Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh it is the season of pumpkin baking! It is one of the most favorite times of the year for bakers (and baked good eaters). Pumpkin Season!! Break out the giant cans of pumpkin puree. This nutrition packed vegetable is going to be added to anything and everything along with sugar, flour and lots of butter and turned into delicious items that will be eaten up before they are fully cooled. 

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: About 2 dozen


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract


For the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for 20 seconds, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, shortening and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks one at a time.

Mix in pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Scoop dough out and shape into 3 Tbsp balls (I just filled 1/4 cup 3/4 full). Place on Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets (you'll only be able to fit about 8 per sheet, these are fairly large cookies),

Using your fingers lying flat, evenly flatten cookies into rounds until they are slightly under 1/2-inch thick. Bake in preheated oven 11 - 12 minutes. 

Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool frost with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. Store in an airtight container.

3 oz cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp milk

For the frosting:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together cream cheese and butter until pale and fluffy.

 Mix in cinnamon, vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Mix in enough milk to reach desired consistency and mix until smooth and slightly fluffy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara - Create a Skillet Meal

One of the really great ways that you can stretch your food budget further is to use expensive ingredients sparingly. Who doesn't love bacon? But oh my goodness! It can sure be expensive. Thank Heavens is has so much flavor and you can really use that to your advantage and make a little bit go a really long way. That is what this recipe does. 

I have never made Spaghetti Carbonara before, in fact, I didn't even really know what it was until I found the recipe and did some research. I thought it was a cream based sauce - it turns out that it is just a really special way to make bacon / eggs and pasta - with cheese!  How delicious, cheap and easy does that sound!!


8 ounces spaghetti
2 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan ( I used an Italian Cheese blend) 
4 slices bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

( I doubled the whole darn thing!) 


Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes; reserve excess fat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; reserve 1/2 cup water and drain well.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and Parmesan; set aside.

Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in pasta and egg mixture, and gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

 Add reserved pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

The really cool part of this recipe is that not only are the flavors amazing together, but that it comes together so quickly. The eggs are cooked when mixed with the warm pasta, and the cheese melting makes it creamy and delicious. 

It feels like a fancy dish, but really is made with fridge and pantry staples and comes together in a flash!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reasons Not to Go Out to Eat Tonight

If you're weighing whether to splurge on a restaurant meal tonight or hit up the dollar menu at the nearby fast food joint, why don't you consider staying home and cooking instead?

There's a number of reasons to hit the kitchen instead of the drive-thru, many of which your body will thank you for. Need some convincing? Check out these six reasons to stay in for dinner tonight:

You'd consume more than you would have if you didn't eat out. 
Eating out seems to have an effect on your daily calorie intake, whether you’re dining at a full-service restaurant or a fast food joint. People who reported eating out consumed about 200 calories more a day, as well as more saturated fat, sugar and sodium, according to a Public Health Nutrition study conducted by researchers from the American Cancer Society and the University of Illinois at Chicago. When you consider that the estimated calorie needs per day range from 2,200 to 3,200 calories for adult men and 1,800 to 2,400 for adult women, depending on activity level, that extra 200 calories can really matter.

You probably wouldn't pick the "healthy" menu item, anyway. 
Only one in four people say they actually eat healthy foods when they go out to eat, according to a 2013 study by the market research firm The NPD Group.

Cooking at home could help you live longer. 
Yes, really. A 2012 study in Public Health Nutrition showed that cooking as many as five times a week was associated with a 47 percent higher likelihood of still being alive a decade later. The study, conducted by Taiwanese and Australian researchers, was based on data from a group of 1,888 people over the age of 65. Among those people, 31 percent said they cooked five or more times a week, while 43 percent said they never cooked (the rest cooked with a frequency somewhere in between).

Eating out is contributing to the obesity trend. 
While it's impossible to prove cause-and-effect, there have been multiple associations found between increased weight and eating out. For example, a Lancet study in 2004 showed young adults who frequently eat out at fast food restaurants are more likely to weigh more and have increased insulin resistance when they hit early middle age. An FDA-funded panel also reviewed evidence to find that eating food not cooked at home is associated with higher body fat and body mass index, and increased obesity.

You'll eat healthier foods if you cook 'em yourself.
Forbes points out that the pure fact that your home likely does not have a deep fryer is already a boon for eating more healthfully. Plus, there are studies that show that people who cook at home eat healthier than people who eat food prepared by someplace else, Forbes notes.

You're teaching your kids to appreciate healthy foods.
Cooking at home for dinner is also an opportunity to get your kids to join you in the kitchen -- which research shows could actually help to grow their appreciation for healthy eating. A 2012 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition shows that kids who helped more with meal prep and cooking were more likely to prefer both fruits and vegetables.

Thanks to This article for all this Excellent Information!

See what is in your pantry - Double Check your menu plan - Create something Wonderful!! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tortellini Soup - Create a Soup

Although it sounds really fancy, Tortellini soup is actually a really easy soup that you can throw together in no time at all. It feels extra fancy with the special pasta, and you can change it up quite a bit depending on what ingredients you have on hand in your fridge / freezer and pantry. 

I picked up some fresh tortellini at the grocery store for a steal, but you can use the dried kind and it works just as well. (plus it can be a pantry staple that you can have on hand that will keep longer than fresh will)

You can add a wide assortment of vegetables. We had a few zucchini and some carrots from the garden. But you can add canned tomatoes, green beans, corn, or any kind of frozen mixed veggies. They even make specific "Italian" mixes that would be perfect to add to this soup. 

2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 lb. fresh cheese tortellini
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Sauté the vegetables
In a soup pot over medium-high heat, warm the 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the carrots, celery and zucchini and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.

Cook the tortellini
Add the tortellini and cook for 5 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Remove from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Basic Classic Meatloaf

I think meatloaf has gotten a really bad reputation. It is featured lots of time on kids shows as the worst dinner imaginable - scary meatloaf striking fear into the hearts of kids eating dinner everywhere. I disagree, meatloaf can be one of the best dinner dishes around. It is a great way to sneak extra veggies into your dinner AND it allows for lots of room for pantry substitutions and leftover meatloaf is not just fantastic but makes amazing sandwiches later. 


1 1/2 pounds ground beef 
1 egg 
1 onion, chopped 
1 cup milk 
1 cup dried bread crumbs 
salt and pepper to taste 

2 tablespoons brown sugar 
2 tablespoons prepared mustard 
1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk and bread OR cracker crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place in a lightly greased 5x9 inch loaf pan, OR form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.

In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup. Mix well and pour over the meatloaf.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour.

If you are looking for ways to vary the recipe a little. You can use Oats instead of the breadcrumbs. This is a pretty common substitution. And if you are wanting to boost your veggie intake you can use a can of diced tomatoes instead of the milk that the recipe calls for. 

Of course, you can also add chopped veggies like carrots and bell peppers when you add the onions. Just saute the onions and chopped veggies of your choice prior to adding them to the meat mixture. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Simple Ways to Start Eating Better - Pick One

So go ahead. Pick one. Any one. Or come up with your own. And if you do, please share.
  1. Add vegetables to breakfast. Whirl spinach into smoothies, scramble eggs with leftover veggies, or pile half a bagel with avocado, tomato, cucumber, or carrots.
  2. Opt out of high-calorie coffee drinks. Consider the difference between a Starbucks large white chocolate mocha at 620 calories and 27 grams of fat and a small cappuccino with low-fat milk at just 90 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat. This is an extreme example, but you get the idea.
  3. Swap your snacks. Rely on nutrient-rich whole foods instead of processed ones. A bag of potato chips and a small handful of nuts may have the same calories, but the latter will nourish and fill you up in the way chips will not.
  4. When it comes to sweets, keep portions petite. A small amount can really satisfy such as an ounce of dark chocolate, a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt with berries, or a miniature cupcake.
  5. Split meals out with a table mate or take home half for the next day.Calories in restaurant meals are often way out of scale with healthy eating. Consider, for example, that the shrimp pasta at the Cheesecake Factory is nearly 2300 calories. Yikes.
  6. Skip or scale back sodas and sugary drinks. You may be surprised to know how much sugar gets added to iced tea, juices, and sports drinks. Go for good ole H2O, bubbly water with a splash of juice, fruity spa water, or hot and cold tea instead.
  7. Look for leaner cuts of meat. The meat you buy can have a significant impact on fat and calories. Choose sirloin over rib eye and you'll save nearly 100 calories and about 15 grams of fat in just four ounces.
  8. Close the kitchen after dinner to avoid late night snacking.
  9. Belly up to the bar a little less. The calories in beer, wine, and spirits can add up quickly.
  10. Pack a lunch instead of buying one. Homemade lunches tend to be cheaper and you get to control what's in there.
  11. When you eat out, ask for a veggie or fruit side. This will allow you to get plenty of produce even when dining out.
  12. Opt for less quantity, but more quality when it comes to buying poultry and meat. Organic, pastured chicken and grass fed beef, for example, are pricey but better for you, better for the environment, and nicer to beast on your plate!
  13. Expand your fruit and vegetable repertoire. A colorful variety of fruits and veggies is key for maximum vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Get inspired by going to farmer's market or signing up for a CSA. Sunchokes anyone?
  14. Add in foods high in omega-3s such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, and sardines. Most of us aren't getting enough of these healthy fats.
  15. Cook more often; eat out less. You'll probably eat lighter and eat better.
  16. Experiment with whole grain flours in baking. Whole wheat white flour and whole wheat pastry flour tend to do quite well in many desserts, pancakes, quickbreads, and the like.
  17. Explore more with beans and legumes. They're cheap, nourishing, delicious, with a huge variety of options from red lentils to chickpeas to pinto beans.
  18. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Round out the rest of your meal with protein foods and grains.
  19. Switch your peanut butter. If you're buying peanut butter with added sugar and partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats, choose one with little more than peanuts and salt. One day, I promise, Skippy will start to taste like dessert.
  20. Honor your hunger meter. Eat when you're hungry. Stop eating when you've had your fill. This is often easier said than done, but it's always worth shooting for.
  21. Swap out processed grains for whole grains. Choosing brown rice, whole-grain bread, whole wheat tortillas, farro, quinoa, and so on, will increase the fiber and other nutrients in your diet.
  22. Aim for five or fewer ingredients in packaged foods. Read labels and shy away from processed foods with a laundry list of ingredients.
  23. Work more veggies into soups, stews, sauces and casseroles.Chopped onions, garlic, leafy greens, carrots, mushrooms, and other vegetables can be added quite seamlessly into so many dishes you already cook.
  24. Get smart on seafood. Learn which species are sustainable and low in environmental pollutants and which are best avoided. Seafood Watch is a good guide for buying fish and shellfish.
  25. Give whole grain pasta a try. It may take a while to find one that your family loves, but over time kids (and you) can really develop a taste for it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shredded Pork and White Bean Chili

1 pound Shredded Pork (leftover from a Pork Roast cooked in the Crock-Pot)
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin ( I end up using a pre-made seasoning mix for all the spices in the recipe)
2 teasponos chili powder
1 16-oz. can white beans, drained
1 16-oz can chili beans, drained
1 16-oz can kidney beans, drained
1 14-oz. can corn, drained
1 14 1/2-oz. can chicken broth
2 4-oz. can diced green chiles
2 cans of Chicken Broth

Toppings as you desire - Avocado, Green Onions, Cheese, Cilantro, Sour Cream

Cooking Directions

In large saucepan cook the onion, stir in cumin and chili powder; stir. Stir in remaining ingredients; bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until heated through and flavors are blended.

I just dumped the beans in the crock-pot. 

Added the Spice Mix and the Green Chilies. 

Then the leftover shredded pork and the cooked onions. 

Then I added the chicken broth and turned it on low to heat through and let the flavors meld. 

Top it with the toppings of your choice and enjoy!