• A Feast

    If you have an Audible subscription, every month they let you choose two free titles from a handful of their Audible Originals. One of the titles I picked this month was "Twain's Feast" - they took a list of food that Mark Twain wanted at a feast of his, foods that he missed when he traveled, and broke down what those foods would have meant to him, and what they looked like culturally. 

    It's also narrated in part by Nick Offerman, which didn't hurt. He's got a voice that I would be okay with narrating a phone book. 

    If you have the change to listen to Twain's Feast, I do recommend it. Even as someone who isn't obsessed with Mark Twain, I thought the whole thing was really interesting, and is the jumping point for the rest of this post.

    Last time Matt and I went up to New York, we picked up a couple loaves of Felix Roma bread. I hadn't had it in a really long time, but all I remembered was that it was very good italian bread. Later, when Matt said that he wanted to drive back up to NY for more bread, I felt vindicated. It wasn't just my memory that made the bread good, it must be legitimately good!

    So between that and Twain's Feast, I got to thinking: What would my ultimate feast look like? What are foods that I not only like, but have some significance?

    I thought I'd start with foods that I associate with states I've lived in:

    Spiedies from New York
    Sopapillas from Colorado, and the long defunct El Matador restaurant
    Cheesesteaks and Gelatis from New Jersey, as well as a cheese pizza from Wing King in Maple Shade - I literally have dreams periodically about being in NJ and being able to get a pizza from there. Oh, and bread from DelBuono's bakery. Oh! And a carmine pizza from Bertucci's. It's not on the menu anymore, but it had carmelized onions and fresh mozzarella over a roasted tomato sauce. Fresh mozzarella is my jam. I wouldn't be upset if there was a soft pretzel there either. 

    Foods that I associate with people include:

    My Mom's Mac and Cheese with peaches. Yes, peaches. 
    Chocolate chip cookies using a recipe from my Aunt Sally, and Sugar cookies from my Grandma Judy's recipe.
    We'll make fruit salad from my great Aunt Margaret's recipe - it's fruit salad in the most flexible definition ... but delicious. 

    Just because I plain like them, there'd need to be mashed potatoescorned beef, and manicotti

    This is all just off the top of my head, so I'm sure there are things I've forgotten. But if I had the stomach for all of it, I would enjoy the living daylights out of this meal. 

    That being said, I was hungry when I started this, and now I'm even more hungry. So I'm going to go scrounge up some supper - I don't think it'll be nearly as good as anything on this list though. 

  • These are a couple of my favorite things

    I've been using these for breakfast recipes over the last month or so, and I'm loving them. Not only are they delicious as all get out, but they're PCOS friendly.

    If you're looking for the greens, fiber, or protein powder mentioned, let me know. Arbonne has a fantastic nutrition line that I can't recommend enough.

  • *FREE* Printable Weekly Meal Planner!

    *FREE* Printable Weekly Meal Planner!

    Meal planning is so important.

    It helps keep us from eating out constantly, keeps our budgets in check, and provides some stability in knowing what's to come. (At least for me. I thrive on knowing what's going on.)

    I've looked around for a printable meal planner for a while now. There are lots of good free ones out there - but none that are my Cinderella slipper.

    I wanted it to be simple, something I could take a quick glance at. Many planners have an area for writing your grocery list on the same page, but that doesn't work for me. I work off of a separate grocery list.
    But I wanted it to have all three meals on it, because I find that if I don't write down breakfast and lunch, there's a good chance that I won't eat them!

    So I sat down and played with photoshop for a while. I'm happy with the results. If you'd like a copy, I'm linking the file here. Feel free to download it and print as many copies as you want. If it's useful to you, that makes me happy!

    Use this link, don't download the picture above - it'll be way too small. :)


  • Protein crepetastic

    Protein crepetastic

    I've been really into making crepes the last couple of weeks. They're easy, they're filling, and the recipe I use is pretty healthy and flexible. Ready? It goes like this:

    • 1 scoop protein powder
    • 1/2 cup egg whites
    • Milk to thin out the batter (I probably use between 1/3-1/2 cup

    You mix it all together, and cook your crepes on a hot, greased pan. Super easy to double the recipe for two people. Since deciding that we like the recipe, we've picked up a few different protein powder flavor sample packets. That makes it super fun!

    The first time we made them, it was with a strawberry powder, and I filled them with sliced bananas and topped with a light drizzle of honey. YUM.

    I've also made them with chocolate protein powder, filled with banana and topped with a little watered down PB2. 

    This weekend I was too lazy to roll them up, but I topped them with banana and I had melted some raspberries in the skillet and glopped those on top. The crepes themselves were salted caramel, and let me tell you, they felt decadent.

    I love breakfast foods. I love them even more when they aren't so sugary that it leaves me bouncing off the walls after. These are good, easy, and quick. I think I'll be playing with these for quite a while. Maybe I'll even venture outside of bananas! 

  • Pinterecipes: Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

    Pinterecipes: Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

    Okay, let's start with my substitutions, because apparently I can't just follow a recipe as written.

    - I used only 2% milk, even though it calls for 2% and whole. I typically only buy regular milk for recipes anyway, and I'm way too lazy to buy two kinds of milk. I can't imagine that this recipe needed to be any thicker or creamier though, so it was fine!

    - I used a mix of kale and spinach. I mean, it was a package that had a sell by date for the day I was making the recipe, and was marked down to .99. It looked fine, so who can pass up .99? 

    - Instead of using smoked gouda, I used smoked gruyere. This is for three reasons: 

    • There was no smoked gouda
    • I know that we love smoked gruyere
    • The gruyere was cheaper

    Other than that, I followed the recipe. Based on a completely arbitrary ranking, and based on my changes, I give this recipe a 10. It was rich and creamy and so flavorful. In fact, it's so rich, that I don't necessarily recommend it as a main dish. At the very least, it needs a salad to go with it. But Matt said it was the best macaroni and cheese he's ever had, and both my dad and I loved it. (I don't think Mom tried it, though I don't think she's a fan of smoky flavors, so I don't think she'd have cared for it anyway)

    It's a great change of pace, though when push comes to shove, I like my extra sharp white cheddar mac with peaches best. Nothing can upstage that, though this would come the closest!

    Spinach Mac and Cheese

  • Pinterecipes: Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

    Pinterecipes: Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

    Okay, let me get my modifications out of the way.

    1. I didn't have ancho chilies. Or spike seasoning. I just used more chili powder and some salt and pepper and called it good. Our local Kroger is in the middle of a remodel and even finding the stuff I usually buy feels challenging, let alone things that I don't know to look for. 

    2. I added a can of corn and a can of black beans. They were sitting on my counter and I thought, hey, why not? 

    So obviously I didn't follow this recipe exactly. But it's not like I made it completely different - it might just not qualify as "paleo" with the corn and beans? I don't know. 

    But the recipe was easy, and pretty quick to put together. You have to let it simmer for an hour to let the sweet potatoes cook, but that's all hands off. 

    I thought it had great flavor. I don't know what exactly to attribute that to, but we were both really pleased with the outcome. I think I actually like turkey in chili better than beef. 

    On a completely arbitrary scale, I give this one a 9. Will make again. If you're looking for a new chili recipe to try, give this one a shot!

    Paleo Turkey Sweet Potato Chili

  • Pinterecipes: Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    Pinterecipes: Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    Every time I walk into Panera, I plan on skipping the broccoli cheddar soup, either because it's too hot or because I feel that I should branch out. But it keeps calling me back, the soupy siren of my heart.

    I was incredibly pleased with this recipe. It was easy, not a lot of fuss required past the first couple steps, and I learned not only what a roux is, but how to make one. 

    Speaking of said roux, the recipe calls for 3 tbsp butter along with 1/4 cup flour. This left me with a really lumpy mess which made me panic. So I threw 2 more tbsps of butter in there, and it was fine. Your mileage may vary, but I've given you the heads up. 

    Do what you will, but I highly recommend picking up a loaf of good bread to go with this. By "good bread", I really just mean not sandwich bread. I picked up a $1.00 loaf of Italian bread at the front of Kroger, and I was pleased. Then again, I'm not hard to please when it comes to bread. Do what feels right.

    My completely arbitrary score for this recipe is 10/10, partially because I wrote the review on the day I made the soup (so it's delicious and fresh in my mind), but also because I feel extra rad when I make something myself that I typically order at a restaurant. 

    Maybe if I can make this at home, I really will branch out. 

    Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Pinterecipes: Better than chipotle burrito bowl

    Pinterecipes: Better than chipotle burrito bowl

    I really like Chipotle, but I rarely get to eat there. When we lived in Michigan, the nearest Chipotle was inconvenient and far away. They have one here in Lynchburg, but the times we've tried to eat there, the line has been out the door. 

    I like Chipotle, but not enough to wait in a line out the door when there are ten other restaurants within a stone's throw. 

    Plus, there's the whole ecoli debacle. Yeah, I hear they've fixed it, but that kind of thing always makes me a bit skittish. 

    So I like this idea of making my own burrito bowls. Not that I've ever had a Chipotle burrito bowl. I usually go for the burrito proper.

    This recipe is so easy - especially if you let a rice cooker do the work while you chop up the fresh stuff. I love our rice cooker. I didn't think I would get as much use out of it as I do. In fact, I'm pretty snobby about kitchen gadgets. I tend to err on the side of gadgets that will do many things rather than specialized things. But this rice cooker ... man. I'm in love.

    But I digress. The bulk of the 'cooking' is chopping up your veggies while the rice cooks. Whip up the sour cream sauce, and drain your corn and beans, and that's about it. 

    I was very happy with it. Matt and I were both wanting something fresh that day, and this really hit the spot. 

    My arbitrary score is an 8/10, and I don't know why. It's a great recipe. I'm sure it'll end up in our rotation, and we'll definitely eat these more often than we frequent Chipotle.

    Better than Chipotle burrito bowls

  • Pinterecipes: Lentil Spinach Soup

    Pinterecipes: Lentil Spinach Soup

    Okay, let's start with the positives.

    This is really easy to make. It makes your house smell homey and delicious. If you've really got a hankering for a light soup, this is a good choice. It's a great soup to sop up bread with.

    I always feel impressive when I make soup, and I don't know why. There's something about soup that feels mysterious - like, I could open up a can of Campbells, but look, I did this! Again, I'm not sure where this comes from - it's not like soup is that difficult.

    The downside to this soup is that I found it fairly bland. There's probably something I could have done to make it more flavorful, but as written, there's not a lot of punch there. This soup would probably make a good little side dish, but as a main supper, it's lackluster. 

    Or, maybe I just learned that lentil soups aren't my cup of tea! Maybe this is a great soup if you're a fan of lentils. 

    My completely arbitrary score is 4/10. It was easy, but I don't plan on making it again. If you love lentil soups and are looking for something vegan friendly, give it a shot!

    Spinach Lentil Soup

  • Pinterecipes: Slow Cooker Pot Roast

    Pinterecipes: Slow Cooker Pot Roast

    So, this is the closest I've come to setting my house on fire since the time I forgot the plastic lid was on a dish and stuck it in the oven.

    The first couple steps in the recipe call for searing the meat, high heat, for one minute on each side. I will say that our stove doesn't have a fan above it, and SURPRISE, almost none of our windows open. So I didn't exactly set the house on fire, but I did cause some very, very dense smoke. It was so bad that I was pretty sure I was never going to attempt this recipe again before I even had it in the crockpot. (Thankfully Mom told me how to sear meat with possibly less smoke)

    Smoke aside, this recipe is so easy. Sear the meat, chop some veggies, throw it in the crockpot and wait.

    The result is absolutely the BEST pot roast I've ever had. Very tender, very flavorful, and it didn't hurt that I made some amazing mashed potatoes to go with it.

    My completely arbitrary score is 9/10, deducting one point for the amount of smoke I inhaled. If you're looking for a good and very simple pot roast recipe, you can't go wrong with this. I will be singing the pot roasty praises for ages to come.

    Slow Cooker Pot Roast

  • Pinterecipes: Buffalo Cauliflower and Copycat Caesar's Breadsticks

    Pinterecipes: Buffalo Cauliflower and Copycat Caesar's Breadsticks

    These little goodies are what we made for the Super Bowl this year. Usually, we have stuff like pizza and poppers and mozzerella sticks, so calorically speaking, we saved about a billion calories.

    I'm sorry to say that in the few weeks since I printed out the buffalo cauliflower recipe, it has disappeared from the website, rendering it unlinkable.

    I will say that it was a little bit of a pain in the butt to make, but once we figured out a good process (namely, forego getting things dipped perfectly and just shake everything in a covered bowl) it went quickly. I really liked how they turned out - it was everything I like about buffalo wings, without any of the weird chicken gristle or bones. It occurs to me as I'm writing this over a week later that I bought ranch dressing for these and never opened it. D'oh!

    On my completely arbitrary scale, I give these a 6.5/10. They were good, and one head of cauliflower made a ton of these, but they were a bit tedious. I can't link the recipe I used, but maybe if you google, you can find something similar.

    The Copycat Caesar's breadsticks couldn't have been easier. You spread out the dough, cut it into strips, bake, and then slather them with some melted butter and garlic salt. Oh! Parmesan cheese too.

    They were pretty good. The dough still had that "pillsbury refrigerated dough" quality about it that didn't make it a believable copycat, but they were salty and garlicky and so the flavor was yummy. I'd give them a solid 6/10 for being so very easy. They'd be great to make for kids, especially - maybe less refined palettes. Maybe it needs a different dough? But that'd be more effort. Hmm.

    Copycat Little Caesar's Breadsticks

  • Pinterecipes: Meatloaf and potatoes in the crockpot

    Pinterecipes: Meatloaf and potatoes in the crockpot

    This recipe is called "Hobo dinner in the slow cooker" - the premise is that you cook everything in the slow cooker/crockpot at the same time.

    I love my crockpot, and I love the idea of entire meals in the crockpot. This looked like a winner to me.

    Because the recipe said it was four servings, I decided to split the meatloaf up and make it on two different days. I liked this idea, because it's easy portion control, and it gets me two meals out of one pound of beef. That's a win all around!

    The recipe itself is incredibly easy. The worst part is mixing up the meatloaf, but that only takes a couple minutes. In ten minutes or less, the whole thing can be assembled and in the crockpot.

    Now, I found that the meatloaf turned out a little dry, but it wouldn't surprise me if this was my own fault - halving the meat but keeping the cooking time. It's nothing that a little ketchup or bbq sauce can't fix.

    The potatoes were heavenly. That's all that needs to be said.

    On a completely arbitrary scale, I'd give this one an 8/10. Everything turned out good, and Matt said he'd happily eat this one again. I loved how easy it was, and ease goes a long way in my book. I dock two points for the drier meatloaf, with the caveat that it's probably my own fault.

    Hobo dinner in the slow cooker

  • Pinterecipes: Fried Rice

    Pinterecipes: Fried Rice

    For my first Pinterecipe, I decided to tackle this "Better than takeout chicken fried rice" - but there's a caveat. I'm weird about meat, and I happen to know that in things like fried rice (and pad thai), I prefer tofu.

    So, all that to say, I followed the recipe as written, except that I added some fried tofu to it instead of chicken.

    The directions were nice and clear, and the recipe was easy to follow. I made the tofu while the rice was cooking, and by the time those were finished, all I had to do was put everything else together, which was a snap.

    In fact, it was so deceptively easy, I was skeptical that it would taste very authentic. But the smells while I cooked gave me hope. Sesame oil is a little stinky, but everything else - oh, it was a great smell!

    Everything came together in about 45 minutes - maybe less? Either way, the time flew by, so it didn't feel like it took that long. I don't think it would take me as long a second time, now that I know what I'm doing.

    The recipe says that there are 3-4 servings, and I'd say there's at least that. Matt and I are to our hearts' content, and there was still enough left for lunch the next day and for me to take to my dad.

    Everyone who tried this recipe gave it a hearty thumbs up. My dad said that he thinks it might be the best fried rice he's ever had, and this is not a complement my dad passes out freely. So trust me, it's really good.

    On a very arbitrary scale, I give this recipe a 10/10. Would make again, anytime.

    Better than takeout chicken fried rice

  • Pinterecipies


    Like many people my age, I have a slight obsession with Pinterest. In particular, I love using it to hoard recipes - things that look good, that I might want to try someday, or recipes for a particular event. Love it.

    But over the years, I've collected quite a few recipes that I've just never tried.

    I'm going to change that.

    I sat down and looked through my pins, and figured out which ones I was still interested in making, and which ones were either unappetizing or just more effort than I would actually be willing to do. Then, I printed them all out. Let me tell you, going to the website for each pin and printing them out was a pain in the butt.

    Yeah, you're probably thinking, "uh, why not just pull up the recipes on pinterest?" and to be honest, if I don't print them out, I'm never going to get around to making them. As much as I love digital stuff,  paper is still my love.

    I put all 99 recipes in a binder, and I'm going to try and work my way through that binder, one or two recipes a week. They're not all dinners - I believe one is for a buffalo wing made out of cauliflower. That should make the project easier.

    I figure, worst case scenario, maybe I'll have learned a few new tricks and broadened my horizons slightly. Either way, it should be fun!

    Hopefully I'll start this in a week or two - depends on how soon life settles down. I find it hard to cook much on physical therapy days!

  • Eating Differently

    I make no secret of the fact that I'm eating a little differently these days.

    For starters, I've cut out regular pop. I'm drinking some diet pop, but mostly water and tea. Carbonated water, like La Croix is how I get my carbonation fix.

    I'm also not eating pasta, and not much bread. I like both - don't get me wrong. I'm not about to go all anti-carb on you here. But I've noticed that personally, pasta just leaves me with a 'bottomless pit' feeling. I eat it, and it tastes great, but an hour later, I might as well have eaten nothing. I'm not a fan of whole grain pasta, so it's usually just not worth it for me. Bread, on the other hand ... I don't mind their whole and multi-grain counterparts so much. I don't eat a lot of them, but Kroger has these little multi-grain sandwich thins that are really good! I use them in lieu of toast, with a little pb2 and banana on top, or as buns for burgers.
    I do have a loaf of sprouted grain bread in the fridge, but ... bleh. I can stomach it, but there's no joy there. Even I have my limits.

    I've never been a big meat eater, and ironically, I'm eating a little more meat than previously - I'm just eating more chicken and turkey than beef. I find that I'm really picky about my meat, but when I find the right stuff (like the frozen chicken breast fillets from Food Lion), they're versatile and delicious.

    Fruits and vegetables are also more of a staple around here - I guess that makes sense, as I have to eat something, right? I've found kitchen gadgets that make the whole experience more fun. The Paderno Inspiralizer is great for making zucchini noodles or apple noodles - I hear you can make broccoli noodles from the stem, and I really want to try that! I picked up a food processor, and have discovered the fun of making a frozen yogurt type treat from frozen bananas and other frozen fruit. I also used it last week to make brownies with black beans, and cauliflower rice is next on my list.

    I'll be honest - changing the way you eat can be a chore. I'm extremely lucky that Matt is not only supportive, but he's just as eager to try new things as I am. A lot of things take a little more prep up front, even if they don't take any more time overall. For instance, instead of eating frozen pizza or getting delivery, we make flatbread pizzas. The flatout light wraps are a great base, and with a little bit of sauce, cheese, and turkey pepperoni, they whip up pretty quick and taste surprisingly good!

    If you can make the process one of discovery, and understand that while you're making the first changes, things are going to take a bit longer, eventually, things get a lot easier again. You can still have healthy, satisfying, tasty meals that aren't terribly complicated. I don't miss cooking up a box of pasta and dumping some sauce on it.

    This weekend, Matt and I are going to hit up the local farmers market and see what we can find there for produce. I like this. Not only is our new eating style one that makes us feel good and tastes great, but aligns with our ideals of eating more locally and sustainably.
    It's a win-win.

    Starting weight watchers was a great springboard for us to make these changes. Do you have to eat like this on weight watchers? Nope. You can eat at McDonalds every day if you want to. But for us, it's been a great way to expand our palettes.

    Also: Flavor Gods seasonings. They seem expensive, but they're actually cheaper per ounce than most of your standard, store bought seasonings - plus, they're all freshly ground, no added chemicals or preservatives.

    For anyone who has thought about changing up the way they eat, or trying something new, I just want you to know ... it's possible, and can be fun, too!

  • Biscotti!


    I'm having a bit of a love affair with biscotti lately. I never thought I'd be a biscotti person - I mean, who wants dried out cookies when you can have decidedly not dried out cookies?

    But then I became a tea drinker.

    I only tried biscotti a few weeks ago, when my sister in law took me on a tea tasting. It wasn't amazing biscotti there, but I decided there was something fun about that little crunch along with your tea. So as I often do with baked goods, I thought, I can do better. I should try this.

    So, I did.

    I'm a bit fan of rituals and making little things special. So I started making a cup of tea for myself at night, and grabbing a couple pieces of biscotti. It felt just a little bit decadent. While I guess you could plow through a whole plate of biscotti with your tea, two slices seems about right to me. That's way better portion control than I usually exercise with cookies. Plus, because biscotti is already dried and crunchy, with proper storage, it lasts a pretty good amount of time.

    As a bonus, I noticed myself not really craving sweets throughout the day, and not wanting to pick up stuff at the store, because I knew I had my tea and biscotti to look forward to.

    It's a little ritual I've really come to enjoy. I think there's something to be said for finding something that feels special and indulging on a regular basis - whether that's tea, bubble baths, or a good book.

    If you'd like to try making biscotti yourself, here's a couple of recipes.

    This one here is a well rated, simple, crunchy biscotti. I added some almonds to it, because otherwise I think it would have been too plain. I might also suggest cutting the anise extract in half and also using almond or vanilla. But that's my preference.

    Simple Biscotti

    The second recipe is a bit more complex, but just barely.

    I didn't have any almonds on hand, so I substituted mini chocolate chips. This recipe turns out softer, more dense, than the first and feels a bit more 'cookie' like. I did like this one a lot.

    D'Amaretti Biscotti

    Try one and see what you think! Next time, I think I'm going to track down a chocolate biscotti recipe. Mmm!