Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lighter Spaghetti Carbonara

One of my favorite Italian dishes is spaghetti carbonara, which is probably pretty obvious if you know me; I have a serious weakness/obsession for anything with bacon and egg yolk.  The problem with my love of this dish is it can average well over 500 calories per serving, depending how it's made.  So I searched for a lighter carbonara recipe and found this one from Cooking Light.

I used 2 pieces of bacon instead of the pancetta and added some peas (apparently taboo to serious carbonara aficionados, but I think it's delicious).  The recipe calls for linguine, but I had whole wheat spaghetti so I used that.  It turned out really well.  The key is definitely adding the egg and continuing to cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes.  It makes a beautiful creamy sauce.  Such a comforting dinner on this dreary, rainy day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Gnocchi Soup

Well we had another "snowpocalypse" this week.  The DC area is absolutely crazy about shutting things down when there is a projected snow storm.  So when it's cold and snowy out, I can't think of anything more perfect than a bowl of delicious, hot, creamy soup.

I've really been wanting to try this Creamy Chicken and Pumpkin Gnocchi Soup from Skinny Fork, so I figured this was the perfect time.  Plus I am a huge gnocchi fanatic and I have been wanting to make my own for a while.

The gnocchi did take a while to make, maybe about an hour.  The hardest part was rolling everything out, and went much smoother once I got into a rhythm.  I did not make the little fork indentations, I was getting too impatient and I wasn't making it for company.

I cooked the gnocchi in a few batches since I was using a smaller pot (the big pot was for the soup!).  And I got to put my potato masher to good use again to scoop these guys out.  I like to get creative with my kitchen utensils.

The recipe only uses half of the pumpkin gnocchi, so I laid the other half out on a baking sheet (before cooking) and froze them until they were solid.  After they were completely frozen, I put them in a ziploc freezer bag.  I plan on using them later this week, which means I really made 2 dinners in one tonight.  Multitasking!

This soup was delicious and it totally hit the spot.  And, bonus, it reheated well the next day!

February Books

I was worried I wouldn't get through 2 books this month because the Olympics completely took over my evenings.  Actually more like took over the first 2 weeks of February.  I ended up reading 3 books, but the last 2 were very quick reads.  I'm just happy I still met my goal even with all my figure skating and slopestyle watching.

1. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

My sister recommended this one to me.  It was a fairly quick read, and the chapters were short which I always makes it easier for me to sneak a few chapters in at night.  It's a historical fiction novel about World War II in France- the events are real, but the characters are not.  Apparently there is a movie made in 2011 (in French), so I'll have to check that out as well.

2. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

This is more of a teen book, but I still found it enjoyable.  I got sucked in to the book and read it in about two days.  It's a book about a short-lived high school romance between Min & Ed and how their relationship went wrong, while reliving all the highlights.  The illustrations that were incorporated were really cool and made the book come to life.

3. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

I've been wanting to read this book forever.  It is very short.  While I did enjoy the non-sensicalness (is that a word?) of the book, I found Alice's character to be a little irritating.  But I am glad I read it nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shrimp and Couscous

I am so excited about this post because that means I actually got to make (and eat) this recipe.  You see, last fall I was planning recipes with shrimp about once a week... and then my sister told me she isn't really a fan of shrimp.  Um, what?  I had no idea.  So I haven't made shrimp for quite a while.  When I suggested it last week she was open to trying it again, so I decided on a simple broiled shrimp and couscous meal.

Here's what you'll need for 2 servings:
12 ounces frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp + 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoons of salt
3/4 cup couscous
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup golden raisins 

1. Preheat the oven to broil.  Place the couscous in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, then mix until the couscous is coated.  Pour the hot water over the couscous and cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Once cooked, stir in the golden raisins.  

2. Put the frozen shrimp in a colander and run under cold water until thawed.  I also pulled the tails off, but this is optional.  Place the shrimp in a bowl.  Add the olive oil, paprika, and salt and mix until the shrimp are well coated.  Place the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Broil for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Shrimp is so quick and pairing it with couscous makes this a super fast meal, perfect to make after working all day.  And the verdict from my sister...she liked it!  This means shrimp goes on the weekly menu more often :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Healthier Eggs Benedict

I can't believe how fast this weekend flew by!  One of my sisters visited this past weekend and we had a total blast.  When I was planning meals for the week, I knew I wanted to make something yummy for her last breakfast here.  I was looking through my Pretty Delicious cookbook by Candice Kumai and I saw a recipe for healthier eggs benedict.  It seemed like the perfect way to use up other groceries I was buying, like eggs and english muffins.  Plus, who doesn't love eggs benedict?!  I used Candice's recipe as inspiration for a healthier sauce and made my own lightened up version of traditional eggs benedict.

Here's what you'll need for 2 servings:
1 container Chobani nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I like Kraft mayo with olive oil)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 Ezekial Sprouted Grain English Muffins
4 Eggs 
4 Slices Ham (I used Hormel Natural Choice)

1.  In a small saucepan, whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayo, mustard, and honey.  Heat over medium heat for about 2 minutes until warm, stirring frequently.  Then decrease the heat to low and stir occasionally until ready to serve.

2. Defrost the english muffins for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Cut in half and toast until crispy.

3. Poach the eggs: Fill a small pot halfway with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Crack an egg in a small bowl and slowly pour into the water. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Cook the eggs until the whites are set, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

4. While you poach the eggs, heat the ham slices in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Layer one slice of ham on each english muffin half.

5. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon.  Or, if you are like me and don't have a slotted spoon, feel free to use a potato masher.  :)   Place one egg on each english muffin half.  Top with a little sauce and enjoy! 

Okay, I was so hungry and excited to eat this breakfast that I completely spaced and forgot to take picture of the finished product.  But I think this picture vouches for the deliciousness.  You can see I practically licked my plate clean! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rainbow Chicken

Sometimes it's hard for me to figure out how to eat more vegetables in the day.  I don't mind vegetables for the most part, but I don't typically think of them being the main component of a meal.  I'm trying to change my mindset on that, and this recipe for Rainbow Chicken from Kitchen Parade definitely helps.

I did, of course, make a few changes to the recipe.  I have made this before and I knew I wanted to have a little more spice rub for the veggies, so I doubled the ingredients.  Instead of using sweet potato, I used butternut squash.  When I got home I realized I forgot to buy carrots, which ended up being okay because there was tons of butternut squash.  I also used two zucchini because they were so tiny.  And lastly, I used 4 chicken breasts instead of thighs.  

The spice rub totally makes this dish and it fills the house with an amazing aroma while it's cooking.

I cooked this covered with foil for 50 minutes and without the lemons.  The first time I used the lemons, but every other bite ended up being sour.  Next time I will cut the potatoes and squash smaller to make sure they get a little more tender. 

Check out those beautiful veggies! Yum!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Breakfast For Dinner!

I love breakfast in all forms.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, hashbrowns...I think you get the point.  Last week I couldn't think of anything quick to have for dinner over the weekend.  Then I realized I had some bacon and eggs that needed to be made, and it hit me!  Breakfast for dinner!  Sometimes I think having breakfast at dinner time is better than eating it in the morning because I can sit down and enjoy it a little more.

To go with my eggs and bacon, I decided to make my all time favorite pancake recipe: Banana Oatmeal Pancakes from Colorful Palate.  I have always had trouble with cooking pancakes, they never seem to get bubbly enough on top before starting to overcook on the bottom.  Then I met this recipe and everything changed.  These pancakes are fluffy and delicious and I have no trouble cooking them perfectly every time.  I think it has to do with the batter being a little thinner than other pancake recipes I have tried.

Cooking over easy eggs always used to intimidate me.  Then I learned an awesome trick from my dad.  First, crack the eggs and put them into a hot pan that has a lid.  Let the bottoms cook a little, then add a tiny bit of water to the pan and cover with a lid.  The water creates steam, which is trapped by the lid, and that steam cooks the top of the eggs.  No flipping necessary! 

I eat the pancakes with a little drizzle of agave or honey.  This meal may have to go into regular rotation :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

Spaghetti squash is definitely my favorite vegetable.  I can't get enough; it's on my menu every week in some form.  Even though it doesn't taste like pasta, it acts as a perfect substitute for pasta sauce.  I really don't even miss pasta dishes anymore. 

This week I decided to try something new with my beloved veggie.  I saw this recipe from Pinch and Swirl on Pinterest and pinned it solely for that gorgeous green pesto.  I made the recipe using pine nuts instead of walnuts, just because that's how I've always made pesto.

The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of olive oil, but I only ended up using about 3.5 to 4 tablespoons.

The best part about pesto is a little bit goes a long way.  It really spread out through the massive amount of squash we had.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lettuce Wraps & Coconut Rice

Have you ever skimmed a recipe and decided to make it for dinner, only to realize you didn't read it close enough which sort of ruins your brilliant plans? Well that happened to me today.  I planned to make lettuce wraps for dinner and looked up recipes for a side dish.  I found this Coconut Brown Rice recipe from Skinny Taste that looked perfect, so I added it to the menu.  I went to start dinner around 8, figuring everything would be ready around 8:30 when my sister got home from class.  Then I actually read the recipe and realized the rice was going to take close to an hour.  Whaaaat!  Obviously I don't make rice very often.  Needless to say, we didn't eat until like 9:30.  Oh well, this meal was worth it!

I made Sriracha Beef Lettuce Wraps from Kayln's Kitchen.  This part of the meal came together super fast.  The wraps were the perfect amount of spicy and I loved the flavor from the cilantro.  I served them with the coconut rice, which came out beautifully, and some steamed edamame.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Healthier Super Bowl Snacks

Okay confession: I am really only watching the Super Bowl for the commercials.  And the half-time show.  But food is still a necessary part of that and there's a bunch of healthy appetizer recipes I've been wanting to try so I thought this was the perfect occasion.

Here's what was on the menu:

Spinach Dip from Skinny Taste in phyllo cups

While this was my brainchild, my sister made these from start to finish.  First she made the phyllo cups.  She layered 4 sheets of phyllo dough (about 8x8 sheets) on a plate and brushed some butter between each layer.  Then she cut that into fourths and pressed them into greased muffin tins and repeated to make 12 phyllo cups.  They baked at 375 degrees for about 6 minutes (we pulled them out when they were browned).   

Then she made the spinach dip and baked it in a 9x9 pan.  Our original thought was to cook the dip in the phyllo cups but after we saw how quickly they browned we were worried about burning them.  So we baked the dip, then divided it into the cups afterwards.  It worked out perfectly.  And we cut out a lot of extra calories by serving the dip in cups instead of using chips.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites from Nature Box

These were amazing.  I don't have a mini muffin tin, so I shaped these into little balls and put them on a baking sheet lined with foil.

I didn't think they were going to get crunchy on the outside but they did.  The quinoa kept us full, so it was more like a meal than mindless munching on snacks.  These little bites had the flavor of buffalo chicken dip, but minus a lot of cheese and the chips or crackers needed for a dip. 

They definitely have a little kick so the blue cheese dipping sauce is a must!

Baked Blooming Onion

I sort of combined two recipes to make this.  Mostly I followed this recipe from Gimme Some Oven.  She gives really great directions on how to cut the onion.

To coat the onion I used 2 egg whites and for the breadcrumb coating I used 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1/2 tbsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tbsp paprika.

When I put the onion on a baking sheet it kept leaning to one side.  So I put it in a large oven safe bowl instead.  I baked it according to the recipe, but when we tried it the onion was still pretty crunchy.  So I put it back in the oven for about 15 more minutes.  The onion petals were much softer after the extra cook time.

The dipping sauce I made was from this recipe.  I left out the horseradish, and the dip was perfect with the onion.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks from Skinny Taste

We only made 8 mozzarella sticks (instead of the full 24) because we didn't want to be tempted to eat any more.  They were delicious but they did become un-melty pretty quickly, so next time we will make sure to eat these first.

Here's our table with all the goodies:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January Books

So far I've kept up with my New Year's Resolutions!  I thought I'd do a post about the books I read this month.  My goal was 2 per month, and I read 3 in January!

This month I read:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I've been wanting to read this book for a while but I was on the hold list at the library for like 3 months.  That's what I get for waiting to read a book until it's a movie.  The Book Thief is narrated by death, so it gives a very interesting perspective.  I loved it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This book is pretty short and I read it in a day.  I'm glad I finally got it crossed off my list.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

This book came highly recommended to me by my sister.  She is obsessed with John Green and I really enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars, so I thought I'd give this book a read.  I was definitely not disappointed.  Oh, the feels.

I haven't decided on my February books yet, I still have to look at my to-read list.  I think one of my books will be a more classic novel.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sweet Potato Nachos

Recently I saw a picture on Pinterest of nachos that used sweet potato chips instead of tortilla chips...but there was no recipe.  So I decided to try and create my own!

First, I made some sweet potato chips.  I don't have a mandolin so it was quite a difficult task.  Plus the potatoes I bought were gigantic and basically impossible to cut.  So my chips were a little uneven/oddly shaped.  

I thinly sliced the potatoes and laid them in a single layer on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Then I sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled with salt & paprika.  

I put them in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes, then flipped them and cooked for another 12 minutes.  After 24 minutes some of the potatoes were turning brown so I took those out and set them aside, and let the bigger pieces cook for about 10 more minutes.  (Next time I make these I will probably cook them longer at a lower temperature- I had a few chips burn and a lot of chips that didn't get crispy enough.)

While the chips cooked I cooked 1/2 lb of ground turkey.  

I seasoned it with homemade taco seasoning (recipe via The Girl Who Ate Everything).

To make the nachos, I put the chips on a plate and topped them with the ground turkey and a little bit of reduced fat Mexican style shredded cheese.

My sister also made Chipotle's Guacamole recipe to go with our nachos.  It was fantastic!

Despite the half-burned, half-soggy sweet potato chips, it was a perfect Friday night dinner!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Workout Update and Meatballs

Today was finally my day off!  Wednesdays never come fast enough after working the weekend.  This morning I did Day 15 of the Body Rock 30 Day Challenge.  It's hard to believe that it's halfway over...and that I've actually kept up with the workouts.  I'm definitely feeling stronger.  Even though I'm still doing pushups on my knees (working on that), I can do way more pushups than I could a few weeks ago.  When I watch the videos I sometimes think "there's no way I could do that"...and then I try it and find that I can.  Can't wait to see how I feel after the next 15 days!

My sister and I got Chipotle for lunch, which I haven't had since probably June.  Way too long.  My sister on the other hand had it yesterday, ha!  I had a salad with black beans, barbacoa, corn salsa, sour cream and a side of guacamole.  YUM.

For dinner tonight I made Chicken Parmesan Meatballs from Dinner: A Love Story.  I love these meatballs.  I don't add the fennel seeds (not a fan) or lemon zest. 

I also use Muir Glen pasta sauce to brush on the meatballs, then use the rest over spaghetti squash as a side. 

This recipe also gave me a reason to use another Christmas present...a new pastry brush!

These meatballs are pretty big too, so it's definitely a filling meal.

Spaghetti squash is a great side instead of pasta to keep the calories in check!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Taco Tuesday (and Monday!)

For dinner last night I made Chicken and Black Bean Tacos from Undressed Skeleton.  These tacos are full of flavor and they are super healthy.  Baking them makes them the perfect amount of crunchy.  Plus, they are much easier to eat than a typical hard shelled taco.  And bonus, they were delicious as leftovers!

I used my all-time favorite salsa:

And some reduced fat mexican shredded cheese:

I left out the jalapenos because they are a little too spicy for my tastes.

I think it's easier to lay out all 8 tortillas and put on the toppings so everything is even.  Here is my "taco making station":

And here are all the tacos rolled up.  I didn't think they would all fit in my 9x13 pan but I squished them all in!

Dinner is served! With some Wholly Guacamole and light sour cream :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crunchy Ranch Chicken Fingers

Up until the age of about 18, I used to order chicken fingers at every restaurant.  Seriously, everywhere...even at steakhouses.  With 3 sides of honey mustard.  I actually used to have a ranking of restaurants based on deliciousness of honey mustard.  While I have (mostly) grown out of that phase, I do still love chicken fingers now and then.  So I decided to make a healthier, non-fried version.

Here's what you'll need (for 2 servings):

3/4 pound uncooked chicken tenders
1 egg
2 cups cornflakes
1 packet ranch dressing mix
Pam cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Pour the cornflakes into a bowl and crush them with your hands.  Add the packet of ranch dressing mix and combine.  Crack the egg into a shallow bowl and whisk.

3. Dip a piece of chicken in the egg, then roll in the cornflakes.  Place the chicken on a baking sheet covered in foil.  Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.

4.  Once all the chicken is coated, lightly spray with Pam.  

5. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Turkey Burger Saturday!

It's turkey burger day again!

I tried something a little different today.  After making meatballs on Thursday, I had a bunch of leftover shredded zucchini.  I saved it because I didn't want it to go to waste, but I wasn't sure how to use it.  Then I had a stroke of genius- add it to the turkey burgers!  The meatball recipe used the zucchini to help keep the turkey moist, so I figured it would do the same in a burger.  

I mixed two turkey burger patties with about 1/2 cup of the shredded zucchini and some garlic powder, paprika, and cumin.  The zucchini definitely made the burgers juicy.  It also gave the burgers some more volume (aka bigger burgers) for not many added calories, which is always a plus. 

We had them with my new favorite side, a baked sweet potato with butter and garlic salt.  YUM!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thai Style Meatballs

I realized that I haven't had Thai food since I moved in August, which is crazy.  My sister and I used to get takeout from our favorite Thai restaurant at least once a month.  Specifically chicken panang curry.  Yummm.  I haven't found a recipe for that yet, but I did stumble across this recipe for Thai Turkey Meatballs from iFoodReal.  

I halved the recipe for the meatballs but kept the same amount of sauce, mostly because I didn't want to waste the coconut milk.  Instead of making 14 meatballs, I made 16 slightly smaller ones so I could divide the recipe evenly into four servings.

I finally used the plate attachment on my food processor to shred the zucchini, and it actually worked really well!  Now I am going to have to find other ways to use it.

This recipe was absolutely delicious.  The meatballs were moist and the sauce was creamy.  What more could I ask for?

P.S. Check out this adorable bowl
I got for Christmas...