Brunch in the city.

I recently visited an exhibit at the American History Museum called Food: Transforming the American Table.  It was amazing and if you are in the DC area or planning a trip to DC you should add it to your agenda.  The American History Museum is one of my favorite free things to do in DC anyway, so I was double excited for this visit.

The featured display at the Food exhibit is Julia Child's kitchen.  She donated her entire kitchen to the Smithsonian and it has been set up, exactly as it was when she cooked in it.  There is also a lot of Americana to see: old microwaves, the evolution of wine making, historical food pyramids.  I spent about 2 hours in the exhibit and still didn't read everything.  I'm going to try to go back on a week day when the crowds will be smaller and get to everything that I didn't see the first time around.

After leaving the exhibit my friends and I headed over to The Hamilton for brunch.  I had never been there before, but I was familiar with the building because it is kind of a big deal.  It's massive, with multiple floors, and features a restaurant, bar, and a performance venue downstairs where there is often live music.  It's just off the metro and pretty centrally located, so if you are planning a visit to the city this might be a good stop.

A classic brunch conundrum for me is always, coffee or booze?  It's hard to get my day started without coffee, but what's brunch without alcohol?  Enter, the Irish Coffee.  An Irish Coffee is a pretty simple drink.  It's made with coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar.  Some fancy bars will use brown sugar.  You can also order your with Splenda if you don't want the sugar.  The amount of sugar in an Irish coffee is usually pretty small, less than a teaspoon, so I decided to go ahead and get mine with regular sugar, and over ice.

Holy Irish coffee.  This is literally the best alcoholic coffee drink I have ever had in my life.  I had to restrain myself from just chugging the whole thing because it was that good.  As i'm writing this I'm thinking about trekking into DC right now for another one.  

For the meal I ordered a pork belly and egg dish that was also delicious.  The meat was so tender that I was able to break it up with a fork and eat it.  There were two eggs, some kale, and a generous portion of navy beans.  I tried to go easy on the beans (too many carbs), but I gobbled up the pork and the eggs.  The waiter told me that they cook the meat for something crazy, like 12 hours, to get it to fall apart like that. 

After brunch I hopped on the train to head back to the burbs, sleepy and satisfied.  This was a very successful museum and boozy brunch outing.  I'll keep you posted on what we get into next month.  


Cheese Steak Pizza

Some of you will remember my post about the almost religious experience I had discovering Steak-Umms a last year.  I've been trying to choose unprocessed meats as much as possible lately, but I do still have a box of them in the freezer at my office for emergencies.  By emergency I mean, of course, that I was too lazy to make time to go to the grocery store.  

Yesterday I woke up and realized I did not have any food so I threw a bunch of stuff into a grocery bag and hoped for the best.  I ended up with half of a green bell pepper, a couple slices of cheese, a flax pita, and some other odds and ends.  I cooked the Steak-Umms and peppers in a pan, then layered the whole thing over the pita and cooked it in the toaster oven for a few minutes.  

The results were good, for a last minute work lunch.  The gourmet Tortilla Pizzas that I make at home are better, and I wish that I had though to add some pizza sauce to the mix, but this was a perfect meal in a pinch.  I love how versatile and easy to work with the Steak-Umms are.  They are a great product to keep on hand because they make a good last minute addition to lots of dishes.  


Mini Mart Snacks

I love to stop by 7-Eleven on Wednesdays because all coffee is $1.   If you've never experienced the coffee bar at 7-Eleven you should really go and check it out.  There are generally about a dozen different brews to choose from, as well as a multitude of flavored creamers and syrups.  There are also toppings like mini marshmallows and cinnamon sticks, which I think is weird but someone must be using them if they are out there.

My perfect cup of coffee is pretty simple.  I like a dark roast, no fancy flavors, and cream but no sugar.  I don't need the fancy coffee bar for this, but it makes me feel good to know that it's there if I ever change my mind.

I was at the checkout when I stumbled over this cute little mini version of the Green & Black's dark chocolate that I have been loving lately.  You'll remember from my Dark Chocolate Love post that this chocolate is super rich and low in calories.  It's dangerous that I now have access to it within walking distance from my office.  The mini pack was so cute and tempting that I impulse bought it along with my coffee.

A word about this mini chocolate bar for all you choc-aholics out there.  This package has more than one serving!  Don't be fooled into eating the whole thing in one sitting because it's smaller than the original version.  This should be broken down into at least two servings; three is better.  When I was ready to eat mine I had to cut off the portion that I wanted and then wrap the rest back up, tape it closed, and hide it in the recesses of my desk drawer.  

After I finished my usual one egg and flax pita breakfast I enjoyed the rest of my coffee with a serving of chocolate.  It was the perfect way to start my day.  


Happy Hour Wings

The awesome boyfriend and I moved from Greensboro, North Carolina to Ellicott City, Maryland almost 2 years ago.  Moving from one suburb to another doesn't sound like it will be too tough, but it is.  The actual move isn't so hard, and getting adjusted to new jobs isn't so hard.  The hard part is re-establishing your day to day life.  What dentist should you use?  How do you find an honest mechanic?  And for the love of God, why are 25 cent wings not a thing up here?!  Once you've calmed down you'll start to ask around and eventually you will fill all those holes.

When we first moved we found a couple of bars that we liked and pretty much stuck to them.  We got to know the bartenders and the other regulars; life was good.  But the hole in my heart still burned for the ability to order enough wings for a meal (plus some to take home) and not feel bad about the tab because it's only $6.  I eventually let it go, but I always kept an eye out for the next big happy hour.

One fateful day about six months ago we decided that we wanted to try something new and so we made our way to T-Bonz Grille and Taphouse.  Shame on us for not going sooner because this place is about 2 miles from the house.  The bartender handed me a menu and told me that all appetizers with a star were half price during happy hour.  My thought process went something like this: 'Oh, they have wings.  I wonder if the Cajun is any good?  I wonder if they make the blue cheese in house?  Wings are an appetizer with a star.  Wings are $11 so half of that is...wait a minute...wings are $5.50!  Ten wings for $5.50, that's almost like 50 cent wings!  Where the eff is the awesome boyfriend?  We need to order these right now...'

I know that 50 cent wings are not as good as 25 cent wings, but it is definitely a start.  As soon as the awesome boyfriend came back from the bathroom we picked three kinds and dug in.  The wings at T-Bonz are super crunchy.  The Cajun, garlic buffalo, and Old Bay flavors were all the perfect blend of salty and spicy.  The blue cheese dressing was lack-luster, but the wings were so good that I forgave them.  We each had a happy hour beer which brought our total tab to about $20.  Balance was restored to the world.

We also ordered some happy hour shrimp that came out topped with onions and lots of Old Bay.  They were so filling
that we ended up taking about 15 wings home.  Next time we order we will try to show a little restraint.  


Lemon Garlic Chicken and Veggie Skewers

The awesome boyfriend and I just hooked up a fresh tank of propane yesterday.  Fire up the grill, y'all!  In honor of spring and general laziness, I'm working on lots of easy and delicious grilling recipes.

I've been buying bulk frozen chicken breasts at Costco and I love them.  In the bag you get about 10 and each one is individually wrapped.  It's super easy to pull 1 or 2 out of the freezer and just toss them in the sink to defrost.

This lemon garlic marinade is pretty easy to make, and I actually had all of the ingredients on hand.  Again, in honor of general laziness, I love a recipe that doesn't require me to make a trip to the grocery store.

1 lemon
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C dry white wine
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 chicken breasts
2 red bell peppers
1- 8 oz container of mushrooms
2 large shallots
bamboo skewers, or grill skewers

  1. Submerge 10 bamboo skewers in water to soak.  
  2. Mix minced garlic, olive oil, white wine, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a medium sized bowl.  
  3. Cut lemon in half lengthwise and squeeze juice into wine mixture.  Remove any seeds.  
  4. Use a citrus zester or a microplane grater to remove zest from lemon.  Add to wine mixture.  
  5. Stir wine mixture briskly with a whisk until all ingredients are incorporated.   
  6. Cut chicken breasts into 2 inch pieces.  
  7. Add chicken breasts to wine mixture and toss to coat.  Set aside.  
  8. Cut peppers and shallots into 2 inch pieces.  
  9. Remove any dirt from mushrooms by rinsing under warm water in a colander.  
  10. Turn on grill to medium heat.  Clean with a grill brush to remove any black, burned on bits.  
  11. Thread chicken pieces, peppers, onions, and mushrooms onto bamboo skewers in random order.  
  12. Lay bamboo skewers across a baking sheet to rest, and to avoid dripping.  
  13. After you have finished threading skewers, brush skewers with any remaining marinade with a basting brush.  
  14. Lay skewers on grill and close lid.  Cook for 4 minutes.  Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  
  15. Check chicken for doneness before serving.  Enjoy!  
  • The awesome boyfriend does not like mushrooms, so I made a whole skewer of them for myself.  Yummy.  
  • You can use whatever vegetables make you happy.  I happened to have shallots and red peppers in the fridge, but you could use green peppers, artichokes, asparagus, or even some fruit.  Experiment and see what you like.  
  • Grills can be finicky, like microwaves.  I like to set mine on medium for most things, but yours might run a little bit hotter or cooler.  Make sure that you chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees to reduce the risk of food borne illness.  


Dehydrator has arrived!

The food dehydrator I ordered has finally arrived!  I can't wait to start putting things in there to see what happens.

Snacks I can't wait to make in the dehydrator: 

1.   beef jerky
2.   strawberries
3.   kale chips
4.   apple chips
5.   crunchy green beans
6.   herbs (not a snack, but still...)
7.   green beans
8.   zucchini chips
9.   craisins
10. fruit roll ups

The dehydrator comes with a base, 4 trays, and a lid.  The lid is the part that actually has the electrical components: heating elements and fan.  The base and trays are dishwasher safe.  

There's also a recipe book included with the dehydrator.  It does not have ton of recipes, but there are enough to get started.  I'm already adding dehydrator accessories, like a fine mesh screen for drying herbs and a tray with a lip for fruit roll ups, to my wish list.  In the meantime I've started collecting dehydrator recipes on a Pinterest board so that I can try them later.  


Dark Chocolate Love

My local grocery store has this amazing health food section.  They have several different kinds of whole grains, vegan and organic frozen meals, and a few varieties of dairy free milk.  There is always new inventory in there so when I have time I like to poke around and see if I can find anything interesting.  

Last week when I was in there looking at labels and smelling the produce I noticed that were new chocolate bars.  They ranged from milk chocolate to the very dark, and were sprinkled with additives like sea salt, almonds, and chili peppers.  I settled on this dark variety from Green & Black's.  

When  you open the package you get one bar of dark chocolate that is separated into 30 smaller blocks.  

According to the Green & Black's website, one serving is 12 blocks for 240 calories, 10 sugars, and 14 net carbohydrates.  Those stats are okay, but if you half your serving to 6 blocks you get something a lot more reasonable: 120 calories, 5 sugars, and 7 net carbohydrates.  

The awesome boyfriend and I both found this chocolate to be super rich.  We each cut off a 6 block serving and neither one of us was able to finish it, so we put half of it back.  For 3 blocks of chocolate you are only looking at 60 calories and 3-4 net carbohydrates, which is a dessert you can afford to have every night!  

My recommendation to all you chocoholics is this: If you can control yourself this is a great addition to your low carb pantry.  I've never been a sweets addict (salty, greasy, crunchy is another story...) so I don't have a hard time taking my 3-6 chocolate rectangles out of the bag and leaving the rest.  If the chocolate is going to be calling to you, though, this might not be a good one to have in the house.  Removing the temptation is half of the battle.  

I bought a few more of these chocolate bars and immediately chopped them up into little blocks with a sharp knife.  If you're really a stickler you could even bag them into individual portions.  After dinner I have really enjoyed getting a couple pieces of chocolate to enjoy with a peppermint tea.  


Sushi Night

There are only a few things that I miss from my old 'eat whatever you want and worry about it later' life.  Bagels with cream cheese.  Frozen margaritas.  Sour Patch Kids.  And sushi...

I have enjoyed all kids of sushi for many years, but my affinity grew into true love when I was living in Miami.    There are sushi restaurants on every corner there, and the fish is always fresh.  Of course, I still enjoy sashimi (fish with no rice) from time to time, but any sushi lover will tell you that it's not the same.

The awesome boyfriend came home very excited last week ordering me to get dressed because we were going out to dinner.  When we pulled up to our local hibachi and sushi restaurant, East Moon Asian Bistro, I thought that this was some sort of evil plot to torture me.  I was very pleasantly surprised when he directed me to the section of the sushi menu that featured rolls without rice.  

I know that sushi without rice is not technically called sushi, but let's not get bogged down with semantics.  It was still fish, layered lovingly next to vegetables, wrapped with other vegetables.  Hooray!

The awesome boyfriend insisted on ordering rolls with rice (that jerk) but all was well because I had my spicy shrimp, crab, and avocado wrapped in cucumber.  The shrimp did have some panko bread crumbs, which have about 3 carbs per Tablespoon, so this wasn't a completely carb free meal, but it was delicious and made me really happy.  I'll be coming back soon to sample the other rice-less rolls on the menu.  

We also ordered a chicken satay appetizer, with a sides or peanut sauce and chili sauce.  The peanut sauce was very sweet so I stayed away from it, but the chili sauce was vinegar-y and hot!  The chicken was perfectly seasoned so I didn't miss the peanut sauce too much.  

Between the chicken and the shrimp roll I left the restaurant the right amount of full, which was another perk.  Sometimes when I eat sushi I leave feeling over-full because of all the rice, and I did not miss that uncomfortable post-Japanese food hangover.  


Mac and Cheese Again

Although the Progresso Meal Starter was a little bit underwhelming for me, there was one benefit that I have neglected to mention until now.  The recipe made a huge portion!  I baked the mac and cheese in a very large Pyrex dish and the awesome boyfriend and I were able to keep eating it for a couple of days.

It's finally getting into grilling season so I picked up some steaks and a bag salad at the grocery store.  I put the steaks into my world famous marinade for an hour or so before putting them on the grill (low heat, about 4 minutes per side).

Steaks, bag salad, and leftover mac and cheese made for a large meal.  I was glad that I had opted to pick up steaks that were on the small side.  Altogether this ended up being a tasty low carb dinner.


Progresso Meal Starters: Mac and Cheese

I was so excited to try the new meal starters from Progresso.  A friend of mine recommended them to me saying that she uses them pretty regularly for chicken and pastas.  I picked up the Creamy Three Cheese Cooking Sauce at my local grocery.  I was torn between that and the Roasted Garlic but mac and cheese is always a crowd pleaser so that's what I went with.

When you tear the label off the Recipe Starter there is a recipe inside to get you started (hee hee).  The Three Cheese Cooking Sauce comes with a recipe for bacon mac and cheese that I decided to use.

I followed the recipe (subbing in a half low carb pasta, half cauliflower mix for regular pasta) to a tee.  After I finished cooking everything I felt like the sauce was a little runny.  Or a lot runny, like cheesy cream or something.  I know that there are different palates for mac and cheese out there but the awesome boyfriend and I like ours to have more of a baked consistency and less of a goopy cheese consistency.  

I added a couple of slices of Velveeta to the pot, along with several hand fulls of shredded cheddar and kept stirring until the mix reached a consistency that I felt like I could work with.  I added the pasta/cauliflower mix and the cheese mixture to a large glass baking dish and then topped the whole thing with a little more shredded cheddar cheese.  

I put the whole thing in the oven for whatever the recommended cooking time and temperature was and we came out with a mac and cheese dish that wasn't a total fail.  I would say it was above average, but not as good as some of my other mac and cheese recipes.  

Serve with Texas Pete, of course.  
You can see in the picture that the sauce was so goopy that the pasta sort of floated to the top and middle.  The cauliflower did not and so there was not an even spread of cauliflower, pasta, and cheese.  

The main reason I didn't love this product was that it didn't do anything to make this dinner easier.  I was looking for a miracle mac and cheese base and I just didn't get it.  If I was going to make mac and cheese without the recipe starter I would have combined sour cream, Velveeta, and shredded cheddar for the sauce, and I had to do that anyway to get the starter to the consistency I wanted.  

The friend that recommended the starters to me in the first place says that the Roasted Garlic and the Tomato are both great, so I may give them another crack.  But for now I'm calling this one a fail, Progresso.  Skip the can and just make your cheese sauce from scratch.  It's not that complicated, and it will be worth it.  


After work snack.

I am always eating eggs.  The folks in my office think that it's hilarious.  They say that eggs are like coffee for me and I can't get my day started without them.  They think it's a joke, but I think that they are right.  Eggs are a highly under rated miracle food.  They have a ton of protein.  One egg can keep you going straight through til lunch.  A lot of misinformation is out there about eggs and cholesterol.  You should speak to your health care professional before making any changes to your diet.  Eggs got kind of a bad rap in the 90's when America was going through it's fat-phobic phase.  The American Heart Association still recommends that you limit your cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day, but one egg every morning will keep you well below that number.

I like to combine my one egg with whatever I have on hand.  Eggs of the day: fried with salt and pepper, with one half Cup of sliced strawberries, and coffee from my favorite mug.

After work I was majorly hungry so I whipped together a quick Tortilla Pizza.  The awesome boyfriend was going to be working late so I was looking for a hefty snack to hold me over for a few hours. 

 I kept this one simple with a flax pita from Joseph's Bakery, 1 Tbsp pizza sauce, a handful of shredded cheddar, a couple of pepperonis, and 1 Tbsp bacon bits.  Finish off with grilled chicken and a side of broccoli for dinner for a tasty low carb day.  


More than pizza.

If you haven't read about my delicious experience at Uno Chicago Grill you should go do that.

Okay, now that you're back I'll talk a little more about that meal.  When I was at the restaurant the plate came out with a heaping portion of vegetables.  It was more than I could eat.  I asked for a box and took the remaining chicken and veggies home for later.  I also got some marinara to go.  I heated the chicken and veggies up in the toaster oven at my work on Monday, and I sprinkled a little bit of shredded Parmesan on the chicken to freshen it up.

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You can see that even the leftovers from this meal were a decent sized portion.  I don't like to eat huge meals at work because then I get sleepy and lazy in the afternoon, so this was a perfect office lunch.  

For dinner, the awesome boyfriend requested his favorite meal, Pizza Casserole.  We have tried many different versions of this meal over the years, including ones with a low carb crust and different varieties of veggies.  If you search for 'pizza' you'll find them and you can decide for yourself, but we always favor the original.  This recipe is fantastic and takes so little time, plus it's cheesy and delicious.  Everyone is happy.  

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I like mine with hot sauce.  Sometimes I make a salad on the side but (let's be honest) that's only to make myself feel like I'm eating some greens.  

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Eggs, greens, and more leftovers.

Some Sundays are delicious days where I have my eggs and bacon in the morning, do a little yoga, and cook some meat and veggies in the crock pot for dinner.  Some Sundays are a mess where I feel like I need to eat up all the leftovers before they go bad.  This Sunday was one of the second kind.

I started off the morning with some leftover grilled veggies, eggs, and a flax pita.  These flax pitas have changed my morning and lunch time eating habits.  I used to swear by the low carb high fiber tortillas from La Tortilla Factory, but no more.  These pitas from Joseph's Bakery are tastier AND have better nutritional content.  If I'm eating them with some cream cheese or peanut butter I will slice them across the middle and only use half, but for something heavy like eggs you have to use the whole pita or it will fall apart.

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After inhaling the pizza I took the dogs for a run, did some yoga on demand, and tried to get caught up on my mountain of laundry.  I also made some delicious strawberry banana yogurt.  

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In the afternoon I was a little hungry so I foraged in the fridge for (you guessed it) more scraps that needed to be consumed before they went bad.  I had some arugula left in a bag so I decided to make a salad.  I also had a little goat cheese, a packet of tuna, some chopped pecans, and some ginger dressing.  Yummy.  

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For dinner I pulled 2 salmon steaks out of the freezer.  The awesome boyfriend and I have a Korean grocery store near the house that always has the most amazing deals on fresh seafood.  A couple of weeks ago they had salmon steaks for $5.99 a pound so we stocked up.  

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I threw this one in the oven with some Cajun seasoning.  I also sliced a tomato and topped those slices with a little Brie and some oregano.  The tomatoes were okay, but not good enough to deserve their own recipe post.  I'm thinking that I might have used the wrong kind of tomato because it cooked down to be a little mushy.  Next time I will broil some cheese over sliced grape tomatoes, which tend to be a little bit firmer.  Stay tuned for results.   

Altogether this was a good low carb, low calorie day, even if it was a little disorganized.  I did get most of my laundry done, and managed to get in some exercise and yogurt making as well.  Cheers to Sunday.  


Feel the Burn: A Caloric Breakdown

I love this visual display of the power of ten minutes of exercise.  For optimum heart health, we should be getting 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3-5 times a week.  Another great takeaway: (is there an echo in the room?  I feel like I've mentioned this before...) drinking lots of water will help you lose weight by increasing your metabolic activity.

This infographic was brought to us by my good friends at visual.ly, and was originally produced by the folks at QuickQuid.  You can click on the image to enlarge for easier viewing.

Feel The Burn in 10 Minutes