Thursday, April 30, 2009

Weekend Update and Cinco de Mayo Recipes!

Once again, I’ve been absent from the blog for awhile (minus the DWTS post yesterday – I am still so sad that Chuck is gone!) and once again its for a very good reason! I am finally all moved into the house and had my first houseguest over the weekend so I spent all of last week getting things ready for company! I had one friend coming in on Thursday night and another on Friday so Mon – Wed was major crunch time! Usually I am in bed on a ‘work night’ by 11 pm at the latest but last week it was all 1 am or later for me. I was cleaning, decorating, unpacking, organizing – everything! I am very pleased with the way things turned out though and glad to have that process behind me so that now I can enjoy everything and not continue working when I get home at the end of the day.

(I was going to wait to post this until I had taken some more house pictures but thought you all might want the recipes (since they were all mexican food) if you were planning on anything for Cinco de Mayo –I will post house pics in a separate post next week!)

My friend Tiffany was in town last week from Austin for work and came by on Thursday. We got to catch up over a bottle of wine and some Texas Caviar – a recipe I got from the Four Fat Chicks. Its not often that I get to see my girlfriends when we have the time to just sit and talk without some other ‘event’ going on so it was so great to spend so much time just chatting and hanging out. I miss the times in college when that’s pretty much all we did! Its sad that we’re all so busy these days!

Here’s the recipe for the yummy Texas Caviar that we had for ‘dinner’!

Texas Caviar
(makes a LOT)

1 can corn (drained)
1 can pinto beans (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can Ro-tel (I don’t drain this very much)
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 16 oz bottle fat free Italian dressing

Mix and serve!

Some recipes call for more Italian dressing so feel free if that’s the taste you’re after!

I find this to be especially yummy with Tostitos Baked Scoops and that it is better once it has had some time to chill in the refrigerator……

On Friday my friend Meredith came in town from San Antonio to stay for the weekend. I lived with Meredith in college along with another girl, Molly, who also lives here so she came over for dinner on Friday as well. It had been a long time since the three of us got to catch up together!

Meredith is not a fan of fruit (crazy, right???) but Molly and I enjoyed some pomegranate margaritas before dinner.

Photo Courtesy of The Food Network

Pomegranate Margaritas
(serves 2)

¼ cup lime juice
2 shots POM Wonderful juice
½ cup tequila
¼ cup triple sec

Serve over ice with a squeeze of lime.

And for dinner we had Chicken Tamale Casserole from Cooking Light. I first saw this recipe on Elizabeth’s Edible Experience and had made it once before. I made this using her advice on the recipe to leave out the creamed corn in favor of just regular corn and it works great. I read some reviews online and some people complain about the ‘too sweet’ taste but I think this must be cured by the normal corn because this does not seem too sweet to me. Also, some people have used green enchilada sauce instead of red and really liked it so use whatever you prefer!

Head over to Elizabeth's blog if you would like to see step by step pictures - you'll also find lots of other yummy recipes over there!

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Cooking Light November 2008

1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese ( I used reduced fat 2% blend)
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn ( I used regular corn - I hate cream corn)
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (I used Jiffy)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (I used a rotisserie chicken and used more than 2 cups…) 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (optional topping)

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. (I had to cook mine about 20-22 min) Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken (When I made this recipe the 2nd time I poured some sauce over the bread, just to coat it and then mixed the remaining sauce and the chicken together in a separate bowl and then placed that mixture on top of the bread);sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

4. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes.
Cut into 8 pieces and serve. YUM!

Our plan for the rest of the night was to watch the Sex and the City movie because Meredith had only seen it once – can you imagine? – but of course we ended up talking with the movie on in the background. We had a great night full of girl talk!

Saturday I proved to my hard core workout friend Meredith that walking really is a workout! I knew she thought I was crazy and even wore her heart rate monitor to see if she was getting a good workout – I was actually a little worried at what the official stats would be but luckily the walking workout got a good rating! We walked about 4.5 miles in just over an hour so we were moving!

That night we met some friends for sushi had a great time catching up and having some great food. That was pretty much the end of our girly fun-filled weekend. After Meredith left on Sunday I caught up on a LOT of tv (I am loving having my DVR back!) and ran some miscellaneous errands. This week has actually been pretty nice thus far and I’ve been able to work out and just relax in the evenings now that most of the house stuff is out of the way. I’m so glad I got a lot of that done last week so that now I can just enjoy it!

I tried a new Jillian Michaels workout dvd this week that I’ve had on Netflix for about a month now, “Banish Fat Boost Metabolism” – it’s a good one! I’ll post a review after I’ve completed it a few more times, so far I would recommend it though!

Tonight we’ve got our book club meeting for “Straight Up and Dirty” by Stephanie Klein – I’m looking forward to a fun night, and then the weekend is almost here!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


(Otherwise known as...Dancing with the Stars)

SPOILER AHEAD! Do not read if you don’t know who got kicked off this week!!!

I know I have not posted in awhile and who would have thought that Dancing with The Stars would get me going again? Certainly not me! I’ve always heard great things about this show but this is the first season I have really gotten into it and watched it regularly. I look forward to it each week, love seeing the dances and the costumes, and love that its such a lighthearted/no drama source of entertainment next to the other drama-filled shows taking up space on my DVR. (Side note: I am convinced that Kelly Bensimon on the Real Housewives of NY is on drugs or has a chemical imbalance – she is CRAZY!)

I felt like last week’s episode of DWTS was the best one so far this season. They had weeded out all the people who didn’t really care to be there, everyone was more comfortable, confident, and had this whole ‘new dance routine each week thing’ down.

To me, Shawn Johnson totally STOLE the show with her performance – look how sassy she is! (I think I watched this three times before deleting the recording!)

And every week I am amazed by Chuck and Julianne. I even told someone yesterday that I think I’d like to be her in my next life. She is fun, talented (she can sing AND dance!), seems like a smart girl, great body, and have you seen her boyfriend??? H-O-T! I love watching her dance with Chuck each week because they get along so well and he always looks like he is having a good time but still takes the dancing/competition part really seriously and tries his hardest for a good score. They are so cute together; I totally think they should get married and have lots of cute little singing and dancing babies.

Melissa, aka ‘the jilted bachelorette’ has also been a crowd favorite. I didn’t watch her on The Bachelor but I have become a fan of her on this show. Unfortunately this week she was injured and could not dance for the judges in the live show so her scores were based on a rehearsal. The scores were not nearly as good as they would have been for the real show because they were taking it easy in the rehearsal and didn’t have the energy from the audience. Sadly, they ended up on the bottom for this week and I was pretty sure either she or Ty Murray would be sent home. At this point its sad to see anyone go but at the same time I feel like Ty is not going to win so he’ll have to go at some point.

Then last night they throw us a total curveball and Ty is the first person who is “safe” – what??? I started getting really worried that Melissa would be the one to go because of her scores or that maybe it would be Lil’ Kim’s week to go even though she is really good –never did I think it would be my precious Chuck and Julianne! And then, sadly, their names were called and they got the boot! So now I won’t get to stare at him through the tv each week, I guess I may have to check him out at his day job from now on!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What does water do for fun?

I, like most people I know, am on a constant quest to drink more water. I used to be great at this. Never drank anything carbonated. I actually started this little quest during my senior year of high school, just to see if I could. I stayed strong for an entire year! The next year I upped the ante to include 'no french fries' that did last awhile but I am now back on the french fry bandwagon from time to time. On the carbonated beverages I usually do pretty well. I was lucky enough to somehow avoid the "I'm addicted to diet coke" phase that some of my college friends fell into and are still trying to work their way out of, and probably really only maybe have one carbonated beverage per day. So thats all fine and good but what I really need to do is DRINK MORE WATER. You feel better, you look better, your skin looks better, it aids in weight loss...need I go on?

I am also a big lover of pink lemonade. I have no idea what the flavoring is in pink lemonade that gives it that something special that regular lemonade does not have - well besides being fun and pink and girly - but it is just so much better to me than regular lemonade. So I was so excited when Crystal Light FINALLY came out with PINK lemonade on-the-go packets! They've had the regular lemonade, plus tons of other flavors for years now! Why not give us the pink lemonade a little sooner? I was so excited to spot this on the shelves of my local grocery store a few weeks ago. (I'm actually enjoying one as I type this!)

Lucky for me they were running a 2 for $5 deal that day so I also picked up this new flavor:
I'm not really sure how this will help my skin but I really enjoy the pomegranate lemonade flavor! Its a very light flavor, nothing too overwhelming. I am also a fan of the cherry pomegranate flavor which is supposed to do something to aid in immunity but I'm not sure quite sure if that works either. Also, if you try the cherry pomegranate one, it is VERY red when you mix it up. Be careful if you are wearing light colors!
Then I spotted the Ocean Spray on-the-go packs - they have fantastic flavors! Becuause I had not tried them before, I only got one pack, Cran-Lemonade, but they several that I would try. This one has a great flavor. I'm not sure if I like it or the pomegranate lemonade better.
There you have it! Some great things to add some zing to that boring old bottle of water! (Also, I recommend using these in a 20-24 oz bottle of water instead of the 16.9 oz size they suggest, They give plenty of flavor in the larger bottle size and then you're drinking more water anyways!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Straight Up and Dirty how I always order my martinis - kidding! - is the title of the book club pick for this month! (I just realized I've never had a 'real' martini, guess its about time...)

From Publisher’s Weekly: (via
One month after discovering her husband was having an affair, 20-something Klein made him her "Wasbund" and started trying to find a man to date again-or better, a "pair and a spare," as her telephone therapist advised. She "rodated" desperately, searching for someone to repair her wounded ego. She even found a reasonably suitable boyfriend-only she broke it off when he suggested living together. At one point she faced the truth she'd avoided from the beginning, that she had to learn to appreciate herself for her own accomplishments before she could have a healthy relationship with a man. While there's nothing new about that story line-indeed, it's curiously proto-feminist for a recent Barnard grad-Klein's sense of humor is downright wicked. Her ex-mother-in-law was a "shrub of a woman" who "sounded like she'd swallowed a southerner" and looked "like a transvestite who had a one-night stand with a disco ball." Then there's "Mr. Madras Pants," who "carried a degree in poplin with a minor in seersucker... the type of man who was at complete ease when sending his order back to the kitchen." In the end, Klein's is a great, fun read.

I have a friend who read it with her group a few months ago and raved about it so much that I went ahead and read it in February just to see what all the fuss was about. (Unfortunately she does not have a blog so I can’t link to hers on here – I’m hoping this comment in here will just be something else to make her start one though! I’ve been trying!) When her group read the book she told me that she really learned a lot about relationships and that she saw different aspects of several of our friends and things that had happened in their relationships. I was very curious to read this to see where I fell into this and it was all very interesting. One thing I know we have in common is a severe aversion to Chardonnay - don't get me started! - which comes up a few times in the book. But there were other things that she thought and felt that made me think of myself as well. The writer is witty and the language will probably catch you off guard at times but it’s a great girly read. Perfect for the beach!

This book is also a memoir of sorts which, to me, made it all the more interesting because I was actually thinking about this specific person the whole time and how these things actually happened to her. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book saying that a few things were embellished to make things a little more humorous or exciting, but I think the big things are all true. (Smart move by her. We don't want another "Million Little Pieces" scandal on our hands!) Then when the book was over I found myself wondering what she was doing now and how things turned out. Luckily she has kept up with the daily updates on her life on her blog so you can still follow along and see how things are going for her now. So far everyone who has finished it for book club has really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to getting together with everyone and discussing the book later this month.

So, because I have already finished the book for book club this month, I started a new non-club book last night, “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs. I have been seeing this around for a few years now and finally bought it for myself with the last round of books I got on (By the way if you haven’t bought books on yet you are missing out!) A few years ago (2003, I think) I decided I wanted to learn to knit and asked for yarn, knitting needles and some instructional books for Christmas. I taught myself, and my mom, to knit from a book and spent the better part of a week working on a scarf that I still love years later. I feel like I go through phases with knitting, sometimes I’m just totally addicted to it and then I’ll go for months, or even years lately without picking up the needles. I hadn’t made anything in at least 2 years (Its hard to knit when you get a puppy, then also when that puppy grows up and wants to be in your lap ALL the time!) and then started up again a few months ago during a long weekend at the beach with my family. It took me a little while to remember exactly how to start and I think I may have to get the books back out when the scarf is done to figure out how to finish it up but I just love it. The only thing I know how to knit is scarves which do not require much talent but something about it is just addicting. I have bags of scarves I’ve never even worn, I’ve just wanted to make them. I love picking out the yarn and imagining how the finished product will turn out.

I’m only about 20 pages into this book but just that little bit has me hooked. I read online that USA Today calls it “Steel Magnolias set in Manhattan” – sounds pretty good to me! Oddly I’ve heard a lot of other people talking about this book lately even though it was released 2 years ago. Its even the book club pick for my local Borders bookstore this month! I have heard some talk of it being turned into a movie with Julia Roberts so now I’m glad I’ll be finishing before the movie comes out – the books are always so much better. I’m hoping it will also inspire me to branch out beyond scarves. Guess we’ll have to wait and see on that one!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lemonade Cake

I’m sorry I didn’t post this over the weekend but this is a great spring/summer dessert that everyone will love! Its also very easy...

1 box lemon cake mix
1 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
1 container lemon frosting

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare and bake cake as directed on package in greased 13 x 9 pan. Let cool 15 minutes.

Stir together thawed lemonade concentrate and powdered sugar. Poke holes on warm cake with fork. Drizzle lemonade mixture evenly over cake. Refrigerate cake until cold.

Spread frosting over cold cake and serve.

Cover and refrigerate leftover cake.

Ingredients: Yes, that is sprite and vanilla ice cream!

Prepare the cake according to package directions BUT I learned this little trick from my friend Heather who took a cake decorating class - use sprite in place of water and once everything is mixed, add in a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream and mix into the batter just before baking. It makes a very good cake! And you can do this with ANY cake flavor!

Bake the cake according to package directions - looks good to me!

While the cake is cooling, mix one cup of thawed lemonade concentrate and 1 cup powdered sugar.

Use a fork to poke holes in the cake while it is still warm.

Pour the lemonade/powdered sugar mixture evenly over the cake.

Then refrigerate until cake is cool. I prefer to do this overnight if possible but it will be cool after 3-4 hours.

Once the cake has fully chilled, spread lemon icing over the top and serve!

Unfortunatley this is not type of cake you can take out of the baking pan and put onto some cute serving dish. It must be served directly from the pan. Makes the whole thing pretty easy!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Its been awhile...

It was brought to my attention yesterday that its been awhile since I’ve posted…I guess my friends are a little bored at work and looking for something to do! I'm sorry for not updating more often but what can I say? Things have been pretty busy! Luckily they’ve also been very fun!

I attended the Britney Spears concert last Monday with some girlfriends and it was fabulous! It was really more of a ‘show’ than a concert. The Pussycat Dolls opened for her and they were amazing to watch as well. If you need some motivation to work out, watch those girls strut their stuff for a few minutes! Once PCD wrapped up their show, the “circus” began – seriously. Britney had crazy hula hoop people, gymnasts, jugglers, all kinds of traditional circus fare. And then the real show began! Brit Brit was lowered down from the ceiling for the first song and the show definitely did not disappoint. She seems to be back to her old self, dancing like crazy and just being an awesome entertainer. Granted I only think she ‘sang’ one song but they didn’t really even try and have you believe she was singing the rest of the time. You know how they will usually have screens at a concert with a close up of the performer so that you can still see if your seats aren’t that great? Well there was none of that here! I think if we could have seen her face during all of these songs, it would have been just highly focused on the next dance move! We didn’t really mind though, watching her dance was a lot more exciting than watching her sing!

The show was great. She changed clothes every chance she got and participated in a few ‘circus’ acts herself. There was getting lowered down from the ceiling, then getting sawed in half, appearing out of nowhere, disappearing through a trap door, fire, fireworks, you name it – it was in this show! Quite a spectacle!

The rest of the week was marked with me finally moving into the house my family has been working on redoing! I plan on posting some major before and after pictures, but for now here’s just a taste.
Here is the kitchen before and after:

And here is the view of the living room from the top of the stairs, before and after:

As you can see a lot of changes have been made!

This has really been taking up all of my time, both at work and after work. At work I’ve been trying to schedule deliveries, set up movers and find things online that we still need for the house as well as get all of my highly personal information to the mortgage company. I’ve never felt so violated in my life! Its been a lot of fun though and I think we’ve all learned a lot. Thankfully my brother and dad have a great vision for the finished product and are quite handy; otherwise none of this would have been possible!

I did take a break this weekend from all the moving hoopla to celebrate my friend Lacey’s birthday. Happy Birthday Lacey! We have become a huge fan of the birthday brunch and tried out a new place on Sunday called Bedford. We all loved our food and, of course the mimosas! Any excuse to drink champagne and I’m on board! We all had a great time wishing Lacey a fabulous birthday and getting to catch up for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon...

And now to my final fun event – I attended Opening Day for the Astros on Monday with my friend Hailey, aka my baseball buddy! It was also the 10th Anniversary of Minute Maid Park so there was a lot going on! 10 years ago Lyle Lovett sang the national anthem on opening day and they had him back yesterday to do it again! They also had people who had been season ticket holders for the past 10 years hold the big American flag out on the field and lots of special introductions for the new players we've acquired - namely Pudge Rodriguez - yea! We lost the game but still had a lot of fun! Go 'stros! Things have been a lot of fun lately and hopefully this weekend will be more of the same. Luckily my office observes Good Friday so its a short week - always a good thing! - and my cousin is coming in town to visit and help with some house things. I am also planning on making a fun springtime/Easter dessert so be on the lookout for a recipe and step by step pictures later this week!