March 18, 2012

Thatcher Park

It was beautiful this weekend - both Saturday and Sunday! Saturday I ran the UAlbany loop in record time and today I decided to head up to Thatcher Park which is about 25 minutes outside of Albany. There are tons of trails and an amazing scenic overlook and while I only explored one of the trails I know I will definitely be going back in the future! 
Here are some pictures ...

 I am now also the very proud and happy owner of a brand new iPad 2! This past week my computer completely bit the dust and since I will soon be getting a work laptop that will be Microsoft compatible I really just needed something to use at home and the iPad was it! To say it is an amazing piece of technology would be an understatement! It is SO cool and I have been playing with it all weekend! This is also my first blog post using the iPad!

March 11, 2012

Thrifting, Cooking & Trails

Happy Weekend!  I had a pretty good one - went out for sushi Friday night and rocked a pretty cute outfit; Saturday I had a very successful Target (when is a Target not successful) and Goodwill shopping trip, nearly passed out during hot iron yoga after running the UAlbany loop and made some pretty awesome things in the kitchen! 

I love thrift store shopping - you never know what you are going to find and it can always be very hit or miss - this weekend was definitely a hit!  Here are some of my finds!
Cute skirt for spring - breaking the bank at $3 - and it fit at two sizes smaller!
I am always on the hunt for cute small plates and I definitely found some!
So last weekend I decided to shatter one of my favorite baking dishes (not on purpose but cold water on a hot glass dish does not mix) so I have been looking for another large sturdy baking dish and I found one!  This one is large, super sturdy and has handles!  Yet another bank breaker at $2!  I also bought a 'new' pink colander - the one I have now lost it's handles which is not good when handling hot pasta or veggies. 
My new baking dish in action!  I decided to make the Skinny Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese again because I once again had a craving for mac and cheese (which seems to happen about once a week) and I wanted something delicious to accompany my 'Justified' and 'True Blood' watching.
As I was laying in bed this morning contemplating what if anything I should make for breakfast I realized that I had some buttermilk left over from making corn bread last weekend and I thought - homemade buttermilk biscuits!  So I looked up a (southern) recipe for buttermilk biscuits and went to work.  Here are some pictures with recipe to follow ...

They don't exactly look like biscuits - the whole shaping without sticking was a little tricky - but the end result was pretty tasty despite not looking perfect.
End result on one of my new plates!

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
 2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter/margarine
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Mix together the dry ingredients - cut in the butter (tablespoon by tablespoon) and mix on low until the flour resembles a coarse meal - add the buttermilk - place some flour on the counter and transfer the dough - press out the dough and use a cookie cutter some something circular (I used a coffee mug) to 'cut' out the biscuits - place in a greased circular pan and bake on 400 degrees for about 20 minutes!

My cooking creations also led me to make some crock pot jambalaya - yum!

Slow Cooker Jambalaya 
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts - cubed
1 pound sausage (I used turkey kielbasa instead)
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 large onion - chopped
1 - 2 bell peppers - chopped
1 cup celery - chopped
2 teaspoons died oregano
2 teaspoons died parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I used Soul Food Seasoning)
2 teaspoon (or less depending on desired spice) - crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine chicken, sausage, tomatoes, chicken broth, onion, peppers and celery in slow cooker - then season with all other ingredients.
Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve over rice and enjoy!
(It is also possible to add 1 LB of shrimp - if you do add to the last 30 minutes of cooking)

And lastly - today I decided to head up to the Pine Bush Preserve which is just outside of Albany.  I wouldn't exactly call it hiking but there were some nice trails and a couple of good views.  It'll definitely be a good place to go and do some trail running!

March 7, 2012

Veggies & Kale Chips

I made a trip to the veggie mobile today and got some pretty awesome stuff which I later turned into some delicious creations!
Veggie Loot
 I really had no clue what to do with the kale as I have never cooked with it before but I decided to try and make some kale chips.  I was told they taste pretty similar to potato chips - which I did not believe for a second - but I can safely report that they do!  I washed the kale, pulled the leaves apart and placed them in a large bowl; poured some olive oil over the kale and added some salt and crushed red pepper.  The great thing about the kale chips is that you can season them however you like!  After I seasoned them I placed them on a baking sheet and sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on top.  I baked them at 375 degrees for about 10 - 12 minutes and then let them cool.  Be sure to not let them get brown because then they will turn bitter.

Since I got so many good vegetables at the veggie mobile today that I am not planning on using right away I chopped the red peppers, zucchini and onions and placed them in a bag to freeze so that next time I want to make veggie chili I will have everything ready!

And last but certainly not least - I signed the lease on my new apartment today!  I am so excited!  It is a great space and I cannot wait until June 1st!

I decided to celebrate with some homemade pizza!

March 5, 2012

Skinny Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Delicious!
This is hands down probably one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes I have ever made!  It is also a lot lighter than other recipes I have tried.

12 oz elbow macaroni
3 tbsp margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cups skim milk
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
8 oz (2 cups) reduced fat cheese
salt to taste
crushed red pepper to taste (if you want to add some spice) 
12 oz fresh broccoli floret
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard (this is what really makes the taste unique)

Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water
 In a large sauce pan melt the butter and add the onion and cook over low heat
Add the flour and cook until the flour is golden and well combined
 Add the milk and chicken broth, whisk together
Raise heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil, stirring often until the sauce becomes smooth and thick
Season with salt, cracked red pepper and add spicy brown mustard
Once the sauce is thick, turn to low and add cheese  
Mix well until cheese is melted
Add cooked macaroni and broccoli to the sauce and mix well. 
 Pour into a greased prepared baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes

Seriously delicious!

March 4, 2012

What's On My Playlist

I am constantly looking for new and fun songs to add to my running playlist.  My running songs normally run the gamete from hip-hop to alternative to country and maybe even some christian rock.  So what's on my running playlist right now you may ask ...

Bon Iver - Skinny Love
Building 429 - 'Where I Belong'
Chairlift - Bruises
Drake - 'Take Care' and 'The Motto'
Dierks Bentley - 'Home'
Drake, Kanye, Lil' Wayne & Eminem - 'Forever'
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - 'Home'
Florence & the Machine - 'Cosmic Love' and 'Shake It Out'
Gavin DeGraw - 'Not Over You'
Hanson - 'A Minute Without You'
Jake Owen - 'Barefoot Blue Jean Night'
Jason Mraz - 'I Won't Give Up'
Kanye & Jay-Z - 'Ni**as In Paris'
Katy Perry - 'Firework'
Kelly Clarkson - 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)'
Lady Gaga - 'Edge of Glory', 'Born This Way' and 'Marry the Night'
Natasha Bedingfiield - 'Touch'
Of Monster's and Men - 'Little Talks'
Pitbull - 'International Love'
Rhianna - 'We Found Love'
Usher - 'Moving Mountains'