Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wen Haircare

I have fallen in love with a new haircare product and I want to share it with the world.

The description from their site about this product: 
"WEN® Cleansing Conditioner is a revolutionary new concept in hair care. A 5-in-1 formula, this one product takes the place of your shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler and leave-in conditioner. It cleanses hair thoroughly but without lathering and all the harsh ingredients that may be found in ordinary shampoos—it is designed so it won't strip your hair and scalp of their natural oils. Your hair is left with sheen, moisture, manageability and better color retention."

No longer will you be buying two separate products (shampoo and conditioner) to manage your haircare.  With Wen, you just use one cleansing conditioner to both cleanse and moisturize your hair, without stripping your hair's oils or adding unnecessary soap scum buildup.

I have gotten a new hair treatment to deep condition and straighten my hair called Thermafuse Amino Acid Infusion (which I LOVE btw).  Instead of Keratin, which leaves your hair straight but limp and lifeless, Thermafuse allows your hair to have body and curl if you so desire, and has no Formaldehyde in the process.  You do have to use a Sulfate-free shampoo product, and so I tried the Keratin shampoo and conditioner.  The Keratin shampoo and conditioner basically destroyed my scalp and left it more flaky and itchy than ever.  Enter: Wen.

My salon recommended Wen as a natural product that won't dry out my scalp, is Sulfate-free and also highly conditioning, which my hair needs all the time due to curly frizz.  After trying Wen Sweet Almond Mint cleansing conditioner for 30 days, I have to say, I won't be using any other product for a long, long time.  Highly recommended!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cheesecake Factory's Chicken Madeira at Home

One of my favorite gluttonous meals is the amazing chicken madeira from the Chee$ecake Factory.  The problem with going there is 1) the cheesecake temptation, 2) the 1650 calories for their plate of madeira, and 3) the COST.  I mean really, $17.95 for the meal that is a LOT of money for one person at a not-so-fancy restaurant in the mall.  I get frustrated when restaurants overstuff the portions and then are forced to charge double what they should have to due to the large portions.  Half order for half the cost please!

So it turns out that this recipe is SO easy to do at home, and soooo super heartwarming and light at the same time, which is hard to achieve!

Recipe time:

Chicken Madeira

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 asparagus spears
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella cheese

Madeira Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
3 cups Madeira wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch


1.  Cover chicken breast with plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thick.
2.  Sprinkle each filet with salt and pepper.
3.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in frying pan over medium-high heat.
4.  Saute fillets 4-6 minutes per side until done and browned just a bit.
5.  Remove from pan and wrap in foil to keep warm while you make the sauce.

6.  In chicken pan add olive oil and sliced mushrooms; saute for about 2 minutes.
7.  Add Madeira wine, beef stock, butter, and pepper.
8.  Mix a tablespoon of madeira wine and the tablespoon of cornstarch until smooth.
9.  Bring to boil then reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes until reduced to about 1/4 original volume. When sauce is done it will be thick, and brown.

10.   While sauce is reducing, steam asparagus spears and when soft, run them under cold water to stop cooking process.

11.  Set oven to broil.
12.  In baking dish arrange chicken, cross 2 asparagus stems over each piece of chicken and top with a slice of cheese.
13.  Broil until cheese melts.


To serve, plate broiled chicken and top with 3-4 tablespoons sauce on each piece of chicken.  Spoon some sauce on a scoop of some of your favorite mashed potato recipe.

Enjoy your family's OOOH's and AAAHH's as you sit back and smile.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, my latest and greatest Bucky Ball creation:

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Peanut Butter Granola Apples

I have a new addiction, and it is called Peanut Butter Granola Apples.  

I found the recipe from a wonderful blog called Eat Yourself Skinny which you should all check out for nommy healthy recipes of all shapes and flavors.  Of course I had to play with the recipe just a bit, but mostly it's the same.  I lowered the calorie count on it by using the Splenda Brown Sugar Blend instead of plain brown sugar, added a bit of vanilla by using Nielsen-Massey's Vanilla Bean Paste, and after tasting, discovered I MUST use a Fuji apple instead of her suggested Granny Smith apple.  It's got to be my perpetual sweet tooth causing me to crave more sugar.  I also decided it's much easier to cut 8 apple wedges using my apple slicer instead of rings which would leave me with bloody stumps for fingers.

Peanut Butter Granola Apples

1 Fuji apple (for sweetness)
1/4 cup Pecan Vanilla Granola (recipe below)
1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp. Clover Honey

  1. Slice the apple into 8 wedges.
  2. Mix the peanut butter and honey until well combined.
  3. Spread peanut butter honey blend on both sides of each apple wedge.
  4. Dip both sides in the granola mix.

Pecan Vanilla Granola

2 Tbsp. Splenda brown sugar blend
1 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. canola oil
1/2 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/8 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Cooking spray 

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  
  2. Combine Spenda and 1 Tbsp of water in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  
  3. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until Splenda is dissolved.  
  4. Stir in oil, cinnamon and vanilla paste.  
  5. Add oats and pecans, stirring until coated and you see little bunches of granola sticking together.
  6. Spread oat mixture on a rimmed baking tray coated with cooking spray. 
  7. Bake at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring twice.  
  8. Spread mixture in a single layer on wax paper to cool completely.  
  9. Store in an airtight container. 

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Monday, July 9, 2012

NYC Pizza In Your Own Home!

NYC Pizza

Life has been a bit hectic of late, so I apologize profusely for the huge length of time between posts.  Here is the ever promised NYC pizza in your own home- You'll never go back to your local pizza joint because this is just too easy and yummy not to make yourself.

First we should discuss tools:

1.  Pizza stone
2.  Oven hot enough to go to 500 degrees F
3.  Pizza peel
4.  Pizza cutter
5.  Food Processor

Here are my suggestions if you don't know which of the seemingly endless options of the above listed tools:

2. No suggestions here- my apartment came with one and that's all I know

I got all of the above on Amazon and if you have Amazon Prime you get free 2 day shipping!  

OK, now that we got the tools list out of the way, here are some of the important things you need to know about making pizza:

Pizza Dough
You need to have a dough that is stretchy enough not to rip when stretching thin.  It should pass the "Windowpane Test" where you stretch it so thin that you can see through it, and the dough still doesn't tear.  Here is the recipe that I found that works great- it's unique in that it uses a food processor instead of a Kitchen-aid mixer to blend the dough  (**note- you must make this one day in advance so it can rise overnight).

Mozzarella Cheese
Funny enough, using the block of Polly-o that you can find in your local supermarket is the mozzarella of choice.  You should use the block and shred it yourself, as the pre-shredded packages of cheese are laced with desiccant which makes the cheese not melt as nicely.  Using fresh wet mozzarella is yummy, but not in the NYC tradition.  You should use the dry mozzarella instead.  If you prefer your mozzarella a bit more salty, you can use the Trader Joe's brand instead of Polly-o.

Tomato Sauce
The key to good sauce is getting the acidity and sweet balance you prefer.  Everyone has their preferred pizza sauce of choice, and usually it is dependent on these two features of the tomato sauce.  Here is one that is delicious with a hint of spice- Try to get REAL San Marzano canned tomatoes as opposed to "Italian Style" or "San Marzano" tomatoes made in California and not Italy. 

Pizza Assembly
First pre-heat your pizza stone and oven for one hour at 500 degrees F.

To put the pizza together, lightly flour your countertop, and stretch the dough by pushing down on the round disc with your fingertips and gently turning it repeatedly until it is about 6 - 8 inches wide.  You can also hold the disc by the "crust" and let it stretch in the air instead.  Grab the crust, hold it and let the dough hang perpendicular to the counter.  Keep turning the dough and let it hang and stretch for a second or two in the thicker areas.  Also, you can lay the dough disc on your fists and gently stretch and turn.  Once the dough reaches about 12 inches in diameter, it is ready to be sauced and cheesed!

Spoon about 1/2 cup of sauce on the disc, trying to put more to the sides and less in the middle of the pie, as the middle is where the sauce and cheese tend to pool while cooking.

Sprinkle about a cup of shredded dry mozzarella on the pie, again trying to concentrate the cheese on the sides and not so much in the middle.

Put any toppings on you desire.

When the pizza stone is ready after one hour, turn the oven down to 450 degrees F.  

Use the pizza peel to scoop your raw pizza off the counter and put it on the stone.  If you are using the pizza peel I recommended above, this will be a breeze once you get the hang of it.  The trick is to push the peel under the pizza with a forward motion as you pull the cloth towards you.  Here is a great video from their site on how to do it:

Cook the pizza for 12 minutes at 450 degrees F.  

When the crust is golden brown, remove the pizza using the same pizza peel but WITHOUT the cloth!

Cut and enjoy!  Notice the crust is super thin, and the crust bends in half without cracking in the middle like a true NYC pizza slice should.  

If you like white pizza (no red sauce and lots of garlic and ricotta), continue on!  I have a GREAT white pizza recipe below.

White Pizza

1/3 of a dough recipe from above
6 teaspoons of seasoned ricotta (recipe below)
8 oz fresh wet mozzarella
4 cloves minced garlic
1/8 cup olive oil
1.5 teaspoons chopped basil
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

You will need to make the dough the exactly same way as above, but you don't need any tomato sauce.  You should preheat the oven for an hour at 500 degrees F just like the regular NYC pizza.

Brush about 1/8 cup of olive oil on the stretched dough disc.  Put two minced garlic cloves on the pie.  Then spoon a teaspoon of fresh diced basil (I use the jarred kind that is in liquid for ease and it works great).  Then place FRESH WET mozzarella discs on the pie.  Spoon about 5 teaspoons of some seasoned ricotta (recipe below) in a circle and then one in the middle of the pie for a total of 6 teaspoons.  Put another teaspoon of minced garlic (another 1-2 minced cloves), some more basil (about 1/2 tsp) and some freshly ground black pepper (about 1/8 tsp).  Sprinkle about a teaspoon of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top and then in the oven it goes at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes.

Cut and enjoy!

Seasoned Ricotta:

Mix 8 oz of fresh ricotta with 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper, a 1/4 tsp salt,  a teaspoon of minced garlic (2 cloves) and a 1/2 teaspoon chopped basil.  Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

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