Wednesday, April 29, 2009

YoCalcium Yogurt

My latest discovery at the supermarket is Stonyfield Farm’s YoCalcium yogurt.

I used to enjoy Stonyfield’s yogurts but stopped eating them because 1) they are higher in calories than Yoplait yogurts or Dannon’s Light ‘n Fit brand and 2) they tend to be more expensive as well.

However, I’ve discovered that their new YoCalcium line provides 500 mg of calcium, 50% of the calcium you need for your daily requirements, compared to the usual 30% that most yogurts supply. Combined with my Viactiv supplement, I now get a 100% of the calcium I need each day without swallowing a massive supplement that is the size of a horse pill!

YoCalcium comes in three flavors:

Apricot Mango
Strawberry Raspberry
Wild Berry (I’d love to try this flavor but haven’t seen it in a store yet)

Just a word to the wise, I haven’t seen YoCalcium in Stop & Shop or Shaws but I do manage to get it for a reasonable price at Whole Foods.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Salsa Dip and Brownies

Due to the success of last month's workplace potluck, I'm trying to make it a monthly event for our department. Today marked our second potluck and again, it was a rousing success!

I volunteered to bring to an appetizer and a dessert (natch). To be honest, I dragged my heels on making something during the weekend (since the weather was so nice) and since I didn't get home until 9 pm last night from the gym, I opted for two very easy choices:

Salsa Dip

and Melanie's Brownies:

Recipes for both follow below:

Salsa Dip

1 8 oz pkg of cream cheese
1 jar of chunky (not watery) salsa - I ended up using the Tostitos brand since it was on sale
1 package of Mexican blend shredded cheese - I usually go with Sargento's 2 cup bag (I can't remember how many oz this is, perhaps 8?)
1 package of taco seasoning


  1. Spread cream cheese on bottom of glass pie plate (I find that microwaving the cream cheese for 25 seconds makes it easy to spread if you forget to bring it to room temperature).
  2. Strain chunky salsa with pasta strainer and spread what remains on top of the cream cheese.
  3. Sprinkle cheese evenly as the top layer and sprinkle taco seasoning on top (I usually only use a small portion of the seasoning, around 1/5 of the package).
  4. Top with Saran wrap and microwave for two to three minutes before serving.

Melanie's Brownies (back story on how I got the recipe referenced here)


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 4 squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate on stove on low in a small saucepan.
  3. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a medium bowl lightly
  4. Add white sugar, salt and vanilla - mix well until blended.
  5. Add melted butter and chocolate to egg mixture, mix well.
  6. Finally, add flour and mix well.
  7. Bake in greased 13" x 9" pan for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I love the thick, even texture of these brownies - they slice so cleanly, unlike any other brownie I've made.

In addition to these two items, my coworkers and I feasted on:

  • Homemade fried chicken
  • Shrimp and broccoli risotto
  • Eggplant Manicotti
  • Egg rolls
  • Pulled pork sandwiches
  • Salad with a homemade Greek yogurt and lemon juice dressing
  • Homemade hummus and pita chips
  • Seven layer bars

I think I'm still full from this lunch. And I'm already in the midst of planning our May lunch.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Best. Book. EVER!

I'm saying this even before I've read the book - I just find the concept amazing:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

This is the book that Amy and I would write if we wrote one together. It's on my reserved list from the library so I'm hoping to get my hands on it soon!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pecan Monkey Bread

I've run across many recipes for Monkey Bread but I loved this recipe because it uses a cheat (Pillsbury Grand biscuits) and includes pecans, probably my second favorite nut after almonds!

This is what Andrew and I enjoyed for breakfast this morning, thanks to the recipe from Deborah's Culinary Confections.

  • 2 packages Pillsbury Grands extra large biscuits (I used the buttermilk extra flaky type)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I added another teaspoon, I love cinnamon!)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (Upped this to a full cup, and toasted them in the oven for five minutes)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 10 cup bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. I don't have a bundt pan so I used a 13 x 9 pan.
  3. Remove biscuits from packaging and cut each biscuit into quarters. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a large resealable freezer bag. Drop biscuits about 8 pieces at time into sugar mix, seal bag and shake to coat, repeating until all biscuit pieces are coated.
  4. Layer biscuit pieces and pecans loosely in bundt pan - do not press down.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar and vanilla, stirring constantly until mixture reaches a boil. Boil one minute, then remove from heat and pour evenly over biscuits.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto serving tray. Do not cut, just pull apart to eat.

This is what the bread looked like as I was layering it with biscuit pieces and pecans:

Covered with the brown sugar, butter and vanilla sauce:

Hot out of the oven:

Ready to eat:
Overall, I thought the recipe was easy to follow and easy to make. It wasn't as sticky as I expected, perhaps since it was spread out in a 13 x 9 pan so I would increase the amount of sauce to pour over it the next time I make it since that's the best part!
Andrew went back for third helpings, so I think it's safe to say that he liked it.

Flippin' Burgers

Collapsing into a big, sweaty mess at home after hiking at Noanet Woodlands, I knew I didn't want to sweat some more while cooking dinner. Luckily, Phu and Pete stopped by to drop off Phu's car (he parks in my extra driveway) and convinced us that it was time to eat dinner. Andrew and I have been meaning to try Flippin' Burgers for a while, on the basis of Underoo Elf's recommendation and the fact that we pass by it every time we drive through Newton Center.

My first impression was that this place was a hole in the wall - it doesn't really have a polished appearance and the kitchen takes up most of the space. There is enough seating for six people basically inside, and we were lucky (?) enough to grab a table for four when we arrived:

Pete and Andrew went with the Bacon Cheeseburger, Phu got the Buffalo Chicken sandwich and I went with a plain Cheeseburger, topped with onions, lettuce and tomato:

Andrew ordered onion rings (which they delivered to me) and I had fries, which allowed us to evaluate both options:

Topping the burgers and offered on the side as a dipping sauce was Flippin' Burgers special sauce. It consists of mayo, mustard and honey (I know since I asked suspiciously about its ingredients, wondering if ketchup was in it):

What were our overall impressions of the place?
  • I liked Flippin' Burgers better than Andrew, I would give it three out of five stars while Andrew didn't think there was anything special about their burgers
  • Their burgers are a tad overpriced, a cheeseburger (with fries) is $7.15 and Andrew's bacon cheeseburger with onion rings cost $8.75
  • The burgers are extremely drippy and greasy - stock up on napkins and use some of the handi wipes Flippin' Burgers thoughtfully provides
  • Onion rings were good - nice and crispy with a good onion to crust ratio
  • Fries were good simply because of the dipping sauce. Andrew again didn't think the sauce was good, but that's because he was comparing it to the Publick House's dipping sauces (nothing comes close to that!)
  • The burgers, like their website warns, take a while to cook so it's good to call your order in ahead of time
  • As the actual restaurant is small and extremely hot (no AC), it's better to do a pick-up order rather than eat there. If you don't believe me, take a look at the first photo above at Pete's and Phu's sweaty faces!

Noanet Woodlands

Andrew and I knew we wanted to make the most out of the GREAT weather we're enjoying this weekend in Boston. So we made sure we finished up our errands early on Saturday morning and then headed out to Dover's Noanet Woodlands for a hike.

It turns out that Dover is pretty close to Newton, it took around 20 minutes of driving through Needham to get to. It was a great discovery, as Noanet provides easy to moderate hiking trails that pass by scenic ponds and a dam to boot:

The dam pops up a mere ten minutes into the hike, so it's good one to take kids on. As you can tell from the pictures, this was the first time my pale skin saw the light of day this year!

By the dam, we spotted two snakes sunning themselves (the second one is in the lower right hand corner):

After looking at the picture, Andrew and Pete agree that this is a garter snake. It's still a big sighting for someone who didn't grow up with garter snakes!

This is the pond that is created by the dam. As we were heading up the trail, we knew there had to be a large body of water somewhere as we kept passing dripping dogs:

In fact, one dog was hard at work retrieving sticks. Despite being a "scrawny, yippy dog" (Andrew's description for anything that isn't a boxer), this Cavalier King Charles spaniel impressed both of us with its swimming ability:

Andrew enjoying the cool breeze off the water, while hiding his disappointment that we didn't see any boxers on the trail, despite passing eight different dogs:

On our way back to the parking lot, Andrew gave into temptation and climbed the boulder we had passed on our way in:

In case you can't tell, he was pretty pleased with himself:

Our hike was a very pleasant hour and thirty minutes spent walking around, enjoying the sun on our faces while sweating our butts off. Based on the markers we passed following the blue marker trail first and ending up on the yellow marker trail, I've marked our route in green below:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bribes will get you anything...

...including getting your boyfriend to pose for an embarrasing picture.

Andrew's in sore need of a haircut. He's getting one tomorrow from his favorite barber, Mario.

But tonight, after taking a shower and having his hair sticking straight up, I told him he reminded me of Brendan Fehr, an actor from one of my favorite TV shows, Roswell:

So in exchange for a promise to make his favorite snack, buttery popcorn (this isn't the microwave-type folks, I pop the seeds in a heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter, and drizzle it on top with plenty of salt), I got Andrew to pose in a slight pout to match the Brendan Fehr picture below:

Is it just me or is there a resemblance? I know it's faint and based on hair, but still? As a loyal girlfriend, I have to say Andrew is much cuter and looks better in a suit to boot!

Spaghetti al Limone

This is what we had for dinner tonight - I was in the mood for something light and spring-like in flavor, due to the warm weather we're currently enjoying in Mass. So I went for a recipe I found in an old Oprah magazine at the gym - Spaghetti al Limone:

I cut the recipe in half and I used some fresh spinach I had on hand rather than the basil leaves.

To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with the recipe considering all the effort I put into juicing four lemon halves. The lemon flavor was strong but it didn't have enough savory flavor to it to balance it out. However, Andrew like it and saved the leftovers from being thrown out after assuring me he would eat it. I'll have to find another good lemon pasta recipe to try (perhaps one with a cream base) before giving up on this flavor combo.

Lilies in Bloom!

This is the sight that greeted my eyes when I came home today:

The Easter lilies that Andrew had surprised me with had finally bloomed and it was worth the wait - they look and smell wonderful!

Since Andrew's dad usually gets Easter lilies for his mom, Andrew decided do the same for me. I'm ashamed to say that I usually forget about the plant since Andrew found it a sunny spot tucked away in the dining room. But due to his loving care of it and constant watering, it's turned into quite the showstopper. Yay for lilies, flowers and Spring in general!

Graduation Party Invites in the Mail!

The invites for Amy and Andrea's big graduation bash are out!

In case you haven't received them in the mail yet or if you were curious to see what the other version looked like (Amy and Andrea each had their own design), here they are:

I wish I could take credit for the witty phrase on this one, but it came from

Andrea's was inspired by her current love for Lady GaGa:

The photo editing is a little rough since I don't have Photoshop and I had to rely on a coworker to do it, but overall, I thought they came out well. I love the eye-popping colors of each one as I was hoping it would help to get them noticed in the mail stack.

I'm just hoping people RSVP within the deadline I set (hint, hint).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Administrative Professional's Day!

To celebrate, I made Beantown Baker's (yes, yes, I know I've been on a roll using this blog for inspiration) Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl Brownies and basic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm too lazy to include the recipes, so you'll need to visit Beantown Baker's blog or look at the back of a chocolate chip bag.

The brownies came out well, even in my old, creaky oven that tends to burn things:

These got sliced into bite-size portions and packaged into cute bags that I had bought in Japan. My coworkers raved about these and Andrew received no complaints from his coworkers. Since the brownie recipe only made enough for an 8" x 8" pan, I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies as well.

These also got packaged into green (natch) bags from Japan - I really need to buy more cute packaging the next time I visit my folks:

These bags came with cute little tags, which I had Andrew fill out with the names of his office admins.

The funny thing is that my office had a lot of Brits visiting today, and they LOVED the chocolate chip cookies more than the brownies. This included my boss' boss and boss' boss' boss - talk about upper management. As the cookies went fast in work today and people kept asking for them in the afternoon, I whipped up another batch tonight to bring in tomorrow.

That's it for me, three straight days of baking has taken its toll and I need to take a baking break - at least for a day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Project Runway As An Early Birthday Gift

According to's Viewer Discretion blog, Project Runway's will begin airing on August 20, just in time to be an early birthday gift for me!

What's interesting is that this season will be accompanied by a new show, "Models of the Runway," which shows what goes on in Project Runway from the models' perspective. I'll definitely stay tuned for both.

But four months is a long time to wait - what the heck is taking so long if this show was ready to air last Fall?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Free Cone Day Tomorrow... Ben & Jerry's!

I never seem to make it to a Ben & Jerry's for free ice cream but each year, I mark my calendar with the intent of showing up at the nearest location. I'm currently craving their Pistachio Pistachio flavor (despite the nationwide pistachio recall) but Andrew has also turned me onto Cherry Garcia.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Birthday Celebration in Plymouth

As I mentioned in my last post, today is Tom's 60th birthday, so Andrew and I headed down to Plymouth to help celebrate with Andrew's Mom Charlotte and sister Amanda.

This is what greeted our eyes - two whopping 4 pound plus lobsters, freshly cooked:

Also on the menu was a salad with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and homemade dressing a la Amanda that was made in front of my eyes:

Anyone that knows me well knows that well, to be honest, that I'm a messy lobster eater. I tend to get lobster "mustard" on the walls and lobster water on myself. This is why I was glad to see Andrew's dad considerately taking all the meat out of lobster for us:
It may not look like much but there was plenty of meat to be dipped in melted butter and shared with the five of us.
Amanda also contributed roasted green beans with an orange-tarragon dipping sauce:
Next came dessert! What Charlotte kept referring to as Shepard's pie (code name) was in fact a yummy Strawberry Pie covered with Cool Whip and occasion-appropriate candles:

First came the off-key rendition of Happy Birthday (I'm pretty sure I'm tone deaf!):

The birthday guest of honor gets his first look at the "Shepard's Pie."

One last look at the lit Strawberry Pie...
...and Tom gets all the candles out in one blow!

Finally, a delicious slice of pie - I'm not ashamed to say I indulged in two slices instead of having one of my chocolate cupcakes:

Chocolate Cupcakes aka "Hostess" Cupcakes

Today is Andrew's Dad's birthday (the big 6-0) - Happy Birthday Tom!

In celebration of the big day, I knew I needed a good chocolate cake recipe.

Which is why I was glad to run across this recipe on Beantown Baker for "Fauxstess Cupcakes."

Since I was in a time crunch this weekend with the all day wedding event, I used a doctored cake mix for the cupcakes.

The fun part came in with the cream filling (I ended up doubling this recipe to make sure I had enough filling for 20 cupcakes, which gave me leftovers - yum!):
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

While waiting for cupcakes to cool, combine filling ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal (I used a glass bowl) bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. Reserve 1/2 cup of the filling to use for piping the swirls on top of the cupcakes at the end.

This is what the filling looked like after I was done beating it over my improvised "double-boiler" - a glass mixing bowl over a "simmering" pot of water:
I can't describe how good the filling is - it reminded me of the marshmallow creme that is used for an ice cream topping, but slightly fluffier. It held its shape well and tasted good enough for me to lick the beaters!
I don't have any good pictures of this portion of the next part of the cupcake filling process but you can check out Beantown Baker's blog for pictures and a detailed description. Basically, after I cut a cone out of each cupcake, I used a freezer Ziploc bag of the cream filling with a corner snipped off to fill each center and then replaced the cut piece of cupcake on top. Then it was time for the chocolate topping.
For the ganache topping (I doubled this portion of the recipe too, based on what Beantown Baker had recommended and it was just enough to cover all 20 cupcakes) :
  • 1/4 cup cream (I used heavy whipping cream that Andrew picked up for me at Shaw's)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 2/3 of a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips I had on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
The ganache came out nice and glossy and I loved how easy it was to dip and cover the top of each cupcake:
With filling leftover in the Ziploc bag (plus more in the mixing bowl), I snipped a smaller corner off to make the swirls across the top. Although I miss my pastry bags, the Ziploc bags have done a decent job!

And although I was worried that I wasn't getting enough filling into the cupcake, I was reassured once I cut into a test cupcake for Andrew to sample:
I highly recommend this recipe - it was delicious, looked great and was a hit at the birthday party! Plus, I froze the leftover cream filling for use with ice cream or another baked good - my mouth is salivating thinking about it!

Part 3 - Wedding Reception at Raffael's

We made it to Raffael's just in time, as they started letting people into the reception area a minute after we arrived.

I won't bore you with the details as the reception was your typically nice wedding event.

Chad and Lisa had their first dance:

Andrew and I were seated at Table 2 with Andrew's parents, Chad's mother and stepfather, and Chad's sister Kim, her husband Eric and their two beautiful daughters Madison and Meghan.

This is Meghan (how cute is she?) checking out the contents of the pink favor bags (personalized Hershey's kisses):

Once the dancing started, the littlest flower girl Kiley couldn't resist joining in:

It was one of the cutest sights of the night, watching all five flower girls break in the dance floor:

They weren't the only ones - Amanda did drag me out onto the dance floor, which was a challenge since I had to keep tugging my strapless dress up:

Andrew wisely sat out on the dancing, avoiding the sore feet I ended up with this morning. We do have him to thank for taking the covert dancing photos:

The party was still going strong when we left at at 10:30 pm but it was enough for me, I was stuffed and ready to go to bed!