New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

New York Times CCC

This past weekend was just lovely. I drove down to New Orleans to celebrate Mother’s Day with my family. It was so nice to catch up with all of my siblings, as well as treating my mom to a nice lunch out (even though at ages 21-30, we’re still pretty silly in public haha!). One of the things I appreciate about my family is that while we’re all pretty busy and don’t see each other very often, it seems like we just pick up where we left off. We talked about old home videos, past holidays, and just caught up with each other in general.

It makes me appreciate everything about my family. We have our quirks, but I feel so lucky to have the family that I have. We’re all so supportive of each other, and oh man, did I appreciate my family like crazy last year! I remember calling my family just after the lightning strike/fire happened. I had reached my low point, because the “what ifs” were eating at me. There wasn’t anything they could do to undo the damage, but to have people there to vent to/cry to…it’s what I needed.

While I’m pretty happy right now (Thank you, new awesome job…funny how a new day job can boost your mood!), I felt 10x happier after seeing everyone. Sure, we may have gotten a few stares from laughing too loud in the restaurant, but who really cares? I feel like we need to do this more often, but with 3 busy siblings and my parents who seem busier now vs. when I was a kid, I’m afraid it probably won’t happen again for a few months now (maybe for Father’s Day…hint hint family?).

Chocolate chip cookies remind me a lot of my family. My mom used to bake cookies like crazy when we were kids, although she’d sneak in oatmeal chocolate chip cookies any chance she could get. :-P Also, the Pillsbury cookie dough rolls? I’m pretty sure we ate more raw dough from those than actual baked cookies (I know…not safe because of eggs/salmonella risk…don’t judge me). Since today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, I thought it would be fitting to finally make the infamous New York Times cookies. It was SO difficult to just let the dough sit in the fridge for 48 hours, but it was definitely worth it. I mean…3.5 oz. of dough for each cookie….you really can’t go wrong. If you want to impress someone, try this recipe. They had the perfect crunchy texture on the outside and were wonderfully chewy on the inside.

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: New York Times

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups minus 2 tbsp. (8.5 oz.) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8.5 oz.) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate (disks or roughly chopped)
  • Sea salt (for sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set the dry ingredients aside for later use.
  2. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down, and add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about a minute after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined (about 5-10 seconds). Mix in the chocolate by hand, to avoid breaking the chocolate.
  3. Place the cookie dough in a container, and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for 24-48 hours before baking (I waited 48 hours).
  4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  5. Weigh out 3.5 oz. of cookie dough (this isn’t a typo…they’ll be pretty large), and form it into a ball. Space out 6 balls of dough on the baking sheet, and sprinkle the tops of each cookie lightly with the sea salt. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown but still soft. Allow the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then place the cookies on the cooling rack to finish cooling. Repeat with the rest of the dough until all cookies are finished baking. Enjoy!

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet

I’m really not that much of a fan of the summer. The 100 degree weather with humidity is no fun….at all. However, I’m a big fan of warm weather produce. Louisiana strawberry season is coming to a close (boo), but watermelon season is just gearing up. I had a flat of strawberries in the fridge, and really wanted to make a sorbet out of the berries again. I was flipping through my cookbooks, and came across this recipe in John Besh’s “My New Orleans” cookbook, and thought that watermelon + strawberry = match made in heaven. It just so happened that we had a seedless watermelon that needed to be cut into as well, so it was recipe fate. This sorbet needed to be made. :-)

By the way, if you’re ever in the market for a good, solid New Orleans cookbook, I’m a big fan of Besh’s cookbook. There’s quite a few recipes in there (for pretty much any classic New Orleans dish), and it’s a gorgeous cookbook that could double as a coffee table book. :-) (Also, John Besh has no earthly idea who I am…just wanted to gush about this book…)

Anyway, sorbet is one of the easier recipes for an ice cream machine. Seriously…it’s just pureed fruit, sugar and some citrus mixed together. Nothing fancy…nothing to cook, and yet, it’s incredibly perfect. Refreshing…cooling…and sweet!

Watermelon Strawberry Sorbet
Source: My New Orleans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup diced, seeded watermelon
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend everything until smooth and well-blended.
  2. Add the sorbet mixture to the bowl of an ice cream maker, and make the sorbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions (mine mixed for 30 minutes).
  3. Enjoy immediately or place in the freezer for a couple of hours, until hardened.

Best Ever Brownies & a Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Comfort Food Made Easy” and a container of LouAna coconut oil at no cost to me, for review. All opinions are 100% my own.

besteverbrownies

Goodness. Brownies are a weakness of mine. Warm, slightly under-done brownies…I have no willpower. None. And sadly, brownies are a baked good that whips up super quickly. No need for a mixer…just a large bowl and a whisk. It’s too easy.

Southern Living recently came out with “Comfort Food Made Easy”, which simplifies your favorite comforting dishes. It makes comfort food, which usually takes a good time to cook, easily accessible to cooks with little time to spare in the kitchen. While there were quite a few heavy dishes in there (like macaroni and cheese), there were also quite a few lightened comfort recipes in there for the summer! It’s a really versatile book.

I immediately skimmed through my copy, and my eyes were just drawn to this recipe for the “Best Ever Brownies”. I mean…that’s a big claim, so I had to try it out!

These brownies whipped together rather quickly, and they were just a great recipe. Super fudgy, rich and so tasty. I brought a pan of these to work, and they were gone by 10am. Brownies for breakfast, anyone?

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Boozy Pineapple Shake

Disclosure: I received a sample of Smirnoff Reduced Calorie Sorbet Light vodka in exchange for a fair and honest review. Please drink responsibly. All opinions are 100% my own.

Pineapple Vodka Shake

Oh my goodness, y’all. I feel like we just had wintry weather last week. Ok, we actually did. I feel like summer is fast approaching, and all I want lately is fruit, fruit, fruit! I’ve been eating strawberries by the pint, and I’m back in smoothie making mode. Of course, I’ll miss the days of turkey and stuffing, but I have a feeling those days will be back before we know it!

I was recently approached by the folks at Smirnoff, and they mentioned that they have a line of reduced calorie Sorbet Light vodkas. I love a good fruity drink, and flavored booze seems to be all the rage lately. What really caught my attention was when they mentioned that their newest flavor is pineapple coconut. It just so happens that my drink of choice is Malibu and Pineapple Juice. Anytime we go to a bar, and I don’t feel like perusing the menu, my go-to is this drink. So, when I received this sample of pineapple coconut vodka, I knew I had to do a fun twist on my favorite drink.

When we went on our Caribbean cruise, we noticed a place on the cruise ship that made boozy milkshakes. Oh, twist my arm….I had to try one! They had a pineapple shake version, and I thought I’d try to recreate it in a lighter version at home. This shake couldn’t be simpler to make, and it tasted so much like the one I enjoyed on our cruise! It’s not exactly the lowest in calories, but it’s a lot lighter than a strawberry margarita. I used light vanilla ice cream, as well as frozen pineapple chunks to keep it nice and thick, and of course, there’s pineapple juice and the Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut vodka. I’m seriously going to multiply this recipe and make a pitcher of it for our next party! If you love pineapple/coconut drinks, give this a try, and if you don’t like too much alcohol in your drink, reduce the vodka to half. :-P This recipe makes one large shake!

Boozy Pineapple Shake
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut vodka
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup light vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks

Directions:

  1. Throw all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Serve the drink in a fun glass and garnish with a pineapple slice. Enjoy!

 

 

Goal Setting

Weight loss this time around has been a lot tougher. I don’t know where my motivation went, but I’m having so much trouble getting back in the swing of things this year. I look back at my 70 lbs. lost pictures, and I can’t believe I thought I was FAT in those. I was on top of the world last April. Like Jack on Titanic hands in the air…ON.TOP.OF.THE.WORLD.

Randoms

Picture collage made by Fit For a Bride

Now, I feel like I’m fighting for every pound. Every single last pound. It’s hard…crazy hard, and that’s why I haven’t been writing much about it. I’m sort of ashamed, and I feel like I’m letting myself down every single day.

I also feel a small tinge of guilt on this blog. I feel like the weight gain lately is sort of letting you guys down. Every single one of you who wrote emails, comments, tweets…the encouragement was/is amazing, and I’m only 40 lbs. down now. It’s a bummer.

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Also, the 30 Day Shred thing? Sadly, today is day 1, instead of day 16.

However, it’s time for positive thinking…at least I’m on day 1, right? It’s something. And more positively, at least I’m catching myself 30 lbs. up, instead of gaining back all 70 lbs. That would have been a really tough pill for me to swallow.

So, here I am. It’s taking me a lot longer to get back to where I was, but I’m going to slowly chip away at it.

I decided to redo my rewards. I pretty much LOVED my rewards and looked forward to them like crazy. Since I took some steps back, I’m redoing them. Fresh start.

Weight Loss Rewards

So, here we go again. I have to admit that my first reward is already purchased. I bought this palette when it was on crazy sale at HSN, but when I got it, I thought that it would be fun to break this open when I saw a new weight decade for the first time in months. :-)

How is everyone else’s weight loss journeys going? Are any of y’all also facing the fact that this is, indeed, a journey?

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

Cream Scones

I know some things are better done by hand when it comes to cooking and baking, however, I love a good shortcut. The last time I made scones, I made them by hand. It was quite an arm work-out, and they took a good bit of time to make, but they were worth it. Homemade scones almost always are.

A few months back, I gathered up a couple of gift cards and purchased a food processor. We’ve always had a mini food processor, which was great, but I really hated doing things in small batches and well, sometimes the mini food processor couldn’t handle things. This one, however, is a work horse. When I thought about making scones, I was so excited because hey, any excuse to use a new toy, right? These scones came together incredibly fast. In fact, I ended up making 3 batches of these in one afternoon for my husband’s coworkers. SUPER easy. I added coarse sugar on top, because that’s how I’ve had them at a few bakeries, and I love the added crunch. The scones themselves were so tasty. I tried one with dried blueberries, and loved that they were so buttery in flavor and not too sweet. Totally perfect with a cup of coffee..totally. I made them with dried cherries and dried blueberries, but I imagine they would work beautifully with cranberries, too.

If you have a large food processor handy, I highly recommend this recipe. These would be perfect to bring to the office for a morning surprise or even bake them up for a brunch this Easter. :-)

Dried Fruit Cream Scones
Source: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks and very cold
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped if the pieces are large
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Optional: Coarse sugar

Directions:

  1. Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
  2. In a large food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, about 3 times. Add the butter evenly over the top of the mixture and pulse the mixture again until it looks like coarse meal with a few slightly larger pieces of butter, which will take about 12 more pulses. Transfer the butter/flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the dried fruit. Stir in the heavy cream, until dough begins to form.
  3. Turn the dough and flour bits onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the dough for about 5-10 seconds, until a rough, slightly sticky ball forms. Pat the dough evenly to a 9 inch round and cut the dough into 8 wedges.
  4. Place the edges on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of the scones with coarse sugar, if using. Bake the scones until the tops are lightly golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking process. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack, allowing the scones to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Peanut Thai Quinoa Salad

Disclosure: I received a selection of whole grain products from the Whole Grain Council to sample, as a whole grain ambassador for “Whole Grain Sampling Day”, but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thai Quinoa Salad

There’s nothing better than finally feeling in control of things again…at least diet-wise. Sure, I still have my splurge days, but for the most part, I don’t go over my calorie count. I have to admit, it really helps that the new office discourages eating at your desk. Walking to the break room for a handful of dried fruit or a granola bar makes me think twice before snacking. I actually like it….mindless snacking while at work was one of my biggest issues, and the new job sort of figured it out for me. :-)

I’ve also started trying new food items again. I was recently approached by the Whole Grains Council about being a Whole Grains Ambassador this year, along with some other fantastic food bloggers. I definitely jumped at the chance, because one thing I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey, is that there is nothing wrong with giving new foods a try. One of my favorite whole grains is quinoa, which I wouldn’t have ordinarily tried when I was almost 300 pounds. I was looking for other options for lunch at the office, and there were so many great recipes out there involving quinoa…I just had to give it a try! I know it’s all the rage lately, but I can’t get enough of it. Not only is it tasty (it reminds me of brown rice, but with a nuttier taste), but I also think it’s versatile. You can serve it hot or cold, savory or sweet, and you can easily enjoy it anytime of the day!

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30 Day Shred (again)

As I’ve recently gotten back into calorie counting, one of the things that unfortunately took a back seat was my workout schedule. When I started my new job last month, I stopped with my lifting routine at the gym. Just a new routine…getting used to going home later…I just quit going to the gym, and seriously, that’s no excuse. While there’s nothing I can really do about slacking the past 4 weeks, it’s time to look forward!

I’m starting the Shred…again. :-) The last time I did Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, I had amazing results.

30 Day Shred post

I mean…with those results, how can I not? I have 20 minutes to spare…I can’t make excuses anymore.

(And no, this isn’t April Fools. I mean, why would I joke about work-outs? That’s sort of lame.)

So, April is the month. 30 days. I can’t wait to see the results in May! Are any of y’all trying some new workouts to mix things up this spring?

 

Taffy Plus Size Activewear Review/Giveaway

Disclaimer: This review/giveaway is sponsored by Taffy, in conjunction with Fit Approach/Sweat Pink. All opinions are my own.

Since I’ve gained some of my weight back, I’m gonna admit that I’m back in plus sizes. A 1X is my usual size, and while some of my XL clothes still fit, most of my closet isn’t being worn right now. It’s sort of depressing.

I know it’s just a tag, but eh…it’s still a tough pill to swallow. A while back, a good blogging friend sent me a link about reviewing this brand of plus size activewear: Taffy. Since some of my workout clothes are a bit snug right now, I went for it.

I was sent the Taffy Essential Jacket (in white) for review through Sweat Pink. Since it tends to still switch between cold and warm lately, this jacket is still getting some use! I mean, last week we had weather in the 30s and just Saturday when my husband and I were doing yard work, I couldn’t stop sweating…it was HOT. Anyway, for chilly afternoons/evenings, I like to wear a light jacket to say, go for a run, walk the dog or heck, just wear on the way to the gym!

Taffy review

 

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Roasted Cauliflower

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I love my job. I’ve been making maps for almost 7 years now, and while it’s a small little niche to be in, I just love it. At first when I entered this field, I was scared out of my mind. I was no longer a student, which I was very comfortable with since I had been one for 18 years. I remember my first day at my first “real world” job. While I took classes to prepare me for my job, I was afraid that all of my college years were a lie. I’d walk into my job and be completely lost. Those first few days were pretty darn nerve-wracking and sort of embarrassing. I’d ask my boss all the time…um, how do you do this? (feeling completely stupid) However, my boss was super patient and had no issues reminding me about a certain tool in the software or what this acronym meant, etc…..and for that, I’m super thankful. I loved my first job…loved it, but since an hour plus commute/day wouldn’t be fun once I moved to where my (now) husband lived, I had to leave it. It just made sense. I won’t go into why I left my job before this one, but I’ll just say I’m super thankful that I found a new job where I can still work in the field that I enjoy.

Now that I’ve been doing this for quite a few years, while I don’t know it all (honestly, in my tech-y map field, not many people, with the exception of the software developers, do), I feel like I know a good bit. I will admit that I had a good bit of nerves walking into this new job on day 1, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of things here with a lot more ease versus previous jobs. The software I worked in never changed….just the work type and the standards. I feel a sense of belonging when I’m asked if I know how to do this in the software, and I can say “yes”. While I’m still very much the new person, and I still have a lot to learn, I feel like the transition hasn’t been too too bad. :-) I finally feel comfortable working in my field, just like I was comfortable being a student back in college. :-)

Now, I know roasted cauliflower isn’t comfort food…at all. However, when it came to cooking plain vegetables, I usually steamed them. It’s what I thought was the only way to prepare vegetables in a healthy way, and well, it never crossed my mind to roast vegetables, but after reading multiple blogs where everyone was like YES…MUST TRY ::insert veggie name:: ROASTED. It was new to me, like say…a new job? (Heehee…trying to link stories here, but failing miserably.) Anyway, roasted is my favorite way to prepare most vegetables now. This is one of those posts where a recipe isn’t really needed, but I’m gonna share it anyway. It’s a technique worth trying! I love the roasted flavor of veggies, and I’ve done this with cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes (cut in chunks) and fresh green beans, to name a few. I recently got another fun shipment of produce from Frieda’s Produce, and included in the shipment was cauliflower (white and purple) and romanesco (sort of a greenish cauliflower, but different shape). I just had to roast it up to see how pretty it would all turn out. :-)

If you roast different quantities of vegetables from time to time, you will want to adjust the oil and spices accordingly. It’s not an exact science by any means….I use just enough oil to coat the veggies and sort of gauge out the spices as I see fit. :-)

Roasted Cauliflower
Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken up into florets
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (adjust this based on the amount of vegetables)
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the cauliflower florets in an oven-proof baking pan or dish, and spread them into an even, single layer. Sprinkle the garlic powder evenly over the cauliflower, as well as the salt and pepper. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and toss to coat the cauliflower evenly in spices and oil.
  2. Once the oven has reached temperature, place the baking pan/dish in the oven and roast the vegetables, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, until the tops of the vegetables are just turning brown. Enjoy!

Disclosure: The cauliflower and romanesco were sent at no cost to me by Frieda’s Produce.