November 18, 2011


I was incredibly giddy when I learned that I won a giveaway from Jeanette's blog, Jeanette's Healthy Living. The giveaway was for a variety of whole grain products from Bob's Red Mill that came in a reusable tote bag along with their cookbook, Whole & Healthy Grains For Every Meal Of The Day.

Doing what I do anytime I receive a new cookbook I grabbed my notebook and a pen and cozied up on the couch bookmarking recipes.

Quinoa was one of the products I received. I have never had it before and was excited to give it a try. In the cookbook there was a basic recipe for cooking quinoa.

It is very simple to prepare and quick. It has little crunch to each bite but is delicious and very filling. Cooked quinoa can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I portioned out the servings into individual Tupperware. Easy.

This is an excerpt from the cookbook about quinoa:

"Quinoa, is a super versatile, protein-rich, easy-to-digest food that is quick and easy to prepare - not to mention delicious. Though technically not a grain but the tiny seed of a leafy green vegetable, quinoa is prepared and served like one and has in recent years been adopted as a favorite grain by healthy-foodies and chefs alike. (In previous millennia it was a hallowed staple food of the Incan empire.) Bob's Red Mill quinoa is washed to remove the seed's natural coating of harmless but bitter-tasting saponin - always rinse any other brand of quinoa thoroughly if it is not clearly labeled prewashed. (Note: some brands may use abrasion to remove the saponin coating; this method takes valuable nutrients along with it.)"

Makes about 4 cups

Stars of the Show:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • pinch of kosher salt
And Action:

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook about 15 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water and little curved tails (the germ) have begun to spring loose from most of the grains.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork, recover, and let sit 5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and serve hot.

Linking this to:
Frugal Friday

November 17, 2011

Pinterest #11

Popular Today in Pool Design Photos from houzz
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13 DIY At-Home Spa Tricks from Glamour
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From U-Line
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Ducky Baby Shower Punch from Tidy Mom
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Table Setting from Google
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November 16, 2011

An Accident That Was Meant To Happen

In my last post I stated how I was having a difficult time adjusting to going back to work. I don't think it was actually working that I disliked but the place I was working at. I am a social being and crave that interaction with others. At the place I was at I felt like a caged animal in my cubicle with nothing but the sound of typing and gossip in my ear. It was very depressing and I was constantly in a bad mood even when I would be at home with my son because I knew I'd have to return again.
If you recall Itty Bitty was diagnosed with bronchitis and I had to miss a couple days of work in my first month of being hired since his fever was constantly at 100+ degrees reaching a high of 105 degrees. I was informed that my absences were "excessive" and going forward this was not going to be tolerated. Understandable. However, when I was hired I explained my situation that I am a single mom with no family in the state of Texas and also informed them of my son's daycare sick policy. They came across as more than understanding.

Returning to work the following Monday I dove back into work and gave it my all. I was even complimented on the amount of work I had managed to accomplish and how they were impressed. I worked the entire week through. Well, life sure is unpredictable.

That weekend I dropped my son off with his father and set out to make the most of my free time. On Saturday I set up a motorcycle ride. I was even spoiled with a trip to the Ducati store and a Shoei helmet (which I'm informed is a top of the line brain bucket) was bought for me. $500 later we headed for home to get suited up for our ride. Full sleeve top, thick jacket, jeans, socks, shoes... check. Most importantly, brain bucket... check.

Not even two minutes into our ride the back wheel of the Ducati hit a curb and threw my legs from the bike. I don't know how I managed to hold onto the rider but I did. My hands gripped tight around his waist while my feet were being dragged. I remember thinking "just hold on" and at one point in that brief moment I thought the rider had managed to regain control and was coming to a stop. Not so much.

We hit the opposite curb with the front wheel which launched us both from the bike. I remember watching the rider go flying with the bike and myself rolling a couple times then coming to a sliding finish on my stomach. The helmet cushioned my head... the only part of our bodies with no injuries.

A flash of my son's face came to mind and then the rider. I jumped up. Panicked when I looked down to see one of my shoes completely ripped from my foot and my sock torn and blood. My jeans were ripped to hell at the knee and I had two deep lacerations. My stomach had road rash as well as on my hands. In my panic to check on the rider I couldn't get my helmet off. My hands were shaking. I was screaming for him to come to my aid as he laid there groaning in pain and moans of not being able to breath. He somehow pulled himself to his feet and unbuckled my helmet and ripped it off.

I reached into my jacket pocket to find that my phone was nowhere to be found. In a quick search I found my phone about 15 feet from us. Luckily, it was still working with slight damage to the back cover.

In the Emergency Room we were admitted together and our injuries were looked over. The rider has two broken ribs and road rash. I have a sprained foot, lacerations, and road rash. We are both incredibly lucky to be alive and have agreed that was the last ride for us. He's selling his bikes. It's bittersweet. It was an exciting hobby to have.

I returned to work that following Tuesday since the hospital work release had that as the date. I put my best foot forward (haha!) and gave it my best shot. When my supervisor came to check on me she advise I go to my family doctor and get an extended work release. I was grateful for that advice. I wasn't able to take Vicodin while at work and was sitting there in pain. My foot and knee were burning and my body ached.

I was given the rest of the week off. I got plenty of rest, ice and elevation.

Come Monday, I still was nowhere near healed and was still on pain killers. However, I knew that I needed to go back to work and decided to just tough it out. I did. I busted my ass even to make up for the time I needed off to help heal. Once my work was caught up the department manager pulled me into the office with one hour left in my work day. I wasn't shocked with the news that was delivered when I saw the district manager and another supervisor present.

"You don't fit our culture and you're not a right fit for this company. We're letting you go."

A weight was immediately lifted. It felt amazing to turn in my badge and not look back at that job. A company that has no compassion for it's employees is one I don't want to work for. Shit happens. Bad timing for a new hire with no sick or vacation time. No job is more important than my son or my health.

I'm not going to lie, I was worried about finding a new job and if and how long it would take. Very next day I found a job listing that was right up my alley. Working as a cashier at a cafe in a very nice neighborhood with a chill atmosphere and for the same pay. Big smiles. I have another interview tomorrow with the general manager. I'm confident that will go well.

This accident was a blessing. It made me realize how precious life is. Tomorrow is promised to no one. It got me out of a job I dreaded going to and got me a foot in the door in an industry I want to be in. It also pulled me out of my funk I was in. My passion for cooking came back. My love grew stronger. My happiness is greater than ever. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

October 17, 2011

Secret Recipe Club - Caramel Maple Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

A smoothie that is like "dessert in a cup"... I'm sold! and hooked on the blog I was assigned to for this month's Secret Recipe Club. I was assigned to Averie's blog, Love Veggies and Yoga. This was an incredible blog. Love veggies? Check. Love yoga? Check. A healthy living blog and one I am happy to start following.

This smoothie isn't really a "smoothie". It's thick, creamy, and rich. It very well could be a smoothie with more milk added in. I choose not to. I enjoyed this with a large spoon and two very eager taste testers. This was enjoyed by everyone. It is what I consider to be the best part of the pumpkin pie... the filling and whipped cream. It was suggested that this would be perfect served with some graham crackers for dipping. I can't wait to make this again and again.

I think this would even be a great dessert idea for Thanksgiving if you're not the traditional pumpkin pie kinda folks. This dessert is dressed up with a big ol' scoop of whipped cream, drizzled with caramel sauce, and sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Beautiful presentation and dinner guest worthy.

Makes 1 Serving

Stars of the Show:
  • 1/2 cup frozen pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium banana, frozen, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 tbsp caramel sauce, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp pinch pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon, or to taste (optional)
  • pinch of other seasonings such as nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, or to taste (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract, or to taste (optional)
  • splash of milk, cream, nut milk, water (optional and only use as needed if you need something to help get the blending process going if your mixture is too thick otherwise)
And Action:

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend well. Serve immediately. Optional: Garnish with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.

Haven't had your fill of pumpkin yet? Check out what else Averie has:
Thank you Averie for the great recipe and for letting me have a peak into your kitchen!

October 13, 2011

Unkilled Hamburger?

(Image from a forwarded email.)

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I haven't been as active on my blog or commenting on yours as I have been in the past. Well, some big, BIG!!! changes have happened and I'm in the adjusting period. I have a lot on my plate and have been stressed to the max.

First, my relationship status has changed and the face of "The Pretend Chef" will be getting a new look in the future when I get the time. I'm thinking of doing a complete overhaul with new name as well.

Second, my living situation has changed. I have until the end of the month to move out of my current apartment and into a new one. What a slow process this is when there is nothing but oversized furniture and lots of things to sort through.

Third, this is the one I am struggling the most with... WORK! I had to get a job. I am no longer a stay at home mama. I never took a day for granted but I never thought it would be this hard going from my dream job to entering the work force again. I work full time now for a freight forwarding company and by day's end I don't have time or energy for anything else. I didn't realize how I put all of my happiness into the stay at home bit until I no longer was doing it. I want to be happy again and hopefully that will happen soon.

I've lost my passion for blogging and cooking. It makes me really sad. I'm hoping once the dust settles and I am in a routine that I'll be able to better manage time for my hobbies and get back around to checking out all of the yummies from your kitchens. 

October 03, 2011

Incredible Edible Nutty Putty

I was one of the lucky "Tastemakers" to try Planters Peanut Butter from the National Peanut Board. We were asked to come up with a delicious and nutritious snack using ingredients found in most homes. Not being a creative person I turned to MyRecipes and did a peanut butter search and checked a few of the dietary consideration boxes.

This recipe for Incredible Edible Nutty Putty was the first one I came across where I had all of the ingredients on hand. This not only makes a yummy treat but is perfect for a rainy day activity for the little ones. I couldn't get the dried milk to incorporate smoothly but Itty Bitty had no complaints about the slight crunch.

3 ingredients and some imagination and you've got a quick and easy treat for the kids. and Oxmoor House, May 2007
Makes 1 1/2 cups (Serving size = 1 tablespoon)

Stars of the Show:
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey - I used agave nectar.
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • Decorations: colored sugar or candy sprinkles (optional)
And Action:

Stir together peanut butter and honey in a big bowl. Add dry milk, stirring until blended. Spoon a small amount onto a plate. Shape and decorate it anyway you wish before gobbling it up. Store remaining putty in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 81
Calories from fat: 59%
Fat: 5.3g
Saturated fat: 1g
Monounsaturated fat: 0.0g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.0g
Protein: 3.7g
Carbohydrate: 6g
Fiber: 0.7g
Cholesterol: 0.0mg
Iron: 0.3mg
Sodium: 66mg
Calcium: 38mg

October 01, 2011

Bauducco Panettone Specialty Cake

Bauducco Panettone is a moist ready to eat specialty cake that is a classic Italian holiday bread. Cake in a box delivered to my doorstep? I had no idea what to expect. After taking the cake out of the plastic wrap and removing the liner it looked like a giant muffins of sorts. The chocolate chip variety is the one Itty Bitty and I decided to slice into since we aren't raisin fans. The aroma was sweet and had a hint of orange.

I sliced it into nine servings and plated a slice for each of us. This cake is just what the box promised it would be... moist and delicious. You can enjoy it by the slice or check out their website which has recipe ideas. All of them sound amazing.

Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received two free Bauducco Panettone Specialty Cake products. All opinions are my own.

September 28, 2011

Crazy Blonde Brownies

My favorite dessert is brownies. They are my Achilles Heel. A couple years ago I use to be able to eat an entire pan without shame or guilt. Lucky for my waistline and thighs I can stop after one and feel satisfied.

This recipe for these Crazy Blonde Brownies comes from the folks at King Arthur Flour. I have read numerous food blogs that have tried out recipes or products and all have received rave reviews. One review going as far as stating, "It's from King Arthur Flour so I already know it's going to be a winner." With reviews about their recipes like this I was convinced I had a winning recipe on my hands.

After giving these Crazy Blonde Brownies a try I am now a loyal supporter of all things King Arthur Flour. These brownies are rich, moist, chocolatey, and have an amazing bite from the toasty walnuts. A brownie worthy of sinking your teeth into. I can't wait for a brownie craving to hit again so I can make these again.
Makes about 2 dozen 2 inch squares

Stars of the Show:
  • 1/2 cup butter or vegetable shortening - I used butter.
  • 2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All- Purpose Flour - I used all White Whole Wheat Flour.
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch, cinnamon, caramel, macadamia, or chips of your choice - I used chocolate chips since it's what I had on hand.
  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts - I used walnuts.
And Action:

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan and preheat your oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the brown sugar, and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat, pour the butter-sugar mixture into a medium-sized bowl, and allow it to cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Whisk the flours and baking powder together, then add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Finally, fold in the chips and nuts.

Spread the mixture evenly in the pan, and bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until they're light brown on the edges and top.

    September 27, 2011

    How A Bowl Should Be Licked

    (All images were from a forwarded email.)

    September 26, 2011

    Pinterest #9

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