Category Archives: General Cooking

My Friend George

Meet my friend, George!

george foreman

This is probably the most basic George Foreman you can buy but I use it all the time.  I primarily cook several chicken breasts at a time to have on-hand throughout the week.  It does wonders for quick, easy prepping and makes it super easy to re-heat for lunch, or dinner or throw in a salad or wrap.

chicken george forman

I always buy a large bag of individually frozen chicken breasts from Costco.  The day before I’m ready to cook up a batch, I toss about 4 or 5 in a large ziploc bag to defrost overnight.

seasoned chicken breasts raw2

When I’m ready, I season the chicken with whatever combination of herbs and spices I’m feeling that day while my friend, George, is heating up.

george forman chicken2

Once he’s all nice and hot, I throw a couple of chicken breasts on (no oil needed!), close the lid and let them cook for a few minutes.

george forman chicken cooked 2

These ones in the picture are pretty thin and only took about 3-4 minutes to cook!  Thicker ones would obviously need another couple minutes or so.

See how easy that is?!  I mean, in a matter of about 10-15 minutes, you can have a chicken breast pre-cooked for every day of the week.  Burgers, pork chops, tilapia filets, etc also work great!

I feel like the George Foreman grill has diminished in popularity but he is still a favorite in my book!

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Shamrock Shuffle 2013

How are you on this Monday morning?  Not sure why, but I’m actually feeling oddly great for a Monday so I’m going to roll with it.  Nothing beats starting the work week off on the right foot!

Shamrock Shuffle

shamrock shuffle 2013 shirt

Julie and I woke up early and ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K downtown Chicago.

julie and i pre shamrock shuffle

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we could not have asked for better weather!  Hovering right around 50 degrees with blue skies and the sun shining, ya just can’t beat that!

shamrock shuffle 2013 results

Both of us were very satisfied with our results!  I fully intended on using this 8k solely as a training run for the half marathon coming up in a little over a month (eeks!) and was not trying to hit any certain time, but yesterday marked a PR for me, so I was definitely a happy girl!

julie and i post shamrock shuffle

After the race, Julie and I took full advantage of our free beer ticket and enjoyed an ice cold beer at 10 am!  We deserved it. 😉

kt tape

You may have noticed the pink tape on my left leg.  Julie had some knee pain about a week ago from running so she picked up KT Tape from the Shamrock Shuffle Expo.  Basically, this tape is supposed to relieve pressure and increase circulation to speed up recovery from athletic injuries.  Although, I do not have any injuries currently, I have had issues with my IT band in the past and since I haven’t been running outside too much lately, I applied some tape for prevention reasons.  Who knows if it was because of the tape, but so far so good!  I think I’ll invest in some as the weeks wind down before the half marathon. Can’t hurt!

Sunday Night 

I spent the rest of the afternoon getting things ready for the week.

dog park

Of course not before taking Mac to the dog park!  Again, the weather was just too darn nice to go sit inside the house quite yet.  Apparently, everyone else had the same idea as there were probably 30 dogs at one point!  Mac was in doggie heaven.  😉

food preparation

Immediately upon walking in the door, Mac bee-lined it straight to the couch for some serious nappage (<– totally a word!), while I headed for the kitchen to prep some food for the week and Dave golfed.

Can’t tell you how good it feels to have a fridge full of healthy foods to make packing breakfasts, lunches and snacks this week a breeze!

Later in the evening, Dave and I met my parents and brother out for dinner at Tap House Grill – 3rd time in 1 week!.  My brother is in the Coast Guard living in Mississippi and he is home for a few weeks so it was nice to catch up!

Stella & Dot and Pier 1

Happy Friday!

Last night, my friend, Julie, had a group of girls over for a Stella & Dot jewelry party.  She had a fantastic spread of yummy appetizers and finger foods, and also served wine in these adorable Christmas wine glasses from Pier 1.

wine glasses

We browsed through magazines filled with necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and other accessories, while chatting away and catching up.  Her Stella & Dot representative brought loads of her own personal jewelry for us to try on.

stella

dot

I ended up getting a few things, including this pair of earrings.

earrings

and these…

earrings2

I really loved all the fancier and bulkier necklaces and bracelets, but for practical purposes, I settled on earrings which I wear most often, and also opted for a simpler design.

But I have to say, the purchase I am most excited about is this little girls’ bracelet.

bracelet

How cute is that?  Although I secretly wish it was for me, it’s for Dave’s niece, Maddie, for Christmas.  I came across it in one of the catalogs and immediately thought of her.  Hope she likes it!

Julie also gave me a birthday present last night.  Both items were too cute not to share!

A set of three mixing bowls in bright colors

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And the cutest measuring cups ever!

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Love these!  Thanks Julie!  Can’t wait to use them 🙂

-Lauren

Cooking & Baking Tips

My day began bright and early!

I headed to the gym first thing and hopped on the tread mill for a run.  I started out walking for 5 minutes to warm up, followed by a run at speed 6.0.  Every time a new song came on (approx every 4 minutes), I increased the speed by 0.1 until I reached 7.0 and had covered 4 miles running.  I finished up walking for 5 minutes.  I finished nice and sweaty!

I’m getting back into running a lot more lately.  I recently signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago and although it isn’t until April, it stirred up some motivation to get out and run.  I forgot how great it feels after a tough run!  Runners high 🙂

Once I showered up and got ready, I had this delicious breakfast waiting for me in the car.

Plain Chobani 2% Greek Yogurt, topped with the last of my homemade cranberry sauce, and a package of cinnamon sliced almonds.  LOVED this combo!

I made the cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving but completely forgot to serve it, so I’ve been working on finishing it off by myself.  These sliced almonds were new to me and they were fantastic!

I recently signed up for Daily Dose of Green, where I receive a box each month with several samples of ‘green’ products, and this was one of them.

I especially liked the simple ingredient list.  No crazy additives or things I can’t understand or pronounce.  Just almonds, honey, cinnamon and vanilla.  Simple.

As my mom and I were baking this past weekend, we were discussing the whether allowing an egg to come to room temperature before adding it the dough was necessary.  It’s one of those “rules” that I  try to remember but it’s definitely not something I do all the time because I often forget.  This got me thinking about other random cooking and baking tips that people just “know” from experience and are not necessarily written in a recipe.  Here are a few I’ve picked up on…

Baking Tips

Measuring Flour – fill up your measuring cup with spoonfuls of flour, as opposed to scooping up the flour with your measuring cup.  Flour tends to settle so by scooping with your 1/2 cup, you are probably adding slightly more than 1/2 cup which will likely make a difference in your baked goods.

Room Temperature Egg & Butter – allow your egg(s) and butter to sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes which enables the dough to incorporate much better.  If you forget and have to soften the butter in the microwave, keep an eye on it and be careful not to let it become liquid.  Or too hot which is especially important when also adding egg as you run the risk of scrambling your egg.  Gross!

Preheat Oven Completely & Keep Closed – especially when baking, ensure your oven is completely preheated before putting your muffins/cookies/etc in.  Also, try to keep the door closed as much as possible.  I heard somewhere that every time the oven door opens, the temperature drops 10 degrees.  Not sure if it’s accurate, but still important nevertheless.

Do Not Overmix – especially when baking ‘cakey’ or ‘bready’ things (i.e. cake, bread, cupcakes, muffins, etc.), just mix the wet and dry ingredients until incorporated.  It may be a little lumpy, but it ends up cooking out and you never notice.  Otherwise, your product may become dense or develop large tunnels running through the muffins.

Chill Dough – when a recipe tells you to chill the dough before baking… CHILL THE DOUGH.  Makes a huge difference!  The cookies will be much fluffier and not spread too thin while baking.

Cool Before Frosting – let your cupcakes or cake cool completely to room temperature before frosting.  Even if it is just a tad warm to the touch, the frosting may end up melting off into a huge mess.

Storage – store cookies in an airtight container, such as a ziplock bag or tupperware.  Store other baked goods with more moisture in foil, like quickbreads and muffins.

Meat Tips

Room Temperature – allow your steak, chicken, etc. to be out of the refrigerator at room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes before cooking, which will help it cook much more evenly.

Let Rest – take your meat out of the oven, off the grill, etc. a couple minutes early and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing.  The meat continues to cook after it is removed from the heat so you risk it being a bit overdone if you take it off when it is actually done the way you want it.  Also while cooking, the juices flow to the outer layer of the piece of meat and if you cut it open to early, you will lose most of the juice and may get dried out.  Instead, allow it to rest in order to give ample time for the juices to return to the center.

There are tons more I’m sure, but that’s all I’ve got!  I’ve learned the majority of these from my parents.  And the others I’ve picked up on from magazines and cooking shows.  Just thought I’d pass them along!

-Lauren

Healthy Prepping for the Week

As much as I love to cook, I don’t want to spend every night laboring over my meals. I am generally exhausted after a full day at work and after being trapped in an hour or more of traffic, I want to throw together a quick meal as soon as I get home. The problem is quick often equals take-out or some unhealthy frozen “fill-in-the-blank”.

So I’ve found a solution that works quite well.  I try to find time during the weekend or on a Monday evening, in this case, and I go to town prepping lots of food so when I need a quick fix, I reach for healthy options as opposed to take-out or junk food.

My favorite way of preparing for the week is roasting a bunch of veggies and cooking up some protein (usually chicken breast).

For example, last night I started out with these goodies:

Zucchini, yellow squash, green pepper, red pepper, brussel sprouts, butternut squash and a red &amp; yellow onion.

First, I preheated the oven to 450 and started with the brussel sprouts.  I chopped of the ends, quartered the sprouts, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted for 30-45 minutes.  I honestly don’t watch the time that closely.  I just pull them out every 10 or 15 minutes, flip them over and give a good shake, and put back in.  It all varies depending on the oven and how many you have on a pan.

Some people cringe at the thought of brussel sprouts, but I love them!  And roasting is by far the best way to cook them.  Delish!

While those were roasting away, I began the next pan of veggies.  I chopped up a yellow onion, red pepper, and green pepper, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw on the bottom rack for about 10-15 minutes.  During that time, I cut up a zucchini and yellow squash into bite size pieces to add to the peppers.  I like to get the peppers and onions started since they cook a bit slower than the zucchini and yellow squash.  After another 15-20 minutes, this pan was good to go!

The Christmas colors turned out to be an added bonus! 🙂

To conclude the veggies, I peeled a butternut squash with a standard vegetable peeler and diced into small cubes along with a red onion.  I tossed this mixture in some coconut oil, salt and pepper.  If you’ve never tried coconut oil, I HIGHLY recommend it!  Lots of health benefits, google it 🙂

By the time I got finished cutting up the butternut squash, the other rounds were out of the oven so there was room.  I roasted for roughly 45 minutes but again, just keep checking, stirring, flipping, shaking every 10-15 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, I cooked up a batch of quinoa and pasta to have on hand throughout the week.  I simmered the quinoa in chicken broth which makes it taste WAY better than in water.  Again, if you’ve never had quinoa, TRY IT!  It’s a great alternative to rice and has way more protein.

I didn’t end up prepping any chicken last night because I had leftover pork tenderloin from Saturday’s lunch (recipe to follow) which I need to work on finishing up!  But normally, I use the George Foreman and cook at least 2 chicken breasts to add to lunches and dinners.  It’s nice to have already cooked to throw into salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, pasta, etc.

Now that my fridge is full to the brim with lots of great choices, throwing together a quick lunch or dinner this week will be a cinch!

-Lauren