Sunday back in LA

I’m back in Los Angeles today and very happy about it. I thought I’d start this end-of-Thanksgiving-weekend post with a photo I took at Bodega Bay yesterday. My brother drove us all north of San Francisco to see some spectacular parts of the California coast there. It was foggy (and really chilly!) when we arrived and I took this picture of some offshore rocks with some little pink flowers on the cliff in the foreground. I have to admit that most of the photos I took at Bodega Bay turned out pretty uninteresting, but I really like this one. And I credit Instagram with helping to bring out the color in the flowers. My dad and brother took some much better pictures so I’ll have to share those sometime. But anyway, the Thanksgiving holiday is coming to a close and I have to go back to work tomorrow. Boo! How can this four-day weekend be over so quickly? I flew back to Long Beach this morning and I got home around 11 AM. I intended to get a lot done before the end of the day, but I didn’t feel too well when I got back to my apartment so besides going to the grocery store I spent most of the afternoon curled up on the couch, watching holiday programs on my DVR – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (loved the preview for the Sound of Music live performance this Thursday!), the Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular (very mediocre, but it had its moments), and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (a classic). Very lazy, but at least I freed up a lot of space on my DVR! I finally felt a bit better around 5 PM so I went for a much-needed run. I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t been running since last Sunday, and I ate like a pig over the holiday. We had Thanksgiving dinner with my brother’s friends and they made some excellent food. I had more than my fair share of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, salad, veggies, and even some mac and cheese. My taste buds loved it, but my waistline is protesting. After not exercising for a week I took it pretty easy while running today so it wasn’t too painful. It’s about time for me to increase my mileage so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Now it’s time for me to go to bed so I can get to work early tomorrow morning. Back to the grind, but only for three weeks and then Christmas will be here! I can’t wait!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #37

Chocolate chip cookies #37: Based on Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Baked on 11/12/13.

Happy Black Friday everyone! I’m in San Francisco with my family and enjoying this beautiful city. I’ll post a picture tomorrow. But today is Foodie Friday so here’s your weekly recipe. Yep, it’s another chocolate chip cookies recipe! It’s been a while since I posted one, and this one is seasonally appropriate with the addition of a couple of tablespoons of molasses. A little bit like gingerbread. (There wasn’t actually any ginger in the recipe I tried, but I’ll bet adding a teaspoon would have been good.) The original recipe called for white sugar in the cookie dough, but I figured the molasses flavor would be much more pronounced if I used brown sugar instead. Just call me a chocolate chip cookie rebel! But I was right. The molasses flavor was definitely pronounced with this substitution. That’s probably why the original recipe used white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I liked these cookies, but the molasses was just a tiny bit too strong for me. But if you are a big fan of molasses I highly recommend that you make these cookies!

Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Right now I’m sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for my parent’s flight to arrive. I flew up from LA this morning, taking an early flight to save some money, so I have a few hours to kill. Two firsts for me today – first time flying Jet Blue and first time flying out of the Long Beach airport. Since I live in northern Orange County the LGB is much more convenient than LAX, and I had heard that it’s much less stressful to fly out of. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get from home to the airport this morning so I really appreciated that. Unfortunately it’s generally more expensive to fly from Long Beach since it’s fairly small (I didn’t realize just how small until today) and not many airlines have flights out of there. Jet Blue definitely has the most, and they had the cheapest flights from LA to San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, so that’s what I chose. A lot of my co-workers loved flying Jet Blue to DC when we were going there once a month so I was excited to give them a try today. Not that you can learn much about an airline on a flight that’s only slightly more than an hour long, but I did enjoy it! The in-seat DirecTV was nice since I get bored easily on planes, and I got to watch part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since the NBC feed was from the East Coast. I still set my DVR to record the parade so I can watch it when I get back home on Sunday. I hate to admit it, but right now going back home, crawling in bed, and watching the parade sounds wonderful. When my alarm went off this morning, two hours before my 7 AM flight, I was so not ready to get up. Someone in Seal Beach threw a raucous party last night and I had a hard time sleeping as a result. But at 5 AM I had to get up, make myself pretty, throw the rest of my stuff into my suitcase, and head to the airport. Included in my “stuff” is four Tupperware containers full of cookies – pretty much the only thing I could make ahead of time and transport in my suitcase to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll write a whole other post about my Thanksgiving baking, but for now I’ll just say that I tried four new chocolate chip cookie recipes this week! They are all really different, and one of them doesn’t actually have any chocolate chips in it, but I’m still wondering if I went a little overboard. Too late to second guess that now! For my dad who is eating low carb these days I made two batches of roasted nuts yesterday – Indian-spiced almonds (my apartment still smelled like curry this morning) and rosemary pecans. I only tried a few of them after they came out of the oven, but I thought they tasted pretty good. I know there will be much better things to eat at dinner tonight, but at least I contributed something.

Thanksgiving week is always a little strange with a holiday in the middle of the week, and this year was no exception. You know how I said I got so much done at work on Tuesday and how Wednesday was going to be even better? Well, I didn’t even make it in to work yesterday. I was so exhausted when I went to bed on Tuesday night that I forgot to set an alarm, so I seriously overslept. By the time I had roused myself I figured it wasn’t worth going to work since I was planning to leave early anyway. Hopefully I didn’t miss anything important! I wish I could say that I used my free time welly yesterday, but I’m afraid I was mostly just lazy. Besides packing my suitcase, roasting the almonds and pecans, and washing some dishes, I sent most of the day bumming around. I definitely haven’t been getting enough sleep recently and that’s been wearing me down. I fell asleep on the couch last night for a couple of hours, and by the time I woke up it was too late for me to go running. I feel like such a slug for not getting any real since Sunday, but I’ve been so tired. For all you ladies out there you’ll understand when I say I blame my hormones. Hopefully I’ll get back into the groove soon. I brought my running shoes with me to San Francisco and I’m planning to make use of the hotel fitness center as much as possible while I’m here. I always eat really well when I’m on vacation so I’ll definitely have to get some running in! This is the time of year that it’s the most difficult to stay in shape. Everyone is busy with holiday preparations which leaves much less time than usual for things like exercise and relaxation. It doesn’t help that I promised my co-workers a cake on Monday. That’s a story for another post, but I should use some of the time I’m just sitting here at the airport to look for a recipe to try. I love free airport wifi! But getting back to the holidays, I am fortunate to have finished almost all of my Christmas shopping already. I have one or two small items I still need to get, but I’ve got a little more than three weeks before I fly to Tallahassee for Christmas. That’s plenty of time to complete my holiday errands and still have time leftover for running. No more excuses!

OK, I think it’s about time for me to go find my suitcase (which has inevitable been taken off the baggage carousel and stashed somewhere for me to hunt for) and make my way to the terminal where my parent’s flight will arrive. Happy Turkey Day, everyone! I hope you all are having a lovely day, eating delicious food, and passing out on the couch afterwards to watch football or the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special or something like that. Since I’m spending the weekend with my family I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write in the next three days, but I’ll do my best to limit photo-only posts. No promises, though! (I guarantee I’ll have at least one picture of food to share. I’m a foodie at heart.) Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving decorations

Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in this country, but as far as decorations go, it doesn’t get as much fanfare as Halloween (which is the first big holiday after July 4th) or Christmas (which is by far the biggest holiday of the year for the majority of us). Most stores go straight from Halloween costumes and candy to Christmas trees and wrapping paper on November 1st (with some overlap on the early end these days, actually). If you look really hard you might be able to find a few shelves with turkey serving platters and paper plates in fall colors, but the retailers put their money on people going straight to the green and red flashing lights of the Christmas section in November. Call me clichĂ©, but I definitely fall into that category of consumer. Every year I get excited when I see the Christmas decorations for the first time. I love putting up a tree and buying presents for the people I love. It’s so much fun. So it should come as no surprise that I own my fair share of Christmas decorations. But in my family you don’t break out those boxes until the weekend after Thanksgiving, so what do I do until then? Well, the photo above shows how my dining table looks right now. Everyone from Florida will recognize the Pilgrim people salt and pepper shakers from Publix. I’ve had them for many years and they’re adorable. Check out this link for the Publix commercial from a few years ago that feature the Pilgrims. Awesome. As for the accordion turkey centerpiece, I added it to my Thanksgiving collection this year. Last month I was looking for tablecloths for the chili cook-off at Walmart and I saw that little guy for only $1.97. Sold! Not that I’m planning to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place anytime soon (my table only seats 4!), but at least I have a few seasonally appropriate items. It won’t be long before it’s time to deck the halls, but until then I’ll enjoy my Thanksgiving decorations.

Sports Authority

Since I can’t seem to find the motivation to write about what I’ve been up to for the last two weeks in Florida I figured I’d tell a little story instead. Today we got the day off after six straight days of work, and it was the first day since I’ve been here that I didn’t have anything planned. Time to drive around and explore the area! I went down south to Melbourne and visited the mall there. It was fairly disappointing, but I did get a pair of yoga pants and some socks for running. (Most of my recent purchases have been for running, now that I think about it! I’ll write another post about running soon.) I’ve been having a lot of trouble with blisters so I’m trying a bunch of new kinds of socks to see if that helps alleviate the problem. Band-aids and tape have helped, but it’s going to take more than that to keep me from getting blisters. The Melbourne mall has a Dick’s Sporting Goods and that’s where I bought the socks I got today, but I also checked out Sports Authority at the Merritt Island mall on my way back to my hotel (before the rain started!) to see if there were any other options available. There weren’t, but I remembered something about Sports Authority when I was a kid. My grandparents moved to the Tampa area in the early 90’s, and just about every year they lived there my family drove down from Tallahassee for Thanksgiving. They lived in Sun City Center, a large retirement community, which wasn’t very interesting for kids, but there were other things to look forward to. Like eating Thanksgiving dinner with family, driving my grandparent’s golf cart, and Black Friday shopping at the nearby outlet malls. Plus, there was one stop that we always made on our way back to Tallahassee. Sports Authority. It was a once-a-year visit that everyone looked forward to. I remember the store was warehouse-sized (although I might be remembering it from a kid’s perspective) and it had everything sports-related you could ever want. Going to Sports Authority was an opportunity to buy new sneakers from their huge selection, pick up some new Speedos for synchronized swimming or summer camp, and generally wander around and look at everything in the huge store. It was lots of fun. Now that I live somewhere that Sports Authority is much more accessible, going there isn’t quite the same magical experience, but I will always remember those childhood visits with my family that wrapped up the Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving dinner 2012

I started writing this post about six months ago, but I haven’t polished it up enough to be ready to publish until now. I never got around to writing about the awesome Thanksgiving I had with my brother in San Francisco, but you can see some of my photos from the trip in my Thanksgiving 2012 Flickr album. I do want to make sure to tell you a little about our actual Thanksgiving dinner. It was AMAZING. Kenneth and I ate at the house his girlfriend Naomi shared with a few friends and I couldn’t believe how much delicious food they served. There were some very talented chefs in that group. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – and I’m not just comparing it to other Thanksgiving dinners! But before we went to dinner we did a lot of food prep at Kenneth’s apartment. I must admit that I got pretty full due to all of the snacking we did during that time, but the dishes Kenneth and Naomi were making were so good I couldn’t help it! Naomi is from NYC so she got her recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Hazelnut, and Pomegranate Seed Salad from the New York Times. See it in the foreground of the photo above? Doesn’t it look great? My mouth is watering just thinking about it. And the roasted Brussel sprouts that Kenneth made (in the background of the photo) were so tasty that I ate them like candy. I never thought I would say that about Brussel sprouts! I’ve got to try making them myself because I don’t mind eating vegetables when they are that delicious. Anyway, see the list below for all of the yummy food I ate on Thanksgiving 2012. Unfortunately I missed dessert because I was so exhausted by the end of the evening that Kenneth walked me back to his place so I could go to bed. I know I missed a scrumptious dessert spread and I’m very sorry about that, but I slept ten hours that night so I definitely needed it!

Eaten at Kenneth’s apartment while cooking
Pomegranate seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted walnuts
Cornbread and cheese
Roasted Brussel sprouts

Appetizers at Naomi’s house
Pumpkin and cheese fondue (made by Naomi)
Pickled okra

Dinner at Naomi’s house
Turkey
Stuffing with dried cranberries
Mushroom gravy
Homemade cranberry sauce
Roasted Brussel sprouts (made by Kenneth)
Cauliflower salad (made by Naomi)
Macaroni and cheese

Cinderella

Here’s another story I’ve been meaning to post for a while. I started writing the week after Thanksgiving so this one is really old!

I recorded the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while I was in San Francisco and I didn’t get a chance to start watching it until a week later. It’s becoming a tradition for me to watch the parade really late! It kinda makes the holiday last a little longer, you know what I mean? But anyway, back to my story. I know I’ve heard some folks complain that the beginning of the broadcast is filled with mini performances from Broadway musicals rather than the parade itself, but that’s my favorite part! I admit that I fast forward through the interviews in between the performances with celebrities who are shamelessly promoting their new TV shows/movies, but who doesn’t? I don’t miss a Broadway performance, though. Musical theater isn’t for everyone, but I happen to love it. This year songs were all fun to watch, but I particular enjoyed the medley from “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” “Ten Minutes Ago” is one of my all-time favorite songs from a musical. It always give me goosebumps. I confess that I own a DVD copy of the movie version of “Cinderella” starring Brandy from 1997, and I’ve also seen the original television version with Julie Andrews from 1957. The music is so lovely. So I was very pleased to discover that the musical has been revived on Broadway while I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If only I could make it to New York to see it!

Chocolate chip cookies #22

Chocolate chip cookies #22: Based on Chef in Training’s Red Velvet Pudding Cookies. Baked on 11/21/12.

It may be a new year, but my search for the best homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe isn’t quite over. The end may be in sight, but I’m not there yet. So today I present red velvet chocolate chip cookies take 2. I didn’t include my first attempt in my tally of tested chocolate chip recipes because I wasn’t sure they qualified (and because they weren’t that great), but the cookies from my second attempt are too delicious not to write about. They are amazing! I made my first batch of red velvet chocolate chip cookies for Halloween, but they were dry and crumbly so I didn’t have high hopes for this second batch. But it turns out that adding a box of instant chocolate pudding mix to the dough makes the cookies soft and extremely tasty. And the red food coloring makes them unique and festive. Of the four kinds of cookies I took to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, these were the hands-down favorite. They disappeared faster than any of the others, which is saying something because the other cookies were really good too. I must admit that I wasn’t all that impressed when I made my first batch of chocolate chip cookies with instant pudding earlier this year, but now that I’ve tried a few recipes I can see how much potential they have. Stay tuned for other chocolate chip cookies with instant pudding mix in the future. Until then, go make these red velvet chocolate chip cookies! You’ll love them!