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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Parchment paper fish and sustainable fishing



I love anything that comes from the sea.  
I can't help it, it's the marine biologist in me. 
  I love all of those cute little critters
 Love. Love love love.  


  

I love to play with them, catch them, learn about them, and hey, even dress like them.  
But I really love to eat them. 


As much as I love all of the various underwater delicacies, I usually can't afford them.  Sometimes I make it to the "dollar-an-oyster-happy-hour"  or splurge on that $20 lobster roll.  A bag of shrimp is $18 at the Big Y, and even with their BOGO promotion, I still have a hard time putting it in the shopping cart.  I love shrimp, but due to the outrageous prices and lack of sustainable fishing, I rarely buy it.

I buy seafood when it is on sale at the store or I will splurge for special occasions.  I try to shop fresh and local at farmers markets, and make sustainable choices when I am at the grocery store.   One thing I can always count on is Swai.  Swai is a farmed river catfish- an herbivorous and sustainable fish.  It is also $9.99 for a packet of three filets. Oh and it's ALWAYS buy one get two free.  Nine fillets of fish for less than $10.
                           


(Information from the Monteray Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Guide)



It is pretty plain in flavor but with some TLC can be turned into a delicious meal.  I like to use Swai when I make parchment paper fish.  Parchment paper fish is a "one pot meal" that packs a lot of flavor in your fish and keeps the fish moist and tender. 

You can try to fold your parchment paper all fancy 
(the idea is to trap all of the steam) 
 or go the lazy route and buy the parchment paper packets
(that is what I do). 

Dice, Season, Stuff. 
 It's that easy.  
Dice up your veggies - I used zucchini, squash, tomato onion, and red peppers.  I seasoned my fish with lemon pepper, salt and garlic powder.  I stuffed my seasoned fish and veggies into the packet with some cilantro, olive oil, sliced lemon and chopped garlic.  

I cooked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the fish was flaky and the veggies tender.  The first few times I made this I followed Chuck's recipe from Chuck's day off.  Now I just wing it and try to find new veggie combinations and flavors. 




There are so many things to love about this dish.  
It is healthy, low carb, colorful, flavorful, and requires little prep and even less clean up.    
Dump contents of bag onto plate and throw the bag in the garbage. 

 It is a beautiful thing.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another pizza fail- deconstructed zucchini pizza


I have been staying on track with my cardio lately and feeling great.  

* Saturday:  3 very hilly miles in Chester with the dog (note:  when finding a new route on a hot day, avoid any street name with the word "hill" in it). 

* Sunday:  Rode all three horses-  One hour each, tacking up, bathing, grooming, it's a workout... trust me. 

* Monday:  2 hours of trail riding-  took the horses to a state forest to enjoy the beautiful weather.  Realized I need to start lifting weights to be able to hold back the beast. 

* Tuesday:  3.12 miles in 3:12  Not our worst run, my legs felt super heavy but atleast the weather has cooled down a little bit. 

After trail riding yesterday, I was hungry and in the mood for pizza.  A long time ago, I decided if I am going to eat pizza... it is going to be the real thing.  Bready crust, cheesy top, and delicious toppings.  Some things are just worth the full calorie version - and this is one of those things.  


But what do you do when you have a hankering for pizza, no pizza dough, and no gas in the car? 

 Improvise.  

I have had my fair share of pizza fails... from raw dough falling through the oven grate  to the "trying-to-be-healthy-cauliflower-crust"  that is a gigantic mess that you cannot get off of the cookie sheet.  There was no way I was failing at the cauliflower crust again,  and baking pizza dough is outside of my skill level, (have I mentioned my baking skills are....bad?) so I decided to try a zucchini crust after seeing  Gina (Fitnessista) do it on her blog.  Zucchini and marinara are a match made in heaven- how hard could this be? 

Pizza  1 of 1
(Gina's "pizza" - looks amazing.... mine looked nothing like this) 

I deviated a little and found a recipe that baked the zucchini crust in the oven instead of in a pan (I was using the pan for something else and have yet to go buy a few more since the move).  First mistake?  I didn't follow Gina's recipe and pan fry the crust.  Second mistake?  I didn't have have parchment paper so much like my cauliflower crust, I could not get the crust off the pan in one peice.  

(This is what your zucchini should look like before you drain out all of the moisture with a cheese cloth... another item I did not have).

At this point, I was frustrated and hangry.  I decided to make a "deconstructed pizza" if you will.  I scraped my zucchini crust fail onto a plate (it resembled a hash at this point) and threw my toppings on top of the mess (ground pork, peppers, onions, tomatoes).  Next came some sauce (crushed tomato and basil from the can), and sprinkled some mozzarella and parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.  

Crustless pizza with a fork..... It wasn't pretty but let me tell you- it tasted pretty damn good (and low carb)!  

 I was super proud I was able to salvage my dinner and made something fun and new. Groceries are quite expensive, especially when you are trying to eat healthy.  This was going to become edible no matter what it took, I am just glad it tasted as good as it did. 

Next time I want a pizza I am going to find a place that delivers, or try Gina's recipe and pan fry the zucchini into a sort of zucchini fritter.  


Have you ever tried a zucchini or cauliflower crust?




Monday, July 29, 2013

Run Your Tail Off Virtual Race

If you know me, or read my blog long enough, you know I have an adorable black lab mix that also serves as my running partner.  She was a rescue from Little Rock Arkansas that I adopted after a woman from Fairfield paid all of her transport and adoption fees just to abandon after neglect:  flea  and worm infested, untrained and un-housebroken. 



While New England has their fair share of full shelters, it seems to be that southerners do not spay and neuter like we do up here in New England, causing a lot of unwanted and innocent dogs.  Many organizations and rescues transport some of the dogs from the South to Connecticut where they have a higher chance of being adopted.  Some shelters down south have kill rates as high as 98%.  Approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control.  It's not that these dogs are aggressive, or old, its just that there are more dogs and cats than there are cages, people, and money to care for them.  


(Vanessa and her rescue pooch/running buddy)

It costs a ton of money to feed and treat these animals that are often malnourished, abused, neglected, have various medical conditions, need to be spayed/neutered, and to be transported to their forever home or the nearest adoption event.  
  


(Courtney and I with our Rescues- a lab mix and pure bred boxer- hiking in Acadia, Maine) 

That's why organizations like Running For Rescues recruits runners to fund raise for them.  The money raised by runners goes to cover the costs of shelter dogs and cats all over the area.   Some of the expenses are adoption fees, transport fees, vetting: shots, vaccinations, spay/neuter, immediate health concerns, pregnant mommas, nail trimming, food, bed, toys, treats, etc.  You get it.... 




If you already purchased your dog at your local puppy mill or overpriced breeder, then I am sorry you don't get to experience the joy and happiness I feel every single day for saving a life (or two).  But you can still help! 

If you love to run, like virtual races, and want to help a great cause, then sign up for the Run Your Tail Off Virtual race! It is only $15 and includes an awesome finisher medal.

The money for the race is going to Running for Rescues


This virtual run will host three options for runners or walkers interested:


5k - 3.1 Miles

10k - 6.2 Miles

Half Marathon - 13.1 Miles





Distances do not need to be done all at once. Walk, Run, Skip, Hop, Grapevine, however you

 can, JUST GET OUT THERE!   We know you can do it, and we KNOW you can spare $15

 (there is a couple dollar transaction fee for Active.com) For LESS than $20 you will get a 

customized medal, but even better you'll be helping save a life.


(Runner Jill with her adopted Puerto Rican pup) 


Make the race even more fun by bringing your pooch along!  This is the best part about a virtual race- no rules, just fun!.  Check out my Post about running with dogs Here to find out which dogs make the best running buds and for other tips and advice.  

Head to Petfinder.com to find your newest running bud/companion.



Friday, July 26, 2013

Mirror mirror on the wall

Happy Friday !


This week surprisingly went by really quick.  
Maybe that's because I was busy with work and had two days out in the field.  
Maybe because the rain and cold weather rained me of work at the bar and resulted in two surprise days off.   Surprise day offs are the BEST because they allow you to do what ever you want in that moment, instead of what you were planning and scheduling to do on your day off Monday when you were feeling ambitious. 


 It is amazing how the doom and gloom of rainy weather sucks all of the life out of me.   I originally wanted to go riding, maybe even go to a class at the gym- boot camp to be specific.  take that extra chunk of time in my day and make it count.  Instead of doing anything productive, I filled up the bath tub, poured a glass of wine, lit a few candles, and opened up a book.  I do this so rarely that even the cat was confused. 


It felt really nice to unwind on a Thursday afternoon instead of going to the gym, behind the bar or to the barn.  After some soaking, I met up with my landlord/neighbor/horse-show-buddy/runner/friend Stacie over at Amateur At Large for some more girlie festivities.  We went for some (long overdue) pedicures, girl talk, and relaxing.  








Fuschia for me, mint for stacie, and 30 minutes in that massage chair made for a wonderful continuation of my faux-spa day.  We decided to keep the good times coming and headed next door to Sweet Lunas, a frozen yogurt bar next door.  
How could we resist? 




A little bit of cheesecake fro-yo with an unhealthy amount of toppings made for a delicious treat.  All of that getting -your-feet -rubbed and massaging can be exhausting, we had to refuel ;) 

 I dropped Stacie off back at home and decided to hit the outlets.  I have been working hard lately so I decided to continue the splurging and head over to J Crew.  Over at J Crew I found these beautiful blue suede high heels on sale for $80.  With the 40% off promotion as well as an extra %10 off with my Quinnipiac Student card circa 2008, these lovely heels were finally in my budget and came home to live a happy life with me. 


I felt about 3 seconds of remorse for not going to the gym class, or riding the horses, or taking the dog for a run, but I reminded myself mental health is just as important as physical health.  An afternoon dedicated to me, and taking care of myself was far more beneficial than a 3 mile run or a boot camp class.  How quickly we lose sight of the important things. 

Before I sign off, I wanted to leave you with a wonderful comment I read today off of one of my favorite foodie blogs, Can You Stay For Dinner, by Andy.  Her recent blog posts have been about a new meal plan and the diet she has put her mom on to help her live a healthier life style.  After weeks of dieting, Andy's mom (Maryellen) was feeling better but still experienced the "Dressing room dread" us ladies can feel after staring at our reflection from a poorly lit over sized 360 degree mirror in the midst of a weight loss journey. 
 In the comment section I read this:


"Maryellen, congratulations to you for all your hard work so far! I was particularly taken by your “dressing room mirror” comments since I’ve been there myself a gazillion times. Here’s my coping mechanism – always, always remember that that mirror has one purpose, and one purpose only: to allow you to check to make sure that the hem of your skirt isn’t accidentally tucked up into your tights! It doesn’t reflect your spirit, your strength of purpose, your health, your friendships, your joys. None of it. It’s a wall that just happens to have a reflective covering. I know that it’s much easier said than done (boy, do I know), but try not to be disappointed by what you think you might see in a mirror – your family and friends truly see a beautiful woman on a mission to become healthier, and that’s all that matters! You’re doing GREAT!!!! :^)"


What a beautiful and true statement... and Oh did that make me smile :)  
Happy Friday everyone 
and take some time to pamper yourselves this weekend- inside and out! 





Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Bridal Shower : Pretty In Pink


Summer....
 Will you please slow down?  
July has been a hectic and exciting month.  
After months of planning and anticipation, Ashley's Bridal Shower was finally here.  


The shower was hosted by * yours truly * at my parents house with the help of Ashley's bridesmaid and my mother Lucy.  Courtney, Lucy and I made the food while my aunt Cindy made all of the delicious desserts.   Ashley did not want a themed party and she can tend to be an out-of-the-box Bride.  Instead, I decided to go for a an elegant and feminine bridal shower with traces of a tea party.  I chose to use soft pinks, beige, white and grey in the color scheme.  I had tea sandwiches, spiked iced tea, and roses in tea cups, to give the shower a tea party feel without being an over done high tea bridal shower. 


I spent weeks on all of the little DIY details to make this  backyard shower look and feel like a catered event. 

For the tables, I used clean white linens, home made floral arrangements, tea lights decorated with ribbon, confetti hearts, and adorable signs.  I took the vow from "The Vow" and put each vow in its own frame with a chevron pink ribbon. 





"I vow to help you love life, to always hold you with tenderness, 
and to have the patience that love demands.

I vow to speak when words are needed, and to share the silence when they are not. 

I vow to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.


I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever.

I vow to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love. "



 Ashley and I both discussed how much we loved that part of the movie, so I was really excited to sneak them into the bridal shower.
They added a bit of romance and certainly filled the room with "aww"s!

 Flower arrangements varied from roses to hydrangeas and were displayed in various vases and tea cups (no mason jars for this bride!)










Instead of trying to get my hands on 40+ porcelain plates and silverware- I set out to find cute paperware that looked neat enough for a bridal shower.  I found these amazing pink edged paper plates at Ikea and paired them with adorable spotted cocktail napkins.  I found plasticware that actually looked like silverware that I wrapped in pink ribbon for another splash of pink.  



 I hung lanterns and home made pink tissue paper pomandeers (directions here!) under the canopies and umbrellas.






  

I continued my shopping spree at Michaels and bought supplies to make my "Love Is Sweet" banner.  My original plan was to hang the banner from the dessert table but I really liked how it looked on the brick fireplace behind the table. 





I used thick card stock/scrap book paper in soft pink , grey, and beige, and used pink grey and white yarn that I braided to hang the banner.  I used sponge letters and black paint to spell out the words and I was really happy with the way the banner turned out.



To direct Ashley's guest to the back deck, I made this sign and tied it up with pretty ribbon on the fence to the pool gate.  Pink paint with a gold outline on some thick poster board did the trick.








I framed her bridal shower invitation and dressed it up with tea lights and flowers for a nice little accent to the day.  I framed her formal wedding invitation and put that on the cocktail table.  I also framed two 8x10 pictures of Ashley and Jon to display on the tables to add another personal touch to the shower.  



Gifts were stacked by the pool in pretty assortments of pink white and grey gifts.  


Of course all the ribbons were kept for the silly rehearsal dinner bouquet.  





As everyone entered, they were sent to the drink table.  I used gold sparkly glitter paper to make a "Bubbly" banner to add a little bit of glitz to the champagne and drink table.  I had bottles of champagne, Iced Tea spiked with rum, and Vodka pink lemonade.  The vodka pinks were a hit and were gone quick! I also played cocktail waitress and made sure everyone had a full glass of champagne at all times. 



We had an assortment of food and there was truly, something for everyone....
vegetarians and picky eaters alike.


  
  Caprese skewers, chicken salad lettuce cups, cajun shrimp cocktail, assorted tea sandwiches (olive, cucumber and cream cheese, and egg salad to name a few), as well as two different quiches, an arugula salad, and pasta salad.  We wanted a light summer menu with elegant tea sandwiches- Ashley's favorite!





Dessert was beautiful, dainty, all home made, and of course pink.  We had pink chocolate truffles, macaroons, coconut candies, 50+ assorted cupcakes, and strawberry candies.  The cupcakes had a pink frosting, flower details, and little signs that I had made (pinterest)!  Little pink cards had a pink bow and the phrase "I Do" on one side, "Me Too!" on the other.









Courtney and I made mini cheesecakes with a vanilla wafer crust and raspberry by Ashley's girl Martha Stewart.  Keep in mind, our sisters got all of the baking skills,  leaving Courtney and I googling how to use a kitchen aid mixer....  we made them the night before and forced friends to sample our cheesecakes before we put our name on them and sent them onto the desert table.  



A dollop of crushed raspberry with a toothpick through the middle makes this lovely heart design (which looked fantastic prior to entering the oven)
You can find the recipe here!  





We did not use the water bath (we didn't really understand how....and ended up using two different recipes....) so the tops of our cheesecakes cracked, leaving a distorted (broken looking) heart.  Oops...  Raspberry puree, flowers, and fresh raspberries turned this into a dainty little dessert instead of a complete failure!


To show off some of our pretty desserts, I turned a $10 side table


Into a feminine beige dessert tier. 
 The table, sand paper, spray paint gold paint and some doilies for a grand total of $20.   






The shower was moving along perfectly, perfectly except for the hot and sweaty, and very uncomfortable guests.  The heat became unbearable and the 81 and overcast forecast turned into 90's hot, sunny, and humid.  We moved the party inside after lunch to open gifts and shower the bride with love and gifts.    Ashley wore a strapless light pink Lilly Pulitzer dress with white lace detail (and some killer heels).  Of course she had her chihuahua Lola with her, adorned in a pink ribbon.  Ashley received many wonderful gifts, and hey.... we even got her to smile with some teeth. 



Instead of a trinket or silly favor that no one would use, I asked my grandmother to make her famous Portuguese biscuits that Ashley loves so much.  She made hundreds of biscuits and wrapped them up in baggies with a pink ribbon.





I printed the recipe on card stock and tied them to each bag as a favor for all of the guests.  Everyone loved the favors and I was excited to incorporate another family touch into Ashley's Shower.  

All of her bridesmaids were there to help out with her big day (Special thanks to Courtney for helping me plan this day) and make it an amazing and memorable shower.  







Not to toot my own horn 
but I think this shower was one of the cutest bridal showers I have ever seen.  
It was personal, feminine, and classically Ashley.  
 I was so happy when she told me she had an amazing day and the food and decor exceeded her expectations. 
 Congratulations Ashley!  

Can't wait until your big day <3