29 April 2008

Paula Deen's Banana Coffee Muffins

Wow. I really like these muffins. I don't even have a creative way to begin this post or tie it into my life. Basically I had some rotting bananas in my refrigerator and the rest is history. I went to FoodTV's website to search for Banana Bread recipes - I ended up with a Banana Muffin recipe by Paula Deen. I haven't unpacked my bags from this weekend yet (why, yes, I am lazy!) so my camera is M.I.A. Paula Deen's picture is probably prettier than mine would be anyway.

By the way - have you ever seen a Paula Deen recipe with less than a full stick of butter in it?! I was shocked by how "light" these muffins are. I do think that the muffins would be equally tasty if made with oil if you are watching dairy/fat. I made no changes to the original recipe posted below (another shock since I always modify something!).

Michael's Banana Coffee Muffins by Paula Deen

1/3 cup melted butter
4 ripe bananas, smashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons strong coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted or raw

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 12 cup capacity muffin tin or use paper liners.

With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, coffee and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped pecans. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

*Cook's note: To check to see if the muffins are done; with a toothpick insert into the center of a muffin, if it comes out clean, it's done.

25 April 2008

Happy Friday!

I am on my way out of town for the weekend, so I decided to leave you with some cute puppy pictures.

I also wanted to clarify my comment about minor medical concerns from a couple days ago - remember how I mentioned my weaker right leg? Well apparently a significant strength discrepancy in your legs can mean there is an underlying nerve problem (like a bulging disc). I have been undergoing some tests to see if we can figure out why my right leg is so weak. So far - nada! I am frustrated because I didn't have any pain or symptom other than the weaker leg, so I feel like I am worrying about something that I never would have known about if I wasn't working out with a trainer. Oh well - I have an appointment with a specialist in a week, and I am hopeful my worries will be laid to rest after I see her. I will keep you updated. :)

24 April 2008

Miso Glazed Sea Bass - Another Ellie Krieger Winner!

Wow. I have to say I was skeptical when I looked at this recipe in The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. How could so few ingredients create a dish worth talking about? Well, I give Ellie a lot of credit because - holy cow - the few ingredients deliver! The gorgeous caramelized crust tastes as delicious as it looks. There is a subtle sweetness to the fish that is beautifully offset by the slightly fermented saltiness of the miso. In her cookbook, the fish is photographed alongside some lovely baby bok choy that looks as though it has been steamed. However, I was inspired to do a little refrigerator clean up and use a variety of vegetables I had hanging around. I did a basic stir fry of red cabbage, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, bell pepper and carrot. I cooked the vegetables in a small amount of sesame oil with a little of the same marinade used on the fish. I finished them with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. They made a delicious bed for the fish, which I spiced up with a little pickled ginger.

This recipe is so incredibly simple - and easy to use on any mild, white fish - I definitely recommend trying it as soon as possible!

Miso Glazed Cod
The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

6 (6-ounce) black cod fillets, or regular cod fillets (I used Chilean Sea Bass)
1/3 cup low-sodium blond or white miso
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
Toasted sesame seeds and scallions, for garnish, optional

Preheat broiler.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Combine miso, brown sugar, sesame oil and mirin and stir well until brown sugar is fully dissolved.
Brush about 2 tablespoons miso glaze on each fish fillet. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Place fish under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, or until top is slightly charred and glaze has caramelized. Remove fish from oven and brush with remaining glaze. Lower oven to 375 degrees F. Cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes, until fish is flaky but not overcooked.
If desired, serve with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.
(I cooked my fish on the stove top in a non-stick pan. I tented the fish with foil to allow the fish to cook through on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. I did this in the same pan I cooked my vegetables because I only wanted to dirty one pot.)

21 April 2008

Depressing Day? Freshly Baked Bread to the Rescue!

I have been feeling a little worn out lately. I think it is from a combination of not seeing J enough recently (stupid big projects at work), some minor medical worries (more on this later) and allergies. My allergies are absolutely killing me right now. According to Pollen.com Ohio is pretty awful right now, and don't I know it! My throat is killing me, and my eyes are itchy and watery. Of course I am too stubborn to stay inside and avoid the evil tree pollen floating around me... So what is better than an overload on carbohydrates to soothe your soul? Not much if you are anything like me!

I pulled out my current go-to recipe for homemade bread - printed conveniently on the back of the King Arthur Bread Flour bag - Oatmeal Bread. If you want a bread that is perfect for breakfast, this is your recipe! The bread has a pleasantly yeasty flavor and is very chewy from the oatmeal. It is awesome toasted, slathered with butter and dipped in the soft yolk of an over-easy egg.

Of course, there would be no homemade bread without my mom. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve kneading bread under my mom's mild supervision. I would stand on a stool so I could reach her kneading area more easily and make a mess of the kitchen. The dough would stick to my fingers in clumpy little pieces. I would sneak nibbles of the dough when my mom wasn't looking, as often as possible. I loved the anticipation of a freshly baked loaf. My mom would give me a stick of butter to carefully run over the top of the warm bread to create a glossy crust. I am so lucky that when I think of food and my childhood, homemade bread usually comes to mind first. I took it for granted as a child, and now I treasure the loaves of bread that my mom occasionally leaves for me in my kitchen while I am at work during the day. Without those childhood experiences, I doubt I would be confident enough in my own kitchen to bake homemade bread.

King Arthur Flour Oatmeal Bread

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I subbed 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
2 T butter (I melt mine)
1 1/2 t salt
3 T brown sugar or honey
2 t instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
3/4 cup raisins or currants (optional)

* If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm milk before combining with the remaining ingredients. (I dissolve the yeast in the warm milk along with the sugar or honey)

Manual Method: In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes) till it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, though it may now double in bulk. Shape as directed below.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9x5-inch loaf pan, cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 degrees F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking. Yield 1 loaf.

My Notes: I reserve about 1/2 cup of flour and use it to flour my surface while I am kneading the bread. As you knead the bread, it will absorb the last 1/2 cup of flour. I also just shape the loaf of bread in the pan - I don't bother greasing a surface to shape the dough. My bread takes a little longer to bake - maybe more like 50 minutes. If you knock on the top of the bread, it sounds hollow when it is cooked through.

20 April 2008

Ellie Krieger's Pumpkin (Spice) Muffins

So I know it isn't really the right time of year for these, but I was craving a spicy muffin and remembered that I had bookmarked Ellie Krieger's recipe in her recent book The Food You Crave. In case you haven't seen this book yet, it is absolutely beautiful! The pictures are tempting and luscious. The recipes are easy to follow and well-organized. My favorite part of the book are the little side notes and tips for healthy living. I really respect Ellie Krieger's passion for good food and healthy recipes. She specifically discourages making any food completely off-limit - my kind of lady! Instead, she preaches moderation and being cognizant of the food choices you are making. I am very happy with this book and recommend checking it out when you have a moment.

So on to the important stuff - the food! These muffins are out-of-this-world tender and moist with a delicious spicy flavor. I was blown away by how fatty they tasted!! The interior stayed soft and spongy for several days on the counter. Like most baked goods, I took them to work with me and everyone was happy! They couldn't believe the muffins were healthy.

Ellie Krieger's Pumpkin Muffins

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used more of all the spices - more like heaping portions)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (I used 4% vanilla yogurt)
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (I messed up and used my sunflower seeds instead... oops!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. (I also used muffin cup liners)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

13 April 2008

Spicy Stir-Fried Pork - A Perfect Dinner

Remember that Bon Appétit calendar I referred to way back when? Well it has struck again! This time I was looking ahead a bit and pulled the recipe card for Monday April 14 and Tuesday April 15. I had been to the winter Farmer's Market early in the day and knew that the recipe I found would showcase the fresh ingredients perfectly. Of course, the recipe did get tweaked here and there to account for the ingredients I had purchased, but I think it turned out beautifully. The pork was tender and spicy, and the vegetables were crisp and vibrant. This is a definite repeat recipe for me.

I scaled the recipe down for just one person, but I am showing the original, which serves 4.

Spicy stir-fried pork, green onions, and mushrooms
With stir-fries, everything cooks very quickly, so it is especially important that you have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you put anything in the skillet. Look for hoisin sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and Asian sesame oil in the Asian foods section fo the supermarket or at Asian markets.

4 servings

3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 2 x 1/2 x 1/2-inch strips (I used a small pork chop to make the slices)
2 T soy sauce, divided
1 T hoisin sauce
1 T dry Sherry
1 T cornstarch
1 t chili-garlic sauce (I also added1 t of sriracha because I like food extra-hot)
2 t Asian sesame oil, divided
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 T vegetable oil, divided
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger (I used my awesome Japanese grater for this)
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thinly sliced (I used oyster mushrooms from the farmer's market)
6 green onions, cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth (I used homemade stock)

Combine pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl; stir to combine well. Let stand at least 15 minute and up to 1 hour.

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggs and stir until scrambled, about 1 minute. Transfer eggs to large bowl. Add remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to same skillet. Add ginger and stir 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add pork to bowl with eggs.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to same skillet. Add mushrooms and green onions (at this point I also added 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and 1 cup of fresh snow peas); stir-fry until just tender, about 5 minutes. Return pork and eggs to skillet. Add broth and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce; toss until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper (this dish required no extra seasoning for me - the soy sauce definitely added enough salt).

09 April 2008

Diagonally Dysfunctional Body

I learned something interesting tonight- my right leg is significantly weaker than my left leg. And something else I have learned recently? My left arm and shoulder are significantly weaker than my right arm and shoulder. Huh? Yeah. I am diagonally uneven in my strength. Who knew? The left arm thing didn't confuse me too much - I am right handed so I just assumed it was a natural thing. The right leg being weaker? No clue. Kali and Molly were both baffled as well. Well we all knew I was special, right??

Apparently there is hope for me. I am going to work independently of Kali and Molly on strengthening my right leg. I have been told that doing exercises that target my legs individually should help a lot - mostly because my left leg won't be able to compensate for my right leg's weaknesses. Kali and I worked on these types of exercises a lot tonight, and wow! do I feel it in my right thigh. I still managed to do my cardio without falling off the elliptical and dying, so I consider it a successful evening at the gym.

In other news - did you notice that Crash has decided if I am not around for him to love, he will snuggle with my cookbooks? That big one on the end is Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson. I admit I do not cook from it, but I ate at his restaurant in Minneapolis (before he closed it to concentrate on global ventures I believe) and it was an amazing dining experience. I want more of his African cookbooks... but I digress... the point is, I think Crash is kinda cute with his head all mashed up against my cookbooks. :)

* Please ignore the dust on the bookshelf ;) *

08 April 2008

Brown Baggin' It - Take 2 with Chicken Salad

One of my biggest struggles with balancing my new exercise regime and food is lunch. I had been doing so wonderfully at packing my lunch, but I fell off the brown-bag-bandwagon when I started working out in earnest. I keep telling myself I will get back to it. I will find a way to balance everything (including baseball - in case you missed it, the 2008 Indians have begun their campaign to make me happy and win a World Series!). So with the best of intentions, I pulled some frozen cooked chicken out of the freezer to thaw on Sunday in my refrigerator. And there it stayed until bright and early this morning. J called to wake me up this morning... and I desperately wanted to just roll over and go back to sleep. But I knew I needed to get up, prolonging the waking is not good for anyone. But it was especially bad since last night I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning watching the Indians lose to the Angels (damn West Coast games!).

So groggily I plodded down to my kitchen and let my dogs out to have their morning run. And I stared at a bag of avocados on my counter. They looked pitiful and neglected (not unlike my dogs recently). I gave one avocado a little poke to see how ripe it was... and it was the perfect little poke. The avocado gave just enough that I knew it would be delicious. My fingernail didn't break the skin, a sure sign of over ripeness- bleh! And so that sad little bag of avocados prompted me to wipe the sleep from my eyes and whip up lunch.

The inspiration for this meal came from a restaurant that I recently discovered in downtown Columbus called Tip Top. It is the "sister restaurant" to Betty's - another place I have loved in the Short North for a very long time. How could Tip Top be bad with such great genes? Well my instincts were correct - I love Tip Top. If you are ever downtown and want a low-key atmosphere with amazing food, head over to Third and Gay Streets for some amazing food. First and foremost, you must try the sweet potato fries. Then you can order the Honey Shallot Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich (and if I butchered the technical name of the sandwich, sorry - just order the one that looks like that description, trust me) on a Pretzel Roll. Oh man... so good. I salivate a little bit just thinking about it. There are countless other delicious offerings on their menu, including the Hell Salad and Meatloaf, but the Chicken Salad Sandwich was my inspiration this morning.

I am submitting this to Sweetnicks (a wonderful and beautiful blog) for the ARF/5-A-Day Roundup next week. Hopefully you will be inspired to get out there and eat some fruits and veggies!

Avocado Chicken Salad

1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
2 T honey
2 T mayo (I used light)
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken meat

Mash or blend all the ingredients except the chicken meat to create a thick dressing. Pour over the chicken and stir to incorporate. Use this chicken salad to make sandwiches or serve over lettuce.

07 April 2008

Tag! I choose to be it this time!

Since I am attempting to get back in the swing of blogging, I figured I would opt to do the meme's that my sister recently posted on her blog. Like L, I am not going to tag anyone to play - just consider yourself invited to play if you want. Make sure you let me know you are playing so I can come check your responses out. Unfortunately, I did not get as much cooking done this weekend as I would have liked. The weather was too gorgeous to stay inside and cook. I did grill hamburgers with my parents on Sunday - they were awesome. I think grilled food tastes significantly better when you can eat it outside! I did buy some flank steak, so I swear I am going to make some tacos this week...
But for today - get outside and enjoy that sunshine (well if you are in Columbus - otherwise I am not sure what to tell you :))!

Kitchen Meme

What three kitchen items do you use the most often?
Wüsthof Santoku Knife
Silicone Spatulas
KitchenAid Mixer

What kitchen gadget do you wish you had?
I am not sure if this counts, but I really wish I had a laptop that I could bring into the kitchen with me for easy reference. It is amazing how much the internet impacts my cooking, and I hate running back and forth between the kitchen and living room (where my computer lives).

What kitchen gadget do you never use/wish you hadn't spent the money for?
I desperately wanted a juicer for the longest time - I finally got one and while I am happy I have it, I definitely don't use it often enough. I do think that someday when I work a little less and have children, it will be a wonderful appliance to have around. You just can't beat homemade popsicles!

What is your favorite cookbook? (Link if you can!)
I don't really cook from cookbooks these days. I love reading and owning cookbooks, but it is more like a library of reference books now. However, I will never forget my first two cookbooks - one was Mexican (half the book was written in English, half in Spanish - I was completely enamored with the bilingual aspect of the book) and the other was Spanish. Both were incredibly basic books, but they expanded my horizons and encouraged me to get in the kitchen. From those books, I learned to make Sopapillas at home for my family. My parents totally encouraged me to deep fry and figure out how to do it safely. I was so excited the first time I made a Tortilla Española from the Spanish cookbook that reminded me of the first meal I had in Madrid, Spain as a wide-eyed 12 year old girl.

Who is your cooking inspiration?
Most importantly, my mom. I have grown to appreciate different cuisines from those I grew up eating, but without her encouragement I never would have started tinkering in the kitchen. I will never forget very carefully copying our family's treasured gingersnap recipe onto a piece of paper, so I could systematically check off each ingredient as I added it to my mom's KitchenAid. She was always available to help me, but she mostly believed I would be fine and let me have free reign in the kitchen - an invaluable gift that has given me incredible confidence in my own kitchen today. Otherwise it is my sister who has continued to expand my culinary horizons and challenge me where food is concerned. She has taught me to enjoy Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Thai and countless other cuisines that I am not sure I would have been brave enough to try on my own. She also puts up with my overly sensitive olfactory system without giving me too much grief.

What are three recipes that you use all the time?
I don't really follow set recipes very often - but these are the dishes I make most often-
1. Chicken Chili Verde style stew
2. Hummus/Bean Dip
3. Family Gingersnaps

Can you share a cooking secret?
Have confidence in yourself and don't forget to season as you go. I rarely salt my food because I taste as I prepare it.

What is your greatest cleaning secret?
I have to clean as I go. I cannot stand cooking in a messy kitchen! I find it so much easier to put a measuring cup in the dishwasher right away than unloading a full sink of dirty dishes.

What is your favorite thing to clean?
Do I count?! I love showers :)

What is your least favorite thing to clean?
Floors!!! I hate sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, any of it. Yuck!

What is your most embarrassing housekeeping moment?
One time I was hosting a party, and I wanted to impress a guest I had invited so I decided I needed to paint my entire first floor a new color. Thankfully a wonderful friend of mine helped me get it done in time for the party - the guest never showed up. Oh well, at least I have a gorgeous cayenne-colored family room now!

Who do you tag to do this next?
Anyone who wants to play! Let me know you did it, and I will check it out!

Alphabet Soup Tag

Here is what you do. Use the 1st letter of your middle name to answer each of the following questions. They have to be real places, names, things…nothing made up! Try to use different answers if the person you took this from had the same 1st initial.You CAN’T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

1. Middle name letter: C
2. Famous artist/band/musician: the Cure
3. 4-letter word: Crap (I think this covers both requirements :))
4. U.S state: Connecticut (where I may live someday!)
5. Boy name: Chris (my brother!)
6. Girl name: Chrissy (my brother's sister in law who reads my blog! :))
7. Animal: Cow (have I mentioned that my parents are going to be hosting a neighbor's 4H project- which means there will be an adorable calf for me to visit at my parents' house!?!?!)
8. Something in the kitchen: Cheese... mmm
9. Reason for being late? Caught in traffic.
10. Body Part? Cabeza
11. Drink? Cranberry Juice
12. Something you shout: Crap on a Cracker!
13. Something you eat? Cheese with Cornichon and Crackers!
14. A movie you've seen? Casablanca

05 April 2008

Saturday Lunch with Sunshine

It is so pretty out today! I think the weather subconsciously inspired this meal. I wanted bright, summery flavors! I also needed a balanced meal after getting my butt kicked by Molly this morning at the gym. But don't worry, I won't get into that today. Yesterday, while wandering the aisles of Whole Foods, the fish counter caught my eye. A very nice fish monger came out and started chatting with me about the available fish. He offered that if he were buying fish today, he would select the Sablefish. It was flown in fresh that morning and looked fantastic. He barely had to open his mouth, and I was sold. I have learned to never turn down a fish monger's recommendation - they always know what is best in their case.

I needed to sleep on what I wanted to do with that delicious fillet of fish. While at the market, I also picked up some beautiful cherry tomatoes and snow peas. So while working out this morning, I started to plan my attack. After cooling down from my work out, I put 2 small sauce pots on to boil- one for whole wheat couscous and one for the snow peas. Next I had to think about what I wanted to do with this gorgeous fish. I bought some hydroponic basil yesterday, so I decided to make a vinaigrette, but it was inspired by a gremolata. I took the zest from an orange and blended it with a handful of basil leaves, orange juice, salt and olive oil. The flavor was fantastic and I knew it would be wonderful drizzled over a pan-seared fillet of fish. Once the pots came to a boil, I began to cook my fish, very simply with just olive oil, salt and pepper. After flipping the fish, I added the sliced cherry tomatoes to the pan to soften alongside the fish. The final dish was a beautiful piece of fish on top of whole wheat couscous with cherry tomatoes and snow peas - all topped off by that summery vinaigrette. I am going to use those same combination of flavors from the vinaigrette throughout the spring and summer on salads. It was delicious.
(No recipe since I basically just created this as I went...)

01 April 2008

Working It Out...

Obviously I haven't been posting much recently - but I swear I am working on finding time for it! A big reason why I haven't been posting much is that I haven't been cooking as much. It is a rather sad state of affairs - but would you really want to read about my protein smoothies and cottage cheese snacks? (Although if any of you have any favorite protein powders that you'd like to comment on - please do!! I am looking for lots of advice in that category.) I keep telling myself that I am going to cook on the weekends and eat it all week, but by the time the weekend comes around, I am too tired to do much cooking. So as much as I love my new workout routine, it is making my life seriously more exhausting. But I am excited about the changes I am noticing in my body, and there is a part of that would like to share. Please feel free to move right along to a real cooking blog if reading about my personal training experience doesn't tickle your fancy! I won't be offended! I swear!!

So here are the basics to my experience - I work out three times a week with a personal trainer. I have two different trainers, Kali and Molly, due to some scheduling constraints on my end. I work with Kali during the week, and I work with Molly on the weekends. In order to avoid confusion, we have set up a schedule where Kali is "responsible" for my chest/back and legs, and Molly tortures my arms/shoulders. I think they both work ab exercises in to keep me on my toes. For the first couple weeks, I was so sore I could barely move after working out. It didn't matter which muscle group we were working - I wanted to quit. Signing the year-long contract pretty much prevented me from running away in search of an ice cream cone (thank goodness!). :) Now that it has been a bit longer... I think I have been doing it for a month now!... I am feeling much more comfortable with my workouts. Trust me, I still get sore and run down from it all. But now it is more of a pleasantly exhausted feeling - like I know I really worked my butt off!

I haven't noticed much of a difference in my body yet - at least not on the outside. I am feeling pretty good about myself on the inside however. It is a little discouraging to be sore and tired from exercising and not immediately notice a difference in my body, but I know it is coming. I just have to stick with my program. If anyone who is reading this has ever contemplated working with a personal trainer, I really am happy I decided to do it. I think even one day a week or however often you can afford to squeeze it in helps. I find I push myself so much harder when there is someone encouraging me and telling me not to give up. There have been countless examples where I would have quit on rep number 5 because I had no confidence that I could actually get to rep number 6. Kali and Molly give me that confidence and push me over the edge so even if I don't get to number 7, I still did more than I would have alone. I always wondered what it would be like to have a personal trainer and often lamented if I had more money it would be one of the first things I would "splurge" on. I am really happy that between J and I we were able to work out a way for me to do it. It is the best gift J has given me.

Anyway, I know a lot of this is very personal to me and if you have zero interest in reading about it, let me know. Otherwise I might try to keep you guys updated on my progress with working out since I don't seem to cook anymore! :) ***But I swear I am trying to make time for cooking and will be back regularly with food!!!!***