Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spicy Fall Pesto

2  large handfuls cinnamon basil
1/4 cup walnuts
1/8-1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, grated
grated nutmeg (pinch to taste)
salt and pepper
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Add basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to food processor and rough chop. Begin to slowly stream in oil while running processor at low speed until pesto blends together. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

This is great with chicken, fish, vegetables, or on pasta.

Harvest Soup

This soup is thick and rich without the butter or cream. A blend of my favorite fall vegetables makes this a warm, hearty, yet healthy choice.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small pie pumpkin, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 small onion, peeled and cubed (about 1")
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 orange, zest and juice
3 parnsips, peeled and sliced  (or carrots if they are too pricey)
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
6 sage leave leaves, chopped
1" piece ginger root, grated (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
1/2 whole nutmeg nut, grated (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 cups cloudy apple cider
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to a crock pot and cook 6-10 hours on high (depending on how fast your crock cooks). Puree until smooth and creamy with an immersion blender and taste to adjust spices. Makes about 12-14 side dish servings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 orange zest grated, juiced
2 egg whites
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh/frozen cranberries

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 6- 3" muffin cups with cooking spray for large muffins, or 12- 2 1/2" cups for small.

In large bowl mix flours, sugar, baking powder and orange rind. Make a hole in the center of the dry mix.

In a small bowl, whip whites until foamy, then add in buttermilk, applesauce, orange juice and vanilla and mix until blended.

Add wet mix into the well in the middle of the dry mix and gently stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon the batter into cups and bake 22-25 minutes for large, 18-20 minutes for small. Use a toothpick in the center of the muffin to make sure they are done and cool 5 minutes on a wire rack before eating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yankee Girl's Pot Roast

Today is our first cool Fall day here in North Texas-woohoo! I made this meal a couple Sundays ago and it is the ideal Fall Family Dinner. If you don't have a couple hours to braise a roast during the week, you can also do it the night before and have it reheated the next night. Believe it or not, the leftovers are even better than the first time.

2-3 lb beef roast
MDP's seasoning
vegetable oil
1 large onion (about 3")
3 large celery stalks (about 10" long w/ leafy tops)
3 large garlic cloves (about 1")
3 large carrots (about 1" diameter, 8" long)
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
1 TBSP dijon mustard
2 large potatoes (about 2" diameter, 4" long)
1 cup butternut squash, cut into 1/2" cubes)

Sprinkle roast with MDP's seasoning and rub into all surfaces. Heat a roasting pan or large dutch oven (that can go in oven) on high heat. Add 1 TBSP oil to pan and add roast once oil begins to ripple. Let meat sit about 5 minutes until deep brown and carmelized. If pan gets too hot, reduce heat to medium. Repeat until all sides are browned. Remove meat from pan.

Add another TBSP of oil to pan if needed to cook vegetables. Add vegetables and bay leaf and cook about 5 minutes until brown and translucent. Remove vegetables from pan.

Add beef broth, wine, and mustard. Whisk well to deglaze the pan (remove all the brown bits off the bottom). Add the meat back to the pan and cover with vegetables.

Cover tightly and cook 90 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove from oven and spoon juices over meat and vegetables, then take out as much of the juices as you can.Thin slice potatoes (I use a mandoline) and spread around the meat. Scatter butternut squash cubes over the potatoes. Pour juices over everything. Recover and cook another 90 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit at least 15 minutes. Remove meat from pan and cut into 1/4" slices. Return to pan and spoon juices over the meat. Serve with vegetables and a roll, biscuit, or crusty bread to sop the juices.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Make a Better (for you) Grilled Cheese

There is something wonderful about a warm melty grilled cheese sandwich. While they have a bad wrap for not being that great for you, they don't have to be.

Per 2 sandwiches:

4 slices whole grain/whole wheat bread
2-4 slices of your favorite cheese (thin sliced if possible), or 1/4 cup shredded/crumbled
2 thin slices tomato or about 1/4 cup roasted red peppers (drained)
1 egg
1/2 tsp mustard
optional: 2 slices low-sodium ham or turkey, torn into thin strips

Beat egg and mustard in a small bowl. Assemble sandwiches (bread, cheese, veggies, meat, bread) and dip in the beaten egg mixture. Don't let them sit too long or they will be soggy. If you really need butter in your grilled cheese, spray or spread a little on the INSIDES of the sandwich.

Heat an indoor electric grill (like a George Forman) sprayed with cooking spray and cook sandwich until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes.

By dipping the sandwich in egg instead of smearing butter on both outer sides of bread, your sandwich has a little protein instead of just fat. The mustard gives it a nice little kick too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creamy Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1 cup shredded chicken
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup thin sliced celerry
1/4 cup shredded carrot

Corn or tortilla chips
Thinly sliced green onions, optional

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, hot pepper sauce and salad dressing. Stir in chicken.

Spread into an ungreased glass pie dish. Sprinkle with blue cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-22 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with celery and carrots. Serve with chips or crackers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

At-Home Takeout: General's Shrimp

Tso? Tsao? I dunno, but its good! I have been a fan of take-out Chinese for as long as I can remember but thanks to our Money Diet its off limits. Check out this dish I whipped up to cure my craving and use our veggies.
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled with tails removed
1 beaten egg
1 TBSP cornstarch (maybe a little more)

6 cups mixed vegetables, cut into bite size pieces (broccoli, squashes, onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, etc)

1 dried mild chili
1 cup water
2 large garlic cloves
1"x1" chunk fresh ginger
4 TBSP soy sauce
4 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP honey or agave nectar

Place chili in a small saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, finely grated.

Heat about 1" of vegetable oil on medium heat in the bottom of a large saucepan. I prefer one about 8-10" high to prevent splatter. Mix shrimp, cornstarch, and egg together. Increase cornstarch if batter seems to runny, or a little water if it seems too pasty. Once oil begins to ripple, drop one shrimp at a time into the hot oil. Be very careful for the splatter, and try not to drop one shrimp on top of another. Cook about 5 minutes until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with a paper towel (I did 3 batches).

Meanwhile, heat about 1 TBSP oil in a wok or large skillet. Add half of the veggies and saute until outside browned, but they are still crispy. Try to stir as little as possible so they don't get mushy. Remove half the veggies to a large serving bowl and  saute the other half. Add second half of veggies to serving bowl.

 Add soy and vinegar to the reconstituted chili. Puree in the blender or food processor until smooth. Add to empty wok on low heat. Add fried shrimp to sauce and toss to combine. Cook about 1 minute to let sauce soak in. Pour shrimp and sauce over the veggies.

Sugar-Free Strawberry Daquiri

2 cups frozen strawberries
2 cups ice
2 limes
1/4-1/2 cup Splenda or other 0 cal sweetener
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum

Place all ingredients in a blender and whiz it up until its smooth and all ice chunks have melted. If its sticking, add a tad more water. Take a small taste and adjust sweetener if needed.

Makes 2 generous servings.

Zucchini Pancakes with Honey Nut Butter

1 small (about 1" diameter, 5-6"long) zucchini, shredded
1 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 TBSP milled flax seed
1 TBSP Splenda
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBSP butter or margarine, softened
1 TBSP raw honey
1 TBSP chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat a skillet or griddle on medium heat. Mix zucchini and wet ingredients together. Add in dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Spray pan with cooking spray right before pouring pancakes. Pour by 1/2 cup dropfuls onto pan. Cook until bubbly, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes until both sides are well-browned.

In a small food processor, whip butter, honey, and nuts together.
Spread 1 tsp of honey butter on each cake. Makes 6 large 1-serving cakes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spooky Snacks

Often, we have a Halloween party or at least just a few friends over for pre-trick-or-treating dinner. Check out my favorite bites for your Halloween Happenings.

These go WAY back, don't have a recipe per se. Just some cupcakes with vanilla frosting colored purple and orange, and a little candy to decorate :)
The spiders have chocolate jimmies(sprinkles) and black licorice legs. The pumpkins have green licorice bits and spearmint leaf leaves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Mocha Almond Coffee Creamer

3 TBSP pumpkin puree
1 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
dash nutmeg (optional)
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup half and half
sweetener of choice (I don't take sweetener in my coffe but prefer 1 TBSP agave. Base this on how much sugar you normally take, about 1 TBSP per tsp you would put in a coffee.)

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk well until combined and stir avoid to avoid scalding. Heat just until bubbles begin to form at the edges and remove from burner.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Favorite Comfort Food Recipes

I'm sure there are some I am missing, but here are tons of my favorite comfort food recipes I have posted over the last year. What better time than Fall for warm, hearty homemade dishes?!? Get your sweats on and start cookin'.

Need a side dish to go with one of the entrees above, see them all in one place here:
and don't forget dessert

Friday, October 7, 2011

Monkey Bars

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

In mixer bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs and banana. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and gradually add into mixing bowl until well blended. Pour into baking pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

4 TBSP softened butter
1/2-2 c powdered sugar
1/4-1 c creamy peanut butter

In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and 1/2 c. sugar until it resembles..... frosting. You may need to keep adding a little sugar at a time until it comes to the right consistency, and you have to put a strong fast whisk into it (or cheat and use the Kitchenaid with the whisk attachment).

Once the butter/sugar is frostified, add in 1/4 peanut butter and whisk it in to incorporate. Keep adding until it has the taste that you want, if it gets too soft add a little sugar at a time until its stiff and holds it shape.

Frost the bars and cut into squares.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smoothie Sailing!

If you follow my facebook page or read my sister blog about my life outside the kitchen, you have probably seen the "31 Days to Healthier Kids" tips lately. Day 3 was to feed them breakfast, like smoothies with milk, banana, and peanut butter. I could not agree with this more, and for years have been making smoothies for breakfasts and snacks. I have a single serving blender in my desk at work, or we make a full-size blender at home if we are all sharing. As you know, I am huge into making everything yourself from whole ingredients, but sometimes the pre-packaged, just-add milk variety is just plain more convenient and cheaper than the drive-thru at the local fast-food spot or Smoothie Shop.

My Old Standby Smoothie
Fill blender of choice half way with chunks of frozen fruit (bananas, berries, peaches, melon). Add in about 1 TBSP of fat-free plain or vanilla yogurt PER SERVING (about 4 for a full-size blender).  Pour in milk (cow, soy, unsweetened almond) to cover fruit. Blend on high until smoothified. Plain yogurt will make a more tart smoothie, vanilla will be a little sweeter. If it is too bland for you, add a little honey to sweeten.

Quick and Easy Smoothie's To Go
Recently, Yoplait sent me a free Chocolate Banana Smoothie through the My Blog Spark program hoping I might write about it.  While skeptical, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with the product. It was much easier to bring to work than individual ingredients, and technically makes 2-1 cup servings (but I had the whole thing as a quick breakfast). It was delicious, and it will be even better next time I make it and throw in a tablespoon of peanut butter. You can also throw in a scoop of protein powder. It is also perfect to split at home between my 2 kids, and to them its just a milkshake. Wanna try one?

Comment below, on facebook, or e-mail me at by 10/15 when I will hold a drawing for a prize pack from Yoplait** including:
                 * A VIP coupon for a sample of Yoplait Chocolate Banana Smoothie
                 * Neck pillow
                 * Smoothie tumbler
                 * Lavender eye mask

Don't want to wait? You can get a coupon for a $1.00 off coupon here.  

However you choose to acquire your smoothies, it is a delicious way to get your calcium and fruit!

Want more info from Yoplait about their smoothies? Check out . You can also check them out on facebook and get coupons thru their fan page.
** Disclosure: The Yoplait® VIP Coupon, information, and giveaway have been provided by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thai Meatball Chow Mein

1 lb ground meat
dash of siracha or hot sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, grated
1" piece ginger root, grated
2 TBSP chopped basil
1 beaten egg
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped

2 onions, halved and thick sliced
5-6 stalks celery w/ tops, sliced on a diagonal
2 large carrots, shredded
1 lime
3 TBSP soy sauce

crispy Chinese noodles
sesame oil

Preheat broiler on low setting. Mix first 9 ingredients together and form into 1/2-1" meatballs ...I meant to do smaller ones, but was rushing to get dinner on the table so went with larger ones.

Heat wok or large saute pan on high heat. Add 2 TBSP cooking oil. Once oil ripples, add onions and celery. Cook about 5 minutes without stirring. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Turn meatballs over.

Once onions begin to wilt, add carrots and the zest of the lime. Stir well to incorporate vegetables together and cook another 5 minutes.  Turn broiler up to high.

Squeeze lime juice and add soy sauce to vegetables. Remove meatballs from broiler and add to vegetables. Stir well to coat meatballs and serve over noodles with a light drizzle of sesame oil.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quick Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed
2 cups cooked broccoli, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 can cream of something soup
1 cup shredded cheese

Mix chicken, broccoli, rice, soup and half of the cheese together and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Top with the other half of the cheese, and bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly.