Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Love you and bye"

This afternoon, as I was working with my cheerleaders, I got a couple of texts from my mother:

Going on the damn roller coaster, should have had another glass of wine. 

Love you and bye.

I exploded into laughter and had to share with one of my students, Gertrude (name changed to protect the innocent), who laughed and called my mom cute. I agreed. (By the way, a few minutes later, I got another text that said, "Loved it...went twice." Go figure.)

Yesterday, after some fog delays, my parents flew down from the Bay Area to spend some time at Disneyland, hence the roller coaster (California Screamin') this afternoon. We invited them to dinner this evening, so after work and almost an hour drive home, I hustled out for a quick run and then got started on dinner.

Scout was thrilled to see Pops!
Dinner ended up tasting delicious and being just enough for all of us. I'm not sure my dad was too excited about the idea of "just" soup, zucchini, and garlic bread for dinner (he's more the steak-and-potatoes type), but he managed to hide his feelings well and even claimed to like it. This turkey soup is a great way to use up those Thanksgiving leftovers!

Turkey Soup
Serves 4
Turkey soup with croutons

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 cups turkey broth, preferably homemade 
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup milk
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. In a food processor (or by hand), chop the onion and add to the pot. Next chop the carrot, celery, and garlic together. Add to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes. 

Add the turkey broth, water, and spices. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer for at least 30 minutes. Right before serving, add the milk. 

We served the soup with homemade sourdough croutons, garlic bread, and roasted zucchini.
Homemade sourdough croutons - here's the recipe

Super Quick Garlic Bread
Serves 4
  • 4 slices bread (anything from whole wheat to sourdough)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2-3 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven or toaster oven (on "bake") to 375 degrees. Spread the olive oil or butter on each piece of bread; then lightly sprinkle the garlic powder and cheese onto each slice. Place the bread, seasoned side up, on a cookie sheet or piece of foil. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the toast is golden brown. You can punch it up to broil if you want a little extra crispiness in your bread.

Roasted Zucchini
Serves 4, as a side
Roasted zucchini - I think even my brother would like it!
  • 4 small zucchini squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roughly chop the zucchini into 3/4" pieces. Toss the zucchini, olive oil, salt, and pepper on a cookie sheet. Bake the zucchini, covered with foil, for 5 minutes; then uncover for another 5-7 minutes. The zucchini is ready when a fork comes out easily and the squash is lightly browned. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

This whole meal felt light and tasted delicious. It was so wonderful to see my parents, as it always is. After dinner, we headed to our favorite local frozen yogurt shop, Twist. For four of us, we spent less than eight dollars! And I was not shy with my toppings. My creation involved cake batter and butterscotch yogurts with Heath bar, chocolate chips, fudge... Have I mentioned I have a bit of a sweet tooth? We all got a kick out of Mom sneaking back up to the counter to ask the lady for a few more free samples and returning with the world's tiniest cup of yogurt for "everyone to share." She really is cute. :-)

Tiny dessert, anyone?
I'm especially excited because I get to see my whole family in just three days. Sadly, Terry won't be joining me for my mini-trip up north, but it'll be great to see my parents, my brother, and my future sister-in-law. There's a brother-sister dinner planned for Saturday night; we're teaming up to prepare something yummy for the gang! Just wish my hubby would be there, too. 

In other news, we have finally booked all our Europe details for our upcoming Christmas trip! We decided on Paris and London. If you have must-see/must-eat/must-do recommendations, please let us know! Comment below or e-mail me at We love traveling with friends' recommendations!

Monday, November 28, 2011

National French Toast Day!

Did you know such a thing exists? It does! Well, according to it does. Today is National French Toast Day, and who are we to deny such a holiday? Tonight I fixed us a little treat to celebrate!

But before I cooked dinner, I enjoyed a terrific "back to the grind" workout. (Cards on the table, before the workout, I made a cake for a friend's birthday and ate approximately one-third of the batter.)

Upper Body Series
I wanted tough upper body strength training prior to my cardio, so I created a random mash up of several arms, chest, and back exercises.

  • 50 tricep dips
  • 2 x 25 bicep curls (15 lbs)
  • 2 x 100 crunches (I did increments of 25 or 50, including regular crunches, scissor kicks, bicycle abs, etc.)
  • 30 Baby Swans
  • 2 x 30 Straddle Side Leans (sit in a straddle with your hands behind your head; lean side to side, trying to touch your elbows to your knee)
  • 20 push ups
After my upper body series, I headed to our complex's mini gym for a three-mile run, which turned into a fun little workout.

Increasing Speed Treadmill Workout
  • Miles 1 and 2: Start at 6.0; increase speed by 0.1 mph every 0.2 miles
  • Mile 3: Start at 7.0; increase speed by 0.1 every 0.1 miles
  • For the last 0.1 mile, increase to 8.0 mph
So, at 1.5 miles, you should be going 6.7 mph. At 2.3 miles, you should be going 7.3 mph. It was an awesome challenge! And I definitely hit my fastest 3-mile time, 26:30. 

Oh, about that French toast: I whipped up Almond French Toast, omitting the seasonings and using almond extract. The almond extract reminds me of almond croissants, one of my absolute favorite foods. We enjoyed some champagne, apples, and bananas with our toast to round out the meal and properly celebrate the holiday. Hope you celebrated in style, too!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Humble Friendsgiving

Last weekend, I bought a turkey for Terry and I to cook so that we could have leftovers throughout the week. When I mentioned it to our friends, we all decided it would be a lot more fun to make it a potluck and go the whole nine yards.

So today Terry and I cleaned house, prepped the turkey (actually, we brined it last night), and put a few little touches on our apartment to make it feel festive. We live in a small place, but it's sweet and cozy, so we made it work for the six of us tonight. Heidi and Ed and Katie and Corey came over around four o'clock, and the eating commenced.

Heidi brought a yummy Buffalo chicken dip appetizer, and Katie brought these delicious bites of heaven (bacon-and-Gorgonzola-wrapped dates). We all put the finishing touches on our dinner dishes while waiting for the turkey to finish. I definitely still need some practice in the turkey-cooking category. I completely forgot to tent our turkey with foil while it cooked, so it came out a little drier than last year. Plus I took it out when the juices ran clear without checking for the actual temperature, so we had to throw it back in the oven for another hour. Thank goodness for patient friends and fun games to kill time.

Our games of choice tonight were True Colors and Telestrations. Both were hilarious and perfect for our little group of friends. And thankfully, the turkey finally came out looking and tasting quite delicious. The rest of the dinner included stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, spicy mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, and rolls. Heidi provided two delicious desserts: a layered pumpkin trifle thing (yes, we all referenced Rachel's Thanksgiving trifle from Friends) and an apple pie. Everything tasted incredible, and I'm so excited to have leftovers! Isn't that the whole point of the big feast?

Our 15-pound turkey, perfect for 6 + leftovers.

Terry carving the turkey.

Our buffet - or "smorgasbord" as my mom would call it. 

Sourdough and sausage stuffing.

Spicy mac and cheese!

Classic green bean casserole.

This is what the holidays are really about.

Some of our very best friends. Thanks for coming over, everyone!

Heidi's delicious apple pie.

The world's most adorable desserts ever! (And delicious!)
What a great night! We are so thankful to have such wonderful friends to celebrate with. I am already trying to figure out another appropriate reason to have everyone over to eat. Suggestions welcome. Festivus, anyone?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another 100 Workout

I really like these "theme" workouts that allow me to mix things up and create a new challenge fairly often. Today I wanted a lower body workout after all the week's indulgences. I really recommend giving this one a try, or create a new one that works for you!

100 Workout - Lower
  • 100 jumping jacks
  • 90 lunges (I did 30 each of walking, standing, and backwards standing)
  • 80 second wall sit
  • 70 fire hydrants 
  • 60 calf raises
  • 50 open leg scissors
  • 40 squats with weights
  • 30 clams**
  • 20 minutes on the elliptical 
  • 10 30-second wide leg squat holds (30-second rest in between)
*On your elbows and knees, lift your leg at a 90-degree angle out to the side; lower; repeat.
**I've described these before here, but I never told the correct name; my friend Heidi is a physical therapist and helped me with some toning exercises after I had my foot surgery, and these are awesome!

I'm already sore!

Links of interest if you like the idea of the 100 Workout like I do:

True Bruins

Photo by Roxanne Neal
Tonight, one of the greatest annual sporting events in the history of rivalries takes place. The UCLA Bruins will face the USC Trojans in an epic crosstown challenge.

Do I sound dramatic? If you aren't a UCLA or USC alum, you may think so, but it's not just me. Check out what Arash Markazi at wrote about the rivalry:

It's special because the schools aren't in different states or different cities. ...[W]e see our rivals every day. We see them at home, we see them at work, we see them at school and we see them while we're stuck in traffic looking at their ugly license-plate frames.
[...] These aren't strangers we see once a year and hate because our fathers and our father's father told us we're supposed to; it's a living, breathing rivalry we live every day. USC is less than 12 miles from UCLA and the rivalry often pits family members, friends and old teammates against one another.
If the rivalry doesn't seem as fervent as others do to those who only view it once a year, it's because we live it every day.

[Read the rest of the article here.]

It's more than just a game; it's bragging rights for a whole year. It's possession of the Victory Bell. It's keeping traditions alive.
Pillow on our couch made from actual UCLA Marching Band uniforms (I LOVE the Solid Gold sound of the UCLA Marching Band!).

UCLA throw pillow I got in college.
We took some of our engagement photos on campus.

Photos by Roxanne Neal
We almost named our cat Murphy, after one of the buildings on campus.
Okay, Scout really has nothing to do with UCLA, but this picture is hilarious. (Do you see Scout's little friend outside climbing up our screen door?)
We support all Bruin athletics.

My new shirt and Terry's usual game day attire (notice the "Beat USC" shirt).
So tonight's dinner absolutely had to be Bruin-themed, but it's tough to come up with blue and gold foods. We decided on blue cheese burgers with grilled onions, which sorta look gold (in the right light...?).

Blue and Gold Bruin Burgers
Serves 4
  • 1 pound ground meat (we used bison)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 ounces blue cheese
  • 4 buns/8 slices of bread (we used sourdough - what else?)
  • Optional toppings: whole-grain mustard, mixed greens, roasted (yellow!) peppers, garlic aioli
Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion and add to the pan, along with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are golden (yeah!) and very tender.

Meanwhile, assemble the patties. Split the meat into four patties. Split each patty apart and place a bit of blue cheese in the middle. Top with the other half of the patty and seal the edges. Repeat with the rest of the patties. Then heat a grill pan over medium heat and cook for burgers for about 6 minutes on each side (for medium). Toast the buns and top with a patty, one quarter of the onion, more blue cheese, and any other desired toppings. Enjoy with a vegetable of your choice (we had my roasted yams on the side), preferably during a Bruin game.

A big Bruin burger
The burgers were really delicious, but this game is awful. We're only in the third quarter, but it's seriously ugly. Terry and I are getting ready to drown our sorrows in pumpkin pie.

Still, win or lose, we are Bruins for life. I am beyond proud to hold a degree from such a great university, and I owe a lot to that school: My passion for reading and writing, my very best friends, most of my favorite memories, my character and "True Bruin" integrity, and, of course, my marriage. Terry and I already know that our first child (boy or girl) will have a blue and gold room. We donate to UCLA every year. We attend sporting events and campus happenings whenever possible. And we're glad to know that all our fellow alums feel the same pride and spirit that we do. It's an incredible family, of which I am proud to be a member. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Giving of Thanks

I hope you had an incredible Thanksgiving! Ours zoomed by, but we had a lovely time with Terry's family and ate plenty over the last 36 hours.

We headed down to Orange County to Terry's aunt's house and spent the day with his mom, dad, brother, cousins, aunt, uncle, and some friends. Good conversation, good wine, good food - what else do you need? Our dinner highlights included the moist turkey (a la Terry's aunt), creamy potatoes (cousin), and delicious salad (Terry's mom).

And everyone loved my desserts!

We stayed the night at Terry's parents house, and this morning we got to visit with a longtime family friend of Terry's family and her husband and kids. What an adorable family! They live in San Francisco, and we love to see them. Today we met up at a park, played on the swings, and threw a football around (well, Terry and I threw the football; the kids mostly just grabbed the ball and ran around scoring "touchdowns"). We loved seeing the kids and spending more time with Terry's family today.

The rest of the day focused mostly on lazing around as much as possible. Terry and I headed home for Cribbage, homemade hot cocoa, and reading (me)/Adobe Illustrator (Ter). I actually finished my book today, and Terry designed a new background for my Twitter page. I'm so lucky to have such a talented husband!

Hot Cocoa and Whipped Cream
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the cocoa and sugar. Then add the hot water and whisk the mixture. Turn the heat to medium, pour in the milk, and whisk frequently until hot (be careful not to scorch the milk), about 7 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and pour into four mugs. Top with whipped cream (below). For a kick, add a teaspoon of chili powder!

For the whipped cream:
  • 1 cup (or more) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream with an hand mixer on medium-low speed for 5-7 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for another 15 seconds. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

The proper way to enjoy hot cocoa

The Giving of Thanks
I feel so blessed to have so much in my life to be thankful for. I know the holidays aren't the only time to express such sentiment, but I like the idea of writing it down as a more concrete way to say thanks.

My family. This word means so many things, from my parents and brother, which was always the way I thought of "family" before this year, to my new husband, my brother's fiancee, my extended family, Terry's family... It's exciting and incredible to have so many people to call kin. I am especially thankful that I feel so close to my parents and my brother. Even though I miss them every day, I know we are closer than ever.

My job. I have a job that challenges, inspires, and pushes me. It exhausts me but energizes me and keeps me on my toes. I love my students and have met some incredible coworkers. I feel so lucky to have awesome co-coaches and cheerleaders. And at a time like this, I'm grateful to have not just a job but a job in a field I chose at a school I love.

Scout. Our little tabby cat makes us laugh every day. When that little guy curls up on my lap or chest to fall asleep, I swear my heart melts. He is an absolute joy.

My blog. It's young and new and still budding, but writing this blog has become an extremely motivational hobby for me. I would venture to say that writing about health, food, and exercise could easily become my passion. I am sincerely grateful for my readers. When someone mentions that my blog has inspired them to try a new recipe or pushed them to work out, I feel utterly blissful. I can't tell you the rush of joy I get from seeing that someone has left me a comment! (Poor Terry now knows that little squeal that can only be blg-related.)

My friends. This year, in particular, I have felt a growing bond with my friends. Perhaps it's because I got married this year and had five gorgeous, spectacular ladies stand up with me, or because I felt overwhelming support and encouragement from so many loving friends throughout our engagement and, now, our marriage. Terry and I both feel blessed to have such incredible friends - old and new.

My husband. I can't put it into words (I think I exhausted my annual verbal description of my love for Terry during our vows, so try me again in July). Terry joins me in running, tries all of my food, helps with all the tech stuff for my blog, loves my family, and pushes me to be the best I can be. He is my very best friend, and he makes me happy every day. (Okay, that last line may have been stolen from our vows.)

I can list a million other things, like changing seasons, delicious food, my ability to run after my foot surgery, romantic comedies, good books, warm fires, chocolate, our little apartment, rainy Sundays, UCLA, cozy beds, our ability to travel, good wine, comfortable sweatpants, hot showers, Christmas songs, and my parents' house (which, to this day, just feels like home). But you have to limit yourself somewhere, I guess.

Here's to another year with too much to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do We Own a Fire Extinguisher?

Can you smell the Thanksgiving in these pies?

Those are the words with which I greeted Terry this evening. But more on that later.

Today was my favorite day of my vacation so far. And not just because of the fire extinguisher incident. Actually, it's because today was productive, fun, and mellow.

Since I wanted to keep things somewhat easy today (we're attempting a private little Turkey Trot 10K tomorrow!), I hopped on the elliptical for 20 minutes at level 7 (forward 7 minutes, backward 3, repeat), then on the treadmill for 20 minutes. On the treadmill, I walked at 4.5 miles per hour at an incline of 6 for 10 minutes, then ran at 6 miles per hour with no incline for 10 minutes. After my cardio, I did a few lat pull downs and bicep curls and called it a day.

Today I had to go to Costco. What was I thinking? I had the whole week off; why did I wait until the day before Thanksgiving, with all the traffic and insane shoppers? Surprisingly, I maneuvered the crowds at Costco like a pro (the trick: Give up any hope of parking near the actual entrance. Find the furthest row and park there), but Ralph's gave me a good challenge. Thankfully, I made it out and home alive and didn't have to leave the house the rest of the day.

The rest of the day involved making Thanksgiving desserts while watching West Side Story. I made two pies and cream cheese swirl brownies.

Pie Crust
I searched all week to find the right pie crust to try. Fun fact: I made my very first from-scratch pie crust today! I got my food processor in August, so I was putting it off until the processor could work its pulsing magic. Lately I've completely switched to whole-wheat flour, but for Thanksgiving I went with all-purpose to really get that perfect texture. My recipe of choice came courtesy of Melissa D'Arabian, mostly because I wanted to at least avoid vegetable shortening. Her pie crust recipe is here, and I can tell you from eating the raw dough that it is fantastic! (By the way, the pie crust in embedded in another recipe, which I have tried and which is also delicious - but a major splurge!)

Blackberry Pie
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, pie-wise, this one is my specialty. I absolutely love blackberries, and my mom once told me that fresh fruit pie for breakfast is completely acceptable. That's really all I need to know.
My blackberry pie

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 pie crust recipe (makes two crusts, for top and bottom)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss the blackberries with the flour mixture until all the berries are evenly covered. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one of the crusts and fill with the berry-flour mixture. Roll out the second pie crust and slice into 3/4-inch strips. Create a lattice pattern atop the berries, pinch the edges, and, if desired, use a fork to create a presentable edge. Whisk the egg and milk in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on the top and edges of the crust. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. 

Bake the pie at 375 degrees. For the first 25 minutes, cover the pie with foil and cut out a circle so that the center of your pie is uncovered. After that, remove the foil and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes more, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie
I used Julia Child's pumpkin pie recipe, and I am super excited about it! I cut it in half to yield one nine-inch pie. You can find the recipe here.

Julia's pumpkin pie

It was during the pumpkin pie-baking that I noticed a bit of smoke in the kitchen. And then I noticed a LOT of smoke. I figured out that the deliciously buttery crust was actually dripping butter onto the bottom of the oven, causing a good amount of smoke. I placed a cookie sheet under the pie to catch the drips and nervously kept an eye on the smoke. Meanwhile, I opened all the windows, turned on the fans, and even opened our front door. My neighbors were super excited to see me in my adorable outfit: black workout shorts, grey long sleeve UCLA shirt, yellow and blue fuzzy socks, and pink apron covered in flour. I am awesome.

This was the point at which I called Terry to ask about the fire extinguisher.

Thankfully, the cookie sheet stopped the smoke, and all was fine by the time Terry got home. But it's great to keep things interesting around the holidays, right?

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
I used to buy Ghiradelli's box mix to make brownies, but when we switched to nonprocessed foods I had to cut them out. Sadly, I've never found a homemade recipe that gets anywhere close to the texture and taste of Ghiradelli, but these brownies almost got there! I may try the chocolate without the cream cheese to see just how close I can get.

Cream cheese swirl brownies

From Chocolate (McFadden and France):

  • 8 ounces plain chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
For the cream cheese part:
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3.4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (I just use a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring constantly until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until blended. Fold in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture, vanilla, and walnuts. Measure out two cups of this chocolate mixture and set aside.

To make the cream cheese part, cream the butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Add the sugar; beat well. Add the eggs, flour, and vanilla. 

Spread the bigger bowl of chocolate in a greased 13x9 pan. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate layer. Drop spoonfuls of the reserved 2 cups of the chocolate mixture on top. 

With a butter knife, swirl the mixtures to create a "marble" look. Bake for 30-40 minutes. 

I found these brownies to be a little dry, but ultimately delicious. I hope Terry's family will like them tomorrow! I'll also provide reviews on the pies after we try them.

In the midst of my baking extravaganza, I threw together a pizza crust for tonight's dinner. When Terry got home, I cooked up a pretty yummy pizza!

Breakfast Pizza for Dinner
Serves 4
  • 1 whole wheat pizza crust recipe
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 8 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
Make your pizza crust and allow to rise, then roll out onto a pizza stone or cookie sheet. Saute the onions in a small pan with the olive oil. Cook and crumble the sausages. Top the crust with the tomato sauce, cheese, sausage crumbles, and onion. Then crack the two eggs on top of the whole thing. 

Bake the pizza at 500 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, the cheese is melted, and the eggs are just barely cooked through. Cut and serve immediately!

Cracked egg on pizza is a winner!

Terry and I really loved this new pizza recipe. It was super quick, too! Perfect after a tiring (but fun!) day of baking. 

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving! I'd love to hear what recipes you enjoy most and what you're looking forward to this time of year. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Like Clockwork

Lately I've noticed our cat's daily routines, mostly because I've gotten to be home all week. Scout has endless energy in the morning. Usually, he wakes us up by jumping on the bed near our heads or hopping up on all the furniture in our room. Then he'll run around the house, flicking a toy and then racing away. If I try to sit at my computer or sit down to eat, he'll find something naughty to do, like jumping on the kitchen table or attacking the recycling, which means I have to get up to get him down. He loves this "game" as much as I hate it. Then, without fail, at 1:00 pm, he finds a cozy place to snuggle up and falls asleep. I love this time of day, because he is so sweet and usually chooses to cuddle up right next to me.

I'm getting sleepy...

All curled up

Sometimes I like to sleep in weird positions

...and in weird places

Sure enough, like clockwork, today Scout curled up at exactly 12:59 and promptly fell asleep next to me on the couch while I ate lunch. And that's when I finally got some work done!

Workout: Stairs
Unlike clockwork, I switched my workout to the afternoon. Usually, when I have the day off, I prefer to work out in the morning to get it over with. But today, Jenn and I had plans to meet up for a little exercise. We parked in Westwood and jogged to campus. UCLA has an awesome track stadium where anyone can run the stairs. Oh, the stairs. There are 15 sets of about 85 steps. In college, running the "Drake snake" always kicked my butt, and today was no different. After our one-mile warm up run, Jenn and I climbed every single step. The "snake" is where you go up one set, down the next, and so forth. For each time going up, we alternated running one stair at a time and jogging two stairs at a time. We did the snake twice but walked the last three "ups".

The workout was great! I loved having a workout buddy, especially since Terry has been working late almost every night. But it was also great because Jenn and I are very compatible in terms of how in shape we are and the level to which we like to challenge ourselves. We rewarded ourselves with some happy hour action: sweet potato fries and beer. I always love catching up with Jenn! And tonight, Terry and I got to enjoy Sunday night's leftovers. Yum!

I can't believe today was my fourth day off already. Why do vacations always go by so quickly?! I'm still excited about the rest of the week (several new recipes to try!), but I wish I had Evie's powers to freeze time from Out of this World. Remember that show?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Discontinued Pumpkin Bagels

Today turned out to be a hodgepodge of events and a pretty great day, but it started on a rough note. This morning, we left together and stopped at Noah's Bagels for breakfast. I have been craving pumpkin bagels and cream cheese for weeks. Here's how that went:

Me: Do you still have pumpkin bagels?
Noah's Lady: No.
Me: Um...really? [Hoping it's all a joke.]
Noah's Lady: Yeah, they've been discontinued.
Me: Like, forever?
Noah's Lady: Well, for the season. It's supposed to be a Thanksgiving thing, but they're gone already.
Me: The cream cheese too? [But it's not really a question. I already know the answer.]
Noah's Lady: Yep.
Me: [Taking it in, quickly progressing through the stages of grief] Oh...umm...whole wheat please.

Discontinued? Already? It's not even Thanksgiving yet! Does anyone else find anything seriously wrong with this picture? I guess it's a sign: I need to make my own pumpkin bagels. I've never made bagels before. I'm excited!

I dropped Terry off at work and then took our car in to the shop for a check up. I love to complain about having to take the car in, but I don't really mind getting an hour to read quietly. I'm hoping to finish a full book this week; right now I'm reading Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin, one of my favorite authors. It's pretty good so far!

After a trip to Target and some traffic, I made it home for a run. I suffered through shin muscle soreness, a headache, and some nausea to finally hit four miles. It was rough, but I'm glad I made it through. Actually, my run gave me an idea. Lately I've been toying with the idea of running a race, like a 10K. A lot of people do Turkey Trots or other races on Thanksgiving day, so I suggested to Terry that we create our own little route and run a 10K together on Thursday! Terry hasn't had much time to run lately because of work, so it'll be perfect. (His out-of-shape skills are about equal to my in-shape abilities.) Then we'll really be able to chow down at Thanksgiving dinner!

Today also included a trip to the UCLA Store, because folks who attended Saturday's game got 25% off today. I bought a few items, including some Christmas gifts (shh...!). I love a good discount!

Tonight was definitely the highlight of the day. I picked up Terry from work, and we met up with a friend of Terry's from college and his wife. Justin and April live near Terry's work, and we ate at Salt Creek Grille in El Segundo for dinner.

Salt Creek Grille Review

My turkey burger and garlic fries

I love trying new restaurants, and Salt Creek certainly didn't disappoint. We scored with a half off special on bottles of wine and got to enjoy a BV Rutherford Cabernet at a great price. For dinner, Terry had the pulled pork sandwich, Justin had the miso salmon, April had the grilled chicken Caesar, and I had the turkey burger. I think the most interesting meal was April's salad, because they actually grill the romaine leaves, so there are char marks on the lettuce. Very unique. I think my turkey burger was cooked well, but there were about a million flavors competing with each other, which got a little overwhelming. I would certainly go back and try a different dish, because I really liked the ambiance and thought the menu options looked great. A few other highlights: Free garlic bread as a pre-meal snack, great service, free parking, and delicious chocolate souffle. Great meal!

The best part of the meal was getting to know two new (awesome!) people. As I mentioned, Terry and Justin are friends from college and reconnected recently. I felt that we all hit it off right away and have tons in common: Justin and I are both from the Bay Area, April and I are both bloggers, Justin and Terry both majored in Engineering, and we all love to travel, wine taste, and eat! I'm always thrilled to meet a new couple, and I'm already excited for potential wine tasting trips, cooking meals together, and getting to know each other better.

Maybe it's just me, but when you're part of a couple, meeting another couple is a lot like dating. You want to make a good first impression, you don't want to move too fast... Even after you have your significant other, you're not done with "first dates"!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two Recipes and a Bath for Scout

Today is Sunday. You know what that means: New recipes! While dinner was cooking, I got the urge for an appetizer. (Is anyone surprised? I couldn't wait the 40 minutes for dinner. Shocking.) I wanted something sweet but still appropriate as an appetizer. I knew our kitchen didn't have much, so it was time to create something new. Turns out, this appetizer is perfect for the holidays! (Plus, it's easy, which will be great for those

Cranberry-Almond Crackers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Triscuits (I use Triscuits or Trader Joe's "Woven Wheats" because they are real food - no artificial ingredients and minimal processing)

Stir the cream cheese, cranberries, and almonds in a medium bowl. Form the mixture into a rectangle, square, or round shape and place on a plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve with crackers.

We loved this quick little appetizer. The flavors blended perfectly, and the cranberries and almonds lent excellent textures. We may add this treat to our little holiday dinner this Sunday!

The dinner I just couldn't wait for involved a huge butternut squash I bought yesterday at Whole Foods. I've actually never cooked with a fresh butternut squash, so it was time to hit the Internet for a new recipe. I opted for a fairly simple pasta that resulted in lots of dishes for Terry. 

Butternut Squash Pasta

I found this recipe online (check it out here), and we really liked it. I added a handful of chopped walnuts for some crunch, and we have plenty of leftovers for the week. The dinner itself was a bit more work than I had expected, but I'm glad to have another seasonal recipe under my belt!

In other news, our poor little kitten has been super itchy over the last few days, and Terry and I decided to try giving him a bath today. Our hope was that his skin was just a little dry or something. I've never owned a cat, so I had no idea what to expect, but it was a pretty pitiful experience. 



He was NOT happy with us! The poor little guy tried desperately to get out of our arms, but we gave him a good scrub and got him all cuddled up and dry. And then...we discovered a flea! NO! Poor little guy! So the rest of the evening has been spent searching the rest of his fur and hoping there was only one. We'll be calling our vet tomorrow to figure out the best plan of action. Ahhh, the joys and sorrows of pet ownership.

French Toast Sunday

What a perfect, lazy morning! I woke up to gray skies, which have now opened up for a healthy amount of rain. Terry had to work again this morning, so I slept in and decided to skip my workout in favor of cleaning up a bit. When my tummy started rumbling. I got a great idea for breakfast.

Almond French Toast
Serves 2

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 banana, sliced (for topping)
  • 1 handful slivered almonds (for topping)
  • Pure maple syrup (for topping)
Whisk the eggs, milk, extract, and spices in a square or round baking dish. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large pan. One at a time, dip the bread slices into the egg mixture and place in the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. To assemble, layer the cooked toast and top with bananas, almonds, and syrup. I also added another dash of cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

This breakfast really hit the spot on a rainy Sunday morning. I wish Terry had been home to enjoy it with me, but he'll be home tonight for a new Sunday recipe! I have some leftover salad from yesterday plus a butternut squash, so we'll see what I come up with. 

Meanwhile, a lot of folks have asked what I plan to do during my Thanksgiving break. Since I am taking today to be super lazy, here's the plan for the rest of the week:
  • Create some Christmas gifts that I have planned for family
  • Grade some papers
  • Read a book (right now I'm reading Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin)
  • Book our hotels and transportation for our European Christmas
  • Try a few new recipes
  • Work out, of course :-)
  • Order our first Christmas cards, which Terry is designing
  • Decorate for Christmas
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving Day with Terry's family
  • Celebrate Thanksgiving with friends next Sunday - our first "Friendsgiving"!
Can you tell I'm a little excited to have a week off?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Buy a Turkey, Get a Free Bag

Did you know that Whole Foods gives you a free bag if you buy a turkey?

Scout was thrilled!

Who, me?

To start the day, I got in a little yoga session. I used my OnDemand to do "Dynamic Yoga", which was exactly what I needed. 35 minutes of cardio/strength and 10 full minutes of stretching. It felt awesome. Then we tried a new breakfast recipe. Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers always talks about her overnight oats, and I finally tried some today. You can find Julie's original recipe here (overnight oats). I combined the following last night:

  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (crunchy) peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
Then this morning I added sliced bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Terry took some on his way to work, but I enjoyed mine after a lovely round of yoga. We both agreed that we loved the flavor of this breakfast, but we both had a tough time getting past the texture. I think I thought the oats would soften more, but they still seemed raw to me, and Terry agreed. We also agreed that the best bites were the ones with banana. We'll definitely try this recipe again with some variations, but it was great to get so many different healthy foods in during one meal - yogurt + oats + bananas. Yum!

Great flavor, weird texture.

Looking forward to trying this recipe again!

After breakfast, I showered and raced out to Whole Foods to collect ingredients for today's tailgate. I baked cornbread (recipe from Lisa's blog) and threw together a salad. My amazing mom helped me out with a new salad recipe that was a bit hit - thanks Mom! 

We made cornbread because our friend Katie brought a delicious turkey chili to share. It was amazing! She added zucchini and yellow squash to her chili, and now I’m super excited to do the same when Terry makes his awesome chili next time. The cornbread paired perfectly with the chili, and I loved that Lisa’s recipe calls for whole kernels of corn!

Homemade cornbread
Mom’s salad gave us some great veggies for the day. It’s more of a summer salad, but it still worked on a chilly (“chili”? Get it?!) day.

Mom’s Poppyseed Salad
Makes about one cup
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseeds
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • Slivered almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcester sauce 
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup oil
Combine the poppyseeds, sugar, onion, and almonds. Whisk in the Worcester sauce and apple cider vinegar. Then slowly whisk in the oil. 

Serves 2
  • 1/4 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons poppyseed dressing (above)
Toss all ingredients together. Serve immediately.

I love the colors in this salad!

Heidi finished off our tailgate with some super cranberry white chocolate chip cookies. Oh, yum. I think I ate four. Delicious!

And thus ends our home football games for the season. Luckily, getting together for this tailgate helped us decide that we want to do a little friends' Thanksgiving celebration next weekend! I'm providing the turkey and stuffing because I bought a turkey today and immediately realized that Terry and I can't finish that thing. So we all agreed to celebrate together and enjoy a second (or, for Katie and her husband Corey, fourth) Thanksgiving meal!