recipe: taco skillet

Not a gourmet meal or a stretch by any means, but I spotted this recipe while flipping though the latest issue of Cooking Light and figured - inexpensive and quick...why not? It cooked up in less than the stated 20 minutes and was pretty tasty, with a few of my own additions/changes (in italics). DH really liked it and asked for a repeat. I think it could still use a few more things to spice it up and add more color so, I'll try them next time I work this in the rotation. Beef Taco Skillet
(adapted from a Campbell's recipe)

1 lb. ground beef (I used lean ground turkey)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 can Campbell's tomato soup (I used Healthy Request)
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup water
6 flour tortillas (6"), cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
steamed brown rice

1. Cook beef (or turkey) in a 10" skillet until well browned, stirring to break up meat. While cooking, add garlic, chili powder and hot sauce to flavor through. Pour off fat.

2. Stir in soup, salsa, water and tortilla pieces. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Top with cheese and allow to melt. Serve over brown rice and add a dollop of sour cream to each serving. Yield: 4 servings.

(* Next time, I plan to saute a diced onion and green pepper before adding the meat to brown and will also add another 1/2 tsp. hot sauce along with the soup, etc.)


favorite things...

We live in condo and the kitchen is, well, small. The main living spaces are open floor plan, which gives the illusion of more square footage. The kitchen appliances are well laid out and, between the available counter space and the occasional use of our dining table, I do generally have plenty of room to prep and cook. DH bought this condo about a year before we met and completely furnished and decorated it on his own.

When we merged homes last year and I moved in we had conversations about the addition of some of my belongings and the subtraction of some of his. One of the major points of conversation was over dishes. He thought his $10 special dishes were just fine and saw no reason to oust them in favor of the FiestaWare I had started collecting (and planned on adding to).

Let's face it. On certain issues, there really is no compromise:
Over the past several days, NY has experienced an early taste of summer. Weather in the 90's had all of the local dogwoods prematurely busting into bloom. I snapped this shot on our walk up to the library book sale on Sunday. Aren't they beautiful?
I generally use my camera far less during our long winter months, other than for holidays and other indoor occasions. It felt good to have the strap around my neck again and my shutter clicking away. Good practice for what's to come next month ;-)


recipe: warm balsamic potato salad

I've been searching for new side dish recipes that are easy and more flavorful than the usual steamed brown rice or baked potatoes. While visiting my parents this past weekend, my mom mentioned that she had picked up a new cookbook so, I flipped through and picked out this recipe. It was the perfect accompaniment for our grilled steak and portabello mushroom caps last night. Super fast, easy and packed with a ton of flavor. While cleaning the dishes, DH was already asking me to make it again sometime - now that's a stamp of approval!
Warm Balsamic Potato Salad
(Cooking Light, Fresh Food Fast)

1 pound mixed baby potatoes (such as fingerling, purple and red), cut into wedges
1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup light balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup chopped bottled roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (*I used 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese

1. Place potato wedges in a large microwave-safe bowl; add 1 tablespoon water. Cover with plastic wrap, vent (do not allow plastic wrap to touch food). Microwave on HIGH 7 minutes, or until tender; drain.

2. Stir in vinaigrette, bell pepper and basil. Top each serving with cheese.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size about 3/4 cup potatoes and 1 teaspoon cheese)
Cal 131, Fat 4g, Protein 3.7g, Fiber 2g


menu monday...

Figured I'd post each menu here, so that I have a record, and just update the sidebar with the latest. Good? Here goes:

4.27 - Grilled Steak and Portabello Mushroom caps, Warm Balsamic Potato Salad, salad
4.28 - (dinner at my in-law's)
4.29 - Grilled Pork Chops, Steamed Veggies, leftover potato salad
4.30 - (out to dinner)
5.1 - Taco Skillet, Steamed Brown Rice
5.2 - Shrimp Stir Fry, leftover rice
5.3 - Peach Mango Salsa Chicken, Steamed Veggies

I've committed to trying at least one new recipe each week and there are two above. Once I upload photos, I'll post the recipes and our reviews.


when shopping goes well...

Approaching the departure date for our Greek honeymoon - three weeks from today! - has created the need to shop. Summer skirts, tops, light dresses and, of course, bathing suits. I'm leaving the latter until the (very) last moment possible but, the clothing search started this week. On Thursday, a friend took me to her new favorite bargain mecca, Nordstom Rack. If you have one of these slices of retail heaven anywhere near you, run to the store and be amazed:

I saw. I shopped. I believed.

I walked out with two dresses that will pack well, keep me cool and can be dressed up or down (plum and black) and a lightweight, short-sleeved cardgian (lilac) that I may end up wearing on the plane.

On Friday night, while upstate visiting my parents, my mom and I took a run to the local Target. Apparently I had forgotten to pack appropriate shoes for the baby shower we attended on Saturday and, Target was the fastest solution and one that was open late. Found these green gems:
Then, browsed the sale racks and came up with this fabulous top (in both black and grey) - cute, flattering AND on clearance! If I end up finding it in teal, I may just grab that one, too:
Finally, this black cotton skirt that was out of stock in my home store.
Just need a bunch of lightweight tees I think I'll be all set. As for bathing suits, I have some very specific needs: underwire, no halters and not too skimpy. Feel free to send any shopping suggestions my way!


it's an uphill climb but, i keep trekking...

About four years ago, I decided to take charge of my health and my lifestyle. I was about to be 30 and I had let my body go...badly. Uncomfortable in my clothes, unhappy with the mirror and seriously in need of a change. Enter Weight Watchers. It's a great plan. If you follow it, it works. Period. In about 9 months, I lost 50 pounds and hadn't felt better in years. I was at my goal weight for months and was thrilled. Then, I got over confident. I started introducing trigger foods back into my diet without counting anything or acknowledging that they could sabotage my good efforts.

It's not terribly bleak but, in the past year or so, I've been 10-15 pounds over my goal weight. And, more than that, just not in good shape at all and definitely not fitting in the cuter clothes in my closet. It's been gnawing at me and so, I'm making changes. Not counting points but, being much more cognizant of what I am putting in my mouth and making an effort to move more.

Even though I'm trying to stay away from a lot of artificial sweeteners, this yogurt is SO delicious - Yoplait Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake: And, this pedometer now rests in my pocket (I couldn't find the cute and oh-so-me green one in the store so picture it in blue) counting my steps each day. I'm trying for the 10,000 recommended. Yesterday, I measured my baseline and fell way short at about 3,700. Um, yeah. I didn't think I was THAT sedentary. Swift kick, meet my rear.
As part of a knottie challenge with the other Feb 2009 newlyweds, I'll be tracking and recording my steps each day. Anyone know of a web-based app to track something like this? A spreadsheet would be great but, I want to be able to access it from anywhere. Twittering my end of days numbers might be the solution until I find something better.

-----> Check out the new feature that I'm trying out on my sidebar - meal planning for the week. I'm hoping that doing this will help lessen trips to the grocery store, save money and alleviate the dreaded last minute "What am I going to cook?" panic that inevitably happens for me at about 4:45 pm each day. I welcome any and all suggestions and tips from those experienced in this practice.


Why not get yourself a reusable lunch bag made out of recycled plastic, compliments of Whole Foods??? Print your coupon here: http://media.oprah.com/sterm/whole-foods-coupon.pdf


recipe: disguise your veggies!

This was another home-baked favorite growing up. Zucchini is plentiful (and economical!) all year round and shredding it for this recipe delivers a moist and delicious bread. While it may seem odd to add a vegetable to a sweet bread, zucchini has very little flavor on it's own. If you prefer not to see any green in your bread, simply peel the veggies before shredding and no one will ever be able to guess the "secret" ingredient.

Favorite Zucchini Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

2 c. shredded zucchini
2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 - 1/2 c. raisins, to taste

In mixer, combine all ingredients until well blended. Divide batter evenly between two greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 for 1 hour, 10 minutes (or until a cake tester comes out clean). Cool in pans for 1 hour, before removing and transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Add-in variations: Chocolate chips and craisins are also delicious added to this bread.


PSA: 1 month from today...

I will be packing our suitcases, checking lists, checking and re-checking that we have our documents, purchasing traveler's checks and jumping up and down with excitement that we will be leaving for Greece the very next day. A few thoughts are racing though my mind as we get closer:
  • DH and I have never traveled together (more than a couple hour road trip). We do well together in the car and I'm hoping that my being a patient traveler and happy flyer extends to him as well
  • He hasn't had a real vacation in 2 years, I haven't had one in 3 years. We are long overdue
  • Need to checkout my Amazon.com order that contains my travel guide.
  • Thoughts are buzzing in my head about how fabulous this will be but, I'm also wondering if it will truly be a vacation with SO much family around and not knowing the language.
  • Looking forward to using that delicious green and teal leather document portfolio that I scored for next to nothing at ATL last fall
  • All that Easter candy and snacking has me terrified of getting in a bathing suit. Add to that just how white I am
  • Wondering how many books I should pack (I read at least one full book each way on internat'l flights). Grateful that the local library is having their annual book sale in two weeks so that I can gather a pile for pennies
  • Hoping that, unlike my trips back and forth from Israel last June, that the airplanes have decent ventilation and air conditioning
  • Daydreaming about the beach tavernas, walking among the ruins, soaking up the culture.
  • Excited to stand in the family home that I've seen in dozens of photos
  • Needing a couple more suitcases, bathing suits and a LOT of summer clothes.
  • Thrilled that I'll have three straight weeks of nothing but bare feet and flip-flops


wedding re-cap part 2: bridal portraits...

In the hotel suite... I absolutely loved my bouquet - green, green and more green with just a hint of white and sparkle:
In the hotel lobby, just before walking out the door to the church...
At our venue...
I remember looking up at my brand-new husband here and love that this moment was captured:

All credits to our amazing photographers, RendezvousWedding

wedding re-cap part 1: getting ready...

Getting ready in the suite at our hotel, after returning from the hair salon. The girls and I were just down the hall from my groom and his guys:

Make-up by Christine. She was so cool under all of the flash bulbs... My sister brought in gifts and an amazing letter from my wonderfully romantic groom. I think this was her first glimpse of me with my make-up finished and looking much more like a bride:After the tears of joy over his love letter, I opened some sparkles...
Getting zipped into a 20 pound dress is NOT a one person job:
My two oldest godchildren (twins) were flower girl and junior usher. They were SO excited to be a part of the wedding and did incredibly well the whole day:
My garter, earrings and bracelet were all afterthoughts - half of my bridals were taken without them! Luckily, I remembered just before we had to walk out the door to get to the church on time...
Grandma - I was so thrilled that she could be with me:
The beautiful ladies...
Dad, Sister (and MOH), Mom and one completely adorable and petulant nephew:

There was so much love and laughter (and so many photographers!) in that suite amid the bustle of activity. I don't recall any moments of stress and the time seemed to just float by. There is a vague memory of Chris, our lead photographer, telling me it was time to get in my dress. Yeah. I HAD typed up a well-organized timeline so that we could all be on time. Too bad I never printed it out! In the end, we were right on schedule and arrived to the church with several minutes to spare.
All credits to our amazing photographers, RendezvousWedding

in 36 days...

I will be sitting on this beach in Kiato, Greece. Sipping a Greek coffee, eating fresh grilled octopus and watching the surf. This honeymoon has been planned for so long that I can't quite belive we're almost there. DH told me that I wouldn't want to travel around the country much after getting a taste of the beaches in his hometown. Looking at this picture, I can imagine that he may just be right (but, don't tell him that!).


just a little note...

I was a DIY single, a DIY bride and might as well continue on in the same tradition...

While I'm still diligently working on our wedding thank you notes, I decided to share the design process. I knew that I wanted something simple, modern-classic and personalized. With many bookmarked paper sites to choose from, I started my net search and narrowed down my favorites. Something about this design (weddingpaperdivas.com) stuck and I decided these were the perfect cards for us - except for the minor issue of cost. $112 for the quantity I would need (and that would be cutting it close). Plus, the additional complication that the size of wedding photograph we are including wouldn't fit into these small notes.

So, what's a DIY girl to do?

Imitate, of course! The most important elements of this card for me were the swirl frame and the spaced out personalization line. The font hunt was on...

As luck would have it, my blog stalking through Google Reader paid off and the iDIY site came through for me in a big way with the perfect free font linked up in one of their posts. Way more intricate than the original but, beautiful and, somehow, even better. My good old friend, PowerPoint helped me out yet again and in minutes our cards were designed.

Then, the size was increased. I printed out a couple of craft store coupons and purchased 100 blank ecru note cards (6.6"w x 5"h, after folding) for $12.00. Ahem...I believe that would be about 10% of the original card cost, correct? Perfect size for a substantial note and the photograph.

And there you have it, our wedding thank you notes: Frame flourish font: Aridi Calligraphia Flourish 2 (letter "Y")
"Thank you" font: English
Personalization font: Book Antiqua (one space between each character, two between words)


maybe it was an april fool's joke after all...

Remember that one about the photos being ready? I finally got the call just before 6:00 last night. Our long-awaited wedding proofs have been printed and placed in an archival box, burned to disk and put in a pretty little leather case embellished with a couple of the photogs favorite shots.

Or, at least, this is how I envision the finished product.

That sits in my photogs studio.

All. weekend. long.

Our photographer is in high demand (that's a good thing, right?) and is out shooting weddings all weekend which means, no time to meet us at the studio for the hand off. Bummed. Luckily, my office is closing at 1:00 pm on Wednesday so...guess where I'm headed as soon as the (proverbial) whistle blows???

Meanwhile, I am perfectly content having a super-lazy-do-whatever-we-want-or-nothing-at-all day with my darling husband! So far that has consisted of Wii MarioKart, a grocery trip, lunch at a local Greek restaurant, reading books and magazines and watching movies on t.v. Not a bad Saturday at all!

And finally, a share...one of the layouts that I completed at my scrapbook event last weekend:


and the photographer said...


The proofs of our wedding photos are being printed as I type and will be ready to pick up by the end of this week!!!

Sweet anticipation.

Grateful relief.

Apparently it took the studio much longer than they expected due to the amount of prints (this gets me giddy!) and, likely, due to the third photographer we had covering the whole 12 hours. The video is being edited now, we just need to get them 5 slow and 5 upbeat songs to incorporate.

April 1st is shaping up to be a very happy day :-)
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