Thursday, March 5, 2015

cookies are my life

we're finally winding down on our first season of girl scout cookie sales.  it's been interesting,  it's been a pain in the ass, it's been eye-opening, but most of all it's been fun.  watching the girls interact with the public at our booths has been really entertaining.  like the little poses one of them would strike when she saw someone approaching us last week:

she was cracking me up.  and she brought over quite a few amused buyers, because who can resist a sweet little girl with a smile and a pose?  well, actually, a lot of people did.  and every time she got ignored or told "no," she would turn around and give me this funny little disappointed smirk and i'd just give her the thumbs-up and tell her that she was doing an awesome job.

the bean was fun for me to watch too.  she was always willing to put on one of the cookie costumes (although we had to take them off halfway through as we sold out of both flavors they represented) and ask every person who walked by if they wanted to buy some cookies.  when they declined, she would just say "thank you anyway, i hope you have a great day!"  a couple of those actually ended up coming back after doing their shopping and bought a box.  kill 'em with works.

i think maybe she's finally getting tired of taking selfies with her mother.  le sigh.

i signed up for a second shift at the local cookie cupboard.  it seemed like they were having some difficulty in getting enough people to come in, and since it's the last week i thought it might be busy with people trying to get that final push on sales for their troops.  plus, it's fun to meet other troop leaders, hear their stories, and not to mention stay on the good side of our service unit manager.  i'm such a kiss ass, i know.

while the cupboard wasn't exactly bare, the amount of cases was definitely dwindling down.  it was easy to see which flavors were harder to push than others.  like the trefoils, which surprised me.  i thought shortbread was one of the favorites.  that's one of the classics, and yet the stack of remaining boxes was taller than me.

this year's newest flavor, the "rah rah raisin," wasn't faring so well either.  i suppose an oatmeal cookie with raisins and greek yogurt chips isn't as fun as something covered in chocolate.

and the gluten-free flavor, the "toffeetastic," should be renamed the "craptastic."  i've heard mixed reviews on these - some people think they're delicious, others said it was dry and flavorless.  different strokes for different folks, i know, but i'm willing to bet that the $6 price tag on these is what puts people off the most.

the bestsellers were still in decent supply too.  this is what's left of the samoas and tagalongs, and with final booth sales going on this weekend i'm sure there won't be a ton of these left over.

see the space between the stacks of cookies?  that's where the thin mints used to be.  for some reason, they went like crazy this year and cupboards all over the country completely sold out of them a week and a half before the end of the sale.

i was amazed to hear that other troops booked tons and tons of booths for their girls - weekends and weekdays alike.  one of the leaders i was working with at the cupboard said that they did 19 booths altogether.  holy crap.  made our paltry 3 bookings seem like child's play.  and yet i found myself just exhausted after each one.  maybe that's just old age.

our final booth is this saturday in front of a local grocery store in the northern part of town.  it's a fairly busy shopping plaza, and we'll be armed with a decent number of cookies and signs telling people that it's their last chance before the end of the sale.  i'm hopeful that we'll sell out, which would be awesome.

and then i can get back to my regular life of cookies.  i can't wait.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

one trick pony

that would be me.  food posts all the time, it seems.  although i suppose it's kind of a throwback to a few years ago, during operation downsize.  and as i typed that, i cracked up because that's totally applicable now too...only in a whole different way.  seriously, i'm just so funny sometimes.  but look - last week, i managed to get my ass to barre class FIVE times!

not to mention, the jeans i bought just a couple of months ago are getting pretty loose.  that's quite a yay!/boo., wouldn't you say?

when this recipe for clean muesli bars popped up on my facebook feed, i knew i had to try it.  i mean, part of the post title said "fruit-free."  hell-O.  right up my alley.  and because my kitchen is just full of healthy stuff these days, i had just about all of the ingredients on hand - except for the coconut, because ew, and cardamom, because why?  heh.

the mixture came together easily and baked in my oven in just under half an hour.  the bars sliced nicely and had a great texture, too.  looked just like the recipe photos:

except that when i sampled one, i was...underwhelmed.  it was nice and chewy, kind of like those boxed granola bars that are actually really not very good for you but are super tasty.  but in this case, these are really nutritious and healthy but lack flavor.  it was just like eating a handful of plain nuts and seeds.  i think i'm going to have to experiment with drizzling honey or something on top of them. bummer.

luckily, the other recipes i've tried this week have been winners.  i hopped back onto the quinoa train with a yummy-sounding casserole recipe that involved making another cream of something soup substitute, plus some lovely broccoli and baked chicken.  this was a hit all around:

every other week, my girl scout co-leaders and i meet up to discuss what we're going to do at our next meeting with the girls.  last time, due to sitter issues we thought we'd just include the kids and take them to corner bakery for a kid-friendly dinner.  while it was fun, it was a little more challenging to focus on business and still keep an eye on the kids at the same time.  so this time, with sitter issues again, we decided to do it at the church where we have our usual meetings.  the room we use has plenty of toys and has a connecting door to the nursery, and we knew the girls would be safe and occupied and happy while we had a little quiet-ish time to talk shop.  since the timing was such that it wouldn't get us home before dinner, i decided to make a little happy meal for the bean to munch on.

at school, one of her favorite hot lunch offerings is the chicken burger.  so i'd picked up some ground chicken and put together some little mini sliders to serve in hawaiian rolls.  and because she loves ranch so much, i used this recipe to create my own mix that can be used as seasoning or mixed with some greek yogurt for dressing or dip.

i'm sad to report, however, that my old baby food maker (aka mini food processor) may be out of commission as a result.  after i'd given the spices a whirl in it and poured them into my mason jar, i noticed a pretty sizable crack in the bowl:

i was so bummed.  i pulled up the company's website to see if i could order a replacement, but really only had time to glance quickly to make sure the baby food maker was even still available (it is).  i'll have to investigate it further later.

after the gnocchi experiment last week, i had one lone russet potato sitting on the counter waiting for its turn in the spotlight.  and since a happy meal isn't complete without fries, that time was now.  i peeled and chopped that bad boy up into fry-like shapes, sprayed a little coconut oil on them and popped the pan into the oven.  40 minutes later, we had fries:

lastly, the slider patties went onto my trusty foreman grill, and about six minutes later i had these:

i found a container that was just the right size, and so here's what i served to the bean when we got to the meeting:

she loved it and ate every bite.  as someone said on my facebook page, all i was missing was a toy (she didn't notice this, lucky for me).  although her sister provided that when we got home, with some surprises from the disney store.  haha, yay!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

if it ain't broke, don't fix it

i've been so focused on barre and this challenge that it's all i've been working on lately.  this means that running has fallen by the wayside, with just barely a couple of runs a month happening anymore. eek.  it was only a couple of years ago that i was running all the time, with a race of some sort almost every weekend, training at least two or three times a week.  and with the hollywood half marathon coming up in just over a month, i need to get my ass in gear again.  i can hardly believe it's almost been a year since this:

somehow, i've managed to keep up on my team superhero duties - i still promote their races by wearing my TS shirt, posting pictures, sharing my promo code via social media for registration.  and i guess i did a pretty decent job of this in the month of january, because i received this:

i'm glad i'm still worthy of representing superhero events, despite my lack of running mojo lately.  although i suppose i haven't been that bad race-wise - i squeezed in two races in january and a 5K in february, with at least one 5K scheduled for march.  and yesterday, i finally started training for april's half marathon with a great 3-mile run in the morning.  like, i actually felt great during and after the run, which isn't something i've been able to say for awhile.  i got a taste of that runner's high again, which was nice.

it also helps to have some fun gear, though.  with the switch to the iPhone 6, running with my phone had gotten a little cumbersome as it didn't fit into any of my armbands.  i came across something called the buddy pouch, which is a stupid name for what has turned out to be a really awesome product.  instead of wearing it on my arm, it attaches to my waistband using magnets, and it stays put without bouncing or coming loose in any way.  i really like it, and it fits all sorts of fun stuff besides my phone.

the nike hat is from the women's half i did in 2013.  the little green thing is an interval timer that my friend delovely details picked up for me awhile back.   my fabulous beats by dre headphones come in a cute little case.  the shoes by asics are obnoxiously bright, and those are my most favorite running tights from lululemon.

armed with gear like that, i'm totally ready to jump back into running.  my plan is to do 5 miles tomorrow, and then from now until the half i'll do at least one 3-miler and one longer run that adds one mile every week till i get to 10.  that's how i've trained for a half since my second one back in 2012 (which also happens to have been hollywood), and it seems to work - so i'm sticking to it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

cleaning it up

the more recipes i come across that are super delicious, the easier i'm finding it to eat "clean."  or, at least, "clean-ish."  and if a meal can be done in the crock pot, even better.  like this lemon garlic chicken we tried last week which i served with some sautéed asparagus and mushroom quinoa:

i know, i know - i said i didn't like quinoa before.  and i really didn't, that time.  but it actually turned out pretty delicious, and i was able to work through the texture issues i had the first time i tried the stuff.  i'm gonna say that adding two of my favorite veggies to it helped a lot.  in any case, it was a hit and it'll go into the rotation for future meals.

my next experiment found me breaking out the yeast again, for the first time in a long time.

i followed this recipe for whole wheat pizza dough, and although i had my doubts as i mixed it up, it turned out pretty well.  i threw together the ingredients for a quick pizza sauce, and with the bean supervising, i got to work.

MIL and i shared this one, topped with uncured canadian bacon, mushrooms and asparagus.  the bean enjoyed her own pizza with slices of prosciutto on top.  i served it up with a warm brussels sprouts salad with uncured bacon, and everyone was happy.

with a package of ground turkey just chilling in the fridge, i decided to tackle a recipe for mozzarella-stuffed meatballs.  these came together pretty easily, which was good considering i didn't even start cooking till our usual dinnertime.

i made one change while following the recipe - instead of frying them in a pan, i baked them at 350 for about 25 minutes.  while they were baking, i boiled some water and cooked up a bag of brown rice fusilli and warmed up a jar of organic marinara sauce from trader joe's.  after assembling a bowl of warm, tomatoey goodness, i cut into the first meatball and it was absolutely perfect.

so you're well aware of how much we all love tater tot casserole around here.  except that the main ingredient - cream of mushroom soup - is definitely a big fat NO for this challenge.  i knew that others had done it with a homemade substitution, though, and so after finding an easy recipe, i decided to give it a shot.  as i made the cream, the teen worked on browning another package of ground turkey.  we mixed it all together, topped with some cheddar, peeled and shredded a russet potato for the top, and voila:

still looks like dog food no matter what you do with it, huh?  i don't care.  it was really good!  the bean loved it, and didn't even notice a difference.  while it's still not the healthiest thing in the world, it's not loaded with processed crap and frozen potatoes.  i'm gonna call this one a win.

now, i wouldn't be me if i didn't try a new recipe for a treat.  and when someone posted this recipe for homemade nut butter cups (heh heh, nut butter.  never stops being amusing), i knew i had to try it.  reese's are the teen's most favorite thing in the world, and i wanted to surprise her with something i made with her in mind.

it was pretty easy to make, and i used a mix of cashews and peanuts for the butter.  i'm really starting to like making this stuff, and that cashew butter i made last week is all but gone.  mixed with some raw honey, coconut oil and vanilla extract, it went into a mini muffin tin and then to the freezer to solidify. i wanted the cups to have chocolate on both the bottom and tops, so after about an hour or so, i popped them out to do just that.

this was kind of a bitch.  next time, i'm going to use mini paper liners and save the pan from getting even more scratched up.  but i didn't have any, and so i just worked on pouring some of the chocolate mixture into the bottoms of the cups, replacing the nutty layers, and topping them with more chocolate.  

since i had to use a butter knife to pry them all out when they were done, they all have little dents on one edge.  so while they aren't exactly pretty, i can tell you that they sure are tasty.

despite her disdain for the taste of coconut, the teen gave these two thumbs up.  i'm calling that a big win.

Friday, February 27, 2015

the season is upon us

the birthday party season has begun.

it's weird, because of course someone has a birthday every day, right?  but it seems like the parties that we get invited to come in spurts.  i can't even remember the last one we'd been to before this month, but in the last few weeks alone we've already been to two and have like four more coming up in march.

my friend alyssa, who kicked off the princess dress cookie craze last year, invited us to join the joint birthday celebration for her two adorable daughters.  this year's shindig was at their super cute home down by the beach, and it was a perfectly overcast, cool day.  perfect because their theme was "frozen."  this, of course, meant a visit from the ice queen herself, who sat with the kids immediately upon arrival for storytime:

then she pulled out her arsenal of body paints and drew sparkly designs on everyone's arms.

she was more than happy to pose for pictures.

as was the bean.

a little piñata time rounded out the party.

remember the scooby doo cookies i did last week?  they were for a bowling party celebrating the sixth birthday of one of the bean's little friends.  technically, she's friends with the birthday girl's sister, but they've all been buddies for a long time.  how cute and perfect is her little dress?  she totally looks like she just stepped out of the mystery machine.

the bean loves to go bowling.  she was really into it, and it was fun to watch her get all excited after every throw of the ball.  she was pretty proud of herself for bowling a 106.

inside the party room, i spied some familiar treats all set up with the party favors.

a handful of tokens for the arcade yielded over 100 tickets.  we love watching them get sucked up into the ticket counting machine, because it's cool.  right?

she chose this fabulous new bling, along with a ring pop that went promptly into her mouth.

we've got a break this weekend, and then next weekend we start again with back-to-back parties to attend.  the fun is nonstop around here, people.  non. stop.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

a little slice of YUM

if you know me at all, you'll know that one of the hardest parts of this challenge is finding ways to satisfy my raging sweet tooth.  like, do you have any idea how hard it was to have those dipped pretzels and fresh rice krispy treats around the house when we had that disney side celebration?  it was miserable.  i wanted so badly to just have one - but i know me.  if i gave in and had one, it would turn into "just another one."  and another, and another, and then the dam would burst open and it'd just be open season on the forbidden treats.  that's not great.

so when i found myself looking for something sweet, i'd grab a kind bar.  the caramel and sea salt flavor is really tasty, and most of the time that would satisfy the craving.  or maybe i'd do some greek yogurt with some vanilla almond granola mixed in.  and there's plenty of sweetness in our morning smoothies, too.  so it's not like i haven't gotten my share of sugar.

but at night, after we've had dinner and we're either sitting around watching tv or i'm working on some cookies, i still find myself really wanting a little dessert.  in the past, i'd just go into the pantry and grab some oreos, or some pocky.  maybe a bit of ice cream, or some chocolate.  oh my goodness, the other day i found myself hit with the biggest craving for a candy bar.  specifically, i wanted a cadbury creme egg.  damn.  it's a good thing we didn't have any in the house, or i would have definitely given in.  and although we do still have a stash of leftover treats that i can't seem to bear to toss out, i managed to stay strong and didn't cave.

the challenge facebook board came to my rescue once again.  someone went in there and posted this recipe for something called a chocolate peppermint slice, which sounded pretty darn tasty.  and then as i started poking around the internet for more healthy-ish dessert ideas, i came across a similar recipe, only this one was a chocolate cream caramel bar.  that sounded right up my alley, and like something the rest of the family might enjoy too.

one of the ingredients listed for the caramel filling was cashew butter, and i knew i didn't have any of that lying around.  although during a recent trip to trader joe's, i'd picked up a bag of cashew pieces.  google turned up this tutorial for turning them into butter, and the step-by-step photos were really helpful in making sure i didn't screw it up.  yeah, it sounds easy enough, but you know me and my need for instant gratification - i likely wouldn't have kept the food processor going until the natural oils were released to make the butter smooth and creamy.  i'd have tried to add some sort of oil to it to make it go faster.

and so i turned a bunch of these:

into this.

looks pretty good, huh?  and it's really tasty on my zucchini bread.

so, back to the dessert bars.  to make both the crust and the caramel filling, i needed a whole bunch of these:

i know, i know - you're thinking, "you're gonna eat that?"  and the answer is - yes, sort of.  as with my smoothies, i don't have trouble eating it when it's been pureed and mixed with stuff.  just don't try to make me eat dates (or any other kind of fruit) in their natural state.  ew.  i haven't changed THAT much, people.

another recipe for a similar bar i'd found used macadamia nuts in the crust.  since i love them, i decided to swap them for the almonds that were called for.  other than that, i followed the recipe exactly as written.  i gotta tell you, while the chocolate cream part sounded a little weird - mostly coconut oil mixed with some raw cacao powder and a little sweetener - it smelled and tasted ah-may-zing.  i still had some of that brown rice syrup i'd used in my pumpkin seed bars, and it worked perfectly.

looks pretty good, don't you think?

you guys, i never imagined loving a dessert that's raw, vegan, gluten-free, and jam-packed with fruit and coconut oil.  that's some craziness right there.  but between me, the bean, MIL, and the hub, half of it's already been devoured.  the teen took a bite and wasn't crazy about the coconutty taste, but that's okay.  can't win 'em all, amirite?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi

one of my facebook friends posted a link to a recipe that i thought sounded pretty tasty - homemade gnocchi in a light tomato broth.  with the wonderfully chilly and rainy weather we had a couple of days ago (shut up, east coasters, this is cold for us), i figured it would make a lovely warm meal that would still work with my challenge.

reading through the recipe, i realized that although i had all of the ingredients ready, i didn't have one of the most basic kitchen tools that was required - a box grater.  so between all of the other errands and things i had to accomplish that day, i squeezed in a trip to target to pick one up.  after getting the potatoes baked, i was finally ready to get to work.

when i was done peeling and grating the spuds, i remembered why i'd switched to a food processor.  because box graters suck ass.  i'm lucky to have escaped with my fingers intact.  but at least i was ready for the next step.

as all of this was going on, my tomato broth was happily simmering on the stove and sending out a really lovely aroma that was wafting through the house.

in an attempt to keep the recipe as "clean" as possible, i subbed in whole wheat flour for the all-purpose stuff.  i'm kind of wondering if that's why my gnocchi didn't seem as light and pillowy as it should have been.  in any case, i was rolling right through the recipe and was ready to drop a few pieces in my pot of salted boiling water for a test run.

i was pretty happy when i pulled the gnocchi out and dipped it into the broth for a sample.  the gnocchi was nice and chewy, and the broth was really tasty.  maybe this wasn't so bad after all.  and to pump it up a little, i threw some chicken onto the foreman grill, diced it up and tossed it in.  voila:

i'm really glad i did that, because this was most definitely a light meal.  next time, i'm going to double up on the broth and cook all of the gnocchi instead of freezing half of it for another time.  and there's another side benefit to this recipe for me - the veggies that got strained out of the broth are perfect for tossing in the vitamix for a tasty, savory breakfast juice.

even the teen, who's not a gnocchi fan at all, enjoyed a leftover bowl of this stuff.  i was thinking that i should probably just stick to store-bought gnocchi, but after seeing that she liked it too, maybe i'll give it another shot.  i even found another recipe that i want to try next - ricotta gnocchi.

huh.  i definitely said the word "gnocchi" a lot in this post.
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