Monday, September 12, 2011

A Mexican Afair

Mexican food is at or near the top of my "favorite kind of foods" list. I usually eat it at least once a week. I have developed a rather picky taste for my Mexican food, and tex-mex and grocery store convenient items just don't cut it anymore. I want authentic, fresh flavors with some serious heat (when heat is appropriate).

The hubs and I have gotten into a nice habit of cooking something new on the weekends. On Saturday morning before our usual shopping trip, we consulted the Healthy Family Cookbook again. Not really knowing what we were in a mood for, we flipped through the Poultry section to see if anything caught our eye. I was nearing the end when I flipped to a page with a nice picture of Chicken Enchiladas. We both paused and at the same time and made the same sound: "Ooooo!" A quick read of the recipe and we had our new weekend recipe to try out. We searched in the same book for some Mexican-Style rice. We found a Basmati Rice Pilaf recipe that had a "With Mexican Flavors" variation. To round out the meal, we cooked a pot of Anasazi Beans to last throughout the week.

What in the world are Anasazi Beans you ask?
A friend of our got us hooked on Anasazi Beans (yes, they really are the best beans in the world!). We had a gathering a few years ago where we made Indian Tacos and everyone brought an item to help with the meal. This particular friend brought beans. I don't recall if he made refried beans, or just simply cooked the beans and we ate them whole. What I do remember is how amazing they were. This was around the time the foodie in me was making a noticeable appearance. I knew what I was eating was not just any ordinary pinto bean. It was creamy, flavorful, and smooth. There was something unique about it, but I didn't know what. I'm forever happy that I questioned the hell out of my poor friend. I found out they are a type of bean specific to Colorado, and sadly, could not be bought here. He told me all about ways to cook them and why they were unique because you didn't have to soak them and they cause less gas than pinto beans (an added bonus!). Not long after this, he and his wife were on a road trip to CO when I called to see if they wanted to hang out. I was so in love with this new discovery that I talked him into bringing us back a 10lb bag! Over the next few months we experimented with the beans and we worked them into a regular part of our diet. We were just about to run out last October, but then he and his wife got us another 10lb bag of Anasazi Beans and a dutch oven to cook them in for our wedding! SCORE! The bag of beans were by far the oddest and funniest wedding gift we received, but completely practical and the perfect gift for this foodie couple!

Chicken Enchiladas:
I started by making their recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce. You first have to roast the poblano chiles and tomatillos.

Once the peppers have been roasted you remove the skin. Then you throw them into a food processor with the roasted tomatillos, chicken broth, a minced onion, garlic, a lot of cilantro, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and a little sugar. We added a little salt to balance out the sugar, and it was perfect with just the right amount of bite with a subtle hotness!

Now it was time to make the Chicken Enchiladas. The chicken was cooked in a pot with the Green Enchilada Sauce and then shredded into bite-sized pieces. It was then mixed with some of the Green Enchilada Sauce, queso fresco cheese (I used reduced fat), green chiles, and cilantro.

Now it was time to assemble everything. The corn tortillas were sprayed with cooking spray and warmed up in the oven to make them more pliable. Then 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture (a generous portion) was spread down the center of the tortillas.

After everything was in the pan, more Green Enchilada Sauce was added on top, and then everything was covered with cheddar cheese (I used sharp, 2%). We baked it with foil over it to keep it from burning until everything was heated through and the cheese was melted, and then removed the foil and allowed the cheese to brown.

Basmati Rice Pilaf With Mexican Flavors:

The base of this recipe is just a little olive oil, a small minced onion, basmati rice, and water. We only eat brown rice now, so we substituted regular basmati rice for brown basmati rice. We forgot that you have to soak brown basmati rice before cooking with it in recipes like this, or that it takes longer to cook. Luckily we started early knowing the enchiladas were going to be involved and require both of us, and thinking the rice was fine to sit since it will stay warm. Instead of letting it sit, we just kept cooking it and it was done by the time we were ready to eat.

For the Mexican Flavors, jalapenos, garlic, tomato paste, cilantro, and a diced tomato were added. Luckily we bought 3 bunches of cilantro! At this point we had used more than 2 to get 1 1/4 cups of minced cilantro, and our other mexican recipe for later in the week to use up the beans and rice calls for another 1/4 cup. We LOVE cilantro!

The meal was amazing! We didn't like the rice all that much and felt it lacked flavor and didn't have much heat. However, it got better as it sat overnight. When we had the left overs, the flavors were better developed and the jalapeno heat was present where it wasn't the first night. I think it takes longer for brown rice to absorb flavors since it has the hard outer shell. I'm not sure we will be making it again though. A 3/4 cup serving was 5 WW points+ and neither of us felt it was worth the extra points.

The enchiladas were fantastic! They moved to the top of our recipe list and we will be making them often. They are 10 WW points+ for 2 enchiladas. A little heavy for WW, but so worth it, in our opinion. The flavors were authentic, fresh, and the Green Enchilada Sauce added just the right amount of subtle heat to the dish. The chicken was tender and very flavorful. And left overs were just as good. The texture of the corn tortillas was better the first night, but we both agreed that the flavors got better the 2nd night. They were delicious and so filling.

And of course the beans were awesome! :) I cook them in water with a little salt and canola oil. We found nutritional info for 1/4 cup dry beans and have noticed that the beans make about 2.5 times more cooked. Using that ratio, 1 cup of cooked beans is 5 WW points+, which is the same as what we normally do for our starch, 1 cup brown rice or 1 cup whole wheat pasta.

All in all, a VERY good weekend meal. I wouldn't have time to do this during the week, but it was a fun activity for hubby and I and we got 2 more nights of meals out of it. It was so worth the work and we will be doing it again soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Mouth Got Assulted Tonight

My husband and I wanted to do something different for dinner tonight. I have been very good this week on Weight Watchers and had a lot of extra points that I could use if I wanted to. So we decided to try a new place that had decent enough reviews to at least give it a try. We figured at worst it would make a good story, and in fact it did. Nothing like a fun night out making fun of the awful food!

A review of Cajun King in Norman, OK by a foodie who loves Cajun
(post as it appears on I was unable to locate the restaurant on Yelp, but it was so awful I had to put a review out somewhere to warn people!)

My husband and I wanted to try something new, and I don't normally like buffets, but figured it couldn't be that bad since it had so many positive reviews. Those people must not know what real Cajun food is! This place was awful!

I started with blackened chicken pasta. The pasta, meat, and sauce were all separate and you put it together yourself. The pasta was cold, the meat was dry, overcooked, and lacked authentic Cajun flavor, and the sauce tasted like it came from a powder packet.

Next I had the blacked pork chops. There were only the bone part of pork chops with very little meat. I managed to find a decent sized piece. But it was so overdone and dried out that I could barley saw through it with my knife. It was like eating jerky, and the flavor of the meat was awful. It tasted as though it had been freezer burnt, cooked, and reheated several times. It too lacked authentic Cajun flavor.

Our waitress was very slow, but she brought us benyas and fried catfish. The benyas were OK, but the catfish was actually good (not great). They put a special seasoning on it that is sorta sweet and the breading was very light. It came with a special sauce that was sorta like a spiced up honey mustard. This was the only good thing going for the restaurant.

Next I had the blackened catfish, jambalaya and some red beans. The jambalaya was again dry and lacking Cajun flavor (and meat!). The catfish was OK, but as everything else lacked Cajun flavor. The red beans were OK, not salty, cooked correctly, but lacked any kind of complex flavor.. they were just simply cooked beans.

I'm a huge potato fan, so I got a big scoop of the Au gratin potatoes, because, how can someone mess up potatoes? They can! They tasted like fake mashed potatoes with potato chunks added in. Very few times have I ever had potatoes that I couldn't eat. This was one of those times.

For dessert I tired the bread pudding. This was NOT bread pudding. And anyone who thought it was needs to get to NOLA immediately, or any other respectable restaurant (Pearl's in OKC or Bourbon Street Cafe in OKC) and try bread pudding and you will see what I mean. The pudding part was not rich and was like undercooked cake with a weird slime. The "sauce" that you put on top was in desperate need of some bourbon, and actually crystallized as it cooled on my plate because it was so sugary and didn't have enough butter.

Simply disgusting. I feel like I just ate at a bad Chinese food buffet. Stay clear and go to OKC for some decent Cajun. I highly recommend Bourbon Street Cafe in Bricktown or Pearl's up by Penn Square Mall.

Impromptu Date Night and Another Weekend Already

Yesterday afternoon my husband randomly asked me if I wanted to go on a date night with him that night. I was excited. We had been talking about seeing the movie Contagion. Worried about how eating out would fit into my Weight Watchers points, he thoughtfully suggested Thai! I can't seem to get enough Thai food lately. And I have been in a great search to find a new "go-to Thai place" that is easy to access and affordable. We have a nicer Thai restaurant that is amazing, but it is too expensive for us to eat at regularly, as in once a week. Our old Thai restaurant that closed down and changed hands is not very good anymore. I found this new one through some co-workers though that seems to be doing the trick.

Usually impromptu date nights don't work as movies start either too late and I can't stay up that late after working an entire week, or they start too early and don't give us enough time to get home and made something or even go out. But this Thai place is really fast. So we met up at home around 5:30 and headed out to what is becoming our new Thai place. Being so early the restaurant was very calm.

We started with some pork spring rolls which had pork, carrot, onion, and green onion. They were just OK, but were served with this orange colored, thick, sweet & spicy sauce. I forgot to ask what it was called, but the sauce was amazing. I began drenching my spring roll in it and they were delicious. I'll be ordering that again!

For dinner I ordered their Basil Stir-Fry with a spicy level of 4 out of 5. The last time I went I ordered a 4 and it was perfect. I like my Thai food hot enough that my sinuses are running, but not so hot that I can't enjoy and eat bite after bite. Last night however, it was hot! I'm not quite sure if they gave me what I ordered because they added green beans to it, which were not on the menu, but it did have basil. I like green beans, so this was not too much of a problem. But it was so much hotter than the last time I ordered a 4. It was so hot I couldn't take more than 3 bites at a time without having to wash some water down. I went through 4 large glasses of water and finished the meal in actual physical pain in my mouth. It was delicious though. The green beans, onions, and bell peppers were cooked perfectly, but way too hot to enjoy. I do love Thai restaurants that take their spicy level seriously and don't joke around with it, and this place is no exception! I was hoping that the fortune cookie at the end would tame the heat, but my mouth was so much on fire that anything touching it burned. I had trouble getting through the fortune cookie! Part of the roof of my mouth was numb, and my lips were tingling. I had finally found something that was too hot to enjoy! Something that is very rare for me these days. My mouth didn't stop hurting for another hour or so. It was without a doubt the hottest thing I have ever eaten.

We were out of the restaurant within an hour and had plenty of time to get up to the theater, get our tickets that my husband ordered online, and get good seats. A few weeks ago we made the mistake of getting to the theater 10 minutes before the movie started and had to sit at the front and it was not pleasant. The screens are huge, and my eyes and head were in constant motion for 2 solid hours trying to take in everything on the screen. We won't be making that mistake anytime soon! We got great seats near the back of the theater that were perfect. The movie was really good! There was not much of a personal story line which was unique, but focused more on the spread of a contagion. It was pretty scientific, but no so much that you get lost. It moved quickly, but not so quickly that one had trouble keeping up. I found it to be very fascinating and enjoyable. This is a movie I will be adding to my wish list when it comes out.

It was a wonderful date night with the hubs. We are so excited that another weekend came so fast. This week went by so much faster than we expected it to, even with it being a 4-day work-week. He is out playing paintball this afternoon to enjoy the end of this cooler weather before it heats back up a bit next week into the 90s for a few days. I think I'll finish up cleaning the last of the house today that I have not gotten to over my last 3 weekends of cleaning and will start decorating for fall. We have no real plans again this weekend and are just going to be relaxing once again. It's so nice to have time on the weekends again. And just in time for the fall season of staying close to keep warm! There is supposed to be another cold front coming through mid-week that is to bring the highs down to the 70's.

It seems as though Fall is starting to settle in. I hope this is the start of the fall cold fronts that come every two weeks or so. After this summer's heat, I'm so ready for fall and winter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fage 2% Honey

My brother told me that he found the 0% Greek Yogurt to have an odd flavor. I have been doing really well on Weight Watchers this week and have some extra points, so I decided to give one of Fage's 2% flavors a try. I got the honey flavor as I hear this is one of the best ways to enjoy Greek Yogurt. The honey flavor was 5 WW points, but most of the 2% flavors are only 4. Since Fage keeps the flavors separate from the yogurt I was able to give the 2% a try.

Oddly enough, I did not like it as well as the 0% Fage. The 2% was creamier, a bit loser, but tasted more like sour cream. While I say I love sour cream, and I do when I'm cooking and eating, I do not like it plain. My husband on the other hand loved it. But he puts sour cream on almost anything and licks the spoon clean after getting some out of the container. There is just something about it plain that I don't like, and I think it's the tang. For whatever reason though the 0% is a tad less tangy and has a slightly thicker texture. It also has more protein I noticed. I'm happy to stick to the healthier 0%!

Adding the little honey well into the yogurt made all the difference though. I figured out that if you hold the honey well part in your hands for a bit, it comes out of the side container a lot easier. I didn't mix the honey in, but instead let is settle on the top. I then dug in and scooped from top to bottom to get an even disbursement of honey and yogurt. Yup, I could tell this one had fat. It was much creamier and tasted richer. Even though I don't like the Fage brand of yogurt as much, it has never disappointed after I mix in the sweet fruit or honey. This one was very good, but had 29g of sugar, most of which comes from the honey, but it still had added sugar. I'll save this one for splurges. They have a 0% honey flavor, and so does Chobani, but I can't seem to find it anywhere.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Discovering All-Natural Lunches

Over the weekend, hubs and I were at the organic grocery store that just opened a couple months ago. I'm a big fan of this new store since we have tried to cut out artificial sweeteners and eat minimally processed foods for the last 2 years or so. It's so much easier to shop already knowing that there are no artificial sweeteners of any kind, in any product which they carry in the store!

While casually browsing the store I found a "Savory Turkey" frozen dinner by Organic Bistro. The description reads:
"Turkey Breast in Rosemary Mushroom Sauce with Green Beans & Lentil-Quinoa Pilaf"
Hubs has been buying a lot of Amy's Kitchen frozen meals for lunches, but they are all vegetarian. They are all impressively delicious and are of the same quality of dishes I would make in my own kitchen and just as flavorful, but with my blood sugar issues, I need more protein than what they can offer. So I decided to give this Organic Bistro meal a try.

As you can see, the main name of the product is the smallest portion and looks like nothing on the front of the box (see the link above)! I opened up the box, and like Amy's freezer meals, this one came in a paper tray all wrapped in a cellophane bag. You cook the meal in the bag which I think helps steam the veggies. Although the portion of meat was much smaller than I was expecting, it had plenty of protein to keep my blood sugar in check. I was disappointed, however, with the lack of gravy. I thought it had settled to the bottom, but there was nothing but a watery mess on the bottom when I tried to stir it up. The veggie portion was excellent, and that is a lot coming from someone who doesn't like veggies. They tasted fresh and were steamed perfectly, for my tastes anyway. The Lentil-Quinoa... I'm not so sure about. It looks sorta like couscous, but was much mushier, and dry. It looked very moist, but with each bite it sucked every ounce of moisture out of my mouth. The lentils added a pleasant texture to chew. I was very impressed with the lack of sodium, until I got to the turkey chunks. It was quite a shock. By the time I finished the dish, I had gotten used to the sodium. It may have been the complete lack of sodium in the veggies and Lentil-Quinoa that just threw me off with the first few bites of turkey. I thought the turkey could use more of the gravy. There was hardly any there, or maybe it was the watery stuff that had pooled at the bottom. I used the "juices" to moisten up the Quinoa. This was my first experience with Quinoa, and I don't really even know what it is, so I'm not sure if that is a natural characteristic of it or not. It wasn't bad... just different.

Overall I would give it 3.5 stars. It was only 8 WW points+, and was by far the most filling 8 point meal I have ever eaten. It was a considerably larger than the Lean Cuisine meals I usually eat. I found the flavor to be lacking, but that didn't make it bad. I would certainly not characterize this meal as bad. It just wasn't as good as I was hoping for, but was certainly much healthier than what I normally eat for lunch. I don't think I would buy another one unless I was looking for the most filling meal possible for only 8 points.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Surprisingly Great Day

The first day back to work after a holiday weekend or vacation is usually sucks. After one of the best weekends since probably our wedding, I had little hope for today. When I went to bed last night I was prepared for a rough day of getting back into the swing of things. But that was not the case at all...

This awesome weekend managed to stretch into this morning! And for the record, I am not a morning person. It got down to 49.6F last night and we slept with the windows open again. I woke up snuggling with my hubby in the middle of our big King bed under our down comforter in a crisp 68F bedroom. ahhhh :) I managed to wake up on my own without an alarm, which usually makes my mood much better. We laid there for silent with our bodies pressed together for about 20 min. I had my eyes closed and was enjoying the cool breeze, fresh air, and the warmth of my husband. When my alarm went off at 6:45am there was an awesome orange glow outside as the sun was beginning to rise. It was all very familiar... It all reminded me of staying on Lake Forggensee in Fussen, Germany on our Germany trip in late September 2009. It was a perfect morning!

In Germany, we stayed in a little B&B right on the lake and the room had this sort of country cottage feel to it, complete with flannel sheets. At this point in the trip, we both had mild colds and the heat had not been turned on yet, so we huddled in the middle of the bed to keep warm. As I reluctantly got out of bed this morning I was telling my husband about this, and he said he thought the same thing. That trip was one of the best times spent together that we have had. Here is a picture later that morning as we were waiting to tour Hohenschwangau Castle. This picture was taken on the far northeast edge of Alpsee Lake, about a mile and a half to the southeast of where we woke on up Lake Forggensee.

I was in a state of bliss this morning with all those memories. But I still expected the day to be hard to get through. I walked outside though and it felt wonderful! It was 58F and not so cold you needed a jacket, but cool enough that for the first time in months, (maybe more than 5?) I turned the A/C in the car off on my commute to work. And for the first time since I started my new job in May, no hot blast of air as I arrive to work and step out of the car. It's amazing how much cooler weather improves my mood!

My day at work wasn't all that bad either. I was able to put my head down and really dig into my project without getting interrupted too much. I even got to go on lunch date with my husband to our old Thai restaurant. They shut down for 2 month, remodeled, and changed owners, so I was anxious to try it. I was disappointed to find out that their portions are smaller, the prices are about $1-$2 more, the lunch buffet is gone, and the food isn't as good. But it was still a nice little date night with the hubs. I think we will be sticking to a new Thai restaurant that we found as our "affordable go-to Thai place."

I had our 2nd Civic Orchestra rehearsal tonight, and I was dreading it. I had such a wonderful day by late afternoon that I wanted to just go home and continue the relaxation and just hang out with my husband. But, skipping rehearsal is not an option, so I left work and rushed through my leftover dinner and made my way up to rehearsal. As I was walking in the door, a cellist came out and asked if I was going to rehearsal. She then told me how there is a note on the door that rehearsal is cancelled due to the conductor being sick. I was a pit peeved as the conductor had just sent out an email the night before outlining the rehearsal schedule and never bothered to send another email earlier in the day that he was too sick to conduct.

As I drove home though I got very happy because I had been given the gift of time! I didn't really want to go anyway, so this worked out pretty well. I now had 3 extra hours I didn't have before! So I came back home, opened the house up again to let all the cool, fresh air in, and am just hanging out at home relaxing, which is exactly what I wanted to be doing anyway.

This weather has put me in a very good mood! I usually start decorating for fall in early September but I figured it would be so hot it just wouldn't fit. But this cold front has been strong enough that I think our 100F days are over for the year. Our house is finally really clean, so I think I will have to start decorating for fall this weekend a bit.

Fall is in the air and I could not be happier! :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Relaxing Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

Usually we have a cookout of sorts and either go to someone's house or have people over. Since things haven been so crazy lately and we are just now regaining control of time and still trying to catch our breaths, we decided to keep Labor Day quiet and relaxing.

A Much anticipated cold front came through yesterday dropping temperatures by about 15 degrees or more. We have had 60 days this summer where the temperature has been 100F or greater. It's been ridiculous. All kinds of records have been broken. The Norman Station at the Oklahoma Mesonet broke it's all time record high twice this summer, two days back to back. It ended up getting to 110F on August 2nd, 2011. Oklahoma broke the record for hottest July with an average temperature of 89.1F. Oklahoma ranked 2nd, only behind Texas, for the hottest summer on record. A bunch of cities broke records for number of days above 100F. It's been awful. So this cold front that came through dropping high temperatures into the 80's is very nice!

We are taking full advantage of this nice weather! We are dog sitting for the next week for a friend of ours, so we took our new doggie friend on a walk last night. It was gorgeous out and my husband enjoyed getting out of the house and just casually walking around our neighborhood talking. It was extremely relaxing and gave us a new way to connect. We came home and relaxed for a little while and it was so nice out we decided to sleep with the windows open. We got to sleep in this morning and woke up cuddling in a cool 70F room under our big down comforter. Newlywed bliss! It doesn't get much better than that!

To keep with our relaxing day, we decided to go see Our Idiot Brother mid afternoon since we were planning something new for dinner. This is going to sound weird, but before the movie started I was sent into a euphoric state because the big red curtains over the screen were illuminated with dark colors of orange, yellow and red, which were the colors of our wedding. Looking at the curtains for 20 minutes sitting next to my husband brought back so many great memories and feelings from our wedding. And with the cold front, it was like I was surrounded by fall, one of my favorite seasons! So the movie... it was good, not great, but a nice couple of hours out on a mid-afternoon date. We came home and started getting things ready for dinner!

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts with Lemon Vinaigrette:

This ended up being a really quick, easy, low point, and very good recipe! We have been buying the smaller chicken breasts at Sam's Club that are supposed to average 5oz so that it's easier to eat smaller portions than with the regular chicken breasts that can weight as much as a pound a piece! I'm also hoping that these smaller breasts have less hormones in them as well, but I can't seem to find an answer to that.

The recipe calls for 4-6oz breasts (1 1/2 lbs). We like having left overs, and I can easily fit 5oz of cooked chicken breast into my Weight Watchers plan, so we made 6 of our smaller breasts which came out to 2 lbs. They were each rubbed with some olive oil, and then seasoned with a mixture of coriander, sat, and pepper. Even though we added 33% more chicken, we didn't alter the recipe in any other way.

My husband who has become great at the grill threw these on a split fire where only one burner was on and the chicken was placed on the cooler side to cook slower. Right before the chicken was done it was moved to the hotter side of the grill to finish cooking and brown it. This resulted in ultra juicy chicken!

The Lemon Vinaigrette was a simple mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, Dijon mustard and sugar. Alone we were not impressed as it had a very herb-y flavor. But when drizzled over the chicken, the flavor of the Dijon mustard came through in combination with the seasonings on the chicken. I had a generous portion of 5.25oz of chicken with 2 teaspoons (which was plenty!) of the Lemon Vinaigrette for only 7 WW points. We served it with steamed haricot vert
(French green beans), and steamed red potatoes. It was a very filling and delicious dinner.

And for dessert? You guessed it... more Greek Yogurt!

Chobani Greek Yogurt - Strawberry:

This was much better than the Yoplait Strawberry Greek Yogurt I had on Saturday! Unlike the Yoplait brand, this one had real strawberry chunks in it, was not too sweet, and had a more natural consistency of the fruit. I do have to make a note though about the color as I wrote horrible things about the color of Yoplait's Strawberry Geek Yogurt. Chobani's Strawberries also had an off color. They too were darker and had a bit of a brown tint to them. It was not nearly as bad as Yoplait's, but after some reading, this is the normal color for strawberries when they are not in their whole fruit form anymore. This made sense after thinking about it more as you get the same problem with Strawberry cakes when you try and make them with fresh berries. So I guess I can't hold the color of the strawberries against Yoplait anymore. But it doesn't change the fact that appearance aside, Chobani's Strawberry was much better!

This flavor ranks 4th for me in the Chobani flavor lineup: Lemon, Peach/Blueberry, Strawberry, Chery, Vanilla. Fage's Blueberry falls between the Lemon and Peach flavors by Chobani. I will be sticking mostly to Chobani, but I do plan to try some of the other Fage flavors.

Off to the duck pond to take our doggie friend on a more eventful walk and an opportunity to feed the ducks and geese... something I love doing!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Are You Sick of Greek Yogurt Yet? I'm not!

I will be the first to admit it... I'm obsessed. It's a little sad really... but something so delicious, only 3 WW points, and so much protein... do you blame me?

I'm making my way through the Chobani 0% flavors. So far Lemon is my favorite followed by Peach. I wasn't a huge fan of the Vanilla, but am going to give it another try now that I'm fully immersed in this whole Greek Yogurt thing.

So today after lunch I tired the Cherry. I was really surprised how good this one was since I'm not a huge cherry fan. It had just the right amount of sweetness and tart and ranks 3rd for me now, knocking Vanilla down another notch. This flavor had nice cherry chunks and was wonderful when all mixed together. I would buy it again.

And then later after dinner I finally got a chance to try to Chobani Blueberry! I had been anticipating this one for a while. While on an impromptu trip to Sam's Club Friday night, I found a 12-pack of Chobani Greek Yogurt (Blueberry, Peach, and Strawberry). I was quite excited as I cannot contain myself with this stuff. I had previously tried the Fage Blueberry flavor and really liked it. So I was anxious to see how this one compared. As I have stated before, I like the Chobani Greek Yogurt plain better than the Fage. So I expected to like the Chobani Blueberry better than the Fage Blueberry.
Not the case though. While the Chobani Blueberry was delicious, the Fage Blueberry was a bit sweeter, which I think made it taste a bit better. As I have mentioned before, Fage uses sugar though, while Chobani only uses evaporated cane juice. What I find interesting is that Fage only has 16g of sugar while the Chobani Blueberry has 20g of sugar. Fage's website has an asterisk next to the listing of how many grams of sugar and then state: "Naturally occuring lactose sugars, no added sugar." (yes, that is their misspelling of the word occurring). But on the product, under ingredients, it lists sugar. That's a bit puzzling.

Since I'm able to get Chobani in bulk at Sam's Club, and because it doesn't have sugar added, I will stick to the Chobani Blueberry. It's still really good! This flavor is currently tied at number two with Peach.

I have a few more flavors to try, so I'll be posting about those later this week. Then I think I will be done talking about yogurt for a while.

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

Now that things have calmed down for us and we have more free time, I have been trying to get the house back in an orderly state. My husband was awesome the month of July and ran two households by himself while I was dealing with a family emergency. Luckily not a lot had to be done cleaning wise at the 2nd house, the family member, but my husband knows a clean house puts me in balance. I came home one day and he had vacuumed the living room, dining room, hallway, cleaned the kitchen spotless, and even cleaned off the entertainment center. This may sound like a regular cleaning adventure to most, but we had not cleaned in a few months! I'm embarrassed to say, it was bad! So his feat was a large one and I love him dearly for it. He was so sweet and thoughtful to know that this act would make me so happy and I feel so lucky to have such a great guy. I may be biased, but I think he is the best husband in the world! :)

So I of course started cleaning the kitchen, my favorite room in the house, 2 weeks ago. I scrubbed and disinfected every single surface of the kitchen. What did this make me want to do? COOK! And I did and destroyed the kitchen with my husband later that night. It wasn't too bad cleaning up after though and has been much easier keeping up with the clean kitchen. It has managed to stay clean for 2 solid weeks now. I'm proud! Again, most of you probably think this just makes good sense, and it does, but our busy lives always seem to get in our way soon after and wreck all our cleaning efforts. I am hell bent on keeping the kitchen clean this time though!

Last weekend I tackled the kitchen table. It had become a dumping ground for junk mail, semi important mail, and even important mail was buried in there, and anything else that didn't quite have a place. I managed to get it down to 2 small piles. And another work week to put it all on pause.

I spent a lot of time cleaning on Saturday so that my holiday off from work could be spent in a clean home relaxing. I thoroughly vacuumed most of the house, including baseboards, cobwebs from ceilings (I swear I do not live in a wreck of a home I just have not had time), and what I didn't get to Saturday was cleaned today. I still didn't quite get everything knocked out today... but it's looking a lot better and more relaxing already.

And I must praise Dyson. We got the Dyson DC28 Animal as a wedding gift, and more than 9 months later I'm still in love with it. Vacuuming is so much easier with this beast. There are too many good things to say about it that I'm not even going to attempt to start.

I guess I'll end up cleaning tomorrow, but at least I will have a clean house. I'm already feeling so much more relaxed and at ease. It's amazing how happy a nice clean home makes me.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

In Search of Delicious Asian Dishes

My husband and I love Thai! There was this little place we used to go to that I introduced him to shortly after we started dating. We hadn't been in a while, and about three years ago we started going again, and about a year later got hooked. It was so good! I tried making something similar at home, but I just couldn't recreate the flavors. I know how to build great flavors for Italian, Mexican, American, etc., but Asian flavors are a whole other type of cooking that I just was not used to. In general I'm not an Asian food fan, too many veggies, and I'm more of a country girl eater... and my eating habits are the only thing country about me!... but I can't seem to get enough of Thai. I think it's the sweet/spicy flavor that keeps me coming back for more. Anyway, so Thai is the one thing you can count on my husband and I eating out for. We cook a lot at home, but about once a week, we would go to our restaurant. One of my favorite memories of Thai Raja was that during our 15 months of wedding planning, even though we were on Weight Watchers, we ate Thai almost every Wedding Wednesday Night. The girls knew our order and when we strayed from our usual, they were confused. When we skipped a week, which was rare, they asked if we were OK. Sad, I know. It was one of the few things that got my husband through those long nights. Even after the wedding stress had ended and we came back from two weeks of Italian food, we went right back to our Thai food once a week. Sadly, our restaurant, the staple of our Wednesday nights for the last 2 years was closing. This forced us to finally learn the art of Asian cooking. I still don't have it, but with the help of great recipes, I'm leaning my way to building complex Asian flavors.

After my husband was able to get me to eat our last Stir-Fry creation, Stir-Fried Shrimp and Asparagus with Lemon Sauce, he talked me into making something new that had the word "spciy" in it. I was game.

Stir-Fried Chicken and Green Beans with Spicy Orange Sauce:

We did our usual grocery shopping on Saturday and were unable to find shiitake mushrooms and other good looking veggies at our usual source, so we went to the new Natural Grocers and picked up a whopping 12 oz of shiitake mushrooms, 12 oz of green beans, and some other veggies for my husband to snack on. I wasn't too excited about this recipe after looking at how much 12 oz of mushrooms were. I'm just now starting to come around on them, and this was a first for me with shiitake mushrooms.

We started by slicing the chicken thin and marinating it in a mixture of toasted sesame oil, cornstarch, flour, low-sodium soy sauce and Chinese rice cooking wine (we used dry sherry again instead since we still couldn't find Chinese rice cooking wine). Then we did the notorious vegetable prep of stir-fries and I played with my macro lens a bit.

I still wasn't feeling it for this recipe after everything was prepped and ready. But cooking out of the Healthy Family Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen, I had hope. We cooked our wonderful organic green beans and they looked awesome! Now came time for the mushrooms. We added them to the pan, and it was full! I wasn't too sure about this. The recipe said they would cook down, then I began to worry about slimy mushrooms. I was entertained with the contrast in colors in the pan and played with my macro lens some more while the hubby cooked.

Sure enough a few minutes later the mushrooms had cooked down. I made the Spicy Orange Sauce as my husband added the scallions, garlic, and ginger to the stir-fry. The Spicy Orange Sauce was very simple with orange juice, Chinese rice cooking wine (we used dry sherry here too), low-sodium soy sauce, Asian chili-garlic sauce (and we added extra since we like things hot), sugar, cornstarch, toasted sesame oil, and orange zest. It was added to the pan, and now I was getting excited about dinner!

During our prep we had toasted some sesame seeds before hand. We served this over a bed of brown basmati rice and sprinkled the sesame seeds over it. The mushrooms were not too slimy, not too mushy, and were actually quite good. The dish wasn't too spicy, but I think it was just right. Any spicier and it would have overpowered the mild orange flavor. I would not, however, recommend serving this on brown basmati rice. It has an aromatic nutty flavor that competed with the toasted sesame oil in the dish. I think plain brown rice would be better, and definitely jasmin rice.

UPDATE: This keeps really well in the fridge. The mushrooms get a little "slimy", but I'm not a mushroom fan and I was able to handle it fine.

This is another stir-fry that we will be adding our our rotation of dishes!
Yet another fun Saturday evening in the kitchen with my husband! I'm really loving all the free time we have on the weekends lately to experiment with new recipes.

I think I'm a Yogurt Snob

In my curiosity of Greek Yogurt that started a couple weeks ago, I picked up 3 brands for the first purchase. The Chobani rocked my world so much that I bought more of it before I tired all 3 brands. Seems as though I tried the best one first.

The last in my Greek Yogurt sampling was the Strawberry from Yoplait. I should have tired this one first because It's not good compared to the others. It's somewhere between their regular yogurt and good Greek-Style yogurt. Upon opening it, I instantly noticed a consistency difference where this one was more runny. When I tasted it plain, it was much sweeter than the others. Yogurt alone, Chobani is still my favorite, and I had already made up my mind I didn't like this brand. It also has sugar added which was a negative mark for me as well. I prefer the natural sugar of evaporated cane juice. So I dug into the bottom to mix in the fruit... repulsion! The "strawberries" at the bottom were this dark, reddish-brown color and it was the consistency of a loose jelly... Is this even in date? yes... wow... No chunks of fruit, only a few sporadic seeds. I fully mixed in all the fruit, and now my "Greek-Style Yogurt" was not much different than their regular yogurt: super smooth and loose yogurt that almost seemed watery and was very sweet. Only difference I could detect was that it had a bit more tang. That and it didn't seem to fill me up as much. If you're wanting good Greek-Style yogurt, do not buy this brand.

No, thank you, Yoplait. Stick to what you're good at... regular yogurt. I will be sticking to Chobani and Fage, unless I find something better.