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Friday, December 25, 2015

Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark Ice Cream

Merry Christmas from Annapolis, Maryland, where the weather is 60 degrees and rainy! It really is strange having spring (almost summer) like weather during the holidays. A couple months ago I heard that the Maryland area was going to have a very snowy winter, but I am not so sure if I can believe it. If the cold does hit, it will be quite a shock to the system. Enough about the weather...let me tell you about this ice cream! I have been obsessed with Peppermint Bark the past few weeks. Amazon had a 21 ounce bag of both milk chocolate and dark chocolate Ghiradelli peppermint bark squares for 14 dollars, which is a great deal that I could not pass up. I have been snacking on the candies, giving some out in baggies with Christmas gifts, and using it for this peppermint bark ice cream. I love it. You can grind up the peppermint bark as finely as you want, or you can make it more chunky, all depending on how much crunchy texture you like in your ice cream. If you don't like chunky, I suggest you chop it up very finely and omit the mini chocolate chips from the recipe. I had been thinking of making pie for dessert after our Christmas dinner, but because the weather is so warm, I decided to go with this festive ice cream instead. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2016! Enjoy.

Recipe for Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of whole milk
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 - 2 drops of pure peppermint extract (peppermint is VERY overpowering, so seriously just do a drop or two unless you want a strong peppermint flavor)
2 ounces - about 5 candies - of Ghirardelli peppermint bark squares (or your favorite brand)
1 - 2 Tbsp. of semisweet mini chocolate chips (optional - don't use if you don't like chunky texture in ice cream)

DIRECTIONS:
In a metal bowl, mix together the heavy whipping cream, whole milk, sugar, pure vanilla extract, and peppermint extract until smooth. Cover with a lid and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together, stirring occasionally. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 3 - 9 hours (I let it sit overnight and then made the ice cream the next morning).

Right before making the ice cream, place the peppermint bark candies into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the candies are chopped to desired consistency.

Make the ice cream. Give the mixture a stir and then pour into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker. When it resembles the consistency of a thick whipped cream, pour in the peppermint candies and chocolate chips. Continue to mix until ice cream is finished. Put into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for several hours. Serve each bowl with an extra peppermint bark candy.

Recipe Inspired by: Williams Sonoma Ice Cream - Crushed Peppermint Ice Cream
Recipe makes approximately 3 - 4 servings. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chicken Enchilada Soup

A few weeks ago, I came across the recipe for this soup on Facebook. One of my friend's family members had posted the recipe to her page, and it intrigued me. I looked over the ingredients and at first did not think that the soup was something that I would want to try. I had remembered my friend saying that she had tried the recipe and that her family loved it, so I went back and looked at the recipe again because I usually like the meals that she suggests. After reading the second time, I realized that the vegetable ingredients are pureed, and that the chicken and beans are then added in to the pureed mixture. I tried to imagine how it might taste and decided I wanted to give it a go, especially because it sounded like a healthy recipe. I'm so glad I tried it! I made the recipe last Saturday. I was shocked by how easy it was to make. The soup was thoroughly enjoyed by me, Greg, Wendy, and my parents. Even my father liked the soup, which was surprising, because it has onion and red pepper (he usually refuses anything with those two ingredients). The recipe makes a TON of soup, so we ate leftovers all week and nobody complained. Wendy really likes the soup too, which is great, because it is full of vegetables and protein. I served the soup with corn pudding (tomalito), avocado, Greek yogurt, Goya-brand pico de gallo, queso fresco cheese, and crispy tortillas. I know I will definitely be making this soup again very soon. I am super appreciative to my friend's sister for posting this amazing recipe on Facebook! I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.

Recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup

INGREDIENTS:
8 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, chopped in half
1 small red bell pepper, with seeds and removed, chopped
4 cups of butternut squash, cubed (time saving tip - buy it from the store already chopped for you)
1 can of diced green chiles
3 cans of great northern beans
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup of your favorite taco seasoning
Toppings/Sides
Sliced avocado
Queso fresco cheese
Salsa/Pico de Gallo
Drizzle of olive oil
Full-fat Greek yogurt/Sour Cream
Baked tortillas (brush each side of a small flour tortilla with olive oil, sprinkle on salt on each side, bake at 375 in oven for about 4 minutes per side or until done to desired crispiness)
Corn pudding - can be served on the side or served as a topping

DIRECTIONS:
Put the broth, chicken breasts, russet potato, sweet potato, yellow onion, garlic, red bell pepper, butternut squash, diced green chiles in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a full boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the broth and set on a plate to cool. Turn the heat to the stove top off. Ladle soup about 2/3 full into a blender and puree each batch until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture into a large bowl. Once all of the soup from the pot is pureed, pour back into the pot. Stir in the Greek yogurt (or sour cream), tomato sauce, beans, and taco seasoning. Then use a fork to shred the chicken into smallish pieces. Add the chicken into the pot and stir. Put pot over stove top again and set on medium-low heat to warm through. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with desired toppings.

Recipe makes approximately 14 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, December 4, 2015

Outrageous Brownie Truffles


Have you ever heard of a "happy accident?" Years ago I worked with a woman who had so many of her own sayings, to the point where I labeled them *Meganisms, after her name. I would constantly laugh at the things she would say, but now I find myself repeating everything she did say in my old(er) age. One of her 'isms was "happy accidents." If a mistake was made and we turned it into something good, she would always say "now that is what you call a happy accident!" Last week I was preparing dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was a bit distracted while cooking. My daughter, who almost always takes a nap during the day, decided to refuse a nap that afternoon so I wasn't able to focus on my dessert making. I was making a pumpkin pie, making brownies, and trying to entertain Wendy all at the same time, and I ended up making a pretty big mistake with the brownies. When I took them out of the oven, I could tell something seemed different about the texture, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then it hit me. I was halving a recipe and instead of putting a half pound (2 sticks) of butter in the brownie batter, I had only put in a quarter pound (1 stick). I had it in my head that one stick has 8 tablespoons of butter and translated that into 8 ounces, which is a half pound! I couldn't believe I did it, especially because I have made the brownies several times in the past few months. So, what did I do? At first I thought that the brownies tasted fine, just a little dry, and I was right. But I decided I didn't want dry brownies. So I turned those brownies into brownie truffles! And that, my friends, was a happy accident that occurred in my kitchen. The brownie truffles are even better than the brownies, which are pretty darn good. They are very rich, and you might just need one. My niece, however, exclaimed that she could only eat three (in a matter of five minutes or less) because they were so rich. Here is the recipe for outrageous brownie truffles. Enjoy!

*Note: Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the individual but the story is true.

Recipe for Outrageous Brownie Truffles

INGREDIENTS:
For the brownies:
One 12 ounce bag of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips
One 10 ounce bag of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips (you will have a little leftover)
3 eggs
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract (I like Nielsen Massey)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
For the truffle filling:
Cooked brownies
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the truffle coating:
One 9.7 ounce bar of SCHARRFEN BERGER bittersweet (70% cacao) baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:
For the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan (mine is 2.75" deep).
Melt the butter, half the bag (6 ounces) of the semisweet chocolate chips and a little over half the bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) in a medium saucepan over simmering water. Stir constantly until fully melted and smooth, then remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir the eggs, coffee granules, pure vanilla extract, and sugar. Then stir the chocolate mixture in and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in to the chocolate mixture. In a smallish bowl, toss the remaining flour and the rest of the bag of semisweet chocolate chips and about 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate chips together. Coat the chocolate chips as well as you can with the flour. Then fold into the chocolate batter. Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 20 minutes, and then after 20 minutes, rap the pan against the oven shelf to get air to escape between pan and dough. Then bake for an additional 8 - 12 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Transfer the brownie pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool.
Once brownies are cooled to room temperature (or slightly warmer), scrape all the brownie into a large bowl. Add in the softened butter. Use your hands to work together. Then use an electric hand mixer set on medium low speed and beat until smooth. It should kind of resemble a batter again. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a couple hours.
Line a couple freezer safe containers with foil. Use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to form the mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Place each ball into the foil lined containers. Cover containers and place in freezer for several hours, or overnight.
Prepare a double boiler with water. Bring water to a simmer, and then place the bittersweet chocolate in top boiler and melt over the simmering water. Once chocolate is melted, turn off stove heat. Drop one ball at a time into the melted chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place each coated ball onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in fridge and allow coating to harden before serving. If not serving right away, store in the fridge in airtight containers. Brownie truffles can be served from fridge or at room temperature.

Brownie recipe adapted from: Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies Recipe
Brownie truffles - original recipe.

Recipe makes approximately 3 1/2 - 4 dozen truffles.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

5-Ingredient Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Have you tried the apple and mozzarella quesadillas yet? If not, I urge you to try them out. Those quesadillas, served along with this pumpkin black bean soup, is seriously our favorite meal these days. This soup is super awesome because you make barely any mess making it, the prep time is less than 1 minute, and the cooking time is just a little over 5 minutes. Oh, and it also is pretty darn tasty AND healthy. It's loaded with Vitamin A, protein, and fiber. You can make it with more kick based on the type of salsa you use in the recipe. The first few times I made it I used a Hatch Chile salsa, and it was nice and spicy. The past couple times I have used Newman's Own Farmer's Garden salsa, which is a little sweet and mild. You can serve this with the apple quesadillas or serve it on its own with some tortilla chips. Yesterday I made it for lunch and served it with oven-baked tortilla chips drizzled with white truffle oil and sea salt . This soup is rich and creamy, and is definitely a comfort-type food, but it has the bonus of being good for you. Make it with the leftover canned pumpkin you might have after making pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving! Enjoy.

Recipe for 5-Ingredient Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

INGREDIENTS:
1 can of black beans (15.5 ounces), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of water
1/3 cup of canned pumpkin puree
1/3 cup of salsa (we like it with Newman's own Farmer's Garden - you can use hot or mild salsa)
1/2 tsp. of cumin powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt (I like Fage)

DIRECTIONS
Dump the black beans, water, pumpkin puree, and salsa into a medium sized pot. Sprinkle in the cumin powder, salt, and pepper. Use a spoon to mix well. Set the pot over medium heat on the stove top and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, or until hot. Then adjust the heat to low and stir in the Greek yogurt until smooth. Cook for an additional 45 seconds to 1 minute (don't cook too long, because the yogurt will curdle a bit and slightly effects the texture of soup). Remove from heat and ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with white cheddar cheese, if desired.

Makes approximately 2 - 3 servings. 
Original Recipe

Per Serving (with a serving being 1/3 of the recipe): 155 calories, 2 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 8 grams fiber, 50% RDA Vitamin A, 15% RDA Iron,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Quesadillas with Mozzarella and Buttery Cinnamon Maple Apples



Apples, in a quesadilla? Yes! You will not believe how amazing these quesadillas are. Greg thinks that these quesadillas are the perfect meal for dinner, but that they could also be a good breakfast food because they kind of taste like crepes. Although we have only been eating them for dinner, I agree that these sweet and savory quesadillas would make an outstanding breakfast. You could even sprinkle a little powdered sugar on them if you prefer the breakfast option, and leave off the white truffle oil and use butter instead. We have seriously had these quesadillas for dinner at least 7 times in the past 2 weeks, due to Greg's continued requests. I don't mind since they are so easy to make (especially if you have a batch of the apples in the fridge) and they require very little time in the kitchen. I have been serving them with a super easy pumpkin black bean soup that only has five ingredients, and I'll share that recipe very soon. Fall is the perfect season for enjoying delicious apples, and you can enjoy them in so many ways!

Recipe for Quesadillas with Mozzarella and Buttery Cinnamon Maple Apples

INGREDIENTS:
Butter, for coating the baking pan 
8 ounces of Mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1 ounce slices (don't use fresh, because it has too much moisture)
White truffle oil (optional, you can use butter instead) for brushing the sides of the tortillas
Sea salt (optional), for sprinkling the sides of the tortillas

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Lightly grease a baking pan with butter.

Wrap the tortillas in a paper towel and zap in the microwave for about 25 seconds. Blot out any of the excess moisture from the tortillas, then lay them onto the prepared baking sheet. Put one and a half slices of mozzarella cheese in the center of each tortilla (you will have 4 half pieces of cheese leftover that you will use to top the apples with). Place in the oven and cook for about 4 - 5 minutes, or until the cheese has just begun to melt. Meanwhile, if using apples that have been stored in the fridge, place desired amount of apples into a bowl and microwave for about 15 - 20 seconds. Once the cheese has begun to melt, remove the pan from the oven and adjust oven temperature to 375 degrees. Spoon desired amount of apples onto one half of the tortilla (I used about 2 tsp. of apples per quesadilla). Top the apples with the remaining half pieces of mozzarella cheese. Fold the tortillas in half. Lightly brush each side of the tortillas with white truffle oil or butter. I used about 1/8 tsp. of white truffle oil per side. Then sprinkle each side with a little bit of sea salt. Place back into the oven and cook for about 2 - 3 minutes, then carefully flip tortillas and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Original Recipe

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fall Flavors Smoothie (with Pumpkin and Baked Cinnamon & Maple Apples)

What do you think of when you hear the words "fall flavors?" If you are anything like me, you probably think of things like pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon. This delicious smoothie is made with all of those wonderful things. Last weekend I made some baked apples with breakfast for Wendy and Greg. I was sure that Wendy would go crazy over the baked apples, since they are made with butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon, but she didn't even touch them. I always feel a little dejected when I spend a lot of time and energy making something that I am convinced Wendy will like and she turns her little nose up at it! I had a lot of leftover baked apple, so I started to get creative with it. One morning I threw them in with a pumpkin smoothie that I make often to sweeten it up a bit, and I loved how it ended up tasting. Wendy saw me drinking the smoothie, begged me for a sip, and she went gaga over it.  Yesterday I made another smoothie with the apples, and Wendy pointed to it and said "I want that." I was happy that she ended up eating those apples after all! If you love fall flavors, you will most likely also love this smoothie! Enjoy.

Recipe for Fall Flavors Smoothie with Baked Cinnamon and Maple Apples

For the smoothie 
INGREDIENTS: 
1 cup of 2% or whole milk
1/4 cup of canned pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. of baked cinnamon and maple apples, chilled (see recipe below)
1/8 tsp. of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. of half and half (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses. Drink with a straw for a totally amazing experience.

For the baked cinnamon and maple apples
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 pounds of apples, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (I used Gala apples)
2 Tbsp. of pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted in microwave
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the apples, syrup, melted butter, and cinnamon. Mix well to coat. Spread the apples out in an even layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Place in oven and cook for about 30 - 35 minutes, making sure you stop to stir the apples about every 5 - 7 minutes. Then remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Eat plain, stir into Greek yogurt, use in smoothies, or use as a tasty filling to quesadillas!

Original recipe. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies (No Flour, Butter, Sugar, or Egg)!

Yesterday I posted a recipe for pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that do not have any flour or refined sugar in them. I like them so much, that I have been making them quite often during the past couple weeks. When I set out to make them on Thursday evening, I realized that I did not have any eggs on hand. I decided to try the recipe without egg to see how they would turn out. I used Greek yogurt in place of the egg, added cocoa powder, and left the butter out of this recipe. I created an entirely different cookie, one that is even healthier than the other cookies, but they taste more decadent because of the cocoa powder. I just made another batch this morning while Wendy was eating breakfast. They are seriously so easy to make and can be made in less than 20 minutes from start to finish. If you are looking for a healthier type of treat for your kids or even yourself, try out these cookies. You can feed them to your gluten-free/egg-free/refined sugar-free friends and family members too! Enjoy.

Recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies (No Flour, Butter, Sugar, or Egg)!

INGREDIENTS:
1/3 cup of canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of half and half (or whole milk or 2% milk)
1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup of old-fashioned oats (such as Quaker)
2 1/2 Tbsp. of cocoa powder (my favorite is organic Viva Labs cacao powder or Ghirardelli)
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/3  - 1/2 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips - just your preference on how many you want to use (I like Ghirardelli)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a baking sheet (I used butter to grease mine).

In a medium-sized bowl, add in the pumpkin, yogurt, honey, half and half, and vanilla. Use a spoon and mix well.

In a smallish bowl, sift together the oats, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to scoop up dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes. Then carefully transfer to a wire rack.

Eat warm or store an in airtight container in the fridge and grab them for an easy breakfast or snack!

Recipe makes 1 - 1 1/4 dozen cookies.

Each cookie has 77 calories, 12.5 grams carbohydrates, 1.3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, less than 3 grams of fat, and almost 20% of your daily Vitamin A need. 

Original recipe.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (No Flour or Refined Sugar)!

There is no way that I am going to let the month of October pass by without posting at lease ONE pumpkin treat recipe. I am really thinking hard about making a pumpkin pie soon with swirled dark chocolate. I seriously think pumpkin and chocolate go really well together, but you don't really hear of chocolate pumpkin pies too often, and I think that needs to change. Another thing that you don't hear about too often is cookie recipes that do not have any flour or sugar in them. I have only made one other cookie before without flour and sugar, and that is the banana oatmeal cookie recipe which is very popular. I have been trying to refrain from the flour and sugar duo (or culprit) this month thanks to a friends crazy social media challenge, so when I am craving sweet, I have been trying to do things that are healthier. I searched for pumpkin oatmeal cookies on the web and couldn't find any without flour. I decided to try out my luck by altering a recipe I found for pumpkin oatmeal cookies by omitting the flour and sugar from the recipe. The cookies are sweetened with pure maple syrup. You can also use organic cane sugar in the recipe if you don't have pure maple syrup. I was totally happy with how these cookies turned out. Wendy, my 18-month old, has been enjoying these pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for breakfast (okay I will admit I have been eating them for breakfast too). She (we) gobbles them down very quickly, and it usually takes her a long time to finish anything she is eating. I think they are an okay thing for her to eat because they are loaded with Vitamin A from the pumpkin and there is some fiber from the oats. Each cookie has 105 calories, 4 grams of fat, over 20% of your daily Vitamin A need, 2 grams of protein, 11 carbs (9.9 net carbs with 1.1 gram of fiber), and some iron and potassium.  The recipe I'm sharing today makes one dozen cookies. They are great warm from the oven, and they are also really good chilled from the fridge. Enjoy!

*I actually ended up making a pumpkin chocolate-chocolate chip cookie recipe yesterday which doesn't have any flour, sugar, or egg! I'll post that recipe soon.

Recipe for Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (No Flour or Refined Sugar)!

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup of canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp. of pure maple syrup (or 3 Tbsp. of organic cane sugar, if you want to use sugar)
1 jumbo-sized egg or two small eggs
3 Tbsp. of heavy whipping cream, half and half, or whole milk
3/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted in microwave 
1 cup of old-fashioned oats (such as Quaker Oats)
3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup of miniature semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

DIRECTIONS:
Generously grease a baking sheet with butter or cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the pumpkin, pure maple syrup,  egg(s), heavy whipping cream, and vanilla extract. Melt the butter in a microwave, let it cool for several seconds, and then stir it in to the mixture. In a smallish bowl, sift together the oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the liquid mixture and mix to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up about 3/4 Tbsp. of dough and drop onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches in between each mound of dough. Put in oven and bake for 13 - 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Then carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat immediately or store cookies in an airtight container in the fridge.

Recipe Makes approximately one dozen cookies.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Vegetarian Tamale and Cheese Pie

Over the past few months, I have been following a pretty low carb diet. Did you know that carbs are in pretty much everything under the sun except for meat, eggs, and cheese? I have definitely been feeling like I have been eating way too much meat lately. I have slowly been reintroducing carbs back into my diet, and I have been trying to find recipes that are healthy and satisfying. I have been uninspired by so many recipes that I come across, but I was so excited when I saw this recipe on a blog that I follow the other day. I knew immediately that I had to try it out. Greg was away for two weeks at a work training in Pennsylvania, so I made this dish for him when he got home last Saturday. We had our neighbor over, and we sat out on the front deck enjoying the chillier fall weather and the soulfulness of this dish. This recipe does require a bit of time, but none of the steps are difficult. After making it, you won't have to cook again for several days. We ate it every day between Saturday and Wednesday and never got tired of it! Our daughter, who is 1 1/2 and getting more picky about food, also enjoyed this meal. I think you will probably enjoy this meal, too! It is healthy, hearty, comforting, and filling! Yum!

Recipe for Vegetarian Tamale and Cheese Pie

INGREDIENTS:
3 14.5-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, with liquid reserved
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. of chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped (add more if you want more heat)
2 tsp. of chili powder
1 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, drained
2 15-ounce cans of pinto beans, drained
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn
2 Tbsp. of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. of dried oregano
12 ounces of grated cheese (you can use colby jack, mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, pepper jack - or a blend of cheeses)
5 1/2 cups of water
1 3/4 cups of cornmeal
Salt & pepper

For serving:
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
Chopped avocado
Tortilla chips

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, combine the diced tomato, chopped onion, garlic, olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. of the kosher salt. Mix together. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and then pour the tomato mixture onto the baking sheet. Place in oven and roast, stirring a couple times, until the garlic and onion begin to brown on the edges (about 30 minutes or so).

While the vegetables are roasting, pour the reserved tomato liquid into a blender. Add in the chipotle peppers, chili powder, and lime juice. Then when the vegetables are finished roasting, transfer them into the blender with everything else. Puree the mixture until it is slightly chunky, about 10 - 15 seconds. Set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Put the beans, corn, cilantro, and oregano into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour the sauce from the blender on top and mix well. Spread the mixture into an even layer, and then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Get a whisk ready. Put the water into a large saucepan, set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add in the 3/4 tsp. of kosher salt. Slowly add in the cornmeal, using the whisk to whisk vigorously so the cornmeal does not clump. Then reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, while whisking constantly, until the cornmeal softens and the mixture thickens (about 3 - 4 minutes).

Remove the cornmeal mixture from the heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Use a spatula to spread the warm cornmeal evenly over the top of the casserole. Make sure to spread the cornmeal to the edges of the baking dish.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Allow it to cool for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

Serve each piece with sour cream (or Greek yogurt), avocado slices, and tortilla chips.

Recipe makes approximately 10 - 12 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats, and her recipe was slightly adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Veggie and Cheese Omelet Muffins

Some days, it is really difficult to find things that my 18-month old daughter will eat. She will change her mind on what she likes from day to day, and sometimes she has a great appetite and other times I am lucky if she eats anything at all. I can pretty much count on her always eating eggs, though. She loves eggs, especially when they are scrambled up with lots of cheese. Making eggs every day though takes time, and it dirties up quite a few dishes. I came across a recipe for mini omelets on Skinny Taste, and I decided to give it a try. I am sure glad I did! The first time I made them, I used broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. I chose to leave out the broccoli the last time I made them and just did the cauliflower and carrot. You can really use any veggies that you want to in the omelets. I also added more cheese than the original recipe called for, because you can never go wrong with too much cheese. I used paper liners in the muffin tins to avoid having to scrub the pan afterwards! What I love about this recipe is that it combines a good amount of veggies with protein, and it is easy to make. I stored the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, and then I just zap them in the microwave for about 45 seconds before serving. Not only does Wendy love eating these veggie and cheese omelet muffins, but I love them too.  Enjoy!


Recipe for Veggie and Cheese Omelet Muffins

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound of cauliflower florets (I used Trader Joe's cleaned and cut cauliflower florets)
1 cup matchstick carrots
Salt and pepper
6 large eggs
4 egg whites
2 Tbsp. of half and half
2 Tbsp. of 2% or whole milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup of colby jack or medium cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice), divided
A dash or two of hot sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)
1 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add in the cauliflower and the carrots, a sprinkle of salt, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and allow to cool for a few minutes.

While the veggies are cooling, crack the 6 eggs and 4 egg whites into a large bowl and stir. Add in the half and half, milk, Parmesan cheese, and 2/3 cup of the cheddar cheese. Add in a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper. Add in the hot sauce, if using. Set aside.

Chop up the cauliflower. Remove the stems and chop the rest into very small pieces. Put the cauliflower into a medium bowl and add in the carrots. Toss with the olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in the microwave in a small bowl. Once melted, let it cool for several seconds. Then dip your finger in the butter and then brush the bottom and sides of each liner with the melted butter. Add the remaining butter to the egg mixture and stir. Drop about 1 - 2 Tablespoons of the vegetable mixture into the bottom of each liner. Then pour the egg mixture in, filling each liner almost full (before doing this, I poured the egg mixture into a large liquid measuring cup to make it easier to pour into the liners). Once all the liners are filled, top each one evenly with the remaining cheddar cheese. Place into the oven and cook for 20 - 22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then remove each one from the pan, peel off the liner, and serve. If you are not serving right away, remove each paper liner (they should peel away pretty easily, but make sure to get all the paper off), and store in the fridge in an airtight container.

If storing in the fridge, you can reheat before serving easily! Just put on a plate, and zap on high in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute. I like to eat mine with a little Tabasco sauce on top. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Skinny Taste

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Fall is here, and so that means we will be eating LOTS of pumpkin in my house for the next several weeks. My first post of the Fall season is a vegetarian pasta dish with a creamy pumpkin sauce, fresh sage, and melted cheese. My mom sent me the recipe and brought over fresh sage from her garden the other day, so I made the pasta and served it to everyone for lunch. It was really good! I have not cooked much with sage before, and after cooking this dish, I would like to try more recipes with it. This pumpkin sage pasta is easy to prepare, and it is a very satisfying meal. If you are not worried about making it vegetarian, you can top it with cooked bacon or a mild crumbled sausage instead of the crispy sage. I loved the crispy sage on top of it, but Greg really liked having bacon on his! Now that I have cooked my first pumpkin dish of the season, I am thinking about what my first pumpkin dessert of the season will be, and a pumpkin cheesecake keeps popping into my head. That will probably be my next post! I hope you like this recipe, and I hope you are enjoying the Fall weather where you live as much as I am loving it here in Maryland.

Recipe for Pumpkin Sage Pasta

INGREDIENTS:
12 ounces of pasta (good choices would be farfalle, penne, ziti)
3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup of canned pumpkin 
A couple pinches of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup of chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/4 cups of sharp white cheddar cheese
For the crispy sage topping
1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil 
1/3 cup of fresh sage leaves, sliced thin

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an oven-safe dish (9x13, 2" deep). 
Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente, then drain in a colander.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Put the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add in the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and stir until the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Then slowly pour in the milk and use a whisk to mix. When milk is mixed in and mixture is smooth, add in the pumpkin and continue to whisk. Cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 - 7 minutes. Then remove from heat and add in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, fresh sage, and  1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir in the pasta and coat it with the sauce. Spread the pasta into the prepared pan. Top evenly with the sharp white cheddar cheese and the remaining Parmesan. Cover the top of the dish with foil and place in the oven to cook. Cook for 15 minutes. A few minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, make the crispy sage topping, if using. Heat a small saucepan on medium high heat. Once hot, add in the olive oil and let it coat the pan. Add in the sage leaves and cook until crispy but not burnt, 2 - 3 minutes. Remove the pasta from the oven and sprinkle the crispy sage over it, or you can sprinkle it over each individual serving. 

You can also top the pasta with cooked bacon pieces or a mild crumbled sausage if you don't care about it not being a vegetarian meal!

Recipe Makes approximately 8 servings
Recipe Adapted from: Oh My Veggies

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I like things in my life to be fairly simple. That is why this slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe is a winner in my book. The soup itself requires barely any prep time at all. If you want to really save time with this recipe, you can opt out of doing the tortilla crisps, and just use store-bought tortilla chips instead. I think the tortilla crisps add a nice touch, though. Greg and I enjoyed the chicken tortilla soup for lunch and dinner last week. We topped it with avocado, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and the tortilla strips. I found that the soup actually tasted even better after being in the fridge for about a day, since it gave a chance for the flavors to meld together even more. I will definitely be making this soup many times this fall and winter! I hope you will give it a try, too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

INGREDIENTS:
For the soup
5 cups of chicken broth
1 (29-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of diced yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic, pressed (or 1 tsp. of garlic powder)
2 tsp. of cumin powder
1 Tbsp. of chili powder
1 tsp. of paprika
1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
A pinch or two of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 (14.5-ounce) cans of  black beans
2 cups of frozen corn
2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves, torn (buy U.S. grown)

For the tortilla strips
4 8-inch flour tortillas
2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. of ground cumin
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
Salt

For topping
Chopped avocado
Grated cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
Sour cream (or full-fat Greek yogurt)
A few cilantro leaves

DIRECTIONS:
For the soup
Put the chicken broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices into the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the salt and pepper. Drop the chicken into the mixture, cover with the slow cooker lid, and cook on low heat for 6 hours (or until chicken is cooked and shreds easily with a fork).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate. Use a fork to shred the chicken into smallish pieces. Then add the chicken back to the slow cooker and stir in the beans, corn, lime juice, and cilantro. Cook for an additional 10 - 15 minutes. While it finishes cooking, make the tortilla strips.

Once tortilla strips are finished, ladle the soup into bowls and top with grated cheese, sour cream (or full-fat Greek yogurt), chopped avocado, and tortilla strips.

*If you make the soup later in the day like I did, ladle the soup into airtight containers and store in the fridge. Reheat in a pan over medium-low heat on the stove top. I actually found that the soup got even better leftover because the flavors melded together more in the fridge! 

For the tortilla strips
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet with Misto or Pam.  In a small bowl, stir the oil and spices together. Brush each side of a tortilla lightly with the oil mixture (about 1/2 tsp.per side - you will not use all of the mixture). Then stack the flour tortillas together on a cutting board and cut into desired sized strips.. Put the strips in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle salt over top. Place in oven and cook until crispy, about 10 - 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet until ready to use. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe makes approximately 8 servings.

Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe adapted from: Cooking Classy
 Tortilla Strips recipe adapted from: Food.com

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef

Who likes Barbacoa? I thought that Barbacoa was something I could only order when out to eat at places like Chipotle, but now I know I can make it at home, too! I have really had to change the way I eat since I started eating a more low carb diet, so the truth is, I do not have much experience with preparing and cooking meat. I actually had never even bought chuck roast before I made this recipe! I could not believe how easy it was to cook this barbacoa beef.  The prep time for the meal was less than 5 minutes, and then I just let my slow cooker do its magic. The meat was cooked in the slow cooker until tender, and it shredded beautifully. The meat is incredibly flavorful, thanks to the spice mixture that is rubbed on it prior to it going into the slow cooker. Greg and I ate the barbacoa in a salad four nights in a row. Greg said there are some meals he gets tired of if he has to eat them too much, but he said he was still loving this meal on the fourth night. I made the barbacoa salad with romaine lettuce, rice, beans (kidney or black), corn, tomato, avocado, Colby jack cheese, sour cream, salsa, and bacon habanero tortilla chips. You can prepare it however you like, though. Use it in tacos, burritos, salads, or just eat it over rice with vegetables. Enjoy!

Recipe for Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef 

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1 Tbsp. of oregano
1 1/2 Tbsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp. of ground cloves
2 tsp. of salt
3/4 tsp. of black pepper
2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast
3/4 cup of beef broth
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 1/2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
3 bay leaves

DIRECTIONS: 
Put the chopped onion into a slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, oregano, cumin, ground cloves, salt, and pepper. Spoon some of the mixture over the meat and rub over the surface of the meat using the spoon. Continue until the surface of the meat is coated with the spice mixture. Put the meat in the slow cooker with the onion, and include any of the spice mixture that may have fallen off. Then add in the beef broth, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (I cooked it for 8 1/2 on low) or you can cook it on high for 4 - 6 hours.

Once meat finishes cooking, transfer it to a large plate and shred. Get rid of the fatty pieces of meat. Discard the bay leaves from the slow cooker. Add the meat back to the slow cooker and let it soak in the liquid for about 10 minutes before serving.

Store any leftover meat in the fridge in airtight containers and consume within 4 days.

Recipe Source: Seeded at the Table

Makes approximately 8 servings. 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Honey, Oat, and Almond Crumble

Who loved Honey Nut Cheerios as a kid? Who STILL loves Honey Nut Cheerios? I definitely preferred the Honey Nut Cheerios to other Cheerios when I was young, but I'm not a huge cereal person these days. When I tasted this honey nut goodness, the flavor reminded me a bit of Honey Nut Cheerios, all grown-up. The first time I made this it did not turn out too well, because I cooked it without fruit, but followed a recipe that had the honey crumble baked onto fruit. The oven was at too high of a temperature, and since I was trying to entertain my daughter who had woke up from a nap while the crumble was in the oven, I didn't watch it well enough and it ended up burning pretty badly. I tried the recipe again because I could tell that it would have been so yummy if it didn't have the burnt flavor. I cooked it at a much lower temperature, watched it like a hawk, and the results were incredible! Greg loves the honey, oat, and almond crumble topped on yogurt, and I love it with a little bit of milk. I also love just snacking on it plain. You can feel good about eating the honey, oat, and almond crumble throughout the day because it has heart-healthy almonds and fiber-rich oats. Just be careful not to overdo it, since it also has a good amount of butter. 

This honey, oat, and almond crumble is totally addictive and delicious. The original recipe comes from a cookbook that was written by a friend of my friend! I definitely want to try the original recipe that has the crumble baked onto fruit. I hear it is amazing on peaches! Enjoy.

Recipe for Honey, Oat, and Almond Crumble

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of almonds
1/2 of Old-Fashioned oats
3 Tbsp. of unsweetened flaked coconut
8 Tbsp. of unsalted chilled butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces, then cut in half (16 pieces total)
1 Tbsp. of coconut oil  (optional)
3 Tbsp. of clover honey
1/4 tsp. of coarse sea salt (or more, or less, or none at all - all depends on your preference for sweet+salty)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper with butter or coconut oil. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the almonds and oats. Pulse, several times, until the almonds are well chopped. Then drop the butter pieces evenly over the almond mixture. Add the coconut oil, honey, and salt. Pulse, several times, until the mixture just about starts to come together (but don't overdo it). Transfer the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly, but don't press down too much. Then place in the oven and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, watching VERY closely. If the edges begin to brown, use a spatula to carefully turn up the edges. After 8 - 10 minutes, lower the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees, and rotate the pan 180 degrees. Continue to cook, still watching carefully, for about 5 - 7 more minutes, making sure it does not burn. Remove from oven and let it cool. Then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Eat it plain, on top of yogurt, with fruit, or with milk.

Recipe Adapted from: Eat Happy, by Molly Badger

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Maple and Mustard Palate-Pleasing Chicken

I came across this chicken recipe several weeks ago on a blog called "Witty in the City." I thought it sounded really good, and I wanted to make it, but every time I planned to, something else would get in the way of the dinner plan. I finally made it a few days ago, and it was just as tasty as I thought it would be. It seriously was so easy to prepare, and Greg absolutely loved it. The original recipe is called "man-pleasing chicken," and although that seems like an appropriate name, I decided to call it palate-pleasing chicken, because you don't have to be a man to enjoy this chicken! To be honest, I actually didn't get to have the maple and mustard chicken for dinner. I bought bone-in chicken thighs, and didn't realize that one pound of the meat would only be two pieces of chicken. Greg has been teaching an evening sailing class this week, so I decided to let him eat it when he got home from work for two nights in a row, rather than make it one dinner for the two of us. I did get to sample it when it was fresh out of the oven, and I really did have to stop myself from eating it all. I hope Greg appreciates what a nice wife I am! If you are looking for a quick (45 minutes) and easy meal to serve, try this chicken recipe. It is totally savory, comforting to the soul, and delicious. I think it would taste great with some mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable, or with white rice and a vegetable (I served it with carrots). When Greg was eating it last night, Wendy was eating her dinner, and he let her try a piece. She ate it, her eyes got wide, and we swear she shouted out "Mmm, it's good!" Not only will you love this chicken, but your kids will probably love it too. Enjoy!


Recipe for Maple and Mustard Palate-Pleasing Chicken

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup of Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp. of rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. of fresh rosemary

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is heating, prepare the sauce. In a smallish bowl, mix together the Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and rice vinegar. Set aside. Line a baking dish with foil. Place the chicken thighs in a single layer into the dish. Salt and pepper the chicken. Then pour the sauce over the chicken, and use a fork to gently turn the chicken in the sauce so it gets pretty coated. Put the chicken thighs into the oven and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees using an instant-read meat thermometer. Halfway through cooking, carefully spoon some of the sauce in the dish over the chicken and rotate your baking dish. Once finished cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the rosemary. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with your favorite sides. 

Recipe Source: Witty in the City, originally from the I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato) Salad

The tomatoes in my garden finally took off about a week ago. I was thrilled to be able to start making some of my favorite summer-time recipes. I made the amazing cherry tomato tart on Friday and plan to make another one tomorrow. I have also made lots of bacon and tomato sandwiches for Greg. Since I am still trying to continue eating a lower carb diet, I have been making myself BLT Salads instead. The BLT salad starts with some hearts of romaine lettuce, then is topped with lots of juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves,  avocado, Panko bread crumbs, and a garlicky buttermilk dressing. I also added some fresh mozzarella to the salad the other night when I realized I had a little bit leftover from when I made the cherry tomato tart. I asked Greg to photograph the BLT salad before dinner. He told me that he didn't want salad because he was craving another bacon and tomato sandwich for dinner for the third night in a row. As he was photographing the salad, I asked him how many sandwiches he wanted, and his response was "I think I want this salad instead - it looks really good!" Greg told me the salad was very different from the sandwich, but just as tasty of a meal, if not better. If you want a really yummy salad that is loaded with lots of summer-time flavors and vitamin C (tomatoes are very high in this), then give this salad a go. You will not be disappointed!

Recipe for BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato) Salad

INGREDIENTS:
For the salad

2 cups of hearts of Romaine lettuce
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 medium Hass avocado, chopped
1/4 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese
4 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
4 leaves of fresh basil, torn 
2 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)
2 tsp. of Panko bread crumbs (optional)
For the dressing
3 Tbsp. of mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. of buttermilk
1 clove of garlic, pressed
A couple pinches of black pepper
1 tsp. of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
Make the bacon first. I bake bacon rather than fry it to avoid the mess. If you prefer, you can fry it instead! To bake the bacon, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Lay bacon in a single layer on top of the parchment paper and then put into the oven for about 15 minutes. When bacon is cooked, remove from oven. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate with tongs or a fork and blot out the excess grease.

While the bacon is cooking, chop up the tomatoes, avocado, and mozzarella. Then prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, garlic, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Set aside or cover and put into the fridge. Divide the 2 cups of romaine lettuce onto two salad plates. Add the chopped tomatoes on top. Then add on the chopped avocado, 1 1/2 Tbsp. of Parmesan per salad, 2 pieces of torn fresh basil per salad, 1 tsp. of Panko bread crumbs per salad (optional), and 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella per salad (optional). Then crumble the bacon on top of each. Top each salad with desired amount of dressing and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Recipe makes 2 BLT salads.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Carrot Burgers or Patties - A Meal the Kids will Like!

These days I feel like I am constantly trying to please my 15-month old. I am always trying to entertain her and figure out what she wants in order to be happy. I feel like the more she communicates, the more frustrated she gets, because what she thinks makes sense doesn't always make sense to me and Greg. Meal time has become a bit of an ordeal. There are things that she used to like that she now refuses by throwing it down on the floor in protest. She used to love bananas, but now she only wants them in the form of a cookie. I have had to experiment a lot to figure out what foods she will eat well at meal time. I have found that she seems to really like food in the form of a patty. She loves salmon burgers, cauliflower burgers, and these carrot burgers. I also absolutely love these carrot burgers, and so does Greg. I made them for the first time when my friend came over with her daughter who is just about Wendy's age, and it was a big hit with all of us. I ended up making them again to serve for dinner the next evening, and I've made them a couple times since then. I made the mistake one night of serving the carrot burgers with ketchup, and during dinner all Wendy wanted to eat was the ketchup and no carrot burger. She kept begging for ketchup and made a nice big mess with it. I was worried that she was over the carrot burgers, but I served them again the next night without the ketchup, and she gobbled them down (Greg had to top his with ketchup before coming to the table, to prevent her from seeing it)! Greg likes the carrot burgers on a bun with lots of ketchup, and I enjoy them dipped in a mixture of sour cream with a little bit of maple syrup. I think they would also taste good on a toasted bun spread with a little butter, and topped with some mozzarella cheese. I really had no idea how these would turn out, and they totally exceeded my expectations. They are great because each burger has about 1/2 cup of carrots, so you can easily get your kids to eat a serving of veggies. If you're looking for an easy vegetarian meal that will please even the pickiest eaters in your family, I suggest you try out these delicious carrot burgers!

Recipe for Carrot Burgers or Patties -A Meal the Kids will Like!

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups of shredded carrots (make it easier like I do by buying packaged shredded carrots)!
1/4 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
Look at all those carrots! Each one has about 1/2 cup of carrots.
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/4 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp. of dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
3/4 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of sugar or pure maple syrup (optional)
4 Tbsp. of half and half
2 eggs, lightly beaten
*2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
*2 - 3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Put all of the ingredients (except olive oil and butter) into a large bowl and mix well. Cover the
 bowl and set in fridge for at least one hour and up to 12.

Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil and 2 Tbsp. of butter in an electric frying pan or in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted and is sizzling, turn the heat down to medium. Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop up the mixture and turn it onto the pan or skillet. Use a spatula to flatten into a patty. Cook as many as your pan or skillet allow at one time. Cook on one side for about 6 minutes, then use a spatula to carefully flip and cook for another 6 minutes on the other side. Remove patties with the spatula and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. You may want to place them in an oven preheated at 300 degrees to keep them warm if you have another batch to cook. *Add more butter and olive oil as you see needed during the cooking process.

Salt the burgers as desired. Serve on a bun with ketchup and baby spinach leaves, or serve as a patty. I liked mine dipped in a tablespoon of sour cream mixed with about 1/2 tsp. of pure maple syrup!

Recipe makes about 8 carrot burgers.

Recipe Source: Food.com 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Healthy AND Delicious Fudge - no butter or refined sugar!

For some reason I always seem to crave healthier foods during the summer months. I would say that I eat best in the month of July out of all the other months in the year. I am far from being vegan (I absolutely LOVE all things dairy), but when it comes to sweet treats, I always seem to want to try out vegan or healthier desserts during the summer months.

This vegan fudge has an amazingly smooth texture from the coconut oil, and the cashew butter and cacao powder give it an incredibly rich taste. It is sweetened with some pure maple syrup, which is much better than refined sugar. You can't tell at all that this fudge is not made with the typical ingredients of butter and refined sugar. The one thing you do have to remember about vegan desserts (and this vegan fudge) is that even though they are healthier, they are still loaded with calories. However, they are not "empty" calories, since cashews have tons of health benefits, natural cocoa powder is high in fiber, and maple syrup has awesome things in it like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and manganese. One piece has approximately 75 calories, and it is easy to snack on it all day long, so be careful with it! I was told by a few people that if I had not told them what it was made with, that they would have never guessed the ingredients. So if you do make it, make sure to tell people what it has in it in case someone has a nut allergy! I hope you enjoy this fudge as much as I do.

Recipe for Healthy AND Delicious Fudge - no butter or refined sugar!

INGREDIENTS:
2 1/4 cups of raw cashews*
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. of coconut oil, divided (at room temperature)
2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt, divided
1/4 cup of cacao powder (I use Viva Labs cacao powder)
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup

*If you want, you can use 1 cup of store-bought cashew butter in this recipe. I recommend making your own cashew butter, though. If you use store-bought cashew butter, omit the cashews, 1 tsp. of coconut oil, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt from the recipe. 

DIRECTIONS:
Make the cashew butter first. Put the 2 1/4 cups of cashews, 1 tsp. of coconut oil, 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Start the food processor and allow it to run. It will take several minutes (about 8 to 10 minutes) for the mixture to turn to a cashew butter. You will want to stop the food processor every minute to two to give the processor a break and to scrape the sides, if needed. Add more coconut oil to the mixture as you see desired. When the mixture turns into the cashew butter (it will be thick), remove it from the processor and scoop into a medium-sized bowl. Note: This is a recipe for the cashew butter that is used in this fudge.  If you want smoother cashew butter to use for spreading, you will want to run the processor for much longer and might want to check out other recipes for homemade cashew butter, like the one from The Healthy Foodie.

Add the remaining 1/3 cup of coconut oil to the cashew butter and use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed to mix until well combined. Then add in the remaining 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp. of sea salt, cocoa powder, and maple syrup. Use the electric hand mixer to mix until the mixture is smooth. Line a freezer-safe container (I used a square SnapLock container - 6" x 6") with parchment paper. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the mixture onto the parchment paper in an even layer. Then cover the container and place in the freezer for at least an hour before cutting into it.  Remove from the freezer and chop into desired sized squares. Store the fudge in the freezer and eat fairly soon after removing it from the freezer, because it becomes soft quickly from the coconut oil.

Recipe Makes Approximately 30 pieces of fudge, depending on how you cut it. Approximately 75 calories per piece (if you cut into 30 pieces)! Store in the freezer.

Recipe Adapted from: The Detoxinista, Originally from Raw Food, Real World

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What can I make with all of my Cucumbers? Here are 11 Delicious Ways to Eat It!

I made "Better Than A Greek Salad" with some of the cucumbers from my garden.
I am writing this post with a bit of sadness. This summer, cucumber is really the only thing in my garden that has done well. I was really looking forward to having tons of tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini. On Sunday, I found that all of our zucchini plants and yellow squash plants had died. We got one yellow squash all season, and we did not get any zucchini at all. Our tomato plants are still alive, but we have only gotten a handful of cherry tomatoes so far, and no big juicy beefeater tomatoes yet. I am still hoping for the best with the tomatoes, so I can make some of my favorite summer-time recipes, like bacon and tomato sandwiches and a cherry tomato tart. Unfortunately I am not going to be able to make some of the amazing recipes with zucchini that I put together in this zucchini recipe roundup last summer, or my famous healthy zucchini brownies that Greg raves about. I started crying when I found out my zucchini plants had died, and I think that is a totally normal response, don't you? The good news is that the cucumbers are plentiful, and I am finding pretty creative ways to eat them. I have used them to make an amazing cucumber-mango salsa, I have stuffed them full of Boursin cheese, and I have dipped them in a tasty honey-sriracha sauce. Cucumbers are also really healthy, and my 15-month old daughter, Wendy, loves them. I decided to compile this list of these cucumber recipes so I can get the most out of what my garden is producing this summer! If you are also getting tons of cucumber this summer, I hope you will try some of these recipes out. Enjoy!


What can I make with all of my Cucumbers?


Appetizers

Cucumber Bites with Garlic-Herb Filling (Annie's Eats)*

Cucumber Mango Salsa (Two Peas & Their Pod)*

Cucumber Mint Sandwiches (Epicurious)

Spicy Cantaloupe Cucumber Salad (Oh My Veggies)

Authentic Tzatziki (A Couple Cooks)

Chilled Soups

Gazpacho Andaluz (Saveur)

Cold Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill (Food and Wine)
 
Miscellaneous

Quick and Easy Dill Pickles (Once Upon a Chef)

Main Courses

Grilled Chicken Panzanella with Cucumber and Feta (Annie's Eats)

Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber Date Salad (Food Network)

Thai Grilled Steak Salad (Pink Parsley)

*These recipes are ones I have tried and loved! For the cucumber melon salsa, I omitted the onion, cilantro, and  jalapeno and mixed mine with a little bit of cumin powder and cayenne pepper. It was very tasty and refreshing.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad - w/cucumbers!
I also really love dipping cucumber slices into a honey-sriracha dipping sauce. Mix together 3 tablespoons of sriracha sauce, 3 tablespoons of honey, and 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar and dip away. You can also add cucumber slices to water for a very refreshing taste!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Grilled Shrimp Fajitas (cooked in a foil packet)

Tonight I made an awesome meal! It was really easy to make (especially since I had Greg do the grilling), and it was ready to be served in less than 30 minutes from start to finish. I served the shrimp fajitas with a side of black beans and some chopped mango. The shrimp, peppers, and onions cook on the grill in foil packets, so that the shrimp and veggies were sizzling hot and bursting with flavor.  Not only are these shrimp fajitas excellent, they also make a pretty healthy meal. The bell peppers are loaded with Vitamin A and the shrimp is an excellent source of protein. My guess is that this meal is best served piping hot, and it wouldn't do so well leftover. For that reason, I only made enough for two. You can double or triple the recipe if you are cooking for more than two. Enjoy!

Recipe for Grilled Shrimp Fajitas (cooked in a foil packet)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 pound of peeled and deveined medium shrimp (about 14 - 16 shrimp)
Red, orange, and yellow baby bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lime
1 Tbsp. of your favorite taco seasoning
Cilantro (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
6-inch flour tortillas (about 4 - 5)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat a gas grill to high heat. 

Put the shrimp, chopped peppers, and onions into a medium bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and lime juice and gently toss. Then sprinkle with the taco seasoning and gently mix until shrimp and veggies are well coated. 

Cut two pieces of foil into 12-inch squares. Put half the shrimp and veggie mixture down the center of each piece of foil. Then fold up each side of the foil and fold the sides over the shrimp completely. The foil packets are to be sealed (if needed, you can use another piece of foil to cover). Then place the foil packets on the grill and cook for 10 minutes. A minute before you take the shrimp off the grill, zap the tortillas in the microwave for 15 - 20 seconds so they are warmed before you assemble the fajitas.

Carefully remove the foil packets from grill. When you open them, be careful because the steam is super hot. Divide the shrimp and vegetable mixture onto the warmed tortillas (Greg and I did 3-4 shrimp per fajita) and top each with cilantro and sour cream, if desired.

Serve fajitas with some sides! We served them with black beans and some chopped fresh mango. 

Recipe makes approximately 4 - 5 fajitas. According to the original recipe, you can also cook the shrimp and vegetables in the foil packets in the oven at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Adapted from : Damn Delicious 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Green Tea Ice Cream (made with Honey)

June 19th was my last day of work for the school year. I have the summer off to relax, hang out with Wendy, catch up on all the stuff that I have put on the back burner for so long, and be experimental in the kitchen. I have tried plenty of new recipes in just the last several days. One recipe I thought up and tried was this green tea ice cream. I love matcha green tea. I made a green tea ice cream a couple summers ago and the recipe used eggs. It was good, but I didn't want to turn on the stove top the other day when it was 98 degrees outside. I threw some green tea powder, milk, and honey into a blender and then mixed it with heavy whipping cream. After it chilled for a couple hours n the fridge, I put it into my ice cream maker and it turned into this lovely green tea ice cream. Since I have been trying to cut down on the carbs, I used honey over sugar, but then I realized that honey actually has more carbs in it per tablespoon than sugar! No big deal, I am sure that honey is still a much better option than sugar. I have been having less than a 1/4 cup of the green tea ice cream a day, hoping that it will last me several days, but I wasn't counting on Greg wanting to try the ice cream and enjoying it, too. Last time I made it he wasn't interested in it at all. Tonight he tried it and wanted a huge bowl, and he said he loved it. I might have to bury it in the freezer, or just might have to make another batch! If you like green tea lattes from Starbucks, you will probably love this ice cream. I was thinking to myself that if you don't really like matcha green tea that you probably wouldn't like this ice cream, but Greg proved that idea wrong tonight. This green tea ice cream is super refreshing and it is the perfect treat on a hot summer day. I think using honey over sugar really brings out the flavor of the green tea. If you want to use sugar, that is fine. Just use the same amount of sugar in the recipe as honey. Enjoy!

Update: I actually made it another time since I started this post. Another person who isn't a huge matcha green tea fan really enjoyed this ice cream!


Recipe for Green Tea Ice Cream (made with Honey)

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. of matcha green tea powder
1/2 cup of honey
1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS:
Put the milk, green tea powder, and honey into a blender. Mix on high speed for 45 seconds, or until there are no chunks of green powder in the mixture. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add in the heavy whipping cream and stir. Cover the bowl with a lid and place in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours. Then pour the mixture into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker and make ice cream according to manufacturers directions. When ice cream is ready, spoon into a container, cover with a lid, and place in freezer until ready to serve.

Optional: Top your serving of green tea ice cream with shredded coconut or grated white chocolate.

Original Recipe