Archive for December, 2012

December 31, 2012

Welcome 2013!

As we ring in another New Year tonight, I want to thank you all for reading! We have had two great years here on Zest and are looking forward to 2013!!

Anytime a new year comes along, we all have the tendency to reflect and to resolve. I am pretty firmly set in my workout routine, though I will be throwing in some new twists this year. My biggest focuses this year will be on work and nutrition. I thought I would share a few ideas for getting on track in the New Year:

  1. Plan Ahead. Take a look at your week and plan a menu. I like to look at dinner choices and how I can use them for leftovers for lunch.
  2. Be Prepared. Along the same lines, the more prepared you are, the better choices you will make. If you pack enough snacks and a good healthy lunch for work, it is much easier to stay on track.
  3. Keep Ingredients Separate. This may sound strange, but one of the biggest things I have learned from Mary is that you can always make something different, as long as the ingredients are separate. What I mean by that is if you make chicken and keep some out of the sauce, you can make something different. Same goes for pasta, veggies… If you make tacos and keep all the veggies separate, you can make a pasta dish later in the week.
  4. Make It Easy. Find things that you like to grab and go. As kids, we always had cut up celery and carrots in a tub of water in the fridge. That makes it easier if you don’t have to clean them on the way out the door. Also, pre-portion snack foods so you know exactly how much you are eating. Almonds are a great snack, as long as you eat the right amount.
  5. Baby Steps. This is the single thing that helped me the most. If you are just getting started, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do it all at once. Crash diets are not sustainable. If you make small changes at regular intervals, you are much more likely to succeed. When I started, I added something new every couple of weeks. It started with a walk 3 times a week. Then cutting back on alcohol intake. Then adding more vegetables. You know your problem areas; just tackle them one at a time. Trust me; down the road some of those vices won’t even tempt you.
  6. If you are going to work out like an athlete, you have to fuel like an athlete. This is something that came into focus for me this year. I workout very hard; 6 days a week of weights, plus a few other things a week. Days that I don’t focus on my nutrition become very bad days for me. I get cranky and sluggish, plus I don’t sleep as well. When I remember to fuel before, during and after a workout, my days are great and I recover much easier. Since my workouts are important to me, so is my nutrition. Now you all know I love to cook, so you just have to be creative! Check out the recipe below that Mary found for something you can keep on hand for an easy lunch. This is a great balanced food that will keep you going!
  7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up. If you slip up, treat it as just that and do better at the next meal or tomorrow. Don’t give up, mistakes mean you have goals and that is something to shoot for!
  8. Write It Down. You always hear people say it, but it keeps you honest. Writing down your food will help you be more aware of what you are consuming. For me, it made me think before I put anything in my mouth because I knew I had to write it down. When you journal workouts, it helps you to make progress. You may run a little farther or faster. You may do two more reps, but either way you are taking another step forward. Writing down your goals gives you something to shoot for. Be realistic: make your goals achievable, challenging and measurable.
  9. Measure. Measure your food. Measure yourself. Both things will keep you aware and on track. Measuring your food gives you a visual of what you should be eating. Measuring yourself may show you progress you may not see on the scale. It is incredibly motivating to have something to measure against 3 months from now if you hit a plateau. You will be reminded of how far you have come!
  10. Just Do It! Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait for Monday. Or the first day of something…do it today! You don’t have to do it all today, just make one good choice. It might make all the difference!

GOOD LUCK! Happy New Year!!



Chicken Muffins

Adapted from Jamie Eason

2 lbs ground chicken (1.5 lbs breast, .5 lbs thigh)

3 egg whites

1 cup quick cooking oats

2 tbs jerk seasoning (or your favorite blend, be generous!)

2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp garlic 2 cloves minced

1 small onion (finely chopped)

2 celery stalks (finely chopped)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray muffin pan with canola or olive oil.

Place the onion and garlic and oats and spices in a food processor to chop and combine. Then eggs and meat and pulse to combine.

Use an ice cream scoop to make the mixture into balls and place in muffin pan. Muffins should be about the size of a racquetball. You can top with a bit of sauce to keep moist if you like (We like pepper jelly or sweet and spicy Asian sauce.)

Bake for 40 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

December 26, 2012

Christmas Lobster

I hope all of you had a fantastic Christmas with lots of family time. We were blessed with a white Christmas this year. Just enough snow to make it feel like Christmas!

In our family, ’tis the season for more parties! As I mentioned, we had our traditional Mexican Christmas Eve meal with great friends. For Christmas, Mary usually likes to try something new. This year we happened to find a deal on Lobster tails at Costco. With inspiration from Jacques Pépin, we were set on making artichoke bottoms stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, topped with Lobster tails…umm yum. As it turned out, the artichoke bottoms ended up too small, so we did the mushrooms in the artichoke bottoms and kept the lobster tails separate. Since BF is a native Mainer, he took charge of the lobster tails, giving me a great lesson in the keys to great preparation. One word: grilling. They came out sweet and perfectly cooked. Add to that some spicy lemon butter and you have a great complement to the lobster. Kick things off with some roasted tomato bruschetta and you have a great Christmas meal! What did you make?

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you all!


Grilled Lobster Tails with Spicy Lemon Butter

Adapted from Bobby Flay

Spicy Lemon Butter:

1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon clover honey

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Crushed red pepper to taste (about 1 tablespoon)

Kosher salt and freshly grounded black pepper


Grilled Lobster Tails:

Kosher salt

6 Maine lobster tails

Canola oil, for brushing

Freshly ground black pepper


For the lemon-red Fresno butter: Put the lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir in the honey. Add the butter, lemon zest, red pepper, salt & pepper.

For the grilled lobster tails: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil for 4 minutes.

Remove and drain well.

Split each lobster tail lengthwise down the underside with a heavy knife, taking care not to cut through the back shell, so that the lobster is still in one piece but the inside is exposed.

Next, carefully remove the legs and under shell to expose the meat to easily season.

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Brush the lobster flesh with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tails flesh-side down on the grill and grill until slightly charred, about 3 minutes.

Flip over, brush with a generous amount of lemon butter, and continue grilling until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes, brushing with butter throughout. Remove from the grill to a platter, flesh-side up. Top with a little more butter.

Serve with mushroom stuffed artichokes and salad.


“There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?” ~Love Actually

December 23, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This Christmas season seems to have snuck up on me! We had another December celebration that went to the forefront this year, Ali’s graduation from college!

(More on that from a guest post to come…) We ended up with a multi-day celebration in several towns with LOTS of people. We even had a surprise family guest, which is always fun! It seemed like as soon as we had closed up shop on those parties, it was time to prepare for more. It got me thinking about Christmas traditions and how it is the silliest of things that really keeps the tradition alive. We have a couple of funny ones: first, since we were usually traveling for the holidays, we never really got into heaping presents under the tree. But out of that came a funny tradition of shopping for stocking stuff (usually including the toothbrush, razor, etc that we forgot to bring along) all together somewhere like the drugstore. It became this silly thing that I still love to do. It was a great time for family bonding and silly little jokes. Another tradition we have always had is Mexican food on Christmas Eve. It used to mean a visit to our family favorite place in LA with lots of people…they were willing to accommodate our party of 20 or so. We have carried on this tradition here in Colorado, but now it means we cook. On the menu this year is ground beef, shrimp, and grilled veggie tacos, black beans, and all the fixins. It is always a good time and has become a great gathering of some of our favorite friends!

I love that these traditions keep great memories of family and friends alive each year. We are also forming some new traditions that promise to stick around for years to come. What kinds of traditions are you keeping alive this year?


December 9, 2012


I am not Jewish but I was inspired to make challah today. Maybe it was the start of Chanukah? Maybe it was our party coming up on Saturday? I first made challah when I was probably 16 and made it for a family event. One thing about challah is that is one of the easiest breads you will ever make and it looks the most impressive. I hadn’t made it in 30 years until today , and poof! It came out perfect! I am thinking of putting it in a basket with rolls next to our smoked pork and beef for next weekend’s graduation party. Stay tuned!


From The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Canada, UK), by Peter Reinhart.


4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached bread flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (.25 ounce) salt
1-1/3 teaspoons (.15 ounce) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) vegetable oil
2 large (3.3 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
2 large (1.25 ounces) egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp to 1-1/8 cups (7 to 9 ounces) water, at room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish


Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should register approximately 80°F (27°C).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1-1/2 times its original size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves. (Or, for a celebration challah, divide it into 3 equal pieces and combine 2 of those pieces and form them into 1 large dough. Take this larger piece and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take the smaller dough and divide it into 3 pieces as well; in the end, you will have 3 large pieces and 3 small pieces.) Regardless of the size of the loaves you decide to make, form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them using the 3-braid method shown. (If making the celebration challah, lay the smaller braid on top of the larger braid, gently pressing the smaller braid onto the larger to adhere.) Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaf or loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag.


Proof at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown to 1-1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) (325°F (160°C) for the celebration challah) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash.

Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190°F (88°C) in the center.

When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Yield: Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 1 large double-braided celebration loaf

%d bloggers like this: