Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Pictures are sometimes just so cute, it’s hard to look away.

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Whenever I see photos of our puppy Tebow, my heart feels full and I can’t help but swoon over this little guy.

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Even when he is eating dandelions…

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…yep, even then.

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Not all pictures are cute though, especially this one.

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What it lacks for in appearance though, it makes up for on the inside.  So what is that pile of ingredients that I call food?  Well my friends, that is a homemade Whole Wheat Bread.  I haven’t had a problem with my bread machine yet, but I think the issue was that the flour was too cold.  I keep my sugar and flour in the freezer to stay fresh between use, but I was too impatient and didn’t wait for the flour to come to room temperature. 

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It may not be pretty, but it sure did taste good!  Especially when hot, and slathered with a nice smear of butter. 

100% Whole Wheat Bread

 

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The steam was even fogging up the camera lens!

 

(Recipe from my bread machine’s recipe book)

Ingredients

1 and 5/8 cups water

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 and 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

3 teaspoon active dry yeast

Directions

First pour water in the bread machine, then add in dry ingredients.  Build a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in yeast.  (Do not let yeast touch the liquid).

Set bread maker to the Whole Wheat setting and let the machine do all the work.  In just a few hours, you’ll have fresh bread that should be a lot easier on the eyes than my own loaf!

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Questions:

Are you a picture lover who has tons of framed photos in your house?  (I do for sure!)

Who or what is in some of your favorite pictures?

Have you made anything in the kitchen  lately that looks ugly, but tastes delicious? (Don’t judge a book by its cover)!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese-Buttercream Frosting

I tried to keep most of the Baby Shower a secret from the guest of honor.  However, the one thing I wanted to make sure of was that she had a yummy dessert.  Now the mommy-to-be isn’t really a huge cake fan so her opinion on this matter was very important to me.  I sent her a text asking what cake flavor she preferred, and when she said chocolate cake is what she’s been craving lately, I was more than happy to oblige.  I considered for a moment buying cupcakes, but I thought it would be much more fun and act as a special gift if I made it myself.  I didn’t know where to start on the recipe front since there are so many cupcake recipes, but I found a recipe for Dark Chocolate Cupcakes along with a recipe for Chocolate Buttercream, and decided to start with them as a base and make alterations where I wanted.  The Brown Eyed Baker is a great blog with tons of awesome recipes, check it out!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese-Buttercream Frosting

Makes 18 cupcakes.

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Ingredients

Cupcakes

1 stick organic butter, cut into 4 pieces

4 ounces semisweet dark chocolate, chopped and divided into two, 2 ounce piles

1/2 cup Ghiradelli cocoa powder

3/4 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/8 cup canola oil

 

Frosting

2 sticks organic butter, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

4 ounces semisweet dark chocolate, melted and cooled

 

Directions

Set oven to 350 degrees.

Line cupcake pans with baking cup liners.

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Combine butter, 2 ounces chocolate and cocoa powder in a microwave safe bowl. 

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Microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Then microwave 15 seconds at a time, stirring every 15 seconds until mixture is melted and combined. 

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Set bowl aside and cool.  In the mean time, whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt, cooled chocolate, and 1/2 of flour mixture.

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Mix in greek yogurt and canola oil.

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Stir in the other 2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate.

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Place 2 rounded tablespoons of batter into cupcake liners. 

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Bake for 12-15 minutes until cupcakes are cooked all the way through.

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Set aside to cool.

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While cupcakes cool, use a hand mixer to combine butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar until desired consistency is met.

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Add in melted chocolate. 

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Continue to beat until mixture is combined, and a fluffy and smooth frosting is created.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy!

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Ground Beef & Quinoa Cabbage Rolls

Last week while at the grocery store, I decided to purchase a certain veggie on a whim.  It’s funny that whenever I hear the word cabbage, the same memory always seems to instantly pop in my mind.  I can see my mom in the late summer, feeling rather annoyed (and letting us know!) that the cute, furry rabbits have found a new afternoon snack.  Those baby cabbage heads sprouting in her garden are unfortunately no match for the hungry bunnies. Every year my mom seemed to give growing cabbage a whirl, but also every year the rabbits seemed to make an appearance, leaving behind tiny tooth marks as the only evidence of their meal.  I really don’t buy cabbage very much, and I am not totally sure why.  It is versatile, budget friendly, and pretty darn tasty when it’s prepared.  Cabbage can be pretty bland compared to my favorites like roasted asparagus and kale chips so I usually tend to pass it up in the produce aisle  I was feeling festive though with the Irish holiday coming and decided to buy a head of cabbage to use as a side dish to the corned beef entrée I was hoping to make.  Well, the week got away from me and before I knew it St. Patty’s Day was in the past and that cabbage was still staring at me with no corned beef purchase in sight.  Finally on Tuesday, days after the 17th, I decided enough was enough and I better get cooking so the cabbage head would stop staring at me from the fridge!

I know that my husband is a big fan of cabbage rolls, but to be honest I had no clue where to start.  I decided since the cabbage was cooked though, it was a meal I would probably enjoy as well.   All I knew about cabbage rolls was that they could be time consuming, tend to contain some sort of ground meat, and typically have a carbohydrate mixed in such as rice or mashed potatoes in the filling.  Sure, I could have just looked up a recipe, but to be honest I wanted to keep dinner short, simple and easy so I decided to give cabbage rolls a go on my own.  With that attitude, a fairly easy, and super delicious week night meal was born.  Warning, these are not a traditional cabbage roll recipe, rather a spin-off of the real deal.

 

Ground Beef & Quinoa Cabbage Rolls

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Ingredients

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

DSCN1292 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Olive oil

Organic Ground beef

2 cups beef broth (Feel free to substitute low-sodium if preferred)

1 cup quinoa

Water

Cabbage

Can stewed tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon basil

 

Directions

Set oven to 375 degrees.

Heat pan over medium heat.  Add drizzle of olive oil to the pan and add in onions.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add in ground beef and heat until cooked through.

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When beef is fully browned, turn the stove down to low, cover and simmer.

In a small saucepan, add in beef broth and quinoa.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer on low for 15 minutes. 

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Add quinoa to pan with beef.

DSCN1299 Combine quinoa and beef, and set aside to cool.

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In a pot, add in enough water to cover the head of cabbage.  Bring to a boil and add in cabbage (I cut the head in half).  Cook until cabbage leaves can be peeled apart from the core using a fork.  Place cabbage leaves aside to cool.

Take leaves and add in about a tablespoon of the mixture to each leaf.  Roll up leaf and place seam side down in a baking dish.

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Bake for 15 minutes, then broil 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

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Add in parsley, basil, tomatoes and the rest of the cabbage (I chopped up the leaves that weren’t large enough to roll) to the leftover meat and quinoa mixture. 

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Serve on the side of your rolls as a sort of ‘deconstructed’ cabbage roll.

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Questions:

Have you ever had a cabbage roll?  Any favorite recipes, or suggestions for the best place to eat them?

Does anyone know what constitutes a traditional cabbage roll?

Are you a cabbage fan?  What is your favorite way to prepare it?

You Say Tomato

Soups are one of those super comforting lunches or dinners that do a great job warming you up on a cool day.  Soups are also a meal that I rarely make, which I am not sure why since they are so easy and there is such a variety of options to make:  Black Bean, Vegetable, Chicken Noodle, Tortilla, Broccoli Cheddar, etc.  I know that many soups seem quick and easy to make, but in all honesty they make me nervous.  Trying to get the right seasonings and the right consistency takes just enough patience and skill.  I can say for a fact that I have never tried to make my own homemade Tomato soup.  This is a shame considering that grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of Tim’s all-time favorite meals.  If you can believe it, I remember in high school when he would love grilled cheese/tomato soup day when it was served in the cafeteria.  It was  definitely his all time favorite school lunch. I decided to give it a whirl and try to bring back those memories from years ago, although this time I hoped it would be even better since his wife was making his meal and we are no longer in high school!  Soup may be so much easier to pour right out of a can, but it is a lot healthier and delicious coming right off of your stove.

I found a recipe in Cooking Light Magazine for Tomato-Basil Soup that I didn’t think looked too hard.  While I was at the store Sunday, I picked up some ingredients and thought I would give it a whirl!

Tomato-Basil Soup

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(Slightly adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 medium onion, finely chopped

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3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes

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1/2 cup Neufchatel Cheese, cubed

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

 

Directions

Heat saucepan of medium heat.  Add oil and onions, cooking for 3 minutes.

 

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Add in garlic and cook for another minute until onions are translucent and golden.

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Add in tomatoes and basil.  Bring to a boil.

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Add in cream cheese and stir until mixed.

 

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Add mixture to a blender and puree.

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Pour mixture back into pot.

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Add in milk, water, salt & pepper.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Turn the stove back to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

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Dinner is served in less than 30 minutes!  I added asparagus to the side for a little green and also made a grilled cheese for my husband.

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Questions:

Do you like to make soup at home?  If so, what is your favorite soup to make?

What is your favorite soup in general:  Broccoli Cheese, Tortilla, Vegetable, Chicken Noodle, etc., etc.?

What was your favorite school lunch when you were in high school?

Changes like the Wind

Happy WIAW!  It is hump day, which means we are inching closer to that weekend we long for all week.  Today’s What I Ate Wednesday marks my third time participating and my documented eats are from Tuesday.  I thought I would show you how I ‘plan’ my meals for the day, but also how I change those plans if something comes up unexpectedly, like a sweet treat, or a surprise meal out, etc.  I am not a perfect eater, nor have I ever claimed to be!  I like sugar and white carbs on occasion and this may not be the ‘healthiest’ day of eats, but it’s a real day in my life!  Things constantly change and I think it’s important for all of us to remember that, even when it comes to our food.  I am not saying you should give into every yummy food that is thrown at you, but you also have to respect your cravings.  If that means having a reasonable portion of something deemed ‘unhealthy,’ then so be it!

Breakfast was my usual.  It may be boring, but it is so easy, quick and delicious.  All traits of a perfect weekday breakfast!

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Kashi Go Lean Crunch, Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal, Skim Milk and Silk Almond, along with ground flax seeds.

Here is where things changed.  Lunch originally planned: 

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Whole foods 365 Multigrain bread, Muenster cheese from Trader Joe’s, and Boar’s head Oven roasted chicken breast. 

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A side dish of canned green beans (quick veggie).

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2 Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies (got to have that sweet palate cleanser)!

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All packed up and ready to go!

Here is my lunch that was actually eaten: 

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Half of sandwich, half of green beans and no cookies.  I know my dishware is very classy! lol

Why the change you may ask?

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This beauty popped up at work!  Don’t you hate when that happens? (Brownies showed up later in the day, which I politely passed on.  One day there were two Panera Bread deliveries, I mean really?  Talk about testing one’s will power!  Anyways, today I decided to give in as a buckeye donut that looked too delicious to pass up caught my eye.  I grabbed the treat, enjoyed about 2/3 of it over the course of 3 hours.  I nibbled away and enjoyed every bite.  I saved the other 1/3 for an after lunch treat.  I wanted to make this bad boy last!  I had met my craving at this point, and knew I could have it if I wanted, so I knew there was no reason to rush and eat it quick.  However, this treat also left me full (and with a tummy ache, that’s sugar for you!) and I knew that although those calories were pretty empty and unhealthy, I would be pretty satisfied with half of my lunch.  I also knew that those Girl Scout cookies could be passed up and saved. I also now have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, which is a great bonus.  No need to pack!  Let me remind you that this does not happen everyday!  I indulge in a sweet treat at work maybe once a week.  The rest of the time I am passing up offers for extra food left and right.  When something really catches my eye though, I may go with it and make changes where needed.

In the afternoon I had some new to me tea!  It was on sale at Earth Fare, because I think it was geared toward Valentine’s Day.  Oh well!  It tastes good every other day too!

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Dinner:

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Homemade Tomato Soup (Recipe to Come!) and Roasted Asparagus.

I was planning on having grilled cheese with this tonight, but since I had the donut I didn’t think I needed the extra sandwich.  Therefore I passed and I was nice and full without being overly stuffed.

So there is my day of eats!  It wasn’t how I planned, but really, when is life ever as we planned?  Sure, I could have gotten down on myself for enjoying a donut, but what good would that have done?  We have to be pro-active in life and as corny as it is, ‘Make Lemonade out of Lemons”!  There is always another day to make healthy choices, and it seems to balance out in the long run.

 

Questions:

How do you handle the rest of your meals when the plan unexpectedly changes?

How do you deal with the continuous food delivery at work?  (Tell me my office is not the only one)!

Do you let treats roll off your shoulder, or do you have a hard time letting go of the indulgence?

A Lighter Loaf

So yesterday in my WIAW, I gave a sneak peak of a new recipe I created for Tuesday night’s dinner.  My husband loves meatloaf, but some recipes can be pretty heavy and unhealthy.  I knew ground turkey would be a nice way to lighten up the entree, while also adding some fun and delicious ‘fillers’ to the mix!

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Ground Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

1/3 cup oats

1/2 can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic (Italian Style), drained

1/2 cup diced mushrooms

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 egg

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Set oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.

 

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After ingredients are mixed, place in a loaf pan.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes, until meatloaf is cooked all the way through.

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I served mine with kale chips and roasted potatoes.  I also added a squirt of ketchup to my plate to keep a classic meatloaf taste.

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Questions:

Are you a meatloaf fan?

Do you have a favorite ground turkey recipe?

For those meatloaf lovers:  Ketchup or No Ketchup?

WIAW Round 2

Two weeks ago, I really enjoyed participating in What I Ate Wednesday.  I love the idea of community WIAW brings to the blog world and I appreciated the feeling that came with being a part of something fun!  Then last week, when Wednesday rolled around, I completely forgot about participating.  Oops!  I am back this week for WIAW Round 2, and this time my eats are a little more typical of my usual meal times.  If you remember, the last time I documented my eats I had meetings all day and I seemed to snack my way through the day.  I usually eat 3 meals, with maybe a small snack or two thrown in if need be, and today’s post will show just that.  Here we go!

 

Peas and Crayons

 

Breakfast:

1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran

1 1/3 cups of water

1 teaspoon of Chia Seeds

Stir all ingredients then microwave on high 1 minute 30 seconds.  Stir, then continue microwaving for 30 seconds at a time, watching bowl to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

Topped with:

1 Mashed Ripe Banana

2 tablespoons Peanut Butter

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Lunch:

Romaine, Spinach, Hard Boiled Egg, about a 1/2 tablespoon of walnuts.  Drizzled with a little light ranch dressing, Whole Foods 365 brand.

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Leftover Spaghetti with about a teaspoon of real butter, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.

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Snack:

Sliced Honey Crisp Apple with a teaspoon or two of Peanut Butter.

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Dinner:

Turkey Meatloaf (recipe to come!), Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes with Rosemary and Parsley, Roasted Kale Chips drizzles in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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** Unpictured:  2 Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies were enjoyed after dinner.

There is a typical day for me!  Three meals, a single snack, and something sweet!

 *** FYI – I received such a wonderful response regarding my Fashion Forward post yesterday, I decided to keep the fun going.  Feel free to check out my new Fashion Fun page, located at the top of my blog!

Questions: 

What was the best thing you ate this week?

What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie?!

‘Clean Out the Fridge’ Pizza

Happy Friday!  I am off to meet my mom for some breakfast and girl time before work.  So glad it’s almost the weekend!

In the mean time, I thought I would share the pizza I made for dinner Wednesday night. 

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It included all sorts of leftover ingredients, yet it was prepared and baked fresh!  This is an example of how I clean out my refrigerator and freezer by taking ingredients we’ve already ate, and creating something new.  This is one way I save money and use up all of our extra ingredients.  The pizza included:  Bread maker pizza dough (I made two batches the last time I made pizza, and froze one dough ball), left over Italian Chicken Sausage from Monday’s dinner, a half a jar of marinara sauce I found in the refrigerator, sliced fresh mozzarella (also from the freezer), the rest of the mushrooms from my veggie loving dinner earlier this week, and dried oregano and basil from my spice cabinet.

Baked at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

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I served it alongside a salad, lightly dressed with a Red Wine and Olive Oil Vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s.

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Questions:

Do you mind eating leftovers?

What is your favorite way to take ingredients, or a meal, and re-create it in a new way?

Any fun plans for the weekend?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Quinoa Granola Bars

With the amount of quinoa I have in this house, it just makes sense to create sweet treats using this ingredient.  The idea for quinoa granola bars came about last night as I was looking in the refrigerator for some kind of dessert and noticed a large container of leftover quinoa from Monday’ night’s dinner.  I thought about oats and how quinoa was a sort of similar grain, and decided granola bars may be the way to go.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Quinoa Granola Bars

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Makes 10-12 servings.

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups cooked quinoa

1/3 cup pecans

1/3 cup chocolate chips

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

Pinch of cinnamon

1/3 cup peanut butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place quinoa in a large mixing bowl.

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Add in pecans and chocolate chips.

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In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and egg.

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Add in peanut butter and mix again.

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Spread into baking pan or baking sheet.  My pan was a little too small, I would recommend a larger rectangle shape if available.

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Bake for 15 minutes.

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As hard as it is to wait, I would refrigerate overnight.  I waited about 25 minutes to cut into the bars, but they were still a little too runny.

DSCN1140 However, they were perfectly enjoyed just as much being eaten with a fork! :-)

 

Questions:

What is your favorite type of granola bar?

Have you ever tried quinoa as a sweet treat or dessert?  If so, any favorite recipes?

Bringing Color to the Dinner Table

Whenever I go to the grocery, I always look for the best deals.  Sometimes I have a shopping list all planned out and stick to it from start to finish, other times though I like to find discounted options and use them as inspiration for my meals.  Being just Tim and I, the main goal is to not over buy at the grocery.  A little food can last us for weeks, and I am constantly freezing bread, veggies, meat, cheese, etc. that we can’t get to before it goes bad.  However, dairy products like milk or yogurt, or leafy vegetables like romaine or kale do not work well frozen.  These items we try and eat first and foremost.  Usually when we go to the grocery, we spend between $100 and $150, and we go every couple weeks.  Thankfully neither of us mind leftovers, so we are pretty good about cleaning out our fridge by eating the food instead of throwing it in the trash.

I went to both Kroger and Trader Joe’s on Sunday, because our fridge was getting pretty bare.  Usually I buy pantry staples and a few fun items at Trader Joe’s, and I fill up on fruits and vegetables at Kroger.  When I was roaming the produce aisle, I spotted a new to me bag of veggies called Rainbow Slaw.  It was filled with shredded broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, and carrots.  It was also on sale, so I figured what better time to try it than now!

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I am really not a huge coleslaw fan and I don’t really care for raw vegetables.  I prefer my broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cabbage roasted, so I thought that would be the perfect way to prepare this bag.

Roasted Chinese Rainbow Slaw

Set oven to 425 degrees.

Empty bag of Rainbow Slaw onto a roasting pan.

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2 teaspoons Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Soy Sauce (I used low sodium)

1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix well!
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Bake for 10 minutes until veggies are cooked through, but still have a bite.

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I also served it along a couple other new-to-me products:

DSCN1077 Black Quinoa!  A purchase made before the 4 lb. bag of quinoa from Costco.  This tasted just like regular quinoa.

DSCN1075 Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage.  This was pretty good, just a tad spicy for my taste.  I am a wimp though when it comes to heat!  The leftovers will be perfect for another dinner I have planned this week.

DSCN1083 Somebody let me know if you have a secret to photographing sausage in an attractive way!  Ha ha bonus points to you if you know how.. :-)

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Questions:

What new to you ingredient/product have you enjoyed lately?  Or didn’t enjoy so much?

Have you ever tried Rainbow Slaw?  How about Black Quinoa?