Chicken Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Squash

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What a wonderful Saturday so far. Much needed after my Friday. I can’t say Friday was horrible as I had a good tough workout in the morning and after work the Mr. and I had a great, relaxing dinner out together (even the pup got to join us!). My work day just didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to. All is well though…everything works out and happens for a reason. I just have to stay positive!

Anyhow, back to this morning. After being woken up way to early by the pup (or possibly I just couldn’t sleep), as usual, I made my 7am call to chat with my mom. Like my parents, I am an early riser so I always know when the rest of the world is still sleeping on a Saturday morning I can always call and catch up with my mom 🙂 While talking, she mentioned she wanted to do something before heading in to work today (it’s tax season so she is working 6-7 days a week…yuck!) and mentioned she might walk Greenlake. Hearing that, I quickly invited myself and the pup to join her 🙂 So, by 8:15 this morning we were both grabbing our Starbucks and heading out for a good walk around the lake! So nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air, catch up and get a little exercise in. Thanks mom!

Looking forward to the rest of the day. Right now, the Mr. is off playing in a golf tournament while I enjoy relaxing at home. Later this afternoon, we are planning to meet a group of friends at a new bar on Capitol Hill called Von Trapp’s. Afterwards, we are all heading to the Sounders game!

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While I have some downtime at home, I figured I should share this amazing dish I made last week. I absolutely loved it so I hope several of you will give it a try. I found the recipe in the March 2013 issue of Fitness Magazine. The flavors in this dish were awesome. Although it took a little time, it was well worth it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Have a great Saturday…I know I am looking forward to the rest of my day!

Chicken Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash (slightly adapted from Fitness Magazine – March 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium acorn squash (~1 pound each)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 links fresh chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 ounces mozzarella, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut squash in half horizontally and remove seeds; place cut side down in a baking dish filled with about 1 inch of water. Bake 45 minutes, or until a knife or fork easily pierces the squash. Meanwhile, bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and cover pot. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add sausage, cumin and salt. Sauté, breaking up meat with a spoon (5-10 minutes). Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook 4 minutes then stir in quinoa and a tablespoon or two of the shredded mozzarella.

Transfer squash halves to a dry baking dish, cut side up. Pack each with an even amount of filling and bake 20 minutes. Press shredded cheese into each half and bake 5 minutes more, or until cheese has melted.

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Enjoy!

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Walnut Tacos with Cashew “Sour Cream”

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At the Superbowl party we attended two weekends ago our friend made Walnut Tacos. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but man were they good. Trust me…you would never know you weren’t eating a real taco 🙂

Anyhow, for the family birthday party this past weekend, I was asked to bring an appetizer. Instantly, I knew I had to make these tacos myself and bring them to share with my family. At first I got a few odd looks but once they each took a bite they were all (well most) pleased and really liked them 🙂 I couldn’t make the tacos fast enough. Absolutely no leftovers. Highly recommend giving these a try if you are looking for an appetizer or a light dinner! Enjoy!

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Walnut Tacos with Cashew “Sour Cream” (from Shape)

Taco Ingredients:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Bibb Lettuce or Romain Hearts

Taco Directions:

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse just to mix. Don’t over-blend. To serve, put a few spoonfuls of the filling on lettuce leaves. Top with Cashew sour cream (recipe below) and your favorite salsa.

“Sour Cream” Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups cashews
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 5-8 teaspoons water

“Sour Cream” Directions:

Put all ingredients except water in a food processor and blend, adding water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken

This week has been absolutely exhausting! Thank goodness it is the weekend! I was good this week and followed through on all the planned meals. Guess as it was only three, it wasn’t hard 🙂 All three recipes were a big success. I absolutely LOVED the BBQ Chicken Chickpea Chopped Salad. It was so easy and so, so, so tasty. Even worked great for lunch the next day! This one is definitely a keeper to use again! Will share this one soon. Too good not too. The crock-pot jambalaya turned out amazing and was perfect for a Saturday night in. It made a ton and will work great for a day or two of lunches! The Mr. highly approved of this one!

On Thursday night I made the spaghetti squash boats with chicken and they turned out delicious. Both the Mr. and I enjoyed them. They did take a little longer than expected (wonder if my squash wasn’t quite ripe enough) but once we were able to eat them, the wait totally seemed worth it! Based on the ingredients I had, I did change the recipe up a little bit, but overall, I followed it fairly closely. Highly recommend trying this one out! Only changes I would make are: 1) add a little extra marinara sauce, 2) add fresh basil at the end, and 3) not forget to add garlic.

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Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken (adapted from Skinnytaste)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small/medium spaghetti squash
  • salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 1 chicken breast (boneless & skinless)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 3 artichoke hearts, canned & chopped
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • Garlic (fresh or powder)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about an hour to hour and a half. Meanwhile, boil chicken breast for approximately 15 minutes (or until cooked through). Once cooked, shred chicken and set aside.

Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and carefully “fluff” the spaghetti-like strands on each half with a fork, leaving the squash in the shell. Season with salt and pepper. Top each half with the artichoke hearts and ricotta, followed by the shredded chicken. Then spoon about 1/2 cup marinara (with added garlic) in each boat. Lastly, top each with cheese and place back into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is hot, 10-12 minutes.

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To go with our dinner I made a simple arugula salad. I used about 3 cups arugula (2 good handfuls), a cup of sliced cherry tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese (probably 1/8th of a cup) and 2 tablespoons or so of chopped pecans. I then added a teaspoon of good olive oil and topped it all by a tablespoon or so of balsamic glaze. Such a simple salad but super tasty!

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Hope you all have a great your weekend!

Enjoy!

Bean & Barley Soup

One of the meals I made during week one was a Bean and Barley Soup recipe I found in my Eating Well magazine. The picture in the magazine looked amazing and the title was healthy in a hurry. Instantly drew me in!

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Bean & Barley Soup (originally from Eating Well – slightly adapted)

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 15 oz cans white beans
2 14 oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cups barley
3-4 big handfuls baby spinach
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated or shredded)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, fennel seed and basil. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are just beginning to brown. About 8 minutes. Mash half of the beans in a bowl. Stir the mashed and whole beans, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender. About 40-45 minutes. Stir in cheese and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Changes: I added an extra can of beans and tomatoes, used regular diced tomatoes instead of fire-roasted, left out the fennel as I didn’t have any and forgot to buy it, added fennel seed, used regular barley instead of quick-cook as I couldn’t find it, used chicken broth instead of vegetable as that is what I had on hand 🙂

Despite changing the recipe, I think it was a total success. We had tons of leftovers which was great for lunch. I even froze some to save for later as there was so much!

Enjoy!

Starting 2013 Off Right: Black-Eyed Peas Benedict

Happy New Year! Hard to believe 2012 has come to an end. But man was it a good year! Of course the biggest thing was that the Mr. and I tied the knot. What a great day that was! 🙂 Can’t believe it has already been 7 months! Lets see, what else – we went to Greece for two weeks for our honeymoon, celebrated a couple of family weddings, met lots of friends new babies, went to New York and San Fran to see friends, saw Neil Diamond in concert (funny I know, but man, I love me some Neil :-)), took a glass blowing class, started this blog (after years of saying I would), golfed (the hubby did way more than me), tried lots of new restaurants, rented out my condo, celebrated the hubby’s 30th birthday, lots of dinners/events with friends, bought a new car…wait…I just keep dreaming we will do that (hahaha), got blinds on a few windows in the townhouse which was HUGE in my mind (we will finish in 2013)…and the list goes on 🙂

I am SO excited to see what 2013 has in store for us. I know we already have several trips to look forward to (Whistler at the end of January, Vegas in March, Hawaii in May, and possibly Chicago or Europe in September) but I can’t wait to see what else will happen!

For as long as I can remember, on New Year’s Day, my family always eats black-eyed  peas. My grandpa started this for the family and we have carried the tradition on! Apparently, in the Southern United States, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the new year. As a kid I remember HATING them. In order to get them down, my sister and I used to drench them in ketchup 🙂 Now I don’t mind it. In fact, I actually like black-eyed peas! In the past I have either just heated them up or made Cowboy Caviar (a salsa like dish) but this year I wanted to come up with something new. After searching on Pinterest (my go to recipe site) I came across a very interesting looking recipe. It was Black-Eyed Peas “Benedict”. After looking at the ingredients I knew I had to make it as I already had everything in the fridge and I sure do love a good Benedict dish!

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Black-Eyed Peas Benedict (slightly altered, originally from Paula Dean)

1 can (~15 oz.) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups ham, cooked and diced
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 14 oz jar roasted red peppers
4 eggs, poached or fried
4+ cups spinach

Directions: In a medium bowl, mash beans with a fork (or potato masher), adding ham, green onion and mustard. Add just enough flour to mixture to help bind it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shape mixture into 4-5 cakes approximately 4 inches or so in diameter. Melt butter and oil together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cakes and brown on both sides until crispy (6-8 minutes). Keep warm while poaching the eggs. For Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, drain peppers (I got mine from Trader Joes) and place in food processor or blender. Mix until peppers are a saucy consistency (should be slightly lumpy). Set aside.

For the eggs, I used a poaching pan: fill the pan with enough water to just touch the removable tray. Coat each egg cup with cooking spray. Crack an egg in each egg cup. Plan lid on pan and bring water to a boil. The steam and heat from the water will cook the eggs (takes approximately 3 minutes). While eggs are poaching, wilt spinach in a fry pan. I typically just throw it all in the pan and cover with a lid. Will probably cook down in 2 minutes or so.

To Assemble:  Place cooked spinach in the middle of a plate and spread out to a circle just larger than the black-eyed pea cake. Top with a few spoonful’s of the roasted red pepper sauce. Place warm black-eyed pea cake on top of the sauce circle and top with a hot poached egg.

(Per original instructions, here is the recommended directions if you don’t have a poaching pan: fill a 10” skillet with 3 inches of water. Add vinegar and bring to a low boil. Break eggs into the water (note: you can break the eggs into a cup first and slide into the water). Remove with a slotted spoon just when the whites are cooked through and yolks are still loose. Approximately 2-3 min.)

This recipe turned out amazing! At one point the hubby commented that my breakfast would sell for probably $15 in a restaurant 🙂 Isn’t he sweet?

Enjoy!

Eggnog Pudding Shots

Just typing out the title of this post makes me crave this wonderful and simple dessert that I want to share with you today! Seriously, it is so good and so easy. I got the idea after we went to a friends house on Halloween. Our friends made butterscotch and one other flavor (that I can’t remember) pudding shot and they were so good. Since then, I knew I wanted to come up with a version for Christmas 🙂

Although the holiday season is now over, if you have any eggnog you are trying to figure out how to use, I highly recommend giving these a try!

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Eggnog Pudding Shots

  • 3/4 Cups Eggnog (low fat works)
  • Vanilla Instant Pudding (one small box)
  • 1/2 Cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 8 Ounce Tub of Fat Free Cool Whip
  • Nutmeg

Combine eggnog and instant pudding using an electric mixer. Slowly add in both alcohols until fully mixed and smooth. Gently fold in Cool Whip until smooth (do not over mix). Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, top with dash of nutmeg.

On two occasions this holiday season I made this recipe. Both times they were a hit. Enjoy!

Crazy for Peppermint

Wow, how has Christmas already come and gone? Is it really already New Years Eve??? I am always so sad when the holidays are over. I just love all the decorations, the parties, the time spent with family, the gifts :-), etc. Time just seems to fly by and now it is time to pack up the decorations and take down the tree 😦

Thankfully this last weekend, we were able to have one last celebration. We did a mini Christmas with the hubby’s side of the family! On Christmas Eve/Day we celebrated with my family so this past weekend we had Christmas all over again.

On Friday night when the Mr.’s parents arrived the four of us went out to a cute Italian restaurant in the Roosevelt neightborhood called Marcello’s. It was delicious! Saturday morning I made breakfast (Sausage Breakfast Rolls – will share another time) and then we headed out to Woodinville for a little wine tasting! We only did two stops. We went to Apex (had a deal there) and Patterson’s Cellar.

On Saturday evening, the East Side Pieps (brother and sister-in-law) joined us for a big dinner, presents and games! Despite my pork roast taking twice as long to cook than expected, the dinner turned out delicious. We also played a few rounds of Things which is a really, really fun game for a group!

On Sunday we went out to a nice brunch after church at Louisa’s in the Eastlake Neighborhood. I had never heard of it, but will definitely go back one of these days! Wish I would have taken pictures. The food was awesome and the cafe was super cute! I ordered the Six Veggie Scramble…yummy!

Ok, back to my food related items…this year, thanks to my new kitchen aid mixer, I have really been into baking. Also, as the Mr. loves ice cream and we have an ice cream maker, I have been wanting to try out some ice cream recipes! For some odd reason this season, I have really been drawn to peppermint recipes. No idea why, probably just because it seems to fit with the holiday so well. Anyhow, there were two recipes I made this year that were absolutely amazing. The first was a Peppermint Pound Cake and the second was Peppermint Ice Cream! Enjoy!

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Peppermint Pound Cake and Peppermint Glaze (from NancyCreative)

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups), softened
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. In large bowl, blend sugar and softened butter. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Alternate adding flour and milk to mixture, blending well. Add peppermint and vanilla extracts, and stir until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 70-80 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and cool completely. While cake is cooling, make the glaze.

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons milk or half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3 crushed candy canes, for garnish

Mix first three ingredients together, blending well. Drizzle over cooled pound cake. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, and let glaze set.

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Sadly I don’t have any photos of the ice cream. But do trust me that it is awesome and easy. Definitely worth it if you have a ice cream maker!

Peppermint Ice Cream (from Your Homebased Mom)

  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 C half and half
  • 2 C whipping cream
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C crushed peppermint candy

Mix together milks. Add in sugar, salt, vanilla and peppermint. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into ice cream maker and add in crushed candy cane. Process in ice cream maker.

Happy 2013!