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Hi and welcome to Love and Bistros! A place to write about baking, travel, and living healthy. I have a major sweet tooth but I attempt to stay healthy in between desserts!
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The wind brought me books!

Healthy Dinner Tonight: Grilled Asparagus with Faux Grilled Chicken Parmesan

Vancouver was wind-swept today – literally. The wind overtook us all, ruined our hair, pulled leaves off the trees and made mini-tornadoes out of strewn about garbage. It’s the kind of day that makes you just want to find a little cozy spot and read books all day, and lucky for me, my books came in today!

I had a gift certificate to Chapters and I had noticed recently that purchasing the books online SAVES you money. Seriously, in the store the book was $49.95, yet online it was 30% off PLUS another 10% with my membership discount. How does this make sense? Why would I even go to the store to buy anything anymore? Anyway…

As an avid Sex & The City fan I of course had to get my hands on The Carrie Diaries, which I am eager to crack open today! It is a ‘young adult’ book, based on Carrie Bradshaw’s life before Manhattan, but never mind all that! I’m going to love it, I’m sure. I also purchased Woman, Work & The Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano, which is a French woman’s perspective on business – she also wrote the books about French women not getting fat so I’m eagerly looking forward to reading this book as well! A cook book that I am REALLY eager to cook out of? Eat What You Love by Marlene Koch, 300 recipes that are made HEALTHY – each recipe gives you the nutritional information and has delicious desserts (made with Splenda) including a to-die-for looking chocolate cake, plus it has healthy Buffalo Chicken Strips complete with a Blue Cheese dip that I am so looking forward to trying. 190 calories per serving. Is this a joke? I am so excited!

In between all of this reading comes a lot of studying – I’m finishing up my real estate license and am writing the exam in a couple of weeks – wish me luck! I’ll be busy doing all this but I’ve got some great posts lined up and I hope I can come back here on May 20th and tell you that I’m a real estate agent! Stay tuned!

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The “Ones That Made Me Cheat” Cookie Recipe

The Ones That Made Me Cheat

This is my go-to chocolate chip recipe, I’ve had it for years and I had written it down from a magazine years ago. Since then it’s been rewritten, changed a little bit and it’s also very versatile. You can substitute white sugar for the brown sugar, omit the cocoa completely or add more, and of course the chocolate chips can be switched up for white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, M&M’s, or whatever else you have on hand. I’ve even made them with chunks of semi-sweet chocolate before.

Want to know a secret? I used to SUCK at making these. I sucked at making ALL cookies. Why? Because I was always worried about how DONE they were. I would feel them at the time they were supposed to come out, and I’d be afraid that they were too soft or too light coloured, and then I’d end up burning them. Even Pillsbury dough cookies. Ask my sister. We screwed up SO many cookies back in the day.

And then I realised that the trick isn’t in checking ‘how done’ the cookies are, it’s just trusting your instincts, and pulling it out at the time and not feeling them or looking at them until they’ve cooled down. Otherwise you’re just asking for disaster. Follow the times and you’ll be fine!

The Ingredients

Those are the lovely and scrumptious ingredients! I pre-heated the oven to 190°C / 375°F and prepped my baking sheet – which to me means placing a sheet of parchment paper on it and being done with it. To some it might mean buttering up a baking sheet or spraying it with baking spray – whatever floats your boat!

The Dry Ingredients

Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix it with a whisk. Sometimes, when I’m feeling like a perfectionista, I sift the dry ingredients first, but whisking usually does the trick in order to remove any clumps found in the flour or the cocoa.

The Mixed Dry Ingredients

In a seperate and larger bowl, place the room temperature butter and brown sugar together. Forgot to take out the butter? Zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds at a time until it’s soft but not melted. You want it to have an easily spread consistency, like room temperature. 5 Second at a TIME. That’s it. Keep checking it.

Brown Sugar & Room Temperature Butter; Ready to be CREAMED!

I used a hand-held mixer, you can use a stand mixer or even do it all by hand! Just make sure it is a smooth consistency, creamy with no chunks of butter or sugar.

Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed mixture.

Add the egg and the vanilla, and then mix until there’s no trace of egg left and it looks like one delicious, creamy mixture. Then, add the flour mixture a third at a time, adding more when it’s just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, then look at the yummy chocolatey cookie dough goodness!

Mmmm, cookie dough! Just eat it like this!

Eat it like that… or add the chocolate chips in and mix it all with a wooden spoon!

Mmm, chocolate chips! Now mix, mix, mix!

Now, once it’s all mixed together, you can go ahead with baking it…. OR you can put it in the fridge and let the batter cool for a bit. I usually do this because I find my cookies bake a little better and the batter is easier to handle when it’s cooler. It also gives me time to run to the grocery store and pick up the parchment paper I just ran out of…

Scoop balls of the dough out of the bowl using a tablespoon, then roll it up like a ball, press it down into the baking sheet. The first batch (in the picture) I didn’t press it down enough, which resulted in thicker cookies. I find this batter doesn’t expand too much, so if you prefer a thinner cookie, press it down more!

Cookies! Flatten even more for thinner, wider cookies!

I bake mine exactly for 12 minutes – this gives me the chewy consistency that I LOVE! I love a soft cookie! If you prefer a bit more crispy, bake up to 15 minutes. And voila!

Cookies!

Let them cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, and then place them on a cooling rack for as long as you can resist them!

Today I came out with 18 cookies, but usually I make smaller cookies and come out with about 24 or so – Princess prefers smaller cookies! I like mine bigger! I leave a few of these cookies out and then freeze the rest – it’s the only way I won’t eat them all!

Delicious, Scrumptious Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
16 – 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of milk chocolate chips

Method

1 Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F. Prepare baking sheet.

2 In a bowl mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt with a whisk.

3 In a seperate and larger bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth, about 2 – 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

4 Add the flour 1/3 at a time, beating until just combined each time. Stir in the chocolate chips.

5 Using a tablespoon, scoop out a ball of the dough, shaping it in your hand and dropping it on the baking sheet. Press down to flatten the ball and leave some room between the cookies to allow for expansion.

6 Bake cookies for 12 – 15 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you prefer them. Cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet and then place on cooling rack. Eat!

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Diet Tips & Plans & un peu de chocolat

Dinner Tonight: Shrimp & Salad

Once you get used to dieting, ie. eating less, small portions, healthy foods, something that took me about two weeks, you start noticing some changes. I told you how I cheated, and soon I’ll be sharing my go-to cookie recipe (I promise!), but I didn’t tell you how I felt off-kilter afterwards, like I had just injected liquid sugar straight into my veins, a hyper feeling that lasted all of 10 minutes and then I crashed. I felt cranky and tired and like I needed another cookie or else I would die. But I stopped myself.

I’m starting to incorporate excercise into my life now, baby step by baby step, working up towards my goal of 45 minutes straight cardio – something I immensely hate doing – and my current max time is 20 minutes… But you know what? It feels good to push myself like this – I have more energy, I can feel my muscles working, I feel stronger! I feel proud.

I was scared when I cheated, my thoughts turned into self-depreciating ones and I thought I would quit my diet right then and there. I thought, what does it matter anyway? I lost 13 pounds, who needs more? Well, I certainly do. I’m almost halfway to my goal weight and I have another 17 pounds or so to lose – and I now know more than ever that I will accomplish it.

I’ve had a few emails asking what my daily food intake consists of, and I’ll share with you this:

I get two servings of protein (about 100 g each), two servings of vegetables (200 g each), two servings of fruit (varies), and two servings of bread (1 slice of bread is two servings. I usually go for a wrap to make it filling!).

A typical day looks like this:

Breakfast – Apple or Mixed Berries & Tea

Lunch – Tuna Melt Wrap, Turkey Wrap, Egg White Omelette & Salad

Dinner – Protein (Chicken, Fish, Tofu) & Veggies (steamed, stir-fried, roasted)

There are no snacks in between. Dessert? Apple sauce or a fruit. Salmon and beef can be eaten once a week. It’s intense. It’s difficult – at first – but then you get used to eating less and now I get filled up halfway through my meal. Of course I need to drink 10 – 12 glasses of water daily as well and my tea intake usually accounts for half.

This is just my personal experience and I don’t want you to try this, get discouraged or in any way do something dangerous to your health – check with a doctor, don’t starve yourself! You know what’s right for yourself. I was about 30 – 40 pounds overweight when I started, and I’m looking forward to reaching my goal.

Of course, the only way to keep myself sane is to sneak in a piece of chocolate or a cookie every now and again. Just don’t tell my boyfriend!

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Diet thoughts.

There is nothing that I love more than the sound of a dishwasher running and the kitchen clean after a yummy meal. Our dinner was a simple grilled chicken tossed with stir-fry vegetables (the frozen kind that come in a bag, yet are surprisingly very delicious!) – so it was simple but filling. Dieting has taken its toll on me – I’m a major suck when it comes to putting myself through any ‘hardship’ – and I have cheated this week. I ate a few cookies. And then a few chocolate chips. And then I stopped.

I took a seat and pulled out my Moleskine ‘Wellness & Health’ Journal and reassessed my goals. I looked at where I want to be, where I was and where I am now. I’m almost halfway to my goal, and I realised it would just be silly to ruin it all for ‘a moment on the lips’ which turns into a ‘pound on the hips’. I sighed and got over myself.

I wrote out my goals.

And I read them.

My first goal is to go through all my cookbooks – before I purchase yet another one! – and mark all the recipes I want to make and start making them. For now Princess will be my guinea pig in trying out these new foods and once I hit my goal weight, I’ll be able to enjoy them too – properly portioned and within mealtimes, of course.

Re-teaching yourself how to eat again takes time and patience, and I know I’ll get there soon.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share with you my favourite cookie recipe (the one that made me cheat!).

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Dreaming of Playa del Carmen

The Mayan Riviera

On every trip there are only a few things that truly transcend into memory for years to come – and they usually fall into two categories: things we did and things we ate. With the Mayan Riviera I remember climbing a pyramid ruin in the jungles, I remember going to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, and I remember the intense ferry ride to Cozumel where I was sure we would die (rainstorms created monsoon-like waves and people were vomiting due to the rockiness of the boat).

My favourite memory of the Mayan is a night spent in Playa Del Carmen, the center of the Riviera and packed with shops, restaurants and nightclubs.

While staying at a nearby resort, we signed up to go on a ‘booze cruise’. Basically, a group of people from the resort all went into town, first stopping at one bar, then going dancing until the late, late hours, until you were to collapse in a heap and go to sleep. Mister & I are not ones to go along with convention, therefore showed up late at the first bar and didn’t leave with the group  to go back to the resort at the end of the night, instead, finding our own way back.

Our first stop was Senor Frogs, a cheesy but ultimately fun destination for vacationers – all booze and dancing and tons of silly fun. It was the first (and last) time that I stood in line waiting for a cute Mexican boy to pour tequila down my throat straight from the bottle. Once we were all very clearly boozed up, the booze cruise took us to a dance club.

A dance club to me meant that one had to be scantily clad with Euro music blasting deep bass and dancing on top of speakers until 4 am. This dance club was a Latin dance club – everyone was scantily clad and everyone knew how to dance in ways I had only previously seen on tv. Their feet were flying, everyone was moving differently but all in sync and no one bumped into each other once – it was very sexy… until Mister & I made it out on the dance floor, that is. A man attempted to teach me to dance, trying to lead me (which is a sport unto itself), while a woman tried to take Mister out for a twirl – after a minute or two it was clear that we were not adept to this style of dance and instead danced to our own rhythm – we were good dancers in our own right, we just couldn’t salsa for the life of us!

After a few too many drinks – sangria, tequila, cerveza – we stumbled out of the sweaty club and into the cool night air. Losing our ‘tour guides’ once again – I use the term loosely as there was really no tour and the guides were there merely to ensure that nothing overly horrible happened to us – we saw a little place opened across the street with a small crowd gathered in front – food!

Tipsy, giggling and feeling my hair getting frizzier by the minute in the humid night air, I watched as a man was putting together sandwiches on a large grill. He would plop down chicken, bacon, and pork, mash some avocado, throw on tomato, onion, mayo and smoosh it all onto a crusty bun – and it was absolutely divine. It was the best thing I had ever tasted in terms of fast food – $3 and you were full and it was delicious.

The cab ride back to the resort was quiet, as is usual with an exciting night out on the town. My head resting on Mister’s shoulder, eyes beginning to close but catching myself to make sure  the driver wouldn’t miss any turns on the way back…. and suddenly I realise it’s morning, and I’m in bed next to Mister and I’m so happy, the way I always am after an amazing night.

*********************

These days are grey lately – the rain covers everything in a thickness that you can cut with a knife, it seems. But when a sliver of light peeks through, teasing you with hopes of summer, I sometimes pretend I’m waking up on that morning in Mexico. I want to feel the heat of the sun on my skin, walking through Playa seeking out a salsa club, and when I find it, I’ll turn around, cross the street and sink my teeth into the most delicious sandwich I’ll have in years to come. One can dream…

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