Hot Vanilla Chocolate

I’ve been MIA for a little bit, but I’m ready to get back into the swing of things.  I’ll give a quick review of the past week (which has been a bit of a blur), but first, Bailey wants to tell you something.

All day, Bailey has been trying to get between me and the computer.  She’s been typing with her nose and throwing her paws at the keyboard, trying to knock me out of the way.  I guess she wanted to say “hi” to everyone!

Last weekend started with a nice dinner with friends.  Dinner was so good I ate it before I even thought about taking a picture 🙂  There was a pasta bar with choices of veggies and meat or tofu.  I had tofu with bell pepper, onion, eggplant, tomato sauce and pesto.  It was delicious!  And served with some really good wine.

Layer Cake was an appropriate name for this wine.  You could actually smell cake in the wine – I’ll definitely have to look for this one again!  I did pause (briefly) to take a quick picture of dessert.  Brownies and vanilla ice cream.

The rest of the week was a blur.  It was a busy one at work and involved a lot of public speaking.  I was completely drained by the end of the week, so there wasn’t much cooking going on in our house.  One of my favorite take-out meals was El Rey.  It’s a local fast-food Mexican place, and a step up from Taco Bell.  I tried their veggie tacos, which came with grilled onion, zucchini, squash and guacamole.

Dinners this week have been repeats of old recipes, but my favorite dessert lately has been Hot Vanilla Chocolate.  I use:

  • 1 packet diet Hot Chocolate
  • a splash of Light Vanilla Soymilk
  • 1/2 tbsp calorie-free vanilla syrup
  • 1 packet Splenda

To be honest, I don’t really like the taste of the diet Hot Chocolate.  It’s just not the same as the real thing, and it’s not very sweet.  But when you mix in vanilla flavoring along with Splenda, it’s the perfect light dessert.

Served in one of my favorite mugs 🙂

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One’s a Meal

I know I’m way behind, but our dinner Wednesday night was too good not to blog about it.  We went to One’s a Meal, a 24 hour Greek/American restaurant.  I’d read reviews about an over-bearing owner, Mr. John.  He was there, but he didn’t give anyone in our group a hard time – I was actually disappointed 🙂

Before the meal they brought out some kind of bread – it was kind of like pita bread, but with sesame seeds, and there was a yummy tomato sauce to dip it in.  I had a taste of the spanakopita (spinach and feta in a phyllo pastry), and it was very good, but I ordered a personal-sized spinach pizza for my entrée.  It was SO good –  I wouldn’t normally order pizza at a Greek restaurant, but the feta cheese on it was super tasty.

There were so many items on the menu I didn’t get to try, I definitely want to go back here!

I know I’m slacking on pictures, but dinner last night was good too.  We ordered delivery from Spaghetti Western, where my favorite pizza is called The Ugly.  It has chicken, tomato, red onion and tomatilla sauce.  I ordered a slice of The Ugly with no chicken and a house salad with no black olives.  The house salad was amazing – it came with feta vinaigrette dressing, something I’ve never heard of before, but it really tasted like a light feta dressing!  Unfortunately, they put black olives on my salad and chicken on my pizza.

It took an hour for the pizza to come, and by then it was 8:30 PM, so I have to admit, I just picked the chicken off the pizza.  I was so worried I would accidentally eat a bite, or get chicken juice on my pizza.  Am I a bad vegetarian for eating something that touched meat?  I have mixed feelings about it.

On another note, I had a real embarrassing moment yesterday.  I was leaving work, and actually tripped and fell – over nothing at all.  I think I might have stepped on my jeans funny or slipped out of my heel, but the next thing I knew I was heading face first toward the ground.  Of course my first thought was, “Maybe no one saw me fall.”  NOPE.  There was a whole crew of people working outside, and they were all lined up watching me, calling out to see if I was okay.  How embarrassing!

Batty for Blueberries

Not too long ago I was hugging my favorite fat, avocado.  Well it’s that time again, but I’ve moved on to blueberries for CCK’s Hug a Fruit month.  I was trying to come up with a cute title for this post, and Pat suggested Batty for Blueberries.  Because, as he put it, I look batty in my blueberry picture :-p

Picking a favorite fruit was really hard for me.  I love kiwis, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and pineapple.  It was a very tough race, but blueberries have been a recent favorite of mind.  It is a staple in my morning oatmeal, which I take to work with me, and is often packed as an afternoon snack.

I’ve enjoyed blueberries in many of my “green monster” smoothies – a favorite combination is blueberries, strawberries and banana with spinach, flaxseed, vanilla syrup and splenda.

There was the time I tried to make blueberry waffles… they didn’t turn out so well, but they still tasted just fine.

My blueberry-lemon coffe cake turned out much, much better.

Oh, how I love my blueberries.  What is your favorite fruit?

Mayuri

Friday night was date night.  We started out at the Memorial City Mall for some shopping.  We had heard there were some good deals at Dillard’s.  Pat had success, but I tend to get so overwhelmed at big department stores.  I did find some good deals on shoes, but they didn’t have any I liked in my size.  My find of the evening was a pair of $10 skinny jeans from Anne Taylor Loft (marked down from $60).  Not bad!

After shopping we didn’t have anything in mind for dinner, so we just drove around until we found something that looked good.  We ended up at Mayuri, an Indian restaurant in the Galleria area.  Neither of us had heard anything about it, but we figured we would try it.

It was a nice atmosphere and I was excited to see that their menu was divided by vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian options.  Pat ordered a lamb curry and I ordered a garbanzo bean curry.  I ordered mine with what they called Thali.  For an extra $5 you got a side of soup, yogurt, lentils, dessert and a few other items.

The soup came out first.  I’m not sure what it was called, but it was like wonton soup, only really spicy.

Then the garbanzo bean curry came out.  It didn’t have any chiles next to it in the menu, which meant it was not supposed to be spicy.  But my lips were numb after only a few bites.  Tasty, but too spicy for me to eat much.

I liked about half of the Thali – the lentils were really good, but even hotter than the garbanzo beans.

Dessert was small, but really good – a small biscuit coated in sugar and butter.  Does it get much better?  Good thing it was such a small serving!

Because the food was so hot, I only ate a little of it and mostly snacked on the naan.  I had a lot of leftovers.

Although the food was fine, the service was awful.  It took forever to get someone to take our order.  Then it took forever each time I wanted more water.  One server actually walked by my empty water cup several times without paying any attention to my attempt to flag him down.  When we finally managed to get our check, they charged us for a beer that Pat ordered, but was never brought out.

There is so much good Indian food in Houston, I don’t think we will be back to this location.  It’s a shame, but I really think that poor service can outweigh decent food.  And on the flip side, if the food is amazing, I might be willing to “put up” with poor service.  What are your thoughts on bad service at restaurants?

Gaga for LADY GAGA

When I heard Lady Gaga was coming to Houston, I really wanted to get tickets – but they sold out in minutes (or was it seconds?)… then she opened a second show, and I was ready and waiting at my computer right at noon to buy tickets.  But they were sold out immediately.  I was really disappointed because this is the first show in a long time I would have given anything to see.  The ticket prices online at the time were outrageous – $400-500 for not even good seats?!  I had all but given up.  But I have the best family in the entire world, and their anniversary gift to me and Pat was tickets to see Lady Gaga Monday night 🙂  And the show was AMAZING!!

We got to the Toyota Center early to get in line and people watch.  I loved all the costumes people showed up in, and kind of wished I had taken the time to put something together myself.  Instead I threw on jeans and a t-shirt when I got home from work and called it good.  While we were waiting on line to get in, Pat nudged me and goes, “Hey, there’s your sister.”  I thought he was joking, but two people ahead of us in line was a girl who looked almost exactly like my sister Kellie – so close it was scary!  She even sounded like Kellie, and the facial expressions were similar.  So when we got inside, I walked up to her, told her she looked just like my sister, and asked if I could take a picture.  I’m sure she thought it was really weird, but she agreed 🙂  Here’s me and Kellie’s double:

And here’s my sister:

Do you see the resemblance??

After walking around a bit, we went to find our seats.  I thought we were going to be really far away (and maybe it looks far because a lot of my pictures did not turn out), but it really wasn’t bad at all.  We had a pretty good view, and another group wanted to sit together, and asked if we would move down a few rows so they could have our seats – so we did!

Before the opening act, some DJ played classic rock and danced around on stage.  We honestly couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.  Either way, it was a cool way to warm up the crowd.

Me and Pat waiting for the show to start:

While waiting, I enjoyed the hairdo of a girl in front of us.  I actually saw a lot of girls with soda cans in their hair.

The opening act was awesome.  I had never heard of them before – Semi Precious Weapons.  The lead singer was a riot – their first song was “I Can’t Pay My Rent, But I’m Fucking Gorgeous.”  He came out wearing a thin shirt/dress, fish nets and high heels.  He then did a costume change on stage and got down into what looked like nude-colored underwear.  He also popped champagne and poured it over the stage to some fans.  He stopped at one point and said something along the lines of, “Parents.  Don’t hate me because I’m offensive.  Love me because I’ve exposed your kids to real rock n’ roll.”  He also talked about how the band first played with Lady Gaga back in 2006 for a show of 12 people.  I think it’s awesome that they’re traveling together for her big tour, and I really liked their music!  The best picture I got of Semi Precious Weapons was on the big screen.

When Gaga finally came out, it started with a big screen flashing pictures of her.

Which was then replaced by her big shadow.

The first song was set with a backdrop of her car being broken down in NYC.  When she lifts the hood of the car to check out what’s inside, it’s a keyboard, which she then begins to play.  The whole show was sort of a Wizard of Oz theme, with Gaga on a journey to get to the Monster Ball.  It was cool because she talked between songs.  She definitely had some recurring messages throughout her show – love yourself, it’s okay to be different, and a lot of support for GLBT rights.  The messages were cool, but it was a little ironic when she kept talking about hating money.

At one point she gave a nice speech.  As Pat just pointed out, it was like she was talking to a cult, but I think it was cool the way she engaged her fans.  “I didn’t used to be brave.  In fact, I wasn’t brave at all.  I had a lot of people who didn’t believe in me, who judged me and told me no, and made me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere.  But, you have made me brave, little monsters.  And now I’m going to be brave for you.  Tonight, I want you to free yourself.  I want you to let go of all your insecurities.  I want you to… reject anyone or anything that ever made you feel like you weren’t good enough or you couldn’t fit in… You remember that you’re a fucking superstar!  Tonight is going to be your liberation.  And when you leave, do not leave loving me more, leave loving yourself more.”  She then proceeded to walk around, complimenting her fans on their costumes and the signs they brought.

One of my favorite parts was when she slowed down her concert to play the piano – a piano that was on fire.  Literally.  And she didn’t just play with her hands – she played with her feet and her tongue.  She played Speechless and a new song called You and I.  I can’t wait for her next CD!

At one point, she sees a tornado coming, and a cylinder of screens came down over her.

She emerged in a Glenda-like costume, and walked through the “scary forest” of Central Park.

She ended with four of my (and probably everyone’s) favorite songs – Alejandro, Poker Face, Paparazzi, and an encore of Bad Romance.  During Paparazzi, she battles the Fame Monster on stage – a huge monster with sharp teeth and long tentacles.  She tells the crowd to take pictures of it to kill it, we win, and she makes it to the Monster Ball.  It was a great show and we had such an amazing time!  Maybe we’ll get to see her when she’s back next April 🙂

Red Quinoa and Lemon Chick’n Wrap

It’s been a nice, quiet Sunday.  Pat and I went out for brunch at IHOP, and then stopped by Half Price Books.  I also got back on the treadmill for the first time in too long, and it felt good to get moving again.  I walked/ran 2.5 miles.

My snack this afternoon was inspired by Rachel’s post of a cherry/blueberry/banana smoothie.  It looked delicious, so I really wanted to try it.  In my mix (2 servings):

  • 1 banana
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1.5 cups light vanilla soy milk
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 packets splenda

It was thicker than most of my smoothies, so I ate it with a spoon.  It was so good!

Dinner was also inspired by Rachel – she posted a recipe for avocado hummus, so I used it in our dinner tonight.  To make the avocado hummus, I mixed the following ingredients.  I tried using the Magic Bullet, but it didn’t work so well, so my hummus was a little chunky.

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 2 tsp lime juice

I used the hummus on a Flat Out wrap, along with Laughing Cow garlic & herb cheese, and topped it with Lightlife Smart Tenders in Lemon Pepper.  This was a great combination!

For a side dish I made red quinoa.  I mixed it with:

  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • lime juice
  • feta cheese

I’m still getting used to the texture of quinoa.  It’s pretty tasteless, so it could have used more feta cheese, but it was good on the side.

Doesn’t it look pretty?  What is your favorite way to prepare quinoa?

Root, Root, Root for MY Home Team

I love weekend brunch, when I have time to make breakfast food I don’t get to eat during the week.  My breakfast during the week is always oatmeal with fruit.  It’s quick, healthy, and easy to take to work.  But nothing beats a big breakfast with eggs and (fake) bacon.

Scrambled eggs with pepper and cheddar cheese, wheat thins with butter and fake bacon for Pat.

I had a big brunch:  egg white wrap with Laughing Cow French Onion cheese, red and yellow bell pepper and pepper, fake bacon, 1/2 wheat thin with almond butter, blueberries and strawberries.

Lunch was an Amy’s cheddar cheese burrito.  These things are delicious – we buy them in bulk at Costco.  I could eat these every day!

Our dinner plan was to eat at the ballpark.  We went to see the Astros play the Cincinnati Reds, my real home team.  I’m happily becoming an Astros fan, but the Reds still had my heart first, so I had to root for them.  I really embarrassed Pat, cheering loudly as the Reds beat the Astros 7-0.

I was planning on getting a $4 veggie dog – I had one last time I went to Minute Maid Park.  However, when I ordered one last night, I got a blank stare from the girl.  “A what??”  A veggie hot dog.  “We don’t have those.”  Yes you do… it’s on the sign behind you.  The manager came over and informed me that they didn’t have any.  So why was it listed on the sign?

Well I still had to eat, but didn’t want to pay $8 for a slice of cheese pizza, SO… I had Blue Bell ice cream for dinner.  Butter pecan ice cream in a waffle cone.  And it was delicious.

But when we got home, I needed some “real” food.  So I heated up some veggie chick’n wings.

We watched Leap Year while eating the wings and drinking some Riesling.  It was a cute movie – it didn’t get great reviews, but I enjoyed it.  Even Pat admitted it was entertaining 🙂  It was a great, relaxing night!