Friday, September 28, 2012


Hey there!

You all still there? Maybe? I'm sorry I disappeared without notice. You see, I just started school this week.

Wait, what? School? Yes, School. Even after all those times I've said I will never ever go back to school to get another degree.

Me at GRCC graduation in 2007

Ok, are you confused now? Probably. Anyways, long story short, after I graduated with my Bachelor's degree, I swore up and down and sideways I would never go back to school to get a Masters or Ph.D. In the past few months, I've been exploring other options besides chemistry and I've found a few different tracks I'm interested in. And so now I'm going back to school to see which direction I want to take my career in.

I'm currently taking a biology class while still working full time. This means waking up at 5 am and spending lots of time at work and at school. It's funny, though, that I don't find it that bad. I'm tired and all, but it's like, so what? I feel like I'm actually heading in the right direction for once, instead of wandering aimlessly.

It feels so great to have a goal in mind!

Anyways, I really want to keep up my blog for my readers (yes, all 3 of you!), but please bear with me as I start my new adventure. I will try to post when I can, but sometimes I'm just too dang tired!

I have so many new recipes in mind and I've been hiking like crazy! (Except now my Wednesday hikes are over with, and that makes me sad, but it's getting too dark out too early to hike!)

I finally have a full day to myself tomorrow and I plan on writing up some posts, along with cleaning and studying. Then on Sunday, I'm hiking Mailbox peak (yikes!) and so I probably won't have the energy to do much but veg. But I do promise to try!!

Thanks for sticking around and being patient with me :)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick Noodle and Veggie Stir Fry

Sometimes I have my days where I am tempted to get dinner from the Chinese deli at my grocery store. They have all sorts of delicious things there and it would be so easy to stand in line and say, “Beef and broccoli please!” As I stand there, looking like an idiot, drooling over the Chinese food, I remember that there is a salad bar right behind me. I then snap back to normal Rachel and gather the ingredients for a noodle stir fry. 

I fill up a container with as many veggies as I can fit. Onions, bell peppers, edamame, broccoli. I make my way to the meat department to get some steak or chicken (or sometimes, shrimp!). My final stop is in the refrigerated section, where I pick up some pre-cooked yakisoba noodles in order to save some time in the kitchen.

My noodle stir fry takes me less than 15 minutes to make when I get home. I chop the meat, stir fry it, then stir fry the veggies, and finally add the sauce and noodles. Voila! Dinner in a flash!

If you are craving some Chinese (or teriyaki), give this meal a try tonight. It’s quicker than calling for take out!

Quick Noodle Stir Fry

Serves 4
Pre-cut veggies from the salad bar, your choice (at least 3 c.)
1 lb skirt steak, chicken breasts or shrimp
1 package yakisoba noodles
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp sesame oil
½ tbsp mirin (rice wine)
1 tbsp hoisin
¼ tsp Sriracha, optional

1. For meat, slice steak into thin slices, cut chicken into 1” cubes, or peel and devein shrimp.
2. Mix together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. Open noodle package and puncture plastic with scissors. Put in microwave for 30 seconds.  
3. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over med-high heat. Add meat and stir fry until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside. Add veggies and stir fry for 1-2 minutes to soften. Add meat and noodles back into pan and add sauce. Bring to a boil, then toss to coat.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lemon Basil Soda

 I love making fresh sodas in the summer instead of drinking soda from the store. My favorite so far has been this lemon basil soda. It tastes like a sparkling lemonade with a fresh basil taste. Add in a little vodka for the grown-ups, and you have a refreshing summer cocktail.

Enjoy this while lounging outside, in the warm summer sun, or while entertaining friends.

Lemon Basil Soda

Serves 2

2 lemons, juiced
1 tsp honey or agave
4 basil leaves, chopped finely
4 (optional)
lemon sparkling water

1. Combine lemon juice, sweetener, and basil leaves in a small container. Preferably, let sit in a sealed container overnight to let flavors combine.
2. To serve, mix half of the lemon mixture (straining, optional) with 2 oz. of vodka. Add ice, then fill with lemon sparkling water. Garnish with extra basil leaves.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Cherry Basil Sauce for Ice Cream

I absolutely love this sauce! Its sweet, but tart and plain delicious! It goes well with either ham or ice cream.

Wait, what? Ham OR ice cream with this sauce? Has she gone nuts?!? Just trust me on this one. This sauce is super versatile!

I have a cookbook that I've mentioned before called Menus in Minutes. I love it for the simple fact that most of the recipes are under 30 minutes, including prep time, and all of the recipes sound delicious!

I've had my eye on this dish since I got the cookbook, and I finally got around to making it. The recipe calls for canned cherries, which I substituted for fresh, pitted cherries along with some thickened cherry juice. Cherry juice can be found in most natural foods sections. I also decided to add in some fresh chopped basil to give it another layer of flavor.

I had some leftover sauce and decided to try it on some coconut ice cream. It was just as delicious! It has become my new favorite dessert sauce (and it's really good with the ham too!)

Try this sauce tonight with some ham or make it as a dessert sauce and serve over ice cream.

Cherry Basil Sauce
adapted from Menus in Minutes

Makes about 1 c. of sauce

1/2 c. cherries, pitted
1/2 c. cherry juice
2 tbsp water with 1 tbsp cornstarch
a few basil leaves, finely chopped, reserving some for garnish

Mix together all the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until sauce becomes syrupy.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Black Bean and Garlic String Beans

I love green beans and garlic together. Why is it that they go together so well? I'm not sure, but I know I love it. 

I also love putting an Asian spin on classic dishes, like green beans and garlic. For this dish, I used some diluted black bean garlic sauce to add some flavor, without the high sodium content. To do this, I first cooked the beans in garlic and olive oil, then diluted some of the sauce with a little water. I finished the beans by steaming them in the diluted black beans sauce. By leaving most of the sauce in the pan, I left a lot of the salt there too.

Enjoy this as a great side dish to some chicken teriyaki or any other Asian inspired dish!

Black Bean and Garlic String Beans
Serves 4

1 lb. string beans, yellow or green (or both!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp black bean garlic sauce, diluted with 4 tbsp water

1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add green beans and saute for 2-3 more minutes, until slightly done.
2. Add the diluted black bean garlic sauce to the pan and cover. Let steam for 2-3 more minutes, until beans are crisp tender. Stir beans in sauce, then remove beans from pan, leaving sauce behind.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monthly Ingredient Link Party: Basil

Hi there!

Glad you could join me for my first monthly ingredient link party! I'm so excited! I can't wait to see what you all have created with basil.

Basil is a wonderfully delicious herb, with notes of licorice and cloves. There are many varities of basil. The most common one is the Genovese cultivar. It's the one you most often see in Italian cooking. However, basil is not only in Italian dishes; it is also in many south Asian dishes, like Thai and Vietnamese. Originally from India, basil had made its way into our hearts and our stomachs.

Genovese Basil
 The herb has a few surprising nutritional properties. Two tablespoons of fresh basil contains 20% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential to helping blood coagulate, or clot, properly. It also is very important for healthy bones. Basil also is a good source of beta-carotene, that famous compound in carrots, which is converted to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is best known for keeping your eyes healthy.

Thai Basil
Basil is a great herb to keep around for easy, flavorful additions to many recipes. The herb grows rather well in warmer climates (think Mediterranean), but can also grown as an annual in colder climates. Buy starts after the last frost has passed and when the air temperature is above 50 F. Feel free to take leaves as you need them for cooking, or cut whole stems off at the base. Be sure to keep basil well watered, or else it will bolt and go to seed rather quickly.

Some great ideas for basil include:

-A classic Caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, drizzled with some olive oil.
-Add Thai basil to your favorite stir fry
-Use chopped lemon basil to give lemonade another layer of flavor

What are your favorite way to use basil? Share your ideas with us in the comments or by linking up your favorite recipes!


Info on Basil, Vitamin A and Vitamin K 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

30 Day HLC: September

 Hey there!

Welcome to the first month of the 30 Day Healthy Lifestyle Challenge! I'm so excited to start this! I feel that if I am held accountable to you all, I just might actually follow through with making changes in my life and I hope you will too!

As I wrote in this post here, I am starting a 30 day healthy lifestyle challenge that focuses on forming good habits that replace bad habits, in order to form a healthier lifestyle. You can choose any habit you want, be it a simple one or a complex one.

Each week, we will report back here, every Tuesday for 30 days, on how you are doing with forming your new habits or breaking your old habits. Don't worry about being perfect, just simply try your best!

Some ideas to get you started..

- Walk 30 minutes every day
- Stretch every morning/night
- Do a yoga routine every morning/night
- Do strengthening routine every day

- Eat an extra serving of fruits and veggies
- Remove all sugar from diet (except fruits)
- Cook at home every night
- Eat breakfast every morning

- Write your thoughts in a journal every evening
- Meditate for 15 minutes
- Clear out one area of clutter in your home and toss 1 item you no longer need
- Tackle 1 thing that is stressing you out

My first month's goal is to get up at my regular time and not hit the snooze button so many times! I've found by doing that, it saps my energy and makes me feel even more tired, so later in the day I make not so good choices. I also want to stretch every morning before I start my morning routine. All my muscles feel so tight and I hope to feel better and more relaxed instead of rushed in the mornings.

I hope you decide to join us on our journey to a healthier life. Please share this challenge with all your friends so we can all be inspired! Leave a comment with what your 30 Day HLC goal is and how you are doing with it. Has it improved your quality of life? Have you had any struggles or overcome any obstacles?

Thanks for joining!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Basil Orange Chicken

I love orange chicken. It’s one of my all-time favorite Chinese-American dishes. Whenever I go to any chinese fast food place (which really isn’t that often), I almost always order the orange chicken. It’s so delicious, but so bad for you.

Out of the blue one night, I decided to make my own “healthier” version. I also decided to add in some basil for a nice change. I think the recipe turned out great! It still tasted like orange chicken, but it just didn’t have the heavy, deep-fried batter.

Try this tonight instead of doing take-out!

Basil-Orange Chicken

Serves 4

4 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
canola or peanut oil
½ c. orange juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp mirin
½ tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 spring onions, sliced
3 leaves of basil, cut in a chiffonade
sesame seeds, optional
red pepper flakes, optional

1. Put chicken pieces into a bowl and dust with cornstarch until every piece is covered (requires roughly ¼ c. cornstarch). Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over med-high heat. Cook chicken in batches, stirring constantly, until no pink remains and the exterior is a nice golden brown. This will take about 5 minutes per batch. Put cooked chicken onto a plate and keep warm.
2. Stir together orange juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, 2 tbsp cornstarch, and green onions (reserving some for garnish). Pour sauce into the same pan as before and let boil until thickened, about 1 min. Remove off heat and add in chicken, basil, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. Heat over low until chicken is cooked and covered in sauce. Serve with rice and steamed broccolini.


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