Kelly the Culinarian: 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead: 12 Goals for 2012

The past year has been amazing. I've worked hard to reach my goals, both professionally and otherwise, but I know I can do more. Because of all I've gained, I'm positive there is more out there for me. I've carefully picked my 2012 goals to fit into my long-term set of goals, which I'll be posting about later. Most people have the urge to change like 400 things about themselves in a single act. It's a tendency I have to fight, so I've narrowed my targets to fit into the matrix of my schedule, constraints, etc.

Here are my goals for 2012:
In 2012, you will be mine.
1. Run my first marathon. My friend Rachael and I have been cooking this one up since we went to Kentucky for the Big Hit Half Marathon. After careful consideration, we will both finish our first marathon on Sept. 16, 2012 at the Fox Valley Marathon. We've already set up a training schedule and are going to kick ass.

2. Complete my first triathlon. Because the marathon is the big goal for the year, I chose a sprint triathlon that wouldn't interfere with my training program. I will be participating the Tower Triathlon on May 20, 2012.

3. Set a personal record for the 5K. I haven't run a 5K since 2010, the first race I ever did. After the marathon, I plan to commit to a 5K and work to crush my previous time of 33 minutes.

Will I look like this if I finish a tri?
4. Volunteer at a race. I'd like to see the other side of a race.

5. Take a swim class. I plan to make triathlons a part of my life, so I want to get it right.

6. Try vegetarianism for one month. I don't eat a ton of meat already, and I'd like to try giving up meat for one month and see how I feel. First, I'd have to clean out the freezer of meat, so this goal may have to wait a while.

7. Read a few books. Stay well-rounded by reading cookbooks, memoirs, training books and pop lit.

8. Achieve my goal weight of 124 pounds by March 31. I've been chasing this weight since July of 2010 and am about five pounds away. Seriously, I can lose five pounds. I just need to commit and make it happen.

9. Try one new recipe per month. It's easy to get caught up in routine otherwise.

10. Send out holiday cards. This winter, I received a mailbox full of cute, heartfelt cards. I feel like less of an adult because I can't seem to get this together. I haven't purchase stamps in at least one year, so that should tell you how often I send cards.

11. Grow the Fort2Base Race Ambassador program. For the 2012 race, I'd like to have 10 active, excited ambassadors. Interested? E-mail me at

12. Save more money. This is a less concrete goal than the others simply because it's a continual goal. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a frugal house and I love reading frugal living blogs and books.

Edited 1/20/12: Seems like some lofty goals, right? Find out where all these goals are going.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Posts of 2011

Another year's over, and this is my attempt to show you one year in one post. It's been an exciting year for me, with travels to Charlotte, Knoxville, New Orleans, Seattle, Houston and the Dells. I also got committed to my running and completed several new distances, including a half marathon. Before I get fired up about 2012, I thought it would be a good idea to look back on this year. In a nutshell, here are my favorite posts of the year.

Favorite Healthy Recipes
Vegan banana muffins: Healthy, tasty and oh-so-satisfying
Protein ice cream: A great way to enjoy a frozen treat the healthy way
Pumpkin apple struessel muffins: A combination of two of my favorite fall ingredients
Whole-wheat pizza: This recipe is a staple in my house
Granola: So much cheaper and tastier than the store-bought stuff
Chocolate protein muffins: Made with applesauce or pumpkin, whole wheat flour or coconut flour, these rock my socks off

Favorite Not-So-Healthy Eats
Oreos inside chocolate chip cookies: Decadent and amazing
Frozen chocolate delight cake: This was a hit at work
Pralines: I'm ashamed to admit how many I ate
Easy apple pies: Made for Rachael's bachelorette party to rave reviews
Butterscotch fudge bar bites: I'm a sucker for butterscotch
Easy microwave salted caramels: These are super simple and turn out impressive

Running Races Completed
Downers Grove 5 Miler: Tim took first place for his age group!
Fitness for America 10k: My first medal, third in my age group
Fort2Base 11.5-mile Race: Otherwise known as the day I learned the importance of nutrition
Big Hit Half Marathon: The day I decided I am a runner

My Favorite Posts
Scenes from Seattle: I had a great time exploring the city
What We Ate: New Orleans Edition: The food was so amazing and totally different
I Survived the Quidditch/Trailer Trip: A fun family vacation to Indianapolis to see my sister in the Midwest Quidditch Cup
What I Learned About Running From My Dog: My dog is very wise

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Might Be Out of Shape

I started my last working day of this week with a peanut butter protein shake. It was tasty and creamy, but could have used a touch less milk because I like my shakes and smoothies thick. In the brand-new blender went:

1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 small banana
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
1 cup skim milk

After work, it was still light out and fairly warm, so I thought I'd take my Garmin on its first outdoor run. I wore my blinking red light, reflector bands and a new headlamp my parents gave me for Christmas.

And it all went to hell. I set out to complete five miles, and that quickly was scaled back to three miles. I completed a 5K in just more than a half an hour, which isn't a terrible time. It's a far cry from just a few months ago when I was able to crank out the same distance in 25 minutes.

What concerns me more is how I felt. My overall pace was 9:35, but the exertion I felt was meant I felt like I was running much harder. Indeed, my heart rate was an average of 170 beats per minute, or 92 percent of my max. Eek!

My last outdoor run was Black Friday, and since mid-November, I've been working out indoors using the Insanity workout program. I thought this was getting me in pretty great shape as I don't sweat nearly as much when running as I do when finishing up a cardio circuit in Insanity.

The heart rate, however, doesn't lie. While Insanity might be a good workout to make me physically fit, it's not doing any favors for my running and maybe even my heart. Lesson learned: weather permitting, I'll be hitting the pavement more often.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Green Smoothie Recipe

My family knows I love food and bought me lots of foodie gifts for Christmas. They're very thoughtful and bought me some great items I'll get a ton of use out of. We got a new blender for green smoothies and I was really excited to try it out.

I knew I needed something that could blend liquids more effectively after my homemade frappuccino fail. I like the model my mom purchased because it wasn't too pricey and everything is dishwasher safe. I tested it out last night and made my favorite green smoothie recipe, which I enjoyed in a new mug that my mom also got me for Christmas. Doesn't it photograph well? This smoothie is even holiday colored!

Green Smoothie Recipe
1 cup baby spinach
1 medium banana
2 ounces orange juice
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Place all ingredients in the blender. My new blender has a frozen drink setting, which worked perfectly. Enjoy immediately.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Training Tuesday: Insanity Day 25

I've gotten behind on my Insanity workouts this month because of my various medical maladies. I took two days off when I had the flu/stomach bug, which was my most recent issue. So right now, I'm in the recovery week. I plan to stay here until Jan. 2, then move onto the second month of workouts.

I tried out my Garmin Forerunner 405 for the first time in this workout. Because I didn't travel any distance, it didn't calculate calories burned. It was interesting to see my heart rate. I highly doubt my heart rate reached 227, but I'm sure that it will work itself out the next time I use it. Any tips for getting calories burned for indoor workouts?

Napoleon's Christmas toy is in here because he thought I was sitting on the floor to play with him.
This morning, I weighed 126.6, mostly because of the stomach issues. I have high hopes of reaching my 124 goal in the new year, but Training Tuesday is also Taco Bell Tuesday, which I simply cannot/will not say no to. My goal is to get lean this winter prior to beginning summer race training. The more I can lose now, the easier it will be on my joints and the lighter I'll be on my feet. Also, it's hard for me to lose weight while getting ready for a race because long runs revs up my hunger big time. I can't skimp on calories when I'm going to run for two hours because then I just start thinking about all the things I could be eating and where I could stop and eat. All that thinking about food makes it hard for me to find my inner zen and prepare for the race mentally.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Homemade Waffle Recipe

Today was a lovely post-Christmas holiday. As I mentioned, I got Tim a waffle maker for Christmas. Now that my stomach doesn't want to clear the decks every time I have the audacity to eat, I decided to try it out and make some waffles for us for breakfast. I never used to like waffles, but I enjoyed the texture of this particular homemade recipe. It leads to a crispy exterior and chewy interior, which is a dichotomy I can't resist.

Homemade Waffle Recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
7/8 cup skim milk
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg

Whisk together ingredients, then allow to stand for a few minutes while the waffle iron preheats. I like my waffles crispy, so I cranked the heat, then sprayed it with oil and cooked the waffles until golden brown, about five minutes.

Post breakfast, we had a lovely lunch with Tim's family, followed by coffee at his uncle's house. Then, we rounded off the evening with a trip to Target. I zeroed in on cute wrapping items that I could use for multiple holidays. It was a giant score! I got wrapping paper for both my mom and I, adhesive tags, bows, ribbon and a few items for my niece. Target rocked my socks off. We spent $24 and I had a $20 gift card (thanks, Mandy!) and I hope that I purchased enough to not have to do this again next year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa Loves Runners

Santa knows life is all about moderation. You can't eat every cookie on the planet more than once a year (I've tried). So he's really happy to support my healthy lifestyle. Since life is all about moderation, I kicked off Christmas with a stocking stuffed with a $10 Taco Bell gift card.

I hope I'll feel well enough to use it soon. I still feel like crap, which hopefully excuses the quality of these photos. I've continued to lose weight today, but have managed to keep down the majority of my meals today. I have never been as sick in my life as I have been in the past month. I had a killer cold, followed closely by laryngitis, and now, some type of flu/stomach bug/who knows what food poisoning.

So Santa must have overlooked all those times I was crabby, because he was very generous to me today. Santa brought Tim and I his and hers Garmins.
My mom also bought be a foam roller (my dad wrapped it). 
And because my parents are as proud of Tim as I am, we got matching Northwestern sweatshirts. Now we can be pretentious together! 
Merry Christmas, everyone. From our house to yours, I hope you had a fabulous day filled with friends, family, food, fun and less puking than I endured.

Stand Mixer Sunday: No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Merry Christmas! I try to make my mom a treat for every major holiday, and I'm positive these no-bake chocolate peanut butter pretzel bites will be a big hit.

They're creamy. They're crunchy. They're salty. They're sweet. And best of all, they're really easy. This dessert recipe is the personification of Mr. Right in dessert form.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
1 bag mini pretzels (circles, squares, whatever as long as its not pretzel rods)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the peanut butter and butter on medium, then scrap the sides before adding the sugars. Beat until a soft dough forms.

Roll the dough into1/2 Tablespoon(ish) balls, then sandwich in between two pretzels. Place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap, then freeze the cookies for a half an hour.

Next, melt the chocolate in a microwave-proof dish for 30 seconds, then stir and repeat, if needed. Dip the cookies into the chocolate, then put back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feeling BRATy

I don't know what I did to my body for it to revolt in such dramatic fashion, but the past 24 hours have been unpleasant. I've lost four pounds today because I can't keep anything down. My big meal of the day was oatmeal with a chopped banana and brown sugar. I couldn't finish it.

I've had applesauce and toast twice today (half of the much-prescribed BRAT diet) and I have bananas, but the idea of actually eating them grosses me out. I'm probably dehydrated, but drinking a lot of water also makes me stomach go nutso. I'm hoping to rally before tomorrow because Santa is on his way!

In between my naps, Tim and I exchange gifts. I got him a Northwestern hat (I'm so proud of him!) and a waffle maker. He got my a perfume sampler set, a party serving tray thing I wanted and a 13.1 sticker for my car. Say what you want (haters gonna hate), but I'm very proud of finishing my first half marathon and will be putting it on my car when I feel capable of walking out to the garage.

Napoleon loves his Christmas present more than life itself. My mom bought him a toy he really loved when she watched him a few months ago and I noticed that they make the same toy in another shape. The house has been echoing with squeaks all day long and I have an exhausted puppy on my hands.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Working on My Ego Wall

I had the day off today and a couple of projects to finish up. Everyone has an ego wall/corner/room. It's where you gather your accomplishments and start thinking about what's next. It might be in your office at work, or in your closet or wherever. We've always had a little area in our office upstairs with diplomas, certificates and awards. When I started running, I never thought I'd be a person who had medals. I could barely make it down the street and looked for houses from which I could call Tim to come and pick me up. When we ran our first 5K, it was the first time I'd ever run that long.

Now that I've worked so hard to earn my medals, I don't want to stuff them in a box or leave them in a pile. I also can't justify a fancy medal holder, so I wanted to make a homemade medal display. The last time I was at IKEA, I picked up a magnetic board, frames and hooks.  Today, I installed it all, along with a photo from the Fort2Base Race and some motivational items. There's lots of room to grow on this medal rack, so we'll see what the next year holds. Let me know what you think!

Also, enjoy this awesome Christmas lights video. I can't believe it's already Christmas Eve's Eve! I'm really excited for Christmas this year. Last year, the gifts I bought fell a little short (wrong sizes, not what people wanted, etc.). This year, I'm out for redemption and I'm really excited to see everyone open their gifts.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Year's Resolution Planning

Have you started thinking about 2012? The world is supposedly going to end next year, so this is the year to give your goals all you've got. I'm diligently working on my New Year resolutions, goals and projects and am looking forward to sharing them later this weekend.

I find it easiest to think about what I've liked and am happy about in the last year and where I feel I have room to grow. I've accomplished a ton in 2011 - including running my first 10K, 5 miler, 11.5-mile race and half marathon. I also took on an awesome project by becoming the Director of Ambassador Outreach for the Fort2Base Race. I'm ready to use these as a great springboard for an even better 2012.

Don't wait until you're two champagnes into New Year's Eve. Get out a piece of paper and get started with planning SMART goals.

Merry Christmas to Me!

When we were in the Dells over the weekend, we hit the outlets. There are more than enough outlet malls out here, but they tend to be really crowded and picked over. We remembered getting awesome deals at the Tanger Outlets back in 2007, so we checked it out again on this trip.

It delivered! I'm not a big Adidas fan because the stuff there fits me strangely, but the price was right. I got a pair of running shorts and two long-sleeve base layer tops for $22. I'll get a lot of use out of this stuff. Tim also got two polos and a nice dress shirt for $32 at the Banana Republic Outlet. It was a lovely outing.

When we got back, I found another prize in my mailbox. I won an iPod Nano from Team Ortho through Facebook. It arrived and I'm looking forward to using it for training this spring. Does anyone out there use this for training? I imagine it has the same functionality as RunKeeper, but I would love to hear anyone's experiences with this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chula Vista Resort Review

Tim and I spent Dec. 19 and 20 at Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. We were last in the Dells in 2007, but stayed at another resort. This was our first time at Chula Vista, which is an all-inclusive indoor/outdoor waterpark that's a little out of the way and away from the main strip in the Dells. We got a killer deal called the Great Escape, which included a two-night stay for two with waterpark admission, meals and drinks for $199.

For that price, we had to temper our expectations. What can you really expect for that price? Even with tips, we spent a very little amount of money and have no clue how the resort makes money on this deal. Meals included dinner the night we arrived, breakfast, lunch and dinner the second day and breakfast the day we departed. All of the meals were at a buffet, which had a salad bar and soup as well as kids options at every meal. The drinks were more than I expected and included specialty and mircobrew beers, mixed drinks, specialty cocktails and other tasty treats. We also got unlimited DVD rentals, but so did everyone else, so the machine was pretty picked over for the entirety.

We had an awesome time. The waterpark had lots of options for older kids and adults and we barely waited in line for anything. There were tons of slides and a water roller coaster. The indoor hot tub was kind of cold, but the outdoor hot tub was lovely.

The Good
The water was awesome. It was clean, well-supervised and safer (feeling, at least) than some of other facilities I've been to. While it's in a separate building from the hotel and condos, it's connected through an underground tunnel.
The Bad
If I wanted to be really diligent about my diet or exercise, this would not be the place. The healthy options for food were limited and very repetitive. The "gym" was a hotel room with two ellipticals, a stationary bike and two treadmills.  All the equipment was cheap and didn't have programs (first world problems, I know ...).

The Ugly
 The room. I had low expectations, but the room could use some work. It was set up like a motel in that the sink was outside of the bathroom and the closet was open. Not a fan. The towels were also threadbare. I use nicer towels for Napoleon's baths. Also, bring your own toiletries. There's no conditioner, which I needed from the chlorine. Our room had a ground-floor view of the parking lot, so I would suggest asking for a river-view room on a higher floor.

If you have the time to take advantage of the deal, do it. You will get more than your money's worth and have a great time, as long as you're not expecting the Ritz on a Motel 6 budget.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back to the Real World

I'll have a full review on our vacay tomorrow, but I'm having technical issues. Mostly, I'm missing the cord to my camera. I have about 5,000 loads of laundry to do, along with about five million calories to work off. Vacation was fabulous and I'll be returning to the real world tomorrow!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Snowing ...

And I hate it. Despite living in Illinois for 15 years, I have never adjusted to winter. I don't like winter sports, except for maybe ice skating, but that's mostly because I like the hot cocoa after.

I was supposed to go for a run with a triathlon training group, but it was a canceled because the coordinator had an emergency. I was only sad about this because Maggie sent me a fuelbelt water bottle on Friday. I donated to her American Cancer Foundation page and subsequently won her raffle. I was excited to use this -- it's perfect because it has a little pocket for your gels and another for your keys. I guess it shall have to wait for another day.

So instead of wallowing in the white stuff that's falling from the sky, we're picking up and heading north to the Wisconsin Dells. My mom will be watching Napoleon (she says she doesn't like dogs, but I think she loves my dog) and we will be frolicking in a water park and enjoying drinks and food included at Chula Vista. I'm not sure what to expect, but you can't really screw up open bar, so I'll report back more on the topic tomorrow!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Saltine Cracker Toffee Recipe

Today, I had another awesome party for my Burr Ridge - Hinsdale - Oak Brook Lions Club. This was our annual holiday party where we make the bulk of the cash we re-invest in the community. It. was. epic. I might have gained 10 pounds today. Worth it.

So in addition to my microwave salted caramels, I also made saltine cracker toffee. This recipe takes about 30 minutes start to finish and turns out great. There's the salty cracker, the crunchy toffee and the creamy chocolate, so you get the best of all worlds.

Saltine Cracker Toffee Recipe
1 sleeve of saltine crackers (enough to line a jelly roll pan)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
2 cups chocolate (I used semi sweet, but that's your call)1 cup packed brown sugar
Sprinkles, nuts or white chocolate for decoration,

Line a jelly roll pan (any large, flat pan with an edge works) with the saltines. Combine the butter and sugar in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted, the increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil for three minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the crackers, using a spatula to even out the layer.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until the toffee layer bubbles.
If you're using chocolate chips, sprinkle over the top and allow to melt. You can also microwave the chocolate, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth, then pour over toffee.
Add decorative items, if desired. I chopped up some white chocolate and sprinkled over the top. Allow to cool, then break into pieces and store in an air-tight container.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Easy Microwave Salted Caramel Recipe

The holidays are so much fun. There skating, cookies, Santa, wrapping, decorating and socializing. There's also baking and partying, as well as cookie exchanges. If you're looking for something different to bring to a holiday party, this is the only salted caramel recipe you need.
I tried these last night so I could bring them in as a holiday gift for my coworkers. Last year, I did truffles two ways, Oreo truffles and cookie dough truffles. Because these are made in the microwave, these caramels are basically fool proof. The only real time you have to put into it is the process of rolling out the caramels.

Direct quote from my coworker: "I'm about to gas the building and knock everyone unconscious so I can steal the few remaining pieces."

There were no leftovers.

Easy Microwave Salted Caramels Recipe

1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

Place all the ingredients in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir. Repeat twice.

Pour the salted caramel mixture into a 9x13 pan that's lined with parchment. Sprinkle with salt again, if desired. Allow to cool at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes or until it's a temperature you can handle. Don't try to rush this by refrigerating it.

Turn out the cooled salted caramel onto a cutting board or clean counter top. The best approach is to use an assembly line: gather up the wrappers, caramel and if you like salty caramels like I do, a little bowl of extra kosher salt. My wrappers were cut up pieces of parchment paper, but you can use wax paper as well. You can also buy fancy candy wrappers online, too, if you're fancy pants like that, but I like the rustic look.

So pull off a little piece from the caramels and roll it into a little ball. Don't worry about it being perfect, the wrappers cover all your mistakes. Dip in the salt, if that's your thing, then wrap up in the parchment and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Big Announcement!

No. I'm not knocked up. I'm not sure why every time a woman says she has big news or a big announcement, the assumption is she's expecting.

I'm the Director of Ambassador Outreach for the Fort2Base Race! I'm so jazzed about this new position. I'll be formulating the ambassador program, identifying ambassadors, arranging meet ups and building excitement for the race. It's my little baby, which I'll be nurturing until race day on Sept. 23, 2012. If you're interested in becoming an ambassador, e-mail me at

Another pretty exciting tidbit is I got an e-mail from Maggie telling me I won a fuel belt in her raffle. She's running the Chicago Marathon for the American Cancer Society on behalf of her uncle. It's a really great story and if you're looking for a charity to support this season, this is a great way to give.

I now have two trays of salted caramels and saltine toffee to finish, so back to the kitchen I go. Check back for the recipes tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Training Tuesday: Insanity Update

I'm still recovering a cold I had last week, which has migrated into a lingering laryngitis. Jealous? I bet. Whenever I call someone at work, they sound intermittently concerned for me, followed by nervous laughter as I try and squeak out a sentence. My hope is that tomorrow, I can conduct regular conversations without my coworkers wincing. Dream big.

This is my long-hand way of saying I haven't stuck to the training plan. I slacked off on some of the days as I recovered. Currently, I'm on Insanity day 23. I skipped the fit test, so who knows how that's going to play out next go around.

My weight this morning was 130.2 (last time, I was at 129.8). I'd love to blame this weight gain/lack of progress on being ill, but that would be a lie. Tim makes really great deep dish pizza. I enjoyed many slices this weekend, which I'm still recovering from. Totally worth the calories and I don't regret it.

I'm going to keep powering through to get caught up. In lieu of a rest day this week, I'll be going to a fun run Saturday morning with more strangers I meet on the Internet. It worked out well the last time, so why not try again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Tale of the Cinnamon Ornament Fail

Did you know that you can make cinnamon-scented ornaments at home? They're actually really easy and fast, but it's not the recipe that was a fail, but rather, the subject of this arts and crafts project that was temperamental.

I really wanted to make an ornament using Napoleon's paws. He, however, was having none of this.

I mixed of a batch of the dough, rolled it out in between sheets of parchment, then cut it using cookie cutters. I placed the shapes on my pizza stone, which I greased lightly first.
Then, I proceeded to get our furry friend to give me his fingerprints. This is where I encountered a problem.

Next, I put the tray on the ground, repeating the procedure. Nope.

I tried placing the tray on the counter, then setting Napoleon's paw onto an ornament. Didn't work.

I put the shapes on a plate, then tried to get him to give me paw onto the plate. No.

In an 11th-hour attempt, I put the tray by the front door and took him outside, hoping he'd walk over at least one on his way into the house. Instead, that little jerk jumped right over the tray. That dog is too smart for his own good.

I left the tray of ornaments in the oven for a week to dry out and kept one of them, which had at least a partial paw print.

Cinnamon Ornaments
1/2 large bottle of cinnamon (the 4.3 ounce bottle)
3/8 cup applesauce
1 Tablespoon flour

Mix together the ingredients to form a dough. Roll out in between two sheets of parchment, then use your best artistic ability to make ornaments. Remember to poke a hole for a ribbon using a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Allow to dry out for one week in a dry location, or bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until dried out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Tex Mex Quinoa

I've been a bad blogger lately. Mostly because I'm sick, again. I lost my voice at some point last night, so my immune system is having a really great time telling me to go to hell. I have spent the past 24 hours taking medicine, cursing, wearing sweats and drinking tea. I also had to make myself something to eat to prevent myself from existing solely on diet hot chocolate (it exists and is tasty).

I've never cooked with quinoa before, but I've been meaning to do so since I bought a little bit from the bulk bins at whole foods. There are a ton of health benefits, so I though I'd give it a try. Here's a quick adaptation of a recipe I found online. It made a ton, so I know what I'm eating for the rest of the week.

Tex Mex Quinoa
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups turkey stock (use veggie stock for a vegan option)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Add oil to a large skillet and cook the onions and garlic on medium until softened. Add quinoa and toast for one minute, then add stock and spices. Stir, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in beans and heat for two minutes. Fold in cilantro and serve.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

On my explorations of Whole Foods, you know I hit up those free samples like they're going out of style. I'm almost positive that the security team at my favorite location has a code name for me.

"Dude, dude, wake up. She's here."

"Really? Where? I've never seen her for real, just heard about her."

"Oh yeah, check it out. The Seagull is here. Watch this."

And they proceed to watch me on security cameras meander the store, picking out my groceries and enjoying the two-bite brownies, sushi and tiny little glasses of wine in recyclable paper cups. Why Seagull? Because of this scene in Finding Nemo.

The last time we went shopping there, I had the most amazing pumpkin bread. It was moist, tasty and a bit spicy. Because I think paying $8 for a loaf of bread is a bit ridiculous, I took careful note of the flavor profile and set out to create it at home. While this is only an approximation, it's close enough for me.

Walnut Pumpkin Loaf
1 cup bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flax meal
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
6 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup skim milk
1 1/4 cups pumpkin

1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Whisk together the dry ingredients, except for the sugar. Mix together the sugar, oil, pumpkin, honey, milk, egg and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into the dry, then fold until just combined. Mix in walnuts. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.