I Suck at Grilling

A few days ago, I attempted to grill two pieces of salmon on the grill top my mom gave me. I thought it seemed as simple as creating a marinade, glazing the salmon and popping on the grill. However, my fish came out tough and tasting like a foot. A very fishy foot.

None the less, I’m far from giving up on mastering the art of cooking fish. It’s the only option I have to offer Alex and let’s face it, it’s delicious.

Jimmy John's Alex

So, while leafing through my recent copy of Cooking Light, I came across a seemingly easy dinner idea. Let me know what you think!

Pan-Seared Halibut with Bell Pepper Relish

Photo: John Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr and Leigh Ann Ross
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped plum tomato
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. 1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 1/4 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle halibut evenly with salt and black pepper. Add fish to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Carefully remove fish from pan, and keep warm.
  2. 2. Add remaining 2 1/4 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add bell pepper and next 3 ingredients (through paprika); sauté 3 minutes or until bell pepper is tender. Stir in parsley. Serve relish with fish.

Maureen Callahan, Cooking Light


My Healthy Tip of the Day: In spirit of New Year’s Eve, here are six tips to keeping your resolution:

1. Focus on positive self-talk. Congratulate yourself every time you take a step towards your resolution goal. Be your own best cheerleader.
2. Avoid berating yourself if you should fall back or break a resolution. Just brush yourself off and start over again.
3. Stick to your resolution by considering it a promise to yourself, not a test of your willpower.
4. Avoid situations that put you in temptation’s path, meaning if you’re on a diet, don’t go to the ice cream parlor.
5. Keep a sticky note in a prominent place so that you see it every day, reminding yourself of your resolutions. (i.e., on your bathroom mirror, next to your bed, on the visor of your car, on the refrigerator)
6. Be realistic. Make sure your plan is a realistic one that can fit into your lifestyle. Will you really have the energy to go out for that evening exercise class? Make changes as easy and convenient as possible.

Christmas Manicotti

This holiday weekend feels like such a blur! I literally felt like I was just wrapping gifts yesterday. I guess that’s how Christmas is every year. Anyway, on Saturday before heading down to my parents’ home, I decided to prepare the manicotti dinner I was planning on baking for my family. I knew I’d have tons of stuff to do while I was down there (cookies, Chex Mix, Puppy Chow, gift baskets) so I wanted to have the dinner ready to go. I decided to use the same recipe as the Italian Sausage Lasagna I make for Alex, but just swapped out the noodles.

Lasagna Alex

Since I don’t eat red meat, I needed to substitute something for myself. I went with spinach, which is always a classic choice. I decided to take the lazy way out and tossed some frozen spinach in a Tupperware container to microwave. (Just add a little water to the bottom of a container and steam any vegetable you want in a matter of minutes!)


After that, it was time to get stuffing. Now if any of you have ever made manicotti before, let me get your address, because I’m sending you a gold star. This process was the most difficult I’ve dealt with in the kitchen in quite some time. (Hence, no photos.) After the first few were stuffed, I started getting the hang of it. Of course this was after I ripped a few open! Once the noodles were stuffed, I put them in a baking dish and layered them with plenty of sauce and cheese.


I wrapped it up in foil and moved on to the pepperoni rolls.


Not without my trusty apron, of course. Thanks Aunt Cindi!


The manicotti was a hit, Christmas was a blast and I couldn’t be happier to get my decorations down for the season. Sorry Christmas, but this year, you just wore me out! If anybody needs me, I’ll be spending the entire day relaxing and reading before I go back to work tomorrow.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

Makes 8 servings

  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 container ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, and extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of onion, diced
  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups of marinara sauce
  1. Cook the sausage, onion and garlic in a skillet.  Cook until sausage is no longer pink.
  2. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, sugar, tomatoes and tomato sauce, breaking up tomatoes. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered about 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. Mix ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and the oregano.
    Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture in ungreased rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Top with 4 noodles. Spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over noodles; spread with 1 cup of the sauce mixture. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 4 noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, 1 cup of the sauce mixture and 2/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  4. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

How was everybody’s Christmas?!

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #1

Hello Dolly Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 cookie sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch morsels
  • 2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper; cut off excess parchment paper around top edge of pan.
  3. Place crumbs in a medium bowl. Drizzle with butter and 1 tablespoon water; toss with a fork until moist. Gently pat mixture into an even layer in pan (do not press firmly). Sprinkle chips and morsels over crumb mixture. Top evenly with coconut and pecans. Drizzle milk evenly over top. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly around edges. Cool completely on wire rack.


They can create a sticky mess in the pan, so it’s crucial to line it with parchment paper. Because the milk needs to seep into the graham cracker crumbs, don’t pack the crumbs too tightly in the bottom of the pan.

Julianna Grimes, Ann Taylor Pittman, Cooking Light


I hope you enjoy these five fabulous Christmas cookie recipes. I know I’ll definitely be recreating some version of these myself!

Christmas Cookie Countdown: #2

Almond Butter Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (about 3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons smooth almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 4 3/4 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


      1. Preheat oven to 350°.
      2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
      3. Place the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until well combined (about 2 minutes). Add 1 teaspoon lemon rind, vanilla extract, and egg yolks; beat until well blended.
      4. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed until well combined. Drop half of the dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and granulated sugar in a small bowl; sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over cookies. Bake at 350° for 6 minutes; flatten cookies with the back of a spatula. Bake an additional 6 minutes. Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and sugar mixture.

      Amount per serving

      • Calories: 104
      • Fat: 3.8g
      • Saturated fat: 1.9g
      • Monounsaturated fat: 1.2g
      • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g
      • Protein: 1.6g
      • Carbohydrate: 16.2g
      • Fiber: 0.5g
      • Cholesterol: 25mg
      • Iron: 0.7mg
      • Sodium: 127mg
      • Calcium: 19mg

      Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, California, Cooking Light

      MAY 2010

      My Time Meltdown

      My time-related mental meltdown started on Wednesday evening when I was waiting in one of the tiny massage therapy rooms at Advantage Health and Wellness. The room I was in was small and didn’t have a window. Instead, a big clock was hanging on the wall in my direct view. The office usually always has ambient music playing (think summer sounds and chimes), but for about 30 seconds, the music had stopped. Now, 30 seconds feels like nothing in a work day, but 30 seconds alone, in a tiny room, with only the sound of the ticking clock, can feel like forever.

      I was staring at the clock, waiting for the music to return, when thoughts of how quickly time disappears started to creep into my head. I kept thinking about how we never get time back and how, no matter how much I wanted, I couldn’t stop that skinny, little hand on the clock from moving forward. Before I knew it, I was in full-blown panic mode. Suddenly I saw my life flashing before my eyes. My inner monologue started spinning out of control.

      “I’m 23. I thought I was just 16. What happened? I’m done with college? I have a real job? Oh my God, I will never again be able to eat Poptarts for breakfast every morning.”

      As I shifted into meltdown mode, my massage therapist walked in, jolting me back to reality. However, 30 minutes later, although with relaxed muscles, I left with the thoughts of that clock creeping back into my head.

      To further confirm my hysteria, this morning I ran across a story on NASA’s homepage that I was surprised I had missed. On Wednesday, NASA published news of the discovery of a rare galaxy dating back 750 million years after the Big Bang created our universe. Bizarro coincidence that I was having these terrifying thoughts the same day this was published.

      The discovery of the galaxy (now referred to as GN-108036) was made with the help of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. GN-108036 is the brightest galaxy found to date and is 12.9 billion light years away.


      “Data from Spitzer and Hubble were used to measure the galaxy’s high star production rate, equivalent to about 100 suns per year. For reference, our Milky Way galaxy is about five times larger and 100 times more massive than GN-108036, but makes roughly 30 times fewer stars per year.”

      We just keep moving further away from the beginning of it all, just like we move further away from our own beginnings. We can’t go back and we can’t change things. This is a nightmare for a type-A personality! So what can I do? Well, nothing. Ok, so maybe not nothing, but I certainly have realized that time is what I make it. I can’t stop it and I can’t change time I’ve already spent. I have to start utilizing the time I have, rather than worry about the time I don’t. I guess I’ll just chalk this up to a Cat Hair in my Coffee moment. Life happens and sometimes you just end up with a whisker in your cup.

      My Healthy Tip of the Day: Worry less.

      Christmas Cookie Countdown: #3

      You won’t find a better treat than biscotti. It may take a while to bake, but it lasts forever. Whip up a batch, put it in a decorative container and you’ve got the perfect Christmas gift.

      Chocolate Chip Biscotti

      Yields: 5 Dozen biscotti
      Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
      Cook Time: 40 min


      • 2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
      • 1 cup(s) sugar
      • 1 teaspoon(s) baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
      • Pinch ground cinnamon
      • 4 tablespoon(s) cold margarine or butter
      • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
      • 6 ounce(s) (1 cup) semisweet-chocolate mini chips
      • 1 cup(s) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
      • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract


      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. With pastry blender or 2 knives used scissor-fashion, cut in margarine until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
      2. Spoon 1 tablespoon beaten eggs into cup; reserve. Add chocolate chips, walnuts, vanilla, and remaining beaten eggs to flour mixture; stir until evenly moistened. With hand, knead mixture a few times in bowl until dough forms.
      3. On floured surface, with floured hands, divide dough into quarters. Shape each quarter into a 9″ by 2″ log. Place logs crosswise, 4 inches apart, on 2 large cookie sheets. With pastry brush, brush tops and sides of logs with reserved egg. Bake logs 25 minutes. Cool logs on cookie sheet on wire rack 10 minutes.
      4. Place 1 log on cutting board. With serrated knife, cut warm log crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. Place slices upright, 1/4 inch apart, on cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining logs. Bake slices 15 minutes to allow biscotti to dry out. Cool completely on sheets on wire racks. (Biscotti will harden as they cool.) Store biscotti in tightly covered container.
      Nutritional Information
      (per serving)


      Total Fat

      Saturated Fat



      Total Carbohydrate

      Dietary Fiber




      Read more: Chocolate Chip Biscotti Recipe – Good Housekeeping

      Christmas Cookie Countdown: Cookie Recipe #4

      Italian Hazelnut Cookies

      • 2 cup(s) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see Tips & Techniques)
      • 1 1/4 cup(s) sugar
      • 4 large egg whites
      • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
      • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract


      1. Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
      2. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl.
      3. Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.
      4. Drop the batter by the tablespoonful 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
      5. Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.

      Tips & Techniques

      Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.


      So maybe these are totally healthy, but the fact that they have so few ingredients makes me very happy!

      Christmas Cookie Countdown

      Desserts are literally flying at me from all directions this week, whether it be at work or at holiday parties. So to combat these flying, fatty fantasticos (I’m reaching), I thought I’d post five healthy cookie recipes for the next five days until Christmas. This will give those of you a good variety to choose from, if you decide to go the healthier route this year. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

      Cookie Recipe #5: Chocolate Bliss Cookies

      Serves: Prep: 20min Cook: 40 min Total: 1 hr 0min


      1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.
      2. In small bowl, sift together cocoa, salt, and 1/4cup of the sugar.
      3. In large bowl, with electric mixer at medium low speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form. Fold in cocoa mixture and vanilla extract.
      4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 1″ apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 25 minutes for soft chewy cookies or 40 minutes for crisp ones. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.

      I thought this recipe would be perfect for the chocolate-lover in your life or great for converting the lemon-lovers. (They’re out there, I swear.) Whip these bad boys up for the family or just to help healthier your own household sweet stash.

      My Healthy Tip of the Day: Don’t cheat. Ever. At anything. Ok, more specifically at the gym. When you shave off those 5 minutes of cool down at the end of your machine workout, or switch to lighter weights because you want to do more reps, you’re only hurting your own results. Seriously, just finish the 12 reps and be done with it. Nobody will be wowed by an 8 minute gym trip.


      This tip was not Karen-approved. She’s a life-long advocate for the Lazy Bum-Bums Club.

      Christmas Tradition

      After I left home, I decided I needed to start my own tradition around the holidays. I knew I’d always have the tradition of going home for the holidays and opening one gift on Christmas Eve, but I wanted something small that was just for me. So I took the traditional Chinese food on Christmas Day and decided to merge it with my usual holiday shopping trip.


      I headed to the mall today for my final shopping round-up and then headed to The Peking House to pick up some vegetables in garlic sauce and spring rolls (which were conveniently forgotten). As my tradition goes, the only way to eat the Chinese food is if I watch a Christmas movie along with it. My choice tonight: The Family Stone. This movie is hilarious, but incredibly sad. It’s about this totally crazy family who have trouble welcoming the neurotic girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) of one of their own into the house. The cast is perfect and the setting is snowwy and cozy, which I think we could certainly use a little of this holiday season. Anyway, I highly recommend this movie, but keep a tissue nearby if you get emotional during sad movies.

      After the movie, I got busy in the kitchen and whipped up some cake cookies with a butter pecan cake mix.


      I thought this would be a good fit for the cookie press, but I was very, very wrong.


      Only two actually turned out looking like the press mold, but that certainly didn’t affect the taste. Mmmm.


      My Healthy Tip of the Day: Some exercise is better than none, so if you only have 10 minutes, spend that 10 minutes doing some of your favorite moves. If you need some guidance, check out the short workouts on Cat Hair in my Coffee’s Fitness page.