Turkey Burger

This is what I made to go along with the baked rosemary fries.

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Form into 4 patties and grill 4-5 minutes until done.

Rating? 4.5/5
Why? The really lean turkey just doesn't taste the same as beef, but it is healthier and it was pretty good.

Baked Rosemary Fries

Oh my word, this has been a hellacious week. I have never doubted my abilities as a teacher more than I am right now, and I actually searched for "jobs to do with a teaching degree" on google. Turns out, I'm out of luck. At times like this, I have the unfortunate tendency to find comfort in food, which is one of the reasons for this blog. I seem to want burgers and fries, comfort food, when my life just sucks, and these fries are actually quite good, while still being at least better for you than regular fries. Original recipe from Minimalist Baker

4 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
2 Tlbs olive oil
fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped
salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes into roughly similar sized strips. Soak them in warm water for 15 minutes. Take them out and dry them thoroughly using a paper towel or hand towel. Heat the oven to 450. Put the potatoes in a bowl with a tight fitting lid and drizzle them with the 2 Tlbs of oil, and about 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper, then shake thoroughly until potatoes are well coated and salt and pepper is evenly distributed. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, and spread the potatoes on them in a single layer. Cover with tin foil, then bake for 5 minutes. Take the tin foil off and bake for 15 minutes more. Take the pan out, flip the fries over with a spatula, and put them back in for 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they will burn quickly. After removing them from the oven, sprinkle with rosemary and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. 

I actually drained my fries for about 5 minutes while I got my burger ready because they were a little oily for my taste. But they were pretty good. I have tried making fries before, and these were pretty nice and crispy. Soaking them definitely makes a difference. The rosemary is good too. Minimalist Baker added garlic to hers, but I wasn't feeling up to it, so I left it off. 

Rating: 4/5
Why? It takes 45 minutes to make these, start to finish, so it is a little time consuming, and I don't love heating my oven that high, but they were pretty good. 


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

It has already been well established that I like pumpkin, and fall flavors, and fall in general, so it was only a matter of time before this happened. I saw this post on pinterest, and then another recipe showed up in a friend's instagram feed, and combine that with a clean house and being ALMOST caught up on grading, and well, it will be a happy day at school tomorrow. The recipe was based on the link above, but I did make some changes.

Cookie Ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tlbs cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1.75 cup pumpkin puree (1 15 oz can)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Icing Ingredients:
1 8 oz package of neufchatel cheese, at room temp
1 stick of butter at room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)

Mix dry ingredients (from flour down to cardamom) together in a medium sized bowl. In a large bowl, beat the remaining cookie ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly, mixing just until incorporated. Spoon cookie batter into 2 inch circles on a non-stick pan, making them relatively flat. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes*, then let cool for 1-2 minutes before removing them from the pan. Let them completely cool before frosting. To make the icing, mix the ingredients together and beat until smooth. If the icing is too sticky, add milk, a tsp at a time until the consistency is correct (you should be able to easily spread it without tearing apart the cookies, but not so runny it will all run off). Frost the flat side of  a cookie, then put another cookie on top to make a sandwich. Best served chilled, if you can resist.

*Her recipe said 14 minutes, and another recipe said 12. I have dark non-stick pans, and checked them at 8 minutes, and they were perfectly done. I didn't use evoo. Check on them and test with a toothpick. Doneness will depend on how thick your cookies are, and how hot your oven runs. Like a cake, the cookies should not have any raw material in the middle, and to keep them from burning or getting at all brown on the edges or top.

These are quite delicious. I grew up on chocolate whoopie pies, which are a Mennonite tradition and have been around long before becoming trendy in the last few years. These have a distinctly different flavor, but are still very good. I adjusted the spices from her recipe to intensify the flavor and I really like it. Thank goodness I work with a bunch of teachers, there will be no problem getting rid of these tomorrow. =) One other thing, I ended up with quite a lot of frosting left over. I think I used more than half of the frosting, so I didn't want to cut the recipe in half, but just be aware.

Rating - 4.5/5
Why? Delicious, but multistep processes and a lot of ingredients make it a less than simple recipe.


Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

I would like to state that I jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon before it was cool. I don't like pumpkin lattes or stalk pumpkin flavored syrup online, but I do like pumpkins in some things. To me it is so unequivocally the flavor of autumn. I've posted some pumpkin-based recipes before (here, here, and here), but I've not had a lot of chances to bake this year so this is the first pumpkin recipe of the year. I cobbled it together from this recipe (and this one) from allrecipes.com.

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tlbs cinnamon
1/2 tlbs nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tlbs vanilla
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, salt, baking powder and baking soda together and set aside. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugars, applesauce, pumpkin puree, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and fold together, then fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Put it in a bread pan that has been sprayed with olive oil and then dusted with flour (trust me, otherwise it will not come out of the pan). Bake it at 350 for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Some notes...At 45 minutes, it was not finished cooking in the middle but was getting really brown on top, so I covered it with some tin foil for the last ten minutes. Also, this is at the top end of my sweetness tolerance, so next time I might cut the sugar to 1/3 cup for each type of sugar.

This was pretty good. Nice and moist, but it is still warm and I need to see what it will be like when it is cool. It smells really good though. The taste of the pumpkin is not very strong, even though I doubled the amount.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? There are a lot of ingredients in this, but it is good and is a way to eat zucchini, applesauce, and pumpkin. My coworkers will love it.


Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo

I'm still not sure how I feel about goat cheese, but this type of recipe leans me in a more positive feeling direction. And, it is really, really fast, perfect for days like today when your staff meeting runs long. Original recipe here, but I did make several changes.

whole wheat linguine*
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4-5 small cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4-1/2 cup non-fat milk
4 oz herbed goat cheese
2/3 cup grated parmesan
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
salt and pepper, to taste
1 small jar artichoke hearts**, rinsed and drained
1 cup peas**
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken**

Cook the linguine to al dente, drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a non-stick pan, and saute the garlic and onion for 5 minutes or so. Mix the Greek yogurt and milk together to the texture you want, then add the yogurt mixture and goat cheese to the pan. Turn the heat to low, and toss until everything is smooth and melted. Put the yogurt and onion mixture in the food processor, along with the parmesan and red peppers, but put the pan back on the stove, and turn the heat back up to medium. Saute the peas, artichoke hearts, and chicken for a few minutes while you process the yogurt and onion mixture until it is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (it took about 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper for me). Toss it with the linguine and artichoke hearts, peas, and chicken, and garnish with basil before serving.

* I used between 1/3 and 1/2 of a box and it was enough for half of this recipe. I like my pasta pretty saucy (ha!), so make more or less as you desire. I am guessing this sauce would freeze really well also.
**these are optional ingredients

I really liked this, and will probably make it again, for several reasons. I think this could be really versatile, for one. It seems like any soft cheese would work well in this recipe, so if goat cheese isn't your thing, try something else. Secondly, you could add any vegetables you like. I bet this would be really good with asparagus. Also, it is really fast. It took me 15 minutes from start to finish (although my chicken was already cooked). In addition, while I really don't use a lot of canned foods anymore, this recipe lends itself to using healthy canned foods like roasted red peppers (a giant pain to make on my own), and asparagus hearts (also a giant pain to access from a raw asparagus). And finally, this is a large recipe, so it would be easy to cut in half, or freeze for later. As is, it made enough for my dinner and probably 3 lunches, and I only used half of the sauce.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? I think the sauce needed basil, which I guess would make it closer to this red pepper pesto, but I just think it needed something. Next time!!


Vegetable Quinoa Skillet

You know, there really is nothing better than a really easy, vegetarian meal...unless it's a hamburger. I like the idea of vegetarianism, but I don't like it in reality. I'll always like chicken and the occasional hamburger, and you can't have Thanksgiving without turkey, but this little skillet mix is pretty stinking amazing. Original recipe here (warning...very picture heavy post). I didn't know what to call this - skillet, stir-fry, hash, I don't know - but it's good no matter what you call it.

1 cup quinoa
1.75 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 small zucchini, cubed
1.5 cups corn
1 cup green onions, chopped
1-2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
15-20 leaves of basil, chopped

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1-1.5 Tlbs honey
pinch of salt
1.2 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced

In a saucepan, combine the quinoa and chicken broth. Bring to boiling and then turn down to low. Let it simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, until liquid is gone. Set it aside. Meanwhile, in a jar with a lid, mix 2 Tlbs lemon juice, 1 Tlbs lemon zest, honey, salt, pepper, and garlic. Shake well, set aside. Then warm 1 Tlbs of olive oil in a LARGE* skillet on mediumish, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so, until it is fragrant. Then toss in the zucchini, corn, and green onions and saute for another 4-5 minutes. Add the quinoa and half the vinaigrette, and stir for another minute. Then add the tomatoes, feta, basil and the rest of the vinaigrette, and toss in a little bit of salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let it sit and meld for 5 minutes or so before serving.

*She said in the original recipe to use a large skillet, and she wasn't kidding. This is a HUGE recipe. I could have cut it in half and still had enough for at least two more meals, and as it is, my fridge is full of leftovers. My pan was actually kind of crowded. Cutting it in half would probably serve 3 adults comfortably and might make the stirring process easier. She also had less basil, (but we all know how I feel about my best friend basil...) and recommended fresh corn. I had frozen, and threw it in the pan still frozen, and it turned out fine. She also says this is good cold, I haven't tried it that way.

Holy cow, this is freaking delicious. I really don't like zucchini, but I thought I'd give it a shot, and I love it in this. She originally wrote this as a farmers market recipe, and it really seems like it could be really versatile. Be careful with the salt, though, since the feta is pretty salty it is easy to go overboard. I cut it down in my recipe from the original. The feta is super creamy in this, and really goes well with the lemon. I also am not a fan of lemon zest, but I liked it in this. I highly recommend prepping everything while your quinoa is cooking, as the actual sauteing goes really fast...no more than 10 minutes, start to finish.

Rating: 5/5
Why? Fast, easy, delicious, and healthy. Mmmmm....


Tomato Garbanzo Bean Salad

School starts tomorrow, so I am sad to say goodbye to summer. And by sad, I mean desolated. One of my least favorite things about school is how early we start...I have to be at school  at 6:50 in the morning, which means I have to leave my house no later than 6:15. I do not function well in the mornings, so the last thing I want to do is think about lunch at that ridiculous hour. This will work well for that. Original recipe here.

1 can garbanzo beans
1 package grape tomatoes
12-15 basil leaves
1 Tlbs red wine vinegar
1 Tlbs apple cider vinegar
2 Tlbs olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
pinch of salt

Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans. Rinse the tomatoes and slice them in half. Chop the basil and add it as well. Mince the garlic. Toss everything together with the vinegar, olive oil, and salt and let it marinate for at least an hour before serving. Serve chilled.

The original recipe called for 1/2 Tlbs of honey, but I forgot to put it in, and liked it just fine without it, so I left it out here as well. 

Rating: 5/5
Why? This was very easy to put together and tasted very delicious and filling.


Avocado Chicken Enchiladas

I have posted about my love for chicken enchiladas before, but I've had some trouble finding a replacement for the use of cream of chicken soup used in the original recipe. When I started to make this recipe for avodaco chicken enchiladas, I realized it would be much better as a combination of the two recipes. I loathe avocados...I've tried to like them but just hate them, but this recipe was really quite excellent.

white corn tortillas*
4-5 chicken breasts
2-3 cups grated cheese*
2 avocados
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3-5 jalapenos*
2-3 tsp lime juice
2 Tlbs butter
2 Tlbs whole wheat flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

*I prefer white corn tortillas. The original recipe called for small flour tortillas, but I think the corn ones are better here. However, corn tortillas are a bit brittle, so you might need to treat them differently. In college we dipped them in hot oil for 10-15 seconds before using them. I used pepper jack cheese because that's what the recipe called for, but it is really your choice. We used to use the bags of Mexican mix cheese in college. The number of jalapenos are totally dependent on the jalapenos and your heat preference. Jalapenos vary in heat, so I have put in as many as 6 and it was bland, and I have put in 4 and it was almost too hot. Just taste as you go. In addition, cumin gives me severe heartburn, so I always cut that in half.

Bake, cool, and then shred the chicken. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor, process the avocado, jalapenos,  cilantro and lime juice until smooth (the jalapenos can be tossed in whole, just cut off the stems). In a large saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add in the chicken broth slowly, whisking constantly, then bring the mixture to a mild boil, whisking frequently. Turn the heat down to low, then add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until smooth. Add the spices and stir again. Then add the avocado mixture and stir again, until it is totally smooth. Keep the heat on low throughout the assembly process to keep the sauce from stiffening up.

Assembly Process:
Preheat the oven to 375. Spread a thin layer of avocado sauce over the bottom of the pan. Take a corn tortilla, and dip it in the avocado sauce to coat it. Take about 1/8 cup of chicken and 1/8 cup of cheese and make a line down the center of the tortilla, then roll it up and put it in the pan with the folded edge on the bottom. Repeat the process, pushing the rolled enchiladas together and filling the side space with enchiladas placed vertically. When the pan is full, sprinkle cheese on top, then bake for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browning slightly. Take them out and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

I only made a half recipe because I only had 8 tortillas, but this made an estimated 4-5 cups of sauce. I would estimate a full recipe (this one is a full one) would make an entire 9x13 pan of enchiladas. If you have any extra sauce, just toss it on top of the enchiladas before you add the cheese. I ended up freezing my extra sauce.

Rating 5/5
Why? Hello awesomesauce. Despite the fact that I do not like avocados at all, I do like this recipe. The avocado taste is very mild, almost unnoticeable, and they are incredibly silky smooth when they are processed. I have heard of using avocado in place of butter in cookie recipes before and based on the texture and feel of the processed avocado in this recipe, I am definitely going to try it.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I have mentioned my love of pumpkin before on this blog, and although I mostly associate it with fall, I really do like it any time of the year. We are having a family get-together tomorrow and since it is summer and I can't get rid of my baking projects at school like I usually do, I made these to take down with me tomorrow. The original recipe was here, but I made several significant changes.

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar (I used more like 7/8)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Whisk the pumpkin puree, sugar, applesauce, and oil together in a bowl. Add the eggs in one at a time and mix well. Fold in the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg and then fold in the chocolate chips. Spray a 9x9 pan with olive oil and add the dough, then bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

I have tried this recipe before and it was an unmitigated disaster. It was a soggy mess and did not bake all the way through even after an hour in the oven, but this time worked better. Part of the issue was that the original recipe was written by someone in Singapore, and the only unit of measurement she used was grams. This seems like a simple enough fix until you realize that grams is a weight measurement and so 250 grams of flour and 250 grams of oil are not the same amount. After about an hour of research, I finally figured out something that I think is close enough. On top of the unit conversions, I used applesauce in place of 2/3 of the oil, added cinnamon and nutmeg (because you can't use pumpkin without those!!), and reduced the sugar. In addition, I baked it in a 9x9 pan instead of a loaf pan.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? This comes together really fast, with just a bowl, a whisk, and a spatula. It is very good but I wish I could figure out how to further reduce the sugar.


Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese

I was never much of a grilled cheese fan growing up, and I am still not a big fan of cheddar grilled cheese, but I have grown up a little bit, and branched out. I have previously posted a grilled cheese recipe here, but I saw another one a few days back that I wanted to try. Unfortunately I couldn't find the recipe this evening when I went to make dinner, so I winged it.

2 pieces honey whole wheat bread
fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 tomato, sliced very thin
20 basil leaves, rolled and sliced

Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Spray one side of one piece of bread with evoo and place it evoo side down in the pan. Put down a layer of mozzarella on top, then a layer of sliced tomato, then the chopped basil, then another layerof mozzarella. Top it with the second piece of bread, then spray the top with evoo. Very slowly toast the bread while the cheese melts. When it is toasted, put a plate over the pan and flip the entire thing to turn the sandwich without everything falling out. Let the other side toast, then remove from the heat and cut in half to serve.

The fresh mozzarella cheese makes this an amazing sandwich, and the slow roast and the fresh basil just make it that much better. This will definitely be made again.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? mmm....melty and basily. It is just a little rich for me, next time I will work on slicing the mozzarella thinner.


Chocolate Syrup

When I was growing up, every day when I got home from school, my sister and I would make chocolate milk for our after school snack. Most of the time we had powdered Nesquik, but sometimes we had Hershey's syrup instead and that was amazing.On pinterest recently, I saw a pin for homemade chocolate syrup, and thought it looked really easy, so a few days ago I made it. Long story short, I'm never buying this in a store again.

1.5 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
dash of salt
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the sugar, salt, and cocoa together in a saucepan, then add the water and stir it all together. Heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently until it comes to a rolling boil, then let it boil for 90 seconds while stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Stir it all together, and pour into a pint sized jar, then let it cool. Store in the refirgerator.

Seriously, this stuff tastes like the real deal. The original poster said she found it in an old Betty Crocker cookbook, and I guess it is completely logical that it started from something people made on a semi-regular basis, but it had just never occurred to me to make it. I didn't change anything in the recipe.

Rating: 5/5
Why? Easy and in comparison to the ingredients on a Hershey's label, far fewer chemicals. From Answers.com, "Hershey Syrup's ingredients include High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Cocoa, Sugar, Contains 2% or Less of: Potassium Sorbate (a Preservative), Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Vanillin, Artificial Flavoring." Um...I'll take the one I made.


Creamy Garlic Pasta

This pasta should be called "Holy Cow Amazing Garlic Pasta" but that's a bit of a mouthful, although very descriptive. This will definitely be made again and again. But how could it not be amazing when the original recipe comes from a blog called the cheese pusher? I did make some tweaks to her recipe, as I'm pretty sure it would have been approximately 1000 calories per bite, but still.

2 tsp olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves
1 tlbs butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 box whole wheat linguine
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1-2 Tlbs chopped fresh parsley

Mince the garlic cloves while warming the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic cloves for 1-2 minutes, then melt the butter in the pan. When the butter is melted, add the salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Turn the temperature up to medium-high, then bring it to a boil. Add the linguine, and let it boil until it is cooked. Keep a close eye on the pasta, as it can easily burn with this little liquid. When the pasta is cooked, turn the temperature down to medium-low, and stir in the parmesan until it's totally melted. Take the pan off the burner and stir in the Greek yogurt and the parsley.

Seriously, this is amazing. My cats BOTH came and whined by the kitchen wanting some of this, and it's unbelievable. I did cut her recipe in half, changed the heavy cream to Greek yogurt, changed the regular pasta to whole wheat pasta, reduced the salt, doubled the garlic, and increased the chicken broth.

Rating - 5/5
Why? Super easy, super tasty, and keeps the vampires away. ;)


Honey Mustard Dressing

This school year, I have been taking salad to school every day for lunch. It is a loaded salad, with a mix of green leaf lettuce and spinach as the base, and black beans, garbanzo beans, olives, tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots on top. At the beginning of the year, I also brought salad dressing, but soon realized that no salad dressing was that healthy, so I decided to make my own. The original recipe is from allrecipes.com, but I have made some significant changes. I make this once a week and have it every day.

1/3-1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1-2 Tlbs horseradish mustard*
1-2 Tlbs honey
1 Tlbs lemon juice
dash of milk (optional)

In a pint jar, mix all the ingredients except the milk. Stir it well to combine. If the dressing is too thick, thin it out with a little bit of milk. Keep refrigerated.

I like this a lot with the horseradish mustard, but if you can't find it, you could probably use dijon mustard and prepared horseradish, or just use dijon mustard instead. I think the horseradish gives it a nice zing. I also like that this recipe is easy to adjust for taste, with more or less honey and more or less mustard. I also like that it keeps really well. I changed the original recipe from regular mustard to dijon, majo to Greek yogurt, and increased the amount of lemon juice.

rating - 5/5
Why? Quick and easy, and no preservatives.


Roasted Balsamic Green Beans

Since joining Pinterest, I have saved many, many recipes to try. I have actually tried many of them, some successfully, some not so much. This one was definitely one of the successes, to the point that I even ate the mushrooms, which I normally hate. I have modified it slightly from the original.

6-8 cremini mushrooms
1 lb fresh green beans
1/2 Tlbs olive oil
1 Tlbs balsamic vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 Tlbs grated parmesan

Trim the ends off the green beans and cut them in half, then wash and dry them.* Slice the mushrooms into 1/4"-1/2" slices. Put the mushrooms and the dry green beans into a bowl that seals tightly, and add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss it well to coat everything evenly. Put a layer of tinfoil down on a baking pan and spray it with olive oil. Spread the green bean mixture on the tin foil. Try to make sure everything is in a single layer. Put the pan in the oven at 450 for 20-30 minutes, checking often after 20 minutes. Beans should be slightly crispy on the outside. Pull them out and sprinkle the parmesan over the top before serving.

I can easily eat an entire pan of these by myself, and I don't even like mushrooms. In the original recipe, she adds the salt and pepper at the end, but I think it is more evenly coated and tastes better when you add them at the beginning. I also have trouble with the beans sticking to the tin foil unless I spray olive oil on it. Also, you might need to sitir the beans once during the baking process.

* Once you've washed the green beans in a colander, lay them in a single layer on half of a dish towel, then fold the other half over the top and gently press down. Let the beans sit for 15 minutes or so and they will be completely dry. It is important that the beans be dry before you put them in the oven or they will be soggy. I have tried this recipe with frozen green beans and while the taste is good, the beans get soggy easily.

Rating - 5/5
Why? It' easy, delicious, and awesome.


Dijon Crusted Halibut

I love fish, especially halibut, and growing up in the northwest, and now living in Seattle, I have easy access to lots of amazing, fresh fish. Halibut is hands-down my favorite kind of fish, and I recently got a Living Social deal to the fish market in Pike place, so when my aunt and cousin came to visit, I pulled it out and we went shopping for dinner at the market. On the train home I found this recipe and I've used it almost exactly here. It was so good that the three of us inhaled over a pound of halibut at one sitting.

1/4 cup mayonnaise*
1 Tlbs dijon mustard
1 Tlbs horseradish
1 Tlsb lemon juice
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tlbs grated parmesan
1 lb halibut filet**

1 Tlbs butter, melted
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tlbs grated parmesan

Mix together the first set of ingredients (except the halibut) into a paste, then mix the second set of ingredients in a separate bowl. Put a piece of tin foil on a pan, then lay the halibut, skin down, on the foil. Spread the paste on all sides of the fish (except the skin side), then sprinkle the second breadcrumb mixture over the top. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily (it may be longer than 20 minutes if your filet is thick). Let it sit 3-4 minutes before serving.

I used my fingers to spread the paste, as it is quite thick and I was related to all the people eating it, but you could probably use a knife or a spatula if you're squeamish.

*I really dislike mayonnaise, but my mom left some here that I wanted to use up, so I used it in this recipe. I think it would also work well with sour cream, and possibly Greek yogurt, so I will try that next time.

**My dad does not like fish, so I used the same mixture on some chicken for him, and it was delicious.

Rating - 5/5
Why? This is easy and really delicious....it just makes the fish better than it already is.


Chicken Pasta with Buttery Lemon Sauce

I tend to like slightly tart food more than really spicy food (although I will NEVER turn down good Mexican food...) but I wasn't sure about this recipe at first. I was wrong. This is really good, and better than that, really fast. Original recipe here, but I've made several changes.

1 chicken breast
1 cup whole wheat rotini pasta
1/3-1/2 lb asparagus, 1.5" lengths
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tlbs butter
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1.25 cups chicken broth
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
juice of half a lemon (1-2 Tlbs)
dash of salt
1/4-1/2 tsp ground pepper
dash of red pepper flakes

Saute the chicken in a skillet (or grill it if you are lucky enough to have one of those), then set it aside. Meanwhile, boil the pasta. During the last two minutes, toss in the asparagus and the peas, then drain and set it aside. When the chicken is done, put the butter in the pan and saute the garlic for a minute or so. Mix the chicken broth and cornstarch together, then add it to the pan. Bring it to a boil, then let it thicken, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Take the mixture off the heat, and mix the yogurt, lemon, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes together. Add the yogurt mixture to the garlic/broth mixture, and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the pasta, peas and asparagus. Top with grated parmesan and serve with chicken (this makes two servings).

This was really good and definitely kicky. Also, it is ridiculously fast. Including grilling the chicken, it took me about 20 minutes from prep to serve....just the kind of meal I like after a day of school and meetings. Changes I made were to change the heavy cream to Greek yogurt, increase the amount of sauce and decrease the amount of pasta, increased the amount of pepper and decreased the amount of lemon and salt, and dramatically increased the amount of garlic (although I did have small cloves...there was probably 1 Tlbs chopped).

Rating - 4.5/5
Why? Despite all the changes (I made this on Saturday night with a friend too), I still think it is a little too lemony (I reduced the amount of lemon above). However I do love that it is sooooo fast and easy, relatively healthy, and very filling.


Decadent Chocolate& Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This is is no way a healthy recipe, in any way, shape or form, but oh well. I started with this recipe from pinterest, but did make some changes to it, and will probably continue to modify it.

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 package Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
2 Tlbs powdered cocoa
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 package Reese's peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients but the chocolate chips and peanut butter cups together until there are no lumps. Fold in the chocolate chips. In a muffin tin, put in the cupcake liners, then spray the liners with evoo. Put one of the peanut butter cups in the bottom of each cupcake liner, then top with the chocolate mix. Fill the cupcakes liners completely to the top and bake for 20 minutes*. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in pan before removing, and let them cool completely before frosting. I was able to make 24 cupcakes with this recipe.

* Original recipe says 15-17 minutes, but mine were raw in the middle with that time.

1/2 cup of butter - room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk (more or less)*
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup Nutella**

Put all ingredients into a bowl and whip on high speed until smooth, then ice cupcakes.

* I used closer to 3/4-1 cup of milk....the frosting needs to be smooth
** I used dark chocolate hazelnut spread I got at World Market. It was excellent. Regular Nutella would also be quite good, I am thinking. The original recipe called for peanut butter, which I'm sure would also be very good.

These were really good, but very sweet. I think I would make the following changes the next time I made these:
1. I would NOT use cake mix. I did not grow up on cake mix, so I don't care for the texture of it. I would probably use this recipe, modified to include peanut butter. It is more moist and less crumbly and not as sweet....and I recognize all the ingredients.
2. I would put a 1/4" layer of batter down before putting in the peanut butter cup. These turned out a little crunchy on the bottom.

Rating - 3.5/5
Why? The reasons above.


Roasted Red Pepper Penne

I may have mentioned my love of basil here before, but seriously, I LOVE basil. I don't have much planting space - just a little balcony - but I am planning on planting only basil this year. Otherwise, I spend $4 a week on a 6 oz box of organic basil at Safeway, and I use all of it each week. So this recipe has become an instant favorite, as it incorporates a full cup of basil as well as another favorite, red peppers. Original recipe from here (via pinterest, of course), but I have changed it a bit to make it a little healthier.

1.5 cups penne pasta
1/8 cup olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves
1/3 cup pine nuts
2-3 chopped roma tomatoes
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 cup fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked shredded chicken

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the pine nuts and heat for another 1-2 minutes. Put the oil, garlic, and pine nuts into a food processor, then toss the tomatoes into the warm pan and let them break down just slightly (1-2 minutes, tops). Back at the food processor, pulse the warm oil mixture. Then add the parmesan and pulse again, then add the bell peppers, basil, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. I like mine a little creamy, so I add a little Greek yogurt and milk, then pour it over the cooked and drained pasta. Stir it all together, then stir in the chicken and tomatoes. Top with chopped basil and parmesan cheese and serve.

Seriously, this stuff is awesome. And if your chicken is already cooked, it comes together in about 20 minutes. I love how much basil is in this (of course) and since I use whole wheat pasta, it is really filling. In the original recipe, she used cream instead of Greek yogurt and milk, and used 1/3 cup of oil, but I hate oily pesto and so I cut it down significantly. I also sometimes throw in a dash of hazelnut oil just for kicks, but that isn't really necessary.

Rating? 5/5
Why? It's simple, delicious, and filling.


Chicken Paprikash

This is my second time to make this dish, and I have modified the original recipe (from Clean Eating) quite a lot. I am not sure what Chicken Paprikash is supposed to taste like, but I do like whatever it is that I created. =)

3-4 red potatoes (1 lb)
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 chicken breast, trimmed and cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tlbs paprika
1 tsp sugar*
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
fresh ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425. Slice the potatoes into 8 wedges. Place them on a cookie sheet that has been covered with a sheet of tin foil** and sprayed thoroughly with olive oil. Bake the potato wedges for 12 minutes, then spray the top side with olive oil, flip each wedge over and bake another 12-13 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, then add the tomato sauce, chicken, paprika, and sugar. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked thoroughly and the sauce is thickened slightly. Take the pan off the heat, then stir in the yogurt and add black pepper to taste. Serve over the potatoes.

* the recipe called for sweet paprika, which I couldn't find. When I made it the first time I used plain paprika and it just wasn't right. I looked online and found that you can simulate sweet paprika by adding a little sugar so that's what I did here. If you have sweet paprika, leave out the sugar.

** the recipe said to use parchment paper, but I don't have any of that, so I used tin foil instead. If you use tinfoil, it is really important to oil it really well, because the potatoes stick to the tinfoil.

I made several important changes to this recipe; the original recipe called for sun-dried tomatoes soaked in hot water, there was 1/4 cup of water in the tomato mixture, and the potatoes were supposed to bake for 40 minutes. I have tried several recipes with sun-dried tomatoes and simply do not like them, although it might be where I get them from, and had to add over of a cup of water to the tomato mixture to get something that vaguely resembled sauce. I used a can of tomato soup, but I think that a can or 1.5 cups of chopped tomatoes would also work well, especially if you let it simmer for 30 minutes or so. In addition, at least in my oven, 40 minutes burned the potatoes to a black crisp, so I shortened it to 25 minutes and they turned out perfectly.

Rating 4.5/5
Why? This is a really good recipe and I definitely licked the bowl clean.


Three Cheese Stuffed "Shells"

Today it was supposed to snow, but didn't, but it will be Snowmageddon tomorrow, or something...anyway, it's cold and what was on the menu for tonight didn't sound appetizing, so I made something more cheesy. I had to modify several things, but the original recipe is from Clean Eating. Sorry for the crappy picture.

Sauce Ingredients:
3 cups chopped tomatoes
12 oz roasted red bell peppers, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed whole parsley, roughly chopped

Shell Ingredients:
2 cups of corn, divided
9 whole wheat lasagna noodles*
1.5 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
4 oz goat cheese**
2 Tlbs chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated mozzarella

Mix all the sauce ingredients except the parsley in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, then toss it into the food processor and puree it. Spoon one cup or so into the bottom of a 9x9 pan, then set the rest aside. Meanwhile, boil the noodles until al dente, then set them aside as well. Mix 1.5 cups of corn, the ricotta cheese, goat cheese, parsley, egg, and black pepper in a bowl. Lay out a noodle, and spoon about 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture on it. Roll it up, then put it in the pan. Repeat until you have 9 rolled packets. Spoon the rest of the sauce over the top, then the rest of the corn, and top with the mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.

*This is supposed to be stuffed shells, but whole wheat shells are impossible to find, even here in Seattle. The only place I could find them was on amazon.

**I accidentally got peppadew, having never had goat cheese before. I figured it would go well with this recipe so I didn't really worry about it.

The original recipe called for mint in the cheese filling, which was just weird, and I didn't feel like buying it just for this recipe, so I skipped it. Other than that I followed the recipe pretty closely, except for replacing the shells with lasagna noodles and the plain goat cheese with peppadew. Also, I finally figured out where the roasted peppers are in the store (with the condiments??), so I can use them in other recipes that call for them. They gave a different taste to the sauce, that's for sure.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? This has the cheesy comfort-food taste that I crave sometimes when it's cold outside, but with a definitely spicy twist that is a little unexpected. I wish that I could find the shells though.


Chicken Tikka Masala

When I first moved to Seattle, the extent of my knowledge regarding Indian food consisted of the fact that I knew they ate curry. And I had never actually HAD curry, I only knew that it was a food and was from India. Then some friends suggested we go to a nearby Indian restaurant before the Open House at school, and I have been hooked ever since. My favorite dish there is tikka masala, also called butter chicken. As you can imagine, it is somewhat less than healthy, in the way that eating a stick of butter is "somewhat" less healthy than eating a carrot. In Clean Eating a few months ago, they had a recipe for Tikka Masala so I thought I would give it a shot on a day I had off from school, since the recipe said it needed 4 hours of preparation. Then I took a closer look at the recipe, and realized that while I had torn out the ingredients, I had neglected to tear out the directions (face --> palm). So this is cobbled together with ingredients from Clean Eating and directions from allrecipes.com.

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tsp ginger*
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 tsp coriander
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1.5 tsp safflower oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ginger*
4.5 tsp garam masala**
1.5 tsp chili powder
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup low-fat sour cream

*I used ginger powder because I didn't have any fresh ginger. If you use fresh ginger, use 4x as much as dried
**garam masala is a mixture of Indian spices. I had to go to Uwajimaya to find some. You can make your own by mixing together spices like coriander, cumin, pepper, ginger, cardamom, etc. Here is one recipe, and here is another one.

Mix together the first set of ingredients and let it marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. I put mine in a plastic bag and let it sit for about 2 hours. Then saute*** the chicken over medium to medium-high heat, and when it's done set it aside. To make the sauce, heat the oil and saute the garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the onions and saute them until translucent. At this point, turn the heat down to low, add the tomato sauce, spices, and sour cream and let it simmer, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes. I added the chicken back in about half way through, just for kicks. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

***"tikka" is a Hindi word for chunks of meat cooked on a skewer. I was feeling quite lazy (my grill is hard to clean and is stored in a rather inaccessible place) so I sauted the meat in a pan instead. I actually think it would taste a little better if it had been grilled.

My thoughts....I liked this. It was a little spicier than I am used to, so in the recipe above I left out part of the cayenne pepper for next time. It also was not as buttery as what I get at Naan N Curry, but that's ok, since there's no butter in this. In a traditional tikka masala, there is butter and heavy cream in the sauce and I would have replaced those anyway. Also, in the Clean Eating recipe, it called for sour cream, where I would have normally used Greek yogurt. I had some trouble with the yogurt curdling when I was baking at Christmas so I decided to follow their recipe, but next time I think I would use the yogurt instead.

Rating: 4/5
Why? It is not as smooth and silky as what I am used to and the spices are different. It is still pretty good and worth playing with.


Poppyseed Salad Dressing

This year I have been taking a salad to school for lunch each day. I really like this but have been on the hunt for a decent salad dressing to go with it. I have looked and looked and in the course of this hunt have realized that nearly every salad dressing on the market, including organic versions, have a lot of preservatives in them. So I set out to make my own. The original recipe is from allrecipes.com.

1/3 cup (or less) sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
4.5 tsp grated red onion
3 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup evoo

Mix all the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake it well, then put it in the refrigerator at least overnight.

This was really good. I did cut down the sugar by over half a cup (no, really, it was a ridiculous amount of sugar). This is nice and tart because of the apple cider but creamy at the same time. I just take it to school and leave it in the fridge and it lasts over a week.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? There is a lot of oil in this...but it still is pretty good.


Mustard Cole Slaw

I hate cabbage with an all-consuming passion, but I actually really liked this recipe. This was made to accompany the fish sticks from the other night.

1/4 of a head of cabbage
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled
1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 Tlbs oil

Slice the cabbage into thin strips, then core and slice the granny smith apple into matchsticks. Toss the cabbage, carrot, and apple together. Whisk the vinegar, ground mustard and oil together in a small bowl, then toss it with the cabbage mixture. I do this by putting it all in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid, then shaking the bowl upside down until it is thoroughly coated. Put the slaw in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving.

This was pretty good. Like I said earlier, I don't actually like cabbage, so it is always nice to discover a recipe that makes it palatable. The bite of it went perfectly with the fish sticks, too. The original recipe also called for radishes, but I really don't like those so I left them out. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly as printed. I also think this could easily be made into a main dish by adding shrimp.

Rating: 5/5
Why? Easy to make and nice and crunchy.


Tartar Sauce

I love fish sticks, but I feel they need tartar sauce. But I hate mayonnaise, so I never have any in the house, and I don't like pre-made tartar sauce. But while I was waiting for the fish sticks to cook the other night, I whipped up this super easy tartar-esque sauce that tastes quite delicious.

1/3 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Whip the ingredients together with a small whisk, then put on the side when you serve your fish.

The original inspiration for this came from Clean Eating, but their process involved cottage cheese, lemon juice, capers and minced celery, none of which I had on hand, so I substituted. I like mine better, actually, and it didn't involve digging the food processer out of the depths of the cupboard (stupid small apartment kitchen). The picture isn't great, but it tasted really pretty awesome. Nice and dilly.

Rating: 5/5
Why? Because it's super easy and strongly flavored. I made this in about 90 seconds.


Fish Sticks

Don't worry, I haven't completely fallen off the Clean Eating wagon. This is a recipe from Clean Eating that I changed up a bit to make it less pre-chewed and more awesome, and it worked pretty well. The whole meal was new for me so I will post the other two recipes over the next couple of days.

1 fillet of cod
3/4 cup whole wheat crumbs
1 egg
evoo spray

Spray a large non-stick skillet with evoo, and then heat it over medium heat. Cut the cod into strips 4" long or so and about an inch wide. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk for a minute or two. Put some of the bread crumbs on a plate. Dip one of the cod strips into the egg, then roll in crumbs. Continue doing this until the cod strips are coated, then drop them into the skillet. Cover the skillet, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Gently turn the strips over, then recover for another 2-3 minutes. Continue to do this until all sides are browned.

This was pretty good! I love fish, but don't eat it often because I always forget to stop at the store on the way home and I don't love frozen fish. The original recipe said to mince the fish, mix in bread crumbs, then form into fish sticks before dipping and frying, but I prefer the texture of actual fish that hasn't been premangled, so I skipped that step. The original recipe also said to use tilapia, but I really dislike farmed fish, so I used wild-caught cod instead. Also, as you can see from the picture, I didn't do so well at the frying, but that will improve with time.

Rating - 4.5/5
Why? I really like how easy this is. It took maybe 10 minutes from start to finish, but it is a little picky about the heat and time in the pan so it requires close attention to what you are doing.


Sauteed Chicken and Tomato Linguine

I think basil might be my favorite flavor. I generally put 3-4 times as much as the recipe calls for and just love it. I originally saw this recipe on pinterest (or internet crack, as I like to call it), and followed the original pretty closely. I think I might try smashing the tomatoes next time, but other than that it was pretty good as-is.

3 ounces whole wheat linguine
1 chicken breast, cubed
dried oregano
dried basil
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, halved*
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
10-15 leaves of basil, chopped
grated parmesan

Cook the linguine, then set it aside. Meanwhile, season the chicken with the oregano, basil, and pepper, then saute it in a pan on medium high heat. When it is done, set it aside, then saute the garlic over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then turn the heat to medium low, add the tomatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes more. When they are done, turn off the burner, add the chicken, fresh basil, and linguine, and toss it together. Top with grated parmesan and serve.

I really liked this. It is (of course) strongly flavored with basil, and I really like the simplicity of the sauceless linguine. In the original recipe, she added a little bit of salt, and I did too, but I think I will leave it off next time (which is why it isn't listed above). In addition, she used spaghetti, which I didn't have, but I like linguine better anyway, so that's ok. Also, she cut the tomatoes in half, and I think I might try smashing them next time, there's something about the texture that I like.

Rating 4.5/5
Why? It's easy to make but I wish there was a way to avoid cooking everything separately.