Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll Scones (aka....The Death of Me)

 Oh no!  I have a confession to make.  I may have fallen off my food challenge for the month, but hey, I'm only human.  I'm not going to beat myself up over it though, because let's face it, things happen and as long as you don't let it define you, it's ok.  I'm proud to say that I'm back on track now.  I even bought a few boxes of Girl Scout cookies, to bake with, and haven't even opened them.  Now that's will power.

So what was the death of me?  Why exactly did I fall off the bandwagon, especially when I was going strong?  That's easy.....I made the biggest mistake I possibly could.  I baked Jeff these delicious looking chocolate chip cinnamon roll scones.  I thought I was being nice, and doing a good thing, so that he wouldn't just have to eat Pop Tarts for breakfast throughout the week.  Little did I know that they'd be my downfall.

I stayed strong for awhile.  When the scones were in the oven baking, they smelled delicious, when they came out of the oven they looked even better, and when I added the frosting and garnish of chocolate chips, that's when I really knew I was in trouble.  Yet I stayed strong.  It wasn't until the following day, when I was hungry, that I decided to cut one of the scones in half so that I could have it with my coffee.  And yes, that's right, I was still going to be good, so I cut it in half, but who was I kidding?  It was delicious that I ended up eating the other half too.

So, consider yourself warned.  Bake these scones at your own risk, but I promise you, they're definitely worth it if you decide to slip!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Roll Scones

Makes about 16 scones

8 TBSP. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
½ cup, firmly packed brown sugar
1 TBSP. cinnamon

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 TBSP. baking powder
¼ - ½ tsp. salt
8 TBSP. cold butter, cut into slices
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 + ½ - ¾ cup half and half

4 oz. cream cheese (I always use 1/3rd less fat), softened
4 TBSP. butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1-3 tsp. milk

For the Filling:
In a small bowl, using a hand held mixer, mix together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until smooth and creamy in appearance.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Next, cut in the butter slices until the mixture is crumbly in appearance.  You can use forks, knives, or a pastry blender for this.  Don’t judge, but I always end up using my fingers, because honestly, that’s what works the best for me.  Once ready, add in the chocolate chips and whisk around until they are evenly distributed.

Pour in 1 ¼ cup of the half and half and stir around with a wooden spoon until the ingredients start to come together.  Slowly add in the rest of the half and half, as needed (You might not need it all).  The ingredients should not be soggy in appearance, but instead, should form dryer looking dough.  *After the initial stirring of ingredients, I always use my hands to knead the dough together.*

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, or baking mat and roll out into a rectangle, about ¼ inch thick.  

After that, spread the cinnamon filling evenly out over the top of the dough.  Make sure that you leave room around the edges so that the filling doesn't overflow once you roll it up.  

Beginning with one of the long sides of the dough, roll it up to form a log.

Place the prepared dough into the refrigerator while you preheat the oven.  This will make the dough easier to cut into slices.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.

Once the oven is preheated, remove the dough log from the fridge and cut off the little ends (you could choose to discard them, but that’s yummy goodness you’d be throwing out, so why not bake them and enjoy).  Slice the dough into about 1-inch thick pieces and place them onto the prepared baking sheet(s). 

Place the baking sheet(s) into the oven and let bake for 20-22 minutes or until the scones are lightly golden around the edges.  Make sure to rotate pans halfway through baking.  Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.  After that, remove the scones to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

For the Icing:
In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter, using a hand held mixer.  Once ready, it should be smooth and creamy in texture.  Now, add in the sugar, vanilla, and 1 tsp. of the milk.  Begin by beating on low and increase the speed as needed.  Add in more milk until you reach your desired consistency of icing.  I liked mine a little thick, so I stuck to only 1 tsp. of milk.

Place the icing into a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag, and cut off the tip.  Drizzle it over the scones and garnish with some extra mini chocolate chips. 

Goes great with a cup of coffee!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili

I can't believe how fast the weekend went by and that it's already Wednesday again!  In fact, the whole second part of last week and even this week just seemed to disappear in a flash.  Last week, it was mostly due to the weather, but  this week it's just because I've been busy.  Believe it or not, it actually snowed here in North Carolina, and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) closed down.

Being from Michigan, I usually laugh when the meteorologists forecast snow.  Although I have to admit, at least for this time around, there was good reason for the panic.  However, I still find humor in the situation.  The storm that went through brought the most snow I've seen in the 9 years that we've been down here and the city doesn't have a good way to clear off the roads.  Due to this, people just abandon their cars on the side of the road and no one goes out.  After a day or so, when I finally decided myself that it was time to leave the house, my car actually slid backwards a little down the driveway due to the ice (and I'm someone who knows how to drive in the snow).  The only good thing about the snowstorm was due to the fact that everything was closed, I got  to spend an afternoon or two, relaxing with Jeff.  It was nice!

Now, before I get to today's post, I believe I promised that I'd share the last of my Valentine's Day surprise gifts, so here they are....

Day 12: I love the "WAY" you love me!

Day 13: I can't "PICTURE" my life without you!

Day 14: You make my heart "BUBBLE" over with happiness!

I hope that these little ideas help spark your own creative side.  The gifts don't just have to be for Valentine's Day either; you could always run with the idea and countdown, or up, to other things.

Let's move on though, and get to today's recipe which is for chicken taco chili, and yes, it tastes just as good as it sounds.  Plus, the meal is incredibly easy to make and will have your whole home smelling delicious!

I'm one who always loves and appreciates a good slow cooker meal, and this is definitely a keeper!  It's a perfect combination of flavors, and you can make it as hot or mild tasting as you like, depending on what degree of ingredients you choose to add.  Plus, this chili is also healthy!

It's not spring quite yet, so sit back, grab a spoon, and enjoy!  

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili
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3-4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ an onion, chopped
1 16 oz. can black beans, drained
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
14 oz. of corn
2 14.5 oz. cans of Rotel tomatoes with chilies (I used HOT, and pureed it in a Nutribullet to give it more of a salsa like texture)
1 packet taco seasoning (Once again, I use HOT)
1 TBSP. cumin
1 TBSP. chili powder
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
Chili peppers, chopped (optional)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

In your slow cooker, sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray, add in the onion, black beans, kidney beans, tomato sauce, corn, Rotel, taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and chili peppers (If you are including them).  Stir the ingredients around with a spoon until well combined.  Place your chicken breasts on top of the mixture and cook on HIGH for 6 hours, or LOW for 10.  About an hour before done, remove the chicken and shred it.  Once the chicken has been shredded, place it back into the slow cooker and stir around.  Make sure that all the pieces have been coated with the chili and let finish cooking.

Garnish with Fritos, tortilla chips, rice, or cheese.  The possibilities are endless!

Source: Skinny Taste

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sriracha Chicken Thighs

Jeff's a big fan of anything spicy and I know how much he likes sriracha sauce, so the other night for dinner, I decided to make him some sriracha chicken thighs.  Personally, I can't tell you what it tasted like, because it isn't my type of meal (for one thing, I'm not a big fan of chicken thighs, and for another, I don't really care for sriracha sauce), but Jeff tells me that the thighs turned out fantastic.  Therefore, I'm going to take his word and share the recipe.

Here it is!

Sriracha Chicken Thighs

10 chicken thighs, skin on
Juice of 1 ½ - 2 oranges
1-2 TBSP. Sriracha sauce, depending on how hot you like it (I added a little more)
1 tsp. honey
3-4 TBSP. red onion, finely chopper
Dash of salt
Chopped parsley
Sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the orange juice, sriracha sauce, honey, onion, and salt.  Taste to see if it’s too hot, or not hot enough.  If you want it hotter, add more sauce.  If it’s too hot, add a little more honey. (I just had to guess and hope it wasn’t too hot, because I’m not a fan of sriracha sauce)

Place the chicken thighs in a large ziplock bag and add in half the prepared sauce.  Seal the bag and toss around until the chicken pieces are coated.  Put the bag in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for 30-40 minutes.

Once the chicken is ready, remove the thighs from the bag and place onto the prepared baking sheet.  DO NOT discard the marinade; you’ll be using it in a minute.  Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the chicken to cook for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the glaze.  In a small sauce pan, over a medium-high heat, add in the leftover marinade with about 4-5 TBSP. of water.  This way, it can boil longer.  Once the marinade has appeared to reduce in size, add in the remainder of the original marinade and reduce in size again.  This will take a few minutes, so be patient and don’t give up.  By the time that it’s done, it will no longer be runny, but shouldn’t be quite as thick as jam.

When the chicken is done cooking, flip the thighs over and cook again for about another 15 minutes.  The skin should appear nice and brown.  When the additional 15 minutes are up, remove the chicken, spread on the glaze, and then place the chicken back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

After that, remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle on the sesame seeds and chopped parsley, then serve.

Source: Boh Logging

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentines Fun!

I'm going to take a break from sharing recipes with you today and instead quickly share a little bit of fun that I've been having so far this month.  For some reason I really felt like getting into Valentine's Day this year, which is a little unusual for me, mostly because I've never been a huge fan.  So, for the 14 days leading up to the so called "holiday", I've been leaving my husband Jeff, little gifts around the house.  The gifts are nothing really elaborate, just small sentiments to show him that I care and am always thinking of him.

Being an ex language arts teacher I always appreciate a good pun.  Therefore, I went out and purchased, or thought up, little gifts that I could create cute romantic puns for.  Please keep in mind that there are so many different sayings and wonderful gift ideas that you could create on your own, I'm just sharing mine to help get you started.

Everyday, since February 1st, I've been leaving one of these small items around the house for Jeff to find.

Day 1:  You're such a "Catch"!
(I forgot to take pictures, but the saying was stuck on a package of goldfish crackers)

Day 2: I "chew"s you, Valentine!
(Once again, I forgot to take a picture, but it was stuck to Jeff's favorite flavor of gum)

Day 3: I'm "nuts" about you!

Day 4: Thanks for "stick"ing by my side!

Day 5: You have o"Fish"ally stolen my heart!

Day 6: You and I are the perfect "mix"!

Day 7: Life would be un"bear"able without you!

Day 8: You are one "Hot Tamale"!

Day 9: You were "mint" for me!

Day 10: "Honey", you are the sweetest!

Day 11: I love you to "Pieces"!

Obviously these are not all of the gifts because it only goes to day 11.  There are still a few more days to go, but I can't post what I plan to give him quite yet, because I know he'll read this blog entry, and I want the remainder of the days to be a surprise.  I promise to update after the 14th.  That way, if you want to do something like this in the future, for someone you know, then you'll have some ideas.  Most importantly though, feel free to be creative and please share some of your ideas.  Like I said, I always enjoy a good pun!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Spinach, Feta, and Egg Frittata

Before I get to today's recipe I just need to take a moment and express how much I absolutely love the phases of determination that I go through.  I just wish that I could pin down exactly why I'm so motivated at certain times, and not at others.  So far this month, I've been doing really well and sticking to all the challenges that I set for myself.

At the start of the new year, I created some goals and told you that they'd most likely change a little on a monthly basis; which they have.  I still plan to stick to the ones that I originally came up with back in January, but this month I've also decided to add a little more to my workout and eating calendar.  And when I say I added a little more, that's in addition to the calendar that I posted at the end of last month.  I'm definitely seeing changes too, especially in my inches.  It always amazes me the difference that a few pounds can make.

So here are my additions.....This month, I once again decided to take part in the "No junk food challenge".  I've done this challenge once in the past and absolutely loved how I felt after it was over.  The challenge basically just outlines specific foods that you are not allowed to consume for 21 days, but seeing that February is a short month, I'm going for 28.

Honestly though, I don't find this to be too difficult of a challenge, or at least not for me; mostly because I don't really eat what's on the list anyway, except for peanut butter.  I LOVE peanut butter!  And Chips.  Not potato chips, but I have to admit that I love those mutli-grain scoops, so I'm making them count in place of regular chips.  This is going to take a lot of will power, because we always have 2 bags in our pantry due to Jeff loving them too.  So far so good.  Overall though, I think this is a great challenge because it holds me accountable, which is why I decided to do it again.

In addition to the food challenge, I've also added a 30 day beach body challenge to my normal workout routine.  It's nothing that's incredibly time consuming, just 2 workout activities a day, that are high reps.  For example, today's 2 activities were 100 knee highs and 75 Russian twists.  That's much better than the other day though, when I had to do 50 burpees and 50 drop down crunches, or leg lifts.  Anyone who has ever done a burpee feels my pain and knows exactly how much they suck.

Ok, enough rambling for now; let's move on to today's recipe.

I've kind of been eating a lot of eggs lately, well eggs and chicken, mostly for the additional protein that they add to my diet.  Whenever I go to the store I have to laugh at myself, and wonder what the cashier must think.  This is mostly because I always have at least 4 cartons of 18 eggs, if not more, in my basket whenever I go to check out.  With all these eggs I'm buying, I'm always trying to think of new or different things to make with them.  This time I decided to make a frittata.  I've actually heard of them numerous times before now, but never attempted to make one.  It was much easier than I thought it would be and quick too.  The thing I like best is the idea that not only is it a healthy and high protein meal, but there are also so many different ingredients that you could add and subtract.  Even the leftovers are delicious!  I even went out to the store and bought some bell peppers today, so that I could make another one for later this week.

Spinach, Feta, and Egg Frittata

2 whole eggs
8 large egg whites
2 ½ links of Al Fresco Country Style Chicken Sausage (cooked and broken into pieces)
Dash of garlic powder (optional)
Dash of cayenne red pepper (optional)
1 tsp. olive oil
3-4 TBSP. red onion, chopped
2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped (measure before chopping)
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites.  Add in the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, baby spinach, chicken sausage, feta, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Mix together until combined.

In a medium size skillet, set over a medium heat, add the olive oil.  Allow the skillet to heat for about a minute and then add in the chopped onion.  Cook the onion until soft, about 3-4 minutes.  When done, add the onion to the egg mixture.

Spray the skillet with a little non-stick cooking spray and pour the egg mixture into the prepared skillet.  Allow the egg mixture to cook for around 5 minutes.  Here’s where it gets a little tricky….Hold a plate directly over the pan, so that it’s touching it, and flip the frittata onto the plate.  After that, slide the frittata back into the pan, so that the other side can cook.  This side might not take as long to cook, so just keep an eye on it.  Serve immediately.

Inspired by and adapted from Skinny Taste

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mexican Pizza with a Cauliflower Crust

I know I've said in the past that I'm not really fan of pizza, and that I can't even remember the last time I ordered it from a restaurant, and all that's true.  Still, I have to admit that I've been kind of curious about, and have been really wanting to make a cauliflower pizza crust.  Its just that I've been seeing so many recipes on Pinterest for cauliflower pizza crusts, breadsticks, calzones, etc. and I've ended up pinning a bunch of different versions due to the fact that each one looks absolutely scrumptious!

Now that I've actually made it, let me just tell you that my predictions were 100% correct.  This pizza crust was so incredibly delicious!

The reason I always tend to avoid pizza is because of all the empty carbohydrates that are found in the crust.  However, by choosing to make the pizzas myself and substituting cauliflower for the crust, instead of using traditional flour, I knew that it would be healthier and was therefore willing to eat it.

This recipe actually makes 2 small, round pizzas.  Each pizza, depending on how much cheese you put on it, is between 450-500 calories.  And that's for the whole pizza, which is very filling!  Keeping that in mind, think of how many calories are in an average Lean Cuisine meal, and that's something that comes frozen.  This pizza is completely fresh.  Not only that, but there are only about 25 grams of carbohydrates and around 47 grams of protein.  Once again, that's in the whole pizza, and you don't have to eat it all at once, unless of course you want to!

It's always nice when you can make a comfort food healthy!

Sorry that the pictures of this meal may not be my best, but I promise that it's delicious!

Mexican Pizza with a Cauliflower Crust

For the Crust:
1 head of cauliflower
¼ - ½ cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ - 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the Sauce:
1 15 oz. can, no salt added tomato sauce
1 package hot and spicy taco seasoning (Old El Paso)
¼ - ½ tsp. cumin

For the Pizza:
½ cup fat free refried beans
1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Grilled chicken pieces (You don’t have to, but I seasoned mine with a little chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper)
Prepared sauce

Optional Toppings:
Black Olives
Green Onions
Red or Green Bell Peppers

For the Crust:
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, drizzle on and spread out a little olive oil, and then set aside.

Rice the cauliflower florets in a food processor, make sure to not puree it.  If you are unsure how this is done, follow this link for a video.  Once the cauliflower has been riced, transfer to a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for about 8 minutes, or until cooked.  Once done, you will need to drain all the excess water out of the cauliflower.  I did this by placing paper towel in a colander, dumping in the cauliflower, and pressing down.  Be careful though, because the cauliflower is very hot.  I ended up going through quite a few pieces of paper towel, due to the fact that it’s very important to get out all the water, otherwise your crust is going to be soggy instead of crispy.  And let’s be honest…..who likes a soggy pizza crust?

After the cauliflower has been drained of all the water and appears dry, place it in a bowl.  Add in the egg, cheese, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Mix well.  I used my clean hands to just knead it all together and it worked well.  Once it’s been combined, break the “dough” into two pieces and work it into small round circles on the prepared baking sheet, by pressing it down, and shaping it with your hands.  After my pizza crust was shaped and ready, I ended up placing a paper towel over the top of each prepared circle, just to absorb some of the extra liquid.  After that, place the pan in the oven for exactly 10 minutes.

While the pizza is cooking, prepare the sauce.

For the Sauce:
In a microwave safe bowl, pour in the can of tomato sauce.  After that, add in the packet of taco seasoning and the cumin; then stir around until combined.  Microwave the sauce until just warm to the touch.  This should take 45 seconds to a minute.  Set aside. (You will definitely have leftover sauce, but it’s great to dip things in, and you can store it in the fridge)

Hint:  You might want to warm up the refried beans as well, to make them easier to spread.

To Assemble:
Once the 10 minutes is up and the crust is done, remove the pan from the oven. 

Now, spread on some of the refried beans (if you don’t use them all, it’s ok).  After that, top the beans with some of the sauce, followed by pieces of chicken and then the cheese.  Feel free to add on any additional toppings as well, after all, it’s your pizza.  Once the pizza(s) are assembled, place the pan back into the oven and let cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes.  After that, transfer the pizza(s) to a plate and enjoy!

Source: Crust adapted from The Iron You

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Beer Cheese Dip

Super Bowl Sunday is officially here, and it's never too late to run out and get some last minute ingredients for those tasty party snacks.  For those of you having people over, I know exactly how it goes, because this is the first Super Bowl in the past few years, that we've not thrown a party.  To be honest, I'm kind of excited about it, although I also find it to be bittersweet.  I really do enjoy having friends over because it's always a good time, but with being out of town this week, and then coming home to make a cake, I'm pretty beat and am actually looking forward to a quiet and relaxing Sunday.

However, if I were hosting a party, I'd definitely be making this addicting and delicious beer cheese dip.  Not only is it a quick and easy recipe to follow, but it's also flavorful and is guaranteed to be a hit.  This dip went very quickly when I originally made it back in December (for our ugly sweater Christmas party) and I even ended up passing out the recipe to a few friends.

It goes great with mini pretzels, but you could also dip chips in it as well, or spread it on crackers.

Beer Cheese Dip
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ngredients:ndly Version
4-8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat and it was still delicious)
2/3 cup beer (I used Yuengling)
2 envelopes Hidden Valley Original Ranch packets
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

To Dip:

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, beer, and ranch packets until smooth and creamy in appearance.

After that, stir in the cheese.  I turned the hand held mixer to a lower speed and combined it that way.

You could serve the dip right away, but its best if you cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.  That way the flavors have time to combine.  You could also make this dip a day or so ahead of time.