2.28.2013

slow-cooked pork barbecue & homemade bbq sauce

So. I wanted to tell you guys something. I wanted to tell you that I currently have so many ideas floating around my head of exciting things to blog: workouts, crafts, organizing tips, weekly series... ideas galore, all up there, hangin' around my head. Buuuttt....

I'm still trying to figure out how to find time to put all of it together. It's gonna happen and I'm gonna figure it out. I just....haven't yet. So, now and lately, I'm mostly posting recipes because, 1) I love sharing recipes (duh), and 2) I do somehow make time to cook and simply taking pictures and writing up a post of the recipe is pretty easy. Not too time-consuming. 

But I want to share more! So I will. It just might take a little time (like, maybe after I defend my master's thesis in 10.5 days AHH). I appreciate the couple of requests for posts I've gotten and I do plan to follow up on them (hints: organization, healthy snacks, at-home workouts). Just so you know. In the meantime, however, don't be disappointed that this post is another recipe because it's AWESOME. 


SO AWESOME.

The recipe my mom is most known-for is this barbecue. Our extended family calls it Ruth's Butt (her name is Ruth). When we'd have family gatherings at our house growing up, if we were lucky, my parents would make this barbecue. My mom made the pork and my dad made the sauce. Everyone loves it, and why wouldn't they? The pork butt is slow-cooked with apple cider vinegar in a low-temp oven allllll day until it's fall-apart tender, then topped with a spicy and unique vinegar AND tomato-based barbecue sauce. It's amazing. And somehow I hadn't made it myself until this weekend! My mom emailed me the recipe and I had to try it. The result? *Almost* as good as the original :)


This recipe is an all-day thing. Perfect for a lazy Saturday or Sunday or when you have guests coming over for a casual dinner one weekend night. It won't disappoint!

2.25.2013

grilled NY strip & roasted red potatoes

Learning to cook a great steak was kind of a necessity for me - my boyfriend fiance pretty much lives for steak and potatoes. And I've finally got it down pat! This time I did NY strip, but I use the same method for filets and sirloin. It takes only 20 minutes or so to get restaurant-quality, flavorful, tender steaks that are crusty on the outside and pink throughout the inside. These roasted red potatoes are also regularly requested around here, and rightly so - they almost taste like fried potatoes, but really they're healthy! Delicious.


It's hard to believe now, but I "hated" steak for much of my life. As a kid, I remember hiding it in my napkin when my parents served it. Then, I slowly started trying steak more and more as I got older, and once I had a few awesome steaks (e.g., Buckhead's filet in Richmond - oh. my. god.), there was no turning back. I'm a steak lover.

Filet mignon is my favorite cut, followed by a sirloin. However, I've also come to appreciate some fattier cuts, such as NY strip - while not quite as tender, a strip is so flavorful and juicy when done right. Here's my fool-proof method for steak and potatoes:

2.20.2013

cilantro-lime chimichurri & bacon-wrapped asparagus

It's no secret around here that I prepare and eat my spiced chicken recipe A LOT. It's quick, healthy, and yummy. Because I have it multiple times per week, I "style" it in many different ways so it doesn't get boring. Dressing it with this cilantro-lime chimichurri sauce was a fabulous on-a-whim idea... so, so good! And adding bacon to a meal is NEVER a bad idea. This bacon-wrapped asparagus is awesome. The whole meal is great - in fact, my boyfriend proposed to me while I was cooking it. It might even have special powers.


Mmmm.

Do you like cilantro? Some people hate it. I've even heard people can be genetically predispositioned to hate cilantro. These people are missing out! And do you like lime? You're kind of weird if you don't, honestly. But... you must like both of these ingredients to like this sauce... it's VERY flavorful, very cilantro-y and very lime-y. So it's very yum if you love these things like me!


Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce traditionally made with parsley, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar, among a few other ingredients. I substituted the parsley with cilantro and the vinegar with lime juice for a different twist (and because I had a bunch of cilantro in the fridge...) and added some crushed red pepper for a kick. DELISH. Super simple to make too, just throw it together while your spiced chicken is cooking:

2.19.2013

cooking, interrupted.

So last night, a random Monday evening, I was in the middle of preparing a deliciously awesome dinner (that includes bacon.... promise to share tomorrow), when my cooking got interrupted by something even better than bacon...


Yep, Ryan proposed to me and... WE'RE ENGAGED!!! I was so not expecting it to happen last night and was completely taken aback. The proposal was private, intimate, simple, and honestly the most special, emotional, happiest moment of my life -- a perfect fit for me, him, and our relationship.

I can't describe how happy and excited we are, but needless to say, it was the best Monday night EVER. After the proposal (and frantically/excitedly calling family and friends), we went to Wine Market for dinner, which was absolutely amazing in every way, from the food to the champagne to the nearly-empty, cozy environment -- yay for Monday proposals! Of course the night included delicious food... I got lobster salad (although I was almost too excited to eat) and Ryan got sirloin with roasted root vegetables (he can always eat).

I'll be back tomorrow to share a delicious recipe that will forever hold a place in my heart as the "meal that got rudely awesomely interrupted by a marriage proposal." For now, here are some pictures of our night!

2.13.2013

light pasta bake with chicken sausage, mozzarella, spinach & tomatoes

Taking the time on Sundays to prepare my lunches and a few dinners for the week makes my life SO much easier. I don't *always* do this, because sometimes I'm either too busy or too lazy, but it makes all the difference when I do. I pretty much want to give myself a hug every time I pull one of my already-in-tupperware lunches out of the fridge before running out the door in the mornings or when I remember that I already have a dinner ready in the fridge that just needs to be popped in the oven. This pasta bake is one of my favorite make-ahead meals. It's easy, nutritious, and totally versatile -- I've made it many different ways, just using whatever I have in my fridge that week. It's a little heavier than some of my dinners, since it's pasta, but using whole wheat penne, balancing it out with plenty of veggies, and using a greek yogurt and tomato sauce base keeps it pretty healthy while also satisfying my carb and cheese cravings.  


Taking just an hour or so on Sunday to prep meals can save so much time and hassle during the week. It can REALLY save me after a 12 hour day. On Wednesdays, I am gone from about 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Needless to say, when I get home I'm starving and exhausted, and I have no intention of standing in front of the stove and preparing a meal. If I don't have anything prepared, it's hard to avoid going down the street to the neighborhood pub (that just so happens to have 35 cent wings on Wednesdays...) where we'll eat and spend too much. So, I try to have something that's ready to go! For this pasta dish, I just put it in the fridge and leave a note for my boyfriend to have it ready when I get home.


Then I get to walk in to a hot and ready dinner! And this one is soo satisfying - almost as good as wings!


Here's how to make it:

2.11.2013

almond-crusted chicken tenders with light honey mustard dip

It would be kind of nice to be one of those people that's all, "I hate fried foods, they are so greasy and disgusting. I LOVE brussel sprouts and broccoli though! Seriously!"

The truth is, while I really *do* like healthy foods, I also love junk food. A lot. I'll just be real with you: my heaven consists of a place where I can constantly eat macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, nachos, french fries, brownies, fettucine alfredo, and red velvet cake while also being totally healthy and fit. However... we're in the real world, and that's just not gonna fly. SO, I try to combine my love of food with my love of living a healthy lifestyle by: 1) feeding my body healthy, real foods most of the time, 2) creating dishes at home that are both nutritious AND delicious, and 3) enjoying my favorite unhealthy foods occasionally and in moderation. The dinner I made tonight satisfies #1 and #2 - I can't even believe how delicious these healthy chicken tenders are. They're crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and super flavorful. Totally reminiscent of the fried chicken fingers I not-so-secretly love. But best of all, they're coated in heart-healthy crushed almonds and a bit of panko then baked - no flour, no oil. Dip them in a lighter version of honey mustard dipping sauce (with much of the mayo substituted with greek yogurt), and you have a dinner that satisfies a craving for chicken fingers without making you feel like crap. Win!


Oh, and they're easy too! Here are the directions:

2.10.2013

tips for sticking with an exercise routine

Exercise adds so much to my life. It gives me energy and plays a big part in making me happy. It gives me "me time" that I cherish. It improves my health (I haven't gotten sick, even a cold, in two years!). It gives me an excuse to eat that slice of cheesecake when I go out with friends or have an extra serving of barbeque. It is a gift that I give myself.  It relieves stress. It makes my jeans fit better. It clears my mind.

I can't imagine my life without exercise in it. I think everyone should give themselves the gift of fitness. If you're looking to start a new exercise plan or just trying to stick with one you already have, here are some tips that have worked for me.

1) Set a realistic plan. 

Plan out what is going to work for you. Plan which days you'll work out, what time, and what you'll do. Personally, I like working out in the mornings, mostly because I like getting it over with! Being done with my workout before I start a busy day makes me feel great, gives me energy, and doesn't leave me anticipating it all day. Plus, I know myself, and it is very hard for me to go to the gym at 7pm after a long, hard day. Well, not just hard -- it doesn't happen. When I have all day to think about going to the gym, I'm much more likely to find a reason not to do it! Either I'm hungry and can't decide whether to go before or after dinner, or I don't really want to take a shower afterwards since I have to take one in the morning, or I have too much work to do tonight -- there's always something. When I go early, I'm in the gym before I even totally realize what's going on. It doesn't leave much time to change my mind!

One of the most important parts of setting a plan: be realistic. Don't plan to workout every single morning at 5am if that's just not something you could really do. Be honest with yourself. If all you can commit to is 3 mornings or afternoons a week for 20 minutes, that's fine! Just set a plan that works for you and that you can realistically stick with.

2) Make it part of your regular schedule. 

Once you decide on the timing of your plan, add it to your calendar. This is a screen shot of my google calendar, and the yellow is my workout schedule:

2.06.2013

10-minute spiced pork chops with mustard cream sauce

My grad school life is crazy right now, y'all. The work in my classes is picking up, I'm defending my thesis in one month (!!), and I'm constantly trying to juggle research, writing, lab work, clinical work, classwork...plus the rest of my life, like exercising, cooking, spending time with people I care about, and now blogging! Oh, and watching American Idol and the new Kevin Bacon show.

Oops, I should have kept that part a secret shouldn't I have?

Basically...it's a lot. So I'm making weeknight meals that are FAST, easy, healthy, and delicious. Must be all of the above.


I'm also prepping all of my lunches ahead of time based on an equation of protein (chicken, shrimp, or fish usually) + vegetables (broccoli, spinach, zucchini, etc) + grain (brown rice or sweet potato). Taking a few minutes to prep some meat on Sunday (such as my spiced chicken) and then combining with sides (and some Sriracha of course) in tupperware the night before saves time and money during the week. Also leaves no excuses to go buy fast food or packaged snacks during the day!


During the week, I like to make dinners that take under 30 minutes to make. These pork chops definitely fit the bill - they are done in 10 minutes! Yes, 10 minutes. Saute some veggies and microwave a bag of brown rice -- I use Uncle Ben's 90 second brown rice when I'm in a hurry -- and you can prepare AND eat dinner in under half an hour. Plus, pork chops are pretty cheap and you can usually find them on sale. That is called success in grad student world. They are topped with a healthy (made with greek yogurt!) mustard-y cream sauce that's really flavorful and takes 60 seconds to whip up. 


2.04.2013

crockpot barbacoa beef nachos with white queso

So I promised that I'd share my deliciously sinful Super Bowl recipe, didn't I? Ohhh and delicious it was. And sinful. Very sinful.


Oh-so-worth-it though. I'm actually salivating, as I sit here and digest my healthy dinner, looking at this picture and remembering how good it was. AMAZING. Maybe one of the best things I've ever made.

The barbacoa beef made was one of the most tender, flavorful crockpot dishes I've made yet. I'll definitely be cooking this regularly now (but usually trying to eat it in a somewhat healthy fashion, i.e., not covered in cheese dip).


Combine that barbacoa with restaurant-style white queso.... OMG. Match made in heaven.


Pile it all on top of tortilla chips with tomatoes, fresh jalapeƱos, and grated monterey jack (yes, more cheese)? To die for. 


Have I convinced you yet that it is so worth the 23957276 calories? It was the perfect Super Bowl treat, but you don't need a football game as an excuse to make this. Everyone deserves to eat this good sometimes. 

Here's the step-by-step instructions to make it for yourself (and someone else if they're lucky):

2.03.2013

HIIT treadmill workout

This weekend can be best described with one word: overindulgence. Friday night, we went out to dinner in Little Italy and had pizza bianca and cannolis...mmm. We were in the area, and it's never okay to miss out on an opportunity to eat in Little Italy, so we went to our favorite little Italian deli, Isabella's, followed by the best Italian dessert place ever, Vaccaro's.



Last night, we had some good friends come to visit, so naturally we took them to our favorite burger place (Abbey Burger -- must try if you're in Baltimore!), where we ate too much greasy food and drank too many beers.

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