Friday, March 29, 2013

Tuna melts

Well, my little poopies (isn't that from The Little Mermaid? If it's not, then I apologize)...we made it. It's officially Friday and I couldn't be happier. I'm not sure the week you get back from vacation and are trying to get back in the swing of your routine and get caught up on sleep and everything else that you put off while you were gone actually feels longer than the week before vacation when you're getting everything ready to go and are so excited about packing and leaving....but it sure feels like it to me. I'm happy to have hit the weekend, and pretty proud of myself for not dropping the ball on my workouts this week or last, even with a 5 day hiatus in the middle. I've still gotten my minimum 3 days in per week and am actually going to hit my normal goal of 4 this week! That's a win in my book...and a needed win after the 3,000 calorie daiquiris I consumed on vacation unknowingly until asking about the health facts. Talk about a blow to the gut! Oh well, that's what vacation is for...back on track!
This was a meal we had before vacation...something easy that I used to prepare a lot when I was in college. Tuna's cheap, ya'll! And it takes literally 5 minutes to throw these together. Quick and cost-friendly? That's a college student's best friend right there...
This mustard makes the sammy, I'm telling you. It's the only mustard we use in our house, I'm not a yellow mustard fan. But recently I discovered that Woeber's also makes a horseradish mustard (in the cupboard, have yet to try) and a jalapeno mustard (holy eff bombs, that stuff is the ish). So if you haven't tried this brand yet, make like the Easter bunny and hop to it. Moving on...
2 cans white albacore tuna in water, drained (I like this because it's not oily or ugly and just tastes more fresh than the normal oil in can tuna...costs a little more but it's worth it)
4 slices wheat bread
2 slices 2% pepperjack cheese
1 T mayo (I used to use fat free but now use the olive oil mayo, its great for you even with calories added)
1 T Woeber's hot and spicy mustard
cracked pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
Chalula hot sauce dashes if you likey...and I do likey
Mix all but the bread and cheese (obviously) up in a bowl with a fork. Spread the mixture on the bread, split between two sandwiches.

I used my Griddler to make those perdy grill marks on the bread this time, but before I lived in Griddler ownership, I would broil them in the oven to get the bread toasted and then heat in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese completely (the broiler WILL burn your bread if you leave it in there too long). Keep an eye on it if you do it that way, these things are known to go from zero to housefire in the span of 30 seconds! The Griddler works perfectly though..worth the investment, friendys.

These sammies are so versatile! We actually layered some banana pepper slices on them this time. You can go less spicy and add tomato slices too, if that's your bag. Either way, these are always filling and satisfying. Main Man had actually requested them because I hadn't made them for him since we started dating. Surprised he remembered the meals we had that far back, but glad he liked them then too! Served with the standard szecuan green beans made with our stock of frozen green beans from the garden last summer and everyone was happy, happy, happy!

In other news...I'm going to try to do an exercise in accountability and have started using MyFitnessPal again in order to knock some of the Winter (and vacation) weight off the scale. If you are a user and want to add me, and comment when I have too many glasses of wine, skip a workout, or throw in a late night popsicle, my username is abbystensland and I will gladly take as many people judging me on as possible! Also, I'm planning to begin April on Sunday with this "Tuff Butt" workout and use it as a boost to my normal routine each day. We'll see how that goes...again with the accountability...ask me if I forget to post about it! And join me if you  would like to have a little booty in your swimsuit this summer rather than a daiquiri booty. Come oooooon, it'll be fun! OK, that's a lie, but misery does love company so...perdy please?! Heading out for a lunch run on this gorgeous Spring Friday...ta-ta for now!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spagetti squash

So, I guess it's Thursday then! I have to tell you guys...I am just now feeling like myself after that long weekend in The Big Easy. I've been just exhausted, full of chigger bites, nursing a bit of a food/travel hangover, and just plain trying to stay above water this week. It's been rough. Like, wasn't sure if I was going to make it through the week, rough. The trip was ah-mazing though! I have so much to update you on when I get some pictures uploaded...the food down there is insane. And I'm now a crawfish addict. Not a good thing to be when you live in Iowa.

I think the secret to my recovery was the hot yoga sculpt class I slugged through last night with Leslie and Rachel. It was most certainly not my best showing, I had to stop and breathe for a while a couple times, but I feel like a whole new person today. Sweating all those toxins out was exactly what my body needed, and I can now focus on life after vacation and getting back into a routine. Looking forward to some laid back family time this weekend with my fam coming to visit, as well as Easter service with the MIL, and finally the Jamison get together (another sure food hangover coming my way on Sunday). A few DIY projects around the house and some yoga to round it out and I'm pretty stoked for the coming weekend!

Main Man and I have been needing a break from heavy food after vaca, so we've been eating pretty well since we got back. You know you need it when your body is just craving veggies! Well, Rachel (soon to be Mrs. Schwery in October) shared a pic of her spagetti squash experiment on Facebook the other day and offered to bring me some to try since her future hubs didn't like it. I've been wanting to give it a shot, but have been scared to don't wanna mess with a classic like spagetti, right? Wrong. I'm glad I'm not the person who turns down food, because I tried the container she gave me last night and it was unreal! I loved the slight sweetness the squash gives the dish compared to normal pasta. It's got a little crunch to it that you don't get with pasta, but it's a fresh crunch, and not too pronounced. AND you can eat a pile of it if you's just veggies after all! Best part about it...Main Man loved it too, and gave me full permission to sub it for some other pastas (I've heard lasagna with squash is all the rage). Get ready for the newest substitution on the blog...move over cauliflower for potatoes! Spagetti squash pasta is going to be making the rounds soon...keep your eyes peeled.

The instructions were super simple too...can't beat that with a stick. Just grab your favorite pasta sauce and a spagetti squash and you're all set!

Cut the spagetti squash in half, then core it. Spray with Pam and lay it flat side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool and then use a fork to flake the squash out, it looks exactly like spagetti noodles!

I shall now go heat up the leftovers for lunch...thanks a ton for the new addiction, Mrs. Soon to be Schwery!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tomato and feta stuffed chicken

Meal planning 101: Do everything that is possible to do ahead of time, ahead of time. Some people may say its not worth it to them to spend an afternoon shucking, cooking, bagging, and freezing sweet corn once a year so they have a whole year's supply of the stuff at their finger tips to thaw and gobble on any time they so choose. I would wholeheartedly disagree.
Making my sweet corn and green beans each year seriously saves me more time and dollar signs than you would imagine in grocery shopping, cooking, and preparation each week. It's all about the little things, folks...
Making a dinner so husband friendly that he can literally take it from fridge to stove, is one of the best things in life. Nothing like walking in the door and having dinner almost ready to be served, with no effort from either of you that day. I usually make a few things on Sunday, get the cleanup out of the way, and the rest of the week I have to spend no time or energy on anything but throwing the plates in the dishwasher after dinner. More quality time, less annoying housework during the week, and yummy dinners in no can anyone be mad at that?
I'm always looking for new ways to prepare chicken, as it can get pretty boring but is one of the great lean proteins we try to eat often in our hiz-ouse. I love me some feta cheese, and I thought the half can of fire roasted tomatoes would mix well with it. Mix all that up with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste and load up your dual chicken boobs. I know...I'm well aware that my infantile obsession with the word boob over breast should've stopped when I turned 30, but age is just a number, my friends! I bought thinly sliced chicken breasts so I didn't even have to pound them out, but you could butterfly them or pound them if you need them to be larger to fit more stuffing.

Roll them up and secure with a few toothpicks so your insides stay inside. Make sure to remember how many you use for each one, they're not fun to accidentally get in the side cheek. I always use 3 toothpicks for everything so I always know how many I'm hunting for when I eat...makes life easy like that. Sprinkle the boobs (I know, I went there again) with italian seasoning, basil, oregano, or whatever similar spices you have on hand at the momento. Grease a baking dish and put them inside, cover and throw them in the fridge until it's time for their burning death. I guess they're already dead, and it's not fun to think of eating dead things, so just forget that last part.

Grab a bag of sweet corn out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to thaw. When you are your Main Man or your kiddos are ready to start dinner...preheat the oven to 400 degrees and throw the chicken dish in for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through (no pink, my peeps). Empty the bag of corn into a small pot and simmer on low to warm. It's already cooked so just needs to be one like cold corn, do they?
Serve. Now doesn't that sound like a fun week night? Thar she blows! Dinner in a jif with so little effort, I'm trying to train my cat to do it. The opposable thumbs thing is where we get stuck...but we'll get it.

This chicken stayed very (ahem, I have to cover my ears to even type this word) moist. Great italian flavor, but I love me a little spice so I added a bit of crushed red pepps to my plate and it was puuuuurfect, just as if the cat had made it. OK, even I'll admit that got weird. The cat didn't really make this. Anyway, that's all for today's lesson. Next time I'll show you my crazy hoarder freezer that helps with meal planning as well...enjoy your hump day in the meantime!

I should warn you all that I shall be MIA the next few days...until next Tuesday to be exact. Main Man and I are leaving on a jet plane (and having severe anxiety about it) with some friends heading to New Orleans tomorrow for my lady friend's 30th birthday celebration (and crawfish boil). Don't worry...I'll take massive amounts of photos of all the lovely southern food I drown my face in and ruin weeks of working out for this weekend. I'll be very excited to get back and let you know I lived through the plane rides, so look for me next week. I have a very valid (in my mind) fear that I will die in a plane crash at some point in my life, just not sure which plane it will take place on, so I'm hoping it's not this one. If it is, I hope it's on the way home with a happy belly full of crawfish and not on the way there so we have to miss the party. Happy (my Friday) Wednesday, friends!

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Not the title you were expecting to see written on a food blog, was it? From time to time, I write about things not involving food, but I've never written about as serious a topic as this. I mean, I wrote about 9/11 and had a bloggers day of silence for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, but there's no controversy in that. Everyone stands in agreement that both moments in history were horrific and traumatic for everyone in this country, let alone everyone personally involved.

I don't write about my political views here, although I am extremely opinionated in that arena. This is a happy place where no arguments on the economy or debates on gun control need to's a place where I can mindlessly enjoy sharing recipes and stories about mine and Main Man's life together and hope that a couple of you enjoy reading about online, public diary of sorts. But, I have to speak about this now, because I have to express the anger in me that has built so much the past two days that I can barely type. I have to throw my hat into the debate about young people, rape, underage drinking, social media, and the recent conviction of Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond (I think everyone should remember these names) for the rape of their 16 year old classmate.

It needs to be addressed that I'm flabbergasted that there is even a debate on this subject or any slight amount of media or public sympathy for either of these two boys, whether or not they were "good kids", "star athletes", or "promising young men". Any promise you had was out the window long before this act occurred, there was never any real promise in your life when you weren't taught that a human being, male or female, should not be treated like a sack of potatoes or a sex doll. I was very surprised that I hadn't heard the story until recently, so if you're in the dark here, read this overview about the Steubenville rape case.

I'm not happy that I have to link to this article so that you can see the picture of the young girl that was assaulted that night. I went back and forth on whether or not to include it at all because I feel sharing that photo continues to revictimize the young woman over and over. But I need you to feel the wrench in your gut that I felt when I saw that photo. Seeing the picture makes this all the more real. If you really want to attempt to choke back the vomit in your throat right now, watch the video at the bottom of that link to see another football player's reaction to the ongoing attack. If you can believe it, I read transcripts of text messages between the "rape crew" that night that were more vile than that video. Now, try to understand how other GIRLS are being charged with harassing and threatening bodily harm to the victim (like she hasn't lived through enough) on social media because they are upset about the outcome of the case. If you can explain all that away by their age and immaturity, how about the supposed coverups from football coaches and other adults in the community? And if you think this is simply limited to a small town's moral degeneration, please tell me how you wrap your head around CNN's coverage of the verdict on Sunday.

What's going on here?!!? Am I living in the twilight zone this week? I cannot fathom how young men, who should obviously know better, could treat another human being like that when they most certainly have women in their lives that they themselves love...a sister, a mother, a girlfriend. I can't figure out how young women will attack an already victimized and terrorized girl who is trying to stand up for herself, as well as THEIR right not to be treated like a sex toy. And for the life of me, the most asinine of it all, is how the adults in Steubenville, in the media, and all over this country aren't forming a lynch mob against these boys instead of having conversations about how drunk the girl was, if she liked and was flirting with one of the boys who did this to her, and the definition of rape.

Rape is the only crime these "promising young athletes" could've committed and still be getting this kind of sympathy. If they had mugged a man dressed in nice clothes, no one would be saying the victim was asking for it because they dressed too nicely. If they had been taking performance enhancing drugs, no one would have said they were just "star athletes being star athletes". Why is the focus on the potential these boys had instead of the trauma they imparted on their victim? The only potential I see is the potential to be a college athlete rapist over a high school athlete rapist. Would the attitude toward women or human life have changed in the next year or two when they are at school unsupervised with people's daughters who are learning to live on their own?

Why is it that rape is the only crime that gets turned around on the victim? Why is it that this girl deserved to be penetrated by them without even knowing it, because she chose to drink that night? I do understand that underage drinking is a crime, but if you can put that level of crime on the same playing field as the crime of rape, then there's no reason for me to argue any of this with you. If having an alcoholic bevvy equals consent, I don't know one female who isn't down for rape. By the way, it's still unclear whether she was drugged or not, but in my estimation, there's no question that a person who was that unresponsive so abruptly had some sort of foreign substance besides alcohol in their system.

This brings me to my point. I'm petrified. Terrified. Utterly trembling with anger and fear that I hope to bring children into this world someday. This world. A world where a girl can be put on trial for her mistakes but a boy can get off the hook (or get a slap on the wrist in this case, I'm not sure why they weren't charged as adults for a crime like this) for being an animal. A world where people say "boys will be boys", but "If you dress like a slut, expect to get treated like one." A world where the innocence of trying to hang out with a high school crush can be turned into him using your unconcious body as his playtoy without your knowledge or consent. A world where one night out with friends will haunt you for the rest of your life, even if you can't remember it. I could have been her. She could be my daughter someday.

I cannot fathom what I would want to do to those boys if they had hurt my daughter in that way. I also don't want to imagine the pain I would feel if my son had been involved in something of this nature in any way. There were boys who went to help the girl when they found out what was happening. There were boys that I would be proud to call my son that stood up and said it was wrong...that this was rape. But they didn't call an adult. They didn't call the police. They didn't get her home to her parents.

I'm not sure how to fix this. Social networking had a large role in the sharing of this girl's torture and the bullying of her since the verdict, but can we really blame the internet for these kids' actions? Can we blame the parents? Can we blame the "athletes can do no wrong" mentality or the victim shaming culture we have in rape situations as a society today? I'm not sure...what I am sure about is that I have full plans to have vivid conversations with my children about occurances such as these when they reach a certain age. Full disclosure about what can happen to my daughter when she's not expecting it, and specific expectations about what my son's responsibilities will be in situations where bad things are happening. Since, as a nation, we don't know how to prevent school shootings and gangbangs it seems, I guess the only way to prepare for the scariest things in life is to have an open dialogue about them. And then cross every finger and toe we have that we've done everything we can to raise a generation of people who won't stand for these things anymore. One kid at at a time. Here's hoping...

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Pesto shrimp and gnocchi

I'm not sure if I'll ever give up trying to make Main Man like pesto. "Is that the plant-y stuff again?" "Oh, no it's different this time, you'll like it." Aaaaaand he eats a leftover pork chop. There's a lot of things I will gladly give up for my dude, but pesto ain't one that I'm having an easy time parting with. I guess as long as I have a back up for him, I don't even feel bad, so it's really not going to stop. Maybe someday he'll cave?? This was a throw-together meal if there ever was one...I mean I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the ingredients the night before but hadn't really planned it out yet. And it all just came together...

1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 lb shrimp, cleaned
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3 cups fresh spinach
1 jar pre-made pesto
1 package whole wheat gnocchi
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 T crushed red pepper

Add all that to a skillet and cook. Seriously. I'm not sure what happened at Kosama that night, but it was like a pop quiz...with kettlebells. I haven't been that sore since I first started going, and was juuuuuust famished when I got home! I don't think I had any oxygen getting to my brain yet so I literally just dumped everything into one skillet and stirred for 20 minutes until it was all cooked (shrimp cooked through and pink, gnocchi fork tender, spinach all wilted, and tomatoes busting open with all their lovely juices joining the party). Luckily, I had cleaned the shrimp and had everything all ready to go or I'm not sure what would've happened...scary thought.

If you want to make your own pesto (which I do in the summer when I've got an endless supply of fresh basil at my fingertips) is the recipe I use:

1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
Coarse salt and ground pepper                                      
8 cups (4 ounces) lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
It's Martha Stewert's so it has to be a good thing, right?!

That's it for today, folks...

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Potato thyme crusted cod

I know there's a few more Fridays to go for Lent season, so if you're looking for a tasty non-heathen meal this week...I've got your back! Have I mentioned that I won the husband jackpot? Oh, I have? And its getting really annoying? OK, I'll stop....after today.

Picture this: I get home late from Kosama and sit at the kitchen table pounding green bell peppers in hummus to catch my blood sugar up from the recent tuckas-whooping plyometrics day just handed me. I don't feel like standing much to cook, let alone unloading the dishwasher and all that jazz. I must've looked like a hot mess (emphasis on the mess, not the hot) with my hair all sweated back and all the mixins for dinner laying out, but sitting untouched. Main Man walks in, takes one look, and says "What's for dinner? I'll make it tonight." And then the clouds parted and my angel floated in from above (or outside) and made me fish for dinner. The end.

He just knows when he needs to step in and help a chica out...because usually it takes a lot for me to sit back and watch him cook, and he knows that. Cooking dinner time is my relaxing, end of the day, wind down period that I actually love. Who knows if that will ever wear off...but I do have my days where I would rather go hungry than cook dinner. And I'm thankful that I have a partner who picks up the slack on those rare occasions...sorry, folks, I'm not sharing him!

All you need:

*3/4 cup buttermilk (we used skim milk)
2 T grated lemon peel (we used 1 t lemon juice as a substitute)
1 t Dijon mustard
*1 cup instant potato flakes (we used garlic flavored)
1 t dried thyme
*6 cod fillets
*3 T olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you work on the cod. We actually altered the recipe and used 1/3 of some of the amounts called for since we only did two fillets of fish (the items we took down by a third are starred in the recipe above, the rest we left the same as the recipe for 6 fillets called for). In a shallow dish, combine buttermilk, lemon peel, and mustard. In a separate shallow dish combine potato flakes, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Dip fillets into milk mixture and then into potato flakes, pressing to coat completely.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add fillets and cook 2 minutes per side or until golden, turning only once.

Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake fillets 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. This was seriously good, people. We're very used to baking fish, but throwing it in with some olive oil beforehand was key. Awesome flava flav in that crust too...and the whole process really didn't take long at all, even if this pile of sweaty gym clothes and hair wasn't too motivated to get it started. We had leftover twice baked cauliflower, which is a favorite in our joint, to serve as a ready made side dish...and all was right with the world. A little couch time with the hubs after dinner and I was ready to hit the gym and the kitchen the next day...

This recipe was one I found on Hy-Vee's website so it had fat stats when I have this info provided and have quite a few good ones printed to try from them in the future.

Fat stats (per cod fillet):
Calories: 267
Carbs: 6 g
Cholesterol: 59 mg
Fat: 9 g
Protein: 39 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Sodium: 229 mg

Apparently Main Man should be having under 200 mg of cholesterol per day to lower his numbers (normal numbered people can have 300 mg per day although the average American male consumes 337 mg per day and average American female takes in 217 mg per day) this meal fits just fine with the rest of his daily diet. The olive oil used also contains good fat to raise his HDL numbers. We're learning as we go over here, people...hopefully you are learning from our journey too!

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bison burgers and purple potatoes

Remember when I told you about Main Man's cholesterol issues? By the way, if you haven't tried the chicken phillies in that post, you're doing yourself a severe disservice in life.  Anyway, his cholesterol problems are not something that's going to go away overnight. We've needed to make some changes in everything, including my dude's love for the bovine genre of the food pyramid...namely, steaks. I've been doing some reading and it seems that bison is an extremely lean alternative to beef, and is even lower in calories and fat than chicken or turkey!! Say whaaaaaat?? The drawback is the's perdy expensive. But I figure, if I can give my guy a beefy tasting burger or steak and have it actually helping his cholesterol numbers rather than hurting them, I'll gladly pay a little more for the extra years on his calendar :)
I wasn't just going to go buy a half a bison off the bat though...we gotta ease into this stuff. So we grabbed some bison burgers at Whole Foods to see if there was a distinct taste difference or not and we were very pleasantly surprised. Some people said bison has a "gamey" taste to it and I would completely disagree...granted, we ate a burger and not a steak, but I could barely taste a difference besides less grease. My next step is to order some more cuts to try for the upcoming grilling season, so I'll let you know how all that goes too. For now though, I just wanted to pass on the benefits of bison vs. beef as it was something that I had never known existed as a substitute before a little research...
(grams )
Vitamin B12
Beef (choice)
Beef (select)
Sockeye Salmon10.97216870.555.80
Source: USDA
I realize Lance isn't the most popular dude on the playground these days, but I do use the Livestrong site alot for calorie estimations, etc...head over there if you want a little more detail on the differences between beef and bison.
Now about those purple things on the plate there...yes, those are taters. Purple taters. Purple taters that lower your blood pressure. Yes, sirree. I've been trying to read about substitutions for other things as well...starches being one important one. Whole wheat is recommended for all breads and pastas when you have high cholesterol, but there's no such thing as a wheat potato. At least not yet, but it's only 2013. It turns out though, that these little gems can actually lower your blood pressure. Plus, they taste mighty nice when they're tossed in a little olive oil, fresh cracked salt and pepper, and rosemary and then roasted till you can stick a fork through them. Rosemary is to potatoes what mac is to cheese. One of those couples that is just meant to be together. That marriage will last, folks. Just like mine and Main Man's :)

So all in all, what tasted and looked like a super hearty cheat meal actually turned out to be a cheating skinnier version of a hearty not really cheating meal. Get it? Then go get it. Your meat and tater loving husband will thank you! Maybe he'll even go to hot yoga with you like mine did last weekend?? He's my favorite feller...

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Graziano tuscan stew

I feel turrible (my favorite Charles Barkley word) about about last week, I really do. Left you with a SNAFU on Thursday, promised this fine mouthful of the best soup I've ever made (according to Main Man) to end the week on, and then I left you hanging allllll weekend. Shame on me. If you're involved in this snow system that's been moving around the midwest all weekend, I would be extra upset at me at this moment...this stuff is the perfect thing to have simmering on your stove all day watching the white stuff fall. I was pretty sure we were done with all this Winter crud with the birds chirping in the mornings last week, and daylight savings time springing ahead on Sunday, but I guess Mother Nature and Old Man Winter wanted another roll in the hay before giving up for the year...

Looking at these pictures makes my soul do a little hippy dippy dance. This was pretty much a perfect Saturday in my in the morning, a light lunch, nice and sunshine-y day outside with a chilly nip in the air, and an afternoon of cooking! If I have time on the weekends, I generally try to prepare our dinners for the week as much as possible so that there is less cook time and clean up during the week. I love the feeling of having a clean house and a full fridge with dinners planned on Sunday night before getting into the weekly grind. I'm type A like that...

Anyway, I was making a few meals for the following week and noticed I had some graziano in the freezer as well as some veggies in the fridge that weren't slated for digestion in other recipes and probably needed to be used before they were wasted. Soup always comes to mind when I have extra veggies on hand, and why not have some soup simmering while I'm in the kitchen to make my other meals anyhow? I intended to use the noodles that are pictured, but the pot got so full I didn't have room for them...which was sort of a happy accident because the soup was very vegetable-y and lighter than I think it would have been with carbs plopped in it. Here's what you need:

1 lb Graziano sausage (It's a brand of spicy italian sausage made by Graziano Brothers in Des Moines, IA if you've never heard of it...Main Man has actually told me if he got propositioned by a Graziano daughter, he would have a hard time not leaving me to join that family...I've got my eye on those girls!!)
1/2 bag baby carrots, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3-4 celery stalks, diced (or about 1 cup)
3 green onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T crushed red pepper
1 T dried basil
8 oz spinach leaves
1 (15.8 oz) can mushrooms, drained
1 (15.8 oz) can great northern beans (canneloni beans would work as well), drained
1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
1 (48 oz) container chicken broth
1 (15.8 oz) can fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
salt and pepper to taste

Obviously, you start with dicing all your veggies up. I had the Graziano sausage and minced garlic browning in a skillet as I chopped.  On another burner, I had a large pot that I added the chicken broth and the tomato juice to in order to bring it to a boil while I was chopping. When the liquid is boiling, add all the chopped veggies and let boil for 5 minutes. Bring the soup down to a simmer and add the cooked sausage and garlic, as well as the spices to the pot. Let simmer covered for anywhere from 1-4 hours, I went about 3 hours with mine. The longer you simmer, the better the flavors will melt together and reach one fabtastic taste profile vs. everything tasting like its individual state.
Main Man came home from doing some errands and was raving about this stuff! He said it was by far the best soup I've ever made, and it might be in his top 5 of favorite things I've made to date. That's a pretty aggressive assessment for a soup, especially for a meat and taters man like my hubs. The best part is smelling the soup simmering all afternoon though...nothing smells like home more than soup simmering on the stove on a chilly day. Serve with some dippy bread and have yourself a little warm up in this little snowstorm we've got going on...hopefully it's our last!!

No matter how great a soup is, Main Man and I would take a full week to eat a batch this large, so I always freeze a large portion of it to pull out and simmer on another chilly day. They are dated and labeled, and I'm pretty excited to surprise Main Man one of these coming days with another dose of his new favorite soup with no extra effort at all from me. I win! Happy Monday, all...

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tuna stuffed shells

This is the story, all about how, my life got flipped turned upside down, by a tuna casserole that I thought would be the jam, and it ended up going in the dog bowl, to Sam.

That doesn't work as well for me as it does for the Fresh Prince. Par for the course.
You win some, you lose some. And sometimes you lose some that you were so very excited for, and actually took a decent amount of time to put together, and the disappointment kicks you in the side-gut, and you just have to live with it. That's where we're at with this recipe. I've always thought there should be cooking shows that do bad recipes, just so you can spot them in the wild when you happen upon them...maybe I'll fill that niche with my SNAFU section someday. This one warrants a top place in the SNAFU section, right up by the meatball casserole debacle...I'll type the recipe and then tell you what things I did differently, that way we can try to see where I went wrong!
 1 head garlic
4 T olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat organic)
4 cups milk (I used skim)
1 whole wheat English muffin, torn into chunks (I used a half a wheat hoagie roll from the chicken phillies)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pinch crushed red pepper (I have large pinchers so I use a lot of the red pepps!)
1 (10 oz) package frozen spinach, drained (I used 3 cups fresh spinach)
3 (5 oz) cans tuna, drained (I always use albacore in water, not oily and quality white colored tuna)
about 20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked (I used uncooked)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I added this ingredient)
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Slice the top off the garlic head, and place it in a a small piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 T of olive oil over it. Wrap it up and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Once roasted, set aside to cool.
Lower the oven heat to 425 degrees. In a food processor, add the torn English muffin, Parmesan, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper. Blitz that baby till you get some nice breadcrumbs. Check out my new food processor...she's sexy, no?!

Transfer half this mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add spinach, tuna, and tomatoes. The colors! So perdy...

Bring the remaining 3 T olive oil to a medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and saute until they start to soften, 6-8 minutes. Add the flour and whisk it. Whisk it good. Whisk it real good. Slowly add milk one cup at a time, whisking constantly until it's smooth...should take about 5 minutes total.

Smash the shizz outta that garlic you have cooling (squeeze it out of the skins first). Just lay it on the counter and use the side of a knife. I was surprised at how easy it smushed. It was soooo aromatic too, I had such hopes for the flava this was meant to bring into my life. Which made this even more disappointing...don't worry, I will be roasting and smashing garlic for other recipes soon. The process was fun, easy, and I still can't get over the loverly smell...

Toss the gahhhhh-lic into the sauce mixture with another pinch of salt and peppa. Add half the sauce to the tuna mixture and keep half for the topping of the noods. Look how thick and creamy...

Fill the noods with the stuffing and be amazed at the gorgeousness. "Oh, how pretty the shells are...these are going to be SO GOOD!"  That's what was going through my head at this point in time...oh, how wrong you were, Abby Lynn.

Cover the noods with the remaining sauce, and then the remaining breadcrumbs, and then a little sprinkle of cheese if you so choose. It won't make a difference. Even cheese can't help this dish. Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly and brown. Then feed it to your dog.

I didn't even take a picture for you. It was that bad. It looked good. It smelled delish. But it didn't deliver. Such is life. Main Man actually ate this for 2 meals. He didnt' love it, but he said it was filling. And as you read in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air rap above...Sam the man go the rest of the meal I had such high hopes for. Until next time, Pinterest...

I do have an amaaaaazing recipe to share tomorrow that was born the same day this was made, so there is a silver lining. I know you're on the edge of your's to awesome Friday recipes!!

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Skinnier 'za

Do the humpty hump. Pretty happy its hump around here. After a long traveling weekend, it takes a bit to get this girl back in the grind routine. Monday and Tuesday consisted of work and workouts, dinner, promptly followed by the couch for some recovery. The rest was needed. But I'm rejuvenated halfway through the week and am looking forward to a friend's jewelry party tonight for some lady time.
With Main Man's recent report from the Dr, we've had to change up some of our habits/traditions/regulars around the Sunday night pizza from Casey's (the gas station chain, if you're not from the midwest). It's the best pizza ever, you guys! Their taco pizza has Doritos on it instead of tortilla chips....yeah, they went there. Their canadian bacon and mushroom is my fave, but Main Man likes sausage and banana peppers. But let's be real, I'll eat whatever is in the sell by the slice case when I walk by...there's so much yummy cheese, and I really think it's their sauce that does it for me. Sauce is the most important part, if you ask me, and you should ask me because I fancy myself a pizza expert.
Alas, pizza at home is the way to go if you're watching calories, fat, or cholesterol. I cringed when I looked up a slice of Casey's pizza on their nutrition page of the website a while back. The stuff is made by the devil himself, I swear. Soooooo good, but soooooo bad for you. But you gotta kill the cravings somehow, so we've started making our own pies, so we know what's on 'em and in 'em. 
We went with a thin multi-grain crust from Whole was organic and the fat stats were the best I've found to date. Also, the pre-made crusts sometimes come out cardboardy and/or chewy, and generally don't have great taste to them. This pre-made crust was the exception to that rule...
The other big switch you can't pull on an ordered pizza (don't ask me why) is turkey pepperoni. I'm telling you, if you can taste the difference, I will send you a high five in the mail. I make awesome paper high fives. You want one, believe me.
I have always used Contadina pizza sauce in the squeeze bottle as I've done the taste testing R&D, and it always takes the cake. Or the pie, it takes the pie.

The next trick? Pile that pizza pie high with veggies like spinach, peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, garlic, olives, and whatever else you like in your face. The more veggies, the more flavor and nutrients you're packing into each slice...that way you can use a lighter sprinkling of the cheese, and that's what brings alot of the fat and calories with each mouthful. Top with a generous sprinkling of Italian seasoning and you have yourself a pizzaria fresh, craving killer pizza pie, that is a fraction of the guilt that a takeout would be...with no taste sacrifice. Go ahead and try it...I'm accepting paper high fives in thanks.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chicken philly sandwiches

Can I tell you how lucky a gal I am that I snagged Main Man for a hubby? I mean, I've always known that, but certain moments in time make me feel it even when he pushes snow all night and day and has been up since 1 am with no sleep, and I come home from yoga at 7:30 pm to have dinner all done, with him asleep on the counter waiting for me to get home so we can eat together. Makes my heart smile (and my tummy as well) just remembering that sight. Unfortunately for you, he woke up when I shut the door so I couldn't get to my camera to capture the peaceful kitchen slumber, but I'm sure you can imagine the love that was there.
This dinner was no accident though. We had seen a commercial a couple nights before for a new restaurant that had amazing looking philly sandwiches sizzling bigger than life on the 50 inch tv right in our faces. He was staring with his mouth agape and asked if he could have those. That's a standard question around our hood lately, since the results came back from his physical and we realized his cholesterol was high. We're trying to eat leaner, low cholesterol meals and he's joined the local gym (and actually has been going!) as well as adding fiber to his diet. We'll kick those results to the curb next time we go in for his checkup! Anyway, I was sad to inform him that we really shouldn't be eating sizzling, greasy beef BUT that we could healthify it by making chicken phillies if he really had a craving. He was in. Locked and loaded. Ready to go. Pumped.
He didn't use a recipe, but I'm telling you guys this is the best thing he's ever made me. He has standards he's perfected that I don't ever get to make, like his goulash and his stroganoff but I would put this up against any dish he's ever made me. It really hit the spot, I was super impressed with his culinary prowess....
2 large chicken breasts, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 small white onion, sliced
banana peppers to taste
2 T olive oil, we love 'em so there were plenty on ours
2 t Tony C's creole seasoning (or to taste)
2 t garlic powder (or to taste)
fresh wheat hoagie buns
2% pepperjack cheese slices
Heat the olive oil in a skillet to medium heat, add chicken and veggies and stir to saute. Add Tony C's and garlic powder to the mixture, and continue to stir until everything is cooked through. Put cheese on each hoagie, layer the meat and veggie mixture on top, and add to a pan to put in the oven on broil. Broil the sandwiches for 2-3 minutes, until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted. Serve to your sweaty wife before you fall asleep on the table!  

It was seriously tough but I saved half my sandwich for lunch the next day and it even heated up well under the broiler. Roasted brussel sprouts are my faaaaavorite veggie these days (closely racing asparagus to the top). A little glass of vino and this made for a perfect Friday night dinner before hitting the couch for a movie...and a nap for him of course. Main Man hopes you enjoy it as much as I did! :)

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Monday, March 4, 2013


Spring is comin'! At least I think so...daylight savings time is going to spring forward in T-6 days, but the constant snow storms each week are really making me wonder what Mother Nature is thinking. I'm not complaining though, I'll take all the moisture we can get and hope we even get some good rains right away in the Spring this year! My garden will need it :) I remember the first year I had the garden, I didn't have to water it but a couple times...all season. It rained every couple-three days, and by the time my veggies needed a drink, it would drizzle on them again. Not the case the last couple years...
This is our 3rd year with the garden, and each year we tend to do something a little different. We had it in a completely different spot the first year, but decided it got too much moisture with the water running off from the fields. So we moved it and built a raised garden with a boulder wall last year. I absolutely love it!

This year, we've decided to start our seeds indoors so they're ready to be planted a little ahead of the game this Spring. This is the first attempt at this, so if we kill them all off, we will just plant our seeds as we normally harm, no foul.  We decided to buy a mini greenhouse kit with a warmer and Main Man rigged up a heat lamp for on top as well.

Look at that handsome mug...

We planted all our tomatoes (cherry, big boy, roma) and all of our peppers (jalapenos, habaneros, bell) and broccoli inside, but will leave our herbs until a little closer to Spring to start with seed outdoors. I love having fresh herbs to cut and use in the summer...

We threw our babies in the sunnies corner (when it's not dark out) in the house to get their start in life...

And lookie here!! This was on a Thursday evening, after planting the previous Sunday evening. I think we're raising some pretty healthy veggie babies..

Hopefully things continue to go as planned, and I will document the transplanting process for you. As of now, I would continue to do this each year, as the process was super easy. Just filling with seedling dirt, poke a couple seeds in each planter, and water every other day while keeping the heat constant and the lamp on during the day.

My apologies for the lack of posting the end of last week...we had a few social obligations that got in the way of my regularly scheduled programming. I'm a creature of routine, so when it's out of whack, I get out of whack. Anyway, I had an awesome girls night with my ladies (although I more than consumed my fair share of wine) and Main Man and I enjoyed a charity event with some people he does work for...all in all, last week was an eventful week!

But the cherry on top was leaving town early on Friday for Bellevue, IA to participate in a murder mystery dinner at a bed and breakfast called the Mont Rest Inn. It was a wedding gift that I have been dying to use (pun intended) as a murder mystery dinner has been an item on my bucket list for a while (as has staying at a B&B). Here are a few pictures (from my cell since I forgot my camera) of the weekends festivities...

The entire group, we knew none of them but most of them were together so they were very much out of their shells from the get go. Such a fun group!

Mickey Maraschino (aka: The Cherry) and Joan F. Amenity trying to look very serious. He is a playboy/pimp/cocaine dealer, and she is a prominent, albeit shady, Harvard graduated attorney. Neither of us were the murderer, but we did both choose the right suspect as a murderer, just chose them for the wrong murder!

Cornish game hen for him (see above) and salmon for her (see below). All the food there was wonderful, as was the staff. What a fun job to come to each day!!

Hope all of you enjoy the week, Mondays are always a drag but the weeks are tending to fly by lately...we have a trip lined up for a special someone's 30th birthday party in NOLA the end of March so I will have tons of foodie pics and stories to share with you after that as well!

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