Cookies and a Makeover

The air is crisp and the sun is out… I don’t think I could ask for more!  Lately the weather has been a tad spring like, which is nice in the spring but I really want fall to be here and to stick around for awhile.  Today in DC there is a strong breeze and it’s just beautiful.  Can’t wait to make it out to the farmers market in a bit!

So who doesn’t love sugar cookies?  I’ve been feeling festive so I whipped up a batch of these babies.

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Buttercream frosting
  • Red food coloring
  • Yellow food coloring
  • Black sprinkles
 Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Recipe from allrecipes.com

Frosting
  1. To create a glaze, place half of the jar of frosting into a microwave safe bowl.  Follow your food dye’s instructions for creating the color orange.  I placed 4 drops of red and 12 drops of yellow into the frosting and mixed thoroughly.
       2.   Next microwave the bowl of frosting for 30 seconds.  This will create a light and smooth glaze.
       3.   Once the cookies have cooled you can begin glazing the cookies.
        4.   Add sprinkles and voila!
This week I also went to an awesome Mary Kay party, hosted by the one and only Liz!
We had a really awesome time using the Mary Kay skin care line and putting on makeup.

After using the skin care system

and makeup -- had to go for the red lips!

It was a great girls night out and I hope to do it again some time!

Well laundry is done, so I’m off to do some folding and then enjoy this awesome weather!  Today Neal and I are going to the farmers market, checking out a wedding venue (AHHH) and then watching the Iowa game!  Tomorrow we have a 7 mile run, woop woop!

Have a fantastic Saturday everyone!!

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One Sick Fiance

Poor Neal.  He’s hasn’t been feeling too well this past week and ever since the engagement he’s been super sick.  I love taking care of him though.  Although I hate seeing him sick, I just love how some men act when they’re sick.  They’re so incredibly sweet, needy, and cuddly… I just love it.  I get to jump into Wife/Mommy role, which I love.

Aside from Neal being sick, life has been so awesome.  I stare at my ring all the time.  I’m just so excited!  I’m so happy we’re engaged!

Neal and I decided that we’re going to get married here in Washington, DC on July 7, 2012.  There’s plenty of planning to do, but with graduate school and work, taking it week to week is the plan.  I’m excited to be planning our wedding together though and am definitely going to enjoy the ride (and I’m excited for y’all to come along for the ride too).

Wedding Planning Week 1 (October 10-16)

  • Finalize budget
  • Research venues
  • Research churches
  • Finalize photographer

Neal got an “engagement present” from me today…

The Engaged Groom — Woop Woop.  I thought it might be a good read for him if he’s interested.  He was pretty excited… but I think it’s more because he’s a groom and a fiance.  I also made Neal a celebratory Pumpkin Spice cake!

3 ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cake

          1.  1 box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix

          2.  1 can of pumpkin

          3.  1/3 cup water

Combine all of the ingredients, pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This cake is fantastic.  It came out of the oven light and fluffy and tastes like fall!  I enjoyed it plain but it was also really tasty with some butter cream frosting.

Thank you all for the wonderful notes and congratulations on this week!  I’m thrilled to be engaged to Neal and am so excited to share all about it on Coffee, Cake and Cardio!!

Birthday Week Plan: October 10 – 16

Weekend Recap

  • Friday – I was facing the reality of getting older while enjoying a wicked awesome salad with my friend Becky!

  • Saturday- I had health on the brain and went on a wonderful movie date with Neal
  • Sunday- 6 mile run + trying out a new recipe + finishing a lot of graduate work = A great sense of accomplishment

So I know I’ve been talking about it a lot, but I just love birthdays and I am really excited about my upcoming birthday.  This week is “birthday week”, according to Neal, so I’ve come up with a workout and meal plan but have a lot of ‘?’ towards the end of the week.

I’m also hoping for a great weigh in on Tuesday morning, as I’ve been working hard to watch my portion sizes, incorporate more fruits and veggies, and to avoid binge eating.

Workout

Breakfast

Lunch

Snack

Dinner

Plans

Monday

30 minute run

1 egg, 1 slice turkey bacon, slice of tomato on English muffin

Leftover tuna casserole, banana, yogurt

Pumpkin fluff (see below!!), honeycrisp apple

Bobby’s Burger Palace

DC Outing with Neal after work- MLK memorial and dinner

Tuesday

Weight Lifting

Pumpkin spice bread with peanut butter and sliced banana

Leftover tuna casserole, banana, yogurt

Pumpkin fluff, honeycrisp apple

Salad @ home

The Biggest Loser

Wednesday

4 mile run

1 egg, 1 slice turkey bacon, slice of tomato on English muffin

Leftover tuna casserole, banana, yogurt

Pumpkin fluff, honeycrisp apple

Mexican Acorn Squash with corn and avocado salad

Graduate work

Thursday

Weight Lifting

Pumpkin spice bread with peanut butter and sliced banana

Salad with chicken breast, can of soup

Pumpkin fluff, honeycrisp apple

Leftover Mexican Acorn Squash with corn and avocado salad

?

Friday

35 min run

1 egg, 1 slice turkey bacon, slice of tomato on English muffin

Salad with chicken breast, can of soup

?

?

?

Saturday

Off

?

?

?

?

Iowa vs. Northwestern @ 6PM

Sunday

7 mile run

?

?

?

?

My Birthday—

Woop Woop

One of my favorite snacks to make in the fall is Pumpkin Fluff.  I first learned about pumpkin fluff when I was with Weight Watchers a few years back and have enjoyed making it ever since.  Pumpkin fluff is so easy to make and it is SO tasty!

Pumpkin Fluff

  • 1 box fat free butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 tub of low fat cool whip
  • 1 can pumpkin

Original Directions

  1. Make box of fat free butterscotch pudding as directed
  2. Stir in can of pumpkin
  3. Fold in cool whip
  4. Serve

Ashley’s Directions

  1. Sir butterscotch pudding powder with can of pumpkin.  The water from the pumpkin is enough to make the pudding in my opinion.

2.    Fold in cool whip

3.    Store in individual serving containers for easy to grab snacks!  I love eating the fluff with apple slices.

4.  Give leftovers to boyfriend.

Happy Monday Everyone!

What’s your favorite fall recipe?  Do you have any birthday traditions?

Tuna Casserole and a 6 Mile Run

Today started out just like any other day with a 6 mile run!  The weather was absolutely amazing.  The air was crisp, the sun was warm, and thankfully the trail wasn’t terribly crowded because the Army 10 Miler was going on.

My legs on the other hand, were not in the game.  From the start they were achy, crampy, and just all around tight.  I stopped a few times to get some extra stretching in between miles 1-3 and started to feel better after mile 3.

As I shared last week, it takes me a good 3-4 miles to get warmed up and into the groove.  In the end though, Neal and I ran 6 miles, woop woop!  The longest run of our fall training so far.  I don’t have any splits, but we walked 1/4 mile, ran/walked the 6 miles and then finished with another 1/4 mile walk in 1 hour and 18 minutes.  That’s right in line with our 12 minute mile pace.

I also burned 1118 calories (crazy) and got a nice tan.  Always a plus.  After our run we went grocery shopping and then pick up some smoothies for the ride home.

This afternoon I had every intention of cleaning my house and working on graduate work, but yeah, it didn’t happen.  I started watching the Eagles vs. Bills game and knocked out.  1.5 hours later I was waking up to make dinner for Neal and I.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been trying out one new recipe a week and have not limited myself to “Neal friendly meals”.  Lets just say Neal claims to not be the biggest fan of a lot of different foods, but I’ve made it my mission to try out different recipes with the goal of showing him just how tasty vegetables, for example, can be.

For tonight, I wanted to try out a Tuna Casserole recipe from Everyday Food.  I changed it up a bit, as usual, but here it is.  Oh, and here is the nutritional information.

Ashley’s Tuna Casserole

  • 1 box bow tie pasta
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 cans of tuna (drained and flaked)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions.  While the pasta boils, heat oil in pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and season with garlic salt and pepper.  Cook until softened.

Now my trick is to measure out my flour, milk, and chicken stock ahead of time that way I just have to pour when I am making my sauce.

Add flour to onions and whisk to coat onions.  Slowly whisk in broth, then milk.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce head and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened (took about 10 minutes for me).  Stir in pasta, tuna, and corn (recipe actually calls for peas) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer tuna mixture into a baking dish and top with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 20 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. (sorry, I totally didn’t take a picture of it after it was served).

So I’d like to say that Neal loved this dish, but he didn’t.  I honestly would only give it 2 out of 5 stars.  It didn’t have all that much flavor.  On top of that, Neal hates tuna.  I tried to wait to tell him but he saw the recipe on my computer before hand and I think it took him out of the game mentally.  I really don’t think he would have known it was tuna!   Oh well, first time he’s hated disliked a dish of mine.

Tonight I’m going to work on some graduate work, pack for tomorrow, and do a little planning.  This week is “Birthday Week”, according to Neal, so he has plans for us tomorrow night downtown DC.  I’m really looking forward to it!  OH, and I got an amazing package from Neal’s Mom on Saturday.  She is such a doll and got me some amazing birthday presents.

She got me an umbrella, lanyard, hat box cosmetic case, and the metropolitan bag from Vera Bradley!  I was so incredibly excited and can’t wait to use them.  All of them are in the “happy snails” pattern, too cute!  Thank you Norma, I really appreciate the birthday presents!!

I hope y’all enjoy the last bit of your weekend!  Look out for my Weekly Plan tomorrow morning!

What did you do this weekend? 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Last month I saw this amazing recipe for Macaroni and Cheese in Cooking Light magazine.  I just knew I had to try it, as it cuts almost 600 calories from the traditional mac & cheese recipe.  So here’s my version, enjoy!

Ashley’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

  • 3 cups of peeled butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 pound uncooked whole wheat shells
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

2.  Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce hear to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.

3.  Place the hot squash mixture in a blender.  Add salt and pepper… Greek yogurt is called for in the original recipe but I missed this step… I was too focused on the blending of the squash.  Remove the center piece of the blender lis (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over the opening in the blender lid (to avoid splatter).

Blend until smooth.

Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in cheeses and mix until combined.

4.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Add pasta to the squash mixture and stir until combined.

5.  Spread mixture evenly into a 13×9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Italian seasoning (my added touch) evenly over the hot pasta mixture.

6.  Bake a 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

7.  Enjoy!!

This is really an awesome and easy recipe.  Neal and I both found the sauce to be a little sweet, so I might change up the cheese next time.  Trader Joe’s has this awesome 5 cheese mixture… I think it would do well in this dish.  I would also recommend adding additional seasoning to the sauce prior to adding the noodles.  The Italian seasoning on top was great, but I think it’d be better inside the dish.

All in all, I give it 3.75 out of 5 stars. 

——————————————————————————————–

Today is also Biggest Loser day, so you know what that means… Weigh In!!  My scale was giving me really random numbers this morning (it’s clearly broken) so I am going to weigh in on Neal’s scale tomorrow.  I will update tomorrow morning…

Biggest Loser Challenge Week 2

  • Starting Weight: 226.6 pounds
  • Week 2 Weight:  ?? pounds
  • Total Weight Lost: 1.8 pounds

——————————————————————————————–

Well, I’m off to work!  With 20 minutes on the elliptical and 40 minutes in the weight room under my belt, I’m feeling really energized this morning.  I’m hoping I don’t crash today, though it’s bound to happen.  Staying up until 12:40AM to do graduate work wasn’t the smartest idea. 😉

I hope everyone has a fantastic Tuesday!

Zucchini, Banana, and Flax Seed Muffin FAIL

I’m really looking forward to this week.  My Dad is in town for a few days and I’m excited to spend some time with him and to show him my apartment.

I was lucky to have my parents close by back in 2007-2008, but they have lived in Texas since then.  I hope and pray that they’ll move back to the DC area in the future, but for now I’ll treasure their business trips here!

I also have two new recipes on the menu for this week:  Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese and Tuna Casserole!!   mmm… I can’t wait to make the Mac & Cheese tonight!

Workout

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Plans

Monday

35 minute run

Pumpkin spice swirl bread with peanut butter, apple, yogurt

lettuce with chicken breast, can of soup

Butternut squash mac and cheese

Graduate work (big project)

Tuesday

Spin AM and Weight Lifting

Oatmeal with pumpkin butter and peanut butter, yogurt

Leftover butternut squash mac and cheese

Dinner with Dad? or Friends?

The Biggest Loser

Wednesday

3 mile run

1 egg and 2 egg whites veggie omelet

Leftover butternut squash mac and cheese

Dinner with Dad?

Graduate work

Thursday

Weight Lifting

Oatmeal with pumpkin butter and peanut butter, yogurt

lettuce with chicken breast, can of soup

Tuna casserole

Graduate work

Friday

35 min run

1 egg and 2 egg whites veggie omelet

lettuce with chicken breast, can of soup

Leftover Tuna casserole

Nationals baseball game with Team in Training buddies

Saturday

Off

?

?

?

Iowa vs. Penn State: watch at bar

Sunday

6 mile run

?

?

?

Graduate work

Speaking of recipes, I had a total fail last night!  I tried to bake zucchini, banana and flax seed muffins… yeah, total fail. They started out well…

Mixed up smoothly…

But didn’t rise at all.  They were really doughy, though they were cooked the whole way through.  They looked NOTHING like the photo in the magazine but they did taste really good.

I blame it on the baking soda… probably expired.  Either way, it was fun trying a new recipe, though I now have 18 muffins sitting on my kitchen counter.  I didn’t want to bring them into work if they were gross (looking).

Hopefully tonight’s cooking will have a much better turn out!

Have you ever had a baking or cooking FAIL?

Panzanella, King of the Salads!

A week or so ago, Living Social had a deal in which you spent $10 and received a $20 coupon to Whole Foods!  I just couldn’t resist.  Last night after work, I walked the mile to Whole Foods with a shopping list in hand.

For whatever reason, I had been craving panzanella salad all week, so I decided to go with a recipe from Ina Garten, a sure winner! I also wanted to add salmon so here’s my take on Ina’s recipe.

Baked Salmon Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 load of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cucumber sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Place raw salmon on a foil lined pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and the juice from one lemon.  Place salmon in 450 degree oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.

While the salmon bakes, make the vinaigrette for the salad.  For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.

Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Remove salmon from oven after 12-15 minutes and allow to cool before platting.

Serve 1 – 1 1/2 cups of panzanella

and top with piece of baked salmon

Dinner is served!!

So I know I shouldn’t say this, but I really can’t believe it’s already Friday.  This week was an interesting one, to say the least, and I’m really looking forward to a few days off.

This weekend should be incredibly relaxing, or at least I intend it to be!!  The weather is suppose to be AMAZING (highs in mid 50’s, lows in 40’s– though there is a slight chance of rain but oh well).  I plan to crack open the windows, throw on a hoodie, and enjoy two days off!  Here’s what’s on the agenda:

  • Friday Night— Dinner with Liz, Julie, and Neal
  • SaturdayArt on the Avenue (This is my favorite art festival in DC!  I wait all year for this)
  • Sunday— 5 mile run with Neal, Redskins vs. Rams, graduate work

Have a fantastic Friday everyone!! Don’t forget to take the Locus of Control quiz!  It’s really interesting.