Vegetable Tortilla Soup

Well, it’s been a while since my last post…  I recently took a part time job working as a cook in a restaurant, so now I’m working two jobs, going to culinary school, and making sure there’s quality time with the family in there with all of that going on.  Can we say busy?  Whew!  But, it’s amazing how much more I’m learning about cooking just by being in the environment itself.

I’ve been making this recipe for several months now, and always happily gobble it down.  During the day, I eat very healthy.  All the sinful goodies are saved for the evenings and weekends, and it has proven to be a happy balance for me.  So, I’m always looking for a healthy alternative to different recipes.

This recipe is a vegetarian/vegan twist of Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I actually came across putting this together when I was working on a sauce for one of my final exams in culinary school while pureeing the first five ingredients.  I loved the taste of this so much, that I decided to turn this into a soup.  So, if you love tortilla soup, but want it more of a vegetable base, here you go!

vegetable tortilla soup

Usually when I make this, I’ll portion it into smaller containers and freeze it.  This way, when you’re ready to have some, there is plenty in the freezer waiting.  You can either thaw it out in the fridge in advance, or directly put it in the microwave.  I’d recommend thawing it out some first though, because the cooking process isn’t as long.  This has become a regular in my household, and is made every couple of weeks.  Who knew something so healthy could taste so delicious?!

Vegetable Tortilla Soup Recipe:

1 onion, chopped into medium size pieces

6 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 poblano pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 corn tortilla, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 bags frozen corn, thawed

2 cans black beans, drained

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in stock pot at medium heat.  Add onions and garlic once oil is hot, sauté until tender.  Add poblano pepper and corn tortilla, cook for another five minutes.  Add two cups of the vegetable broth, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove to bowl to cool slightly, then puree in blender for about 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth.  To stock pot, add tomato sauce, remaining vegetable broth, and frozen corn.  Return to medium heat, add pureed mixture and stir well.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, add black beans, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until corn is tender and soup is thoroughly heated through.  Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer.

Peanut Butter Fudge

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is a bunch of peanut butter nuts.  A lot of times, the in-laws in our family either chuckle or roll their eyes when yet another peanut butter dish comes into the house, and this would be a good example.

peanut butter fudge

The first time I made this was several years ago, before my baking experiments had exploded far beyond out of control.  It was around the holidays, and my aunt (who usually makes the peanut butter fudge), was out of town when the family was getting together.  Christmas without peanut butter fudge?  No way.  That can’t happen.  And to top it all off, I couldn’t find that recipe that she had given me…so I had to start searching.  This particular recipe is on allrecipes.com, and it is fantastic…and easy.  Double whammy there.  Honestly, I had forgotten all about this recipe until the holidays rolled around again and I had made the Cookies ‘n Cream Fudge.  So naturally, this had to be made as well.

Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe:

1/2 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1  teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in brown sugar and milk.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Stir in peanut butter and vanilla.  Pour over confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Beat until smooth; pour into an 8×8 inch dish.  Chill until firm and cut into squares.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Well, it’s a brand new year…AND it’s cold outside.  So, how about starting out the new year with a healthy, delicious, warm and satisfying classic comfort food?  Okay then, let’s do it!

chicken noodle soup

After making the chicken and corn chowder, I had to make more soups.  You can actually use the same procedures with this soup for that soup with the chicken and chicken broth.  Just as a head’s up…this is not a quick recipe.  But, it IS very nutritious and made with all fresh ingredients.  High in vitamins and minerals from using fresh veggies, but low in calories and still filling, all at the same time.  In culinary school in our soups class, one of the techniques we went over for thickening soups was pureeing vegetables and mixing that in with the broth.  Since there are some picky eaters in my family and some of them refuse to eat chunks of vegetables but will eat them pureed, this sounded like a great option to get some fresh veggies to those picky eaters.  Everyone has their own personal taste of how salty they like their soups, so you can play with how much salt you add…just don’t add too much at a time, because you can’t take away what you add!  After I made this, my husband took some to work with him to eat for lunch.  After lunch, I got a text message from him, telling me that the soup was awesome…and also suggesting that I make it again in a larger bulk so we can freeze it to have it on hand.  And you know what else?  My super picky brother that is one of my family members who refuses to eat any other vegetables besides peas, corn and lima beans ate the soup and loved it.  Success!

Ingredients:

whole chicken, giblets removed (4-5 pounds)

1 pound onions, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound carrots, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 pound celery, cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2-1 whole package egg noodles (depends on how much noodles you want in your soup)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

9-10 cups chicken broth (if you’re not making your own with the chicken)

extra salt and pepper to taste for soup

Cook the Chicken:  Get a whole chicken that weighs about 5 pounds.  What we’re going to do is cook the chicken with the vegetables, so all of the flavors are absorbed together. Place the chicken in the baking dish or crockpot.  Combine olive oil, salt, and pepper, brush over chicken.  Add Mirepoix.  Mirepoix is the combination of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% carrots.  Since we’re using two pounds of mirepoix, that comes out to be 1 pound of onions, 1/2 pound celery, and 1/2 pound carrots. Mirepoix is used commonly in stocks and broths for flavor, so we’ll be using this as a way to flavor the chicken, as well as soaking up all the flavors of the pan drippings from the chicken during the cooking process.  After that, we’ll remove the chicken from the vegetables, and puree the vegetables and pan drippings in a food processor or blender.  The veggies will be tender enough from the cooking process to blend into a thick puree.

You can cook the chicken and veggies in your crock pot (on high for about 5 hours) or in the oven in a covered dish at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  If you don’t have a covered dish, just cover tightly with foil…you don’t want the moisture escaping during the cooking process.  VERY IMPORTANT:  CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR CHICKEN!  It needs to be at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken (safety rule for all poultry, so the same goes if you make this recipe with turkey instead of chicken).  This will prevent anyone from eating undercooked poultry, which is a huge cause of food poisoning…and no one wants that!  After the chicken is done cooking, remove from dish or crock pot, and pick all of the meat (discarding fat, bones and carcass) bits that you want to be in your soup, shredding and breaking up into bite size pieces.  Once you have the meat picked out, set aside in a bowl.

Make the Broth:  In a large stock pot, fill a little over halfway with water, and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken fat and carcass, and simmer in water for an hour.  Remove carcass, then strain liquid into another large container using a fine mesh strainer.  You’ll be using 9-10 cups of chicken broth in this recipe for the soup, depending on how thick or thin you want it to be.  SHORTCUT:  Use reduced sodium canned chicken broth instead of making it yourself.

According to noodle package directions, boil noodles in chicken broth.  When noodles are done cooking, stir in pureed vegetable mixture.  Add chicken and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm, store leftover soup in fridge for up to five days, and in freezer for up to three months.  Since everyone has their own taste with salt, you can add as little or as much as you feel it needs.  Personally, I thought 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper was the perfect amount…but my husband thought it was a little too much and my brother thought it needed more.  Perfect example of preferences.  😉

When reheating in microwave, cook in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute until heated through.  This ensures soup is heated evenly.  Depending on how much soup you’re reheating, this process takes 2-4 minutes total.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

**Make it Gluten-Free!  Just use gluten-free noodles, corn, or potatoes!

Baked Quinoa Ratatouille

In our Vegetables, Grains, and Starches class in culinary school, Ratatouille was one of the dishes that we made.  When I told friends and family about what we made that night, I realized that very few of them had actually tried it, which surprised me…but they’d heard of the name before because of the movie.  And honestly, that was also the only reason I’d heard of that name as well.  After that class though, seeing how simple and incredibly healthy this dish was inspired me to make it at home.  My husband told me that he wanted to start eating healthier, so I decided to start looking into some quinoa recipes.  Quinoa is a high protein seed that is gluten free and is actually one of the highly recommended super foods to eat.  Before this dish, I had only tried one bite of it when my friend was putting together really healthy recipes, and she ate it a good bit.  It reminds me of rice…smaller in texture, but somewhat of a bland flavor that could easily be accented with natural spices, but fluffy like rice.

baked quinoa ratatouille

While at the health food store the other week nosing through the aisles, I came across quinoa and picked up a bag to make something at home…just wasn’t sure what yet.  After looking through a quinoa recipe book, I saw this recipe and thought,  Hey, I’ve made ratatouille at school, so I can easily make this at home!  Done.  I did change a few things around with this recipe to mimic the original ratatouille recipe that I made at school, and this was delicious.  My husband even asked if there was any meat in this dish since I was making it for lunch, but told him that quinoa is very high in protein.  He shrugged and agreed to give it a shot.  Two helpings later, he told me that he really liked how the flavors of the veggies all went together.  This could also be a really great Vegan dish, just remove the cheese or replace it with soy cheese.

Baked Quinoa Ratatouille Recipe:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

14 oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 large eggplant, cubed

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 zucchini, cubed

2 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dry, 2 cups cooked)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes, or until softened.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.  Place remaining chopped vegetables in bottom of 9×13 inch baking dish.  Spoon onion and tomato mixture on top of vegetables.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, spread quinoa on top, then sprinkle mozzarella on top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 5 minutes.

**I actually made this with fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  To do this, cut an X in the bottom of two large tomatoes and place in boiling water for 20-30 seconds.  This loosens the skin from the tomatoes, making it easy to peel off.  Place the tomatoes in ice water to cool, then peel the skin off the tomatoes.  Slice horizontally, then scoop out as many of the seeds as you can get.  Chop them up, and there’s your tomato mixture to add to the garlic and onions cooking in the olive oil.  Can’t beat fresh veggies!

Buckeyes

For some reason, I forgot all about these little desserts…until recently when I saw them posted on Facebook.  The second I saw them, the memories flashed back in my head of being a kid and shoving as many of these things into my mouth that I could get.  Although my family worships peanut butter (literally…my brother has two dogs named Peanut and Butter), we didn’t make these, so it was a special treat when they showed up somewhere for dessert.  The process of making these is similar to making Oreo Truffles, but these are actually easier to make.  Partly because the dipping process is faster, since the tops are open.  Using a toothpick also makes the process ten times easier, but since I wasn’t a big fan of the little toothpick hole in the top, I just let the peanut butter center soften slightly, then smoothed over the top to get rid of the little toothpick hole.  These were magnificent.

buckeyes

I usually try to take some sort of dessert to culinary school every couple of weeks for my classmates to indulge in, so these definitely made the list.  A girl in my class has Celiac Disease, so she’s missed out on several desserts that have come in because of their gluten content, and I feel guilty every single time.  So, when I showed up with these in my hand, I waved to her, smiled and said, “These are gluten-free!”  Not really sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that there are literally about 80 of these things in one batch.  They make a wonderful dessert finger food for gatherings…but watch out, because they’ll disappear quickly!

Buckeyes Recipe:

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/3 cups crunchy or smooth peanut butter

3 cups powdered sugar

1 package chocolate bark, melted

Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl at medium speed with electric mixer until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until well-blended. Using a mini cookie scoop, scoop out mixture one by one onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Place in refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes.  Melt chocolate bark  in 30 second intervals in microwave, stirring in between each interval until completely melted.  Using a tooth pick or wooden skewer, dip each ball into chocolate–coating 3/4 of the ball. Place on wax or parchment paper, uncoated side up. Let stand until chocolate sets up. Store in airtight container at room temperature or in refrigerator.

Mushroom Risotto

I started culinary school last week, and our instructor was talking about a restaurant that he went to in Houston a while back.  When he was looking at the menu and was in the mood for risotto, he asked the waiter about a couple of different flavors.  When the waiter asked him what flavors he wanted, or what he was in the mood for, my instructor said, “Play with me.”  Well, in the culinary world, when you have some crazy creative chefs and very open-minded and appreciative customers, that’s like recess for them.  The waiter smiled sadistically and walked away…only to come back with a large plate of risotto for him.  Apparently, he had used some pan drippings from another meat they used for another dish, along with some other incredible ingredients and flavors.  Our instructor was so impressed, that he was joking about how he told this guy to make sure he reproduces so the world can have more people like him.  Ha!

mushroom risotto

Well, after hearing that story, I started looking for risotto recipes, and came across one. Mushrooms, butter, wine, garlic, and parmesan?!  YES!!!  Well, actually I threw in the garlic, because I personally love how garlic, mushrooms and onions all go together.  It’s a trio of incredible flavors that mix together so well.  I made some chicken parmesan as the main dish with this recipe, and it was a heavenly Italian meal.  But, the next time I make this for my mom and mother-in-law (they were both wanting to try this), I’ll make the parmesan chicken the same way, but with a garlic parmesan cream sauce on top, rather than the traditional tomato sauce.  Oh boy, now I’m already getting excited to make this again.  Geez.

Mushroom Risotto Recipe:

4 cups chicken broth, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.  Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the pnions. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper.  When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan.

Bananas Foster

A while back, I posted a status on Facebook, asking my friends for suggestions on what desserts to make.  Bananas Foster was one of the ones that popped up, and I remember thinking, What is that?  Well, that’s actually the exact same thing my husband asked me as well when I said something about making it.  When I explained what it was, he said, “Oh wow, that sounds freaking awesome.  I love bananas.”  So, I decided to surprise him with Chicken Pot Awesome for dinner and this for dessert.

bananas foster 2

Since neither one of us has had this dessert before, we were both looking forward to trying it out…and for a good reason.  This was absolutely delicious, and easy, too!  Very tasty way to get fruit in your diet.  😉

Bananas Foster Recipe:

1/2 stick butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons rum

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise and crosswise

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

1 pint vanilla ice cream

In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in sugar, rum, vanilla and cinnamon.  When mixture begins to bubble, place bananas and walnuts in pan.  Cook until bananas are hot, 1 to 2 minutes.  Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.

Homemade Mocha Hot Chocolate

Every once in a while, I get a craving for hot chocolate.  Takes me back to my young, spring chicken days of drinking hot chocolate with tons of mini marshmallows packed in there, always asking for more because there never seemed to be enough.  Although it’s summertime, that craving still peeks its head around the corner every now and then.  Well, nothing is more disappointing than discovering there’s nothing in the cabinet to satisfy your craving whenever this situation hits, so it’s always nice to be able to make it yourself.  Take that, non-existent hot chocolate packets in my pantry.  I’ve come up with a solution to that problem.

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But, things have changed as I’ve gotten older…I love coffee.  As a kid, I used to make a face at my mom’s cup of coffee in the morning.  Now, we enjoy our cups of coffee together during our visits.  With this recipe, I get that perfect mixture of hot chocolate, along with coffee.  And also, if you want to spice it up with a little bit of cinnamon, you can do that…Why?  Because this stuff is made from scratch, so you can throw it together however you want.  Don’t like coffee?  Replace the coffee granules with more powdered coffee creamer.  Yes.  After I mixed this up for the first time, the thought of making some adjustments if needed were already in my head…but after taking a few sips, I said out loud to my dogs, “This is really good!”  Too bad they can’t have any, because they actually might enjoy it.

Mocha Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe:

1 tablespoon dark chocolate cocoa

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon powdered coffee creamer

1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules

Combine all ingredients in coffee mug.  Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir well, until dissolved.  Serve with mini marshmallows, if desired.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken with Buttered White Rice

Last night in our house, we had a Hawaiian themed dinner.  The only thing that was missing was everyone getting lei’d walking in the door…  No comment.  My husband and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, and we both loved it.  The beautiful scenery, perfect weather, laid back atmosphere…and amazing food.  Just from researching different types of Hawaiian recipes, it seems like the style of food there is a mix between Asian and a lot of citrus fruits.  When I told my brother that we were having a Hawaiian style dinner, he said, “Oh, so it’ll have pineapples all over it?”  Nope.  He’s actually not a big fan of whole pineapples, but like the juice and flavors from it…and he loved every bit of dinner…including beverage and dessert.

hawaiian chicken with buttered rice

In all honesty, I was terrified that the chicken was just going to come out tasting okay.  As it was cooking in the crock pot, I kept smelling it, thinking that it wasn’t going to be anything special.  Then again, I am getting over a sinus infection and my sinuses are still not back to normal, so maybe that could have contributed to being a little weary over how dinner would turn out.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, it was delicious!!  One of the things I remember about Hawaiian food was how deliciously moist and buttery the rice was…so I wanted to recreate that in my kitchen as well.  This rice was SO moist…and SO buttery.  I’m really not a big fan of plain white rice, but could have easily eaten this by itself.  My husband isn’t a big eater, and very rarely goes back for seconds…well, ladies and gentlemen…he went back for seconds!  I stared at my brother in shock and told him we should write down the date.  Even my picky brother went back for seconds and suggested that we have this again.  Needless to say, this went over well.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken Recipe:

1 cup pineapple juice

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon worchestire

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into cubes

Whisk together ingredients until sugar is blended.  Stir together with chicken in bowl to coat completely, transfer to crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve by itself, or over white rice.

White Rice Recipe:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup long grain rice, uncooked

2 cups chicken broth

Melt butter in saucepan at medium heat, add salt and pepper.  Add rice, cook for a few minutes until rice is lightly browned.  Add chicken broth, stir, and cover.  Lower heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is fluffy.

Hummingbird Cake

Although I grew up with two older brothers, there are two ladies in my life that are the closest thing I have to sisters…and those are my cousins.  My mom’s sister has two daughters; one who is two years younger than me, and the other, who is only 5 weeks older.  I practically stalk the one that is my age, because I call her almost every day…and even though we talk so regularly, it seems like another hour has flown by that we’ve been jabbering away on the phone.  You would think that we’d run out of things to talk about, considering we’ve been close our entire lives and talk about so much so often, but that’s never the case.  I like that.  Over the weekend, I was asking her what her sister’s favorite cake was, since it was her birthday, and she said she thought it was a Hummingbird Cake.  “A what cake?” I asked, baffled by the name and completely curious as to what all was in it.  “Well, it’s fruity…it has pineapple and some other fruit, maybe some orange juice, but I haven’t made one, so I’m not sure,” she told me.  Almost immediately after hanging up the phone, I ran upstairs to get on the computer and see what recipes I could find on it.  I had it in my head that this cake had pineapple and orange juice in it, and personally that combination is absolutely delicious to me, so the excitement of trying out this cake was all up in my brain.  Again, here I was, looking at several different recipes.  Personally, chunks of fruit in a cake isn’t very appealing, but the flavor is out of this world…so I decided to puree the fresh fruits and throw in some orange juice in there, because once she mentioned it, that’s what was stuck in my head.  It HAD to have orange juice in it, even if it was just a little bit.  She has given me many ideas over the past two years of having this blog when it comes to desserts, meals, saving money tips and cleaning advice.  She’s my hero.

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With this cake, if you don’t feel like cutting up a pineapple or would just prefer to used canned pineapple, that will work just fine…but I’ve heard my cousin and my husband rant and rave about how amazing fresh pineapple is, so that’s why I decided to use that with this recipe.  As I was cutting it up, a couple of pieces ended up in my mouth.  My daughter was standing up on a chair watching me at the counter, I looked at her and said, “Mmmm, yummy in the tummy!”  She smiled and repeated it.  Although she eats pineapple all the time in her fruit cups, she made a face when I tried to feed her a piece of fresh fruit.  Maybe it was making a face at her or something, there’s no telling with a 2 year old.  The great thing about having leftover pineapple is that I’ll be using it to make a fruit smoothie with orange juice in the morning when I get up.  Yummy in my tummy.  Again.

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When I was putting this recipe together, it couldn’t be done fast enough.  The smells of the banana, pineapple, and cinnamon together with the nuts thrown in had me stalking the cake in the kitchen, and looking at my watch every five minutes until it was time to shovel this thing in my mouth.  I even texted my mom (who is 150 miles away) to tell her what I was making.  She was jealous and wanted me to text her some cake, but I told her that I will absolutely be making this cake again…and again…and…well, you get the point.  Several of the original recipes called for a whole cup of pecans, and even though I love nuts in desserts, it seemed as though the nuts were dominating a little too much over the flavor and how moist the cake is itself.  But, the nuts in the cake are delicious, so I just decided to half the amount, and chop them into finer pieces.  Yes, that’ll work.  A good portion of this cake will definitely be going to the neighbors, because I can’t trust myself around this thing hanging out in the fridge for too long…especially considering I got in an argument with myself over snagging a piece this morning while taking some pictures…

Hummingbird Cake Recipe:

3 cups flour, sifted

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

2 ripe bananas

14 oz. fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a blender or food processor, combine; pineapple, bananas, orange juice, vanilla, eggs, and oil.  Blend until smooth.  In a large bowl, add all dry ingredients and stir together with whisk.  Pour in puree, beat with electric mixer on low/medium speed until combined and smooth.  Stir in pecans.  Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans, and pour batter evenly between the pans.  Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on cooling rack for 20 minutes, then turn out on cooling racks to cool completely.  Ice with cream cheese icing, store in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Icing Recipe:

2 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

2 sticks salted butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

5 cups powdered sugar

Combine butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in large bowl, beat at medium speed with electric mixer until smooth, about 2-4 minutes.  Add powdered sugar, continue mixing for another 3-4 minutes, until smooth.

**CAN BE MADE GLUTEN FREE!  I made this cake with the all of the following ingredients, but used gluten-free all purpose flour for a close friend that has Celiac Disease…and she absolutely LOVED it!**

Mocha Ice Cream

When it comes to mocha, I’m a sucker.  Bigtime.  So, as I was scrolling through a recipe book, this title jumped out and bit me on the nose.  Couldn’t have been more obvious that I HAD to make this following our dinner last night, so I added the ingredients to my grocery list and hit the store.

One of the ingredients on this list is coffee liquor, and that made me smile.  Coffee liquor is just all kinds of awesome, especially when you throw it into a dessert.  When I went into the liquor cabinet, it seemed as though we were running low on Kahlua.  There was enough for this recipe, but this just means I’ll have to put that on the liquor store list.  It didn’t take long at all for the coffee granules and Kahlua to mix well in the microwave, 30 seconds was plenty…and it smelled delightful.

Mocha  Ice Cream Recipe:

4 cups chocolate ice cream

1/4 cup coffee flavored liquor

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Let ice cream soften in bowl.  Combine coffee liquor and instant coffee in microwave safe bowl, microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Combine coffee mixture with chocolate ice cream, using electric mixer and beat well until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips, transfer to container with lid and store in freezer.

Make it lite!  Use reduced fat chocolate ice cream and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips!

Banana Muffins

When it comes to healthier snacks and breakfast for my daughter, I’m always on the lookout.  She loves muffins, and I wanted to make some with a flavor that I know she really likes.  Well, my kiddo absolutely loves bananas.  In fact, I’m surprised she doesn’t look like a banana at this point.

So, I started doing some research on finding a decent recipe.  I came across a highly rated recipe on allrecipes.com, but wanted to change some things around.  A close friend has Celiac Disease, so she can’t consume gluten.  After spending the weekend with her and watching how healthy she eats, but is still able to eat a lot of things, it got me thinking.  I don’t want to cut out ALL gluten completely, but I see how it could be beneficial to at least decrease my family’s consumption.  Plus, my daughter is too young to really notice if there’s a big taste difference between regular and gluten free, so now is the perfect time to start experimenting.  😀

You can easily use gluten-free flour in this recipe instead of all purpose flour, both ways turn out delicious.  My little bottomless pit is like me when it comes to food consistency…she’s weird and picky.  So, I decided to puree the bananas in order to get the full flavor without the chunks.  The outcome?  Well, I gobbled mine down along with a glass of milk, my husband asked for a second muffin, and my daughter can’t get enough of them.  Success!

Banana Muffin Recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (may easily use gluten free flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large bananas, mashed

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine bananas, butter, vanilla and egg in blender and puree until smooth. Combine with dry ingredients and beat well with electric mixer.  Spoon into lined muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 23 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and spring back when touched.

Chicken Taco and Black Bean Soup

When it comes to soups, I’m somewhat picky.  I prefer cream based soups, but sometimes they aren’t always that healthy.  This recipe though…is VERY healthy.  High protein, high fiber, and low fat?  Yes!!  Believe it or not, I try to eat healthy foods on a regular basis so I can still indulge every once in a while with some of the not-so-healthy items I make.

Between the two different types of beans, greek yogurt and chicken, you’re sure to get the amount of protein you need in just one serving.  Oh yeah, and with all of those beans (the musical fruit) the fiber content is up there as well.  Having hypoglycemia keeps me from cutting out carbs in meals, but the corn is at least a vegetable that acts as the starch in this dish…and oh boy, is this dish delish!  That was my failed attempt at rhyming.  Anyway, this soup is absolutely wonderful to make ahead so if you need something quick and healthy to heat up for lunch, this is sure to satisfy your hunger!

Chicken and Black Bean Soup Recipe:

1 lb. cubed, cooked chicken

1 can Northern Beans

1 can black beans

1 bag frozen corn, thawed

1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup lowfat Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Put can of Northern beans, chicken broth, yogurt, garlic, and spices in blender and puree until smooth.  Transfer to crock pot and add remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2 hours.

*Make this vegetarian!  Substitute the chicken for an extra can of black beans.

Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a perfect world, no one has Celiac Disease.  Or lactose intolerance.  Or diabetes.  Unfortunately so, this isn’t the case, and it seems as though these problems are more common now than in the past.  A close friend was going through a rough time with constant stomach issues a few years ago.  After running many tests, they finally discovered that she had Celiac Disease.  Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.  Another close friend is lactose intolerant.  If she were to drink a glass of milk or eat a lot of cheese, it would make her horribly sick, because lactose intolerance is when the body is unable to digest dairy properly.  My neighbor has diabetes.  He loves it when I bring cupcakes over, but has to be very careful and take his insulin.  If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the reasons may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems. Should these people be punished by not being able to eat desserts?  Absolutely not!  And here’s a solution!

Recently, I started training at a Crossfit gym.  One of the trainers was discussing nutrition with me, and he told me that if I could cut anything out of my diet, it should be all wheat products (gluten) for weight loss.  This is actually not the first (and probably not the last) time I’ve heard that statement, about cutting out bread and pasta to help lose weight.  All the more reason to start experimenting with gluten free flour!  Here’s my chance, and this is only the beginning!

A sugar free recipe of chocolate chip cookies that I found years ago was in Marilu Henner’s book.  I followed her plan strictly for about 6 months, eating no sugar, meat or dairy…  I became very thin, very healthy (never got sick) and my digestive system worked like a champ.  But, following a lifestyle that strict was very difficult for me.  I don’t know how many times we went somewhere to eat, and I was extremely limited on what to pick from, and when I did eat something that was off that plan, my stomach twisted, turned flips and got tied into knots.  It was miserable, and I wanted to be able to eat “normal” foods again.  Yet here I am, struggling to get this baby weight off.  Go figure, right?  Anyway, the recipe that she used had sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate chips and soy margarine.  It called for regular flour, and in this recipe, I switched out the regular flour for gluten free flour, and used the organic gluten-free vanilla.  I also replaced the date sugar that’s called for in her recipe with Splenda, really just to try it out.

Personally, I like a lot of nuts in my cookies.  I didn’t put any in this batch though, simply because it’s a hit or miss with other people loving or hating nuts in cookies.  Next time I make these without nuts though, I’ll throw in an extra bag of the chocolate chips.  When they were done baking, I ate one.  It was still slightly warm…and although it wasn’t as incredibly delicious as a original chocolate chip cookie, it was still good.  My husband tried one, and he wasn’t a fan.  As I sat there and thought about how they tasted, I decided the ultimate taste test to tell if it was any good was to give it to our daughter.  She’s almost two, and if she doesn’t like something, she spits it back out immediately.  When I asked her if she wanted a cookie and gave her a piece, she stuffed it into her mouth…swallowed, and started reaching out her hand and stomping her foot for more.  I laughed hysterically, and pat my husband on the leg, “You see?!  Ultimate taste-tester right there!” to which he replied, “She doesn’t know any better.”  HA!

Recipe:

2 1/4 cups gluten free baking flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup soy margarine, softened

1 cup Sucanat

1/2 cup Splenda sugar substitute

1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

2 large eggs

12 oz package semisweet non-dairy chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degree.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In larger bowl, combine soy margarine, sucanat, splenda and vanilla extract; beat until creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Mix well before stirring in non-dairy chocolate chips.  Add nuts at this time, if desired.  Using cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking stone, bake for 12-14 minutes.

Like this?  Try these!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brownie Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle

Pillow Cookies

Strawberry Amaretto Milkshake

Personally, I’m a sucker for milkshakes.  It’s hard to say no to the question when my husband asks, “I’m going to get a milkshake, do you want one?”  Well, I hadn’t even thought about having one…until you said something about it.  That actually happened last night, when he was going to the best place around here for milkshakes to get a late dinner.  I caved, and got an Oreo milkshake.  It’s okay though, because I’m hitting the gym today.  😉

When I stumbled across this recipe in a Southern Living magazine, it was one of those recipes that jumped off the page to get my attention.  Well, not literally, but it might as well have when I read the title.  Amaretto is one of my favorite liquors, and for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it has a sweet taste…  And second, it’s not a strong liquor.  When my husband and  I were dating, I told him that it’d be cheap dates to take me out, even if I drink…because of being such a lightweight.  It certainly doesn’t take much, that’s for sure.  So, amaretto is perfect.  You’ll see the bottle of Disaronno in the background, because it’s my favorite brand.  Even saying the name reminds me of the commercials, and I pronounce it in that European accent with a little shoulder movement for effect.  This has definitely been added to the list of offering people when we have gatherings.

Recipe:

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 cup amaretto

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups vanilla ice cream

Stir together sliced fresh strawberries, amaretto liquor, and sugar; let stand 20 minutes.  Process strawberry mixture and ice cream in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.  Serve immediately.