Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resolution Pasta + Giveaway (CLOSED).

New Year. 

It's a new year and that means we have new rules. Although this post comes a little late, I hope you all are keeping up with your resolutions almost a month into the year. I am not much of a resolution person but I do believe that a new year entails some new practices. I am really good at budgeting and making home made meals through the week but once the weekend hits, it falls apart and we tend to eat out a lot. This is something I am going to change this year, we are consciously going to make an effort to budget on the weekends as well.

Barilla generously sent me a TON of pasta to try and review for you guys. I wrote a post for them a while back and tried there vegetable pasta for the first time. I am so glad they asked me to try some more and these new varieties are really good. The flavors are so much better than regular pasta and it makes following those new resolutions a bit easier with the added ingredients. 

Included in the package they sent me is this awesome veggie penne (fresh pureed carrots and tomatoes),  veggie rotini (pureed spinach and zucchini), veggie farfalle (freshly pureed carrots and squash), some of their barilla plus line, and some of the whole grain line. Want to try them out? Well Barilla is offering TWO of my readers a similar package and all you have to do is comment on this post saying what you would like to try.

Resolution Pasta

What you need:
- 1 box Barilla Veggie Penne, cooked al dente
- 4 turkey sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 small yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 Tablespoon oregano
- salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage slices until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add zucchini and squash to skillet and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Turn off heat and add the cooked pasta. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir with a fork until sauce thickens. Combine sauce with pasta mixture and serve warm.  

This recipe was a HUGE hit. Damian said it was one of his favorite pasta dishes yet. He usually only likes plain regular pasta, not even whole grain, but he loved the veggie variety. I think the color also makes it look beautiful.


Love pasta? Want to try the new Barilla varieties for free? Barilla has offered to send two of my lucky readers a similar package to what I received! 

All you need to do is comment on this post telling me what you would like to try! 

Ready, set, go! 

***Shipping is limited to the 48 contingent states and I will choose two random winners by Saturday February 2nd***

Monday, January 28, 2013

Spiced Chickpea Snack Mix.


I know I have been away from the blog a lot lately but work has been really crazy. I work on a team of three people, one has been on vacation, and I still am learning how to do things. It makes in pretty difficult. On top of that, he is not returning when planned and I have a lot of work that needs to be done for client meetings. It has been a little stressful but I really love the challenge. I honestly feel like I am doing a great job and I can't wait until I can do things on my own. I have a Barilla sponsored post that I will try to get out soon that includes a fun giveaway that I know you guys will enjoy. 

For now I will leave you with this recipe... Its a great snack food and healthy too. When I was in La Crosse a few weekends back I saw this recipe in Woman's Health Magazine and knew I had to try it. I actually had all of the ingredients in my kitchen, which always makes it more motivating. After baking the chick peas they were nice and crispy so you feel like you are eating chips. Beware: putting these on your desk at work might leave you snacking for longer than you want.

Baked Chickpeas

What you need:
- 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients and spread a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until crispy. Let cool before eating.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese.

Adult food.

"Adult mac and cheese" is such a weird concept. Who said Mac and Cheese had to only be for children and southern comfort food? I have to admit that I am not a big fan of boxes mac and cheese but this stuff is the real deal. I found this recipe in Wolfgang Puck's, Make It Easy, book. He's one of my favorite chefs and I cant wait to tackle more recipes of his. This recipe really caught my eye because it called for a rice cooker. I inherited my rice cooker from someone who lived in an apartment before me and it took almost an entire year to put it to use. I am sure you can make this in the oven too if you don't have a rice cooker but I can't promise the same results. 

Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese

What you need:
- 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 lb fresh wild mushrooms, cut in thick slices (I used regular mushrooms)
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1 cup milk
- salt and pepper for tase

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook, stirring, until tender, about three minutes, and add the garlic. Stir together for a minute and add the fresh mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are moist and have begun to soften, about five minutes. Remove from heat. Place the macaroni, stock, salt and a little pepper into the rice cooker. Secure the lid and press cook. Cook until the rice cooker switches to keep warm, about 15 minutes. remove the lid and add the cooked mushrooms, the milk, and cheese. Stir together and secure lid, press cook, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from rice cooker and serve. 

I served the mac and cheese with a side of spinach and tomato salad. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Baked Avocados.


I know that I make great food and bring it for lunch at work but my co-workers are almost too impressed. I can't say it enough but these recipes are so easy, anyone could honestly make them. For some reason the day I brought these avocados for lunch, with a hard boiled egg and piece of cream cheese toast, everyone raved about them. I actually had person after person walk up to my desk to see what I was eating. As long as you have a few tomatoes you can make this recipe with a bunch of things in your kitchen cabinet. I was most surprised that the biggest question people had was, how do you eat them? Well thats your choice, I prefer a spoon. 

Baked Avocados

What you need:
- 2 avocados, halved and pitted
- 2 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 Tablespoon bread crumbs (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix tomatoes, cheese, basil, and breadcrumbs into a bowl. Fill each avocado half and bake for 6 minutes. 
*** I added other cheeses I had, they would also be good with quinoa***

I served the avocados with these pita sandwiches. They included spinach, chicken, roasted red peppers, and avocado hummus. I baked them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes so they were nice and crispy. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

French Meadow Bakery.

Restaurant Review.

On my lovely day off from work I managed to have some "fun" time! We started the day off by going to brunch with Carly. We were going to originally head over to The Lyndale Taphouse but they were actually closed when we tried. I hadn't tried the uptown French Meadow so this was the perfect opportunity. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was welcoming. All of the food served is organic and the prices certainly do not reflect it. Usually organic foods are more expensive but this is definitely not the case here. 
"French Meadow has led, articulated, and demonstrated 
everything right and good about food in America in the last several decades: championing organics before there really was such a thing; promoting sustainable agriculture; making and serving slow foods; and generally providing a tasty little oasis of thoughtful and healthy living since the dawn of time. Or 1985, more specifically." ***Photo and Paragraph Credit***

 The restaurant style is one that you order and pay up front and they bring the food to your table when it's ready. Our table card was hello kitty :)

 Menus cover the walls displaying all of there delicious food choices. 

 Carly and I decided to share two dishes we thought sounded good. Above is the cornmeal waffle (vegan and gluten free): organic corn waffle, bananas, toasted walnuts, and toffee syrup. 

We also ordered the breakfast quesadilla: organic sprouted tortilla, organic scrambled eggs, cheddar, organic black beans, organic spinach, guacamole, chipotle sour cream, house-made salsa. I really loved the tortilla and all of the sauces were a perfect touch. 

Damian ordered the cajun hash browns (gluten free): spicy golden hash browns, onions, roasted peppers, tomato, garlic, cheddar with your choice of all-natural chorizo.

The food was amazing and I am already planning my next trip back. The dinner menu looked equally delicious. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Italian Eggplant Stackers.

Again and Again. 

Another morning post! I have the day off from work today because of Martin Luther King's day. It feels great to sleep in and have some extra time to get housework done. I am a little behind on blogging and have tons of photos ready for posts to be written. I have been struggling to make time to get it all done! Have no fear though, I have not forgotten about you. I will have a post coming up with a giveaway, so get excited. 

This recipe was so interesting. I have made eggplant rotini many times in the past, and this turned out a lot different. Essentially, they are the same concept of layering but these stackers are cleaner. I served them with a side of campbell's go soups. We tried the roasted red pepper and gouda flavor and it was amazing. I mixed it with a small plain greek yogurt and could eat it again and again. 

Italian Eggplant Stackers

What you need:
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 16 1/2 inch circles
- Mozzarella cheese, sliced into 16 rounds
- 12 oz tomato pesto sauce
- 8 basil leaves
- grated parmesan and parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare eggplant by baking slices in olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper for 15 minutes or until soft. Spread a portion of sauce into the bottom of a glass pan. Add a layer of eggplant slices topped with cheese and a basil leaf. Add another layer of sauce, eggplant, and cheese. Top with sauce and garnish. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. 
*** I added a layer of deli sliced chicken***

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday Pasta.

Holiday weekends.

Good morning! I just wanted to stop by quick before we left for La Crosse. It is my great Uncle's 90th birthday party tonight so we are heading down there to celebrate. This recipe is so great for fridays because after a long work week, cooking is the last thing on my mind. Its so simple and the cherry tomatoes burst with flavor. 

It's a three day weekend for me because of Martin Luther King Day. UBS holidays are based off of the market closing so I actually have three paid holidays in the first quarter. I am not used to that... 

I took a few days off from blogging this week to relax after work. Have no fear, I still have a lot of recipes to write about from those days! 

Friday Pasta

What you need:
- 1 box whole grain spaghetti, cooked al dente
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 cup basil
- 1/2 cup parm cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until they burst, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Just before draining pasta, add basil to the tomatoes and stir. Spoon over cooked pasta.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Crockpot Fajitas.

Random rants. 

Does anyone else love the smell of popcorn? This afternoon someone in my office made popcorn and I can't get the thought of it out of my mind. After I finish writing this post, the odds of me making some are pretty high. My desk is fairly close to the kitchen, so every time someone passed my desk they commented on the smell... it was tough to bear!

My latest obsession? Overnight oats in a jar. Tomorrow's are sitting in the fridge and I am already excited. I've eaten them for breakfast for the last two weeks and can not get enough. I make them the night before by mixing, 1/2 smashed banana, 1/3 cup old fashioned oats, 1/3 cup milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. I let it sit in the fridge overnight and top with granola, raisins, and a scoop of nut butter. SO delicious. 

Ok, I'm done rambling and onto to this recipe. So easy, so delicious, and so versatile, what more can you ask for? I made enough of the chicken mixture for burritos, burrito bowls, and fajitas. It lasted for days...

Crock Pot Fajitas

What you need:
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 packet dry taco seasoning
- 1 cup water
- burrito shells
- desired toppings: salsa, greek yogurt, shredded cheese ect. 

Place peppers and onions in bottom of crock pot. Set chicken on top and sprinkle taco seasoning over chicken. Add water to pot and cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with desired toppings.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Roasted Cashew Brussels.

All the right ingredients. 

So I was reading blogs, like I do ALL the time, and I came across this awesome recipe. I skimmed over the ingredients because if the recipe is too complicated, I don't even give it a chance most days. What are the odds that I had every ingredient but one for the recipe? 

When I was home for Christmas, my mom gave me a couple of bags of cashews to take back. I found out the difficult way that one of the bags was unsalted. When it comes to cashews, I need them salted. I threw them in my pantry and haven't had much use for them yet. This recipe was perfect. The aroma coming from the kitchen was unreal and the taste lived up to the expectation. I highly recommend this recipe as a snack or new side dish. 

Roasted Cashew Brussels
What you need:
- 2 cups brussel sprouts, halved
- 1/4 cup raisins (I used a few dried cranberry's as well)
- 1/3 cup raw cashews
- 4 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 Tablespoon sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Cover a baking sheet lightly with coconut oil and spread mixture on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir mixture and place back in the oven for an additional 2 minutes. Add sea salt for taste when done cooking. 
Lightly adapted from A Gutsy Girl

Friday, January 11, 2013

Onion Garlic Baked Red Potatoes.

So cool.

I saw a picture of these potatoes online a while back and thought they were so cool looking. They didn't taste too shabby either ;). Potatoes can be so boring sometimes and this is a great way to spruce them up. I think these would make a perfect dish for a football game or appetizer party, a baked potato bar. On a totally different topic, I saw this cooking show recently where someone made bloody mary butter, wouldn't that be awesome on these potatoes? 

I am so excited because tonight we are FINALLY using a gift card I received for Christmas 2011 from Damian's parents to Vertical Endeavors indoor rock climbing. I can't believe its been so long since I went last but it is a blast! I'll recap sometime this weekend. 

Onion Garlic Baked Red Potatoes

What you need:
- 5 red potatoes, sliced 3/4 of the way
- 1/2 onion sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon butter, sliced thin
- salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice each potato 3/4 into the potato (pictured above). Stuff with garlic, butter, and onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 30 minutes on top rack. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spicy Pork Burgers.

What the heck is Ro*Tel?

Before I found this recipe I had no idea what Ro*Tel was. It is basically a can of diced tomatoes mixed with green chiles. It really flavored the ground pork well. One of my favorite meals is a ginger pork burger made by Damian's parents. This burger puts up some serious competition. It even is made with a similar spicy aioli. 

This week has been nuts! I am finally settling into the new job and it is such a huge learning experience. I never thought I would be in the finance industry again but it is similar to "riding a bike", i'm easing back into it. It is so fast paced and my days fly by. I think I am really going to enjoy this opportunity. 

Spicy Pork Burgers

What you need:
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 can Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles, mild
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup light mayo
- 4 buns 
- lettuce (optional)

Open can of Ro*Tel and drain all liquid. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the tomato/chilies mixture and set aside. In a large bowl combine pork with remaining Ro*Tel, and 1/2 cup cheese. Form the mixture into 4 equal patties. If desired, add hot sauce to taste. Season each pork burger liberally with salt, pepper, and bit of garlic powder. Heat a grill pan or large skillet to medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add burgers and cook for 5-6 minutes, then flip and cook 5-6 minutes more until burgers are cooked through. Toast the buns, if desired. In a small bowl combine reserved 1/4 cup Ro*Tel with 1/4 cup mayo. Divide the mayo mixture among the 4 buns. Place a pork burger on each bun, add lettuce if desired, and serve.
***Lightly adapted from centercutcook***

I served these burgers with a side of onion garlic baked red potatoes (recipe to come).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Strawberry Spinach Soft Serve.

Say What?

Yea that's right, theres spinach in this deliciousness. Spinach is such a great additive to smoothies and soft serves because you get all the great nutrients without tasting different. Why would anyone complain about that? It's also a great way to use up some spinach leftover that may be on the fritz. I am all about zero waste. 

Strawberry Spinach Soft Serve

What you need:
- 1 cup strawberries, frozen
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup raw spinach
- 2 Tablespoons milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse for 2-3 minutes.  


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fit Foodie Gift Exchange.

Never too late for presents.

This post comes a little late, but I want to share a fun blogging activity I participated in. Lee over at Fit Foodie Finds did a fit foodie gift exchange where everyone involved was paired with another blogger/reader. It's similar to a pen pal. I was lucky enough to be paired with Lauren who blogs over at Breathe Deeply and Smile (<<< link to her blog, check it out!). It's great to meet and talk to someone you may have not otherwise met. We have been exchanging emails for the past month or so and sent each other our gifts before the end of the year. Check out all the cool stuff she got me... I was way outdone!

These cocktail mixes are so cool- the drink recipes are inside the box.

 It's almost as if she read my mind! I have wanted to try Justin's for so long now... It was well worth the wait. 

This is the first time I have tried the chocolate peppermint flavor luna bar and I have to say its a new favorite. It tasted totally different than what I was expecting.

The most adorable spatulas- of course I put them to use right away. 

Last but certainly not least- Apricot White Chocolate muffin mix. This is the only thing I haven't eaten yet and I can't wait to whip up a batch this weekend, I have a weakness for muffins. Thanks so much Lauren!!