Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

The Last Supper


Just a reminder that I wrote these blog posts back in October but never got around to posting them. I thought it would be good to chronicle my 21 Day Sugar Detox experience for anyone who may be considering it.

October 14, 2014

I am ready.

Tomorrow is the big day. The 21DSD! Hubs has decided to join me in this and after an enormous bill from Whole Foods and bags upon bags of processed and unhealthy foods thrown into the trash we’re ready to go. I’ve created our menus and the preparation has begun.

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I am excited, but know it will be hard because there are some things I just love!!

The things I will miss the most during this time (in order) include:

Diet Coke – oh how I love you! I will miss you so…and don’t take it the wrong way but if this works out, you will never touch these lips again!

diet cokeWine – My weekend indulgence; I love the way you go so well with all things from cheese, to steak, to chocolate, to a good book. Our love affair will probably not end after this, but will be reduced.

wine diet

Ketchup – OMG…I just can’t even! I need ketchup on my eggs!

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Cereal – You’ve always been there for me when I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. With your sugary flakes and your marshmallow-y goodness.

perfect world

Potatoes – Mashed, fried, baked, hash, you name it…I love it!

potato ninja

Tonight we indulge in our last meal of spaghetti with meat sauce…a big old plate of it. So here is my spaghetti sauce recipe. I usually add ground beef or ground Italian sausage, but it is good without meat too. It is easy and tastes way better than that stuff you buy in a jar! Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Sauce (Modified from this recipe.)

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste

2 (6 oz.) cans tomato sauce

½ cup water

1 tbsp. honey (or 2 tbsp white sugar)

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fennel seed

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp salt (more or less to taste)

¼ tsp. black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft & slightly browned. Add garlic and continue to cook for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours minimum. Remember to stir occasionally!

If not using immediately, allow to cool and refrigerate or freeze.

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Bye-Bye, Sugar!


The next three blog entries were previously written in October & November, but were never posted. The truth is, I wanted to document my attempt at the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) and talk about getting fit and healthy but I was scared I would fail and I only wanted to post them if I was successful (I know, I have issues, but I also have a high failure rate when it comes to eating healthy). I wrote them as I went along and saved them to my computer….only to be completely ignored as life (and grad school) got in the way! Now that I have a few weeks off from school I felt like working on my neglected blog and I thought it was important to share some of the stuff I’ve been doing over the past few months.

October 12, 2014

My blog has been sadly ignored and abandoned. I am back today because I am about to do something extremely crazy (ok not really!) and just felt the need to write about it.

But first, over the past few months I have made some important changes in my life. Somewhere along the way I had this epiphany….I need to exercise (DUH!)! A new gym was being built close to our home and Hubs expressed an interest in joining. We thought for sure we’d be successful if we joined a facility that we had to drive past every day and was only a 2 minute drive from home. We both got excited and were ready to get our exercise on…we checked it out and I suddenly had a premonition…I would go for a month or two committed and enthusiastic…I would get on the treadmill one day, the bike the next day, I would be afraid of the weights and weight machines and then I would be bored and discouraged from lack of progress….just like every other gym experience I’ve had. This gym really had nothing to offer besides location and I just didn’t feel it was a good investment….but I wanted to do SOMETHING!

I started to give some thought to CrossFit, which is a popular trend right now. Although I hate being a conformist, it seems that I always end up on the latest fad bandwagon, whether it’s a new popular diet (pretty sure I still have some nutrisystem food lying around, which will come in handy for the end of days, that stuff will never go bad!!) or some new exercise fad (anyone need some P90X DVDS…only used one time!). That’s not to say everything that is a fad is bad and it’s important to  objectively research and learn what you can about it; which is just what I did.

Crossfit Humor

It was difficult to find objective information on Crossfit. The internet is overflowing with two types of Crossfit articles: those that are anti-Crossfit and those that are overzealous about Crossfit. Despite this, I was able to come to my own unbiased conclusion and started to look for a Crossfit program in my area. I recognized that Crossfit is not for the faint of heart…that it wouldn’t be easy…but it just felt “right” to me (try listening to your instincts some time…they work!). For the first time I felt excited about making a commitment to getting my body in top shape. So when Hubs asked what I wanted for my 35th birthday (please don’t tell anyone I’m not 24!) I told him “Crossfit!” I know he was skeptical because he knows me…Oh. So. Well. I’m sure he was thinking “here we go again…another thing for her to start and quit after a few months.” However since he is a rockin’ husband he supported me and said “of course dear” and paid for me to take the two week introductory class. I survived “On-Ramp” where I learned a lot of the basic moves and we focused on proper form….and although I literally could just barely walk for two weeks (and did you know your elbow muscles can get sore?) I knew I had made the right decision.

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I have been doing the regular Crossfit classes for about a month now. I feel good. And strong. And sometimes sore….well most of the time sore…but it has been worth it. Hubs calls me his “Little Meathead” and I take it as a compliment. I ran a half mile without stopping for the first time ever in my life (I couldn’t even run 200 meters when I started)!! I am actually starting to get a butt (bye-bye flat ass!) and my hour glass shape is slowly making a reappearance. I have more energy and actually exercise on my “off-days” by walking/running with Gemma Pooches. This may not seem like a big deal to some people who do not struggle to exercise (or just to get off the couch!)…but to me it is huge! My small victories are what keep me going. In the next year I intend to be in the best physical health I have ever been. Nothing’s going to stop me now!!

Well…maybe one thing…

My bad eating habits and love of junk food.

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The strange thing about getting fit and exercising regularly is that it actually makes your body want healthy foods…but then your brain and your emotions take over and say “ignore your body; you NEED that second slice of pizza!!” “You had a salad for lunch. You can have ice cream for dinner (or a cupcake, which I’ve done…more than once).” Even since starting Crossfit I just cannot get my act together and eat right. A lot of people in the CrossFit community eat a “Paleo” diet and so I started to look into it. Although I am not sold on following it completely I am definitely in favor of eating “real food!”

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That’s what brought me to what I am about to do in few days…the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo. When I came across it I remembered a friend’s sister had done it and blogged about it. I went back and read her blog post and I was sold! Since I’ve known her as an acquaintance I felt that if she can do it then I can too. I purchased the book, read it in one sitting and started to prepare. The thing that I love is that the book validated all the things I suspected about myself….that my body cannot handle processed food and my blood sugar levels are on a constant roller coaster ride and as much as I do not want to admit it “I am a sugar addict.” I used to think part of me was crazy…how could I possibly eat a large McDonald’s value meal and be hungry 2 hours later…it had to be mental…but it wasn’t. I was genuinely hungry! After reading the book I understand how these processed and unnatural foods work (or actually don’t work) in the body and are keeping me overweight and still hungry! I highly recommend this book. It is written in a way that is easy to understand and you can really see the effect sugar has on the body.

I am excited, but anxious at the same time….the same way I felt when I made the decision to start Crossfit. It’s a good anxiety because I just know this is something that is going to be the start of a new me!

So with that said, I will be back with my experience and hopefully my success. In honor of healthy new habits here is a quick and yummy smoothie recipe.

Cinnamon Pear Smoothie

1 pear

½ banana (frozen optional)

½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or add up to 1 cup for a thinner smoothie)

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 pinch nutmeg

Ice

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend well.

Serve immediately.

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Happy Belated New Year!


I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far….and I hope you’re all sticking to your resolutions. I haven’t made resolutions this year, but rather have extended my goals from 2014 (all of which are going quite well!) and added a few new one’s here and there. One of my main goals is to get back to cooking and blogging! Grad school will be over in just four months so there are no more excuses. I’ve had some posts written but never got around to posting so you can look forward to those in the next few weeks. The end of 2014 was full of positive changes for Hubs and me. We are regularly exercising and eating clean. Most importantly we are feeling great, better than ever before. You can look forward to some delicious recipes made with real food.

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So to kick off the return of my blog here is a quick recipe to make zucchini & carrot noodles with red sauce. I use this product to make the noodles but there are all kinds of contraptions on  the market that you can pick up. You can also just use a julienne slicer if you don’t want to buy another kitchen gadget. If you can, I recommend using organic canned crushed tomatoes or make your own.

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Zucchini & Carrot ‘Noodles’ in Red Sauce

(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium carrot

1/4-1/2 small zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup organic canned crushed tomatoes

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the zucchini.
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne cutter make the carrots and zucchini into noodles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini & carrots and boil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them; you want them to be firm and overcooking will cause them to be mushy. Remove from water and set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Add sauce to the noodles and serve!

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Happy Adoptaversary!


I had this wonderful, endearing post written on March 3, which was my dog’s 1 year “adoptaversary”. Why didn’t I post it, you ask? Unfortunately I somehow deleted all but one paragraph messing around trying to add pictures from my iPad! Major bummer! I never had a chance to sit down and get back to it until now…almost a month later. In any case, here is the recreation of that post complete with a homemade doggie treat recipe!

Gemma Pooches

Gemma Pooches

One year ago today we adopted our cute and crazy mutt, Gemma Pooches (yes, I gave her a middle name! Is that a problem?). As I mentioned in an earlier post, the adjustment to being a first time dog-mom took me a little longer than I expected. You see, I have never owned a pet…unless you count the beta fish in a vase (remember when those things were all the rage?) I had in college. Sadly little fishy only lasted a week or so…so I don’t really count that. Anyway, I have never really been around animals that much and have had allergies to dogs & cats all my life. I have been getting allergy injections over the past 5 years and my tolerance for dogs improved greatly…doctor gave me the ok to have a pet.
Hubby loves dogs and after hearing non-stop about our friends’ dog and seeing the joy he got from playing with him I randomly said “Let’s get a dog.” He said ok, but I know he thought I was full of ‘you-know-what’. I started checking on the internet for adoptable dogs and we spent a few weekends checking out some shelters and adoption events…all with no luck. I finally found a shelter that was a little bit further from us and we headed there to see if we would find the one.

Gemma loves the pool!

Gemma loves the pool!



I first just have to commend this shelter for being so clean and taking such great care of the dogs. The first thing I noticed (besides the craziness of so many people looking and trying to adopt) was how happy the dogs were. There were other shelters we visited that I literally started to tear up because the dogs just didn’t seem happy or most of them were just lying in their cages looking defeated. They also had many volunteers who were in and out taking the dogs for a walk or to play. Our volunteer knew a great deal about the dogs we looked at and was very helpful. We met a few dogs, but Gemma was the one I had a connection to. Now, this is where I have to stop and say that a year ago I would never have said such a thing…I really didn’t get the whole “animal lover” thing and figured a dog is a dog. There was just something about her, though, and although we liked some of the others I just had to have her.

Gemma paying it forward...donating food to the shelter that cared for her until she found her furever family!

Gemma paying it forward…donating food to the shelter that cared for her until she found her furever family!

Gemma was basically everything we said we didn’t want in a dog. For some reason, I had it in my head that I wanted a male dog, not really sure why that was, but in any case Hubby didn’t necessarily care about the gender. We did agree though that we didn’t want a dog that was too young or active. Gemma was female, only 10 months old and although she is half boxer and half beagle…her temperament is ALL Boxer! She is so full of energy and would literally play 23 hours a day if she could (I think she would at least take an hour to eat and sleep!). Our friends cautioned us about “Boxers being crazy, hyper and stubborn.” While this is somewhat true I’ve learned that with the right owner they are awesome dogs!

Gemma is a great study buddy!

Gemma is a great study buddy!

We brought her home and I was completely neurotic…every little thing scared me; I was your typical first time mom…just with a dog instead of a baby! Lucky for me, Hubby is always the voice of reason and doesn’t feed in to my neuroticism…I finally calmed down a bit and Gemma & I enrolled in mommy & me classes…ok not really, it was just basic dog training, but we both benefited greatly. I have to admit that I didn’t think we were going to graduate considering we were put in the timeout room during the first session, but as the weeks went by I gained more confidence and Gemma learned her commands like a pro…I finally saw how smart she really is. After our training and reading lots of books and articles I understood how to be a good pet parent to a headstrong dog and Gemma and I have bonded into best buds.

Gemma cooling off in the lake after some dog park fun!

Gemma cooling off in the lake after some dog park fun!

Fast forward to the present and I am “one of those animal people”. I love Gemma and can’t imagine life without her. If I can, I take her wherever we go. When we went on vacation I called our dog boarders every other day because I missed her so much. I can’t wait to get home each day and see her and look forward to warmer weather so we can get back to our neighborhood walks and play days at the dog park. I post more pictures of her on my Facebook page then most parents do of their children. I still can’t believe I have become this person…and most people who know me can’t either!! Such a transformation.
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The public service portion of my post is this: For those of you who might be considering a pet for the first time…I say make sure you are ready for the work and responsibility that goes into it…and if you feel you are willing get out there and adopt!! Don’t get stuck on “breeds” or wanting puppies…there are too many dogs who are waiting for a home of their own. Trust your gut…even if the dog you like isn’t what you have in mind!
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To celebrate Gemma’s adoptaversary I made these healthy (don’t tell her that!) homemade dog treats. The original recipe can be found here. I modified it just a bit omitting the wheat germ (because I didn’t have any) and applesauce, and increased the amount of pumpkin (to make up for the lack of applesauce) and added peanut butter because Gemma just loves peanut butter! Also, this makes a lot of treats, especially depending on the size cookie cutter you use, so I recommend freezing some and taking them out a little at a time. They only last about 5 days since they have no preservatives.
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Homemade Healthy Dog Treats
3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup ground flax seed meal
1 tbsp. raw honey
3 eggs
½ cup olive oil
1 cup water
½ cup natural peanut butter
1 cup pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and flax seed. Set aside
3. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients; honey, eggs, oil, water, pumpkin and peanut butter. Stir until well-combined. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Form dough into a ball and roll out flat onto a well-floured surface until about ¼” thick.
5. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until treats are very brown and very hard.
7. Allow to cool before serving.

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A for Effort?


My first “month without” has come to a close. I have to say it was much harder than I thought it would be…especially since I chose alcohol which I do not consume that much of to begin with and because it is a short month.

Wine with dinner anyone?

Wine with dinner anyone?


I considered being dishonest, but the truth is I slipped up two times…but hey 26 out of 28 ain’t bad, right? In percentage terms that is a 93%. If this were a test in school I’d still get an A. So I’m not going to beat myself up over it.
My first slip up was early in the month and I just genuinely forgot about this little goal I’d set for myself. It was a Friday and all I wanted was to have a nice date night with my Hubby after a long and hard week of work and school (and continued stress due to life without a kitchen). We tried out a new restaurant and without even thinking I ordered a glass of wine to compliment by filet mignon salad. Oops!
Date NIght
My second slip up…was not necessarily a slip up but a conscious choice I made when I had my stove back for the first time and was able to make us a decent meal. I had picked up some delicious Espresso Vinegar, some grass fed organic New York Strip Steaks and went to town. I just could not indulge in an amazing meal without a glass of wine! Oops, again!
Kitchen Remodel
Anyway, as this first month has come to a close I am proud of myself. Overall I did not feel any different or better and will continue to indulge in my wine, in moderation of course.
Now it is on to the next: Sugar/Sweets/Candy. This month is going to be a real challenge. I love sugar and sweets so it will be a true test of my willpower. However, I am counting on feeling better not having toxic sugar in my body. Talk to me in 30 days & I’ll let you know!!

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Eat Your Veggies!


As a child I never really ate many vegetables. As a matter of fact I never really ate much of a variety of anything. I was a very picky eater…and very stubborn…and luckily for me Mom & Dad didn’t force such issues as eating vegetables and I got to eat a lot of PB&J for dinner growing up.

It’s strange though that as I’ve become an adult I eat more vegetables and actually really like them! Even more strange I sometimes actually crave them! Something that I started eating as an adult is edamame. It is tasty and filling, which makes it a good side dish. You can make it many different ways, but this recipe I found on Pinterest is by far my favorite. It’s super easy, full of flavor and very satisfying.

To make this recipe even easier I buy the “steam in bag” frozen edamame, but you can use any frozen edamame and just throw it in a bowl or a Ziploc bag and microwave for a few minutes to steam it.

If you don’t have or can’t find flavored olive oil you can use regular EVOO. This tastes amazing with the white truffle olive oil I picked up at my favorite specialty store!

By the way, I’m still unclear if edamame is a vegetable or a legume. A little Google research shows most people are split…some say veggie, some say legume. I say veggie, but what do you think?

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Garlic Asiago Edamame
2 cups frozen edamame, steamed
1-2 tbsp. white truffle olive oil (or flavor of your choice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup asiago cheese, grated

1. Heat olive oil in pan.
2. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds or just until fragrant
3. Add edamame and sauté until crisp & lightly brown.
4. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Add cheese. Stir.
5. Serve.

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Time for New Year’s Resolutions


I am completely not into New Year’s Resolutions. You are probably wondering “why are you talking about new year’s resolutions a month after you’re supposed to make them?” Well it’s simply because I decided I did want to do something meaningful in 2014…I just don’t think it’s beneficial to try to do that on January 1st. Why not give yourself a month to adjust to the fact that it is a whole new year? Or maybe that’s just the procrastinator in me…or the fact that 2014 did not start out so great! In any case, better late than never!

Last year I set out to try to make myself a better person overall…I didn’t really set any specific goals, but I think I did pretty good with this. In 2013: I started grad school. I lost 25 pounds (let’s not count the fact that I gained back 10 between November and now!). I made some internal changes to have a more positive outlook and be a more pleasant and happy person. I worked to improve my communication skills (is this a job application?). I attempted to be a better wife. Some days were better than others, but I have to say I did show personal improvement…and even though there may have been days and even weeks and months that I reverted back to my old ways, I did not beat myself up about it or let it get me down. I just brushed it off and got back on the horse.

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

So for 2014 I want to continue my self-improvement but I don’t want to set “resolutions” which I will undoubtedly break. I am also a person who struggles with long-term commitment so when I came across some other blog posts that talk about “a month without”, I really liked the idea. (Be sure to check out my page with all 12 months!)

So I decided that starting February 1st (this was supposed to be written & published yesterday…still need some work on that darn procrastination!) I was going to give up one thing each month to improve my health and well-being. Most of the things I chose have to do with my terrible eating habits and poor nutrition. I am hopeful that the great feeling giving up my vices provides me after 30 days will ultimately lead me to cut down dramatically. The end result will hopefully be an overall healthier me I’ll be able to control myself better and not over do it with my favorite things (which are mostly bad for me!).

You see I’ve accepted a few things in 2013 that I will continue to follow in the years to come. I’m sure many of you may already know these things or follow them. Such things as, there is no such thing as a diet. You must be in the right mental state to lose weight. You must eat healthy normal size portions (I refuse to say “small” because that makes me think of deprivation) and you must eat whole foods. You can still treat yourself once in a while and it is not the end of the world. There is no such thing as a “restricted” food (or drink) so long as you do not over do it! You do not have to join a gym or hop on the crossfit bandwagon to get exercise…you can walk your dog everyday or run around like a lunatic with her in the backyard. You can feel better and less stressed out simply by getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive frame of mind.

So to start off my year of “withouts”, in February I am going a month without alcohol. I assure you this is not because I am an alcky…I enjoy a glass of wine (ok 2 or 3 glasses) with dinner on the weekends or as long as I don’t have work. I also like to try different martini recipes now and then. So this actually won’t be so difficult since I don’t indulge every day (like my #1 addiction…diet coke!).

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I leave you all with this Apple Cinnamon martini recipe. You will need to prepare this in advance, since it takes some time to infuse the vodka with the apples and cinnamon. I left mine sit for about a week, but within 3 days or so you will get a good flavor. Just remember the longer the better, but be careful that your apples don’t start to disintegrate.

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Apple Cinnamon Martini

Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka

  • 1 bottle of good quality vodka (I used SKYY)
  • 3-4 apples, cored and sliced thin (I used my mandolin to get them really thin)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

            Divide the sliced apples between two large jars, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. Pour the vodka evenly into the jars. Seal. Let sit in a cool dark place for 3-7 days.  Strain vodka into a container and enjoy.

Apple Cinnamon Martini

  • 3 oz. Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka
  • 1 oz. Honey Simple Syrup
  • Splash Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • Ice

         Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients, shake well and pour. Top glass with a slice of apple.

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


It’s been 10 months since my last post. Very. Very. Sad. At least this time there are some excuses. The first being the adoption of our cute and crazy dog Gemma. That happened all the way back in March, but the adjustment phase for me was a bit long! Don’t worry I will dedicate an entire post to that heartwarming story in the next few posts. Let’s just say I’ve never owned a pet and being a first-time “dog-mom” was not easy some days.

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The next thing that took me away from the blog was starting graduate school. In May I decided to go for it and so far have completed two semesters. I am currently in my third semester. I never imagined working full-time and taking two grad classes would be so hard. There are days when I absolutely feel I have no life other than go to work come home and do school work….weekends are now for school work as well. But I think I’m getting better with my time management and have dramatically decreased my procrastinating ways, which has allowed time for other things.

It is strange, though, what actually made me sit down and type this post. It is due to the loss of my kitchen! Recently we were hit hard by the infamous “Polar Vortex” that has been sweeping the U.S. and we had the misfortune of a frozen pipe that burst. When you wake up and start to walk down the hall and hear what sounds like rain coming from downstairs…you know what you are about to find is not going to be good! Water was coming out of the ceiling, down through the light fixtures, down the walls, all in the cabinets and drawers! It’s been a mess, but we are thankfully moving forward, however we have to get a whole new kitchen which has left me without for almost two weeks now and will probably be without for at least another week or two.

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Hubby set me up with a makeshift work station and so we haven’t had to eat out every night, but I feel like the only food I can make is the mediocre stuff I used to make before I knew how to cook. Although that is not entirely true…I’ve managed to come up with a few great meals thanks to my Nu-Wave Oven, Nu-Wave PIC, and my crockpot.

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But it’s just not the same. I’ve come to find cooking as something that makes me feel happy and de-stressed. I love coming home on a Friday and making a great dinner for Hubs and me. It is just what I need after a long week. (Although let me be clear, our number of take-out nights has drastically increased thanks to grad school!) I like being able to use fresh herbs and ingredients and trying new recipes…something that is just not possible right now.

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So to all of you out there who’ve had to suffer through this ridiculous cold today’s recipe is for a very delicious and hearty chilli. A few things with this chilli…although I used one recipe as my base I made a lot of changes. I also poured over the internet to learn about chilli. I definitely recommend adding your own touches, changing the amount of spices and tailoring it to your own preferences. Also, based on my (limited) research I would recommend using beer as the original recipe calls for. I am certain this will give a unique dimension to the flavor. Unfortunately we do not drink beer so I had none and didn’t see the point in buying any just for this batch of chilli so I substituted beef stock. It was still delicious but I’m definitely going to try it next time…even if it means asking for a bottle from a neighbor!

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Also this makes a huge batch…my slow cooker is smaller, only 3.5 quarts, and this recipe filled it all the way to the top. I was actually worried that it wouldn’t all fit in there, but luckily it did. If you have the same size slow cooker then you may want to cut the recipe down or just make this in a large stock pot on the stove (or get a bigger slow cooker!) or if you’re a risk taker just hold your breath as you add all the ingredients and hope it all fits!  

Hearty Slow Cooker Chilli

Source: Burnt Carrots

Ingredients: 

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

2 lb ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 green pepper diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles 

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

12 oz dark beer or 12 oz. beef stock

1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or substitute diced canned tomatoes if you like chunks!)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut beef cubes into smaller pieces. I cut each cube into fourths.
  2. Brown the beef stew meat and add to slow cooker.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to the meat in the slow cooker. Then add the beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add diced onions, green peppers, and brown sugar. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions, keep heat on medium low. Add garlic towards the end of cooking. Once the onion mixture is done, add the chiles, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.
  6. Add onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the cocoa powder and stir well. Add tomatoes and beer. Stir. Cook chilli on low 8-10 hours.
  7. Serve piping hot with a side of cornbread.

photo 9

 

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I’m HIGH…on White Truffle Olive Oil


Gourmet Vinegars & Oils

Wow, I just discovered this amazing store in one of my favorite nearby towns that has the cutest little shops. According to the owner, this store has been there for 2 1/2 years so I am not quite sure how I missed it. They sell different flavored vinegars and olive oils (as well as regular) and have them on tap right in the store so you can taste everything. Using a good balsamic vinegar is extremely important in cooking (although I tend to use the cheaper versions for marinades) and I had just recently finished up the fancy $30 bottle Hubby & I picked up a few months back so I started looking around for somewhere more convenient than heading into the city, where I could get some good quality vinegar and came across the Tubby Olive. I tasted a few vinegars and made my choices and while I was there decided to try some of the olive oils…ended up with an Almond Olive Oil which I plan to use in baked goods…and then I came across the truffle infused oils! The black truffle oil was good, but the white truffle oil was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I could’ve literally drank a cup of it (of course, heart attack would likely follow!). The owners (who are a nice older couple) started telling me all the different ways they use it….I started throwing around my own ideas and we were like a bunch of junkies hyped about our drug of choice.  I am so excited to use this stuff…that’s why I just had to share….and you can definitely look forward to some future posts using these awesome ingredients.

White Truffle Olive Oil

Like I’ve said before in past posts buying the best quality ingredients you can afford really makes a difference in cooking. This is not an original idea of course…I learned it from reading and hearing other chefs say it but until I actually started to look at cooking more as a “hobby” I never really listened to this. Now I buy better ingredients when I can and love to splurge on a special meal.

Can’t wait to make dinner tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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It’s Been A While…


Well to say it’s been a while is pretty much an understatement. It has been almost exactly 6 months since I posted my last blog. I wish I could say that my life was so busy and amazing that I just didn’t have the time….but the truth is I just didn’t do it!

So I have no important life events or amazing news to share…but I can share that over these past few months I’ve been trying my best to work towards a healthier lifestyle. My focus now is to lose weight (hmmm….didn’t I say that before??), but overall I have come to a point in my life where I want to be healthy and stick around till I’m old and dyed blonde (no grey hair here!). To really make this lifestyle change I am approaching it with baby steps. I have adopted the attitude that every little thing helps….so even if it is just one little change it is still a change and that’s what matters. One of the first things I’ve started doing is trying to cut out as much processed food as possible (although I am starting to think I need a support group to break my Diet Coke addiction). Another step I’ve taken is to try different “health foods”. One of the foods I’ve fallen in love with is the now trendy “Quinoa”. It is very healthy and if you’d like to see why you can read it here…sorry I just don’t feel like going over why it is so good for you! I am overall a picky eater and have a lot of issues with food textures (where was Early Intervention when I was a kid??) so even though I kept seeing Quinoa recipes everywhere I turned, I was hesitant. I finally took the plunge and it’s a keeper. I use it in my salads, replace it for rice & pasta, and use it for breakfast foods like protein bars and “oatmeal” (quinoa in place of oats), etc.

Tonight I decided to modify my Creamy Chicken Piccata recipe and not only make it a “slimmed down version” but to replace the pasta with quinoa. It was so delicious…..I was inspired to sit down and get back to blogging!!!! Woohoo!!

So here it is….a slimmed down healthier version of, ironically my last post…and unfortunately since Hubby was working late I only made this for one person so the serving size is one, but you can easily alter the ingredients to make as much as you want.

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Piccata

(Serves 1)

For the chicken:

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4″ thick

salt & pepper, to taste

1/4 -1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Quinoa:

1/2 tbsp. light butter

1/2-1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup fat free half & half

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

To make the chicken, sprinkle both sides with the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the garlic. Brown the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the lemon juice.

Whisk in the half & half and bring to a slow boil, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened (may take longer than 5 minutes).

Add the basil, salt & pepper.

Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. At this point, if you want a thicker sauce, return to heat and simmer until slightly more thickened. You can also add more cheese if you like.

Stir in the quinoa and the capers. Serve on a pasta plate.

Slice cooked chicken into thin strips and place over the quinoa. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, if desired and serve.20130222-204624.jpg20130222-204638.jpg20130222-204653.jpg

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