#ImprovCooking: Chocolate Chile Brownies

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I hope you had a great Valentine's day. What did you have to eat?

Tom and I kept it simple around here and decided we'd go out some other weekend that's less crowded and get sushi. I guess this is what 6 years of marriage does to you lol. 😏



The ingredients for the Improv Cooking Challenge this month were chocolate and chiles. I rarely ever think to combine spice and chocolate together, but it's a really great pairing. I had brownies on the brain for over a week and finally decided to make some and incorporate cayenne pepper to give them a nice kick.

Per usual, my goodies get taken into work and every Monday morning I write down on a sticky note what I brought in so my coworkers know what they get to sample. I wrote "spicy chocolate chile brownies" and figured that was warning enough to stop anyone who didn't like spice from trying them.

It turns out I managed to baffle my coworkers because none of them expected the sharp kick of heat that comes along with the cayenne pepper. Most of them liked it and found the combination intriguing but a few were puzzled by the sweet and spicy combo and said it messed with their heads. Tom told me the same thing. So while it wasn't an all-around success, the tray was empty by the end of the day, which I consider victory enough.


Chocolate Chile Brownies
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 16 brownies
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Ingredients:
    • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
    • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
    • ¾ tsp chipotle chili powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
2. Combine the butter, bittersweet chocolate and ½ cup of chocolate chips together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted together and smooth.
3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla until combined, followed by the eggs.
4. Add the flour, cinnamon, espresso powder, chipotle chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper and stir until combined.
5. Stir in the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips then pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing into squares.

While these brownies do pack a punch of heat, you could easily cut down the amount of chipotle chili powder and cayenne used if you would like. Personally, I think they're perfect, fudgey and with a kick at the end! 






 

If you'd like to join in on the fun next month (or any month thereafter) check out the Improv Cooking Challenge Facebook page!



#FoodBloggerLove: Summer Salad Sandwich

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Last year I participated in an event called Food Blogger Love where participants are assigned a blog to "show some love to" on an specified day. Well, it's that time again!

The event is hosted by Allison of The PinterTest Kitchen. I was assigned to Amy's blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures. Amy and I participate in a lot of the same blogging events so I am pretty familiar with her blog.

Amy is a mom of two and used to stay at home, but has recently taken a full-time position at her son's school. Now she's relegated to trying out new recipes on the weekend like the rest of us. :) As I was reading through her blog, I found out that we have a few things in common.

First, neither of us are horror movie fans and second, we both love reading. In addition to recipes, Amy also provides book reviews for all the books she has read on her blog, and believe me when I tell you there are hundreds! My Amazon list of books to purchase has a significantly increased recently, all thanks to her reviews.

One thing that cracked me up was how real Amy keeps her blog, whether it's a about a book or a recipe. In her recipe for buffalo cauliflower she makes sure to point out that it's cauliflower and not pretending to be something it's not. I can't tell you how many recipes I've read where a blogger claims a healthier version of something is completely comparable to it's less healthy counterpart.



Look, a cauliflower "steak" is never going to taste like a filet and a frozen dessert made with bananas is never going to become ice cream, so let's just stop pretending, okay?

For #FoodBloggerLove, we can make one of their blogged recipes, recreate a recipe in the bloggers style, make a recipe that fits their lifestyle, etc. This year I chose to make one of the recipes Amy has already shared.

It's funny because she made this recipe from a description in a book and thought it was great, which is exactly how I feel. The character in the book who ordered the sandwich isn't a fan, but I guess that's just his loss! :)



Summer Salad Sandwich
Source: Amy’s Cooking Adventures
Servings: 1 sandwich
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Ingredients:
    • 1 English muffin, halved
    • 2 tbsp garden vegetable cream cheese
    • 1 slice tomato
    • 1 lettuce leaf
    • 4 thin cucumber slices
    • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
Directions:
1. Toast the English muffin until lightly browned on either side.
2. Spread the cream cheese on both halves on the English muffin. Top one with lettuce, tomato slice, cucumber and hard boiled egg. Top with the other half of the English muffin. 


*Note: to make compliant for the Fast Metabolism Diet, use 2 tablespoons of Kite Hill Chive Style Cream Cheese Spread and a compliant muffin or bread. 

This is such an easy recipe to put together. Hard boiling the egg takes the longest, but you could easily make up a batch of those for the week and simply assemble them onto your sandwich each morning for breakfast. Using a flavored spread instead of a mayo on the sandwich adds a new depth of flavor and lends it more to a breakfast or brunch time treat, but you could really have this when ever you wanted! 

While this recipe was the one to win me over, there are quite a few others on Amy's blog that I can't wait to try out, like Irish Nachos, Brownie Oatmeal Cookies and Strawberry Caprese Salad



You can read all of Amy's delicious recipes here on her blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures

Or check out her social media:


Pinterest: Amy's Cooking
Twitter: Amy's Cooking

If you're interested in signing up for #FoodBloggerLove next time, visit the facebook page - FoodBloggerLove


Fast Metabolism Diet Thoughts, Days 15-28

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Here are my daily thoughts on the final two weeks of the Fast Metabolism Diet.

Day 15, January 23 - 
Week 3 begins! I found compliant oat milk and Wegman's and it's delicious! Next week I'm going to look for cereal because I really want more of this delicious milk!
Day 16, January 24 - 
I think I'm finally no longer sick. Thank god! As much as I'd love to eat steak for lunch, its really hard to cook it to the right temperature so it doesn't become dried out when reheated. I seriously overcooked it and it's taking forever to chew.
Day 17, January 25 - 
The highlight of P2 today is that my Vitacost order came in and I got to try Nick's Sticks. They're tastier than I imagined but give me terrible heartburn like all jerky seems to do. Ah well, at least it's a change of protein.
Day 18, January 26 - 
Smoothies for breakfast seem to be the way to go. I was really hesitant on spinach, cacao, stevia, cinnamon, water and egg whites, but it tastes like chocolate. The color is horrendous however, so drink out of a colored bottle or glass if it bothers you.
Day 19, January 27 - 
The lack of cheese has been one of the hardest things about this diet. I decided to try out nutritional yeast today as well as the Daiya cheese that's made from almonds. While it's not cheese, they're both super tasty and I'm really annoyed with myself for waiting this long to try either one! Also, week 3 weigh in:
Day 20, January 28 - 
I decided to purchase Haylie's 10 day cleanse to follow these 28 days. I'm hoping to receive it by the 6th of February, but if not I'll continue the plan until I receive it and go from there. I've also decided that I might as well just continue the plan right up until we leave for vacation, although I am slightly concerned about changing my eating habits while I'm not at home. I don't think it will be too drastic, but there will be coffee and cheese included back in. (There's no way in hell  I'm going to NOLA without trying chickory coffee.)
Day 21, January 29 -
As usual, weekends are really hard to follow this plan because I don't have a set schedule. I'm also craving all of the things I can't have. Specifically, chocolate chip cookies, bananas, greek yogurt and ginger ale. At least half of my cravings are on the healthier side, so there's that, at least I suppose.
Day 22, January 30 - 
And the final week starts today. Honestly, not much to report.
Day 23, January 31 - 
I forgot to pull out dinner and ended up eating deli meat, spelt pretzels and a salad. Oops!
Day 24, February 1 -
Pureeing a vegetable soup to have as a snack was a genius idea. I'm always cold but more so on P2, so this has definitely helped.
Day 25, February 2 - 
I'd been incredibly hesitant to make the lemon spinach smoothie that people eat on P2 because it involves using the peel of the lemon. In my head, I can't get past the bitterness of the pith and I think it would just be super sour. I decided to suck it up and try it and now I'm kicking myself in the foot for not doing it earlier. Sure, it's still green because of the spinach, but it's so light and refreshing and citrusy. I actually like it better than the chocolate one!
Day 26, February 3 - 
When my iron levels get really low I find I stick my necklace in my mouth all of the time. I've been doing this all day. Unfortunately I don't have red meat planned for dinner tonight. My cravings are also back in full force. I thought I would have been over that by now, but I guess not.
Day 27, February 4 - 
Could I just not be sick for once, please? My cough and congestion has come back, along with a 102 fever. Eating was very minimal today. I got in all of my water but only managed some raspberries, carrots with kite hill chive cream cheese and chicken broth.
Day 28, February 5 - 
And we're done! I'm still sick and cannot wait until my doctors office opens tomorrow so I can get a prescription.

Final Results and Thoughts:
Weight: 8 pounds
Inches: 6 inches (2 hips, 2 stomach, 1 thigh, 1 arm)

If I could get rid of these cravings, I'd be golden to continue on like it's nothing. After 28 days, it's really not that hard to keep eating like this. Sure, it's a bit more expensive with all the fruits and veggies I'm buying, but those prices should go down as we get closer to spring and more ingredients come into season. Drinking enough water is something I think I'll be able to stick with. I've noticed if I don't get in at least 8 cups by 3 pm, I'm super thirsty now. Also, I didn't exercise during these 28 days due to a foot injury that I'm worried about aggravating and making walking around on my cruise next month impossible. I'm slowly going to add in exercise (mainly walking and strength training) after the cleanse.

Going Forward:
I'm giving myself Monday off and then going right into the 10 day cleanse, which will end on February 16th. I don't plan on indulging on Monday, but I am going to add back in some foods and see what happens. Here's my plan:

Breakfast: spelt pretzels, berries, 1/2 - 1 cup coffee with stevia
Lunch: ground beef tacos on oat tortillas with avocado and 1 tbsp cheese, apple
Dinner: filet mignon, baked sweet potato with a smidge of butter, salad with homemade dressing
Snacks: baby carrots, berries
Drinks: 10 cups water, 1 cup of wine

After the cleanse I'll follow P3 for the weekend and then continue 2 more weeks of the program until March 4th. We go on vacation in the middle of the next week, so I'll follow a maintenance diet for those few days and then as much as possible while on vacation.

As for vacation, I don't want to deprive myself but I don't want to go overboard either. My plan is to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible, enjoy a sweet here and there, avoid overly processed foods, and limit cheese and unhealthy fats.



#FilltheCookieJar: Heart-Shaped Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies

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It's time for #FilltheCookieJar again! I took a break from this group in January because after the holidays, I was a bit cookied-out. But with Valentine's day just around the corner and that being our theme for February, I simply had to participate!

Fill the Cookie Jar is a group of bakers who gather together each month and share cookie or bar recipes based on a theme. It's hosting by Cynthia of Feeding Big.



Thumbprint cookies were on my holiday baking list but I never got around to making them, so I was thrilled to finally be able to whip some up now. Thumbprints are such easy cookies to make and they're really versatile since you can add any flavor of jelly, jam or preserves to them. In light of Valentine's day I decided to go with the classic strawberry.


Heart-Shaped Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 3 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • ⅔ cup sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ½ cup strawberry jam

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
3. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Turn out dough onto a sheet of wax paper and wrap up. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Scoop dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
6. Using your thumb, press down two overlapping indents to create a heart shape. Fill each cookie indent with ¼ teaspoon of jam.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling. 




Buttery, perfectly crunchy and filled with sweet strawberry jam! I'm sure your Valentine would be more than thrilled to receive these for the holiday! 






#FoodieExtravaganza: Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bake

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Can you believe it is February already? 2017 is going by rather quickly. On one hand I'm thrilled because it means we're that much closer to my cruise and then I'm also bummed because it means we're that much closer to my cruise being over with. #firstworldproblems


Anyway, it's time for #FoodieExtravaganza! This month is being hosted by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm and the theme for February is heart-healthy fiber-rich foods. I debated on going savory and making a dish that uses beans or lentils but in the end, my sweet tooth won out and I decided to combine apples and oats into a breakfast bake.



Although, it could easily be topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and served for dessert if you'd rather go that route!



Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bake
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings:6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
    • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, divided
    • ¼ cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tbsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp nutmeg
    • ½ tsp cardamom
    • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 cup milk (or non-dairy milk)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • ⅓ cup toasted pecans, chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x6 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Toss the apple slices in a bowl with ½ cup of brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl mix together 3 tablespoons of the brown sugar with the all-purpose flour and butter with a fork. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining brown sugar with the oats, baking powder and salt. Pour the milk into a cup and whisk in the egg and vanilla. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until combined.
5. Arrange a layer (approximately ¼ of the apples) of apples on the bottom of the prepared baking dish and top with ¼ of the oatmeal mixture. Repeat, finishing with the oatmeal layer.
6. Drop dollops of the brown sugar-flour-butter mixture on top and then sprinkle the chopped pecans on top.
7. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and the top layer is crispy. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before serving. 





I'm not a huge fan of baked oatmeals because I think they can tend to get mushy, which is why I didn't use very much liquid in this dish, knowing that the apples would provide a decent amount on their own. I managed to hit the mark as this is soft, but not mushy and the top studded with brown sugar crumbles and chopped pecans provides enough crunch if even soft oatmeal isn't your thing.



Check out what everyone else made! 

Fast Metabolism Diet Thoughts, Days 1-14

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As a way to hold myself accountable and let others know how the Fast Metabolism Diet is on a daily basis, I thought I'd keep a log of some thoughts for each day. This will be shared with you every two weeks until I hit my goal weight.

turkey avocado lettuce wraps for P3 - amazing! 

Day 1, January 9 -
Breakfast: It appears the "pinch" of salt I added to my steel cut oats yesterday was much larger than a pinch. May need to swap out tomorrow's breakfast for spelt pretzels because it's way too salty to eat and I can't add any more stevia.
Lunch: the P2 Caeasar dressing that is all over Pinterest is MUCH too sour and acidic for my tastes. I was gagging down the last of my salad because it was burning my tongue. Going to add more stevia tonight and see what happens.
Water: I believe I have peed 10 times today, one for every cup of water I drank.
Fail: I forgot peaches for my breakfast so I ate the berries from my later snack, skipped a fruit with lunch and then ate my apple that was supposed to go with lunch for my second snack, because it's better to follow the eating times.
Win: Free coffee and pizza were brought into the office. I found a Snickers in my desk. None of which was consumed.
Day 2, January 10 -
Pretzels were the perfect substitution for the too salty oats. Overall, not a great day. I got blindsided with a 3 hour conference call where I couldn't eat, refill my water or pee which messed up my whole eating schedule. It's just a really, really bad day overall and I'm super upset and stressed. I forgot enough fruit for snacks yet again. I'm hoping to master the mug cake and that it will provide comfort.
Day 3, January 11 - 
Well, if anything I'm being consistent with forgetting something. I forgot the veggies to go with my breakfast and had to take from both of my snacks, which meant I had less than a one-cup serving for both. I ate 4 cups at dinner to make up for it. Phase 2 is usually the hardest and it wasn't bad at all. Not sure if it's because I was super busy or what. I really wanted something sweet last night and ended up ordering powdered egg whites on Amazon to make a lemon smoothie. It won't arrive in time, but I'll be ready for next week!
Day 4, January 12 -
I'm happy it's the last day of Phase 2. Adding bell peppers to a salad really helps make it sweeter and makes me feel like I'm eating more than green veggies. I didn't realize I had compliant pickles in the fridge until last night and I am super excited to eat them as a snack. I can't stop thinking about gum or mints. I need to find something compliant.

vegetable and fruit prep for Phase 1 and 2
Day 5, January 13 - 
Friday, one of the hardest days for me because I work 9+ hours then immediately go grocery shopping for the week. I changed up nearly my entire meal plan for today.
Breakfast: cherry blueberry spinach smoothie, 1/2 an English muffin toasted and topped with a fried egg and slice of turkey bacon.
Snacks; carrots with guacamole and cashews with spicy green beans
Lunch; turkey avocado lettuce wraps with tomato, radish and carrots inside, spelt pretzels and raspberries.
Smoothies in 30 degree weather suck, but so does eating 2 cups of cooked veggies for breakfast. I wish I could find a compliant bread that doesn't taste like cardboard. Maybe I'll just buy all English muffins and use those instead. Prepping dinner (cashew chicken in the crock pot) nearly made me late for work. I should have done it the night before.
Day 6, January 14-
Weekends are hard. I feel the need to graze but I can't. I'm also annoyed today that we still have Christmas chocolate around that my husband is eating.
Day 7, January 15 - 
So I thought the scratchy feeling in my throat was because of the spinach I put in the smoothies (it always happens), yet instead I'm sick. Hacking cough, slight fever, just want to sleep, sick. Today is a fail. I've managed broth, pretzels and frozen cherries.
Day 8, January 16 - 
I can't find cough drops anywhere without sugar. I know this is going to hamper my weight loss but I can't handle this cough. Gargling with salt water does nothing. I followed the eating plan but everything tastes terrible and I'd rather sleep.

food prep for Phase 1 and 2
Day 9, January 17 - 
I still feel terrible. I'm still taking unapproved cough drops and medication because I can't function otherwise. At least the food is relatively bland and easy to eat.
Day 10, January 18 - 
Phase 2 while sick is miserable. I've had soup and gagged my way through a salad because the dressing is to acidic for my messed up taste buds. I'm less congested but the hacking cough is still there.
Day 11, January 19 - 
Phase 2 really is the worst. Meat. Vegetables. Meat. Vegetables. I'd steal a piece of fruit from a baby at this point. Almost over...
Day 12, January 20 - 
Phase 3 is really glorious after Phase 2. Despite it being cold I'm really enjoying smoothies as a way to get all the veggies down. I think pureed soups and smoothies are going to be the way to go.
Day 13, January 21 - 
I really have a problem with grazing on the weekends. I'm eating every 2 hours, but its small meals and not necessarily following the diet. I know this isn't good, but I'm still sick and just don't feel like eating much.
Day 14, January 22 - 
Well the first two weeks are complete and I'm about to start the third week. The scale is optimistically down nearly 10 pounds which I'm curious to see if it will stay that way. I haven't seen the scale under a certain number in 2 years and would really, really love to get there.



#BundtBakers: Sugar Cookie Bundt Cake

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The January theme for #BundtBakers is birthday bundts. Our host is Sue of Palatable Pastime.

#BundtBakers is a group of bundt-loving bakers who get togetehr once a month to bake bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.



As a child, I was never a huge fan of cake, even birthday cake. I liked cookies, pie and ice cream cake, and even the occasional cupcake, but cake was never really my thing. I decided to play to that in this theme by creating a cake that has a sugar cookie flavor.



When I think of sugar cookies, I think of a moist, crumbly cookie flavored with butter, a hint of a vanilla and almond. I opted for that as a my cake base and then when I realized I was out of powdered sugar, I had to improvise on another recipe that uses flour, milk, butter and granulated sugar instead. And no birthday bundt can be complete without some sprinkles! 



Sugar Cookie Bundt Cake
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings:8-12
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Ingredients:
    • For the Cake:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ¾ cup milk
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ½ tsp almond extract
    • For the Frosting:
    • 2 ½ tbsp flour
    • ½ cup milk
    • ½ tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • ¾ cup granulated sugar
    • sprinkles

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in milk, then eggs, one at a time until combined. Add in vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add in flour mixture until just combined.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
5. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
6. Meanwhile prepare the frosting by combining the flour and milk in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to thicken, 3-4 minutes, stir in the vanilla and almond extract and then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Mixture should be as thick as cake batter.
7. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Once fully cooled, add in the milk/flour mixture and beat on high speed until fully combined and the frosting is light and fluffy.
8. Use a spatula to spread frosting over the top of the cooled bundt cake. Top with sprinkles if desired. 






I took this cake into work and my coworkers couldn't get over the flavor and icing choice. I'd say it was the perfect pick! 
BundtBakers

And don’t forget to take a peek at what other talented bakers have baked this month:


Banana Bundt Cake with Vanilla Caramel Glaze from All That’s Left Are the Crumbs
Bundt Cake de Bollo, Canela y Nutella from La Mejor Manera de Hacer
Confetti Birthday Bundt Cake from Palatable Pastime
Confetti Lime and Cheese Bundt Cake from Bizcocheando
Cookies and Cream Sprinkle Bundt Cake from Sew You Think You Can Cook
Doughnut Funfetti Bundt Cake from Kids and Chic
Eggnog Bundt with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce from A Day in the Life on the Farm
Lemon and Prosecco Bundt from Food Lust People Love
Piñata Birthday Bundt Cake from Patty’s Cake
Piñata Bundt Cake from I Love Bundt Cakes
Sugar Cookie Bundt Cake from Cookaholic Wife
Tropical Birthday Bundt Cake from Basic N Delicious

#ImprovCooking: Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup

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The Improv Cooking Challenge is still going strong! We have an entire year of combinations dedicated to share with you!

The theme for January is lemon and rosemary. I was a little bit worried as to whether I could find a recipe that meets the strict requirements of the new eating plan that I'm on. Both lemon and rosemary are allowed at all times, but I wasn't sure what other ingredients I could pair them with until I found this soup recipe.



It was perfect, actually. Last month or so I bought a bag of red lentils on impulse even though I've never ate a lentil and I had no idea what to do with them. However, they worked out perfectly in this recipe.





Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup
Source: Melanie Makes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 large white onion, diced
    • 1 yellow pepper, diced
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 6 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 3 cups red lentils
    • 4 cups chicken broth
    • 2 ¾ cup water
    • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • ⅛ tsp cayenne
    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
    • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions:
1. Add the onion, yellow pepper, garlic, carrots, lentils, chicken broth, water, salt, pepper and cayenne to a slow cooker. Stir to combine.
2. Cook on low for 6 hours, then stir in lemon zest and juice.
3. Divide into bowls and top with fresh rosemary.





Adding the lemon and rosemary at the end really brighten up this soup and bring out the flavors. Lentils are interesting and I think I'll try cooking with them again. If you are following the Fast Metabolism Diet, this recipe is appropriate for Phase 1 and Phase 3.





#StirringsMixologyContest - Lemon Bourbon Ginger Fizz

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On Tuesday I shared a Coconut Rum Watermelon Slush recipe with you that reminded me so much of summer! While not required for the contest, I decided to create a second "Simply Better Cocktail" as part of the Stir it Up Holiday Blogger Mixology Challenge hosted by the awesome people over at Stirrings.

For participating in the event and creating a "Simply Better Cocktail" I was provided with two cocktail mixers and two cocktail garnishes in flavors of my choice. I chose the Lemon Drop Martini and Watermelon Martini as my mixers and Lemon Drop Martini and Margarita Rimmers.



For years I absolutely hated ginger. The smell of powdered ginger, the color of picked ginger with sushi, the taste of it mixed into a stir fry...ugh. And then one day something completely changed. I LOVE ginger. As in, my first carbonated beverage choice is always ginger ale, I eat ginger candies and I immediately steal the pile of pickled ginger when Tom and I go out for sushi. It's pungent and sometimes harsh but an amazing palate cleanser and simply does wonders to calm an upset stomach.

I have also recently come to love bourbon, especially honey bourbon. I suppose it's because I drank a lot of different mixer liquors in my early twenties that I spent so long after shying away from them and preferring simpler choices like wine or beer, but as they say, your tastebuds are always changing.



While I'm still content to grab a beer or a glass of wine, a glass of straight honey bourbon on the rocks is another favorite choice. When I signed up to participate in this contest I knew bourbon was going to make its way into a drink somehow. Lemon is a great flavor that mixes perfectly with so many others, that it seemed a real no-brainer to add the lemon drop mixer with bourbon and ginger beer to create a drink.

Disclaimer: In exchange for receiving the mixers and rimmers I agreed to create a cocktail and submit it into the contest which comes with three cash prizes. Recipe creation, post content and opinions and solely my own and are not influenced by promotional items. 


Lemon Bourbon Ginger Fizz
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 1
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 oz honey bourbon
    • 1 oz Stirrings Lemon Drop Martini Mixer
    • 2 oz ginger beer
    • Stirrings Lemon Drop Martini Rimmer
    • ice
Directions:
1. Combine honey bourbon, lemon drop martini mixer and ice in a shaker. Shake until combined.
2. Moisten the rim of a glass and dip into the lemon drop martini rimmer .
3. Strain the mixture into the glass and then pour in the ginger beer.




For as carbonated as the ginger beer is, I was surprised at the lack of fizz I was able to create for the pictures, but don't let that deter you from making this drink. It's the perfect balance of sweet and tart with a hint of ginger spice to round it all out. 

My other drink was definitely meant for summer time and warm weather, but this combination works year-round. Feel free to use a plain bourbon instead of honey to reduce the sweetness of this drink. 




If you're local and looking for where you can find Stirrings products, check out Food Lion, Total Wines & More and Hunt Valley Wine & Liquors!



To see all of the awesome products that Stirrings provides, check out their website at www.stirrings.com and their social media sites:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest




FMD Chicken and Vegetable Soup

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I quickly found that Phase 2 is the hardest phase on the Fast Metabolism Diet. I don't really mind not being able to have grains or fruits other than lemon and lime, but taking away carrots, zucchini and tomatoes really makes this phase a challenge for me.



This soup kind of reminds me of a 'kitchen sink' variety because you're throwing in a lot of ingredients ' except the kitchen sink '. If you have a lot of vegetables in your fridge that are nearing the end of their life, this would be a great choice.



Not knowing how many vegetables I would consume on this eating plan, I quickly bought too much the first week or two and having a soup like this to use for the leftovers really helps with the increase in spending you'll experience on this plan. One of the other things I love about it is how easily adaptable it is. You can add other phase appropriate grains and veggies depending on when you make this. And if you aren't following the plan, it's still a tasty soup that comes together pretty quickly and provides you with a lot of flavor! 



Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 10-12 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 2 tbsp lemon pepper seasoning, divided
    • 3 bell peppers, large diced
    • 2 yellow onions, large diced
    • 4 stalks celery, diced
    • 1 pound asparagus, chopped
    • 3 cups kale
    • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
    • 2 cups vegetable stock
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp dried rosemary
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • Optional for P1 and P3: diced carrots, cooked
    • Optional for P1 and P3: cooked barley

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon of the lemon pepper seasoning.
3. Place chicken in an oven-safe non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is browned on one side. Flip chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes more, then transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, combine bell peppers, onion, celery and asparagus in a large skillet and sauce for 5-7 minutes or until just softened.
5. Transfer the vegetables to a large stock pot and add kale.
6. Pour in chicken broth, vegetable broth and water. Add remaining lemon pepper seasoning, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary and oregano. Stir until combined.
7. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer.
8. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and shred it. Add it to the stock pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes more or until all vegetables are fork tender. 


For Phase 1:
Add cooked carrots and barley for dinner or cooked carrots, barley + side of fruit for lunch.
For Phase 3:
Add cooked carrots for lunch, add cooked carrots and barley for dinner. Protein will need to be increased or a fat added.
*If making for only Phase 3, chicken breasts and vegetables should be sauteed in olive oil.
For all phases: mushrooms, cabbage and green beans can be included in this soup and enjoyed for all 3 phases.
* An additional lemon-pepper seasoned and baked chicken breast can be served with this soup to meet higher servings of protein.



One of the hardest things about this eating plan is that I can't follow my usual routine, which was to make one meal for my breakfast and lunch for the entire week. With a few additions, this soup allows me to do just that. 
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