Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healthy Mixed Berry Trifle

Hmm, seems like my promise to myself to blog more than once a week was lies, all lies.  I haven't even been traveling for the past three weeks, which is even more shameful.  But I HAVE been working hard....on planning a customer event for work, the usual overabundance of Powerpoint, and reading The Hunger Games series obsessively.  Who can blog when you can immerse yourself in the world of Katniss and Peeta and the drunken Haymitch??

I resisted the temptation to get into the Hunger Games at first, because it sounded kind of dumb.  But I guess I am the dumb one, if I thought I wasn't going to love these books....I am hooked.  I'll have finished all three books in 5 days and I'm already getting kind of sad about what I'm going to do when it's over.  What's that, you say?  Get a life?  Guess I should at least consider it....

Anyway!  I've been busy reading but I've also been moderately busy cooking as well.  I don't want to overwhelm you with deliciousness, though, so I'll post the recent concoctions one at a time.  Starting with mixed berry trifle, which also happens to be a healthy(ish) dessert.  Can't beat that!

This was super easy to make and great for summer!  You can use whatever berries you want, and also whatever flavor of pudding you want, too!  I used strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cheesecake flavored pudding, and it was perfect!  I also couldn't find angel food cake at the store, so I subbed pound cake.  Would be even healthier if you used angel food cake, though.  Enjoy!

Healthy Mixed Berry Trifle
Source: Adapted from Gina's Skinny Recipes

10 oz angel food cake or pound cake, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
1 container raspberries
1 pint blueberries
For the cream filling:
6 tbsp fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 package sugar-free instant pudding mix (choose any white flavor, white chocolate and cheesecake work really well)
12 oz fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed

Whisk the condensed milk and water in a bowl. Add in the pudding mix and whisk to combine. Let stand for a couple of minutes and then fold in the whipped topping.

Arrange half of the cake in the bottom of a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Cover evenly with a layer of berries (mixed). Spread half of the cream mixture over the berries and gently spread. Top with another layer of berries. Layer the remaining cake cubes on top of the berries, then add more berries and top with the remaining cream mixture. Finish with the remaining strawberries and blueberries, arranging them in a pretty pattern. Cover and refrigerate at least one 1 hour.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil (and Sausage and Shrimp!)

When I was younger, I got sick with strep throat a lot.  I would get a super high fever and hallucinate and say weird things and was basically on my death bed for a few days.  One of my favorite memories from when I was young was my Mom taking care of me when I was sick.  I'm pretty sure it was her LEAST favorite memory, since I am not one of those quiet, gracious sick people.  I whined a lot and would lay on the couch for days, expecting to be waited on hand and foot.  I would watch The Parent Trap (the original one, not that Lindsay Lohan crap) and episodes of Ramona on VHS and wait for my Mom to bring me Sprite and instant mashed potatoes and give me lots of sympathy.  She is the best Mom.

But when I started feeling a little bit better, I'd want something yummier than instant mashed potatoes so it was time for pasta with butter and garlic.  It was my absolute favorite thing to eat during my childhood and teenage years, sick or not.  I loved that stuff more than life itself.  Once I moved out on my own, I always tried to make it myself, but it just didn't taste the same as when my Mom made it.  That is, until I discovered good olive oil, anchovy paste, real garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Now when I make my own its just as good....not the SAME, of course, but still good.  Its still one of my favorite things to eat, but since I have no self control or sense of reasonable portions when it comes to pasta, we don't eat pasta very much in this household.  But every once in awhile, I'll break this out when I need a treat or a comfort food pick-me-up.  Works like a charm.  Too bad we don't have any Ramona video tapes to watch...

This is a classic pasta recipe that can go well with so many proteins.  I paired it with grilled shrimp and chicken sausage, but it would be great on its own, or with chicken.  Or anything!  Sometimes I toss it with a handful or two of arugula, which is tasty as well.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil (and Sausage and Shrimp!)
Source: inspired by Rachael Ray

12-15 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 links Italian flavored chicken sausage, sliced (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or less if you don't like it too spicy)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  Saute the shrimp and sausage in a pan over medium heat until done, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring water in a large pot to a boil, salt, and then add pasta.  Cook until al dente, drain and set aside.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil gently.  Add the anchovy paste and stir, allowing it to melt into the oil.  Then add the garlic and red pepper flakes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the Italian seasoning and salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Cook for just a couple of minutes and turn off the heat.  Add the cooked pasta to the pan, and toss to combine.

Top with cooked shrimp and sausage, garnish with fresh basil if desired, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette

Wow, that title was a mouthful.

Know how you know that you're under a lot of stress?  No, not that you eat chocolate for breakfast, but I guess that can be a sign, too. 

**On a side note, I find it super annoying that some people lose weight/can't eat/have no appetite when they are stressed out.  That just doesn't seem fair, because they totally cancel each other out.  Sure, you feel on the verge of a nervous breakdown every day, but at least you look cute in your skinny jeans.  But me?  Me, I'm halfway to the looney bin, but I'm stopping by Chipotle on the way and then might get a Frosty at Wendy's after for good measure.  If I'm going to be stressed, I demand that I lose weight, too.  I can't deal with stress and fatness at the same time - that is just cruel**

ANYWAY, like I was saying, do you know how you KNOW you're under a lot of stress?  The answer is, that you have anxiety dreams.  Like, you dream all sorts of bizarre stuff that doesn't really make any sense but you wake up like, OMG, I have to get to math class!  My old go-to stress dream is the college one.  YOU KNOW, the one where you are in college and you've registered for 6 classes in a semester, and you go to five of them every week, do the homework, take the tests, etc.  But the 6th one?  You completely forget about that one until like halfway through the semester, only to realize that there is an attendance policy (that you've clearly failed) and that you've missed 4 tests that account for 60% of your grade. 

I have this dream at least once a month, sometimes as much as once or twice a week during especially busy times at work.  I mean....I graduated from college 10 years ago.  You'd think that at some point, my stress dreams would move on to something more professional, like dreaming about things like deadlines and powerpoints, and commission.  But no.  I dream that I signed up for Economics 201 and forgot to go for 3 months straight.  Sigh.

But I digress.  What I really want to talk to you about is arugula and fresh mozzarella and yellow cherry tomatoes and black truffle oil.  I whipped up this salad to go alongside grilled sausage and shrimp over spaghetti with olive oil and garlic (that recipe is on its way, promise), and it was so tasty.  It basically combines all of my true loves, in one big glass bowl.  Arugula is the best salad green on earth, hands down.  And fresh mozzarella is cheese, and there is no playing favorites with cheese.  Cherry tomatoes are the best kind, and I don't need to convince you that truffle oil is phenomenal.  I mean, really.  So, this salad is amazing and you should make it today.  That is all.

Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette
Source: My own, dressing inspired by What's Cooking America

For the Salad:
6 cups arugula
1/2 large ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved

For the Dressing:
2 tablespoons black truffle oil
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon  white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Few grindings of black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

In a small bowl, whisk together truffle oil, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.  Pour over arugula, mozzarella and tomato mixture.  Toss to coat and serve immediately.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Guava Margaritas

It's Friday, y'all, and we should talk about cocktails, right?  Right!  I, for one, love cocktails.  Especially on a Friday, because that reminds me of my favorite Friday activity, and that is happy hour.  Back when I was a youngin', we used to have 20-person happy hours that lasted until 2:00 AM.  And then I'd get up the next day, hit the gym first thing in the morning, and then go about my packed-solid day without blinking an eye.  These days, I prefer to start my happy hours as early as possible so I can get to dinner at a decent hour (you know, in time for the blue plate special), and then go home to watch a couple of episodes of "House Hunters on Vacation" before hitting the sack.

The one thing that is cooler about old people's happy hour is that the caliber of cocktails is substantially better than they were when I was 23.  Like, tonight, I had a guava margarita while I cooked rockfish (coming in a later post!) and my husband re-arranged his camping gear in the basement.  That's a heck of a lot classier than enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon at a dive bar that serves fried pickles, I'll tell you what. 

Since I don't have the recipe for Pabst Blue Ribbon, we'll have to settle for a margarita recipe, huh?  This was honestly just a little tasty twist on a classic margarita, and it was tasty indeed.  I made my husband one, and he carried it around the house as he was packing the car for camping, and seemingly refused to put it down.  Every time I looked up, he had camping gear in one hand, margarita in another.  He's so adorable.


Guava Margaritas
Source: Adapted from Epicurious
(Serves 2-3)

3/4 cup silver tequila (I prefer Patron, naturally)
1/2 cup triple sec (orange liqueur)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup guava nectar (can be found in the Latin foods section of your grocery store)
Salt and lime wedges for garnish

Combine tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, and guava nectar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Moisten rim of Margarita or other cocktail glass with lime juice or water. Holding glass upside down, dip rim into salt. Shake and strain drink into glass and serve.