October 2009


It’s Friday! I’m relieved, how about you?

Halloween is tomorrow and the weather is supposed to be nice (a high of 70*!) here in Boston. With the crazy New England weather, we’ve been known to have a warm Halloween one year and snow the next. It’s just sad to see the little kids wear their winter coats over their Halloween costumes. It’s just not right. This year the kids will be comfortable in their costumes while trick or treating.

While it isn’t my favorite holiday, I do hold a special place in my heart for Halloween because it’s right near my birthday (next Tuesday). Growing up, a lot of my birthday parties were Halloween themed. I remember parties in my backyard where my friends and I would be in costume, bobbing for apples and eating donuts on a string (BEST game ever).

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As I got into middle school, I had the brillant idea to have a pizza party then have all of my friends go to a haunted house. My poor parents. They ended up having to deal with 10-12 wimpy, screaming girls  at a haunted house – for several years in a row. Some of my friends refused to even go inside the haunted house. I remember one girl being chased by Beetlejuice one year and losing her shoe. I can laugh now but it was frightening back then. I’m better with donuts on a string. 🙂

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Well, enough reminiscing. This past week I was craving a hearty salad.  I found a recipe online for a Warm Fall Spinach Salad at everydayhealth.com. The preparation seemed pretty straightforward and I liked the combination of ingredients (dried cranberries, shallots, pecans, bacon!). In creating the dish I added a bit of crumbled blue cheese…because cheese makes everything even better.

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The results? A very flavorful salad. The different elements worked really well together! Next time, I would use a little less cider vinegar and I bet it would be perfect.

This salad is great for a light dinner or a nice side dish. While the dressing is warm, it doesn’t wilt the spinach much so if that’s what you’re looking for, just put the finished plate into the microwave for 15 seconds. Delish! I had the salad both ways and preferred the wilted spinach a bit more. Yum!

Now onto my Friday Favs. There has been a lot of goodies in the blog world this week, especially with Halloween coming up. Here are my picks:

  • Tina at Carrots ‘N’ Cake made a delicious-looking Pomegranate Coconut Quick Bread this week. She has just returned from the POM orchards in California so I’m sure she knows the best way to cook with pomegranates now. I bet the tart pomegranates and the sweet coconut are a nice combo in this bread.
  • Erin, over at Erin Cooks, made a mouth-watering Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza this week.   Sometimes I find that homemade pizza isn’t as good as I find in a pizzeria but Erin’s looks better than any BBQ chicken pizza I’ve seen in a restaurant. This is a must try for me.
  • Last but not least, a Halloween treat. How could I not include this one? It’s a simple recipe that includes candy and chocolate. Maria and Josh at Two Peas and Their Pod made a batch of Halloween Chocolate Candy Bark  this week. It’s just so festive and would make a great gift. Adorable and delicious, you can’t go wrong!

I told you about my childhood birthday parties…what’s your favorite Halloween memory?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Someone recently said to me that I seem to make a lot of “stuffed” recipes. Of course this was after I’d just prepared Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes. 😉

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Looking back at my recipe listing, I realized that, so far, I’ve posted PB-Stuffed French Toast with Bananas, Quick and Easy Stuffed Quesadillas, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Stuffed Spinach & Feta Turkey Burgers, and Summer Stuffed Peppers. I never realized it but I guess I’m all about “stuffed” dishes.

My most recent recipe, Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes, came from Cooking Light. While I’m not a huge fan of baked potatoes in general (they tend to be kind of bland in my opinion), this recipe caught my eye because the ingredients included cheese and caramelized onions. Aren’t caramelized onions just delicious?! I love the texture and sweet flavor plus they are so easy to prepare. So much better than raw onions!

This dish calls for Gruyere cheese but I replaced it with crumbled blue cheese – just because it’s what I had in the fridge. I’m sure any cheese would work well.

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Not only was this dish tasty, (the combination of sweet onions, savory cheese and smooth potato was excellent), but it opened my eyes to what other ingredients could be stuffed into potatoes. How about prosciutto and fontina cheese? Mmm. Or BLT-stuffed potatoes?

You can prepare these potatoes as a side dish (a serving = 1 half potato) or as a meal (a serving = one whole potato). Either way, you’ll be stuffed!

What’s your favorite stuffed dish?

Is it weird that I just made my third pumpkin dish in a month and I’m not sick of pumpkin yet? You’ve seen my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Now I bring you a recipe I’ve been making for a few years now, Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. The recipe comes from Cooking Light but you’d never know it’s so healthy.

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I followed the recipe, just replacing the all-purpose flour with whole wheat. I also used 60% cacao bittersweet morsels from Ghiradelli. I love that dark chocolate and red wine is good for your heart. It’s a great excuse to indulge! Plus, the Ghiradelli morsels I used are larger than your average chocolate chip. Bonus!

This recipe is meant for two 8×4″ breads but I halved the recipe and made two mini breads. This tasty and moist bread makes for a great fall gift or flavorful snack. It’s a quick and easy recipe – you just can’t go wrong! Plus, a slice of the mini bread is under 100 calories. Woohoo!

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I have a feeling this may the end of my pumpkin treats but I will be enjoying a few more pumpkin lattes before the season is over. Now that it’s nearly November, I’ll have to find a new flavor to become obsessed with!

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What’s your favorite flavor right now?

Have a great day!

I’m kind of a dork when it comes to cookware and kitchen gadgets. I love checking out the latest and greatest thing at Crate and Barrel or Williams Sonoma. TJ Maxx and Homegoods has a lot of fun stuff too – for cheaper prices!

While I like “window shopping,” I don’t buy a lot of the gadgets I see, mainly because I don’t have the space. My friend and I have an apartment with a galley kitchen and little storage (albeit in a great location!).  However, I have been eyeing new cookware. Our current pans are not the best quality and kind of scratched.  Plus, with all the controversy regarding safe cooking surfaces, I wanted to make a switch.

Last weekend I was in Maine for a few days and my mom and I visited the outlets there – in the town of Kittery. I was shopping for clothes (the norm!) but then my mom spotted a Calphalon outlet. Calphalon is known for high-quality cookware (i.e. normally unaffordable for me). The manager was extremely knowledgable about Calphalon’s products and cookware in general (as he should be!). I didn’t know if I needed stainless steel, nonstick, cast iron, aluminum. We were confused! :/

What we learned, however, is that choosing cookware comes down to personal preference.

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With a few questions, the manager was able to point me in the right direction. Since I don’t sear a lot of meat/fish on the stove, he steered me away from the stainless steel pans. They were pretty though!

He then explained the difference between traditional nonstick and anodized aluminum.  Not only did the pans have a different texture (the nonstick has a gritty coating while the anodized aluminum was smooth), the nonstick is not always oven safe and the coating can break down over time. While anodized aluminum does not have a nonstick surface, it tends to hold up better over time and is suggested for seasoned cooks (I’m putting myself in this category for this purpose! Ha!).

I chose to go with infused-anodized surface. Now it was time to choose a pan or pans. While outlets have great prices in general (compared to department stores), the Calphalon prices were still a bit higher than I preferred to pay. For example, a 6″ pan was originally $125 on sale for $70. Still pricey! So as my mom and I wandered around the store, we spotted a clearance section. Through a little searching we found a 6″ and 10″ pan that were in great shape. Some of the items in clearance had some dings and dents but the ones we found looked really good.

Here’s the kicker – I bought two pans (a 6″ with a cover originally priced at $125 and a 10″ orginally priced at $160) for $29.99 each! Exciting! Plus, I received 15% off my purchase for being a AAA member. AND, even with clearance items, Calphalon offers a lifetime warranty!

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Now that I’ve probably bored you with my cookware shopping story, I wanted to share a few tips that I learned:

  • Pans shouldn’t be placed in the dishwasher. I didn’t know this! They should really be hand washed with soft sponge or cloth. Calphalon suggests the use of Bar Keepers Friend Cookware Cleaner.
  • With nonstick pans, only plastic or wooden utensils should be used to protect the surface.
  • Stainless steel and aluminum pans can be used in the oven and broiler. Nonsticks are normally safe to 500 degrees.
  • Regarding safety, the jury still seems to be out on that. Supposedly, teflon isn’t bad for us afterall however it’s recommended to replace nonstick pans that become scratched or start to chip. My take on it is to invest in good quality pans, take care of them and that’s a pretty safe bet.

In other Maine-related news, despite the chilly weather, I had two excellent meals while away. Below: my dad and I on the beach. Don’t we look cold? Smile, Dad. 🙂

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My parents and I went to Blue Sky on York Beach for lunch (to celebrate my new job – same company, new job!). It’s a swanky modern-type restaurant. I liked the decor a lot! I also loved the food. I had a pizza with meatballs, tomato and fennel..yum! My dad was even able to get a gluten-free pizza. It was a thinner crust than mine but he really enjoyed it. They have gluten-free onion rings as well. Our family gets excited for celiac-friendly places these days. It makes life so much easier. Oh, and last but not least, my mom got a lobster roll with an herbed mayo. We think the lobster was boiled then grilled. Great flavor. We will be returning.

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For dinner, my mom and I went to Katie’s Cafe in Ogunquit for dinner with my aunt and her friend. Katie’s has consistently good food and the staff is very friendly. We’ve frequented Katie’s a lot this summer/fall. The bread is baked fresh on-site daily and it is served with a garlic and olive oil dip. It’s delicious! For dinner, I ordered a salad and the special small plate of the night – lobster risotto. It was fabulous. The sauce was a tomato cream sauce and wasn’t as heavy as I expected – a nice surprise. My mom had her favorite dish – two large pieces of panko-crusted eggplant served with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and balsamic. It’s very tasty and I love the crunch! I didn’t snap a photo of everyone’s meal but my aunt chose the halibut special and her friend ordered lobster mac and cheese. Everyone was pleased with their meals.

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Ok, on to Friday Favs! How are you liking this weekly addition to my blog?

I’m going with a simple apple theme this week. These recipes are making me drool, nice job ladies!

  • Megan at Delicious Dishings made a Dutch Apple Pie this week. The crumbly topping had me at hello. I also like Megan’s dedication – she makes some complicated, time-consuming dishes. It’s very impressive! Plus, she gets brownie points for being a fellow Bostonian.
  • I have been following Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for a while now. She makes some amazing treats, and often too! Where do you find the time, Tracey? Anyway, this week she made an Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake. It looks moist and wonderful with a nice frosting to top it off.  Plus, Tracey has beautiful photos!
  • Jenny at Picky Palate is back on my Friday Favs with a Roasted Apples ‘n Cream Caramel Topped Brownies. Seriously delicious and creative. I love apples, chocolate and caramel – I’m sure the combo is out of this world.

I’m getting hungry, how about ya’ll? Happy Friday and happy cooking!

Don’t you agree? I think it’s the name – Meat. Loaf. I mean, really, who wants to eat a loaf of meat? Ick!

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Meatloaf was that lunch in the school cafeteria that smelled a little funny and nobody would eat. You know, scary mystery meat!

But to be honest, I like meatloaf. Especially when I make it (it’s not a mystery that way). Weirdly enough, meatloaf was one of the first dinners I made when I graduated college and had a place of my own. Back then, I followed this recipe for Glazed Meatloaf II from allrecipes.com.  It came out good! I remember being so impressed with myself. It was moist and flavorful with a nice tangy sauce.

Over time, I made it again but it became healthier – I used whole wheat bread, half ground turkey/half ground beef, and two egg whites instead of an egg. It was still great and no one knew it was pretty healthy. Side note: guys tend to love meatloaf (and, meat in general). This is sure to be a hit with the guys and it’s (secretly) healthy too. 😉

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While reading Cusine at Home a few months ago, I came across a recipe for Skinny Meatloaf. It was very similar to my beloved Glazed Meatloaf but there were a few differences, including the use of a turkey/pork/beef mixture (I didn’t use pork), panko breadcrumbs instead of bread and mustard in the glaze instead of lemon juice. I had to give it a try (don’t hate me Glazed Meatloaf). It was super easy to prepare and I was excited to put this Skinny Meatloaf up to the test. Could it replace old Glazed II?

The Results?

A tie! Both meatloaves are delicious. Really. I am going to learn to love them both. The flavors are both very similar and both recipes produce a tasty moist meatloaf. I served the Cuisine at Home Skinny version with sauteed spinach. It was a great weeknight meal and left me with lots of leftovers. Health-wise, the Cuisine at Home version has 250 calories for two 3/4 inch slices. Not bad at all!

While I can’t share the recipe for the Cuisine at Home version (the recipe isn’t online but other free recipes are – click here), the allrecipes.com version is available for your cooking pleasure. If you’re interested in trying the Cuisine at Home version, email me!

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Do you like meatloaf? Or am I the only one?

It snowed in Massachusetts yesterday. Snowed. It’s only October 19th, how have we already seen the first snow? Luckily, we’re back to seasonal temps this week so hopefully won’t see snow again until Christmastime. 🙂 With all of this chilly weather comes a craving for comfort foods.

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Pasta dishes with red sauce are one of my favorite comfort foods. Since the Atkins craze though, pasta has gotten a bad rep. In reality, pasta isn’t all that unhealthy with a few smart choices. As I heard Ellie Krieger say on the Food Network recently, it’s not pasta that’s so bad, it’s the amount people eat. That’s so true – and true about a lot of foods. We tend to focus on quantity not quality and many of us were brought up to finish what was on our plate. To keep pasta dishes healthy, it’s important to remember a few tips:

  • Use whole grain or whole wheat pasta whenever possible. While the calories per serving are comparable (about 200 calories per cup of cooked spaghetti), whole wheat pasta has about three times as much fiber per serving. Fiber will keep you more satisfied. And, it’s recommended that at least half of your grains each day come from whole grains. Rice pasta is a great alternative as well.
  • When topping pasta with a sauce, choose red sauces over cream-based ones. A half cup of marinara is about 75 calories and 2 grams of fat vs. 200 calories and 12 grams of fat in a half cup of alfredo sauce.
  • When adding meat, stick to lean beef, chicken, pork or turkey. Remember this post? Choosing ground turkey or lean ground beef will save you from added calories and extra fat.
  • Stick to a proper serving size. One serving of pasta equals approximately 1 cup of cooked or 2 oz. of dry pasta. Get out your measuring cup!

A while ago, I saw a recipe for a lasagna-in-a-bowl dish from Rachael Ray. While I love her creative and quick recipes, the dishes aren’t normally very nutritious. With Rachael’s recipe as my inspiration, I created a Deconstructed Meat Lasagna. Not only is this dish quicker than a normal lasagna recipe, it’s healthy and scalable for one or two people. Having a pan full of lasagna in my house would just go to waste so this recipe works for me. This meal was so delicious and simple. I will definitely be making it again and I hope you do too!

Deconstructed Meat Lasagna

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken in half.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 small white onion, chopped

4 oz. 95% lean ground beef

1 c. tomato sauce

1 c. reduced fat cottage cheese

2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Preparation:

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to directions on the box.

2. While noodles are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion. After two minutes, add crumbles of ground beef to skillet.

3. Let meat cook for 5-7 minutes until brown, stirring often.

4. In a bowl, mix cottage cheese and parsley until well combined. Microwave for 30 seconds.

5. Once meat is nearly cooked through, add tomato sauce and cook for another 2 minutes.

6. Drain lasagna noodles and set aside.

7. Remove beef/sauce mixture from heat.

8. Lay 2-3 noodles on a plate, top with cottage cheese mixture then beef/sauce mixture.

9. Repeat step 8 two more times then repeat the process for the other serving.

10. Serve immediately and enjoy! 

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Last Friday, I introduced Friday Favs – my top three favorite posts from the blog world that week. I’ ve seen so many interesting posts this week but a few were definitely my favs! They include veggie burgers, fish tacos, and cupcakes (I can’t leave dessert out!). Ok, here we go…

  • Kelly at Beneath it All posted a how-to this week on making homemade veggie burgers. She makes it looks so simple! Actually, I have most of the ingredients the recipe calls for at home right now – that’s a plus. Veggie burgers are a great alternative to red meat. I love the Amy’s brand California burgers but haven’t found them in the stores lately. Maybe I’ll have to make my own! Not only is Kelly’s recipe easy and straight-forward, she also shows a variety of ways to enjoy the burgers. These burgers look great!
  • This next one is actually from Kelly’s sister, Meghann from the Inner Workings of a College Graduate. I just realized now that I was including postings from both of their blogs. I guess their family has good taste in food! Anyway, Meghann made delicious-looking fish tacos this week. Meghann’s inspiration was ripe avocados at the grocery store and I love me some ripe avocados. 😉 Mmm. Guacamole. Meghann’s fish taco/black bean salsa recipe includes fresh ingredients and it’s super healthy! Creativity can go a long way for a weeknight meal.
  • Ok, time for dessert. This next post isn’t about homemade cupcakes but rather an amazing “cupcake tour”  Sues from We Are Not Martha went on in NYC this past week. Be prepared to lick the screen. She visited FIVE cupcake bakeries and documented it with photos. The peanut butter frosting is calling my name!

That’s all for this week. Next week, I have some light comfort food recipe posts planned. Perfect food for the unseasonable (i.e. cold) weather we’re having the in the Northeast. Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend!

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