Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu

Okay so I am doing a little better than last year to give you our Healthy Thanksgiving Menu ideas two days before instead of one day. You still have time to go to the store today or tomorrow if you dare. That was quite an accomplishment yesterday to come out alive and sane.
So here goes!
We will of course be having a turkey since it is so traditional. It just wouldn't feel right to me to not have turkey. What is with those crazy fish eaters on Thanksgiving?? Even my vegan friends eat a Tofurkey! Plus turkey is a lean white meat with lots of protein and no carbs (since the rest of the meal is carb heavy.) It also has plenty of vitamins and minerals and is particularly high in selenium. There aren't a ton of dietary sources of selenium so turkey is a great way to get you some.

I am not a gravy lover but others in my family are so I won't ruin their Thanksgiving. Here is a link to the recipe (and source of the above picture) I am probably using.

I am a cranberry lover though and this is what I will be eating on my Turkey. I actually just finished making this so it has two days for the flavors to blend and get even yummier. It is very simple. Just add one bag of cranberries and the zest and juice of one orange to the food processor and pulse into very fine pieces. Then simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes adding two heaping spoonfuls of honey, a little water and a little Stevia if you need it sweeter. You can sweeten it to your own taste.

On the Side

We skip the green bean casserole in favor of these much better for you green beans. No one ever ate that green bean casserole anyway. I would end up throwing it away every year. Just blanch some fresh green beans and then saute them with a little red onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and slivered almonds. I make these last because they cool off pretty quickly.

I could also live without the potatoes but others really need them to feel like it's Thanksgiving and since I understand the turkey thing and not the fish thing I will make these too. I will clean them up however! Instead of cream and butter I will use chicken broth and light sour cream or Greek yogurt and possibly a little chive and garlic for flavor. Buttermilk is also a better alternative to heavy cream. Save that for dessert.

We will also have a fresh fruit salad. When I was a little girl my mom always made fruit salad with fruit cocktail and whipped cream all mixed together. It was one of my favorite things then, but of course I like to just let the fruit shine in all it's natural glory and not come from a can now! Even though all the fruit isn't at its peak right now the flavors all help each other out. Especially the oranges and pineapple. Hopefully my kids will have a different story to tell about their Thanksgiving meals!

I made this Spaghetti Squash Gratin not very long ago for dinner one night and knew right away that it would be a side dish on my Thanksgiving table. Last year I made something similar from Kalyn's Kitchen called Spaghetti Squash and Chard Gratin. I will make it Wednesday so I just have to heat it up Thursday. You can find the full recipe in the October Archives on my blog but you just need some onions, reduced fat cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, a tiny bit of butter or butter alternative, and a little seasoning like parsley or thyme. I will be adding some kale to it for Thursday to green it up and give it a little more nutrition.

I am planning on making some homemade stuffing. Again this is something I could totally live without because I would rather eat two portions of spaghetti squash gratin, but it's traditional. I really don't have a recipe I am following but it will involve dried whole wheat bread I have already laid out, celery, onion, leeks, chicken broth, nuts, maybe cranberries and pears, parsley, sage, and rosemary.

Thanks to Pinterest my family will get some rolls too. I would normally just make my homemade oatmeal bread but the recipe for these seemed simple and fairly healthy so I am going to give it a try. You can find the recipe here.


Also thanks to Pinterest I am going to make something similar to this delightful turkey for the kids and the grownups to enjoy!

These apple chips are a Pinterest thing as well. I want to make them but time will be my issue so they are last on the list. You can make them though if you like!

Black olives may seem strange to you but there hasn't been a single Thanksgiving in my life without them. Even in college while home with a friend her family happily obliged and included my black olives on their table! Thanks Karon! We will not be eating them on a spoon though. The tradition is for the kids to put them on their fingers of course!

The other thing I can't remember a Thanksgiving without are deviled eggs. There are a few creatures in my house who devour these in one bite. You have to take one while you can because when you turn around they will be gone.

I also got a few fun cheeses and some whole grain crackers. I love a good aged cheddar so that came home with me and a smoked cheddar and Swiss blend. I will also put out a reduced fat Colby jack blend the kids like.


We all love pumpkin pie around here but especially Evan. It isn't really the crust we love it is just the flavor. So I decided to make this crust from Oh She Glows. It sounded much better to me and it is a bit healthier. Pumpkin is another one of those Thanksgiving traditions that gets good grades for its healthiness! It is rich in vital antioxidants and dietary fiber, low in calories, and is often recommended by dietitians in weight loss and cholesterol reducing programs. So no guilt people!

This was also a Pinterest find. I told you that darn site would be a time kill for me. But who could say no to mini pumpkin cheesecakes made with a gingersnap for the crust? Pumpkin pie and cheesecake are Evan's two favorite desserts so maybe he will forgive me for not making Pumpkin Yummy his other favorite. Plus they are small so they are just a mini indulgence.

Finally something to drink. I found this recipe reading one of my favorite blogs, Peas and Thank You. Pumpkin Pie Latte in the crock pot that I can drink all day long if my little heart desires. Ummmm........YES!!!!!!! You just need some strongly brewed pumpkin spice coffee. Dunkin' Donuts makes a great one but so does Trader Joe's I hear. You add the coffee to the crock pot along with some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, canned pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and some Stevia to taste. I might froth a little milk for the top of my cup(s)! Click on the link to get all the correct measurements. You know me. I will just dump.

So there you have it! This will be our healthier Thanksgiving Meal. I realize I should have typed up those appetizers first but I didn't and I need to get working on this huge meal now so I am not about to try to move things around. I also realize this is a ton of food but I don't want to cook for about 3 days after this so I will need lots of leftovers.

Good thing I am running the Turkey Leg 5K first thing in the morning Thursday so I can burn some calories and make room for this meal! The exciting part is that I get to run it with Evan. I am sure he will beat me but he promises not too bad!

I hope your Thanksgiving is a blessed one and that you can find a moment to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. I know my Portions of Goodness are many and I am very grateful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crockpot Chicken and Lentil Stew

Okay Crock Pot fans, this is a recipe for you!

I am getting ready to leave for the weekend for my annual Scrap Booking Retreat with my girlfriends. That meant we needed our annual trip to Craft's Direct to get all of our supplies last Monday. That place is craft heaven!

Normally on days like this when I will be gone I tell the husband he is on his own and I don't feel one bit bad about it! That man is spoiled! I would love to have had 3 meals a day all thought out, planned, shopped for, and cooked nearly everyday of my life for the past 16 years! But this time I was feeling nice and decided to throw some things in the crock pot quick for him before I left.

I looked in the fridge and cupboards quick and started tossing.

The usual suspects. A few carrots, couple stalks of celery, and one onion.

I had about 3/4 of a container of chicken broth in the fridge that I poured in but vegetable broth would work to make it vegan/vegetarian.

Yum! I love lentils. I forget about them and don't eat them nearly enough. I used 3/4 cup of each color just for some variety.

I ended up adding a second can of tomatoes and a can of tomato paste but one can of chick peas was plenty. Don't forget the tomato paste just because I didn't give you a picture of it now!

I L-O-V-E all the spices Pepper Creek Farms makes. Surprisingly enough I usually find them at TJ Maxx or HomeGoods stores but you can order directly from them online. I used a couple teaspoons of the sweet paprika but smoked would be excellent as well. If you can't find either than just use the regular stuff.

A dash of salt, teaspoon of pepper, and some garlic powder. Next time I will just use fresh garlic but I had forgotten and I was in a big hurry! I think I even ended up adding some parsley and oregano too but that hurry up mode is to blame for lack of pictures.

I never make a soup/stew without this magic ingredient. Usually 2 big spoonfuls go into the pot. It adds such tremendous flavor. I am happy to report that I have seen a vegetable based one now too for you vegetarians out there. I haven't tried it yet but I am sure it will be just as good!

I gave that all a stir and then I added about 3 chicken breasts to the pot quick before putting the lid on, turning it to low, and hoping for the best!

Now here is the dilemma.
I was not home.
This was made to make life easy on the hubster.
He is a man.
He said thanks. That was very thoughtful of you.
He took no pictures!
He is fired as a food blogger.

I don't know how to explain that. My kids even wait to start eating their dinner usually because I am taking a picture before we pray and eat. My apologies for no pictures of the finished product. I can however report that it was in fact delicious! I had leftovers for lunch the next day. It tastes very much like a stew without the fatty meat and I think next time I will make it vegetarian just because.

Just a few notes:
*Cook this on low for 5-6 hours. Lentils don't really take that long to get soft but the chicken needs that time. So if you leave the chicken out you could reduce the time.
*When the cooking is nearly finished take the chicken out and shred it. It will fall apart easily. Then return it to the stew and stir.
* Make a big batch. Eat the leftovers and freeze the rest. Heat that frozen stew back up in the crock pot another day.
* You can also use plain brown lentils if you can't find the pretty colors.

Crock Pot Chicken and Lentil Stew
2-3 large carrots, diced
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 24-32oz. container of chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup black lentils
3/4 cup red lentils
2 cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can chick peas
1 small can tomato paste
2 tbsp. chicken base
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. oregano
3-4 chicken breasts

Directions: Add all ingredients to the crock pot and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred near the end of cooking time. Return chicken to the pot and stir. Allow chicken time to warm back up before serving.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

Oh Pinterest! I hadn't let myself join because I knew it would be a time kill for me. But temptation seized me. If you know me at all Pinterest is totally me! Everything you love and that inspires you all organized by categories onto neat little boards that I can refer to at any point. Totally me. My organized brain is in total love. Why the rambling about Pinterest? Because that is where I found this wonderful recipe that has been quickly bumped to the top of the list of favorites!

I cooked my spaghetti squash first and shredded it onto a plate. For instructions on how to cook it see this link. Cooking Spaghetti Squash The Pinterest recipe said to cook it in the microwave. My problem was that I don't have a dish that would fit the squash and still fit in the microwave. So plan on the 40 minute cook time if you have that problem or make the squash a day ahead.

I cut up two smaller onions and sauteed them in 2 tablespoons butter. I actually used real butter this time. Use whatever you like. Olive oil works great too. I also added a dash of cayenne pepper to the onions. I had to go easy on that for my sake and the sake of the children I was trying to make love this dish!

Cook them until they are starting to brown. I wish there was such a thing as a smell button. I love the smell of onions cooking.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe. I used 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup Greek yogurt instead of all sour cream. Not only do I love the tang it gives but it has more nutrition. Go for all yogurt if you dare!

I also changed the cheese. I used reduced fat marble jack and mozzarella which is naturally lower in fat. The recipe said 1/2 cup cheddar but by the time I topped it off with a little more cheese is was closer to one cup. The less you use the better of course for your waistline which is another good reason to use reduced fat.

I mixed the onions, yogurt, sour cream, and most of the cheese along with some parsley into a large bowl and stirred it around. The recipe called for thyme but I do not love thyme so I picked parsley but rosemary would be good too. A dash of salt and pepper at this point is adviseable also.

Place that in a dish to bake and spread evenly. I used my Pampered Chef round baker but a 2 quart casserole would be about the right size. Don't forget to top this with a little more cheese at this point.

I baked it for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. I wanted to let it get a little more crispy on top but I was in a hurry because Miles had to leave to speak at a meeting. I will do that for sure next time or just increase the temperature. My oven has issues.

We had french cut green beans and some raw veggies and hummus on the side. Being that our main dish was also a vegetable this was one very veggie night! We are eating phase 1 of South Beach for the next week at least and maybe into a second week. We have had way too many social engagements and taken too much liberty so we both need to sugar detox again and take off a few pounds!
if we weren't in phase one some kind of nice crispy topping would be awesome on top of this. I am thinking some whole wheat bread crumbs would be divine. But we are totally in love with this new way to eat spaghetti squash even without the crispy top.

I think spaghetti squash is becoming a Halloween tradition. I made this last year on Halloween night.

We loved it served like traditional spaghetti also but Au Gratin is better!

I must go turn my little girl into a kitty and my kick my big kid off the video games so he can dress himself as a musician gangster. He looks more like a musician than a gangster to me. But the fact that he is wearing any costume is good enough for me since he hates costumes! He also hates carving pumpkins but Faith and I do not!

Spahetti Squash Au Gratin

1 spaghetti squash cooked and shredded
1 large onion or two small, diced
2 Tbsp. butter
dash of cayenne
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup reduced fat cheese (such as marble jack, mozzarella, or pepper jack)
1 Tbsp. parsley (thyme or rosemary will work also)
salt and pepper

Directions: Cook squash and shred when slightly cooled. Add butter to small pan and turn heat on to begin to melt. Add diced onion and cayenne pepper and cook until onions begin to brown. In a large bowl mix shredded spaghetti squash, onions, sour cream, Greek yogurt, 2/3 -3/4 cup of the cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Place mixture in a 2 quart casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees or until cheese is beginning to brown and squash begins to crisp up.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Peanut Butter and.......

Not jelly! Although that is coming next. But today I made peanut butter date balls with just 3 ingredients and they are SUPER good if I do say so myself. The husband says so too and even the picky eater likes them. She wasn't going to like them on a matter of principal but I made her try a bite and then she looked at me and said, "More food!" Then she came and helped herself to another one. Kid approved people!

I haven't made date balls in a long time. I have had to discipline myself because I eat too many of them when they are around. But I have camp this weekend with the teenagers and I like to bring along a few healthier snacks so my entire weekend doesn't go to pot. So I was making a practice batch. Plus I have lots of dates sitting around that need to be used up.

This is so simple. I promise.

One overflowing cup of unsalted peanuts. (I added another small handful because this wasn't overflowing enough) Dump those into the food processor and process into fine crumbs or for about 30 seconds. Remove them to another bowl.

Remember these? Nature's candy they are often called. You need 12 dates and you need to pit them. Place them in the processor and mix until they start to form a ball.

Add the peanuts back in along with 2 tablespoons of a creamy peanut butter. Process until the mixture just starts to come together. This is a very creamy peanut butter so if you have a thick one you may need to add a tablespoon or so of milk.

The mixture should look like this.

I just dump it out onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper and start to roll them into balls. Usually I use about a tablespoon of mixture per ball. If they won't hold just give the mixture a good squeeze in your hand. If that doesn't work you may need to put it back in the processor for a couple whirls.

I usually get anywhere from 25-30 date balls.

The problem is I eat some as I go because you have to make sure that they taste good before you roll them all out right?

Store them in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week or so. I love this for a before or after running snack but also as a sweet treat after lunch or dinner.

Keep in mind that while they contain no added sugar, dates are high in natural sugar, hence the name, "Nature's candy." Peanuts require the same kind of thinking. Lots of nutrition in these blessed portions of goodness but also not exactly a low calorie snack. So don't let yourself get out of control now!!!!

Please, please, try these! They are not some crazy health food freak snack. They are so yummy and so simple to make you will wonder why you waited so long.

Also, Walmart has removed your excuse that you can't find these dates! They are in the produce section and they have a yellow wrapper around them instead of the red one.

If you would like other flavors click on the link below or look under desserts on my recipe page. I think this good be flavor number 8 or 9 now!

Peanut Butter Date Balls
12 Medjool Dates, pitted
1 overflowing cup unsalted peanuts
2 Tbsp. all natural creamy peanut butter
(1-2 Tbsp. milk if necessary)

Process peanuts into fine crumbs in food processor. Remove and place in separate bowl. Process dates until they begin to come together and form a ball. Add peanuts back to bowl of processor. Add peanut butter and process until mixture comes together. Pour mixture onto parchment or waxed paper. Roll into balls. (about a tablespoon each) Let dry out a bit on the counter and then place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Black Bean Chili Dip

I am becoming a recipe stealer. Sometimes that is just easier. Who am I kidding? It is always easier than trying to be creative and come up with your very own recipe. Plus when I made stole, the recipe for Spicy Shredded Crock pot Chicken from Kalyn's Kitchen she, a real big time blogger, left me a comment. I was so excited and a little scared that I had screwed something up or that she would scold me for stealing her recipe and blogging about it. But she was just thankful that I enjoyed it and that I had credited her properly with a link to her website. Whew! It was a little like that feeling you would get when the phone rang in your classroom in Jr. high or high school. Even though you knew you hadn't done anything you were still worried it was the Principal's office calling for you for some reason. I hated that feeling!

So the recipe stealer was at it again! But this time I stole from Oh She Glows. Don't they say to steal from the best? These are two of my favorite healthy food blogs. Maybe you should just follow them instead of me. Go there now for better pictures for sure! Black Bean Chili Dip

Get to the recipe for pitty's sake!

Guess what?
I followed the recipe.
I measured. 
It's a miracle.

Start by sauteing some onion and garlic in a little olive oil.

Add some diced jalapeno. Make it easy on your self and buy it in a jar already diced up or you can be really good and get a fresh jalapeno. This is what really adds the kick so if you are a baby about spicy foods like me go easy.

After a few minutes add one can of drained and rinsed black beans, 1 cup of your favorite salsa, and 1 cup of frozen corn. Don't thaw out the corn. It will cook right up with all the ingredients. No worries.

After that has cooked a few minutes add these spices. Oh She Glows is a vegan blog so that is the main reason for the nutritional yeast. Vegans use it for a source of protein and vitamins but I am all for adding some extra protein and vitamins even if I am not a vegan.  It has a nutty and cheesy flavor to it. So this ingredient is optional for you but Miles did remark on the flavor of this dish being unique so perhaps it was this little extra ingredient! You will need one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 2 tsp. of the chili powder, 1 tsp. of the cumin, and 1/2 tsp. salt. 

Just stir those spices around in there and continue to let this heat up for about 10 minutes or so. This gives the flavors time to blend together nicely.

Now you can just place this goodness in a bowl and serve with your favorite chips and recommended toppings on the side or you can make a few serving changes like we did.

Instead of just dipping chips in we layered chips in the bottom of these pie tins, topped with the bean dip and a bit of cheese, (no longer vegan, oops!) and put them in the oven for about 5 minutes. When they were done we topped them with the recommended toppings Angela gave on her blog, green onion, avocado, and cilantro.

So since we wrecked the "vegan-ness" of this dish I figured why not add a little sour cream on top also. I like to mix a little sour cream with some Greek yogurt sometimes too for a little tangier taste and more nutrition.

I made this dish again for small group on Sunday evening and switched it up again. I followed the recipe but then put it in a round baking dish and spread some cheese over the top and then baked it for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Nice golden cheesy goodness. I brought all the toppings along in a separate dish for each individual to top how they liked on their own plate. (I forgot to take pictures. Darn.)

And if three ways to eat it aren't enough, Miles used the leftovers in his eggs both times I made this dish. We would be terrible vegans.

Now file this recipe away for holiday gatherings and Superbowl fare or get busy making fun weekend food on a Wednesday evening! I promise all will love it!

Black Bean Chili Dip
2 small onions chopped (or about 1.5 cups)
1 clove garlic
diced jalapeno (add as much or little as you like or use 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
3/4 -1 cup mild salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
olive oil
Optional Toppings: cilantro, avocado, green onion, cheese

In a large skillet saute onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to brown. Add in diced jalapeno and cook a few more minutes. Add black beans, corn, and salsa all at once and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, salt, and nutritional yeast. Reduce heat and continue cooking until heated through.

Serving Suggestions:
Place dip in a bowl and garnish with toppings of your choice. Serve with your favorite chips. We like Trader Joes Veggie and Flaxseed chips which they now have in spicy!

Place bean mixture in a baking dish and top with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 10 minutes. Serve warm with toppings on the side.

Make an omelet or scrambled egg hash with any leftover bean dip.