Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Resurrection, And An Explanation...

I suppose I ought to explain my year-long hiatus from blogging. A lot has happened in the last year, most notably becoming engaged to the most wonderful man in the world. But that doesn't really explain my lack of posts.

The end of May 2011, I had an experience that changed my life: I had to ask for a seatbelt extender on a flight from Chicago to KC. I was mortified. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried the whole flight. Upon landing at KCI, I made a pact with my then-boyfriend Jon, that we would do something about this. I resolved never to have to ask for an extender again.

I've since struggled through 4 rounds of the HCG diet, finishing up the 4th round as we speak. I began at 308lbs, and as of today I have lost a total of 103 lbs., and have 35 more to go (meaning a 5th, and hopefully final round in the fall). I am determined not to be a fat bride in July. I am down to a size 16 from a size 24. Jon has lost just over 100lbs. as well. Between us we've lost a couple of Jr. High cheerleaders.

Blogging about food while on this diet crunch did not appeal. My food was less than desirable, as I am restricted to a 500 calorie-a-day, limited ingredient diet while on this regimen. My hope is to post here more often as the dieting crunch wraps up (I'm coming up on a 3 month hiatus from dieting until after our honeymoon), and share healthy tips, tricks, and recipes I've found... some of my own,and some awesome discoveries from other websites.

We'll see what happens!

In the meantime, here's two of my favorite cookies I made this year for Christmas, while I was on a brief one-month hiatus from dieting... First up.... Don't be frightened my delicate daisy... Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies! The recipe can be found at This link.

I saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine and knew I HAD to make them. These cookies are A-Mazing. Peanut butter cookies, with chocolate chips, bacon, and honey roasted peanuts in them... AND you sub bacon grease for a little of the butter. Everyone who tried them loved them. Just um... try not to feel too naughty eating one.

One fell apart when I put it on the cooling rack. I had to put it out of it's misery. :)

We also made some Ninjabread men this year. These cookies were so stealthy, once they left the pan they disappeared!

The cookie cutters can of course be found on Amazon, however you can also find them, as well as many, many other nifty gadgets, gifts and geeky loot at Thinkgeek. I love that site! <3

Be well!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fried Dill Pickles

Don't knock em if you haven't tried them... they're amazing with some buttermilk ranch! I'd suggest making the Hidden Valley Ranch from the powder packet with some mayo and buttermilk... it tastes much better than anything out of a salad dressing bottle!

Admittedly not the best picture I've taken, but I took it with my iphone, not my good camera. :p

Fried Pickles

1/2 cup buttermilk
salt and black pepper to taste
1 jar of Claussen Kosher Dill Slices (not sandwich slices, the round ones)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
1 quart oil for frying

**Important Note:
Do try to use Claussen Kosher Dill Slices. They are bigger, thicker, and sturdier and hold up to frying much better than cheap hamburger dills. They also have a much better flavor, as they are a better quality pickle.


Cover a plate with paper towels. In a shallow dish, combine buttermilk, salt, and pepper. Place pickles in mixture and set aside.

Pour the flour and cornmeal into a large, resealable plastic bag; shake to mix well. Place cornmeal mixture into another shallow dish. Add pickles coated in buttermilk a few at a time into the cornmeal mixture, pile more cornmeal mixture onto each one, and press down to stick as much cornmeal to the pickle slice as you can. Be sure to coat the edges too. Remove each slice and give each a gentle wiggle to remove any excess loose cornmeal mixture. Place each slice on a plate to rest - don't stack them or they'll stick together and pull the coating off each other. You may need 2 plates. Zllow to sit on the plate while you heat the oil, giving the breading a chance to stick a little better.

Heat oil to 365 degrees F (180 degrees C) in deep-fryer or heavy deep skillet.

Fry pickles in several small batches until golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside with a moist interior, 1 to 2 minutes. They will almost look like they are starting to puff up... this is the perfect time to remove them. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot with buttermilk ranch - I recommend getting one of the packets of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix and making it yourself with mayo and buttermilk... it tastes much better than anything out of a bottle.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tater Tot Hotdish!

Yes, finally... here it is... Tater Tot Hotdish!

I suppose technically it's two words: Hot Dish... however when used in general conversation (i.e. "Boy, you know what this hotdish could use? Ketchup!") it's generally spoken as one word.

What is a hotdish? Well, in most parts of the country it's known as a casserole, but in Minnesota in particular, casseroles are called hotdishes. There are many kinds of hotdish, but this one seems to be a family favorite.

There are even Hot Dish cookbooks. I saw this one at the bookstore the other day:

I haven't bought it. Yet.

Hotdish is typically eaten (at least in Minnesota) with ketchup, and if it's a special occasion you can also have a side of coleslaw, a dinner roll, some relish (a plate of sweet pickles and/or dill pickles), and a slice of pie. Mmm... pie... but as our friend AB would say, "that's another episode."

Tater Tot Hotdish


2lb ground beef
1 1lb package frozen mixed vegetables *see below*
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
salt and pepper to taste
12 slices of American cheese (you can skip this part, but why would you?)
1 2lb package of tater tots
seasoning salt


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Brown the hamburger in a skillet, and drain off the excess fat. Return the hamburger to the skillet and (with the heat off) stir in the bag of mixed veggies, 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, and salt and pepper to taste (this will require more salt than you would think given the soup has a lot of sodium, as the veggies and beef are both saltless). Place the mixture into a 9x13 glass casserole dish and spread into an even layer. Top with a layer of American cheese 3 slices across and 4 slices long (you will have to overlap them slightly, it's all good). Line up your tater tots on top all nice and pretty however you like. Sprinkle the tots with seasoning salt and pop the whole thing into the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the tater tots are sizzling and brown.

*Don't get fancy with the veggies. This is not a fancy recipe. Just use the normal mixed veggies, you know, the ones with peas, carrots, corn and green beans. If you don't like mixed veggies then just use green beans, but if I did that I'd probably use canned ones and drain them well. If you choose to go the canned green bean route, make sure you mix them in gently so you don't mash them, and be prepared to use much less salt for seasoning.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Layered Veggie Enchiladas

The other day I found a recipe on the Whole Foods website that looked like it had potential, but as I read through the ingredients list I noticed it lacked several things I deemed necessary... onion, garlic, cumin, jalapeno, and most notably... salt. I also noticed most of the comments said it was kind of bland, that people felt the need to drown it in salsa, and that the tortillas were very soggy. I also didn't really like the idea of topping a "Mexican" dish with mozzarella.

Needless to say, I overhauled the recipe... and it turned out great! I suggest you fry the corn tortillas to crisp them up before assembly, but if you don't mind them getting soggy then by all means, use them as-is. Another option is to brush them with a little oil and bake them until they crisp up, if you don't like the frying notion.

So here it is... my heavily adjusted and readjusted version of Whole Foods' "Layered Vegetable Enchiladas"

Layered Vegetable Enchiladas

Serves 4


1/4-1/2 lb chorizo
1 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped fine
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, excess liquid strained off
1 cup frozen bell pepper strips, thawed, excess liquid strained off
3 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 or 2 limes), divided, plus lime wedges for garnish
1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon salt-free chili powder, divided
1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin, divided
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
salt and pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas and oil to fry them in (oil is optional)
shredded Monterey Jack or Chihuahua cheese (Chihuahua is a mexican melting cheese, quite tasty)


Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large pot, brown the chorizo. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, and place in a bowl to combine with the beans. Add 1 Tbsp oil, onion, garlic, and jalapeno to the same pot you cooked the chorizo in (leave any chorizo oil in the pot for additional flavoring), and cook until onion is translucent. Add corn, bell peppers, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, tomatoes, spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium-high heat until liquid is almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash beans with the browned chorizo, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly fry each tortilla on each side in a small skillet with about 1/2 inch of oil, just until crisp. Drain on paper towels (alternatively you can brush them with oil and bake until crisp, or just use them straight out of the bag if you don't mind them a little soggy). Arrange four tortillas on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread bean mixture evenly on tortillas. Top each with about 1/2 cup (1/8 of the total amount) of the vegetable mixture and some cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, vegetables and cheese and bake until hot throughout and cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to plates, garnish with remaining cilantro and lime wedges and serve.

*Note: If you're making these for 1 or 2 people and want leftovers, divide the toppings accordingly, fry only the number of tortillas you need, and refrigerate the rest of the toppings in separate containers for another day. Fry the tortillas freshly each time you want to use the leftovers though, leftover fried tortillas get tough and chewy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crazy-Awesome Quinoa with Zucchini and Yellow Squash!

The real name of this recipe, that I stumbled upon when googling "zucchini quinoa," is "Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans, and Cumin."

To sum up how I feel about this recipe, let me quote my txt to Jon: "It's not often you'll hear me describe something with quinoa as crazy-awesome delicious... But omfg this is crazy-awesome delicious! I've had to go upstairs so I'll stop "tasting" it lol."

What is Quinoa? (Pronounced "KEEN-wa") It's a grain. It sort of has the same texture as cous-cous when cooked. The grains are very small, and it doesn't stick together quite as much as rice sometimes can. In order to get what is termed a "complete protein" like you usually get from eating meat, grains and legumes (beans) must be eaten together. Quinoa is the one grain which is a complete protein in and of itself. It's gluten-free, high in iron, easy to digest, and extremely versatile (you can even cook it like a breakfast cereal, add some cream and fruit and a little sugar or honey). Where can you buy it? Just about any grocery store, look for it near the specialty flours and dried bean soup mixes (our local store carries the "Bob's Red Mill" brand, which not only sells many different flours and grains and dried bean mixes, but also... quinoa!)

This recipe calls for rinsing the quinoa. This is only necessary if your package does not say it has been rinsed. Bob's Red Mill brand quinoa specifically states it has been rinsed and dried, so rinsing it again is unnecessary!

Don't skip the grilling part if you can help it. If you can't grill, a nice alternative would be to use your oven's broiler and a sheet pan covered in foil... just turn them as they start to char a little.

I let my garbanzos marinate for about 45 minutes while I made the rest of the dish, and let the whole thing sit out on the counter for about an hour while I waited for Jon to get home from work. It just got better and better!

Smoked Paprika is available in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. If not, try a store like Whole Foods or a local natural grocery.

Give this recipe a try... I'm hooked!

(Borrowed from bonappetit.com)

Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans, and Cumin

8 servings

Recipe by Jeanne Thiel Kelley and Martin Kelley


* 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 2 garlic cloves, peeled
* 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
* 1 teaspoon turmeric, divided
* 1 teaspoon smoked paprika,* divided
* 2 cups water
* 1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces),** rinsed well, drained
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini (I used a mixture of zucchini and small yellow squash), trimmed, quartered lengthwise
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 4 green onions, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

*Sometimes labeled Pimentón Dulce or Pimentón de La Vera Dulce; available at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from tienda.com.
**A grain with a flavor and texture similar to couscous; available at natural foods stores.


Combine garbanzo beans and lemon juice in large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons oil; press in garlic and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups water, quinoa, and coarse salt; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare barbecue (medium high heat). Place zucchini (and yellow squash, if using) on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Toss to coat evenly.
Place zucchini on grill; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Grill until tender and browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to work surface. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Add zucchini, green onions, and parsley, then garbanzo bean mixture to quinoa. Toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2008/08/quinoa_with_grilled_zucchini_garbanzo_beans_and_cumin#ixzz1ADGiwHdZ

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hello Again! And Brined Pork Chops!

I'm sorry for not having posted in so long, but the holidays were crazy busy, with lots of cooking and lots of tasty food! But I'm back, and new recipes are soon to follow!

To tide you over (and I'm sorry I've no pictures of this, but we ate them so fast, they were so awesome! I'll add them the next time I make it), I made the juciest, tenderest, most flavorful brined pork chops tonight!

A NOTE TO THOSE AFRAID OF EATING TOO MUCH SALT: Yes, there's a lot of salt in the brine, but it doesn't make the meat salty. Google osmosis and brining, and you'll find out the purpose of the salt. My understanding is that cells have a saline, or salt and water solution in them, and the liquid in the cells in the meat has a tendency to move toward areas of higher salt concentration... therefore when you put meat in a brine, the moisture leaves the meat until the meat is saltier than the brine is, but then the moisture that evacuated the meat decides, "hey, the cells in the meat are saltier than this brine!" and all the moisture goes back into the cells of the meat, carrying the flavor with it. If that makes any sense. Alton Brown describes it way better than I do. Anyway, without further ado:

Brined Pork Chops

(This recipe can easily be halved for only making 2 pork chops)

4 thick-cut, single or butterflied pork chops
1 Tbsp oil or bacon drippings

Brine Ingredients:
2c. of water + 2 chicken boullion cubes OR 2 cups chicken broth
1/4c. regular table salt
1/4c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2c. ice water

Bring the brine ingredients EXCEPT the ice water to a simmer on the stove and stir until solids are dissolved. Remove from heat and take the dogs out for their afternoon "walk" for a few minutes. Come back, and add the ice water to the brine, cooling it to room temperature. Place the pork chops into a gallon ziplock bag inside a glass dish in case it leaks. Pour the room temperature brine over the pork chops and close the bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Stash in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, but no longer than 2 hours. Retrieve your pork chops, give them a thorough rinse under cold running water, and pat them dry. Season the outsides with fresh cracked pepper (no salt is necessary!) and place in a hot skillet with the oil or bacon drippings. Cook pork chops on each side until an instant read thermometer reads between 130-135 degrees, for medium doneness. Remove the pork chops from heat and allow to rest on a plate, loosely covered with aluminum foil for about 5-10 minutes. Enjoy with some steamed veggies and rice or stuffing!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Mid-week Chuckle... I'm glad I didn't live in 1955!

A friend of mine at work photo copied this out of an old magazine, and not only did I get a good laugh out if it, but wow... look how far we've come! I'm so glad I didn't live in 1955!

My favorite quote: "Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours." LOL!