Banana Pecan Waffles

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I debated on whether or not to share this recipe with you, because it really isn't a recipe at all. I mean, there are ingredients, but very minimal work to do so it almost seems silly to share it.

Then I realized if I am constantly out there searching the internet for breakfast recipes that I can make/eat quickly and that are healthy, there must be others out there as well so I should share this with others.

I really think that my next kitchen gadget (when I find somewhere to possibly store something else) is going to be a waffle maker. Everyone loves waffles, right? And I'd love to be able to make my own instead of either needing to go out and get them from a restaurant, or relying on the frozen version. I can only imagine how incredible tasting these would be if the bananas and the pecans could actually be in the waffle batter!



Banana Pecan Waffles
Source: Eating Well
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 2 whole wheat freezer waffles
    • 1/2 banana, sliced
    • 3-4 pecans, chopped
    • 2 sprays of butter spray
    • 2 tsp. maple syrup 
Directions:
1. Toast the waffles according to package directions.
2. Spray each waffle with butter and drizzle 1 teaspoon of maple syrup on top.
3. Top each waffle with banana slices and chopped pecans.

The best thing about this recipe is how incredibly filling it was. I ate this every morning for a week, around 8 am and I wasn't even hungry for lunch until 2 or later. And it surely doesn't hurt that this comes in under 300 calories. 

Veggie Burger

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Have you tried those veggie burgers from the freezer aisle at the grocery store? I have, and I've tried just about every brand they offer. And you know what? They are the exact reason why veggie burgers get such a bad name among meat eaters. Not one of those frozen concoctions tastes even mildly appetizing, unless you prefer to gnaw on cardboard on a regular basis.

In my attempts to eat healthier, I decided making a veggie burger from scratch was definitely the way to go. I chose this recipe from All Recipes because it had a decent amount of reviews and I had all of the ingredients on hand. There's no way it would end up tasting like cardboard, right?



Veggie Burgers
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1 small carrot, shredded
    • 1 small zucchini, minced
    • 1/2 small onion, minced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 3/4 cup rolled oats
    • 2 tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
    • 3/4 cup all purpose flour

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. 
2. Transfer vegetables to a medium bowl and let cool until able to handle. Then mix in the oats, cheddar cheese, egg and soy sauce. Form into 4 patties and place on a plate. 
3. Refrigerate patties for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 hours. 
4. Preheat a grill and coat with oil. 
5. Pour the flour onto a plate or in a shallow dish. Dip both sides of the patty into the flour, shaking off the excess. 
6. Grill for 5 minutes on each side or until heated through. 

The answer to the above question is "kind of wrong." While these didn't taste like cardboard, they didn't taste like anything. Part of me thinks that this is just my own personal preferences for flavor. Since this had such good reviews online, I decided to share it with you, since people out there must like it, even if I don't. 


Weekly Menu 5/26 - 5/29

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Happy Memorial Weekend! Are you in an area of the world that actually has decent weather for this lovely holiday weekend? Unfortunately, I am not.

Yesterday I went to my friend's daughter's birthday party and it was a whopping 58 degrees and windy. This is completely unacceptable for the end of May in Maryland. Today is barely supposed to graze 75 but it won't be windy. My mom is having a cook out today and I'm wearing my bathing suit, just with a maxi dress cover up, because really, how is one supposed to tan in these conditions?

Of course, the actual workweek is supposed to be gorgeous and in the 80's. We need to have a little talk, Mother Nature. I need sunny warm weekends because I've already lost the little amount of color I managed to obtain while in Florida and really, it should be a crime to walk around with legs so white you can see the veins!

And next weekend, Saturday to be exact, somewhere around 6 PM will mark the 10 year anniversary of graduating high school. We are having a reunion, nothing fancy, but a reunion nonetheless. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I kind of want to see people as much as I don't want to see anyone. And if I had nothing to talk about with these people in high school, wtf am I going to talk about with them now?

The menu for this week isn't very detailed as crazy me is going to try one of those loseabunchofweightrightthissecond diets. Yes, I'm fully aware that they're not healthy and the scale probably isn't going to budge, however I'm going to try it anyway and see what happens. I'm assuming by the third day I will be ready to steal candy or carbs from a small child without feeling any regret. Wish me luck!

Sunday - Poblano Mac and Cheese

Monday - Herbed Butter Gnocchi with Bacon 

Tuesday - Check Tenders and Fries 

Wednesday - Tacos 

I'm just planning on making Thursday a fend for yourself night. I recently went through the pantry to see what all we had and found a ton of stuff that we could probably get around to using up. 

Recipe Swap: Deep Dish Cookie Pies

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Deep.

Dish.

Cookie.

Pies.

Doesn't the name alone practically have your mouth watering? Or maybe it's just me because I haven't allowed myself to eat any sweets in 5 days and this is probably what will knock me right back off the bandwagon. On the bandwagon? I never remember how that saying goes. 

Anyway, this recipe comes to you ( us?) from Becoming Pigzilla and it's my choice for the Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap. I initially planned to make this for Tom's birthday dinner but we already had a ton of sopapilla cheesecake bars lying around and I thought it would be just too much temptation to have both accessible while trying to lose weight, so I put them off for another week. 



Deep Dish Cookie Pies
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
    • 1 stick butter, cubed
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • vanilla ice cream, for serving
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Add the butter and sugars to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on low speed until combined. Add in the egg and vanilla until smooth. 
2. Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together into a bowl. Gently pour into the stand mixer.
4. Slowly pour the chocolate chips into the mixer. 
5. Scoop a large spoonful of the batter into the ramekins, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown but not completely cooked in the center. 
6. Let cool slightly and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Can not eating sweets for 5 days change the way you taste things? I found these to be teeth-hurting sweet when combined with the ice cream, but Tom looked at me like I was crazy and said they were perfectly fine. So who knows what happened to my taste buds, but even if it was really sweet to me, I definitely enjoyed eating one of these for dessert.






Italian Chicken with Grilled Orzo Salad

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My allergies have been absolutely ridiculous this year. They tend to occur on days where I am not even outside or doing anything to trigger them, which is quite annoying. First, because one can only sneeze so many times in a row before one starts to contemplate chopping off their own nose. Second, because it makes me incredibly tired now and third, because it then typically turns into a sinus headache.

I get that mother nature is all screwed up, probably because she skipped winter last year, but could we please get on with the regularly scheduled weather program so these allergies will go away? They usually bother me in the month of April and maybe the first week in May. It's practically the end of May and here they are just hanging around all full force.

What does that have to do with this meal? Nothing really, other than on those nights where I wish to chop off my own nose because I can't stop sneezing, I prefer a dinner I can quickly put together. I chopped the veggies for this in advance which greatly cut down the prep time.



Italian Chicken with Grilled Orzo Salad
Inspired by: Taste of Home, April/May 2013
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 packet Italian seasonings 
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
    • 1 orange pepper, quartered
    • 1 zucchini, quartered
    • 1 portobello mushroom, quartered
    • 1 sweet peppered, quartered
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 cup orzo pasta
    • 8-10 grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
    • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
    • 2 tbsp. shaved Parmesan cheese
    • salt and pepper, to taste


Directions:
1. Place chicken in a zip top bag. Add the olive oil and seasoning packet, turning chicken to coat. Let marinate for at least 1 hour but up to 24 hours.
2. Bring a grill to high heat. Combine bell pepper, zucchini, mushroom and onion together in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tossing to coat. Place vegetables on the grill and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side or until lightly charred. Transfer to a cutting board until cooled enough to handle.
3. Place the chicken on the grill and grill for 8-10 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
4. Bring water to a boil and cook orzo according to package directions.
5. Chop up grilled vegetables. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil. Stir in the orzo and toss to combine.
6. Serve chicken along side the orzo, topped with a pinch of the Parmesan cheese and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

For a quick dish, I thought this brought out a lot of different flavors that all went together very nicely. I definitely plan on making this again. And not just because I found a second box of orzo pasta hiding in the back of my pantry.

Chocolate Tacos

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Would you believe that I'd never had a Choco Taco until last summer? I'd heard of them before, but just never thought to purchase one. I don't even know how it came up in conversation, but I told Tom I'd never had one and he was completely shocked and said we must remedy that ASAP.

A few days later, he presented me with one. I was...not all that impressed? You know that taste that ice cream cones get when frozen? Not exactly freezer-burn but something similar to that? It tasted exactly like that and they had majorly skimped on my ice cream.

When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light I thought it would be fun to try and create my own chocolate taco. I didn't, however, realize that the recipe for making the taco was very, very similar to how you make a fortune cookie and if you know anything about by 28 Before 28 List, you'll know that fortune cookies were something I could just not master.



Chocolate Tacos
Source: Cooking Light, May 2013
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. cornstarch
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 3 tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 tsp. milk
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • 1 tsp. canola oil
    • 1/2 cup peanuts, finely chopped 
    • vanilla ice cream 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Use a bowl approximately 5" in diameter and trace 4 circles onto parchment paper.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt together in a medium bowl. Then add the egg whites, milk and vanilla.
3. Spoon the  mixture into one of the circles on the parchment paper. Use the back of a spoon or your fingers to spread evenly, covering the circle. Repeat with remaining circles.
4. Bake for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, suspend 4 wooden spoons.
5. Remove from the oven, and gently loosen the edges using a flat spatula. Work quickly to fold the taco over each suspended spoon. Repeat steps 3-5 until you have 8 taco shells.
6. Combine the chocolate chips and canola oil together in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and then microwave another 30 seconds or until the chocolate has melted and is smooth.
7. Gently spread the melted chocolate on both out sides of the taco shell and sprinkle with peanuts. Scoop vanilla ice cream into the shell, drizzle with any remaining chocolate and sprinkle with more peanuts. Repeat for all shells.
8. Freeze for 30 minutes before serving.

I had equally as much trouble making these as I did the fortune cookies, however I do think they turned out much better. And they were tastier than the store-bought version. 

Weekly Menu 5/19 - 5/23

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So, I have a bit of a confession to make. I'm almost out of recipes.

See, I usually have at least five days of scheduled recipes all lined up and ready to be shared with you. Sometimes its even 10 recipes. Except, I didn't bother to make a bunch of food in the weeks leading up to my Florida trip and then I only cooked once while we were there, which resulted in two recipes.

So what does that mean? Just that if/until I create a back log of recipes again, I won't be posting every day. Which isn't all that unusual. Not a lot of bloggers have a recipe to share every single day. Plus, isn't it more about quality than quantity?

I still have an absolute ton of recipes that I want to make, but there is also the small issue of June 1, 2013. See, that marks 10 years since I graduated high school. And there is a reunion. Nothing fancy, we're all just meeting up at a bar, however, when you haven't seen people in a long time, you wish to look your best right? And what does that mean? That I'm going to be eating pretty healthy foods from how until June 1st to see if any of this extra weight falls off by then.

This week starts my super healthy eating adventure. If you've checked out Eating Well's website, you may have found that they offer different diets by number of days and by calories to consume. All but one of my recipes is coming from there. Ironically, two are recipes I've previously made. At least for one of them, it gives me the chance to possibly take a better picture.

Since Tom isn't about to embark on this healthy food adventure with me, the changes to the meals he will eat are listed in italics. 

Sunday - BBQ pulled chicken (on a bun), brown rice, steamed green beans (with a sauce)

Monday - Veggie burgers (cheeseburger), grilled zucchini fries (chips), salad 

Tuesday - Green Eggs and Ham Frittata, salad

Wednesday - Grilled Steak with Baby Bell Peppers, brown rice 

Thursday - Spicy Soy Pork, brown rice, steamed green beans 

I'm not sure I can even get Tom to consume that much brown rice so I may need to come up with another place for his steak and pork. Possibly a bag of fries or maybe a baked potato.

For breakfast, I'm having whole wheat waffles with fruit and lunch will be plain tuna on whole wheat toast with a salad. Fun huh?

Although I am making my recipe swap recipe which is a dessert. I am sure I will more than enjoy this. 

Strawberry Granola Parfait

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I am probably the only person in the world who absolutely loved McDonald's Fruit and Yogurt Parfait. The full sized parfait was the perfect amount for me to eat and be full until the next meal. Unfortunately, since I really probably was the only person who enjoyed it, they stopped making the full sized ones and reverted to the snack size. And sometimes, I can't even find a McDonald's that still serves even the snack size!

One of the greatest things about a parfait is it can be as simple or as complex as you want. You can use homemade or store bough granola with a wide array of ingredients. You can even use cereal, although I would suggest a heartier one like Kashi, that can hold up to the yogurt. Speaking of yogurt, you can go regular or Greek. Flavored or plain. Full fat or fat free. Fresh fruit is optional, as is your fruit selection.

A few years ago, I needed something quick to take for breakfast that I was going to eat at work. We didn't have any milk, so I substituted some yogurt and put it in a small plastic container. I dumped some Kashi cereal on top and a handful of fresh strawberries and ran out the door. I didn't even think that I was eating parfait, albeit a poorly prepared one that was not visually interesting in the least.

A few weeks ago, when trying to figure out what to have for breakfast, I scribbled down yogurt and granola and then it dawned on me that I was eating a parfait. I really don't know what caused that realization, but it was pretty and something I could blog. Win!



Strawberry Yogurt Parfait
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup strawberry yogurt (I use Dannon Light & Fit)
    • 1/2 cup granola 
    • 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
    • mint leaf, for garnish 
Directions:
1. Spoon half of the yogurt into a glass. Top with the granola and then the remaining yogurt (or make layers). Add the fresh strawberries and mint on top.

The directions for this are kind of lame. I mean, you just layer stuff. I think you can figure that out on your own, but it doesn't seem right to make a recipe that doesn't involve some sort of directions.

Fun Fact: I totally intended to make this with vanilla yogurt, however it was right next to the strawberry yogurt and I picked up the wrong one. 

Taco Calzones

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Tacos + calzones. Two foods you typically wouldn't see together. To be honest, its the combination of foods from different cultures that are my favorite ones. Like the kung pao chicken tacos. Two other foods that typically wouldn't be combined. I love being able to take common dishes from different cultures and combining them into one.

While this greatly pleased me on a combination of cultures level, it greatly pleased Tom as tacos and calzones are two of his favorite foods so combining them together could only produce something wonderful. 



Taco Calzones
Source: Coffee and Cannolis
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 refrigerated pizza dough, divided into 4
    • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
    • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
    • 1 cup shredded taco cheese
    • 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
    • sour cream and salsa, for serving
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. 
2. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Stir in taco seasoning to coat and drain any fat. 
3. Place each piece of pizza dough on the baking sheet. Divide the ground beef among each, placing on one side of the dough. Top with cheese and cilantro, then fold over the other half of the dough to create a pocket. Pinch the seams closed with your fingers or a fork. 
4. Using the tip of a sharp knife, create three slits in the top of the dough to allow the steam to escape. Spray the tops with each non-stick spray. 
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve with sour cream and salsa. 

These are tasty! Tom doesn't like salsa and opted to dip his directly into taco sauce. Once I pulled these out of the oven I realized that we didn't have any sour cream left, so I just had mine with salsa. I will definitely be making these again! 

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

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My internet friends had been talking about making these spinach lasagna roll ups for quite some time now instead of making regular lasagna. After hearing about how good they were so many times, I decided to try out the recipe myself and make these up the weekend before we left for Florida.

I didn't even think to look for a recipe, I just went with the typical ingredients that would go in a lasagna, added spinach and just rolled up the lasagna noodles with the ingredients inside, instead of layering them together.



Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
    • 12 lasagna noodles
    • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flaked
    • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained 
    • 28 oz. jar marinara sauce 
    • extra mozzarella for topping
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente. They need to be soft enough that you can roll them up, but not fully cooked because they'll fall apart.
2. In a large bowl, add the ricotta, egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and crushed red pepper. Stir well until combined, then fold in the spinach.
3. Place cooked lasagna noodles flat on a baking sheet. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture down the center of each noodle then drizzle with 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of the marinara sauce.
4. To freeze, pour 1/4 cup of marinara sauce into a freezeable dish. I used the small foil loaf pans. Roll up each lasagna noodle and place tightly next to each other in the dish. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of sauce to just cover them. Add a pinch of mozzarella cheese, cover with foil (or a lid) and freeze.
5. To bake, pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinara sauce into a baking dish (just enough to coat the bottom) and place lasagna rolls on top. Drizzle with additional marinara sauce to cover and top each lasagna roll with a pinch of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

To bake from frozen, let thaw completely in the refrigerator (at least 12 hours) and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

I went light on the marinara sauce on these which made them a little bit dryer than I preferred, however, for a relatively quick meal and something that can easily be frozen and pulled out the freezer in the morning for dinner that evening, these are pretty good! I'd like to experiment with the recipe some more, adding different ingredients into the lasagna.

Fat Bread

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After my aunt, cousin and I agreed that the jambalaya recipe absolutely needed to be made, I noticed that fat bread was served along with the jambalaya.

I can't say I'd ever heard of fat bread before, but I was instantly sold when I saw that it included Salad Supreme. Many, many moons ago when I was just a kid, I remember being at the grocery store with my father and picking up a jar of this seasoning. I think my father was trying to eat healthier and thought adding flavor to a salad with something like this might really help him out.

It didn't take long until I was shaking the Salad Supreme over more than just a salad.While its definitely good over a salad, my favorite way to enjoy this seasoning is on top of a baked potato. I also don't feel complete dipping baby carrots into Ranch dressing as a snack unless there is some Salad Supreme mixed into the Ranch.

Anyway, I wouldn't have thought to add Salad Supreme to bread, but I was more than ready to try it out.



Fat Bread
Source: So Tasty, So Yummy 
Servings: 20ish slices
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Ingredients:
    • 1 loaf French bread
    • 1/2 stick softened butter
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced 
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 2 tsp. Salad Supreme 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice the bread lengthwise and then into 1-2" pieces. Spread the butter over the pieces, then sprinkle with the garlic powder and onions, Top each piece of bread with a pinch of both cheeses.
3. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned and the cheese has melted. Sprinkle the Salad Supreme over the bread and serve.

This has got to be one of the easiest side dishes ever but it is JUST. SO. GOOD! I could not control my hand from continually reaching to the plate of bread. I'm guessing its called fat bread because you want to eat so much of it that you'll get fat. 

Weekly Menu 5/12 - 5/16

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This is going to be a very short post as my allergies are making me threaten to chop off my nose and I have absolutely no interest in sitting at a computer with tissues stuffed in my nostrils. You're welcome for that visual.

First, Happy Mother's Day to all of the mom's out there! I hope you're having a wonderful day!

Sunday - Beef Wellington, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Corn 

Monday - Ricotta Gnocchi with Herbed Butter and Bacon 

Tuesday - Southwest Egg Rolls with Southwestern Chicken Skewers

Wednesday - Bacon Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese, Fries, Salad

Thursday - Herb Parmesan Chicken Tenders, Stuffing, Green Beans

The Beef Wellington was Tom's choice for his birthday dinner and I am hoping to get a much better picture so I can update it on here. Also, he invited his brother and wife to dinner so I'm cooking for a crowd! I'm still going to keep the wellingtons individual as I feel like you can better gauge the cooking times.

I'm off to pop a Zytrec and lay in bed.

Recipe Swap: Jambalaya

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On Friday April 26th, I was sitting on the Sanibel Island beach with Tom, my aunt and my cousin. We were discussing what to do for dinner for the remaining days we would be in Florida. I said that I could cook one night and my aunt said that'd be great. So we started discussing what I could possibly make.

My cousin said something with chicken would be good. My aunt said she wouldn't mind some shrimp. And then the ding of an email notification on my phone went off. It was my email from Sarah providing me with my assigned blog for our next recipe swap. The category: seafood. The recipe: jambalaya...made with chicken and shrimp.

I would call that divine intervention of the food variety. I mean really, how perfect of timing and ingredients was that? We decided I would make the jambalaya the next evening.



Jambalaya 
Source: So Tasty, So Yummy
Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients:
Chicken Marinade:
  • 1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning 
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
Jambalaya:
    • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning 
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 3 oz. tomato paste
    • 1 cup chicken stock 
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    • parsley, for garnish
    • Old Bay, for extra seasoning 
    • 2 cups white rice, cooked
Directions:
1. Place the chicken and marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag. Toss well to coat, then place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
3. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into small pieces as the sausage browns.
5. Add the celery, green pepper, onion, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, thyme and cayenne pepper to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
6. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock and wine to the skillet. Bring to a rolling boil, cover and let boil for 8-10 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and the liquid has mostly reduced.
7. Transfer the cooked chicken and the shrimp to the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until shrimp are pink and chicken is heated through.
8. Serve jambalaya over white rice and garnish with chopped parsley. Season with Old Bay if desired.



I made jambalaya not that long ago and I wasn't all that impressed with the flavors. I could not believe how delicious this recipe was. The flavors melded together so much better than the previous recipe I tried. Everyone stuffed themselves with at least 2 servings and then just longingly looked between the bowl of jambalaya and down at their stomachs, apparently hoping to find some more room in there.

Just further proof that Marylanders make good food. :)

Aside from the seasoning amounts, I followed the recipe almost exactly and I couldn't pass up serving this with fat bread like she did as well. Check back Monday to see that recipe.





Pepperoni Pizza Sliders

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Lately I've found myself looking for weeknight recipes that don't take up a ton of time or use a lot of ingredients. I think I'm getting old because I just no longer have any interest in spending 30+ minutes chopping and prepping foods for a weeknight meal. I'm blaming it on getting old because I used to get home at the same time I do now a few years ago and had no problems with it then.

Either way, when I saw Joelen share these pepperoni pizza sliders I knew I needed to make them right away. It was the week we were leaving for Florida and I was trying to empty the fridge out as much as possible. I had a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese and a package of pepperonis in the fridge. Also not wanting to spend a bunch of money at the grocery store before we left, this worked out perfectly as all I needed to buy were the slider rolls (I always have pizza sauce in the pantry).



Pepperoni Pizza Sliders
Source: What's Cookin', Chicago?
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 3 tbsp. melted butter
    • 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tbsp. onion powder
    • 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
    • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 
    • 12 Hawaiian sweet rolls
    • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
    • 24-36 beef or turkey pepperonis
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine the butter, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning and Worcestershire sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Slice each Hawaiian roll in half and spread pizza sauce on both sides. Place 2-3 pepperonis on top of the pizza sauce and then add a large pinch of the shredded mozzarella.
4. Top one half of the roll with the other to form and sandwich and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sandwiches, placing them right next to each other, making 3 rows of 4.
5. Brush the melted butter mixture on top of the sandwiches and let sit for 10 minutes.
6. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the tops of the rolls are lightly toasted. Serve immediately.

Delicious! If you hadn't figured it out, these sandwiches are the close relatives of the ham and cheese sliders that are immediately gobbled up at parties. With very similar ingredients, you could easily whip up a batch of each for your next party to add a little variety or provide an alternate choice for those not a fan of ham. 

Vacation Recap and Happy Birthday

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The title of this post is kind of backward but it just sounded better to me to say "Vacation Recap and Happy Birthday" instead of "Happy Birthday and Vacation Recap" I guess it doesn't really matter though does it?

Anyway, the happy birthday is to my lovely husband Tom who is now finally the same age as me. See, I'm 28 days older than him which he likes to remind me on quite the regular basis. So I suck it up for those 28 long days until finally we are the same age again.

I wish I had more to say about his birthday, but he's a very low-key kind of guy. We're having yellow cake with chocolate frosting tonight and seeing Iron Man 3 over the weekend.

As for the vacation recap, I'd think it's about time, right? So, lets start at the beginning. Tuesday:  Our flight left for Fort Myers at 8:20 AM which requires getting to the airport around 6 AM. This included my first experience with long term parking and bus drivers who don't care that you are literally standing right behind them as they pull to the stop and then just drive off. Assholes. Luckily there is a bus every 10 minutes. The flight to Florida was pretty uneventful. We did forget to check in until late Monday, which is a huge no-no if you're flying Southwest and would actually like to sit with your traveling companions. We were all close together though.

We arrived in the lovely state of Florida to some slight confusion. While I have nothing against the elderly, it was quite shocking to exit the plane and find ourselves in a sea of them. We were, no lie, the only people under the age of 75 until we reached the baggage claim area, which was also uneventful. As was picking up the rental car (Toyota Corolla). My aunt only lives 10 minutes from the airport, so also, nothing exciting there.

I'm pretty sure we were just generally lazy the first day that we arrived. We went to dinner at Doc Ford's Beach House, which was recommended by some of my internet peoples (yes I call them that. No, I do not have a cult.) The shrimp and grits was absolutely incredible. Like clean your plate and debate on licking it type of incredible. As we were waking up before the sun the next day, we retired early.

Wednesday: Somewhere in the 4 am hour, we awoke and got ready for our 3+ hour journey to Universal Studios. I think we maybe should have checked the settings on the GPS since we took an incredibly rural route. As in, stopping for farm equipment. And school buses on a major highway. However, it did provide me with this accidental picture, which is quite pretty.


Finally, we arrived at Universal Studios were I (smartly) made the decision to pay an extra $5 for preferred parking. We were much closer to those moving walkway things that get you to the park that if we had not paid for it. If you know anything about me, you'll know that first up was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The first ride that we got on was the 3-D Roller Coaster through the castle because there was already a 30 minute wait. Most of this time was spent walking through the castle and seeing the talking pictures and even getting some information from Harry, Ron and Hermione.

You can hardly see it, but the pic above has "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" carved into the two columns before you enter the castle. The roller coaster was by far the best thing we did that day. It is not a ride for kids at all and is actually kind of scary. There are dementors, spiders and dragons. But it's just incredible. Like squeal out loud incredible. I could easily have just rode it over and over again so I could remember every second of it, but there were other things to do.

Like drink butterbeer. Butterbeer is incredible. My friend Kayleigh told me that she expected a full and immediate report with pictures as soon as I had tried it. Butterbeer comes in two varieties, a soda like version and a slushee version. The only way I can describe these cups of incredible would be to say its the most delicious cream soda you've ever had topped with a faintly butterscotch flavored whipped cream.


After drinking our butterbeer, we got on Flight of the Hippogriff which is just one of the other roller coasters there. It was a lot of fun, but didn't come with any good opportunities for pictures unfortunately.

Either did the Dragon's Challenge which was the biggest roller coast in the WWOHP section. I still don't know how some people ended up on the other colored dragon, but I will tell you standing in line for this roller coaster is more than worth the time. Its longer than most and just well, incredible. I realize I'm going to use that word a lot in these posts. However, be warned that you will stumble around like a drunk person after getting off this ride. You're pretty dizzy and disoriented in an awesome type of way.

After the rides in WWOHP were complete, we purchased wands (Hermione for me, Dumbledore for Tom) and then went into Zonko's and Honeydukes. I purchased the every flavor jelly beans from Honeydukes.

Finally we decided to head on over to the other attractions at the Islands of Adventure. Next stop was...

Which was definitely my second favorite section of the park, even if it was geared toward children. We still got on almost all of the rides in that section and stopped in this store...

Where I may have squealed multiple times and wanted to purchase everything in the store. Instead, Tom and I settled for each purchasing a Grinch shirt, a picture frame and a magnet. It was around 12:30 so we decided to head on over to the Meet the Characters Show in hopes that all of the people with small children who would usually see it, were eating lunch.

Which is exactly what happened. We watched the show with all of the characters and then came the most amazing time of ALL...where you get to meet the characters!

At first the Grinch didn't want to take a picture with me. Please note my incredulous face. However, he decided to suck it up when Tom came over.
I won't lie. This combined with WWOHP totally made my day. For good measure, we took a picture with The Lorax as well.

And finally, it was time to find something to eat. We chose burgers and fries from a Captain America cafe. Tom and my cousin Rishelle got on the Hulk roller coaster. I didn't want to chance it after eating. Then we headed over to the other portion of the park, the original Universal Studios.

There we got on the Despicable Me 3-D Ride which was really, really cool. We followed that up with the Shrek 3D, the Disaster ride, the Twister Ride and finally the Men in Black ride where I was quite proud of my 54,000 score on alien killing. Of course Tom got something like 160,000. Whatever.

And we ended off our day at Universal by stopping by to visit Spongebob.

I highly do NOT recommend trying to see both parks in one day. It is just completely exhausting. I'm pretty sure we walked over 5 miles in 85+ degree heat. Not pleasant. Not one bit.

I also purchased an It's So Fluffy! t-shirt from Despicable Me since it reminds us of the Itty cat.

Dinner was had with my internet friends and to be completely honest, I feel like a complete asshole. I was so exhausted by that point, I hardly even remember meeting anyone and then I bailed immediately after we got the check since Tom was also past exhaustion.

Thank God we made the decision to get a hotel right near the park. I have no idea how we could have even possibly drove the 3 hours back to my aunts house that night.

Thursday: we pretty much did nothing but drive back to my aunts. I think we may have hung out at the pool after that. It was just an exhausting day.

Friday: we returned the rental car and then went to Sanibel Island to hang out at the beach and get some seashells since that's what the area is known for. I found some really pretty ones, I just need to figure out what to do with them.

Saturday and Sunday: we hung out by the pool, I made dinner one night, we had steamed crabs another night. I got a bit of sunburn.

Monday: our last day was kind of bittersweet. I wanted to come home and see the kitties and get away from the humidity, but I also had no interest in returning to temperatures in the 50's. We did some shopping at the strip mall while my aunt and uncle ran some errands. This resulted in me purchasing 3 pairs of capri's. Which isn't a bad thing, I don't have any currently. We went to Doc's Beach House for dinner but needed to stop along the way to get a picture of this sign.

Not sure what they were thinking when they named the store, but we all amused our facebook friends by sharing the picture on there. Dinner was pretty tasty and we headed back to the house for an early evening since our flight the next morning was at 6 am.

Tuesday: So, the Fort Myers airport doesn't even open until 4 AM. We got there a little before that. Then we found that security doesn't open until 4:30 AM and not even all of the stores in the concourse are open that early. However, we made it through all of that (sans air conditioning because maybe they don't turn that on in the morning either?) and got onto our 6 AM flight, where approximately 40 minutes later we hit the worst turbulence I've ever experienced.

Many, many moons ago when I was a kid, my father and I went to visit his brother in Georgia and I was told (later on) we experienced some pretty severe turbulence on the way home. Not wanting to scare me, my dad told me it was normal. Which I think came in handy.

I'm not scared to fly to begin with, but I can see how turbulence like this will turn people off of it. Personally, I prefer a few bumps every now and then just to break up the monotony of not feeling like you're even moving. It just makes it easier for me to picture that I'm on a bus and not in a plane in the sky. Anyway, the pilot came on and said "We're about to go through an unpleasant bit of weather here and it could be bumpy. Please ensure your seatbelt is secured and your chair is in the upright position."

Then we bumped around for a bit and hit a patch where I was actually lifted from my seat and got that weightless feeling in my stomach that you do on a roller coaster. Surprisingly, no one panicked. It was all over in about a minute or two and the pilot came back on and said "so folks, this is why we tell you to wear your seatbelts."

It woke Tom up and severely freaked out my cousin, but to be honest, I thought it was kind of fun. Not for a second did I think anything serious would happen to us. The rest of the flight was uneventful and we arrived in chilly, rainy Baltimore at 8:30 AM.

And that dear friends, was a recap of my vacation. When we got home the kitties were more than happy to see us again and while Tom napped I washed clothes and ran to pick up the essentials at the grocery store. 

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

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Sometimes I get one of those really smart ideas in my head. Before leaving for Florida, I mentioned on a message board that I wish I would have planned more in advance for meals I could freeze and eat when we got back from vacation.

Nothing is worse than coming home from vacation knowing that your fridge, freezer and pantry are empty because then you need to first figure out what in the world you are going to make. Which requires more effort than most people possess when all they can think about is showering in their own shower and sleeping in their own bed. But it gets harder! You still need to go to the store for said ingredients. And if you are anything like me, you will have tossed all your clothes immediately into the washer and put on pajamas the second you walked in the door. So now you gotta get dressed too!

Anyway, the more I thought about this, the more I realized it shouldn't be all that difficult to find three quick meals that I could prepare on the weekend before going away and that I could just pull out of the freezer and eat with minimal prep work.

The first meal that came to mind was enchiladas because I had previously frozen them before. However, the recipe I had called for a little more work than I was willing to exert on a Saturday when I had 2 other meals to make. So I decided to just wing it and see what happened.



Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 12 flour tortillas
    • 2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
    • 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 8 oz. diced green chiles
    • 1/2 cup salsa 
    • 2 tbsp. taco seasoning
    • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
    • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions:
1. Combine the chicken, black beans, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, green chiles, salsa and taco seasoning together in a large bowl.
2. Divide the mixture between the 12 tortillas and roll up each tortilla, tucking in the ends to secure.
3. To freeze, place tortillas in a ziplock bag. (To cook from frozen, thaw completely in fridge first)
4. To bake, preheat the oven to 400. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread half of the enchiladas sauce into the prepared baking dish.
5. Place the tortillas on top of the enchilada sauce and drizzle the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the enchiladas.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Filling and tasty! It was great to come home from Florida and know that I only had to put minimal effort into cooking each night. The only downside to this recipe is that I learned red enchiladas sauce gives me heart burn.

SRC: Pomegranate Sorbet

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Much like the last recipe swap I participated in, I wasn't thinking about the time line when I signed up for May's Secret Recipe Club. We usually get about three weeks to choose and prepare a meal from our assigned blog. We had a little less than that this time, plus I was spending 7 of the available 17 days in Florida. Eeek!

10 days does not give you a lot of time to choose and make a recipe. I like to give myself extra time in case my first choice doesn't work out, then I'm not scrambling at the last minute to find/make something else from my assigned blog.

I got really lucky this month though. I was assigned to Sweet As Sugar Cookies (cute name, right) who had a ton of recipes I could easily choose from. Lisa is Asian which means I would usually ignore the title of her blog completely and beeline it to the savory dishes since I have a bit of an obsession with Asian food. Especially authentic Asian food.

However, as I was scrolling in that direction the words "Pomegranate Sorbet" stopped me in my tracks. It was currently 84 degrees in my 3rd floor apartment with a piddly wind blowing through. Nothing sounded more amazing at that exact moment that something cold and delicious like a pomegranate sorbet.

Of course, my ice cream maker requires 15 hours in the freezer beforehand...so I did what any normal person does: hopped up from my chair so fast it almost fell over and ran to the kitchen to put the ice cream maker in the freezer. I only startled both cats and got a strange look from the husband. Whatever.



Pomegranate Sorbet
Source: Sweet As Sugar Cookies
Servings: 2 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 cups pomegranate juice
Directions:
1. Combine water and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Pour into a larger container and add the pomegranate juice. Refrigerate until chilled.
3. Transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker and process according to manufacture directions.
4. Freeze until chilled.

Of course, in the 24+ hours it took me to make this, the weather changed drastically and its now a windy 64 degrees outside. Gotta love Maryland weather! This is tart, but absolutely delicious. I had a very hard time not eating a ton of it in one sitting. 

Weekly Menu 5/5 - 5/9

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I highly advise taking a middle of the week to middle of the week vacation. It makes easing back into home life and work about 100 times easier than coming back and knowing you have a full 5 day week ahead of you.

I planned out what we would have for dinners this week before realizing that I could have made something fun for Cinco de Mayo. Oops. Once again, I tend to forget about the smaller holidays.

Sunday - Orange-Cranberry Pork over Rice with Green Beans

Monday - Italian Chicken over Grilled Vegetable Orzo 

Tuesday - Shrimp Scampi 

Wednesday - cake

Thursday - pizza

Yes, I really did say that cake is for dinner on Wednesday. Tom's birthday is Wednesday and I asked him what he wanted me to make. He decided on Beef Wellington and I explained that really isn't a weeknight meal, so he asked for me to make it the following weekend and said that he wanted cake for his birthday. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. From a box/jar preferably. I blinked at him a few times, waiting for him to say he was joking but he didn't, and I figured what the hell. People eat cake for breakfast, why not eat it for dinner?

For breakfast this week I'm having yogurt parfaits and lunch will be chicken tacos. 

Sourdough Bread

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Finally! Right? I know, I know, had I not been a procrastinator I could have easily made this bread before my 28th birthday, almost a month ago. I could give you good excuses, like I was busy at least one day out of every weekend since like February, but I doubt you'd believe me. (It really is true.) Or I could tell you that I tried to make this a few times but the starter and I didn't get along. (That isn't true).

So, fine, let's just chalk it up to me being a huge procrastinator. But look, I'm sharing the bread with you now, so that's gotta count for something right?



Sourdough Bread
Source: Annie's Eats
Servings: 2 loaves
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Ingredients:
Sponge:
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
Dough:
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp. water
Finishing Touches:
  • 1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water
  • water in a spray bottle 


Directions:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the ingredients for the sponge. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
2. Once set for 4 hours, transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 12 hours.
3. Return the bowl of your stand mixer to the base and attach the dough hook. Add all of the ingredients for the dough and mix on low speed until a ball forms. Knead until dough is elastic, 5-6 minutes.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate the dough and divide into two equal sized portions. Form into a torpedo shape about 6x8 inches long. Place on the prepared baking sheet with repeat with the remaining ball of dough.
7. Loosely cover the dough with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 2-3 hours.
8. Place a pizza stone (or two, depending on the size of the stone) in your oven and preheat to 425.
9. Lightly slash each loaf three times diagonally. Brush over the dough with the egg wash and spray with water.
10. Place the dough on the preheated pizza stones and bake for 14-16 minutes. Rotate the pizza pans and bake for another 14-16 minutes or until the bread is lightly golden.
11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

I confess, Tom actually finished off this bread for me. He mastered his grandmother's elusive Easter Bread so I feel completely comfortable leaving him in the kitchen with rising dough. He completed steps 8-11 for me while I was out with my friends at a wine tasting. We got back here and there was delicious bread to nom on. I'll take it! 

Crock Pot Pork and Green Chile Stew

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The week before we went on vacation I purposely planned for easy meals that would hopefully include leftovers so I wouldn't need to do a lot of cooking as soon as we got back. The easiest dinners are those made in the crock pot and I had most of these ingredients just hanging around.




Crock Pot Pork and Green Chile Stew
Source: Skinny Taste
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lb. pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
    • 1 tbsp. canola oil
    • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 8 oz. canned green chiles
    • 2 tbsp. jalapeno, diced
    • 10 oz. Rotel
    • 1/2 cup low-sodium fat free chicken broth
    • 1 tbsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 2 cups cooked rice
Directions:
1. Cut the pork shoulder into 2" pieces.
2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the pork. Add the pork pieces to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer the pork to the crock pot.
4. Add the onion through garlic powder to the crock pot and stir to combine.
5. Cook on low for 8 hours.
6. Shred the pork with two forks. Serve on top of the rice, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Tom asked why we were eating a stew like meal on one of the hottest days of the year, but other than that, there were no complaints about this dish. It had a really nice amount of flavor and a decent amount of heat to it. And it made leftovers! Win!


Orange Marmalade Muffins

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In Eat More of What You Love Marlene calls these Any Day Sunshine Muffins. I don't feel like that is detailed enough of a name. You can substitute the orange marmalade for any other flavor, but since I went traditionally and followed her directions, I thought I should honor the orange marmalade and include it in the name of the muffin.

Plus it makes it easier to search for, right? Who remembers "any day sunshine muffins" easier than they remember "orange marmalade muffins"?



Orange Marmalade Muffins
Source: Eat More of What You Love, p. 58
Servings: 12 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup low-sugar orange marmalade
    • 1/2 cup low fat milk
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 tbsp. orange zest
    • Topping: 12 tsp. low-sugar orange marmalade
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, then whisk in the marmalade, milk, butter and orange zest.
4. Using a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Do not over mix.
5. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 of the way full.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
7. Serve with 1 tsp. orange marmalade on top.

These muffins are better eaten the same day they are made. When I make muffins for breakfast, I make them on Sunday and hope they last until the end of the week. By Wednesday, I was needing to microwave the muffins, but even then, they were still pretty dry and not very fresh tasting.



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