I’ve taken a great hiatus while I tried to balance my work, life, relationships, friends, fitness, and cooking. Looks like I’m not so great at incorporating a daily blog into this mix. however, in this time off, I still continued to be active in the food and health blogging community – and by active I mean reading and commenting and drooling over fabulous recipes and killer treadmill workouts. one thing that did not remain active: my food blogging. my picture taking of food. my writing. the loss of a community.

it occurred to me this morning when I peeled back the cover of a pineapple chobani (so delish btw), that I don’t really like taking pictures of everything I eat. especially things I eat every day (i.e. chobani, coffee, half a square of lindt dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt every night before bed). I do however, love to take pictures of my culinary creations (or replicas), wine and champagne, beautiful moments and anything that sparks my interest. I think I accredited this lack of passion to photograph every morsel for not inconsistently updating my blog. it took some time to realize that this is my blog. my space. my thoughts. I do what I want with it, and no precedents or boundaries are set in stone. so what if I don’t showcase my every meal, snack and spoonful (okay finger-full) of almond butter?

while I’ve always considered my blog as a food blog, in reality I’ve realized that I really don’t bode well with slapping a title on this creation.  it just so happens I’m passionate about food, wine, health, fitness, fashion and reality shows (just to name a few Winking smile).

so from this point forward, this is what you all will see on here. my random thoughts, recipes (if they so suit me), workouts, pictures and everyday life musings.

thank you all for your patience (if I’ve still retained any of you out there!), and I hope you like what’s to come Smile

A question for you: in your mind, what defines a blog?

Chili Mac for Cold Winter Nights

I had yet another bagel with cream cheese for breakfast this morning. While it totally satisfies my salty tooth (like sweet tooth, no?), I’ve come to realize that it really does not keep me full for very long. I am a big fan of having a HUGE, filling, and nutritionally sound breakfast that keeps me full for a few hours. I notice that if I eat this type of breakfast (oatmeal with flax and/or chia seeds with pumpkin and almond butter is top notch), not only am I satisfied for a long period of time, I am also fully energized and do not mindlessly snack as much throughout the day.

For example, after eating the bagel with cream cheese and grapes I’ve also had an apple with Justin’s maple almond butter, half an almond brioche croissant, muffin bites, (curse you office pastries), coffee x 3 and I am still hungry. It’s not even 11:30AM.  Looks like lunch will come early. As delicious as the bagels have been in the moment, I’m constantly reminded that I need a more substantial breakfast.

Coincidentally I stumbled upon an “eating a smart breakfast” article from Cooking Light that I saw on their twitter feed this morning. Please note that Cooking Light did not contact me, I simply am a die-hard reader (I may or may not devote an afternoon at Whole Foods reading the magazine every month) and think they have great articles and recipes that I want to share. Smile

The article contains five elements to include in your morning breakfast:

  1. Eat Mindfully – sit down and eat. I do not do this nearly enough. I am go, go, go in the AM, and I usually take my breakfast on the road with me. This article brings up an interesting fact that if you eat on the go you are more likely to feel as though you did not have a meal. Must incorporate this into my daily routine!
  2. Include Lean Protein – protein take a much longer time to digest than carbohydrates (hi, bagel), keeping blood sugar levels in check which keep you satisfied longer. If you are a carb queen (or king), opt for whole grain which always has more fiber and protein.
  3. Fill Up with Fiber – yup. Typically the whole grain breads and cereals mentioned above have a ton of natural fiber. Both solvable and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is mostly not digested but takes up space in your stomach making you feel fuller longer.
  4. Front-Load Your Day with Nutrients – apparently breakfast eaters are more likely to have higher intakes of vitamins. Who knew? I also take (if I remember) a fish oil pill and vitamin D pill everyday with my breakfast.
  5. Savor Your Favorite Tastes – This is SOOO simple and obvious! Eat what tastes good to you! Okay, it may not be as simple as scarfing down an entire Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Lindt bar, but you should make your nutritional breakfast taste delicious! There are plenty of options out there – you should check our Cooking Light’s recipe index!

You can read the entire article here!

Speaking of lean protein, fiber and good tastes, I made the most delicious meal for dinner last night!

Chili Mac. I found the recipe from an old issue of Healthy Cooking.

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I followed the recipe almost to a tee.

Starting with cooking the onions, jalapenos, lean ground turkey and garlic on medium heat until the meat browned.

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I then drained the meat, returned it to the pan and added the remaining ingredients.

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I stirred until combined and let it simmer on medium low heat until everything was heated through.

Meanwhile I gathered all the ingredient to make Hungry Girl’s cheesy corn muffins.

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Except I ran out of egg whites. so that was interesting. I replaced one of the egg whites with applesauce. They still turned our divine.

About half an hour later dinner was served.

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This was a BIG hit. Eric kept raving about how delicious it was and even went back for seconds. There are also tons of leftovers (hello lunch for the next two days).

Chili Mac (from Healthy Cooking):

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Ingredients

2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni  *I used whole wheat shells

1 pound lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped  *I used 2 and it was just enough heat

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained *I used fire roasted – delish!

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 to 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese *I used reduced fat Mexican cheese

Directions

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the turkey, onion, jalapenos and garlic in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper sauce and seasonings. Drain macaroni; stir into turkey mixture. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Sprinkle with cheese. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand until cheese is melted. Yield: 6 servings.

Cheesy Corn Muffins (Hungry Girl):

Ingredients:

1 cup canned cream-style corn
2/3 cup all-purpose flour *I used whole wheat flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters) *I used 1/4 cup of egg whites and 1/4 cup of applesauce
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese *I used reduced fat Mexican cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated) *I used regular sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together all other ingredients — then add the contents of the small bowl to the large one, and stir until well mixed.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line it with baking cups. Evenly distribute muffin batter among the cups.

Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes (until muffins are firm and a light golden brown). Allow to cool and then enjoy! Yield: 12 muffins

In fun online article news….

Twinkie Diet and Other One Food Diet Plans – this absolutely frightens me, as well as some of the other “one food” diets in the article…bacon, McDonalds (hellooo Super Size Me). Basically stating that calorie intake has a direct influence on weight loss. But what about nutrition people!!! I don’t think your heart would like you very much if you ate a 1lb. of bacon for 1 month straight. Except for the guy in the article who’s blood pressure supposedly went down. Seems shady to me…

Bagels and Baking

First of all, notice a new change in my blog? I am notorious for not updating / revising / maintaining my blog, but it really needs a facelift. I am working with whatever WordPress can give me, so stay tuned for some additional changes to come! Including a workout page!


After getting home last night and settling in on the couch, Eric walked in the door from his day at work carrying a Target bag. As I welcomed him all I could think about was what was in the Target bag. Why were you at Target without me? I want to go to Target. I want to buy those boots and that shampoo….You catch my drift.

He knows me oh-so well and called me out on my ponderous look. To my delight he decided to pick me up some Pillsbury dark chocolate chip cookies to bake! I think it was secretly because he wanted some cookies now that we are almost out of all of our undistributed Halloween candy. So I decided to bake!

I followed the directions on the box because I just wanted some darn cookies STAT, but instead of adding an egg I decided to take a shot at making a flax egg that I read so much about in the blog world. For the record I used 1 tbsp. finely ground flax meal and 3 tbsp. water to substitute one egg.  I was a bit apprehensive at first because the flax + water mixture did not seem to thicken up after I let it sit out for a couple of minutes. Even so, I combined the flax egg, 1/3 cup of canola oil and 3 tbsp. water with the cookie mix and plopped them in cute little cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet.

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Baking requires vino, no? The end result was actually quite delicious! Kudos to the flax egg and Pillsbury – and my superb baking skills Winking smile 

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After overdosing on cookies + dough I crashed – hard. I am still so tired from watching Ashley this weekend. Eric and I both slept so well last night, and I did not want to get out of bed when my alarm clock went off (what else is new). The only thing keeping me going was knowing that I was going to have a bagel for breakfast! I have been craving super salty breakfasts lately. Which is a bit strange since I usually have sweet meals like the banana topped – 3 minute breakfast cookie (official recipe to come. I’ve got the ingredients down to a tee), or green monsters.

I found some everything bagels at Trader Joe’s this weekend, and after reading the clean ingredient list (everything at Trader Joe’s is preservative free. Well except some of their deli meat which contains nitrates – yuck) I decided I had to buy them. Oh and they were right next to some pumpkin bagels. After excitedly throwing both bags of bagels in my cart, I decided that I should be budget friendly and put one back and get it when I finish the first bag. And when I get the pumpkin bagels next week I will get some pumpkin cream cheese. Trader Joes wins my heart every week I tell you.

Anyway…

The everything bagel + organic whipped cream cheese was my breakfast this AM along with a side of seeedless red grapes.

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I have a feeling I will be having this breakfast more than once this week (especially if I have to finish the bag of everything bagels before getting the pumpkin ones)!

Now I’m off to work. And snacking on a pack of maple almond butter. Life is good.

On tonight’s dinner menu: chili mac! Stay tuned….

Justin’s Almond Buttah

So today was an average Monday.

Did not want to get out of bed. Did not want to get dressed or make an effort to look presentable. Did not want to commute (although I have a new book from the library – Mini Shopaholic – loving it so far). Did not want to check and respond to the already 20 emails in my inbox. Needed copious amounts of coffee to get me through the aforementioned emails.

But then the average Monday became so pleasantly unique. Behold.

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Yes my friends, a cardboard box full of squeeze size Justin’s Maple Almond Butter. An entire BOX. Overflowing with almond butter (well it was overflowing at one point until I did some damage).

So what brought this amazing treasure into my office and into my hands?

Apparently one of my co-workers is friends with someone who works for Justin’s (uhm hello greatest job ever), and he just happened to send her a giant load of almond butter. You know. Just cause that’s a totally normal, everyday thing for him. He lives, eats and breathes everything nut butter. Did I mention how jealous I am? I also found out that Justin’s is based in Colorado and started out with two guys with a mission to make some delicious nut butter. Now they are in virtually every Whole Foods in the nation. Amazing.

So my coworker went around to everyone asking if they wanted some. Uhm. Yeah. I about lost it. I actually did lose it. I’m pretty sure all of my coworkers think I’m crazy. But I know I can share this love with you all. I then proceeded to say how this was SUCH a steal, and they could pay me in almond butter packets. Seriously no one knew how expensive this stuff is, and how it hurts my wallet (but warms my heart) when I seldom purchase this nut butter gem.

So I proceeded to take a small army of packets to stash in my desk. And then immediately opened one and ate it with an apple. Heaven. I then happily responded to my remaining emails with a big fat smile on my face. See how easy it is to keep employees happy?


P.S. So sad I missed the annual FoodBuzz festival! I took care of Eric’s four year old sister (Ashley) all weekend. And I am official WIPED OUT. More so than when I complete a half marathon. In lieu of my attendance, I’ve been reading some great recaps and living vicariously through them! Keep ‘em coming blog friends Smile


How was your Monday unique?

three words: free almond butter.