March 9th, 2014
March 8th, 2014
Remember grocery store story #1 from a couple of weeks ago? Well, here’s my second installment!
In an effort to improve my diet this year I’ve been doing my best to avoid buying unhealthy foods when I’m at the store. And despite my ridiculously overdeveloped sweet tooth, it’s actually been working! After a few weeks of healthy purchases it’s become a game of sorts to see if I can walk out of the grocery store or Target or drug store without any sort of junk food. Sometimes this is easy, namely when I’m shopping right after a meal (like my trip to Trader Joe’s tonight after dinner), but often it is extremely difficult. If I’m hungry or tired or stressed my willpower is put to the test. I don’t know why my brain tells me that bingeing on M&Ms or Swiss Cake Rolls or Cadbury Crème Eggs will make me feel better when I’m upset, but it does. Not giving in to my fairly constant craving for snacks loaded with sugar is hard, but now that I’m in the habit it’s getting easier. Like this morning when I went to the grocery store to stock up on some items. I really, really wanted some sort of Little Debbie product. The urge to buy some Oatmeal Cream Pies was very strong, and a box of them even found its way into my basket at one point, but they didn’t make it home with me. I didn’t want to throw all of my recent progress out the window. Instead I got oranges, apples, bananas, frozen raspberries, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and oatmeal. All good things, especially if you ignore the 5 lb bag of sugar and 1 lb of bacon I bought for some baking projects later this week. I felt great taking that bag of groceries home! It was like a “no junk food” high. I just have to remember that feeling every time I buy groceries. Healthy = happy!
March 7th, 2014
I’ve never been a big fan of carrots. I’ll eat raw carrots in a salad, but I don’t choose raw carrot sticks as a snack or anything. And cooked carrots have always been really unappealing to me. With a few exceptions (I had some glazed carrots at Lucques in West Hollywood once that I couldn’t stop eating) I’m afraid I’ve always just had mushy, boiled or steamed carrots. Yuck. But I wasn’t ready to give up on carrots yet. When I was in Tallahassee at Christmas I tried a couple of new vegetable side dish recipes and one of them was these roasted baby carrots. Holy cow, they are amazing! I couldn’t get enough of these simple, yet unbelievably delicious carrots. Even if you don’t like carrots, especially if you don’t like them, please give roasted carrots a try. They don’t taste the same as with any other preparation. I couldn’t believe how much I loved them. I will be making these often.
2 c baby carrots
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Throw the carrots into a bowl, drizzle with melted butter and olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. I used my hands to make sure everything mixed well. Spread the carrots onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 deg for about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the carrots are tender. Enjoy!
Based on Cooking Light’s Butter-Roasted Carrots.
March 6th, 2014
Have you ever been really hungry but you can’t decide what you want to eat? Apparently this phenomenon doesn’t happen to everyone (according to the person I mentioned it to), but I find myself in this situation a lot. My stomach is growling, but nothing really sounds good. This is especially annoying on the weekends when I have the freedom to go anywhere for lunch or dinner, but despite the endless possibilities I can’t seem to pick anything. I was talking to one of my co-workers about it a while back and he gave a name to this affliction – food apathy. Hearing that phrase was like getting a diagnosis of a chronic disease. It finally made sense! Labeling it doesn’t make me any more decisive about my meals (curses!), but at least I know what to call it when it happens. The story that follows is actually the opposite of food apathy, but without the previous explanation there’d be no context for sharing it.
Yesterday I had a craving for tomato soup. No food apathy for a change! Rejoice! I should have driven to Panera or Corner Bakery after work, gotten myself a nice steaming bowl of tomato soup, and called it a night. But of course I didn’t do that. That would make too much sense! You see, I’ve been doing a pretty good job of eating healthy and staying away from junk food so you’d think I’d happily indulge a craving for something sensible like tomato soup. But I was lazy and had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios for dinner instead. Why didn’t I get tomato soup when I was craving it? How silly. Luckily it’s almost the weekend so I will have plenty of chances to get some tomato soup soon. Assuming I still want it.
March 5th, 2014
March 4th, 2014
I’m finally following up after part 1 from last month!
“The Walking Dead” – There is so much hype surrounding this show that I figured I had to give it a try. So for a couple of weeks I spent my evenings and weekends binge watching seasons 1-3 on Netflix. In an attempt to catch up before new episodes started airing I even recorded all of season 4, part 1 when AMC ran a marathon. But I never actually watched those episodes. I didn’t really like the show. I tried to care about what happened to the characters, but I just didn’t. So I gave up. More free time for me, at least!
“Agents of SHIELD” – Since I’m such a huge Avengers fan I had to watch this show when it premiered this fall. I can’t say it began that strong, but it’s starting to grow on me. The character development is beginning to take off (as it should after the season is more than half over) and I’ve been enjoying the recent episodes quite a bit. I’m not sure how bright the future looks for this show since I read something about it potentially being cancelled, but I hope it gets renewed for a second season.
“Elementary” – The other Sherlock Holmes show on television these days. As much as I love the BBC show, I really like this one as well. Johnny Lee Miller is excellent as Sherlock in this incarnation (he’s no Benedict Cumberbatch, but who is?) and I absolutely love Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson. She’s a fantastic character. And speaking of women in Sherlock Holmes, making Moriarty and Irene Adler the same person was absolutely brilliant. I kind of saw it coming, but that didn’t make it any less entertaining. This show is a definite keeper.
“Archer” – This FX animated series is unbelievably crude (but not in a “South Park” way, thank goodness), but still so funny. With a drunk and incompetent secret agent as a protagonist, it’s probably one of the most ridiculous things you could watch on television. It’s not the geeky fare that I usually gravitate to, but one of the episodes recently had both a Doctor Who joke (Archer referred to pounds as “Doctor Who money”) and a Lord of the Rings joke (a mithril reference) so the nerd in me was satisfied.
“Once Upon A Time” – This first season of this fairytale-meets-the-real-world show was amazing. Unfortunately the second season slipped a bit (too many characters and complicated storylines), and at this point I think it’s safe to say that the first half of season 3 jumped the shark (even more characters and more complicated storylines). It’s pretty bad. But when I’ve gotten this invested in a TV show I just can’t stop watching. The mid-season finale had a pretty dramatic conclusion so I can only hope that the new episodes starting this weekend will be worth watching. I guess I’ll find out!
March 3rd, 2014
I collect lots of things – Disney pins, cookbooks, Gator apparel, and running shoes (unintentionally, but still) to name a few. I’m not a serious collector of anything in particular, but over the years I’ve found myself in possession of quite a number of Disney Vinylmations. If you’re not familiar, they’re Mickey Mouse-shaped figurines in different sizes that are decorated to look like other characters or themes or patterns. Most of the dozens of Vinylmation series are sold in sealed packages so you don’t know what’s in each box until you buy and open them. This adds an element of gambling to picking out souvenirs that practically forced me to purchase way too many Vinylmations over the years. Luckily I’ve been able to avoid those tempting little boxes (they seem to shout, “Pick me, pick me!”) when I’ve been at Disneyland recently. I’ve discovered that it’s much easier to figure out exactly which ones you want and buy them from someone on eBay. You might pay more, but there’s a lovely certainty you what you’re getting. Much more sensible. So on Saturday when I found my stash of Vinylmations in a closet, I decided it was time to get rid of the ones I don’t really want. There are a few that I love and don’t want to part with (like the Swedish Chef), but most of my collection needs to go. So yesterday I photographed all of my superfluous Vinylmations (this took a while) and started the process of attempting to sell them on eBay. The first one I listed was the Obi Wan Kenobi Ghost from Star Wars Series 1, as seen in the above photo. It’s actually a “chaser,” which is a mystery design in each series that’s much rarer than the other figurines. The first Star Wars Vinylmation series actually had two chasers, and the Obi Wan Ghost was actually the much scarcer version. Imagine my surprise when I tore open one of the blind boxes that I bought back in 2011 and pulled out an item potentially worth hundreds of dollars! So after a little research I listed it at $100 on eBay (about $50 cheaper than anyone else was asking it for – I could have been greedy, but I just wanted the Jedi ghost to sell) and crossed my fingers. When I woke up this morning there was an email in my inbox that someone had bought it. It seriously sold in less than twenty-four hours. How about that? I don’t expect to have the same luck selling the rest of my Vinylmations, but I’ll give it a shot!
March 2nd, 2014
“Philomena” (seen on 12/14)
“Saving Mr. Banks” (seen on 12/25)
“Frozen” (seen on 12/26)
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (seen on 12/29)
“American Hustle” (seen on 1/11)
“Gravity” (seen on 1/12)
“Dallas Buyers Club” (seen on 1/18)
“Blue Jasmine” (seen on 1/25)
“Her” (seen on 2/8)
“Captain Phillips” (seen on 2/9)
“Nebraska” (seen on 3/1)
“12 Years A Slave” (TBD) – BEST PICTURE WINNER
I usually spent the Academy Award telecast writing a webpage post, but this year I just wasted an obscene number of hours on the internet rather than writing. I was actually pretty lazy the whole weekend, but watching the Oscars gave me an excuse to sit on the couch and accomplish absolutely nothing. I ended the weekend with a whimper, that’s for sure. And tomorrow I have to go back to work for the first time in a week. With the surgery I haven’t exactly enjoyed my time off so getting back to a normal schedule will be a relief, but I’m dreading the backlog of work when I get there in the morning. Plus I stayed up way too late watching the Oscars and didn’t start getting ready for bed until it was over. I can’t believe I didn’t get around to seeing “12 Years A Slave” yet. As of last night I’d seen 7 of 9 Best Picture nominees, and one of the other two won the Oscar. I need to make seeing the winner a priority next weekend. But for now it’s time for me to get some sleep. Monday morning is going to be here before I know it.
March 1st, 2014
My parents flew into Los Angeles (the Orange County airport, actually) last Saturday morning and I picked them up around lunchtime. I already wrote about how we spent the rest of that day, but I’ve been too lazy to write about much else. My dad’s birthday was Sunday so I had something special planned. I got us tickets to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu which is replica of a villa in Pompeii that was destroyed when Vesuvius erupted. The house and gardens are very elaborate, and it’s also a museum that houses mostly Greek and Roman art and artifacts. It’s a spectacularly beautiful place. I’ve been wanting to go there for a long time so I was really glad that we went before my surgery. And I think both of my parents enjoyed it too. We had lunch there before leaving and it was very delicious. My cauliflower and lentil soup and green salad was wonderful. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised since I’ve had some excellent meals at museums. After lunch we drove back to my apartment so I could whip up an orange cake with cream cheese frosting for my dad’s birthday at his request. Actually, I made the frosting later in the evening, but when I made the cake I set out the cream cheese and butter to soften for a few hours. I have to admit that I doctored up a cake mix with orange juice and orange zest rather than making something from scratch, but I didn’t want to risk a poor outcome. A dry or tasteless cake would have been such a shame for my dad’s birthday. Before dinner the three of us went over to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands so my dad could do some photography around sunset and my mom and I could take a walk. It’s such a nice place and I can’t believe I’d never been there before! And getting a little exercise before dinner was a plus. Since it was my dad’s birthday he got to choose the restaurant for dinner. He mulled a couple of options, including In-N-Out, but he ultimately selected California Pizza Kitchen. We split a salad between the three of us and then each ordered our own pizza. Of course none of us could eat more than half because there was so much food, but that meant leftovers for later in the week. All in all, it was a very nice day and I think my dad enjoyed his birthday. Monday wasn’t very exciting since I had to work and then go to bed early in preparation for my surgery, but we did have a nice dinner at Café Lafayette on Main Street in Seal Beach. I was very glad that I had a good couple of days with my parents before my surgery!
February 28th, 2014
I made coconut oil chocolate chip cookies in my 15th chocolate chip cookie variation, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. So a couple of weeks ago I gave it another shot, using my perfect chocolate chip cookie bar recipe as a base. But it took two attempts to get these right. The first batch turned out really oily. I wasn’t sure whether too much coconut oil or too little flour was the culprit, so I slightly tweaked both ingredients the next weekend when I made some more. And I think I hit the jackpot! These cookies are chewy, chocolately, and delicious. You wouldn’t know they were made with coconut oil in place of butter unless someone told you because the coconut flavor isn’t obvious. I’m tempted to add some toasted shredded coconut to these next time (and maybe even some coconut extract for triple the coconut). So if you’re looking for a healthier cookie variety that still tastes like a classic chocolate chip cookie, this is a good place to start!
Scant 1/2 c coconut oil (6-7 Tbsp or so)
1 c light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c milk chocolate chips
Place the coconut oil in a large bowl. If necessary microwave the coconut oil for 10-15 seconds until it’s the consistency of softened butter. My apartment is cold so this step is definitely required. Add the sugar to the bowl and cream together with the coconut oil. I used a wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease to do this, but I suspect an electric mixer would do a better job. Add the egg and vanilla and beat/stir until combined. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour and stir until almost combined. Fold in the chocolate chips which should help incorporate the rest of the flour. Press the dough into an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. This makes of easy removal from the pan when the cookies are cool and less dishes to wash later. Bake at 350 deg F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!