Saturday, December 17, 2011

Banana Pecan Pie Shake

It's been another one of those crazy weeks when life is busy and all you want to do when you get home is blow off some steam by exercising, then put on your jammies and read trashy magazines in bed. Yep, that's been my week!

I am super excited for Christmas coming up. I have 4 days off in a row and can't wait to relax! I took a half day off yesterday, spent some quality time with my hubby, and enjoyed some much needed down time. Today it's back to the races: optometrist appointment, grocery shopping, rounding up the last few Christmas presents, and  happy hour with some friends. Ready, go! :)

I actually made this shake right after Thanksgiving. My mom likes to send us home with leftovers anytime we visit, and we had pecan pie as one of our two Thanksgiving desserts. It was reeeeeally sweet (thanks Costco!) - almost cloyingly sweet, so I was trying to think of ways to eat it than all by itself. I thought a milkshake sounded good, but was too lazy to go to the grocery store to buy ice cream. We had a banana, so it became a banana-shake instead!

The shake is super creamy and sorta healthy if you forget about all the pie in there :) It's perfect for sharing, too, or just sipping on your own sitting in bed reading trashy magazines.

Banana Pecan Pie Shake
Makes 1 large shake or 2 small (8 oz.) shakes


  • 1 small slice pecan pie (about 1 1/2 inches wide at the crust)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • In a blender, crush ice.
  • Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.
  • Serve in a cold glass with a straw. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chewy Ginger Cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Wow, y'all. It's been a long week (and you know that's true for me when I break out the Southern slang!).

Two of my coworkers lost family members in the past week, and one of them has been out for two weeks. I spent many days by myself in the office = I needed serious Christmas music blasting from Pandora on my office computer to keep me going! I also had a night meeting after work on Wednesday (=14 hour day) and another work event yesterday. So...blogging...not on the top of my to-do list after all that!

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen. Lindsay and Julie matched me up with three groovy ladies, and we each received 3 dozen cookies (1 dozen from each person). I absolutely love receiving packages in the mail, so these cookies made my day each time a new package arrived.

First off...
Christina from 2 Hour Party sent me these tasty treats!

Mmm...shortbread sandwiches with a chocolate and plum filling. They melt in your mouth!

My second batch arrived from Crystal at Eat*Drink*Cleveland.

Too cute!

Chocolate it :) Fun fact: it's one of a few states I have never visited!

What did Santa bring?

Yummy cookies! I tasted almond, coconut (maybe?), and of course the cherry on top :)

And finally, Jamie at Kanga and Roux sent me these. Jamie lives in San Diego too so I was excited to 'meet' a fellow SD blogger.

Delicious mixed chip cookies!

For my own recipe I was to send out, I had a hankering for gingerbread cookies. There was also a container of crystallized ginger chips hanging out in my cupboard begging to be used. Believe it or not, my recipe came from the side of the container, and it was delicious! The cookies are chewy and not super sweet, and the ginger flavor is very pronounced (which I love). A great alternative to your traditional gingerbread cutout!

Blogger fail: I totally remember taking pictures of my cookies, but when I uploaded them onto my computer, they were nowhere to be found :( Oh well. Use your imagination and you'll probably get it just right :)

Update: Crystal let me borrow the picture she took below of my cookies :) Thanks Crystal!

Chewy Ginger Cookies
makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies
recipe adapted from The Ginger People

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter (I used Earth Balance), softened (= 1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/2 oz. (1/2 can) Ginger Chips

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in molasses and egg.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet mixture, and mix well.
  • Stir in ginger chips.
  • Chill dough for 1 hour.
  • Form dough into 1-inch balls.
  • Roll in granulated sugar.
  • Place on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove while still soft. Transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool.

I had so much fun participating in this and look forward to the 2012 swap! If you'd like to take part, sign up here to receive notifications for next year's event.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Two-Tomato Pasta with Broccoli and Creamy Mozzarella Sauce

I love meals that combine items already in my pantry, but are still healthy. It's worth taking 10 extra minutes to whip up something fresh than buying something loaded with sodium and fat from the frozen section of the grocery store (don't get me wrong, I love my Costco frozen cheese pizzas - but I buy 'em cause they're plain and I can add lots of veggies at home).

Back in the day, I had a love affair with pasta. I ate it every chance I had, and couldn't get enough of the wads of carbs drenched in sauce. Fettucine alfredo was probably my favorite childhood dish (see my healthy take on it here), especially smothered in Parmesan cheese. This is a similar dish, but I amped up the veggies, thanks to Foodbuzz and the chance to try Green Giants' new Valley Fresh Steamers

This is a great product: you just place the bag in the microwave (it stands up on its own), start cooking it, and the broccoli steams on its own right in the bag. It's low fat and the sauces are all-natural, another plus. I tried the Broccoli and Cheese Sauce version (another childhood fave, especially on baked potatoes!) and although the veggies steamed up nicely, the cheese sauce  kind of stuck to the bottom of the bag in little clumps. Kinda gross. I'm glad I added extra cheese to my version to give this dish the ooey-gooey-ness I was craving.

You could throw any leftover veggies into this dish - that's the beauty of it. Work with what you have and enjoy what comes together!

Two-Tomato Pasta with Broccoli and Creamy Mozzarella Sauce
Serves 4-6

  • 14 oz. pasta (I used half whole-wheat spaghetti and half regular orzo - use what you have in your pantry! This is a great way to finish off those almost-empty pasta boxes.)
  • 1 bag Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers, Broccoli and Cheese Sauce
  • 1 cup Alfredo sauce
  • 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning with garlic (I used Garlic Gold)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (the Italian-seasoned variety would be fantastic here)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (depending on how cheesy you want it!)
  • LOTS of grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • Optional: 1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced and sauteed in olive oil and seasonings
  • Boil a big pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. This is a great time to prep all your ingredients if you haven't already done so (don't you hate those recipes that make you do everything ahead of time and double the time you spend in the kitchen?).
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  • While the pasta is cooking, cook the broccoli in the microwave.
  • If you're adding chicken, cook it until nice and brown :)
  • Mix Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl.
  • When pasta is finished cooking, drain and return it to the large pot.
  • Add broccoli, Alfredo sauce, Italian seasoning, diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper, and mozzarella cheese. Stir everything until combined.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta mixture.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Mmm...cheesy pasta! Yum :)

BTW: Foodbuzz sent me a free coupon for Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers (thank you!). My opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest Post: Healthy Eating for Your Health

Good morning friends! Today I bring you a great guest post from Leroy Templeton. He writes about the importance of healthy eating as just one way of staying healthy and, for those battling cancer, easing many symptoms that make one feel worse. As I'm sure many of you have experienced, I lost a family member to cancer and just found out the other day one of my grad school classmates passed away after a short battle with cancer. When it hits home like that, I'm even more motivated to fuel my body with healthy food and do whatever I can to keep cancer at bay in the future. If you or anyone you know is fighting cancer, or even if you're just looking to establish or keep healthy eating habits, I hope Leroy's tips will be useful for feeling better and improving one's health.

Check out what Leroy has to say, and don't forget to try his delicious juice recipe below. Thanks again, Leroy!

Good nutrition is a very important thing for all people. And while it is important, for cancer patients, it is essential. With cancer patients; making sure you have a working knowledge of the proper diet and food choices can ease cancer treatments and increase a patients overall wellbeing. Keeping an eye on the foods you eat can help enhance strength, recovery-time, vigor and even disposition.

Many forms of cancer often lessen hunger. Persons suffering of the sickness find it not easy to eat due in part to stress, unease, queasiness, exhaustion and many, various side-effects of their treatments. Thus, with reduction in appetite, it is important to make sure that when they are ready to eat, cancer patients consume healthy foods that are high in protein and calories. Choosing foods such as olives, dried fruits and nuts are good choices. Make an attempt to stay away from unhealthy synthetic sugars that can be found in candies, sodas and other sweets as these sugars can help to disrupt the cell division process; which, when left unbalanced, can lead to the development of a number of cancers from gastric cancer to peritoneal mesothelioma.

While it seems nobody can drink enough water, for cancer patients, this goes doubly. Those experiencing fatigue, nausea and other symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments can help fight some of the bodily harm that comes with that by replenishing their lost fluid regularly. High intake of water also helps regulate the body temperature. This can reduce much of the discomfort that comes with sickness. Another important thing to be concerned with is tolerance for certain foods.

Certain issues with food tolerance may arise in cancer patients as well. Treatments can hurt the ability of the patient’s small intestine to produce lactase. Therefore, patients going through chemotherapy or radiation treatment may want to avoid excessive consumption of dairy products.   

From fresh vegetables, one can get many vitamins which are known to help with the immune system. This is especially important when it is going through stressful illnesses. Raw vegetables cause some issues as they are difficult to digest though. This can be circumvented by blending veggies into a smoothie and drinking them; essentially jump-starting the digestion process and allowing for the body to still obtain the valuable vitamins and nutrients found in this food.

Just as with vegetables, fruits are another valuable nutrition option. Fructose can be upsetting to the stomachs of many patients however, so it may be important to choose fruits that have lower levels of fructose such as berries and citrus fruits. This way one can get the help that comes from the nutritional value of these fruits without overloading the small intestine.

While engaged in a battle with cancer, it is important to distance yourself from foods that promote bacteria. This includes raw foods and meats as well as eggs and seafood. The effects of healthy eating can be one of the most critical elements of health. In the face of cancer the importance of those effects are compounded.

Hawaiian Getaway Juice

This juice has actually been studied, and used in cancer hospitals to give patients a healthy boost and delicious treat. It is rich in antioxidants and great for digestion, and it’s a little taste of paradise.

  • ¼ pineapple
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (roughly ½ inch)

  • Wash ingredients
  • Core and peel pineapple
  • Juice
  • Pour over or blend in ice
  • Sprinkle coconut on top for an added island feel.

Leroy is a recent college graduate from the University of Central Florida. He majored in English, and was involved with several health and fitness clubs including the sports medicine team. As of 2011 he is a freelance writer with a focus on the benefits of healthy eating and daily exercise. He can be reached at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Frittata

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? I was incredibly thankful to have several days off to relax and sleep too much. It was glorious :)

Hubby and I spent Thanksgiving at my parents' house. My mom cooked up a storm: brined turkey, sweet potato casserole, two kinds of stuffing, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted beets, roasted carrots, two kinds of cranberry sauce, Hawaiian rolls, homemade gravy, and two pies from Costco (pumpkin and pecan). It was wonderful!

Here's my plate of deliciousness:

My mom decorated the dining room table with gourds, flowers, and cabbage! Isn't it pretty?

Like any other mom, she sent us home with more leftovers than we knew what to do with. Since I hate wasting food and like being creative when it comes to leftovers, I decided to put my noggin to work. Since Foodbuzz sent me a coupon to try Land O'Lakes eggs, and I wanted something filling for lunch, frittata it was!

This frittata is really easy to make, and it cooks quickly. Hooray for a fast and yummy meal!

Thanksgiving Frittata
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens' Mediterranean Frittata recipe
Makes 8 small or 4 large servings


  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 Land O' Lakes eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup leftover cooked turkey, shredded
  • 1/4-1/2 cup leftover stuffing
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat your broiler. In a large ovenproof skillet, cook onion and garlic in the olive oil, until onion is soft.
  • Add your beaten eggs to a large bowl. Stir in goat cheese, tomato, red bell pepper, and turkey.
  • Pour egg mixture over onion mixture in skillet.
  • Cook over medium heat. As the mixture cooks, run a rubber spatula around the edges so the uncooked mixture flows underneath. Continue until the mixture is almost set.
  • Sprinkle leftover stuffing over the frittata, then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of that.
  • Broil for 1-2 minutes, or until top is set and crumbs are golden.
  • Cut into eighths or quarters to serve. Add salt and pepper to taste (hot sauce is good too!)

It doesn't look pretty, but it tastes good!

Mmm...frittata :)

FYI: Foodbuzz sent me a coupon to try Land O'Lakes eggs for free. They were tasty. Foodbuzz didn't pay me to say that. Thanks again, Foodbuzz!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Post: Healthy Dinner Meals

Thank you to Melissa from Blog Content Guild for a fabulous guest post today! Find out more at

So, you want to be healthy, but you don’t have a lot of time. It seems like a balancing act between nutrition and a demanding schedule, but you don’t need to make that choice. You can have the best of both worlds if you put a little thought into it. Using easy dinner recipes that are good for you will be a breeze if you put these tips in action.

Change up your core

It’s easy to get stuck on the same meals all the time. You already know how to make the recipes so it takes little, if any, effort on your part. Just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. Take this as inspiration to change around your culinary habits to cheaper and healthier options.

Believe it or not, some of the healthiest foods you can buy are also the cheapest. Options like beans, legumes, and fresh fruits and veggies are packed with nutrition, and they won’t break the bank. Think about making one day a week “vegetarian day,” and try to use ingredients like these. You can make black bean burgers and fries on your first night, or search for a different recipe that’s more to your liking. Whatever you choose, if you stick to these kinds of foods you’ll be getting a bigger bang for your buck. You don’t need to become a vegetarian, but it pays to think like one sometimes.

Use gadgets to your advantage

Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean you need to have slave over a stove for hours on end. In fact, some of the best meals for you can be cooked in a crock pot. You might have been hesitant to try this method because it seems like everything would come out mushy and bland. That certainly doesn’t need to happen if you pick the right recipe, like this flavorful yet good-for-you chicken and sweet potato stew. Where else are you going to find a recipe that takes 20 minutes to prepare and can be left unattended for hours while you do whatever you want?

You should also consider buying a bread machine if you don’t already have one. It can be hard to find nutritious bread, but when you’re in control of the ingredients, you get to decide how healthy it’s going to be. Using whole grains and adding tasty and healthful ingredients like flax seed will help make this staple food better for you. Bread machines are similar to crock pots in their cooking method. You throw the ingredients in and let the machine do the work. Finding ways to automate your cooking with gadgets saves time and money.

Say goodbye to worrying about making dinner healthy and on time. If you start thinking like a vegetarian (on occasion) and use kitchen gadgets to economize your cooking, you’ll be surprised at the results. Cooking healthy doesn’t need to be difficult, especially if you do it the smart way.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a beautiful, blessed Thanksgiving! I'm hanging out with my parents, my grandma, her friend, and my hubby. My mom is cooking up a storm (including plenty of roasted veggies, hooray!) and there is Costco pumpkin pie to be had.

I am thankful for so many things:

  • everyone who reads this blog
  • a full-time job with health insurance
  • my dear family and good friends
  • a loving husband who I respect, admire, and adore
  • a warm, safe place to live
  • running water and electricity
  • freedom to write, argue, and disagree
  • so much more...but I'd be writing forever!

What are you thankful for? Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo with Chicken and Tomatoes

I love pasta, but my waistline doesn't. If I overdo it on carbs, my waistline is not happy with me. My husband loves to cook pasta, and I am a mean wife and get mad at him when he makes it for dinner too often because I don't want to overdo it on the carbs (not cool, I know, right?). So, any chance I get to have a healthier pasta dish, I jump at it.

Foodbuzz's Tastemakers program offered me the opportunity to try Classico's new Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce. I am a big fan of Classico's other pasta sauces, but usually steer away from the heavier stuff since it's not very healthy. I was pleased to find out about this new Alfredo sauce and couldn't wait to come up with something to use it in. As a child, fettucine Alfredo was probably the dish I ordered most frequently when my parents and I went out to dinner. I loved it: that creamy, smooth sauce with the delicious noodles was music to my five-year-old ears. There was even one dinner I remember going to a fancy restaurant (so fancy they didn't have a kids' menu) and I gave my parents the sad puppy dog face when my beloved fettucine Alfredo was nowhere to be found. My mom asked the waiter to have them make me some fettucine Alfredo, and here I am today writing about it.

For this dish, I decided to make a spin on the traditional noodles and sauce recipe. Since it's fall and squash is in season, spaghetti squash made the perfect substitute for pasta. (Okay, I'll admit it: it's not pasta, and it doesn't taste like those magical semolina flour noodles, but it's still pretty good!). Spaghetti squash is easy to cook: slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, and roast at 350 degrees cut side down on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes. Let it cool, then use a fork to scrape out the cooked flesh - it looks like angel hair pasta! It's also affordable: I bought it on sale at my local Sprouts for 88 cents a pound, so the entire squash was somewhere around $3. Pretty good for a home-cooked dinner!

Hubby loved this dish and I'm a big fan of it too. The sauce is thick and creamy, but without that heavy feeling you get with full-fat Alfredo sauces. The tapenade, chicken, and tomatoes add great flavor and texture. If you cook your squash the night before, this can be ready to eat in 20 minutes. It's fast enough for a weeknight dinner, but fancy enough to serve for a special occasion. Enjoy!

Get all your goodies together:

Heat the olive oil, garlic, red pepper, and herbes de Provence over low-medium heat.

Add tomatoes:

Your cooked spaghetti squash should look something like this:

Add chicken:

Add squash:

Give it a good stir.

Mmm...adding the Alfredo sauce!

Almost ready...

Sprinkle fresh basil over the top...

...and of course some Parmesan cheese. Yum!

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo with Chicken and Tomatoes
Serves 4-6 main size portions (depending on how hungry you are!)


  • 1 spaghetti squash, roasted and cooled, with the flesh scraped out (for your 'noodles')
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded (or substitute cooked shredded chicken of your choice)
  • 1 jar red pepper and artichoke tapenade (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1/2 jar Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh basil


  • In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over low-medium heat.
  • Add garlic, red pepper, and herbes de Provence; cook until fragrant.
  • Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until soft.
  • Add chicken and cook until heated.
  • Add spaghetti squash and cook for a few minutes until heated through.
  • Add Alfredo sauce and jar of tapenade, cook until heated through.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve topped with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if you wish. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received a free jar of Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. They didn't pay me to say I liked it!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cake Decorating: The Final Frontier

Alrighty! My cake decorating classes are finally over, so I have to share my last cake from my Wilton Flowers and Cake Design class.

For the final cake, we had to show our mad design skillz and not just plop random flowers on the cake. I decided to use a bunch of flowers I had made from another class session (the large ones are primroses and the small ones are apple blossoms), and try to make them look pretty on the top. I think I succeeded! :) 

The green piping is royal icing, and the reverse shells (in white) are done in buttercream.

Here's a close up of the side of the cake. Those brown spots are chocolate cakecrumbs. I have to say this was the best tasting cake yet...and I used cake mix! Thank you Duncan Hines. There's a reason cake mixes exist :)

Here are some pictures of the stargazer lilies I made out of royal icing. The other few I made didn't look so hot, so pretend these are all different flowers :)

Sadly, the stamens (white and gray parts sticking out) are not edible. I wish they made them out of modeling chocolate.

Here is my sad looking daffodil. My royal icing was way too stiff, so several of them just turned to mush. Oh well.

And here are lots of royal icing roses. I think I got the hang of them! Here's a secret my class instructor shared with us: use a Hershey kiss as the base of the rose instead of frosting. Much easier, and no need to switch your decorating tips back and forth on the piping bag!

The green edges came from the tiny bit of green frosting left in my piping bag before I added the purple frosting. Yes, I'm lazy and don't like to waste piping bags. I like the way it looks!

Same thing with the pink. I'm a fan!

All together now...

And there you have it! Anyone need a cake decorated now? I'm happy to help! :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

I am very excited to be participating in this:
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

I just found out about it today and am already wondering what cookies I should make for the people I get. Here are some ideas I've found recently on Pinterest (anyone else obsessed?!):

Pinned Image

Pinned Image

Pinned Image

Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. Umm...these look ridiculous.
Pinned Image

Espresso Shots

Pinned Image

Oh, how I love all these beautiful photos with their beautiful editing. One day I will take pictures just like that when I grow a money tree and can buy a fancy camera and a kitchen with lots of natural light :)

I love Pinterest because I've always made picture collages of things I like, and held onto them for years. I journaled a LOT growing up and used more scotch tape than Martha Stewart to make collages in my journals. It's fun when I look back at them and see the creativity of my younger years.

Sign up to participate here. The more the merrier!

What are your favorite holiday cookie recipes? Any suggestions?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...