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Monthly Archives: April 2011

za za zsu!

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Bonus points if you recognized where the title came from!

I absolutely love soaking up downtown Birmingham. Another thing I love? Having lunch with my adorable boyfriend.

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Together three years next Tuesday, holla!

Last week, we decided to take a rare moment (these days, anyway) that we were both downtown at the same time to try out a place we’d both been anxious to visit. Za Za’s (or Trattoria Centrale, as it appears it is now called) is a cute little pizza place on the North side; they also have pasta entrees and salads as well.

DSC09059The inside was small but made the most with the space available, with an almost entirely exposed kitchen. I meant to take pictures indoors, but we were both so hungry and anxious to sit down to chat that I didn’t get a chance. Not to mention downtown lunch=busy, busy business people that don’t much cotton to having to wait for a crazy lady snapping photos.

There were about four choices on the pizza, and I went with two slices of the veggie pizza.

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It was simple, with spinach and tomatoes, but oh so effective. The crust was crunchy but still chewy, just like I like it. The tomatoes were tart and a nice balance to the generous amount of spinach.

Jonathan had a slice of the veggie pizza, a slice of something I can’t remember (the T-Bone? or something) and mixed greens.

DSC09062The unnamed pizza was topped with potatoes, I think, and maybe prosciutto? It was definitely a sort of meat. He gave it a resounding yum, as well.

It was perfect weather, with just a slight breeze and a ton of sunshine. Oh, Alabama. You are a fickle, fickle lady. (Right now it’s rainy and stormy. Earlier this week it was really cold.)

DSC09058Across the street is another one of my favorite lunch spots, brick & tin. I just love grabbing a bite downtown; it really makes me aware of the fact that I live in a pretty busy metro area and satisfies my need to live out my life Carrie Bradshaw style.

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I could hang out under there…

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…haha, I just made you say underwear!

But seriously. Let’s talk.

(Warning: If you don’t want to talk/hear about those things you wear under your clothes, cut loose now.)

Last night, I did something I have never done before. I mean, it’s not that it couldn’t be done, it’s just that I wasn’t sure I was strong enough. I just didn’t know if I could…go that long.

I went to two back-to-back classes at the YMCA: Spin and Body Pump.

And at the risk of saying something that it’s what I like to call Too Much Information…I want to talk about underwear.

I learned the hard way that lacy panties are NOT the way to go during a spin class. I felt like they were fused to my skin. That’s what I get for going straight from work to the gym. I tried to plan ahead, finding my comfiest underthings. Which worked out like a dream…until I went to Body Pump and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

It was the dreaded…VPL.

I’m talking Visible Panty Lines, y’all.

Now, I’m sure that people at the gym have much better things to focus on that how my ass looks in my Old Navy stretch pants, but I still felt a little awkward. Especially during the squats.

So here are my questions for you: What’s your plan of attach when it comes to unmentionables at the gym? And do you think VPLs are as distracting as I feel like they are? (PS I suggest you also check out Eunice’s sexy underwear test-drive. I may try and check out some of her suggestions, though the only line-free pair she tested were thongs, and…well, that ain’t happening.)

thai one on

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Today was rough. It was just a really, really long day, with lots of stuff going on in the office. In fact, this is how I looked most of the day:

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And yes, those are phone photos. (Note to any co-workers reading: I did this shortly before lunch, so it wasn’t on company time 😉

Luckily, my buddy Jen came to rescue me for a much-needed lunch away from the office. We decided to cash in her Groupon for Surin, a delicious Thai place downtown.

I started with a cup of coconut tofu soup.

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Jen said she doesn’t really care for the soup, but I love it! It’s spicy and sweet, with little chunks of mushroom and tofu. It’s especially good if you have a cold, FYI.

For my entree, I went with the Thai Noodle, with tofu instead of chicken.

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It was fantastic. The tofu was a great stand-in for chicken. I love the peanuts in this; they really make the dish for me.

Jen went with the Pad See-U.

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Isn’t she adorable?? Just as adorable were her flat egg noodles and broccoli sauteed in soy sauce. Oh, and see that precious sunbeam? While I do think of Jen as my personal ray of sunshine, that was actual sun being reflected off a car hood directly into my for the last half of lunch. Blarg!

Now I’m headed off to bed to dream my little dreams. Question: Do you bring your lunch to work, go home, or go out frequently? I  live really close, so I go home a lot, but I also like to take advantage of lunch hour gym classes and often bring my lunch. I’ll be dining on these leftovers tomorrow for sure.

spin cycle

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So remember how I talked about how much I “hated” spinning?

Well…I may have to…take that back.

Because I think, I might, sort of, kind of…actually like it.

I know. I know. Crazy.

When I finally got my gym membership unfrozen after an entire month off due to my injury, I decided to do my best to get back in the habit. I promised my sweet coworker that I would hit a spin class with her. She’s a total rockstar, and always asks me to go, but I turn her down because I think that I just can’t do it. Also, Mandy had just joined the Y and had promised to come along.

It was a little shaky at first, but I surprised myself by, you know, not dying on the bike. I went twice that week. Since that first class back, I’ve gone at least once a week. It makes me feel strong. It makes me sweaty, which makes me happy. And it makes me feel like my leg muscles are still hiding out in there, waiting on me to coax them back out into the open.

I was supposed to run a 5k two weeks ago, but due to a few different circumstances, I didn’t go through with it. I was tired, I stayed up too late, I had a busy Saturday after the run….but bottom line, I think I’m still a little nervous to get back out there. I’m scared to fail. I really love(d) running so much that I’m afraid I’ll never get that lust, that desire back after having taken such a hiatus.

I’m definitely going to make my return to running soon. As in, this season. I’m already signed up for a 5k (or possibly a 10k) next month, and I think Jen and I are going to do a Women’s Health 5k at the end of April. It’s only $15 to sign up, so that’s tempting.

The other 10k/5k is called Music Moves Me, and I ran it last year. Long story short, it basically sucked. The volunteers packed up too early, and being in a strange town (Huntsville), my sister and I got lost. It was just a disaster, and I made sure to send a strongly worded email detailing my concerns.

And while those things rarely make a difference, my voice was definitely heard: I got word back from the director, and they not only repaid me for my entry fee but they also comped my 2011 fee (assuming I’d want to do it again). Apparently the course has changed, the volunteers aren’t going to slack, and there’s a 5k option (last year it was 10k only). I would love, love to be able to do the 10k, because I like the distance, but I think I’ll be able to make the decision to only do what I’m capable of.

Speaking of running, I’m super proud of my buddy Jen, who ran her 1st half marathon this past Sunday. She posted her race recap, so head over to her blog to give her a virtual pat on the blog.

Have you ever found an exercise you thought you couldn’t do, only to change your mind? Obviously I was that way with spin, but I was also in the same boat when it came to running. I tried it several times before I found my groove. (Read more about my running journey here!)

bean there, done that…

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…ate the burger.

Having been meatless these past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get creative with my meals. One thing I hoped to accomplish over Lent season was not only eliminating meat (save for fish) but also attempting to cut out processed crap. I didn’t want meat-free eatin’ to mean Boca burgers and canned soups (not that those don’t have a place in my diet or my freezer/pantry). I wanted to make more of my own meals and find ways to incorporate more veggies and newer sources of nutrition.

I was able to test out a recipe I’ve had eye on a few weeks ago when I attended a cookout celebrating the engaging of my dear friend Kate. We were roommates in college, and we’ve tried to maintain a good relationship since we’ve both relocated to Bham.

DSC08893 Kate met her lovely match with Alex. In the short amount of time I’ve spent around the two of them together, I can tell that they are perfect for one another. I can’t wait to attend her wedding at the end of the summer!

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I do so love that girl 🙂

The happy couple invited us to come to their house and celebrate with them. The only problem? This was dinner:

DSC08879 Meat, meat, and more meat.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And from what I heard (and smelled) it was delicious. I just knew that if I wanted to eat, I’d need options. (I do have to stop right here and say that Kate was so sweet to pick up some veggie burgers for me to eat! I didn’t realize this before I made my own dinner, but I was very appreciative of her kindness.)

So I took the opportunity to try out a recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while: Vegan Black Bean Burgers from Emily at the Daily Garnish (please take a minute to check out her blog; she’s such a sweetheart AND she’s going to have the healthiest baby around!).

You can check out Daily Garnish for the exact recipe, but here’s the girst of what you’ll need:

    • black beans
    • grated carrots
    • rolled oats
    • pepitas (pumpkin seeds—I bought these on the cheap in the Whole Foods bulk section)

Along with an assortment of seasonings and olive, all of which you will likely have in your cabinet (I did). One thing I didn’t have was ground coriander, which I bought at Whole Foods. Note: A shaker of the spice is kinda pricey, but I found a pretty big tub of it for less than two dollars! And there was way more in the tub that in the shaker. I just put it into a old spice canister when I got home. Score!

Basically, you give it all a whirl in the food processor. Mine is really tiny (that’s hopefully not what she said), so I had to do it in batches.

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Then you form it into patties and bake them up.

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(I just noticed that they don’t look much different “raw” vs. cooked.”)

These were awesome! Very rich and smoky tasting. The cinnamon really came out, but not in a weird way. This made 6 very big “burgers,” and I froze a few of them. I think one of these would be good crumbled up in a wrap, or even in some sort of sauce, maybe? Bonus: These were not only really filling but also good on nutrition information. I don’t have an exact count on hand, but one big burger was 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus.

We also whipped up some quick appetizers. I made some Cowboy Caviar and Rea made guacamole.

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The Cowboy Caviar was super easy and I already had most of things I needed:

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1  jar chopped pimentos, drained
  • minced black olives
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown  mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt, pepper, sugar and oregano (I used pinches of the first few to taste and about 1/2-1 tsp of oregano)

Dump the first five items into a bowl, then whisk together the remaining ingredients to make a dressing. Pour the dressing over the pea mixture, and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve (with tortilla chips).

While the smell of grilled was distracting, I don’t know that I’d say it was tempting. Not only did my black bean burgers taste awesome, they smelled great, too!

What’s your favorite thing to grill out? I love veggie kabobs, esp when there’s something unexpected hanging out with the veggies, like pineapple. Also…what do you do when you aren’t sure if your tastes/diet will be accommodated at party/cookout? Do you feel awkward BYODinner?

wingin’ it

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I’ve never been particularly partial to hot, spicy things. Whenever we used to go out for wings, I’d have to wade in the kiddie-pool portion of the hot-sauce scale. I don’t like jalapenos, and Tabasco makes me sweat just thinking about it. But in the last year or so, I’ve come to a realization.

I love wing sauce.

The first time I really remember having it was when my sister made a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip that consisted of cheddar cheese, chicken, ranch, cream cheese, and a whole heap of buffalo sauce. Those initial bites were too much for me to handle, but I gradually warmed up to it. (Like what I did there?)

I made a Crock-Pot of the dip for a tail-gate style snack session at my office and ended up with a large bottle of hot sauce leftover in my cabinet. It wasn’t long till I started experimenting. Tonight was no different. During The Biggest Loser, I chowed down on a pita pizza topped with tempeh covered in buffalo wing sauce, roasted broccoli, blue cheese and sour cream. It was delicious, and I drank almost 32 ounces of water while eating it. That stuff is no joke.

Do you like spicy things? What’s your favorite combination? I tried to take this down a notch with some sour cream and blue cheese. It helped a little, but mostly they all just complemented one another.

green me up, scotty.

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Ok, ok…that was cheesy. Let it slide? Just this one?

Great.

For St Patrick’s Day, my friends and I usually head towards Lakeview. And now that I live closer, I’m all about drinking at establishments that are walking distances of my dwelling. We started out at the Oasis, then made our way over to Moe’s Original BBQ for dinner (no meat for me, please) and then On Tap for our own personal last call.

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Chug, chug, chug!

Last year, I made Rachel’s awesome black-and-tan brownies to share with my buds. This year, I wanted something equally as festive but a little easier and slightly cheaper.

Enter mint chocolate chip cookies.

Delicious, easy, and the green food coloring makes them fit for any St Patty’s Day drinkfest. I started with this recipe, but I ended up changing it around because I didn’t want to buy a bag of cookie mix.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1-1/4 c sugar
  • 3 cups flour (I used 1 c whole wheat flour, 2 cups all purpose)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tsp peppermint extract
  • optional: green food coloring
  • 1 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c Andes mint baking pieces (or do what I did and chop up a mint chocolate bar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sticks butter

Combine your dry ingredients (including the chocolate chips) and wet ingredients separately, then mix together. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until the edges start to brown slightly.

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The dough looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream!

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These cookies were so simple, yet so awesome. I think the others agreed, too.DSC08792DSC08793DSC08794

Here are some other fun pictures from the evening:

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Still not sure exactly how this “leg in someone’s photo” thing got started. (I’m blaming Jason.)

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I believe this was around the time we all started trying to tell every joke we knew.

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My dinner at Moe’s…yeah, I had to pick meat out of the corn, and yeah, I’m sure that’s not allowed on a vegetarian diet…but I did what I had to do.

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On the left: Mandy and Reagan looking cute. On the right…I found a hole in the floor and convinced Dennis to stick his finger in it. (I got a giggle.)

Since I know that St. Patrick’s Day was about two weeks ago, I won’t ask you what you did for the (arguably best ever) holiday. But instead…what’s your favorite go-to cookie recipe? These were so easy to make and so tasty, I definitely think I’ll revisit it again.