Out with the old.
In with the new.
On two counts.
It’s been an exciting week, to say the least.
Out with the old.
In with the new.
On two counts.
It’s been an exciting week, to say the least.
Because talking about my life in a fluid and comprehensive manner is for professional bloggers, and I am not that.
1. I finally re-took and passed my Cat Scan board exam. I’m “officially” a licensed CT tech, hooray! This means I was able to go back to work in the CT department at job number two, which means I’m working more, which means more money, which means yay! Because my car is on its last legs, my kitchen floor needs to be redone, and I needs to get the hell out of town this summer, even just for a weekend.
2. Momma C had back surgery in February, and is healing nicely. Unfortunately, she’s got some other health issues going on, so we’re trying to deal with them as best we can. My poor momma has been through the wringer this year! (Good thoughts appreciated, y’all.)
3. I’m doing wonderfully after my own surgery – I’m 12 weeks out this Friday, and I’ve lost just over 50 lbs. I cannot put into words how much happier I am, how much this has affected me. It’s literally a weight lifted off my life. I was talking with a coworker I hadn’t seen since before the surgery, and she said I looked like I was “all lit up inside”, and it certainly feels like it. I still have a long way to go but every day just gets better and better. I’m not tired any more, my body doesn’t ache like it did, and I just feel better. As far as what I’m eating, I’m pretty much back to “normal”, diet wise. I’m obviously sticking with good-for-you kind of foods, and I still don’t get much in after my protein, but I have partaken of the occasional treat here and there. (I’m not a saint, for crying out loud.) The only thing I’m still trying to work on is the whole exercise thing. It’s more a matter of just getting off my ass and doing something, but you know what they say about first steps and all.
4. Hoping to start posting recipes again, real soon. I have a few from the fall that are collecting dust, and now that I’m eating more solid foods (and spring is here – hooray, fresh veggies!), I’m slowly getting back into my kitchen. Which makes me happy, because I’ve missed it so.
That’s it for me today, kids. Have a great week!
During the fall I was working on recipes with the aim of writing them up and posting them all in a timely manner. And the few dozen pictures still sitting on my camera can attest to that. Ah, well. Best laid plans, I s’pose. I figure now that the holidays are done and all my surgery madness is over, I can get back to posting on at least a semi-regular schedule. And lucky for me, I’ve got all this stuff saved!
To ease in, I just wanted to share a visit I took to Bean Bath Cafe in…well, Bath, of course. I had been visiting with mom and dad and decided to take a different route home. I was hungry for lunch and remembered Bean Bath was on the way. I’d been wanting to check them out for a while. Located in a small strip mall on an almost empty stretch of 512, Bean Bath Cafe is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it kind of places. I know this because I did, and had to turn around to find it.
The cafe is clean and bright, with a modern, kind of surf-y decor. There’s a counter for to go orders and plenty of tables for customers that want to eat in. There’s a couple tables outside as well, but the day I went it was a tad too chilly and overcast to linger outside.
I started with a cup of coffee, obviously, because why would you go to a cafe and not sample the coffee? This was a caramel macchiato, and it was pretty perfect. Not too strong, not too sweet.
It took a few minutes of perusing the lunch menu for me to decide what I wanted, it’s pretty extensive. There’s a lot of southwestern inspired dishes, like the El Dorado omelet, Manteca steak wrap, multiple breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and migas. If I lived closer to the cafe, you can bet your ass I’d have had that migas at least a dozen times by now. I decided on the Pinky and the Brain, a sandwich with thinly sliced roasted chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, slathered with a kicking chipotle mayo, served on a toasted chiabatta roll. It’s served with a pickle and a small side of fries.
A tasty sandwich and an excellent choice for a late lunch on a random trip through the slate belt. I cannot recommend Bean Bath Cafe enough. If you have the chance (or the time to take a mini-road trip), put them on your to-do list, and be sure to invite me. The migas is calling my name.
Bean Bath Cafe (website), hours vary, mainly 7 am – 2 pm
2425 Plaza Court Bath, PA 18014
It’s been quite a while since my last post, and I’m sure I have a perfectly good excuse, but let’s not dwell on the past, shall we? Much has happened in the past few months, and we should at least catch up on some of it. I’ve got a few recipes waiting to be written up, and a couple other things to talk about, but the biggest thing that happened around here…and I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this…well.
I had surgery.
Yeah, no. THAT surgery. The one I’ve been mulling in my head for ten years. The one I talked myself out of dozens of times because “Oh, I can do it on my own,” or “I don’t need to have major surgery to do that,” or “I’ve seen too many problems with it, it’s too scary.” THAT surgery. Weight loss surgery.
I’ve been researching everything since last spring. I had given myself one last chance to get it right on my own, and by mid-summer I had yo-yoed again, gaining an approximate 20 pounds after losing 15. This is probably the fourth or fifth time that happened in the past two years, and I was done. So I pulled the trigger and at the end of July attended an informational meeting about one of the programs in the area, at a hospital where I have no previous ties so as to eliminate the chance of running into people I knew. A little more research showed that I had picked the right hospital, and the absolute best surgeon. By the next week, I had eight or nine appointments made through the next three months, including a physical with a new general practitioner (who I love and was fully on board with everything, thank goodness), and I was. Doing. This.
I had three monthly appointments with a nurse practitioner, basically to get weighed in every month and talk about my habits and what to expect during pre and post op. I had two nutrition classes, and one behavioral health class, plus one on one appointments with the nutritionist and the behavioral health specialist. The program prepares you for what you’re about to go through, and their people evaluate you to ensure your own success, which I appreciated. There’s also a great network of support, with meetings every month to attend if you’re having problems or just need someone to talk to. As much support and love as I’ve had from friends and family throughout all of this, I am glad I have the support of the program as well — it’s just good to talk to people that have been there and know what you’re going through.
The surgery itself was on Friday, January 10th – or four days ago, as I write this. Five, when it will publish. I had what is called a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or VSG. It’s a laparoscopic procedure in which 85% of your stomach is cut off and removed. There are no implants. There is no rerouting of innards. There is only a small, half-banana shaped tube where my stomach used to be. Everything went well – I was told I was in the “sleeve of the month club” by my doctor. Recovery was a little rough – I had a fair amount of pain and nausea, but by Saturday I felt much better and was able to come home. I feel better every day – hoping that tonight (Tuesday night) will be the last time I take my pain meds to sleep.
As far as food, it’ll come. I’m on clear liquids now – all the chicken broth and jell-o I can handle, and I can have a protein shake made with water. This weekend I can switch to full liquids – tomato soup, yippee! — And from there move on to pureed foods, soft foods, and eventually everything I can tolerate, within reason of course. I didn’t have this surgery to lose weight while still eating junk – just less of it. There is a fair amount of work to be done on my part – getting lots of protein, staying adequately hydrated, making sure I take my vitamins, and of course exercise, which I’m so looking forward to.
The most important people in my life – family, close friends, some coworkers – have known about this for a while, though there were a few people I didn’t get to clue in to everything until right before, only out of lack of opportunity. I’m sharing it here because I didn’t feel the need to hide it. I’m happy and at peace with this decision, and I know it’s the best for me. Whether or not anyone else supports or likes this decision is on them, not me. I don’t have diabetes, nor am I pre-diabetic. I don’t have heart problems, or issues with cholesterol. I’m just tired, and constantly in pain. And I decided I can’t live that way anymore. I’ve gone through my entire life – 38 years of it – being overweight, unhealthy, and ultimately unhappy. I’ve spent the last ten years trapped in a body that was unable to do many things I wanted or needed it to do. It just took me until this year to be ready to take the steps necessary to change it. I’ve taken my life back, and nothing anyone says or thinks can stop me, so you may as well join the ride. I don’t promise it’ll always be smooth, but it will damn well be exciting.
I’m a bit behind in talking about this year’s Harvest Fest. Heck, I’m behind in talking about anything at ALL, I’ve been focused on stuff around the house and work and…other things I’ll talk about when I’m ready to. But anyway, Harvest Fest, aka The Best Fest in Bethlehem, Ever. I don’t know if it’s the smaller size, the smaller crowds, or the cooler weather, but Harvest Fest is definitely my favorite of all the events thrown by downtown Bethlehem. Oh, there’s also all the beer and tasty tasty soups.
But first, we brunched. We brunched our butts off.
I invited the usual suspects over for some pumpkin pancakes, bacon, and breakfast sausage.
I also had a few leftover pumpkin whoopie pies on hand, and of course some fresh fruit. It’s not brunch without a gigantic plate of fruit. I served strawberries, fresh pineapple, and a favorite this time of year – concord grapes. They taste like jelly!
For the pancakes, I used my regular recipe (minus the blueberries there, of course), and just added a cup of pureed pumpkin, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and some fresh ground nutmeg.
They’re a bit more moist than the plain pancakes, so give them another minute or so on the griddle before serving. To go with these pancakes, I had some spiked maple syrup that would make Mrs. Butterworth blush.
Just warm up the syrup (real maple syrup, not pancake syrup) in the microwave for a few seconds, stir in an ounce of good bourbon, and about a half teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, if you can’t acquire it), and you’re in pancake heaven. Serve with your favorite breakfast meat and your friends may never want to leave.
It tastes better than it photographs, trust me.
And thankfully, we had a whole day at Harvest Fest to walk those pancakes off.
It was a great day, spent with some of my very favorite people. (For a more in depth write up, including all the skinny on some of the great beers that were served, try this write up by The El Vee.) At the end of the day, a few of us decided to sit down for a drink and a bite to eat at one of downtown Bethlehem’s newest restaurants, The Twisted Olive. We sat outside and ordered some appetizers and a few cocktails. I had the Forty-Niner, a tasty bourbon drink with honey and lavender, the aranchini (cheese filled risotto balls, breaded and fried? What’s not to love?), and one of the most interesting appetizers I’ve ever had, french onion soup dumplings. Caramelized, beefy onions, wrapped in a dumpling wrapper, topped with a crispy crouton and melted cheese. On. A. Stick.
And these are just appetizers. I’m coming back for that cioppino that I spied on the menu, dudes. Mark my words.
Hopefully before Harvest Fest 2014.
So…I have a slight problem. I took my very first trip to Bonefish Grill with some coworkers earlier this year, and made the mistake of ordering their Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer. It’s a lovely dish, sizzling hot crispy fried shrimp tossed with a spicy creamy dressing, served over a bed of cool lettuce. Ever since then, I need to have this dish at least once a month. Some might call this an obsession or addiction. I just say they’re damn good shrimp and I’m glad they’re half price on Wednesdays.
I saw a Bang Bang copycat recipe on Pinterest a while back and thought about giving it a try many times, but I always talked myself out of it for one reason or another. I hate deep frying in the house. What if there’s an ingredient I can’t find somewhere? What if the recipe is wrong and it doesn’t taste the same and I wasted how much money on fresh shrimp? And oh, hey, the restaurant is ten minutes away and they’ll make it for me, plus they’ve got some slamming cocktails. But…
sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it.
I read the recipe and realized I actually had everything I would need at home, with the exception of the shrimp. The sauce is simple, especially if you’re a condiment hoarder like me. And if you like spice? Even better. It’s not an overly spicy dish, but with a name like “Bang Bang Shrimp”, you know it’s got a kick to it.
Serve the shrimp in a fancy dish on a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce and some chopsticks and it’s like I’m AT the restaurant.
Minus my requisite martini.
Bonefish Grill Copycat Bang Bang Shrimp
Set the oil on high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic, sriracha, lime juice, chili flake, salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside. Dredge shrimp in seasoned cornstarch and fry in batches for approximately three minutes (or until cooked through). Drain each batch on paper towels and immediately place in a bowl. Toss shrimp with a few spoonfuls of sauce until coated and place on bed of iceberg lettuce. Top with sliced scallions and serve.
Now, someone bring me a martini. Or two. This ain’t amateur hour.
About two weeks ago, one of my coworkers was having a pretty crappy day at the office. I knew I would be seeing her later in the week, so I decided I would make her a treat to help cheer her up. Because who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?
I never pass up the opportunity to brighten someone’s day with something delicious.
The whoopie recipe is Martha’s (with an adjustment or two), but the filling is all mine. Some flavors I love in the fall (besides pumpkin) are maple and bourbon, and I almost always incorporate the two in any of my autumn treats. A little monotonous perhaps, but mama loves her bourbon.
Maple-Bourbon Buttercream. So good it’s a proper noun. I’ve made buttercream frosting so many times that I could do it in my sleep, so I the recipe that follows below *might* not be exact, but it’s close enough that some simple adjustments (a little extra sugar here, a touch more bourbon there) will get you where you need to be.
I added pecans to the cake for a little texture. I should have either added more or omitted them altogether, but Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies has so much more panache than just Plain Ass Pumpkin.
Oh, alliteration. You make my soul sing.
I used a mini ice cream scoop (2 oz) to scoop the batter for the cakes. This made an incredible amount of mini whoopies – almost three dozen.
No worries, none of them went to waste. I should have flattened them out a bit before baking with a spatula or something. These were a bit…rustic.
Yeah, rustic. That’s what I’ll call them. Also, moist, tender, pumpkin-y bundles of deliciousness. The perfect cure for a bad day, or the perfect ending for a good one.
Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies with Maple Bourbon Buttercream
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and set aside. Whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla. Incorporate wet ingredients into dry and stir to combine. Add pecans (if desired). Scoop batter onto lined cookie sheets and bake approximately 12-15 minutes (touch center of cookie, if it springs back it’s done). Allow to cool while making frosting.
Maple Bourbon Buttercream Frosting
Beat butter in a stand mixer until creamy. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Add vanilla extract, maple flavoring, and bourbon & mix to combine. Add cream a little at a time, stopping when frosting is desired consistency.
Spoon frosting into a piping bag with a large plain tip (or use a spatula) and frost half of the cookies with approx 1-2 tablespoons of frosting. Top with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (to allow to set) and serve. The whoopies keep nicely in the fridge for three days, but they won’t last that long.
About two months ago, I was sitting at home scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I just thought, “Ugh. I hate this. Why am I here?” I clicked off the page, started looking at something else, and not five minutes later found myself back on Facebook, looking at the same crap I had just looked at (and chided myself for doing so) again. That’s when it hit me: I’m kind of over Facebook. Like, totally. Over it. All of it – the fake bragging. The passive aggressive posts. The potty training updates. The rage-inducing politics. The duck-faced selfies. The “Doesn’t-This-Recipe-Look-Amazing-OMG” posts that TOTALLY BELONG ON PINTEREST HOLY CRAP PEOPLE GET YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA STRAIGHT BEFORE I SMACK YOU.
So I went to my settings page, I found the button that said ‘deactivate profile’, I took a deep breath, and I clicked it.
And I never looked back. And then I braced myself for the inquisition.
“Wait, you just deleted it? Just like that?”
No, I didn’t delete my profile. I deactivated it. It’s still there, somewhere, with all my pictures and oh-so-witty-status updates and such, it’s just not active. People that I was friends with on Facebook can no longer see me. If I choose to reactivate it at any time, all I have to do is log in, and I’ll show back up in everyone’s newsfeed again. (Shrewd, Zuckerberg). I don’t think I’ll ever delete the profile, I just won’t be active on Facebook for a while.
“Woah. But…why? What made you do it?”
Eh, I realized I was spending too much time on a site that just truly annoyed me more than anything, and WHY would anyone do that to themselves? There’s more to it than that, but it’s a little personal and I don’t want to get into it here.
“Oh. Was it me? Did I post something that annoyed you?”
No. Absolutely not. It wasn’t any one thing that made me do it, just a myriad of annoyances.
“Well, you know you *can* block people from your feed, and block certain people from seeing everything you post…”
Yes, I do know this. I have taken advantage of those functions on more than one occasion, believe me. But like I said, it wasn’t just one post, or one person. It was the whole experience. Plus I’m really not a fan of how integrated Facebook has gotten into everyday life. There’s just SOME things I shouldn’t need to “Connect to Facebook” for. Believe me, no one on Facebook cares what I’m buying from Old Navy, or what I’m looking at on BuzzFeed.
“You’re much stronger than me! Have you ‘cheated’ at all?”
Twice. Once about a week or so after I deactivated the account, to see if Facebook wasn’t as annoying as I thought it was and if I made too hasty of a decision (nope, still annoying). The second was about two weeks ago, I wanted an old picture that was on there. I still didn’t miss it.
“Do you think you’ll come back?”
Some day, probably. Maybe around the holidays. Maybe sometime next year. I’m not sure. I am sure, however, that I’ll do it differently next time around. Less lingering, less profile creeping, less…everything. I needed to go cold turkey first, then I can think about occasional use.
“Okay. But I miss you.”
And I miss you, too! I know not everyone posts everything everywhere and I know I miss stuff and I’m sorry. I’m hoping in the long run this will only serve to make my real life interactions with friends more meaningful. It’s not like I’ve deleted myself from the internet. You can follow me on Twitter and tumblr and my Pinterest is kind of amazing, not gonna lie. Plus there’s my blog and Flickr and Instagram and I’m still on Google+!
“Wait, Google+? What’s THAT??”
I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.
“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”
This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.
The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.
I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.
And I was right.
I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.
Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce
1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.
2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.
3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.
Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes
I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like.
Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.
This is another ridiculously easy recipe; I made it as a side to another dish I’ll be writing up soon-ish, and I figured what the heck, I’ll write this up too. Plus I want to keep the habit of posting regularly and it’s almost bed time and this was the best I could do short notice, so.
I love the flavors in a wedge salad. The “salad” part is just a big hunk of iceberg lettuce, but it’s the toppings you add that make it really special. I see it once in a while on a menu when I go out for dinner and I always consider ordering it, but then I think “Why would I pay twelve dollars for it here when I can make it at home for half that?”
So that’s what I did.
For this I had scallions, crispy onions, bacon, blue cheese dressing, and crumbled blue cheese. I made it easy on myself by buying the precooked bacon. Just one less step and ten minutes faster to salad perfection.
You can make it your own with chives, diced tomatoes, crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (ooh, yum), a different dressing…you get the idea.
Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad
Iceberg lettuce, quartered
3 slices of bacon, cooked and sliced thinly
3 scallions, thin sliced
2 TB blue cheese crumbles
2 TB blue cheese dressing
2 TB crispy salad onions
Top lettuce with bacon, scallions, dressing, cheese, and onions and serve. Goes well with a medium rare steak, but don’t let me tell you what to do.
See? Stupidly, ridiculously easy.
But hey, it counts as a blog post. BAM.