Baby Sheep Cookies

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My fellow blogger friend from Taste of Home Cooking is expecting a baby girl in a few short weeks!

I wanted to send them a gift card to Target, but doing only that seemed impersonal since we are both food bloggers. Looking for any excuse to bake, I decided to make her some cookies! As I was looking through my cookie cutters, I found a sheep one, and thought aww, baby sheep.

Then, the icing ideas started flowing. I ended up making a good bit, but I was picky and wanted to make sure they got the prettiest ones. My husband was anxiously awaiting the rejects, since he kept smelling almond extract throughout the day!

I made these using the recipes for cookies and royal icing from Cookie Craft. I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s so great for ideas and how-to’s. Even Bakerella recommends it! I’m not a pro, but I’m getting better with my cookie skills.

I think the mom-to-be was really surprised! Congrats! :)

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My Vow to Cleaning

I’m sure many people can relate to me when I say that cleaning the house is very difficult to upkeep and just plain tedious. I mean, I’ll spend a good half day of my weekend to make sure the house is spotless, only to find myself doing the same thing all over again the next weekend! I want my weekends back!

After reading this article about housekeeping, it seems that people CAN keep their homes clean when they work on it a little everyday, consciously preventing the mess from happening all over again. This isn’t a deep cleaning, but more of a way to keep things organized in your home and prevent clutter. Deep cleaning still would need to happen, but it won’t take up 1/2 of my day!

So, here is my vow to my home until the end of the year. I will spend 15 minutes everyday cleaning you, other than doing the daily things like dishes and laundry. I will also share with you every week what I did!

15 minutes is nothing. It’s a quarter of an hour, in a day when I come home from work and have 7 hours to spend on doing other things. Now that I type that..7 hours….wow, I feel lazy! Where does that time go?

So, it’s time to put on the iPod, jam to 4-5 songs and spend that time CLEANING! It’ll be over before you know it!

15 minutes cleaning ideas

  • Steam clean the kitchen floor with the Shark Mop.   I can’t tell you how much my kitchen floor gets grimy from my messing cooking and baking. It gets on my dang nerves!
  • Throw away junk mail and organize bills.   I usually do this once a month and it proves to be a pretty daunting task. Once a week would be MUCH easier and would allow me to have our kitchen island back!
  • Clean out the pantry and organize food to giveaway to a food bank.   This is especially great since the holidays are coming up, and I know we won’t be needing all of that Chef Boyardee since no hurricanes hit this year! Whew!
  • Clean the bathroom countertop.   Blech…all that make-up residue and hair around the sink? Clean it up with a Clorox wipe and put everything back in their drawers!
  • Weed the garden.   If I did this once/week, I know would only take me fifteen minutes. Pesky weeds!
  • Clean the bedroom floor.  I can’t tell you how much stuff I just throw on the side of my bed. Magazines, dirty socks, coupons…ugh!
  • Switch out the bed sheets!   I think I’m supposed to do this once/week or something like that. I don’t want to imagine the dust mite colony that we sleep in. I only change the sheets every 2-3 weeks!

Does anyone want to take this cleaning vow with me? C’mon, you know you hate it when your weekend is taken up by Clorox and the broom!

 

Pumpkin Bread

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I can’t believe this pumpkin shortage. I mean, who would have thought that store shelves would be empty where this stuff is usually stocked? In fact, around this time, most groceries have special holiday baking sections with rows and rows of pumpkin. None to be found. It’s SO weird!

However, as a woman with a craving, I went on a mission to find this rare canned pumpkin. Five stores later, I found myself in a grocery store in a pretty bad part of town. (I went during the day, if you are wondering how wild I am.) I walked down the baking aisle in crazy anticipation. There they were – two large cans of pumpkin puree. I grabbed them quicker than a kid grabs the bubble gum off the candy aisle.

I was so excited when I got home, but I knew I have 58 precious ounces of pumpkin puree. I need to ration this wisely, just in case I can’t find any for the beloved Thanksgiving pie. (You never know!) I couldn’t help but make myself pumpkin bread. It’s a Fall breakfast staple for me!

I’ve seen this recipe from Allrecipes around many food blogs, and people rave about it, so I decided this would be the lucky recipe. It turned out to be a really good pumpkin bread, however, it wasn’t very spicy. I prefer spicy pumpkin bread, like this one I made last year.

Of course, I did my favorite applesauce for butter/oil substitution and it didn’t disappoint. I also halved the recipe  since I don’t need 2 loaves at one time.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread (full recipe)
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (sub applesauce)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (When I halved the recipe, I used one large loaf pan.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes (took mine 60 minutes) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The Skinny - per serving, Serves 24 (in full recipe)
Calories 187.6
Fat 1.1 g
Fiber 1.3 g

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken

generaltso

My husband’s favorite chinese dish is General Tso’s chicken. Unfortunately, the restaurant near our house makes the most unhealthy version possibly available, so it’s an indulgence for him to have it. A few months ago, however, I starred a recipe from Proceed with Caution, but like every recipe I star, I forget about it rather quickly.

I have been in a chicken slump, looking for new ideas, so I went through my starred entries, and I was so glad to find this recipe all over again. I decided to make it last night, and wow! This was very flavorful and good. It’s not exactly the General Tso’s chicken that I’ve tasted, but it’s still good!

I also made some “fried” rice with this to add more veggies to the meal, rather than just plain rice. This fried rice is really simple to make, and I used less sodium soy sauce to flavor the dish.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken
Source: Proceed with Caution, originally from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
Directions:  
  1. Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
  4. Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.
The Skinny - per serving, Serves 4
Calories 179.6
Fat 7.1 g
Fiber 1.2 g  

Fried Rice
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups enriched white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup chopped baby carrots (used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • soy sauce to taste  (I used 1/2 cup, less sodium)
  • sesame oil, to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine rice and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, boil carrots in water about 3 to 5 minutes. Drop peas into boiling water, and drain.
  3. Heat wok over high heat. Pour in oil, then stir in carrots and peas; cook about 30 seconds. Crack in eggs, stirring quickly to scramble eggs with vegetables. Stir in cooked rice. Shake in soy sauce, and toss rice to coat. Drizzle with sesame oil, and toss again.

The Skinny – per serving, Serves 8
Calories – 170.9
Fat – 4.9 g
Fiber – 1.1 g

Note: You can add more vegetables to your rice, which is what I did, to fill your plate more!

Banana Bread

banana bread1

I always make sure to have some fruit options at home. This past week, I realized that I overlooked a small bunch of bananas which were ripening quickly, so I knew it was time to make some banana bread. The last time I made banana bread, I wasn’t very impressed, so I tried another recipe. This one was much better!

Banana Bread
adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 12

Calories: 184.5
Fat: 1.3 g
Fiber: 1.7 g

banana bread

Spaghetti and (Turkey) Meatballs

spaghetti

I love meatballs and spaghetti. It’s one of my childhood favorites, but it’s not a regular on the dinner menu since I’m a huge pasta lover and it’s not exactly diet friendly. I was thawing ground turkey with absolutely NO idea on what to make. I wasn’t in the mood for burgers or tacos, so my husband brought up meatballs and spaghetti. Since he’s not much of a pasta fan, this was a surprise to me, but man, hearing that brought on a huge craving. I had to make it!

I’m all about shortcuts on a weeknight, so I bought canned marinara. I mixed Classico’s Cabernet Marinara with Target brand’s Three Cheese and just spiced it from there.  For the pasta, we used Ronzoni’s Smart Taste pasta.

As far as meatballs go, here is my recipe, which is a definite winner…even my husband loved them! I adapted it from a recipe I found on Aimee’s Adventures, which is a W/W friendly recipe website, and it came out wonderful!

Turkey Meatballs
adapted from Aimee’s Adventures

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Form into appx. 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fully cooked.

The Skinny - per meatball, Makes 22-24 meatballs (calculated at 22 meatballs)

Calories: 50.2
Fat:  2.6 g
Fiber: 0.1 g

Smothered Chicken with Rice

chickenrice

This is one of those dishes that is a simple, weeknight hit in our house. I’ve already blogged about it here and here (post with a recipe), but I figured another time shouldn’t hurt.

This is a great W/W dish to cook up in your home, so definitely give this one a try!

Chicken Pasta in Garlic Wine Sauce

chickenpasta

I’m always looking for new, healthy options to cook for dinner. I came upon this recipe from Cooking Light, and got really excited because my husband and I are huge garlic nuts!

I will say that this recipe was fairly good and very easy (great weeknight meal to make), but the sauce definitely needs more spices than what is mentioned in the recipe. However, I’m from Louisiana, so take that with a grain of salt if you aren’t used to spice, but I had to sprinkle some serious Tony Chachere’s on this. I probably will make this again with heavy adaptations, since it’s a good, healthy base sauce for pasta.

Chicken Pasta in Garlic Wine Sauce
Source: Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 4  ounces  uncooked medium egg noodles
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper, divided
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 1  tablespoon  bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2  teaspoon  dried tarragon (you can use any dried herb, like basil or parsley as well)
  • 1  (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
  • 1/2  cup  dry white wine
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4  cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place chicken breast halves in a shallow dish. Combine 1 tablespoon flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, stirring well with a whisk. Sprinkle flour mixture over chicken; toss to coat.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add garlic, tarragon, and mushrooms to pan; sauté for 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms darken. Add white wine to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently.
  4. Return chicken to the pan. Cover and simmer 2 minutes. Uncover; cook 1 minute or until chicken is done. Stir in noodles; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Place about 1 1/2 cups chicken mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

The Skinny - per serving, Serves 4

Note: I loaded up on more mushrooms than chicken to make my meal stretch further calorie wise. That is not reflected, however, in the nutritional facts. 

Mushrooms are 15 calories/cup and barely any fat, so load up if you want! :)

Calories: 350
Fat: 11.1 g
Fiber: 1.2 g 

Pita Pizza

pizza

I really hate to get rid of leftovers, and after the Chicken Gyros, we had a few pita breads leftover. I figured the bread would make a great crust for single pizzas, so we did that for lunch one day.

All you need to do is layer pizza sauce (found at the grocery), mozzarella cheese and pepperoni (or any fully cooked toppings you prefer). Then, bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Like I said, super easy and pretty darn yummy. I love finding new leftover ideas! :)

DIY Fall Wreath

Since it’s now September, I decided to venture off to Michael’s and get inspired for the Fall season.

I didn’t really have a plan, but when I saw plain vine wreaths, I immediately thought that I needed to make a wreath for our door.

This is my first time ever making a wreath, but I saw a bunch of inspiration in the floral section, where they were charging $50 plus for a wreath! Eep…that’s a little pricey, especially in hindsight, knowing how much I spent on supplies! (see receipt below)

wreath4

Supplies you will need:

  • 2 bunches of fall flowers
  • 2 bunches of fall leaves
  • hot glue gun (I prefer low temp)
  • hot glue sticks
  • vine wreath
  • scissors
  • 1.5 in. ribbon (2 yds.)

When it comes to buying supplies, I find that cheaper fake flowers/leaves are best. They will get rained on and are seen from a distance, so there is NO need to splurge here! Each bunch for me was on sale for $1.79.

What you first need to do is separate all flowers and leaves from the bunch that they are in, using scissors, leaving a little bit of stem space for you to glue with.
wreath1

Then, just start placing leaves and flowers on the wreath until you find a pattern that you like. The great thing about vine wreaths is they have little openings for the stems to fit in perfectly, making arranging super easy.
wreath2

Once you figure it out, start hot gluing the stems to the wreath, making sure that they are securely glued. Go all the way around the wreath, leaving a small opening wherever on the wreath you would like for a bow to be placed.

wreath3

Now, take your ribbon and make a wreath bow. Once it’s finished, hot glue it in the gap.

Ok, ok. Here’s a good YouTube video on how to make bows. :)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70gvnlixO04]

When you’re done, let it set for a few minutes. Then, hang on your door and allow your neighbors to get jealous of those wreath skills!

wreath5

Pardon our door. We are in the process of painting our house hehe!