Monday, May 6, 2013

Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowl

Underneath the generous helpings of salsa, sour cream, avocado and tomatoes here is a big bowl of cilantro-lime quinoa and yummy cilantro-infused cooked black beans topped with corn and cheese. 

Everything is mixed in here in this picture.  I am REALLY loving quinoa lately.  I've made several different recipes in the last few weeks and have loved them all!  I will be bringing them to the blog soon, kay? This was FABULOUS and I wish had a bowl of it sitting on my desk. right. now.

Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowl
from The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings

1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp chili powder (mild)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (spicy)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup shredded lettuce

Optional toppings:
grated cheese
sour cream or greek yogurt
diced tomatoes
pico de gallo or salsa
hot sauce or sriracha

Rinse the quinoa in a sieve or mesh strainer under running water. Drain. Pour quinoa into a saucepan along with 2 cups of water. Bring the quinoa to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot. Let the quinoa simmer for about 20 minutes till it becomes tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Keep a close eye to make sure the quinoa doesn't burn.

While quinoa is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of oil in another saucepan over medium heat. Pour minced onion into the saucepan and saute for a few minutes till it softens and begins to turn brown. Add the minced garlic to the pot and let it saute for 1-2 minutes longer till aromatic.

Add the black beans to the pot of onions along with 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Let the beans simmer for 15 minutes till the liquid is mostly evaporated. Stir in 2 tbsp of fresh lime juice. Season with salt to taste.

When the quinoa is fully cooked, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Use the fork to mix in 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro and 2 tbsp fresh lime juice. Season with salt to taste.

Assemble your burrito bowls. Divide the cilantro lime quinoa between four bowls. Top each portion of quinoa with 1/4 cup of shredded lettuce, simmered black beans and optional toppings.  Serve warm.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad


  Alright so I totally failed at starting a new blog.  I guess I admit I'm a little embarrassed.  You see, I was kinda hoping that this fresh start would inspire and motivate me to regularly blog since I was starting at square one.  That, plus a lot of the posts on this here blog were old and not very well written and consisted of weird formatting... blah blah.  But then I came to realize that this blog still has a ton of recipes that I love and will always come back to... and so what if the writing is a little immature? So what if a bunch of the recipes were posted in 2010?  This blog is me and it's just a fun outlet for me to write about food that I love.  Ha sounds a little cheesy.  

I'm not gonna stick to any set posting schedule, I'm just gonna post about recipes that I've made and both my husband and I have loved when I get the chance.  I don't post anything on here that (at least) I haven't loved! My husband is a little bit pickier than I am when it comes to healthier foods but he will still eat anything I put in front of him.  I always make sure to get his opinion on everything I make because his is a different perspective than mine.  I have very broad taste buds; I love trying new things whereas my husband already knows what he likes- and that's what he wants. 

This here recipe is super yum!  It's made in a slow cooker, so it's super easy.  I altered it a bit and made a homemade BBQ sauce instead of buying the bottled kind.  You can find that homemade recipe here.  I used one whole recipe for the chicken, but you could probably get away with halving it.  I had a lot of leftover sauce in the crock pot.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad
adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff
Makes about 6 large salads

5 chicken breasts
1 recipe homemade BBQ sauce or 18 oz. bottle BBQ sauce
12 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
2 avocados, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 hard-boiled eggs, diced
2 cups cheddar cheese

Other toppings you might want to add: cucumbers, red onion, green onion, bleu cheese . . . the possibilities are endless!

Spray the inside of your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts inside and pour the bottle of barbecue sauce on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for 4-5 hours (or high for about 2 1/2 hours). Take chicken out of slow cooker and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Once chicken is cut, assemble your salads. Place about 2 cups of lettuce on the bottom of your plate and top with the vegetables/toppings of your choice. Top salad with your favorite salad dressing (Ranch, Italian, Thousand Island- whatever you want! I prefer Ranch)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do It Yourself: Homemade Barbeque Sauce


Sooooo.... this is the first time I've ever made a homemade condiment!  Other than salsa, if you count that!  Did you know that most store-bought barbeque sauces have an insane amount of sugar and most have high fructose corn syrup in them?  I've decided I no longer want to buy barbeque sauce from the store because of this and also because of all of the extra, unwanted additives and chemicals they put in pretty much all processed foods.  But, this recipe is seriously SO easy! Anyone could make it.  Just throw all the ingredients in a pot, stir and simmer for 25 minutes or so.  And I have the YUMMIEST recipe idea that I will post about tomorrow or very soon... it was SO good! Liquid smoke, one of the ingredients, is something I had never bought before. It is a substance produced from smoke that is passed through water.  It's used to flavor and preserve foods.  In this recipe, it adds the distinct hickory flavor that is common to barbeque sauce.  I found it in the condiment aisle of my grocery store, I think next to the barbeque sauces, even.

Homemade Barbeque Sauce
from Skinnytaste
Makes 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons
  • 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (unsulfured)
  • 2 tsp all natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To use on grilled meat, brush onto chicken, pork or beef the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Unprocessing My Diet and Whole Wheat Waffles

So I will say first things first: I don't believe actual "diets" work.  As stated in my About Me page, people who lose substantial weight on popular diets (think Atkins, HCG, etc) almost always regain the weight within 5 years.  What works is a healthy lifestyle.  I DO believe in changing the way you eat to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These 3 things are the 3 categories of food that most people need to work on eating more of.

I've recently come upon the blog, 100 Days of Real Food.  Um wow, I can't stop reading through all of the posts.  A wife and mom of 2 kids decided to completely eliminate all processed foods from her family's diet.  At first it was a 100-day goal, but now they have continued this way of eating.  I've always known that it's best to limit processed food intake, but the more I read and the more I think of it, it really makes sense to eat hardly ANY of it.  The "American" diet is saturated with processed junk food like Cheez-its, donut holes, Oreos, Reeses'... and is made with unnatural and even harmful ingredients such as artificial coloring dyes, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and genetically-modified organisms.  The saying is true that says if you wouldn't find the ingredient in your pantry, then why should you be eating it?

Now that I have a daughter (she's 3 months old), I've really been re-thinking my approach toward nutrition.  I ate pretty healthy before, buying low-fat products and whole-wheat bread, rice and tortillas, while trying to include lots of fruits and vegetables.  But I don't think that's enough anymore.  There is a definite link between nutrition and diseases of the body; you truly are what you eat.  I have a healthy body, but what I eat now will determine my health in 30, 40, 50 years from now, and I want my daughter and other future children to grow up eating the most healthy foods possible with a love of nutrition like mine.  I want their risk of getting illnesses and nutrition-related diseases to be as low as possible, and I know that I can minimize that risk in my own home.

Now I'm not going ever going to be perfect.  I can't say I will never bake with all-purpose flour again (a true "real food" diet does not include any enriched flour) or that I will never eat an Oreo again. That is simply unrealistic.  However, I am going to do my best.  These are the things I am going to work on improving in mine and my family's diet:

1. I'm not going to buy any products with high-fructose corn syrup in it
2. The products I buy will have as few ingredients as possible (the more ingredients it has, the more processed it is)
3. I will bake with whole-grain flour and unrefined sweeteners such as honey, pure maple syrup and sucanat
4. I will try to purchase as many organic products as I can afford
5. I will try to make homemade versions of store-bought items (like BBQ sauce, chicken broth, granola, bread, etc.)
6. I will stop buying low-fat and fat-free products (this post and this post were both an eye-opener to me but after additional research it makes sense that low-fat products are not healthier and they add in extra preservatives and other chemicals that make the product unsafe and unhealthy!)
This will be an on-going journey that will take time to completely adjust to, but I'm feeling committed.  I want the best for my family.  I feel SO amazing when I feed my body healthy, whole, REAL foods.  I constantly think back to the diet of our ancestors- processed junk food did not exist and they ate REAL food! It is the food that God intended us to eat, I think! (I'm definitely NOT saying it is a sin to eat processed foods at all, just that unprocessed food is in or is as close to its God-given natural state).

Here are some additional posts from the 100 Days blog that were interesting and helpful in eating less processed food:
Why you should cut processed food
What exactly is "real food?"
10 common misconceptions about real food
Real food meal plan ideas
85 snack ideas

I am definitely going to make a serious effort in eating "real" food and cooking and baking with real ingredients.  I'm excited to start this lifelong journey.  On a final note for today, I have a real food recipe that I got from the same blog... 100 Days of Real Food: waffles.  These are 100% whole wheat, using white whole wheat flour.  It is a little lighter in texture than normal whole wheat flour but yet has the same nutritional benefits.  These waffles are husband approved! My husband loved them, although he did not love the pure maple syrup that I put on top of my own waffle; he opted for regular pancake syrup (the processed, high-fructose corn syrup kind!). I personally enjoy the fresh taste of 100% real maple syrup and even though it is much runnier than pancake syrup, it is still very sweet and yummy.

Whole Wheat Waffles
Makes 4-5 waffles

2 large eggs
1 ¾ cups milk (anything from skim milk to thick buttermilk should work)
¼ cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (organic white whole-wheat flour works great)
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
Warmed 100% pure maple syrup for serving
Fresh fruit for serving
  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, honey, cinnamon, and baking soda until well combined.
  3. Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together just until the large lumps disappear.
  4. When the waffle iron is hot, dab it with a little butter and then ladle some batter onto the center of the iron. Follow the instructions that came with your waffle maker to know how long it should be cooked (mine takes about 3 – 4 minutes each).
  5. Keep waffles warm until you finish cooking all of them. Top with pure maple syrup and fruit. Enjoy!

PERFECT Sugar Cookies

Let's talk about SUGAR COOKIES.  Okay so growing up my mom made sugar cookie cut-outs for just about every holiday- ALWAYS Halloween though, and USUALLY every Easter as well.  It is a fun tradition that I want to continue in my family.  I remember gathering around the table with my brothers and sister and decorating the baked and cooled cookie shapes with colored frosting and holiday-themed sprinkles.  The cookies my mom made were very good, in fact I'd make them again and again with no second thought if it weren't for this other cookie recipe.  This "other" cookie recipe is the recipe of my sister-in-law, Annie.  She has made them a couple times and brought them to family gatherings.  They are ah-mazzzzing.  Super thick, not dry at all (perfect moistness), and so so soft with a thick, creamy frosting that sets up beautifully. They remind me of the store-bought sugar cookies with thick frosting and sprinkles that everyone is obsessed about. Except better. I wanted to try making them myself to see if they would taste as good as hers... and they definitely did!  Wow... this is my go-to sugar cookie recipe now forever! So yeah you should try them out!

Perfect, Thick Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
Yield: about 2 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter (I used salted though and it was fine)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add 1 cup at a time to batter.  Chill dough for 1 hour.  Roll out thick on floured surface (1/4 inch).  Cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Wait until completely cool to frost.

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
Mix all ingredients together using an electric mixer.

Bacon Cheddar Florentine Quiche

KAY so I'm just gonna get right down to it.  Never made quiche before today (yes I actually made this recipe today!) and I was pleasantly surprised at the easiness and deliciousness! I'm thinkin' this recipe might be on the repeat for this Sunday's morning brunch..

Bacon Cheddar Florentine Quiche
recipe adapted from the Picky Palate cookbook
serves ~4 main dish servings

2 cups spinach
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cheese- cheddar or monterey jack
1 refrigerated pie crust (or frozen pie crust- I used this, or homemade pie crust)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unroll the pie crust and put in a 9-inch pie plate.  Poke the bottom of crust with a fork several times.  Put chopped bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Place bacon on a paper-towel lined plate.  Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add spinach and onion to the reserved grease over medium-high heat and cook until onions are tender and spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.
When oven temperature is ready, bake pie crust for about 10 minutes to pre-bake it (do not need this step if using a frozen pie crust).  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  When crust is done baking, take out of the oven and spread the spinach and onion mixture over the pre-baked crust, and top with the bacon. Pour egg mixture over, and then top with parsley and cheese.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until eggs are set.  Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

So prettttty much I'm obsessed with Pinterest.  So addicting. If you follow me, then you probably have seen my gazillion boards with food.  Cause like if I wanna make a pie, then all I have to do is go to my pie board and choose one! Haha oh wow I sound like a total geek right now.  This pasta was pinned a long time ago but I decided to just now give it a try. Um, it is dang good! I recommend making it! Although I did tweak some changes- mostly that I increased the red pepper from one to two. This was because a) I feel like there was not nearly enough red pepper for the whole recipe, and 2) I'm trying to eat less meat in my life (hopefully will be a blog post one of these days) and one good rule of thumb for this is to cut the meat portion of recipes in half and to double the veggies. Now I didn't do exactly that, but you get the idea. Enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
adapted from Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour
serves ~4-6

2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 {4 oz.} can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 {10 oz.} cans green chili enchilada sauce
2/3 cups red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese {I used colby & monterrey jack}
1 cup sour cream
2/3 box of penne pasta
Optional toppings: avocado, green onions, black olives, tomatoes, sour cream

Cook chicken, drain, and shred.  Meanwhile boil pasta according to package and chop the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet and cook onions for about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic & red pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add cooked chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, & enchilada sauces.  Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes.

Add cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and heated through.  Now toss in the sour cream, but whatever you do, DO NOT bring to a boil!  Cook on low heat or the sour cream will curdle.  Gross.  Stir until sour cream is well mixed and heated through.

Drain pasta & return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well.  Serve and garnish with avocado, tomato, green onion, and a dollop of sour cream.

Amazing Coconut Granola

Here's the deal. In my experience, homemade granola recipes just don't tend to be as crunchy and "cluster-y" as store-bought granola.  Am I right? Or is that just me?  I've tried several granola recipes before this one and none of them were up to par with my crunchy granola standards.  Except this one.  Holy wonderful it is the best darn granola I think I've ever eaten. Can't really tell in the picture, sorry I'm definitely no photographer.  But don't let the pic deter you from making this granola.  It's super easy, very healthy and amazingly delicious.

Coconut Granola
from Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1/3 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Slipat or parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut extract. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are well-coated.
3. Pour the granola mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread granola into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until granola is golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes. Let granola cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.
The only advice I'll give you is to not turn the oven temperature hotter than the recipe calls for, and don't increase the time it's in the oven because you think it's nowhere near done yet.  This was my case making batch #1.  It turned out black and unedible.  I was very upset because it was smelling INCREDIBLE! Well I made another batch a week or so later (had to re-stock my coconut and pepitas) and actually followed the directions.. it came out perfect! :)

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich

These lovelies are basically to-die for. First you start off with the most fudgey, chocolatey cookies on the planet. Seriously I'm in love with these Double Chocolate Cookies from the Let's Dish recipes blog. I've made them several times, and they always turn out.  Although I've found that the recipe requires a little more flour- I use 2 1/2 cups instead of 2 cups and bake them for 10 minutes at least. I tried 8-9 and it was not enough, they were a little gooey, but still awesome!

So, basically make the above cookies (follow the link to the blog). Eat the dough and eat a bunch of cookies before you realize you only have a dozen left to make ice cream sandwiches with.  Then whip out some mint ice cream (I used Dreyer's Mint Cookie Crunch) and soften it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. (You could leave it on the counter for 10 minutes or so but I did not think ahead and was not patient enough to wait).  Then take a big dollop of ice cream and place it on one cookie, and then sandwich it with another.  Press down gently so that the ice cream flattens out, and use the back of a spoon to evenly spread the ice cream between the two cookies.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  In fact mine were pretty messy. Doesn't affect the taste! Then wrap in a piece of aluminum foil. (It helps if you tear a bunch of pieces of foil off before starting the process, as then you don't have to tear each one off with your messy, ice-cream fingers.) Place each cookie directly into the freezer after wrapping. Let freeze for a few hours until solid, then eat straight from the freezer!
I love these so much. I'm so excited to make different cookie/ice cream combinations... chocolate chip cookie and vanilla or chocolate or strawberry ice cream, peanut butter cookie and chocolate or Reeses ice cream... ah there's so many possibilities! Love.

Homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Look at these beauties.  I'm seriously so happy about them right now.  I saw the idea to make homemade sun-dried tomatoes on Pinterest and pretty much immediately went into the kitchen to make them yesterday.  All you need is a little basket of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (if you only had regular tomatoes, I'm sure you could slice or chop them up and it'd also work just fine!), some olive oil, and spices.  I used salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.  I just sprinkled it all on without any measurements.  Then, toss it all together on a aluminum foil sheet-lined baking pan and stick in the oven at 250 for 2 hours.  Yes, 2 hours! Once you bite into one of these babies, you will be in heaven.  Ah-mazing!! Oh and to warn you, your house will smell incredible while these are in the oven.
Then I had the marvelous idea to mix these babies with some leftover whole-wheat spaghetti in the fridge along with pesto and parmesan cheese.  Best decision ever! I very much recommend making this for lunch. Or dinner.  Just whenever. It's super easy and VERY TASTY and healthy too!

Homemade Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
dash of oregano
dash of garlic powder
dash of salt and pepper
Pesto sauce (can be homemade or jarred- I used jarred)
whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked
parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional)
Heat oven to 250 degrees F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the tomatoes and combine with olive oil, salt and pepper, oregano and garlic powder.  Just sprinkle the spices on until you feel like it's enough.  Toss until all tomatoes are coated and then spread out evenly on baking sheet.  Bake in oven for 2 hours.  When they are done, combine whole-wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce (1/4 cup of pesto for every 1 cup of pasta) and top with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Yum!

Baked Mushroom Rice

Oookayy so I truly am a mushroom lover.  Honestly, I think my favorite kind of pizza is cheese with mushrooms. I must be 80 years old or something.  But I feel a tad better because my meat-loving husband also adores mushroom pizza.  So there.  It's cool to love mushrooms.
Anyway... even if you don't love mushrooms all that much, you will most likely, probably still love this dish.  I pretty much am obsessed with it and want to make it again right now.  It's got a TON of flavor.  a ton.  The only thing I think I will change next time is that I will use brown rice instead of white because brown rice is much healthier.  This recipe is from the Our Best Bites cookbook- a really awesome blog with awesome recipes.

P.S. I tried this with chicken broth as well, and it did NOT taste the same- it is much better with the beef broth.

Baked Mushroom Rice
from Our Best Bites, published on Sue's Favorites
Yield: 6-8 servings

2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long grain rice, uncooked
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Continue cooking until onions are translucent and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat. Combine remaining ingredients in the pan. Transfer mixture into 9x13 dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir before serving.

Nutrition Facts: (1/6 of recipe) 158 calories, 5g fat (3g saturated), 10mg cholesterol, 1400mg sodium, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Salted Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hey.  Don't wanna deceive you, so right away I will tell you that these are not a "healthy" recipe.  Okay glad we got that straight. I know that my blog is gonna focus on healthy eating and all, but like I said in my first post and in my About Me page, I make unhealthified recipes as well.  All in moderation!
So basically this was my first time browning butter. Oh my heavens.  It is so amazingly amazing. It takes normal choc-chip cookies to over-the-top incredible morsels of deliciousness. Browning the butter takes a little time, and since you have to chill the dough for an hour after, this recipe is a little tiny bit more time consuming than regular chocolate chip cookies.  Not that either recipe is time consuming.  Just thought I'd let you know.  Oh and be patient when browning the butter.  I was getting a little antsy to see the color change and it was "taking forever," but when it DOES change color its pretty immediate and you gotta take it off the burner right then so it doesn't burn!  The salt on top is the final touch.  Adds the salty & sweet effect which is reaaaallly good.  So don't skip the salt!

Salted Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from What's Gaby Cooking

8 oz butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups chocolate chips
flaky salt (I used coarse Kosher) for topping

Cut the butter into small pieces and place them in small pot over medium heat.  Stir the butter so it all melts.  When it's completely melted, it will start to foam and you'll smell a little nuttiness.  The color will start to change from yellow to a golden color.  Once the butter is golden brown or tan, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the butter to another bowl to cool.  Once the butter is just cooled, you can strain out the little sediments in the butter and you'll be left with a brown nutty butter.

In a large mixer, combine melted browned butter and brown sugar with paddle attachment.  Let whisk for 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.  Add the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder and slowly combine, making sure to not over-mix the batter.  Add the oats and chocolate chips and combine.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  It's very important to chill the dough since we started with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Using a 1-inch scoop, scoop 12 cookies onto each parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with some flaky salt. Transfer sheets into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies just slightly turn a golden brown color on edges but are still soft and chewy in the middle.  Remove from oven, transfer to cooling rack and repeat for remaining dough.

Vegetable Lime Chickpea Chili

K what is up with the Arizona weather lately? Seriously three days ago it was 60 degrees and now this week it's forecasted to get into the 90's.  What the what? Not to mention it snowed a couple weeks ago! Snow in Arizona. Fur-real. Anyways I'm kinda bummed because chili and soup is technically a lot yummier to eat and more appropriate when it is at least slightly chilly outside.  And now the weather has (almost) screwed up my plans to give you this great recipe.  'Cause I figure that guess what? This will still taste just as good in 80 degree weather as it will in 50 degree weather. No warm spell is gonna bring me down! Anddd maybe, just maybe, you are actually somewhere where it IS still chilly! Yay for you!  But, seriously, this chickpea chili is very fabulous at any time of the year.  My meat-loving husband loved it in all its veggie glory.  I have an idea- if it is warm where you are (like AZ) simply blast your AC to winter conditions.  (Oh my husband would just LOVE that!) Then enjoy this soup? Sounds good to me.

Vegetable Lime Chickpea Chili
from the Picky Palate cookbook, published on Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 6-8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped white onion
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 1/2 cups yellow squash
1 cup chopped mini sweet peppers (I just chopped one red bell pepper)
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: shredded cheese and sour cream as toppings

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet peppers, and baby bells and cook, stirring, until tender, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper, stir to combine and cook until hot, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until ready to serve. Top with cheese and sour cream if desired.

Nutrition Facts: (1/6 of recipe) 265 calories, 6.5g fat (0.9g saturated), 1513mg sodium, 11g fiber, 10g protein

Healthy Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I am totally on a muffin kick lately.  Yeah of course I love the buttery, streusel-y cinnamon-y muffins such as one would get at Costco or Starbucks or someplace like that... but these are NOT those muffins!  They are healthy with hardly any added sugar and are full of fiber.  Don't be turned away from the saturated fat in the nutrition facts.  It is from the coconut oil, however the saturated fat in coconut oil has been shown in studies to have no adverse effects in the body.  However, these are still pretty dang tasty! Perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  I am loving making muffins lately to freeze and put in my husband's lunch to take to work.
These are 100% whole-wheat.  The recipe calls for only whole-wheat flour, but I used half whole-wheat, and half whole-wheat pastry flour.  The pastry flour adds a lighter texture since the whole-wheat tends to produce a heavier, denser baked good.  The original recipe, from the blog 100 Days of Real Food (all about eating zero processed foods- read it, it's great!), also has zero added sugar.  However I did sprinkle some brown sugar on top of each muffin before baking to add a little added sweetness.  I am glad I did! If you want even more sweetness, you could add maybe 1/4-1/2 cup of additional browns sugar to the batter.

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
adapted from 100 Days of Real Food
Yield: 12 muffins

3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4-1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil (or other oil)
3/4 cup apple juice or orange juice
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (or other fruit or nuts)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl with a fork or whisk, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and pour in eggs, honey, vanilla, oil and juice.  Mix the dry and wet ingredients together- do not overmix.  Add blueberries or other fruit.
Line muffin pan with liners or spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and then fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature or freeze some to eat later!

Nutrition Facts: (per muffin) 136 calories, 5.7g fat (4.3 sat. fat), 31mg cholesterol, 208mg sodium, 2.2g fiber, 8.5g sugar, 3.1g protein

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The BEST Chocolate Cake

So the picture is really blurry (I KNOW- I want a better camera so bad...) but I'm gonna keep this super short n' sweet. (Just like I said in my last post- ha)  This is the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE you will ever eat! Hands down, most definitely the richest, and fudgiest and most chocolatey cake on this earth!
I know you may not believe me, but TRUST me! At first when I saw the post on Kevin & Amanda I wasn't sure whether I should believe it...

But after seeing this batter and sticking my finger in it trying it with a spoon, I was not the least bit skeptical anymore.

The batter is so thick and chocolatey and tastes amazing. And the cake is even better. Here is my cake after I frosted it... (my first time frosting a cake, by the way...)

The frosting is homemade too- Buttercream frosting and it is fabulous on this cake.  I would say you need to make the frosting if you're gonna make the cake.
And yes, I made this for my Mom.  Not for Mother's Day as you would assume, but actually for her birthday, which was the week before!

And here she is blowing out the candles!  She's so cute, and only 41! I love her :)

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small pkg Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cake pan of choice (I normally use two 9-inch pie pans). For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the devil’s food cake box as a guide and usually add 10 mins to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 mins after that. It usually takes around 45 mins for two, 9-inch pie pans.

Buttercream Frosting
1 cup shortening (Crisco)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
In a mixing bowl, cream shortening until fluffy. Add sugar and continue creaming until well blended. Add salt, vanilla, and whipping cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bacon-Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels

Okay so it's nothing new to say that I have a slight obsession with recipes.  When I say slight... I mean that if I have any free time (which is quite lately now that all I am pretty much doing is waiting for my baby to be born....) I will choose to browse one of the 25 cookbooks I own, scour Pinterest for each and every food post or plan meals for the next 18 months (slight exaggeration).  Ha it's a little bit out of control.  Hilarious.  But I can't help it... I'm a huge foodie and I will always be obsessed with food-especially healthy food- and trying fabulous new recipes (as well as making old favorites again and again).

ANYWHO.  It's no surprise I'm a member of the Pillsbury and Betty Crocker websites and by being a member, you can get the fun bonus of a receiving free calendar in the mail each year featuring one delicious recipe each month! I love it!  Well last year I think I made all of zero recipes from each calendar.  I know, very surprising considering my recipe obsession (but when you have a gazillion resources to pull recipes from, it's easy for one resource to get pretty left out, hence the calendar simply sitting on my wall without ever being used in 2012- I'm sorry calendar)!  Well this year I want to do much better! I want to make each and every recipe! With the exception of a few (either they're boring or they have beer in them) I vow to make each recipe from the Pillsbury and Betty Crocker 2013 calendars.  I've already one-upped last year because I made Pillsbury's January recipe!  Wow I'm a hoot.

P.S. these were super easy and super YUMMY! My hubby and I ate them all in pretty much one sitting...

Bacon-Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels
 from Pillsbury

Servings: 16 pinwheels (I think I got more like 10-12, depends on how thick you slice them)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
2 tablespoons ranch dressing (I eyeballed it, probably was a little more)
1/4 cup cooked real bacon pieces or 4 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
1/2 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese (2 oz) (again I didn't measure, just sprinkled it on)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (4 medium)
  • Heat oven to 350°F. If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate into 2 long rectangles. Press each into 12x4-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut lengthwise into 2 long rectangles. Press each into 12x4-inch rectangle. 
  • Spread dressing over each rectangle to edges. Sprinkle each with bacon, Cheddar cheese and onions. Starting with one short side, roll up each rectangle; press edge to seal. With serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 slices; place cut side down on ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake 12 to 17 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.
*Nutritional Info:  1 pinwheel= 80 calories, 6g fat (2g saturated), 180mg sodium, 2g protein

*Not healthy but oh so good and would be a perfect appetizer for the Superbowl that's quickly approaching!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pomegranate Cheesecake

Have I mentioned that I love to bake cheesecakes?  No?  Well, okay I'll admit I've only made I think 4 cheesecakes in my entire life, and 2 of them were the same recipe (which was this FABULOUS lemon cheesecake on my blog- it is to die for!)

But, since cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts evah, I really think I've found my niche in baking.  I mean who doesn't love to make something from scratch into a beautiful, aril-speckled pomegranate cheesecake like below?

And then you get to eat it for like 4 days in a row because only your husband and you live at home and even though you brought it to Sunday dinner you still somehow left with half of a cheesecake leftover.  What's a girl to do??

This was a fab recipe that I made over the holidays- New Year's Eve to be exact- but really would be perfect at this time of year still since pomegranates are at their peak (I think? Don't quote me on that- at least I'm still seeing them in stores and all over grocery ads these days).  

Boy oh boy do I love cheesecake! I have another recipe that I made last November that I will post soon... even though it's a recipe for a pumpkin cheesecake (with white chocolate and a gingersnap-pecan crust and a caramel drizzle-= drool) I just simply do not care and think that pumpkin tastes just as good in January as it does in November.  

Anyway without further adieu...

adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Plan ahead as the cheesecake needs to be refrigerated at least for 4 hours or overnight.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

4 8-oz. packages reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pomegranate Glaze:
1-16-ounce bottle pomegranate juice (usually found in the refrigerated section of juices)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (tutorial on de-seeding here)

For the crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl beat butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar. Beat until combined. Add egg; beat well. Beat in flour until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover one portion and set it aside.

Remove the sides from a 10-inch springform pan and set aside. Spread first portion of dough on just the bottom of ungreased springform pan base, spreading dough to edges. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely. When cool, attach sides of pan. Press chilled dough onto the sides of the sprinform pan to a height of 1-3/4 inches, using a thin metal spatula, like an offset spatula, to spread dough.

For the filling: reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In an extra-large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the flour on low speed until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla all at once, beating on low speed just until combined. Mix in sour cream and lemon peel. Then, using a wooden spoon or a spatula, gently fold in pomegranate seeds (if you use the electric mixer for this part, the seeds will burst and stain the filling with the juice – and it won’t look as pretty).
Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 65 minutes or until edges are puffed and center jiggles slightly when gently shaken. Remove from oven. (It doesn’t matter if the cheesecake cracks on top since it will have a sour cream topping.)

For the topping: stir together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread sour cream mixture over top of baked cheesecake, spreading gently to the edges. Return to oven; bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool for 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool completely. Cover; chill 4 hours or overnight.

For pomegranate glaze: in a medium saucepan bring pomegranate juice to boiling; reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until reduced to 1 cup (12 to 15 minutes). In a separate bowl, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Add to juice. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl; cover surface with clear plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature. Store, covered, in refrigerator until serving time.

When ready to serve, remove cheesecake and pomegranate glaze from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Spoon some sauce over top of cheesecake; pile remaining pomegranate seeds in center of cheesecake. To serve, slice cheesecake. Pass remaining sauce. Makes 16 servings.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roasted Garlic Chicken Noodle Soup

Okay, friends.  I realize that I took a LONG hiatus from the blogging world and am quite embarrassed about it.  But to be honest, I seriously have some pretty dang good excuses.

1.  I became a vegetarian/almost vegan for a few months, shortly after my last post.  I was very dedicated to this new lifestyle and was constantly researching it.  I was trying new vegan and vegetarian recipes, some of which were very yummy, and others which were slightly less memorable! :)  I felt like until I got the hang of this new lifestyle and got a good slew of recipes under my belt, that I wanted to avoid my blog, which consists of many recipes that are very far from being vegetarian.

2.  A couple months into my attempted "veganism,"  I got pregnant.  We are expecting our first baby, a baby girl, in two weeks from today!  I could not be any more excited.  But when that morning sickness struck me in the first trimester last summer, oh boy.  I couldn't even think about eating... anything.  My avid tries at successfully cooking vegan meals flopped- heck I probably stopped cooking ANYTHING for at least a month and a half due to being unable to walk in the kitchen without gagging.  I think I survived on bagels & cream cheese and crackers.  So nutritious; thank goodness for prenatals, right?  As my morning sickness started to fade, something I feared would happen, happened:  I wanted to eat meat.  But this was very gradual.  The thought of red meat and pork was still repulsive but I slowly warmed up to eating chicken again.  As I started to cook again, I mostly cooked meatless but would include a chicken dinner perhaps once a week.  Since then, I have gradually gone back to eating meat, however I still include many meatless meals for my husband and I and I still give props to anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan. It is HARD!  I'm sure this is not the end of my venture into that daring world.  This was actually the second time I ventured into vegetarianism, although this time lasted much longer than the first (which was only a couple weeks ha).

3.  The last few months I finished my undergrad degree at Arizona State University.  It was the toughest, busiest semester I've had in my college career, especially while being pregnant, but it was so worth it.  I now have my degree in Dietetics!  I am not a registered dietitian, however, as you must complete an internship and pass the national exam before receiving those credentials.  Right now that is not on my agenda as I'm becoming a mom in 2 weeks!  But I can see myself in the future pursuing something in the field of Nutrition.  I LOVE nutrition.  And I am a HUGE foodie (hence, this blog...).  P.S. I loved my major and encourage everyone to study nutrition, it is so fascinating and there is a TON more to it than just studying food.  In fact, you hardly study actual food at all.  There is a ton of science involved, as well as a management/business, medical terminology, medical nutrition therapy, and more! It is amazing :)

Anyway, I will get on to the fabulous recipe I made last week!  I found this Chicken soup recipe in a cookbook I got at our wedding, called "Bride and Groom: First and Forever Cookbook" by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford.

Um, it is amazing!  I had never made homemade chicken noodle before, but I think I found a new favorite!  There is so much flavor here, mostly due to the roasted garlic.  The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of roasted garlic, the recipe of which is also included in the book, as I've included below.  Don't sub regular garlic, it won't be the same! Roasted garlic has AMAZING flavor and the aroma that stems from the oven while it's roasting is incredible!

Roasted Garlic Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4

1 T. vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 T. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. powdered chicken bouillon, or 1 small chicken bouillon cube, plus more as needed
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup. white wine (I used water to sub)
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 ounces egg noodles
1 T. roasted garlic, homemade or purchased (see below for recipe)
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic.  Add the 1/2 tsp. powdered bouillon (is using cube, add after the stock) and the thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add the wine (or water) and cook 2 minutes more.  Add the stock, the bouillon cube, if using, the chicken, carrots and celery.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the egg noodles and cook until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the 1 T. roasted garlic and parsley.  Just before serving, season with pepper to taste, and add more powdered bouillon and roasted garlic if necessary.

*This recipe is best made at least 1 day in advance. It will keep refrigerated for 3 days and freezes great!  Allow the flavors to marry in the fridge for 1 day before serving.  (I did not do this, but the cookbook suggests this).

Whole Roasted Garlic
makes 1/3 cup  (I halved this recipe for the soup)

2 whole heads of garlic
1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cut the top off each head of garlic, making a horizontal cut about 1 inch below the top.  Place the bottom halves on a large piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with the olive oil.  Place the tops on the bottom halves and fold the foil seal the garlic inside.  Bake until the garlic is light brown and very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly. 

To reserve garlic for later use, remove the cloves from the skins by squeezing the bottom of each clove.  Place in a bowl and mash with the back of a spoon.  The roasted garlic will keep, covered and refrigerated, for at least 2 weeks.

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