Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe Swap : Thanksgiving Desserts

Yum. Yum. Yum.  If I had to rank it, my favorite parts of Thanksgiving are as follows:
  1. Homemade Stuffing
  2. Being able to eat as many Mashed Potatoes as I want.
  4. Day-drinking wine

I am not a huge sweets person, but one way or another, my hidden sweet tooth comes out to play on Turkey Day.  I was thrilled when I got Jaida from Sweet Beginnings, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares.  I have really gotten into Pumpkin this year, as did FI.  I actually get excited when I see the canned pumpkin on sale at the grocery store...true story.

Thank you, Jaida for an awesome recipe!  They were so moist in the middle, almost like a cupcake, but still had that "cookie bar" feel.  I've tried a good amount of pumpkin recipes this season (including Pumpkin Pancakes...FAIL), and this by far was one of my favorites!  The entire pan was gone in 2 days...there are only 2 of us...what does that tell you!

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Squares
Source:  Jaida @ Sweet Beginnings



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
  4. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Spice No-Bake Cheesecake

I am not a huge pie/cake dessert person at all really...never have been.  I'm the girl who who would just have the "a la mode" with a large amount of coolwhip on it and skip the pie.  So when I came across this recipe from Skinnytaste, I was ecstatic!  Such a tasty fall treat that is so light and fluffy, it doesn't leave you with that full feeling after eating a piece...or 3. It was around the end of October that I first tried it and I've already made this 3 times....some may call it an obsession.

Pumpkin Spice No-Bake Cheesecake
from Skinnytaste

  • 7 oz 1/3 less fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 8 oz Cool Whip Free, thawed
  • 9 inch reduced fat Graham Cracker Crust

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar for a few minutes until fluffy. Add Cool Whip and whip until smooth. Spoon mixture into pie crust and chill for a few hours, until firm.

A few things I've noticed from making this obsessively the last month or so is that it really helps to bake the cracker crust for a few minutes until brown and letting cool before spooning the mixture in.  This really helps the crust from being so prone to crumble into a million pieces, which will happen-I promise.  Also, the cheesecake never really gets that "firm" mold, but stays together quite well!  I've noticed that it needs a good 6 hours to refrigerate to be best.

Sidenote: I've followed the recipe as is, made it once with fat free cream cheese and cool whip and once with regular fat for both.  Honestly, I can't tell a difference in any, and either can anybody else eating it!  The full fat ingredients did make the mixture a bit firmer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nestie Recipes Swap : One pot meal

LOVED this one!  I have really gotten into this cooking thing and I've learned very quickly that the kitchen has the ability to go from spotless to a train wreck in the matter of seconds...literally.  I've started a love affair with my crockpot for this reason.  When I got Mel's Lentil, Kielbasa and Garlic Stew for the recipe swap, I thought  "one pot AND done in under an hour?! Perfect!" 

With a few little changes, I made this awesome stew and everybody LOVED it! (yes everybody because I realized that at the end of the recipe is says "serves 10", so I had some family over!)  It was so flavorful, so filling and had everybody going back for seconds! I didn't really have any experience with lentils, so I was a little nervous, but everything went great! The lentils almost gave it the texture of a meat sauce and I will def be making this again!

Lentil, Kielbasa & Garlic Stew

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds turkey kielbasa, cut into bite size chunks (I ended up using chicken because I couldn't find turkey!)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, cut into small chunks
4 medium stalks celery, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups water
2 cans (14 oz) chicken broth (or homemade)
2 cans (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1 1/2 bags (16 oz) lentils, picked over and rinsed

Heat oil in a large pot, then add kielbasa (divide if necessary).  Cook until brown, then then transfer to plate.
Add onion, celery and carrots to pot and cook until golden.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add water, broth, tomatoes and lentils to pot and bring to boil.  Reduce to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Stir in kielbasa and heat through.  Serve.
Serves 10.

Thanks Mel for an awesome, flavorful recipe!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Almost" Boston Market Creamed Spinach

My love/hate relationship with Boston Market



Oh Boston Market....your macaroni and cheese and creamed spinach used to be my favorite.



I'd skip ordering a sandwich or type of meat and just order a large side of each of you....and polish them both off in minutes.



I then started bringing you to family Thanksgiving because I loved you that much.



My metabolizim then slowed...out of nowhere...and I learned that I could no longer eat an entire half pan of you in one sitting.



At age 23, when I could no longer eat WHATEVER I wanted whenever I wanted, my love affair with Boston Market ended.  Sad sad day.



...I then discovered this recipe and realized that I could sub skim milk for the half and half and use I can't believe its not butter and create a much lower version of the 23g of fat goodness per serving I was shoving into my belly prior.


White Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter (I used the olive oil I can't believe it's not butter and it worked fine)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt(I use seasoned salt)
  • 1 cup half-and-half or 1 cup milk ( I used skim)


  • 1/2 cup sour cream ( I used fat free and it worked just fine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 -4 tablespoons onions, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 20 ounces frozen spinach, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese(optional)


  1. In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat until sizzling.
  2. If you are adding in the fresh garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper then saute in butter for about 2 minutes but do not brown the garlic.
  3. Whisk in the flour and 1/2 tsp seasoned salt (or white salt) until creamed together and smooth.
  4. Stir in the half and half, or milk (if using) a little at a time.
  5. Increase heat to medium and constantly whisk until the mixture becomes thick and smooth.
  6. Remove from heat; set aside.
  7. Place 2 tbsp butter in saucepan over med heat; add the 2 tbsp minced onion, and cook until transparent.
  8. Add spinach and water to pan, lower the heat, and cover.
  9. Stirring several times until the spinach is cooked.
  10. When the spinach is almost done, add the prepared white sauce, sour cream and Parmesan cheese (if using).
  11. Stir well, and simmer until completely blended.
  12. Season with more seasoned salt or white salt if desired and black pepper.

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Chili

I have a slight obsession with Gina's Skinnytaste blog...slight.  Everything I have made from there has been AMAZING!  She give such good tips and won't put anything on her blog that isn't perfect.  J's parents bought me a programmable crockpot for my birthday last month and what a better way to enjoy it than with chili!  And chili with PUMPKIN in it at that!  Don't be scared away from this recipe if you think you don't like pumpkin because you really can't taste gives it such an amazing flavor and I have nothing but good things to say about it!

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Chili
adapted from Skinnytaste


  • cooking spray
  • 2 lb 99% lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 (15 oz cans) of white northern or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 4.5 oz canned chopped green chile
  • 2 cups low sodium, fat free chicken broth
  • fat free sour cream for topping (optional)
  • chopped cilantro and chives for topping (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large heavy saute pan over high heat and lightly spray with oil. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5 minutes.  Add to crock pot.

Add oil to the saute pan, then onions, garlic, sauté about 3 - 4 minutes; add cumin and sauté another minute.

Remove bay leaves and adjust seasoning to taste before serving. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recipe Swap : Apple/Pumpkin

Let's start this off by saying that I was a little worried by my recipe!  I got Apple Croissant Bread Pudding from Life and Kitchen...sounds super good, but WTF is it?!

Being new to this cooking thing and not much of a sweets person, I had not a clue what Bread Pudding was...not one.  It didn't sound like I was going to like it, let alone be able to pull it off when I read the one line in the blog post :

"Whoever said that bread pudding is difficult to make is crazy.  It was pretty easy!"

At that point, I definitely thought uh oh...this is going to fail!  But I was pleasantly surprised!  Not only did I LOVE it, I successfully made it and correctly!  The different textures and flavors really made the dish and I will definitely be making this again!  We halved the recipe since it is just the two of us and it worked out perfectly!

Thanks Life and Kitchen for creating this awesome dessert!

Apple Croissant Bread Pudding
adapted from : Life and Kitchen 


3 extra-large whole eggs
5 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 stale croissants (just cut them in half and let them sit out overnight)
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 cup raisins  (I omitted-I LOVE grapes but cannot do raisins!)
A dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
Caramel sauce for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla. Set the mixture aside. Separate the tops and bottoms of the croissants and rip them up into bite-sized pieces.  In a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish, distribute the bottoms of the sliced croissants, then add the apples and raisins and sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Then cover with the tops of the croissants (brown side up), being sure the raisins are between the layers of croissants or they will burn while baking. Pour the custard over the croissants and allow to soak for 10 minutes, pressing down gently.
Place the pan in a larger one filled with 1-inch of hot water. Cover with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes or until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with caramel drizzled on top

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

I got a fancy crock pot for my birthday, so what a better way to christen it than with this lovely dish from Gina @ Skinnytaste...I love her recipes because she includes all of the WW points and nutritional info and I am yet to have a recipe yet that I haven't loved.  YUM!

I also got a fancy camera for that same birthday so hooray for upgraded pictures!!

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken
from : Skinnytaste

What you'll need
  • 24 oz (1 1/2) lbs thawed chicken breast
  • 14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 15 oz can black beans (drained)
  • 8 oz frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14.4 oz can fat free chicken broth
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • salt to taste


Combine chicken broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt in crock pot. Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top.

Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning. Serve over rice and top with fat free cheddar cheese.