Archive for December, 2010

29
Dec
10

The dark side of snow

Snow is beautiful, peaceful, calming.. right?  Wrong!  Snow is evil, inconvenient and annoying!

Let me just emphasize how such a thing could be possible.  Every Christmas, my aunt and uncle travel here from Georgia.  Most years, I am lucky to see these dearly loved family members twice a year.  I have not yet seen my aunt thanks to flight issues last June and so this holiday, I was even more excited to spend time with them.  We cooked together Christmas eve, enjoyed breakfast and gifts together Christmas morning and had planned to enjoy the Lion King live show and dinner on Sunday.

The snow had other plans.  Thanks to a foot of snow – something our area does not deal with often or has any idea how to deal with – our show was cancelled and I was stuck inside, 20 miles away from my family.

Yes, it’s clean and white, but that car is going nowhere.  I could will it to move with every fiber of my being and it couldn’t get over even a small hill of snow.  I have lost my love for the fluffy white stuff.  I truly have.  I have not, however, lost my love for this new camera with which to photograph all of that white.

 

Huge difference in detail, right?  We upgraded from a Canon 5 megapixel to a Canon 12.1 megapixel.  Our new toy:

(source)

In any case, I suppose I am still a bit lucky that I did get to spend 2 wonderful days with my family.  Preparations began early Thursday morning for our big Christmas Eve dinner. Mom & I spent the entire day prepping casseroles, simmering berries, proofing bread dough and roasting vegetables – all for a delicious spread.

 I absolutely love our Christmas Eve dinner.  It’s a relaxing time with my family and such a memorable tradition for our family.  It really doesn’t feel like the holidays until we sit down around the table.  I had to change-up the tradition just a smidge this year, but the family didn’t seem to mind since it involved the baking of delicious mounds of carbohydrate goodness.  Warm, soft, buttery goodness!  Thank you, thank you, audreystyle, who happens to be a member of my new favorite cooking site, Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen.  I followed her recipe to a tee and it was amazing.  For our dinner, I figured these monsters would be a bit too big, so I created 30 rolls instead of 15.  Still worked out lovely!

They were loved by all! I think just the sight of them (and all of our other tasty treats) put even Jack & Norris into food comas.

They have such a hard time finding a comfortable spot..

I suppose I can’t complain as I was able to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my family.  I am just not the kind of person that enjoys being home-bound.  The snow finally melted enough that I felt (semi) safe driving the 20 miles to see my family yesterday before they left.  I just love these guys –

and this girl too, who has made a brief return from Miami!

We go way back.  Back to layered socks and side ponytails.  No, that wasn’t a normal outfit for me.  I was heading to my dance recital.

But I’m getting side-tracked.  I had started writing this post 2 days ago in frustration.  I sat here, crying about being stuck inside, away from my family, friends and the gym (it’s important too!) without realizing that the snow would eventually melt.  My family and friends weren’t going to disappear and 2 days indoors wasn’t all that bad.  I just needed the reminder of how important those people are to me and how much I need their presence in my life… and a bit of snow won’t change that.

I guess I need a little white fluffy stuff now and again.

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17
Dec
10

Homebound workouts

I don’t know about you, but driving with the threat of icy roads or black ice scares the bejeezus out of me!  Luckily, I’m married to an expert driver who always gives me tips on how to drive in any given condition.  See his moves..

Fortunately, going out to drive when I don’t have to no longer annoys me.  In the past, if I couldn’t get myself to the gym, I got angry – unjustifiably angry.  Thank goodness for Exercise TV on demand and my latest purchase.  I was very lucky to win a contest that Lily held several months ago.  It took me a long time to decide what to get.  CSN, after all, is a very expansive website with far too many good things to choose from.

I ended up picking out something that I could use to accompany my Exercise TV workouts –

Adjustable 40 lb. Dumbell Set

Very cool, no?  I can interchange these to go from 5 lbs. up to 40 lbs. (or 20 lbs. each).  I broke them out today for my first at-home strength training set.

I didn’t use an on demand program, but threw together this superfast upper body routine:

  Weight Sets Reps
Bicep Curl 10# 3 21’s
Overhead Tricep Press 10# 3 10/arm
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 10# 3 10/arm
Chest Press 20# 3 15/arm
Lateral Delt Raise 10# 3 10/arm
Front Raise 10# 3 10/arm
Flye 10# 3 15/arm

I might hate myself for doing this routine this morning since I am planning to do a Kettlebell class tonight, but I simply couldn’t wait to bust open my new goodies.  (I’ve got something else coming too, but you’ll just have to wait to see what that is!)  Thanks again, Lily!  You made my day!

I’m off to pack my bags.  I get to spend the evening with this cutie (who you might recognize):

He’s got a new sister, too!  I promise to give you a peek at her cuteness too!

Do you get agitated when you’re stuck indoors?  How do you pass the time?

16
Dec
10

Hi, Winter!

Thanks, for showing up so abruptly!  I am so grateful that you decided to make an appearance on my day off since I can enjoy you from the comfort of my home!

Thanks for being so beautiful upon your arrival and for forcing me to refocus on the magic of the holidays!  Thanks for making me forget about the endless to-do list.  Finally, thanks for adding even more enjoyment to today’s baking venture.  It’s almost as if my Papa, Nana and Aunt Angie were letting me know that they were proud of how I was putting their memory back into the holiday.

German Stollen

(adapted from King Arthur Flour)
 
2 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C very cold butter, cut into chunks
1 C part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 C dried fruit, diced
1/3 C sliced almonds, toasted
 
Topping:
1 egg white
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
 
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles uneven crumbs.
 
 
Stir in almonds and dried fruit
 
 
In a separate bowl, mix together ricotta, egg, vanilla and orange extracts. 
 
 
Fold into dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Move mixture to a floured surface (or silpat) and knead about 1 minute until dough holds together. 
Divide dough into 2 loaves (each about 1 lb.). Roll each half into an oval, about 1/2″ thick.
 
Fold each oval in half and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
 
Bake at 325 degrees about 40 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. 
Brush each loaf with egg white and dust heavily with powdered sugar.  Allow to cool completely on rack.
Cut each loaf into 1/2″ slices and serve.  Each loaf makes about 12 slices and will keep in plastic wrap at room temperature for about 2 weeks. 

I couldn’t believe how moist this bread was – I think we can attribute that to the ricotta.  It was perfectly sweet, too – not over the top.  I think Nana would most certainly be proud!  Steve sure was – especially with the mountain of powdered sugar on top!

The stollen was a great addition to the other fun I have had this week.  For our work Christmas shindig, our bosses treated the girls to pedicures and champagne – a gift that I am happy to partake of anytime.  Especially since I haven’t had either since my best friend got married last November.. as in over a year ago!

We did our pedicures “Secret-Santa style” and each chose another girl’s polish color.  My chosen color was bright, festive red with some candy cane stripes thrown in for added celebration.  I wish the temperatures allowed me to show my tootsies off, but as you saw from the first photo, it’s a bit too chilly.  

I chose that Shrek-like green color with the poinsettia on the left.  She was definitely not digging the green until the flower was painted on, but I LOVE it!   We all had a great time, lots of laughs and a few bottles of bubbly!

Many cheers to these two people who made it a fabulous Christmas celebration!

Do you have unusual Christmas get-togethers (something other than the cocktail/dinner parties)?

12
Dec
10

Crack & Oaties

Sounds pleasant, no?  Trust me when I say that it’s more than pleasant.. it’s deeeelicious!

This weekend, while we finally got a break from temps in the 40’s, also brought rain.  Lots of it.  In accordance, I divided my time between the gym and the kitchen.  I whipped my leg muscles into shape, then whipped up some new things for our neighbor’s Christmas goodie plates.

Today’s workout left me very wobbly.  At this fabulous placecardio equipment is on the first floor, but the weight machines and free weights are on the 2nd.  I nearly lost my footing going downstairs after this session:

  Weight Sets Reps
Leg Press 90# 1 15
  180# 2 10
(Superset) Walking Lunges 20# 3 15/leg
(Superset) Standing Calf Raise 25# 3 15/leg
Smith-Machine Deadlift 70# 1 15
  80# 2 10
(Superset) Plie Squat 45# 3 20
Standing Calf Raise Machine 180# 3 12
(Superset) Walking Lunges 20# 3 15/leg
Seated Reverse Leg Curl 70# 1 15
  80# 1 12
  90# 1 10
(Superset) Jump Squats Body 3 10
 

Followed it up with 3 rounds of my favorite glute workout, courtesy of Oxygen Mag.  I repeat this circuit 3 times and do 15 reps/leg.

  1. Standing Rear Leg Raise
  2. Prone Leg Raise
  3. Lying Jacknife
  4. Donkey Kick

I sandwiched the whole weight-traning session with 15 minutes of V-Stride and 15 minutes of elliptical.  I am officially pooped!  Kitchen recovery time was essential..and oh so worth it to my tummy!

Chocolate Toffee Cracker Crunch

(recipe modified from this version)
3/4 (about 16 crackers) package of Wasa Light Rye Crispbread
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 C light brown sugar
2 C semisweet chocolate chips
Optional toppings (nuts, sprinkles, candies, dried fruit)
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place crispbread in a single layer on sheet.  Break crackers as necessary to fill your pan.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter and sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (until toffee begins to pull from the sides of the pan).  Immediately pour mixture over crackers and spread evenly. Place sheet in oven and immediately turn temperature down to 350 degrees.  Bake 15 minutes or until topping has bubbled and turned golden brown.  Remove from oven.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over toffee and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Spread chips evenly with non-stick spatula.  Sprinkle with optional toppings ( I used walnut pieces).  Refrigerate until set, about 3o minutes.  Break into pieces and serve.
 

Chocolate Toffee Crunch

 Seeing as this isn’t the most healthy recipe, I had to make a little something for myself!  Enter these babies

 Jammin’ Oaties

1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 C rolled oats
 3/4 C unpacked brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 C sugar-free preserves (any flavor, but I used apricot)
1/4 C water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 C unpacked raisins
 
In large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. 

Dry ingredients

Add preserves, water and vanilla and mix well. 

Wet ingredients

Fold in raisins.

Drop by rounded teaspoons full onto greased baking sheet or silpat.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  

Jammin' Oaties

 I just knew that, because of their nutritional value, that Steve would hate them.  He not only ate one, he came back for more!  This made 60 cookies in all.  They have great stats too, as calculated by sparkrecipes.  35 calories, 0 g fat, 8 g carbs, 1 g protein, 4 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 0 cholesterol and 17 mg sodium (Those are rounded values – check the website for actual values).  It made for a good balance of healthy and not-so-healthy treats in the kitchen, and good practice for our holiday goodie plates.  I am definitely looking forward to my annual baking day with Mom now!

What’s your favorite thing to bake for the holidays?

05
Dec
10

Sugar Cookies and baking prep

I am totally geared up for the holidays, at least as far as the kitchen is concerned.  My poor house hasn’t been decorated yet, though.  My decorations are stuck – and I do mean stuck – in the attic.  It requires a ladder for access and we lack one of those.  We had possession of my dad-in-law’s ladder for long enough to get them up there.  Since then, we have returned it and haven’t been shopping.

I am not fretting.  They’re coming out of the attic this weekend if I have to climb on Steve’s back to get them!

The kitchen, on the other hand, is completely stocked and ready for holiday baking.  I sat down yesterday to come up with a tentative list of cookies/candies that will be made on our annual baking day.

This year, I wanted to add a cookie to the list – something simple that I could easily jazz up with additions.  Is a sugar cookie not the most perfect way to do that?  The only times  that I have made sugar cookies, they have come from a plastic-covered tube and required only slicing and throwing on a baking sheet.  What a tragedy!  All those preservatives, chemicals.. blech!  Don’t misunderstand, they tasted great but they sure weren’t good for you.  I’ve changed that…

Classic Sugar Cookies

 1 C unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 C sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 C all purpose flour

In large mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light in color, about 1 minute.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Add baking powder and salt and continue mixing.   Beat in flour, small amounts at a time, until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. 

Chill mixture for about 1 hour in the fridge or 15 minutes in the freezer.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pull that icy cold, stainless bowl out of the freezer (or fridge if you have more patience than me).  Add 1/2 C granulated sugar to a bowl (or pie dish if you, again, are impatient like me).  Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, measure out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into 1″ balls and roll each ball in sugar (hmm.. colored sugar next time?).  Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 7-9 minutes or until cookies appear wrinkled on top and are light golden at edges.  Move to a wire rack to cool.  Steve swiped a few of these fresh from the oven and declared them “delicious puffs of air.”  I don’t exactly know what that means but will assume it is good since he has devoured them already.  Yes, they are now on our Christmas baking list. 

What’s on yours?

01
Dec
10

I am thankful..

1. That the gym is open on Thanksgiving Day so that I can burn the calories before gorging on them.

2. That I can eat said calories with my husband, parents and grandmother by my side.

3. For delicious food to share with my family

Cran-Apple Sauce

12 oz. fresh cranberries

2/3 C splenda, granulated

1 tsp cinnamon

1 package of unflavored gelatin

1 C peeled, chopped apples (crisp, tart apples work best – I used Fuji)

1/2 C pineapple chunks, drained

Add cranberries, splenda and cinnamon to a medium saucepan.  Add 1 3/4 C water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minuts, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, mix 1/4 C cold water and gelatin in small bowl.  Stir until dissolved.

Once berries have popped, remove saucepan from heat, add gelatin mixture, apples and cinnamon and mix well.  Chill in fridge for several hours (or overnight).  Stir in pineapple just before serving.

This got rave reviews from Dad and requests to make it for his holiday luncheon at work.  We have a winner, folks!

4. That I can allow all of these delicious calories to put me into a coma-like state and enjoy every second of it – kinda like Maggie

5. That I was given the opportunity to pet-sit this cutie for my in-laws so that they could celebrate the wedding of my sister-in-law yesterday.

6. For my new brother-in-law.

7. For December’s arrival and 1 more month to achieve the goals that I set out to accomplish in January.  Not just that, but I love everything about the holidays.  Family, festitivities, food and fun.  It usually translates to a month of excitement.

Here’s to you, December.  Try not to speed by like the rest of the year!




Hi Ya’ll!

Hiya! I'm Heidi, a 28-year-old "retired" student living in Virginia. I am a newlywed and currently on the hunt for a full-time job that will use either my Biology or Secondary Education degree. In the meantime, I work in retail and at an event venue part-time. When I'm not working, I love to kill hours at the gym, scrapbook, and act as a domesticated diva to keep my hubby happy!