June 27, 2012

low calorie fresh, frozen fruit margaritas

It wasn't too long ago that I was down on my attitude and up on my weight.  Then about six weeks ago, I woke up and decided it was time for a lifestyle change (we still don't use the d-word around here).  Since then I've been exercising at least four times a week, and counting calories and fat.  And It Is Working.  I'm down 8 lbs so far, and though I've got another 15 to go, I'm motivated.

Annoying as it is, what they (I hate 'they') say is true: the key to a healthy weight is eating everything in moderation, abiding by a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.  It sucks that it's true, but it's working.

Today's post focuses on my favorite part of the equation - the 'in moderation.'  With this lifestyle change, I'm still occasionally eating pasta, bread, fried food, dessert, and sometimes an adult beverage.  I just have to work out and/or load up on the veggies to make up for it.  It's forcing me to be creative and inventive. 

So far, my favorite creation is a fresh, delicious, naturally low calorie frozen margarita.  I came home from a stressful day at work and needed a pre-dinner snack.  I also needed a drink.  I saw an overripe peach (smart choice) sitting beside a bottle of tequila (less smart choice).  Then I got creative:  I peeled & chopped the peach, threw it in the blender with some ice, poured in a bit of tequila, and then grabbed a few frozen strawberries left over from this spring's bounty.  Then I got inventive: I added some sparkling water and blended it all. 

The result was very, very good.  And guess what?  One drink has less than 120 calories.

Cheers!  Um, in moderation.
Strawberry Peach Frozen Margaritas

makes two 8 oz. servings

10 medium frozen strawberries
one ripe peach, peeled and chopped

two oz tequila
1/2 cup crushed ice
6 oz sparkling water

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.

Last night was another 'in moderation' night, but I was out of peaches.  I used what I had on hand, and created another version of the less-than-120-calorie margarita:

Strawberry Blood Orange Frozen Margaritas

makes two 8 oz. servings

10 medium frozen strawberries
4 oz blood orange juice
two oz tequila
1/2 cup crushed ice
4 oz sparkling water

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve immediately. 

There's something about the addition of the sparkling water that I love.  It makes the drink taste...sparkly.  But you can certainly use still water if preferred, and of course adjust the amount of ice depending on the desired consistency. 

Enjoy!  In moderation, of course.

June 11, 2012

i love lemon: syrup two ways & a triple lemon cake

I love lemon.  It's versatile and sort of magic.  It enhances the flavor of both savory and sweet dishes.  It's vibrant and powerful, yet still lets other ingredients shine.  I'd be hard pressed to think of a dish that wouldn't benefit from a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. 

This time of year, the hot weather leads me to search for cold, refreshing beverages.  Last year, I couldn't get enough ginger.  I made homemade ginger syrup & added it to everything: sparkling water, iced tea, iced coffee, and um, adult beverages.  This year, however, lemon is the star of the show. 

If you are a lemon lover like me, I encourage you have a bottle of homemade lemon simple syrup in the refrigerator at all times.  You'll be thankful it's there, trust me.  I have two variations on the classic simple syrup: one is a sweet lemon flavor, similar to a lemonade concentrate, and the other is a lip-puckering tart lemon.  Either are beautiful mixed with still or sparkling water, tea, juice or cocktails. 

lemon syrup, full of zest, mixed with sparkling water.

Lemon simple syrup, two ways
makes 1 1/4 cups syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (two or three lemons)
zest of two lemons

1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (five or six lemons)
zest of two lemons

Bring sugar, liquid & zest to a low boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until liquid thickens slightly, 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool and store in glass bottle or jar for up to two weeks. 

Not long after the I made the season's first batch (of many), I found this recipe.  I found myself thinking about it at least once a day.  My lemon love was intensifying.  A family dinner party finally gave me a justified reason to make a triple lemon cake.  If you like lemon flavor, this cake is intensely layered with lemon flavor, both tart and sweet.  My version depends on the boozy flavor that limoncello brings.

I let the larger loaf (left) cook longer, and I was happier with the resulting browned crust.

Triple lemon cake
inspired by One Lovely Life's recipe

makes one large loaf or three mini loaves

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp limoncello
zest from two lemons

1/3 cup prepared lemon syrup (sweet or tart, depending on preference), warmed  

2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs limoncello
1 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare loaf pan by spraying with nonstick cooking spray. 

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk yogurt, sugar and oil together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time until fully combined, then add limoncello and zest. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients & mix until fully blended.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch and is fully baked.  (For mini loaves, bake 40-45 minutes.)

Remove from oven and cool about five minutes.  Remove from baking pan, poke holes in the cake with a toothpick, and while still hot, drizzle the warm lemon syrup over the cake.  Allow cake to absorb the syrup, and cool completely.

To make glaze, whisk the lemon juice, limoncello and sugar in a bowl until smooth.  Spoon over the cake, allowing to completely cover the top and run down the sides.  Allow to set completely before serving. 

I served this cake with vanilla whipped cream and fresh blackberries.  It received rave reviews, though if it's not eaten within one sitting I urge you to store it in an airtight container.  I didn't, and the texture suffered after a couple days. 

My lemon love affair will continue this week.  I'm thinking crepes with tart lemon syrup, butter and powdered sugar might be in order. 

June 7, 2012

everything & the kitchen sink

A friend inspired this post.  The jewelry designer and full-time mom of a toddler and newborn recently posted a photo of her kitchen.  The caption read "this is as far from Pinterest as it gets." 

as (not) seen on Pinterest
The photo made me smile.  It also made me empathize.  I see photos of spotless, gorgeous and sometimes themed rooms, parties, crafts and food, and well, they make me feel like I'm doing something wrong.  My house - the one with errant Cheerios and dust bunnies, sticky messes on counter tops, various toys, clothing and papers scattered in every room, and 'artwork' in the form of crayon scribbles - is a far cry from what I see online, in magazines, and, let's face it, in the homes of some friends who don't have kids.  

My friend's honest reflection of her current status resonated with me.  Suddenly, the feeling of self-conscious imperfection that I feel when viewing Pinterest-worthy images faded.  A sense of relief washed over me.  "It's not just me," I thought.  "All moms struggle with this."

I'm a full-time public relations professional with clients, deadlines, expectations and many, many words to get just right.  I spend my work day second guessing my instincts, trying to be charming, and dreaming up ways to make others' dreams possible.  It's exhilarating, but exhausting, especially because it's sandwiched between my other 'job' - my life's purpose, actually - of being a wife and mother.  In the mornings, evenings and weekends, I run, nonstop, to meet the needs of two babies and a teenager.  I wipe, sweep, mop, dust and rinse constantly.  When I invite people over, I clean for hours just so I can say, "sorry the place is such a mess."

But enough of that.  This, my friends, is the real me (on a 'clean' day). 

The cluttered look is going to be the thing in 2013. I'm ahead of my time. 

Unidentifiable husband-like contraption in the background. 

L to R: emergency chocolate, bubbles, Pillsbury Doughboy, more emergency chocolate, vitamins.

Cat food on the counter because the baby, who won't eat his dinner,  likes it as a snack.
In response to this revelation, I asked other mom friends to take a photo of their kitchens - as is.  I present this photo collection to you with pride.  Being a mom is tough.  We're in survival mode.  And guess what?  Those little darlings who adore us?  They've never once noticed whether the house is clean.  

Now if only I could get to a place of 'ok' regarding the snot and yogurt stains on my clothing.  That's another battle for another day in the life of super mom.