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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

It's that time of year again. Turkey day is upon us. And if you, like many people out there, have only started thinking about the menu then maybe you can get some inspiration from this list of Thanksgiving recipes.

This year I'm going to my grandma's with the rest of my family. My mom and I were busy cooking all afternoon so we can head to her (my grandma's) house early tomorrow morning. I made pecan pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato rolls, and Mom made the stuffing. I hope all that cooking will be worth it tomorrow. It probably will. I just wish I could have a taste of those pies tonight. I'm drooling just thinking about it. ;)

Whatever you're doing this year for Thanksgiving I hope you get to spend it with family and friends and eat lots of good food. Maybe you'll even be trying one of my recipes. ;)

(To put all kinds of dips on ;)

A break from the ordinary green bean casserole

I plan on doing a separate post on what I actually ate for Thanksgiving and how the day went, etc. In other words, it's going to be a personal post. I haven't forgotten about the fish recipe. Don't worrry! It'll be up in the next week or so. 

Inquiry of the Day:

What are your Thanksgiving plans?
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Catching Fire Menu

Most of you probably know what yesterday was. The premiere of Catching Fire, the highly anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games. And I was super excited for this movie, because a) it was my favorite book in the series and b) Jennifer Lawrence is in it, so how could it not be perfect? ;)

On Thursday night I went to go see the midnight premiere of the movie. The movie was epic. The casting was perfect, the story line stayed pretty true to the book (they left out a few minor things, but that was no biggie), and the director did a fantastic job of conveying everything that went on in the book, in the movie. Let's all just take a moment to appreciate the genius-ness of Francis Lawrence...

Okaay, I'm getting really distracted. Time to get to the food.

I decided to make a Catching Fire themed menu for dinner that night, but I didn't want it to be anything too complicated. A couple months ago, I bought an unofficial Hunger Games cookbook and I looked to that for inspiration. After several menu revisions, I finally decided to make butternut squash soup, wild berry and nut salad, fish with spicy red sauce (look for this recipe in a future post), and District 3 bread/rolls.

The soup is something I think they would've served in the Capitol. It's creamy, rich, and simple, but elegant. Especially if you pour cream or coconut milk on top. As for the salad, the recipe is from the Hunger Games cookbook. The idea is that it's something that would be easy to prepare in District 12. And I'm sure it would be considering that the majority of the salad is berries and nuts and goat cheese.

The fish and rolls have more of a significance. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD) In the book, Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, Johanna, and Beetee all share a last meal before they attempt to electrocute the beach in the arena and kill the Careers. How this works is that at midnight and noon every day, a lightning bolt strikes a tree in one of the twelve wedges in the arena. (The arena is designed like a clock.) At ten o'clock, a wave comes and washes over the entire sector ten o'clock sector, damping the beach in that area. Beetee's plan was to hook up a wire to the tree and connect it to the wet beach, where, if the Careers walked on the beach, they would be electrocuted. And so would all the seafood in the water. Before they executed their plan, all five of them had a last meal of seafood and District 3 rolls. That's why I choose to have those items on the menu.

So now that I've explained my reasoning behind it, here are pictures of all the food and links to the recipes I used.

To make this recipe vegan, use an equal amount of water for the chicken broth and add 2-3 T. nutritional yeast.
Wild Berry and Nut Salad
All this salad includes is spinach, dried cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, sunflower seeds, walnuts, goat cheese, and a sweet vinaigrette.      
Fish with Spicy Red Curry Sauce
I used only 2 1/4 c. almond flour and added 1/4 c.+1 T. flax seed to the dough for a more whole-grain taste. Also, I used lard instead of a buttery spread.
I didn't have time to make dessert, but if you wanted to, you could serve chocolate fondue, sugar cookies, or cinnamon bread.
Inquiry of the Day:
Have you read the Hunger Games series? Or have you seen Catching Fire yet?
 I'm pretty sure I've talked about it quite a bit. And this whole post was probably very confusing to you if you haven't read the books or seen the movie. I'm sorry for that. 
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chicken Soup

It's that time of year again where germs and viruses abound. I've gotten a cold, unfortunately. :\ My nose is stuffed up, I have a terrible sounding cough and for the past few days I've just been feeling kind of "blah". Does anyone else get like that when they're sick? Even worse, I'm haven't been allowed to cook in the kitchen for the past couple days! No worries, though, I'm allowed to bake/cook again. :)

I reused this picture so don't be confused when I say I added noodles to the recipe ;)
Anyways, I've been relying on soup lately as a quick and easy meal that makes me feel slightly better. One of my favorite soups is chicken soup. We had some homemade turkey broth that we stored in the freezer, so I used that as the base of my soup. And I used brown rice noodles instead of rice or potatoes. These adjustments made it about 1000 times better, so I highly recommend the noodles.

Yes, this is a re-post, but I thought it'd be perfect since colds and other illnesses are floating around right now. I hope you all stay healthy and have a great Thanksgiving!


3 c. stock or water (I use chicken stock)
1/2 T. minced dried onion or 1/4 c. fresh onion
1 c. frozen or fresh peas
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1/4 c. finely chopped celery
9 oz. chicken breast, chopped and sauteed (opt.)
1/2 package of brown rice noodles (spaghetti style)
dash of salt and/or pepper

1. Boil stock.
2. Add chopped potatoes and dried onion.
3. Once potatoes are semi-soft add frozen peas and carrots.
4. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft.
5. Stir in chicken and rice.
6. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with pepper and/or salt, and enjoy!

Inquiry of the Day:

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

I'm going to Ohio to visit my grandparents. Fortunately, I still get to bake most of the pies. ;)
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

There are many, many, many versions of chia seed pudding floating around the Internet. It's no wonder why, chia seed pudding is somewhat of a miracle food. ;) You can make it nut free, dairy free, vegan, egg free, Paleo... It's customizable to basically any diet.

Below is my version of chia seed pudding. In the summer, I enjoyed it cold, but this time of year I like it better hot. You can make it however you prefer. I know someone people can eat cold food in the winter, although I'm generally not one of those people. (Except for ice cream. I can eat ice cream no matter the season.) So how you eat it is really up to you.

This pudding is rich, thick, and filling like regular pudding except without the dairy and unnecessary preservatives and additives. It's kind of like tapioca or rice pudding, actually, so if you like either of those you'll definitely love this recipe.

My guess is that most of you have already tried chia seed pudding at one point or another. It wasn't until last spring I finally jumped on the chia seed bandwagon. I had already been making this hot cereal with chia seeds, but the warm weather was moving in and I wanted something cooler for the hot summer days.

This is a great recipe for when you're craving a little something sweet or for after a workout or for a quick breakfast. You can even make it the night before and have a delicious breakfast ready to eat in the morning. Chia seeds are amazing little things. They pack a ton of fiber, protein, and healthy fats into each tablespoon, so they're perfect for anytime of the day.

3/4 c. milk of choice
2 T. chia seeds
2 T. flax seeds
1/2-1 scoop protein powder (optional)
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
sweetener, to taste
optional toppings: shredded coconut (toasted coconut is seriously good on this), nuts, chocolate chips, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, etc.

1. For a cold version, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl with a lid that fits tightly onto the bowl.
2. Shake, shake shake that bowl! You want to make sure everything is mixed up really well.
3. Put in the fridge for 10-15 minutes or until preferred thickness.
4. Top with your favorite toppings and dig in!

1. For the hot version, heat the milk in a small saucepan.
2. Once the milk is simmering, add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk rapidly to combine. Make sure there are no clumps in the mixture.
3. Remove from heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes or until preferred thickness.
4. Top with your favorite toppings and you have hot chia seed pudding! :)

Inquiry of the Day:

Have you ever heard of chia seeds before? If so, what are your favorite recipes using them?

They're very popular nowadays, but I hadn't heard of them until last January. You can buy them from any health food store, although we get ours from Costco. 
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shepard's Pie

A classic American comfort food is Shepard's pie. And it's no wonder why, it's a warm, hearty dish, made with ground beef and topped with creamy mashed potatoes. How could anyone not like it?

There are many, many versions of Shepard's pie, so I did a little hunting before I found a recipe that sounded good enough to try. The recipe in this post is based off this recipe that I got from Allrecipes. I changed quite a few things in it, but it still turned out 100% delicious.

It's a great dish to make ahead of time, then pop in the oven about half an hour before you're ready to eat. The perfect meal to make on one of those nights where you're pressed for time and you have no idea what's for dinner. The filling and topping for this Shepard's pie takes little preparation and can be thrown together in no time (okay, maybe half an hour, or so). Of course, I recommend cooking this dish with someone else. It's more fun that way. And it goes faster. ;)

Now that I think about it, I have never really eaten Shepard's pie that often. So I don't know how this recipe compares to others or if it's authentic or not. All I know is that it tastes marvelous and my whole family enjoyed it. I hope you do, too.

about 3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and scrubbed
1 T. butter
1/4-1/2 c. milk of choice
salt and pepper, to taste
1 T. olive or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
 4 carrots, chopped
1 c. peas, fresh or frozen
1 lbs ground beef or turkey
3 T. arrowroot starch
1 T. ketchup
3/4 c. chicken or beef broth
1 T. Worcestershire
1 T. + 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash seasoning
1/2 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a large pot, add potatoes and fill with water enough to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil.
2. Once the water is boiling, keep it boiling and cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a fork.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the ground beef and onions.
4. Cook the beef until there is in no pink in the middle and the onion is translucent. Then add the carrots. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until carrots are soft.
5. By now, the potatoes should be close to being done. Once they are, drain them, then add the butter, milk, salt and pepper to the pot. Mash all the ingredients together or whip with a handheld mixer. Either way works fine.
6. Return back to your beef. Add the rest of the ingredients, minus the cheese, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat, so the mixture is just simmering and cook for about five minutes. 
7. Spread the ground beef mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish. Next, add the potatoes. Top with the shredded cheese.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

Inquiry of the Day:

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Or, if you live elsewhere in the world, have you already celebrated Thanksgiving or do you not celebrate it at all?

I celebrate Thanksgiving in about two weeks. My family and I are going to my grandma's where we'll cook all morning and then stuff ourselves all afternoon. ;) Which probably isn't the smartest thing to do, because then we feel like bowling balls for the rest of the day.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Triple Chocolate Muffins

If you've been around for a while, you can obviously tell that I post a lot of breakfast recipes. Specifically muffin recipes. And that's okay, right? Because, let's face it, a lot of us struggle with what to make for breakfast. It's a constant battle at my house. What does one do when they tire of eggs and sausage? That's the million dollar question, isn't it?

Well now I have another breakfast suggestion for you. Trip chocolate muffins! With three different kinds of chocolate their nearly irresistible. Especially when I tell you that these muffins are a good source of protein and fiber. Eat them along with a breakfast scramble or hash and you have the perfect morning meal to keep you going until lunch. 

My grandmother had given my younger sister a recipe for double chocolate muffins a while back and a couple weeks ago my sister finally got to baking them. I wasn't able to try them due to the fact that they were full of gluten and sugar, but now I have this version and it definitely satisfies. You could even turn them into dessert by frosting them with chocolate or vanilla frosting.

On a side note, I got three teeth pulled yesterday. Suffice to say, my mouth was in a lot of pain. It's better today, but the big gaping holes in my mouth are still tender when I use them to chew or I brush my teeth. This creates a problem, because I love salad and nuts and all other crunchy objects. But right now I can't eat them. Salads and raw veggies are a big part of how I get my vegetables in for the day. Yesterday I don't think I had any and today I had a little bit of cooked cauliflower, which still hurt to eat. Any suggestions for how to get my veggies in that doesn't require much chewing?

Wow. That was really off topic. I apologize. I'll just let you get to your muffins.

2 1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1/4-1/2 tsp. liquid stevia or try 1 ripe banana, mashed (I haven't tried this yet, so, if you do, let me know how they turned out)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. dark chocolate chips
1/3 c. white chocolate chips (or sub with more chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
2. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, honey, coconut oil, stevia, and vanilla.
3. Stir the wet ingredients in with the dry until thoroughly combined.
4. Add the chocolate chips.
5. Line a muffin tin with paper lines or grease well. Scoop scant 1/4 c. into each muffin tin.
6. Bake for 13-17 minutes. When toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, muffins are done.

Inquiry of the Day:

Have you ever gotten any teeth pulled? Or had any cavities? I've been lucky and haven't had any cavities. But I did have braces a couple years ago. It was only for a year, so I was really grateful for that.
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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Trip to Chicago Part 2

Okay, here's the continuation of the Chicago trip:

Saturday's breakfast was one of the highlights of the trip for me. It took us about half an hour (walking) to get there, but when we finally found Do-Rite Donuts the walk was totally worth it. Do-Rite Donuts serves gluten-free donuts that are almost better than the real thing. I kid you not. The chocolate glazed was crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and the chocolate ganache was rich without being overly rich. As good as the donuts were, I need protein for breakfast so we also ate at a little cafe called The Corner Bakery. There I got this thing called an Anaheim Scramble. It had eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and avocado in it. That was also delicious.

After breakfast we went to Millennium Park. It's a beautiful park and the art there is definitely different, but amazing all the same. In case you don't know, Cloud Gate (aka the Bean) is in Millennium Park and there's basically no way to describe how ingenious that sculpture is. It's made of stainless steel so it reflects the city skyline. Underneath, it's like there's an infinite number of mirrors. It's actually just the inside of the Bean reflecting off itself, but it's super cool. We also saw these pig sculptures made of ceramic, as you can see below:

We didn't have much time for lunch after Millennium Park, because it was time for my dad and I to drive out to Downer's Grove for the Allegiant Tour (a book signing by Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series)! We got there about 50 minutes early and there was already a long line waiting at the door. Fortunately, by the time we parked and walked up to the building, the line had shrank quite a bit. I was practically dying on the inside. I was shaking and a nervous wreck, because I didn't wanna say something stupid to her or say nothing at all.

Anyways, during the beginning of the book signing someone came on stage and interviewed Veronica Roth with questions of her own, some from around the world (yes, I mean the world), and others from the audience. Afterwards, Veronica sang backup with her brother, who is a musician, to a song that he wrote about one of the main characters in Divergent. They both are really good singers, which kinda surprised me.

Then came time for the actual book signing. There were about 1,000 people there, so the people hosting the book signing came up with a really clever way of getting everyone's book signed. On all of the tickets there was a number and that was your number for getting your book signed. They would call out the numbers in groups of 50. I was number 622. Suffice to say, it was a pretty long wait. But, Veronica Roth decided it would be a good idea to play Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban while everyone waited. That helped to pass the time. But I still couldn't stop shivering with excitement and nervousness. I went through lots of conversation starters in my mind, but when I actually talked to her it was a very brief conversation. I froze up and couldn't think of anything to say or ask her. And that's the thing I regret the most, but there's nothing I can do now, so....

Moving on, four hours later, my dad and I were back on the road to Chicago. We met my mom and sister at the hotel, then went to a Thai/Chinese restaurant called Big Bowl. We ordered calamari as an appetizer, which had a batter made with sweet potato flour (score!). I hadn't had calamari in a super long time and it's one of my favorite foods, so this made me really happy. For my entree, my mom and I split Pad Thai. It was pretty good, although green curry will forever and always be my favorite Thai dish.

Now, not only did we get to have an appetizer and entree, we also got dessert! The restaurant had these things called mochi. Basically, it's ice cream covered in a dough made of sweet rice flour. There were three flavors: green tea, mocha, and passion fruit. We just ordered the mocha and passion fruit. If you ever get the chance to try mochi, do it. You won't be disappointed.

After that I was exhausted and just wanted to go to the hotel, watch the Food Network, and then go to bed. And I did just that. ;)

Sunday was our last day in Chicago. For breakfast, my mom and I got more donuts (the flavor of the day was candied maple bacon) and went to the Corner Bakery again. We spent the rest of the day at the Museum of Science and Industry. That place is ginormous! You could spend days in there. We only got through about half of it. Some of the exhibits we went to were the Science Storms, You! The Experience, one about inventions that might occur in the new future (including a printer that prints out food you can actually eat), a coal mining "tour", and a couple others. We even got to see a 3D movie about Space Junk. It was in this huge planetarium and the graphics were great.

These are speakers and they were underneath the screen in the planetarium. They were the largest speakers I've ever seen

The ceiling to the Museum of Science and Industry

A demonstration of an avalanche

A dress made out of LED lights

And that's it. That's the whole trip. If you stuck with me this long, congratulations! ;) If not, that's okay, too.

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