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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taco Soup

I made this recipe last night because I had been wanting to try it and Ron had been wanting chili.  I thought that he might be OK with this one.  Fortunately, he was and he said it tasted like chili.  This makes a ton of soup and is very good!  I had some baked tortilla chips with mine and Ron ate Fritos with his.  Both chips were very, very good.

Despite how bad they are for you, I used canned tomatoes.  I just didn't have the patience to dice and seed tomatoes.  My changes:  I did not puree the tomatoes and I did not use the olives.

Taco Soup
*This is my 8th soup recipe from her blog that has been such a success and so low in calories! 
Yield:  Makes 12 servings about 1 cup each.
Per serving: Calories 241; Protein 13; Fat 11 g; Carbs 18; Sodium 470 mg

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (if using meat sub or ground turkey)
  • 1 pound ground beef (try to use grass-fed, lean beef) or turkey OR 1 pkg. Morningstar Crumbles
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Splenda
  • One 16-ounce can chili beans, undrained (NOT chili, just chili-seasoned beans)
  • One 15-ounce can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 cup frozen corn – optional
  • One 10-ounce can tomato soup, undiluted
  • 2 cups water
  • Two 14-ounce cans peeled and diced tomatoes, undrained and pureed
  • One 4-ounce can diced green chilies
  • One 4-ounce can sliced olives (I omitted)
  • One 1.25-ounce envelope taco seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder

  1. If using hamburger:  
    1. In a large saucepan brown hamburger until just no longer pink, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small chunks. 
    2. Remove from pan and drain grease, reserving 1 tablespon.
    3. Sauté the onions and garlic with the Splenda in reserved grease, until onions are soft and golden.
    4. Return hamburger to the pan.
  2. If using veggie meat or turkey
    1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. 
    2. Sauté the onions and garlic with the Splenda until onions are tender and golden. 
    3. Add turkey or crumbles and sauté until turkey is no longer pink, breaking into small chunks.
  3. For soup:
    1.  Add to the meat/onion mixture the chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomato soup, water, tomatoes, green chilies, olives, taco seasoning, and chili powder. 
    2. Bring to a boil. 
    3. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
    4. Serve with your choice of toppings, such as tomatoes, tortilla chips, frito corn chips, avocados, shredded cheese, sour cream, etc. 

Pretzel Rolo Candies

I'm trying to make my own candy this year to give away at the holidays instead of buying it.  Here is a very, VERY quick and easy way to make up some REALLY yummy little candies.  Seriously, they may look boring but don't underestimate them.

The only annoying part is unwrapping the rolo candies.  Note:  if you buy rolo candies in the store at the check-out line, they are unwrapped.  However, you will have to buy several (depending on how many you plan to make) and it will add up. 

Buy some cute little holiday treat carriers from Michael's or Target to disburse individually.
Pretzel Rolo Candies
adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
  • Bag of mini pretzels (if you are lucky you can find the mini star holiday pretzels, they have them out here)
  • Bag of Rolos, unwrapped
  • Choose your Toppings:  Halved Pecans, Halved Cashews, M&Ms, Hersheys kissables, etc.
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Place pretzels on an ungreased cookie sheet. 
  3. Place unwrapped Rolos on top of pretzels and bake for 3 minutes.  (You don't want them too melted.)
  4. Remove from oven and push half of nut (or candy) halfway down into the melted Rolo. 
I put mine in the fridge to cool for a bit and then took them out.  They are really good!!


Rotisserie Chicken, Hummus, Veggie and Brown Rice Wrap

Lunches normally consist of a lot of rice and vegetables for me.  This is the easiest, yummiest and quickest wrap that I've ever created.

Tip:  buy vegetables and smaller portions of meat at the salad bar to save money.  I ALWAYS do this because I have lettuce at home, but I want to have more stuff on my salads.  This way, I ensure that I can have some sprouts (without spending $4 on a package of sprouts) or beets (without spending $4 on a package of beers).  There is more variety and it costs significantly less.  My assortment of cucumbers, baby tomatoes, shredded carrots, rotisserie chicken, sprouts and green peppers cost about $3.  I was able to make 2 sandwiches out of this.

Rotisserie Chicken, Hummus, Veggie and Brown Rice Wrap
By Me!

Yield:  1

  • 1 wrap (I use LaTortilla Factory, Traditional w/ Extra Dietary Fiber - 90 cal, 3g fat, 13g dietary fiber.  Note:  Mission Tortillas are unnecessarily high and run at about 200+ calories for one wrap)
  • Hummus (or any type of spread you prefer)
  • 2-3 oz. of rotisserie chicken (or whichever meat you prefer)
  • Assortment of vegetables that you want on your wrap
  • Rice (I used the Minute brown rice individual cups that cook in 1 minute)
  1. If using brown rice bowl, cook in microwave for 1 minute.
  2. Spread hummus (or whatever spread you choose) down the middle of the wrap.
  3. Lay veggies on top of spread.
  4. Place meat on top, sprinkle with italian seasoning or salt/pepper.
  5. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of rice on the wrap.
    1. Reserve the remainder for a side.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and italian seasoning in mixture.
  6. Roll and enjoy! 
Be careful you don't overstuff the wrap!

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars Top Secrets Recipe

Despite screwing up the icing, badly (I failed to soften the cream cheese correctly and ran out of lemon juice), this recipe still turned out pretty well.  It is very, very sweet.  I tried it at 10pm and ended up bouncing around the house until 3 am because of all of the sugar.

I cut the entire cake into the triangle shape sizes and brought it into work for the folks at school.

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars
Yield:  16 triangular bars
Nutrition:  You don't want to know :)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks (I just use chips here.  It's easier.)

  • 4-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup diced dried cranberries
Drizzled Icing: (I think this step is optional.  I've always left it out because they are just so sweet already!)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable shortening (melted if you want a smoother consistency).
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Make cake by beating butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt and beat well. 
  4. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. 
  5. Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. 
  6. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13" baking pan (I used parchment paper). 
  7. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. 
  8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. 
  9. Allow cake to cool.
  10. Make frosting by combining softened cream cheese, 3 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. 
  11. When the cake has cooled, use a spatula to spread frosting over the top of the cake.
  12. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced cranberries over the frosting on the cake.
  13. Optional Steps #13 and 14:  Whisk together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and shortening. 
  14. Drizzle icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip to drizzle frosting across the top of the cake.
Allow cake to sit for several hours, then slice the cake lengthwise (the long way) through the middle.  Slice the cake across the width three times making a total of eight rectangular slices. Slice each of those rectangles diagonally creating 16 triangular slices.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baked Chicken Parmigiana w/ Whole Wheat Spaghetti

I decided to cook tonight.  I think the meal went over pretty well.  Ron ate 2 pieces of chicken.  It was pretty good and light tasting.  Quick and easy - took about 5 minutes to prep.

Chicken Parmigiana with Whole Wheat Spaghetti
adapted from This Mama Loves to Cook

Yield: 2 people if you live in this house!
Nutrition:  Not calculated.  But, you have a ton of breadcrumbs remaining so it's not like it's coated in breadcrumbs.  Plus, it's not fried in oil like restaurant chicken parm.  Definitely worth it!

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 14 oz.)
  • 1/2 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese (or omit this if your parmesan cheese is moldy :( )
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or just a few tsp)
  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 9 oz. linguini, cooked according to package directions (I used 1/2 box of WW linguine)
  • 1 jar your favorite spaghetti sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 375. 
  2. Cover chicken breasts with wax paper and pound with meat mallet until about 1/2 inch thick or less. 
  3. Combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a shallow dish. 
  4. Dip breasts in the beaten eggs making sure to coat each side, then dip in the bread crumb/cheese mixture coating both sides. 
  5. Arrange chicken breasts in a greased 9X13 pan. 
  6. Drizzle olive oil over breasts. 
  7. Bake 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. 
  8. Remove from oven. 
  9. Pour about a cup of the spaghetti sauce over the breasts.  
  10. Then sprinkle with mozzarella and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  11. Toss linguini with the remaining spaghetti sauce. 
  12. Place pasta on dishes and top with the chicken. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Every now and then, I get very strange cravings.  Today, my craving was for poppy seed muffins.  All of this stress & running is starting to really up my appetiteI cut the recipe in half (otherwise I would be eating all of them because they are so easy to pop in your mouth in passing).

Tip:  If you are ever planning to make a recipe that calls for a minimal amount of one ingredient, check the bulk section at the grocery store (or natural food store / co-op).  Especially items like dried fruits, wheat germs, etc.  Things that you may not have good use for after the recipe.  I purchased just the right amount of poppyseeds for this recipe instead of buying a bunch.  Total cost = 47 cents!  Score!!

These tiny muffins are really good.  I enjoyed the lemon flavor.  I used egg-beaters because that's all I had, but I couldn't tell the difference.  I also had to make my own buttermilk (1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice, sit for 5 minutes) because I forgot to get some at the store.

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from The Parsley Thief

Yield:  About 3 dozen*

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 packed tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & grease two mini muffin tins.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt & baking soda into a mixing bowl & set aside. 
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk & lemon juice together. 
  4. Using either a hand, or stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar & lemon zest together until blended. 
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each & occasionally scraping down the bowl.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, in 2 additions.
  7. Mix until just blended. 
  8. Stir in the poppy seeds.
  9. Fill the muffin tins with heaping tablespoonfuls of the batter.  (They should be nearly full to the top.)
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. 
  11. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a metal rack to cool completely.

*I cut the recipe in half and the recipe yielded about 20 mini muffins.  Each one is around 65 calories or so.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

S'mores Cookies

These cookies are absolutely amazing!   Plus, they only use one bowl which is a significant bonus. 

I've been wanting to bake for some time now and had some leftover marshmallows from Thanksgiving.  These required minimal attention, so I was able to listen to some audio lectures while mixing up the dough.

The only complaint I have is with my oven!  It just randomly picks and chooses what temperature it wants to be.  Despite having an oven thermometer, it doesn't matter so much if it decides to increase while the food is in the oven.  I put these in preheated at 375 only to find that it increased to 400 and burnt the outside a bit and undercooked the inside!  Grr... but they set up nicely on the wire rack.

The graham crumbles are awesome in the cookie.  It just tastes like you are eating a s'more.  So good, especially right out of the oven.  However, I also had one the next day and it was still pretty dang incredible.

S'mores Cookies
adapted from Make and Bake who adapted from Cookie Madness

Yield:  3 dozen cookies*

  • 3/4 cup softened butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup mini marshmallow
  • 2 Hershey bars, chopped up (I used mini-Hershey's kisses)
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars until fluffy. 
  3. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. 
  4. Add the flour, graham crackers, salt, and baking soda, and mix well. 
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment. 
  7. Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. 
  8. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of hershey bar into each cookies. 
  9. Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes until fully cooked. 
  10. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
*I halved the recipe and got about 16 cookies using my teaspoon cookie scoop.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mom's Chicken Salsa Soup

This recipe is extremely easy to make and very good.  I made a few minor adaptions to the recipe.  My changes are in red.

Chicken Salsa Soup
adapted by Mom who adapted from some place online ?

  • 3 chicken breasts cooked/shredded*
  • 4x16 oz cans of chicken broth, reduced sodium
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning
  • 16 oz bag frozen corn (I used a southwest blend w/ corn, black beans, onions & peppers)
  • 16 oz jar of chunky salsa (I used Archer Farms Original - made with jalepeno peppers, green chiles, black beans, corn and red bell peppers)
  • Shredded taco cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  1. To shred chicken:  place chicken breasts in pot.  Put enough water to cover.  Bring water to boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 35-40 minutes.  Drain and use two forks to shred.
  2. For soup:  Put chicken broth in pot.
  3. Add chicken, corn, salsa and seasonings.  Mix well.
  4. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese and tortilla chips on top.

Salty and Sweet Slow-Cooker Chex Mix

I love snacking on chex mix.  The following recipe makes a ton, lasts for days and is a great alternative to the traditional bagged chex mix in the stores.

Salty and Sweet Slow-Cooker Chex Mix
adapted from All Recipes with mild alterations reflected below

  • 4 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
  • 4 cups Cheese crackers
  • 3 cups mini-pretzels
  • 1 (12 ounce) can salted peanuts or mixed nuts
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or garlic pepper
  1. In a 5-qt. slow cooker, combine the first four dry ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, melt butter.  
  3. Combine melted butter, worchestershire sauce, salts and garlic.
  4. Drizzle over dry mixture and mix well. 
  5. Cover and cook on low for up to 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. 
This can be served warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner 2009

Notice the effing cranberry sauce is missing.  Grrr... What is the point of cranberry sauce.  It is ALWAYS missing from the table.  Somehow, it is ALWAYS forgotten.  I think I am about 0-26 with cranberry sauce and Thanksgiving dinner tables.  I guess I thought it would've been different this year because I made it myself!  Guess not.  :(

This is the first holiday I've ever spent away from my family.  It makes me sad and I am counting down the days when I can see the family again.  I miss everyone so much.  :(  I can't wait to head back east after school so we can see family on a more consistent basis.  Even a 6-hour drive wouldn't be so bad.

So, Ron and I tried to make the best of the situation with our own mini-family we have here out in Minnesota.   We began the day with our own mini-10k run (6.2 miles, but we ran 7.5 instead).  I'm so proud of him (and my dad) for how much they have improved with their fitness levels.  Then, I studied for nearly the entire day and Ron either: 1) watched football, 2) played video games, or 3) watched a movie/tv.

The Thanksgiving menu was relatively stress-free.  I made the cranberry sauce and prepared the potatoes yesterday.  Everything else will take about an hour or so to prepare. 

I have also made the pumpkin butter for the maple cinnamon biscuits.  See the recipe for pumpkin butter here.

Maple Cinnamon Biscuits 
adapted from Maple n' Cornbread

  • 2 cups flour (soft wheat works nice, eg: White Lily)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, frozen for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup cream or milk
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. 
  3. Grate the butter into the flour mixture. 
  4. Mix until mealy. 
  5. Stir together the cream and maple syrup. 
  6. Add to the dry mixture, folding only until moistened.  (Do not over mix or you will end up with heavy and dense biscuits)
  7. Place the dough on a floured surface. 
  8. Sprinkle with a bit of flour. 
  9. Gently form a 1 inch thick disc. 
  10. Using a biscuit cutter, dip in flour and then cut dough. 
  11. Place on a ungreased baking sheet, spacing each a few inches apart. 
  12. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. 
  13. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. 
These are best the day made or the following day slightly warmed in the microwave.  Store in an air tight container or bag once completely cooled.  Makes 8 to 10 biscuits depending on size cut.


Cranberry Sauce with Apple and Sage
adapted from Delicious Living
Yield:  Makes 1 2/3 cup

Did you know that cranberries sound like they are going to explode while you are cooking them?  I was terrified of the pot exploding!

  • 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • 1 teaspon minced fresh sage
  • Pinch of Salt 

  1. Put cranberries, apple juice concentrate, and water into a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until cranberries burst and mixture is thickened a bit, 5-6 minutes.
  3. Stir in honey, sage, and salt.
  4. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Serving Size (1/4 cup):  77 cal, 2% fat cal, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 0g protein, 20g carb, 2g fiber, 30mg sodium 

Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Cooking Light  
 Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

  • 2 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes*
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3  tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3  tablespoons maple syrup (use the food stuff)
  • 1  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  cup mini-marshmallows
  • 2  tablespoons chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork; place on a foil-lined baking sheet. 
  3. Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. 
  4. Cool slightly; peel and mash in a large bowl.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  6. Stir half-and-half and the next 8 ingredients (through egg) into sweet potatoes. 
  7. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. 
  8. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. 
  9. Sprinkle the top with mini-marshmallows and chopped pecans; bake 12 minutes or until the mini-marshmallows are slightly melted. 
  10. Serve immediately.
This recipe is convenient because you can make this dish up to two days ahead.  This is what I did!  To do so, bake the potatoes and assemble the ingredients (through the egg).  Then refrigerate and bake at 350 degrees just before serving.

*The great yam v. sweet potato debate.  I purchased 'sweet potatoes' and not 'yams' because the recipe called for 'sweet potatoes' and Byerly's had them labeled side-by-side.  However, my mashed mixture does not resemble their picture.  I'm not quite sure if this is because yams are frequently referred to as sweet potatoes, so most stores/recipes generally label a 'yam' as a 'sweet potato' to avoid confusion, or if its the other way around.  However, my recipe does not have the orange like the recipe picture.  So, who the heck knows.

Nutritional Information:  Calories 185, Fat: 7.3g (sat 3.6g,mono 2.1g,poly 0.7g), Protein: 3.2g, Carbohydrate:  28g, Fiber: 3.4g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Iron: 1mg, Sodium: 315mg, Calcium: 57mg

Vegetable Medley with Creamy Parmesan Sauce
Adapted from Pillsbury
Yield:  6 servings (1/2 cup vegetables and about 2 tablespoons of sauce)

  •  1 bag (1 lb) frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower
  • 2 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Fresh basil, options
  1. Cook vegetables as directed on bag; drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until cream cheese is melted and mixture is smooth and hot.
  3. Serve sauce with vegetables; sprinkle with chopped basil, if desired.
Nutrition Information per Serving:  70 calories, 35 fat calories, 4g fat (2.5 sat.), 10mg chl, 135mg sodium, 5g carb, 2g fiber, 2g sugar, 5g protein

Slow-Cooker Turkey with Cranberry Dressing
adapted from Prevention
Yield:  8 servings

  • 1 pkg (8 oz) herb-flavored stuffing mix (or use your own dried up bread)
  • 1/2 c. hot water
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped celery
  • 1/4 c. sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 3 lb. boneless, skinless turkey breast
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  1. Coat 5-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray and spread dry stuffing mix in it.
  2. Add water, butter, onion, celery, and cranberries.  Mix well.
  3. Sprinkle turkey breast with pepper and basil.
  4. Place over stuffing mixture.
  5. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours or until turkey is no longer pink in center and still moist.
Nutrition Per Serving:  340 cal, 46g protein, 25g carb, 5g fat (2g sat.), 115mg chol, 2g fiber, 630mg sodium

Also on the menu:
  • Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese (for Ron - he claims it's some holiday tradition, but I only recall it being served for the past 3 years.  Prior to that, he never complained.  I think it's just his excuse to eat nasty frozen food on Thanksgiving day).
  • Individual pumpkin pie slice (for me) and individual vanilla cake piece (for Ron), both from Kowalski's Markets.
Overall, it was a success.  I do prefer crunchier stuffing though, but this worked just fine.  The sweet potatoes were excellent!!  I definitely recommend them.  We also played some Thanksgiving trivia during our dinner.  However, I love Ron and his company, but I am looking forward to Thanksgivings with the entire family again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Cranberry Oat Bread - Mini Loaves

It has been a while since I've been on here!  Blame finals.

I am SO excited to make Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.  It is the first time that I am going to try and tackle it myself.  There are a few things that I pre-purchased(already made) but I am going to attempt a slow-cooker turkey/stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits, and sweet potato casserole by myself.

Today, I had some leftover bananas and cranberries.  I decided to search for a yummy healthy recipe to use these ingredients (and other stuff I had lying around the kitchen).  I found this wonderful recipe for a banana oatmeal loaf from the Two Peas in a Kitchen blog.  I made a few changes and reflected the changes in my recipe below.  The original can be found by clicking the link above.

I used my mini-loaf pans.  I love making bread, but I am in no position to eat a whole loaf to myself.  These little pans are adorable and you can freeze one mini-loaf to save for another time.  What a cute gift idea :)

Whole Wheat Banana Cranberry Oat Bread
adapted from Two Peas in a Kitchen

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg (approx. 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon of Splenda brown sugar blend (or 1/4 cup of regular brown sugar, packed)
  • 2 medium-largeish bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup (large individual container) light vanilla yogurt (Dannon Light & Fit works well)
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • 1 large egg
  • splash of milk, as needed
  • 3/4 cup fresh chopped cranberries (measure before chopping)
  • about 1/4 cup chopped pecans to sprinkle on top

  1. Preheat oven to 350*. 
  2. Combine dry ingredients (flour through brown sugar) in a small bowl. 
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients except cranberries and pecans.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients. 
  5. Stir in cranberries.
  6. Pour mixture into loaf pan. 
  7. Sprinkle with pecans.
  8. Bake about 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and knife comes out clean.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pretzel Bars

Yesterday's long run took a lot out of me.  I think I run too fast on my longer runs.  Accordingly, it takes a while for recovery.  I need to start going out there and running slower.  However, running slower can be annoying.

In any event, I decided to celebrate the post-15 with some goodies.  It kind of defeats the purpose of running all of those miles, but it's fine.  Life is short, eat a sweet!

I decided to cut the full recipe in half for these chocolate chip cookie pretzel bars.  The recipe posted below is for the full recipe.  I enjoy sweets, but Ron and I don't need to share a full 9x13 baking dish of butter and sugar!!  I baked my bars in a 1.5 quart casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I had some issues with mine because my oven is horrible.  I'm starting to get very annoyed with crappy kitchen appliances.  Unfortunately, my apartment managers don't upgrade unless the stuff is "broken."  Argh!!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pretzel Bars
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod who adapted from Food and Wine

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • One 12-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini pretzels, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles (I didn’t use these)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. 
  2. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. 
  4. Using a mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. 
  5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. 
  6. On low, beat in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated. 
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.
  8. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. 
  9. Press the batter down with a spatula. 
  10. If you want to use the sprinkles, sprinkle them on top of the batter. 
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. (The middle might be a little gooey but that is ok, the bars will set up.)
  12. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  13. Use a knife to go around the side of the pan to loosen the bars. 
  14. Cut the bars in squares and serve. 
YUM, Enjoy!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Baked Oatmeal

I have a 15 mile run tomorrow and I definitely need some good fuel food.  I found this recipe a few weeks ago and, like all fall dishes, it appealed to me.  The aroma that comes from the oven is amazing!

Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Baked Oatmeal
adapted from My Kitchen Addiction who adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup wheat bran
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree or applesauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup apple, chopped (skins are fine)
  • 1/3 - 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  
  2. Spray a baking dish (use small glass baking dish, 8x8) with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, wheat bran, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and cranberries.  
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, pumpkin puree or applesauce, melted butter, egg, and vanilla, whisking until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and stir to combine all of the ingredients.  
  6. Add the apple and combine with the wet oatmeal mixture.  
  7. Spread the oatmeal into the baking dish, and sprinkle with nuts.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the oatmeal has set and the top is golden. 
  9. Serve warm, topped with additional milk, if desired.
To reheat leftovers, add some milk before you pop it in the microwave.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Maple Pumpkin Custard - Alternative to my favorite, Pumpkin Pie

I am obsessed with pumpkin pie.  I eat something sweet every day, but my sweets tend to be pretty low in calories and fat.  It's rare that I actually induldge in something high-calorie, so Thanksgiving is my time to enjoy that flaky pie crust.

However, I often crave pumpkin pie throughout various times of the year.  Ron doesn't eat pumpkin, so I'm not interested in baking an entire pie to enjoy a tiny slice.  Thankfully, I stumbled upon this recipe from this fantastic blog.  This will certainly satisfy my random March cravings :) 

It is a recipe for maple pumpkin custard and this stuff is absolutely amazing.  It tastes EXACTLY like pumpkin pie.  I only made one change (used egg-beaters in place of eggs) but I doubt I will make that mistake again.  The entire pie is so low in calories (w/ the egg beaters, mine came to 480 calories for the entire 9 inch pie) and I don't think it's necessary to use the egg beaters.  I have a bad oven as it is, so it took me a bit longer to get this to cook, and I am certain the extra liquid didn't help.  But seriously, a recipe that gives you the same satisfaction.  And, you can eat the entire friggin pie if you want for the same caloric intake as a 1/8 slice of regular pumpkin pie!

Seriously, trust me on this one.  Serve this with some FF cool whip, some LF graham crackers and you will have an incredibly satisfying dessert with very minimal guilt.

Maple Pumpkin Custard
adapted from Eating Well, Living Thin (one of the best blogs ever)

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • One 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup Splenda Granular
  • 1/4 cup sugar free maple pancake syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup skim evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate or other casserole with the cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin puree, Splenda Granular, sugar free maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, eggs, milk, and vanilla.  
  4. Pour into prepared dish and bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. 
  5. Cool and then place in fridge.
  6. Serve cold with some FF cool whip.  
Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crockpot Chicken and Spicy Roasted Potatoes

This is such an easy meal.  I am a huge fan because it takes very little prep time and basically prepares itself.  Serve with some vegetables to get your greens!!

Crockpot Chicken
adapted from various recipes & common sense

  • 16-20 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Enough chicken broth to cover chicken
  • Spices or some type of chicken rub 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place thawed chicken breasts in crockpot.
  2. Rub spice on both sides of chicken.
  3. Pour chicken broth in crockpot to cover chicken.
  4. Set crockpot on high, 3.5-4 hours or low, 7.5-8 hours.
  5. Drain crockpot and serve!
This is my go-to recipe for shredding chicken for soups, chicken bbq sandwiches, and dips.  You can also mix it up by using different spices or flavorings (such as orange juice, etc).

Spicy Roasted Potatoes
adapted from Simply Potatoes

  • 1 bag of Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges  
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  1. Heat oven to 425°F. 
  2. Toss Simply Potatoes with oil in bowl. 
  3. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl; toss with Simply Potatoes until evenly coated.
  4. Place Simply Potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. 
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.  

Pasta e Fagioli

No, no.  There is not a typo in the title.  I did, in fact, make more pasta e fagioli soup!  Ron and I downed the soup from earlier this week in a day.  He had suggested that I put meat in the next batch.  Well, I had a busy week coming up, all of the leftover ingredients from the previous day, and a bookmarked recipe for soup that I had been dying to make for a while now!

So, I decided to make more soup!!  This soup turned out just as good as the last one.  But, I must admit that I preferred the previous recipe.  I enjoyed the spices a bit more.  However, I will add chicken the next time I make that soup.  On the other hand, Ron prefers this recipe.

Warning:  this makes a TON of soup!  We will be eating soup all week long, but this is just as I had planned.  Yum!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 tbsp. butter, divided
1 (20 oz.) package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
48-64 oz. reduced-sodium beef broth (depending on how much liquid you would like)
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (such as ditalini) (I used 8 oz.)

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sausage to the pot and brown, crumbling as it cooks.  
  3. Once the sausage is browned, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and discard any excess grease.
  4. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pot.  
  5. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, 8-10 minutes.  
  6. Return the sausage to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes with juices, stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the beans, beef broth and tomato sauce to the pot.  
  8. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.  
  9. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  10. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes.  
  11. Serve w/ a sprinkling of some freshly grated Parmesan, some crackers (my particular fave) or some garlic toast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spinach & Pasta e Fagioli

The weather has been gorgeous lately, but this has not stopped me from craving the comfort of a nice, big bowl of soup.  Soup is so easy.  Plus, it lasts for a while and this is a necessity during the school week.

This spinach pasta fagioli soup was absolutely incredible.  I bookmarked this about a month ago and have been craving it since I saw it.  I was so happy to finally make it.  Not only did I enjoy it, but so did my fiancee, the carnivore.  He also ate all of the vegetables that were in the soup.  I was impressed and very, very pleased not to see a pile of leftover vegetables remaining in his "empty" bowl.

Considering he is a carnivore, I decided to add some chicken to this meal.   I made a few slight changes to the ingredients and recipe from the original.  I also was pleasantly pleased with the white pepper - especially considering my last use turned into a disaster.

My changes are reflected in the recipe below.  You can find the original recipe from the link above.

Thank you, Mom, for my new stockpot!  This is much better than my old 4 quart pot.  Salem also thanks you for the box it came in :)

Spinach and Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Savoring Time in the Kitchen

  • 14 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (add more if desired)
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with oregano, basil & garlic seasoning, well-drained.
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup bagged spinach, cut into thin julienne
  • ¾ cup dry pasta such as Ditalini (or brown rice elbows)
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley 
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish

  1. For Chicken:  Place thawed chicken breasts in pot.  
  2. Sprinkle some italian seasoning, salt & pepper on chicken.
  3. Pour enough water over chicken to cover.
  4. Simmer over medium heat for about 50 minutes w/ lid.
  5. Once chicken is done, shred with two forks and set aside.
While chicken is cooking, prepare soup.
  1. For Soup:  Heat the oil in a 6 or 8-quart soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Add the carrots and sauté for 3 minutes. 
  4. Add garlic, stock, tomatoes and basil.
  5. Simmer for about 30 minutes, partially covered.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions, drain and reserve.
  7. After simmering for 30 minutes, add the beans. 
  8. Add the shredded chicken, julienne of spinach and pasta. 
  9. Cook for only about 5 minutes.
  10. Then add salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and taste for seasoning.
  11. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley and/or parmesan.
This soup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead through step 5 and then refrigerated.  You can also freeze the soup.  Adjust seasonings and add fresh herbs after reheating frozen soup.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Easy Teriyaki Chicken & Brown Rice

I haven't had Chinese take-out in over a year.  I don't know why, really.  I guess I've paid a bit too much attention to those 'Eat This, Not That' books.

Recently, I saw a recipe in a grocery store advertisement for some teriyaki chicken.  I decided to save the recipe and give it a try.  It seemed easy enough and it certainly was!  I managed to undercook the rice, but it still tasted great.  I have a love/hate relationship with rice.  This is why I stick to these babies (aka one of my go-to daily items).

Easy Teriyaki Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner
adapted from Minute

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup lite teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 cups Minute brown rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts or almonds (optional) 
  1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Add chicken; cook and stir 5-7 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Add water, teriyaki sauce and garlic powder; stir.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Stir in rice, broccoli and peanuts (if desired).
  6. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Let stand 5 minutes.
  9. Fluff with fork and enjoy!   

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cranberry Nut Pumpkin Bread

It was a long week.  Normally, my Fridays aren't so bad, but today seemed to drag on... and on... and on. 

I came home and decided to bake some up hearty bread for my weekend of long runs and endurance rides.  Oh, and studying.  The weather is gorgeous for November!  I don't mind cold weather, but I'm not so much a fan of cycling in those uncomfortable cycle pants that are a necessity for cold weather cycling.  Oomph.

So, I popped on some Christmas tunes (yes, already) and began to bake.  I mixed up a fantastic recipe for Cranberry Nut Pumpkin Bread that I found on My Kitchen Addiction.

Seriously, this bread is amazing!  So good, so perfect, and exactly what I was looking for in a hearty, fall bread.  YUM!!  I made a few slight changes, more or less because I didn't have the ingredients on hand.  I also swapped the oil with applesauce.   For some reason, I always substitute oil with applesauce.  It makes the bread a bit dry, but I don't mind it and I'm not a big fan of oil.  So, it works for me :)

Cranberry Nut Pumpkin Bread
adapted from My Kitchen Addiction, who adapted from Simply in Season

Ingredients  (yield, 1 x 9-inch loaf)

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour  (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ  (I used wheat bran - didn't have wheat germ)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I omitted and used 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • Additional brown sugar and wheat germ for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, wheat germ, sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices.  
  3. Make a well in the center, and add the pumpkin puree, eggs, and oil. 
  4. Mix just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.  
  5. Add the cranberries and pecans and stir to incorporate into the batter.
  6. Spread the batter in the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with some additional brown sugar and wheat germ. 
  7. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  
  9. Remove the loaf from the pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Soup with Cinnamon Croutons

I felt like making some unique and fall-like today.  The weather was dreery and my brain was too "fuzzified" to consider attempting to do all of the studying I had originally planned.  I've hit that point in the semester where I start to get really annoyed.  The holidays are coming, visits home and family vacations are approaching, marathon training is picking up, the weather is still bearable. . .  My mind floats around to everything BUT school work.  *Sigh*

Butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples - all of those things remind me of fall.  Yesterday, I picked up a 1 lb. package of pre-cubed butternut squash.  I am a huge fan of buying pre-cut vegetables.  It may be more expensive, but clumsy people should not use knives.

This morning, I prepared some pumpkin butter to have with toast and bagels.  It is excellent!  I ate it in place of peanut butter on my daily graham cracker snack.  It tastes like pumpkin pie!  Very, very good.

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from Closet Cooking
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar (I actually used 1/4 cup of Splenda brown sugar substitute)
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves

1.  Combine ingredients in a pot.
2.  Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Then, I settled on this recipe for Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Soup.  I was kind of intimidated, but figured, what the heck!  

Recall that I am a fan of pre-cut vegetables (and convenience in general).  Well, the SuperTarget did not have the pomegranate arils so I settled on one large pomegranate.  Today was my first attempt to bust one of those bad boys open.  Umm... why is it so damn difficult to get out those delicious little gems??  They were flying all over the place!  The cats were chasing them around the kitchen and juice was squirting all over the walls.  It was a madhouse.

While the soup was simmering, I made up some cinnamon croutons to have with the soup.  I recall seeing this tip on a Food Network show one day:  Cut 3 slices of bread into cubes.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Toss with cinnamon and brown sugar (measure to your preference) and bake in oven around 350 degrees.  Toss every 5 minutes or so until bread begins to brown.


I don't know.  Something about the end result didn't make me a happy cook or a happy diner.  I guess I am used to eating soup that has chewable items (i.e. vegetables, chicken, noodles, etc.) included so I kept dumping stuff in here to chew.  I must not be a fan of the whole 'puree' thing.  The soup itself was . . . interesting.  It was a blend of sweet and spicy, but I could never really tell what I was going to get.  Truthfully, I doubt that I will make this again.  Interesting concept, but I just wasn't a fan.

Nonetheless, I will not chalk this day up as a loss. 

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Soup
adapted from Mele Cotte who adapted from POM

1 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
½ cup arils from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate
1 ½ bs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed*
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons green chiles, chopped*
3 cups chicken broth (or water)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white pepper*
½ cup dry sherry or other white wine*
1 cup milk (nonfat or low fat)*
1 cup crispy corn tortilla chips (1 ounce)
½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds*
½ cup creme fraiche or sour cream*

1)  Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top.  Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.).
2)  In a stockpot, add butternut squash, sweet potato, onion, green chiles, chicken broth and pomegranate juice. 
3)  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a medium low and cook for 30 minutes or until squash can be easily smashed against the side of the pot with a spoon. 
4)  Add salt, pepper and sherry or white wine. 
5)  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
6)  Process soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. 
7)  Return soup to the stockpot, add 1 cup of milk (or more if mixture is too thick) and reheat.
8)  Serve in bowls with crisp corn chips, creme fraiche, pomegranate arils and toasted pumpkin seeds. 

*Look at all my changes!  This is probably why the soup didn't turn out so well.  Oh well.
1)  I only had 1 lb of squash.
2)  I omitted the green chilis and sour cream.
3)  I did not have wine, so I added 1/4 cup of apple juice.  I don't think this worked well, but I couldn't really tell because . . .
4)  The amount of white pepper was over-bearing.  It was almost too spicy for me.
5)  I used pine nuts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oven Roasted Shrimp & Butternut Squash Fusilli

Tonight was a rare Tuesday night home.  I am in school and most of my classes are in the evenings.  Class was canceled so I was fortunate to eat dinner at a normal time.  For some reason, I was craving shrimp. 

I don't recall that I have ever used shrimp in a recipe.  At some point in my life, I think I might have used a slow-cooker to make jambalaya, but I can't recall if I actually used the shrimp that was included in the ingredients.  In any event, I needed a quick & painless recipe for shrimp.  Honestly, I didn't even know how to cook shrimp.  In fact, tonight was the first time I had ever purchased fresh shrimp.  Sheesh. 

I found a fantastic recipe on the Food Network site for oven roasted shrimp.  It was paired with Thousand Island dressing, but I opted out of that step.  Though, I am sure it is delicious.

Oven Roasted Shrimp
slightly adapted from Food Network 

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Dry shrimp and place in bowl.
  3. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over shrimp.
  4. Sprinkle salt & pepper over shrimp.
  5. Toss to coat.
  6. Lay on a flat baking sheet and roast for 6-8 minutes.
WOAH!!  It was so simple, so quick and it turned out so good!  My fiancee, the carnivore, ate his up without a single complaint.   YUM!!

I would love to share my recipe for the butternut squash fusilli, but it came from a lovely box that was purchased at Target.  Don't judge - I can't quit my old habits cold turkey.  They are likely to stick around for a while.  :)

My November 1 Resolution - Cook More, Fret Less!

I am officially turning over a new leaf! Forget New Years Resolutions, this is my November 1st resolution!

For many years, I have eaten the exact same thing. It has been an ongoing routine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner varied slightly, but were basically the same. Snacks were always planned in advance. In fact, I would allow my life to get thrown off course if I did not have my "staples" with me on a daily basis. I made for an unpleasant vacation-goer with family.

Despite my neurosis, I had always been fine with my routine. But, one day I noticed that I was actually postponing my breakfast because I was dreading it. I was dreading making (and eating) the granola that I ate for the past 3 years straight. I let this continue for many months before I realized that I was in a food funk. I needed a change!

I have always enjoyed baking. To me, it was meditating. "Measure, mix, measure, repeat. . . " I enjoyed how soothing the whole process could be (especially coupled with the lovely Mozart that always plays in the background). But, cooking was not exactly soothing - it often ended badly. Very, very badly. However, I wanted to eat something besides my usual. So, I began to follow several food blogs online. I bookmarked hundreds of recipes. I poured through cookbooks and food magazines. I marked tons of recipes that I was excited about and wanted to make.

All the while, I complained about this "food funk" but refused to climb out of the hole. I continued to eat the same ol' stuff. Why? The kitchen scares the living patooties out of me! I somehow mess up even the simplest recipes. But, as of November 1st, 2009, I am going to enter the kitchen with a new outlook. I will no longer fear the kitchen.

So, my goal is a big one, but manageable. I want to learn how to cook. I want to learn how to cook confidently! I want to explore new foods and eat without concern. I want to document this process to learn from my inevitable mistakes. I will start off slow. Eventually, I hope that I am comfortable serving my food to others. For now, my guinea pig will be my fiancee (who doesn't eat fruit or vegetables - another challenge by itself).

As for my go-to items, they will still be in the kitchen. I often eat to fuel hard work-outs, and some foods just can't be let go. Especially not my daily peanut butter & graham cracker snack ;)