Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pineapple, Coconut, Banana, and Chocolate Chip Bread

I found this recipe on For the Love of Cooking.  I really like this blog because she makes tasty, health-conscious food.  She also loves Mexican food, so I like her already!  We couldn't go anyway Saturday because of the hurricane, so I decided to make this Saturday morning.  It started raining earlier than I thought it would.  I had my loaf in the oven at the time and was praying the electricity wouldn't go out before my bread was done!  Luckily, it didn't.  This bread was easy to make and was delicious!

Pineapple, Coconut, Banana, and Chocolate Chip Bread

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup drained pineapple tidbits
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (plus more for topping)
1/3 cup chocolate chips of your choice (I think I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a bread pan with cooking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with a beater.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.  Stir in the mashed banana, pineapple, coconut, and chocolate chips. 
Mix the flour together with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared bread pan.  Sprinkle a little more coconut on top of the batter.
Bake in the oven for 65 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack.  Slice and Serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pins and Needles

I've been having chronic pain issues for about 6 years now.  It all started when I moved from Chicago to New Jersey in 2005.  We packed up a moving truck and moved here ourselves.  Shortly after we moved, I started noticing pain in my left shoulder.  I went to the doctor a few weeks after and he just showed me some exercises and gave me some medication.  Little did I know this would be the start of a long journey with chronic pain.  To make a long story short, the pain on my left shoulder then began to effect my neck and my right shoulder as well.  It's been so long now I think my entire body is involved in it and I get a good amount of headaches.

Through the years I've tried medication, massage, physical therapy, and cortisone shots and nothing has really had any long term impact.  When I was in Houston about a year ago, my mom took me to a Chinese friend of hers that practices acupuncture.  I had two treatments and it was helpful.  I couldn't get any more treatments because this lady left to go to China.  This has always been in the back of my mind as a possible treatment, but I've been putting it off as a last resort option mostly because I have a fear of needles.  This fear has gotten worse as I've gotten older.  Lately, if I know that I have to get blood drawn, I'll cry to Mark about it the night before.  Poor guy--puts up with all my craziness.  Anyway, my pain has been worse lately and I've been getting headaches several times a week.  I decided it was time to investigate acupuncture further.

My friend's fiancee went to school for acupuncture at the Swedish Institute in NYC.  I knew he went through extensive training, so I wanted to try to find an alumni that I could go see.  I found someone that is about 10 miles from me and had my first appointment Friday.  I was nervous!  I told her I didn't want any needles on my feet, hands, or face and she was fine with that.  Phew!  I did the treatment face down, and she put the needles in the back of my head, neck, shoulders, back, and legs.  Maybe 16 needles in all.  It wasn't too bad, just a little prick.  I think the worst part is then you have to lie there with the needles in for about 30 minutes.  It was hard, virtually impossible, for me to relax.  I tried to use  all the distraction, self-soothing, and distress tolerance skills that I teach my patients but I still felt very anxious.  The thought of having needles in me made me anxious and I was afraid to move at all because I remembered reading something on the informational sheets about needles breaking.  Yikes!  In any case, I survived it OK and for the short term, I think I'll be going every week.  I hope this works...it's the last thing I know of that I haven't tried yet!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Creamy Chicken Baked Flautas

I saw this recipe on a blog I follow called For the Love of Cooking.  I thought it would be good with the green salsa I made earlier in the week, so I decided to give it a try.  Making this meal was especially nice because Mark and I made it together.  It made the prep time so much faster!  I adapted the recipe a little, using the ingredients I had on hand.  I actually thought this dish was just "OK".  Mark really liked it.  I'm not quite sure if I'll make it again yet...we'll see how the leftovers taste.  (Added note since I originally typed this:  I had it the next day as leftovers without the green salsa and with red salsa and sour cream instead.  I liked it much better.  I think it was the combination of having it with more flavorful salsa and I was really hungry when I came home from work).  One major perk of this dish is definitely how quick and easy it is to make.  My picture didn't turn out that great..I really need to buy some plain white plates.  I think that will photograph better.

I didn't put the measurements for the spices that I put on the chicken tenderloins because I just sprinkled a little bit of each onto the chicken before cooking.

Creamy Chicken Baked Flautas
5 chicken tenderloins
Chili powder
Black pepper
2 small yellow onions (or 1 medium to large onion), diced
6 springs fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
3/4 cup Mexican Blend shredded cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
10 Flour tortillas
Cooking spray

Sprinkle the following spices on the raw chicken: chili powder, oregano, salt, black pepper, and cumin.  Cook the chicken all the way through on a grill pan set to medium high heat, about 4 minutes on each side.  Remove chicken from the heat and let the meat rest for about 5 minutes.  Shred the chicken using 2 forks to pull the meat apart.

In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, onion, cilantro, cream cheese, shredded cheese, and garlic powder until thoroughly mixed. 

Place 10 flour tortillas on a microwave-safe plate.  Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 25 seconds, until soft and pliable.

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll the tortilla.  Place, seam side down, on the baking sheet.  After all the flautas are rolled and on the baking sheet, spray the tops of them with cooking spray.  Place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Turn each flauta over and bake for another 10 minutes until crispy and golden brown.  I put green salsa on mine, but it would also be good with red salsa or cheese sauce. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dude, Where Should I Park My Car?

One major perk about living where we do is that we are SUPER close to the Lincoln Tunnel and midtown Manhattan.  Most of our good friends live in New York City, so we go there a good amount.  We always drive into the city because Mark's not a big fan of public transportation.  Driving in is nice though so we don't have to worry about train schedules and other hassles.  In good traffic, it only takes us about 15 to 20 minutes to drive to midtown Manhattan.

The major downside to driving is that parking fees in NYC are ridiculous, especially for this Texan girl.  We had gotten used to paying $35-$40 for parking each time we went into the city, and that's on top of toll costs and whatever we actually planned on doing that day.

On July 4th, we went to a BBQ and my in-laws' neighbor told me about a website where you can get discounts on NYC parking.  Even though we've gone into the city several times since then, I totally forgot to check out this website.  It randomly dawned on me on Thursday, so I checked to see if we could get discounted parking around Radio City since we were going to see Cirque du Soleil there.  The website was super easy to use--you just enter the date of your visit and approximate time you plan on arriving and leaving.  Then you can move the map around to the area you plan on parking and it shows you all the parking lots in the area and rates.  You just print out a coupon, and show it to the cashier when you pay for parking.  You don't have to sign up for anything on the website or give them any personal information.  We saved about $10-$15 in parking fees!  We paid $25 for about 8 hours of parking, whereas the normal price probably would have been about $40.  I'm definitely going to use this website EVERY time we go into the city from now on! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shoo Fly--There's A Better Life For You Out There

About a week ago, a house fly somehow got into our apartment.  I have no idea how he got in, maybe he snuck in under the front door.  I also assume this fly is a "he" for some reason and will refer to him as such.  So at first we were like, that's annoying.  When we first noticed him, Mark even ran around the apartment trying to kill it.  We weren't successful so we just didn't think much of it.  We figured he would die or escape in due time.

But he never left the apartment!  Day after day he would be buzzing around.  We would see him for a few seconds, then maybe not for a few hours, and then he would be back again.  He had been around so long we even named him Frankie the Fly.  I was even wondering if people would believe me if I told them we had a pet fly we got from the store.  Funny thing is we actually became sort of attached to him.  So now we were past the point of being able to kill him.

Anyway, on Sunday Mark felt that he was flying around slower and getting smaller and we were kind of sad because we thought he was slowly dying.  We even sacrificed by turning off the AC and opening the one window we have without a screen in it, hoping he would fly outside.  Mark even put a chocolate chip cookie with a blueberry on it to try to entice Frankie to the window.  How cute is that?!  He put that there while I was napping and I woke up confused as to why there's a cookie and a blueberry perched on the window.
Cookie and blueberry on the window--our "fly trap"

If we saw him around, we would try to shoo him out the window, but he would often fly the opposite way, and then we wouldn't see him again for a while.  I finally saw him buzzing around the kitchen table and got the idea that maybe we could trap him under a cup and then release him outside.  It didn't work though because he was still too fast.  Finally, he landed on a box of crackers I had sitting on the table.  I was able to GENTLY pick up the box and walk SLOWLY across our entire living room to let him out the window.  I was scared he would get startled and fly away, but he didn't.  We shut the window quickly and were SO relieved!  Goodbye Frankie....we hope you live a long life!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Couch to 5K Update

On Sunday I started week 4 of the couch to 5K plan.  I was supposed to walk for 5 minutes, run for 3 minutes, walk for 1.5 minutes, run for 5 minutes, walk for 2.5 minutes, run for 3 minutes, walk for 1.5 minutes, then run for 5 minutes.  It was HARD.  I actually didn't complete it.  I did the program up until the last 5 minute run and there was NO WAY I would have been able to finish it, even if my life depended on it, or I was being chased by a pack of wild boars.  Seriously.  I was at a crossroads whether to give up on the program or keep doing it.  I think I decided I'm going to go back to the week 3 program until I feel more comfortable with that one before moving on to week 4.  For now, I'm going to keep trying. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday in New York City

Radio City Stage

We saw Cirque du Soleil Zarkana at Radio City Music Hall today.  Well, technically yesterday because it's after midnight now.  It was spectacular!  Everyone should see at least one Cirque show in their lifetime...the acrobats are AMAZING!  They do some tricks that seriously seem to defy gravity.  This particular show runs until early October if you are interested.  We went with our friends Nimish and Meghna and we all loved it.
outside Radio City

After the show we went to the High Line Park.  This is an elevated park running through several West Side neighborhoods.  It used to be a railroad line, so that freight trains could run easily through the city, but it hasn't been used for this purpose since 1980.  One of the highlights of our walk through the park was getting ice pops from La Newyorkina.  It's a cart in the park that sells Mexican ice pops.  Meghna and I got cucumber lime ones, Mark had grapefruit, and Nimish had passionfruit.  They were so fresh and delicious...I gotta figure out how to make them!

at High Line Park

We finished the evening by having sushi at a restaurant in Chelsea.  I was tired by the end of the evening but it was a super fun day in the city!   

Cream Cheese Tart with Cherries

The other morning I happened to see a little bit of Paula Deen on Rachael Ray.  She made these cream cheese tarts that looked delicious and easy.  She originally made this with raspberry preserve, but I decided to use cherry pie filling.  I would highly recommend this recipe, even though  I thought they turned out a tiny bit too sweet.  Mark loved them.  Next time I might consider adding 3/4 cup sugar rather than 1 cup.  But in any case, I definitely would make them again.  This recipe makes 12 tarts.

Cream Cheese Tart with Cherry Topping

12 vanilla wafers
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2  8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 small can of cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of muffin pan.  Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla, beating well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Lay a vanilla wafer, flat side down, in each muffin cup.  Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers.  Bake for 20 minutes.  (I had to cook it for about 23 minutes).  Allow tarts to cool completely.  Serve with cherry pie filling on top, or pie filling of your choice. 
Cream Cheese Mixture Ready To Go In the Oven
Cream Cheese Tart with Cherry Topping

Update on Couch to 5k Program

I finished week 3 of the couch to 5k program.  This week, as part of the program, I was supposed to warm up for 5 minutes, run for 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run for 90 seconds, walk for 90 seconds, run for 3 minutes, walk for 3 minutes.  I was able to do this 5 times in the last week.  I must admit, the last 3 minute run is quite difficult for me.  I'm supposed to start week 4 today, which includes a 5 minute run in there...i don't quite see how that is possible at this point, but I'll try it.  Like I said, I'm so not a runner.  I also use the term "run" loosely, jog is probably a more accurate word.  I did buy myself some more workout apparel this past week--3 sports bras and 2 pairs of shorts, so maybe that will motivate me.  I hope to start week 4 today but we are going into NYC to see Cirque du Soleil at Radio City Music Hall.  So if I don't start today, I'll start tomorrow.

I'm super excited to see Cirque!  We saw the Beatles Love Cirque show (which I HIGHLY recommend) and Mystere in Vegas earlier this year and loved both shows.  I think this one will be just as good!

Special Egg Sandwich Breakfast

This past weekend was an egg-ceptional one!  Mark made us breakfast!  Now, this was such a special day and a special sandwich because I think the last time Mark cooked for us was about four years ago.  He said that I could share this information on the blog, so I'm not airing any dirty laundry here.  It was SO nice to have someone cook for me!  The sandwich was Mark's creation and was super delicious!  Mark put salsa on his, but I didn't put any one mine.

Egg Sandwich
1 egg
1 English muffin, toasted
1 slice Kraft white American cheese
Salsa (optional)

Pan fry egg however you like it.  We cooked ours all the way through but I think over easy would also be good.  Put the slice of cheese on one half of the English muffin while it is still hot so that it can melt a little.  Put the cooked egg on top of the cheese.  Slather some pesto on the other half of the English muffin.  Add salsa if desired. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Los Cucos Green Salsa

We've had a busy weekend that involved going into NYC twice, but I wanted to get this green salsa recipe posted before another week goes by.  So I based the recipe off the Ninfa's  green salsa recipe (you Houstonions know what I'm talking about), but I modified it a little.  It was SUPER easy to make! The recipe involves tomatillos.  I saw some green salsa recipes that involve broiling the tomatillos so that the skin gets charred, but broilers scare me, so I tried to stay away from those recipes.  I just feel like something that hot shouldn't be in your house.

Don't be intimidated if you've never worked with tomatillos before.  I was a tomatillo virgin until last week also.  Here's how I prepared them--First I just peeled and discarded the husk.  I wasn't expecting the stickiness of the skin underneath the husk.  I have no idea if this was necessary or not, but I tried to scrub off the stickiness with a vegetable brush under running water and then I took my dish towel and rubbed the outside of the tomatillos with it to try to remove some of the stickiness.  I wasn't super successful, so then I just gave up and started chopping and preparing them. 

Another side note--the recipe calls for some sour cream that you are supposed to stir in as the last step.  If you are watching calories, the salsa tasted awesome without the sour cream, so it could easily be cut out.  What I sometimes did was before I ate some was I put the amount of green salsa I wanted in a bowl and stirred about 1-2 tablespoons of sour cream.  But we actually ended up eating most of what I made without sour cream.  The sour cream just added a SLIGHT creaminess and tanginess but it was delicious either way.  Mark said this is the most delicious thing I've ever made, so that is quite a compliment!   

Green Salsa Recipe

2 medium sized green tomatoes, coursely chopped
5 tomatillos, cleaned and chopped
1/2 medium onion, coursely chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed and coursely chopped
3 small garlic cloves
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
8 sprigs cilantro
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream

Combine chopped tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, and garlic in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil (tomatoes provide the liquid), reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.  (I basically cooked it on medium high heat initially until most of the vegetables had softened, then I simmered, covered, on low heat for another 10 minutes.)  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Place tomato  mixture with the avocado, cilantro, and salt in food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and stir in sour cream. 

Makes about 3 cups.

Ingredients finished simmering
After blending with avocado, cilantro, and salt

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Los Cucos Green Salsa--teaser

Before going to work today, I made some green salsa.  It was my first time to try to make such a thing.  One of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston is Los Cucos.  I know there are other good Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston, such as Guadalajara, but the main reason I go to Los Cucos is because of their green salsa.  I will eat like two bowls of it all by myself (ashamed I am not).  I've been googling "los cucos green salsa recipe" for a while now and never came found anything.  I recently started checking out a blog called "Homesick Texan" and found the recipe for Ninfa's green salsa, which is the salsa from another popular Tex-Mex restaurant.  It sounded like the Los Cucos one so I decided to give it a try.  I think it tastes JUST LIKE the one from Los Cucos....... OH HAPPY DAY!!!  You don't understand folks, I have been wanted this recipe for YEARS and every time I visit Houston I HAVE to go to Los Cucos to get some green salsa.  Now I can make this anytime I want and have it in New Jersey....w00t!  That's right, I just said "oh happy day" and w00t-ed in the time span of three sentences--that's how I roll. 

I adapted the recipe a little bit from the one I found online, so I'll probably post it this weekend.  I'm too lazy to upload the pictures at the moment, but definitely will do so in the next few days. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another day, getting closer to a 5K

I didn't get home until 8 PM today and still had enough energy to go to the gym.  Bonus points for me!  I've had some difficulty with week 2 of the couch to 5k program (this is not a good sign).  BUT I have managed to do the program more or less.  In week 1, I would warm up the first 3 minutes (rather than 5) and then do the program until 30 minutes, and then cool down for another few minutes.  In week 2, however, I've still been warming up for the first 3 minutes, but I'm only able to do the program until 25 minutes, and then cool down for another few minutes.  So I think I'm still successfully working my way through the program, just not as well as I did in week 1.  I hope to continue at this level Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday and then Saturday will be the start of week 3. 

I'm also brainstorming some possible recipes to try this weekend.  Something other than Asian food since I've done that two weeks in a row.  Maybe back to my favorite type of food, Tex-Mex? 
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