January 31, 2014

Granola Clusters

Raise your hand if you're still keeping up with your New Year's resolution. Be honest, now. I have to admit that I got a slow start to mine but I'm still going. After all these years I've finally added the "eating healthy" resolution to my life. It's all part of making a better, happier me. I adapted this recipe from Cookies and Cups after needing more healthy snack and dessert options. Nothing is worse than working out or doing really good with your daily diet and feeling like you ruined everything with an unhealthy snack. Enter GRANOLA CLUSTERS! These little clusters are perfectly crunchy and just sweet enough and fill you up quicker than other junk food snacks! My favorite part was that even though there are quite a bit of ingredients, this recipe is so customizable that you could mix and match the ingredients with things that you have. Here's to us and our New Year's Resolutions!

What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups oats (not instant)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup flaked coconut
2 cups corn flakes (lightly crushed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 chopped walnuts
1 beaten egg white

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

2. Line a large cookie sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper and set aside.

3. In a large bowl mix all of your ingredients together. It's sort of a running joke between Mike and I that I never mix things in large enough bowls. So, my friends, use a LARGE bowl because there are a lot of ingredients.

*Spray your measuring cup with a little cooking spray in order to get all of the honey out of it.

4. Put the mixture on you cookie sheet and spread it around evenly.

5. Bake the granola for 25 minutes then turn off your oven but keep your granola in there until the oven cools. This was a great tip from Shelly (author of Cookies and Cups) that makes all the difference in how crunchy your granola gets.

**Her blog also has good tips on how to get less crunchy granola if that's not really your thing.

***As I mentioned, there are a lot of things that would go great in these. I happened to only have walnuts and dried cherries, because I love to snack on them, but cranberries, raisins, almonds, chocolate chips, or a mix of all of these would be a great addition. 

6. Once it's cooled start to break off pieces. The bottom will form a sort of crust that keeps everything together and is insanely delicious.

January 22, 2014

Tortilla Soup

This is one of my favorite recipes! I could eat this soup in the dead of winter or in the hottest times of summer and be just fine. I love the textures of the crispy tortilla strips, the savory and spicy soup, the creaminess of the melted cheese, and the freshness of the cilantro! Yummm.... Okay I'm officially ready to make this again! This is also great because you can customize it however you like and add more of your favorite toppings.

What You'll Need: 
8-10 corn tortillas
1/4 cup of oil 
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 serrano peppers (seeded and finely chopped)
4 cups of chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes (with juice)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1 rotisserie chicken 
1/2 cup of Mexican blend cheese 
2 limes

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil.

2. Start by cutting your tortillas into strips. I usually make 6 strips then cut them in half. I think those are the best size pieces for the soup. Put them on the baking sheet, lightly salt them, and bake for 10 minutes.

3. Next, take off the skin and shred all of the white meat from your rotisserie chicken. You don't want the pieces too big, just bite size.

*You can also use a regular chicken breast by boiling it in water or chicken broth with some chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, and Season All. Boil until center of chicken reaches 160 degrees then shred like normal.

4. When the tortilla strips are done, set them aside in a bowl and put the shredded chicken on the same cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. I do this because it dries the chicken out a little and it ends up holding up to the soup a lot better.

5. Now for the soup. Heat up the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, peppers, and a bit of salt to the onions. Cook everything for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

**Make sure you wear gloves or wash your hands really well after handling the peppers (this comes from experience...) I'm also never good at judging whether the peppers are going to be spicy or not but I like spicy so I always go for two. If you go for three, let me know how it turns out!

6. Add the broth and tomatoes and boil for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder. Then add the chicken and let it all simmer for another 5 minutes.

5. Top the bowls of soup with tortilla strips, cheese, and cilantro (it's quite possible that I add too much cilantro but I'm totally okay with that). Squeeze some lime over everything and ENJOY!

***Avocados are also great with this soup if they're in season

January 16, 2014

Spicy Shrimp Pasta

This is one of my favorite types of meals for three reasons. The first is because I'm such a huge seafood lover! And especially with shrimp because I'll eat it however it's brought to me. The second is that I love pasta in tomato sauces. I'm pretty sure I could eat spaghetti every other day and be perfectly happy. The third reason is that I love spicy foods. Every now and then I'll challenge my pallet with some habanero wings or really spicy salsa, but I much prefer the types of foods that make you say "Hey! That has a good kick to it!"  And this meal delivers on that. In fact, it delivers on all three of these things. The pasta and shrimp are in a creamy tomato sauce that has just the right amount of heat and is really full of flavor.

What You'll Need:
1/2 pound of linguini or spaghetti
1/2 pound of shrimp
3 Tablespoons of butter
1/2 of a large onion (copped)
4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes (drained)
1/2 cup of white wine
4 oz. of tomato sauce (half of the little can)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 packet of dried peppers (like the kind that come with pizza)
dried oregano
dried basil
garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by boiling you water with a couple tablespoons of salt. Nothing is worse than forgetting that you have to cook your pasta still when your sauce is almost ready. Trust me on this.

2. If you're using fresh shrimp then I recommend peeling, deveining, and washing it before you get your sauce ready just so things will run more efficiently later on. I used frozen pre-cooked shrimp so I defrosted them by running them under hot water and taking off the tails.

*Frozen shrimp is a really easy way to add protein to your meals. They're easy to prep and you can use however much you like for any dish and put the rest back in the freezer.

3. To start the sauce, melt the butter in a medium sized pot or large pan. Add the onion and garlic with a dash of salt and cook for around 2-3 minutes on medium heat.

4. Add the canned tomatoes and the tomato sauce to the onions. I only used half of the small can of tomato sauce to compensate for the drained tomato juice but if you like a more "tomtoey" flavor go ahead and add more. Now add the wine and let that cook off in the tomatoes for a couple of minutes.

5. As the wine is cooking off and the ingredients are starting to come together, add the peppers and other seasonings. If you like really spicy foods then I would say two packets definitely the way to go. I like to taste it at this point and see what it needs. Some days things just need more oregano or pepper than other days so it really depends.

**It's always a good idea to save those little pepper packets that you get when you order pizza (admittedly we have quite a few). Open them and add them to a shaker for easy access or store them in the packets and you have an easy way to add a little spice to any pasta, chicken, or casserole dish!

6. Add the shrimp to the sauce and let it cook or heat up. It'll only take a few minutes.

7. Drain your pasta and plate immediately onto giant pasta plates (or regular pasta plates if you're not obsessed like I am). Use a ladle to spoon the spicy shrimp tomato sauce onto the pasta. Top with some parmesan cheese.

8. Serve with a glass of wine and ENJOY!

Cake Mix Biscotti

I feel like so many people have been trying to kick the processed foods out of their life. This makes me so happy! Being one of those people who actually can't stomach overly process foods the way I used to, I'm glad to come across more and more recipes that show ways to make this easy and be able to share recipes that can help others do the same. This recipe actually constitutes as semi-homemade rather than from scratch but there's a reason why. About 6 months ago I got pretty fed up with the "food" that was in my pantry. Boxed noodles, potatoes, brownies, cakes, rice, and so on - I had it all! I finally donated all that food because I wasn't eating it anymore and I had found really amazing substitutions that I actually preferred more. HOWEVER I kept a few things (like my boxed cake mix) to see if there was anything I could make with it, besides cake. I decided to make biscotti instead. That's how this cake mix substitution came to be. This is a fun way to clear your pantry of that processed powder you have in your pantry or cupboard and bring new life into foods that you're slowly trying to work your way out of.
What You'll Need:
1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 cup of AP flour
2 eggs
1 stick of butter (melted)
1/4 C of water
Chocolate for drizzling (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and make a dough. I know it sounds like a lot of butter but it's totally worth it, I promise!

3. Divide dough into two pieces and place on a lightly floured work space.

4. Flatten each piece into a rectangle - 1" thick and 3" wide. You'll end up with two rectangle-shaped chocolate dough pieces. I know you can tell this is going to be good!

5. Bake each rectangle for 25 minutes on a foil lined baking sheet, until it firms up then let cool for a few minutes or until it's cool to the touch.

6. Slice each piece into 1.5" thick pieces and place back on a baking sheet. You'll end up with around 14 pieces. Bake for another 15 minutes to make them really crunchy.

7. Let them cool and drizzle with chocolate or a little powdered sugar. I chose to omit this process because I figured I had my calorie intake for the moment. Sure does sound good though!

8. Serve with coffee and ENJOY!

*Some delicious add-ins are walnuts, dried cherries, or chocolate chips!