Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vegetable-Beef Pot Pie

What do you do when you find a recipe in a magazine or online?  Long before Pinterest, my solution was printing out the recipe or ripping it out of the magazine and keeping it in a binder.  My binder is about 3 inches now, so I often will check out the binder for inspiration. 

In the March 2011 Better Homes and Gardens, they had an article entitled “16 Knock Out Meals.”  They give you a list of 20 ingredients to make all of these, so I thought I would give one the recipes a whirl.  We made a vegetable-beef pot pie, and it was very good—the chili powder made this dish!  I should have calculated the Weight Watchers points ahead of time since ¼ of the pot pie was 11 points.  Next time, I will scale down some of the higher point value items.

Vegetable-Beef Potpie
After Baking   
1 lb cube steak (ground beef or turkey would work, but cube steak came in the farm share this week…very tasty)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 tbs chili powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 package pizza dough (I bought one where you just add water, but next time, I will probably do reduced fat refrigerated pizza dough or crescent rolls.)
1 egg lightly beaten (with 1 tbsp water)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium/larger skillet, cook beef, carrots, onion, and celery until beef is browned.  Drain liquid.  Stir in chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Add tomatoes and cook until liquid is nearly evaporated. 

While the tomatoes are cooking, make and unroll pizza dough.  Cut in 1-inch strips.  In a small bowl, combine egg and water. 

Spoon meat mixture into a pie plate than has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with strips of pizza dough; trim to fit.  Brush dough with egg mixture.  Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

4 large servings, 11 points each.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Couscous with Lime Sauce

Austin cooked again, and he’s getting good at it!  He’s always been good at grilling (can’t wait for summer), but he’s never been one for following recipes.  It was a simple recipe, but it made a delicious light meal.

We then marinated chicken with a sun-dried tomato Kraft dressing/marinade and cooked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes to put over the couscous.

Couscous with Lime Sauce
(adapted from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook)

1 ½ cups water
1 cup couscous
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ pack of frozen veggies that includes pepper strips—red, green, yellow— and onions (or you could use fresh, red pepper strips and scallions.  You know I do very poorly with using fresh veggies in time, so frozen is normally the way I go)
1 carrot, chopped
¼ cup lime juice
2 tbs dried parsley (¼  cup finely chopped fresh parsley)
¼ tsp pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil; add couscous, oil and salt.  Remove from heat; couscous will cook within 5 minutes.

In large microwave safe bowl, microwave frozen veggies until not frozen/warm.  Add carrots, lime juice, parsley, and pepper.  Add couscous; toss to combine. 

Top with chicken.  Serve and enjoy.  Serves 6; 3 points each.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Farm Shares and Frittatas

Over the past month or so, I have been reading American Wasteland by Jonathon Bloom.  It talks about food waste and how to combat it.  I am not a huge environmentalist (and not really an environmentalist in any sense of the word besides for I recycle, don’t litter, unplug things when I go on trips, turn off my air conditioning when I leave the house, etc—of course some of these things are really to economics more than the environment), so I have been intrigued by this book.  I have been learning a lot, and it helped me think of things that I can do.

Some things I already do.  I buy lots of frozen food, so I do not waste the fresh stuff, but that probably doesn’t count J  I eat leftovers like it’s my job and always leave the restaurant with doggie bags.  When I travel for work, I still get doggie bags and in many cases can pass my leftovers on to the homeless in the area. 

What do you do to prevent food waste?  Any good suggestions to help me and the other 10 readers?  Share it below in the comments….

One of the things Bloom mentioned was participating in local CSAs and farm shares.  When I lived in central PA, the highlight of my week was the farmers market where I could get produce for cheap but also from local farmers.  Reading the book sparked my interest in getting local produce, but also saving money!

Doing some research, I found Zina’s produce, which was 10 minutes from where I live.  I called and chatter with her and then Austin and I visited the farm and to learn more about the CSA program.  Zina is AMAZING, and in addition to the eggs that she has on her farm (and the cutest cow with a heart shaped white spot on its forehead—don’t worry, we won’t be eating this cow!), she works with 35+ local farms, butchers, fishermen, etc. 

Eggs from the farm share
We signed up for a meat share and a summer produce share.  Every two weeks, we get a variety of meats, fruits, and veggies.  I was excited but I was also nervous because before starting this blog (and maybe even now), I am not a very adventurous chef.  We’ll be getting things that I have never cooked before—It will be a challenge, but it’s something I’m looking forward too.

When we were leaving the farm, Zina gave us a dozen eggs and a pound of specialty sausage.  To celebrate, we shared a frittata the next day for lunch.  It was heavenly!

Sage Sausage and Spinach Frittata

1 medium onion, chopped
½ lb sage sausage (I’m sure any flavored sausage would work, but this sausage was amazing, and I am so so excited to get more!)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup fresh spinach
6 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, reduced-fat (I meant to use mozzarella but used cheddar by accident.  Both would be delicious.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In large skillet that can go in the oven, add sausage and onion; brown sausage.  Drain grease/liquid.

After beating eggs, mix in salt and pepper.  Pour eggs over mixture in skillet.  Add spinach.  Cook over medium heat.  As food sets, run a spatula around end of skillet and let uncooked portion flow underneath.  When mixture sets, top with cheese and bake 5 minutes.

Serves 4 heart portions, 6 points each. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Shrimp, tomatoes, and couscous....what can be better than that?  A friend of mine has a great blog, A Gilt Nutmeg, and I printed her recipe for Cilantro Lime Shrimp weeks ago.  I was so excited to use it, with adapting it to utilize the food already in my house.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  put through a garlic press
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (I bought jalapeno rings in a jar a while ago, so I used 5-6 rings)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp oregano
1 can diced tomatoes (the original recipe calls for 2 diced Roma tomatoes, but I only had a can of crushed tomatoes.  Next time, I would used diced tomatoes)
2 tbs lime juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pound uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ tbs cilantro cooking base (or a few pinches of fresh cilantro leaves)  

Cook oil and butter in pot/large pan over med-high heat.  When oil and butter are melted, add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add jalapeno and garlic.  Once the onions look cooked, add crushed red pepper and oregano, and diced tomatoes.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Add lime juice, salt, and pepper.  Add shrimp and cook.  It's done when it's opaque.  

I paired the recipe with couscous, and it was a great combo! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hand-Packed Burgers

Yesterday was the perfect spring day, and it was our first day this season using the grill.  We hand-packed delicious burgers.

2 lbs Ground Beef
2 tsp Hamburger Seasoning (or Black Pepper/Salt)
3/4 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Barbeque Sauce (we used Sweet Baby Ray's Raspberry Chipolte Sauce)
1 Onion Chopped/Minced


Pack and Grill, adding BBQ sauce when the burgers are flipped.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red, White, and Brew (Wine on Highway 151)-- Part 3

Along Highway 151 in Nelson County, there are over a dozen wineries and breweries.  We went to about half of the wineries and could have spend another couple days there to visit them all.

The first one was Veritas, and they were open at 10 am!

The next one was Afton Mountain, and we drove on a 1 1/2 lane dirt road hoping we were on the right road.
Austin was the cornhole champion at Afton Mountain.
After that, we headed to Cardinal Point.  This winery was a little less formal than the first two.  The entrance to the winery had love spelled out in wine barrels...very cute!

The next day, we went to two more wineries.  Hilltop Berry Farm was once a pick-your-own blackberry farm, and they only made berry wines-- with none of the wines being grape-based.  Their wines were really different from the others we drank during the "weekend," so I'm glad this was one of the vineyards that the winery suggested.

Check out the vines-- they're berries instead of grapes.
The last winery was Wintergreen Winery.  They had the prettiest logo and good wine to finish up our wine tastings.  Our B&B even had two bottles waiting for us when we checked in.

At every winery we visited, we bought at least one bottle of wine.  Check out our loot!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Food in Nelson County-- Part 2

Yum-- that pretty sums up everything about the food we had during our mid-week weekend.  Every meal was better than the last.

First dinner was at the Blue Toad Pub.  It was right down the road from the Inn.  They had bottled beer representing every state, but of course, we got beer that was brewed right down the street at Blue Mountain Brewery.

The next day we started our wine tastings (and visited three wineries), and let's just say we needed something hearty for lunch :)  We went to the Blue Ridge Pig for BBQ.

I think we knew this would be great BBQ solely based on the sign.
Pork brisket sandwich with potato salad and macaroni salad.
Clearly, I thought it was delicious.  Great picture too, huh?!?
Dinner that same day was at Devils Backbone Brewing Company.  The history of the brewing company and restaurant was really neat since much of the exterior and interior of the building was re-purposed from county barns and buildings that were no longer in use.  All the food was local if not grown by the restaurant itself.  We started with their flight of beer-- 4 2 oz tasting glasses (I was done with alcohol for the night, but Austin had a pint of his favorite).

Beers were yummy, but the food was even better.  We started off with the nachos.  Fresh corn chips, topped with roasted peppers, black beans, and smothered with spicy, melted queso.  Topped with Pico de Gallo.  Amazing!

For dinner, I had pan-seared trout, and it was excellent.  Pan-seared cornmeal-dusted Rainbow trout served over smoky-bacon cheese grits and sautéed Brussels sprout petals.  Topped with roasted tomato butter and accompanied by smoked-corn guacamole.

Austin has a man's man burger:  the smokehouse burger.  A half-pound, all natural beef patty.  Piled with house-smoked pulled pork, bacon, o-rings, Muenster cheese and our house-made Backbone BBQ sauce.  Loaded onto corn-dusted jalapeno toast.  

The whole experience at Devils Backbone was great.  We sat outside in an enclosed porch.  It was chilly out, but the restaurant had blankets on the back of chairs for me to wrap myself thoughtful!

Wild Wolf Brewing was our last destination in Nelson County.  The brewery is the old high school building, so it was cool to eat and drink in an old school :)  Their beer was the best we had all weekend, and my favorite was the Blonde Hunny Ale...tasted like Blue Moon but even better!

I had a delicious fried chicken salad.  They grilled romaine lettuce and topped it with gorgonzola, bacon, and lemon vinaigrette.  I need to learn how to make this at home...I was licking the plate clean!

Dessert was also heavenly.  I lived in central Pennsylvania for three years and went to almost all the fairs in the countries in and surrounding where I lived.  The best part of the fairs (not counting the great country music, tractor pulls, kids showing their animals, etc) are the deep-fried oreos.  Wild Wolf had deep fried oreos (oreos inside funnel cake batter) for dessert, and I was required to order it.  AMAZING.

The whole "weekend" was great, but I would go back for the food.  They also have live music in the summer at both breweries, so I see a repeat trip in our future...    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mid-Week Weekend-- Part 1

Last May, I got a great deal from Living Social-- 2 nights at a B&B in Virginia Wine Country for Austin and me to take advantage of wine and beer tasting in the area.  Austin and I were so excited to use it before I started my job last September.  Time got away from us, so we decided to use it during spring break (and before it expired!).  The deal was only good Sunday-Thursday nights, so we had a wonderful mid-week weekend.

Our destination was Nelson County, VA and the Mark-Addy Inn.  We didn't pass one stop light during our mini-vacation and not a chain restaurant or fast-food restaurant in sight.  Weather was beautiful, if you don't count the wind :)

The inn was super cute with each of the rooms having different decor.  Ours was Rue de Monet, and as one could guess, Monet prints were everywhere.  It was bright and cheery-- the epitome of what I think of as a room in a B&B.

Highlighting our time at the B&B was of course the food!  Breakfast the two mornings there was delicious.  The first day was a breakfast quiche and fruit oatmeal.  Day two's breakfast is below in picture form:

Yummy fruit cup with homemade whipped cream. 

Eggs Benedict and homemade breakfast potato chips. 

Every part of our trip was amazing....stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of our mid-week weekend-- Food in Nelson Country and Red, White, and Brew (Wine on Highway 151).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Heart Panera

When I have to eat on the run and am eating out, I almost always pick Panera.  It is delicious.  The first couple times I visited, I was so confused when ordering, but years later, I think I've finally gotten the hang of it.

In college, the nearest Panera was 45 minutes away, and on more than one occasion, I loaded my car with books from all my classes and spent the entire day studying at Panera.  You have to get there early to get a table near an electrical outlet, but the change in location was worth the drive, and the food was great too!

My favorite Panera meal.  You Pick Two- Chicken Noodle Soup (2 points) and BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad (a whole salad is 13 points, so I estimate 8-10).  Light but satisfying lunch.

My sister, Sarah, enjoying her salmon salad at Panera.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

We went over to my Aunt and Uncle's house last Saturday night, and my Aunt made an amazing meal.  It started off with her famous deep dish pizza (she makes it every Christmas Eve, so I was thrilled to eat this special treat).

The for dessert, she made chocolate covered strawberries and even had plays of Girl Scout Cookies-- Thin Mints and Somoas.  Yum!

I love that my I have family about an hour away, and even though I don't get to see them as much as I would like, it's so wonderful when we do get together!

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

- Pizza dough (my aunt made homemade!!)
- Mozzarella cheese (lots of it)
- Jar of pizza/spaghetti sauce
- Parmesan shaker cheese
- Toppings for pizza (we had 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 with banana peppers and mushrooms, but you could put in anything you want)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Split pizza dough into two balls.  Roll first ball flat to cover bottom of pizza pan.  Spray deep dish pizza pan with cooking spray and lay flat pizza dough over top.  Add layer of mozzarella cheese.  Layer toppings and layer another layer of cheese.  Roll second ball of dough and cover pizza.  Cook for about 25 minutes in oven.  Take out of oven, spread pizza sauce over pizza, and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Take pizza out of oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and cook until cheese is bubbly.

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Aunt Karen!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sarah's Famous Guacamole

My sister, Sarah, makes amazing guacamole.  She made it for the Super Bowl Party, and I was obsessed.  I've begging her for the recipe, and she FINALLY sent it to me.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Sarah's Famous Guacamole

4 avacados
1 sweet onion, small dice
2 cloves if garlic minced 
2 tomatoes , small dice
Hot sauce to taste 
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste

avacados. Add in vegetables and mix together. Add all seasonings to taste.

Share with 8 of your friends for 5 points a serving.

Friday, March 9, 2012

We Still Love Trader Joe's

Guess who's making dinner tonight?

Yes!  Austin is making dinner.  Every time I go into Trader Joe's, I come out with something (and often many things) that is/are not on my list.  This past time, it was vegetable lasagna.  Yum!  The great thing is that's it's only 6 points a serving, the serving sizes are good, and the tray only has 4 servings- perfect for dinner for 2 and some leftovers to boot.

Can't wait for my next trip to Trader Joe's and the frozen section-- maybe Indian food?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

Cooking vegetarian while a friend was in town- check!  Making quinoa- check!  Use some form of tomatoes- check!  Everything I need from this meal is complete.  If you haven't noticed, I use (or talk about) quinoa and tomatoes (mostly in the form of a can) in almost everything I cook.  The added bonus was being vegetarian for my friend while still keeping it hearty for Austin.  This meal certainly did that.  Of course chili has beans it in, and I am their biggest fans.  With this recipe, however, the beans didn't bother me at all and actually added to the tastiness.

We also added some corn bread.  Jiffy cornbread is my favorite.  50 cents a box, and it's pretty good.  Not the best, but certainly better tasting than you would expect with the price.

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili
(adapted from

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (I bought jarred, sliced jalapenos and cut them up very carefully!)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder, depending on your taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and black pepper, to taste
In a medium sauce pan, combine the quinoa and water. Cook over medium heat until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, jalapeño, carrot, celery, peppers, and zucchini. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Stir in the cooked quinoa. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Simmer chili on low for about 30 minutes.
4 points a serving.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken

When you see the picture of this chicken breast, it will look gross, but I promise you that it's tasty.

The recipe is super easy.  Spray crock pot with Pam, put chicken in crock pot, sprinkle with taco seasoning, add 1/2 cup salsa.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 2-3 hours.  Take chicken out of crock pot.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with some water.  Add to crock pot (leftover salsa should be in there) along with 1/4 cup light sour cream.  Mix and then serve over chicken.  The chicken was super juicy and the sauce was really nice with it.

We also baked seasoned sweet potatoes fries, and the chicken sauce made a great dipping sauce for the fries.

Taste with your stomach, not your eyes :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

tawanna Thai

I have an obsession with thai food-- but when I say thai food, I mean very generic and americanized pad thai and curry.  So delicious and minimally spicy.  Whenever I travel, I want to get more of the authentic thing.  In LA last week, I was able to spend some in the Miracle Mile area, eat delicious thai food with a great friend, and visit LACMA for a couple minutes.  Great trip-- now I'm craving some thai food :)

Prettiest display of pad thai I have ever seen.

Name one of the movies these awesome lamp posts are in...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ratatouille Polenta

One of my favorite cartoon movies in recent years is Ratatouille.  It's such a cute, but I didn't know until discovering this recipe what some of the ingredients were in ratatouille.  I imagine when the food critic called it a peasant's dish, the recipe including adding everything add the kitchen, but for me, it was a great mix of fresh vegetables (except for the peppers, which I bought frozen since they are so much cheaper).

The polenta was amazing broiled and dotted with Parmesan cheese.  I would definitely cook it that way again....very successful dinner, but I may add some more spices next time.

Best part of the meal-- my best friend Kristie was in town, and I was so happy to have some delicious, vegetarian food for her!!

Ratatouille Polenta



    • Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, discarding the liquid, then chop the tomatoes.
    • Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pot or large pan. Swirl in the oil, then add the onion and garlic. Sauté until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the eggplant, zucchini, green and red bell peppers, tomatoes, sugar, salt, ground pepper, and the chopped sun-dried tomatoes; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are softened and the ­flavors are developed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the basil, during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.
    • Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Cut the polenta into 12 crosswise slices; arrange on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil 5 inches from the heat until hot and the cheese is golden, about 4 minutes.
    • Serve the ratatouille with the broiled polenta rounds.  6 points a serving.