Trader. Effing. Joe’s.

When I need a moment to relax, I like to slowly walk my way around a grocery store I don’t often go to. Enter: Trader Joe’s.

The food there is just so out of the ordinary. There’s always a ton of things to look at. And then I laid my eyes on one glorious box and time stopped and I didn’t give a shit about the cleverly drawn chalkboard signs.

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MACARONS. My obsession. The first food I’ve ever really TASTED, savored every bit of.

Thankfully, Boy was not around as I stood in the kitchen, slowly biting into my first (Apricot, what up!) and literally going “Mmmm. Oh my god. Ughh. This is so good.”

I did that for each flavor that followed after. The box was totally gone the next morning.

While that was a huge highlight to my trip, what really surprised me were what happened when I purchased some gorgeous pumpkin ravioli.

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I had absolutely no idea what sauce to put with these, so a quick Google search brought up many sage butter recipes.

Let me tell you something – it was one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. Yet before I give you the recipe, I must warn you: fresh sage? That shit smells like pot. I was kind of concerned as I was tearing leaves apart for this.

SAGE BUTTER SAUCE

Courtesy of realsimplefood.com

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 16 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
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Let’s try an experiment.

I’ve caught myself trying to do it at least 15 times.

I’ve realized that many accounts I have (Pinterest, Time Hop, Spotify) are hooked to it, thus blocking my path until I changed some log-in info around.

I’ve had two people text me, asking if I’m ok because it’s gone.

It’s dawned on me how truly dependent I am on it – thus further driving the point home that what I’m doing at the mo is the right thing.

I’ve temporarily deactivated my Facebook.

I’ve seen friends take on this noble challenge before. Some come back after a couple days, some not for months, and a few brave (and commendable) souls, not at all.

It’ll be a week for me. It’s happening because I realize I invest a sickening amount of time into endless scrolling and nosing about in others’ lives, as well as cultivating a shining portrait of my own. My own life has smudges, and plenty of them, even though I am overall happy – but you’ll never see ’em. I find joy in “likes” and comments, far too much of it. I love knowing what other people are up to – but sometimes for the wrong reasons (though I do feel it’s mostly out of pure enjoyment coming from others’ happiness).

So I got rid of it until next Sunday. Last night as Boy and I sat next to each other to watch TV I found myself reaching for it to fill silent voids. Today as I work and need a mental break I find myself typing it in the search bar. I reach to click the app on my phone while stopped at a light on my lunch break.

Why? Do I need it that much? Apparently, so it stops here.

Yes, I will go back to it. I do rely on it somewhat for both my full-time job and freelance work, I have incredible friends on there that are far flung who I like to keep up with regularly and I have the majority of my family members at my fingertips, all the more important now that I’ve moved four states northeast.

But maybe when I creep back, after seeing how this whole week felt (I’ve filled that void with coloring, writing and practicing French already, a mere 24 hours after I bid farewell) I won’t need it so badly. It’ll be a once-daily check, not an every 15 minutes.

And if not? Two weeks deactivated it is.

Quick Apps and Football Snaps – Week 10: Boneless Chicken Bites

WINGS. WAAAANGS. Who doesn’t want to scarf down some filthy messy buffalo wings while watching football?

Well, now you can have the taste of such a plate, without the unhealthy junk. I give you boneless chicken bites, the right way. (And hey, keep that celery on the side. If you must do blue cheese, make it fat free!)

But I’m not giving it to you without dropping some wing knowledge first. Did you know that 50 years ago wings were considered one of the least desirable cuts of the chicken, and were in fact a throwaway part often cooked into stock? What were previous generations doing with their lives?

And while it may seem a simple meal – fry the suckers up and coat them in hot sauce – things get super complicated when you look into the history of it. There are many accounts as to how the whole buffalo wing craze began.

One such story has to do with the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, owned by Frank and Theresa Bellissimo. In 1964 Theresa had the idea to fry up wings when her son Dominic and friends came to the bar looking for a late night snack. Dominic, however, tells the story that it was a busy night in the bar and he (not mom) wanted to do something nice for patrons so he cooked them up wings. Dad tells another story, one that involves a wrong delivery of chicken wings instead of necks, which the family typically used when cooking spaghetti sauce. To avoid wasting the wrongly given wings, he asked his wife to make a bar appetizer.

Look, I don’t give a shit what Bellissimo thought up the wings and how. All I say is THANK YOU FOR EVEN DOING IT.

Week 10 (Nov. 6-10): Boneless Chicken Bites

Knowledge while you nosh:

As a Miami fan I should have known this, but I didn’t until now: apparently, the game on Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS between the Dolphins and Detroit Lions is just rife with playoff implications. The Dolphins’ playoff chances are at 46 percent going into Week 10 and a win over the Lions would raise that to nearly 60 percent. In the NFC, the Lions are dueling with the Arizona Cardinals for the top playoff seed and a win over Miami would increase those chances by 6 percentage points. So – FINS UP. And good god, I wish Dan Marino still played.

Other games to enjoy this week: Tonight tune in at 8:25 p.m. for the Browns and the Bengals. On Sunday, partake in the viewing of a 4:05 p.m. game between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders on CBS and cap the night off with a match-up between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at 8:30 p.m. on NBC. Monday night goes to the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

*Note that all times are EST and you may not be able to get certain games, depending on the area in which you live.

photo

BONELESS CHICKEN BITES

Courtesy of Mom (mother knows best!)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2/3 to 1 cup of flour, seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt
  • 3 tablespoons liquid egg whites (which equals 1 egg)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • After chopping your chicken into bite-size nibbles, dip each piece in egg and throw it into a gallon Ziploc bag. After all the chicken pieces are dipped and in the bag, dump the flour mix in. Seal it and shake the hell out of that thing to coat each piece of chicken.
  • Line a baking pan with foil and spray it with non-stick spray. Place the coated chicken on the foil.
  • Bake for 6 minutes, flip, and bake an additional 5 (or until they’re crispy and done; some ovens can be temperamental).
  • After removing from the oven, toss pieces with whatever type of sauce you desire. I went with mild sauce, honey barbecue and garlic lemon marinade.

The last two weeks have been kind of weird.

And that’s due in 99% part to Boy being back home for work training, while Link stayed with my parents and Piper and I made do in Massachusetts until all could go back to normal.

On Sunday night, when Boy finally landed back home and Link was reunited with our abode (since taking care of both dogs alone at once would have been torture for me), it was then I realized that normal is a really stupid word. And it’s not fun. Even though all the “normal” elements were in place, nothing about the triumphant return to what I was used to was even close to that word.

We lay in bed with both dogs snuggled tightly under the covers at our feet, when suddenly a lump arose in the form of Piper, who then made his way up to the top of the bed and promptly started retching.

A dog throwing up is disconcerting to begin with (They’re so little and frail and helpless and what if they just never actually throw up and choke themselves and then what where is the vet number), but an Italian greyhound going through the motions? It’s the thing of nightmares.

You have this lean little thing, all legs and jagged angles, whose back is suddenly arching and settling violently and who is, in fact, so skinny thanks to nature, that you can almost see the bile traveling through his body, fighting for an exit. You can also hear it at the same time and it’s not unlike a person transforming into a werewolf in a movie, with all the twisting and writhing and gargling. And here was Piper, doing just that.

There was a solid five second comedic look of “Da fuq?” passed between Boy and I as we assessed the situation, before I yelled, “Put him on the floor!”

The very second Piper’s body broke the plane of the bed, careened by Boy’s hand, he puked. Bright orange, all over our beige rug. In that very second I saw how wrong I was to demand he be put on the floor. Better to blemish an area that can be thrown in the wash as opposed to a stain-susceptive piece of material we put a security deposit on when we moved in.

The mess was dutifully cleaned up with Piper snuggled next to his brother in minutes – until, of course, he got right back up and – WHILE HOVERING OVER MY HEAD – started retching again.

I yelled at Boy to throw me a blanket we keep bedside in case Piper wants to sleep on the floor and I missed using that as the catch for the second round of vomit by a millisecond. At least it wasn’t on the floor this time, or my head. Thanks to my ninja skills, I was out of range immediately.

It’s now midnight and we’re stripping our bed, praying this is the last time because we just don’t have any more sheets to put on.

And that was it, thank god. Until 3 a.m. rolled around and the sickness traveled to Piper’s back end, and a big ole stain in the living room in front of the TV was all I had to show for a very broken up four hours of sleep.

Normal. No one needs that. Who would want it when anything else is just so much fun?

Oh, Gwen.

I have forever been a huge No Doubt fan; Gwen Stefani is my constant girl crush.

Did I enjoy her Harijuku days? No.

How did I feel when No Doubt put its latest album out? Eh.

And now that she’s got another new single out, “Baby Don’t Lie,” I’m back in full-on Gwen mode. I’ve accepted the fact that No Doubt will not be what it was for “Tragic Kingdom” and Miss S has changed stylistically for good, but I still keep an open mind.

“Baby” is good, but what I’m really digging is this new track from Calvin Harris with Gwen’s vocals.

Brussels sprouts are more than stinky.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched people’s faces twist into disgust at the mention of “brussels sprouts.”

They stink.

They taste awful.

Why would anyone eat those?

Um, because they taste like candy if you cook them the right way? Don’t look at me like that, it’s true.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a bacon, mustard and walnut vinaigrette

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Package of bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. Toss the Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread them out on the baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice during the cooking process, until they’re tender and charred in spots, about 35 to 40 minutes.
  • While the roasting process is going on, add the bacon to a medium saute pan and render over medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, walnuts, garlic, shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook it all until the bacon is crispy, being careful not to burn the walnuts. In a separate bowl, stir the vinegar, honey and mustard with a fork. Whisk this mixture into the bacon one. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Once the sprouts are done, transfer them to a large mixing bowl, add the bacon mixture and toss well.
  • Eat, and be dazzled. Veggies aren’t so bad, eh?

QUICK APPS 7 FOOTBALL SNAPS: Week 8 – Lasagna Cups

Oh, pasta.

If there is one thing that stops my clean eating dead in its tracks it’s pasta, not only the easiest dinner to make but also the most delicious.

One of my favorite ways to eat noodles is in the form of lasagna, a dish layered with cheese, sauce and sometimes meat that I will eat until I can’t hold any more in.

That’s the problem with lasagna – it normally comes in a huge pan and there’s no limit to how big a piece you can cut yourself. Want half the tray for your meal? Have at it.

There is a way, however, to enjoy this traditional Italian dish without busting your gut – lasagna cups.

Week 8 (Oct. 23-27): Lasagna Cups

Knowledge while you nosh:

Start your work week off on Monday with the Washington Redskins versus the Dallas Cowboys at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN – and the reason I jump to this is because it’s possible the Cowboys will win their seventh game in a ROW that night.

Get started early on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. with a match-up between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. The day rolls on with the Baltimore Ravens against the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. on CBS, then at night with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

*Note that all times are EST and you may not be able to get certain games, depending on the area in which you live.

LASAGNA CUPS

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Courtesy of laurenslatest.com

Yields 12 cups

INGREDIENTS:

For the sauce: (or use your favorite recipe, or canned)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef cooked and drained
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1-8 oz. can tomato sauce {+1/2 can water to wash out can}
  • 1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the cheese filling:

  • 1 10-oz. tub Philadelphia Italian Herb & Cheese Cooking Cream
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg

21 lasagna pasta sheets

DIRECTIONS:

  • Start with the sauce (unless you’re lazy and use canned, or super Italian and have your own recipe you wouldn’t dare deviate from): Heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute onions, pepper, zucchini and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked ground beef and tomato paste until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and cook 30 minutes or so. It should end up pretty thick.
  • Move on to the cheese filling: you just reserve half of the grated mozzarella cheese for later and stir everything else together.
  • The pasta is also pretty easy: boil it. Come on. You know how pasta goes by now. Just cook it 2 minutes less than the package says, since you’ll be throwing these bad boys into more heat soon.
  • Once your sauce is done, you’re ready to assemble everything. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin tin with squares of parchment paper that spill out a bit over the sides.
  • Roll a pasta sheet into a little cylinder that will fit in each tin space (it’ll be longer than necessary, but it’s ok if the ends overlap). Do this for all the cups.
  • Spoon a half tablespoon of sauce into each up. Take a lasagna noodle and cut it into quarters, using one piece as a layer on top of the sauce. Top that with cheese, then another pasta piece, then sauce, pushing down to get any air bubbles out. Once the cup is almost full, top it with another little pasta piece, some sauce and some of that extra mozzarella cheese you left sitting to the side.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until it’s all hot and bubbly, then dig in.

QUICK APPS & FOOTBALL SNAPS: Week 7 – Bacon and Cream Cheese Wrapped Asparagus Spears

For week 7, I’m going to get you going with 7 strips of bacon – to be smothered in cream cheese and wrapped around asparagus. Ok, it may be a couple county lines over from healthy, but we all deserve a break once in a while.

When in doubt, add cream cheese. Philadelphia sushi roll? Best one there is. Plain ass bagel? Say no more. And don’t even get me started on cheesecake.

Also, Kraft is about to completely kill the cream cheese game – they’ve made it laced with bacon.

But, I have to say I may have misled you a bit – while you can certainly use cream cheese for this recipe, I’d recommend Neufchatel cheese for a healthier version. (Sure, I could’ve put that word in the recipe title, but you probably would have been like WTF?)

Neufchatel is packaged exactly like cream cheese and even sits right next to it on the shelf. So what’s the difference? Fat content.

By law, (I am absolutely picturing cops wearing cow-printed uniforms for this) cream cheese must contain at least 33% milk fat and no more than 55% moisture. Neufchatel has about 23% milk fat and a slightly higher moisture content. Neufchatel also has more protein (2.8%) than cream cheese (2.1%).

So, just look past all the bacon fat you’re about to incur and feel good about this treat.

Week 7 (Oct. 16-20): Bacon and Cream Cheese Wrapped Asparagus Spears

Knowledge while you nosh:

I have learned that when you are in doubt of football knowledge, you should start dropping names – mostly of quarterbacks. You can cram your brain with great NFL know-how through this article on how certain quarterbacks are currently outplaying their stats – or not.

Kick off Week 7 tonight with a match-up between the New York Jets and New England Patriots at 8:25 p.m. on CBS. Early Sunday games go to the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams at 1 p.m. on Fox, the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders at 4:25 p.m. on  FOX, and ending the Sunday off with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at 8:25 p.m. on NBC. Monday Night Football falls to the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

*Note that all times are EST and you may not be able to get certain games, depending on the area in which you live.

food

Yields 14 spears

INGREDIENTS:

  • 14 thick asparagus spears
  • 7 strips of bacon
  • 4 oz. Neufchatel cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare asparagus by snapping off the tough bottom ends, about 1-2 inches in length.
  • Cut all bacon strips in half length-wise, giving yourself 14 to work with.
  • Put a thin layer of cream cheese on each slice.
  • Starting just under the asparagus tips, wrap the bacon in a spiral motion downward. Yes, your fingers will get messy.
  • Place spears on a rimmed baking pan. MAKE SURE IT’S RIMMED. You do not want bacon grease spilling everywhere when you pull this out.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is cooked to desired crispness. Season with pepper, and serve.

Forgive me, Blog World, for I have sinned…

… and it’s totally because I started a new job! I promise I’ll be back on track soon, and giving you more than football apps. Especially because Boy will be gone away for two weeks for work, so I plan on getting crazy in the kitchen as much as possible!

As far as the new gig – I’m writing product copy, press releases and handling social media marketing for a furniture company. It’s incredible. My office is huge (and very bare!), the people are so nice, and it’s just a breath of fresh air.

My body is currently one big sore muscle from Crossfit (so many tuck crunches) and yesterday was the first day I felt like I was truly back at it 100%. Hang power cleans will do that to a lady.

This weekend brought such a beautiful and hilarious wedding with people who started out as strangers and are now such fun friends! Plus, Boy jacked a plastic maraca from the photo booth, set it down on the table in front of me with a kiss to the head and said, “This is your blue French horn.”

Sigh.

I love everything right now.

Quick Apps & Football Snaps – Week 6: Margarita Shrimp with Pico de Gallo Cocktail Sauce

Cilantro is the mark of Latin foodstuffs – at least in my book it is. The herb – which is actually the stems and leaves of the coriander plant – has a very pungent fragrance and distinct taste. In fact, if you’ve ever had a mouthful of cilantro and all of a sudden felt like you were chomping with a mouthful of soap, don’t worry – you aren’t crazy.

A while back I posted about how cilantro is scientifically linked to soap taste. However, eating it in moderation is fine, and may not impart such a Dove-like taste. This Margarita Shrimp with Pico de Gallo Cocktail Sauce calls for cilantro in both recipes, but the flavor is enhanced to a reasonable level instead of totally overtaking the dish, thanks to the addition of things like jalapeno and tomato.

Be wary if buying it fresh, as it bears a striking resemblance to parsley. In the simplest way I can explain, this is how you remember the difference: P is for Parsley, and Pointy leaves. C is for Cilantro, and Curved Leaves. (Thanks betterrecipes.com)

cilantro vs parsley

Week 6 (Oct. 9-Oct. 13):

Knowledge while you nosh:

Wish the Chiefs and Saints a nice little week vacation, as they’re both off for right now.

Tonight, however, you can see the Indianapolis Colts take on the Houston Texans at 8:25 p.m. on CBS. Sunday goodies include the Lions and the Vikings at 1 p.m. on FOX and the Giants and the Eagles at 8:30 p.m. on NBC, while Monday Night Football falls to the 49ers and Rams at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

*Note that all times are EST and you may not be able to get certain games, depending on the area in which you live.

MARGARITA SHRIMP WITH PICO DE GALLO COCKTAIL SAUCE

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Courtesy of bigoven.com

SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1 medium Serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced fine
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 8 ounces ketchup
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and fold together. Refrigerate.

PICKY EATER TIP: If you don’t like chunky things, get out an immersion blender. That’s what I did, and the taste was still phenomenal. Call me crazy, but I’d rather not SEE the onions while I eat them. I like to trust that they and their flavor is there – I don’t need visual confirmation of such strange translucent things.

SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ounces canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium shallots, diced fine
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 4 ounces lime juice
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined

DIRECTIONS:

Add canola oil, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and tequila to blender and rev that sucker up into a smooth puree. Pour this and the shrimp in a large bowl and stash in the fridge for at least an hour to marinate.

Sauté in 1 tablespoon of oil, until shrimp turn pink.

Serve warm with Pico de Gallo Cocktail Sauce.