Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shrimp and shitake quinoa bowls

Today didn't really start out as expected. The huge-normous snowstorm we were supposed to get last week duped us and was just waiting for this week. It's been snowing since 7-ish yesterday morning, with periods where it stops for a bit, but at least it's not coming down too hard. We had 7 inches last I heard, and are supposed to get another couple before all is said and done. Oh and another possible snowstorm the beginning of next week...which I'm not griping about because we sure do need to moisture up in this drought...but if Mama Nature could space these things out a bit so they can clean up the one before it first, that would be nice of her. Too bad she can be a coooold B sometimes.
So I didn't try to make the trek (usually a 35 minute commute, but yesterday it was an hour and 15 minutes) in to work today until a couple hours later than normal, to give the road crews a chance to get down and dirty on that ice and snow with their salt layers and plow monsters. I'm glad I did...I saw 5 cars in the ditch in one mile stretch of highway...not a good start to the work day, my fellow commuters, I feel for ya. Instead, I made Main Man an egg white sammich, got some house cleanup checked off the list, and threw in a 30 minute (that's how long it took me anyway) Crossfit workout I found on Pinterest. You guys. I thought this was going to be easy...4 exercises, 10 times...piece of cake. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm planning on being sore from this. I do all those exercises in Kosama, so I'm not sure why this was so difficult, maybe the no breaks?? Either way, it's a perfectly intense workout for times when you don't have more than a half hour to throw a little gym time in, and can be completed with nothing but your own body weight, and in your own living room for that matter. Give it a shot and let me know what you think of it...
This recipe also didn't come out as planned.  First, I started subbing things (spinach for snow peas, quinoa for rice) but then things got dicey. I've been looking for oyster sauce everywhere, people...well, one place actually, but it was Whole Foods so I thought it would be an easy one to find there. Well it wasn't. And I had this McCormick Cajun seafood sauce in the cupboard looking at me and jumping up and down and raising it's hand like it knew the answer to the question in I caved. Then I didn't have any eggs (this was supposed to be like a fried rice deal), so I just threw caution to the wind and wung it (wang it? winged it?) to throw this meal together.

And it worked. Oh, boy, did it work. Let me tell you what I did use, since you don't have access to the ripped out page of Cooking Light's magazine where they tried this out in the test kitchen and made it the best way possible. I'm sure it's lovely that way...and once I find me some oyster sauce, I shall compare.

1 lb large cleaned and deveined shrimp
1 bottle McCormick Cajun seafood sauce
3 cups fresh spinach
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T crushed red pepper

Standard drill with the quinoa, ladies and gents...rinse that shizz, put your chicken broth in the skillet and bring to a boil before adding the quinoa. When all the liquid is absorbed, it's done! I chopped my veggies while stirring randomly and it all worked out perfectly in the kitchen of bliss...that night at least, a lot of times when I try to multi-task we've got things boiling over and fingers being sliced...but let's focus on that night when everything under the sun went smoothly as possible.

After the quinoa has cooked all the liquid down, add all the other ingredients. Continue to stir while cooking on medium heat, until the shrimp is pink and cooked throughout. Your veggies should be perfectly done in the same amount of time it takes the shrimpies to get pinkified. The sauce will have plenty of time to meld with the other lovely flavors in that window of minutes as well. This dish works.

Oh, and if you've never bought seafood out of a freezer truck at a gas station in Iowa...I suggest you do so. This shrimp has been the most amazingly fresh stuff we've gotten from any grocer in town (and its even been frozen for a good couple months).

Check that big guy out in the picture below...he wants to be in your mouth. That wasn't intended to be as pervy as it ended up sounding...but really, with it being Lent season and all, put this recipe together on a Friday and you won't be disappointed. I added a splash of soy sauce and crushed red pepper when chowing, and it made all my dreams of shrimp and shitake bowls come true, even if this was an improv performance. Happy snowstorm to all, and to all a good humpday!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chocolate covered strawberry bouquet

Oh, how peeeeeerdy!! Oh, how yuuuuuuummy! That's what you're going to hear from your significant other (chick or dude) if you make them one of these. I know Valentines Day was a bit ago (I couldn't post this before then, duh)...but you can always pin the idea for next year, or do this for a birthday or anniversary, OR be the sweetest person in the world and bring this baby home for a random "I love you" mid-week surprise for your lovey. You know what that'll get you?? I'm not telling...but I'm sure your imagination will get you near where I'm thinking.
This particular fruit bouquet was a gift from my bossman to my bossman's girlfriend for Valentines Day. Look at that thing, you guys...raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and angel food cake all covered in dark chocolate (we tried for some white chocolate swirls but they didn't work out too well).

To start, we lined a vase with some tissue paper so you wouldn't be able to see our sticks in the clear vase. Then garnished the vase with a bunch of parsley for foliage, which I think turned out mighty nicely. We used kabob skewers for all our fresh fruit, and mini dip crockpots to melt our dark and white chocolate chips. An angel food cake was cut with Valentine-y cookie cutter shapes and then dipped in the chocolate fountain along with the fruities. We dipped and then set the sticks into another vase to put in the fridge to chill and harden the chocolate, so that we wouldn't have marks from laying the chocolate down to harden on some waxed paper. I think that kept the finish very "I bought this" looking over "I made this" looking.

Adding the sticks of undipped berries gave the bouquet some color, and just all around finished the look, in my opinion. The sprinkles were also a stellar finishing touch. Arrange all your sticks at different heights and mixed throughout...and there you have it! Oh, and I would recommend doing all this the same day you want to gift it to your lover dover...the parsley will tend to wilt after a bit, and all the veggies will be best when supa dupa fresh.

I got to take a couple extra sticks home to Main Man that night...although with his upset stomach, I'm the one that ended up eating them. Dark chocolate is heart healthy, riiiiiight? Right. So I had a strawberry that was divine and an angel food heart that made my real heart sing. Not even exaggerating. You ever heard your heart sing? It's beautious. But even better if you make your Valentine's heart do this. Experience that. And live to see another dark chocolate filled day :)

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Cajun chicken with mango salsa

This recipe makes me "happy, happy, happy".  That was for all you Duck Dynasty fans out there :) But it's also the truth...I was so happy with how this turned out. I'm a huge fan of this mango salsa from a tilapia recipe my friend Michelle gave me, and I'm not real sure how I never thought to use if for chicken before. Now I'm wondering what else I could serve this's got a kick to it that is instantly satiated by the sweetness of the mango, and the cilantro just finishes it off perfectly. I always make the mango salsa the night before to allow the flavors to meld, and the heat to kick up a notch...but you can do this all in one night if you so choose. Here's what you need for the star of the show:
mango salsa:
1 jalapeno diced
1/2 white onion diced
2 mangoes diced (they're tough to core so I need two to get the amount off
there that I want)
1 lime's juice squeezed in
fresh cilantro if you want (I use it if I have it but skip it if I don't)
If you want to see how I cut my mangoes, go check out the original recipe for tilapia and mango salsa.

I went simple with the chicken breast and just seasoned it with some cajun seasoning and a fancy pepper blend that I got from a good friend (who knows the way to my heart is fancy spices) from one of our wedding showers.

Have I showed you my grill pan yet?? We got it for our wedding and I just love this bugger! It makes the most beautiful grill marks on whatever I'm preparing, just like I pulled them off the grill, except I don't have to go outside in the snow to use it. Pretty perfect for an Iowa girl, if you ask me.

Cook the chicken through and then pile on as much or as little mango salsa as you feel is needed in your life...I like a lot...and serve (with steamed asparagus if you're me)!! So fresh and seems so's right around the corner folks!! Daylight savings time is over in 13 days...and counting down! This is a perfect meal to celebrate the coming of longer days in less than 2 weeks, if you ask me...enjoy!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Brudder Ben's tater tot casserole

Well, the whole snowstorm thing yesterday was a bit anti-climactic. We were told a week ago to expect up to 20 inches (from one of the local news stations) and it turned out to be only about 6 in most places. I'm ok with that, minus the fact that I had a really good plan of scrapbooking and coffee this morning instead of showering and commuting. The picture of my day in my head was a lot more fun than it ended up being, but such is life.
It seems as though some people can find something to crab about in any situation though. The weathermen are getting pummeled with comments on Facebook and Twitter, and are actually talking smack to other weathermen whose predictions were worse. If you live in Iowa and don't follow KCCI's social media, you're missing out on comedy gold, I'm telling you. I for one, would rather be warned of 20 inches and get 6, than plan on 6 and get smacked with 20...but that's just me. I'm fairly certain the same people complaining about the lack of snow that actually accumulated are the same people who would be griping about it if we had gotten it. I read a quote yesterday that seemed to fit perfectly:
"We can choose to complain that the rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that the thorn bushes have roses."
If that doesn't put things in perspective for you, I don't know what will. It's Winter in Iowa, people...enjoy life a little :) OK, I'm done with my own complaining now...back to business! This here, is Brudder Ben!

Brudder Ben came back from overseas and lived with Main Man and I for a few months before finding a place of his own to reside. Things got rocky a few times, but not many siblings think they're ever going to be roommates again after moving out of the rents growing pains were expected. We also got along swimmingly sometimes, so it all evened out in the end...

One thing that greased the skids, was when Benny Boo (I'm sure he's super pumped about me sharing all my endearing names for him on the internet) would cook for us. The kid sure can throw down in the kitchen. Let's be clear here...he doesn't keep that girlish figure by cooking light. Be warned that this is a comfort food cheat meal from the depths of the clouds of heaven...where calories don't count. I've never really been a fan of tater tot casserole before this, so Brudder took it upon himself to make a believer out of me. And he did...

When I asked Brudder Ben to send me his recipe, this is what I got:

"Can of cream of mushroom, chicken, and cheese. 2lbs of beef. 1lbs of kraft cheddar made with cream cheese. 2 cups of sour cream. Bag of mixed vegetables and a bag of Sweet corn."

Don't worry, I speak Brudder talk and shall translate for you. I watched him create so I would be able to pass this gem on to you...

2 lbs lean ground beef (I added the lean part)
1 lb bag of Kraft Cheddar cheese (has to be the stuff made from cream cheese, I'm told)
2 cups of sour cream (if it were me, I would use Greek yogurt)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (Birdseye Steamfresh brand is what he used)
1 bag frozen sweet corn (Birdseye Steamfresh brand is what he used)
Cookies flavor enhancer seasoning
Cracked black pepper
Garlic powder
1 family sized bag of tater tots

Brown the ground beef (if you wanted to lighten it up, you could use ground chicken or ground turkey) in a large skillet. Season generously with Cookies flavor enhancer, black pepper, and garlic powder. Add all other ingredients, besides the tater tots, to the skillet and stir together until mixed thoroughly. Heat until warm throughout.

Pour into a greased 9x13 pan (we use disposables for convenience, as you can see below). Start to layer the tater tots on top of the casserole. Season the top with more Cookies, pepper, and garlic powder if desired. You should really desire that. Yum!

Bake at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes (until tots are crunchtastic). Let it sit to cool for about 5 minutes and dig the heck into that masterpiece.

Try not to go back for second or thirds...and make sure you get to the gym the next day! This would've been perfect for a snow day meal after scrapbooking all day....

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things...

I've been pretty excited about some new finds lately, at the grocery store and beyond, so I feel like I should share the wealth of knowledge or let you guys know that I've finally joined the party if this stuff isn't new to you. Either are a few of my favorite things lately:

Cuties...where have these been all my life? I never even knew they existed until this year. At 40 calories a clementine, I eat 2 for a light snack and am always satisfied in the sweet tooth area of my tummy as well as the non-guilty snacking area of my brain. Give these a try and let the juice just run down your face...thank me later.

These things. Oh. My. Goodness. I have always steered clear of nuts because they're high in fat, but you know it's the good fat, and they're heart healthy and all that jazz so the more I've read about Main Man's cholesterol issues lately, the more I've been trying new things. The wasabi and soy sauce almonds are my absolute fave but these salt and vinegar ones pull in a very close second...there are tons of flavors though, so if the tang of those two don't trip your trigger, I'm sure the jalapeno smokehouse, honey dijon, or the blazing buffalo wing will do it for you! Blue Diamond Bold is where it's at...

Greek yogurt...although I've been using the plain stuff as a sub for sour cream and cream cheese in cooking, I've never actually been a huge "eat a yogurt" person. Until now. These are a perfect pre-workout snack, lots of protein and only 100 calories so they seem to keep you full for longer. And they taste amazeballs! I feel sorry for you if you've never tasted amazeballs...

Hot yoga at Power Life Yoga in West Des Moines has been a great supplement to my Kosama classes in Ames. I think I've finally found a perfect balance to my workout routines each week. I've started a 20 in 30 challenge (20 workouts in 30 days for those who needed an explanation), and am going to my 12th workout tonight...its been challenging, but its also taught me how to organize my time, energy, and plans to accomplish my goal. Makes me realize that excuses can be found around any corner, but they can also be eradicated pretty easily if you're adamant in your plans to achieve said goal.

Blueberries. I know these have been around for a while. But I have never just sat and ate handfuls of them. Or snuck a baggie of them into a movie theater on a Friday night. Or not been able to take a picture of them for you to post because I just devoured the container this morning. I didn't know I liked them that much. They say your taste buds change every 7 years or something...try a handful of blueberries soon if you haven't done so recently, you may very well be a closet berry lover like me!

Wholly Guacamole spicy guac is my favorite new discovery (click that link for a coupon)! They are available in little 100 calorie packs, because I don't know about you, but stopping on a container of guac doesn't happen easily. So I know exactly how much I'm taking in, and it's got more of that good fat I was talking about above with the almonds. It's not exactly low in fat or calories, but if you're choosing between queso and guac, always go the guac route! And the spicy kind has just the right kick in the pants that gets me know how I like a good pants kick :)

Last but not least, Vince Flynn's series about CIA operative Mitch Rapp (listed HERE in order) is my new obsession. These were recommended to me by a friend's husband, and I'm so glad he lent me the first couple novels to get me sucked into ordering the rest on my Kindle. There are 14 books in the series, which was a little daunting at first, but it keeps my attention to start a new book when I already know the characters and want to see what's happening in their lives. It's exciting, with a little romance, and I feel like I really want to know Mitch in real's actually disappointing when I think that he doesn't really exist. I'm reading Executive Power (book #6) now, and am starting to get nervous about what I'm going to do when I get to the last book, hopefully Vince Flynn will kick another one out for me by that time...

And that's me in a nutshell the last month or you have any new products or favorites that I should try??

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chicken and gnocchi soup

If you live in the midwest, you've no doubt been hearing the rumors of the monster snowstorm that is supposed to happen upon us the end of this week. Unless you live under a rock that is, and if that's the case, I hope your rock has central heat. It's getting chilly up here, which is sad after last week's temperatures that made Spring seem just around the corner. No worries, I have a pretty exciting plan to simmer some soup and scrapbook all the livelong days away while I'm snowed in...which will happen if we get as much as they're chattering about. Twenty inches is nothing to fool with, so I won't even attempt to get anywhere besides my living room that day...
I get just as excited for snow days now as I did when I was a kid, but for different reasons altogether. Snow is sooooo perdy the first day it falls. After that, I could care less about the nasty stuff, but I love to sip on hot cocoa and watch the big white flakes fall out the window, as long as my house stays at a perfect 72 degrees throughout. Main Man is always out plowing, so he doesn't get to run the heat on snow days :) I do not, however, want anything to do with going sledding or building snow forts/men in the yard. Maybe I will be more fun in the cold when I have kids of my own to play with in the white stuff, but for now, I'll view the beauty from the winda.
This soup came together out of an excess amount of veggies in the fridge carrots were getting to look pekid, my green onions were starting to slime up, and I have no use for celery after a veggie tray has been demolished (celery is one veggie I don't use much). So, I made soup! I've been dying to make a soup anyhow, as I went through sort of a phase this Fall where I made tonnnnnns of different varieties (check out skinny loaded baked potato, beef mushroom and quinoa soup, and cheesy veggie chowder for a few new faves) but have now eaten our way through our frozen stock. Being a food hoarder is great, but it gives me anxiety to have an empty freezer...
Also, I read Iowa Girl Eats religiously, and she always mentions putting a cheese rind in your soups for extra flava flav. I've never done it before, mainly because I never remember to save my cheese rinds (just pop them in a freezer bag and keep them in the deep freeze until you're ready for them), so I wanted to give it a shot now that I have a pile of rinds in my freezer. Main Man is constantly flabbergasted by the things I choose to save and freeze :)
Tiny little addition, tons of awesome flavor! I used a Greyere cheese rind this time...

Gnocchi is my new thing lately, I want to make my own sometime, but for now we're sticking with the store bought stuff. Notice it's cholesterol free for my Main Man!

Here's what you need...

4 chicken breasts, seasoned, cooked, and cubed
2 cups chopped carrots
3 cups chopped celery
1 cup diced green onion
1 cup diced white onion
4-5 cloves minced garlic
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cheese rind (if you have it)
1 package potato gnocchi (1 lb)
1 large can chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil, and add all the veggies (besides the spinach) and the cheese rind to boil until they are almost tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the gnocchi and boil until chewy but firm, about 6 minutes. Turn the soup down to a simmer and add the spinach, salt and pepper, and skim milk. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until flavors meld. I like to let my soups simmer for a couple hours, but if you're hungry, get on in there! Soups are always better the next day, in my opinion though.

Serve with fresh cracked pepper and saltine crackers. Mmmmmm Mmmmmm Great...Campbell's has got nothin' on our snowday soup! P.S. Aren't those little soup bowls with cracker holders just adorbs?? I promise I won't say adorbs again, so you don't break my thumbs. But, gaaaahhhhhhh! My friend Bea gave them to me for Christmas and they give me a warm fuzzy in my heart region :) Happy snow week, all!!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Prosciutto and fontina chicken

Happy Monday, people! It was a phenomenal weekend around the Casa Del Stensland, at least a perfect one in my world. If you asked me what my perfect weekend would be, it would generally include some good workouts, some productive time at home, some great meals, and generally taking things at my own pace with no timeframes for nothin'!  And that's exactly what we did...
Friday night I came home from yoga to a meal prepared by Main Man, which is always a nice surprise, especially since I had nothing planned for dinner which doesn't happen often. Saturday we got to hit lunch and shopping at Whole Foods (his first experience there, he was less than impressed with the prices), hit a hot yoga class, get through Menards with supplies to repot a couple houseplants and start our veggie garden indoors so we're rocking the freshies earlier this year, and spend the evening making homemade whole wheat pastas to eat and freeze while taking care of a couple bottles of wine I had laying around. You pretty much can't add anything in there that I would rather be doing, especially when I get to do them with my favorite duder in the 'verse. Yesterday I planned all my meals for the week, I always feel so much better about my life when I have my week planned out. It's tough when I don't get home from my Kosama class until 7 pm, so I love having things prepared ahead of time to throw down for dinner when I get home.
We've been trying to stick with chicken and seafood a lot lately, we had our physicals recently and we have a bit of a cholesterol problem for the Main Man. He's been hitting the gym and we've doubled our efforts at eating healthier, so we're hoping to get his numbers down before his next appointment. Chicken can get a bit boring if you're not careful, so here's a good one to try if you're sick of the standard "marinated in Italian dressing" or "Lawry's flavored" chicken breast.
chicken breasts
prosciutto (2 slices per breast)
fontina cheese, grated
anaheim pepper (not spicy, tastes more like a green bell pepper), chopped
Pound your chicken breasts out flat and lay them over 2 overlapped slices of prosciutto, like below. Sprinkle with fontina cheese and chopped peppers before rolling up and securing with toothpicks.

Put them in a greased baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.

Some of the cheese melted out so I just scooped it up like a love blanket for the crispy prosciutto wrapped chicken breast. I kinda want a cheese blanket for myself. I wouldn't even make Main Man cuddle with me if I had one of those.

Served with one of our favorite veggies, the roasted brussel sprouts, and we were in business in no time! Hope this week goes as quickly as last week did, we're supposed to get buried the end of the week with a crazy snowstorm so I'll be working hard to get all my workouts in for the 20/30 challenge (that I'm doing with my friend Leslie) and getting things done at work in case I'm stranded on Friday. Can we all do a little finger cross that we don't get the 20 inches they're predicting??

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Jerk spiced tilapia

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day yesterday! I had a sick Main Man on my hands but he still managed to get me some gorgeous yellow tulips that are just getting ready to open up and bloom their bloominess to me, aaaaaand the meat grinder attachment to my Kitchenaid mixer that I've been eyeing...doesn't sound very romantic to most ladies but the dude sure knows his wifey well :) We ate his first full meal since Monday night together and that was an accomplishment, I think he's finally kicked this thing!
First Friday of Lent post, so it has to be fish, right?? We actually aren't Catholic so we don't practice Lent in our home, but I do like to eat a good amount of seafood so I will try to keep you Catholics in the know on our best seafood dishes throughout the next few weeks. Here are a few of our favorites (read: constant repeats in the rotation) for you to work your way through...
That list was meant to be a few items long but I kept seeing new ones..."OMG I forgot about that one! I'll have to make that soon, it has to be on the Lent list!"  I tried to start with my favorites but they got jumbled up after a bit...but I will say the top two are probably still my top two that I've made lately. So. Flipping. Good. And both are super easy although they sound super fancy...and that's a pretty stellar combo. Anyway, there are a bunch more seafood options under the "Seafood" tab if you look at the list to the right of the page. Go check 'em out if none of the above struck your fancy!
Since we were in St. Thomas and Main Man had the jerk chicken, anything with the jerk spice has been on my radar...this one set off the "we have to do" alarm. So we did And it was everything I dreamed it would be. I think tilapia might be the most prepared fish in our home, as Main Man isn't a fan of salmon (which is an issue for me because I love the stuff and want to eat it once a week). But tilapia is a favorite of both of us, so it's a staple round here. So, let's get this Lent party started!!!
1 t thyme
1 t chili powder
2 cloves garlic
1 g ground ginger
1/2 nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon (I might leave that out next time, or just use a dash)
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 t freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sea salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 t ground cloves (I omitted this as I didn't have it on hand)
4 tilapia filets
Combine the herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Coat tilapia filets with olive oil and pat both sides with spices. The recipe calls to saute each filet until just cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. But I like to bake my fish rather than pan fry it, most of the time. So I threw mine into a baking dish and cooked for 20 minutes at 375 degrees until the fish flaked easily. Do not overcook or it will be terribly dry! 
And this is your end result...not a bad way to start the season of giving up meat on Fridays. What else are you giving up this year?

Fat Stats: (per filet)
Calories: 160
Protein: 20 g
Carbs: 0 g
Fiber: 1 g
Fat: 8 g

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jalapeno popper chicken chili

Happy Valentines day, blogosphere! Or, if you're Main Man, Happy E. Coli from organic baby spinach day...yeah, it's been a fun week around this joint. Did ya'll hear about the recall on certain brands of baby spinach? If you haven't, and you have some in the fridge, check HERE to make sure you don't have to throw yours out like I did. Is it bad that I'm sort of upset at having to throw out an almost $7 tub of organic spinach? I love spinach! I use it in tons of recipes and we eat spinach salads on the reg. I guess that's why this sucks so bad. But I guess I should count my blessings, as I have had no symptoms whatsoever (although I hear they can come up to a week later, but I also hear some people just don't show symptoms so I'm hoping for the latter rather than the former). Anyway, it really puts a damper on the sweet meal I had planned for the evening in with my new lover of a hubby. We also are trying reschedule our weekend getaway to a Bed & Breakfast that we were signed up to do a murder mystery dinner at on Saturday night! I have really been looking forward to this, I'm really hoping they can sell our reservation and reschedule us! Stupid spinach. Here are a couple of the items we made last year for V-day...just in case you need last minute ideas:
Baked parmesan tomatoes (these are seriously amazing and so easy!)
On to some more fun news...this recipe is ahhhhhmazing! We had a chili cookoff for our friend Tony's surprise 30th birthday a couple weekends ago at our place. Tony was the judge and he's not one for a lot of spice, plus I knew there would be a ton of standard chili recipes there and wanted mine to stand out. I saw this recipe a while ago on Bev Cooks, I've told you about her blog before...she's pretty much my idol. I love reading her writing and feel like she's in my head's weird. Anywho...her jalapeno popper chicken chili was a favorite at the party, although not by the birthday boy judge :( I had quite a few people ask for the recipe so here it is!
2 T olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground chicken
2 T taco seasoning
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn (I used a can of shoepeg corn)
1 (14.5 oz) can Muir Glen diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 slices bacon
4 oz cream cheese (I used fat free)
1/2 cup shredded mexican cheese (I used 2%)
1 pinch course salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, both peppers, and garlic. Saute until the veggies start to soften, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the ground chicken and brown all over, 5 minutes or so. Add the taco seasoning and continue to cook another minute. Add the beans, corn, diced tomatoes, salsa, broth, and cilantro. Bring to ta light simmer and cook 30 minutes. While the soup simmers, cook the bacon and roughly chop into crumbles. Add the cream cheese, bacon, and shredded cheese to the chili and stir until melted and creamy.

I simmered my chili for a bit and then added it to a crockpot to be served for the evening, and forgot to take pics of it when it was first done. The following pics are leftover so the chili appears more chunky than it was when it was originally served. It still had sinful flavor though, and don't kid yourself into thinking I didn't finish that bowl after making it to take photos. Garnish with cilantro, bacon, jalapeno, sour cream (or greek yogurt), salsa...whatever your heart of hearts wants in its caverns for the day...and enjoy! As with most chili, it's better the next day so I didn't even need toppings.

You know it's a hearty chili when it holds your spoon up in it! A lot healthier than normal chili with the subs of chicken for beef, black beans for red beans, etc. I would highly recommend this if you're looking for a chili that's outside the box!

I should mention that this didn't take a prize out of the 11 entries we had that night. But Main Man's chili recipe did take 3rd place!! I will also mention that I made Main Man's chili that day so it's really my 3rd place ribbon using his case we're counting 3rd place ribbons, which I don't think anyone does.

Mr. Greg Loeffelholz took first prize that night though, so maybe someday I will try to finagle his recipe out of him and post it for you...I know that it included Graziano sausage and bacon. You pretty much can't lose with those two ingredients.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spicy fish taco bowls

Since Lent is upon us, I thought I could give you all a new twist on your standard fish dishes for the first week of no meatness. I wish I knew what Main Man's aversion to seafood themed Mexican dishes is. For some reason, the seafood enchiladas I came up with a couple years ago creeped him out (although he did end up liking them) and he won't allow me to make fish tacos when I've mentioned them (quite a few times) in the past. So I sort of snuck this one past can't even see the fish, can you!? I had this recipe from Pinch of Yum on my mind for quite a while before I got around to making it...who doesn't love a rice bowl with fresh veggies? Add some spiced up tilapia in there and you've sold me. We all know I like some heat in my life...particularly in the mouth area of my life.
I thought this would be an easy throw together meal for a night when we had the newly engaged Calvin and Rachel over for dinner to talking wedding details, and it was quick. Too quick for Main Man to get home in time for it so it sat...and sat...and sat on the stove for an hour until he walked in the door from his errands. I tasted it when it was first done and it was right up my alley, but it was a bit dried out by the time he got home so I would recommend serving this immediately, even if your hubs has to eat by his lonesome later. But don't tell him I said that :)
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 t cayenne pepper powder
4 tilapia filets
1 T olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (I used a can of shoepeg corn)
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can black beans
4 cups cooked brown rice (I used 2 packages of the Uncle Ben's Spanish Style Ready rice)
*I used greek yogurt and chalula hot sauce for topping but you could top with shredded cheese, cilantro, pico de gallo, salsa, avocado, sour cream, etc
Mix the spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish filets. Add salt and pepper to taste. Throw the fish filets in an oven heated to 400 degrees in a Pam'd up baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes apart easily.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add corn, red peppers, and onions to the pan and heat over high heat for several minutes until the veggies are tender-crisp. Add the black beans and heat through.
Cook the rice in the microwave and add it to the skillet, along with the flaked fish. Top with desired toppings and serve...see the yumminess below for inspiration. This is a low calorie meal with high levels of taste and a very filling finish...I ate the leftovers for lunches and was surprised at how well it reheated. Add a little chicken broth before microwaving if your rice is a little dry. And don't tell your kids or hubs there is fish in this dish if you think they will turn their nose up, I would venture an educated guess that they will love it if they give it a shot! Happy hump day, all!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crockpot chicken cordon bleu

Main Man has been having a rough go of it this month, I tell ya! He was sick for about 2 weeks, I think it was the flu, but it was at least the respiratory kind where you can still leave the house without worry, even if you don't feel good doing it. He was great for about a week and woke up this morning with the stomach flu, I do believe. Poor kid dropped his phone in the couch and it got squished in the inner workings of the recliner, so now he is home sick without a phone to let me know he's ok or he needs something all day. I do realize this is the definition of a first world problem but I don't like him being incommunicado when he's under the weather...I'm a worry wart.
This recipe is one of the comfort food requests he made during his last sickness, so I guess it's fitting that I post this again today. This was super simple, done when I got home so I could take care of my patient instead of cooking dinner, and had the down home taste of something mama would make you when you're sick. What did you request when you were sick? I always wanted my mom's homemade chicken noodle soup...I have some frozen in the freezer so when I am sick now I can just pull some out for myself. Anyway...if you have a sicky on your hands, go ahead and make them a little dose of this and see what happens, sounds like there's a lot of it going around this year!
I found this recipe on the Six Sisters Stuff blog...and have a bunch more of their recipes pinned to try soon. What a great idea for siblings to say in touch!?
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed cream of chicken soup (I used 98% fat free)
1 cup milk (I use skim)
4 oz sliced ham
4 oz sliced swiss cheese (I used 2%)
1 (8 oz) package herbed dry bread stuffing mix (I used a box of turkey stuffing I had leftover from Thanksgiving in my cupboard)
1/4 cup butter, melted (I omitted this part, it seemed like extra calories for no reason)
Mix together the soup and milk in a sall bowl. Pour enough of the soup into the slow cooker to cover the bottom. Layer chicken breasts over the top of the sauce and cover with slices of ham and swiss cheese. Spread the remaining soup on top. Sprinkle the stuffing on top (drizzle butter on top of that layer if you're using it), and cover. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours. I generally have Main Man start the crockpot on high 3 hours before dinner when we're doing chicken.
We obviously had leftovers but Main Man loved this dish so much he ate the same leftovers for lunches that whole week. Now that's something to write home about...

Served with a side of frozen sweet corn and over a bed of wild rice. This dinner is best enjoyed in front of a warm fire with a blanket wrapped around you. Stay healthy, my friends!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Honeymoon food porn

Because who doesn't love a little Monday morning food porn? I had such an amazing weekend, I thought I should spread the smiles by reminiscing about our fare on the honeymoon in January. If there's one good thing about cruising, it's the endless amounts of amazing food at your fingertips 24 hours a day. You don't eat when you're hungry,  you eat when you're not full anymore from your last meal. There were 21 restaurants on the ship we were on, the Norwegian Epic. We didn't get to try them all but we sure did give it a good old college try!
I do have to share a little disappointing news with you. It's not like I didn't know this already but it sort of hit home that my 20's are gone-dy last week when I got a text from Main Man saying: "You're no longer a 20 something food blogger. Did you forget that you're 30?"  Jeeeeeeeeesh! So I suppose I have to change my banner/title, but am thinking I will give myself this week to enjoy it for a bit longer. Don't judge :)
I have a new blog I would like to share with you, it's not food related, but you can bet it's on my regular reading list. My good friend Leslie has started a new blog regarding her workout regimen, her struggles with it, and a new challenge she is undertaking for herself to hit her fitness goals. Main Man and I actually joined her at hot yoga this weekend (he was surprised at how hard it actually is, and promised to go back with me) so it's fun to read about her progress, and her outlook on life. She's a very talented writer and she is just as insightful in real life as she is in her writing, so you see why I love to hang out with her! If you would like to join me in following her, check her blog out HERE!!
Every morning we hit the breakfast buffet and they had an omelet station where someone would make your eggs however you desire them. I had an egg white omelet with everything in it each morning...some toast, turkey bacon, and a roasted tomato and I was good to go for the day!

The first place we docked the ship after 2 days at sea was St. Maarten. We had arranged to do an America's Cup regatta boat race, so we headed straight for that in the morning after getting off the ship. We were put to work on the Stars and Stripes, the actual boat that won the 1986 America's Cup race, and we raced a Canadian sailboat....and ended up winning! 'Merica!!

We worked up quite an appetite spinning the gears on the sailboat, so we went in search of the authentic Caribbean food. This was a jerk spiced conch dish that we got at an open air restaurant right on the beach in St Maarten. This is tied for my favorite meal of the entire trip (I didn't get a picture of the competitor, the salmon oscar I had the first night on the boat), I can't even explain the flavors in the spice profile...a tiny hint of sweetness followed by the heat...amazing! And so cool to gaze at the blue water and white sand beaches while nibbling on lunch and sipping on a beer...this meal was the epitome of vacation.

Main Man had a grilled fish sandwich that day on the beach, and it was just as amazing as my meal. The fish was so fresh and flaky with such a great seasoning on it. Mmmmmm, I need to live somewhere that's not landlocked at some point in my life...

This was at Taste, one of the free restaurants on the ship. We were super impressed with the free choices on board, as well as the specialty restaurants. You have to pay a small fee at the specialty places, and can order anything you want on the menu, two meals each if you have the room in your tummy. We got appetizers, salads, and were never hungry by time we got our meals at dinner each night...the food was better than I remember on past cruises. I had a black mussels and seafood pasta...

And Main Man was pumped to enjoy prime rib and a baked potato...he was impressed that the meat tasted as good as it does at home. If an Iowan says your prime is good, you know you're doing something right!

In St Thomas, we chose a ziplining excursion since neither of us had ever done it before. Main Man has an aversion to heights so I'm not sure how he did so much better than me at this, but we both really enjoyed it. There were 6 ziplines, each getting steadily longer and higher up as we went. The last one was so tall, that if there had been any other way down, I would've taken it. But I had to just shut my eyes and go.....wheeeeeeeee!

The view above is of the famous Megan's beach overlooking the area where all the celebrities homes are on the island...

We had lunch at a little place in the shopping district of St Thomas after we finished our ziplining tour...I was a little obsessed with the conch so I got it every place it was offered, although I never did get the conch salad I was looking for. This was conch and onion in a garlic sauce with macaroni and cheese and sweet potato mash with a salad. This was amazing as well but came in second in my conch meals for the trip...
Main Man had the jerk chicken with the same sides as my meal. He liked it so much he has requested it at home, so you will be seeing a jerk chicken recipe sometime soon on the blog.

The Norwegian Epic is the only ship that has a Cirque du Soleil show at sea...amazing doesn't even begin to describe the talent these people were showing with balance, strength, and poise (in the tiniest space, mind you) while the ship rocked from the waves so much that I walked myself into a wall on the way to the bathroom after only one glass of wine. I don't know how it's humanly possible to do what these people do...the show included dinner, and it was fabulous but we were not allowed to take photos once the show started so as not to disturb the performers. This was an unbelievable experience that we will never forget...

The last day of the trip, we docked in Nassau, Bahamas for the day. We embarked on an underwater submarine type trip that took up most of the day, so we didn't have much time for looking around. This was probably one of the neatest experiences of my's so unnatural to feel like you're breathing underwater. I would recommend this to anyone who visits the Bahamas! We went to Atlantis the last time we were there, and spent the whole day racing each other up the steps to the slides having a blast like 10 year old kids, but we wanted to try something different this time. We've decided that we love Nassau so much, we want to take a trip just there sometime....

We stopped at a place called Sharkey's right on the beach as we were heading back to the boat, so we could grab some conch fritters to fill our craving...yummo! There's our honeymoon in a nutshell...I wish I would've made this post sooner, I am now longing for white sand beaches and piles of extravagant food at my beck and call. I hope you all enjoyed your Monday escape to the get back to work!!


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