Zucchini fries? Uh, kinda.

Okay. Let me just preface this by saying that I never know what to do with zucchini. It’s plentiful every summer, but short of brushing it with olive oil and a) throwing it on the grill or b) throwing it in the oven, I’m usually at a loss. I don’t find zucchini all that inspiring. It’s too small to stuff anything in there (although I keep seeing recipes for “stuffed zucchini” that, honestly, look more like the poor squash is drowning in melty cheese), and although I like it and will eat it as enthusiastically as anything else when it’s grilled or roasted, it’s not my go-to vegetable side. I really prefer the cruciferous veggies: brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower… I also enjoy asparagus, which I realize is not cruciferous, but that’s beside the point. The point being: Zucchini. Confounding.

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Anyway. I’ve been having this recurring food daydream (why yes, I do have those) about having a barbecue with turkey burgers, those fancy sandwich thins I love so much, and breaded zucchini fries. But… I’ve never made zucchini fries. So I’ve been researching. Quite thoroughly, I might add. I decided to give it a shot tonight, because I had zucchini and felt like I should take a break from brussels sprouts and play around with this concept that’s been ruminating for the past month.

Of course, I didn’t have an egg. The yummiest looking recipes required at least one egg, but I used my three remaining eggs for my Saturday morning omelet. So I searched the Googles for something a little more adaptive to the ingredients I had on hand. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this recipe. Zucchini? Check. Panko? Check. Ingredients for pesto? Uhh, no. BUT. I have this artichoke pesto I got at World Market and for which I hadn’t yet envisaged a feasible use. So I said to myself, “Self, let’s do this.” And we (myself and I) got cracking on our eggless zucchini fries.

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Ingredients

1-2 zucchini (I used about 1.5)
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1-2 tbsp artichoke (or basil, or whatever you have) pesto
cooking oil (I used olive oil spray)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Prepare a plate or cutting board by spreading out the panko crumbs. Transfer pesto to a bowl or plate for easy zucchini rolling.
  3. Cut the zucchini into quarters length-wise, then eighths. Halve the eighths (I know, that’s a lot of math for a Monday night). If you’re not sure what I mean, because I’ve been known to get length-wise and cross-wise confused, see above for visual aid.
  4. Dip each zucchini piece in the pesto, one by one. Transfer the zucchini piece to a plate of panko and roll it around, making sure the panko sticks, then transfer the zucchini to the cookie sheet. Once you’re done with all the pieces, spray them with cooking oil (I didn’t do this and wish I had – it would’ve browned the panko more effectively).Image
  5. Put the zucchini fries in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the panko is browned and the zucchini is cooked through. Mine took about 20 minutes and didn’t brown due to lack of cooking oil, but they were tasty and effectively roasted, so 20 minutes would probably be enough if you don’t forget the spray.

ImageDinner: Salad with tomatoes, basil, and some other delicious things, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; panko-crusted cod, courtesy of Waterfront Bistro; homemade aioli for cod-dipping; and, of course, zucchini “fries.”

The end product: Basically roasted zucchini (yum) with panko (yum) and artichoke pesto (double yum). For real fries, an egg is probably necessary, but these hit the spot.

Next up: Mini pies. I may or may not be completely serious, I’ve been thinking about these all day today.

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School, dog, food, school. Happy Tuesday.

I submitted my web portfolio to my graduate advisor yesterday and should have the results of my review in 2-3 weeks, at which point she’ll work with me to register for my fall semester classes. I had another OMG-I’m-going-back-to-school moment after I got that email; then I got a migraine. It was still with me this morning, although it’s (thankfully) diminished. I think it has more to do with the lack of sleep this weekend while I was scrambling to finish my portfolio than the OMG moment, but one never knows.

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OMG I’m going back to school.

I’m more excited than anything. I’m admittedly worried about how I’m going to juggle full-time work and full-time school (although it will be online this first semester), plus continuing to work out and eat healthy and get enough sleep. The getting enough sleep part will be tricky, as evidenced by this past weekend, so I need to learn how not to procrastinate – I had a month to work on and finish this portfolio, and I didn’t get my ass into gear until Saturday afternoon. I’m pretty pleased with the end result, but I could’ve used more time to make the site compatible with IE. I hate Internet Explorer… so much.

In other news, the dog and I had her final session with the trainer on Sunday. She was behaving marvelously well. The trainer commented that she’d made so much progress just in the past two weeks since our last session, and he was impressed at how much she was ‘checking in’ with me as we were walking. This is a dog whose last owner gave up on training her to heel, and now she heels like a total champ. She sits on command (usually) and she’s gotten so good at staying. I am so freaking proud of this dog. 

My mom also ordered us a “Dog in Training” vest for her so stupid people would stop trying to pet her/call her/generally be ignorant while I’m out walking her:

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She doesn’t love it. It sure looks cute on her, though. I totally understand, I have outfits like that, too.

And, in foodie news, I’m toying with the idea of doing another two-week Perricone stint. I’ve been eating pretty well, but the way Perricone structured his meal plan seems to work much better than what I usually do, which is eat lower calorie things in semi-compliance with his guidelines. I would have to do something for breakfast besides Quest bars, though, and I don’t know how I feel about that. I love me some Quest bars.

Speaking of food, my lunches lately have been just splendid. Here was today’s:

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I picked up these new Orowheat flax & fiber sandwich thins (apparently too new to list on the Orowheat website) during my Safeway splurge last weekend and they have become a lunchtime staple – I pop one in the toaster oven at work to make it crispy, then top it with either a homemade salmon or tuna salad and serve with a side salad. The salmon and tuna are from pouches I picked up at the Dollar Store, plus some mayo, celery, red onion and garlic. Needless to say, my breath smells all kinds of awesome after I have lunch. Lunch breath is so awkward. Reason #459 why it would be better for everyone if I could just work from home.

And when I’m done with my MFA, hopefully I’ll be able to find a job that will allow me to do just that, if I so choose! Ah, to dream…

I’ve been Shredding for 30 days, and I’m not talking about paper. Or cabbage.

I’ve officially been doing Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred workouts for thirty days. Of course, keep in mind I stuck to level one for twenty-ish days and am now basically alternating levels one and two after five consecutive days of level two, but the point is this thirty-day situation has been going on for thirty days. Seems like something to celebrate, doesn’t it?

I tried on the Rock & Republic jeans I bought over a year ago this morning. The fit when I bought them, but for the past year, I haven’t been able to pull them up all the way over my ginormous slightly larger than ideal thighs. It was a shame – I like them a lot, and when they fit me, a smaller, more svelte version of me, they looked really good. And this morning? When I tried them on? Not only did I get them on all the way, I was also able to zip and button them while standing (as opposed to while laying down on the floor, legs in the air, hoping gravity would work its magic). I still have some work to do, but this is major progress for me. It was a really good start to the morning.

Now, what does that have to do with the circuit training I’ve been doing with my good friend Jillian? Well. Let me tell you. This Saturday at Safeway, I bought (among other things) a jar of almond butter and two packages of single-serving popcorn. As of Monday evening, the almond butter was gone. As of Tuesday evening, the popcorn was gone. So, Saturday through Tuesday went something like this:

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Yet, still, my waist remains at 23″ (that’s how small it was before the Buenos Aires trip/July pastry bonanza of 2011). I’ve been “shredding” and walking 4-8 miles (usually 7) every day with limited exceptions. That’s all I do. It’s really not a lot, considering the Shred is only half an hour per level. Absolutely maintainable, and I know when I finally make it to level three, I’ll be in even better shape.

I love that I can occasionally get away with eating somewhat healthy food in larger than normal quantities and still maintain (and get smaller!). Or, you know, I could have pizza, same effect. I have no idea what I weigh now, but I’m wearing most of the clothing I was wearing at my smallest, which is what matters – plus, I have muscle tone and definition that I don’t think I’ve had at any point in my life, so that’s a major benefit. Of course, my T-Rex arms are still only using the 2.5-lb weights. But who cares? It seems to be working out just fine.

The system itself took awhile to grow on me, but once I realized that the hard work was starting to pay off (in the form of more defined arms/back/shoulders, at first), I started looking forward to getting home from work so I could exercise. It’s perfect for my lack of attention span for physical activity – ahem, some physical activity – and I know I’m working hard, even when the moves start to feel easier. I also didn’t like Jillian in the beginning, but she’s grown on me as well – I like how she seems to know when I’m getting tired and want to lay down on the couch instead of finish the circuit. How does she know? Can she see me? Creepy.

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Anyway, the point of this post is to let all you fellow foodies know that 30-Day Shred is awesome (because when you do it, you can eat more food, and what foodie doesn’t love that?). In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s that circuit training in general is awesome, but this is easy and quick and I can do it at home so I can be gross and sweaty without witnesses. Fairly confident I wouldn’t willingly subject witnesses to that kind of traumatic experience.

Also, for the record, to serve as proof that I ate well this week aside from the popcorn and almond butter, I present to you Monday’s lunch:

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(If anyone asks, I’ve been working this whole time.)

Happy Wednesday! Not hump day. That’s not work appropriate.

Despite the obvious pitfalls of going back to school – going into more student loan debt, starting over in my career, changing everything about my life – I can’t help but feel as though I’m doing the right thing. I haven’t felt this creatively inspired since I was in college. And excited! There’s no way I’d be this excited about business school or law school. And isn’t that the point? Life should be exciting. It shouldn’t be sitting behind a desk all day, making decisions that don’t mean all that much in the long run.

I’ve been chipping away at my portfolio, which is due on July 23. I’ll admit, there’s been a little bit of procrastination going on. I brought my MacBook Pro to work today so I could make some headway on the porfolio – which I’m going to be submitting in the form of a website – and actually did as I’d intended. Right now, it’s just the template of the front page, but I have a sitemap in mind and I have a good idea of what I’ll be including. I want to do more with motion graphics than I have in the past. Not a lot, because I like a cleaner design, but some subtle effects, like onmouseover icon animation. And I still have to clean up some of my older work and upload it, since some of the sites aren’t live anymore. All these details…

On Monday, I called my grad school financial aid adviser to pepper her with questions. As it turned out, they’d just finalized my award offer, so she gave me the news. Basically, what it boils down to is this: I’ll be able to afford school and have some additional loan money, but I’ll still need a full-time job in order to pay rent and eat food and otherwise live like a normal human. Well, there goes my original plan of just being a full-time student, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t be able to get away with that one. The good news is, I don’t need to be getting paid as much as I am now in order to afford the same things, so I can get an easy full-time job when I move down to San Francisco in January while I’m in school. Not like the one I have now, where it’s literally in my job description that overtime is required, despite the fact that I’m a manager and don’t get paid overtime.

Waiting until mid-December to give my notice is already proving to be a mental and emotional challenge. I stressed myself out during my four-mile walk this morning, talking to my mom about how worried I am about having to do year-end work (there was a lot last year) in addition to finals. I don’t know how I’m going to make this move work; my future roommate (currently living in San Francisco) and I will somehow have to find a place and move in early- to mid-January before the new semester starts in late January. I think she will probably have to do the apartment-hunting by herself in December, since I’ll still be up here, but we’ve been emailing back and forth with listings on Craigslist, so hopefully by then she and I will be on the same page about what we’re looking for. And then there’s the job aspect. But I do think it will be easier to find a lower-paying job than trying to find one in my current salary range. I just need something brainless that doesn’t require me to work more than my allotted time, and that doesn’t zap all my energy. I’d be a terrible waitress, so that’s out. I mean, I’d eat all the food before it got to the customers, and I’m already prone to tripping over my own feet without the added challenge of balancing a tray.

Speaking of lack of coordination, I finally worked up the nerve to try level 2 of 30-Day Shred last night, after something like twenty days of level 1 (I stopped counting after 10 days). Surprisingly, after hearing from multiple people that level 2 is the hardest, I actually really enjoyed it. It went by faster than level 1, and I like all the jumping. I could do without the planks, but I’ll keep working at it. The only problem is that she had me moving my arms and my legs in different directions, and that confuses my brain (which is why I never excelled in dance classes. That, and aforementioned tripping). I definitely feel the effects of the workout today, so I know whatever I was doing did something. Plus, I finally fit into my size 2 (well, size 26 because it’s designer-ish and they do weird denim sizing) denim miniskirt again! And by “fit into,” I mean it doesn’t squish my legs in unflattering ways when I sit while wearing it. In fact, there’s no longer any inappropriate squishing of anything. I’d definitely call that a step in the right direction.

Okay… this is probably enough blogging at work. Shhh don’t tell.

Food on the brain.

My days this summer have mostly consisted of either eating or thinking about eating, with brief interludes of panic about grad school and making plans to move to San Francisco in January. It’s kind of amazing that I haven’t posted about any of these food-related thoughts. My brain is starting to wake up and want to invent recipes again, and I have to be especially creative now that I’m attempting to live on a student-like budget (which, incidentally, is unrelated to my decision to go back to school).

Right now, this very moment, I’m thinking about turkey burgers. Turkey burgers with gluten-free hamburger buns and zucchini fries. An heirloom tomato salad. I need to have a dinner party. This meal would be so pretty.

I need to do more things with black rice, too. The problem with introducing black rice back into my diet is that I lose all sense of portion control when it comes to grains. I need to taste it to make sure it’s done, right? And then taste it again to make sure the second bite is as delicious as the first? You never know what could happen. Maybe three heaping spoonfuls of black rice… maybe seventeen. Before I know it, half the black rice is gone and I haven’t even combined it with the other ingredients that were supposed to be included. So you see the issues inherent with that plan. But if I can control myself, someday, eventually, I could make something really delicious out of black rice, and maybe not eat it compulsively.

Also… I have tuna and cod fillets in the freezer. I don’t know what to do with them. There might be halibut, I don’t know. I usually just marinate salmon fillets in Soy Vay’s teriyaki marinade, but can you do that with tuna? Is cod too delicate to marinate? Trader Joe’s does this ginger-soy cod, that’s marinated. I mean, it must be. I could also defrost it, coat it in panko, and pan-fry it. But that’s not very exciting. I’d need to get parmesan and an egg to make it come together. Oh! I have basil and artichoke pesto (separate pestos). Maybe… those two, with olive oil? For a marinade?

Anyway. I miss being able to go to the store on a whim and grab all the ingredients I’ll need for whatever deliciousness Fine Cooking prompts me to replicate. However, with this new budget I’m attempting to follow, I’ve managed to get by on spending $30 a week on produce at Pike Place Market, and produce is the thing I need to buy most often, so I think this is going to work out. I’m going to miss Pike Place when I move to SF… I’m really starting to bond with the produce boys at Corner Produce.

Feel free to skip all the words and go straight to the puppy picture.

My best friend is in the process of packing up her life and moving to Malawi for a year. My mom doesn’t like to talk on the phone for an hour when she’s home with her boyfriend. Who am I supposed to talk to about all my major daily accomplishments? Hmm? I guess I’ll have to settle for strangers on the interwebs. Hello, strangers.

Here’s what I did this weekend:

  1. Cleaned. Everything. I cleaned under my bathroom sink, and I cleaned out and organized my closets, in addition to my normal Saturday cleaning regimen. No, you don’t understand. The under the sink area had become a hazard, and my closet was brimming with clothes I kept trying on in my quest for outfits and subsequently discarding, over and over again. I think I need to have a garage sale, and maybe find a friend who has an actual garage.
  2. I watched a lot of Pretty LIttle Liars. This is my third viewing of season 1 on Netflix. I had seen it before. I wish they would post the next season so I didn’t feel like I’m memorizing this season. This show makes me want to be a skinny teenage girl; their lives seem so ridiculously dramatic and they don’t have to worry about real adult things, like eating carbs and paying bills.
  3. ImageI spent quality time with the brown dog. I’m trying to get her to sleep on her own bed instead of on my nice couch and on my bed, because she had a little bladder infection this week and… I had to take my duvet to the dry cleaner. $150 vet bill + $33 dry cleaner bill. Fun? Not so much.
  4. I successfully went to the market and spent $21 on my produce for the week, then came home, chopped everything and prepared it for my weeks’ salads (lunch and dinner). I then managed to clog the garbage disposal… and unclog it with a plunger. I know this isn’t revolutionary for most people, but I felt like a total champ when I figured this one out.
  5. I did days 12 and 13 of Jillian Michaels’ 30-day shred, level one. I realize I’m supposed to move up to level 2 on day 11, but it scares me and I haven’t mastered level 1 yet, so I’m sticking. It’s still hard work! My T-Rex arms are looking a lot more defined, too. Too bad I’m not allowed to wear tank tops to work. Plus, I’m getting smaller and eating more since I started doing this. Talk about a win-win.
  6. I got myself together and finally applied to grad school. I’m trying for my MFA in Web Design & New Media at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it, but if I get in, I’m moving to San Francisco in September. Or if they let me in and September doesn’t work out, I’ll move in November-ish and start in the spring. Fingers crossed for September, though! I’ve been considering this program for about two years, and I think it’s time I just jumped in and did it. I’ll do what everybody else does and worry about the details when I have to. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. From what I’ve read about the school, they’ll let anyone in (it’s graduating that’s the challenge), so I’m just assuming I’m already in and freaking out accordingly. Always good to prepare, right?
  7. For some reason, I’m not completely dreading work tomorrow. Probably because it’s jeans week. The grad school thing is giving me hope that I won’t be a mid-level executive drone forever, so that helps my attitude. 
  8. Darn, bedtime. I was so enjoying this one-sided conversation. I do love talking about me.