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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

People occasionally ask me how I stay in shape if I eat so many baked goods. Well... for starters, this recently taken image of equipment in my garage is generally how I study.
When it's time for general reading or reviewing materials, I hope on the treadmill or get on my bike trainer. I had a friend invite me to stay with her in Minnesota for the month of February to help study for the bar exam. It was difficult to explain that the reason I couldn't come stay with her is because I study while moving. Honestly, I really like eating. But I dislike when my pants are tight. And studying involves a lot of sitting. This in turn makes me crazy. So, I try to find ways to move, a lot. It might be extreme but this is how I've always been. I have problems sitting still. I always have. Ask my parents. They'll tell you that they used to strap me in my chair at the dinner table because I'd take one bite, get up and go run around, come back for another bite, get up and run around.

Then again, it's not like I'm eating baked goods constantly. I do indulge daily on a tiny treat (like a piece of candy) and I firmly believe that everyone should eat what they want, in moderation, but I'm not one of those people who bakes every single day. Trust me, I wish I was. But for the sake of my cholesterol, I'm pretty strict on myself. I'm always conscious of my portions and I eat a ton of salads, like the one in this post, and fruits and vegetables. I do snack, a lot, but my snacks normally consist of carrot sticks and hummus. And I keep my intake of processed snacks very minimal. So, Ron and I keep ourselves in fairly decent shape. It's important to me and it's important that we are as active as possible. We didn't always have this mindset. You see, once upon a time, Ron and I lived in a house where the pantry was like your own personal fun trip to the grocery store every time you opened the door. I had no less than seven boxes of cereal (a delicious assortment of boxes like Lucky Charms, Golden Grahams, Trix) at the house at any given time. We also had various kinds of chips, pop-tarts, granola bars and other snack items constantly on hand. Then, I woke up and realized what we'd been doing to our bodies. Since then, we've lost a collective weight of 75 pounds.

We're strict but also relaxed. And we judge our conscious eating in various ways. For example, we have about six chip clips in the house: 3 large and 3 small. The smaller ones tend to care for things like wheat germ or flax meal. However, the 3 larger ones are for our snacks... the chips or candy or whatever. When all three big chips are used, I know it's time to reign in our snacking. The other day, I noticed all three were in use. Now, we've been back from Florida for nearly two weeks. But we haven't snapped out of vacation-mode eating. The Disney dining plan blessed us with a lot of food and we came back with a ravenous sweet tooth; so I baked up a pumpkin pie!  (It was so good, totally worth it, and it will be posted soon.) And we definitely didn't let it go to waste. So, after noticing our chip clips after cleaning out an empty pie pan, I quickly realized that it was time to nip our "vacation-eating" in the bud for the time being. Hence, this nice winter salad. It is very satisfying and has enough variety to please anyone's taste buds. The dressing was awesome - it's one of several home-made salad dressings I like to keep on hand - and was so flavorful. It is an easily adaptable meal. Choose any type of nut, mix up your cheese, or swap out the fruit. This salad alone provides a filling dish but can easily be accompanied with a main protein dish, if you'd prefer. The original recipe included bacon but I opted to leave it off of mine. However, I can imagine that the bacon would be a delicious accompaniment to this salad. Most importantly, the salad was relatively healthy and provided enough greenery to put me back on track to snap out of vacation eating mode.
Winter Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
from Greens and Chocolate
Yield: 2-3 large servings
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 medium pears, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled, optional
  • 6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  1. To make the salad: Toss together the romaine, pears, cranberries, pecans, feta, and bacon, if using.
  2. To make the dressing: Combine maple syrup, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, and salt; whisk to combine. 
  3. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Gradually add more dressing, according to your liking. Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spinach Stuffed Shells

These spinach stuffed shells are almost exactly like our favorite turkey-spinach lasagna, except for the fact that they are baked shells! These are so delicious and filling. We had leftovers for days. There is nothing more comforting than pasta and cheese, so this is the perfect dish next time you want a delicious meal. It is a "lightened-up" recipe so it uses some reduced-fat options, but feel free to adapt as you prefer.
Spinach Stuffed Shells
from Gina's Skinny Recipes

  • 27 (9 oz) Jumbo Shells
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 32 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed 
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano


  1. Boil water and cook shells according to package directions, make sure to make them al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in oil. Add turkey and salt and brown until cooked, breaking up in small pieces. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil, then simmer on low, covered, about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, spinach, mozzarella, and parmesan.
  5. Once shells are cooked and cool, fill each shell (with two heaping Tbsp) cheese mixture and place on a large baking dish covering the bottom of the dish with a little bit of sauce.
  6. Top shells with half of the sauce, cover with foil and bake 40 minutes; uncover foil and bake for 5 more minutes.
  7. Serve with additional sauce on top, aside a small salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

School Bread (Skolebred)

In February 2011, I started planning our January Disney 2012 trip. I know, it seems a little ridiculous. Eleven months ahead? But trust me, it's necessary in order to carefully plan the best trip for value and to ensure that you get a spot at your favorite restaurant 180 days in advance of your vacation. Those get-in-the-park-before-opening-hours character breakfasts aren't available if you try to book two months out! And cast members will laugh at you if you walk right up and expect to get a table. I've become quite crafted at preparing the most awesome trip as Disney possible for myself and Ron. I take pride in this. We go often and I somehow manage to make sure that we do something new, try something new, and stay somewhere new each time. The Walt Disney World Resort is always changing, so I try to make sure that our trips are as new and fresh as possible. This involves a lot of careful planning and copious amounts of research. But I absolutely love this so should you ever have any specific Disney, Universal, or Orlando related questions, I'd be happy to help! I read Disney Imagineering books for fun and I can tell you things like "Walt Disney's "room" above the Ice Cream Parlor is the only window on Main Street that has a view of Cinderella's Castle."

So here we are in January 2012 and I've already planned out our entire 2013 Disney vacation. Yes, my friends. We're going back. We'll always be going back. I can't stay away from that place and I'm so grateful for my ever-so-patient husband who recognizes that I adore Disney. Besides, I owe myself a runDisney medal, as I did not receive one this past marathon weekend. Sad. Here's the story: I had no time, energy, or strength to run. J-Term beat the heck out of me. I finished the class, rushed to the airport, hopped on a plane and arrived in Orlando feeling super... exhausted. I was practically out of it by the time my flight arrived in Orlando at 10:00 at night. I was running on no sleep from the night prior, minimal food and hydration. So, strange things were coming out of my mouth when Ron picked me up at baggage claim. I was seeing more furry creatures than just the Disney characters in the airport. From there, we were off to our Disney hotel for the night to prep for the run the next day. You might be wondering, why did you plan a run the day after your class ended? Isn't this your fault? Well, friends... J-Term was not in the plan at the time Disney 2012 was booked.

We had a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call and it was already 11:30 a.m. by the time I climbed into bed. I started noticing that I was having heart rate issues. My breathing was stale and I was very clammy, something that happens when my heart rate spikes too fast. So, I tried to rest but watched the clock as it ticked by from midnight until 2:59 a.m. when the alarm went off. I got up to prep some coffee and noticed I was out of breath just from getting out of bed. I went outside and did a brief jog that solidified what I had been thinking the night before. It was not worth it to try and do the run. :'( I woke Ron up, who told me he felt the same (he had not slept either on his red-eye flight), and we decided that our trip was more important than face-planting the pavement during the race. We had 5 days of meticulously planned theme park a-going so we decided that we'd be back in 2013 to run the run we didn't do in 2012.
Looking back, I'm glad we didn't run. Our trip to Orlando was pretty incredible and we could have potentially ruined it if we'd forced ourselves to run. Granted, I know we would've finished but bad things happen to your body when you force a run on no sleep, no hydration, no food and no mental stability. Sigh. It still stings though. This is a bad habit that I need to break. Anyway, we had two days at the Hard Rock resort over by Universal (gorgeous hotel, within walking distance of the parks, early access, and front of line perks; highly, highly recommend!) then we shifted back to Disney where we stayed at the Beach Club Resort for the remainder of our trip. It was a blast. It was our first time at the Beach Club Resort and as a perk of visiting during the time we went, we received a free Disney Dining Plan (over a $300 value), which is something we'd never done before. I'd spent so much time researching dining options (what qualifies as a snack? where do you get the best bang for your buck? who has the best table-service menu? what is the best quick-service meal?) and had booked our table-service reservations by the time we arrived. However, choosing snacks and quick-service meals was so much fun! We would absolutely do it again and if you go down to Disney, I highly recommend the Dining Plan (at least if its free) and researching dining options ahead of time.

In Epcot's World Showcase, Norway has a well-known bakery called Kringla Bakery Og Cafe. We normally stop in there on our way to the Maelstrom ride to pick up a sweet pretzel or another treat. We'd never had the School Bread but I've always wanted to try it. So, we planned to use it as one of our snack options but was thrown off course after Ron learned it was covered with coconut shavings. This threw our "snack plan" into total derailment and Ron had a pout session because he was peeved about the addition of coconut. I recalled seeing the recipe on the Disney Food Blog site so I made a note to surprise him with some School Bread once we got back to Seattle. I did not end up using the recipe posted because I heard some mixed reviews, but I did find another similar recipe. School Bread is a Norwegian pastry that is often served around the holidays. It is filled with a sweet cream custard, dipped in glaze, and often coated with coconut... but the coconut can easily be omitted. They smell great while they are baking and they are so delicious when complete. It might be worth it to use all-purpose flour because the wheat can make the dough a bit tough, but I found my pastry filler to work just fine. The custard was very easy to make and tasted so good. Don't be fooled by the fact that I had a little too much fun with the custard, these pastries can easily be decorated for elegance. I'd love to make these again and even better, Ron satisfied his "school bread" snack craving.
from Bubbling Cauldron
Yield: 24 pastries
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk or water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • coconut, optional
Pastry Cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Add melted butter, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup sugar and cardamom. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, knead the dough until it is shiny and pliable. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  2. Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and form into rounds. Place the rounds on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Brush the risen rolls with the beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes until nicely browned with pale sides. Cool completely on wire racks.
  4. Mix glaze by placing powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl and whisking until combined. Once the rolls are cooled, spread glaze across the top and then dip in coconut, if you prefer.
  5. To make the pastry cream: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until well combined. Whisk in 2 Tbsp of milk. Place the remaining milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil and slowly whisk it into the yolk mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and slowly bring it to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and spread the pastry cream over the plastic to let it cool as quickly as possible. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate it until cold. Place the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag and fill the buns with cream. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Asian Salmon Noodle Salad

It's been one week since we returned to Seattle from a whirl-wind two week trip. And I think I'm finally setting back in to the swing of things. Well, at least I'm back to a new routine that involves pouring over BarBri materials 24/7. I'm done with law school. I graduated last Saturday. And it still hasn't completely sunk in. It doesn't seem so long ago that I was sitting at home on a Saturday night with my study group studying first-year contracts materials until midnight. It doesn't seem so long ago that I was sitting in my car on Summit Avenue crying to my parents about how I had absolutely no clue how I was going to finish. And they would reassure me "You'll look back at this time and think my goodness that time flew." I do think that now. It's hard to believe that 3.5 years have passed.

Last semester was a little untraditional. And I don't generally discuss my grades. But I'm still in amazement about how things turned out. Somehow, I managed to obtain a 4.0 in my fall semester. And after three and a half years of school, one of my exam responses was finally posted on Blackboard as a "model answer." Never-mind the fact that I rewrote the exam response at 3 a.m. after I had already spent weeks working on it. It made it there! My work! Then somehow, I managed to thrive off of coffee, 13 hours of sleep total and peanut butter sandwiches for an entire week so I could research, draft, and negotiate my butt off in my Deals and Disputes class. Woozers. I say somehow because I just don't know how I did it. But I'm done. All done.

I graduated law school with academic honors. Magna Cum Laude. For the first time in my life, I am proud of myself and didn't (and still don't) feel guilty for tooting my own horn. Not bad for a person who was waitlisted before entering law school. Yep, folks. Waitlisted. I just didn't have the numbers to show that I was a successful candidate for law school. But, I like to think of myself as inspiration to people who might not have the best numbers entering. If you are willing to put in the work, you can prove those statistics wrong. I'm happy to say that I worked my tail off and I'm even happier to say that my friends in similar situations were successful just as well. Hard work and determination does not go unnoticed.

A number of people expressed shock at graduation when they saw that I actually had a clue in law school. I found that funny. Just because I remained quiet in class most of the time did not mean that I was failing out! I loved my time at Mitchell. I just didn't love the way I reacted to the stress and pressures of school. But who does? I will eternally be grateful for the school that gave me a new life, new opportunities, and a new chance to smile. It's still hard to imagine that it's done. But that chapter has closed and a new one has started. Though, it's slightly boring to start. I sit here now with bar prep materials surrounding me, reciting things like "P.I.N.E. stands for Prescriptive, Implied, Necessity, and Express" and trying to jam as much material into my brain as possible. Enter brain food. This recipe was inspired by three separate recipes so I don't really have a source. Ron has started eating salmon so I've been able to cook it more often. Ron has also started eating octopus, which is just mind-boggling to me. But anyway, this recipe was really good. I had been craving something and couldn't put my finger on it. So, I pulled some asian ingredients together, opened the soba noodles I've had in the pantry, marinated the salmon and whipped up this noodle bowl. Enjoy!

Asian Salmon Noodle Salad
from a number of sources combined
Yield: 3-4 servings
For the Salmon
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/4 lb salmon
For the Noodle Salad
  • 1/2 lb soba noodles
  • 3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp freshly minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, shredded
  • 1 cup bean sprouts, chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
  • 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
For the Salmon
  1. Slash knife marks in the skinless side of the salmon. Place salmon skin side down in glass baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk all of the other ingredients and pour over salmon. Cover dish and place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake salmon, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes. Meanwhile, prepare your noodle salad.
  4. After noodle salad is prepared and salmon is cooked (and slightly cooled), scrap salmon off of skin with a fork. Chop salmon into several small pieces and mix in with noodle salad. 
For the Noodle Salad
  1. While salmon is cooking, bring water to boil and cook soba noodles according to package directions (normally 4-5 minutes) then drain and spray with cold water to stop cooking.
  2. Whisk the next 7 ingredients (sesame oil through sea salt) in a small bowl. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro. Add the cooled and cooked noodles to the bowl and toss to combine.
  4. Once salmon is cooked and mixed in with noodle salad (see step #4 above), pour sesame dressing over the veggie-noodle-salmon mixture and toss to evenly distribute. 
  5. Place noodle salad into bowl and sprinkle with peanuts and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be Back Soon!

Sorry I haven't posted in some time! I'll be traveling for a bit longer.
Cheers from Hogsmeade Station!