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Fresh and Tasty {A Veggie Recipe Round Up}

18 Mar

We had our first truly warm days of the year this weekend and it was wonderful! It was the kind of weather I wait for all winter – the kind of days where you get that first hint of truly warm weather that you can feel in your bones. I love it!

After a long winter full of cold days, huddling in our homes, and scarfing down more comfort foods than we should, I’m craving some fresh veggies … and I thought you might be, too. So, here’s a little round up of delicious, good-for-you, fresh foods made largely with vegetables.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries from Women’s Health.

sweet-potato-9

Farfalle with Watercress, Cherry Tomatoes, and Feta from Fitness Magazine.

farfalle

Roasted Chickpeas and Cucumber Salad from FitSugar.

cucumber-chick-pea

Zucchini “Pasta” from Whole Living.

zucchini-pasta

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Casserole from Eclectic Recipes.

squash-1

Feeling inspired to go make something fresh and healthy? I am! Hope you enjoy.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

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Here’s to Our Health [A Recipe Round Up]

18 Feb

I’ve been asked by numerous people to please not stop posting recipe round-ups. :) So I thought since I haven’t done one in a while, today would be the perfect day to do one – especially one that focuses on healthy food choices.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just crave HEALTHY FOOD. This usually happens in the dead of winter after I’ve eaten all the comfort food I can hold. It usually happens about the time the temps take a deep dive (like they did this weekend in our neck of the woods) making me despondent for Spring temps and fresh Spring foods. Well, maybe despondent is a little extreme :), but those of you who are not fans of the cold know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, I thought I would round us up a tasty selection of healthy foods we can enjoy without so much guilt while the chill is still in the air. Now, here’s my disclaimer. Everyone’s interpretation of healthy is different – these recipes fall into the category of “What Rachel Thinks Is Health(ier Than What She Usually Eats).” Some of you will think they are WAY too healthy for your taste buds. Others will think they don’t even come close to being healthy. But, either way – hopefully you might see something that interests you. :)

For breakfast, how about some Biggest Loser Oatmeal Pancakes. Add some fresh fruit and you’ve got a great start to your day!

biggest-loser-oatmeal-pancakes

This next recipe could serve as a snack, appetizer or side dish that would be great served along side a sandwich. These Oven Baked Zucchini Chips from The Nutrition Twins look yummy and so easy to make.

zucchinichips

I’m a pasta lover, so no round up (even a healthy one) is complete without a pasta dish. This Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta and Vegetables from Fitness Magazine looks scrumptious.

fat-fighting-pasta

I’m also a big fan of rice and beans. They are very filling and usually quite healthy for you. This Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole from Food and Whine would make a fast, fresh side dish or could be a great entree for a Meatless Monday meal.

rice-and-beans

We gotta have some sweets in here, so how about this Strawberry Jam Crumb Cake from Cooking Light? At 250 calories per slice, it’s not a bad alternative to some of the heavier dessert options I’m known to love.

crumb-cake-ck-1185378-x

Now I’m hungry. I need to go downstairs and see if there’s anything healthy to eat. :)

Blessings!
♥Rachel

Super Bowl Munchies: A Recipe Roundup

31 Jan

I’m not a big pro football fan, but I’m intrigued by this year’s Super Bowl knowing that the head coaches for both teams are brothers. That should make for an interesting game! And the commercials are usually fun. I always like the Budweiser Clydesdales because the horses are so majestic and one of my all-time favorites is Volkswagen’s The Force spot from a couple of years ago:

{If you are reading this in email,
you may need to click over to the blog to watch the video.}


All right, how about some Super Bowl party recipes?

First up is this Pull-Apart Party Loaf by Land O Lakes. Wow. In addition to the recipe, they also have step-by-step instructions with photos (I don’t know about you, but I need photos when I cook).

pull-apart-loaf

For the patient soul, here’s an adorable Fruit Football Helmet from the National Watermelon Promotion Board (who knew there was such a thing??). I’m not patient enough to cut the helmet out of a watermelon, but I could definitely chow down on that fruit.

FootballHelmet

No football party is complete without nachos and these Chicken and Black Bean Nachos from Women’s Health would satisfy any tummy.

043641_ChxBeanNachos

ChefMom.com says kids will love these Sideline Beef Sliders, but I’m thinking this big kid would love them, too. :)

superbowl-sliders-for-kids

Blessings,
♥Rachel

Weekend Kitchen Adventures + A Cookie Recipe

21 Jan

Historically, I’ve not had many opportunities to say “this was a really good weekend for me in the kitchen.” But this was a really good weekend for me in the kitchen. {grin}

After ten years of marriage, I finally mastered the art of cooking green beans the way my husband likes them. There’s a bit of skill involved in cooking them the country way – the way his grandmother and mother have always made them. He likes them very soft, with at least a hint (or two or three) of bacon grease in them. And, I have to admit, they taste pretty good that way. (But, Savvy Sister, if you’re reading this, I also like them roasted with just a splash of olive oil on them! {grin})

Ya’ll. I have tortured some green beans in the past. I have over salted these things, I have burned them so that they stuck to the bottom of the pan, I have cooked them so long they came out tasting like water, but not at all like green beans or even bacon grease for that matter, I have basically stunk at this one little thing. Until now.

I do believe the Lord blessed me this weekend with a vision of how cook them. {grin} I cooked them exactly that way and, unsolicited, Barry said, “the green beans are good.” And then I tasted them and thought: Hallelujah!! I conquered the green beans! Some day, maybe I’ll tell you my technique, but I’m sure most of you have already perfected this age-old method of cooking vegetables until they don’t taste like vegetables. :)

In addition to the raging success with the green beans (ha!), I made a cake for my boss’ birthday today and it turned out great! It was a hummingbird cake, which I love to eat, but had never made before. I’m happy to say it turned out quite nicely. Happy Birthday, Andrea!! You have blessed my life in so many ways and I am grateful for you, your compassionate heart, and your desire to help those around you excel.

no-bake-cookies

Once I started smelling victory in the kitchen, I had to keep going. So I made some of my stepdaughter’s favorite cookies: No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. They’re so easy to make, and I’ve made them before, but they often turn out a little too dry or don’t set up as firmly as they should, so I’ve tinkered with the original recipe a bit and I think I landed on success because these were just right!

Here’s the recipe for the No Bake cookies. They are great for an after school snack or after dinner treat because they are quick and easy to make. It’s a great recipe for the kids or grandkids to help make, too.

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 generous tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal (if you don’t use nuts, below, you may want to add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oatmeal)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Boil sugar, butter, cocoa and milk for at least two minutes, but no longer than three. Remove from heat and add peanut butter stirring until mostly incorporated. Then add the vanilla, oatmeal and nuts and stir well.

Let cool in pan for one to two minutes, but no longer or it will thicken too much.

Drop by spoonful on parchment paper to cool.

We love to eat them with a spoon once they’ve cooled enough to put them in your mouth without scorching your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Don’t you hate it when you do that?? The pain lasts for days as a nagging reminder that you couldn’t wait just a few more minutes for something to cool. It’s a cruel lesson in patience. :)

Blessings!
♥Rachel

I Conquered a Fear + A Chocolate Pie Recipe

2 Jan

I’ve been afraid of something for years. It’s an irrational fear, I know that. Yet, my fear had me frozen and convinced I could not do this. What is it, you ask? What is this thing that’s held me back from fulfilling my destiny?

This.

pie-crust

Pie crust.

Or more specifically, making a pie crust from scratch has been my fear.

As 2012 wound to a close, I was determined to conquer this fear, so I made my mother-in-law’s chocolate meringue pie. Barry loves this pie, but the only time he gets it is when she makes it. So I decided to take a crack at it and see how it would turn out.

You know what?

It turned out fine. Well, it’s not the most beautiful pie crust ever, but it’s not a bad first effort!

My fear was all for nothing. I’m not sure what I was afraid of. That I wouldn’t be able to do it? That it would turn out horribly? That it would be way to difficult and take too much time? None of those things came true. So, I guess that statement that what we fear is usually worse in our minds than in reality is true. It was just a pie crust and I conquered it!

I finished making the whole pie, which involved cooking the chocolate filling from scratch, too, and it also turned out fine. It wouldn’t win any awards in a competition, but it was edible and I’m fine with that. I wasn’t going for perfection here! :)

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Pie Crust (adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Basic Pie Dough)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs very cold water

Using a stand mixer, fit the mixer with the flat beater, and stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the four mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles course cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or one 10-inch galette.

Place the dough in a pie pan and press gently into the pan. Trim the edges and use your fingers to make a nice little border. I attempted this and ended up with some kind of abstract design that didn’t resemble a lovely pie crust – but, hey, it still tasted fine.

Bake in a 450° oven for 13-15 minutes, watching to make sure the edges do not burn. The crust should be nice and golden brown when done.

pie-filling

Chocolate Filling and Meringue Topping(from Pat Turner)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

Combine 1 cup sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a heavy saucepan; mix well. Combine milk and egg yolks; beat with a wire whisk 1 to 2 minutes or until mixed well. Gradually stir into sugar mixture, mixing well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla, stirring well. Pour into pastry shell; set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed of an electric mixer 1 minute. Gradually add 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes). Spread meringue over hot filling, sealing to edge of pastry. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

And the finished product!

pie-meringue

This is a very silly example of something I refused to attempt for years for fear I couldn’t do it. Is there something you are afraid of that you could conquer today or this week? Why not just go for it! It’s a new year and it might just be THE year for you to overcome a big or little fear that is standing in your way.

Blessings!
Rachel

Christmas Scripture Reading – Day 4 + Crazy Easy Lemon Cake/Bars

4 Dec

Day 4 of our 25-Day Christmas Scripture Reading Plan and we are cruising now! How are you doing with it? Good, I hope. I’m really enjoying this step back as we read about the birth and life of Jesus.

christmas-berries

Here are links to Days 1 – 4 so you can follow along if you are just starting. The links will take you over to the passages on BibleGateway.com.

Today’s reading is incredibly relevant for many of us, I think. The disciples had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. We all want to be the greatest, don’t we? The greatest mom. The greatest wife. The greatest salesperson, business owner, dancer, cook, teacher, pastor, and on and on it could go. But Jesus said:

Whoever wants to be first must take last place
and be the servant of everyone else.

And there you have it. If we want to truly be first, we have to place others ahead of us and serve them, not expect them to serve us. This Christmas season, let’s look for ways we can serve others. I challenge you today to find ONE way you can serve someone and then DO IT. The easiest person to start with is your spouse, but there are numerous people in your life you could serve in big or little ways.

  • Bring your husband a cup of coffee before he gets out of bed.
  • Warm up your wife’s car before she leaves for work.
  • Fix breakfast for your son or daughter (if you don’t normally do this).
  • Bring breakfast or their favorite Starbucks drinks to your employees.
  • Watch the kids for an hour after work so your wife (or husband if he stays home with the littles) can have some time alone.
  • Listen to a friend who needs to talk, even if you are incredibly busy and don’t feel you have the time. (Remember, sacrifice = service).
  • Even something as simple as holding the door open for someone is an act of courtesy and service.

This list could be endless and I know there are tons of great ways we can all serve those around us every day. So let’s get to it!

Secondly, if you are in need of a simple (I mean SERIOUSLY simple) and fast dessert recipe, this is it. It’s a Pinterest find. (You can follow me on Pinterest here, if you like.) I’ve seen this recipe all over Pinterest, including several different varieties of it.

lemon-bar

This version uses lemon pie filling. Some of the other varieties I’ve seen use blueberry pie filling, cherry pie filling, apple pie filling, and pumpkin pie filling.

Crazy Easy Lemon Cake/Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 Angel Food Cake Mix
  • 1 Can of Lemon Pie Filling

That’s All. No kidding. :)

Mix the cake mix and the pie filling together by hand until all the cake mix is incorporated, pour into a greased 9×13 cake pan and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown on top. Cut into pieces/bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like.

Easy as pie! Or cake, I guess. :)

It’s not fancy, it’s not super pretty, but it’s fast, easy, and it tastes really good. I like that it’s not overly sweet tasting. It’s texture is heavier than angel food cake, but not quite like a true lemon bar. It’s kind of spongey. I was skeptical as to how it would turn out so I was pleasantly surprised. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on it or a dollap of whipped cream and you have a fast, easy refreshing dessert.

Enjoy!
Rachel

Thanksgiving Favorites – Sweet Potato Casseroles {A Recipe Round Up}

16 Nov

I can’t say that sweet potato casserole is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving food because I love almost ALL Thanksgiving goods, but it’s pretty close to the top. I’m a Southern girl and do not believe a sweet potato casserole is truly a sweet potato casserole if it has marshmallows on top. It must have pecans and brown sugar on top. :)

Although . . . this joint venture of marshmallows and pecan topping AND cornflakes from Women Living Well might be able to convert me. This looks wonderful! I wonder if democrats and republicans could get along as nicely as these toppings are on this sweet potato casserole??

FitSugar gives us a healthified version of this beloved Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole and uses fresh sweet potatoes. Do you use fresh or canned sweet potatoes in your casserole? I love both, but fresh just tastes, well, fresher. :)

I thought this was an interesting take on the traditional mashed sweet potatoes we find in our casseroles. The Runaway Spoon created a Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel. I really like the way this looks.

For my vegan and gluten-challenged friends, here’s Green Plate Rule’s Vegan and Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole. It uses coconut butter – yum! – almond milk, and gluten-free flour and I think it looks wonderful!

Just so you guys don’t think I’m prejudiced or close-minded, here’s one with just straight marshmallow topping. :) I know we’re all different and everyone has their preference – especially when it comes to such important things as sweet potato casserole toppings! This  one is from Pennies on a Platter.

And The Girl Who Ate Everything wins the prize for most adorable presentation. Are these individual Ruth’s Chris Style Sweet Potatoes the cutest things??

And that, my friends, is our sweet potato casserole recipe round up for Thanksgiving. Anyone hungry yet??

Have a great weekend!
Rachel