October 28, 2013

Crock Pot Red Wine Beef & Onions

I love the crock pot this time of year - honestly I love it all year round but this time of year especially.  There is nothing better than a Sunday crock pot dinner after a day of housework and football watching.  I found this recipe on the blog Taylor Made and I really wanted to give it a try.  It was super simple and the flavor was great!  I served it over brown rice and we drank the leftover wine with dinner!  Now I am not a fan of onions (particularly raw ones) but even though this recipe includes a good amount of them they cook down and provide really good flavor.
Crock Pot Red Wine Beef & Onions

1.5 lbs beef stew meat (I used Trader Joe's)
1 large white onion, chopped
1.5 cup red wine
1.5 cans low sodium beef broth (or about 21 oz)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Cooked brown rice, for serving

Place the beef in the crock pot ~ loosely chop the onions and place in the crock pot as well ~ combine the beef broth, wine and spices in a bowl and pour over the beef/onions ~ stir and cook on low heat for 9 - 10 hours ~ when you're ready to eat use a mesh strainer and drain the broth/wine mixture into a sauce pan ~ place the meat and onions back in the crock pot and turn the crock pot to warm ~ thicken the sauce by removing about 1/2 a cup of the broth/wine mixture and mix in about 1/4 cup flour to make a paste ~ return the paste to the sauce pan and whisk until thickened (I added a little more wine and beef broth at this point too) ~ add about half of the sauce back into the crock pot and reserve the rest for topping the rice (or you could pour it all back in the crock pot) ~ cook the rice, serve and enjoy!
The thickening of the sauce is optional - I tend to prefer thicker, gravy like sauces so this worked perfectly for me.  This recipe was incredibly easy, the house smelled great all day and it was the perfect dinner for a cool night.  I forgot to take an 'after' picture because we were too busy eating.  I will definitely be making this again - probably sometime soon!

Beef + Onions + Wine + Beef Broth = Delicious!

October 27, 2013

(More) Adventures in New York City

About a month ago I was headed to New York City again for work, but this time was different because - my mother was meeting me there!  I had to be in the city Sunday - Tuesday for work so I decided to extend the trip one day on the front end so that she could meet me in the city!  We had about half of Saturday and all day Sunday to hang out, walk around the city and eat some really good food!  Here's some pictures of our adventures ...
The High Line!  My mom really wanted to walk the high line and with the line pretty much ended at the Chelsea Market I was all for it!  The high line was gorgeous and provided great views of the city, art and overall it's just a very unique attraction in the city!
Momma at the start of the High Line!
Art view from the High Line!


The Chelsea Market!  One of my favorite places in NYC!

Someone's excited!

We got some pretty epic bagels at the Chelsea Market!

After walking the High Line and visiting the Chelsea Market we headed back up town - stopping at the HUGE TJ Maxx and Marshalls for a little shopping (I bought a new cross body purse) then headed to Time Square.  At 3 PM the TKTS Discount Booth opened and we wanted to be in line!  Sunday night we got tickets to see Rock of Ages and I was SO excited!  I love love love 80s hairbands - my mother often says that I should have been born earlier so that I could have enjoyed the 80s.  After getting the tickets we headed up to Rockefeller Center, enjoyed a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and stopped at the Fox News building to take a picture for my father. 

Momma in Time Square!
Me doing dirty things to Matt Lauer. 
(Adam may or may not have a small obsession with this man.)
Flags at Rockefeller Center!
For my father - his obsession with FoxNews is somewhat unhealthy.
Best.  Show.  Ever.  Seriously, it was amazing!

Monday I had to work and my mother enjoyed her day in the city.  That night we decided to head over to Eataly which was probably one of the best decisions we made the entire trip!  Eataly is a gourmet Italian market that includes 7 resturants!  We decided to eat at La Pizza & Pasta which as you can probably guess specializes in pizza and pasta - it was so good!

I got a handmade pasta with pesto sauce!
Mom got homemade ravioli!
After dinner we headed to the off Broadway show 'NEWSical the Musical' which paradoies current events, celebrities and politicians.  This show was much shorter and was in a smaller theater but it was so freaking funny!

See on the way back to the hotel after NEWSical.
All in all another great trip to NYC - but even better this time because my mom was able to join me!  We'll be heading back in mid-November to watch Elise sing at Carnegie Hall and spend the weekend.

October 21, 2013

A New Kind of 'Mac' & Cheese

Hello from Lansing, Michigan!  On the campus of Michigan State University to be exact.  If you follow me on Twitter (hint hint, maybe you should, Abigail_Lemon) you know I am in Michigan for approximately 30 hours.  This is my first time in the state and even though I haven't been able to explore that much it's always fun to go new places.

Since I've on doing 'The Challenge' and have been staying away from pasta, mac and cheese in the traditional sense has been completely off limits.  I have only eaten pasta once in the last 6 weeks - and that was at an Italian market in NYC where duh, you have to eat pasta.  Now we all know that I LOVE mac and cheese, but let's be honest - mac and cheese does not love me, especially in the waist and love handle area.

Now I am aware that this recipe is not exactly the picture of health due to the cheese but it is low carb, made with coconut milk instead of milk/cream and it's a far cry from eating a plate full of pasta!  I found the recipe here and figured I'd give it a try (I did modify the original recipe slightly).  It was a success!
'Mac' & Cheese
1.5 bag of frozen (organic) broccoli (I used Trader Joe's)
1/2 pound bacon, sliced into bits
1 tbsp  butter
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 3/4 can coconut milk
4 oz full fat cream cheese
1 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS flour (for thickening)
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees ~ cook the bacon in large skillet until browned ~ once cooked transfer to plate with paper towels to drain ~ while bacon is cooking steam the broccoli until tender then drain ~ place broccoli in an 8 x 8 baking dish (sprayed with coconut oil) ~ in a small saucepan heat butter over medium heat ~ add garlic and cook until fragrant ~ then add the coconut milk and cream cheese ~ stir frequently until cream cheese is melted ~ add salt, pepper and nutmeg to sauce and mix well ~ add the flour to slightly thicken the sauce ~ chop up the cooled bacon and sprinkle over the broccoli ~ pour the sauce over the florets and then sprinkle the dish with the cheddar cheese ~ bake for approximately 20 minutes, broil for the last 2-5 minutes (make sure you watch it so it doesn't burn) ~ serve and enjoy!

This dish was a hit and went really well with grilled chiken!  The coconut milk added an element of sweetness that is unique to a mac and cheese-esque sauce.  I will definitely make it again next time I have a craving for mac and cheese but want to avoid the pasta!

October 15, 2013

Weekend Wrap Up

Three day weekends are wonderful but oddly enough they always leave me wanting another day off.  Oh well - back to work!  This afternoon I will be heading to the Southern Tier for the next couple of days to facilitate a training.  It'll be good to be back on the road, and this trip kicks off a steady stream of travel from now until about Thanksgiving.
This weekend was good but also stressful - being relatively new homeowners is HARD!  Especially when the house you own is 150+ years old.  Things keep breaking, there is so much to do and I wonder if there will ever be a time where we can just relax and enjoy a weekend without having a mile long to-do-list (it definitely won't be anytime soon!).  But in between moments of stress and exhaustion we also had a pretty good weekend.  Here are a few of the highlights ...
Friday night I made spinach lasagna roll ups with a butternut squash sauce - it was delicious!  Recipe to come later.

Sunday we went to Pittsfield, MA to visit Adam's grandmother, but along the way we stopped in Vermont (one of my favorite places) to pick up some apples and generally enjoy the nice fall afternoon.  There is no better place to enjoy the fall than Vermont!  One day I will have my cabin in the woods there.

Me and the blue moose!

Elise enjoying her candy apple.

View of the Berkshire Mountains from Adam's grandmother's balcony.

Walking around downtown Pittsfield!

Monday we decided to get our nails did!  I really do like getting my nails done but it is something I do very rarely.  Maybe I'll start doing it more often, who knows.  I went with a shimmery dark grey gel manicure which should last for a couple weeks.

Pretty nails!

Lastly, Saturday night I picked up my latest Zaycon Foods order - 40 LB of fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts!  The chicken comes directly from the processor and has never been frozen; that does mean though it needs to be paired down which can take some time, but in the end it's totally worth it!  For about $75 I got enough chicken to last us months!  In my mind it really is a good deal, especially for people who eat a lot of chicken!

Post pairing and portioning of the chicken!  That's A LOT of chicken.

October 11, 2013

Total Body Transformation Challenge Update

I am about to wrap up week #5 of the Total Body Transformation Challenge (TBT Challenge) that I have been doing through my (relatively) new gym Albany F.I.T (I blogged about signing up for boot camp here).  So far it has been great - challenging yes, but I have been seeing some great results!  Eating well combined with some crazy intense boot camp classes (I typically go 4 - 5 times a week when I am not traveling) has really been paying off!  I haven't taken any measurements since the start of the challenge but I have hopped on the scale a few times and so far I am down about 10 LBs in 5 weeks! 
Each week of the challenge we are given a meal plan and I have to be honest, I haven't been following it completely - I more or less use the meal plan as a guide throughout the week.  When I travel for work it is nearly impossible to stick to the exact meal plan and let's face it - I like to cook, so I have been coming up with some inventive new recipes while still sticking to the tenants of the challenge.  Another great thing that has come out of the challenge is that I eat SO much healthier when I am on the road!
I think the main reason I haven't been sticking to the meal plan religiously is because I want this to be a long term thing - more of a lifestyle change.  I have to be realistic with myself, if I didn't allow myself to eat any carbs, when the 8 weeks was up I would binge on  them!  So I have been practicing portion control, following the 80/20 rule (more on that later) and using the MyFitnessPal app everyday.  Because of this I understand that I may not lose the 20 - 25 LBs in 8 weeks that is typically associated with fully completing the challenge, but I know I will eventually.  Also, nearly everyone I know who has strictly completed the challenge in the past has gained back all or most of the weight within a few weeks.  So in the meantime I have been working on alternatives to my favorite foods and getting creative in the kitchen!

October 9, 2013

Crockpot Pulled Pork

This is hands down one of the BEST things I have ever made.  It was super simple, delicious and the house smelled AMAZING all day.  Since beginning the Total Body Transformation Challenge I have been attempting to eat a very low carb, high protein diet; this also means that I have been browsing new recipe websites and I've become interested in many 'paleo' recipes.  I found this recipe for pulled pork on a paleo friendly site and knew I had to make it immediately!  I ended up finding a 5 LB pork loin on sale at Trader Joes and thanks to Adam's immense spice cabinet we made the majority of the other ingredients needed.  This was also the perfect meal for a rainy football-watching Sunday!
Crockpot Pulled Pork
For the Pork
1 pork loin (about 5 LBs)
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dry mustard powder
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

For the Sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cans tomato paste (6 oz each)
2 TBS lemon juice
3 tsp dry mustard
2 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS paprika
1/4 cup water
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
2 TBS sugar
Serves: 6-8
Trim an excess fat from the pork loin ~ combine all the seasoning into a small bowl ~ using your fingers rub the spice mix all over the pork loin ~ spray the crock pot with coconut spray (or Pam) and place the pork in the pot ~ cook on high for 6 hours ~ toward the end of the 6 hour cooking time make the sauce ~ combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan, whisk together and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes ~ after the 6 hour cook time is complete drain any excess juices from the crock pot and shred the pork using two forks ~ add as much sauce as you would like and continue cooking on high for another hour ~ serve on a bun or with a salad.
You will NOT be disappointed by this recipe!  It. was. so. good.  Taste wise it was a cross between Carolina style (vinegary) and Midwestern style (sweet red sauce) - you could taste the sweetness of the cinnamon, the tanginess of the apple cider vinegar and the heat of the cayenne at the end.  It also made a TON of food - way too much for two people but now we have a awesome leftover!

October 8, 2013


A lot has been happening !  I have been traveling a ton for work - Mississippi, New York City, western New York and next up will be Michigan, Illinois and a week long local training in Albany.  It seems like the end of summer and the beginning of fall have flown by; here are a couple of things that have been happening lately.  But before we begin, check out this awesome rainbow that was over my house last night!
 Adam moved into a house!  It has been a long time coming and is a pretty major development in his/our life.  The house has been in his family for over half a century and even though it needs A LOT of work we are excited for the challenge.  I don't live there (yet) but I feel like it partly mine and I can't wait to see how the house evolve.
We went to a wedding!  My friend Elise got married in one of the most unique and fun ceremonies I have ever been to.  Elise and I worked at Northeast Parent & Child Society together and she has been one of the few people I've known for the majority of the time I've lived in Albany.  Her wedding was so much fun and we had a great time!

I presented at a statewide conference (NYAPRS)!  It was the first time I had presented at such a large conference and the room was huge (it was also where the 1970s went to die - check out that awesome green vinyl).  Next step - presenting at a national conference!

We saw Josh Ritter at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall!  We really like going to concerts, we went to a ton last year but for some reason not that many interesting acts have come to the Capital Region or surrounding areas this year - so this was the first concert we had been to in a while.  The Music Hall is famous for it's amazing acoustics and architecture - it really feels like you stepped into the 1910s when you see a show there.

This is very typical of what happens during concert intermission.
We got new desks at work!  They are a lot smaller but really nice and modern.
I bought this bag while in New York City and it was a GREAT investment.  It is a reusable grocery bag that folds up to be no bigger than a pill bottle.  I keep it in my purse and use it all the time now - grocery store, farmer's market or just whenever I need a bag.
Moving is tiring!  We pretty much moved for an entire weekend, so once Sunday came along I curled up under my new Berkshire Blanket with a Sam Adam's Harvest Pumpkin Ale and caught up on some blogs. 
Homemade pulled pork!  Recipe on the blog tomorrow!
Happy Tuesday!

October 7, 2013

Adventures in Jackson, Mississippi

A couple of weeks ago I ventured to Jackson, Mississippi for duel purposes.  First was that my colleague had a forum in the state and asked me to come along; the second and more important reason is that my grandmother lives in Jackson, as does my aunt, uncle and two cousins who I very rarely get to see.  It was great timing - I attended the forum with my colleague in Hattiesburg (which is about two hours from Jackson) and then stayed in Jackson for an extra day and a half to spend time with my grandmother.  I estimated that it had been at least 5 years since I had last seen my grandmother and Jackson, MS isn't really on the way to anywhere (meaning that if you're going to visit you are going to go to Jackson and only Jackson) and it is also quite a haul from New York; so when the opportunity came up to combine a work trip with a family visit I jumped at the opportunity!
They have an awesome bike path near my grandmother's house that end at the reservoir (which happens to be full of alligators - I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't see any during my run).

Our SOAR forum location - the Salvation Army in Hattiesburg, MS.
During my visit my grandmother was dead set on taking me to 'Cock of the Walk' a well know fried catfish place in Mississippi.  Catfish is BIG in the South, on the flip side - whenever I mention eating catfish in NY people look at me like I have three heads.  The catfish was good but to me the best part of dinner were the fried pickles - they were delicious!
Cock of the Walk!
Fried pickles, collard greens, cole slaw and onion rings!
(I forgot to take a picture of the actual fried catfish.)

Throughout my grandmother's house there are tons of great pictures but the one below is my favorite.  My grandfather was a professional baseball player and one game he hit three home runs.  President Eisenhower was in attendance and after the game asked to meet my grandfather.  The picture below was taken as they were meeting and he would later sign it and send it to him.  

This picture has always been one of my favorite!