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What am I hungry for?

I wish that looked good.

I wish I could say this post was a giant metaphor – something about me searching for my purpose in life, but no. I’m actually talking about being hungry, and food.

The past few days, I’ve been feeling a little weird. My hunger is the same, but literally NOTHING sounds good to eat. In fact, the thought of eating nearly disgusts me to the point that I’ve had to force myself to eat because I am so hungry.

At first, I thought that maybe I was sick of eating vegan food. I’ve been eating mostly vegan for more than two years now, and well, it’s a lot of beans and veggies, and sometimes it’s difficult to mix up the flavors.

But I have always been one to do what I want, and that includes eating what I want. I eat vegan because it helps me sleep, not because I particularly enjoy making difficult food choices.

My hunger wasn’t leading me in any direction – so I kept telling myself that I’d eat no matter what – whether it was fast food junk, takeout, or even just sitting in front of a giant bowl of cereal. I was desperate.

But nothing – not even spicy chicken ramen from Whole Foods – sounded good.

So, there were a few meals I skipped and just suffered through the hunger pains.

Why was this happening? I consider myself a foodie – I love to cook! I love to try new things! I’m always eating at new restaurants!

But the thought of all food was grossing me out. I tossed nearly everything in my fridge. Then, when it came time to make a grocery list, I had no idea what to write because NOTHING sounded good. I sifted through hundreds of recipes – on Pinterest, on Instagram, and in cookbooks – and everything sounded gross.

My list consisted of “salad fixins”. I ended up getting spring mix, grape tomatoes, bananas, and coffee.

I headed over to Whole Foods to see if there was anything on their salad bar that looked good. I got 4 pieces of popcorn chicken and a small spoonful of pasta, which I forced myself to eat.

My mom asked me if I’d been hypnotized to be disgusted by food – it was a theory that I had not considered, but no, at least, not that I knew of.

Although I have been feeling a little chunky lately, I’m not so concerned about my physical appearance that I would stop eating. I love food much more than other people’s opinions.

I do know that it’s hot as hell and Sunday marked the 47th consecutive day that Austin has reached at least 100 degrees out. So maybe that’s it.

Each week, I go on a “food adventure” – a dorky way of saying that I go to a restaurant I’ve never been to, simply because Austin has sooooo many places and I’m determined to eat at as many of them as possible.

I’d planned to go on my weekly adventure on Sunday, but I wasn’t sure anything would sound good. But when I woke up around 4am with my stomach hurting with hunger, something fresh sounded good.

So I went to Blenders and Bowls on Sunday morning for my first ever acai bowl – this one had bananas, local honey, raisins, and cacao nibs on top – and it was good enough to eat.

I haven’t eaten much since then – a mini dairy-free ice cream sandwich last night. I brought a banana to work today and I packed one of those “salad rolls” from Whole Foods for lunch.

It’s certainly something that’s never happened to me before, and I’m sure it’s just a phase – I’m hoping it’s a short-lived one, because I sure did look insane going up and down every single aisle of Whole Foods multiple times, looking at food and then trying not to be sick.

And just to stop this rumor before it starts, no, I am not pregnant. I’m nearly positive that involves physical contact with a man, and that’s not one of my current hobbies.

I haven’t changed up any medication, either. I’ve increased my coffee intake and that’s about it. Maybe I should just eat all my meals at Blenders and Bowls, for freshness-sake?

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BBC: ‘Sourdough’.

Hey there! It seems sort of pointless now to keep apologizing for not writing on a more regular basis like I have been for so long. I really can’t explain much else aside from simply saying that I feel like the last 3 months of 2017 really knocked the wind out of my sails.

Even in the last week, I recovered from the flu, and then had to take my kitty to the vet, and we’ve both been in bed watching season one of “The OC” (for the first time). But things are coming together, and I even got to work on my list of 2018 resolutions today! Look for those on the blog by Jan 1!

Anyway, let’s just get to the book! I lied and totally haven’t read the book I promised you, but I’ve got something else instead: it’s “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her―feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

I’m all about a book that combines technology with food – and this book made me HUNGRY when I read it! I particularly just wanted to get a giant loaf of sourdough – and coincidentally some arrived in my Blue Apron box that week (a recipe for grilled cheese on sourdough) – so that’s when you know the stars have aligned.

This was truly a fun read, and I’m recommending it to my techies, my start-up lovers (and the haters, too), and foodies alike.

Next week, I promise, we’ll be reading “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

I hope you all have a FUN and safe New Year’s Eve – and I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned for 2018! Cheers!

Holiday weekend EATS.

Delish summer treat!

You guys!! We are on the cusp of one of my favorite times of year – summer! In Texas, the later months of summer are waaaay too hot to enjoy much of anything, so this beginning part sure is something to celebrate.

Before my Vegas vacation, I know I talked a lot about my efforts to eat right, exercise more, and drink less. And I did! Honestly, I still felt a little pudgy in my bikini, but… 31. I ate and drank pretty much everything in sight on vacation and then got back on my healthy eating once I returned.

Ever since, I’ve been feeling better and am starting to see a little bit of a difference in my figure, but being healthy and feeling good is my top priority. It’s still a constant struggle, though, to find recipes and things to cook at home that make me excited to eat healthy.

I have been eating 1 hard-boiled egg, an oatmeal English muffin (it has double the protein), and half a bottle of Naked juice for breakfast for the last three weeks and I’m still not sick of it. In week’s past, I’ve made vegan chili, veggie rolls, sausage and grits, and Hawaiian chicken sewers, among other things for lunches and dinners.

But I wanted to find some festive, special things to cook this weekend to deter me from eating out (I am still letting myself have a cheat meal at the Drafthouse to see “Baywatch”). So, I am really excited to share with you these two recipes I found on Pinterest. Here goes:

Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

Photo + recipe from Damn Delicious!

I was really excited when I saw this recipe – it was in a collection of recipes that all involved a foil packet. I have been craving some Louisiana food, and this is a really easy way for me to fulfill my wishes while still staying healthy. I think I’m going to eat this as-is, but it would also been good served with brown rice, or other veggies such as asparagus or okra (yum!).

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced
2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.
  2. Cut four sheets of foil, about 12-inches long. Divide shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes into 4 equal portions and add to the center of each foil in a single layer.
  3. Fold up all 4 sides of each foil packet. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste; gently toss to combine. Fold the sides of the foil over the shrimp, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.
  4. Place foil packets on the grill and cook until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.*
  5. Served immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Note: This can also be baked for 15-17 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Black Bean Butternut Veggie Burgers

Recipe + photo from Peas and Carrots!

I really love a good burger, especially in the summer. While a regular burger is perfectly fine, I have been making a conscious effort to eat less meat and focus on plant-based foods. I’m hoping this recipe turns out great – I’m planning to add a little cheddar to my burger, and serve it with sweet potato fries and maybe some watermelon!

INGREDIENTS

1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water) or 1 egg
1 cup mashed black beans [refried black beans work too!]
1 cup pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1 TBSP olive oil [or butter]
3/4 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [like mrs. dash]
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley [or fresh if you have it!]
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [not instant]

Optional toppings: 4 burger buns (I used a bakery poppy seed onion bun – amazing!), 4 slices of pepper jack cheese, romaine lettuce, fresh baby spinach, mayo (store-bought or homemade) mixed with sriracha chili sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together 1 TBSP ground flax with 3 TBSP water and pop it in the fridge to set.
  2. Next mash black beans in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add your butternut squash to the beans and set aside.
  4. Next saute onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil until tender and near-translucent, adding the minced garlic towards the end to prevent burning.
  5. Season the veggies with your Italian seasoning blend, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and parsley and stir to coat.
  6. Add the freshly sauteed veggies to your beans and squash and stir in your oats.
  7. Remove your flax egg from the fridge and add it to the bowl.
  8. Stir to fully incorporate and roll mixture into four balls.
  9. For optimal burger shape, cup each ball in your hands and squeeze tightly, rotating as you gently, but firmly, press it into a disc.
  10. Giggles aside, pop your burgers onto a plate, cover with foil or cling wrap and refrigerate as you prep your buns [or lettuce wraps!] and toppings. This will give them a little while to set. You can even leave them overnight and cook them up the following day.
  11. Pour a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high, so the burgers sizzle when you add them to the pan!
  12. Cook for a few minutes on each side until you’re left with a golden crust. and a warm center. Repeat for each burger, or cook two at once if you have a big enough pan!
  13. Slather your buns with sriracha mayo, pile them high with lettuce, spinach, pepper jack and top each with a yummy butternut burger.

That’s what I’ll be cooking up on this gloomy, rainy weekend – I’d love to know what recipes you’re looking forward to this weekend, or this summer!

Hello, vegan food.

Plant-based and delishhh.

Plant-based and delishhh.

Okay, so I’m not going totally vegan, but I’ve been incorporating much more vegan meals into my life than ever before. I’ve been eating on a pretty strict diet for the last five weeks, plus prancing around the dance studio nearly every day, and I’m finally starting to see some results.

I didn’t make a conscious choice to start eating vegan, but rather, I found a ton of delicious-looking recipes to try and they have been actually REALLY delish. I started pretty simple, with the homemade brown rice veggie sushi, and graduated to the red pepper Buddah bowl. I’m not a fan of anything too complicated, or any of the cashew-based “cheese” products.

Despite all of the restrictions of eating vegan, I’ve managed to find a lot of recipes that are easy, and affordable (and tasty). I thought I’d post them for you, because you just never know…

Vegan Chocolate Pudding – I saw this posted by Whole Foods as a quick video, which made me see how easy it was to make. It’s just dates, vanilla, banana, avocado, and unsweetened cocoa powder, blended and chilled… and it’s legit. It is very fudgy and cures my sweet tooth. I have been enjoying it with unsweetended coconut sprinkled on top. I bought ingredients to make a second batch, and I think I will blend in some PB2 powder for a peanut buttery taste. Yum! Get the full recipe here.

Vegan Roasted Brussels Sprout and CousCous Salad – Since I liked the Buddah bowl so much, I was looking for recipes that would be similar, but with new flavors. I saw this bowl stuffed with greens, avocado, couscous, and topped with hummus and was SOLD. I like eating these things for dinner for two reasons: 1. I’m usually starving because it’s after dance rehearsal and this is very filling, and 2. since it’s a mix of cold and hot ingredients, it gets too complicated to pack for lunch. Get the entire recipe here.

Vegan Lentil Mushroom Tacos with Mango Salsa – I love tacos and have always loved finding ways to make them healthier. I’ve replaced the ground beef with ground turkey or chicken… but this?! This recipe uses lentils and chopped mushrooms as the “meat” portion, and tops it with sweet and spicy mango salsa. I honestly didn’t even notice the fact that there was no cheese. I served it with another batch of my favorite thing: Chrissy Teigen’s coconut rice. Omigod. These tacos were honestly better than any meat taco I’ve had. I will for sure be making these again. Get the full recipe here.

I’ve also saved several additional vegan recipes I’m looking forward to trying (all of which you can find on my Pinterest board) including Balsamic Garlic Grilled Mushrooms, Quinoa and Kale Protein Power Salad, and Eggplant Parmesan.

Now, I know I said I’m not going full vegan, but I have been reducing my meat intake greatly, and when it just takes a small tweak to go vegan, I’ll do it. Why? Because there are SO many health benefits to eating vegan. Some of the health benefits are (but not limited to) reduced saturated fats, reduced chance of getting colon cancer, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a lower body mass index, healthy hair and nails, longer life, and allergy relief – among many others!

If you’ve got any good vegan, or even vegetarian recipes you’d like to share, feel free to put them in the comments – I’m always looking for new foods to keep the variety going!

Things I’ve tried on Pinterest.

It’s been around a month since I resurrected my Pinterest account. I started back on this social channel for several reasons: 1. because I’m really trying to tighten up my diet and I wanted a place to keep track of all the cool recipes I come across and want to try (outside of my several binders on my pantry shelf), 2. I always have ideas swirling around for the blog or for crafts I want to make, and Pinterest helps me organize them.

In the last month, I’ve tried only a small portion of the recipes I’ve saved. I have purchased items to make a few essential oil roll-ons, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with anything other than food. But the food items I’ve tried have really excited me, as I started with the Veggie Brown Rice Sushi from the Minimalist Baker, which was easy and so freaking YUMMY.

Orange Chicken – This recipe was part of an article listing out easy ways to use your crockpot. It listed this orange chicken recipe that was four ingredients, and looked totally yummy. How healthy was it? It probably wouldn’t be approved by any nutritionists, but I paired it with steamed rice, edamame, and steamed Asian veggies to help even things out. It was so good, and very easy.

Cherry Almond Granola – I’m not a huge granola lover, but when I find a good one that’s decently healthy, I love eating it with yogurt. This one looked easy to make, and actually pretty healthy. So I whipped it right up on Saturday night (aren’t I so cool) while listening to podcasts. I ate some the next morning with almond milk and it was yummy. I also bought some plain greek yogurt that I might eat it with. To boot, making this granola made my house smell awesome.

Cinnamon Sugar Protein Donuts – I got a donut pan for Christmas and I cannot get enough recipes to make all kinds of donuts. I had success with regular, powdered-sugar donuts, so I tried my hand at “Protein” donuts… and not only was this a massive fail, as in, it didn’t really bake or look like a donut, but it just tasted like shit. Yuck. If you’ve had a successful try with protein donuts, let me know!

Vegan Buddah Bowl – From what I understand, a Buddah Bowl is anything that you can just eat a giant helping of so your belly resembles a Buddah’s. I’m trying to avoid that altogether, but what I love about food this healthy is that you can eat a good portion and not feel guilty. I whipped up all of the ingredients for this bowl on Sunday and am eating them for dinner this week – it’s full of new flavors for me and is filling and so yummy.

BBQ Chicken Chopped SaladThis pin was advertised as a copycat from a salad at California Pizza Kitchen, and I used to live within a block of a CPK, so I totally get the obsession (hello, mango margaritaaass). I made 7 lunch-sized versions of these salads and have been packing them in my lunchbox and they are very filling and tasty.

Weight Watchers Cookies – This came up on my feed as a suggestion, and I’m always down to make something that’s going to taste decadent but not make me feel guilty. These seemed a little too good to be true – as the recipe contained two tubs of Cool Whip – but I made them and the batter was amazing… but they were just flat and rubbery-like. No thanks. #FAIL

What are some things you’ve tried on Pinterest that worked, or hey, even ones that didn’t. I’m always looking for new ideas!

What’s cooking.

In these last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun cooking at home. Don’t get me wrong, I usually cook my own meals, but of course, as everything, it goes in waves. Sometimes I’m really excited to cook and I look up recipes, sometimes I just get chicken and veggies and eat it until I can’t anymore, and other times, well I skip the grocery altogether and order Green Chef for weeks on end.

Right now, I’m really trying to eat healthier meals at home, and instead of eating out, I am attempting to make more fun meals at home that I look forward to eating. I’m on a mission to feel better, look better, all by eating better, and of course, dancing my butt off.

So, I’ll share some recipes I’ve been living off of lately, most of them are from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings“, and one is from “What’s Gaby Cooking” – one of my favorite food bloggers as of late.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I got my first apartment as a single woman in Baton Rouge, I lived within blocks of a P.F. Chang’s. I ordered takeout probably once a week, and I usually got their chicken lettuce wraps. I also gained weight, because even though they looked healthy, they were NOT.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw a very similar-looking recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. I made them, and packed them in my lunch right alongside coconut rice (recipe below) and it was to DIE for.

INGREDIENTS

  • Sauce
    3 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
    3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
    3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
    2 Tbsp. Sriracha
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    1½ Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
    2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • Filling
    1 lb. ground chicken
    3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    8 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens kept separate
    1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
    1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
    ½ pound white mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, and finely chopped
    ½ cup finely diced canned water chestnuts
    1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
    2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated

DIRECTIONS

    1. Make the sauce: In a bowl, combine the chili sauce, hoisin, soy sauce, Sriracha, vegetable oil, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, and ginger.
    2. In a bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. of the sauce into the ground chicken.
    3. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering-hot, add the chicken and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.
    4. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the skillet, then add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
    5. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then add the water chestnuts, bell pepper, and the rest of the sauce and cook, stirring, until cooked through and the liquid has reduced and thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the scallion greens.
    6. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set out with the lettuce leaves.

Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice

…I mean the name pretty much says it all, but this shit is so good, and shockingly pretty guilt-free. I made the first batch of this for the chicken lettuce wraps, and then and second batch to go with a recipe I found on Pinterest (I’ll talk more on this next week). I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this rice – yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

DIRECTIONS 

  1. In a dry saucepan, toast the coconut flakes for a few minutes until they brown.
  2. Place toasted coconut to the side.
  3. Add full can of coconut milk, 1 can full of water, sugar, rice and salt to saucepan.
  4. Stir and bring to low boil.
  5. Cover and cook just like you would any other rice. Once done, fluff and add toasted coconut to the top. Serve!

Sweet Chili and Mustard-Glazed Salmon Fillets

It’s been a long time since I’ve treated myself to homemade salmon; it’s always kind of expensive, but it’s really healthy and filling. Since I have been doing so well not eating out, I decided to put my extra dollars toward the good stuff, and it was well-worth it. I’ve been eating it for dinner this week with brown rice and broccoli and am loving it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (6 ounces ) skin-on center cut salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 2/3 cup of Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbs sambal oelek (I couldn’t find this in my usual grocery store, so I skipped it)
  • 2 tbs large grain mustard

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position rack 4-6 inches from the heating element and preheat the broiler.
  2. Season salmon all over with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl stir together the Thai sweet chili sauce, sambal oelek, and mustard.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large cast-iron skillet. Set skillet over medium-high heat until the mixture boils.
  4. Lay the salmon skin side up, in the sauce. Cook the salmon until it turns pale pink about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin gets crispy about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce from the skillet onto the salmon. Serve immediately.
Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from 'What's Gaby Cooking'.

Healthy loaded sweet potatoes from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’.

Healthy Loaded [Southwestern] Sweet Potatoes

As I mentioned earlier, Gaby, from “What’s Gaby Cooking?” is one of my favorite food bloggers. One thing I really love about her is that she hosts weekly Snapisodes on her SnapChat @WhatsGabyCookin and she presents a yummy recipe step-by-step.

She is also completely available to ask questions! I’ve sent her countless cooking questions via SnapChat, and she always helps me out. I try to pay her back by sending her snaps of all of her recipes I’m making!

Anyway, she made this recipe on a Snapisode a few weeks ago, and it looked so easy and yummy, I added it to my list of things to try. Here’s what you’ll need:

INGREDIENTS

    • 4 California Sweetpotatoes
    • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1 cup frozen charred corn (I used canned ‘Mexicorn’)
    • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/3 cup salsa (any variety will work)
    • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
    • 3 tablespoons chopped chives (I used red onion)
    • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Optional Garnishes:
  • Finely chopped red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour Cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Using a knife or a fork, carefully poke holes all over the sweet potatoes. Place the California sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet and transfer to the heated oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Remove the California sweetpotatoes from the oven and slice them open. Scoop out a bit of the inside to make room for the stuffing.
  4. Season the interior with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. In a medium bow, combine the corn, black beans, cheese, salsa, chives and cilantro and toss to combine.
  6. Using a spoon, stuff each sweetpotato with equal parts of the mixture until overflowing. Add extra cheese on top if desired.
  7. Transfer the stuffed sweetpotatoes back into the oven and let bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.
  8. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with optional garnishes. Serve immediately.

See? So easy! And you can pretty much put anything you want on it. I kept it meatless, but you could add shredded chicken or taco meat… whatever! I’m no expert on kids, but I think this would be a good way to get them to eat veggies. I made five of these potatoes and have been packing one to eat for lunch each day, along with 1/2 an avocado that I mash on top. It’s divine!

This week’s menu…

I set several goals for 2017, and none of them included anything about being healthier or skinnier, or more fit this year. But I’m definitely trying to clean up my act after completely letting go during the holidays. I don’t eat out much (unless it’s going to be really, really worth it). I truly believe you can make delicious meals at home, and I love taking meals that might be a cheat and adding healthy twists to them.

Last week, I mentioned two things: 1. I’ve resurrected my Pinterest page, and 2. I have a long list of recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings” that I want to make.

Since then, I’ve kind of gone nuts on Pinterest – I check it daily, and have been pinning all sorts of ideas, from blog stuff to crafts, and of course, recipes.

Now, don’t get be wrong, I don’t pin the ridiculous stuff. I am realistic about the fact that I’m not hosting a dinner party any time soon, or getting married or having a baby. I don’t like to save stuff that requires unnecessary effort.

For example, when Pinterest first came out, I had a friend who pinned all sorts of crazy recipes even though she didn’t really enjoy cooking. One of these recipes was for “Lasagna Cups” – I think you boiled the lasagna noodles before putting them into muffin tins and filling them with traditional lasagna goods. “Or you could just make lasagna,” I thought.

On the one hand, if it gets you in the kitchen and excited to eat homemade things, then sure, make the lasagna cups. It’s just not for me.

One of the recipes I saved was for “Brown Rice Veggie Sushi” from the Minimalist Baker. I’ve heard good things about the Minimalist Baker – all of her recipes are 10 ingredients or less – from people I follow on Instagram. I decided that was going to be my healthy recipe for the week – I like to have at least one thing for dinner, and one thing for lunch (a perk of being single is that one recipe is usually enough for 4-6 servings).

I chose Chrissy Teigen’s “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” from her cookbook, as she said it was the most popular recipe, and it looked super easy to make, not to mention affordable.

So, off to the grocery I went! I have never really purchased Asian ingredients, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the ingredients I needed were available and inexpensive. The recipe calls for brown rice, rice vinegar, and nori (seaweed sheets), and basically any veggies for the filling. I got roasted red bell peppers (which have a very similar texture to raw salmon), avocado, carrots, and cucumber.

To make it, I followed her instructions exactly, only I doubled the recipe because I wanted to have plenty of leftovers to eat during the week. I didn’t have a sushi mat, but I found an inexpensive sushi-making kit on Amazon for next time. My sushi came out super yummy, and delicious! I have a few other sushi recipes that involve shrimp, and now I know I can actually roll it, so I’ll definitely be adding this into my recipe rotation.

For Chrissy’s spaghetti recipe, I tried to make it a little healthier by buying organic whole wheat pasta, and also folding in extra arugula. But yes, I know this recipe is a little bit of a treat – I need carbs for my six dance classes this week, right?!

 Other than that, I followed the recipe as listed in the book and it turned out pretty fantastic! It was spicy, cheesy, and the arugula was crunchy and spicy, too, yummy! Plus, it was very easy to make, and I have lots leftover.

What kinds of things are you cooking up this week? I’m sure you’ll be seeing lots of my homemade meals this year (not promising they’ll all be healthy) and I’d love to hear what’s on your menu!

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Get your {Holiday} bake on!

Let's get this delicious party started!

Let’s get this delicious party started!

When I was a kid, my dad and I baked quite a bit when the holidays rolled around. Ok let’s be honest, he probably did most of the baking while I did the subpar decorating and taste-testing. Nonetheless, it was a tradition that I remember fondly.

We made red and green m&m cookies – at that time they were sold in the cookie dough rolls. And we made a slew of sugar cookies, which we used cookie cutters with, and then decorated them with icing, sprinkles, and red hots. We had a giant ceramic Santa cookie jar to store them. One year we made a gingerbread house with snowmen made from popcorn balls.

Since then, I have always looked forward to spending many hours in my kitchen, baking up something tasty for the holiday season. But, I’ll be honest, there are many times I set myself up to bake all sorts of different treats, and then realize I’m in way over my head, and I get frustrated.

Which is why this year, I’m starting early, and I’m freezing my treats along the way, so at the end of the road, I’ll have batches of different goodies to ship off, share, and of course, eat!

Two weeks ago, I made shortbread cookies dipped in milk chocolate, and mailed them to Indiana. And then I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to bake this year. Here’s what I’ll be whipping up:

Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

Sooo pretty!

Sooo pretty!

I actually got this idea from reading the Big Lots’ Blog! I love a bargain, and Big Lots is always offering tips on DIY projects. I saw these cute cookies and they looked fairly easy to create at home.

For these cookies, you’ll need 1 box of gingerbread cookie mix (I got this one), 3 cups of white chocolate chips, 3tb of shortening, and colored frosting (if you want to decorate them) – sprinkles would be a good choice, too!

Follow the directions on the cookie mix, and let the cookies cool completely.

In a bowl, add the white chocolate chips and the shortening, and microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring along the way. Do this until the chocolate is slightly runny.

Dip each cookie into the white chocolate mix, and lay on parchment paper to set. Let set and decorate with frosting. If you’re using sprinkles instead, sprinkle before the white chocolate sets completely so they will stick. Ta-da!

Snickerdoodle Blondies 

I would have never put a Snickerdoodle on my list for holiday baking, until I watched one of the “What’s Gaby Cooking” snapisodes last week. These looked sooo yummy, and easy, to top it off – are you sensing a trend yet?

What's Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

What’s Gaby Cooking is keeping it DELISH!

For the Snickerdoodle Blondies, you will need 1 cup melted butter, 2 cup light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract, 2 large eggs, 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. For the topping, you will need 1/4 cup of white sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment for 1 minute until combined. Add the vanilla and eggs, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients into the bowl/stand mixer, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda and slowly mix until just combined. The batter will be a bit stiff, but that’s normal.

Spray a 9×9 baking pan with baking spray and line it with parchment paper. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top and transfer it into the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Once the blondie brownies have baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

I made these last weekend, and I’ll be honest, mine kind of turned out more like coffee cake, but hey, who doesn’t love coffee cake?

Chocolate-covered Spoons

Festive & yummy!

Festive & yummy!

I have always wanted to make these, primarily for hot chocolate, but honestly, I think they’d be good in a cup of coffee, or warmed milk (or Almond milk, of course!).

To make these spoons, you need heavy-duty plastic spoons, or even wooden spoons. Then, get semi-sweet chocolate chips, and/or white chocolate chips. You can melt them on your own, or mix them with heavy cream or shortening if you want.

The only other thing you’ll need is toppings (optional)! I got red and green sprinkles, crushed peppermint candy, and red and green icing. I also have some leftover cinnamon chips, and I think I may attempt to add a little peanut butter to a few spoons.

You could really put anything on top – marshmellows, crushed toffee, cookie bits, or anything that would taste great melted in coffee or hot chocolate (or eat while drinking a glass of wine, let’s face it). To make the spoons, you simply dip the spoon in the melted chocolate, then add the toppings before it cools completely. Let these cool on wax paper, and you can package them using festive clear bags and ribbon. I’m really excited to make these!

What are your baking traditions around the holiday, if any? Planning on making anything new this year? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your kitchen this holiday season. P.S. We’re expecting snow flurries in Austin today! Perfect reason to hole up inside if you’ve got the option 😉

My Thanksgiving menu.

A perfect Thanksgiving spread from Saveur.

A perfect Thanksgiving spread from Saveur.

Thanksgiving is one week away! I know everyone is saying it – but it’s come up so fast, and before you know it, Christmas will be here! But, let’s not skip Thanksgiving, as it’s pretty much the most important meal of the year, and it’s truly a holiday to be savored.

I really do love Thanksgiving. Think about it, it’s a meal that embraces the flavors of fall, and we get two days off of work to celebrate it! Then there’s the Macy’s parade (complete with terrible lip syncing), the drinking… really, nothing beats it. 1014001_hm_holiday_hosting_associate_300x250

Today at work, we’re having our potluck Thanksgiving lunch. I’m not a fan of potlucks, but it is the company tradition that the CEO provides the turkey, so you can at least count on that. Last year, for my first Thanksgiving in Texas, I discovered that even on Turkey Day, Texans eat BBQ-style – the turkey was sliced and served with thick, white toast, BBQ sauce, and crinkle-cut pickles. Because why not?

I am hosting a low-key Thanksgiving meal this year, and wanted to share my menu with you, in hopes that you’ll find some new ideas for your table, even if it’s not for this meal in particular. Out of all the great recipes I’ve got in my stash for Turkey Day, it was really hard to choose a few for my menu, but here’s what I’m cooking up:

Starters: New Orleans Baked Brie

Baked Brie from The Mediterranean Dish.

Baked Brie from The Mediterranean Dish.

On Thanksgiving Day, I’m a really huge fan of having the large meal later in the afternoon, and serving up yummy, filling snacks and appetizers until then.

I am obsessive over homemade meat and cheese trays, serving various textures and ages of cheese with meats, mustard, olives, fruit, jam, and chocolate. It’s a perfect excuse to sip on wine while watching the parade and checking on the turkey.

If you want step-by-step help with building the perfect cheese tray, hop on over to What’s Gaby Cooking – she is always whipping up complex snack platters.

One thing I wanted to make this year was baked brie – it’s easy, delicious, and it’s really impressive.

I’m making a “New Orleans” baked brie, named because of my topping choice of pecans and Worcestershire sauce for a lil kick. Should be delicious.

For the baked brie, you’ll need a wheel of brie (any size will do), 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, and 1 cup of chopped pecans. If you want to wrap your brie in pastry, you will need to add a frozen sheet of puff pastry to your list, along with one egg, and a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, wrap brie in foil, top with the mixed toppings, and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets soft (you don’t want it to melt).

If you’re baking it inside the pastry, you need to thaw the pastry, then wrap the brie with it, sealing the edges with the single beaten egg and brushing the top for browning. Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden brown.

Serve warm with sliced pears and apples, along with crackers, and pepper jelly if you really want to stick to that Southern theme.

Entree: Turkey & Cranberry Sandwich

Can't be a Thanksgiving sammy.

Can’t be a Thanksgiving sammy.

I found the recipe for this sandwich in the latest issue of Better Homes & Garden, which listed it as a way to spruce up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers. However, it seemed like the perfect entree for my low-key Turkey Day, as I was trying to find something that wouldn’t require me to bake a huge turkey and a ton of side dishes.

This sandwich captures nearly all the flavors of Thanksgiving – stuffing, cranberry, and turkey, all in one bite. I say, serve it up with some sweet potato fries and you’re good to go!

For the sandwich, you’ll need 1 cup of halved and sliced red onion, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 cup of cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, 3 cups shredded cooked turkey, pretzel buns or other sturdy bread, bibb lettuce, sliced mozzarella cheese, and sliced jalapenos, if desired (YES),

Cook and stir the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the cranberry sauce, bbq sauce, and the chipotle. Add turkey, toss to coat, and heat throughout.

Add lettuce to the bottom half of the buns, and top with the turkey-cranberry mixture along with the sliced cheese. Add bun tops and serve with additional cranberry sauce and jalapenos. Yum!

Sides: Chopped Green Bean Salad

Green bean salad.

Green bean salad.

I love a green bean casserole, and this “salad” from Better Homes & Garden is a great twist on a classic that I’m really excited to try.

For this green bean salad, you will need 1 1/4 pounds of green beans cut into 1-inch pieces, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup minced shallots, pinch of salt and pepper, 4 ounces of shredded manchego or parmesan, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 cups of cooked farro, 3/4 cups toasted almonds, 3/4 cup golden raisins, and 2 ounces of chopped manchego or parmesan.

Cook the beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 4 minutes before transferring to ice water. In a blender, combine the vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper, along with the 4 ounces of cheese and olive oil. Blend until smooth and then add to the beans (after you’ve taken them out of the ice bath).

Finally, add the farro, almonds, golden raisins, and 2 ounces of cheese. Finished!

Dessert: Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie from the New York Times.

Sweet Potato Pie from the New York Times.

I am a sucker for pumpkin pie. Seriously, I love the stuff. But, I heard that a sweet potato pie is actually sweeter and more flavorful than pumpkin, so I want to give it a try. It better be good, or else I’l be running to the nearest open store Thanksgiving night to get my fix of pie!

Remember last year when everyone lost their shit over Patti LaBelle’s sweet potato pie at Wal-Mart? Truthfully, no one cared much about the desserts until a YouTube-r made a video of himself tasting the orange pie and broke out into song because it was so delish. See the video here – it’s worth it.

The video got more than 5 million views and Wal-Mart was selling out of Patti’s pies left and right, and Ms. LaBelle even expanded her dessert business to include other options, including apple cobbler and pecan cake.

So, I’m making my own sweet ‘tater pie and I hope it’s as good as Patti’s (even though I’ve never tried hers, or anyone’s). For this pie, you will need a piecrust, 1 1/4 pound of sweet potatoes, 1 cup of whipping cream, 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup of whole milk, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Prepare the piecrust as directed (I will probably get a frozen one) – although don’t let it get brown. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Wrap each tinfoil, and roast for about 70 minutes or until tender. Reduce oven heat to 375.

Let sweet potatoes cool before peeling and placing in a bowl and mashing with a potato masher. Combine the mashed potatoes with the cream, brown sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. You can use a food processor or a blender if necessary.

Pour the filling into the pie crust. Cover the crust edges with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes until evenly puffed. Let cool before serving.

And there’s my menu (aside from the wine, wine, and wine). What are you guys cooking for the big day?

‘Tis the season… for chili.

All hail the perfect chili!

All hail the perfect chili!

So, fall is here, and I know it was official about two weeks ago, but it doesn’t ever feel real to me until I make my first batch of chili. Why? Well, because I love chili, I love making it, and it just seems like the perfect thing to have simmering on the stove or in your crock pot all day before curling around a bowl of it before the day’s end. Right? Plus, most chili is pretty healthy – and for that, I’m really thankful!

I made my first batch of chili on Sunday, and I happily made enough for me to eat leftovers all week – everyone knows leftover chili is even better than the first bowl! There’s so many different types of chili, and thousands of recipes out there, but I wanted to share three that I’ve made, and love, with you: a vegetarian option, my signature chili, and a paleo option. I’ve got it all!

Vegetarian: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

This is the recipe I made this weekend! It’s the first time I made this particular recipe, from “What’s Gaby Cooking”, but it was very similar to a recipe I had in my kitchen notebook from Self Magazine. At first thought, sweet potatoes don’t sound great for a chili option, but since they’re simmering in spices all day, they really don’t taste like sweet potatoes, and they end up adding to the texture, in a good way.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced (I definitely am too lazy so I didn’t peel mine)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipolte pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I got the one with the chilis)
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa
  • 4 teaspoons of lime juice
  • Any toppings: avocado, cilantro, cheese…

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a large heavy bottom pot with the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipolte, cumin and salt and stir to combine.
  4. Add the stock, tomatoes, black beans, and quinoa, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir everything to combine.
  5. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  6. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the quinoa is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes are soft and the entire mixture is slightly thick.
  7. Add the lime juice and remove the pot from the heat. Season with salt as needed.
  8. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, cheese… and serve!

I definitely doubled this recipe so I’d have plenty of leftovers for the week ahead. I also wanted to note that I used my own vegetable stock – if you don’t already make your own stock, it’s really easy, saves money, and you know exactly what’s in it. Simply keep your “food trash” (i.e., chicken bones, carrot tops, celery stalks, onion ends) in a freezer bag in the freezer. Once the bag is full, dump it in a pot with water and salt and cook for as long as possible. Strain, and freeze! I haven’t bought stock in years, and it’s amazing how much you can use for chili, soups, and sauce bases.

Signature: Turkey & Bean Chili

I hate to play favorites, buuuuut this is my FAVORITE! Why? Because I have spent YEARS perfecting this recipe. I got the original recipe from Real Simple Magazine, and have been tweaking it along the way, so it has the best amount of heat, a nice dark color, rich flavor, and a thick texture. I love it! I know, all the guys are groaning at the turkey choice, but it takes to the spices so well, I just love it – plus, there’s bacon in there, too!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 slices bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 pounds ground dark-meat (7% fat), turkey (NOTE: this is one tweak I’ve made. I get a lean turkey breast, and shred it once it’s cooked to get a thicker texture. But if you like ground meat, go for it!)
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
  • 2 medium fresh jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in puree
  • 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (If you don’t have molasses on hand, use brown sugar or honey)
  • Coarse salt
  • 3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I use dark red kidney beans)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, sliced pickled jalapeno chiles, reduced-fat sour cream, crumbled cornbread, grated cheddar cheese (all of these are optional toppings)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot) over medium heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Raise heat to high; add turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.

  2. Add onion, garlic, and jalapenos; cook until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cocoa powder, and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.

  3. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or your hands, and stir them in along with the puree. Add molasses, 1 cup water, and 4 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 30 minutes.

  4. Add beans; continue cooking, uncovered, until meat and beans are very tender, and chili is thick, about 30 minutes more. Serve with desired toppings.

So, I pretty much make all of my chili in the crockpot – that way, I don’t have to worry about the gas stove (I don’t like keeping it on longer than necessary), and I can store it right in the fridge. If you want to make this recipe crockpot friendly, cook the bacon and the chopped onions in a skillet before adding to the crockpot. I like to start the meat (turkey breast) in the oven, but that’s up to you.

Paleo: Spicy Chorizo Chili

Several years ago, I went Paleo for about three months. In general, I enjoyed the experience, and I really liked finding recipes that fit my diet and tasted delicious. This recipe was one I found online, and made it one night when I had some friends over. They were a little skeptical when I said it was “Paleo friendly”, but pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. It’s definitely one for the books – and if you’re looking for something meaty to impress your guy, this one is for the win.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of grass fed beef
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausage links, casings removed (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (omit if you want the chili less spicy)
  • 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can of rotel, spicy was used but you can limit heat by using mild
  • 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado, red onion, and cilantro optional for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium skillet brown off beef and chorizo.
  2. Drain and toss into a crock pot
  3. In the same skillet add 1 tsp of fat and cook the onions and garlic just until the onion get a bit of color. You can skip this step if you like and just throw it into the crock pot. I just like giving the onions a bit of color before putting them in the crock pot.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir together, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6.
  5. Garnish with diced avocado, minced red onion, and cilantro.

If there’s a chili recipe you go-to every year, I’d love to know about it! I never get sick of this fall favorite, and I’m already looking forward to my next batch!

The skinny: What I’m eating.

Real Simple

Deep-dish pizza with turkey sausage and brussels sprouts.

Last week, I announced that I’m getting back on track with my life. I’m getting sleep (when possible), exercising six times a week via dance classes (and shopping, of course), and I’m eating right. So, this weekend, I pretty much took everything Trader Joe’s had and spent a lot of time in my kitchen prepping meals for the week.

If you’re anything like me, each new week presents a challenge of what to eat. Why? Because if I’m going to keep eating healthy (which I’m planning on it), then it’s got to be exciting – no eating chicken and veggies for every meal, because I’ve definitely done that, and although I looked great, I hated it.

So, I’ve found that eating something for lunch and then something different for dinner helps keep things fresh. I usually pick something easy to pack for my lunches, and then something perhaps a little more complicated for dinner, since I usually eat at home during the week. Here’s what I’m eating this week:

Breakfast: Pumpkin Waffles

No, I’m definitely not up making these suckers from scratch – I bought frozen pumpkin waffles from Trader Joe’s (they have pumpkin EVERYTHING out now). Pop two in the toaster, slice up a banana, drizzle with a little raw honey, and bam, breakfast is served!

Lunch: Salmon & Apple Salad Wrap

Salmon and apple salad wrap.

Salmon and apple salad wrap.

If you’re looking for easy, yummy, healthy recipes, sign up to get the email newsletter from Self magazine. I have found so many awesome recipes there, and this is my latest try.

INGREDIENTS

1 can (5 oz) skinless, boneless wild salmon

1/4 cup chopped apple

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Black pepper

1/2 cup chopped lettuce

1 8-inch whole-wheat wrap

1/2 cup broccoli

3 tablespoons hummus

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, mix salmon, apple, celery and red onion. In another bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil and honey; season with pepper; toss with salmon salad. Spread salad on whole-wheat wrap; top with chopped lettuce; roll up. Serve with broccoli dipped in hummus.

Please note that the recipe above is only for one wrap. To make a week’s worth, which I did, I completely eyeballed the ingredient-measurements and just tasted along the way. And yes, I even got hummus and veggies to eat with it! Yum!

Dinner: Deep-Dish Pizza with Turkey Sausage & Brussels Sprouts 

You might be thinking – okay, this isn’t really that “healthy”, but truthfully, it’s not so bad. I got this recipe from an old issue of “Real Simple”, and catered it to what I could find. I used whole wheat pizza dough and chicken sausge (because I already had some in my freezer), so it’s really a pretty wholesome meal. Plus, I love brussels sprouts!

INGREDIENTS:

  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ pounds store-bought pizza dough, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup prepared pesto
  • 1½ cups shredded provolone (6 ounces)
  • ½ pound uncooked turkey sausage, crumbled
  • ½ pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 425° F with a rack in the lowest position. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  2. Press the dough into the pan, covering the bottom and sides. Top the dough with the pesto, cheese, sausage, and Brussels sprouts. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  3. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the sausage is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Snacks & Extras

I’ve been going to dance after work for two hours at least three times each week. So, I definitely need a good snack in the late afternoon to keep me moving until 8pm when I can get home to that pizza. This week, I stocked my kitchen with the following:

  • Apple sauce with cinnamon
  • Celery (leftover from the salmon salad) and peanut butter
  • Organic nut & dried fruit mixes

Usually a combination of two of these, plus a cold can of La Croix, and I’m good to go.

Yaaaassss!!

Yaaaassss!!

I also did some baking over the weekend, as one of my coworkers found a new job. I wanted to get her a little goodbye gift, so I bought her a coffee mug and baked some decadent cookies to pack inside of it. And yes, I saved a few back for myself – remember to treat yourself! Plus, these things looked so good, I couldn’t resist. I made Double Chocolate Chip and Caramel cookies using a recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking:

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 ½ cup dark chocolate chocolate chips

½ cup caramel bites

1/2 cup Oven Roasted Sea Salt Blue Diamond Almonds, chopped

Maldon salt for dusting

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, caramel bites and chopped almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets and dust with Maldon salt.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.

What are you cooking up this week?

Affordable, delicious eats!

Vegetarian lasagna!

Vegetarian lasagna!

I am still on a very tight budget, although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as a foodie, lowering my budget on groceries has been tough. I love digging through my books and clippings of recipes, making a grocery list, and spending time cooking it… and of course, eating it. And, as you probably know, lately it seems like eating homemade meals is just as expensive as going out.

But my budget has only allowed for very simple, cheap meals, made from what I can find from the aisles of my local discounted grocer. And admittedly, many of those foods are less healthy, which is not something I am used to.

I went from eating mostly fresh, organic foods, to processed carbs, probably full of GMOs. But, before I sound like a privileged asshole, I have found a few meals I’ve enjoyed. I found that I can get most of my items on discount and then splurge on one “fresh” item at the grocery.

So, I made spaghetti -purchasing the noodles and sauce at Big Lots, and getting grass fed beef at the grocery. The entire meal was still under $10 and had at least 4-5 servings. I also made brown rice and beans, which I often ate with salsa and tortilla chips, I splurged on a rotisserie chicken, which I ate with baked sweet potatoes. I haven’t been eating out, so when I craved Chinese takeout, I made my own version of fried rice with brown rice, frozen stir fry veggies, and a fried egg on top (plus soy sauce and sriracha) – it was pretty good!

But last week, I saw a recipe in my email inbox from Bethenny/SkinnyGirl. It was for Vegetarian lasagna, with an added twist of pesto sauce. I decided to make it, provided the pesto and cheese wasn’t expensive.

To my surprise, all of the ingredients were very cheap! Almost all of them were at Big Lots – the whole wheat noodles, red sauce (which was optional in the recipe), and shredded mozzarella. I went to the grocery for the pesto, which was $1.99 for the store-brand, and the ricotta, which was also around $2. The entire meal was around $10, and offers at least 5 servings, and it is delicious!

I had fun actually making something from a recipe, and eating something that I know wasn’t absolutely terrible for me. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

– 8 ounces whole wheat lasagna noodles
– 15 ounces part-skim ricotta
– 1/3 cup chopped basil
– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I left these out, and threw in a handful of spinach I already had)
– 1/3 cup packaged pesto
– 4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella

Optional: Add your favorite red sauces between layers

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Set aside.
  2. Combine the ricotta, basil, and pine nuts in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of the pesto into the bottom of the pan. Cover with half the noodles. Spread half the herb-ricotta mixture over the noodles.
  4. Repeat with another 1/3 of the pesto, the remaining noodles, and the remaining ricotta-herb mixture, then cover the whole thing with the pesto. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.
  5. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.

If you’ve got go-to, budget-friendly meals, I’d love to hear about them!

Single Girl Recipe: (Paleo) Lemon chia seed muffins.

Mine didn't quite look this cute...

Mine didn’t quite look this cute…

Over the weekend, I was in search of simple – and cheap, if not free – joys. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this at some point, but I’m currently in a personal budgeting crisis. At the same time I lost two of my good freelance gigs, I owe a massive tax bill,  like now.

Money stresses  me out more than anything, and every extra penny I’ve got must go to paying off this bill. So, I needed to have a weekend full of free stuff (I see a lot of weekends like these in my near future).

On Friday night,  I hit up the laundromat, which didn’t cost me anything since I had money loaded up on my Washatopia card. Score! I did go to the grocery store afterward, as I needed eggs and something to drink at the pool on Saturday. I found this organic cucumber-lime and chile Italian soda that I figured would go perfect with some tequila I had in my freezer. I escaped the store in $7.

On Saturday, I spent a little time looking for freelance work, and then I hit the pool. I packed a small cooler with some snacks – chips, hummus, cheese, and grapes – and enough tequila and Italian soda for three large drinks.

For two hours, I was the only one there. I sat, and I read – finishing one book and starting another. I stayed out there for almost five hours. Cost: $0 and I even improved my tan.

I came home and tended to my plants, replanting some grass for Blanche, watering all the other plants, and sweeping the patio. I also made dinner instead of going out – I made brats and fries – and had a few beers that were already stashed away in my fridge. I watched a few episodes of “Dexter” before I was sufficiently freaked out (I only have a few more episodes before I’ve watched the entire series twice) and had to switch to “The Vanilla Ice Project”.

On Sunday, I slept in, enjoyed some coffee, searched for more writing jobs, and then I went to a library that’s pretty close to my house. I’d been there once before to tutor someone, and it’s really nice. I decided to get a library card and spend a few hours hunting for more good reads for Blanche’s Book Club.

The library is really nice, but I will say they checked my address twice to make sure I actually lived within the district. I had no clue libraries were so exclusive. After about an hour of searching, I got “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs and “The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating” by Carole Radziwill.

I spent the remainder of Sunday reading, looking for writing gigs, cooking, and I baked these paleo lemon chia seed muffins to eat for breakfast during the week. I found the recipe on The Iron You, and I’ll say that even though he calls them Coconut Lemon Chia Seed muffins, there is no coconut flavor in them.

They were pretty easy to make, and for paleo muffins, they turned out delicious – better than anything I tried to bake when I was actually on the paleo diet. The only other thing I’ll say is that my batch didn’t rise that much, so they look like “half muffins”. I will probably make another batch, and I think I’ll use the mini muffin tin to make them look more muffin-y.

The good news? One muffin is 92 calories, with only 3g carbs and 3g of protein! Yes!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of milk of your choice (I used coconut)
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine coconut flour, chia seeds, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, milk, honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix very well until fully incorporated, the mixture has thickened, and there are no clumps of coconut flour left. Pour the batter into the lined muffin tins, 3/4 the way to the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove from muffin tin and let cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Let me know if you make these muffins, or have any other great healthy recipes!

What I would cook for Patrick Cantwell.

You may have recalled my mention of the Mr. Patrick Cantwell after I attended my first Round Rock Express game over Memorial Day Weekend. Cantwell is a fine, fine looking catcher and isn’t so bad at batting, either. He’s 26, from New York, and I wouldn’t mind cooking him dinner… more than once.

Sure, I bet he lives in the Austin/Round Rock area and could get a delicious meal just about anywhere – there is a Salt Lick right outside of the stadium, afterall. But who doesn’t love a good, homecooked meal?

And that, my readers, is what I’d like to give away today: organic ingredients for meals delivered right to your door, for FREE! I’ve been ordering from Green Chef for six months now, and I love it. You get to choose how many meals (by meal they mean serving) you want delivered, and set your preferences. You can change your food preferences as often as you want, or skip weeks if you’re not feeling it, and there’s NO penalty for it.

I generally have my preferences set on “omnivore” and I get ingredients for 6 meals each week; however, most of the time, it ends up being enough ingredients for 9 meals. Usually the box (which is right on my doorstep and packed with ice packs) has two recipes with meat, and one vegetarian. Some of my favorite meals I’ve gotten so far include:

  • Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo with Tomatoes and Snap Peas
  • Poached Tuna Salad, with Spinach Salad and Olive & Red Pepper Couscous
  • Chickpea Shawarma Salad, with Cucumber & Tomato Millet, Olives & Pine Nuts
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken with Black Quinoa, Edamame, Ginger, Pineapple & Pepper
  • Greek Gyro Flatbread with Baba ghanoush, Ground Beef, Tzatziki & Feta
  • Pumpkin-Stuffed Shells with Spinach & Walnut-parsley Pesto, Orange-chard Salad

So, you’ll get the ingredients and then you cook the meals at your leisure. All of the ingredients are pre-measured, and organized with color-coordinated labels. Some of the ingredients are even prepped for you (chopped, mixed, etc.), so it makes the meals pretty fool-proof. But seriously, no catch with the free meals – I really just want other people to try this delicious stuff!

I have one free gift to give away, so if you’re interested, shoot me your email address using the form at the bottom of this post. I’ll draw numbers tonight at 10pm Central time, and the winner will get an email from me with your code for the free meals.

In the meantime, I’ve got the recipe for this fantastic burger I’m going to make for Patrick Cantwell on our fantasy date, where of course, he’s going to fall madly in love with me.

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounces grass-fed ground beef
  • 2 whole-wheat hamburger buns
  • 2 slices nitrate-free bacon
  • Onion & shallot
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Honey-mustard balsamic vinegar
  • Slaw dressing
  • Carrots & cabbage
  • Scallions & celery

DIRECTIONS

Place carrots and cabbage in a medium bowl. Thinly slice scallions at an angle; discard root end. Small dice celery into about ¼-inch pieces. Add scallions and celery to bowl. Drizzle with slaw dressing to taste. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.

Cut root end off onion; remove peel. Cut into about ¼-inch thick slices. Heat about 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; stir. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 4 minutes, or until edges brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 8-10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cut ends off shallot and remove peel; mince. Halve grape tomatoes. Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add shallot to hot pot; stir. Cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook 3 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, place ground beef in a large bowl. Add mozzarella cheese. Season with about ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Mix to evenly distribute cheese. Form into two patties, about ½-inch thick. Halve bacon widthwise.

Add honey-mustard balsamic vinegar to pot with tomatoes. Fill container halfway with water; pour into pot. Stir. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by at least half, stirring occasionally. Gently smash tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat about 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add burgers to hot pan. Add bacon to pan around burgers. Cook burgers 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. Cook bacon alongside burgers until crispy, flipping as needed. Transfer bacon and burgers to a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, turn oven to high broil with rack 6-8 inches from the top. Cut whole-wheat hamburger buns open. Place on a baking sheet cut-sides up. Broil 2-3 minutes, or until toasted. Crumble (or roughly chop) bacon. Add to bowl with slaw. Toss to combine.

Divide caramelized onion between bottom buns and top with Memorial Day mozz burgers. Spoon tomato jam over burgers. Finish burger with top bun. Serve with bacon slaw on the side. Enjoy!

When I cooked this meal for myself, I ended up putting the bacon on the burger, instead of in the slaw – because bacon on a burger was just a match meant to be. So, enter the giveaway – and, if you don’t win, you can still get a HUGE discount on your first Green Chef order by using my link here.

 

What I would cook for Brody Jenner.

Oh so handsome.

Oh so handsome.

On Friday, I heard Brody Jenner got engaged, and although this isn’t the FIRST time he’s been seriously in love – we all knew that whole Avril Lavigne thing wasn’t going to last… or at least, we really hoped it didn’t, and thank God it didn’t. But this one, this engagement to the gorgeous blonde model Kaitlyn Carter, seems like it’s pretty real. Because of course.

And yeah, I have always thought Brody Jenner was fine as hell. So, to ease the pain, let’s talk about food, and… do a food GIVEAWAY! Hells yeah!

But first, Brody. And the fact that once they get married, his wife’s name will be Kaitlyn Jenner. Hmm. Awkward.

Jenner got his TV start on “The Princes of Malibu” which starred him, and his brother, as well as his mom Linda Thompson and his former stepdad, David Foster… as in, the David Foster, who just dumped poor Yolanda. Like… I totally did not know this relationship ever happened.

And then he was on “The Hills” and I guess dated Kristin Cavallari and Lauren Conrad, although he said in a later interview that he never slept with anyone on “The Hills”…erreeeeaaallly? He was also dating Playmate Jayde Nicole while on later seasons of “The Hills”.

And then came Avril, and that was two years of complete oddness, and terror when she moved in and stole our hearts and our hot guy. Why you have to go and make things so complicated, Avril?!

Then in 2014, he started dating Kaitlyn, and was really open with the press about how great their sex life was, because she’s open to threesomes. Le sigh. THIS IS WHY IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN FOR ME.

But that’s besides the point. Let’s say Brody Jenner is still single, and he’s coming over for dinner, what would I cook for him? I’m going with Beef Picadillo from Green Chef.

Delish!

Delish!

I made this recipe about a month ago and was pleasantly shocked at how delicious it was, given it’s array of different ingredients. I know Brody has probably had some high-class, fancy shit on his plate, but I get the feeling he’s open for just about anything. So, we’re going with it.

INGREDIENTS

    • Organic grass-fed seasoned ground beef
    • Organic garlic, onion, poblano chile & green bell pepper
    • Organic raisins & almonds
    • Organic green olives & capers
    • 1 15-ounce can organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
    • Chile seasoned masa
    • 10-12 sprigs organic parsley
    • 1 ounce Cotija cheese, crumbled
    • 1 organic zucchini

Mince garlic. Cut root end off onion and remove peel. Small dice into about ¼-inch pieces. Medium dice poblano chile and green bell pepper into about ½-inch pieces. Cut ends off zucchini. Medium dice into about ½-inch pieces; reserve. Destem parsley. Roughly chop leaves; set aside.

Heat about 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan (with lid) over medium heat. Add garlic and onion to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add poblano and bell pepper. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add seasoned ground beef to pan with veggies. Stir to break up. Cook 5 minutes, or until browned, stirring frequently. Roughly chop green olives and capers. Add to pan. Cook 2 minutes.

Add fire-roasted crushed tomatoes to pan with picadillo. Add raisins and almonds; stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer 8-10 minutes, or until liquid reduces by at least a quarter, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, place chile-seasoned masa in a medium bowl. Add about ½ teaspoon salt and ⅔ cup water. Mix thoroughly until a stiff dough forms and pulls away from sides of bowl (see Pro Tip). Form dough into four patties, about ½-inch thick.

Pro Tip: If dough is too dry to come together, add water in tablespoon increments to reach ideal consistency.

Heat about 1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil in a medium nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add masa cakes to hot pan. Cook 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat about 1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini to hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Divide beef picadillo between plates. Pile sautéed zucchini next to picadillo. Shingle two masa cakes on the side. Sprinkle with parsley and Cotija cheese. Enjoy!

And that, my friends, is what I’d like to give away today: organic ingredients for meals delivered right to your door, for FREE! I’ve been ordering from Green Chef for about four months now, and I love it. You get to choose how many meals (by meal they mean serving) you want delivered, and set your preferences. You can change your food preferences as often as you want, or skip weeks if you’re not feeling it, and there’s NO penalty for it.

I generally have my preferences set on “omnivore” and I get ingredients for 6 meals each week; however, most of the time, it ends up being enough ingredients for 9 meals. Usually the box (which is right on my doorstep and packed with ice packs) has two recipes with meat, and one vegetarian.

So, you’ll get the ingredients and then you cook the meals at your leisure. All of the ingredients are pre-measured, and organized with color-coordinated labels. Some of the ingredients are even prepped for you (chopped, mixed, etc.), so it makes the meals pretty fool-proof. But seriously, no catch with the free meals – I really just want other people to try this delicious stuff!

I have two free gifts to give away, so if you’re interested, shoot me your email address using the form at the bottom of this post. I’ll draw numbers tonight at 10pm Central time, and if you win, you’ll get an email from me with your code! If you don’t get an email from me, you can still get 4 free meals from Green Chef, using my code here.