Rocking the Crockpot

Happy Christmas Eve Eve everyone! Can you believe it’s only 2 days away??? This year has flown by! My family and I are headed to a family Christmas celebration right now, and I’m already anticipating/dreading the amount of food that’s going to be put on the table! It’s amazing to me how such healthy vegetables as spinach and sweet potatoes can be buttered, covered, chunked, cheesed…you name it, and turned into something that’s totally unhealthy! With that being said, I started my morning with a healthy shake, will be sticking to a salad with lots of veggies and lean protein for lunch, and will load up on tons of water with lemon all throughout the day today. Then when the family meal rolls around this evening, I plan to taste a little of everything, but not eat huge servings of any of it. Oh, and another trick I love is to use a smaller plate for my dinner, like a salad sized plate. Actually my husband and I eat dinner off salad plates nightly, because it’s true, you really do put larger portions on your plate when you use a larger plate. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that larger portions=more calories=weight gain. So get used to eating from smaller sized plates!

Ok ok, there’s my spill on holiday eating. On another note, I’ve been rocking out my crockpot lately y’all! It’s such a busy time of year, and I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off! So the crockpot has been my answer to the mayhem for the past couple of weeks. And I’ve got a couple of recipes I’m dying to share with you guys. So without further ado…

This is a recipe for Slow Cooker Hoisin Chicken. I adapted it from a Whole Foods recipe, but their recipe called for beef. Feel free to substitute beef if it’s your thing, I’m just more of a chicken girl myself. The WF recipe called for round or chuck stew beef if that’s the route you take.

Slow Cooker Hoisin Chicken
Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 10-oz) bottle hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece peeled ginger, grated
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 cup baby carrots
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped

Directions:
Whisk together broth, hoisin, hot sauce, garlic and ginger in a wide, shallow dish or bowl. Add chicken, onions, carrots, and celery and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Transfer meat mixture to a slow cooker, cover and cook on a low setting until chicken is cooked, 6 to 8 hours. Alternately you may cook on a high setting for about 3 hours.

*even if you don’t have time to marinate the ingredients overnight, the stew will still be delicious. So if you miss that step it’s ok.

This makes 4 servings. I cooked some brown rice and served the chicken on top of the rice…delicious! My husband raved about it for days, and my kiddos loved it too. I had never used hoisin sauce before, but I like it and I will be using it more now, maybe in stir fry.

All right guys, I hope you all have a very merry Christmas! I will be back after the holiday with another amazing crockpot recipe for you, so check back!

December 23, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Collard Greens, Who Knew?!

Hello friends!

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. I’ve just been super busy! And I’m sure you all have been too, right? This is such a fun time of year, and my girls are both at an age where they are just really enjoying all the Christmas stuff this year. So fun!

I have been cooking a lot too though, and I’ve got a couple of great recipes I want to share with you guys! So do any of you really ever think about and try to buy what’s in season? I do, and apparently most greens are in season right now – collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, etc. Well, I’ve never really used any greens in my cooking because, quite frankly, I didn’t know much what to do with them. But I knew they were in season right now, and they are reeeally good for you, so I decided to give them a shot. So when searching for a recipe, I turned to my trusty friends at Whole Foods. Now this recipe I didn’t find on their website. I found it on my Whole Foods Recipes app, y’all should check it out!

Easy Collard Greens with Shallots

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
Sea salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add shallots and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until translucent. Meanwhile, rinse sliced greens under water. Drain but do not dry. Add greens to the skillet with salt and pepper. Cover and wilt the greens, stirring occasionally, until bright green and still tender, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Y’all, I have to tell ya… These were so surprisingly delicious! I didn’t know what to expect at all, but the sweetness of the shallots adds so much flavor to the greens. Of course if you don’t have shallots you could substitute onions, but if you can find shallots right now, and I did at Kroger, they really do make the dish. I will definitely be making these again!

So along with my greens last night I threw together another little dish that turned out amazing and will definitely be making its way onto my recipe roster more often! And it was so simple. I used veggies that I had in my fridge, which happened to be a small onion, a zucchini, and some bell peppers (by the way, those three are staples in my kitchen and I pretty much always keep them). I diced up the veggies, and put them in a skillet over medium heat sprayed with cooking spray. Then I put the quinoa in a pot according to the package directions. When the quinoa was finished I add it to the skillet of veggies and mixed it all up with some salt and pepper…heaven! And I have enough left over for lunch today. I’m a happy girl!

Here’s a pic of my dinner last night, in all it’s brightly colored glory.

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And…I have to share this with you guys because I think it’s so, so very cool.

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What is this jar full of weeds, you might ask? Well, I’m growing my own sprouts! Pretty cool huh? I got the jar at the health food store, and you soak the seeds in water overnight, rinse the seeds and drain them through the mesh lid of the jar twice a day, and on day 4 or 5 you’ve got your very own sprouts! I’ve always been a sprout girl. I can remember when I was younger, probably early teens, putting them on my salads at salad bars. I love them on sandwiches, and just recently I put some of my homegrown sprouts in egg rolls that I made. Now that’s what I call eating what’s in season!

All-righty guys, I’m off to get ready for my morning spin class. Have a great weekend, and if you guys make something yummy, let me know!

December 9, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Sauté/Steaming Veggies

Ohmygosh…I have not even stopped all day! It’s been one of those Monday’s. I’m sure many, if not all of you, can relate. So now it’s 4:00, I have nothing prepped for dinner, and I still have a 6:00 spin class to teach tonight. So for a healthy and fast dinner plan, I’m sticking to the basics: a sweet potato, baked in the microwave, some broccoli, first sautéed then finished off by steaming in the pan (more on that in a sec), and a big leafy green salad. It’s a fast, easy dinner…maybe not very exciting, but for sure healthy.

Ok, here is how I like to do veggies such as green beans, broccoli, sugar snap or snow peas, and sometimes asparagus. First get a good nonstick pan that has a lid to fit. Mine is Rachel Ray from QVC, and I LOVE it. Heat the pan over high and spray with nonstick, then put your veggie of choice in and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to low, place the lid on the pan and let the veggie steam for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice if you’d like. Voila! Easy, fast and oh so delicious. Try it!

I will have more time during the rest of the days this week to cook, and I’ve got my eye on a couple of fabulous looking recipes. More on those later this week!

I’m off to spin…

November 28, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Tips for a Health(ier) Thanksgiving

So I was checking my email today and came across this link from my girl Kimberly at Kim’s Beauty Detox. I thought it’d be a great link to share with you all. It’s got some tips (some that are fantastic and some that are a little too far out there…my family would never go for a turkey-free Thanksgiving!) on how to survive a Thanksgiving Day feast without completely destroying your diet. Mind you, when I use the word “diet” I don’t mean a short term way of eating that you’ve picked up to drop 10 or 15 pounds before _________ (insert event of choice here). No, when I use the word “diet” I’m talking about your long term way of eating, the positive changes you’ve made in your daily eating habits that are now the new normal for you. Think of it as using the word “diet” as a noun, not a verb. Make sense?

But Kimberly really does have some great tips in this article. I especially love #1, Start the day out as you normally would. This is important…don’t just wake up and say well, I’m going to be blowing it out of the water today anyways, might as well have a humongous breakfast to start this party off right! Do as you normally would, whether that’s a fruit smoothie, a bowl of oatmeal or a couple of scrambled eggs. Having something healthy in the morning will also tide you over so that you’re not completely famished by the time your family sits down for your Thanksgiving meal. Even though it may seem like it, not having anything to eat all day in anticipation of a huge lunch or dinner may cause you to overindulge even more.

I also really like tip #8, Skip the leftovers. It’s one meal folks, not 2 or 3 days worth of meals. Having the leftovers looking at you from the fridge the next day or two after Thanksgiving will only prolong the unhealthy eating you may be tempted to do over the holiday. Keep it to the one meal, and move on. Get right back on the wagon with your healthy eating after it’s all said and done. And if you can, get out for a walk or some sort of exercise after your food has settled a bit. Doing something physical can even help with digestion.

So check out Kimberly’s Thanksgiving tips. Like I said, there is no way my family (or me!) would ever feel like our Thanksgiving meal would be complete without our turkey, but there are definitely some tips worth considering in this article on how to enjoy your holiday, but keep the damage to your healthy diet as minimal as possible. Remember, you will have holiday party invitations arriving in the mail before too long, and the last thing you want is to have your favorite little black dress fitting too snugly.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 22, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Happy Friday guys! It’s the weekend, next week is Thanksgiving and therefore a short week, all is good right?

And I have another unique and delicious recipe to share with you guys. When I was grocery shopping a few days ago (sans kiddos) and had time to really look around at all the beautiful fall produce, out of curiosity I picked up a spaghetti squash. I thought, spaghetti squash, what in the world could I do with you? I took it home with the idea that I would find something amazing to do with the guy.

And I did.

Have you guys ever roasted a spaghetti squash? It’s mind boggling! The inside of this fairly plain looking gourd transforms into a huge bowl of, yep, spaghetti! You could do anything with the spaghetti of a spaghetti squash that you can do with pasta. Except you’re eating a vegetable. Righteous.

Ok, here’s the link to the recipe I used, Dr. Andrew Weil’s Spaghetti Squash Casserole. He suggests two different ways of cooking your spaghetti squash, I roasted mine in the oven. And I actually cooked it probably about 15 minutes or so longer than he suggests, and I took the foil off those last 15 minutes. Then you just let it cool so you can handle it, scoop the seeds out of the middle, and take a fork and start pulling all those spaghetti strands out. Keep going until you get all the way to the rind, there is a lot of spaghetti in there! The rest of the recipe is super simple. You could probably even roast your squash earlier in the day or possibly the day before. Just be sure to allow for the cooking of the squash, getting the spaghetti out, assembling and then baking the whole casserole. I promise it’s not complicated though, and it makes 8 servings, so you’ll probably even have leftovers. And it’s amazing! Heck, I’m more excited about spaghetti squash than I am People magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year choice! It should’ve been Ryan Gosling…

And while we are on the topic, now is the time of year to experiment with all kinds of winter squashes. Butternut, acorn…there are so many different kinds! You can roast them, purée them into soups (just add a little half and half and some spices), they are very versatile. And in season. So give them a try!

November 18, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Hearty Minestrone Soup

Hi guys!

Ok, here’s my new game plan. I’m going to try to consistently post three day a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, probably in the mornings. I love sharing recipes with you guys and ideas for meals that I’m making for my family. If they go over well with my two little girls, I’m all about sharing them with other parents. My girls can be a bit picky about their eating, so when I recognize a success I always want to shout it from the mountaintop!

So with that being said, I want to tell you guys about a delicious minestrone soup recipe I made this past Friday night, that the whole family loved. I used a recipe from…wait for it…the Whole Foods website! You never would’ve guessed right? Actually I use their app on my iPad, but I’m pretty sure the app and the website have the same recipe database. Here’s the link for the minestrone I made.

And here are a few notes. I followed the recipe completely, except for a couple of changes.

-I cut the olive oil back to 1 Tbsp. I find that when I’m sautéing veggies over medium heat, a tablespoon of oil usually works just fine.

-I omitted the savoy cabbage and used fresh green beans instead, which I cut into about 1 inch chunks.

-I didn’t have chickpeas, so I used black beans instead, in addition to the cannellini beans the recipe calls for. Any kind of bean would work for this recipe though, use whatever is in your pantry.

-Next time I make this, which is very likely to be this week as it is DELICIOUS, I plan on playing around with the ingredients and using more seasonal vegetables, such as substituting butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. I’ll give you all the details when I do so.

My girls ate it and actually really liked it! I gave them crackers to crumble up in their soup old school style, like I did as a kid. And of course the hubby ate it as well as the leftovers for lunch the next couple of days. You all already know what I think about soups and things like that: they get better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two.

I’ve got some other yummy things on the menu for this week that I’ll be sharing with you guys, so stay tuned!

November 14, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Tempeh Curry with Sweet Potato and Green Beans

Hey guys! So sometimes I like to cook things that are sort of ethnic and to use different flavors than we are used to eating every day. I love Thai food, Indian food…you name it and I’ll pretty much try it. I picked up a package of tempeh a few weeks ago here at the Kroger in Jonesboro, but I have never used it in anything before. So in trying to find a recipe to use it in, I turned to one of my favorite websites, Whole Foods. They actually have a pretty large database of recipes on their website, and there is even an app for your iPhone or iPad.

Anywho, I made this recipe the other night, and it was so delicious! We had some friends over for dinner, and they loved it too (at least they said they did, ha!). I’m pretty sure all the ingredients can be found at your regular grocery store. Here’s the link for the recipe, Tempeh Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans.

Like I said, I found the tempeh at Kroger. I’ve used tofu many times before, and I like it but it’s never really rocked my world. But I liked the tempeh! The texture was more meaty than tofu, but almost kind of rice like in a way too. The recipe calls for you to steam it in a pot with a steamer basket. I don’t have a basket so I just steamed mine for the same amount of time in my big steamer. But if you have neither of those, there are directions on the tempeh package about other ways you can cook it, and I’m sure that would be fine too. Also, if tempeh just isn’t your thing, I think the recipe would be great with cooked chicken or even maybe shrimp. I could see either of those working out really well with all the flavors of this dish. But if you’re an adventurous cook and like Indian flavors and curries, give it a try! I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Another thing on my mind? A pasta dish made with pumpkin! I’m hunting down the perfect recipe as we speak. The hubby and I got away for a little weekend in Eureka Springs this past weekend, and we had some amazing food there y’all. I’m still thinking about some of the dishes I tried there, but the main one is a pumpkin manicotti that I ordered at a restaurant called Garden Bistro. If you go to Eureka anytime soon GO THERE! Y’all, this pumpkin manicotti that I had…there are no words. It was topped off with a brown sugar butter sauce…ridiculously good. So I’m on a hunt for a recipe that will transport me back! I’ll keep y’all posted.

November 10, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Good morning!

I really want to share this recipe with you all. I have been making this dish since my husband and I first got married, and I keep coming back to it over and over again. I adapted it from a cookbook I’ve had for a looong time, I think my Aunt Jan gave me the cookbook years ago when I was just starting to cook.

So here’s the recipe for Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta:

Ingredients:
1 (16 oz) package frozen chopped broccoli
8 oz pasta (you can use anything, any shape here, whatever you like)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth (or chicken, if you aren’t making it vegetarian)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Dried red pepper flakes to taste
Optional: 3 cups chopped cooked chicken, Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:
Cook the broccoli and the pasta using package directions; drain. Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the broccoli and, if using, the chicken. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and mix well. Add the cooked pasta. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Notes: When making this last night, I opted for the vegetable broth and no chicken as I was making it a vegetarian dish. I have had it with the chicken many times before and it’s wonderful. You could even pick up a rotisserie chicken and use that to save on time, or try shrimp or even Italian sausage if you’d like. If you make it with no meat, it makes about 4-5 servings, with meat you can get about 6 servings.

Like I said, an oldie but goodie! It was super filling last night even without meat, I just served it with a large spinach salad to start. Yum! And, of course, the hubby took some of the leftovers in his lunch today. And, in case you’re wondering, my kids ate it! They just picked out the broccoli and sun dried tomatoes. We are working on veggies like broccoli with them, but I will keep offering them. Hopefully they will decide they like them.

November 8, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Indian Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Happy Thursday!

So I told you guys I’d share my favorite sweet potato recipe with you all. I made them yesterday, and just reheated them for dinner last night after my spin class. They are definitely a little crispier if you eat them right out of the oven, but they are also great reheated, or for leftovers.

Here ya go. This recipe is adapted from The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder. I find myself reaching for Kimberly’s book a lot, it’s really a great resource!

Ingredients:
2 lb sweet potatoes, cut into about 1.5 inch cubes
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp curry
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss all the ingredients together. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread sweet potatoes out on baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked well and crispy on outside. Be sure to toss around a bit with a wooden spoon every 10 minutes or so to ensure even cooking and to prevent sticking.

These sweet potatoes are delicious. I served them with roasted asparagus and zucchini and a spinach salad, but they would also be great as a side to chicken or pork if that’s your thing. But they are great as a main dish too! Meat free Monday, anyone?

November 3, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Buh-bye Halloween Candy!

Hi friends!

What a week right? Halloween has come and gone and I, for one, am thankful.

The candy got the best of me.

But now it’s out of the house. Thank goodness. Halloween was so much fun this year though, my kids really enjoyed dressing up. I had a Strawberry Shortcake and a Dora the Explorer.

On another note, tonight is the first night I have cooked dinner this week! Well, that’s not true really. I did throw together a little veggie stir fry on Monday night, it was just kind of last minute and not very well planned, what with Halloween and everything. Wasn’t it weird having Halloween on a Monday night? Then last night we ate dinner out with some friends. But tonight, I’m cooking. Although its really simple and also kind of thrown together.

Here’s what’s on the menu:
Indian spiced roasted sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and zucchini, and a big spinach salad. I’m actually teaching a spin class at 6 tonight, and I’m always starving right after, so I’ve got everything roasting in the oven now so all I’ll have to do is heat it all up after I get home! Planning is key, at least for me.

I had mentioned before I was going to start incorporating more root vegetables and brown rice in our diet. Especially now that I’m trying to get my sweet tooth back under control after all the Halloween goodies. I had read that these types of foods, root veggies and brown rice, tend to kind of be sweet when cooked, so eating more of them can help with cravings for sweets. Who knows? Maybe it really does help, we will see!

I’ll definitely share the sweet potato recipe with you guys, it’s too good not to share! I’m a big fan of the Indian spices though. So check back tomorrow for that recipe!

November 2, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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