Sunday, September 30, 2012

Braided Fruit Pastry

I wanted to make something special to take with us on our trip last weekend, so I turned to Pinterest for recipe ideas.  I came across this recipe for an apple braid and had to try it.  It's so simple, but looks so intricate and beautiful when finished.  To save time, I used canned pie filling, and because I thought it would travel better, I sprinkled sanding sugar on top instead of a glaze.  Later, I made another braid using apple pie filling and decided to try the glaze suggested in the original recipe.  I didn't get a chance to try it since I gave it to my neighbors as a thank you for watching our dogs over the weekend, but it looked yummy, too!

Braided Fruit Pastry
apple braid with cinnamon glaze
raspberry & apricot braids sprinkled with sugar

Ingredients: (from

for the bread:
-2 1/2 cups bread flour
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 tablespoon instant yeast (one of the small packets)
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 cup warm water
-2 1/4 teaspoons vegetable oil

-3/4 to 1 can pie filling (21 oz. can) of your choice
-granulated sugar to sprinkle on top

for the glaze:
-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
-5 teaspoons whipping cream
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Pinch of kosher salt
-Pinch of nutmeg (I used cinnamon instead)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Glimpse at a Miracle, a Year Ago Today...

On this day last year, we went in for my 17-week ultrasound.  We had been anticipating this day forever.  This was the day we would find out the sex of our baby (hopefully!).  If you had asked us a few years ago, I would have adamantly told you I wanted a girl, while Michael insisted that Eddie men only made boys.  But after trying to conceive for as long as we had and going through hell to get this pregnancy to this point, I can honestly say we could have cared less. Sure, I still loved the idea of having a girl first to help out with subsequent kiddos, while Michael was scared to death of the idea of having a girl without big brother(s) to take care of her, but none of that mattered one lick when it came down to it. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Caldo de Pollo (Mexican Chicken Soup)

This recipe was inspired by a soup from a Mexican restaurant in Bloomington, IN.  Traditionally, caldo de pollo can include many different ingredients, like potatoes, carrots, and even squash, but this one was mostly chicken and rice and was served with fresh cilantro, lime, and avocado.  The warm broth does quite a number on the fresh avocado slices... you can cut right through them!  Since I can't drive to Bloomington every time the cravings hit (although it's tempting!), I've been trying to duplicate it at home.  I would usually make it on the stove, but Annalyn was feeling extra needy today, so I opted for the ole crockpot. 

Caldo de Pollo

-2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
-1 large onion, chopped
-2 poblano peppers, chopped
-1 large can chopped green chilis
-2 spoonfuls minced garlic
-2 bay leaves
-1 bunch cilantro, divided
-1/2 t. cayenne pepper
-1 t. cumin
-1 t. salt
-1/4 t. black pepper
-6 cups chicken stock
-1 c. uncooked long grain rice

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Our weekend getaway to Put-In-Bay, OH

This past weekend we got to take a trip up to Put-In-Bay, OH with some of our friends.  It was a much needed getaway and Annalyn's first little vacation. 
our first stop was Toledo where
Grandpa Eddie made us breakfast - so delicious!
on the ferry, almost there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turkey Chili Verde

Thanks to our dear friends Shawna & Remy, I have recently discovered my love for salsa verde (green salsa made with tomatillos).  What on earth does my 3 month old honorary niece have to do with my salsa fix, you may ask?  Well, towards the middle-end of Shawna's pregnancy, she loved verde salsa from Trader Joes.  Every time we came down there, or they came up here, we restocked her beloved stash of green salsa.  And at some point, once I was far enough along in my pregnancy not to hurl at the thought of, well, food in general, I tried it.  YUM.  Salty, mildly spicy (oxymoron? yea, probably... guess you have to taste it to understand), tangy, delicious.  These girls have good taste! 

our first BFF bump pic

So this recipe is in honor of my favorite salsa-loving ladies.  (Shawna, just leave out the onions and you will love this!  Oh, and maybe the beans for Dan?  Can't remember how he feels about the white ones, though... maybe substitute chickpeas?)

Turkey Chili Verde 

-2 t. olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 green pepper, chopped
-1 T. minced garlic
-1 lb. ground turkey breast
-3 T. chili powder
-1 t. ground cumin
-1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chili peppers
-1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped (or 2-3 T. of the cilantro paste)
-2 c. chicken stock (I actually had turkey stock on hand)
-2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-1 (12 oz.) jar salsa verde
-1 t. sugar

Friday, September 21, 2012

Peanut Post: 7 Month Update

Oh my pretty little Peanut.  Not too much has changed in the last month in terms of your favorite things.  You still adore my iPhone, reach for your puppies, and chew on EVERYTHING.  Lately you are especially obsessed with any and all jewelry I'm wearing.  You still love to eat, but have yet to cut a tooth. 

A few things are changing though - you are up to 6-9 mo and even some 12 mo clothes, you roll over and sit up like it's nothing (even in the bathtub!), you will take steps when we hold your hands, and you can click your tongue (and think it's hilarious to do so).  You are developing your own little sense of humor and it's adorable - I feel like you actually laugh with us now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Football Food Makeover #3: Potato Skins

For this coming weekend I decided to makeover another of our tailgate favorites - potato skins. One of the many great things about potato skins is that they can be made up ahead of time and frozen until game day. Which means I can sleep in, be lazy all morning, and still have snacks ready by game time... or at least I could before I had a baby. Waking up early aside, no one appreciates a good make-ahead meal more than a new mama!

Garlic Potato Skins with Cheddar & Bacon

(made over version)
- 8 large potatoes, cooked, cooled, and halved (or quartered if you prefer smaller skins)
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 t. hot sauce
- 1 t. garlic salt
- 1 1/2 c. low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 2-3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (or about 1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, diced)
- 1 T. cilantro
- 1/2 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 4 medium green onions, chopped
- 8 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled (I used the microwave kind)

(original recipe)
- 8 large potatoes, cooked, cooled, and halved
- 3 T. butter, melted
- 1 t. hot sauce
- 1 t. garlic salt
- 1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
- 2-3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (or about 1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, diced)
- 1 T. cilantro
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 4 medium green onions, chopped
- 8 slices of cooked bacon (I used the microwave kind)

WW points comparison: (makes 8 servings, 2 potato skins each)
-original is 17 points per 2 skins
-makeover version is only 7 points per 2 skins!
**The makeover version knocks off over half the points by changing 3 ingredients! And note that it wasn't the bacon :)

Cheddar-Potato Soup

I just LOVE this beautiful fall weather.  Annalyn & I have been enjoying morning walks and even some occasional jogging (which might I add, is really hard to do with a jogging stroller!  To all you jogging mamas out there - I now have even more respect for you!).  Something about the cool weather seems to motivate me.  Maybe because fall is my absolute favorite time of year.

As always, my cooking is influenced by the season, and this beautiful preview of fall weather has me craving soup.  Specifically, the warm-soup-belly-feeling kind of soup.  For Michael & I, this is that soup.  The original recipe comes from Food Network's Robin Miller, and uses leftover mashed potatoes (so keep this in mind in a few months after those holiday feasts!).  This time, I actually used the leftover potato flesh from my garlic potato skins recipe.  I love coordinating recipes so that one leads into the next (helps so much with menu planning!).

Cheddar-Potato Soup


- 2 t. olive oil
- 1 c. diced celery
- 1 c. diced onion
- 6 c. chicken stock
- 2 c. mashed potatoes
- 1/4 c. non-fat Greek yogurt**
- 2 T. margarine (my favorite is this one)**
- 8 oz. reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. ground white pepper
- 1 t. dry mustard
- 1/4 c. hot sauce, optional
- 4 chopped green onions, for garnish
**omit these ingredients if you are using leftover mashed potatoes instead of just plain mashed potato flesh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Slow Cooker Pantry Chicken Chili

The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it's made with ingredients that are easy to keep on hand and throw together, say, before work one Saturday morning.  Hence the name, Pantry Chicken Chili (ironically, I have no pantry... but that's a battle for another day).  We even like to boil a few packages of chicken and freeze them in 2 cup portions, ready to grab for times like these.  Because of the nature of this chili, (and because Michael had to finish it after I left for work...) there are not super specific ingredient amounts.  It also doesn't entirely matter if you have the exact types of tomatoes/beans/etc., so use what you have on hand.  For us, this is a dump and taste kind of recipe.  But it's delicious and healthy, and makes plenty to share - perfect for a Saturday afternoon of watching football.

Slow Cooker Pantry Chicken Chili

-3 large chicken breasts (1.5 - 2 lbs.), chopped/diced/shredded, you choose!
-1 large can crushed tomatoes
-1-2 cans diced tomatoes
-2-3 cans beans (black, white, kidney, etc.), drained and rinsed
-1 can corn, drained
-1 can green chile peppers
-1 carton chicken stock (4 cups)
-couple spoonfuls of minced garlic
-1-2 bell peppers, diced (add a jar of salsa if you don't have these on hand)
-1 onion, diced 
-jalapenos, seeded and diced (optional)
-spices to taste; today it was to Michael's taste, and he used these:   honestly, I'm guessing on the amounts based on what he normally uses...
-2 T. chili powder
-1 t. garlic salt
-1 t. cayenne pepper
-2 bay leaves
-pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-salt and black pepper to taste

canned ingredients - it's soup season,
stock your pantry with these!

veggies and stock, also good to have on hand
and the spices, heart & soul of the soup

Friday, September 14, 2012

Peanut Post: Beef, it's what's for dinner!

Baby beef stew puree, that is.  Since we've conquered the chicken puree, time to try the beef.  I bought beef for stew (which is already cut into chunks), and added frozen peas and carrots that I had on hand to make a little "stew".  From there, I figure I can add spices and other veggies at each meal.  I like to start with fairly simple meat purees so we can experiment with different combinations.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Baby Beef Stew
-1 package beef for stew
-1 c. frozen carrots
-1/2 c. frozen peas
-other veggies, optional (potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, brocolli, etc.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Mango Chicken Curry & Baby Mango Chicken Curry

Why did I never think of this before?  Chicken curry in a slow cooker!  Curry, much like chili, only gets better as it sits and the flavors meld together.  One of our old favorites is this chicken curry, but it takes a decent amount of time start to finish, so it's usually not a weeknight meal.  But thanks to my old friend, Mr. Crockpot, it just became a new weeknight favorite.  Just for kicks, I decided to let Annalyn try a baby version of it - figure she might as well start getting used to our favorite flavors.
let's do this!

Slow Cooker Mango Chicken Curry
(& Baby Mango Chicken Curry)

-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 large green pepper, cut into chunks
-1 large onion, cut into chunks (or two half onions if that's what you have)
-1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes
-1/2 c. mango chutney
-1 large mango, peeled and sliced
-1/2 can light coconut milk
-1 T. cornstarch
-1 T. curry powder
-2 t. ground or fresh ginger
-1/4 t. ground cloves
-1 t. yellow mustard seed
-1/2 c. Craisins dried cranberries, original
-1 (10 oz.) bag frozen brown rice

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oven Roasted Summer Vegetables

This is a healthy, easy way to enjoy all those yummy summer veggies.  After picking 3 giant yellow summer squash and an little eggplant out of our garden, I scavenged through the fridge looking for inspiration for how to cook them.  I had some leftover zucchini already chopped up, half of a sweet onion, a red onion, some whole garlic cloves, and a few baby carrots that were just begging to be thrown together and roasted to perfection.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand.  So in a couple months when my butternut squash and sweet potatoes are ready, you can bet I'll make a similar side dish out of them.

the little helper is optional...
but greatly encouraged :)

Oven Roasted Summer Vegetables

-1 large (or 2-3 small) yellow squash, sliced or chunked
-1 large (or 2-3 small) zucchini squash, sliced to chunked
-1 medium eggplant, sliced
-1-2 onions, red/sweet or both!
-2 cups baby carrots
-8-10 garlic cloves, peeled
-3 T. olive oil
-salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, as desired

Monday, September 10, 2012

Football Food Makeover # 2: Spinach Artichoke Dip

This weekend we took Annalyn to her first Butler football game.  Before the game we stopped by the book store in Atherton to get her a new Bulldog shirt before homecoming since she's outgrown all of hers.  And, of course, we stopped by the bulldog statue to take a couple pictures.  Michael and I always love going back to Butler and it was fun to share that joy with our daughter.

In honor of Peanut's first football game, here's another football food makeover recipe:

Spinach Artichoke Dip

(made over version)
-cooking spray
-1/2 pound fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried (can also use frozen)
-1 can artichoke hearts, without oil, drained
-3 cloves minced garlic (heaping spoonful of minced)
-1/2 medium onion, quartered
-1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
-1/2 t. smoked paprika
-1/2 t. cayenne pepper
-1 t. salt
-1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
-4 oz. low fat cream cheese, at room temperature

(original recipe)
-1 c. mayo
-1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
-14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained
-9 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
-1 red bell pepper
-1/4 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
-1 t. paprika
-1/2 t. cayenne pepper

WW points comparison: (makes 12 servings 1/4 c. each or 6 servings 1/2 c. each)
-original is 6 points per 1/4 c. or 11 pts per 1/2 c. serving
-makeover version is only 1 point per 1/4 c. or 3 pts. per 1/2 c. serving!
**point values do not include chips.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peanut Post: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

Mommy likes coffee.  Daddy LOVES coffee. 3/4 of my grandparents LOVE coffee.  I have got to see what all the fuss is about! 

the anticipation is killing me!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Red Wine & Root Vegetables

Nothing says "I'm ready for fall!" like a pot roast with root vegetables.  This one-pot-wonder is easy to make in the morning and let the slow cooker work it's magic while you enjoy the day!  All the rain and cooler weather this weekend had me craving this belly-warming comfort food classic.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Red Wine & Root Vegetables

-3 lb. chuck roast
-1 T. olive oil
-2 turnips, peeled and chopped
-2 handfuls baby carrots (or 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped)
-2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 T. minced garlic
-1 c. red wine (can substitute beef broth or water to make this more family-friendly!)
-2 T. Worcestershire sauce
-1 tsp. each:  garlic salt, onion powder, black pepper, lemon pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, and cumin

Friday, September 7, 2012

Have you ever tried this popcorn?!

Have you ever tried this popcorn?!  It's healthy, delicious, and so addicting!  My coworkers and I are absolutely in love with it and practically buy every bag each time we get a shipment at work.  The best way I can describe it is a mix of kettlecorn and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.  YUM.
It comes in a variety of flavors, but this one's my favorite so far.  Plus it's only 130 calories for 2.5 cups!  AWESOME.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sausage Crescent Wraps with Mustard & Pepperjack

I found this recipe in a little index card box that had belonged to Michael's Grandma Eddie.  It was tucked away among a plethera of magazine, newspaper, and other random recipe clippings she had cut out and saved, along with some handwritten recipes from friends and neighbors.  Grandpa Eddie said he didn't ever remember trying some of them, so they may have just been ideas or recipes she hoped to try someday.  Even if she never made this one, I like to think she would be glad that we did.  That little piece of paper she tucked away has become one of our favorite recipes for breakfasts, brunches, and late-night snacks.  It also inspired my own little recipe box that houses many of our tried and true favorites, but also a few "ideas for later" that we haven't gotten to yet... just like Grandma's.

Sausage Crescent Wraps with Mustard & Pepperjack


-2 tubes crescent rolls (8 each)
-16 sausage patties or links
-1 c. mustard
-8 slices pepperjack cheese
-2 T. sesame seeds

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Penne with Spicy Turkey Sausage

This healthy, all-in-one meal makes enough to share or plenty of leftovers.  For a non-spicy version, use regular Italian flavored turkey sausage and omit the banana peppers.  As it is, this dish has just the perfect hint of spiciness.

Baked Penne with Spicy Turkey Sausage
-1 pkg (~1 lb) turkey sausage, spicy Italian variety, casings removed
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 medium green pepper, chopped
-2 banana peppers, chopped
-1 (16 oz) pkg penne pasta
-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
-1 small can tomato paste
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-1 tsp. dried basil
-1/2 tsp. fennel seed
-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
-1 c. zucchini, chopped
-1 c. frozen peas and carrots, thawed

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Peanut Post: Finger Food Fun

We recently decided to let Annalyn try to start feeding herself, as a very early precursor to finger foods.  Plus I'm hoping that learning to chew might stimulate these stubbord little teeth of hers to finally pop through.  Her doctor told us at her 4 month appointment that she would likely be getting teeth soon with all the drooling and swollen gums going on... wrong!  Over 2 months later, (despite lots of chewing/screaming/trying), still no chompers!   So I decided to let her try these little puffy stars that essentially dissolve in her mouth anyway.  Watching my persistent little Peanut learn to eat them was quite entertaining, so I thought I'd share.

hmm... these are new toys

Monday, September 3, 2012

Football Food Makeover #1: Buffalo Chicken Dip

BU homecoming 2005

With the return of football season, came the return of a weight-loss nemesis - tailgate food!  Football season for us has always meant weekends full of chili, cheese dips, burgers, pizza, chips and salsa, and other assorted snack food on steroids.  This year, in an effort to be the supportive loving husband he is, Michael tried hard to replace them with healthier options - carrots, celery, hummus and pita chips, pretzels, and fresh fruit.  I applauded the effort, but I just don't see it being enough all season.  One of the lessons I have learned from making healthy changes to my diet is that you can't completely cut out comfort foods.  Instead, I have learned to give them healthy makeovers by replacing the high fat and high calorie ingredients with healthier ones (like my greek chicken salad made with non-fat greek yogurt).   So this is the first of a series of makeovers on some of our favorite football foods.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

(made over version)
-2 (8 oz) blocks low-fat or non-fat cream cheese, softened
-1/2 c. non-fat greek yogurt
-1 pkg pre-cooked chicken, diced
-2 c. non-fat shredded cheddar cheese
-3/4 c. buffalo sauce (more or less to taste)

(original recipe) *ingredients changed in the makeover
-2 blocks regular cream cheese*
-1/2 c. sour cream*
-1 pkg pre-cooked chicken, diced
-2 c. shredded cheddar cheese*
-3/4 c. buffalo sauce (to taste)

WW points comparison:  (makes 6 servings)
-original is 13 points per serving
-makeover version is only 7 points per serving!
**point values do not include chips.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Quick Cherry Tomato Salad

Every year when we sit down and decide what we will plant in our garden, we vow that we will cut down on the number of tomato plants or at least the number of different varieties.  And every year, Michael makes the mistake of taking me along to pick out the plants.  We always start with a few basics - roma, cherry, heirloom.  But then I see a beautiful yellow cherry tomato, and the perfectly-sized grape tomato, and those lovely pear-shaped cherry tomatoes.  And pretty soon, year after cursed (blessed?) year, we end up with half a dozen different kinds of tomato plants.  But I just can't imagine summer without this lovely delicious cherry tomato salad.  The colors, the flavors, and the textures of all these different kinds of tomatoes tossed with home-grown basil embodies those end of summer porch-sitting kind of nights.

Quick Cherry Tomato Salad


-2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
-1/2 c. non-fat feta cheese
-1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
-1 T. balsamic vinegar
-2 t. olive oil


1.  In a medium bowl, toss halved tomatoes with basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  Sprinkle with feta and gently toss.

try using leftovers in a wrap,
along with chicken and baby spinach