Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A day of relaxation

I was filling out the following quiz on the T-mobile website and they suggested this about me:

You're a Dreamer. You're a hands on person who likes getting involved. You find great contentment in being expressive and creative. You are quite spiritual and seek peace and harmony with the world. You feel most at home when you're at one with nature - being out in the wilderness suits your adventurous nature.

It's important to take it easy from time to time. Being able to truly relax is a real gift. Life moves fast and sometimes it's nice to step off the treadmill and recharge those batteries.

You're a bit of a gourmet food lover whether that means hitting one of your favorite restaurants or trying out a new recipe yourself at home.

That actually does sound quite like me.  I like keeping busy, but I do enjoy some down time and definitely do enjoy trying out new recipes.

Speaking of down time, after going into work this morning, I decided I needed to take a personal day.   There was just so much that I was worrying and thinking about, that it was making it difficult to focus on the things that I needed to focus on at work.  I felt pretty frazzled and stressed out.  Taking a personal day the wisest decision I’ve ever made.  I drove to Safeway, grabbed some sushi for lunch and headed to Barnes and Noble.  There I spent a couple of hours sipping on some coffee, drinking a diet coke, listening to spa music on my laptop (thanks to Pandora, of course), and looking through some magazines.  It was SO relaxing! It gave me some time to think about some things and enjoyed being away from the office. Sometimes I’ll go to B&N during the weekend and do my thing, but there was something so special, so different, about doing this during the week.  It was definitely a real treat; and I’m so glad I did.  After a couple of hours at B&N I headed over to 24-hour fitness and did a grueling 2-hour workout – 1 hour on the bike and about 50 minutes of weight training.  I felt so great afterward!  I still have that happy feeling when I think about how my day went and am getting ready to happily hop into bed.  I already know I’m going to be sore tomorrow morning, but at least tomorrow’s going to be another Yoga day!  Hooray!  I’m always looking forward to those days.

By the way, I don’t agree with the terms that were on the Health Care Reform.  Seeing myself as mostly Democrat, I highly disagree in how congress and the president have decided to handle this issue.

Tired Chatterbox

So much to say, so little time!

I feel like I’ve neglected my baby, a.k.a. “the blog”, but it’s not like I’ve completely given up on it.  I try to catch up on other people’s blog through my blog – does that count?  It seems like I’ve been incredibly busy, even though my life might sounds pretty boring. 

At this point in time, my life consists of work and working out…oh yeah, and on occasion, cooking!  Seriously, I feel like I’ve barely had any time to cook, which is such a shame because I love it; however if I don’t get my workout in right after work my “workout evening” is totally shot, I know it.  The gym is about 25 minutes away from home, so it really feels like I have to make the extra effort to go out once I come home from work; thus I make the trek directly from work to the gym.  Total driving time one way:  1 hour.  But it’s totally worth it, especially on yoga nights, like tonight.  Miguel and I have been going through some tough times lately, with him being recently laid off again (a little over a month now) and it seems like the bills continue to pile on!  Yesterday I was thinking, what would it be like to not have to pay bills for like 6 months?  Those thoughts reverted me back to Office Space.  Somewhere between the move from Central California and NorCal the movie’s been misplaced – I can’t seem to find it anywhere.  I think I may have let somebody borrow it, but I don’t know who that might have been.  For all I know it could be stuck in a box somewhere.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that yoga nights are awesome.  I was kind of laughing at myself tonight on the drive back home, thinking, the gym is probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.  It gives me time to get a good workout in, some time to myself where I get to relax and be in my “zone” and time away from home.  It also gives MigL time to himself; and when things are stressful everything seems so much better when I come home after a workout at the gym. 

Tonight was an especially stressful evening.  We somewhat argued about taking some time out to clean up the house a bit mire, but because we were both stressed out (mainly I was incredibly stressed out) about bills, finding a job for him and such, it felt like the world was slowly starting to crumble.  Thus I was definitely looking forward to yoga.  Gosh, it felt SO good during and afterward!  I was energized, and even had a spring to my step! OK, not really, but I did feel a happy aura.  There’s a static-y area on the drive from my house to the gym because of some small hills and the only station that gets the least static happens to be the classical station.  Sometimes that’s all I need to get through a long drive – to hear a really awesome piece.  It was indeed a relaxing drive back home.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I was craving lentils and rice ALL DAY!  Granted, I haven’t made lentils in a couple of months, but something told me that’s what I needed to feel happy – probably because I was a bit hungry.  Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that bring the best comfort.  So after yoga, I made lentils and Spanish rice.  It was the BEST!  I mixed both all together and it was delish!  All I needed was a few bites of each (OK, more like a 1/4 cup of rice and some lentils) and I was totally happy.  On a side note, in Salvadoran culture when you combine beans and rice it’s called casamiento (meaning marriage);  what’s it called when you mix lentils and rice?  Would you consider calling it the same thing?

I was catching up on some blogging tonight and found out that one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Tyler Florence, is opening up a new restaurant right here in Napa!  I’m head over heels – not to mention he’s incredibly cute (second to Michael Vartan, who apparently is engaged?!  Ugh.)  Sorry Josh Groban, you’ve been bumped to third.  Tyler’s new restaurant, Rotisserie & Wine is supposed to be only a few blocks from my house! You had me at rotisserie.. Haha!  Seriously, that's how I feel right now. 

I know it’s getting late and I can feel the goofiness starting to come out.  BUT I am totally relaxed and it doesn’t hurt that I’m listening to Spa Radio on Pandora.  It definitely makes me want to snuggle up and relax.

On another side note I watched the third episode of Who Do You Think You Are? online on NBC.  I’ve really resonated with the show because for years my aunt and I have been trying to track down our family history.  I only wish I could travel and actually see where they’ve come from and talk to people who knew my great grandparents.  In any case, in this particular episode they featured Lisa Kudrow’s history and I literally felt shivers and actually reacted to her story deeper than I’ve ever reacted before.  She was trying to find out what happened to her great grandmother’s family, among other things, as her family’s background is Jewish.  I totally didn't know that.  Anyway, if you get a chance to watch it, definitely do.  I promise, it’s worth it.  It even finishes with a happy ending.

I’m out for now.  Happy sleeping thoughts!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More interested in Earth's axis than Chile's earthquake victims, who have been shunned by celebrities and media | Philly2Philly.com

I found this article quite interesting, seeing that Chile is close to my heart. My husband's family (dad's side & my hubby's mom's sister) live in Chile. For some reason I care more about the damage in Chile than I did Haiti. I promise I'm not heartless for those in Haiti.

More interested in Earth's axis than Chile's earthquake victims, who have been shunned by celebrities and media | Philly2Philly.com

In regards to the article, I can understand that the media probably wouldn't show as much damage as was shown for Haiti, but c'mon, damage is damage, whether it was a 7.0 quake or an 8.8 quake. Yes, more damage was done in Haiti because structurally, Haiti isn't prepared for these types of catastrophes and Chile's more developed than Haiti. Yes, more damage was done and people killed in a shorter amount of time. But just because it's a bigger country doesn't mean that you have to do as little coverage as there has been!

AND in the long run, does it REALLY matter that the Earth's axis shifted a whopping 3 inches and that the days are going to be shorter by a fraction of a second? REALLY, does all that matter with all of the devastation is said and done? C'mon people, get real!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Candied walnuts and more!

Morning!  A bit early in the morning, I know, but I’m going to bed here in a bit, I promise!

I actually slept in this morning!  I woke up at 11:15 and was ecstatic that I’d slept in this much!  Normally, sleeping in for me is waking up at 7:30 or 8 a.m., so this was like an awesome Christmas present for me!

I decided to be a bit non-traditionalist for breakfast, so on a whim I decided to make scrambled eggs (an egg and 1/2 cup of eggbeaters with a dash of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) alongside some tortillas, a small bit of cheese and some fire-roasted green salsa.  It was SOOOO good!  After eating the Mexican feast and my pear, I was only able to drink less than half of my coffee :/. 


This morning I made some coffee that I’d gotten at Target a couple of days ago – Giada de Laurentiis’ (GDL) Special Blend coffee.  I LOVE Giada.  I think she is really entertaining to watch.  Hopefully I’ll be able to meet her someday.  Hahaha, I’m almost picturing myself similarly to the Julie/Julia Project, except that it’ll be the Ruth & Giada – BFFs in Crime (my version is Best Friend Foodies).  We’d be touring the world, trying awesome dishes, exchanging and creating superb recipes.  One can only dream! :)  Anyway, the coffee tasted pretty good, not that I’m biased or anything.

I’d had some Atlantic Salmon fillets sitting around in my fridge for a couple of days so I decided to do something with them for lunch.  I definitely need to work on my encrusting skills…they’re a bit lacking.  Needless to say, it was a filling lunch.


Spicy-Crusted Salmon Over Spinach


1 spray(s) cooking spray
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 pound(s) Atlantic salmon fillet(s), cut into four 6 oz pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1 bunch(es) spinach, steamed


Coat grill with cooking spray. Preheat grill. 

Combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and sugar. Rub salmon with spices and then drizzle with oil.

Grill salmon over medium heat, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. Serve with spinach.

*Adapted from Weight Watchers

Cook’s notes

I didn’t have any spinach, but who cares?  I still did the salmon filet.  It may not have been a golden brown crust, more like roughly charred decadence, (oy!) but it tasted pretty decent.  Definitely not spicy like the recipe name suggests!  I paired my salmon with some lettuce, blueberries, goat cheese, grape tomatoes and a few spritzes of Wish-Bone Balsamic Breeze spritzer.  I have to say that I somehow actually preferred the salad over the salmon :)  Charring anyone?  Hopefully yours will turn out MUCH better than mine.

Last week when I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, I stumbled upon mascarpone.  Because I’ve watched so many GDL shows, I now associate mascarpone with GDL.  So I decided to try to make something with it and take it to work.  Wasn’t sure at the time what to do with it.  So today I ventured off and decided it was going to be a Mascarpone day.  I didn’t know what it tasted like; I’d only seen it on TV and it looked interesting.  So what do I do?  I naturally look up GDL recipes on Food Network with anything mascarpone.  I came across this particular recipe.  Let me tell you it’s to die for.  I couldn’t stop eating the filling!  Mascarpone tastes kind of like cream cheese, but better.  Not all GDL recipes turn out well for me, but this particular one, did.  However, I do have to warn you that it’s pretty messy, but delicious!  Hopefully the co-workers will enjoy them.


Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes


1 box vanilla cake mix (like Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe French Vanilla)
1 (8-oz) container Mascarpone cheese, chilled
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner’s sugar


Special equipment: 1 muffin tin

Make the cupcakes according to package instructions. Lightly grease the muffin tin and fill the batter almost to the rim of each muffin cup. Bake according to package directions and let cool.

In a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese, strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. Continue with the remaining cupcakes.

In a small saucepan bring the 1/2 cup sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved. In a medium bowl combine the vanilla syrup with the confectioner's sugar. Stir until smooth. Working quickly, use a rubber spatula spread the icing on the top of the cupcakes. If the icing begins to firm up, place in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up again.

Cook’s notes:

I couldn’t find the Duncan Hines cake mix the recipe suggested, but I did find the Betty Crocker Moist French Vanilla cake mix.  I also couldn’t seem to find the confectioner's sugar in my kitchen so instead I used Splenda.  It still seemed to do the trick.  I also didn’t have a pastry bag (go figure) and so I improvised by using parchment paper.  Other than professional chefs, who really has a pastry bag?

I really got the 'itchiness’ for some candied walnuts today.  I’d previously tried to make some, but didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, as I wasn’t following a particular recipe.  They turned out okay, but I felt they could definitely get some improvement.  Previously, I’d used light brown sugar and walnuts only – they had a nice texture, but I wasn’t satisfied with them.  However today I got some ideas as to what I could do, so this is what came out of the candied walnuts…


They turned out pretty good!  I’ve been putting walnuts in my salad lately, so I think these will definitely do the trick.  I’m totally looking forward to having some of these in my salad for lunch later today at work!

Candied Walnuts


6 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp orange-tangerine juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups walnut halves


Add 6 tablespoons sugar and orange-tangerine juice. Bring to a simmer, and then add walnuts. Cook until sugar is absorbed and mixture starts to caramelize around walnuts, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes, until all of the walnuts are completely coated.

*recipe adapted from Candied Walnut Butter Salad from Sandra Lee

Cook’s notes:

I didn’t have orange-tangerine juice, but I did however have V8 Splash Diet Tropical Blend, so I used that instead.  Overall, I think they tasted pretty good!  I also sprinkled a little bit extra brown sugar on top of the caramelized walnuts, to give it a bit more texture.

After the walnuts cooled, I lay them on a single layer on some parchment paper and let them sit for about 10 minutes. 


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