Monday, February 25, 2013

Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinner

Another day, another recipe! I told you I got inspired by my recent trip to California to try doing more actual (healthy) cooking and baking. While flying back to DC and reading through my Real Simple magazine (one of my favorites with tips that are actually helpful for life), I found a great quick, easy, and most importantly, delicious, recipe that is also low in calories. Win!

Sirloin Steak with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

The recipe as written feeds four. Well, that just won't do for a single free-lovin gal who lives on her own. It was super easy to divide though; I bought a pack of multiple steaks and just cooked up one (approximately 6 oz.) and divided all the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella (which came in a pack of four balls) into quarters. If you want to half it or make the full recipe, it will be just as easy.

1.5 lbs. sirloin steak
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 balls mozzarella (bocconcini)
Bay leaves (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Salt and pepper both sides of the steak; cut into strips. Slice tomatoes and mozzarella balls into halves or quarters.

Cook the steak strips in a skillet over medium heat in olive oil (approximately 2 minutes per side). Remove and place on plate. Reduce heat to low; put tomatoes into skillet and cook until soft (approximately 1-2 minutes). Add mozzarella and bay leaves, if desired, to pan with tomatoes and cook until just beginning to melt. Place on top of steak.

Voila! The original recipe called for cooking the steak and then slicing, but I found the raw meat much easier to cut. Also, it speeds up the cooking time by about 10 minutes since the sliced meat cooks much faster. But if you prefer your steak on the medium or rare side, you might want to stick with cutting the meat after its cooked.

Calorie count = 294 per serving (1/4 of the recipe).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Healty(-ier) Muffins

Last week I went to LA to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and baby (technically now toddler) nephew, James. One of the reasons I love heading out there is my SIL, Amanda, is a fantastic cook. She loves scouring cook books and food website for new recipes and focuses on things that are low in calories and chock full of good stuff like fiber, protein, and fruits and veggies. This is especially true when it comes to cooking and baking for 14 month old James, after all, little kids have a lot of nutritional needs than your average adult.

During our visit, Amanda made a recipe from her Cooking Light Baby Food cookbook, Mini Whole-Wheat Apricot Muffins. Turns out muffins are great for toddlers (especially mini ones) since they are easily freezeable, portable, and a perfect size and texture for little chubby kid fingers. And just because the recipe came from a kid's cookbook doesn't mean it isn't good for adults as well. These were yummy muffins and you got three per serving at only 133 calories. This means even I was able to indulge in a few as a snack (since I have started getting serious about counting calories).

Now that I'm home from sunny California, I am inspired by Amanda's baking and cooking, and I've decided to try to find my own healthier but delicious recipes. I tried my first go-round last night, working with another Cooking Light muffin recipe but making my own changes to make it even more healthy. So I proudly present to you--Maggie's Whole Wheat Raisin Banana Muffins!

I'm going to call this recipe makeover a success--the original recipe was for a white flour based cranberry and orange muffin. It clocked in at 174 calories, which is certainly nothing to scoff at, but I thought I could do a little better. Even if I couldn't cut back a lot of the calories, at least I could pack the muffins with some more hearty ingredients.

I started by replacing all the white flour with whole wheat flour. However, wheat flour is a lot dryer than regular flour, so that means we needed some more liquid in the batter. I decided to throw in two and a half bananas (that had been sitting in the freezer for a few months). When you defrost the bananas, they end up a lot juicier so this added some more wetness. I also subbed in raisins for the cranberries--I figured they have less sugar and would pair better with the bananas. Following that logic, the orange rind had to go, so I used allspice instead. The final substitution was 1% milk for 2%--mostly because that's what I had on hand.

I was a little worried after I finished mixing up the batter, it was a good deal thicker than most muffin mix and had a consistency more like a cookie. But the muffins ended up baking beautifully, fluffing up a bit but staying within the confines of the muffin cup. It makes a dense muffin which I like; what's the point of eating those calories if it doesn't help fill you up? They have a great wheaty, nutty flavor (even though there's no nuts). The banana and spice is very subtle (I'll probably throw in an extra banana next time), and the raisins added a little touch of sweetness. If you aren't a big fan of wheat these probably aren't the muffins for you, but if you like quick and easy recipes with a hearty flavor than give them a try. You don't even need a mixer, I easily combined all the ingredients by hand with a spatula.

Maggie's Whole Wheat Raisin Banana Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
3 bananas

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in raisins; make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine milk, butter, allspice, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist. Spoon batter into 12 (my recipe made 16) muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes until muffins are brown on top. Remove from the muffin pan immediately and cool.

Note: these muffins freeze well stored in freezer bags. I also like them warmed up a bit, either in the microwave (20-30 seconds per muffin) or heated in the oven on foil for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees.

If you are keeping track of calories, I would estimate that these end up between 130-150 calories depending on the size of your muffins. Not too shabby!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hola, Lovers!

Continuing the tradition from last year of a warm weather winter and 8 of me peeps headed to beautiful sunny MEXICO!

It was beautiful and it was sunny (at least in the morning) but the water was fucking FREEZING. We still had an amazing time, but I didn't do more than dip a toe in the ocean because my Mama taught me that hypothermia is bad news bears. Even the pool was almost too cold to stand. But I was perfectly content spending the days on our ocean-view beach beds.

Beach beds by day...

And beach beds by night!

My days consisted of workouts in the morning (sure, it's a vacation, but that buffet was dangerous), followed by yoga by the beach, and then lots and lots of lounging. Books were read, playlists listened to....actually, that's pretty much all I did. Until nightime, and then we had had some yummy food in the on-site restaurants and danced for hours to various house bands at the Saturday evening night club on the resort.

Chilling on the beach.

The beach at sunset.

In the nightclub (with the glow body paint).

There was only one day when I left the resort--I'm sure to some people that's considered lame, but I was perfectly happy to just spend my days chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool.  But there was one thing in the Yucatan that I couldn't miss....

On our last full day in Mexico, we took a day long trip that included stops at a giant sinkhole and the ancient Mayan city, Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya civilization. It is located in the Yucatan and was a major focal point in the Mayan civilization from 600–1200 AD. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. The land under the monuments was privately owned until 29 March 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucat├ín.

Dominating Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan (a Maya feathered serpent deity similar to the Aztec Quetzalcoatl), usually referred to as El Castillo ("the castle"). This step pyramid stands about 98 ft high and consists of a series of nine square terraces, each approximately 8 ft high, with a 20 ft high temple upon the summit (called the Temple of the Red Jagquar--seriously). Each side has 90 steps, but begin with the number 0--which the Mayans invented. Cool, right?


Group shot in front of El Castillo!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Burlesque, baby

Burlesque: a literary, dramatic, or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of the subject.

Apparently, that is the textbook definition of burlesque. But if you ask the average person on the street what burlesque means, they will likely respond "chicks taking their clothes off." Of course, the routines need to include feathers, sequins, pasties, teasing, and least in my opinion.

I'm a fan of burlesque. Not because I particularly enjoy looking at women taking off their clothes; let's be honest, if I want to see that, I can look in the mirror. But for me it's about women empowering themselves. A lot of burlesque dancers aren't model-perfect, but when they perform they bring you along into their world where they are the hottest thing since sliced bread. It's all about loving your body and self-confidence and holding every person in that audience in the palm of your hand. So essentially, it's about power.

And I like power. I also like feeling attractive.

So when my friend Jennifer emailed me about Living Social's Bourbon and Burlesque classes (intro lesson to burlesque with three bourbon-based drinks), I was all about it. They're offered every Thursday and are run by two of the DC Gurly Show ladies, Velvet Kensington and Private Tails.

Me, Jennifer, and Bridgid. Suggestions for our burlesque group name: Chitty Titty Glam Bang and The Boa Constrictors. Also, since we're all lawyers, we could be Legally Busty. 

The class started with a brief introduction into the history of burlesque, and then we learned about several types of dancing.

Neo-burlesque: revival burlesque, in the classic style but with a modern twist.

Nerd-lesque: like neo-burlesque, but with a nerd theme to the shows and costumes.

Boy-lesque: when men dress as men and dance and take off their clothes.

Boi-lesque: when women dress as men and dance and take off their clothes.

Drag-lesque: when Drag Queens (men dressed as women) dance and take off their clothes.

Plus lots more that I can't remember. If you want to learn more, google it. Seriously, burlesque is awesome.

After the history less, the ladies demonstrated their moves, and it was time for us to get down to business! We learned some basic moves--how to remove our gloves in three different ways and different ways to work the boa. We also learned ways to work the booty, like the Betty Boop where you shake it and then stick it out. Work that money maker, ladies! We were then divided into groups and had to choreograph a number.

Sure, our number ended up a hot mess. But as I looked at the other group's performing, I couldn't help but marvel. I could tell that a lot those ladies had never done anything like this before. Some others weren't the best dancers and some forgot the steps...but you know what? Everyone looked beautiful because they felt beautiful. It was a room full of women rejoicing in themselves as they were and not worrying about whether their thighs were too big, or their stomach too poochy, or all the other horrible things that women tell themselves every single day. Everyone in that room felt beautiful. And it was beautiful! 

My good girl burlesque name: Ginger Snap. My naughty girl burlesque name: Ginger Snatch.