Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Foodie PenPal Reveal - October

The Lean Green Bean

Happy Halloween! How is it already the end of October?! This is my fourth month participating in the Foodie Pen Pals hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and blog readers while also receiving and creating a package! Here is how it works: On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions. You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination! Sometimes that is my favorite part, especially if there is a story behind the items in your package.

This month I was paired with Jenny from The Spicy Simmer. She sent me a combination of all sorts of foods and even indulged my sweet tooth with some Halloween candy (I may or may not have eaten that day), strawberry fruit strips and plaid cat double chocolate cookie mix which I can't wait to make! There were a lot of items my husband would enjoy, a snack pack of almonds (his favorite), Jane's crazy mixed up salt for marinades & seasoning that will be great on the grill and mini star shaped pasta that reminded him of pastina from growing up. Now that it finally cooled down here the pasta and vegetable bouillion cube would be great in a soup!

To read about what I sent to my blogger check out Courtney's blog Knits N Bits 4 U.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Mint Chocolate Pudding Cookies

I used to love when restaurants would bring Andes mints with the check. It was that little something extra to say thanks but was so yummy and refreshing. I recently saw that mints after meals was to help soothe your stomach, but today people use them just as a breath freshener. Regardless, I enjoy something chocolate and something minty after a meal to be sweet and yet cleansing. I have used Andes baking chips before and they were one of my favorite and addicting desserts. These cookies have a cake or brownie consistency with the mint chips inside making them pretty addicting! Good thing I have some people around to help eat them!

Mint Chocolate Pudding Cookies
Makes ~ 3 dozen cookies
Source: Table for Two

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (3.4 oz.) package of chocolate pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup Andes mint baking chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add in the pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat well until incorporated.
  4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the mint chips with a spatula.
  5. Drop cookies onto baking sheet with a cookie scoop (I used a medium cookie scoop) and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.
  7. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they aren't eaten sooner!)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Nut Muffins

Living in Florida it is hard to have it feel like fall, especially since we are still wearing shorts. There was a "cold front" and I use the term extremely loosely, so we could at least open our windows and cool down a bit. I took full advantage and tried to pretend it was fall. And what better way to do that than through food?! To me fall flavors are apples, pears and pumpkin, and this recipe was a healthy spin on a pumpkin muffin. When I was mixing all of the ingredients together it smelled just like pumpkin pie and reminded me of the holidays. The pecans add a little crunch to the muffins. Be sure to spray the muffin liners, I was hesitant and the muffins got a bit stuck to the paper :( Otherwise, these are a great healthy fall treat that you can eat on the go or relaxing with your morning coffee or tea.

Pumpkin Nut Muffins
Source: Skinnytaste
Serves: 12

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour 3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
baking spray
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray liners with oil for easy removal.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix pumpkin puree, oil, egg whites and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chopped nuts.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin and bake on the center rack for 24 - 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let them cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Makes 12 muffins.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Instant cup o’ Mac & Cheese in the Microwave

I work from home and sometimes struggle with what to make for lunch. I like most American have a weakness for mac and cheese. However, I try not to make the ones from the box with all of the additives, and can't remember the last time I made a big batch from scratch since it is just the two of us and it has so much cheese. I came across this instant version on Pinterest and had been meaning to try it out (as is the case with most of my items on Pinterest). While it is not the same as the gooey and crunchy home made baked mac n cheese it is a pretty good quick fix. In 5 minutes I had a cup of mac and cheese, and I was able to control what went into it. You can use any type of milk you have in the house, we had skim milk so that's what I used, and we had reduced fat shredded cheese, but again, use what you have.

Instant Mug o’ Mac & Cheese in the Microwave
Serves: 1
Source: The Family Kitchen

1/3 cup pasta
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

Combine the pasta and water in a large mug or bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, then stir. A lot of times the water will overflow while it heats up. It is OK if this happens. If you don’t want it to overflow just make this in a very large microwaveable bowl. Repeat this for at least 2 to 4 more minutes, stirring at each 2-minute interval. The water should absorb completely and the pasta will be cooked through. If the pasta needs another minute it is okay to add one more teaspoon of water and microwave for another minute. My pasta cooked through in 4 minutes every time, but my microwaves tends to be very powerful.

Remove it from the microwave and stir in the milk and cheese. Microwave for another minute. Stir the cheese thoroughly into the pasta and enjoy!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

7 Can Taco Soup

This week I am finally making items that I see on Pinterest. That place is not only addicting, but I don't know who has the time to make all of the food and crafts they pin or throw the parties with all of the adorable accessories! I feel good if I make anything that I see on there. With fall rolling in around the country, maybe not where I am but for basically everyone else, I made a warm comforting soup. 

Tonight I tried what was actually 8 can taco soup, but I didn't use 1 of the ingredients, canned chicken... I am sure you can't blame me for being a little, ok a lot skeeved out by the idea of chicken in a can. Had I felt more motivated I would have used shredded rotisserie chicken, but instead it is a more vegetarian version. This soup is a bit thinner than a chili but heartier than most soups. It is packed with protein from all of the beans, a little spicy kick from the taco seasoning and enchilada sauce. Canned goods can be high in sodium, so be sure to find the reduced-sodium or no salt added versions of the ingredients. All of my favorite Mexican food flavors are combined in one bowl and in about 10 minutes and makes for a nice lunch at work the next day! For those busy nights this is a great go to, especially since it is all canned goods that you can keep in your pantry just in case.

7 Can Taco Soup
Adapted from
Serves: 4

1 (15 oz.) can reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can reduced sodium pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, no salt added, drained
1 (15.25 oz.) can no salt added sweet corn, drained
1 (10.75 oz.) can healthy request cream of chicken soup
1 (10 oz.) can green enchilada sauce
1 (14 oz.) can reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 packet reduced sodium taco seasoning

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot.
Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
Top with shredded cheese if you like and serve with tortilla chips.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce

As I mentioned in my last post I am trying to get better about trying out at least 1 recipe per week that I have pulled from a magazine or online. So here is another recipe from my stack. I will admit that I wasn't the most motivated person this week. I was ambitious and bought the ingredients, but then it did take me another day or two to actually make the recipe. As with most things in life, even though I wasn't in the mood to cook dinner I was really glad that I did. Nothing can replace a healthy home cooked meal, especially when it turns out how you excpected! This chicken dish was full of flavor, but not fat! I am not the biggest fan of chicken with a bone, it is just harder to eat, so next time I plan to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but you can use whichever you prefer.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce
Serves 4
Source: Cooking Light Magazine

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (~2.5lbs)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup no salt added chicken stock, divided
4 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 425°

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan; place in an 11 x 7–inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Bake at 425° for 16 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove chicken from dish; reserve drippings.

Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add butter; swirl to coat. Add onion and thyme; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Combine 3 Tablespoons stock and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, remaining stock, and reserved drippings to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, and add mustard, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk. Serve sauce with chicken.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner

This month I am a little behind on reading all of the magazines I subscribe to. However, this weekend I sat down to relax Sunday morning with my tea and the October issue of Cooking Light magazine. Per usual, I ripped out a bunch of recipes to add to the ever growing pile of recipes to try on our kitchen counter. And now with blogs and pinterest I also have "stacks" of virtual recipes to try as well. There is a method to my madness, I keep everything in a stack to try at least once. If it is a keeper, it gets added into my binder of go to recipes. I am going to have to try and be better about actually making at least one of the recipes I pull out a week.

Ok enough of my rambling and onto the cooking! Tonight I tried the chicken and orzo skillet dinner  from Cooking Light that claims it feeds 4 people for less than $10 and ready in 35 minutes. I always see shows and recipes that claim to be a bargain meal but never believe them since they tend to calculate out the cost of the exact amount of an ingredient, not the entire containter you usually have to purchase. However in this case it came in costing $13.75, I sprang for organic chicken, which made it cost a little bit more since the chicken alone was $7, overall not bad! At first I wasn't sure if there was enough flavor, but then we got a burst of flavor from the red pepper flakes. I did add a splash of white wine to the sauce in the pan. The leftovers would also be great as a cold salad the next day for lunch.

Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner
Source: Cooking Light Magazine October 2012
Serves 4

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into bite size pieces
12 ounces uncooked orzo
2 medium tomatoes chopped
2 teaspoons no-salt added tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with a sprinkle of salt & pepper (not listed in ingredients), then add to pan. Saute 6 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

2. Bring 6-8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add orzo and cook for 8 minutes or until orzo is al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

3. Add reserved cooking liquid, chopped tomato, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to skillet; cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add in chicken, orzo, and 3 cups spinach leaves, stirring until spinach wilts. Remove from heat and sprinkle with feta to serve.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day - September

This is my third month participating in the Foodie Pen Pals hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. It is always fun to"meet" other bloggers and blog readers while also receiving and creating a package! You are paired up with another blogger or blog reader and have a $15 spending cap to send your pen pal a package with items you have made or enjoy. I really like that you must include something handwritten, whether it is a note, recipe, etc. to make it even more personal.

This month I was paired with Athena from Fitness & Feta where she blogs about fitness and healthy living. She spoiled me this month and indulged into my love for chocolate. I opened the package and pulled out chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, then a gourmet chocolate bar with almonds & sea salt, and knew the theme must be chocolate. Then I really ripped the box open and found a raspberry chocolate candy, pretzel sticks with a chocolate dipping sauce and two types of hot chocolate. Since it is still warm here I am waiting for it to cool down a bit before making the hot chocolate. I already ate the crunchy chocolate, chocolate chip cookies and were not too sweet but a good crunchy snack that I ate on our weekend road trip. I was trying to be good and not eat all of the chocolate in a few days!

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