Saturday, December 31, 2011


Jason and I love guacamole.  My recipe is pretty simple, but very yummy.  It's basically pico de gallo with some avocado added in.  I don't have exact measurements, I really just eyeball everything.  The great thing is that you can cater it to your likes/dislikes.  You can easily add more or less of any ingredient. 

Never worked with an avocado before?  I got your back.  Check out some helpful hints I have below the recipe!


1 roma tomato (I like to seed mine), diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
3 avocados, diced or smashed, depending on your preference
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Dash of Cayenne
Few pinches of salt

Put the first 5 ingredients in a bowl, with the avocado on top.  Sprinkle the cayenne and salt and squeeze the lime juice on top of the avocado.  Mix well.  You can serve immediately, but I prefer to tightly press plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate it for 2-3 hours before serving.
Tips for working with avocados:
  • When picking out an avocado, take the little stem off the top of it.  If it's brown underneath, the avocado is bad.  You want it to be bright green.
  • Avocados should be a little soft with a little bit of give.  You definitely don't want a super soft avocado - it's past its prime.
  • If all of the avocados are hard as a rock, no worries.  Place in a brown paper bag for a day or two, they'll ripen right up.
  • Avocados brown very easily and very fast.  I've heard many different ways to slow down the browning process, but I don't think any work as well as pressing plastic wrap down tightly over the top of the guacamole.  This keeps oxygen from getting to the avocado.
  • Finally, if you've never cut an avocado and aren't sure how to, check this out.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

This is another recipe from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.  It is quite time consuming, but has great flavor and is very filling.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup
6 Servings

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 5 medium-sized potatoes)
4 cups chopped leeks, cleaned of all sand and grit (about 4 good-sized leeks)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or veggie stock (I prefer low sodium)
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz créme fraîche*
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 400°.  Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, turning them every 15 minutes, until very tender.  Add the arugula and toss to combine.  Roast for 5 more minutes until the arugula is wilted.  Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners.  Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the stock and cook over low heat, scraping the pan for any bits sticking to the pan.

2.  In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor in batches, adding stock as needed to make a purée.  Transfer puréed soup into a large pot.  Add the remaining stock, Parmesan, cream, créme fraîche, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. 

3.  Once heated through serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

*If you're like me and unable to find créme fraîche, you can use sour cream as a substitute.

For this recipe, Ina suggests topping this soup with crispy shallots along with the Parmesan.  My plan was to do this, but unfortunately, my shallots went from "crispy" to "burnt" in no time flat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheesy Grits

As I mentioned in my last post, I received one of Ina Garten's cookbooks for Christmas.  As soon as I started flipping through the pages I knew that I wanted to try her Creamy Cheddar Grits.  My husband was a little apprehensive about having grits for dinner, but he quickly changed his mind once he tasted them.  These were so good!  And so creamy!  And so cheesy!  I'll definitely be making these again.

Cheesy Grits
Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

2 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits (polenta) *not instant
1 1/4 cups half and half
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups aged sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (4 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 4-6 scallions)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
grated Cheddar and chopped scallions for garnish

1.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits thicken, about 5 minutes.
2.  Add the half and half and butter to the grits and stir.  Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes, until very smooth and creamy.  Take the grits off of the heat and stir in the Cheddar, scallions and pepper.  Season to taste and serve hot topped with more cheese and scallions.

Normally I try and "healthify" recipes, but since I'm still in holiday-eating mode, I didn't with this one.  Next time I make it I may try to lighten it up a little bit with less butter and maybe skim milk instead of half and half or lowfat cheese instead of full fat.  Although I think those ingredients may be the key to get the grits as creamy as these were, so maybe not ;)

Cookbook junkie

I'm almost always guaranteed a cookbook for Christmas from my husband and I look forward to it every year.  I LOVE cookbooks and have quite the collection.  I don't enjoy reading for pleasure unless it's a cookbook.  I can easily curl up with one and read it front to back.  I love learning new recipes and techniques and getting ideas for creating my own culinary masterpieces :)  This year I got lucky and received two of them!  One from my husband (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten) and one from my best friend (The Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter).  I can't wait to try out new recipes!  Tonight I'm trying the Cheesy Grits from Ina Garten's cookbook.  I have pages marked in both and can't wait to try out new recipes and, of course, taste them!  I'll be sure to post the long as they turn out!

The easiest EVER Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

This is seriously the easiest pie recipe ever.  This is what I made for dessert on Christmas Eve.  It's SO yummy and it's not terribly bad for you either.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 8

1 graham cracker pie crust - or 8 single serve pie crusts - (I use reduced fat)
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
1 cup milk (I use almond milk)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp peanut butter (I prefer/use natural)
1 8oz tub of cool whip (I use lite)
Additional cool whip/whipped cream if desired

1.  Bake pie crust at 375° for approximately 5 minutes - just enough to get your crust a little golden.
2.  Mix together the chocolate pudding mix, milk and peanut butter.  You can use a spatula/spoon, but for best results, use a mixer.
3.  Fold in the cool whip until well combined.  Put pie filling in the pie shell.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.  Slice, top with whipped cream and enjoy!
Easy as pie!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spritz Cookies

I think everyone has that *one* thing that makes Christmas, Christmas.  Maybe it's the tree, seeing lights, listening to Christmas music or putting up decorations.  For me, it's cookies (surprise, surprise).  But, not just any cookie my friends.  Spritz cookies.  I remember being younger and making these little 2-bite cookies with my mom at Christmas.  That is the only time of year that we made them.  They're so simple, only 6 easy ingredients, but so tasty!  You do need a Spritz Cookie press to make them and I just so happen to have the original cookie press that my mom and I used when I was a child.  Yes, it's outdated, but it works so well.  My mom was once given a new, updated, fancy press, but she returned it because she said nothing works as well as the original.  If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it!  If you were to go out today and buy a press, it would look a little something like this:

 If you were to come to my house to make these yummy treats, you'd use something that looks like this:
Old school at its finest people.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp extract - peppermint, almond, vanilla, etc.  (Almond is my flavorite.....get it, flavorite!?)
2 1/4 cup flour
Optional:  food coloring and sprinkles

1.  Mix butter, sugar, egg, salt, extract and flour until well combined.  Add a few drops of food coloring and mix until dough is to desired color.
2.  Load up your cookie press with the dough and desired cookie mold.  Press cookies onto cookie sheet and decorate with sprinkles, red hots, etc.
green christmas trees, red pinwheels and white snowflakes
3.  Bake at 400° for 7 minutes, remove from oven and let cool on cookie tray for 1-2 minutes.  Remove and place on a cooling rack.

Merry Christmas!!!
I, of course, had to try them out on Redmond.  Now, we don't feed him too many sweets, so any kind of cookie or cake are kind of foreign to him. 
First he gave it a good poke....
....the first bite....
"Yuck!  What is this woman feeding me!?"
"Eh, what the heck, I'll try it again...."
Can't wait until next year when Redmond can help decorate the cookies!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lazy Lasagna

Lasagna has been one of my favorite foods since I was a kid.  It's so comforting, cheesy and carb-a-licious.  It always looks so nice too, all the yummy layers of cheese and sauce and noodles.  The only bad thing about lasagna is the amount of time it takes to make it look so pretty.  When I decided that I wanted to make lasagna this week I started thinking of an easier way to make it.  Basically, what I did was break up all the noodles into smaller pieces and mix it with all my lasagna fixin's.  It might not look as pretty, but it sure was tasty!  There are a couple things I'll do different next time (I'll get into those after the recipe), but I think, for the most part, this is how I'm making lasagna from now on. I (obviously) make a vegetarian lasagna, but this would of course work with meat too.....if you're into that kind of thing :)

Lazy Lasagna
Serves 8
12 oz whole wheat lasagna broken into small pieces
16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15 oz lowfat ricotta cheese
2 cups reduced fat Italian blend cheese, divided
1.5 oz parmesan cheese, divided
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups marinara sauce
8 oz no salt added tomato sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350, spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
2. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water until almost cooked (they will finish cooking in the oven).  While pasta is cooking, combine spinach, ricotta, 1 cup italian cheese and 1/2 oz parmesan.
3. Drain pasta and put back into hot pot and add all other ingredients, mix well.
4. Put pasta mixture into prepared baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake 30 minutes covered; remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until cheese is beginning to brown.

Nutritional Info:
Cal 361, Fat 11,g Chol 31mg, Sodium 717mg, Carbs 50g, Fiber 9g, Pro 25g

A few things I'll do differently next time:
The veggies were still pretty crisp, so either baking the lasagna covered another 1/2 hour or sautéing the veggies beforehand would take care of this.  Jason and I don't mind the vegetables with a little bite to them, but I will probably sauté the onions and garlic before next time.  Also, next time I will probably add a little bit more sauce.  The pasta wasn't dry, but I think one more cup of sauce will make it perfect.

And, of course, the possibilities are endless for lasagna additions.  Next time I might add eggplant.  I'd love to put mushrooms in it, but Jason's not a fan.  I used to sneak mushrooms into things, but he caught on and started threatening to sneak meat into things for me :)

Happy eating!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three Bean Chili

For the first time, I have successfully met my 5 workout/week goal.  I have finally kicked whatever cold bug I had and I'm really hoping to be down at least a pound when I weigh in tomorrow morning.  Once I get into calorie counting and working out I become almost obsessed with it, and I'm getting to that point.  When you keep track of every single morsel of food that enters your mouth, it really puts things into perspective and how much you used to mindlessly eat.  I'm hoping that I'm even more successful this time around because we hardly ever go out to eat anymore, so I'm forced to cook almost every night.  Before we had Redmond, we would eat out at least twice a week....but now we don't want to take him out if we don't have to, especially during the Michigan winter.  And, it's a lot more work now to run to the gas station to get a bag of Cheetos and a Little Debbie snack cake :)

So, speaking of food, onto today's recipe.  During the winter I make chili at least twice a month - it's so easy, yummy, spicy and warm.  We love it!

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili:
About 8 (large) servings
  • 1 can (30.5oz) Brooks Chili Hot Beans, undrained
  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 2 cans (14.5oz) no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes w/ chiles
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
1. Combine all ingredients into 4-5 quart crock pot, add seasonings to taste and cook on low for 8-9 hours. 

I don't measure any of the seasonings, so the measurements are kind of an estimate.  And of course, it's even better with cheese:


We're supposed to get hit with a huge snowstorm starting tomorrow evening through Wednesday.  Thankfully I got all of the grocery shopping done today and have our menu figured out for the week....or at least the main dishes.  Stay tuned for:
  • Stuffed Poblanos
  • Peanut Butter Noodles
  • French Onion Soup (vegetarian, of course)
  • Au Gratin Potatoes
  • Creamy Pasta with Spinach
Can't wait for dinner!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crock Pot Vegetable Minestrone

This is such a great recipe and it only takes about 15-20 minutes to get it going in the crock pot.  Very low in fat and calories too which is always a plus!

Crock Pot Vegetable Minestrone:
12 servings
  • 4 tsp vegetable bouillon dissolved into 4 cups warm water
  • 4 cups no salt added tomato juice
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 can (14.5oz) no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5oz) no salt added diced tomatoes w/ garlic, basil & garlic
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 Parmesan rinds* (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cup (6oz) multigrain rotini
  1. Combine all ingredients except rotini into a 4-5 quart slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low 7-8 hours or until vegetables are cooked.
  3. Stir in pasta and cook on high for 15-20 minutes or until pasta is cooked.  Top each serving with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Nutritional Info:
Cal 104, Fat .3g, Sodium 518mg, Carbs 22g, Fiber 4g, Protein 4g

*I save all of my Parmesan rinds in the freezer.  They make a great addition to soups and stews - just add them in and remove them before serving!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Healthified" Linguine Alfredo

We had a good, busy weekend.  Friday night we went out for Mexican with my BFF, her hubby and some other people.  Before Redmond, that was a Friday night tradition....that was the first time we'd been back there since he's been born.  Of course it has to be the week that I finally buckled down on my diet.  Oh well, it was good to be back.  Good friends, good food,  good times :)  Saturday we packed up and headed to Ohio to my cousin's wedding.  It was great to see my family and have them meet Redmond.  The wedding was fun and my cousin was absolutely gorgeous!  I just love weddings. diet kind of went down the tubes this weekend through no fault but my own.  But, I did make a fairly healthy dinner tonight.  It's another Eat Better America recipe...well, kind of.  It's my take on their "Healthified" Fettuccine Alfredo.  I've made a couple of adjustments but it's basically the same recipe.  The main difference is that I use whole wheat linguine, while they use regular fettuccine.  I couldn't find whole wheat fettuccine or I would use that.

Linguine Alfredo:
Serves 4
  • 8 oz uncooked whole wheat linguine
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • steamed veggies (optional)
  • fresh parsley (optional)
  1. Cook linguine as directed on package.  Drain and keep warm
  2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, stir milk, flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne with wire whisk until smooth. In 2-quart saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly (do not burn). With wire whisk, stir milk mixture into butter in saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture thickens & boils.
  3. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Stir in Parmesan cheese until melted. Pour over linguine and steamed veggies (if using); toss to coat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Nutritional Info (not including any added veggies): Cal 303, Fat 10g, Chol 27, Sodium 237, Carbs 46, Fiber 6g, Protein 12g

Jason says "It's like fine dining at home." :)

This alfredo definitely isn't as creamy as regular alfredo, and does get kind of thick quickly, but it is still pretty darn tasty.  I really like it with broccoli (I just chop it up and throw it in with the pasta to cook it), but I forgot to pick some up at the store.  I had a bag of frozen corn, carrots & broccoli so I picked all the carrots and broccoli out of that and added it in tonight.  Of course it would be good with chicken too, I'm sure.

That's all I have for tonight....gonna go snuggle with my baby boy and make up my menu and grocery list for the week.  Tomorrow is my first official weigh-in day - wish me luck!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli Potato Chowder

This recipe is from one of my favorite recipe sites, Eat Better America.  They "healthify" everyday recipes and make them just as tasty, but much better for you  (the "healthified" mac & cheese is one of Jason's faves). 

"It's a cheesy broccoli soup that actually fills you up", according to Jason :)

"Healthified" Cheesy Potato Chowder:
  • 2lbs (about 6-7 medium) red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 32 oz vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bag (12 oz) Green Giant® Valley Fresh Steamers™ frozen broccoli cuts
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 8 oz brick 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream (I used reduced fat)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  1. In 5-quart Dutch oven, place potatoes; add just enough water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Drain. Reserve 1 cup potatoes; return remaining potatoes to saucepan. In small bowl, mash reserved potatoes with fork; return to saucepan.
  2. Stir in broth, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Add broccoli. Return to boiling; cook uncovered 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium.
  3. In small bowl with wire whisk, stir flour into milk until well mixed. Add milk mixture to potato mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and boils. Stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Stir in sour cream and green onions; cook until thoroughly heated.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Both Jason and I really enjoyed this soup, I served it with onion dill crusty bread.  Very hearty and very filling.  I'm sure it would be really good with diced ham or bacon too.....if you're into that kind of thing :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Homemade Pot Pies

C is for Chicken, V is for Veggies!

This recipe is so simple and so easy.  I can't believe that I ever ate those frozen pot mom wouldn't let us eat them growing up so those, like many other processed "bad for you" foods, I ate a lot of them in college.  I have made this recipe before, but had left it vegetarian.  Today was my husband's lucky day - I made one for me with just veggies and one for him with chicken.

  • 6 cups of whatever veggies you choose - can be fresh or frozen - diced.  I used fresh potatoes, carrots & onions and frozen green beans, peas & corn. 
    • Onions
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Bell Pepper
    • Potatoes
    • Leeks
    • Peas
    • Corn
    • Green Beans
    • Spinach
    • Tomato
    • Zucchini
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3-4 cups warm veggie stock
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper
  • pie crust, either homemade or store bought
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Melt butter in heavy stock pot and add any fresh veggies you are using and cook until almost tender.  Add any frozen veggies and garlic clove and cook until heated through.
  3. Sprinkle flour on top and combine, stirring for 2 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the warm liquid, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens.
  5. Add thyme and parsley and continue cooking until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, then transfer vegetables to a 2 quart casserole dish or, if making two pot pies, to two pie pans.
  6. Top pie with pie crust, sealing the edges and putting vents in the top.  Top with egg wash, if desired.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
  8. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, I'm feeling a little under the weather today, so I didn't have much of an appetite.  My husband on the other hand did....
I can hear him in the kitchen right now eating out of the pan :)