July 30, 2013

Lemon Pasta Salad

For the 4th of July (this post is super late) I was asked to make a pasta salad,  Last year I made an Italian dressing based pasta salad and since I would be cooking for the same crowd I wanted to try something different.  I had come across a lemon pasta salad recipe by Jamie Krell a while ago and thought it looked delicious, so when the picnic on the 4th rolled around I figure it would be just the dish.
Lemon Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta
(I used tri-color veggie pasta)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
2-3 lemons (juice and zest)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 - 1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese (grated)
1/2 - 1 bag of baby arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
1, 10 oz package of frozen peas
Cook pasta according to package, drain and set aside ~ in a medium saucepan saute the garlic in olive oil over medium heat ~ once the garlic is fragrant add the heavy cream, lemon juice, lemon zest (I juiced and zested my lemons ahead of time), chicken broth and salt/pepper ~ bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat and allow to simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes (the sauce will reduce and start to thicken) ~ once the sauce is thickened allow to cool then in a large bowl combine the sauce with the pasta ~ add the peas, arugula and tomatoes and stir ~ finally all the cheese, combine and serve chilled
(Note - best to refrigerate over night and serve the following day)

Lemon pasta salad!
The pasta salad was a BIG hit at the picnic and many people asked for the recipe.  I really enjoyed it not only because it was creamy and lemony (both of which I enjoy) but it was also very different from the typical mayonnaise or Italian dressing based pasta salad.

July 29, 2013

F.I.T. Boot Camp

Well, I did it.  I joined Albany F.I.T. Boot Camps and my credit card is still smoking from the purchase but I am now about three weeks in (had to take a week off for travel) and it has been absolutely awesome!  At the beginning of June my neighbor Jamie convinced me to sign up for the one week free trial; she has been doing boot camp since last January and has lost a TON of weight.  I figured what the heck, I'll give it a try and that'll be that.  I wrong!  After the first class I was completely addicted.  Boot camp is not your typical workout - if you are not familiar I would probably compare it to crossfit, minus a lot of the olympic lifting.  We push sleds, squat for days and do combination lifts like you wouldn't believe!
Since I was an athlete in college and more importantly a power lifter this type of workout is right up my ally - group fitness, small classes with a trainer motivating you all the way.  Since graduating I have worked hard to find what I really like to do workout wise - I've run a bunch of races, fell in love with spinning and doing a lot of hot yoga but I never incorporated lifted.  I think apart of me felt that if I started lifting again I would immediately bulk or my back would start to hurt like it did in college.  I expressed this thought to the trainer during my trial week his response was "are you still eating at the dining hall?"  I was slightly confused for a moment but then I realized - aha! no I am not still eating like it I did when I was in college. 
So long story short I signed up for boot camp for the next 8 months and have been loving the workouts ever since.  I still spin or run on my 'off days' but for the most part I have been purely boot camp focused.  I also signed up for an 8 week challenge where F.I.T. will provide you with a meal plan, small nutritional groups and all kinds of other support to keep you on track with the hope that over those 8 weeks clients can reach their fitness goals.  The challenge will start in early September but until then I am focused on working hard during boot camp and eating healthy, balanced meals.
F.I.T. Boot Camps in Albany

Sleds - one of the toughest things we do!

TRX bands - so many different exercises can be done with these bands.

Box jumps!

Kettle bells, dumb bells and weights ... oh my!

White board where our workouts are posted everyday!

July 18, 2013

Spicy Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese

We all know that I love mac and cheese, I have blogged about the dish on various occasions; but despite my love for the mac and cheese I am always looking for more 'healthy' recipes and this one brings both the spice and the veggies!  I first noticed this recipe on the blog The Comfort of Cooking and knew I had to give it a try.
Spicy Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 small yellow squash, quartered and diced
10 baby carrots, sliced thinly
2 cups pasta (whole wheat or otherwise)
1/4 cup butter, margarine or olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (approx. 1 tsp)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups (8 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees ~ bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta ~ while the pasta is boiling chop the red and green peppers, squash, broccoli and carrots ~ once chopped tossed the veggies with a little olive oil ~ spray a large or aluminum foil covered baking sheet ~ place the veggies on the baking sheet, put in the oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until veggies are softened ~ once baked remove from sheet and set aside ~ in the meantime cook the pasta until al dente and then drain.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan melt the butter/margarin over medium heat ~ once hot add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds ~ whisk in the flour and allow to cook for approximately 1 minute ~ gradually mix in the milk and chicken broth, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened ~ once thickened remove from heat, add the cheese and allow to melt ~ add the red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper ~ once all ingredients are well combined add the vegetables and pasta ~ place the mixture in a large, greased casserole dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes (or sprinkle with 1/4 cup bread crumbs and place under broiler for 3 - 4 minutes of until top is golden brown) ~ Enjoy!

This dish was AWESOME but it was SPICY, even for me who likes spice so if you want to bring down the heat a little I would reduce the crushed red pepper and cayenne to 1/4 tsp.  All the veggies definitely balanced out the pasta and cheese sauce, so even though you're eating comfort food it still feels somewhat healthy.

July 15, 2013


A bunch of little things have been happening and even though some may deserve their own blog post I decided to do one big hodgepodge post to let you know a few things that have been going on - so here we go!
For a long time now I have heard people rave about Honest Weight Food Co-Op here in Albany.  I know people who volunteer there, people who do pretty much all their shopping there and others who go on a pretty regular basis.  The co-op just moved into a brand new, state of the art building; previously it had been located in a not so great section of town with bad parking and overall a pretty unwelcoming exterior, but now that they have moved their building is pretty fabulous!  For as much as I have heard about the co-op I had never gone, so last week we decided that we needed to head over and check it out - I was blown away!  Yes everything is a little more pricey because it is all organic and straight from the farm but their selection was AWESOME!  I particularly loved all the 'bulk' items - coffees, flours, spices, grains, pastas - you name it, they probably have it in bulk!  I picked up a few things on our first trip - almond milk, some organic strawberries and a few things from the bulk section (I am forever on a search to find a 'good' replacement for white pasta).  So all in all my first trip to the co-op was a MAJOR success and I am looking forward to going back.
New sign for a new building and location!
We have been rocking the farmer's market lately.  Despite being such a small community Delmar has an AWESOME farmer's market every Saturday.  Adam typically buys greens for his weekly salads and I will pick up whatever strikes my fancy - this weekend that happened to be squash, zucchini and cherries (hands down the best cherries I have ever had).  Also represented at the farmer's market is The Peanut Principle which is a local peanut butter company out of Cohoes.  I always feel somewhat bad because I feel like I always sample from this lady but never buy anything, so about two weeks ago I pulled the trigger and bought the Very Berry Peanut - next up I think I will try her Cinnamon Almond Butter!

I came back the other day to find the cat asleep under the coffee table with one paw on his beloved hedgehog - seriously, the cat cuddles with this thing, it's cute but sort of strange.
 Kitty-Bumpkins and his hedgehog!

I have been having 'fun' with arts & crafts at work as of late.  The map below shows where SOAR is and is not active in NY - we have a BIG NYS SOAR meeting on Wednesday and I am thinking that a nice visual representations of where we need to focus our attention would be most helpful.  ;)
Saturday before the movies we were walking around the mall and went into the pet store - there we found this ferret, completely passed out (no he was not dead) half in and half out of his little sleeping sling!
 That is one happy/exhausted ferrett!

Sunday we headed up to Saratoga to watch a friend/co-worker skydive!  She had a great time and it was crazy to actually watch them free fall then parachute to the ground.  I don't know if I would be up for ever skydiving but she said it was awesome and that she would do it again in a heartbeat!
Before leaving Saratoga we decided to stop by Hattie's Chicken Shack for lunch.  Hattie's is famous in Saratoga for delicious Southern food and the Chicken Shack is an offshoot of the main restaurant where they serve their AMAZING chicken sandwich.  I had never had the sandwich before but Adam raves about it and always makes sure to get one when he goes to the Saratoga Race Track.  So we stopped by Hattie's for lunch, order the famous chicken sandwich and it did not disappoint.  It was also HUGE!  A boneless chicken thigh on a bun topped with coleslaw - you didn't even need the fries!  Hattie's also has a great back story and their founder (Hattie) lived a pretty interesting life - her story is printed on a large placard in the restaurant!
Home of Southern Louisiana
 THE chicken sandwich!

So those are some random happenings as of late - Happy Monday!

July 13, 2013

Chicken Spaghetti

I was browsing for recipes on my iPad the other day (not unusual) and I came across the blog Kaitlin in the Kitchen and her Chicken Spaghetti recipe.  It looked yummy and I had been wanting to make a dish similar to this for quite some time so I bookmarked it and this past Sunday I made it, froze it then pulled it out to cook for dinner during the week.  Because I made it over the weekend and then froze it, it was super easy to pull out, thaw, bake and viola - dinner!  Here's the recipe ...

Chicken Spaghetti

1 Whole Rotisserie Chicken
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 (10 3/4 oz) can Tomato Soup
1 (10 3/4 oz) can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (10 3/4 oz) can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 (10 oz) can Rotel
2 Cups (8 oz) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
16 oz Spaghetti
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, just a pinch

With the whole rotisserie chicken peel the skin off and set aside, then pick off and shred the chicken you will use for the dish, discard the rest ~ fill a stock pot with water, include the chicken skins (yes you are including the chicken skins in the pasta water) and bring to boil ~ cook the spaghetti, once cooked to al dente drain, pick out the chicken skin and throw away ~ chop the onion, garlic, red and green pepper ~ saute in olive oil until onions are translucent ~ once the veggies are cooked add the tomato soup, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, rotel, salt & pepper and pinch of cayenne ~ mix together and allow to heat through then add the chicken ~ mix then add the cheese ~ once combined add the spaghetti and mix ~ transfer to a greased 9 x 13 pan and then either bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes or freeze ~ enjoy!

Cooking up the veggies!

Add the soups!

Here comes the chicken!

Stirring in the cheese!

In goes to the spaghetti! 

Post baking!

We had a TON of leftovers and the dish was actually pretty good!  One note though - if you are planning to freezing it I would cook the spaghetti to a little less than al dente because the more time it sits the more it will absorb the soups.

July 12, 2013

Hiking Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire

During our little vacation to coast Maine & New Hampshire we decided to bring our hiking stuff with the goal of hiking somewhere in New Hampshire (cross another state hiked off our list - even though the list if pretty small at this point).  Adam picked a trail in Pawtuckaway State Park which was located about 25 minutes from where we were staying in Hampton.  The weather was overcast, not chilly but definitely not the temperature you would expect when the previous week was 90+ degrees, foggy and it looked like it could start raining at any second, but we ventured out anyway!
Hiking in New Hampshire, terrain wise, is completely different from any other hikes we have done.  The terrain was rocky but not like 'fallen rocks', more like you are hiking over boulders that have been there for centuries!  The environment also varied a ton, one minute we were scaling the side of a mountain then the next we were in a 'valley' surrounded by grass and flat rocks, the next we were right alongside a pond and then we came around to find huge boulders!  The boulders were awesome and we later learned that the area is very popular with rock climbers.
The hike should have taken us about 5 hours but we did it in a little under 4 hours.  Why did we book it you may ask?  Well because if you stopped, even for a second you would be eaten ALIVE by mosquitoes!  They were SO bad!  They chewed you up even when you were moving.  They bit through my pants and when we finally made it back and I was able to count all my bites, I had 18 HUGE bites all over the front, back and sides of my legs.
All in all and despite the mosquitoes the hike was a lot of fun!  We weren't able to get any pictures of the views due to the fog and you don't get a great sense of just how huge the boulders were from the pictures but the diversity of the trail made it a great hike!

Adam through the fog in one of the open rock valleys.

Hey look - I'm on a big rock!

Me next to the boulders.

HUGE boulders!

Adam and the rocks!
When in New Hampshire - go for a hike!

July 10, 2013

Vacation Eats

One of the goals of our vacation was seafood - to eat lots and lots of seafood and for me to try lobster for the first time!  We both went into this trip knowing that we probably won't be eating the healthiest but that we would be walking around a lot, hiking and being pretty active.  I love seafood but don't eat it that much because let's be honest seafood in upstate New York simply does not taste nearly as good as the seafood you get on the coast.  We also discovered that New England has a thing for wood fired pizza - twice we ate at places that specialized in wood fire pizza and both were absolutely delicious!

A great app to use when traveling (I have used it for work and personal travel) is the FoodMap app.  The app will tell you if there are any restaurants in the surrounding areas that have appeared on any Food Network shows - Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, Rachel Ray, Best Thing I Ever Ate, etc ...  We used this a bunch and ended up eating at some great places.
For our first night in Hampton, NH we headed to Petey's Summertime Seafood & Bar in Rye, NH - as I mentioned before this place was absolutely delicious (in my opinion the best place we ate on the trip) and I would recommend it to anyone who is going to be in the area.

Had to have some of their award winning seafood chowder!
Adam enjoying a beer at Petey's!
My dinner at Petey's - shrimp, fries and lobster on a stick!
The next night we ate in Kittery, ME - we had heard that there was an amazing clam hut in Kittery which also happened to be listed on the FoodMaps app.  Bob's Clam Hut had been featured on Diners, Drive-In & Dives and boasts to have some of the best clams in Maine - obviously we had to give it a try.  While Adam got the clams I decided on a lobster roll - lobster rolls are famous in New England and I was told by some co-workers that I had to eat one while there.
Lobster roll at Bob's Clam Hut!
Adam's clams at Bob's Clam Hut!
On our way to Portland Friday morning we took the more scenic route and drove through Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, ME.  I thought it would be pretty cool to stop there, walk around and have lunch so that is exactly what we did!  We decided to eat at Owen's Farmhouse which was supposed to have amazing wood fired pizza.  The restaurant was located in an old farm house (hence the name) and had an awesome rustic feel (drinks were served in mason jars - woot woot!)  There we had some of the most amazing wood fire pizza I have ever had!  We decided on a sausage and hot pepper pizza and oh man was it good!
Owen's Farmhouse in Kennebunk, ME
Some delicious wood fired pizza! 
When we arrived in downtown Portland one of the first places we went was Two Fat Cats Bakery.  Two Fat Cats has been featured on numerous shows on the Food Network and are famous for their whoopie pies - obviously we had to have one.  Annnnnd we may have gone back the following day for just one more they were THAT good!
My new favorite bakery!
Everything in Two Fat Cats Bakery looked delicious!
So apparently gourmet popcorn is the new fro-yo?  Who knew!  While walking around downtown Portland we stumbled upon Coastal Maine Popcorn Company.  This place is a little hard to describe other than you say that it is sheer awesomeness!  Imagine any flavor of popcorn your could imagine - buffalo and blue cheese, red hots (like the fire balls), marshmallow and berry!  There were so many flavors to choose from and you could sample a bunch.  They even had flavor combination recommendations - I ended up getting the buffalo and blue cheese and man was it good!  The company even has a monthly popcorn club that I am somewhat tempted to join!

All the current flavors at the Coastal Maine Popcorn Company - this place was awesome and so unique!
After walking around Portland for hours we were starved and ready for dinner.  Since this was technically the last night of our vacation I of course wanted seafood one last time.  We decided on Gilbert's Chowder House which was located right on the harbor and had a great local feel and let me tell you - we were not disappointed!  I forgot to snap a picture of what we ate but I had some more shrimp and Adam had some scallops - both were really good!
Last seafood meal in Portland - didn't disappoint!
Before leaving for Freeport, ME and then heading home we ate breakfast at a local coffee shop - I had a bagel and some fruit and Adam ordered a cappuccino which arrived with a pretty neat design on top!
 How do they do that?

Places that we ate that are not pictured include - Duck Fat in Portland, ME and When Pigs Fly Bakery & Pizzeria in Kittery, ME.

July 9, 2013

Coastal Maine & New Hampshire

This post could also be titled 'the time we went on vacation and it rained the entire time' (except of course for our drive home, then it was sunny, sunny, sunny - isn't it funny how that happens).  Adam and I took a 'mini' (Wednesday - Saturday) vacation to coastal Maine and New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago.  In May I spotted a deal on Living Social for a two night stay at the Victorian Inn in Hampton, New Hampshire - which is a town right along the coast of Maine.  The deal included breakfast every morning (obviously - it was a B&B after all), two bottles of wine and a vineyard tour all for a great price!  I jumped on the deal and we booked our stay for late June.  We stayed at the B&B Wednesday and Thursday night and then headed up to Portland, Maine (my first time in Maine) for Friday night.  We came back Saturday and even though the drive home was the  only time it was sunny we still had a blast!

Let's start with our digs!  The Victorian Inn was AWESOME!  I would recommend staying there to anyone who is headed to coastal New Hampshire.  I had never stayed at a B&B before so I was slightly apprehensive about what I may find.  Yes the room was slightly outdated (lots of floral) but the bed was super comfy, we had a private bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, breakfast every morning was delicious and kept us full until well in the afternoon and everyone at the B&B was incredibly kind and friendly.

 Our room at the B&B - hello floral!
Jacuzzi tub!  I could have lived in this thing - it was awesome and HUGE! 
While in Hampton we explored the Boardwalk, went down to the ocean and ate the most delicious seafood!  (I plan on writing an entire post about our vacation eats but for now if you are ever in the area, Petey's Seafood in Rye, NH is a MUST.  The drive along the coast to get to Petey's is also one of a kind - right along the ocean wall and you pass some  insane mansions along the way.)  Each night after dinner we headed down to the Hampton Beach Boardwalk to walk around, get dessert and play at the old school arcade!  We had an absolute blast at the arcade - Adam is a ski ball champ!  There was also a sandcastle competition happening while we were there so we were able to see some insane sand art!
Enjoying some seafood at Petey's!
 If you know anything about Adam you will know why this picture is both ridiculous and hysterical.
Sandcastle competition!
Crazy sandcastle!
'Selfie' with the sandcastle!
The biggest one!
Dominating at ski ball!
 But I kicked butt on the race car game.
Delicious breakfast every morning - clearly I am VERY excited for these pancakes!
For the trip I had this grand expectation of being able to spend an entire day at the beach; the week before our trip the weather had been in the 90s and sunny, but unfortunately mother nature had other plans. The weather while we were in Hampton was about 65 - 70 degrees and rainy, which meant the ocean was about 50 degrees - i.e. COLD! We ended up spending only about 30 minutes total on the beach - I stuck my toes in and feared that they may fall off.  TInstead of beaching it up we decided to go for a hike - more on that later - but the hike ended up being the perfect alternative and lucky for us, it didn't start raining until we returned.
Rocky coastal New Hampshire!
It's really cold!
But I'm going to be happy about it anyway!
Adam in the surf.
Walking up the coast toward the seawall.
Friday morning we left the B&B and headed to Portland, ME, but first we made a stop at the outlets in Kittery, ME.  Kittery is located just across the border from New Hampshire and has some awesome outlets - Le Creuset, Crate & Barrel (I wanted to buy everything in that store), but the best outlet by far was Kittery Trading Post!  KTR is a HUGE outlet that stocks everything you could possibly need for any type of outdoor activity - hiking, biking, kayaking - it not only stocks the actual equipment but also tons of clothes and household goods.  And did I mention the giant stuffed moose!  Now in case you didn't already know, I sort of have a thing for moose (one of my goals in life is to see a moose in the wild - they actually have tours for that) and for some reason I just really like moose.  Maybe it has something to do with my love of Vermont (Vermont = moose) but who knows, either way, I didn't want to leave Maine without a stuffed moose (yes my 26 year old self wanted a stuffed moose).  
Actual stuffed moose at Kittery Trading Post.
Moose & Bear
Me and the moose - and don't forget the mountain lion above my head!
Adam made my dreams come true (I am clearly very easy to please) and bought me a stuffed moose - I named him Howard - Howard the Happy Moose.
Friday we headed up to Portland (but not before a detour to Kennebunkport for lunch) and after checking into our hotel went down to explore the city!  Portland is an incredibly walkable city and is full of great bakeries, restaurants and interesting shops.  We ended up walking around for about 3 - 4 hours before deciding on a local seafood joint for dinner.  After dinner we were stuffed and tired so we headed back to the hotel.  The next day before we left for Freeport, ME we headed back to downtown Portland to walk around a little more, eat breakfast and mayyyybe go back to our new favorite bakery.
These placards are located throughout Portland - I never knew that Maine played such a large role in the 'Freedom Trail'.
Statue of man with lobster!
After we left Portland we headed up to Freeport, Maine for the sole purpose of going to the LL Bean Flagship store (and taking a picture with the large boot).  Freeport is located about 20 minutes north of Portland and is home to another set of fabulous outlets.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the LL Bean outlet (the prices and selection were not as great as I would have imagined) but it was fun walking through the flagship store.  We did however find some GREAT deals at the Corningware and NorthFace outlets.  The whole trip to Freeport would have been worth it to solely get a picture with the giant boot (haha get it).
The giant LL Bean boot!
Me and the boot!
Overall the trip was a blast!  It was great to get away for a while and explore new places with Adam.  Maine is absolutely gorgeous and I would go back in a second!  Our next trip will be to Washington D.C./Baltimore in a couple of weeks - I am headed down there for a conference and then Adam and Elise are meeting me later in the week.  Should be a fun time!