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Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

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Anyone following all of this crazy zombie apocalypse ‘news’ popping up?? There’s some seriously wacky stuff going on out there.  I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that this is always how it begins…a few random incidents which are brushed off as isolated events with some logical cause. The public is urged not to panic and then all h.e.double hockey sticks breaks loose. (Being told not to panic is a sure sign that it’s time to panic.) And honestly, though I’m inclined to believe that all of this has more to do with dangerous mind-altering drugs than a zombie armageddon, I’m not sure that brings me any peace of mind.

Did ya know that the CDC’s website has a section on zombie preparedness?? I kid you not. I’m pretty sure it’s a tongue-in-cheek, fun way to educate about general disaster readiness. Or is it???

Personally, I learned everything I need to know from the educational zombie comedy, Zombieland.

Zombie Survival Rule #1: Cardio

Good thing I’ve been running again. And it feels so good. I’d been struggling to get back to a regular running routine ever since having my baby 15 months ago and it’s been an uphill battle, both literally and figuratively. My progress had been dreadfully slow. But, the baby weaned from nursing almost two months ago and my running progress has accelerated ever since. Guess I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my body. It feels good to get out there for my runs and I’ll be ready when the zombies…errr, I mean bath salt crazies…start chasing me down. (I’m joking…mostly.)

The other benefit of running is that it affords me a little more wiggle room in my dietary choices, so I can afford to enjoy a few indulgences. Ok, my running/indulgence balance is admittedly still a bit off, but it’s getting closer. This grilled chicken tikka masala is one of those indulgences that I think about when I’m running. This mouth-watering pizza combines one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken tikka masala, with homemade garlicky grilled naan flatbread and a bit of melty mozzarella cheese. Seriously yummy and worth every second of heart-pounding cardio.

I’d like to tell you that this dish is a cinch to pull together, but that would be a lie. There is nothing inherently difficult about it, but between preparing the marinade, making the sauce, preparing the dough, grilling the chicken, grilling the naan, and then assembling and grilling the pizzas, this is a time consuming meal. But it is a labor of love. Definitely worth the time! Just save it for a sunny weekend day and get the whole family involved in the process!

To make things more manageable, you may want to plan to cook the meal in parts. The chicken can be marinated the night before. The sauce, the chicken, and the naan can all be made ahead of time and will hold well in the fridge for a day or two. You could even enjoy the meal as traditional chicken tikka masala with rice and naan one night and make the pizzas for leftovers the next day! However you decide to break it up, I think you’re going to enjoy this delicious meal!

Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

Ingredients

For the Naan*

  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 4 cups flour (approximately)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 inch segment of fresh ginger, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1-2″ segment fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 small serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
For the Pizzas
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Directions

To prepare the chicken marinade: Combine all marinade ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the chicken thighs in the marinade and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinade for at least six hours or overnight.

To grill the chicken: Wipe the grill with a bit of vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Preheat grill to medium heat. Shake the excess marinade off of the chicken and place it on the preheated grill. Cook the chicken for about 7-10 minutes on each side. (Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken. The chicken is fully cooked when it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.) Allow the chicken to cool, then cut into small pieces. Refrigerate until using.

To make the naan: Stir together the yeast and warm water. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar, salt, milk, garlic and egg. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring and kneading for several minutes until a soft dough forms. (Add the flour slowly towards the end, since the quantity of flour will vary. The dough should be slightly sticky, but manageable. If the dough is too dry, add little bits of water or milk. If the dough is too wet, add small quantities of additional flour.) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp towel and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size. Then, divide the risen dough into 12 equal balls of dough. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with the towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Prepare a work station near your grill with a rolling pin, cutting board, and flour. Lightly scatter the flour over the cutting board. One at a time, roll each ball of dough into a flat round, then gently stretch the dough into a soft teardrop shape. Place the dough directly onto the grill and cook for about a minute on each side. It will begin to puff slightly when it is done. Remove from the grill and brush with melted butter.

To make the sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the garam masala, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and cayenne pepper, as desired.

To assemble the pizzas: Spread a layer of sauce onto each piece of naan. Scatter some of the chicken over each naan. Sprinkle each pizza with a bit of the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley. Heat the pizzas on the grill or in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melty and all components are heated through (about 8-10 minutes).

*Recipe for naan adapted from the recipe found HERE.

Makes 10-12 small individual pizzas

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

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There’s a full moon tonight. Of that I am certain. I didn’t look it up online and I haven’t glanced at the evening sky. I need only to spend a moment observing my children to know for sure that the moon is full. They are like small, incredibly accurate phase of the moon indicators. And they’ve been in rare form this week.

Just yesterday, two of the boys spent thirty minutes engaged in a volatile argument over who is going to get the longer surfboard. You should understand that getting a surfboard of any size is not (and has never been) in our plans, which made this argument completely irrelevant and bizarre. But for thirty minutes they argued their way around Target shouting at each other about surfboards, until my five year old exclaimed that he was going to hire a shark to bite Lucas’ arm off. Anyone know what the going rate for mercenary sharks is this days??

Meanwhile, the baby has learned how to remove his own diaper and in the process has discovered that he’s a boy. He’s absolutely delighted with his new skill and new discovery. So, in between calling off the sharks, I’ve been chasing the baby and his bare tushy around the house, hopelessly trying to keep him dressed. He thinks he’s pretty funny. But I had the last laugh when I stuck him in a onesie and foiled his disrobing endeavors.

Trouble monkeys; every one of them.

When life gives you chaos, make bacon. Bacon makes everything better. Truly. Even the baby eagerly oohs and ahs at the sight of a plate of bacon. Smart baby. When he was younger he used to crawl around teething on a rubbery piece of pretend bacon. We called it his ‘training bacon’. We’re raising these kids right.

Make a lot a bacon and then throw some in these biscuits. These super simple drops biscuits are a delicious variation on my cheddar garlic biscuits. Cheesy, buttery, bacony; they make a perfect accompaniment for just about any meal. We enjoyed them alongside some grilled chicken in a spicy apple barbecue sauce and corn on the cob. You may want to make a double batch. These biscuits are gonna go fast.

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup bacon, cooked to crisp, crumbled
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted (for brushing the biscuits)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat baking sheets with cooking spray or vegetable oil. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the 3 tablespoons of cold butter and 3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening to the flour mixture. Use a dough cutter or fork to blend the butter and shortening with the flour mixture until pea-sized bits of flour-coated butter and shortening are dispersed throughout the mixture.

Stir in the buttermilk, cheese, bacon, and green onion. Do not overmix. Use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to drop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small pan or microwave. Brush over the baked biscuits.

Makes 10-12 Biscuits

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing

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There’s a little angel who lives on one of my shoulders, whispering, Be a good girl, Amy. Eat the apple instead of the brownie. Put down that fifth glass of wine. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. 

There’s a little devil on the other shoulder. He woos me with sexy little suggestions like, Come on, Amy…life’s too short to not enjoy delicious food. You’re not that much overweight. That chocolate will taste even better than skinny will feel. And wine is good for you…scientists say so. Trust me. Trust me. 

I was never ‘overweight’ until I had my babies. As a child, I was one of those featherweight gals who could scarf down remarkable quantities of lemon Italian ices, yodels, and meatball subs without a care. My hunger was infinite. In high school, I gained height without weight and bordered on scrawny. I sobbed like there was no tomorrow over my flat-chested fate. In college, I quickly gained the freshman fifteen (or twenty) on a diet of pizza, beer and Lucky Charms. It filled me out and gave me the curves I’d craved so badly in my youth. I slimmed down by the end of my college days. From there on out, I maintained a healthy weight, with barely an effort. I haven’t been ‘skinny’ since my high school days. But I was healthy and trim.

And then I had my boys. I gained a little more than I should have with each pregnancy. I lost most of the weight between pregnancies with a bit of discipline, but still started each pregnancy five pounds heavier than the one before. And now, here I sit, over a year after the birth of my third son, still struggling to get my weight down. It’s been harder this time. I’m not that far out of a healthy weight range for my height, but those pounds make a difference.

I started this year pumped full of motivation to lose the baby weight, just like millions of others who make grand new year resolutions and swear they’ll stick with them. I actually had a really successful start and quickly lost 15 or so pounds early in the year. And then I got lax and the number on the scale started creeping up again. I’ve been playing the yo-yo game ever since. Lose a few, gain a few, lose a few, gain a few. Lather, rinse and repeat. It would be so much easier if I didn’t love food so darn much!

The funny thing about those little guys on my shoulders is that, in my mind, the angel is blissfully plump. The devil is thin and decrepit. I secretly think that the angel wants me to enjoy the chocolate. He wants me to enjoy the beautiful world of delicious food…just in moderation, of course.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of drool-worthy food out there which can still be enjoyed within the framework of wanting to shed a few pounds. And there’s no better time than the summer, when produce is at its peak and the hot weather naturally inclines us to eat lighter, to achieve those healthful goals. Take advantage of the season’s bounty to enjoy fresh salads full of vibrant summer flavors, like this grilled peach and prosciutto salad in a creamy barbecue-inspired dressing. Ripe peaches, at their summer best, get grilled to bring out even more of their natural sweetness. Combine that with crisp red onion slices, savory prosciutto, and salty gorgonzola, drizzled with a slightly-spicy BBQ dressing, and you’ll be singing summer’s praises.

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 8 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 8 cups mixed spring greens
  • 3/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing the grill

For the Creamy BBQ Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Wipe your grill with a bit of vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Preheat the grill at medium heat. Place the peach slices on the preheated grill and cook for a couple minutes on each side, until tender. (The peaches can be used hot off the grill or chilled.)

To prepare the dressing, stir the ketchup, mayo, brown sugar, mustard, worcestershire sauce, vinegar, onion powder, and cayenne pepper together until smooth. Refrigerate until using.

To assemble the salad, place about 2 cups of the spring greens on each plate. Scatter the onion slices over the greens. Arrange the peaches in the center. Top with the prosciutto and gorgonzola. Drizzle with the dressing.

Makes 4 Entree-Sized Salads

Spicy Mexican Wontons

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A few weeks ago, I opened one of my kitchen cabinets and set my eyes upon a set of margarita glasses which have been long neglected. And what’s a girl to do when her margarita glasses have gathered dust, but wash them off and host una fiesta pequeña.

With the purchase of a few brightly colored decorations, a sombrero, maracas, and a piñata, plans for our little Mexican shindig were coming along. I taught the boys a few Spanish greetings and we practiced dancing in the kitchen to the sounds of a mariachi album, while we cooked up a chocoflan and spicy Mexican wontons.

It wasn’t until the tequila was chilled and the limes sliced that I realized we were hosting our Mexican-themed party on the weekend when many Americans would be celebrating America’s Independence Day. Oops. Arriba? I will celebrate America’s birthday in appropriate patriotic red, white, and blue style on July 4. Honest.

But, our little gathering was un gran éxito; a grand success. Everyone brought a dish to share and we killed a few bottles of tequila shaken with homemade mango and strawberry lime margarita mixes. The kids even enjoyed kiddie margaritas in sugar-rimmed glasses, as their pockets burst full of piñata candy. My three-year-old is already reminiscing about ‘the old days’…way back yesterday when we had a piñata. That was living!

One of my contributions to the party menu were these spicy Mexican wontons; not exactly traditional Mexican food, but I like to dance to the rhythm of my own maracas anyway. They start with a simple combination of shredded chicken, a hefty dose of Mexican cheese, fresh jalapeño pepper, and green onions which are then seasoned with a bit of chile powder, cumin, and cayenne. Spoonfuls of the mixture are tucked into wonton wrappers, then quickly pan-fried until crisp.

They can be completely made ahead of time and reheated in the oven for a few minutes before serving. They re-crisp beautifully in the oven, which means that you can get that messy frying part out of the way and all cleaned up, long before your guests arrive! Perfect party food.

Spicy Mexican Wontons

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, very finely diced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 3 cups Mexican cheese shredded**
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 40-50 wonton wrappers (check the refrigerated or frozen section of your grocery store)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

* I poached the chicken breasts in simmering water. Alternately, they can be baked until cooked through.

**I used 1 1/2 cups queso blanco and 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend (cheddar, monterey jack, and asadero). If you are unable to get queso blanco, you can use any combination of cheddar, monterey jack, or other Mexican cheese.

Directions

Combine the chicken, jalapeño pepper, green onion, cheese and spices. In batches of about 5 or 6, place a hefty teaspoon of the filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper with a bit of water and fold over into a triangle. If desired, wet two of the corners and fold them in towards the center. Place the prepared wontons on a tray in a single layer as you repeat the process for all wonton wrappers.

Once all wontons have been prepared, heat about 1/2″ vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium/medium high heat. Get the oil good and hot. Test out one of the prepared wontons by placing it into the oil. It should become golden brown and bubbly-looking within about 30 seconds. Flip to cook on the other side. Cook all of the wontons in small batches. Remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon. Drain the cooked wontons on a paper towel. Serve hot.

If desired, the wontons can be served with a chipotle sour cream, made by blending one chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo) with 8 ounces sour cream.

To reheat, place the wontons in a single layer on two large baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 7-10 minutes, until hot and crispy.

Click HERE for more tips on working with wonton wrappers and a photo guide showing an alternate method of folding the wontons.

Breakfast and Brunch Recipe Round-Up

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I recently shared a recipe for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole, as an option for a special Father’s Day breakfast in bed. Just in case that idea doesn’t float your boat, here’s a round-up of previously posted breakfast ideas. Any of these would make a spectacular Father’s Day breakfast for the dad in your life or a great addition to your next brunch buffet!

Cinnamon-Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Potato and Chorizo Frittata

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

Eggs Benedict

Birthday Cake (Sprinkles) Pancakes

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

PB&J French Toast

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

Quiche Lorraine




Steak and White Cheddar Flatbread Pizza

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I had another parenting panic moment recently, similar to my reaction upon discovering that my oldest had his first loose tooth. Only this time, I didn’t immediately rush off to the doctor, which is a good thing, since he surely would have laughed at me.

You see, on multiple occasions during the past few weeks, we have noticed that the top of the baby’s right foot appears darkened; sort of a like a pale bruise. Each time, the darkening has gone away by the next day and since he seemed otherwise alright, we assumed we were just seeing things with our over-cautious parent eyes. Until it happened again, which increased our worry. Then, just the other day, it happened again. And I thought…That’s it! I’m bringing this kid into to the doctor, for something is surely wrong. I was in full Mommy panic mode by that point, assuming that my sweet baby must have some sort of horrible circulation disorder or something unimaginably worse.

But, before calling the doctor, I had the clever idea to try washing his foot. Sure enough, that pale bruised appearance quickly wiped away revealing a perfect little foot to match his left. Relief washed over me. And with the clarity of relief, I quickly figured out what had been causing the top of that one foot to repeatedly turn brown. You see, our sweet little baby has the most unique crawl I’ve ever seen. He started doing it a couple months ago. It is so fast and effective that we fear he’ll never choose to walk, though he already has all of the skills and coordination to do so. We fondly call it his ‘Planet of the Apes’ crawl, for it strongly resembles the half walk/half crawl of an evolved ape. He plants both hands and one foot (his left foot) flat onto the ground. The other leg (his right) maintains a bent crawling position. He leads with the left foot, in a pseudo walk, as he drags the bent right leg along. It’s an extremely fast and effective mode of locomotion. He does not have a circulation disorder. He does not have a bruised foot. The top of his right foot is merely the embarrassing evidence of my dirty floors. I’ve never been so relieved over dirty floors.

In between moments of needless parenting panic, I spend my mental energy obsessing over favored flavor combinations. They get caught in my head and I find myself itching to marry those flavor combinations again and again, in every form I can think of. Prosciutto, figs, and gorgonzola or chicken with hot sauce and bleu cheese or goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Lately, I’m stuck on the combination of steak with aged white cheddar and horseradish. Recently, I made the most amazing, warm and cheesy steak and white cheddar dip. The dip was crave-worthy delicious. We used warm slices of French baguette to shovel the tasty dip into our hungry mouths. But it was an ugly dip; not at all photogenic. Definitely too ugly to form a post around.

And then, I found myself with some leftover flank steak. It didn’t take me long to decide what I would do. I’d adapt that luscious dip, into a flavorful spread, which I’d lather over flatbreads, then top with the leftover steak and some sweet caramelized onions; a final sprinkle of mozzarella and white cheddar cheese, with a scatter of green onions for a little vibrant color, and we’d have steak and white cheddar flatbread pizzas. Crave-worthy AND photogenic!

Steak and White Cheddar Flatbread Pizza

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup leftover steak, cut into small pieces
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 flatbreads, naan, or pita rounds
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions, sliced

Directions

To prepare the cheddar-horseradish spread: Combine cream cheese, white cheddar, sour cream, horseradish, and hot sauce until well blended. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Refrigerate until using.

To prepare the caramelized onions: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, sweet, and lightly golden (about 10-15 minutes should do the trick).

To assemble the pizzas: Spread a thin layer of the white cheddar spread over each flatbread. Top with a portion of the caramelized onions and steak. Sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella and white cheddar cheese. Garnish with some of the sliced green onions. Bake in a 400 degrees oven for about 15 minutes, until the crusts are slightly crisp and the toppings are hot and melty. (Placing the pizzas directly on the oven rack will help the crust to get crispier faster.)

Makes 4 flatbread pizzas

Sweet Little Monkey Baby

Bacon Cheeseburger Enchilada Bake

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My two older boys (ages 3 and 4) go together like peas and carrots.

My four year old is the carrot. He’s lean, sweet, and practical. Not a moment passes when he isn’t working on some new plan. He passes out arm massages on his way out the door each morning, loves morning snuggles, and thinks his baby brother is the cat’s meow.

My three year old is the peas. He’s whimsical, hard to get a grasp on, and a bit roly-poly. He speaks in a gruff little man voice and says funny things like, HEY, I’m Iron Man! He wields cooperation (or lack thereof) as his weapon of choice. His favorite joke involves shouting, “Underpants” then laughing until everyone else can’t help but laugh along. He thinks his mommy is the cat’s meow and is still mad at the baby for stealing his place in my arms.

They are different as two boys can be, yet stuck together like glue.

Their differences carry through to all manners of their little lives. Take, for example, their savings goals. My four year old is saving for college. I don’t think he fully understands what college is, but he knows it costs money and that he’d better start saving. My three year old, on the other hand, is saving for a trip to Disney World…because he likes Mickey Mouse and roller coasters (though he’s never actually been on a roller coaster). I support both of their choices with equal gusto.

So, this morning I explained to my little whimsical man that we had a very important mission for the day.

What do we have to do, Mommy?

We need to get the winning Mega Millions ticket.

But, why?

Because Mommy wants to win 500 million dollars.

It’s sort of like money.

Yes, sweetie. It’s exactly like money…an unimaginable amount of money. And we can put it…

…in my piggy bank! For Disney World.

Yes, love. We’ll put it in your piggy bank for Disney World. And college. It would be plenty of money for both. In fact, Mommy could hire Mickey Mouse as your private college tutor if we win.

We bought our ticket this morning. My little man is already packing his bags for Disney World. I sure hope his packing isn’t in vain, because I can think of a few things I would do with the leftover winnings. Geez, can you even imagine?? I feel dizzy just thinking about it. Somebody’s going to win it…and I just hope they share a little with me when they do!

This recipe has been sitting in my queue for months now. Not sure how it got buried in there, but it’s a good one…sort of a marriage between a Mexican enchilada bake and a classic bacon cheeseburger. People always seem to be looking for ground beef ideas and this is a yummy one! It’s easy, delicious, and full of flavors the whole family will enjoy.

So, who else is playing the lotto? And whatcha gonna do with all that moolah if you win??

Bacon Cheeseburger Enchilada Bake

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 5 slices American cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (plus additional cheese to sprinkle on top)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 small corn or flour tortillas
  • Additional bacon and ketchup, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat, until crispy. Drain any excess bacon fat. Add the ground beef. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Add three slices of the American cheese. Stir until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

To prepare the sauce, melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the flour. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn down the heat. Add the cheddar cheese and two remaining slices of American cheese. Stir until melted. Stir in the chopped tomato. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To assemble, spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place a generous spoonful of the meat filling into the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortilla around the filling and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until each tortilla has been filled, placing the enchiladas side by side in the baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with additional shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Garnish with additional crumbled bacon and ketchup, if desired.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

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Earlier in the week, my husband bemoaned the fact that daylight savings time was approaching and we would be losing an hour of sleep. I’m not sure what world he’s living in, but the time on the clock has little relevance for our children. Lose an hour, gain an hour…doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not in control of how long I sleep anyway. If anything, I look forward to this evening when I can put the kids to bed an hour ‘early’.

Springing forward brings other benefits as well, specifically a bit of daylight past the kids’ bedtime…which translates into not running in the dark. That, combined with the warming temperatures of spring approaching, bodes well for resuming my evening runs. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely off-track with my fitness goals during these past two weeks and the number on the scale has been creeping upwards. Wintery weather and the early sunset has made it hard to get myself out the door for my evening runs. And finally being able to fit into some of my clothes again has made me complacent about my diet. But I’m not done yet (far from it) and it’s time to get back on track, before I undo the results I’ve achieved so far.

So, starting tomorrow (today I’m going to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I’m hopping back on the horse and refocusing on my fitness goals. With the warmer temps and later sunset, I’ve got no excuses for not heading out for my evening runs. And I’m going to refocus on reducing my refined carb intake (a la South Beach diet), since I know it helps me to feel more satisfied, make better food choices, and eat less overall.

With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, comforting meat-and-potato type meals are on my mind. But potatoes fall firmly into that refined carb category which I’m aiming to avoid. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some comforting Irish cookin’ with just a few substitutions. You may remember a few weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for mashed cauliflower, which makes a wonderful substitution for mashed potatoes…a substitution which would also make the perfect topping for a low-carb, South Beach friendly cottage pie. Using lean ground beef and part-skim cheese helps lighten the meal even more, without sacrificing any flavor. Furthermore, making low-glycemic index choices for the veggie layer keeps this dish nicely in line with my diet plan.

If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day without sacrificing your diet goals, this just might be the dish for you! Though, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I fully intend to make (and eat) more corned beef and cabbage egg rolls on St. Patty’s Day, with a few dark beers to wash them down. (All food and beer are zero calories on St. Patty’s Day…if you’re Irish, that is. I swear it…a little red-headed leprechaun told me so.)

Looking for a traditional lamb and potatoes Shepherd’s Pie recipe? Click HERE.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

Ingredients

For the beef layer:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
For the veggie layer:
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
For the mashed cauliflower:
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped and steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup part-skim cheddar, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the beef layer: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute. Then, add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens into a gravy around the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

For the veggies: Wipe out the pan used for the beef. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until golden and tender. Scatter the mushrooms and the steamed green beans in an even layer over the meat.

For the mashed cauliflower: Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, combine the cauliflower, butter, milk, and garlic powder until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Spread the mashed cauliflower in an even layer over the veggies.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned. (Allow for longer cooking time if preparing ahead of time and refrigerating before baking.)

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

I am one of those parents who flood their facebook page with pictures of my children. Yes, I’m that person. Everyone knows at least one these people. For my friends, it’s me. My facebook wall reads like most parents’ baby books…full of photos, videos, firsts, favorites, and funny anecdotes. (They’re funny to me, at least.) And my profile pictures are mostly pictures of my kids, rather than of myself.

I have heard comments such as You are not your kids, in regards to this issue. And it’s true. I am my own  person. I am not my kids…at least not completely. But the truth is, my children are a huge part of me. They are the very best representation of me. They are my finest creation and my life’s grandest purpose. If I do nothing else of importance during the rest of my life, I can rest easy in knowing that I grew, loved, and nurtured these precious little people.

Why wouldn’t I associate part of my identity with that of my children? Aren’t we all little bits of every person and every event we’ve experienced. And don’t we all continue to change as our lives change courses? Why wouldn’t my children shape me in the same way that I shape them? Why wouldn’t my children be irreversibly intertwined with my identity?

At this point in my life, perhaps for always and forever, my children are the center of my world. They are my passion and my motivation. They are at least as much a part of me as my love of cooking, my fear of failure, or my passion for bacon.

And in my children’s eyes, I see the me I strive to be. In their eyes, I am love. I am security. I am healing. I am their mom. I have never felt more beautiful than the way I look in my children’s eyes. I am in those profile pictures I post of my children. I’m right there, in their eyes.

This soup is beautiful in my eyes. I may make it my facebook profile pic. It’s broccoli cheddar soup for grown-ups. Spicy chorizo gives the soup a smokey bit of heat, while the aged white cheddar (get the good stuff) adds intense cheesy flavor. There’s nothing like eating a big bowl of cheesy soup on a chilly winter day. Ultra-comforting.

Enjoy, friends.

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo, halved and sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk (skim milk works well)
  • 8 ounces aged white cheddar, shredded
  • 3 cups broccoli, steamed until tender and well chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt (approx.)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to release its oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and continue cooking for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add the milk and whisk until well combined. Bring the milk to a simmer as you continue whisking. Simmer for about 3 minutes, until the milk begins to thicken. Turn down the heat and stir in the cheese. Continue stirring until melted. Stir in the broccoli. Season with salt, to taste.

Serves 4

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Some days, I wish I could go back in time to my fifteen year old self and shake myself silly. The fifteen year old self who thought her chest was too small and her hips too wide for her too thin waist and flat as a washboard stomach. Oh you silly, silly girl. Why in the world are teenage girls programmed to despise themselves so?? What I would give to go back in time to appreciate the beautiful body I never knew I had.

And now I sit here, in my mid-thirties, after having had three kids over the course of four years, wishing my hips were only as wide as they were twenty years ago or that my chest were nearly as small or my stomach as flat. Oh, the lessons we learn too late.

And while I may never be as small as I was then, I am confident that I will regain a healthy and strong figure; a body I am proud of as much for the way it looks and feels as I am for how it has grown, birthed, and nourished my three beautiful babies. It’ll just take a little effort to get there.

I’m 17 days into my New Year’s diet; a diet which I intend to stick with, long past the one month expiration date which many people’s New Year’s resolutions seem to have. Because it’s more than a diet. It’s a shift to healthier living and a healthier, more confident me. I’m feeling motivated and optimistic. Over the past few weeks, we’ve eaten so many delicious meals; cut out the junk we shouldn’t be eating anyway and replaced it with tons of fresh veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. We’re eating like kings around here and our extra pounds are falling off.

I’ve got a growing list of new healthy recipes to share with you, but for now, here’s a quick recipe for a delicious, protein-rich, low-carb breakfast or snack.  These mini quiches hold well for a few days in the fridge and take only a few seconds in the microwave to reheat. You can even freeze half the batch for later use! I added swiss cheese, tender, sweet onions, and crumbled bacon for a tasty play on quiche Lorraine, but the options are endless. Try different combinations of cheese, veggies, and meats to create your personal favorite mini quiches!

Mini Crustless Quiche Lorraines

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender and golden.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.

Place a pinch of the cheese, onions, and bacon in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, carefully pour the egg mixture into each tin, just to the top.

Place the trays on the middle oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes. They will look puffed and golden when done.

Makes 24 mini quiches

*Quiches can be served immediately or refrigerated or frozen for later use. A few seconds in the microwave will do the trick for reheating.

Diet Day: 17    Weight Loss: 11    Motivation: Let’s do this!

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