Parmesan Sage Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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I can't believe I spent as long as I did never liking sweet potatoes. Now that I like them, well, love them, I'd much rather have a sweet potato over a regular potato any day of the week. I prefer them savory, with butter salt and pepper instead of the sweet versions. Honestly, potatoes with brown sugar and mushrooms is just kind of weird to me and I eat all kinds of weird stuff.

Of course, Tom doesn't like sweet potatoes so we always have at least two different types of potatoes in this house depending on what I'm making for the week.



Parmesan Sage Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Source: Cooking Light
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
    • 2 tbsp. softened butter 
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
Directions:
1. Pierce each potato with a fork multiple times. Wrap each potato in a paper towel and place in the microwave. Microwave for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender to the touch.
2. Remove from the microwave and allow to cool until you can handle them.
3. Once cooled, slice open the potato and remove the pulp, transferring it to a bowl. Add the butter, milk, cheese, sage, salt and pepper and mash or whisk potatoes until smooth.

This is probably one of the easiest recipes for mashed sweet potatoes that you'll ever encounter. I know some people don't believe in using the microwave for potatoes but I am all about convenience. Especially if you were prepared a dish like this for the holidays. Maximize your space!



But if you are one of those people who won't microwave a potato, you could peel and dice them, then bring them to a boil for 15 minutes in salted water or until fork tender. Drain, then add in the remaining ingredients and mash/whisk until smooth.

kielbasa grilled cheese

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In my world, you can never go wrong with a grilled cheese. Melty cheese between two pieces of bread? Sign me up. Want to add in some other ingredients to really amp up that sandwich? I'm all over it. So when I saw this recipe I knew that it was going to be made right away.


Kielbasa Grilled Cheese
Source: Food Network
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. kielbasa, cut into 1/4 inch diagonal slices
    • 8 slices rye bread
    • 3 tbsp. butter, softened
    • 2 tbsp. ground mustard
    • 16 slices sharp cheddar cheese
    • 2 tbsp. pickled jalapeno slices
Directions:
1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add in the kielbasa. Cook for 4-5 minutes (for homemade pork kielbasa, 2-3 minutes for store-bought turkey variety) on each side or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
2. Spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Spread the mustard on the opposite side. Assemble the sandwich by placing a slice of cheese on each piece of bread then dividing up the sliced kielbasa and pickled jalapenos on one side. Close the sandwiches.
3. Wipe out the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Cook 2 sandwiches at a time for 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding additional cooking spray or butter as needed.
4. Slice diagonally and serve immediately.


I've made a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches in my lifetime and I have to tell you, this one ranks in the top 5 best grilled cheeses I've ever had. Its cheesy and gooey, spicy and extra filling. You need this in your life. 

Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta and Peas

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Squash is still a culinary mystery to me. I never had any form of it growing up. No zucchini or summer squash, no butternut, acorn or spaghetti varieties either. It wasn't until I first made ratatouille back in 2010 that I ever had zucchini.

I slowly began incorporating zucchini and yellow squash into recipes since they didn't have much flavor. It was still years later before I ever tried butternut squash and quickly realized what I had been missing, but the other squashes remained in their bins at the store, me not giving them a second glance.

After watching an episode of The Kitchen on Food Network I realized how versatile squash could be and decided to finally break out of my squash fear and try other ones.

Spaghetti squash seemed like the easiest choice and I still held out hope that maybe I could convince Tom to like a vegetable that looked like pasta.


Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta and Peas
Source: Food Network
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    1 3 lb. spaghetti squash
    4 oz. pancetta, diced
    1 shallot, diced
    1 tsp. fresh thyme
    1/4 cup dry white wine
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    pinch of nutmeg
    1 cup frozen peas, thawed
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
    salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice the squash in half lengthwise. Remove any seeds with a spoon and then place cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast for 25-35 minutes or until tender.
3. Allow to cool slightly, then use a fork to scrape out the strands. Place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add the pancetta. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until crisp on all sides. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.
5. Add the shallot and thyme to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the shallot has softened, the stir in the white wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
6. When the wine has mostly evaporated, pour in the cream and add the nutmeg. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened slightly.
7. Stir in the peas and parmesan and cook until the peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
8. Stir the squash and the pancetta into the sauce and put back over the heat for 1 minute more, just until everything is warmed through.
9. Divide between four bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 


As you might have expected, the resident vegetable hater had no interested in a dish where a vegetable replaced his beloved carb riddled pasta. Well, I tried. And I surely enjoyed the dish.

An alfredo style dish like this isn't something that you can enjoy every day with the high calorie and fat count and carb overload, but using spaghetti squash instead seriously cuts down on the carbs and calories, since squash has something like 20 calories per cup and pasta averages 220 calories per cup. 

Garlic Oil Pan-Seared Scallops

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On my rankings list of favorite seafood, scallops fall right below steamed crabs. Unfortunately, it's hard to get them around here for a reasonable price. Most grocery stores offer the frozen variety with the origin unknown. No thanks. Or to get fresh ones, my only choice is Giant which is not close by or Wegman's which charges something like $22 a pound. For something that you nearly need to eat a pound of by yourself to get full, that's not going to happen.


Luckily, my snowbird aunt who spends her summers in Delaware has an in with one of the seafood guys at one of the restaurants down there. He gets them scallops and shrimp and anything else they ask for. When I was visiting her this past summer, I asked to get in on that deal and I ended up with about 5 pounds of scallops. Which are all nicely frozen in my freezer just waiting to be devoured. 


Garlic Oil Pan-Seared Scallops
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 3 medium garlic cloves
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 10 sea scallops
    • salt and pepper 
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
Directions:
1. Combine the garlic and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the garlic is a golden brown color.
2. Remove from the heat and set aside for at least 30 minutes but up to 3 days (refrigerate once cooled.)
3. Discard the garlic.
4. Rinse the scallops from any salt solution they may have been packaged in. Pat both sides with paper towels until dry, then season with salt and pepper.
5. Add 2 tablespoons of the garlic infused oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the scallops and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side or until nicely caramelized. Avoid picking up the scallops as they are cooking or they will never get browned. Flip over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side.
6. Add the butter to the skillet and spoon over the scallops. Remove from the heat immediately and serve.



You can also use a store bought garlic infused oil if you don't want to go through the hassle of making your own. If you do make it though, use the remaining oil within the week or discard.

These scallops got the perfect amount of caramelization on both sides and were so delicious I regretted not making more. 

Whole30 Week 2 -What I ate

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Since I already know I'm going to do more than 30 days, I decided that each of these "weekly" posts will actually include 8 days of what I ate so I can have at least 4 7-day posts...if that makes any sense. I think it might have made more in my head.

Anyway, the second week is where things tend to even out for you. You're past your issues with coffee, you've realized that you actually need quite a bit more veggies and protein than you initially anticipated and you're sugar dragon has been tamed. In all of my Whole30 experiences, the middle of the second week to the beginning of the final week is where I have felt my best.

Remember that awesome company, Tessemae's, that I suggested to you on the last What I Ate post? I have a referral code for 20% off if you're interested in checking them out.

Want to know what I ate for the first week? Check it out here.

Since I typically tend to eat the same breakfast and lunch throughout the work-week, they will only be included if it varies from the standard. Also, I really failed at taking pictures this week. I promise to do better next week.



Day 9: I just want sugar. This is getting annoying. I sniffed a chocolate bar and told it it was pretty. 
Breakfast: 3-4 blueberry chicken meatballs over kale mashed potatoes, 1 cup mixed berries
Lunch: sweet potato noodle salad (sweet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, red onion) with southwest ranch dressing, honeycrisp apple
Dinner: hatch chile burgers with fried eggs, baked sweet potato and arugula salad with southwest ranch dressing

Day 10: I found out I'm visiting my in-laws this weekend. They eat pretty healthy but I think this is going to be a real challenge not being in my own kitchen. 
Snack: cherry pie Larabar
Dinner: country beef and bell pepper soup

Day 11: I seriously failed at drinking water today. I don't know why, I'm just never thirsty. 
Snack: almonds
Dinner: chicken meatballs with kale marinara over zucchini noodles, arugula salad with southwest ranch dressing

Day 12: After work tomorrow we're going to visit my in laws for the weekend. I'm not looking forward to pouring over every menu to see what I can and can't eat. 
Dinner: country beef and bell pepper soup

Day 13: Dinner on the road (or anywhere other than you own kitchen) on a Whole30 is never easy. We stopped at a convenience store that offers made to order meals. I ordered a 6 inch sub with double meat and discarded the bread. Of course, they brought back my favorite snack, jalapeno poppers, after not having them for nearly a year. :( 
Dinner: lettuce, tomato and pickles wrapped in turkey and ham, raw baby carrots and broccoli

Day 14: Even in the winter, the beach is beautiful. We stopped at two of them since the weather was nice. 
Breakfast: coffee, berries
Lunch: crab cake over a salad with oil and vinegar dressing (I got lucky the restaurant makes their own mayo and doesn't use any filler)
Dinner: a grilled chicken breast topped with ham, lettuce and tomato, sweet potato fries

Day 15: I didn't eat right the day before and I could immediately tell. I ended up needing to take a migraine pill with benadryl to knock myself out and get rid of the migraine. 
Breakfast: two eggs over medium, bacon, fruit cup
Lunch: arugula salad with oil and vinegar dressing, 3 slices prosciutto
Dinner: ham and turkey rolls, baked sweet potato, green beans

Day 16: Lunch was a total failure. The habanero chili was not enough to make a meal and my intended apple was rotten. I went to Royal Farms (I have limited food options near work) and ordered a grilled chicken patty with lettuce and tomato. Which came breaded and fried, so I had to pick that off because they didn't have any grilled chicken. :/
Breakfast: turkey roll up (avocado and carrot sticks), hard boiled egg, strawberries and blackberries, coffee
Lunch: habanero chili, chicken patty, tomato, lettuce
Dinner: grilled chicken breast with cracked pepper sauce over butter and chive zoodles and arugula salad

Lifesavers: Flavored Sparkling Water. La Croix is the main one that everyone seems to gravitate to, but I've found other brands (Wegmans) that do not include sugar.

Marsala Beef Stew

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Beef stew is one of my favorite winter dishes. It's hearty and warm and is the perfect comfort food still filled with veggies so you can feel like you're eating healthy. I love the combination of mushrooms and beef together and was excited to try out this recipe. It does require a bit of cooking time on the stove and then it's moved to the crock pot so keep that in mind if you're going to serve this during the work week.

However, you could easily skip the step of browning the meat on the stove and just dump everything in the crock pot, but the meat won't have that nice sear on it and won't be as flavorful.


Marsala Beef Stew
Source: Cooking Light, December 2014
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 lbs. beef cubes, trimmed of fat
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. sweet marsala wine, divided
    • 1 1/2 cups unsalted or low-sodium beef stock
    • 3 sprigs thyme
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
    • mashed potatoes
Directions:
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. of oil. Add the beef cubes and cook for 7-9 minutes until browned on all sides. Transfer to the crock pot.
2. Add the remaining oil to the skillet and the onions. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute before. Transfer the onions and garlic to the crock pot.
3. Add the tomato paste to the skillet and stir, then add in 1/2 cup of the marsala wine and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any bits of meat that got stuck to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid evaporates by half, then season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the beef stock and thyme. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
5. Pour the mixture over the beef and onions. Top with mushrooms and carrots. Cook on low for 7 1/2 hours.
6. Strain the mixture through a colander, saving the cooking juices and transfer it to a large skillet or saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced to 2 cups. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of wine with flour and whisk together until a slurry forms. Pour into the boiling liquid, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens up into a gravy.
7. Plate the beef, mushroom and carrot mixture on top of the mashed potatoes and pour the gravy on top. Serve immediately.



 I was concerned about cooking mushrooms for 7 1/2 hours in the crock pot because they tend to fall apart, but that didn't happen with this recipe. I used white button mushrooms I purchased sliced from the grocery store. You could also use whole mushrooms with the stems removed. The marsala wine gives this beef stew a lot of gravy.

As for it being a stew, it is definitely on the thicker side. If you wanted more of a soup, you'd need to not let the cooking liquid evaporate as much, but then your gravy would be thinner. 

Italian Green Beans

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We eat so many green beans in this house. Tom isn't a fan of most vegetables and because I have it in my head that he needs to eat them for dinner, I tend to cook the very few that he will eat and save the ones only I like for my lunches.

There are only so many ways to prepare them but my no-thought go to is to saute them in butter and then add a bit of garlic and crushed red pepper. I was getting sick of eating them that way and turned to good old Pinterest to give me some new ideas. I saw this recipe and was sold!



Italian Green Beans
Source: Taste of Lizzy T's
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
16 oz. bag frozen green beans
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the bread crumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the bread crumbs start to brown, stirring frequently.
2. Cook the green beans according to package directions. (Steam in microwave or boil.)
3. Stir the green beans into the skillet and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.



It's such a simple recipe with ingredients most people keep in their fridge and pantry regularly. I couldn't get over how delicious these were! 

Whole30: Week 1 - What I Ate

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This is my ...I don't even know what number Whole30 this is for me. Four maybe? That sounds about right. In the past I've menu planned for an entire month and then just sporadically shared recipes with you and I decided I wanted to have a different approach for this one.

First, since this isn't my first go-round, I know what I can and can't eat. I have learned tips and tricks to make a Whole30 easier, at least in my opinion and I already know that I can make it for 30 days.

These posts will be shared with you a week behind where I actually am to include a full week's worth. Recipes will be coming soon, but it's very likely they won't be shared until after the first week in February.

* Sorry for the terrible photos. Also, in the middle row, last pic, the chips were not consumed.

Day 1: The first day is always difficult. If you haven't thrown/given away the foods you can't eat on a Whole30, I absolutely guarantee that they will move to the front of the fridge and pantry and sit there tempting you. Get them out of your sight. I'm serious. 

Breakfast: (I have a hard time eating breakfast on the weekends.) 1  honeycrisp apple, 1 coconut cream Larabar, hot tea
Lunch: roasted spaghetti squash - mixed with butter, parsley, garlic powder, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced prosciutto, salt and pepper. It was reminiscent to pasta.
Dinner: baked chicken breast topped with Tessemae's BBQ sauce, mashed potatoes (coconut milk, butter and salt) and green beans sauteed then topped with Tessemae's Cracked Pepper sauce. *Middle row, middle picture 

Day 2: I still hadn't moved the cheese to the fridge drawer. It nearly did me in. In other news, I ate the same thing for breakfast and lunch throughout the week which will make these posts kind of boring. 

Breakfast: 2 prosciutto egg cups (without cheese), strawberries, hot tea
Lunch: London broil marinated in coconut aminos and ginger, sugar snap peas, roasted cauliflower rice and a honeycrisp apple *cauliflower rice - bottom row, middle picture
Dinner: Applegate Farms hotdogs, roasted spaghetti squash mixed with butter, garlic and parsley, sauteed green beans with cracked pepper sauce. *Middle row, left picture

Day 3: The sugar crash came for me today. My coworker went to McDonald's and I was seriously forcing myself not to drool over the fries. I also desperately missed coffee and decided it was time to force myself to drink it with almond milk. (Almond or coconut milk congeals into chunks in the coffee if you don't drink it fast enough. This has always deterred me.)

Breakfast: 2 prosciutto egg cups, strawberries, coffee with almond milk
Lunch: London broil marinated in coconut aminos and ginger, sugar snap peas, roasted cauliflower rice and a honeycrisp apple
Dinner: Kielbasa (polish sausage) with bell peppers cooked in coconut oil, seasoned with a homemade Cajun spice mix. (I usually top with Sriracha but decided a dry Cajun seasoning was the next best thing) *Top row, left picture

Day 4: I hate my lunch. I used a steam-in-the-bag version of sugar snap peas which wilted into these gross stringy piles and even though I cooked the London broil to medium rare knowing I would need to reheat it in the microwave, it's tough and dry. Ugh. 

Breakfast: 2 prosciutto egg cups, strawberries, coffee with almond milk
Lunch: London broil marinated in coconut aminos and ginger, sugar snap peas, roasted cauliflower rice and a honeycrisp apple
Dinner: grilled steak topped with butter and parsley, baked sweet potato and sauteed green beans with cracked black pepper sauce *Bottom row, right picture 

Day 5: I nearly cried thinking about eating the same thing for lunch again. Unfortunately, I couldn't skip it without a solid back up plan in place. I work near a ton of fast food restaurants and even the one grocery store I pass has limited Whole30 approved options I could pick up and eat at work. So before I ate lunch I went through all of the menus at work and managed to find a place where I can get a Southwest BLATT (bacon, avocado turkey and tomato sandwich, sans bread obviously) and sweet potato fries. I know I'm taking my chances on the bacon (they couldn't confirm if it was cured with sugar or not) but I seriously cannot eat that meal again. 

Breakfast: 2 prosciutto egg cups, strawberries, coffee with almond milk
Lunch: London broil marinated in coconut aminos and ginger, sugar snap peas, roasted cauliflower rice and a honeycrisp apple
Dinner: steak, baked sweet potato and sauteed green beans
Snack: mixed berry smoothie (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries + 1 cup almond milk)

Day 6: I know you're not supposed to have "snacks" on a Whole30 but I realized I'm not eating enough calories and when I get home from work I'm starving. I didn't plan for this and pretty much have nothing to snack on. This will be remedied next week. 
Breakfast: 2 prosciutto egg cups, strawberries, black coffee -- (I finally did it!)
Lunch: avocado, bacon, turkey, tomato and lettuce with sweet potato fries, honeycrisp apple *Middle row, right picture
Dinner: popcorn (popcorn is the one cheat I allow myself during Whole30's because it can sometimes be the only thing to get rid of my migraines) and more mixed berry smoothie (I didn't get home until 9 pm)

Day 7: Weekends are totally the hardest. Especially since I had to go out for dinner for a friends birthday. It's a hibachi place and I'm crossing my fingers the sushi and fried rice won't get to me.
Breakfast: eggs, asparagus and kale pan-fried in coconut oil, raspberries and peppermint tea *Top row, right picture
Lunch: Applegate hotdogs, baked sweet potato and arugula salad with southwest ranch dressing
Dinner: mushroom soup, salad with no dressing, hibachi vegetables and filet mignon

Day 8: The sugar dragon is calling my name. I ate a ton of fruit but nothing is satisfying that sugar craving. If this is your first Whole30, you're likely thinking this is never going to end and you want to give into a piece of chocolate right now. Don't. This will pass and you'll feel better on the other side of it. I promise. 
Breakfast: 1 peach sliced with chia seeds, chopped almonds and unsweetened shredded coconut, 3 slices prosciutto 
Lunch: leftover filet mignon and hibachi vegetables with asparagus added, 1/2 cup mixed berries *Bottom row, left picture
Dinner: country beef and bell pepper soup, arugula salad with southwest ranch dressing *Top row, middle picture

Life Savers: Look, a Whole30 is no walk in the park and it definitely isn't a piece of cake so here are some tips and tricks I have learned in my experiences that will make your experience go much smoother.

Tessemae's - these people are a godsend. They have an actual Whole30 kit of sauces and condiments that you can have delivered right to you door. I didn't know about them the first time around and the inability to have ketchup for my homemade sweet potato fries or mix my tuna with mayo nearly did me in. Not all of their products are Whole30 compliant, so make sure to read before you buy.  There's even a Paleo pack for after you graduate from Whole30. Oh and there's also a Subscribe and Save option. Plus, they're local to me which makes me love them even more.

Coconut Aminos - Don't even try to tell me that you never used soy sauce and of course you can live 30 days without it. I'm telling you, you need this bottle in your life. There are a ton of stir fry Whole30 recipes and without this, they taste really, really bland. I can find it cheaper at Wegman's and I know they also sell it at Whole Foods but I don't know the price.

LaraBars - Sometimes, you just need a snack and this is the perfect one. Apple pie is my favorite, followed by coconut cream and then cashew cookie. They're a bit pricey, but I've found boxes of 5 at Target right outside the pharmacy section for $5.39 a box.

Containers. Seriously, go out and buy one of those 50 packs of plastic containers (or glass, whatever your preference) because you will definitely use it. Not just for carting around your lunch and snacks to work but for storing all of the food that you've prepped.

Free Time. I know, I know, this is the one that makes people grumble the most, but it is a necessity. I'm telling you right now, it is incredibly hard to pull off a Whole30 without prepping. If you're going to do this, you're going to do it right, yes? So take the time each weekend and prep out your foods. Cut up veggies. Make your breakfast or lunch. Slice up fruit. Take a page out of Nike's book and Just Do It! An hour is likely what you'll need. 

Cucumber Bites

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For years just the mere sight of a cucumber gave me heartburn. I don't even know how this is possible, but one look at that green vegetable and my nose scrunched up and my lips curled just thinking about how terribly unpleasant it would be for me to eat one.

Thankfully, that random issue disappeared on its on one day and I was finally able to eat cucumbers again. This recipe was just too cute and too easy to make to pass up serving for a party we had not too long ago.


Cucumber Bites
Source: ecardrecipes
Servings: 30 slices
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Ingredients:
for the filling:
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, very soft
    • 1/4 cup ranch dressing
    • 2 tbsp. dill
    • 1 tsp. cajun spice
for the cucumbers:
    • 3-4 English cucumbers
    • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
    • pinch of salt
Directions:
1. Whisk together the cream cheese, ranch dressing, dill and cajun spice. Alternately, add to a stand mixer and beat for 2 minutes or until fully combined.
2. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and set aside.
3. Slice the cucumbers into 1 inch thick slices. Use a melon baller to carefully scoop out the seeds and the center of the cucumber, leaving a little divot for the filling to go into.
4. Pipe the filling into each cucumber divot and top with a halved cherry tomato. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the cucumbers and serve.

* The filling can be made and refrigerated for 2-3 days. Let it warm up before piping onto the cucumbers. The entire dish can be made a few hours in advance and covered loosely with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge.


It's like a mini salad on each cucumber! These were gobbled up pretty quickly and I strongly forsee these being a common addition to bring to my mom's for our weekends at the pool. 

Slow Cooker Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce Pulled Pork

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If you missed my post yesterday, I shared with you how to make your own Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce. Of course, I didn't just create the sauce to eat by the spoonful (but I'm okay with it if you do that too) but to put on a nice pulled pork sandwich.

The name of this recipe is really a mouthful. First you have the sauce, Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce. Then you have the protein, pulled pork and then you have the little fact that I cooked it in the crock pot which just adds two more words onto that incredibly long list.

Slow Cooker.

Jack Daniels.

Honey Whiskey.

BBQ Sauce.

Pulled Pork.

I couldn't even get that to fit on an image! But don't let this 10 word recipe title deter you in the least. This really requires minimal ingredients and effort on your time. The sauce only takes 10 minutes to make and can be made in advance if this is something you'd rather do on the weekend but want the pork during the workweek.


Slow Cooker Honey Whiskey BBQ Pulled Pork
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 12-14
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Ingredients:
    • 3 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tbsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
    • 1 1/2 cups Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce
    • Pillsbury Honey Butter Biscuits, or sandwich rolls 
Directions:
1. Combine garlic powder, onion, pepper, salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub over the pork shoulder.
2. Place the pork into a 4 quart or larger slow cooker and pour 1 1/4 cup of the sauce over the pork. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, then shred with two forks, discarding any fat.
3. Serve the pulled pork on halved Honey Butter Biscuits or sandwich rolls, using the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce to pour on top if desired.


Pulled pork is delicious to begin with, but the honey whiskey BBQ sauce really takes it to the next level. To go all out, serving it on the honey butter biscuits just ties in that sweet and salty combination that is the sauce and the pork. 

Good luck having any leftovers, but if you are lucky enough to do so, this pork freezes wonderfully. 

Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce

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I have a bit of a thing for honey whiskey. I think it's one of the greatest things ever and love finding recipes I can use it in. A while ago I had the idea to make a homemade honey whiskey barbecue sauce and started looking around on the internet for some ideas. 

When I found this recipe I decided to throw all thoughts of creating my own to the back burner until I could try this out for myself. If you've visited certain chain restaurants in the last decade or so, you know how popular the Jack Daniels sauces are on their menu. 



Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey BBQ Sauce:
Slightly Adapted from: Creative Culinary
Servings: 2 cups

Ingredients:
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tbsp. Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
    • 1 tbsp. liquid smoke
    • 2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 2 tsp. instant coffee
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently with a wire whisk. 
2. If you're not using all of the sauce at once, transfer to a glass container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month. 



You really need this in your life. It takes 10 minutes and includes ingredients that most people keep lying around anyway. Believe me, once you taste some of this sauce you'll be wanting to pour it over everything. Steak, chicken, pork, seafood, veggies...even mashed potatoes! 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting Cupcakes

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Cookie dough is one of the best flavors in the world, at least as far as I'm concerned. Seeing as there are tons and tons of cookie dough recipes out there, brownies and cakes, cheesecakes and puddings and everything else you can think of, I'm pretty sure most of the population agrees with me.

So a cupcake recipe that called for cookie dough frosting was right up my dessert alley.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting Cupcakes
Source: Chef in Training
Servings: 24 cupcakes
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Ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
    • 1 box chocolate cake mix + required ingredients
for the frosting:
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 2/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 envelope Dream Whip*
    • 2-4 tbsp. milk, divided
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Mix and prepare cupcakes according to package directions. You can also make your own homemade chocolate cupcakes if desired. Allow to cool completely.
2. Beat together the cream cheese and butter the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the brown sugar, vanilla, salt and Dream Whip until combined.
3. Add 2 tbsp. of the milk, the flour and the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until fully combined. If the frosting is very thick, add in the remaining milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Stir in the mini chocolate chips by hand.
4. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a very large tip and pipe onto the cupcakes or plop on large dollops.

* Dream Whip can be omitted from this recipe, it just helps to provide the texture of the frosting. I found it in the Jello/pudding aisle on the top shelf next to the tapioca pudding and gelatin mixes.

I tried using the largest tip I had (Ateco #7 star tip) but the mini chocolate chips still kept getting caught and wouldn't allow me to pipe on the frosting like I had intended. Maybe a 1A (round pipe tip) would have worked, but mine seems to have disappeared.



This seriously tastes just like cookie dough bits that you would find in ice cream (just not cold obviously). I couldn't get over how tasty it was and might have enjoyed a spoonful or two before finishing decorating the cupcakes. Everyone else loved this as well and then I took the remaining 12 cupcakes to work the next day which promptly disappeared. 

Poached Pear Salad

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Despite my immediate family not being salad eaters, I always get it in my head that we need to have something green and leafy for the holidays. Our menu was on the fancier side, beef and seafood and I thought this pretty pear salad would fit in nicely with it.

It also worked out that other recipes I had made recently left me with just enough remaining apple cider, port wine and blue cheese to make this. I just love when stuff like that happens! Especially around the holidays when fridge space is very limited.



Poached Pear Salad
Source: Spoonful of Flavor
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 3 ripe Anjou pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half
    • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided 
    • 3 oz. blue cheese crumbles
    • 1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and diced
    • 1/4 up dried cranberies
    • 1/2 cup apple cider
    • 3 tbsp. port wine
    • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 6 oz. baby arugula
    • 1  tbsp. olive oil
    • salt and pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Use a melon baller to remove the core and seeds from each half of the pear. Make a deep enough indent that you'll be able to fill it. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the lemon juice over the pears to stop them from browning.
3. In a small bowl, add the blue cheese, walnuts and cranberries. Stir to combine and fill each pear half with the mixture. In the same bowl, stir together the apple cider, port wine and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
4. Place the pears in an 8x8 baking dish. Pour the apple cider mixture over and around the pears. Bake for 30 minutes, basting the pears with the liquid every 10 minutes. Continue baking for another 5-7 minutes if the pears are not fork tender after 30 minutes.
5. Remove the pears from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
6. Toss the arugula with the remaining lemon juice and the olive oil. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Spread the arugula out onto a platter and place the pears on top. Drizzle any of the remaining basting liquid over the pears. Serve warm.



As I expected, I was the only one to try one of these pears. It was absolutely delicious! My silly family has no idea what they are missing by not eating the salads I serve around the holidays!

Firecracker Chicken Meatballs

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I love making meatballs for parties. They're easy to make, they fill you up and you can feed a decent amount of people with only a few ingredients. I was looking for something different to serve for the holiday party we had back in December.

When I think of meatballs, I always first think of those made with ground beef. I actually prefer meatballs made with ground chicken, turkey or pork instead so it's strange that my brain immediately goes there. Ground chicken and turkey were on sale that week so I started my search for chicken meatballs and these spicy little bites caught my eye.



Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
Source: Little Spice Jar
Servings: 30 meatballs
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Ingredients:
for the sauce:
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup Frank's hot sauce
    • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
for the meatballs:
    • 2 lbs. ground chicken 
    • 1 cup Panko
    • 2 eggs
    • 4 tsp. minced garlic
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 475. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
3. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, then add the Panko, garlic, salt, onion powder, pepper and paprika until combined. Add in the ground chicken and gently toss the meat into the seasonings until fully combined. Don't overmix or the meatballs will become tough.
4. Form into 20 golf-ball sized meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. Dip each meatball in the firecracker sauce or brush the sauce on the meatball. Return to the baking sheet and bake for 1 minute more.

Everyone loved these as much as I hoped they would. You can adjust the level of heat by reducing the amount of crushed red pepper flakes you put into the firecracker sauce. I listed Frank's hot sauce because its not as spicy as Texas Pete or some of the other varieties out there. You could also use Frank's wing sauce which is less spicy as well.



I made these in advance, refrigerated them and then put them in a warming dish a little bit before the party. I was worried about not having enough sauce, but these were perfectly coated and there was still enough in the dish to dip them in. If you're serving this over rice or something as a meal, you'd likely want to double the sauce to coat the rice as well. 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Pot De Creme

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Did you know that January 5th is National Whipped Cream day?

Yeah, me either. But in honor of all things light, fluffy and whipped, I thought it was the perfect day to share a chocolate salted caramel pot de creme recipe with you since it comes topped with homemade whipped cream. If you've never tried the homemade variety, you're totally missing out.

All you need is some heavy whipping cream, a bit of sugar, a mixer and a few minutes. Worth every second, I promise.



Speaking of things you might not know about, did you know that a "pot de creme" is just a fancier way of saying pudding?


Chocolate Salted Caramel Pot De Creme
Source: The Kitchen McCabe
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    for the chocolate layer:
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup good quality dark chocolate
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    for the salted caramel layer:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or flaky sea salt
    • 3 egg yolks
    for the whipped cream topping:
Directions:
1. Combine the heavy cream, dark chocolate and sugar together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolks. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture into the eggs, while whisking to temper. Once combined, pour the egg and chocolate mixture back into the saucepan, whisking to fully combine.
3. Return the mixture to the stove over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Divide the chocolate mixture between 6-8 small glasses or ramekins. Tap on the counter to remove any bubbles. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set.
4. Prepare the caramel layer by combining the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, until boiling. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to stop sugar crystals from forming. Swirl the mixture ever so often until it becomes a golden brown color.
5. Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream in the microwave until hot. (This took 90 seconds for me) In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolks and set aside.
6. Pour half of the hot cream into the caramel mixture. It will bubble furiously and rise. Once the bubbling starts to slow down, add the remaining half of the heated cream and the salt. Whisk until smooth.
7. Slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the caramel mixture into the egg yolk bowl, whisking constantly to temper, then pour back into the caramel and return to the stove over medium-high heat until boiling, whisking constantly.
8. Once boiling and the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat immediately. Take the glasses or ramekins out of the fridge and evenly distribute the caramel sauce on top of the chocolate. Tap on the counter to remove any bubbles. Return to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until just before serving.
9. Beat 1 cup of heavy cream on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Divide the whipped cream on top of the glasses or ramekins and lightly dust with cocoa powder and sugar pearls or dragees, if desired.
*Chocolate and caramel layers can be made 3-4 days in advance. After adding the caramel layer, chill for 1 hour and then cover each ramekin or glass with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the top and return to the fridge.

When I think of pudding I think of the powdered Jello pudding mixes in the aisles of the grocery store or of the already prepared Snack Pack versions. While those are good and fit a pudding craving when necessary, there is absolutely nothing like this chocolate and salted caramel recipe. Seriously. I served it for Christmas and everyone raved about how incredible it was.



Depending on what you serve it in, it can look fancy and hold its own with the rest of your upscale meal. Not sweetening the whipped cream is necessary in this recipe since the salted caramel and chocolate are both sweetened perfectly. Its rich, creamy, decadent and I maybe at the two we had leftover for breakfast the next day. Don't judge me.

Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie

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Chicken pot pie is probably the most classic "comfort food" dish. It's warm and hearty, full of vegetables and sauce and topped with biscuits. How can you ever go wrong with light and fluffy biscuits?



I'd never made it in the crock pot before and was curious to see how it would turn out. I was also intrigued by the sauce since so many crock pot recipes call for condensed soup, which is okay sometimes but when you're including those fresh veggies and herbs, it just seems rude to cover them up with a can of processed glop, doesn't it?



Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie
Source: Damn Delicious
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    for the sauce:
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
    • 1/2 tsp. basil
    • 1/2 tsp. thyme
    • 1/2 tsp. oregano
    • 1/4 tsp. paprika
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    for the chicken:
    • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    • 1 lb. baby red potatoes, diced
    • 2 celery stalks, diced
    • 2 large carrots, diced
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 cup corn (frozen or canned - drained if canned)
    • 1 cup peas (frozen or canned - drained if canned)
    • 1 tube refrigerated biscuit rolls (Pillsbury Honey Butter if you can find them)
    • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Whisk in the flour until it is lightly browned and no dry flour remains.
2. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and then the basil, thyme, oregano and paprika, Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Spray a 6 quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray (or use a slow cooker liner.) Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
4. Place the chicken thighs into the slow cooker and top with the potatoes, celery, carrots and onion. Pour the sauce on top and add the bay leaves. Cook on low for 6 hours.*
5. Add the corn and peas and cook for an additional 30-45 minutes on low. Remove the chicken from the crock pot and shred it with two forks. Return back to the crock pot, keeping it on low.
6. Preheat the oven and bake the biscuit rolls according to package directions.
7. Divide the chicken and vegetable mixture into bowls and top each with a baked biscuit. Add a sprinkling of the freshly chopped parsley.

* Chicken thighs do not dry out easily in the crock pot. If you needed 8-9 hours to make this on a work day, you could easily do so without any impact to the recipe.


The Honey Butter biscuits I found really made a difference with this. Regular biscuits are great, but this just paired even better with the roux sauce over the chicken and vegetables, adding just enough sweetness.

Review: Pure Garcinia/Cleanse ADVANCED Fast Weight Loss Kit

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If you hadn't heard, Pure Garcinia is the newest thing to take to promote weight loss.  You may have heard of it called Garcinia Cambogia. So, what it is? It's a supplement created from the tropical fruit tamarind and is known for its ability to suppress the appetite.

More specifically,  hydroxycitric acid (HCA for short) is found in the rind of the fruit and known to both suppress appetite and contain fat burning properties. The higher the amount of HCA in the pills, the stronger the suppressant and fat burning is supposed to be. Many companies are selling Garcinia Cambogia along with a cleansing pill to further increase weight loss in those willing to try it. 

I was given the opportunity to try  a #dietkit, made up of Garcinia Cambogia and Slender Cleanse, from Team Innovations in exchange for a review. 



What I received:
1 bottle Garcinia Cambogia Advanced, 60 capsules
1 bottle Slender Cleanse Advanced, 60 capsules

Use Instructions:
You're supposed to take 2 of the Slender Cleanse pills in the morning with your first meal and then if you don't have any issues, take 2 more pills with your last meal of the day. Two of the Garcinia Cambogia pills are to be taken daily. 

Side effects:
Garcinia Cambogia bottle: Do not exceed recommended use. Pregnant or nursing mothers, children under the age of 18 and individuals with known medical conditions should consult a physician before using this or any dietary supplement.
Slender Cleanse bottle: Consult with a physician before use if you have any medical conditions. Do not use if pregnant or lactating. This product may have a mild diuretic cleansing effect. Drink at least 8 cups of water daily.  

My Results: I started the pills in the middle of December and weighed myself weekly. In addition to taking these pills, I maintained a healthy calorie range (1400) and ate healthy meals. I drank 8 glasses of water and exercised as much as possible, burning 200-400 calories with each exercise. I did not exercise daily. On Christmas I didn't count calories and drank two glasses of wine.

Unfortunately, these pills had no effect on my weight loss. I only managed to maintain my weight through the holidays. There was a slight increase in energy the first week but nothing significant after that. I experienced no other side effects.

If you're looking for a way to slim down overnight, well, keep dreaming. If you're looking for a supplement that may help you increase energy and burn fat faster, then I don't see any harm in trying a supplement such as this.

Click here to purchase the kit from Team Innovations on Amazon 
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