Monday, August 19, 2013

Get Poppin'

One of my favorite foods is popcorn.  (Yes, I am aware that it is not Paleo) I have been known to, ahem, have popcorn for dinner.  This may or may not have occurred last night.  For those of you who don't know much about popcorn there are many different varieties and kernel sizes and pops.  My favorite is Ladyfinger hulless popcorn.  Yes, all popcorn has a hull, it's the seed coating, but when you pop these tiny kernels the hull virtually disappears.  This my friends leaves you with a bright white, tiny, crunchy, delicious popcorn. Which in turn will leave you with more time on your hands later because you won't need to floss out all the hulls that are stuck between your teeth.  Some of my favorite brands are Little Pops and  Tiny but mighty Popcorn.  For those of you in New England you can purchase the Little Pops at local grocery stores.  For the Southerners you can purchase the Tiny but mighty Popcorn at Fresh Market.  Both of these popcorn products are grown in the U.S.A., non-GMO, an heirloom variety, and most importantly delicious!


You may be asking yourself, "How do I pop said delicious popcorn?".  Easy.  I own 2 different popcorn popping contraptions, The Whirley Pop and The Catamount Popper.  However, if you don't any popcorn poppers you can easily make stove-top popcorn with a large pot with a lid.  For the Whirley Pop and the Catamount Popper, use as directed.  Please find the instructions for heavy pot popping below.


How-to-pop the perfect batch of popcorn:

Recommended oils: sunflower, safflower, coconut, canola, grape seed and vegetable
Note: “expeller pressed” oils are the healthiest and best quality.

  1. Heavy pot with lid + 2 to 3 tbsp oil + 3 test kernels + Med/High heat
  2. When you hear a test kernel pop, remove the pot from heat
  3. Add 2/3 cup kernels, shake to distribute evenly in the pot, and return to heat
  4. Leave untouched until popping vigorously (approx 2-3 min), then shake pot occasionally (every minute or so)
  5. When there are 2-3 seconds between pops, remove from heat and immediately pour into a bowl. Season with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Ladyfinger popcorn is by far my favorite snacking popcorn, but if you were making Cracker Jack or Kettle corn you would want to use mushroom popcorn.  This popcorn is synonymous with movie theater popcorn, Cracker Jack, and the usual popcorn that you find at amusement parks and state fairs.  You will also find that much of your time after eating this popcorn is spent flossing hulls from between your teeth.  This popcorn pops up large-head kernels good for coating with sugary substances.  Cracker Jack and Kettle corn are actually pretty easy to make in your kitchen.  You will gain praise from your friends if you decide to bring some for a party.  I usually make my kettle corn in my Whirley Pop, but use a large pot if you don't have one.  Also, be careful!  Melted sugar is HOT and will burn you.  I would suggest adding a little cinnamon as well if you want a little cinnamon sugar flavor.  

Kettle corn:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, stir in the sugar and popcorn. Cover, and shake the pot constantly to keep the sugar from burning. Once the popping has slowed to once every 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped. Pour into a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps.

Cracker Jack: 


  • 4 cups plain popcorn, popped
  • 1 cup peanuts, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup

Place the popcorn and peanuts on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Place the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Stir until the ingredients have melted and are combined. Allow the mixture to reach 240 degrees, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the caramel onto the popcorn. Using a spatula, carefully toss the popcorn until the caramel coats the popcorn completely.
Place the popcorn in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, break up the popcorn into large pieces.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Eating Like a Caveman

Well.. sort of.  I'm not one to jump on the "new fad" bandwagon, at least not before doing some research on the topic.  I can't say that I would even consider myself on the wagon.  It's more like, it's riding in a parade and I'm standing on the sidewalk, waving, admiring all the hard work that was put into the float wagon. I feel like that's OK. "Imitation if the best form of flattery", right?  Many people associate the "Caveman Diet" or "Paleo" with Crossfit.  Now lets not get crazy here people, me and Crossfit, I don't think so.  Honestly, I tried it once and I thought I was going to die.  That was the day I learned I had mild asthma.  I've never wheezed in my life!  Also, I feel that many of the Crossfit centers are not focused on form, which is so important to prevent injury.  Again, I did Crossfit once and ended up with asthma and a tweaked back muscle.  All the power in the world to those who do it, your bodies are akin to those of Gods, bravo!  Me on the other hand, I'll do my own routine and try to eat less junk.

It's actually pretty simple if you think about it.  Eat food, not chemicals.  At first I was gong-ho about eating Paleo.  I visited the Charlotte Regional Farmer's Market, grabbed all my local meats and veggies and didn't spend too much money in the process.  However, the food prep for the week was too much.  I am someone who enjoys cooking and baking and it was too much for me.  I was literally in the kitchen all Sunday prepping food for the week and I didn't even finish.  There were some items that couldn't be pre-prepped, like some of the veggies which I wanted to use for a side dish during the week.  It was too much.  I enjoy my weekends and John and I usually don't lock ourselves inside, we're out and about enjoying our weekend freedom.  A few weeks after my Paleo fail a co-worker told me about a Paleo delivery service.  I was intrigued.  I'm not usually for paying someone for something I could do, but if they delivered the food and I got to keep my free time, it seemed like a win.  John and I had the Paleo delivery meals for a few weeks and I supplemented breakfasts or dinners.  All in all the convenience was great, however, I can't say I liked all the meals, and the price was kind of steep.  So I decided to put the Paleo delivery on hold for a bit and attempt to make the majority of our meals.  Honestly, it's been going OK.  I can't say we're eating clean for every meal, but I feel like 80/20 is good too.

This Week:

The only picture I took was of dinner the other night which consisted of the marinated chicken, thyme sweet potatoes, and salad.  

Overall, I've been trying to make us "cleaner" meals.  Meaning, no chemicals or preservatives.  The outcome is pretty tasty, but it does take some planning and time.  One tip - I do try to cook up a lot of protein at once.  That way we can use it up throughout the week with breakfast and lunch meals.  Also, sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower are easy to whip up and will last you throughout the week as a side.  You don't have to be perfect, you can just strive to be better.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pinterest.. The Good and The Bad

For those of you that live under a rock, there is a website a very addicting website by the name of Pinterest.  I spend many an hour scouring the site looking for fun new ideas, DIY projects, cars that I will never own, dream vacation homes, jewelry, and of course food.  I really enjoying cooking and baking and wish I had more free time during the day to do so.  But alas, I don't, so I'm always on the lookout for yummy crock pot dinners and easy to put together meals.  I don't know about you, but when I get home from work sometimes I lack the motivation to prepare a meal.  I recently made two meals from the above-mentioned site.  One crock pot recipe and one easy to prepare meal. 

First up... Beer & Brown Sugar Kielbasa

Here's my review of this dish... it was good, but it wasn't great.  I think that I like my kielbasa done on the grill.  I like the snap and the char.  It was flavorful, but I wouldn't make it again.  Also, if you do decide to make this and it's only for 2 people I would suggest cutting the recipe in half.  There were way too many leftovers for a so-so dish.

Second trial... Million Dollar Spaghetti

Now this my friends was DELISH! I would absolutely recommend making this.  The ingredients are cheap and it comes together quickly.  I had my reservations at first.  I hate cottage cheese, but because it's blended until smooth with the other cheeses you don't even notice.  It almost tastes like a deconstructed lasagna.  It's really tasty and not dry at all.  I will be making this one again.  Plus, you make it in a 9x13 pan so there's a lot to go around or if it's just the two of you, quiet a few leftovers. 

All in all I love Pinterest.  BUT if you find something you want to try, try it.  Just remember it may not turn out the way it looks in the picture or you may hate it.  OR you may love it and keep it in your regular repertoire. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Little Chicken That Could

Last week I received my new crock pot and promptly made a tasty crock pot chicken.  This little bird lasted a few meals, one of which was chicken chili.  It's really easy and quick to make, especially since everything is essentially cooked, it just needs to be heated up.  It was a really nice night when John and I got home from work so we decided to take a little walk down the street with the doggies while the chili came together. 

Now, here's the disclaimer for this recipe (I'm not even sure you can call it a recipe).  I never measure anything for it.  I do it all on taste.  But here's what's in it:

1 large can of tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 can of pinto beans (rinsed)
1 can of dark red kidney beans (rinsed)
1 Medium onion diced (if you have time)
Shredded Chicken
Tabasco Sauce
Chili Powder
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Fresh Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Stir it all up, set the temperature on medium-low and let the flavors meld.  Taste it once in a while to see what you need to add.  Once it's to the temperature and flavor you like, enjoy!

Enjoy with cheese, sour cream, and some tortilla chips if desired!

Friday, October 19, 2012

I love you... I love you not..

We all have those relationships.. you know.. the love/hate kind.  The subject of my balancing love is the Fall season, which is currently upon us.  I love Fall!  The weather starts to get cooler, the leaves start to change, nice days and cool nights, and you get to bring your cute boots out of closet hibernation.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
The leaves were just starting to change!

Self-portrait on our Blue Ridge excursion.

 But, with these nice changes come a few things I dislike about Fall.  The days become shorter.  You get home after a day in the office and it already looks like it's midnight outside.  You wake up for work and there is not a sliver of sunlight to be seen.  This my friends is my biggest hangup.  I was doing so well with exercising every morning before work during the summer.  The alarm would go off and I would get up immediately (or at least after the first snooze).  NOW, I just can't find the motivation. My brain says, "It's dark, keep sleeping".  I need sunlight to get me going.  When the alarm goes off now I just keep hitting the snooze button (very much to John's dismay).  I need help!  I need to workout in the morning.  My motivation is lacking when I get home as well.  I did however workout in the evening once this week, but it was definitely not ideal.  There are too many factors that play into the evenings activities to make it a regular occurrence.  Anyone have any morning workout motivating suggestions?? 

So that my friends is my love/hate relationship with the Fall season. 
                 "Dear Fall,
                       I love your pretty changing leaves and cooler weather, but your
                       lack of morning sunshine is killing my morning motivation. 
                       Please don't make me kill you 3 times in my head.  Let's work
                       this out.
                 Your Most of the Time Fan, 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gettin' Handsy!

Shellac or Gellish manicures are my new found love.  They usually last over 2 weeks on my nails and they look shiny-wet for the entirety.  Now mind you, I like to get a fresh manicure about every 2 weeks because my nails start to grow out and my cuticles could use some TLC.  However, this past week we were a little tight on cash and my nails were getting to the embarrassing point.  The problem with the Shellac nail polish is that the nail techs tell you not to remove it yourself or peel it off your nails.  (Really, don't peel it off your nails.  It will take a few layers of your nail with it)  However, after watching the nail techs remove the Shellac from my nails before I knew I just needed to get my hands on some Acetone nail polish remover.  It just so happens that CVS carries a large bottle (CVS brand) of professional nail polish remover for about $5.00.  You will also need a bowl or a manicure soaker, an orange stick cuticle pusher, and a 2-sided nail file. 


Pour the polish remover into your bowl and soak your nails for 3-5 minutes.  You will notice that the Shellac will start to peel up.  Take your orange stick and with gentle pressure scrape the polish off your nails.  Once you're finished your nails are going to look HORRIBLE.  Take the coarse side of the file and file it over the tops of the nails.  Go back over with the fine side of the file for a smoother finish.  At this point you can continue your regular manicure or do what I did and moisturize your nails and hands to the point where you can't grasp a damn thing.  The pure acetone just dries everything out.  Works like a champ though!  I would also recommend doing this for glitter nail polish removal as well.  Good luck and Godspeed!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ooohh... How Shiny and New!

My crock pot has seen better days.  I've have it for-ev-er.  I can't even remember when I purchased it.  The knob is broken, you need to make sure to apply enough pressure while turning it to set the temperature.  One of the plastic handles crumbed in my hand last time I was putting it away.  OK, it was time for a new crockpot.  Luckily, I work for a company where we get great deals on Calphalon.  While browsing the employee purchase site lowandbehold they had a special purchase for Calphalon Digital Crock pots.  BINGO!  7 quart, digital, black and stainless, and NEW.  A few clicks later this baby was on the way to it's new home.  One thing that I love doing with my crock pot is simmering a whole roaster chicken until the meat is falling off the bones.  I enjoy using the shredded chicken for chicken chili, nachos, chicken soup, BBQ pulled chicken.  It makes a few meals.

  • 4-6 lb roaster chicken
  • Roughly chop the following vegetables:
    • 1 onion
    • 2-3 carrots
    • 2-3 ribs of celery
  • 1 box of chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
Place the chopped veggies on the bottom of the crock.  Remove the gizzards from your chicken and give it a good wash.  Place the cleaned chicken on the veggies.  Add your thyme, salt & pepper.  Fill the crock with the box of stock.  Cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours.
Once the chicken is done, remove from the crock pot.  Be careful!  She's very hot and needs to cool off in a separate bowl.  Once cooled, remove the meat from the bones and store in an airtight container.  If you would like to keep the stock strain it into a ziplock bag.  (Make sure the liquid has cooled off a bit).  If you don't plan on using the stock immediately, no worries, you can freeze it.   
I'm looking forward to using my shiny new crock pot for many more meals.  Be sure to check back for some new crock pot creations in the near future!