Sweet Potato Turkey Hash

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Back at the beginning of the month when I did the cleanse that shall not be named, I needed to find something I could eat for breakfast on the weekends that didn't include eggs, but still met the rest of the qualifications.

I could have eggs, but I knew after eating them in muffin form during the week, I was not going to be able to stomach the sight of another egg. I randomly though of the recipe and decided to wing it one morning and see how it turned out.



Sweet Potato Turkey Hash 
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
    • 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey breast
    • 1 small bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
1. Place the grated sweet potato in a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and squeeze out excess moisture.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Brown the ground turkey, then remove it from the skillet.
3. Spray the skillet with the cooking spray and add the bell pepper and onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until they are softened.
4. Return the ground turkey to the skillet, along with the shredded sweet potato. Add the chili powder, salt and pepper and stir until combined.
5. Press the mixture into the skillet, allowing it to form a golden crust on the bottom before flipping over and repeating on the other side.



An egg or some cheese would have really binded these ingredients together but I worked with what was available. The sweet potato almost took on a hashbrown-like texture when it got crispy and the flavors went surprisingly well together. I wasn't certain I was going to like this, but I really enjoyed it and opted to eat the leftovers for dinner one night.



12 Weeks of Christmas; Week 6: Chocolate Drizzled Baklava

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After submitting what I felt was a cheaters recipe to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats last week, I knew I wanted to put much more effort into it for this week. I had saved this recipe from last year, never finding enough time to make it before the holiday season was over.

I recently watched an episode of Symon's Suppers where he prepared a baklava dish. I don't think I would have felt as comfortable making this, had I not seen the episode and saw just how much butter is really needed for this recipe.

I even cut down the butter and syrup from the initial recipe after making it the first time and finding it almost soggy.

We're now halfway through the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats! I can't believe how quickly time is going. Tom already has the countdown to Christmas sign up and the stores have lights and wreaths and ornaments. We've ordered our Christmas cards and I've been creating an Amazon wish list for weeks now, but I otherwise feel completely unprepared.



Chocolate-Drizzled Baklava
Source: Taste of Home magazine, October/November 2012
Servings: 3 dozen
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Ingredients:
Baklava:
    • 1 cup pecans, minced
    • 1 cup walnuts, minced
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. allspice
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
    • 2/3 cup butter, melted
    • 24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
Syrup:
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Chocolate:
    • 6 oz. dark chocolate 
    • 1 tsp. coconut oil 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine the pecans, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves together in a medium bowl.
3. Roll out the phyllo dough and cover with a damp paper towel.
4. Brush some of the melted butter in a 9x13 baking dish.
5. Place two sheets of phyllo dough into the prepared baking dish. Brush with butter and repeat two times, so you have 6 sheets of phyllo dough in the dish with every other one buttered.
6. Sprinkle a layer of the pecan/walnut/sugar/spice mixture evenly on top of the buttered phyllo sheet.
7. Repeat step 5, using 6 more sheets of phyllo dough, then sprinkle with the nut mixture. Repeat again and then top with the remaining 6 sheets of phyllo dough buttering the top one.
8. Using a sharp knife, start at one corner and cut straight through to the other corner. Repeat from the other side, creating a large X in the dough. Then cut 1 1/2" strips diagonally down both sides to create diamond shapes.
9. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Meanwhile, combine the water, honey, sugar and cinnamon syrup ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
11. Remove from the heat entirely and stir in the vanilla and lemon juice. Let cool until the baklava comes out of the oven.
12. Drizzle the syrup mixture over the baklava, cover and place on a wire rack to cool completely, overnight.
13. Add the chocolate and the coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring after each until the mixture is melted and smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and drizzle over the chocolate.



I revised this recipe a little bit after making it the first time, cutting down on the nuts included, but I still think it was too much. If I make this again, I think I'd do a cinnamon/sugar/allspice/clove sprinkle on two of the 3 layers and just have the pecans and walnuts mixed in on the middle layer of it.

While these are time consuming because they need to sit, the physical work of preparing it is quite quick and they look really pretty for holiday parties.



Thanks again to Brenda of Meal Planning Magic for hosting this and don't forget, you can always check out the Pinterest page to see what we've made! 

Garlic Basil Bread

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Months ago I had some basil that I knew was going to go bad if I didn't find a use for it. It was a night where bread would make the perfect accompaniment. So I threw together this dish, and on a whim, decided to photograph it separately so I could share the recipe.

Except, its really more preparation than a recipe. It takes barely a minute to fully prepare this and the rest of the time is the bread getting nice and crispy in the oven. So I hesitated to share it with you, but hey, everyone needs something a little fancier than store-bought garlic bread sometimes, right?



Garlic Basil Bread
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 8-10 pieces
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Ingredients:
    • 1 small loaf Italian bread
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper 
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Slice the Italian bread into 2" slices.
3. Drizzle the olive oil over the bread and then sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
4. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Sprinkle the fresh basil on top of the bread before serving.


The perfect simple and quick accompaniment for any pasta dish or even soup! 

Skinny Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins

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I had some pumpkin left over after a few recipes and needed to use it up. I didn't have anything special planned for breakfast that week so I decided to go on the hunt for pumpkin muffin recipes. I wanted a healthier version, but one that didn't need me to go out to the store for ingredients.

So here we are:



Skinny Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins
Source: Skinnytaste
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 2 egg whites
    • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, egg whites, coconut oil and vanilla until fully combined.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until no flour lumps remain, then stir in the mini chocolate chips.
5. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.


Weekly Menu 10/27 - 10/31

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Blogger's blog. Like writers block, but for blogger's.

I've had a serious case of it for the past week or so. I have a whole sheet of recipes I've made that just need to be typed up and shared with you, but I've had nothing interesting to say about any of them. Were they good? Yes. Were they delicious? Some. Would I make them again? Some. So why can't I think of a thing to say about them?

If I'm feeling particularly inspired in the word area I can usually type up the recipe, add the picture and then come back to it and words will just start flowing from my fingertips. So I tried that and it still didn't happen. Hence the reason why there was no post on Friday.

Hell, I'm even typing this in real time because I've procrastinated all weekend about having nothing to say. I don't like it. I hope it goes away soon.

So for this week we're having:

Sunday - grilled steak, blue cheese and apple roasted mashed potatoes, cheesy green bean casserole 

Monday - turkey bacon-cheeseburger meatloaf cups, fries, corn 

Tuesday - traditional twist mac and cheese

Wednesday - Grandma's beef and vegetable soup 

Thursday - burgers and fries 

We have a few burgers of multiple different types hanging around in the freezer and I'm trying to clean it out, so we're all have a different burger variety Thursday night.

For breakfast I'm having apple crisp muffins and lunch will be a country-style beef and vegetable soup. I decided to be super proactive and make my SRC recipe this weekend which was incredible. 

Crock Pot "Stewed' Chicken

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Here is a rare glimpse into a meal I ate as a child. I always said I could never be a Next Food Network Star because I don't have a vast array of family recipes to whip up.

I don't know why, but I have a really hard time remembering what I ate as a kid. I was really picky, so you'd think it would be easier but there are very few recipes I really remember and those that I do were more from when I was a teenager. 

I remember burgers and hot dogs on the grill in the summer. Steak was always served with a baked potato and a salad. I used to pick the beans out of chili. A dish with pork chops, rice and apples is vaguely familiar. And that's about it. I've mentioned before I tend to gravitate toward Mexican and Asian dishes since we didn't eat those. No tacos, no stir fry. I didn't like boxed mac and cheese or spaghetti for many, many years. 

I know that we ate a lot of chicken, however this is the only dish I can really remember. I can still see it cooking on the stove, in this large old black skillet that my mom most likely still has, bubbling away. This isn't the exact recipe since I opted to make it in the crock pot, but it's pretty close. 



Crock Pot 'Stewed' Chicken
Barely adapted from a family recipe
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
    • 4 bone-in chicken breasts
    • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 3 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
    • 3-4 medium potatoes, chopped
    • 1 can condensed tomato soup 
    • 6 oz. tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup water
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients together in a 6 quart slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or until chicken falls off the bone. 
2. Discard bones and serve hot. 



If you wanted to make this on the stove top, I believe my mom might have also used some tomato sauce instead of water since her broth was thicker than mine turned out.
To make this a freezer meal: combine all ingredients except for potatoes into a sealable bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. To cook, thaw in the fridge overnight, then add to the crock pot with potatoes. Same cooking time and temperatures. 

Week 5: 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats: Cranberry Sangria

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When I signed up for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats I challenged myself to make something for all 12 weeks. I made a tentative list of what I wanted to make and share.

I was a bit over-confident in the sense that I assumed what I chose would actually turn out. My intended choice for this week was a cinnamon sugar cookie bar. I found the recipe on Pinterest and I had all of the ingredients, so I made it over the weekend. Except, it wasn't anything like the image.

The image was of a thin sugar cookie crust with a tall pillow-y marshmallow looking frosting on top. What I ended up with was a 3 inch tall cookie...cake for a lack of better terms with a thin non-pillow-y crust. What's worse, it was gross. You should never be able to go wrong with a cream cheese frosting, but alas, you can. I should have taken a picture and submitted to that site where you share the failed Pinterest recipes but I opted to just toss it.

So here it was, Sunday late afternoon and I had absolutely nothing to share with you for this week. I don't have a lot of time after I get home from work and after the fail, I was kind of hesitant to try out a recipe I hadn't made before. Again...

Monday, on the way home from work, inspiration hit. Some of the recipes I had planned to make were drinks. I had more than enough wine, so why not easily whip up a recipe for sangria? And so this week's submission was saved.



Cranberry Sangria
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 8 glasses
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Ingredients:
    • 750 ml bottle red wine 
    • 1 cup ginger ale
    • 1 cup cranberry juice
    • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large pitcher and serve.
To make in advance: leave out ginger ale until right before serving.

Simple, quick and tasty! To find out more about the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treat's, head on over to Brenda's blog Meal Planning Magic

Recipe Remake: Grandma's Beef and Vegetable Soup

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Welcome to another Recipe Remake, where I update a recipe for accuracy, clarity and hopefully a better picture. :) 

I can't believe it was over three years ago since I first made this recipe. I'm equally shocked at the costs at the bottom. $7.50 for TWO POUNDS of beef cubes? They're close to $5 a pound now, which just goes to show you how annoying food inflation is. And explains why no matter how hard I try, I just can not reduce our weekly grocery budget.

But anyway, this post is not about the rising food costs, and about providing you with a prettier picture and a more nicely written version of this recipe.

When I first told Tom I was going to start remaking some old recipes, he immediately inquired about this one. It's been chilly enough that I decided to make it right away. I forgot just how good this is!




Grandma's Beef and Vegetable Soup 
Source: Tom's Grandma
Servings: 8-10 cups
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. beef cubes 
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 4 small potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
    • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 onion, diced 
    • 14 oz. no-salt-added corn
    • 14 oz. no-salt-added green beans 
    • 14 oz. no-salt-added peas
    • 46 oz. low-sodium spicy vegetable juice (V8)
    • 1-2 cups water
    • 3/4 cup beef stock 
    • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. pepper 
Directions:
1. Heat a skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet, tossing frequently to brown on all sides.
2. Transfer the beef to a large stock pot. Add a little bit of the vegetable juice (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet and de-glaze with a wooden spoon. Pour that into the stock pot, then add all of the vegetables and seasonings into the stock pot as well.
3. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer for at least one hour.

If you're interested in other Grandma recipes I've made, you should take a look at these gobs. Whoopie pies. Cookie sandwiches. Whatever you refer to them as.



Original Recipe: 10/4/10
It's really ugly outside today. The high temperature was 60 degrees, but with the wind and rain it felt a lot colder. I must have somehow sensed this last week because I had planned on making soup today.

This really isn't a recipe that you want to make on a weeknight unless you don't mind eating later on or you're one of those people who gets home around 3 PM. If you're part of the latter, I dislike you just because I'm immensely jealous you get to come home while its still light outside.

When Tom's mom found out that I liked to cook she sent this recipe to me along with a ton of other ones of things that he used to eat growing up. Knowing that I'm starting Quickbooks classes next Monday and won't be around to make dinner, I purposely doubled this recipe so he would have the option to defrost it and have it on those nights. You can easily cut this recipe in half or even into quarters if necessary, but I highly recommend having some left over to freeze. 


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Costs:
2 lbs. beef cubes $7.50, 7 potatoes $1.12, 5 carrots $0.70, tomato juice $1.69, onion $0.21, canned green beans $0.40, canned corn $0.40, canned peas $0.40, beef stock $0.55 = $12.97 / 3 meals = $4.33


Crock Pot Cranberry-Dijon Pork Tenderloin

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One grocery store ran a special where if you purchased one pork tenderloin you got one for free for about three weeks. I absolutely couldn't pass up this kind of deal and picked up two of them every week while the special was going on. I had only planned on making freezer meals with two of them but I came across this recipe and found it was just too simple to pass up.

First, its a freezer meal, meaning you just toss the ingredients in a bag, freeze and forget about it. Second, it only involves 4 ingredients, all of which I currently possessed in the pantry and fridge. And third, it was a crock pot meal, so not only did I get to prepare it in less than 5 minutes, I also had to do nothing but take it out of the freezer the night before and place it into the crock pot in the morning. It doesn't get much easier than that.



Crock Pot Cranberry-Dijon Pork Tenderloin
Source: Amanda the Virtuous Wife
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2-3 lb. pork tenderloin
    • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
    • 1 packet onion soup mix 
    • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Directions:
To Freeze: Combine ingredients in a zip-top bag and seal. Freeze for up to 3 months.
To Cook: Let thaw in refrigerator overnight. Place in a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
If cooking from frozen, times may vary from 8-12 hours.

The cranberries made a crust of sorts on the pork which provided a tangy bite. I'd definitely make this super-simple recipe again. 

Weekly Menu 10/19 - 10/24

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I had a pretty productive Saturday for being a lazy ass on Friday. See, my intent every week is that if I'm not grocery shopping on Friday night then I need to get the majority of the cleaning done. Last night, instead of doing either, I farted around on the internet and pinned recipes to Pinterest.

Gidget decided 3 AM was a good time to start waking me up in 10 minute intervals for food. She knows if I get out of bed to feed her, I'm up for the day. She'll purposely start this as early as possible because she gets to nap all day and I don't. Yes, my cat is vindictive, no matter what you say. Unable to ignore her any longer, I got up a little before 7 to fed her. I also cleaned the kitchen, emptied both litter boxes, dusted the living room and dining room and swept/mopped the floors. Basically, I didn't vacuum or clean the bedroom. I hopped in the shower and walked over to the church half a mile away to meet my friend at the church's fall festival.

We get there first thing in the morning so we get first dibs on anything. There's really not a whole lot there, we were there for 20 minutes and had seen everything. But I have two glass candy dishes for the holidays and a 1950's Pyrex 1 cup measuring cup. The three items totaled out at $2.

I came home, wrote out the grocery list, went shopping and started washing the towels and bedding by noon. I planned on vacuumed except Tom had planted himself on the couch so I needed to wait for him to move.

The food for this week is as follows:

Saturday - turkey pot pie

Sunday - bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach 

Monday - spaghetti & meatballs, salad

Tuesday - Asian turkey burgers with fries, salad

Wednesday - tacos

Thursday - pizza 

For breakfast this week I'm making blueberry crumble muffins. I have some leftover pumpkin chili in the freezer that I'm going to thaw for lunches, but I also picked up stuff for sandwiches since I don't think its enough for the whole week.


Recipe Swap: Ham, Brie, Marmalade and Arugula Pressed Sandwich

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The theme for this recipe swap is 'Lunch'. I am always on the lookout for new lunch ideas as I feel like it's pretty easy to get stuck in the same ruts for your mid-day meal. There are probably a gazillion different sandwich varieties out there, but its not always easy to find one that you like.

I was assigned Jaida's submission of a Ham, Brie, Marmalade and Arugula Pressed Sandwich. I was a bit hesitant when I received this recipe because I was not a big fan of brie cheese. But I was excited because needing brie cheese meant we had to go to Wegman's. It's pretty sad that my closest grocery store only carries brie around the holidays and has a quite pitiful selection of cheeses throughout the year.

If you've never been to Wegman's, their cheese counter is quite the sight. After looking at all of my brie cheese options I decided to go with a mild and creamy version, hoping that the combination of mildness and it being mixed with other flavors would make me like it better than my initial brie tasting over three years ago.



Ham, Brie, Marmalade and Arugula Pressed Sandwich
Source: Sweet Beginnings as seen on theKitchn
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1 ciabatta roll 
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp. mild and creamy brie 
    • 3 slices deli ham 
    • 1 tbsp. peach marmalade 
    • handful of arugula leaves
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
Directions:
1. Preheat a panini press or grill to high heat.
2. Slice the roll in half, spreading Dijon mustard, cheese and marmalade on both sides. Place ham slices on one side and top with the other half of the sandwich. Brush both sides with the olive oil.
3. Place on the panini press/grill and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Open the sandwich and add in the arugula leaves.

When I tried brie years ago and didn't like it, it was a much more solid form than what I purchased for this sandwich. The recipe calls for a more solid version. Determined to change my tastebuds, I took a huge bite of this sandwich and was pleasantly surprised. I definitely like brie cheese when its in this softer form.


Improv Challenge: Grandma's Gobs

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I try to remember to look up the ingredients for the Improv Challenge as far in advance as possible so I can come up with the perfect recipe to share with everyone on the reveal day.

The ingredients for this month are cake and frosting. Which really threw me for a loop. What in the world can you make with cake and frosting other than a cake and frosting? While I pondered this, I happened to mention it aloud to Tom who said "Grandma's Gobs".

I asked him how that was going to meet the ingredient challenge and he told me that Grandma makes her gobs with boxed cake mix and then creates an icing (frosting) to put between them. Not coming up with any better ideas, I immediately decided that Grandma's Gobs were the way to go for this challenge.

If you're not from PA, you might not have a clue of what I'm talking about. Gobs are also whoopie pies or cookie sandwiches. Now that we've got that out of the way, lets get onto the recipe, shall we?



Grandma's Gobs
Source: Tom's Grandma
Servings: approximately 36 cookie sandwiches
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Ingredients:
    For the Gobs:
    • 15.25 oz. box Pillsbury Devil's Food Cake mix (dry)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 3 eggs 
    • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
    For the Icing:
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 5 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 stick margarine
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup shortening 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry cake mix, water, oil and eggs. Then whisk the flour into the mixture. It should still be moist but not runny.
3. Drop rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to let cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, combine milk and flour in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture forms a thick paste. Remove from the heat and set aside to let cool.
5. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the margarine, sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add in the cooled paste and the vanilla and beat on medium speed until fully combined.
6. Match up evenly sized cookies. Use a flat spatula to spread a dollop of the icing on one cookie and top with the other. Repeat until all cookies are paired up with icing.

Having nothing to base the taste on, I had Tom try these and he said I made them exactly as his grandmother did. Apparently these are quite the family favorite as his brother is planning to stop by and take home some of them.


Week 4: 12 Weeks of Christmas: Candy Cane S'mores

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Have I ever mentioned that I'm a great procrastinator? Unless I'm feeling particularly motivated I'll put off doing something for as long as possible.

I typically do all of my blogging for the week on the weekend before. I have a general idea of what I'm going to share with you, but I actually type up the posts, edit the pictures, do the scheduling and all that stuff. I did all of that on Saturday, then starting reading and somewhere in the middle of the book I was reading, I realized that I hadn't typed or scheduled this post.

Sunday I promptly forgot all about it. Then yesterday I was hit with the worst migraine I've ever had. My migraines are usually of the skull splitting mild nausea variety. This one topped out with light sensitivity, full on nausea, skull splitting pain to the point where my teeth were aching and it felt like all of the energy was being siphoned from my body. I don't even think I could wish that amount of pain on an enemy. Needless to say, blogging this post did not happen last night.

And of course now, instead of actually getting to the point of the post, I'm babbling about migraines and letting myself be easily sidetracked by planners. I bought a $7 one from Target but I keep drooling over the Erin Condren variety but I can't justify a $50 planner. So it's on my Amazon Wishlist.

I could talk about the joys of the wishlist, but I really need to get to the point of this post, which is that we are now 4 weeks into the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats. I was planning on making something completely different for this week, but this recipe caught my eye and I knew there was no turning back. I love S'mores. A lot.



Candy Cane S'Mores
Source: Roxana's Home Baking
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
    • 8 graham crackers, broken in half (16 squares)
    • 16 marshmallows 
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • 5 tbsp. heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes (or peppermint candies)
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to broil.
2. Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until smooth. Let cool slightly.
3. Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag fitted with a thin round tip.
4. Place a marshmallow on each graham cracker square and broil for 30 seconds - 1 minute until lightly toasted.
5. Drizzle the chocolate over the marshmallow and then sprinkle with the crushed candy canes.



This took absolutely no time at all and I'm kind of embarrassed to confess how quickly we scarfed these down. Plus I found something totally cool at the store... Square Flat Marshmallows! It really took much too long for them to create this.



Don't forget, if you're still interested in joining us, head over to Meal Planning Magic. It's not too late! And check out the Pinterest page. 

Recipe Remake: Bourbon Chicken

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I mainly just wanted to update the picture in this recipe, but after reading it, I decided a much clearer rewrite was in order, plus the adjustments to double the sauce, because really, you could just drink that stuff! 



Bourbon Chicken 
Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake 
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2/3 cup soy sauce
    • 2/3 cup brown sugar 
    • 1/2 cup apple juice
    • 4 tbsp. ketchup
    • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper 
    • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
    • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 2 cups cooked rice
Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, apple juice, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne and ground ginger until fully combined. Set aside.
2. Cut the chicken breasts into 1" pieces.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium low and pour in the sauce mixture. Stir to coat the chicken.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and water in a bowl and pour into the skillet, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat.
5. Serve the chicken and sauce over rice.

Just as tasty as I remember it from the first time!

Original Recipe: June 23, 2011
I came across Stephanie's blog a day or so after stopping at the mall near work to have my rings cleaned and inspected. I decided to go early to avoid the typical crowd at lunch time.

It was about 10 AM and since I wasn't hungry, I figured it was safe to walk through the food court.


It wasn't. 

Apparently I had decided to walk through right as all of the sample people stepped out from behind their counters and into the aisles. Since I was pretty much the only person there, of course they immediately asked me if I wanted a sample. 

A sample of bourbon chicken, some really tasty beef, and a California roll later, I finally made it to the jewelry store. Of course this resulted in me thinking about nothing but bourbon chicken for the next 48 hours. And then I found Stephanie's blog with a post for bourbon chicken. Coincidence? Maybe. Destiny to make bourbon chicken? DEFINITELY.



Have you ever noticed that the bourbon chicken you get from the mall is nothing like the bourbon chicken you get from a Chinese take out place? Why is that? The ones from the take out places are always full of vegetables and the sauce is different. Its just not the same!

This version of bourbon chicken was definitely much closer to the mall version. Tom really liked it. Next time I'm going to double the recipe for the sauce because I seem to like bourbon chicken better when the rice is completely covered in the sauce as well.

Recipe Remake: Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

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When I decided to remake some recipes, I wanted to get the current seasonal ones out of the way first. If you're not a fan of pumpkin, my apologies as to how many pumpkin recipes, remakes or otherwise have been shared recently. 

The original recipe was in a really weird format, so I decided to remove it entirely and just start over again. 



Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda
Source: Taste of Home Cooking, November 2011
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:

    • 4 slices bacon, chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 29 oz. can pumpkin puree
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. pepper
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Directions:
1. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook, stirring frequently until bacon is crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to let drain.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the dutch oven. Cook for 3-5 minutes then add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
3. Stir in the chicken broth, pumpkin puree, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
4. Transfer the soup mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the dutch oven and stir in the cream over low heat, allowing to heat through. Then stir in the cheese until fully melted.
5. Serve, garnished with crumbled bacon and fresh parsley.



For the original recipe I didn't used a smoked Gouda cheese which left a little bit to be desired in the recipe, but for this remake I used smoked Gouda. I think it brought out the pumpkin and bacon flavors very nicely.



Original Recipe: November 9, 2011 

Have I mentioned enough times now that I never used to like the taste of pumpkin? If not, there it is again. When I came across this recipe in the November edition of Taste of Home magazine, I thought it not only sounded like a fun recipe to try, but one that would look really cute in tall shot glasses as appetizers for Thanksgiving.

Last year when I hosted Thanksgiving, I waited until that day to make them. I wanted to be more organized this year and give all of you a chance to see what I'm planning on making before the actual holiday.



I wasn't sure what I was going to think of this soup but I thought it was pretty good. The grocery store was out of the usual Gouda we buy and the one I had to purchase didn't have as strong of a smoked flavor. I think it would have really added more depth to the soup. Tom couldn't figure out whether he liked or disliked the recipe. Either way, I'm definitely planning on making it again with the usual Gouda cheese to see how it tastes then.

Weekly Menu 10/13 - 10/18

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I've never been able to plan out a menu for longer than a week and actually follow it, until this week apparently. So when I decided I would finish the month with clean eating recipes, I ended up choosing recipes to carry me through right through the end of the month. It was quite nice earlier in the week to know that I needed to do nothing but write down the ingredients for the recipes I previous chose. I might try to plan in longer increments from now on! 

I'll start off with the menu for this week and then share my results during the cleanse. It's not over yet, but I'm confident that the results aren't going to change, so it's worth it to do it today. 

Sunday - leaner gwumpki rolls

Monday - pineapple chicken stir fry over brown rice

Tuesday - grilled steak, baked potatoes and spinach salad

Wednesday - roasted turkey breast with apricot preserves, mashed sweet potatoes and cheesy green bean casserole 

Thursday - ground beef and black bean tacos

Friday - chicken and barley stew

For breakfast this week, I'm having pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and lunch is chicken and brown rice soup. 

The Cleanse Results:
So, people take these things pretty seriously and have pretty strong opinions on them that they're not scared to share. I was told I was stupid for joining a cleanse cult, a moron for wasting my money, an idiot for thinking I'd lose weight, and "plain f---ing stupid" for even bothering with a cleanse because "everyone knows your body naturally cleanses itself". 

I'll repeat what I stated before starting the cleanse. Any time that you participate in an elimination diet you will typically lose weight until that item is reintroduced into your diet. I'm quite aware of this. Additionally, I did not go into this expecting to lose a bunch of weight.  I simply decided to join a friend in doing this. Period. 

So, how has it gone? Fine. The fiber drink isn't tasty but its manageable when you add in some type of juice with it and use cold water. I was concerned about swallowing pills, but the big pills are taken at night which wasn't a problem for me. 

I had absolutely no issues giving up coffee, which kind of surprised me. The last day I had coffee was October 4th. I'm not sure if I'm going to reintroduce it or not. I've been drinking tea lately and I feel fine. My one cheat on the cleanse has been using 1/4 packet of Splenda in my tea. 

I was part of the Facebook page and had posted to see if anyone didn't lose weight in the first couple of days. I got a few responses about how you're not meant to lose weight on this cleanse. Yet every day there was a post "X days in, X pounds down!" so obviously that isn't really the case. 

And the final results: nothing. I didn't lose any weight at all. I measured on the third day (forgot to before then) and measured today with absolutely no change at all. While I didn't expect magical results, it's still kind of disappointing that no matter what I do, I'm not losing weight. Not even a measly pound. 

Burning 1 pound worth of calories in exercise = nothing. 
Counting calories = nothing. 
Combination of both = nothing. 
Having thyroid checked = nothing wrong with it. 

I'm assuming starvation would eventually lead to weight loss, but since I'm not into that kind of thing I guess I have no choice but to accept that I'm never going to look the way I did a year ago before I started a birth control pill that didn't have weight gain as a side effect but managed to make me gain weight every month. 

Recipe ReMake: Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

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With 1,235 page views of this recipe I absolutely could not leave it up with that sad little picture of pumpkin cheesecake. Welcome to another Recipe Remake. 

While I have tons of new recipes I could share with you, we are smack-dab in the middle of all things pumpkin and apple, so I decided it was the best time to share these remade recipes with you.

Following the initial recipe below, I'm not sure where in the world I came up with those measurements for 24 cupcakes, so my sincere apologies to anyone who made the original recipe and ended up with a ton of pumpkin and graham cracker crust left over. Unless you found something wonderful to do with the leftovers. Then I just want to know what you made. :)

I opted to lighten this up a little bit by using fat-free cream cheese and sour cream, but you are more than welcome to use the half of full fat varieties of both. You honestly can't taste the difference. 



Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes
Inspired by Annie's Eats
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
for the crust:
    • 8 graham crackers
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
for the filling:
    • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese (fat-free, full fat, 1/3 less fat: your choice), softened
    • 3/4 cup sugar 
    • 3 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • pinch of salt
for the pumpkin swirl:
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1 tbsp. sour cream
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line two cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.
2. Add the graham crackers to a food processor and pulse until crumbs form. Add in the butter and sugar and pulse again until the mixture is moist.
3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the crust into each liner. Use a glass or other flat object to press the crust down into the liner. Bake for 7 minutes, then let cool on a wire rack while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
4. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, making sure it is fully combined before adding in the next egg. Finish by adding in the vanilla and pinch of salt. The mixture should be somewhat runny.
5. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture into each cupcake liner. They should be about halfway full.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sour cream and sugar until combined.
7. Drop teaspoon sized dollops of the pumpkin mixture into the center of each cupcake liner. Use a toothpick to swirl.
8. Bake for 12 minutes then rotate the pans and bake for another 12-14 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks, then transfer to the refrigerate until ready to serve.



This revised version of the recipe definitely left me with a lot extra of all of the ingredients. If you have a lot of the cream cheese mixture left, it won't hurt to fill the cupcakes higher. They are going to rise while baking and then fall once they begin to cool.

I only wish I would have taken a picture before they fell. The fallen versions are still nice, but they looked like clouds of cream cheese swirled with pumpkins when I first took them out of the oven and I would've loved to share that.

Original Recipe: November 20th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I made Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes that I found on Annie's Eats. It was my first time ever making cheesecake. They were so good and the recipe was so easy that I decided I would use pumpkin instead of raspberry and make them for Thanksgiving.



Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats
Servings: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Pumpkin Mixture:
    • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
    • 3 tsp. sour cream
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    Filling:
    • 2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 4 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    Crust:
    • 1 package graham crackers, plus 2 crackers
    • 4 tbs. butter
    • 3 tsp. sugar
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line cupcake pans with liners.
2. Use a food processor to grind up the graham crackers. Melt the butter. Add the sugar and butter to the graham cracker crumbs.
3. Put 1 tbs. of the graham cracker mixture into each cupcake liner. Use a glass to press down. Bake for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
4. Using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and the salt. Next, add the eggs one at a time making sure that they are fully combined before adding the next one.
5. Scoop approximately 1 1/2 tbs. of the cream cheese mixture into each of the cupcake liners.
6. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar and sour cream. Stir until well combined. Scoop approximately 1 tsp. of the pumpkin mixture into the center of the cheesecake. Swirl with a toothpick.
7. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature on cooling racks, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours.

DELICIOUS! I bet you can't eat just one!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Vodka Cream Sauce

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Ever since I made gnocchi that first time, I've been in love with it. Little pillows of heavenly perfection. Potato gnocchi is really easy to make. The mixture is dryer, it forms together nicely and you can easily add more liquid if its too dry that you can't roll the mixture into logs.

Pumpkin gnocchi is the complete opposite. There is so much liquid and moisture in the pumpkin puree that you feel like you could add a 5 pound bag of flour and it still wouldn't be enough. I assumed that ricotta gnocchi would be similar to pumpkin and would be quite the hassle to make.

For most people, that'd be a deterrent. For me, it's a challenge. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while it was not as easy as potato gnocchi it was no where near as difficult as pumpkin gnocchi.



Ricotta Gnocchi with Vodka Cream Sauce
Gnocchi Source: Inquiring Chef
Vodka Sauce Source: So Tasty, So Yummy
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
for the Ricotta Gnocchi:
    • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
for the Vodka Cream Sauce:
    • 14 oz. crushed tomatoes
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1 tbsp. vodka
    • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt. Add in the flour 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches a manageable consistency. You want it to be soft enough to handle but not too moist that you won't be able to roll it.
2. Lightly flour a surface and turn dough out on it. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Return 3 pieces to the bowl and cover with a dish towel until needed.
3. Roll out the dough into a long rope about 2 inches thick. Slice into 1 inch pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Repeat with remaining dough. (Refrigerate if not using immediately)
5. Begin the vodka cream sauce by combining the crushed tomatoes and salt together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Use a slotted spoon to drop in the gnocchi. Once the gnocchi have floated to the top, remove with the spoon and return to the baking sheet.
7. Add the heavy cream and vodka to the saucepan of tomatoes. Bring to a boil again, then add in the cooked gnocchi and toss to coat. Cook for 1 minute more.
8. Plate, garnished with fresh basil.

This is probably the best combination of two recipes I've ever put together. I actually doubled this recipe and have some in the freezer just waiting to be made again for dinner one night.

12 Weeks of Christmas: Week 3: Caramel Chocolate Pecan Cookies

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When I signed up for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, I didn't intent for each recipe to be cookies. I actually had a list of things that I wanted to make that fell within the guidelines, but I just couldn't bring myself to make something too Christmas-y in October.

I don't want Mother Nature to get any silly ideas that I'm ready for winter or something. So while cookies make me think of Christmas, you can also make cookies, especially these cookies year-round, which makes me feel a little bit better about sharing them with you in October.

I do promise though, that I really will share non-cookie recipes with during this 12 week adventure. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats blog hop is hosted by Brenda of Meal Planning Magic. It's not too late to join up, just head on over to her blog. If you're not a blogger or can't fathom Christmas treats in October, then I'd suggest coming back every Wednesday to see what we've made or visiting the Pinterest page.




Caramel Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Source: Nutmeg Bakery
Servings: 4-5 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
    • 15 Kraft caramel squares, chopped
    • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time until fully combined, then add in the vanilla.
4. Add the flour mixture to the stand mixer and mix until a soft dough forms. Fold in the chocolate chips, caramel squares and pecans.
5. Scoop rounded tablespoon-fuls of the dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.



These cookies are absolutely incredible when they're still warm. The caramel is a melty gooey mess that might just stick to your fingers, but the flavor of these cookies is more than worth it. The original recipe calls for walnuts instead of pecans, which I substituted simply because I found them first in the pantry. 

Recipe ReMake: Peach Blueberry Crisp

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Welcome to another Recipe Remake. I've actually made quite a dent in my list so far, but I'm having a hard time choosing between blogging new recipes and sharing these remakes with you. Do you have a preference? Or are you just here for the food. :)

Peaches in October? I know, I know, it's almost as blasphemous as peaches in September, but as long as the stores continue to carry peaches, I'm going to buy them. Actually, I was pretty excited that I could still find peaches this late in the season, because I really wanted to re-make this recipe.

One of the best things about this recipe is the versatility. Say its a blustery winter day in February and you're craving a peach blueberry crisp. You can just as easily make this with frozen peaches and frozen blueberries as you could in the heart of summer with fresh fruits. My initial recipe called for frozen, so I wanted to update this to include both options, depending on what time of year your peach blueberry crisp craving hit.

I also took the opportunity to lighten this up a little bit by cutting some of the sugar and butter. You could opt for a whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose as well. 



Peach Blueberry Crisp 
Source: Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Foods Fast
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
for the Crisp:
    • 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
    • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • pinch of salt
    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
    for the peach-blueberry mixture:
    • 3 large peaches, peeled and cut into wedges (or 6-8 oz. frozen peaches, thawed)
    • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (or 6 oz. frozen blueberries, thawed)
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • optional: vanilla ice cream, for serving 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Then cut in the butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until mixture is lumpy, but no pieces of butter remain. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, toss the peaches and blueberries with sugar and vanilla.
4. Pour the peach-blueberry mixture into the prepared baking dish and then add the crisp mixture on top, spreading to cover the edges.
5. Bake for 55 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.



I found it's actually quite difficult to take a pretty picture of a crisp, but I hope you'll consider this an improvement.

Original Post: May 2, 2010 

For Tom's birthday next week his mom bought him a signed copy of Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Foods Fast. We looked through the cookbook last night and we both liked all but about 3 recipes. I highly recommend this book. I'm even making 2 meals from it this week for dinners and its also where this dessert comes from.















Peach Blueberry Crisp
Source: Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Foods Fast
Servings: 6

Peach-Blueberry Mixture Ingredients:
    • 2 tsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 lb. bag frozen peaches
    • 1 lb. bag frozen blueberries
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • Crisp topping (recipe follows)
    • whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter.
2. Combine the peaches, blueberries, sugar, flour, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Toss well to mix. Transfer the fruit to the baking dish. Place the baking dish on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch any juices that might bubble over.

Crisp Topping Mixture Ingredients:
    • 6 tbs. (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and using your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Spread the crisp mixture on top of the fruit and bake until crisp is browned on top and the juices have thickened around the edges, about 55 minutes.
3. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Secret Recipe Club: Pineapple and Shrimp Wontons

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My choice for this month's Secret Recipe Club came more out of necessity than anything else. I had small amounts of three ingredients leftover from other recipes and no plan in sight of how to use them. Then I remembered that I hadn't chosen an SRC recipe yet so I decided to head on over to my assigned blog, The Saturday Evening Pot, to see if there were any recipes that would help me out.

I was rather surprised when it only took me a click of the Recipe Index and a tiny scroll to find the perfect recipe. I set out to make these for a late lunch on a Saturday.



Shrimp and Pineapple Wontons
Source: The Saturday Evening Pot
Servings: 10 pieces
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Ingredients:

    • 10 egg roll wrappers
    • 10 shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 10 chunks pineapple, fresh or canned
    • egg wash 
    • sweet Thai chili sauce, for dipping
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Lay out a egg roll wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape. Place a shrimp and piece of pineapple in the center. Dab the corners of the egg roll wrapper with the egg wash.
3. Take the corner that's closest to your stomach (the bottom of the diamond) and fold it up to the shrimp and pineapple. Fold in both sides and then roll over until you've formed an egg roll shape.
4. Repeat with remaining ingredients, then lightly brush all of the rolls with the remaining egg wash.
5. Place rolls on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon the sweet Thai chili sauce into a dipping bowl.
6. Let egg rolls cool a few minutes before serving, along with dipping sauce.



I opted to bake these instead of frying them mainly because the pan I prefer to fry in was dirty, but if you want to think it's because I wanted a healthier option, I'd be okay with that as well.

For a really simple and quick appetizer, I thought these weren't bad. But Tom and I both had the issue that once you bit into the egg roll, the shrimp and pineapple just fell out. I'd suggest chopping the shrimp and pineapple before putting into the eggroll so they stick together a little bit better.

If you're lucky enough to live in an area where seafood, like shrimp is affordable, I think these would make a great quick appetizer for your next party. 

Weekly Menu 10/6 - 10/11

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A couple of weeks ago a high school friend posted on Facebook that she was doing a cleanse to lose weight. As she posted her daily results, I noticed more and more of my friends were signing up to do this cleanse. A week or so later, another friend approached me about doing the cleanse at the same time. Strength in numbers and all that jazz. I agreed.

I'll start with the typical disclaimer that I'm not a doctor, dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer or anyone who you should listen to about what to put into your body. In reality, I believe anything that tells you you'll lose weight just by taking this pill is a joke. Of course if you eliminate something like sugar or carbs from your diet you're going to lose weight. Except, when you eat them again you're going to gain all of the weight back. Then, in most instances you'll try another similar diet and the same thing will happen. This is not healthy. This is called yo-yo dieting. You don't want to do this.

So what am I doing and why am I doing it based off the above paragraph? First, I'm doing the 10 Day Advocare Cleanse. I'm doing it because a friend asked me to join her in this challenge. I don't expect any results. So why do it? Well, I probably would have spent the $30 on something useless so in the off chance this works, then it wasn't a complete waste of money.

What is the cleanse? Basically I'm going to do clean eating without dairy (except eggs) for 10 days. There's certain pills and drinks to take, but that's the gist of it.

However the real kicker is what comes afterward. I plan on finishing the rest of the month with only clean eating recipes. This does mean that I get to include cheese back into my diet, which I'm sure I'll be extremely excited for by the end of this challenge. I was actually able to plan out an entire menu for the rest of the month which is kinda cool. That buys me an extra hour a week!

Sunday: sweet potato and turkey hash, cucumber salad
Monday: crock pot Mexican sweet potato stew
Tuesday: zesty turkey burgers, fries, salad
Wednesday: herb-marinated chicken, brown rice, sauteed spinach
Thursday: shrimp stir fry
Friday: omelets

For lunch I'm having black bean and corn burgers and breakfast is alternating between egg muffins and oatmeal with fruit.

The only recipe above that doesn't completely fit into the challenge is Tuesday's. I can either have the burger on a whole wheat bun or choose not to have it. I can't have the fries, so I might make up some rice to have instead, but it all depends on how I feel that day.

I'll briefly catalog my thoughts and feelings on this throughout the challenge (on these menu posts and on the final day) in case you're interested.

Today, Day 1: as others have stated, the fiber drink is not tasty. Breakfast and lunch were fine, nothing to write home about but it wasn't like I was eating cardboard or anything. I have a headache, but I'm pretty confident its hormone related more than cleanse-related. In summary, I'm fine. 

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

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How stocked is your pantry? Do you have the ability to make a dinner or dessert mainly or entirely from the ingredients you have hanging around in there? I do. I'm starting to think I'm an ingredient hoarder because I've seemed to amass a collection of chocolate chips, chocolate baking bars and various varieties of sugars in my pantry.

I saw this recipe and was immediately intrigued because of the oatmeal. Chocolate and oatmeal aren't commonly mixed together and I knew I had copious amounts of both in the pantry. It just so turned out that I had every ingredient for this recipe in the pantry. Well, except for the eggs just because they reside in the fridge.


Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Source: Half-Baked Harvest
Servings: 18 bars
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flours, sugar, baking soda and salt. Then stir in the coconut oil, eggs and vanilla until the mixture has formed a soft, oily dough. Stir in half of the chopped chocolate.
3. Turn out the dough into the prepared pan, pressing down with the back of a wooden spoon to spread dough evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped chocolate.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes then allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

When I was at the store last, I noticed that next to the different varieties of baking chips, they were carrying pre-chopped dark chocolate. Chopping up a chocolate bar is one of my least favorite activities since it requires such force to chop through a baking bar. I'd highly suggest purchasing this pre-chopped dark chocolate chunks and just using those in the recipe.



So, would you believe me if  I told you this recipe was relatively healthy? It is. Dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate. Old-fashioned oats are always a good thing. Coconut oil in place of other oils or butter is definitely better for you. But you absolutely can not taste the healthiness in this recipe at all. Which was enough justification to myself to have them for breakfast that week. Plus with the oatmeal, they're really filling! 

Easy Garlic Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry

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Apparently one grocery store was listening to me a couple months back when I said that I rarely make dishes with shrimp anymore because the price has skyrocketed in the past year. I've found 1 pound bags of frozen, deveined shrimp on sale at Giant for $7 and $8 recently, so even though the freezer is absolutely overflowing, I keep buying them every time they're on sale so I can try to reintroduce shrimp into the weekly meal plans.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and knew it was the perfect use for some of the shrimp I had just picked up. I had some ginger left over in the fridge from another recipe and this called for just the amount I had left.



Easy Garlic Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry
Source: My Life as a Mrs.
Servings: 4
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ingredients:
    • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
    • 1 cup snow peas
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
    • 3 tsp. brown sugar
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil
    • 2 tsp. cornstarch 
    • 1 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
    • cooked rice, for serving 
Directions:
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are pink. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet along with the peppers, onion, mushroom and snow peas. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp
3. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil together in a small bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch until fully dissolved. Set aside.
4. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Pour the sauce into the skillet and reduce the heat once boiling. The sauce mixture should thicken up almost immediately. Stir the shrimp back in and toss to coat.
5. Serve immediately over rice.

The most time consuming part of a stir fry is cutting up the vegetables. You can easily prep all of these the night or the morning before, or even purchase pre-cut vegetables to make this dish even quicker. I'm always a fan of a stir-fry and thought the ginger added a nice touch to this recipe. I don't think I'd had a stir fry with fresh ginger before, only the powdered variety mixed into the sauce, usually. 
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