Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Funfetti Cupcakes? Yes, Please.

I used to be really snobby about boxed cake mix. What?!? You bought cake mix from a box? No No No, you must bake from scratch. No other way of baking will do. I've given up on this. Sometimes I'm in a hurry or I screw up the cake I was trying to bake from scratch and like it or not, a boxed cake comes out perfect every time. I usually grab a box of Funfetti if I'm going for boxed cake since it's my favorite. It's so festive and well, Fun!  Plus you can buy frosting to match. LOL Don't even get me started on the horrors of the ingredients in ready-made frosting, but every once in a while isn't going to kill anyone. I hope.
So I present you with......Funfetti cupcakes and canned frosting with sprinkles. Yum!
 My cupcake carrier. I love it. It's has 3 tiers and is perfect for taking lots of cupcakes to parties. Do you notice the NOT FOR BAKING stamped on the plastic? Really, cause I didn't know plastic melts. I'm always amazed at the warning labels I see.
Can't deny the cuteness of the Pillbury guy. He looks very happy with his boxed cake.

Do you boxed cake mix or always bake from scratch?

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, you have peanut butter, chocolate chips and oatmeal in your pantry....what do you make? Cookies! If found this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker. I doubled the recipe since I was sharing with friends. Everyone loved them.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Breakfast Bowl with Grits

I've mentioned before that ever since my trip to Alabama (and Waffle House) I'm in love with grits. I have to buy them online since I can't find anything other than instant out here in CA, but it's worth it. At least once a week, I make cheesy grits in a breakfast bowl which consists of grits, scrambled eggs, bacon, and scallions all sprinkled with hot sauce. Absolutely delicious!
Do you have a favorite breakfast?
The weekdays are usually quick bread, cereal or oatmeal but we like to treat ourselves on the weekend.

Couch to 5K-Week 4

Tonight we started the Couch to 5K week 4. After a 5 minute walking warm-up it's 3 minutes jogging, 90 second walking, 5 minutes jogging, 2.5 minutes walking, then repeat. I felt great the entire time. I only got a stitch at the very end. It's amazing how well my body is adjusting and that I'm actually enjoying the training process. I hope it continues.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Firm Workout and Jane Fonda

Does anybody else do The Firm workout? If you haven't, you should try it. As much as I love Jillian Michaels, I have to modify a lot of her exercises. Too many of them put a lot of stress on my back which isn't good for me. I bought The Firm box a few years ago and I dust it off every couple months and go on a step aerobics kick. It's so old school but I love it. I was a huge Jane Fonda fan in my early workout years. I used my mom's old videos and VHS player so old school is just fine with me. Please tell me I'm not the only one. Back to The Firm, my legs are really strong thanks to the box featured above. As an example, my office bathroom has been out of toilet seats covers for several days (UGH) and since I'm too lazy to do the whole toilet paper strip thing, what do we do ladies? we squat! TMI? sorry, but I can squat without any leg shaking thanks to many many step ups on this 14-inch box. Special thanks to Stephanie Huckabee (one of the lead trainers) she's my favorite.
Do you have a favorite old school workout routine?
Should we bring back the leotard, belt and tights outfit? I've seen leg warmers at Targert recently which I thought were super cute.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apricot and Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing

These smelled delicious while baking but I was underwhelmed with the final result. It might be because I substituted hazelnuts for the almonds and pine nuts. Also, I didn't have any amaretto so I used brandy. I plan to try them again when I have all the right ingredients since they are so different from the same old chocolate chip or peanut butter.

Apricot and Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing
by Giada De Laurentiis


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

5 to 7 tablespoons almond flavored liqueur (recommended: Amaretto


For the Cookies: In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour until just blended. Mix in the apricots, almonds, and pine nuts.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log, about 12-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch-thick slices. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the Icing: Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the almond flavored liqueur, until the mixture is of drizzling consistency.

Place the wire rack over a baking sheet. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 30 minutes.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Make Ahead Meal 2- Roman Chicken

Giada's Roman-style Chicken is one of my favorite make ahead meals. The whole dish can be prepared the night before (or even a couple nights before) stored in the fridge and then reheated on the stove when you're ready to eat. We are big potato eaters so I like to add them to the dish and I cut the chicken into chunks. Serve with some garlic bread and you have a great, easy weeknight meal.
Roman-style Chicken
by Giada De Laurentiis


Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Couch to 5K Workout 3

We started the 3rd workout of Couch to 5K last night. This workout is 90 seconds of jogging, 90 seconds of walking, 3 minutes of jogging, 3 minutes of walking; both repeated twice. The beginning was rough since I was tired from work and not really in the mood to do anything but lay on the couch, but once I got started it was great. We powered through 20 minutes and before I knew it, we we're done. I'm loving this program.

California Beer Festival

Saturday was the California Beer Festival in Ventura. We're not big drinkers, but I had won tickets on the radio so we planned to check it out. We got there right as they started pouring and it was already packed. I have to say, crowds make me nervous and irritable so it was a test of my patience to try and enjoy myself. The event seemed well planned but with so many people and popular breweries next to each other, it was hard to taste a leisurely pace. I ended up sampling with a few sips and then pouring the rest out so we could move on to the next one. I definitely wouldn't pay to attend since I'm not a huge beer fan but I did find a favorite, Burt's Honey Wheat Beer. We left for lunch when it started to get a little rowdy and headed for Rookees, my all-time favorite bar. They have the best sliders. So So Yummy.

 My favorite beer.

 Ladyface was there. I was tempted to ask if they know Becki.

 Delicious Rookees sliders. Try them, you won't be sorry.

Have you ever been to a beer festival? Do you have a favorite beer?

How do you deal with crowds? I get so sweaty and uncomfortable with too many people and long lines. Totally freaks me out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Chicken

Every month is a new theme for the Barefoot Contessa over at Ina's Garden. This month is comfort food. For me, that's cookies, macaroni and cheese or roast chicken. I chose to make Lemon Chicken since it was an easy dinner recipe for a weeknight meal. The kitchen smells so good while the chicken is roasting, served with a side of buttery rice pilaf and veggies...perfect comfort food.
Have you ever made a Barefoot Contessa recipe? Do you watch her show on the Food Network? I have to say, it's one of my Saturday favorites.

Lemon Chicken
by Ina Garten

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each)

1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 X 12-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Tomorrow we're going to the California Beer Festival. What are your plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I first had chimichurri sauce at LaLa's on Melrose. It was love at first bite. The freshness from the herbs and the heat from the garlic is just so delicious. Since it's not convenient for me to head to LaLa's everytime I want some, I make my own. It's super simple, especially if you have a mini food processor or blender. I serve it on flank steak with garlic mashed potatoes.
Mmmmmmm....just looking at the picture makes me want to go home and make more.

Chimichurri Sauce
by Bon Appetit

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
3–4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped (I left this out and add a little crushed red pepper)
2 cups minced fresh cilantro
1 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in a medium bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in oil. Remove 1/2 cup chimichurri to a small bowl, season with salt to taste, and reserve as sauce. Put meat in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Remove meat from marinade, pat dry, and grill.
The finish:
Spoon reserved sauce over the grilled meat.

In other news, my hubby and I are signed up for our first 5K in November. I can't wait.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Couch 2 5K, Week 2

Today we started week 2 of the Couch 2 5K program. Starting with a 5 minute walking warm-up, then alternating 90 seconds of jogging with 2 minutes of walking for 20 minutes. It feels so good knowing I'm staying dedicated to the plan. I usually get bored and lazy by week 2 or 3 of a workout plan but I was actually looking forward to coming home and putting on my sneakers tonight. The stitch in my side isn't as bothersome as before but I am noticing a little pain in my left knee and shins. I think I may need a new pair of shoes. My Nikes have seen better days but overall I feel great. Plus, it helps that my hubby is doing it with me. 5k here we come!

Coconut Waffles

What better way to start a lazy football Sunday than eating coconut waffles? This is my first time making them and I'll definitely be adding them to the breakfast rotation.
Did you watch football? Who is your favorite team? I always cheer for the Chicago Bears but I have some players from other teams on my fantasy team so I was yelling at the TV all day. I came in 2nd last week. Yay!

Coconut Waffles
by Better Homes & Gardens


1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3 eggs

1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk (I used a can of the lite coconut milk from Trader Joes)

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

3/4 cup coconut (I used sweetened shredded coconut)
1/2 cup chocolate-flavored ice cream topping (optional)

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (optional)

Sweetened whipped cream or powdered sugar (optional)


In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and a dash of salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside. In another medium bowl lightly beat eggs; stir in coconut milk and melted butter. Stir in coconut. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy).

Pour 1/2 cup batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle baker. Close lid quickly; do not open until done. Bake according to manufacturer's directions (about 3 minutes or until golden brown). When done, use a fork to lift waffle off grid. Repeat with remaining batter. Drizzle baked waffles with topping, sprinkle with almonds, and top with whipped cream or dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

I'll leave you with one more photo of all this yumminess.....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Godiva Pumpkin Spice Ice Blended

I love going to coffee houses and trying all their latest creations but it's just too expensive. $5 for an ice-blended seems a little excessive to me so when I received a package of Pumpkin Spice Coffee from Godiva with a note asking me to create an indulgent fall-inspired drink I was instantly craving an ice-blended.
Last night, I made some really strong coffee and froze it in ice cube trays. This coffee smells so delicious while it's brewing. If it wasn't late at night, I would have been drinking it right then. You can really smell the pumpkin. I also made simple syrup and left it in the fridge overnight to chill.
This morning I blended the ice cubes, syrup and milk until smooth and served it topped with a dusting of cinnamon. It was so so yummy. I have more ice cubes in the freezer and I can't wait for tomorrow morning so I can have another cup. This will also be a great drink to serve Thanksgiving morning while we're preparing the turkey and all the trimmings.
Thank you to Godiva and Foodbuzz for sending me a complimentary sample of this coffee to try and share with my readers.
Godiva Pumpkin Spice Coffee ice cubes. 

Pumpkin Spice Ice Blended
Brew 8 servings off coffee (I used 5 heaping tablespoons of coffee grounds for this) and freeze in ice cube trays.
Prepare simple syrup. Bring 1 cup water to a boil, add 1 cup sugar, reduce to simmer and cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to chill in the fridge.
In a blender, combine half the frozen ice cubes (approx 3 cups), 1/2 cup simple syrup and 2 cups of milk. Blend until smooth. Divide between 2 cups and dust with cinnamon. Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Too Many Tomatoes- Make Gazpacho

When you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes, what do you make? Normally I make tons of bruschetta but this time I blended up a big batch of gazpacho. I must admit to treating it like salsa most of the time. Dipping salty tortilla chips into the blender as it was chilling in the fridge and several days after with the leftovers. I may have even had it for breakfast once. So yummy. I don't remember which recipe I used but they're almost all exactly alike when you google it. I like gazpacho recipes that include cucumber and lots of garlic.
A proper bowl of gazpacho with Parmesean cheese which we had for dinner with proper utensils like  spoons rather than slurping out of the blender with chips.
Served with warm and toasty garlic bread.

Are you excited it's Friday? I love the weekends and I can't wait for football Sunday. So far I have 16 fantasy points from last night's game and I intend to add many more points during the next game.
My baby Minute kitty isn't nearly as excited about the weekend since his routine doesn't change at all no matter what day it is. This is how he spends most of his day when he isn't harassing our other kitties. Isn't he cute?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Make Ahead Meal 1- Greek Style Lasagna

I spent Monday afternoon preparing meals for this week. I've never tackled this many recipes at one time before but I'm tired of eating dinner at 8:00 at night so I thought I'd give it a try. First up was a recipe I've been saving from Better Homes & Garden. Greek Style Lasagna, which one $200 as a prize tested recipe. I can see why it won. The eggs made the lasagna light & fluffy and the feta/cheddar cheese combo gave it really good flavor. Plus, I love black olives.
I served it with garlic bread and sliced watermelon.
 Make Ahead- Before
Make Ahead- After....delicious!

Greek Style Lasagna
From Better Homes & Garden

•9 dried lasagna noodles (about 8 oz.) (I used no-boil noodles)
•1 pound ground beef
•1 medium onion chooped (1/2 cup)
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•8-ounce can tomato sauce (I used a 14.5 oz since I like more sauce)
•1/4 cup red wine (I used beef stock instead)
•1 teaspoon dried oregano
•1 egg, beaten
•3 tablespoons butter
•3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
•1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
•1-3/4 cups milk
•1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
•2 eggs, beaten
•1 2-1/4-ounce can sliced pitted ripe olives, drained
•8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
•8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. (I skipped this step since I used no-boil noodles)

In large skillet over medium heat, thoroughly brown beef, shallot, and garlic. Drain off the fat.
Add tomato sauce, wine and oregano. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and mix in 1 beaten egg and sliced olives. Set aside.

In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the butter.

Whisk in the flour, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper and milk. Continue to cook until sauce is heated through and begins to bubble. Remove from heat.

Stir in grated Parmesan and 2 beaten eggs.

In a 9×13 pan, spread 2 tablespoons cheese sauce. Layer 3 noodles, one-third of the meat sauce, one-third of the crumbled Feta and one-third of the shredded garlic cheddar. Repeat layers twice.

Bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes or until hot. Let stand 10 minutes.

Have you ever made your meals ahead? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Couch to 5k Workout 1- Success!

I'm hoping to run in the Disneyland 5k in January. Since some of my family will be running as well I don't want to be the lazy unfit bum who walks the whole thing, so I started the Couch to 5k plan. Workout One consists of a 5 minute walking warm-up and then alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. I knew I had a little endurance so I cut the walking portion to 60 seconds. I'm such a lucky girl cause my hubby offered to do it with me. We did it! The whole 20 well 25 minutes including the warm-up without stopping. It was actually kinda fun counting down the intervals. We ran without iPods since I read you can get frustrated trying to hard to stay in time with the beat of the music.
My only problem, I always get a stitch in my side. What causes this?

Lemonade Cooler

If I had diet coke in my fridge, my husband would be on a caffeine high all the time. So, I'm always looking for ways to curb the diet coke habit. Yesterday was such a nice sunny day and after a morning full of laziness I ran errands while my hubby worked in the yard. On a whim, I picked up some pink lemonade and sparkling water for afternoon drinks. 2 parts lemonade to 1 part sparkling water, garnish with lemons and enjoy.
I spent the late afternoon. I decided to try the week of meals in a day. I prepared greek lasagna, roman chicken, and baked ziti. I'll be sharing the recipes with you throughout the week. I'm so excited to have food ready for me when I come home from work. All I have to do is reheat. Yay!
Later that evening we had dinner on the patio and watched this little guy. I don't know why, but I think squirrels are so cute.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weekend in San Diego

We're so lucky to have family living in San Diego. It's such a great city to visit.
Saturday night we went to see an evening Tchaikovsky symphony which ended with an awesome firework display.

Sunday afternoon we spent some time in the Gaslamp Quarter.
We had lunch at a fun corner cantina.
There was a fresh chips & salsa bar that was complimentary while we waited for our entrees. The chipotle salsa was really yummy.
I had the avocado bacon burger. It was so good. The avocado was perfectly ripe and the burger was so juicy and full of flavor.
My hubby had the surf and turf tacos.
After lunch we climbed many many stairs to explore the harbor. It was worth it to work off our fattening lunches but today my calves are screaming. What you see above is about half the stairwell.
The views were really cool from the top.

Have you ever been to San Diego? What is your favorite thing to do there? I want to go back and see the Chargers play since football starts next weekend.
What did you do for the long weekend?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fashion Friday- Oxfords

Lately, I've become more interested in style and fashion. I'm not much of a clothes shopper and I tend to wear the same thing over and over again but I'm beginning to branch out. I started following StyleObsession and she hosted a giveaway from some super cute Oxfords. Guess what, I won. Yay!
Plum for Polly sponsored the giveaway. Check out their site. There are so many cute things I must have and will be bookmarking for Christmas. Which is less than 3 months away. Yikes.
When the shoes came and were sitting on my doorstep, I couldn't wait to open them. Look what was inside.....
How fun is that! Plus, she put a little card in the box a well. Love that.
Thank you to Jessica at StyleObsession and Plum for Polly for my adorable new shoes.
I've been web-surfing way too much in order to find the perfect outfit to wear them with. Photos to follow.

Do you have a paor of Oxfords? What do you wear them with?