The Virtues and Failings of Greek Yogurt

As someone who struggles to eat healthy on a daily basis, I’m a fan of Greek yogurt–especially in the winter when fruit gets so expensive! I try to eat a fruit-flavored Greek yogurt with lunch every day (Chobani Apple Cinnamon is my favorite). But I know it can also be a great cooking substitute for less healthy foods like sour cream!

My mom and my boyfriend’s sister have both made this amazing recipe–enchiladas with Greek yogurt. I love them so much I think the sauce tastes even better than with sour cream! Tonight I’m getting a bit of a cold and am in the mood for comfort food. I thought I would try alfredo sauce with Greek yogurt substituted for cream!Image

I used this recipe¬†for the alfredo sauce. Unfortunately, it seems like Greek yogurt is a better substitute for sour cream than actual cream. I felt that the sauce had too much ricotta texture, wasn’t very liquid, and just had too much yogurt taste. It wasn’t what I was looking for in alfredo comfort food. So I guess I’ll just have to keep the fatty alfredo sauces rare and use the leftover ricotta to make calzones next week!

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The Liebster Award

What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award nomination goes to those bloggers who have a following of less than 200 to promote other bloggers to comment and share – even get to know each other! I think this is great, because it gives you the potential to gather a larger following! If you get nominated, you cannot nominate the person who nominated you. (No tagbacks!)

The point of the Liebster Award is to answer questions, tell 11 secrets about yourself, and nominate 11 other bloggers who fit the criteria. Here it goes!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Hmm. This might be more out of sheer stubbornness but I am proud that I am still in a PhD program. There is a lot that goes against you when you enter grad school straight out of college without funding (which I do not advise ANYONE to do–I’ve been extremely lucky with the funding I’ve received in latter years). I am proud that despite all the times I thought about quitting, I stuck with it, stayed on schedule, and despite multiple personal issues, Hurricane Sandy, and taking on too much last semester, passed my comprehensive exams and transitioned to being ABD on time.
What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I’d like to learn to like running. Maybe this isn’t an accomplishment? But I still hate it. After 8 months, I hate every minute of the time I’m running, and never get a runner’s high or feel anything other than ‘at least I checked that off the to-do list’. I’d like to get fit enough where I don’t hate it. Health reasons motivate me to continue, but I’d like to like it better.
What’s your favorite flavor of birthday cake?
Funfetti! Seriously, I often joke I want my wedding cake to be Funfetti. I’m not sure I’m entirely joking, either….for my 24th birthday my cousin made me an awesome Funfetti birthday cake–from scratch!
What’s your dream vacation?
While I know most people think a tropical island somewhere, I hate heat, humidity, and I have lived near the beach most of my life, so islands don’t thrill me. In summer 2011, I was living in Germany, and my boyfriend came to visit. We spent 5 days in Paris in early June and rented an apartment on a quiet street near the Pantheon and the Jardin de Luxembourg. One warm evening, we got a salted caramel crepe from a brasserie nearby and sat in the gardens and watched the sun go down. It was a wonderful five days. Paris in early June is ideal weather–around 70 degrees–and it stays light out until 11 pm. I would love to do that again, but this time stay two weeks–I’d love to see Chartres, maybe a quick trip to Nice and the south of France after Paris! Paris is my home away from home, so maybe it doesn’t count as a vacation, but it was an amazing time away from real life ūüôā
What made you start blogging?
I was inspired by my wonderful friend Gabby at Marathons and Macarons! I started when I studied abroad in Paris in fall 2008, then continued when I was in Germany in summer 2011, and decided I spend enough time recipe-ing that maybe things were interesting enough at the moment!
What was your favorite class in college?
I was a poli sci major, but my very favorite class was an elective I took with a few friends in our last semester–Contemporary American Fiction. It introduced me to some amazing books: Olive Kitteridge, Let the Great World Spin, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, etc. Also taught me to keep an eye on the Pulitzer Prize winner for a good read!
What was your favorite storybook character as a child?
Depends on what age…I was given the Anne of Green Gables series right before I turned 6, and Anne Shirley occupied my imagination a great deal until Harry Potter (well, really Hermione) came on the scene around age 12. I loved Anne’s spunky yet clumsy nature, and her drive to succeed in an era where women were supposed to stay home and get married–yet she still found love in the end! Hermione is an even better role model for the modern woman. I truly believe the Harry Potter novels are classics.
What was your childhood dream job?
When I was very young, I wanted to be a writer. Around age 10, I hit the lawyer phase when my 4th grade class put fairy tale characters on trial. I got to be Gretel’s defense attorney and defend her against murder charges–she was found innocent. I loved arguing, getting the last word, and the research involved. However, as I got older, I became less confident speaking in front of others and found out more about law school, which made me drift away from that goal.
Do you look more like your mother or father?
Absolutely like my father. I’m petite like my mother, but my coloring and my features are all my father’s. My siblings look more like my mother so we don’t really look much alike.
Do you have the traits of your zodiac sign?
Definitely. I’m a Capricorn and I’m very practical, organized, and down to earth, very responsible, very oldest-child, in a nutshell.
What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
Hmm. I used to be a picky eater, and while I’m not anymore, I’d say the weirdest things are either escargots (DELICIOUS) or catfish. Not that weird, I guess…11 Things About Me

1. I’m in a long-distance relationship. Together for 3 1/2, long distance for 3. We just transitioned from seeing each other once a month to once a week, which is a big improvement!

2. I hate anything mint, coconut, or banana flavored. (The latter is a problem for running as bananas are supposed to be great for post-run food!)

3. I was in a sorority in college, and currently advise my local chapter! One of my favorite things about my sisterhood is our philanthropy–victims of domestic violence. My chapter of initiation had a close relationship with a shelter nearby.

4. I started running through the Couch to 5K program in May 2012.

5. I speak fluent French and intermediate German (after having lived in Paris, France, and Konstanz,Germany). Next up, I’d like to learn Spanish!

6. The longer I’m in school the more television I watch. My current list: Once Upon A Time, Downton Abbey, HIMYM, Smash, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, 1600 Penn, Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, and Community. And the Bachelor(ette)–guilty pleasure. Shows I love that were canceled: 30 Rock, Private Practice, Gilmore Girls, Friends, and the West Wing. I’d like to start watching Parenthood ¬†and New Girl. ¬†I consider it stress relief….

7. I devour fiction. One of the best gifts my boyfriend ever gave me was modeled on this–a reading spa. Except since we don’t live in England, he convinced a bookstore in Brooklyn to do the same–WORD! Check them out if you get a chance. Instead of tea and scones, we got hot chocolate and cookies from Cookie Road nearby. Delicious. I just finished the 5th Game of Thrones book, if you’re curious. Another stress relief thing–I read during breakfast and before bed.

8. Breakfast is my favorite meal–but only the carbs! I hate bacon and sausage and am indifferent to eggs. But keep the French toast, waffles, and pancakes coming! (And the crepes…)

9. My boyfriend and I had been to 7 countries together by the time we’d been dating two years–US, Canada, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany! (I’ve up to ten on my own–adding in Liechtenstein and some small Caribbean countries) We also love to travel around the country–we’re up to over a dozen states in 3 1/2 years. ¬†Most recent vacation was to New Orleans.

10. I can’t wait until I live in a place where I’m allowed to have a dog–I want to get one from a rescue shelter. I grew up with first a husky, and then a Shiba Inu, so it’s weird living without a dog!

11. I moonlight as an LSAT tutor, along with a few other side jobs, in addition to my teaching. Ah, PhD land!

I don’t have any other bloggers to tag but I thought I’d post this anyway ūüôā

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The Best Chicken Ever

I am in love with this chicken. It looked pretty tasty on the website, but oh, my goodness.

I am a big fan of cream sauces as well as mushrooms, but the way you pan sear the chicken, make the sauce, and then let the chicken soak it up, really is fantastic. Also, the recipe is easy but just complicated enough to make you feel like you’re a master chef!

I made this delicious meal with rice and broccoli on the side.

One recent failure: these. No matter what I did–whether it was my oven, the dough, or something else–the muffins would not cook. They oozed all over my oven. Not sure why this happened…but it made me sad because they looked delicious!

Tonight, I’m trying these¬†with a friend. Salted caramel is a favorite treat of mine, so hopefully they come out well!!

I’m finding this semester harder than I thought in terms of working on my dissertation. First of all, it’s not nearly as easy to find a topic as I thought, and the more I think about not having a topic the more stressed I get about it. Secondly, it’s hard to find time! With several side jobs and teaching, which demand more immediate attention, plus a conference paper due Friday, it’s very easy to shelve your dissertation. But if you have a proposal due by the end of the semester, it’s a bad idea. I need to get less stressed and more organized. Trying to stay focused!!

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Homemade Gnocchi

Yesterday I set out to make homemade gnocchi for the first time! I intended to use this recipe¬†for sweet potato gnocchi, but apparently boyfriend didn’t realize there was a difference between yams and sweet potatoes. ¬†Oh well? We had plenty of regular potatoes to use. We halved the recipe–the thing about being one person most of the time and sometimes two is that most recipes are not appropriately portioned. It was kind of fun forming the dough and rolling it out to make the gnocchi, although messy! I didn’t realize it was this easy to make gnocchi, and it was kind of therapeutic. Lately I find anything that isn’t my dissertation proposal relaxing.

I had to make them in a bit of a rush because boyfriend had to head back on his 5-hour journey home, and I’m not sure they cooked all the way through. The balsamic brown butter sauce was definitely delicious, but I found the gnocchi a bit potatoey–either because there was too much regular potato (compared to sweet ¬†and regular) or just to my taste.

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This is the gnocchi before it was cooked! looks tasty, doesn’t it?

Tonight was almond-crusted tilapia! This was pretty easy to make, although I should have done a better job smashing up the almonds so they were truly ground. I made it with green beans and rice on the side. ¬†I think the medium-high heat recommended in the recipe is WAY¬†too much, though, I would err closer to medium or ¬†even medium-low–the topping cooked before the fish did, and I’m not a fan of sushi! Also, since you are cooking the fish in butter, the butter burned well before the fish was done. The end result was pretty tasty, though.

tilapia

The tilapia cooking away!

In running news, last Thursday’s run in 25-degree weather left me with an extremely irritated throat, which has faded after much administration of tea and cough drops. My voice still sounds a bit manly, however. Yesterday’s run in warmer weather went pretty well! Tomorrow, the goal is to build back up to 2 miles!

This weekend boyfriend and I went into the city–for Christmas, his brother had given us tickets to the opera at the Met! It was our first trip to the opera. Not wanting to waste a trip into the city, we went in around mid-afternoon and wandered Central Park, had macarons and tea with one of my friends (at Sugar & Plumm, which is adorable!), and then embarked on a trip to find food around Lincoln Center. ¬†This is harder than it sounds. While my friend lives on the Upper West Side, we headed closer to midtown because we had planned to meet my brother–he was running late, though, and we were then stuck in the immediate vicnicity of Lincoln Center to find food, with two hours to go pre-opera, ¬†a budget–and exhausted legs that didn’t want to walk anymore! The one cheap restaurant we found was closed for the day. We wandered to a few famous Lincoln Center restaurants, which were all way expensive and way crowded. After about 45 minutes of despair and hunger, I saw what seemed like a mirage–the Wafels and Dinges truck!! And just beyond, a Europan Cafe. Europan was pretty disgusting, as expected, but the waffle afterward made up for all. The Barber of Seville was interesting! It was an abridged translated version, but I still needed subtitles to understand the lyrics of the songs. I thought the singers’ voices were absolutely amazing. Opera is definitely beautiful. This opera in particular was really funny. Overall, despite difficulty finding dinner, a success!

The fun thing about being ABD is that everyone a) asks about your dissertation and b) tries to give you advice. Even my allergist (who is an MD/PhD) lectured me at my office visit today about finishing quickly and getting peer-reviewed publications. Sometimes I want to give a blank look and say, “Really? Peer-reviewed publications? I’ve never heard of such a thing” …in a Scarlett O’Hara type voice, you know.

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Pretzel Hug Snacks

On New Year’s Day, my family always gathers at my cousin’s house, and she usually makes me a cake of some sort due to my imminent birthday. This year, what with having my own place for the first time and also having my first New Year’s Eve company, I decided to make dessert.¬†

Since boyfriend and I were going crazy cleaning for company (I gave up cleaning somewhere around Thanksgiving, thanks to comps), I didn’t want to do any baking. So I decided on these Pretzel Hug treats, as I’ve named them.¬†

Directions:

Place a Hershey’s Hug on a waffle-shaped pretzel and bake in oven for a few minutes, low temp. (The recipe said 200 but my oven doesn’t go lower than 260–this may explain the problem I had)

When the chocolate has melted, press an m&m into it and put in the fridge to set.

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Enjoy!

 

About half my treats turned out like the picture on Pinterest…the other half turned out like so:

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It seemed like the chocolate seized and wouldn’t melt, so it got crumbly when I tried to press in the m&m. It ended up tasting OK, but I was frustrated all the same!! My relatives, however, gobbled them up so fast there were almost none left.¬†

Rating: half-successful. 

Below are my birthday treats from my cousin!Image

 

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Recent Successes and Failures

Successes:

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas–boyfriend is already begging me to make these again! Next time, I would add mozzarella, not just parmesan like the recipe suggests.

Flourless Chocolate Cookies–my cousin and aunt are gluten free so I made these for Christmas Eve. Rich and delicious. They were super hard to make without a mixer though, so I’m really glad I have one now! The dough gets very stiff.

Hawaiian Crockpot Chicken-messy but delicious. Eat on a roll.

Passing comprehensive exams in December to become a PhD candidate! Now I can start paying attention to cooking/running again!

Semi-Successes:

Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars–DELICIOUS but should have used more sea salt and sprayed the baking pan…these were from Thanksgiving Part 1.

Frosty Hats–My eloquent boyfriend felt these looked like Frosty did Number 2. I adjusted the recipe by only melting a bit of chocolate at a time instead of all at once, figuring the extra chocolate would harden while each part of the concoction did too. That worked well, but it’s just hard to get all that chocolate to look nice and neat!

Failures:

Stuffed Caramel Apple Cookies–cookies had a cakey texture and caramel kind of fell out and stuck to the other cookies….Thanksgiving Part 2. The cakey texture may have been because being without a car at the time (thanks Sandy), I could only get to one understocked supermarket that did not have the instant apple cider mix. Not wanting the cookies to be apple-less, I added apple juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. They were tasty but the texture was odd.

Not running during comps because of stress….but my two New Year’s resolutions are to run a 10K (hopefully in June with Gabby) and get my dissertation proposal approved…so here’s to both of those!

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