Thursday, August 6, 2015

Egg Muffins with Caramelized Onions, Avocado, and Thyme

This is a good portable healthy breakfast high in protein, good fats, and has fiber. To me, they are even easier than scrambled eggs and I pack 2 of these muffins for my breakfast for work.  Mix and match your ingredients to what you have on hand- as long as you have eggs and some veggies, the combinations are endless.

  • Caramelized onions*
  • 12 eggs
  • Shredded cheese
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Avocado, finely diced
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dried thyme

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a muffin pan with cooking spray. (I use my silicone muffin pan, and the egg muffins slip right out.)
  2. Add a thin layer of caramelized onion on the bottom of each well.
  3. Crack 1 egg into each muffin well.
  4. Top the egg with 2 tsp of cheese per muffin.
  5. Add the halved cherry tomato and some diced avocado on top.
  6. Season each muffin with some salt, pepper, and dried thyme.
  7. Bake for 23-25 minutes (depending on how well you like your egg cooked).
  8. Remove from oven. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Good for 5 days.
Yield: 12 egg muffins (I eat 2 muffins for breakfast)

Caramelized onions
I like to make a large batch of caramelized onions on a weekend, and then freeze them in ice cube trays. Once frozen, then I add the frozen cubes in a freezer ziplock bag and store them when needed.

I like this recipe, but it takes me approximately 60-90 minutes, and I use a stainless steel pan.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bluegrass BBQ Chicken

We LOVED this marinade! I made the marinade in the morning, allowed it to cool for an hour, and then added the chicken breasts and let it marinate all day before our BBQ.

  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 8-oz horseradish or Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  1. Combine ingredients (Worcestershire sauce to salt) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag, pour cooled marinade over chicken, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Blackening seasoning

We were looking for another way to make fish- we'd been sprinkling some Old Bay seasoning but you can only do this for so many days! Darin suggested we make a blackened fish, and found this great recipe on All Recipes. We adjusted it a little, and we made this for 3 straight days. It was that good!

We paired our blackened fish with some quinoa and green beans, and have also topped it over chopped romaine, diced hard boiled eggs, and some light Ranch dressing. Either way, it adds so much flavor!


  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (not ground thyme!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix all seasonings into a bowl.

Yield: Will season (6) 4-oz fish fillets

Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to... Hard boil eggs in an oven

With the upcoming warmer months, Darin and I have been making salads for lunches throughout the week. One of our favorite salads to make it a (healthier) version of Cobb salad.

One of the ingredients we can't live without are hard boiled eggs. I know the most common way to make them is over the stovetop, but Darin and I have been using this steamer, which makes it so easy. Nothing gets easier than just "setting it and forgetting it". However, as with any countertop appliance, countertop space is a luxury, and with my new blender permanently settled on our island, I needed to find another way to hard boil these eggs.

Alton Brown saves the day- his recipe instructs you to place an egg into a muffin (or mini muffin tin), bake for 30 minutes, and then place the baked eggs into a bowl of icy cold water.

The results yielded hard boiled eggs- not overly cooked (which can yield tough rubbery cooked egg whites), but perfect to the bite. The only con I saw was that there were some "brown" spots where the egg touched the sides of the muffin pan. Next time, I'll try to use a silicone muffin tin to see if I can prevent these brown spots, but this is going to be my new go-to method! Easy peasy.

Some "brown" spotting, but it didn't affect the texture or taste

  • Large eggs
  • Muffin tin (mini muffin or regular muffin; will try silicone muffin tin next time)

  • Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
  • Add 1 egg into each muffin well.
  • Bake the eggs in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.
  • 5 minutes before the eggs are done baking, fill a large bowl with ice water.
  • Remove the eggs from the oven and immediately place into the ice cold water. Rest for 10 minutes.
  • Peel the eggs, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Yield: Alton Brown

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ina Garten's Ultimate Grilled Cheese

The title doesn't lie- this was the ultimate grilled cheese! We tested out a traditional recipe, Tyler Florence's Dijon-Apple grilled cheese, but we both agreed that Ina's was our favorite.

Her grilled cheese starts out with a Parmesan mayo mixture and topped with Cheddar and Swiss and a few slices of bacon. The flavor combination was amazing! So amazing, we made this 2 weekends in a row. I would definitely recommend using center cut bacon, sourdough bread (we used Brownberry sourdough bread, which is the perfect thickness), and ultra-thin sliced cheese (Sargento brand). Nothing is worse than your bread browning quicker than your cheese is able to melt.

We served these grilled cheese sandwiches with this creamy tomato soup. Perfect on a cold wintery day.

  • 1 package (12-15 oz) center cut bacon
  • 1 cup good mayonnaise (we use Hellmann's; not light!)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (we used the grated kind)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (we now do 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced 1/2" thick (12 slices) (Brownberry sourdough was perfect)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 oz ultra-thin sliced swiss cheese (we used Sargento's Ultra-Thin)
  • 8-oz extra sharp sliced Cheddar cheese (we used Sargento's Ultra-Thin)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 14-16 minutes, until nicely browned. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. 
  3. Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter. Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture. Don't neglect the corners!
  4. On 6 slices of bread, add 1 slice of Cheddar and 1 slice of Swiss on each slice.
  5. Top the slices with 2-3 slices of cooked bacon.
  6. Top the bacon with another 1 slice of Cheddar and 1 slice of Swiss.
  7. Top that with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.
  8. Meanwhile, heat a griddle or a large saute pan. When it is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Cut in half and serve warm.

Source: Ina Garten

Creamy tomato soup

We made our newly favorite grilled cheese sandwiches, and tried out this tomato soup recipe. We have always picked up Trader Joe's roasted red pepper & tomato soup, but this creamy version was easy and tasted amazing! It is slightly thicker (which we like), and flavorful. Definitely a notch above your traditional soup (in a can).


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 10.75-oz can condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 3/4 cup milk (we used skim)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 8-oz package cream cheese, cubed (we used 1/3 fat)


  1. In a large saucepan on medium low heat, saute onion in butter until tender (10-15 minutes). 
  2. Stir in tomatoes, soup, milk, sugar, basil, paprika and garlic powder.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  4. Stir in cream cheese until melted.
  5. If you want a smoother texture, use an immersion blender.
  6. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings (1 quart).

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This banana bread is one of my favorites to make (you don't even need to thaw butter to room temps), but I wanted to try a whole wheat version. With the combination of whole wheat pastry flour, ripe bananas, and yogurt, this bread was light but not cake-like, moist, and delicious. Even better when you toss in some chocolate chunks.
Side note- We used almond butter, and I barely tasted any peanut butter flavor.


  • 4 medium ripe bananas, well mashed
  • ⅓ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp (packed) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 Tbsp ground flax seed (flax meal)
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 11.5-oz bag chocolate chunks


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, with a hand mixer), combine the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, peanut butter and canola oil. Mix on medium speed until combined.
  3. Add the granulated and brown sugars, and mix again until combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.
  5. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, ground flax seed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  6. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the banana mixture. Beat until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Tap the pan sharply two times on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. 
  9. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Serve.

Source: Adapted from Cookin' Canuck

Skinnytaste's Cheeseburger Casserole

I had had this recipe bookmarked for a few months, but for some reason, I just hesitated to make it. I don't know if it was the mixture of tomatoes + mustard, or the chopped pickles on top- but quite a few people had recommended it to me so I finally decided to just take the plunge. The taste was surprisingly good. I should have just trusted the Dean brothers because there hasn't been a recipe that I haven't loved from them.

This recipe combines the flavors of a cheeseburger and is transformed into a warm casserole. I didn't originally put the recommended amount of pickles because I just wasn't sure how the taste would turn out, but we both loved the addition and ended up putting in more than what the recipe called for!


  • 2 cups (6 oz) uncooked rotini pasta (we used penne paste)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (95% lean)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2 cups reduced fat grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. 
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente and drain well.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. 
  5. Stir in the beef and cook until browned; season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the tomatoes and mustard. Let the mixture bubble gently until it is slightly thickened, about 2-5 minutes. 
  7. Toss the meat mixture with the pasta and spread it into the prepared dish. Top with the cheddar and bake until the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. 
  8. Sprinkle the chopped pickles over the top and serve. 

Makes about 9 cups.

Source: Adapted from Skinnytaste, originally from Bobby Dean

Paleo 5-Ingredient Spaghetti Pie

I had just cooked up a batch of spaghetti squash in the morning so make this for our dinner. I had about this on so many blogs (and rave reviews) and having it be only 5 ingredients, it was worth a try. Although it took an hour to bake, it was so easy to put together... and totally worth the wait.


  • 1 large spaghetti squash 
  • 1 pound italian sausage (we have used breakfast sausage roll and chicken sausage successfully)
  • ½ yellow onion, diced finely
  • 1 cup pizza sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • (optional: add anything you like with pizza: veggies, basil, even cheese if you do primal)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it. (Or, try this whole roasting method- easy peasy.)
  3. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees, and grease an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.
  4. Once squash is done cooking, remove threads and place it in a large bowl.
  5. Place a large pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, and saute until semi-soft. 
  6. Add the sausage, and cook until pink no longer remains in the sausage and it is broken up into pieces.
  7. Add pizza sauce, dried basil and salt and pepper to the pan and mix well.
  8. Add sausage mixture to the bowl, and mix well with spaghetti squash threads.
  9. Lastly, add whisked eggs to the bowl and mix everything together until you can no longer see the eggs.
  10. Dump the mixture into the 8x8 greased dish.
  11. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour or until the top of the mixture forms a slight crust that doesn't give when you press on it in the middle of the dish.
  12. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from PaleOMG

How to... Cook Spaghetti Squash (baking method)

I posted my microwave method here, and recently tried 2 other methods (using the oven).

In 1 recipe, the blogger really wanted to mimick the long spaghetti strands and she accomplished this by cutting the squash into "rings" (see pictures below).

After roasting the squash "rings", you can see how long the strands are since they go around the perimeter of the squash.

The only challenge I had with this method was cutting into the squash multiple times to make the "rings". I luckily had a butcher's knife but I was still somewhat scared since cutting into spaghetti squash is no easy feat. After I (somewhat) successfully cut it into rings, it roasted up terrific and I had the long-awaited long strands.

Cooking spaghetti squash ("ring" method)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slice squash widthwise into 1" rings. Run a knife around the interior or the rings to remove the seeds. Place rings on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then peel the skin away and separate the strands into long "noodles".

Source: Adapted from Eat Within Your Means

The 2nd method is roasting the squash whole. Hallelujah! This was a no brainer. You essentially take the whole squash, prick is all over with a fork (still not an easy feat but much safer than trying to slice it with a knife), and then just stick it in the oven for an hour. Once cooked, allow it to rest for an hour to cool down, and then you can easily cut the cooled squash in half, remove the seeds, and voila!

To me, the easiest way is definitely the whole roasting. As long as you've got 1.5 hours, this was easy, was safe, and only needed to clean 1 thing (the fork!). Although the strands weren't as long as the above-mentioned recipe, it was plenty long enough for me.

Cooking spaghetti squash ("whole squash" method)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prick the whole squash all over with the tines of the fork.
  3. Place the squash into the oven, and bake for 1:15 hours.
  4. Remove from the oven, allow it to cool for 30 minutes (or until warm enough to handle).
  5. Slice it horizontally, remove the seeds, and separate strands with a fork.

Source: Adapted from Craftsy

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I love easy cake recipes, and this one is it. We've made this several times now, but I kept forgetting to blog about it. You essentially dump all the ingredients into a large bowl, give it a good beating via a mixer, and dump it into your bundt pan. Then voila! Delicious cake with minimal effort. Every single time. We love to pair a warm slice with some vanilla ice cream.


  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 3.4-oz box of instant vanilla pudding
  • 3.4-oz box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 cups of water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a 10 inch bundt pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, puddings, oil, water and eggs. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed if you're using a high-powered mixer (like a KitchenAid mixer). (If you're using a handheld mixer, beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.) Batter will be somewhat thick!
  4. Add in chocolate chips and stir by hand.  
  5. Pour into prepared bundt pan. 
  6. Bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Let cake rest on counter in pan 10 minutes.  Then, invert cake onto serving plate to finish cooling.  
  8. Top with powdered sugar.
Source: Adapted from Mix and Match Mama

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Banana Bread

I recently stumbled upon this blog and I bookmarked a ton of her recipes. Knowing I had a few ripe bananas that would be perfect for making banana bread shortly, I used this recipe because a) it was simple and b) I could melt my butter. This was perfect for whipping up a quick and tasty banana bread since I didn't have wait for the butter to come to room temperature.

Usually, I have to alter banana bread recipes since the insides always seem to be undercooked- well, not with this one. I (reluctantly) followed her baking guidelines and it turned out perfect! In fact, I probably could have cooked it for 45 minutes (vs the 50 minutes that I did), and it would have come out fine. Adding this to a great basic banana bread recipe!

  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp  baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas, from 2-3 large bananas
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour (or use this) a 9x5-inch metal loaf pan with cooking spray. (I didn't flour and the bread bottom kind of stuck to the pan- definitely flour!)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the melted butter and sugar until blended. 
  4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. On low speed, stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Do not over mix
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 - 50 minutes. 
  7. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Once Upon A Chef

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Slow Cooker Italian Pot Roast with Parmesan Risotto

This recipe is similar to my favorite pot roast (which also includes crushed tomatoes with a hint of thyme and rosemary), so I decided to give this one a go... definitely helped that I had all the ingredients on hand. This one couldn't have been easier- I put everything in my lined crockpot and let it do its job. 9 hours later, the pot roast was warm and smelled crazy good. Darin and I both said this was a keeper.

Note- We made the parmesan risotto, but we both agreed we liked this dish more with a baked potato. However, for a fancier dish, the risotto is the way to go.

For the Italian Pot Roast
  • 2-3# pot roast (trimmed of visible fat)
  • 1-1/2 cups tomato juice (I used (2) 5.5 fl oz cans)
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion flakes
  • 1-1/4 oz package Au Jus mix
  • 1-oz package Italian salad dressing mix (I used the Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  1. Add a slow cooker liner to your crockpot. (I always ALWAYS use a liner- makes clean up a breeze!)
  2. Place the roast into your slow cooker.
  3. In a 2-cup measuring cup, add the remaining ingredients and mix well; then pour the liquid over the pot roast, set the temperature to LOW, and cook for 8-12 hours. (I cooked mine for 9 hours.)

Parmesan Risotto
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth/stock
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and rice. Evenly coat the rice with the oil.
  2. Add the chicken broth, and mix well. Let the mixture come to a boil, then lower the heat and let it maintain a slow boil ("3" setting on my stovetop) until all the broth is absorbed (it took 17 minutes for me). Make sure to occasionally stir so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Once all the water has been absorbed, add the onion powder and black pepper.

Source: Adapted from Plain Chicken, originally from

Coach's Stack

I had just made Shay's Meatloaf the night before, and I used the leftover meatloaf to create another dish from her blog... the base is a garlicky Texas Toast topped with a slice of meatloaf, which is topped with homemade mashed potatoes.

I had already made the meatloaf the night before, and had leftover baked potatoes (which I quickly mashed with some butter and heavy cream). I love dishes that are versatile, and this was easy and tasty.

  • 1 lb ground beef (used 85% lean, but may use 90% lean next time)
  • 1 cup Saltine cracker crumbs (that's about 12 crackers) (used whole wheat Saltines)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, divided
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup (will cut down to 2/3 cup next time)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (will cut down to 1/4 cup next time)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • Mashed potatoes (homemade or store bought)
  • Texas Toast (baked, this is our favorite)
  • French's fried onions (garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix ground beef, cracker crumbs, eggs, onion, salt, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce,  and tomato sauce in a bowl.  
  3. Put in  a greased 9x9 inch baking dish, bake 60 minutes. (Toss in foil-wrapped baked potatoes simultaneously.)
  4. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in a bowl.  
  5. Once 40 minutes is up, top casserole with sauce and return to oven for 15 minutes.
  6. To assemble the "stack", place a piece of baked Texas Toast on your plate. Top it with a slice of meatloaf, and then some mashed potatoes on top. Garnish with fried onions.

Source: Mix and Match Mama

Ina Garten's Seafood Gratin

Since coming back from Key West, we decided that for Valentine's Day this year, we would cook a nice meal and relax. It was such a nice treat! We had inclement weather, so staying warm and cozy was the perfect way to enjoy our special day together.

I had made this years ago but didn't blog about it, and Darin has been making (large) hints how he wanted to make it. We picked up all the ingredients from Kroger, and ended up picking up (2) lobster tails from Costco. Since the recipe called for cooked lobster, Darin looked up his #1 resource (youtube for the win), and the lobster was cooked perfectly.

All in all, the ingredients list is long but it didn't take long to make it, and the results were fantastic! Definitely more expensive than our average weekend meal, so it's a great recipe for a special occasion. Since it was just for the 2 of us, we were able to eat for 3 meals total!

  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp white wine, divided
  • 3 Tbsp tomato puree*
  • 1# raw shrimp (26-30 per lb), peeled and deveined
  • 8-10 oz raw tilapia, cut into 1" chunks (tilapia is fine here too)
  • 10-16 oz cooked lobster meat, cut into 1" chunks (we use the meat from 2 lobster tails)
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups thinly-sliced leeks, white and green parts (2 leeks)
  • 1 cup peeled, shredded carrots (roughly 3 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Combine claim juice, cream, white wine and tomato puree in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer on medium, and add the shrimp. Let cook 1-2 minutes, then flip over and cook the other side until pink and opaque (it took an additional 2 minutes for us). Remove to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.
  2. Add the pieces of cod to the stock mixture until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove to the same plate with the shrimp using a slotted spoon.   (Once the shrimp have cooled enough to handle, cut in half if desired and return to the bowl.)  
  3. Add the cooked lobster to the bowl. Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.  (Make sure the sauce has thickened or else you'll have runny gratin sauce.)
  4. Combine 1 Tbsp of the butter in a small bowl with the flour and mash together with a fork.
  5. Whisk the butter-flour mixture with the salt and pepper into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5-8 minutes.  Set aside. 
  6. In a medium sauté pan, melt 3 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and carrots and cook for about 15 minutes, until softened.  
  7. Add the remaining 3 Tbsp of wine and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes more. Add the cream sauce and cooked vegetables to the bowl with the seafood and toss to blend well.  
  8. Divide the mixture between individual gratin dishes.  If not baking right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you are ready to bake the gratins, preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Place the filled gratin dishes on a baking sheet.  
  9. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter in a small bowl.  Add the Panko, parmesan, parsley and garlic to the bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  
  10. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared gratins.  Bake 20 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.  Serve hot.
* Note- You can substitute 3 Tbsp tomato puree = 1 Tbsp tomato paste + 1.5 Tbsp water

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Shay's Meatloaf

I still hold big love for my favorite meatloaf, but I don't always have the time to make it- especially on weeknights. I had been eyeing this meatloaf recipe for awhile and whipped up the meatloaf before work so I could pop it into oven when I got home.

It was easy to prep, and unlike my other meatloaf recipe, you bake this in a 9x9 baking dish. Thus, when the meatloaf is cooked, you cut it up... kind of like a casserole. The meatloaf mix is very moist/wet, and it was very tasty! I love a nice ketchup concoction on top of my meatloaf, but felt it was too sweet. I'm putting the original recipe below, but have added my edits in italics next to the ingredient. All in all, it was easy, tasty, and a nice comforting meal to a long week. While the meatloaf baked, I wrapped individual potatoes in foil and tossed it into the oven for some baked potatoes to accompany this dish,

  • 1 lb ground beef (used 85% lean, but may use 90% lean next time)
  • 1 cup Saltine cracker crumbs (that's about 12 crackers) (used whole wheat Saltines)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, divided
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup (will cut down to 2/3 cup next time)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (will cut down to 1/4 cup next time)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • Baked potatoes (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix ground beef, cracker crumbs, eggs, onion, salt, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce,  and tomato sauce in a bowl.  
  3. Put in  a greased 9x9 inch baking dish, bake 60 minutes. (Toss in foil-wrapped baked potatoes simultaneously.)
  4. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in a bowl.  
  5. Once 40 minutes is up, top casserole with sauce and return to oven for 15 minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Almond meal pancakes (low carb, dairy free, wheat-free)

We love pancakes but not all the carbs (and bloat) that go along with it. We made these pancakes last weekend, and we've been making them in double batches since!

A double batch yields 20 pancakes, and Darin and I quickly reheat these in the microwave for 1-1.5 minutes, top it off with some blueberries or sliced bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Delicious and filling... and even quick enough for a pre-work breakfast. Since we each eat 2 pancakes daily, it's enough to have for the 5 business days before work... perfect.

Ingredients (for a single batch)

  • 1-1/2 cups almond flour (for homemade almond flour, see here)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk, light coconut milk, or milk (we use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter, melted (we use butter)
  • Toppings- Blueberries, sliced banana, pure maple syrup

  1. Preheat saute pan or griddle on medium heat. Lightly grease with cooking spray.
  2. While the pan heats up, mix the dry ingredients (almond flour through baking powder) in a medium bowl. Loosen any clumps.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and oil/melted butter. Mix until eggs are incorporated well.
  4. Add the liquid into the dry mixture, and mix well.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour the batter into the saute pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until bubbles form and edges are cooked. Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes on until underside is lightly browned. Repeat with remaining batter.
  6. Serve with desired toppings.
Yield: 10 pancakes

Source: Adapted from Wheat Belly Cookbook

How to... make almond flour/almond meal

Homemade almond meal (using whole almonds)

Almond meal is a great alternative (and lower carb) for flour for pancakes. You can buy almond meal/flour at your local grocery store ($$$), Trader Joe's ($$), or you can make it at home if you have a Vitamix (or similar high-powered blender).

Cost analysis of pre-made almond meal/flour
  1. Bob's Red Mill almond meal/flour ($11 for 16-oz bag; $3.66/cup)- I can find these at my local grocery store in the "organic/natural" section. The texture is more like flour (less gritty/mealy), and thus you'll need more to fill 1 cup. Great for making light pastries, like macarons
  2. Trader Joe's almond meal ($5.99 for 16-oz; $2/cup)- More gritty texture and thus less meal is needed to fill 1 cup. Great for pancakes
End result- TJ's is half as much as Bob's Red Mill; good option if you don't have a high-powdered blender to make your own (which is cheaper) 

Cost analysis of homemade almond meal/flour
Disclaimer- Will need high-powered blender like a Vitamix
  1. TJ's raw blanched slivered almonds ($3.99 for 8-oz bag; $2/cup almond meal)
  2. Costco whole almonds ($15.99 for 3# bag- made 14 cups almond meal; $1.14/cup almond meal)
End result: Whole almonds cost half as much as using TJ's slivered almonds. If you're going to take the (very little) time to make homemade almond meal, just buy whole almonds instead

so.. how do you make homemade almond meal/flour?

  • 1 cup whole or slivered almonds
  • High-powered blender (like Vitamix or Blendtec)

  1. Measure 1 cup of almonds.
  2. Add to your blender, and blend on high (speed 10) for 20-30 seconds.

  • Do not use more than 1 cup of almonds- this helps to keep an even texture
  • Do not blend more than 20-30 sec on high- too much time will turn this into almond butter
  • Use this recipe to make these delicious and easy almond meal pancakes (which are dairy free, wheat free, and low carb)

Source: Detoxinista

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blackened Chicken with Cilantro Lime Quinoa

This was another easy weeknight dish that was easy and flavorful. We especially loved the cilantro lime quinoa!

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • ¼ rounded tsp salt
  • ¼ rounded tsp pepper
  • ¼ rounded tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ rounded tsp onion powder
  • ¼ rounded tsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp olive oil


  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Juice and zest from (1) lime
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

  • Topping- Guacamole or Avocado cream sauce (recipe below)

  1. Combine all the dry seasonings in a small bowl. Mix them together and then season both sides of each chicken breast.
  2. Add the teaspoon of olive oil to a large pan or skillet. Heat the olive oil for a minute over medium/high heat. Add the chicken breasts to the pan. Cook for seven minutes on each side with the lid on.
  3. Add the chicken stock and quinoa to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on, until all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. After the chicken breasts have cooked all the way through, remove them from the pan and let them rest for seven minutes before slicing them.
  5. Add the warm quinoa to a large bowl. Toss in the lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper, and chopped cilantro. Mix to combine.
  6. Serve the sliced chicken breast on top of the quinoa. If you find the blackened seasoning too spicy, you can add a quick and easy avocado cream sauce to cool it down (or guacamole- yum!).
Avocado cream sauce:
Just place the flesh from an avocado along with 2 Tbsp of Greek yogurt in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Source: Adapted from Sarcastic Cooking

Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts

This is, quite possibly, one of my favorite dishes I've made in a long time. The lemon adds a refreshing taste to the smoky paprika, and I loved the brussel sprouts. This dish took longer than what I would normally make on a weeknight, but it was so worth it.... and props that it is also healthy and it's all cooked in 1 dish! We paired this with seasoned black beans and cooked quinoa to round out this delicious meal.

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large)
  • 4 small shallots, quartered
  • 1 lemon, sliced, ends removed
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, sweet or hot
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 4 large or 8 small bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin removed and removed of visible fat (used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)


  1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°F.
  2. Combine Brussels sprouts, shallots and lemon with 2 Tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Add the paprika, thyme leaves, and the remaining 1 Tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp pepper in a small bowl. 
  4. Rub the paste all over chicken. Nestle the chicken into the Brussels sprouts.
  5. Roast on the lower rack until the Brussels sprouts are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken without touching bone registers 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Eating Well

Pioneer Woman's Pizza Sauce

I started making my own homemade pizza sauces because I could control the ingredients, it was easy, and it just tasted so much better than what you could buy at the grocery store.

I've always used this version on my blog- it's got a robust flavor, it's healthy, and it's easy! I love the chunks of diced tomatoes, but sometimes, I just want a smooth consistency. I also don't like fennel (at all), so I found this recipe by Pioneer Woman and it was a success. The crushed tomatoes give this the smooth texture I was looking for, and I adapted it to add some crushed red pepper since we like a little heat. This also freezes beautifully, so make a batch and freeze some for later.

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely shopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • (3) 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar (I did a few pinches)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3-4 tsp dried basil (or 8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely)

  1. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil into a hot pan over medium heat. 
  2. Throw in the garlic and chopped onions and give them a stir. Cook until the onions are soft, 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Add the chicken broth, whisking to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid reduces by half (this took 8-10 minutes)
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper, and stir to combine. 
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste and pinches of sugar. 
  6. Add the dried oregano and basil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 60 minutes.
  7. If freeze, freeze in 1/2-1 cup plastic containers. Allow it to come to room temperature, and then place them into the freezer.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

My favorite green smoothie drink

I had been wavering for year whether a Vitamix would be something I would use. I've read countless reviews, and every reviewer adores their Vitamix. This year for Christmas, I was gifted a Vitamix 750 blender. Even when I opened this gift, I was excited but thought it was too big and truly wondered how much I'd use it.

I talked to Darin about returning it, but he convinced me to keep it.... and let me tell you, I am SO HAPPY with it. I especially love this blender for its preset options. Smoothies? Just select the smoothie option- you put all your items in the blender, place the cap on top, and start it. Then you can literally walk away b/c the blender has a sensor that will turn off automatically when it has reached smoothie consistency. Another preset option is their self-clean option- you just add water into the blender, add a few drops of dishwasher detergent, cap it off, and it cleans itself.

I am not a sweet smoothie person- I like more "earthy", less sweet versions. I have tried so many recipes out there- some with Greek yogurt, others with just almond milk, some has fruit, others just had vegetables. I was hesitant to try this one- lettuce and celery? Banana, pear, and lemon?  I also didn't have half the ingredients on the list and I didn't really want to buy the produce if I didn't know I'd like it.... but it's a combination I hadn't tried before so I gave it a shot. It was refreshing, delicious (not celery/lettuce taste), and filling. I absolutely loved it!


  • 1 banana (very unripe)
  • 1 large pear or green apple
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup very cold water

  1. Add all ingredients into the blender. Blend until desired consistency (or use the smoothie preset option). Enjoy!

Yield: 2 servings

Source: Cella Jane

Just like Wendy's Chili

I love chili, and one of my favorite chilis (ever) is the chili from Wendy's. It's so tasty- even in the summer. There are a ton of "just like Wendy's chili" recipes on the web, and I've tried several times to re-create it to no avail. Pretty disappointing to buy all the ingredients to have it taste nothing like the original.

Darin and I had spent a relaxing and fun weekend downtown see The Tenderloins on tour, and we decided to take advantage of getting a hotel downtown by going out to brunch near the vicinity. We chose Annabel's (terrific brunch place!), and while we waited (for an hour), Darin and I were looking for Wendy's chili wannabe recipes. He chose this one, and what do you know? We both said this is as close to Wendy's chili as we'll ever have! A total winner, and quite possibly our favorite chili to date.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef (I used 73% lean ground beef)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • (3) 15-oz cans stewed tomatoes
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • (2) 8-oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • (2) 1.25-oz packages of chili seasoning packets (I used 1 mild and 1 hot)
  • 14-oz can of kidney beans, undrained
  • 14-oz can of pinto beans, undrained (I used spicy chili beans)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Press ground beef into the hot oil to form 1 large patty; let the bottom brown for 8-10 minutes. 
  2. Stir and break the ground beef into crumbles and cook until no longer pink (about 5 more minutes).
  3. Stir in celery, onion, and bell pepper into the ground beef and cook until onion is translucent (15-20 minutes). 
  4. While the vegetables cook down, pour the stewed tomatoes into a large bowl. Break apart the large chunks of tomatoes. 
  5. Once the vegetables are softened, add the stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, chili seasoning packets, and beans. 
  6. Add dash of salt and black pepper. Mix all ingredients well.
  7. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce to low and allow it to simmer for 1 hour. (We allowed it to simmer on low "2.5" setting for 2 hours.)
  8. Mix white vinegar into the chili.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Mike's Hanky Panky Dip

Hanky Panky dip is one of my favorite dips at parties, especially when you can keep it warm in a slow cooker.

Every year the week before Christmas, we have an annual Christmas Potluck where my co-workers sign up to bring food for the week. And let me tell you, there is a lot of food brought and eaten that week.

Mike brought his version of Hanky Panky Dip, and it was delicious! He made a large batch (his recipe is below), and I made a smaller version for us for New Year's Eve (my version is below as well). My previous version just uses sausage, but his version uses both ground beef and sausage. I love both, and wanted to share with you his version.
This is Darin, giving his thumbs up

Mike's Hanky Panky Dip
Feeds a large crowd

  • 3 rolls spicy breakfast sausage roll (he uses Bob Evans spicy sausage roll- red package)
  • 2# ground beef
  • (2) 32-oz blocks Velveeta Cheese, cubed
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 loaves cocktail/party bread (pumpernickel, light rye), toasted
Mike's Hanky Panky Dip (scaled down version)
  • 1 roll Bob Evans spicy breakfast sausage roll (red package)
  • 1# ground beef
  • 1/2 of 32-oz block Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper (healthy dash)
  • Ground red/cayenne pepper (healthy dash)
  • Milk
  • 1-2 loaves cocktail/party bread (pumpernickel, light rye), toasted
  1. Brown the sausage and beef in a large skillet. Drain fat.
  2. Over medium-low heat, add the cubed Velveeta cheese, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. Allow the cheese to melt slowly. (Do not turn the heat on high; it is horrible scorched!)
  3. Add ground cayenne pepper to taste. 
  4. Add milk to desired consistency- add 1-2 Tbsp at a time and stir.
  5. Serve on toasted party bread, and enjoy!
Source: Co-worker Mike
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