Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spiced Apple Cider Sangria & Scenes from Turkey Day

Get ready!  Here come the Thanksgiving posts!  I know this stuff probably won't help you this year, but I can link to it next year to give you turkey day ideas!  Plus, I wanted to share some pics from our day!  And I thought it was only fitting that I began with cocktails!



This sangria was so yummy!  It was a fun drink to have for fall.  It was sweet, but not too sweet. 

Spiced Apple Cider Sangria
Makes one large pitcher
Fall! Doubling this recipe is highly recommended!

Ingredients:
For the Spiced Apple Cider:
2 cups apple cider (the real stuff - opaque in color & found in the refrigerator section)
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 orange slices (rounds)
For the Spiced Apple Cider Sangria:
1 bottle inexpensive Spanish red wine
2 cups spiced apple cider (recipe above)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brandy

Directions:

For the Spiced Apple Cider:
Mix together all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain before using.
For the Spiced Apple Cider Sangria:
Mix ingredients together in a large pitcher and garnish with orange wheels and cinnamon sticks. To serve, pour over ice.



Corey's sister Laura & boyfriend Niko

my sis Brooke


Corey's sister Kelly
rolling out the homemade noodles my mom makes


an amazing roasted pear salad with blue cheese & cranberries that Corey's mom made

they fried the turkeys this year again and it were the most amazing turkey i've ever had!  I'm not usually a turkey person, too dry, but this was sooo moist and flavorful

My mom brought this marshmallow vodka so we made white russian's with it - Yum!

Corey and his dad being goofy

my sis, mom, & me



my sweet boy exhausted from all the attention

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Cookie Preview

Sorry I know I haven't posted a recipe in probably a week, but just onnneee more post, then maybe a new recipe later today!  I can't stop thinking Christmas cookies now that Thanksgiving has passed.  I absolutely love baking and Christmas cookies just get me so in the holiday spirit!  So since I just started making my list this morning of all the ones I want to make this year I thought I would share them with you so you can get some ideas!  Now I know this list is a little ambitious, but I can't help myself!  I'm sure I won't end up making them all, but here's hoping!

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies - these were our favs last year 
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Peppermint Fudge
Paradise Cafe Sugar Cookies
Dipped Pretzel Rods or Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Turtle Cookies or Salted Caramels
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Oreo Balls
Twix Caramel Popcorn
Reindeer Food
Rocky Road Bars, recipe coming soon!
Lemon Bars
Chocolate Cookies with White Chocolate Chips & Walnuts, recipe coming soon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons Learned from Hosting my Second Thanksgiving

Time with family is just the best isn't it?  We are lucky enough to live in the same city with both of our sets of parents, and with my extended family.  Thanksgivings in the past have always involved having 3 dinners, one with Corey's family, one with my dad's family, and one with my mom's family.  While this is wonderful and we loved getting to see everyone on one day, it makes for a very rushed feeling turkey day.  You feel like you don't get enough time with anyone, and you feel guilty leaving to rush off to the next dinner.  Last Thanksgiving both of our families were generous enough to allow us to have one big celebration at our house.  This works out great for us, plus we know that we will still get to see our extended families on Christmas.  I was much less overwhelmed and flustered this year I have to say!  I think I'm getting the hang of this thing!  Here are some lessons learned that I thought you might appreciate:

1.  Don't turn anyone down if they offer to bring something & assign people things to bring

2.  Check to make sure you have plenty of salt & pepper, aluminum foil, baggies, and tupperware, etc. to pack up leftovers for guests to take with them and for you to keep.

3.  Do not stress, no matter what gets messed up either a.) no one will notice because you have so much other food or b.) no one will really care if they even notice

4.  It is SOOOOO helpful to plan ahead (see #5, 6, & 7)

5.  Make your menu list a week or so before, then re-look at it the next day to cut it down if needed - you don't have to make everything

6.  Do your grocery shopping at least 3 days prior because you will inevitably forget something

7.  Do as much prep work before hand as possible - I made my casseroles Tuesday night and stuck them in the fridge so I only had to bake them the day of & I made all desserts Wednesday night (yes I worked Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday!)

8.  If you peel and chop your potatoes before the big day, keep them in cold water in the fridge so you don't wake up to brown/black potatoes...(like apples yellow when pre-cut)

9.  Don't feel like you need to make every pie/dessert that's ever been served on Thanksgiving, everyone will undoubtedly be stuffed & probably not even eat pie

10.  Allow people to help on the day of in the kitchen, that is where the memories are made people!  (See #3) Take a minute to slow down and give out tasks, people want to help and it makes it more fun!  The holidays are about time spent together, not serving the perfect meal (this is one I learned going from last year to this year and made me feel so much more relaxed!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I thought I would do a little Thanksgiving summary for you all today in case you are in need of a last minute side dish or desert!  I will share recipes and pictures in the coming weeks!

Breakfast
Biscuits & Gravy, courtesy of Corey's parents
Spinach & Carmelized Onion Quiche

Appetizer
Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Cocktails
Spiced Apple Cider Sangria

Main Course
Turkey - Corey's parents fry the turkey and it is a-ma-zing

Sides
Noodles, my family's recipe!
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy, Corey's dad makes this
Creamed Spinach, via Boston Market (Corey's favorite thing ever)
Traditional Stuffing, my mom is making this
Cornbread Stuffing w/ Sausage, Apples, & Mushrooms
Green bean Casserole
Rolls, via Kolache Factory (the best!)

Dessert
Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Dolce de Leche
Old Fashioned Apple Pie
Pecan Pie, Corey's mom is making this
Pumpkin Pie, my sister is making this
Homemade Whipped Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream



I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and have plenty to be thankful for this year!  Heard this verse on the radio this morning and loved it!

Philippians 4:6-7  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer & petition, through thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Jesus Christ."

Baked Kale Chips

I know...really?  Kale chips..the day before Thanksgiving?  But, hear me out!  These things are good!  They are an incredibly easy, healthy snack for you to have AFTER you've consumed 5,000 calories on turkey day!  Just kidding, but seriously make these!  Corey wasn't the hugest fan of the texture (they become very thin) but I loved them, and they have great flavor.  Just be careful not to over salt them, once they shrink down in the oven, you won't need much salt.  My friend Lindsey gave me the quick overview of how to make them, so I just did a quick google search to find this recipe to get the specifics!

Baked Kale Chips
via Smitten Kitchen

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs.  Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt.  Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp.  Allow to cool and then enjoy!

First time buying, or even eating Kale!

all crisped up and ready to eat!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Talk about comfort food!  I made this one rainy night a few weeks back, it is super simple, and warms your soul!  This is a recipe passed down from Corey's mom and I'm so glad to have it!  It gets made at least a few times in our house during the colder months each year.  So yummy!

Ingredients
2 or 3 carrots, diced
2 or 3 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cups shredded chicken
2 - 32 oz boxes low sodium chicken broth
2 cups bisquick
milk

Method
Heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.  Add carrots, celery, and onion and saute for 8-10 minutes until they begin to get tender.  Add chicken broth and chicken and bring to a boil.  Mix 2 cups bisquick with 1/4 cup milk, continuing to add milk if needed.  You want to be able to form dumplings, but not too wet (dryer is better).  Form dumplings with your hands by rolling dough into quarter or golf ball size balls.  Once you've made dumplings with all of the dough, gently place them into boiling broth.  Boil uncovered for 10 minutes then cover and boil an additional 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.  Serve immediately!

sorry not the prettiest picture, but soo tasty!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Bagels

I thought making bagels was going to be so much more difficult than it was.  They turned out to be surprisingly easy to make as long as you have time to let them rise.  I suggest leaving these for a Sunday afternoon.  They tasted amazing and were so fresh compared to anything I've bought in the store.  We had them toasted for breakfast with Nutella, but you could also spread them with cream cheese or cinnamon-sugar butter.  You could even try them untoasted, dipped into a hearty vegetable soup.  Corey and I are excited to start experimenting with combinations for other bagel flavors!  


Homemade Pumpkin Bagels

Recipe courtesy of Healthy Delicious

Yields 9 bagels
Prep Time: 30 minutesTotal Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

2 teaspoons Yeast
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/4 cups Warm Water
1 cup Pumpkin Puree
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Whole White Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

Preparation

  1. Add yeast and sugar to 1/2 cup warm water, without stirring. Let sit for five minutes, then stir until dissolved.
  2. Combine flours, salt, cinnamon, & pumpkin pie spice into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir in the yeast mixture and the pumpkin puree.
  3. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic – about 20 minutes by hand or 10 in a mixer (my mixer worked awesome for this!!!). Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Gently punch down the dough to deflate it, then divide into 9 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then poke your finger through the center to form the hole. Gently stretch the dough to form a ring. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
  5. Arrange the rings on a cookie sheet, cover, and let rise for 1 hour.
  6. While the bagels rise, add the baking soda to a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Drop the risen bagels into the boiling water a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Boil for 2 minutes on each side. Replace on cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 450F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bagels are a light, golden color.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hearty Chicken Stew w/ Butternut Squash & Quinoa

Oh man, this soup was nothing short of amazing!  I thought it looked great and healthy when I saw the recipe on Pinterest, but had no idea how great it would taste!  It was hearty, comforting, healthy, and flavorful.  The original recipe called for adding Kalamata olives, but I thought those were a strange addition and quite pricey (and I'm not an olive person), so I left them out.  As always I suggest tasting it and continue to add seasoning until it tastes right!  I ended up adding more garlic, a pinch of cinnamon, salt & pepper, and red pepper flakes.  I wasn't sure if the parsley would be needed but I really liked the freshness it added to the soup.  Although chicken breast is healthier, I tried using the chicken thighs for the first time because they are so incredibly cheap and they were great, but you can change that if you wish.  Lastly, if you have leftovers, add some water before reheating, because the quinoa expands in liquid and the soup will get thick.  This soup is a must make!

Recipe via Cooking Canuck
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
32 oz chicken broth, low in sodium
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions
Steam the butternut squash until barely tender.  I did this by placing in microwave safe container with a small amount of water in the bottom for about 5-6 minutes. Remove half of the squash pieces and set aside.
Steam the remaining squash until very tender, an additional 2-3 minutes. Mash this squash with the back of a fork. Set aside.
In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the chicken broth to a simmer.
Add chicken thighs, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and allow to cool. Pour broth into a medium-sized bowl.
Return the saucepan to the stovetop and lower heat to medium. Add olive oil.
Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to turn brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute.
To the saucepan, add tomatoes, butternut squash pieces, mashed butternut squash. Stir to combine.
Stir in reserved chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.
Shred the chicken with your fingers or a fork.
Stir the chicken, olives and pepper into the stew and simmer, uncovered, to heat, about 5 minutes.
Stir in parsley and serve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Treadmill Interval Workout & a Salmon Salad

I did a treadmill interval workout last night for the first time and loved it!  Like I told you before, I'm not much of a runner.  While I do enjoy running with my dog outside, especially on a crisp morning, I'm not a huge ran of running indoors on a treadmill.  I really just get bored!  I have been finding a lot of interval workouts lately and decided to try one out last night and loved it!  I was able to run about 4 miles without stopping (something that's difficult for me, I think due to boredom) and I burned 450 calories, in under 40 minutes!  Mixing it up really made the time fly by and the short sprints really pushed my body - I was tired after this workout!

Interval Workout courtesy of One Fit Foodie

Minute
Speed
1-2
4.0, 4.0% incline
2-3
6
3-4
6
4-5
6
5-6
7
6-7
8
7-8
6.5
8-9
6.5
9-10
6
10-11
7.1
11-12
7.1
12-13
8.1
13-14
6.5
14-15
6
15-16
6
16-17
7.2
17-18
7.2
18-19
8.2
19-20
6.5
20-21
6
21-22
6
22-23
7.3
23-24
7.3
24-25
8.3
25-26
6.5
26-27
6
27-28
6
28-29
7.4
29-30
7.4
30-31
8.4
31-37
6.5 (1% grade)


Also I thought I would start sharing my random dinner combinations that I don't really think of as recipes, but hey why not?  Hopefully they'll help inspire you to through something healthy together for dinner!

Salmon Salad with Sauteed Vegetables
Salmon fillet
Blackened Seasoning
Spinach
Bell Pepper, I used a yellow
Mushrooms
Zucchini
1 Garlic clove
Salt & Pepper
Italian seasoning
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
feta or goat cheese

Carrots
1 cup baby Carrots
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter
salt
red pepper flakes

Season salmon w/ blackened seasoning.  Roast Salmon in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until flakes easily with a fork.  Boil carrots while salmon is cooking until tender.  Slice up pepper, mushrooms, & zucchini, and mince garlic.  Saute veggies (not carrots) in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender, seasoning them with salt & pepper and italian seasoning to taste.  Once carrots are tender, saute them with honey, butter, and a sprinkle of salt & red pepper flakes, just until the butter is melted.  Start assembling salad next with spinach (or lettuce of choice), salmon, sauteed peppers, mushrooms, & zucchini, cheese, and walnuts.  Drizzle salad lightly with vinegar & olive oil.  Serve with carrots alongside salad!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Year Later!

I can't believe its already been a year since I started this little blog!  I remember being so nervous to even tell family members and close friends because I thought they might think I was weird...so silly.  But looking back now I am so glad that I've done it!  Cooking is such a passion for me and I love having all the recipes and pictures to look back through and being able to share them with family and friends.  So I thought I would share some of me & Corey's favorite recipes from the first year!  This was REALLY hard to narrow down, there were so many good ones!

Best Cocktail:  White Peach Sangria


Best Breakfast:  Biscuits & Gravy

Favorite Muffins:  Pear with Cinnamon Crumble

Best Pasta:  Grilled Corn, Tomato, & Zucchini Pasta

Best Salad:  Salmon Salad with Goat Cheese & Tomato Vinaigrette



Best Chicken:  Greek Chicken Wraps

Best Beef:  Philly Cheesesteaks




Best Desert:  Pumpkin Cheesecake

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

So I sort of felt guilty after re-reading my post on healthy eating before I went on vacation.  I said something along the lines of "hopefully you can find lots of healthy recipes on my blog."  While this may be true, I wasn't convinced that the majority of them came across as healthy.  A lot of the time some of our healthy meals during the week are just a plain old salmon fillet and veggies or a salad, and they don't get shared on here.  So I thought I would work harder at making sure to make lots of healthy dishes for you to see! 

I found these via Pinterest courtesy of Perry's Plate and they were so incredible.  Honestly I thought they might turn out a little boring, but they were not one bit.  They were so flavorful and we both absolutely loved them!  These are an absolute must make and very healthy!  Plus you can mix up the veggies to include whatever you prefer.  I also added in some black beans, but you could leave them out or add another protein like chicken, etc.




Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
Ingredients:
1 poblano pepper, cut into thin strips
1 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 cup zucchini
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion, halved and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
chili powder to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls)
4-6 corn tortillas, halved
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend)
sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish, if desired

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place poblanos, red bell peppers, sweet potato, and onion, onto cookie sheet.  Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and minced garlic over top.  Then use your hands to mix everything together.  After everything is coated well, roast for 20 minutes (stiring at 10 minutes).  After 20 minutes, add diced zucchini & mushrooms, mix together, then and roast for 10-15 more minutes, until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots.  Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa.  Spread 1/2 of salsa into the bottom of the 8x8 inch baking pan.  Add a layer of tortilla pieces (half), to completely cover the salsa.  Top with 1/2 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese.  Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, cheese, spinach, vegetables, and lastly a little more cheese over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

I have no idea why, but as soon as I saw this recipe I immediately thought Halloween!  So I saved them for Halloween and made them for our pitch-in at work.  I have to be honest, although they were very good, I was hoping they would be a little more moist with the zucchini.  I was expecting more of a zucchini bread texture with these, but they didn't really turn out that way.  I would probably alter them next time, but none-the-less wanted to post them so you could still be inspired by them!  They were so yummy and chocolaty!




Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes
recipe courtesy Two Peas & Their Pod
yields 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dutch processed cocoa, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, butter, and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract, buttermilk, zucchini, and chocolate chips.
3. In a separate large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well combined. Spoon batter into large muffin pans, filling them about 3/4 the way full. Bake in the center of the oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack, while you make the frosting.

To make the frosting:
1. Melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa powder, whisking until smooth. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Frost the cupcakes with the chocolate frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Store cupcakes at room temperature in an air tight container.
* Note-the frosting makes about 2 cups, you might have a little extra.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Veggie Pizzas

We decided to make some veggie pizzas last Sunday…not a revolutionary recipe that you’ve never seen before, but they were too tasty not to share!

What we used:
Prepared pizza dough
Pizza Sauce on half
olive oil & minced fresh garlic on the other half
Mozzarella Cheese
Feta
Ricotta
Fresh Spinach, wilted
Red Pepper
Tomatoes
Caramelized Onions
Mushrooms


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Pork


I found this pork via Pinterest (maybe I should just stop telling you and you can make that assumption?).  One of my favorite things about Pinterest is being introduced to so many great new blogs!  This recipe is from C&C Marriage Factory.  The pork reminded me of pulled pork as it shredded just like it and was really tender, but a much leaner cut of meat.  The glaze sort of reminded us of a bbq sauce, but very different at the same time.  Such interesting flavors and really just plain incredible!  You can glaze the pork a few times during the last hour of cooking like the original recipe suggests.  Or, if you cook it in the crock pot while at work like me, you can shred the pork, then brush it all with the sauce after cooking.  I don’t think it makes a big difference.  I served it over some creamy grits with a little bit of milk & monterey jack cheese.




Ingredients:
1 (2 pound) boneless pork tenderloin (or pork loin)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup water

Glaze
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions:
Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub over roast. Place in slow cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. About 1 hour before roast is done, combine ingredients for glaze in small sauce pan. Heat and stir until mixture thickens. Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour of cooking. Serve with remaining glaze on the side.