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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup in a Jif!

3 Jan

Believe it or not, I had NEVER eaten butternut squash until this fall. That’s right! How crazy is that? I don’t know where it has been all my life, but I do know it hasn’t been on my dinner table. And, I’m rather certain it was never on the table during my childhood either. But, during a trip to Atlanta a couple of months back, I saw butternut squash soup on a menu and decided to go for it. I love pumpkin and spaghetti squash, and butternut squash seemed like a safe little cousin of that family. The result? I was instantly in love! Soooooo dang delicious. I wanted to eat this soup at every single meal forever and ever. Of course, we only got to stay in Atlanta for two days so that was less than possible. Instead, I decided to make it in my very own kitchen. And, man oh man, is this easy! Trust me. If you have a blender (especially if you have a Vitamix), you can make this in less than an hour with about 15 minutes of actual hands-on work. Check it out!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

(Serves 2 as meal, or 4 as “appetizer”)

Butternut Soup

  • 1 butternut squash (probably ~2 pounds)
  • 1 C vegetable broth (chicken broth is also delish!)
  • .5 C half-and-half (totally optional – i think it gives it a certain silkiness, but you can skip it and add more broth instead)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil (2 Tbsp for roasting, 2 Tbsp for sauteing)
  • 2 small yellow onions (or ~1 large onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • .5 tsp chipotle tabasco

First thing’s first. Get that oven preheated to 375*. While the oven is preheating, you can go ahead and prep your butternut squash. Cut squash in half length wise (burrito-style for those of you who understand that better!). Be careful. The skin is generally pretty tough to get through. Watch those fingers. Best to have all 10 in tact throughout this process. Coat each half of the squash with about 1 Tbsp of olive oil. I generally pour the oil into my hand then massage up the squash. Make sure you get the skin side and the inside. Every inch should be covered. Next, place each half skin side up on a baking sheet. Once oven is preheated, bake for ~45 minutes, or until a fork can easily be inserted through the skin (that shows you the squash is all cooked and super tender). Once cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

While your squash is getting all roasty and delicious in the over, you can work on chopping up your onions. (You don’t have to be too meticulous about your chopping because the end product is just getting all pureed anyhow.) Once chopped, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and onions to a skillet/pan over medium to medium-high. Stir occasionally until onions begin to soften – ~5 minutes. Add your minced garlic, stir to combine. Continue to leave this over medium(ish) heat until the onions are nice and golden and tender. Most likely about 10 more minutes. Once done, remove pan from heat. You’ll come back to these later.

At this point, you hopefully have both cooked squash and sauteed onions/garlic. If you do, proceed! If you do not, go back up and double check your work from the first couple of paragraphs! 😉

Into a blender, add your onions/garlic, broth, and half-and-half. Blend for about 30 seconds at high speed until smooth. Next, scoop out the flesh of the squash using a spoon. Just take the meaty flesh that comes out easily when scooped. You don’t want any of the skin in this soup. Add the flesh to the blender.

This is what should be left of your squash once you scoop out everything inside!

This is what should be left of your squash once you scoop out everything inside!

Turn blender to high and blend for another 30 seconds until all is combined and silky smooth. You can add more liquid (either broth or half-and-half) to thin the consistency if you’d like.  Oh yes! Feel free to add some salt and pepper if that’s your thing. I didn’t add it.

Butternut Soup Vitamix

That’s the end of the cooking. Can you believe it? You just made a whole batch of soup, and I bet you didn’t even break a sweat.

Now, to serve, you’ll want to drizzle the honey and chipotle tabasco over the soup. It’s amazeballs, trust me! I recommend stirring these two ingredients together to make sure they’re nicely combined. Then, scoop some soup into bowls and drizzle with your spicy honey. Additional garnishes to be considered include feta cheese or chopped up bacon (mmmmm, bacon!).

Butternut Soup 2

Butternut Soup with Bacon

All that’s left now is the eating part. So, get to it! Enjoy!!!

It’s here! The Banana & Avocado Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe!

30 Sep

Hello, friends. I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday. First of all, I should apologize for taking my sweet time getting this recipe out to y’all. Unfortunately, I misplaced the recipe and couldn’t remember it off of the top of my head. So, yesterday morning, I proceeded with what I thought was the recipe and it was a success. Score! So, without further delay, here you go!!!

Oh, and side note! I actually also made a batch with peanut butter and no choc chips and those were my fav (I’m a huge pb fan, but not always chocolate in baked goods. I know, I know. I’m a weirdy.)! Plus, I feel a bit better about eating ’em for breakfast all week sans chocolate!

Banana & Avocado Chocoalte Chip Muffins

yields 12 muffins

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (use the kind that is just peanuts, and maybe salt. Avoid those with added oils and preservatives!)
  • .5 cup mini or regular chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375*. Combine all ingredients into large bowl and mix thoroughly until all is combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes. I read that letting oats rest when you use them in baking helps them “set up” a bit. Not sure that it’s necessary, but it sure can’t hurt.

While you are looking for something to happen to those oats in the 5 minutes you’re supposed to wait, go ahead and either line your muffin pan with liners, or grease your pan. You should know that, if you use paper liners, these will stick because you aren’t adding oil to help them keep off. That doesn’t bother me, but if it does you, just grease your pan!

Next, scoop 1.5 tablespoons of your mixture into each spot of your muffin tin. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Mine took about 23 minutes. I recommend checking at 20 minutes and going from there. They should brown slightly on top and come clean when a toothpick is inserted into the center of the muffins.

These are really yummy muffins that I love as breakfast treats or snacks after a workout. You should, however, note that these are fully sugar and flour free so they aren’t your standard Betty Crocker muffins. They are far denser and a bit more “savory”, I suppose. If you crave something more in these, try adding a teaspoon of sea salt (I just like to keep sodium as low as possible when I’m cooking at home.) or a couple tablespoons of maple syrup for sweetness. In my first batch, I actually sprinkled raw sugar over the tops before baking. This provided a sweet little crunch on the top after they baked. So, I totally recommend that if you aren’t going sugar-free at the moment.

There you go, friends. Let me know what you think if you try these at home. I actually had 3 of these lovelies yesterday before I headed out for RIPPED and Zumba (2 hours of group fitness!!!), and they held me over until lunch time. How awesome!!!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. I’ll catch-up with you again soon!!! 🙂

Recipe sneak peak…

13 Sep

Hey y’all. I wanted to stop by this AM to leave you with a little preview of a recipe I developed over the weekend. See? Yum, yum, yum!

I’m actually enjoying the last of the batch this AM. I’m going to have to make more. They are such an easy go-to breakfast or snack.

I’m really hoping to find some spare time to work on the full post this weekend. *fingers crossed* I’ve been really busy working on a couple brand new (EXCITING) things! Can’t wait to tell you all about that too. 🙂

Now, go enjoy your Thursday. Don’t forget to smile, and to be kinder than necessary!

 

A clean failure, living on a budget, and creamy cauliflower mash!

5 Sep

Let’s start here – my end of summer cleanse = total flop. I started it on a whim without being 100% mentally or grocery prepared. Despite that, the first few days went okay. Not perfect, but good. Then, Hurrican Isaac headed our way and we fled to Arkansas to ride out the storm. Arkansas is where our families (as in mine and the Mr’s) live. That means, lots of home cooking and eating out. Maybe some drinking too. That all means total cleansing destruction. That said, I feel a little badly that I didn’t complete the cleans since I told you lovely readers I would, but overall, it’s all good. I try not to stress too much over these things. I find that putting extra stress in my life over things like cleanses, crash diets, and crazy exercise goals are just plain unnecessary at this point in my life. Heck, good ol’ life throws enough my way to keep the stress clock ticking. I don’t need to help it along worrying about silly things that pass anyhow. So, the cleanse is over and I have little to show for it. The end. 😉

Onto something more recent and not in the “game over” phase:  me living on a super-d-duper tight grocery budget. When I had my previous “real adult” job, we were fortunate enough to have lots of wiggle room in our budget. Since leaving that for a 20 hour per week part-time gig, that’s changed. I mean, we are still totally fine, but are changing-up priorities a bit. That means that my crazy obsession with buying all organic and local is on big time hold. At first, it was sort of a shock for me, but now it’s SO.MUCH.FUN! It’s like a game to see how cheaply I can get our weekly groceries. Man! I love it. I still totally support buying local and organic whenever possible. And, when I say we aren’t buying local and organic, that does not include our milk or meat products. Those are total non-negotiables for me. (Want to know why? Check out some food docs like Food Matters or Food, Inc. You will totally understand!) But, in terms of veggies, fruits, etc, there are some things that I’ve changed that are saving us TONS OF MONEY! First of all, I have to admit that changing from shopping at local markets to shopping at Walmart is a big win. I used to work for Walmart back in the day and actually appreciate so many things they do as a company; but, in the past, I’ve just been utterly disappointed in their sluggishness to bring in local and organic products. I guess that kept me away far enough for that to change because yesterday, this is what I found:  wild salmon, cod, and smoked salmon (win!); local onions; organic limes; and tons of other organic goodies ranging from green onions to vegetable broth to frozen pizzas (winning again!). So, with that said, I will tell you that I totally stocked our fridge and freezer for $60. Yes, all of our groceries for three meals a day for two people (one of whom is a MAN!) for only $60! That’s compared to around $120-$150 during our normal trips previously. And, for $60 I got smoked salmon, frozen salmon fillets, frozen cod fillets, frozen shrimp, milk, half-and-half, one dozen eggs (cage free, organic even!), zucchini, romaine hearts, frozen cauliflower, frozen stir fry veggie blends (2), frozen spinach, frozen asparagus, onions (2), avocados (2), 3 lb bag of organic limes (super good deal on these!), individually wrapped cheese snacks, canned crab meat (2), and a package of red solo cups (ha!). Isn’t that cool? I may be missing something as I’m attempting to recall this by memory instead of by receipt. But, I figure you get the idea, right? I’m a money saving diva. Okay, maybe not a diva, but I’m off to a good start. Can you even imagine how excited I’m going to be if I start couponing? Get ready world!!! 😉

Now, let’s talk FOOD (not groceries), shall we?!?! We shall.

When Mr. Military Man and I were home last week avoiding the hurricane, we got a couple hours to visit with my grandma (Hi, GRAM! – she reads my blog. Yay!). During out visit, she mentioned that, during her birthday dinner recently, she tried cauliflower mash for the first time and really loved it. She asked me if I had a recipe for it. At that moment, I realized that, not only do I not have a recipe, I had never had the dish. So, during my shopping trip yesterday, I made sure to pick up cauliflower so I could develop a scrumptious recipe for her to create in her kitchen. Oh goodness y’all. Not only was this embarrassingly easy, it was totally delicious. The Mr. and I both exclaimed that we would “totally eat this instead of mashed potatoes!”. Yum, yum, and YUM! So, without further delay, here’s how it goes!

Quick & Easy Cauliflower Mash

(serves 2-4)

  • 1 1-lb bag of frozen cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 6 Tbsp milk (We use 2% in this home – any will work – but, the higher the fat, the creamier your mash.)
  • 1 oz of cheese – optional (I used 1 slice of Gouda – Cheddar or Havarti would be yum.)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by boiling your entire bag (1 lb) of frozen cauliflower, uncovered, until fork tender. Mine took about 10 minutes. Drain and pour into a blender, bowl, or food processor (this depends on how you plan to “puree” everything together. Use whatever you use for making homemade mashed taters!).

To your blender, bowl, or food processor, add butter, milk, and cheese. Blend/mix/puree until smooth (I let mine go for about 1 minute). Add salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it, you’re done and ready to enjoy. Could that even be easier? I think not!

A couple of things you should know: (1)  I didn’t have any on-hand, but think that garlic powder would be AWESOME in this. Try it and let me know! 🙂 (2) 6 Tbsp of milk will get you a very “thin” mash. For a thicker, heartier mash, start with only 4 Tbsp.

This recipe is also available for review and printing on my Recipage. Check it out!

Now, I’m off to make a smoked salmon fritatta for the Mr. He’s not flying today because of weather so we get to spend the whole morning together. Yay for husband and wife time. I figure that calls for a special weekday breakfast, right?

I hope you have a happy hump day! Thanks for spending some time with me today. Bye y’all!!!! 🙂

(Love you, Gram! Hope you like the recipe!!!!)

White Bean Egg Salad

9 Aug

After the success I had with pureeing white beans for my creamy White Bean and Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce, I decided I totally had to use bean purees more often. Also on my mind has been egg salad. Egg salad – well, eggs really – is a weird thing for me. On about 320 days out of the year, I will tell you that I don’t much care for it. On the remaining 45 days, I’m probably obsessively craving it. Weird, right? Well, the past week has been 7 of the 45 days down on the obsessive craving side of things. When it came to satisfying this craving, rather than just tossing eggs with mayo and mustard as I’ve done all of my life, I decided to give things a whirl with a white bean base. This spiffy update to a classic reduces the empty calories, saturated fat, and cholestoral in the traditional egg salad and replaces those “undesirables” with protein, fiber, manganese, iron, and potassium. Doesn’t that sound about a million times better? If you’re at all concerned with clean, healthy eating, then that’s a big ol’ YES!

So, here’s the scoop:

White Bean Egg Salad

Servings:  (We haven’t eaten it all, but think I can probably get 6-8 sandwiches or salads out of this)

  • 10 hard boiled eggs – de-shelled (If you’re new to hard boiling eggs, I’d recommend consulting Martha Stewart’s directions for perfect hard boiled eggs. She’s got it figured out!)
  • 1 can of white (kidney) beans
  • 2 tsp Wildtree Dill Blend (or some sort of herb blend with dill, or fresh dill)
  • 1 cup H2O
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped (optional)

Drain and rinse your canned white beans. Pour beans into blender. Add Dill Blend to blender. Turn blender on high. Pour water in to thin out the mixture to your desired consistency. (I used about 3/4 of a cup and mine’s pretty thin. Go with what you like!) After all is combined, pour mixture into a large bowl.

Roughly chop all of your boiled eggs (be sure they are free of any shell pieces, or you’ll have a disaster later when you eat this stuff!) and add them to the bowl with your white bean mixture.

Lastly, add your chopped onion (optional) to the bowl with eggs and white bean mixture. Stir all to combine. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then serve.

Nom, nom, nom!!! 🙂

When I started boiling the eggs yesterday, my plan was to make two batches of egg salad – 1) traditional mayo-based for him and 2) beany version for me. However, to my surprise, Mr. Military Man actually LIKED my version and suggested that I make all of the egg salad my beany way. How exciting! He’s pretty great about eating clean and trying healthified things, but I didn’t expect him to like this. Guess I really am on to something good here!!! *happy dance*

So, with that, I’d encourage you to try this. And, try feeding it to your significant others and children. Perhaps everyone will love this MUCH HEALTHIER version of an American sandwich filling!

In other news, I have lots to share regarding dog training, my new fitness regime and goals, and life since leaving my corporate job. I just need more time to blog – and that’s a good thing. Life is full full full of great things and I couldn’t be more thankful. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen things that way! 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your Thursday. Hopefully, unlike mine, yours is filled with warmth and sunshine!

Toodles!

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Pasta “Sauce”

6 Aug

For those of you who have read my blog and recipes from the beginning (albeit it quite sporadic), you know I am a big Mexican food fan. I make it pretty much every single meal. When I’m not cooking up chilis, sprinkling cumin, or melting cheese, I venture into American food and even some Asian cusisine, but Italian food pretty much stays off my radar. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just not a big favorite in my family, so I didn’t grow up eating Italian food. In fact, the only pasta dish I ever remember eating as a kid is linguine with clam sauce (which came out of a can!). Fast forward to today:  I married a man whose mother’s family is Italian. And, they are great cooks. And, they love their Italian dishes. That means the hubs loves eating Italian food and craves it when we’re away from home for long. So, since he’s so awesome and I love to make him happy, I have tried to add some “Italian” type recipes to my repoirtoire. So far, so good, actually. Surprisingly, I haven’t destroyed anything yet. I mean, I haven’t exactly ventured into anything supremely gourmet. But, at least I’m getting the whole technique of co0king pasta correctly (Hey! Knowing when to stop boiling the pasta is trickier than expected!).

Over the past couple of weeks, Pasta Alfredo has graced our dinner table a couple of times. While it’s pretty tasty – and my version gets loaded with a pound of broccoli – it’s not exactly the most healthful meal we could have. So, I started thinking of ways to recreate the creaminess and decadence of the Alfredo sauce without all of the added cream and butter. I began browsing my cookbook collection (LOVE ME SOME COOKBOOKS!!!) for ideas. I looked and looked, and then came across a pasta dish with white beans and roasted tomatoes. That got me thinking that I could surely make one tasty white bean puree/sauce! From there, my creation came to life! And, here’s how it went:

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

(Serves 4 – depending on how saucy you like things!)

  • 1 can of White Beans – drained and rinsed
  • 1 head of roasted garlic (if you’re a roasted garlic newby, see this)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (you could use chicken broth or water if you prefer – you can also use more to thin out your sauce if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon scampi seasoning (I use Wildtree brand; you could use some Italian seasoning if you have that on hand instead – you just want to add some herby flavor/depth to the sauce with this)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese

Add all ingredients, except for ricotta, to a food processor (Note: for the garlic, simply squeeze out the roasted cloves from each pod on the head of garlic. You can discard the skins). Process until smooth. Transfer to a sauce pot and put on the stove over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally. Once warm, stir in ricotta cheese. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until all is nicely warmed and incorporated.

That’s it folks. Easy-peasy! Now, all you’ve gotta do is toss the sauce with some cooked pasta and veggies (I chose spinach and asparagus, but broccoli would be delish too!). This is a really comforting dish of pasta with a high-protein and high-fiber punch. It also carries far less saturated fat and cholesterol than the Alfredo sauce Mr. Military Man loves so.

Try this. Then, let me know what you think!

Happy Monday y’all. Make it GREAT!!! (Yes, I know Mondays aren’t typically something we all look forward to, but I’m off today, so I’m a happy girl. This means, I’m attempting to share some Monday happiness with YOU!!!)

Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing

19 Jun

Another note to start:  WordPress is still giving me gobs of trouble when uploading photos, so we have only one. Someday, I’ll figure this out and share the 6 additional photos I have. Regardless, try this dressing on your next southwest inspired salad. You won’t regret it! 🙂

I admit it. I am totally a creamy salad dressing girl. Yes, yes. I know that the whole oil and vinegar route is touted as being much healthier. But, c’mon. Veggies covered in ranch or blue cheese are just about a million times better. Duh! That said, I don’t exactly walk around eating ranch dressing on the regular anymore. I tend to be pretty aware of what I eat and standard, store-bought dressings don’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy (partially hydrogenated mystery oils, preservatives, GMOs…ick!). So, I created a solution that satisfies my creamy dressing craving while maintaining my waistline and my conscience. This dressing comes together in about 30 seconds and requires only 3 ingredients. Woot! So what are you waiting for? Throw your salad in a bowl and top it with this dressing. Stat!

Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing

  • 2 very hefty tbsp unsweetened Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage.)
  • 1 tbsp chipotle Tabasco sauce
  • the juice of one small lime

Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Pour over your salad. Enjoy!

Could it really be easier than that? And, it’s so so so perfect on my southwestern salads loaded up with corn, black beans, cucumbers, avocado, and onions. Creamy, a tad spicy, and a little bit tart. Total keeper!

In other news, it is now 6:37 in the AM and my dogs are playing with the squeaky toys like it’s their job. Why the heck do manufacturers make these squeaky toys SO LOUD? Is this really necessary? Yes, I hear my dog playing with the squeaky toy. Yes, it’s annoying. We just don’t need to turn the volume up to 11 . Sheesh!

So far, we have sun today (it’s been raining and raining and raining lately) so I’m hoping for a beach day today. I have my aunt and little brother in this weekend, so I’m excited to show ’em around. Hopefully we’ll see dolphins. *fingers crossed*

With that, I’m off. Time for some coffee and a bowl of this amazeballs hemp granola I found at our co-op. Nom nom! Happy Saturday y’all. 🙂