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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Just in Time for Fall's my most favorite time of year.  Fall.  Today the humidity finally broke and we woke up to a perfectly tempered (almost fall) day.  It's a Sunday and I've been eying these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins that I came across on Pinterest.  I wanted to be PointsPlus conscious, so I instead decided to track down a Weight Watchers recipe.  I found Grandma's Pumpkin Muffins, which looked to be more along the lines of what I was willing to 'spend' on my points.  It had everything I was looking for in terms of the pumpkin puree and spices, and it uses apple sauce instead of butter...even better.

I love baking and then I love eating what I bake.  Many times I eat too much I what I make, which is why I rely on Weight Watchers to help me track all of the good stuff I eat.

Apple Pumpkin Orange Zest Muffins

Here's the recipe:

1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup apple sauce
4 egg whites
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup skim milk
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup quick oats
1 apple chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  I didn't have muffin liners, so I cut up natural parchment paper.  I love the look of's so rustic.  Everything looks more appetizing.  It makes so-so looking muffins look beautiful.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  For the cloves, I did not have ground, so I put them in a pepper grinder and went from there.  Combine eggs, apple sauce, skim milk and orange zest in a separate bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.  Combine wet and dry ingredients.  I put all into the kitchen aid and used the paddle attachment.  At the end I added the apple and the oats.  Fold 'em right in there. 

You see this parchment paper I'm using here.  If you've never used this method before, don't worry.  Just push them down all the way into the tin.  I used 1/4 cup measuring cup and put that much batter into each tin.  Gravity will draw the mix into the tin further.  You'll see in the pictures below, that this batch makes almost 24 muffins.  The next batch I did not use the parchment paper because I wanted a variety.  NOTE:  If you use parchment, make sure the muffins are completely cooled before you pull it off.  

Bake for about 15 to 22 minutes depending on your oven. 

If you are doing Weight Watchers the points conversion for these babies are 2 points at 22 to 24 muffins per batch.  Not bad! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some scones on a weekend morn

Here are some Cranberry Lemon Zest Scones.  I love to bake scones.  They are so simple and such a great way to make company and/or my husband feel like we're celebrating something a Sunday morning!  Nothing better than that.

This is a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  Scones are also great because you can use any ingredients and make them what you want.  They don't have to be cranberry or lemon...they can be currants or blueberries or you can go the savory route with scallions and cheddar cheese - it's your fancy.  My other favorite is dark chocolate and orange zest...mmmmmm.  So good.  I made them recently but I didn't get pictures we just couldn't wait to get them in our mouths. If you want this recipe for Dark Chocolate and Orange Zest Scones go here to Joy the Baker. 

This recipe makes 6 larger scones or  8 to 10 smaller scones.

Use 1 3/4 cups of flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter (cold and cut into cubes)
2/3 cup of dried cranberries
2 teaspoons of lemon (or orange) zest
1 egg (or two egg whites)
1/2 cup of buttermilk (good tip: make your own buttermilk - 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let it settle for about 5 minutes giving it a good stir)

First things first.  Get your oven ready.  Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven and set it to 425 degrees.  Line a rimless baking sheet with some parchment paper (if you don't have some...get it because it's a baking dream).  

Mix the dough.  Get a large bowl and combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Next, take your butter fresh out of the fridge (it has to be cold) and cut it into cubes.  It doesn't have to be perfect, just cut into smaller chunks really.  Add to the dry ingredients. 

Then add the cranberries and zest to the bowl. 

Whisk together the egg and the buttermilk until well blended.  Add this to the bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients and butter. 

Use a spatula or wooden spoon to combine everything together and you'll come up with this ball of yummy looking dough. 

You of course, should get some flour on whatever surface you are using. 

Ball up the dough on the floured surface and press together gently into a circle of about 8 inches in diameter.  Get a sharp knife (use some flour on the knife) and cut into pieces as you wish.

Before I put the scones in the oven, I usually sprinkle some sugar over the top.  This provides a little but of a sugary crust when they come out of the oven.  Good idea.

Bake them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake until scones are golden brown (about 15 to 17 minutes depending on your oven).  It doesn't hurt to put the timer on for 12 minutes and just check them out.  There is nothing worse than burnt scones!  

After they are done, put them on a wire rack to let them cool slightly (but not fully!).  Serve warm with butter and jam!  Delish.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recently, we went to Ireland

Our anniversary was in early January.  This year we decided to go to Ireland.  Dave and I love to travel and have been wanting to get to Ireland for some time now.  There is no better excuse to travel than to celebrate an our heads anyway.  There always needs to be some sort of a justification.  This was no sit down and relax type of vacation.  It was a get in the car and figure out where we're going vacation.  There are pros and cons to this variety of vacationing.  Like I said, there's less time for relaxation.  When you take on a majority of a whole country within a week, there's a good amount of room for things like stress, frustration, and wondering why on earth you decided to take this on.  Nothing's as perfect as it seems.  I love inviting these little challenges into my life, mostly because the outcomes end up being really positive.  And luckily, Dave and I travel pretty well together.

Traveling together like this really allows a couple to get some things off your chest.  Some of our conversations went like this.  Dave to Julia: "You overbook yourself and thereby overbook us and then we don't have enough time to spend just with each other".  Julia:  "That makes sense.  A lot of sense.  I'll try better to not plan so much for us."  Dave to Julia:  "Sometimes you are a freight train coming through".  This is reminiscent of our life at home.  And then, Dave continues on with a sound effect...of a train coming through and then continuing on into the distance.  Just imagine it.  This was a mainstay throughout our trip.  You'll see the picture of 'Beware of Trains' below taken on our Guinness tour.  We laughed so hard about this and will probably laugh about this for a very long time.  It's a reminder to me that Dave knows me very well and we can laugh at what pisses us off about each other.

A ridiculously large part of our trip was eating and drinking. This may come as a shock to everyone...but the food in Ireland was some of the best I've ever had.  And I've been places.  We're talking the bread, the soup, the sandwiches, the tea, the sugar, the lamb stew, the butter, the eggs, the blood pudding, the oysters (that you will see in a below picture), and please don't forget the Guinness and the Jameson.  Do others go on a purely food and drink centered vacation?  Is this normal?  I think it is.  I had worked really hard to lose weight over the holidays (which I was able to do, fortunately) only to gorge myself on foreign fare.  So worth it.  Every pound I gained, and did I gain.  But now I'm able to come home to the US and shatter Irish food stereotypes, which is very important to me.  But now I am back in full force with my WW. 

Oh, I should mention that my mom's side is from Ireland.  My great grandmother and her sisters left from Cobh, Ireland from the very spot where Dave and I stood less than a month ago.  A real disappointment was that the Heritage Center was closed that day (obviously) and I wasn't able to look up Katherine Lavin.  That was the ultimate bummer because it was a huge part of why I was so excited to get to Cobh.  Se la vie. 

So, below are some pictures of our trip, in no particular order.  And some are just pure random, but I love them.  I probably have a lot more to say, but I have a life you know. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My boss told me to 'not' get myself bogged down

Well...this is interesting.  My boss, whom I have a really good working relationship with, told me not to get bogged down with all of the 'things' I have going on.  That's not easy for me - to not get bogged down, that is.  It's a vicious cycle that I get myself into.  I seem to have some extra time at work (I work at a University thus semesters, semester breaks, etc.) and then I load on all of these awesome, fantastic events and programs that involve faculty, staff, students, and community partners...oh my gosh I love it.  And everything sounds like so much fun and more importantly BENEFICIAL to the campus, the students, and the surrounding community that I just figure out a way to get it done.  It doesn't matter how much time and energy it takes out of me - I can handle it.

Also, I've been waiting to hear for almost three years (yes, three years) about my job and it's ability to become a permanent position with benefits, like health, 401k, vacation, sick, life insurance, and whatever else comes in a benefits package.  It's been so long since I had one I can't remember really what makes up such a thing.  Anyway, the University decided that my position was worthy of a permanent position status...not just contract, and so I applied back in early September.  It's a competitive process even though I've created the position, the office, the program(s), the relationships and everything else that comes with what I do.  In all honesty, I really like the fact that it's a competitive process because I can fight for what I have worked so hard to accomplish for the University.  And this way, I know whether I truly deserve it.  It's do or die.  Love me or let me go type of situation.  Stop draggin' my heart around thing.  That's a song.  I find out today that I've been selected for an interview.  Three other people were selected.  I chose the final time slot for the day; hopefully this decision was strategically sound.  

Time to go and do my 10 Minute Trainer workout.  And then figure out what to have for dinner.  And then figure out if we should take Sadie Girl out for a walk (it's been too cold even for her lab paws).  And then I need to sit on the couch.  Oh, and I was supposed to go to an Annual Meeting tonight for a fabulous non-profit that shall remain nameless, but in my quest for balance I said, NO. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

What does it all mean?

I'm not really trying to wax poetic or philosophical here, but really what does it mean?  My blog title, that is.  Am I really an 'over-achiever'?  Well, maybe in some regards but certainly not always.  What's an over-achiever anyway?  That's a subjective type of word.  This blog is really going to be about me; the constant mover and shaker trying to make some sense of how and why I go about doing these things that I do.  Hopefully some of it will be relatively amusing or enlightening to those who peruse these pages.  You'll see a lot about my journey with Weight Watchers...I know it sounds kind of annoying, but it's a big part of my life.  So if you want to read this, you'll just have to deal.  You might actually learn never know.

I've been thinking about doing some sort of blogging for some time, and now here we are.  This will be a good way for me to get this stuff off my chest.  I used to keep a journal religiously and now is it because I am 'old' that I just don't find the time?   I mean, since I met my husband I just haven't really made that time on a regular basis.  When I write in my journal my entries start out like, 'well, it's been a year since I last wrote and this is what has happened'.  And then 20 pages later I am done recapping the year.  It's like I threw up my year all over those pages in an attempt to leave some sort of trace of myself after I'm gone.  Oh jeez...that's not waxing philosophical at all. 

I'm in my early thirties and have to say that I was not sad in the least to rid myself of that twenties era.  I started Weight Watchers in June of 2007.  I was 28 at the time and was getting ready for my wedding.  How excruciating it was to look for a bridal gown.  In my head I thought I was looking pretty good...and then the search for the bridal gown was on.  I realized quickly how painful this process was going to be.  I hated it immediately and wanted it to end.  Fortunately, I found my gown and then came the measurements.  I think it ended up being a 20 or a 22 wedding gown.  Oh.My.God.

I kinda wanted to die as this little twig was measuring me.  This adorable, just as cute as a button, blond haired, little thing was trying to get her tiny little arms around my massive chest.  That was a pretty good wake up call.  I've had them before, like at the doctors office when she weighed me in at 195...holy cow.  I quickly got myself into my gym's Biggest Loser Challenge and won it...yes, I am that good when I put my mind to it.  Well, then I gained it all back and before you know it I'm in the dressing room with blondie and she's saying that we're ordering a dress with a 2 at the beginning of the size. 

So that's when I decided to check out this thing called Weight Watchers and it literally changed my life.  I lost 30 pounds for my wedding in January and continued to lose 7 more after the wedding and then barely recognized myself once June and July rolled around.  I made lifetime that summer and since have been navigating the turbulent waters of it.  It is a constant thought process and don't let anyone tell you differently.  I am a somewhat reasonable person and anyone who has been in weight watchers longer than a couple of years and tells you it's no big deal to maintain is straight up lying. 

So that's where I am now, clawing my way back down to 160.  I got there the first time with no problem.  Why am I having so much trouble getting there again?  That's what I am here to find out.  I juggle a full time job, a house, a wonderful, loving and supportive husband, my chocolate dog Sadie, and a family for whom I love, but seem to be at my 'doorstep' constantly (I like them there), working out, being with friends, and other things like boards of directors, community relationships, cooking, baking, reading, and whatever else my a.d.d. mind decides it wants to do.  Oh, cleaning is on there too, somewhere.  I'll be posting things about what I cook, bake, make, create, design, eat, etc, etc, etc. 

I can feel that this is going to be a good thing for you and me.  Please feel free to leave comments about whatever.  Thanks for reading and I look forward to posting again soon.