We have the opportunity on the daily to make a positive impact on the world around us.
Whether one goes through their day searching for good deeds to be done,
or simply takes advantage of random opportunities to spread love,
every action (or inaction) has a resounding impact.
The question is: Is your impact today going to be positive, negative, or indifferent?
I have been told that one person can't make a difference.
I affectionately call these people "dummies"...
Those who actively try to hold the rest of us down,
those who would rather watch you drown than help you soar, those who can't grasp the power of positivity to create change.
Whether it's a great recipe found, or an uplifting story to share, you can be sure to find it here.
Let's start a Positivity Revolution, and drown out the dumb!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Last Pork Roast

I could eat chicken every night! I love how easy it is to manipulate, how wonderfully moist it is, how it can soak up other flavors easily, or serve as a simple protein when there's another special flavor to feature in a dish.
Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for this low-fat choice (boo), so I have been searching for an easy dinnertime meal that will stand up to chicken. Pork is another low-fat meat that should be a terrific substitute for my go-to chicken. Supposedly, it is simple to make a delicious meal out of this ingredient, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what I'm doing wrong! Every time I attempt to use this ingredient, my end product is too dry and chewy.
I told my boyfriend we were officially finished with pork, but when our local grocer had pork loin on a BOGO special, I decided to give this seeming nemesis of mine one last chance: one last meal to either turn me and my boyfriend into lifelong fans or to be dismissed from my kitchen forever.
I looked up countless pork loin recipes, and finally decided to combine snippets from Giada's show I had been watching while on the treadmill (running while watching cooking shows is my number-one favorite activity!) and this recipe from epicurious.com. Fingers crossed, I followed the website's instructions for ingredients, but after rubbing my pork loin down with the garlic and spices, I let it sit in a marinade made of EVOO, red wine (Cabernet), Worcestershire, and a bit of chicken broth for about 3 hours, turning to coat every hour.
As I don't have a roasting rack, I used rolled-up aluminum foil to set the roast above a lined pan,and roasted for 30 minutes at 400 degrees before turning it over and roasting another 30 minutes or so, until the suggested internal temp of 155F.
This was by far the best pork loin I have made! It had a very flavorful, herby taste, and the crust was beautiful and savory. Yet, even though I took the extra time to marinate the pork and cook it slowly, it still tasted slightly dry, and it was enough to turn us both off of pork forever. I feel like maybe I'm missing some trick of the trade, and that pork is not my nemesis; it is simply a misunderstood ingredient that could produce wonderful meals if properly coaxed.

It was a splendid last stand for this dish, but for our household, it was just not enough to continue to try to improve...for now...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mushroom&Turkey Meatballs

If there's anything I love, it's mushrooms, and I try to find a way to incorporate these little fungi nuggets into as many recipes as I can. I also love red meat, and mushrooms have this magical quality to transform the taste and texture of a poultry dish into something decidedly more "red-meaty". So, I decided to try Turkey Meatballs and add mushrooms! I loosely followed this recipe, and I've noted the changes I made below...
There are many meatballs hidden under that red sauce!
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound ground turkey meat
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Dash salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 box farfalle pasta (my boyfriend's favorite)

    Cook pasta to al dente and set aside.
    (I was lucky enough to have some homemade pasta sauce on hand, otherwise this recipe includes a homemade sauce recipe, too.)
    Preheat the broiler, and spray a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray. Place mushrooms, onions, parmesan cheese, and garlic into food processor and pulse until everything's tiny. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, dried spices, egg, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper. Add the now-minced ingredients from the food processor to the turkey mixture and combine.

    Form into 2 1/2 -inch balls and place on a baking sheet. (I ended up making about 12 meatballs, and forming the rest of the mix into 3 turkey burgers that we froze for later use!) Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned and almost entirely cooked through.
    Heat your pasta sauce in a medium saucepan and add the meatballs, so they may absorb some of the sauce. Combine with your cooked pasta and heat through.
    Sprinkle some parsley and parmesan cheese atop each serving, and enjoy!

    This was such a welcome alternative to red meat, and the bonus turkey burgers that were left over were just as amazing (especially topped with cheddar, lettuce, and tomato). What kind of healthy switch-ups do you like to use instead of red meat?


    Saturday, March 2, 2013

    First-Try Roast Chicken

    While I was on a spur-of-the-moment shopping trip the other day, I found BOGO whole chickens and decided that I would try oven-roasting a chicken. I am pretty good at roasting a turkey, so I figured I would try a near-identical recipe and it would probably turn out...

    My best turkey by far was this past Thanksgiving, when my best girlfriends and I slathered the bird with butter, and stuffed the cavity with oranges, red onion, and bay leaves. It turned out super moist and flavorful, and will be hard to beat this coming year, when I'm sure I'll want to experiment with a new recipe.

    I was inspired to cook the moment I woke up this morning, and so I washed, dried, and de-gibletized my chicken, and got together all my ingredients.
    I sprinkled my bird with black pepper, dried thyme, and ample amounts of salt on both sides. I added a small pad of butter into either end of the cavity, and then stuffed my garlic, lemon and orange wedges, and red onion into both ends (it turns out I could only fit about half of what I had chopped up inside, whoops). Since it was so early in the day, I set the prepped chicken on a tray and put it in my fridge until about 3pm.
    Without a roasting tray, I raised my chicken by rolling three pieces of aluminum foil and sitting the bird on top.

    After consulting a few different recipes online, I decided to set my oven to 375 degrees for a nice, slow roast since I wasn't going to be in a rush. I took the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit and come to room temperature while the oven was preheating, and I added white wine to the bottom of my pan. The chicken cooked for about 90 minutes, until the temperature showed 170 degrees at both the thigh and breast. (The "done" temperature recommendations seems to range between 160 and 190 degrees, so I tried to hit kinda in the middle.)

    I've heard that a roast chicken can last all day out, and putting it back in the fridge would just dry it out and destroy all my hard work. I had a couple hours yet before dinner, so I made a crusty french bread loaf to accompany our meal (See my post "Finally! Perfect French Bread"). I also tossed some peeled potatoes in EVOO and Italian spices, and set them aside for roasting later.

    When we were ready to eat, I placed my roasting potatoes and my chicken in the oven and cooked at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, just to crisp up the skin of my chicken. The result? Incredibly moist, flavorful chicken that will definitely be going into our "repeat" queue.

    Finally! Perfect French Bread

    I. Love. Bread.

    As many times as I've heard about the evil of carbs and tried to stay away, I simply can't. My love of bread and pasta will never die, and since finding this perfect, easy french bread recipe, I will probably end up gaining a few pounds (bring it on).
    I have been trying over the past couple months to find a foolproof bread recipe, because how defeating is it when you spend all that time kneading and rolling and rising dough, to have it turn out flat, overly dense, or dry?

    I scoured the internet to find not only an easy recipe, but one that was fast, and found it on Gourmet Mom On-The-Go, a site that I'm sure will become one of my faves. I cut the recipe in half, and turned out with a beautiful loaf that is going to be my new go-to recipe. I made this as a side for a roast chicken, and my boyfriend and I started tearing into it before I could even get a picture snapped of this gorgeous loaf! It was firm but squishy, dense but moist, and it rose better than any other french bread I've tried to make in the past. The only change I made to the recipe was I added dried rosemary, dried thyme, and dried sage to the loaf while it was rolled out in a square. This gave it a slight Italian flavor without overpowering it.

    Simply wonderful, and I can't wait to make it again! If you have a favorite bread or muffin recipe, please send it my way so I can keep this bake-a-palooza going strong!

    Thursday, February 28, 2013


    I know I've mentioned both our Crockpot Sunday new tradition, and the amazing beef brisket that results...but I gotta show it in pictures! Last time we made this delicious dish (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!), we bought about 2.5 pounds of brisket from the market, and followed this recipe. The purchase weight of the brisket included all the fat that I trimmed off before we put it in the crockpot, so I bet it was more like 1.75 pounds of meat. We scarfed down nearly all of it in one sitting, and I used the remainder for delicious sandwiches the next day.

    This Sunday, we have a 2-pound piece of brisket (with the fat already removed by the butcher--how easy!), and we plan on following the exact same recipe.

    I started a bit later than I had hoped (got caught up cooking some other deliciousness for breakfast!), so when I put everything in the crockpot, it was already 11am. Recalling how last time we made brisket, we could barely wait the full cook time before tearing into this succulent meat, I set the timer to 5 hours on high, so it would be ready for an early dinner.
    The meat turned out incredible, but way less saucy than the first time, presumably because of cooking at a high temperature as opposed to low like last time. Luckily, I had some spare bbq sauce, and while I was shredding the meat, my boyfriend couldn't help but steal some from the plate!
    Next time we make brisket (this meal will be repeated over and over and over!), I will be sure to cook it for eight to ten hours on the low temperature, as this produces a more flavorful and moist brisket, with more of that deliciously sweet sauce. Do you have a fave crockpot bbq recipe? We wouldn't want to run out of ideas!

    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    "Sun-Dried" Tomatoes

    My boyfriend isn't a pasta freak like me, but he never turns down Pasta Milano from Macaroni Grill. This creamy, mushroom-y, sun-dried tomato-y dish is just about the unhealthiest thing he'll eat (he usually snubs cream-based dishes, boo), and I have found a great copycat recipe that he loves.

    The copycat Pasta Milano dish features Farfalle pasta, chicken breast, mushrooms, heavy cream, and sun-dried tomatoes. In an attempt to stick within my calories for this meal, I am going to substitute milk for the cream. Additionally, in an attempt to try something new and save a few bucks, I'm going to "sun-dry" my own tomatoes!

    My boyfriend teased me when he heard I wanted to spend the time to try oven-drying tomatoes myself instead of just buying a jar of sun-dried tomatoes when we went grocery shopping yesterday. I'd just like to know that I can do it successfully, the same way I refuse to purchase bbq sauce since I learned to mix it up on my own. I love the challenge and the pride that goes along with making something completely from scratch (isn't that how all cooks feel?).

    I picked up 4 large Roma tomatoes (since this is only for one recipe and it's my first attempt at oven-drying, I'm starting small, just in case it's a disaster), sliced them into sixes, removed the seeds, and placed them on my parchment-lined cookie sheet, sprinkling them with salt. The oven is set at 200 degrees, and I'm keeping the timer set at 2-hour intervals, so 1) they don't overcook and 2) I don't get distracted and leave them in there for two days.

    After about six hours in the oven, I started checking my tomatoes and pulling any that were done. Right around the eight-hour mark, every tomato was shriveled up and ready to be tossed in EVOO! I also sprinkled these babies with some garlic powder, pepper, sugar, and italian seasoning, until I felt that they had that tangy sweetness you get from the ones sold in a jar.
    The Pasta Milano I made with these tomatoes turned out better than ever, and I attribute it to the use of skim milk and my own oven-dried tomatoes! We both had seconds, and I couldn't have been happier that everything was healthier, and made from scratch. If you'd like to share your favorite "copycat" recipe, I'll try it out with my (small) healthy tweaks and feature it in a future post!

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Valentine's Day in Pictures

    My Valentine's Day was just perfect...I got to spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen, prepping our dinner of Cheese Fondue, Filet Mignon, and Blueberry Bread Pudding, plus other tidbits. I took pictures of nearly everything!! Here was my day and night...
    Afternoon Surprise from my Love!
    Homemade French Bread, getting ready for second rising
    White Cheddar Mashers
     (I used my new KitchenAid hand Mixer,
    these were beautiful and creamy!) 

    All my ingredients for Bacon-Wrapped Filets

    For cheese fondue, I've found that flouring the shredded cheese helps it to melt smoothly. I simmered some Reisling on the stovetop, and added to it dried mustard, garlic, Worcestershire, and pepper, then added in the cheese. We transferred it to our fondue pot and used French Bread, green apples, and baby carrots as dippers!

    Filet Mignon cooked medium rare, Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Giant Cocktail Shrimp with spicy sauce...perfect V-Day dinner!

    Blueberries are my boyfriend's favorite, so I made him these Blueberry Bread Puddings in a muffin tin, adding some lemon custard on top before they were served.
    Obviously, my Valentine's Day revolved around our favorite foods...Is there anyone else who had a similar experience, or are we the only ones who stayed in and stuffed our faces?

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Crockpot Sundays

    The weekends have become the best bonding time for me and my boyfriend...We sit around, watch movies, catch a college basketball game at our favorite sports bar, and just get to be absolutely lazy. Naturally, no one (me) feels like cooking anything fancy, and so the crockpot has become a crucial part of our weekend repertoire. We meander through the grocery store until we think of what we want to crockpot, Google the recipe, and bam! A perfect weekend is created.

    Crockpot Sundays was born a few weeks ago with a brisket. It turned out juicy, the sauce was amazing, and we stuffed ourselves on about a pound of meat apiece! The next couple weeks involved ribs and then pulled pork, because barbeque turns out to be pretty darn addictive. This last week, one of my boyfriend's coworkers gave him a recipe for chili (he knows about our love of crockpotting). I have always only made green chile in the past, and so I was eager to try this recipe.
    This chili recipe turned out incredible, we could barely wait until it was done cooking to dig in (just like every previous week)! There was SO MUCH, so I froze half and looked up some ideas for using up the rest in creative and fun recipes...

    After some Google Images inspiration, I decided to use the little baby potatoes I had bought earlier in the week and make mini chili potatoes. I tossed the potatoes with EVOO, salt, and pepper, and baked for about 45 minutes on 375 degrees. When they were tender, I removed them from the oven and let them cool down. I then cut them in half and scooped out some of the insides, making sure there was substantial chili room.

    I then added some chili to each potato and topped with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese. These little nuggets just needed to be heated through in my 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Such a good pre-dinner snack (another thing we love)!

    What have you found to be the best thing to make with chili, I could use some suggestions since I have enough made for a small army!

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Undecided Fan?

    Spinach & Cauliflower Pizza Crust with Black Olives

    Mini-Muffin Pizzas

    After my workout today, I rushed home to create a new dish that I was super excited about: Spinach & Cauliflower Pizza. Discovering whether or not this low-calorie veggie substitute for one of my favorite foods ever could be as delicious as the real thing is a very exciting thought!

    I made a few time-worthy changes to the recipe that I posted this morning, and it turned out!...I think. I blended everything in the food processor until it was a thick consistency (shown on right).

     I read on my research recipes that the crust is floppy, and I wanted to stiffen it up (hence the panko crumbs). It didn't work as I'd hoped on the round pizza, but with the mini "muffin pizzas", the chewiness was perfect and they held together wonderfully.

    The flavor is decidedly cauliflower-y, and it's a flavor I wasn't too fond of on first bite, but having eaten half the pizza and all 4 of the mini pizzas, I guess it grows on ya. (Just the same, I think I'll try just spinach next time.)

    Either way, I'm full and happy, and I definitely feel like my body can work better on a veggie pie than a Digiorno! Has anyone else tried this veggie-crust style of pizza? I'd love to hear about your success!

    Baking Madness!

    I've been bad. I've been on a baking-experimenting rampage for the past two weeks, and have failed to share any of my madness with the outside world. It's as if a "flip has been switched" (I know that's incorrect, but it makes me giggle 'cause I accidentally say it all the time), and I can't stop!

    Everywhere I look there is inspiration to cook something wonderful, healthy (or not), and delicious, and I spend my mornings drooling over Google images and Pinterest ideas and then trying to recreate them in my own way. I have entered two recipe contests, because all this tinkering in the kitchen has resulted in some really terrific food. I feel energized and super creative, and I haven't been able to sit still (hence my absence from this blog). But, no more will I keep all this yummy food to myself!

    Today, I ran across a recipe for Spinach-Crust Pizza, which led to another recipe for Cauliflower-Crust Pizza, and my mind started working overtime...My boyfriend and I eat entirely too much of this particular treat, and the calories involved are murdering any headway I've made with my midsection! Over the past weeks, I made a couple batches of homemade pizza dough (super easy!), but it still takes too long for our rumbling tummies, and we usually end up resorting to the frozen kind that dominates our freezer. Besides, unhealthy food tastes so much better when you are famished (my theory is because the hunger drowns out the thought of excess calories, haha).

    So, to be able to make a crust from veggies would be more than ideal, and I am determined to try this recipe today (I'll post the pics later this afternoon). My boyfriend hates spinach and cauliflower, so the bonus is that I get this pie all to myself, and from what I've read about the calorie content (about 143 calories for the crust without toppings), I could eat an entire 12" pizza and it wouldn't come close to eating the frozen junk. I looked at 3 or 4 recipes and here's how they mesh together for my very own recipe:

    Spinach&Cauliflower Pizza

    • 1 cup fresh spinach
    • 1/2 clove garlic
    • 1 cup cooked, grated cauliflower ("riced")
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup shredded Italian-style cheese
    • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
    • Squeeze of lemon
    • Dash Cayenne pepper, to taste
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1/4 tsp garlic salt

    • Pizza sauce
    • Shredded Cheese
    • Pizza toppings
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    Process spinach, garlic, and cauliflower in food processor.
    Add egg and cheese, process until mixture reaches a baby food-like consistency.
    Add in panko crumbs, give a twirl, then lemon juice, twirl, then spices, twirl. Adjust seasoning to your liking.
    Spread mixture in a 12" or smaller pizza pan that has been lined w/parchment paper.
    Spray dough with cooking spray lightly and cook for about 15 min.
    Add sauce, cheese, and desired toppings, broil for a few more minutes until cheese just starts to melt.
    YUM! Sounds delish! This experiment will hopefully turn out, I am going to try it as a medium-sized pie and then also in mini-muffin cups (my new obsession is making everything mini).

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Staying on Budget

    I love grocery shopping almost as much as I love cooking. I love slowly cruising the aisles, letting random ingredients create new ideas. I love using coupons, or price-matching, or scurrying back and forth between 2 items to get the best deal possible. I love the challenge of creating a weekly menu that's delicious and satisfying, as well as cost-effective.

    Budgeting for groceries seems to be getting tougher, as produce prices constantly fluctuate and items that we purchase on a weekly basis never seem to have a sale or coupon available. It's easy to get a break on junk food, but health food is rarely sold at a discount. Not to be deterred, I have started couponing in an attempt to stretch our grocery dollars further, and planning for two weeks of meals at a time will allow us to buy some items in bulk.

    Last night, we went shopping, armed with a scaled-down list, a few coupons, and an exact meal plan for the week (I thought of doing two week's worth this morning, when I saw how much meat we bought!). We ended up spending about 30% more than what I wanted, but after looking over the things that can be frozen to use next week, I thought there must be a way to save 30% next week to even our budget out.

    My meals for this week are (I try to incorporate 1 chicken dish, 1 fish dish, and lots of veggies):
    Maple-Glazed Chicken with Mashed Potatoes
    Baked Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia with Garlic Bread and Roasted Broccoli
    Baked Farfalle with Chicken and Broccoli
    Stuffed Bell Peppers and Stuffed Mushrooms
    Crock-Pot Pork Roast with Scalloped Potatoes

    We bought so much meat this grocery trip, because almost every dish has a different protein! We ended up with:
    • 3 1/4 pounds chicken breast
    • 5 pounds of pork loin
    • 14 ounces of Tilapia
    • 1 pound ground turkey
    After this week, I'll be left with:
    • 2 1/2 pounds chicken breast (no need to buy more)
    • 2 1/2 pounds of pork loin (ditto)
    • 3 ounces of Tilapia (I'll buy another pound of frozen fillets for about $5)
    • 1/2 pound ground turkey
    So, even though we were slightly over budget this week, next week we can spend about $5 on proteins and can count on being significantly under budget with a little help from what we've already got in our pantry! Any tips for us to help stay within our budget? What have you found to be your best practice on staying disciplined?

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

    I am proud to say that I roasted a red pepper all by myself. Not a terribly impressive feat for most, but to me, roasting a vegetable to transform it into something even more delicious is amazing. I've fallen in love with roasting broccoli and garlic cloves, but nothing changes quite the way a red pepper does, and I thoroughly enjoyed this small experience! I followed Ina Garten's recipe for roasting, and set my oven to 500 degrees, placing the pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, and let it roast for about 40 minutes. It got pretty smoky in my apartment because I forgot to turn it over twice (as recommended), but still turned out beautifully! After the pepper had cooled, and while removing the skin, stem and seeds, I was surprised to find that this veggie had taken on a slightly oily feel, and was emitting a wonderfully flavorful aroma. I julienned the pepper, and drizzled some EVOO on top. This was to be the star flavor for my Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, which is also a first try!
    Hummus is surprisingly easy to make, considering how fancy it tastes. Here's how to make enough for about 4 servings. 
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • dried parsley, for garnish
  • paprika, for garnish
    In a food processor, place the chickpeas, red bell pepper, garlic, crushed red pepper, water, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon EVOO, cumin, and ground black pepper and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Add 1/2 tablespoon extra water or lemon juice if needed to reach desired consistency and taste. Spoon to a pretty bowl for serving and use the back of a spoon to form a well in the center of the dip. Add the remaining olive oil to the well and sprinkle the top of the hummus with parsley and paprika. Serve at room temperature, with pita chips, carrots, and slices of cucumber for dipping. You can also refrigerate the dip if you're making ahead, and place in microwave for about 30 seconds to reach room temperature.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Giada's Nicoise Salad Pizzette

    I watch a ton of Food Network, and my favorite time to do so is while I'm working out! I'll put the treadmill on a 10% incline at a speed of 2.5, which provides a great burn but still allows me to take notes if I see a worthwhile recipe. A few days ago, I was watching Giada De Laurentiis' show about a Spa Day menu, and she made these interesting, adorable little "pizzettes" with tuna salad, tomato, and olive tapenade. Lovelovelove all those ingredients, and it sounded like either a killer recipe or a bomb...in other words, it was a must-try for me. These were incredible!! I could eat them every day, and they were a hit with my boyfriend, too. When he came home from work, I had a plate filled with these scrumptious bites for a pre-dinner snack.
    As usual, instead of following Giada's Recipe exactly, I improvised based on what I already had in the kitchen and our personal tastes. Here's how I did it:
    • 1 cup pitted black olives, drained
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 2 whole wheat flatbread, cut into fist-size circles
    • 1-2 roma tomatoes, sliced into eight 1/4-inch-thick slices
    • 1/3 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
    • Olive oil, for drizzling
    • One 5-ounce can tuna in water, drained
    • 6 string beans, blanched and each cut into thin 1-inch pieces
    • salt and pepper, to taste 

    Spread a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet (for easy cleanup) and coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    For the tapenade: Place the olives, lemon juice, oil, italian seasoning and garlic in a food processor. Blend until minced.
    Spread about 1 tablespoon of the tapenade over each flatbread circle and place a slice of tomato on top. Add sprinkles of mozzarella cheese on top, then drizzle with olive oil and bake until heated through and slightly crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
    Place the tuna and 1 tsp olive oil in a small bowl. Using a fork, lightly mash the tuna. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Divide the tuna and spoon on top of the cooked pizzettes. Place 2 pieces of green bean on top of the tuna and serve.
    Easy Ingredients that I had on hand!

    Pizzettes ready to go into the oven!
    What's your favorite appetizer to make at home? If you send me the link or the recipe, I'd love to try it for a future post!

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    First-Try Crab Cakes

    Stevie B., the head chef at the restaurant that I worked at in Colorado, was amazing. No matter what he made, I would devour it without question, and he was always willing to answer my culinary questions, of which there were many. He made these amazing, flaky crabcakes, which quickly became my boyfriend's favorite thing to order.  Alas, I never asked our chef how to prepare them, and so came about last night's experiment!

    I looked to my second-favorite chef, Tyler Florence, and found his recipe for Crab Cakes. They looked incredible, and the fact that I didn't have quite enough real crab meat didn't seem to be an issue, as I supplemented the rest with imitation crab meat (It's still fish!). Besides, since I wasn't sure what I was doing, I figured spending $3 on fake crab instead of $15 on the real deal would be excusable. I used my food processor to chop up the meat, and I used dried breadcrumbs instead of fresh. I also added a bit of Old Bay seasoning and Paprika, just to add some extra flavor. Not too much though, as Old Bay can get pretty salty! With about 10 ounces of total crab meat, I made about 5 large patties and set them in the fridge for 45 minutes (I got distracted by wine) to set. I cooked them for about 4 minutes on each side, but must have had my heat too high, because they came out a bit burned.

    The flavor of these crab cakes were fantastic though, and we ate them despite the slight torching. They had a nice, mild crab flavor, and were well seasoned, although they were a bit chewy for my taste (perhaps because they were essentially seared?) Plus, the Garlic Aioli that was included in the recipe was delicious and super easy to make. Not to be discouraged, next time I think I will use fresh bread crumbs, and maybe use Panko to coat these cakes to create that flakiness that we so love from back home. There is much more research to be done! If you have any suggestions for my next attempt, please post them!

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Lazy-Day Beef Stew

    My boyfriend hates grocery shopping. He goes with me though, and more often than not, has terrific ideas for meals while we're meandering up and down the aisles. This time, he thought of beef stew. We've been dying to use the crockpot since we moved into our new apartment, and me being on a soup kick, this was just perfect!

    The wonderful thing about this stew is that it's so simple, it's satsifying without being loaded with calories, and it lasts for days or can be frozen. The recipe that we used for a guideline was from the Taste of Home Website, and it was incredible.

    Here's that recipe, including our modifications:

    • 1 pound red potatoes, cubed
    • 6 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch slices
    • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch slices
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 pound beef stew meat, pre-cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (2 cans)
    • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    • Place potatoes, carrots, onion and celery in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Place flour and stew meat into a large resealable plastic bag. Seal bag and toss to coat evenly. In a large skillet, brown meat in oil, then place over vegetables.
    • In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, beef broth, mustard, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Pour over meat and veggies. Cover and cook on high for 3 1/2-4 hours or until potatoes are tender. Makes about 8 servings.
    Do you have a favorite stew recipe for the winter months? Send me a link or post the recipe in the comments!

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    French Toast!

    I adore brunch. And I think the perfect brunch food is French Toast, which happens to be one of my boyfriend's favorites. The recipe that I lovelovelove is from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (this cookbook has been my go-to for everything delicious), and I tweaked it this morning to make it as healthy as can be.

    I use 1 large beaten egg (you could take it a step further and use just the egg white), and add to it a healthy splash of skim milk and OJ, and a tiny splash of vanilla extract with a dusting of cinnamon. The additions of the orange juice, vanilla, and cinnamon give my french toast a warm, citrus flavor that is addicting. Instead of the traditional white or brioche bread, I use 4 or 5 slices of honey whole wheat, which I admit tasted different the first time I tried it, but is actually pretty wonderful!

    To round out our meal, I scrambled 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg with a splash of milk, and added red pepper flakes and low-fat shredded cheddar cheese for flavor and spice. Add some sliced apples to make this meal healthy but sooo yummy, and something you could repeat every weekend.

    I want to try different variations of french toast, including Peanut Butter French Toast and Baked French Toast...What are some great recipes that you have found that are unusual and yummy? Please comment below and I'll give it a shot!

    Here's the link to the original recipe!

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    Cooking for Two

    For most of my life, I had viewed learning to cook as a burden; as something a woman does to get prepared for marriage. As a girl, I never thought about marriage, and therefore never thought about cooking. I didn't have the slightest interest in this wonderful activity that now happily takes up much of my time. It didn't cross my mind that someday I'd want to cook delicious food for myself, or that I would fall in love and want to cook for my man, and sadly I didn't learn to cook anything substantial until I moved out of my parent's house.

    My best friend and I somehow managed to host a Thanksgiving dinner when I was eighteen, in my tiny apartment with a half dozen people to feed. We dragged my patio table into the dining room for classy self-service, and I'm pretty sure we all ate on the couch or floor in front of my tiny TV. (This was before I had a digital camera, but I know I have a picture of this buried in a box somewhere!)
    That was probably the defining moment in my cooking life, when I realized that I could bring people together and make them happy with delicious food. I used to throw girls-only brunches on Sundays, and we would sip on mimosas and stuff ourselves into food comas on french toast. I would watch Food Network constantly, and try to recreate the insane dishes they featured on shows like "Chopped". Over the years, I have made delicious food that disappears instantly, and I have made disastrous food that the garbage disposal gets to eat. I am always amazed and proud when I can produce something out of my kitchen that someone loves (and I always pout when I destroy what was intended to be a terrific meal)!

    The holidays really kicked my butt on the diet front, and on more than one occassion, my fat girl triumphiantly won the battle between my waistline and a delectable dessert. So now, with the new year ahead and the yummy holiday food behind, I have made it my goal to get healthy. I by no means want to diet, but instead I'd like to try and tweak my favorite comfort-food recipes into healthier everyday options. I have a ton of unopened cookbooks, cooking magazines, random recipe clippings plus a few (or more) favorite cooking websites, and I could think of no better activity than to incorporate my good intentions of eating healthier into some experimentation in the kitchen!

    Good, Bad, or Ugly...Let the adventure begin :)

    Human "beings", not human "doings"

    I have made a valiant effort to live in the moment today...I had tiresome errands to run (like getting my oil changed and going to the BMV), and no one to accompany me, and so I made a point to not think about how boring the tasks were and just enjoy being.

    This is the hardest area of my life: Balancing ME with everything that "must be done" in my day. Everyone has a list of things to do during the course of their day, whether mental or written, at work or at home, and I have recently found mine to be overwhelming, even though most the things on my list are fairly unimportant (ie. setting up cable or faxing a letter).

    I was talking to my mom the other day and telling her about my To-Do list for the week, when she recited a quote that I immediately wrote down. I repeat this to myself when I find myself becoming overwhelmed by my day-to-day: "We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS."

    I Googled this phrase today, and found that there is a growing movement among human beings to be exactly that: Beings. People seem to be coming to the realization that stress is a man-made emotion, created by an unspoken expectation to do as much as possible in the limited timespan of a day.

    My mother is my "go-to" in my strive to improve myself and to live in the moment. She is a vegan (sometimes not) massage therapist (sometimes not) who lives in a studio apartment in Colorado; and she is the kindest person I have ever known. She wants for nothing, even though she has little. She has always been glowingly supportive of my dreams and what I want in life. Through her actions, she reminds me of the person that I try to be: someone who is giving to others, grateful of everything she has, honest about who she is, and unconditionally loving of her family and friends. Most of all, she reminds me to enjoy life to the fullest, appreciating even the boring or bad days for what they are. My mom is a true Human Being.

    My mother always tries to make every minute better than the last; from her quirky ideas to make the mundane exciting, to her commitment to being true to herself; and so I dedicate this blog to her.