Category Archives: Recipes

Making My ‘Scape

I finally made my ‘scape…. my garlic scape concoction! Hi!! I hope you had a great fourth of July!! My weekend has been quite busy, but I’ve had lots of fun. Here’s a recap!

Friday:

Having a Friday off is such a lovely thing. I got up, had a leisurely work out, and then I finally got around to mixing up a batch of garlic scape bean dip. You might recall that I bought some garlic scapes at the farmer’s market a long time ago, and I promised to share my favorite recipe. The original recipe was published in the New York Times last year, and the recipe can be found here. I’ve lightened it up a bit by using only 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and I don’t think it’s missing a thing! The Times also had a very interesting article, that I really enjoyed. You can check it out here if you’d like to read more about scapes.ScapesScapes are the stems that grow out of the top of a garlic bulb, and they are the part of the garlic that would flower if left intact. They have a very strong garlic flavor, and can be used much as you would use garlic. The tips of my scapes had gotten a bit dried out from all of the time spent languishing in the crisper, but otherwise, they were good to go. 

I removed the dried out parts, and then chopped up 1/3 a cup of scapes. Those went into the food processor with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and 1/4 tsp. of black pepper. The scapes have a pretty serious heat on their own, so it doesn’t take a lot of black pepper to spice it up. I also added the juice of a lemon. I whirred it around in the food processor until the scapes were pretty finely chopped.

BlitzThen, I added a can of great northern beans that I had drained and rinsed. I didn’t have cannellinis in the pantry, and I knew that these white beans would work just fine. Hooray for the pantry!!

BeansI continued to puree the mixture. When it was pretty well blitzed, I drizzled in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil with the processor still running and continued to puree until it was smooth.

Mmmm....I love this stuff and eat it as I would eat hummus! The scent of garlic really hits you when you take off the lid. Scapes are amazing!! If you can’t find scapes, you could make a similar mixture with a few cloves of garlic in place of the scapes. 

I put some scape dip into a La Tortilla Factory wrap (I was so excited to finally try these!!), along with some sliced cucumbers and Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, and voila! I had  a tasty wrap to take to a little pre-National’s game tailgate. 

It's A Wrap!

I was wearing a new dress, and you can see part of it in the photo. It loved it because it had a lot of crazy colors, but… it might look like a tablecloth. 🙂 

I also made a batch of butterscotch blondies (sitting in the chair in the above photo), using a recipe from an old Cooking Light cookbook, “Low-Fat Ways to Cook Family Favorites,” and took some to share with my friends. Sadly, the recipe isn’t on-line and it isn’t my own, so the best I can do is tell you about the cookbook. It’s a good one, by the way!

Butterscotch BrowniesThe Nat’s lost to the Braves, but the game was still fun. The racing President’s are always a highlight.

Poor Teddy!Poor Teddy Roosevelt never gets a break. At least he keeps trying! Way to be a role model, Teddy!

Saturday:

Saturday morning, I went for a walk with my friend, Mrs. W, and then she and I went to the farmer’s market. I loaded up on berries this week, as well as cherries, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some chive cheese. Yum.

After our walk and our visit to the market, we lunched on leftover gratin, garlic scape and white bean dip, farmer’s market cucumbers and tomatoes, and some Berry Cherry “Ice Cream.” It was a tasty lunch. I love having leftovers that I feel good about serving to a good friend. She happens to be a vegetarian too, so it was awesome that I had my vegetarian gratin to share. Yum!

Last night, I had another friend, MG, over for dinner. I “griddlered” a farmer’s market pork tenderloin, basted in a bit of barbecue sauce, along with some zucchini and yellow squash. I made some oven fries– both sweet and regular potatoes, and boiled up a couple of ears of corn.

Happy Fourth!It was a healthy dinner, but I think it had a fourth of July feel to it. Oh, Griddler. I love you! Did you eat something festive on the fourth?? I forgot to get watermelon, and I was bummed about it!

For dessert we had more blondies and more Cherry Berry “Ice Cream.” Then, we headed up to the roof of my building to watch the fireworks on the National Mall. There is a clear view of the mall and the monuments from our rooftop, and it’s fun to see all of the smaller displays along the banks of the Potomac as well. I wanted to show you my view, but I never figured out how to take a good photo. This should give you some idea:

Boom!!Directly below the fireballs, you can kind of make out the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building if you try. We have a great view, just not an awesome photographer. Ahem. 

While MG was over, I also made an overly gooey batch of brownies to repay him for watering my plants while I was in Alaska. I do have my kitchen flops, from time to time, and I shouldn’t have tried to do a minor tweak to a previously untested recipe! Silly junior mints. The brownies tasted good, but a spoon might not be a bad choice of utensil. 😦 Sorry, MG. I say– microwave them and top with with ice cream. Yes. I’d eat that for sure!

Sunday:

I woke up with a serious hankering for French toast. I haven’t had it in ages! I mixed 1/4 cup of eggbeaters, 1 1/2 T. of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, 1/4 tsp. of sugar and 1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract together. I soaked two slices of multi-grain bread in the eggbeater mixture, and then I cooked the slices in a nonstick skillet coated with butter flavored cooking spray. I had some lovely raspberries that I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday as my side dish, and there was a little bit of maple syrup on the top. I love that I could taste the vanilla in the egg mixture. I didn’t completely drench it in syrup, the way I would have back in the old days, and I like that it stayed a bit crisp as a result. It really hit the spot!

French ToastAfter my special breakfast, I decided to take Coby out for a ride on the Custis Trail. Get ready for a quick switch from French toast to feet. I thought I’d warn you. There was no good segue that I could think of for this one! 

Along the way, I did something rather ungraceful while turning abruptly onto a little wooden bridge on the trail. Yes. My toenail is purple. Coby is fine, and the rest of me escaped unscathed, but I’m just not sure what this purple toe is going to do. I guess we will wait and see. I strongly suspect the toenail will not be with me much longer. Ewww, right? I hope I didn’t gross you out too much. At least I didn’t post a photo. I thought about it. 🙂

Ok, back to food…

I wanted to use the rest of my garlic scapes as well as two eggplants I bought at the farmer’s market so I decided to make a quick stew for dinner. I had to improvise a bit to avoid taking my purple toe to the store, so I used things from the pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

Din Din“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

cooking spray

1/2 medium sized onion, chopped

1/4 cup of garlic scapes, chopped

2 medium sized eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1/3 cup dried red lentils

1 1/2 cups of water

Salt to Taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided skillet. Add the cinnamon, chili powder and cumin, and heat the spices, while stirring, for thirty seconds. They should become fragrant. Add the onions, garlic scapes and a few sprays of cooking spray. Cook over medium high heat for seven minutes, or until the onions start to soften.

Add the eggplant to the pan, along with 3/4 tsp. of salt, stirring well to incorporate the onions, and let the mixture cook down for eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of tomatoes, the lentils and the water. Stir well. 

Increase the heat as needed to bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes, testing to be sure the lentils are tender. If the lentils need longer, make sure that there is still some liquid in the pan, adding a splash more water if necessary, and let it simmer a bit more. Mine were done in 20 minutes.

Give it a nibble and add extra salt, if needed, to suit your tastebuds.

Red lentils are key in this dish when it comes to using dried lentils. They cook the fastest of all of the lentils, and they will get tender in the time it takes for your veggies to nicely stew. If you wanted to substitute any other lentils, I would recommend cooking them first. If you decide to do that, I would reduce the water in the stew to 3/4 a cup.

Makes approximately 6 one cup servings

FinThis stew made a yummy dinner atop a bowl of rice, and my apartment smells amazing!! I’ve used the rest of the scapes, and my eggplants have been saved from a few more days in the crisper drawer. Hooray!

I worked out with my trainer this evening, despite the purple toe, and I think I may need to put some ice on it now. The pain wasn’t bad during class, but now it is not feeling so happy. I’m off to find an ice pack.

Thanks for making it to the end of this very long post. I had a lot to tell you about!

I hope you have a great week!! Ciao for now, y’all. 🙂

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Filed under Cooking Light, D.C., Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Ice Creamy Holidays

Hi, kids! Keeping my vow to put my gadget to good use, I put my ice cream maker to work today, and I wanted to tell you all about my easy formula for making a tasty frozen dessert. I also wanted to say “hello” as it has been a few days since my last post. Summer seems to be flying by, and I’m staying nice and busy. That means less posting for now, but I do hope you guys will continue checking in with me anyway! 

Check out today’s batch of ice cream in my very special bowl:

Berry Cherry "Ice Cream"

Some of my favorite food memories from childhood involve homemade ice cream eaten out of the very same bowls I used for my little treat this evening. I was thinking about my family while making my ice cream today, and wishing they lived closer so I could share it with them!

My grandparents had a wooden White Mountain ice cream maker with a crank that you turned by hand. It looked like this one:

White MountainMy mom, aunt and brother all have summertime birthdays, and since there are plenty of hot weather holidays too, we often had a great reason to make a batch of homemade ice cream. Sometimes I would just pester my memaw and papaw for homemade ice cream on any old random Saturday too. Ice cream making was always a festive holiday of its very own!

My favorite recipe was (is) a custard style vanilla ice cream from an ancient Southern Living magazine. I was most excited when we used that recipe, and, just to be sure it didn’t get lost, I wrote it in the margins of my mother’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. It’s there for safe keeping and peace of mind. 🙂

My memaw would keep empty milk cartons filled with water in the freezer so we would have plenty of ice on hand. When it was time, my papaw would get out his red handled hammer and break the ice into chunks in a big metal bowl that served many purposes. Sometimes that bowl was full of green beans for snapping, purple hulled peas for shelling or laundry headed to the clothesline. Talk about a multi-tasker! I loved watching the hammer tear the cartons into shreds and looking at the interestingly shaped chunks of ice. My papaw and my dad would pack the ice all around the metal canister full of our custardy ice cream mix, layering it with dingy, grey rock salt (I’d steal bits of it for nibbling purposes, of course… despite the dirty color… ) and then my papaw, my dad, and my uncle, if he and my aunt were in town for the weekend, would take turns cranking the ice cream.

I remember waiting and waiting and waiting until the handle became hard to turn. That was the signal that it was nearly done! Then, they would wrap an old quilt around the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes to let it firm up a bit more. This was always the hardest part for me. Oh, the waiting. It was torture!

There were lots of opportunities to have little science lessons during this process too. It seemed counterintuitive to me, as a kid, that putting a blanket on the ice cream would make it get colder. How could that be?? Blankets made you warm! What was the deal with the salt? Why would you want to melt the ice? Until I learned the reasons behind those things, it all seemed very mysterious and magical. Who am I kidding? Even after those science lessons were learned, it was still very magical to me!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the salty ice water would be emptied out of the big wooden bucket, and the gleaming silver canister of ice cream would be brought into the kitchen. It would go straight into the kitchen sink, it’s metallic surface fogging up as it got hit by the hot and humid air of an Arkansas summer. Then, the lid would come off, and the bowls would come out of the freezer where they had been chilling. These bowls with their little grape pattern:

Bowl, Sweet BowlI love that I have these bowls, and that I can use them for my own little homemade ice cream.  

It took me years to wise up to the fact that my memaw would always volunteer to take on the tough task of scraping the ice cream off of the metal beater because the ice cream was more solidly frozen in the spots where it was stuck to the metal. She was wily for sure!!

She was also a great cook. We would often have brownies and cookies with our ice cream, and some favorite ice cream toppings were blueberry pie filling, a buttery praline pecan mixture that she would make on the stove, and fresh strawberries. Oh my! I will never forget those lazy summer evenings, and the celebration we would create by cooking together. 

When my parents were here a few weeks ago, we had a slightly different “citified” ice cream making experience when we made a batch of watermelon sorbet using my countertop ice cream maker. There were no milk carton shaped blocks of ice and no hammers were needed, but it was still… fun! Remember this?

Sweet Watermelon SorbetI shared the sorbet recipe with you, but I kept the recipe for what we did with the other half of the watermelon to myself. My mom and I seeded the whole watermelon and pureed it all at the same time. Half went into the sorbet, and we made another little batch of frozen goodness with the other half later in the week. We mixed the pureed watermelon, lime zest and lime juice with my special ingredient and, like magic, it made sweet and creamy watermelon ice cream. I wanted to experiment a bit more to see if it really was as easy it seemed. 

I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a tasty “ice cream” with pureed fruit, a bit of lemon or lime juice and this special ingredient:

Mmmm....Ah yes– one of my favorite summertime ingredients often found in recipes like lemon ice box pie and strawberry pizza. No southern picnic or church potluck is complete, in my opinion, without a dessert involving sweetened condensed milk! Mmm… I could eat it with a spoon, but I wouldn’t. No. I’d never do that. I might run my finger around the inside of the can, but never my tongue. Too dangerous. I might know from experience. 🙂 Anyhoo… 

I decided to use some cherries and berries from the freezer in today’s batch along with a few fresh blueberries to fill out the mix. Since the farmer’s market is still two days away, I was glad I had some nice frozen fruit in the freezer. If you catch them on sale, frozen berries and cherries can be a cheaper alternative for fresh berries when they aren’t in season. Plus, I love being able to keep some berries on hand.

Frozen FruitiesSince I only had about 3 1/2 cups of fruity goodness after I pureed my frozen and fresh berries, I added a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze. I’d skip the almond breeze unless you are running a bit short of fruit like I was today. We had plenty of watermelon for our melon batch, and didn’t add any extra milk at all. It was still nice and creamy!

In addition to the berries and cherries, I added the juice of one lemon to the blender. A little bit of lemon or lime really brightens up the flavors. I could have added some zest, but I was feeling a bit lazy. 🙂 After I had my fruit, lemon juice and, in this case, almond breeze, all ready to go, I stirred in the little can of love. Then, I put the whole shebang into the ice cream maker, and let it do its thing for thirty minutes.

Cherry Berry Love

No hand cranking required! Once it was done, I scraped it into a freezer safe container and weighed it on my food scale in grams. If you notice, containers of store bought ice cream typically tell you the number of calories in cups and in grams. I plugged the nutritional information for my ingredients into the Sparkpeople recipe calculator, divided by the number of servings I wanted, and then divided the total number of grams of ice cream by my chosen number of servings. That allows me to measure out a bowl in grams and to know how many calories are in a serving. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s a great way to enjoy a treat responsibly. Since I’m probably going to be eating the whole batch over the next week or so, I knew that I would like to have some idea so that I could avoid going overboard, but still enjoy my little bowlful of berry cherry yum.

Weighty but Tasty

The grand total of grams was 1216. I calculated the NI for 10 servings, so I know the number of calories in a 121 gram serving. That made for a pretty nicely sized bowl! Perfect! Since I used the fat free sweetened condensed milk, it’s virtually fat free too. 🙂 Y’all know I really watch what I eat in order to avoid gaining back the 180 pounds I’ve lost, but I refuse to give up treats. Eating them responsibly is my compromise.

Drumroll Please...Now that I have a container of this in the freezer, continuing to firm up, I’m all set for dessert for the holiday weekend. Yay!! I would share this with friends in a heartbeat. Of course, if I end up eating it all myself, no tears will be shed. 🙂 Just to recap, here’s today’s recipe:

Super Simple Cherry Berry “Ice Cream”

3 1/2 to 4 cups of pureed berries and cherries (or melon, or peaches, or mangos, or bananas, or… you get the point)

1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze or skim milk (If you have 4 cups of pureed fruit, you could leave this out and still get a creamy result.)

Juice of one lemon or lime (you can add the zest too for more zing)

1 14 ounce can of fat free sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients, and process in your ice cream maker following the directions for your machine. My Cuisinart ice cream maker took 30 minutes to freeze this to a nice consistency. Place it in the freezer to continue firming up until it’s time to serve! 

Makes 10-12 servings that are about 1/2 a cup each

Here’s wishing you all a very festive fourth of July! Tomorrow night, I’m going to the Nats game with some friends, and I’ve heard that there will be fireworks. Wheeee!!!! On the fourth, I will be watching the fireworks on the National Mall from the roof of my building on the other side of the Potomac. We have a pretty awesome view of the monuments and the Capitol from my little piece of Virginia, and it’s always fun to see the smaller displays going off in communities all along the river too. What are your plans?

Whatever you do to celebrate the fourth, I hope you enjoy some good food, friends, fireworks and family. Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Food, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Zucchini-Feta Gratin from Cooking Light

Zucchini-Feta Gratin

It seems like I haven’t made a new recipe in ages. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’ve just sort of been making a little of this and that. I haven’t made a “big batch” recipe in weeks! With the warmer weather, I’m just happy putting fresh things together and calling it a meal. I ended my little kitchen hiatus today by making a Zucchini-Feta Gratin using this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. 

This was an easy recipe, and it resulted in a dish that could be a great choice for entertaining too. I love dishes that look more complicated than they really are. Mwa ha ha ha. Tricky. 

I followed the recipe with only a couple of tweaks.

  • I grilled my squash on the griddler instead of steaming it. Extra flavor? Yes, please!
  • I used a mix of yellow squash and zucchini for a more colorful dish. Plus… that’s what I had in the crisper.
  • I used fresh mint from the pot on the balcony instead of using dried mint as directed in the recipe. Why use dried when I have fresh out on the balcony?!

Let me show you how easy it was:

First, I layered the rice and feta mixture in my pie plate, after spraying the plate well with cooking spray:

Rice CrustI made extra rice this morning when I was cooking the rice for this recipe, and I had one of my favorite little breakfasts– rice, sugar, almond breeze and berries. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving rice, milk and sugar. YUM! It was a favorite when I was a kid, and it has stood the test of time for me.

Brekkie BreakOk. Back to the recipe. Sorry about that! I love my milky sweet rice! After I had the rice crust in the pie dish, I grilled my squash on the Griddler. Y’all know I love my Griddler. Here he is:

Griddle me This...While the veggies were getting tanned, I chopped up some balcony pot mint:

Minty Fresh GoodnessThe mint went into a bowl along with some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg and eggs are a match made in heaven! I bought some lovely brown eggs at the farmer’s market yesterday (along with the squash and the feta!!) This was a farmer’s market dish for sure!

Eggs

I love pretty brown eggs! 

Once the veggies were grilled, I mixed them with the other half of the feta, the salt and the pepper, and then filled my little rice crust. I sort of used my fingers to spread the veggies around in a nice even layer before I poured the egg mixture on top. After I added the egg mixture, I gave the dish a little tilt–this way and that– to make sure the egg mixture made its way all around the dish.

Ready To BakeIt went into the oven, and forty -five minutes later, I enjoyed a nice wedge of gratin with some TJ’s turkey meatballs (my answer to quickie “meatloaf” for one), and some sliced fresh tomato.

Lunchy LunchWhen I was a kid, I remember how my parents and grandparents would cover a whole plate with fresh tomatoes from the garden after a big dinner. They would add a little salt and then tear into them. It was kind of like the salad course. Me? Did I appreciate the gorgeous, red, homegrown Arkansas tomatoes? Nope. I hated them. What was I thinking??? Crazy.

I got the tomatoes on my lunch plate at the farmer’s market yesterday from some Hanover, VA farmers. They were SO good and very flavorful! I just added a little salt. I wonder where I got that idea? Ha! I think my tomato experience is a good example of why you should try foods that you might have hated as a kid! 

The gratin had a nice flavor, and I love that the edges of the rice crust got a little crispy and browned. I loved the flavor of the fresh mint contrasted with the salty feta. YUM!! I’m sure this would be great made with brown rice, but I’m trying to use up some things from the pantry. This seemed like  great time to use some white rice that has been around for awhile. I’m sure this would be good with steamed veggies, as directed in the recipe, but I’d encourage grilling them if possible. It was delicious, and I can’t wait to have it on my dinner plate over the next few days.

Now that I’ve had a nice lunch, I think I’ll take my bicycle out for another spin. I don’t believe I’ve introduced you. Meet Coby:

CobyYou can’t tell in this photo, but he is sort of a Cobalt blue color– hence the name: Coby. Coby and I went out yesterday for a ride, and it was not smooth sailing. I can’t believe it, but it was our first trip out this summer. Time is getting away from me! Before we left, I aired up the tires using a new pump I bought awhile back. Before I was even a mile from home… the front tire blew out. Ugh! We’d barely gotten started.

Feeling the need to take care of the problem ASAP, I walked Coby to a nearby bike shop. While there, they repaired the tire, and they also adjusted the derailleur because I mentioned that the chain always pops off when I try to shift down into first. I live in an area with some pretty big hills, and downshifting definitely makes them easier to tackle. Forty minutes later, thinking all was well, I hopped back on and resumed my trek. I couldn’t wait to shift down into first. I just knew it was going to make the hills much more tolerable. Feeling confident on the first big hill I came to, I clicked my little gear shifter and… the chain popped off again. Aargh!

I put the chain back on, wiped my greasy paws on some bright green grass, and then enjoyed a pretty nice ride. I did not try to change gears again, but I’m sure that just made me burn more calories on the dastardly hills. 

I bought Coby last summer after being passed by bikers while walking/running on the local trails. It looked like fun! How about you? Do you have a bicycle? Do you ride to work?… for fun?… as a serious athletic endeavor? Does your bicycle have a name? 🙂 I like to go on long rides on the weekends for a bit of a break in my cardio routine. I also love riding down to Old Town Alexandria and having a little picnic by the water. Riding to places that always seemed far away certainly made my world feel smaller. I kind of like that feeling sometimes!

Oh, I almost forgot! I had another Coconut Cream Pie Holey Donut yesterday before my ride. I promised to try to take a photo since the last couple of tries have failed. Here it is:

Coconut Cream PieThis one is my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE of all of the flavors I’ve tried. I’m enamoured.

Speaking of my being enamoured… don’t forget that you still have a few days to save on hottie Jay Robb’s products using a promotion code especially for Just Sweet Enough readers. Check out the bottom of this post for more info.

Now, I’m going to pack a snack and take Coby out for another spin. Wish me luck!

I hope you are having a stellar weekend! I also hope you’ll try the yummy Cooking Light gratin recipe if you are looking for something new to do with summer squash. If you have a garden (or a neighbor with a garden), a bumper crop (or a big bag of squash left on your doorstep in the dead of night) is always a possibility. I know you will want to have this recipe up your sleeve! Ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet, Peruvian Chicken and a Leftovers Pizza

Hi! I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, but I have been super busy! It was so nice having my parents here last week. We had a great time, and we had some yummy eats too. 🙂 I didn’t snap photos of all of my food last week, but I did take pictures of a few of the highlights. I mentioned a sweet frozen treat that we whipped up in my last post, and here it is:

Sweet Watermelon SorbetWe made a big batch of watermelon sorbet using my long neglected ice cream maker. Why haven’t I been using this kitchen gadget on a regular basis??? I vow to put it to good use this summer for sure.

A large watermelon arrived in my vegetable box last week, and if I hadn’t been expecting guests, I’m not sure what I would have done with a whole watermelon! I was so glad to have company here to help me eat it. Unfortunately, when we cut it open, we found out that it was already a bit on the “super ripe” side. It was a little mushy, and, even though we are all watermelon fans, it wasn’t very appealing. My mother suggested freezing it and using it in smoothies. Food waste avoidance definitely runs in the family! I remembered the ice cream maker lurking in the back of the cabinet, and we hatched a plan.

Sweet Watermelon Sorbet

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups of seeded and pureed watermelon

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. lemon or lime zest

The juice of one lemon or lime

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup of the watermelon puree and the sugar in a saucepan. Heat it to a simmer, and remove it from the heat. This creates a simple syrup. Stir in the lemon/lime zest and the citrus juice. Allow this mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Add the sugar mixture to the remaining 4 cups of watermelon puree. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker, and follow the machine’s instructions. It took about 30 minutes in my Cuisinart ice cream machine, and then we put it in the freezer to firm up some more overnight. 

Freeze-o-matic!Inga’s parents (you know… Inga, my favorite dog…) invited us over for dinner on Thursday evening, and we had this sorbet for dessert, along with some cute little lemon cookies from the store. Inga’s parents made some awesome steaks, tasty Israeli couscous, yummy asparagus and a nice fresh salad for dinner. It was a delicious meal– as always, and it was nice for my favorite parents to meet some of my favorite friends! 🙂 

As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, this sorbet wasn’t smooth like a sorbet that you might buy at the store. I let it sit out a bit before serving because it was quite hard, and I kind of broke it up with a heavy spoon while I was dishing it up. I think it would have been smoother if I had let it sit out a bit longer, but I was too impatient! Maybe I’ll experiment with letting it warm up a bit more the next time I make a batch. At any rate, it was a sweet, clean and refreshing end to a nice meal with family and friends. 

On Friday, I decided to take my parents to check out one of the Peruvian chicken joints in the area. We went to Super Pollo in Ballston, and it really hit the spot!

Peruvian ChickenI had 1/4 of a chicken, white meat only, with some chickpeas and fried plantains. Yum! The green sauce was nice and hot, and it was the perfect contrast to the creamy yellow sauce. I love stewed chickpeas, and the cumin flavored chickpeas might have been my favorite part of the meal. The plantains were sweet and tasted, well, pretty sinful. They were nice and caramelized, and there were even a few super sweet little crispy bits. So good! I decided to go crazy and try an Inca Kola with my meal, and I was a bit disappointed to discover that it tasted just like cream soda. I do love cream soda, but I guess I was hoping for something a bit more… interesting. 

Super Pollo has moist, tender and delicious chicken worth standing in line for, and the price can’t be beat. It was less than $25 for three plates like mine and three drinks. Around here, that’s pretty amazing! If you live in my area, this place is well worth a visit.

After our tasty lunch, we did a bit of shopping and made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s. While we were at TJ’s, I decided to grab one of their whole wheat pizza crusts (out of the refrigerator case) so that we could make a quick pizza for dinner. We did a bit of a fridge clean-out, and it made for a pretty tasty pie.

Pizza PieFirst, I put some Country Bob’s sauce on the crust. Then, I topped it with some spicy ground turkey leftover from the taco salads we had on Tuesday evening. I chopped the leftover grilled veggies from our Wednesday night meal and added them to the mix. Finally, I crowned the pizza with the rest of the ball of smoked mozzarella (leftover from grilled veggie night) and a bit of low-fat cheddar. After eight minutes in the oven on my hot pizza stone, we had a yummy dinner— and a bit of breathing room in the fridge! 

Din DinI had a great time with my parents. We didn’t really do anything very touristy during this visit, but we did see quite a bit of Arlington and Alexandria. They are pros at visiting DC now, and I guess we’ve hit most of the hot spots! I have to say that the leisurely pace they set for the week actually suited me just fine!

I enjoyed lots of delicious food during their visit, but I made plenty of reasonable choices along the way too. I really tried to make sure to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and I tried to exercise a bit of moderation when it came to the sweets. There was an impulse Moon Pie purchase that could have been a problem, but I made it through. Perhaps it was easier given the fact that I’ve never seen a Royal Crown cola in these parts. If you are a southerner, you know that those things DO go together! 🙂

I know that my posts have been super sporadic lately, and I think I’m in the process of finding a good balance. I love posting (and reading other blogs!!!), but the warmer weather has me spending more time outdoors away from my computer. Things may continue to be sporadic for awhile, but I’m still here! I hope you will keep reading! 

Now, I need to get to bed. Ciao for now, y’all, and have an excellent week!

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Filed under Arlington, D.C., Food, Peruvian Chicken, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Washington, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

We Need to Get Caught Up!

Red VelvetCome on in! It’s nice to see you. It’s been awhile. 🙂 I’ve been a bad blogger this weekend. I got home on Friday night after another busy day, and all I wanted to do was crash on the couch and watch one of the Netflix movies collecting dust on top of the television. I took photos of my food all day, but I decided I needed to just relax and stay away from the computer for a bit. Instead of blogging, I watched “Juliet of the Spirits,” put my feet up, and kicked it. Yesterday was just busy! I hope you understand. 🙂

Now, are you wondering what Red Velvet is? Here’s a hint:

I Saw the SignIt would be a long post if I showed you everything I’ve eaten this weekend, so I’m just going to tell you about cupcakes, fro yo, shortcakes (with a recipe) and a few other things sprinkled in as a garnish. Yum! Some garnishes are tasty!

Friday:

Friday was a busy day at work. I wrapped up a few things, which is always good on a Friday, and I was ready to celebrate the start of the weekend with a special treat. My law school friend, Mr. M, works in an office close to mine, and he agreed to meet me for some frozen yogurt at Tangy Sweet after work. You might recall that I tried Tangy Sweet’s fro yo right before I went on vacation. I really couldn’t wait to go back!

The flavor du jour was chocolate. Chocolate isn’t usually my choice when it comes to ice cream flavors, but I tried a little sample. As it melted on my tongue, I realized that it tasted a bit like chocolate cheesecake. I decided to have a cup of it with some fresh strawberries on top.

Fro Yo!Check out the rain. There was a serious gully washer outside! I braved the weather just for you! 😉

This was gooooood!! I’m still kind of amazed at the way Tangy Sweet’s fro yo doesn’t taste very sweet during the first few bites, but then the flavor transforms and becomes sweet as the tang fades away. It’s like magic– tasty, tasty magic! 🙂 

Speaking of magic, cupcakes are one of the foods I consider to be the most magical. They are adorable, delicious, and they hearken back to childhood fun in a very lovely way. Red Velvet is a “cupcakery” next door to Tangy Sweet. If you are in the area and are interested, both places are at 7th and E in Penn Quarter. Here is a glimpse of the cupcake case:

Cupcakes!On my previous fro yo excursion, I stuck my nose in the door at Red Velvet, but I didn’t make any purchases. This Friday, I decided to get a couple of little cupcakes and take them for a spin. I was hoping to find a cupcake to rival the one I recently had at Sugar Mama’s in Skagway, Alaska. Those were SO good!!

Here’s another peek in the case at Red Velvet:

CupcakesThe cupcakes I chose were called “Southern Belle” and “Vanilla Bean.” Southern Belle was a traditional red velvet cupcake topped with a whipped cream cheese icing. Vanilla bean was a vanilla bean cake topped with a Madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting. 

Yum one and Yum twoMr. M was kind enough to agree to split each cupcake with me, so I had half of each. What a nice guy! I know it was a sacrifice. 🙂 While it would be hard to fit two whole cupcakes into a day of healthy eating, two halves work out just fine! Yes, I love cupcakes, and NO, I don’t plan to ever make them off limits. I’d rather figure out how to work them in with my nutritious eats so that I can… yep… “have my cake and eat it too.”  That’s a balance worth striking!

Check out the thickness of the frosting!

Aaaaahhhh!Southern Belle’s cake was delightfully moist, dense and rich. The beautiful color was matched by a beautiful flavor. I loved the cake! As for the icing, well, I don’t think I prefer my cream cheese icing whipped. It was good, but I like my frosting to be thicker and a bit more solid. That’s my personal preference, and I’m sure plenty of people prefer it whipped and gooey. If that describes your preference, this is the cupcake for you! 

Vanilla Bean was my favorite of the two. I love vanilla cupcakes, and this cake was moist and sweet with a nice, strong vanilla flavor. I think that I was expecting buttercream (note: read signs more closely!!), so I was surprised when I first bit into the frosting. It wasn’t the buttercream I was craving after my Alaskan cupcake, but I really liked it nonetheless. The vanilla flavor came on strong, and it really was a great cupcake.

I still haven’t found my DC Sugar Mama’s, but I’m looking. 🙂 Since Red Velvet is close to work, I foresee more samples in my future. I need to try their buttercream for sure! 

When I got home, I had a bowl of sauteed spinach, broccoli and smoked tofu. I liked having dessert first! Later, while lounging around watching my movie, I decided to open up this little bag and take these barbecue flavored Pop Chips for a whirl.

Pop ChipsI’ve wanted to try these for a while, but I hate buying big bags of chips. Since I don’t tend to choose salty snacks very often, a big bag of chips often goes stale before I get around to eating them. I was excited to find a single serving bag of these in a nearby deli, and they seemed perfect for movie munching. I really liked them. They were barbecue sauce sweet and deliciously salty at the same time. Perfect! The texture is much more like regular chips than the baked chips I’ve tried, and they aren’t made with any weird Olean type chemcials. I’m sold. These are good! If you find them where you are, give them a shot!

My other movie watching snack was a tiny bowl of chocolate chip cookie oat bran.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Oat Bran

I made half a serving of oat bran, added a bit of vanilla extract and some brown sugar to the bowl, and then topped it with chopped almonds and mini semi-sweet morsels. It was a good way to satisfy a craving for something sweet without having another real dessert. Since I’d already had the fro yo and the cupcakes before dinner, I thought I’d dial things back a bit. I’m doing my best to keep my sweet tooth in check, while still enjoying plenty of treats. This is an example of my attempt to balance things out a bit!

Saturday:

Saturday morning, I woke up to find the sun shining and a nice breeze blowing through my balcony door. It was going to be a great trip to the farmer’s market for sure! I got ready, and headed to the market armed with my reusable shopping bags, some cash, and my camera. I missed the market last Saturday. I knew that the Westmoreland Berry Farms people had been there with strawberries for sale because A Daunting Tale of Scale Warfare was at the Courthouse market last Saturday, and she featured a photo of her haul (including the berries) in her post. Grrrr!!! I was so sad to have missed the berries… and so jealous! 🙂 Luckily, there were plenty of berries waiting for me this Saturday!

BerryliciousI made up for missing the market last weekend by buying a ton of things today. I got two big containers of the berries along with: garlic scapes, radishes, tomatoes, asparagus, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, Greek yogurt, low-fat ricotta sweetened with honey and vanilla, eggs and an oregano plant.

If you haven’t heard of garlic scapes (they are the green things curled around the eggs), I’ll be posting one of my favorite scape recipes soon! I’ll tell you all about them then.

The BootyIt was quite a haul! When I started looking at all of the berries, I realized that I might have gotten a bit carried away. While freezing the berries was a definite option, a phone call from my friend, Inga’s mom, led me to a better plan. Remember the lovely Inga? My favorite dog friend?

Inga DingaInga’s parents were going to fire up the grill, and I promised to bring over some strawberry shortcake for dessert. I also promised to bring Inga her present from Alaska. 

Hello, Squeaky Moose!Hello, Mr. Squeaky Moose! I think he knew he was doomed, so he was lying on his back in defeat.

Chewy!Mmm…. chewy! I didn’t expect for this flimsy little moose to have a long life, and she had already de-squeaked him by the time I headed home last night! I’m so glad that she had fun with him, and that Mr. Squeaky Moose will no longer be squeaky. I felt like the aunt who gave her niece a noisy drum set for Christmas. Hee hee! 

I mentioned shortcake. Here’s the finished dish:

Strawberry ShortcakeWhen I started looking for a lightened up shortcake recipe, I found a ton to choose from. None of them were exactly what I wanted, so I sort of combined ideas from several in order to come up with my version. Here’s my recipe:

Sweetie’s Olive Oil Shortcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups of all purpose flour

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup skim milk

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup egg beaters (or one egg)

2 tsp. Turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar–  for sprinkling on top)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. I used a silpat, and I sprayed it with cooking spray as well.

In a large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, vanilla, egg and oil. 

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just until moistened. Turn the dough out on to the baking sheet. Spray the top with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to your fingers, and use your hands to shape the dough into an 8×8 square. Then, using a sharp knife, cut into but not through the dough, dividing it into 16 squares. Give it another spritz with cooking spray and then sprinkle the Turbinado sugar over the top.

BeforeBake for 15 minutes or until golden. 

After

Cut along the lines to separate the cakes, and then top with sweetened berries and the whipped topping of your choice.

This makes 8 servings with 2 squares per person.

I liked these, but I think the shortcakes would have been yummier if they had been warm when I served them. Since they are lower in fat, they got a little bit chewy when they cooled. I also underestimated the amount of berries we needed, and I would have liked a few more berries and a little more juice on my shortcake.

I quartered 1 1/4 pounds of berries, and added the juice of half a lime as well as 2 tsp. of sugar. There were only six people at dinner, and we ate all of the berries. Next time I make shortcake for eight, I think I’ll probably prepare at least 2 pounds of berries– maybe more. You can never have enough berry goodness!

I’m kind of happy that I had a couple of cakes leftover. I already put one to good use today in a big bowl of berry jam sweetened Greek yogurt and berries:

Yum!I like having a shortcake recipe up my sleeve because you can top them with so many different things. Summer fruits are the obvious choice, but not the only good one! I’m so glad I was able to share my haul with my friends, and I had a great time hanging out at their place– as usual! 

So, now you are pretty much caught up– cupcakes, fro yo, berries, farmers market shopping and Inga. Those are definitely the highlights of my weekend so far. I need to say Ciao and go and run some errands before what’s left of the weekend evaporates! I hope you have a great week, and I can’t wait to share my garlic scape recipe with you soon!! Ciao for now, bloggies. 🙂

What was the best thing you ate this weekend??

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Filed under Baking, Cake, cooking, D.C., diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Frozen Yogurt, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Snapshots, Salmon Cakes and Sweet Frozen Bananas

Hi friends! Happy Monday! As promised, I have a few pics to share from my trip again today. After that, I have a new recipe for you so stay tuned. First….

Iceberg!!

Iceberg! Dead ahead!! We got to see glaciers “calving” on several occasions. Calving is when big chunks of glacier fall into the water following an amazingly thunderous noise. It was definitely a sight (and sound) to behold! That, my friends, is the recipe for an iceberg. The water was so beautiful, but I was certainly not tempted to go for a swim!

Here’s a silly photo. While in Anchorage, I was petted by a bear!!

DSCN3264_2I can’t resist silly tourist type photo ops. Further evidence from Anchorage:

Cheese!Those pants are a bit big on me even though this was the end of a week of constant eating! Awesome! Have you ever given in and done the touristy photo op thing? Come on! Fess up! Sweetie wants to know! I hope my friend, Miss M, won’t mind appearing here with her pickaxe. 🙂 I just couldn’t get that moose to go any faster. I tried! While you might think these little photo shoots were the highlight of our day in Anchorage, I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that there was actually something even better…

KobukThe Kobuk had a sign in the window promoting their old fashioned style donuts, and, after a long bus ride from Whittier to Anchorage, that sounded like just the ticket!

Old Alaska HospitalityI love the teapot mural on the side of the building. So cute! I had an old fashioned donut topped with chocolate and a peanut butter bar:

SweetsThe bar was not what I expected. I had a nice surprise when I realized that it was like the cornflake cluster candies that my grandmother used to make at Christmastime. I’d say it involved cornflakes, peanut butter, corn syrup and butter. That would be my guess. It was soooo yummy, but the donut, well… drool.

So I didn’t have donuts today, but I did start off with a nice breakfast. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t very interesting to look at:

BrekkieI was in the mood for steel cut oats, and, since I had a day off, I had time for the 30 minute stove top method. I liked them so much that I’m going to put a batch in the slow cooker tonight so I can have more tomorrow. I like their chewy texture, and I usually have some in the pantry. I just don’t think to make them very often since they take longer. I can’t wait for breakfast! Today’s bowl was a classic. It had brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. I also added a little Jay Robb’s for some protein sticking power. Three hours later, I was ready for an apple with some cashew butter. YUM!

Apple Cashew Butter Goodness

The bluebirds kept jumping into every photo today. I don’t know what got into them!

Not long after my apple snack, it was time for lunch. That brings me to the new recipe I promised you. I hope you didn’t think the iceberg recipe was it for the day! 🙂 As a kid, I did a lot of the cooking. We were on a pretty tight budget so stretching a can of tuna or salmon was definitely a goal. Add that to the fact that I was just learning my way around the kitchen, and the results were often less than stellar. I made countless batches of salmon patties that could probably best be described as gluey, bready, slightly fishy, hockey pucks. Thank goodness for ketchup! I had a can of salmon in the pantry today, and I decided to come up with a healthier and more grown-up version. I was very happy with the end result! Here’s the recipe:

Grown Up Salmon Cake

Sweetie’s” All Grown Up” Salmon Cakes

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 14.5 ounce can of salmon, drained and flaked (if bones are included, do your best to sort of crunch them up while flaking the salmon… no reason to waste that calcium!)

4 ounces of jarred roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped

5 Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers, finely crushed (any crackers should work just fine)

1/4 cup of chopped scallions

2 tsp old bay seasoning

1/4 cup egg beaters

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients (except cooking spray) in a large bowl. Divide into fourths, and form each fourth into a ball. Press the balls out into patty shapes and place in the fridge to chill for ten minutes. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet on high heat and gently place the patties in the pan to brown– about 2 minutes on each side. Here’s a warning: These have very little filler, and very little glue. It may take some patience and some care to keep them from falling apart during this part of the process. If it happens, don’t worry. you can reshape it a bit before it goes into the oven, and no one will no the difference. Believe me. I know. 🙂 

Place the browned cakes on the baking sheet, and then spray the tops with more cooking spray for a bit of extra crispness. Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes in order to heat them through. 

A little recipe calculator told me that these are 4 points each.

My salmon cake had flavor! It was moist, and did not resemble a hockey puck at all. Success! I’ve had enough good crab cakes since moving to the east coast to know that the less filling there is in a fish type cake the better. That’s why there are only a few crackers and a bit of egg in these. I love the sweetness of the jarred roasted red peppers. If you don’t keep these in your pantry, you might consider giving them a spot on the shelf. I love them in potato salads, pasta salads and all sorts of things– including these cakes. I topped my cake with some raspberry wasabi mustard, and tossed a zucchini on the griddler to have as a side. I loved my lunch!

After lunch, I took one of yesterday’s chocolate covered bananas out of the freezer, and it was even better with the banana actually, um, frozen! It also took a long time to eat, which is a great quality in any dessert.

Chocolate Covered GoodnessI’m so enamored with these that I scoped out the chocolate at Whole Foods today in order to find some to wrap around my two remaining bananas. I found this:

The GoodnessGinger+ Chocolate + Banana? You bet! I made a batch this afternoon, and I can’t wait to try them! I also picked up a new bar that I snacked on after my WF trip:

Raise the BarThis Kashi GoLean Crunchy Chocolate Pretzel bar was ok. I think I like Coffee Cake flavor of this line of bars the best so far out of the ones I’ve tried. Even so, it was pretty good, and I definitely  liked the pretzel bits. I followed it up with a blueberry Oikos:

Blueberry OikosThe bluebirds approved! These were on sale at WF today, and I picked up several. I love the blueberry Oikos the best of any of the flavored Greek yogurts I’ve tried. I found the Chobani fruit flavored yogurts to be too gloppy and gooey. I think this one is just right. I didn’t even add any crunch!

Close to dinner, I munched on another little treat from my WF trip. I love cherries, and I look forward to their appearance at the farmer’s market and the grocery store each year. They are, hands down, one of my favorite fruits. They are so sweet and juicy, and I also think they are just so darn pretty!

Just a Bowl of CherriesThese are like Sweetie Pie crack. I could eat them all day. So good!!

When it came time for dinner, there was really only one thing I wanted: Breakfast!!

Dinner BrekkieI had two slices of turkey bacon, a fried egg, some berries, and two Van’s 97% fat free waffles topped with a bit of maple syrup. Yum! These waffles are much better than any other frozen waffles I’ve tried. I will be buying them again. This was exactly what I wanted, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Dinner was, of course, followed by dessert. I wanted to swing by the Gelateria up the street today on my way to WF, but since I’m trying to really behave myself post-cruise, I decided to splurge on a container of gelato at WF. That way, I’d know the number of calories and be able to make a wise choice. It wasn’t a sacrifice. Not at all! I picked up a container of Ciao Bella Maple Ginger Snap Gelato. Oh my!! It was delish! 

Ciao Bella!I’ve never found a gelato in the U.S. that comes close to the scoops I enjoyed a couple of years ago while in Italy, but maybe it just tastes different when you are in Florence or Rome? 😉 This will definitely do.

There is a bit of a story about the crumbs on top. I bought a ready made reduced fat graham cracker pie crust some time ago, and it fell out of the top of the cabinet and broke into a bunch of pieces. The pieces were nicely protected under the plastic cover, but it was still a broken mess hiding under the lid. I decided to just crunch it all up, put it in a container, and use it to top ice cream, pudding, yogurt and whatever else comes along. I’m sure I could add some butter and make it back into a nice crust shape, but I’m happy with my crumbles. 🙂 

That’s it for today’s eats. I’m doing better with my sugar cravings, and I think that’s because I’ve been eating more fruit. Now that there are cherries available, well, that should help matters tremendously!

I had a great workout tonight in the gym, but I’m sorry I didn’t get my bicycle out this afternoon before the rain started. It is collecting dust, and I’m missing feeling the breeze through my bicycle helmet hair. I vow to take advantage of the next nice day that provides the opportunity. Now, I’m off to turn on the slow cooker so my steel cut oats will be nice and creamy in the morning, and then I’m off to bed. Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Salmon, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Alaskan Cupcake Gold, Hungry Animals and the Nats

Get ready for a grab bag of a post! It’s a bit here and there, just like I have been myself!

While walking past an ice cream store in Skagway, Alaska (and considering whether or not to make an ice cream stop…), my friend and I heard this conversation between a mother and child leaving the store. The kiddo had ice cream:

Kiddo: Mom, why didn’t you get ice cream?

Mom: Because I want a cupcake from Sugar Mamas.

What’s that? A cupcake? Yes please! I did what any good cupcake hound would do and tailed them down the block and around the corner. I was rewarded with this sight:

Sugar MamaInside this adorable pink store, my friend and I were treated to a selection of luscious looking cupcakes as well as some fun little treats for sale and a very friendly dog. I believe his name was Carlos. The pup took the time to ask my friend to toss his stick back and forth. I should have snapped his photo, but I have this one for you instead:

Lovely!Look at the icing!! You may be able to read some of tags in the case. There were carrot cake cupcakes, fresh strawberry cupcakes with sprinkles, and several other kinds. It was NOT an easy choice, and I wish I had gotten a few to try later after I realized how great they really were. We both chose the Not So Plain Jane white chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, and it was one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. This icing was buttery and sweet without being overly greasy and heavy (I hate greasy buttercream!!), and the cake was perfectly moist and sweet. I’m so happy that I was eavesdropping at just the right time. 😉 If the carrot cake had been equally as good, which I suspect would have been the case, I might not have gotten back on the boat!!

Now that you’ve had a little dose of Alaska (and you can expect some more for a few days more…), let me tell you about the Saturday I spent playing tourist in my own backyard. Of course, when you live just across the river from NW Washington, D.C., it’s pretty easy to find plenty of things to do.

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. T, got a big new lens for his camera, and he thought the National Zoo would be a good place to try it out. I don’t love the zoo, typically. I especially dislike the apes. The way they stare back gives me the creeps! Primate issues aside, the weather was nice and the idea of walking around with good company for an afternoon sounded pretty good to me. Off I went! 

I took a ton of photos, but I’ll just share a few. Since this is a food blog, here are Tian Tian’s eats for the day. 

BambooliciousMmm… bamboo. I will spare you a photo of the Magpie’s eats for the day. Watching him chow down on dead mouse was pretty disgusting, but to each his own. Here is an elephant munching on some grindage (points if you remember that movie…) with me in the foreground. I think my diet might closely resemble the elephant’s!

Elephant DinnerThis tiger was just lounging in the shade, which is what I felt like doing after walking around all afternoon!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright...I think these flamingos needed a snack. They seemed to be having some issues, and the vibe was NOT a happy one… Low blood sugar?

Fighting FlamingosIt was such a nice day to be out and about, and I can’t wait to see the photos Mr. T took! I’m sure to be quite jealous of his new gadget!! The weather was so nice that we decided to go and catch a National’s game after the zoo. 

NatsThere was a pretty big crowd for a Nats game since the Nats were playing the Baltimore Orioles. There were lots of O’s fans in town for the game, and there was a lot of orange in the stands. Unfortunately, the Nats did not win 😦 , but we had a great time anyway! I’m not a big sports fan, but I do like going to baseball games. There’s just something about it! Usually, I pack healthy snacks before going to the ballpark, but since it was a spontaneous decision, all I had left in my bag was a little package of dried apple snacks. Those would certainly not do as dinner and wouldn’t even fill me up as a snack. What to eat? Well, here’s what I came up with:

Ben's ChiliBen’s Chili Bowl is a Washington, D.C. institution, and their chili is really great. It’s nice and spicy with lots of juicy beef and plump beans. I have found that chili can be a pretty healthy choice, and it seemed like a better option than many of the other choices at the park. As much as I would have loved a big boat of French fries underneath my chili, I just got mine in a bowl with a bit of nacho cheese sauce and some chopped onions on top. I added a bit of yellow mustard, because I kind of like that in my chili sometimes. Anyone else do that? Is it just me? 

Of course, I needed dessert. There were tons of ice cream options, but Cracker Jack seemed like a better choice. It also didn’t hurt that the nutritional information was on the side of the bag so I didn’t have to guess at the number of calories I was about to eat. I appreciate knowing things like that most of the time! This whole bag (3 servings) was 350 calories. 🙂 I was a happy– and full girl!!

Cracker JackI would have photographed my prize, but it was so LAME! I miss the lick and stick tattoos and the games with tiny plastic ping pong balls in a maze. My prize was disappointing, but at least my Jacks were good. 🙂 I wanted something else, but managed to settle for a camera shy fountain Coke Zero. I’m not much of a diet soda drinker at all, but I like Coke Zero. Since I rarely see it as a fountain drink option, I decided to go for it. What is your favorite stadium food– healthy or… not? I do love a good hot dog, and the new stadium has Five Guys burgers, which are always an enjoyable treat. 

Saturday was such a nice day! I managed to keep my eating on track while staying in motion. I worked out in the gym on Saturday morning, and followed that up with several hours of walking around. It was definitely the sort of active day I needed during my “cruise recovery” program. 🙂  As for my Sunday, well, it has been a pretty laid back day. I still need to go to the grocery store, so I haven’t really done much cooking. I did make a sweet little treat that I wanted to mention: Chocolate covered bananas!

First, I peeled two bananas, sliced them in half, inserted some skewers, and put them on a plate covered with waxed paper:

Pre-FreezeI popped the plate in the freezer to let the bananas firm up for about three hours. Then, I melted 3 ounces of 77% dark chocolate with cocoa nibs (yummy), in the microwave in a small pyrex measuring cup:

Melted ChocolateI used to use the double boiler method whenever I melted chocolate, but, unless I’m making something super fancy, I think the microwave method works just fine! I’d say that you need about 1 1/2 ounces of chocolate per whole banana. Put the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and zap it for 30 seconds. Take it out, stir it, and zap it for 30 seconds more. Repeat this until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then, dip the bananas. I decided I needed to use a rubber spatula to make sure I got the chocolate all over the bananas. After they were coated, I put them all back on the plate and popped them back in the freezer. You can see that the chocolate was already pretty much hardened up even before the second freeze:

Chocolate Covered BananasYou can see the bumpy little nibs too. Yum! Theoretically, these should stay in the freezer for awhile to allow the banana to re-freeze after being dipped in the hot chocolate. Realistically, I decided that 10 minutes was long enough!

Yum!I considered dipping these in nuts right after they took a swim in the chocolate, but the cocoa nibs in this chocolate bar gave it a crunch so I decided I didn’t need anything more. These are so easy, and quick. I’m not sure why I never made my own! I’ve seen some pricey ones in the freezer section at my Whole Foods, and those just seem extra silly now that I know how easy they are to make. Plus, I get to pick the chocolate I want. 🙂 

That’s the scoop on my weekend, and I’m so happy to have a bonus day off. I need another day like today to get things back in order after my trip, and I’m happy to be able to sleep late too!

Before I go, Christina made a batch of my cabbage nests and topped them with, get this, GRAVY! Genius! I’m so flattered, and so glad that other people are enjoying my recipe. 🙂 This really is a versatile recipe. Remember my barbecued chicken pizza nests? How about when I topped a nest with a fried egg? I feel like the possibilities are endless!

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, I’m off to bed with a book, Underworld by Don Delillo, that I’ve really been enjoying. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow, I may stay up late with my book. I love when I’m able to do that! Ciao for now, and I hope everyone has a lovely Monday.

Happy Memorial Day!!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, D.C., Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Washington, Weight Loss