Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Small Moments

As a new school semester starts and a routines are formed,  I am reminded of just how fleeting time can be. My daughter is growing so fast, and becoming more and more independent each and every day. I know that one day there will come a time that she no longer needs my help to do the small things, or even the big things. I am so proud to see each and every milestone she passes. She is so intelligent, and has the sweetest little disposition. She understands so much more than you would expect from a toddler her age! I am just so very proud and so thankful that God gave me the privilege of being her Mommy.

When life gets busy, it is so easy to get lost in the "small moments". I cherish these times. I cherish the times that my daughter reaches up from her crib after a nap and just wants to relish in a long hug. I cherish those little wet kisses. I even cherish each and every tantrum, because I know those are just an opportunity for me to teach her patience, grace, and maybe even wisdom. There will come a time when those values are harder to teach because she may refuse to listen. It's easy to get lost in all of the things you aren't getting and forget what a great privilege and blessing it is to be able to give. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to have this time getting know my daughter and forming a beautiful bond. That bond may not always be pretty. There may be plenty of screaming fits (from both she and I), tantrums, and tears, but there will be hugs, kisses and lots of love.

My daughter is such a blessing, and it is my greatest privilege to be her Mommy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Girls' Weekend and the Coffee Bar

Recently my very best lifelong gal pals decided to come down for the weekend and visit me. We had a great time, we went tubing on the Comal River, played around on 6th Street and had some seriously good eats along the way! We were all in need of a kid-free, diet-free weekend. It was fabulous! I wish we could do that once a month. A girl can dream, right? Maybe once every 2-3 months.

After a night of serious partying on Austin's famed 6th Street, we needed a some breakfast and a big cup o' joe. On a side note: When I was a few years younger and single, I absolutely loved 6th Street. Now that I'm a few years older and not an Austin tourist anymore...I wanted to just say, "Can't we just go to a winery?".

We stayed in downtown the previous night, so we were certain we could find some place better than IHOP. After driving around aimlessly for thirty minutes trying to find something, we stumbled across Halcyon off of 4th and Lavaca. I have driven by this place at least one hundred times, but I figured it was just another eclectic Austin bar. Seeing as it was open for breakfast that morning, we decided to give it a try.

We were all very pleasantly surprised when we walked in. It wasn't a bar at all, but a very charming coffee bar! They even sell specialty cigars, if that is your thing. (I don't think you can smoke them inside...THANKFULLY.) I first was delighted to see that I could order Cafe Au Lait. If I had to choose my last meal, it would be a Cafe Au Lait and beignets from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. So, I got my pretty little Cafe Au Lait, which Halcyon served with two little animal charming!! I never knew coffee and animal crackers went together so well, but they certainly do. One of my friends decided on the bottomless mimosas that morning for a little hair of the dog. They were delicious, too!

My friends and I were just as impressed with our meals as we were with our beverages. I got a delicious panini with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. My friend Anne got french toast. Lauren got the Breakfast Panini, and all I remember Danielle getting is tanked on mimosas. Giggle. :)

WOW...was the food good! I wish this place was just a little closer to where I lived because I would have to go there at least once a week. If you haven't been to Halcyon off 4th and Lavaca, I highly suggest you make a trip.

Skinny Apple Tart

The original French apple tart from Barefoot Contessa
You know that question, "If you could have anyone over for dinner that is currently living, who would it be?" For me the answer to that question is simple...Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa. That is, as long as she is cooking. That woman has the absolute best recipes I've ever made. Almost all of which are very high in fat, which is probably what makes them all so darn tasty. Random fact: Did you know that Ina's husband Jeffery, who frequently appears on the show, was the Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and former Dean of the Yale School of Management? Let's just say the Barefoot Contessa shop didn't move them to the Hamptons.

My dearest Ina makes this delicious French apple tart that is just soaked in butter. It is SO good. I could eat it for dessert every night. I decided to try and lighten up this recipe and see if it even turned out to be edible. Sure enough, it was pretty tasty. Don't get me wrong, Ina's version is better. Butter makes everything better, right? However, if I can't have the real thing and lose thirty pounds then I will settle for the skinny version. All joking aside, the skinny version turned out to be delicious in it's own right! If I wasn't comparing it to Ina's then I would think this little tart is the bee's knees.

  • 3 granny smith apples, sliced thinly
  • 4 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1 Tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 spray cooking oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a tart pan with oil. Lay out phyllo dough very gently in the tart pan and allow the excess to hang over the side. Using 1/2 Tbsp of apricot jam, spread across the phyllo dough. I like to mix the jam with a splash of water and microwave for about 10 seconds. This makes it really easy to spread and helps the jam to go a little further. Layer apples as decoratively as you like. I like to do a circular pattern. Fold over phyllo dough to create a top crust. In a ramekin, mix together remaining apricot jam and butter. Brush on top of the apples and phyllo dough. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. 

This is really delicious!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Low-Fat Version of CPK's Barbecue Chicken Pizza

One of my all time favorite treats is the Barbecue Chicken Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. While certainly not the most fattening thing on their menu, it still weighs in with a whopping 30 grams of fat and 930 calories. I decided to try my hand at lightening up this bad boy!

I used a whole wheat, ultra thin pizza crust which saved the most calories. I also used a boneless, skinless chicken breast to save more calories. 

  • 1 pre-packaged, ultra thin, whole-wheat pizza crust
  • 1 grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1/2 cup fat free mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
Turn on oven broiler. I like the oven extra hot for pizzas. The closer to a brick oven, the better! If you have a pizza stone, use it. If not, a regular pizza pan will work fine. To assemble the pizza, top crust with barbecue sauce, chicken breast, onion and cheese. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Top with cilantro.

My version. :) 
This version saves so many calories! 1/6 of the pie comes out to 221 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 35.5 carbs, 1 gram of fiber, and 17.8 grams of protein. That's 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus to those of you counting. Pizza is always going to be a splurge, but compared to the numbers you see on the pizza from CPK, this one beats it any day! Not to mention it tasted great!

Rice Noodles and Veggies

This dish came to fruition simply because I hadn't been to the store in longer than I care to admit! I had been to the farmers' market that morning and I picked up some delicious cherry tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, and zucchini. Zucchini must grow like crazy in Central Texas, because the zucchini you find at any given farmers' market are huge.  I only used half for this recipe, but for a normal size squash you would use the entire thing.

Normally, I probably would have served these veggies with whole wheat farfalle or penne. I had brown rice noodles, so that's what we got! This recipe turned out to be a really nice, light meal that was easy to prepare. I hope you all enjoy this as much as my family did!

  • 1/2 package brown rice noodles (I use Maifun)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces then halved
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp basil, julienned 

In a large pot, boil water. The rice noodles will cook almost instantly, so don't cook them until you are done with your sauce. In a separate pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions appear translucent. Add all vegetables, and let cook until slightly tender, but still have some bite.

Add rice noodles to boiling water, and remove after about 30 seconds. Add to pan with vegetables. Reserve a 1/4 cup cooking liquid from the pasta and add to the vegetable and noodles. You could probably substitute chicken broth as well. 

Sprinkle parmesan cheese and basil over the top. Enjoy!

Cioppino Stew

I am a huge fan of the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I don't know what it is, but there is just something that appeals to me about Guy Fieri. :) On one recent episode, he went to Duarte's in San Francisco and indulged in Cioppino Stew. Now, being from Texas, this rich seafood stew is not something you see on menus in this area. In fact, from what I can tell, people on the west coast must hog this dish because I can't seem to find it anywhere else!

The original Cioppino Stew from Duarte's in San Francisco
After seeing this episode my mouth started watering for this deep red stew filled with goodies from the ocean! It's a fish stew that originated in San Francisco, although it's considered an Italian dish. This delectable soup usually consists of crab, mussels, scallops, and white fish simmered for hours in a tomato, wine and saffron broth. Served up with crusty bread, it is perfection. I've never tried this dish in San Fran, but needless to say it is on my bucket list!

Since I can't seem to find Cioppino anywhere in the great state of Texas, I decided to just make it myself. I didn't have all of the seafood ingredients on hand, and since I'm the only seafood eater in my house I wasn't going to spend a ton to make this just so I could eat it. I decided to use only shrimp, tilapia, and lump crab meat. I found several recipes only, but I decided to mix them together and come up with my own concoction. Here is what I did:


3 filets tilapia
1/2 pound shrimp
1 cup lump crab meat


2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp saffron
1 cup seafood stock (I wasn't about to use this from a box. You can ask the fishmonger if they have any on hand. Thankfully, at Whole Foods they do.)
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

First, I sauteed the seafood in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Start with the tilapia, and add the shrimp when the tilapia is almost done. It won't take very long at all. The crab meat will be cooked, but I add it to this just to coat it with a little oil. Add a small amount of salt and pepper, but not too much. Break up tilapia into bite sized chunks, and set aside.

In the same pot, add remaining oil and saute onion, bell pepper, garlic and saffron strands. When onions are translucent, add tomatoes, wine, seafood stock, chicken stock and bay leaves. Add seafood to mixture, and bring to boil. Once it comes to a boil, bring down to medium low heat and let simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, top with parsley and serve with a crusty garlic bread.

This turned out sooooooooooo good. I'm sure my version doesn't even compare to those found in San Francisco, but in the meantime I am more than pleased with this substitution!

Mine may not be as pretty, but it sure was tasty!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

7 Stupid Health Mistakes

Now that I'm on Weight Watchers, I've also transitioned myself and my family into a "Clean Eating" lifestyle. I've been doing it off and on for years. I've been researching the subject in depth for a few weeks, and now I feel it's imperative to make a complete change! If not just for the nutritional values of eating healthy, but because of the unbelievable chemicals they put in most of the food we have all purchased at the store. Anyhoo....that's another entry for another day!! It's coming. :) 

I ran across this article written by Emily Battaglia of, and I just had to share this valuable knowledge. 

Here are 7 completely STUPID mistakes that are detrimental to your health. I had to share because I've been guilty of doing each one of these at different times in my life.

Do you constantly go to bed at 1 a.m. and wake up feeling groggy and more tired than when you finally hit the sack? Or do you insist on being tan in the dead of winter by using tanning 
beds? If so, you could be one of many intelligent people still making stupid health mistakes. If you’re guilty as charged, you should know exactly what you’re risking and how to make smarter decisions starting today. 

You’re educated, well-read and are the go-to person for solving your family’s and friend’s 
problems. You consider yourself pretty knowledgeable on many topics but somehow you still manage to make stupid health mistakes. But why? Your well-being should be one of your top priorities. 

So if the one area you’re lacking in expertise is how to maintain proper health, or if you are just ignoring what you know to be true, it’s time to wise up. 

Here are seven stupid health mistakes even the smartest of adults are making: 

1. Sabotaging Your Skin for a Little Color. 

We all know that too much sun damages our skin, so why do we continue frying ourselves in the pursuit of a golden tan? 

Sun tanning and skipping the sunscreen both increase your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays, which can cause premature aging and even worse, skin cancer. 

Tanning is simply not worth it, especially when so many good self-tanners are available. 

2. Skipping Breakfast. 

Breakfast is too easy and beneficial a meal to pass up in the mornings. 

As you sleep, your body’s metabolism slows down, so when you wake up, your body needs food to get your metabolism going again. 

When you skip breakfast, your energy levels suffer. 

Although you may try skipping breakfast in an attempt to cut calories and lose weight, you actually tend to eat more throughout the day to compensate for your hunger and may gain more weight. 

Studies have also shown that eating breakfast increases your ability to perform better mentally. 

3. Smoking. 

If you don’t know by now that smoking is bad for your health – not just bad, but deadly – you’re either in denial or have been living under a rock for the past 30 years. 

The consequences of smoking include lung and throat cancer, premature wrinkles, an increase in men’s risk of impotence, and complication of pregnancies for women. And these are just some of the consequences of smoking. 

While smoking is addictive and quitting can be challenging, it’s one of the best things you can do for your health today. 

4. Skipping the Weights. 

Contrary to popular myth, lifting weights will not necessarily make you bulk up, an effect that many people, especially women, want to avoid. In fact, women actually lack the testosterone and often the time it takes in the gym to really get beefy. 

It’s true that when you start lifting weights or using a resistance training program, you generally gain a bit of weight before you start to lose it, but that’s simply because muscle weighs more than fat. 

If you want to get in shape, “pumping iron” will make you look trimmer and more toned, and will help you burn more calories even after your workout is done. 

5. Avoiding the Dreaded Doctors. 

Nobody can attest to doctor visits as being pleasant experiences; in fact, seeing the doctor can be time-consuming, require tons of paperwork and even be somewhat embarrassing, depending on why you’re there. 

Even so, having a checkup can mean detecting a problem and treating it early enough to avoid further complications. 

Women should visit the gynecologist yearly for a pap smear and breast exam, as well as a yearly mammogram once over the age of 40. Men should have their testicles examined for irregularities and should also be checked for colon cancer. 

You should also be visiting your dentist and general practitioner yearly. These doctor visits may be uncomfortable, but they can potentially save your life. 

6. Not Getting Enough Sleep. 

Doctors have been telling us for years that most people need at least eight hours of sleep a night to function at their fullest the next day, so why are you going to bed so late? 

Sleep deprivation not only makes you feel less than your usual perky self, but has been linked to weight gain, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and insulin resistance, not to mention the accidents that can occur from limited mental alertness. 

Many people find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things accomplished, so they sacrifice sleep. Instead, you should sacrifice less important commitments and set a regular bedtime to get a full eight hours in to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. 

7. Drinking your Calories. 

Starbucks lattes and Jamba Juice smoothies might be a regular fixture in your day, but you could be consuming nearly all of your calories for the day in just one cup. 

Coffee drinks, smoothies, sodas, juices, and alcohol are all notorious for being high in calories. 

If you’re drinking these regularly and not cutting back on your calories from food, you could be consuming up to an extra 1,000 calories a day, which leads to weight gain. Instead, try limiting yourself to one liquid treat once a week and drink plenty of water. 

You are now armed with great information, so no more excuses when it comes to making stupid health mistakes! 

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