Friday, January 20, 2012

Beef barley mushroom stew!

I love this stuff. This is comfort food for me. It's yummy; it's hearty; and it warms your soul. 

Sometimes I make it with ground beef. It's just as heavenly. 

My mommy bought me a cookbook for Valentine's Day last year. (Isn't she awesome? Who buys their kids cookbooks - or anything for that matter - for V-Day?) I had received a 6.5-qt. slow cooker as a housewarming gift from one of my best friends (I live by myself... Are we starting to see where the nickname Miss Piggy came from?), and had never made anything in it but pot roast. Then I get an awesome care pack from Mom, with the Taste of Home: Casseroles, Slow Cooker, and Soups cookbook. So perfect!

Anyway. It has a recipe for an awesome stew. Basically beef barley stew with a ton of mushrooms. So I put my own spin on it, and now I make it once every two or three weeks or so. Feeling down? Make beef barley mushroom stew. Finals are over? Celebrate with beef barley mushroom stew. It's cold outside? Eat lots of beef barley mushroom stew. You get the picture. So without further ado...

Beef Barley Mushroom Stew!
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 lb. stew meat
evoo, for browning
thyme, to taste
1 yellow or white onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
12 - 16 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 can (14.5-oz) fat-free beef broth
1 can (14.5-oz) reduced fat, low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 c. barley
2 c. water
cracked black pepper, to taste

If your stew meat isn't already in bite-sized chunks, chop it up a little. Brown it on all sides with a little olive oil. I like to toss my thyme in here, so the meat has nice flavor. Remove your beef with a slotted spoon and set it aside. 

Toss in your onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook them all in the meat drippings until softened and the onion is translucent - about 5 - 8 minutes. Add in some more thyme if you'd like. (I always like.)

Dump your beef back in, and add your liquids and barley! Top it all off with a healthy dose of cracked pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. 

Don't eat it all at once! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A-mazing lemon blueberry bread

Yeah, I said it. This bread is one of the most delicious things I've ever made. (And I've made a lot of delicious things.)

For my juice cleanse, I bought close to 20 pints of blueberries. Annnnnnd definitely didn't use them all. I got a ridiculous craving for something sweet this evening, and decided a lemon blueberry bread would do the trick! I chose this recipe because I didn't want to wait for dough to rise.

It was reluctant to come out and I didn't want to ruin the loaf before I could take a picture, so sorry. This is all you get.

The Most Delicious Lemon-Blueberry Bread Ever.
adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny!

6 Tbsp. butter, softened (not melted!)
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
zest from 1 large lemon
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder 
dash of salt
2 pints blueberries


juice from 1 large lemon
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350* F. Cream butter. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients, and then mix into wet mixture. Add milk. When everything is combined, gently fold in blueberries. 

Grease/spray a loaf pan, and toss your bread mixture in! Bake for 55 - 60 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean). 

Allow your bread to cool for about ten minutes. While you're waiting, whip up the lemon glaze! Remove the bread from the pan and drizzle glaze on top. Enjoy! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Zucchini & feta macaroni!

I've noticed several different broccoli mac & cheese recipes pop up on Pinterest lately, and thought I'd give one a go... only to find that the broccoli in my fridge had passed its prime. So I dug through my crisper drawers looking for the next best thing, and found something even better!


I love zucchini. I could eat it for nearly every meal and never tire of it. It is so versatile and delicious. And so that is how, armed with the contents of my kitchen, I set out to create a somewhat-healthier mac & cheese today.

Zucchini & feta mac & cheese

8 oz. pasta, uncooked
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 oz. feta
2 oz. shredded colby jack
1/4 c. nonfat milk
1 tsp. ground mustard
Worchestershire sauce
garlic powder

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and dump pasta in. Top with a double boiler or colander, and steam zucchini while pasta is cooking. (8 minutes.) Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Return pasta to pot, and dump in zucchini. Mix mustard and milk together, and pour over pasta. Toss in cheeses, garlic powder to taste, and a few shakes of Worchestershire sauce. Mix until combined. Top with cracked black pepper and serve!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Hide the Cucumber" Salad

I had a girlfriend over for dinner Sunday night. I was doing my thing in the kitchen, using up some of the leftover veggies from my cleanse, and decided to make a cucumber salad.

I'd chopped up the cucumber and started in on the tomatoes when she informed me she's not the biggest cucumber fan. Whoops.

So I got to play hide the cucumber! Here's what I came up with.

Hide the Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, chopped
1 (10 oz) container grape tomatoes, halved
juice from 1/2 lemon
crumbled feta, to taste
oregano, to taste

Mix it all up and enjoy! 

Jalapeno avocado quesadillas

I was recently inspired to put avocado in my quesadillas, so I finally gave it a go today.

This was the result.

Jalapeno-Avocado Quesadillas. 

And they were delicious. 

2 tortillas
1/2 avocado, sliced
6 - 10 slices of jalapeno
shaved manchego

Put a little butter in the bottom of your skillet and heat it up. Then put the tortillas in to warm them slightly. Cover one tortilla with sliced avocado, jalapeno slices, and manchego, to taste. Enough to hold your quesadilla together, but it's a unique cheese so if you're not familiar with it, don't go overboard. Cook on high for approximately 3 minutes per side. Slice and enjoy hot!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Last day of the cleanse!

Day five, and the final hour is upon us. I'm enjoying my carrot/apple juice at the moment, as a matter of fact!

I have also concluded that if ever I should be proud of myself, it's today. Not only have I (almost!) completed five days of juicing, but after work today, I thought it would be a good idea to head to Costco and get some sprouted grain bread (for my chocolate french toast in the morning!) and some non-fat Greek yogurt, just because I like having it around the house.

More than $100 later, I made it out not only alive, but not having sampled anything in the store. And oh, boy, was I tempted. The first demonstration booth I came across was an outside vendor sampling their five different gourmet cheesecakes. Brianna, Spartan juice warrior. Self-control of steel.

Or something like that. Only one of their cheesecakes had chocolate on it. I might have been more tempted if I'd had chocolate dangled in front of my face.

Anyway, more juice recipes.

Juice 6:

  • 1 (6-oz) container blueberries
  • 1 (6-oz) container blackberries
  • 1 orange, peeled, with pith removed
Adds a little extra "body" to the blueberry/orange one I did before. 

Juice 7:
  • 1 pear
  • 1 (6-oz) container blueberries
  • 1 (6-oz) container blackberries
This one was breakfast this morning. Holy delicious!!

Juice 8: 
  • 4 - 6 carrots
  • 1 apple
Yum! The one I made last night had 4 larger carrots. This one I'm drinking now has six carrots because I just decided to use up the bag. 

And so for the last five days, I've been living off these eight juices (and a few mistakes). I've been incredibly surprised at how tasty most of them were. (The most notable mistake involved cucumber. That one was not at all tasty.) But of the recipes I put up, I think I would try all of them again, and the breakfast ones I might continue and add into my usual breakfast repertoire. 


And since I left this up all evening rather than posting, I am SO pleased to tell you I made it the entire five days! And I broke my fast with something healthy - an avocado and a handful of pistachio nuts. I needed some crunch and some healthy fat. I'm going to guzzle down some water and head to bed. You might be able to catch a new recipe or two from me tomorrow! I don't think I'm going to do the chocolate French toast (I forgot to get eggs at the store today), but I definitely have something up my sleeve for lunch. 

Thanks for stopping in, and thank you to those who have followed me through this last week and cheered me on! I really appreciate it. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Juicing, Day 3

Day three is over! Only two more to go. :)

Breakfast usually means two juices, because I can't pick just one.

Breakfast #1:

  • 1 mango, peeled. Can't put the pit in there. 
  • 1 6-oz. container blueberries
  • 1 apple
Delish. My favorite. 

Breakfast #2:
  • 1 orange or grapefruit
  • 1 6-oz. container blackberries
Also delish. 

During the day, my "snack" juices usually involve carrots and celery, with a ratio of about 2:1, respectively. I didn't put any kale in my juice today. Oops. 

All this healthy stuff running through my veins now has prompted me to look a little further into the Paleo diet, though. I might make more of an attempt to eat Paleo / Clean throughout the year. I also think I'm going to try to meal-plan. I often get pressed for time and end up only eating veggies for dinner. I could probably use a little forethought in my life. 

In that vein, my weekend is probably going to look a little something like this:

Breakfast: steel-cut oats with fresh blueberries
Dinner: (hopefully) Kale & ricotta stuffed shells, to use up some of the extra kale from this week that I'm sure I'll have. 

Breakfast: I've been eyeballing this baked oatmeal for the last few days. I would use blueberries instead of strawberries, since I have 13 containers of blueberries in the fridge right now. 
Lunch: Maybe a Greek salad of sorts. I have plenty of cucumber that needs to be used and that sounds really tasty. 
Dinner: A soup of some kind. I'm thinking about this Coconut and Red Lentil Soup. But by red lentils I really mean green, since I bought a bunch of green ones today. 

... Most of that is decidedly not Paleo, and not much of it is Clean either. But making more of an effort to eat protein is a huge step for me, since I'm usually a snack-on-veggies kind of girl. (And before you get any ideas, my kind of veggie is a marinated artichoke heart. I'm not that healthy.) 

Anyway. There will certainly be an update at the end of my cleanse! So far, so good. I'm surprisingly not hungry, and drinking probably less juice than I should be, even. I crave gum less now than I did the first two days. I never noticed a decline in energy, but the fact that I'm still up at 2AM when I'm hardly consuming anything is probably notable. Day three is definitely the easiest so far. 

The first day of school comes early in the morning, so I should probably crash. Thanks for stopping by! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Juicing my way into 2012.

I'm home, and the new year is here!

One of my resolutions for the new year is to lose the nearly-45 lbs. I've put on in the last 9 months. So I decided to make that a two-part goal, and made another resolution to complete a 5-day juice cleanse.

Today is day one.

I unintentionally fasted until about 4:30 or 5 o'clock this afternoon, because I was completely unprepared. I got off the plane yesterday morning and basically went straight to work. I didn't feel like going grocery shopping after I got off work at 9:30 last night, and I ended up sleeping in a little this morning and then running some other errands before heading to the grocery store.

I spent about $45 and got the following:

  • 3 mangoes
  • 4 (12 oz) bags fresh cranberries
  • 4.65 lbs. organic gala apples
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 bunches red leaf lettuce
  • 3.3 lbs. navel oranges
  • 2 bunches organic spinach
  • 6 lbs. carrots
  • 4 grapefruit
  • 3 avocados (for coming off the cleanse) 
  • 1.3 lbs. broccoli crowns
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 3 bunches kale
  • 2 (6 oz.) containers blackberries
  • 2 (6 oz.) containers blueberries
  • 4 bunches celery
My first juice this afternoon was a little sweet. I was actually surprised by how tasty it was! It's something I might make for myself even when I'm not cleansing. The apple juice definitely lightened it up quite a bit. (That's it to the left.) This one made just shy of 8 oz, I believe. 

Juice 1:

- 1 apple
- 1/2 lemon (peeled, without pith!)
- 1 carrot
- 1 kale leaf

This next guy to the right is my second concoction of the day. I was surprised, when I cut out the apple, how much juice I lost. 

Juice 2:

- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot
- 2 kale leaves
- 1 lemon wedge (without pith, again)

This one tasted a lot like V8 to me, minus the tomato, obviously. It was pretty tasty as well! I rarely (read: never) crave V8 juice, but as a homemade replacement, I'd take this any day. It made 4 oz. of juice, so I'll need to double the recipe from now on. 

I'm going to make another glass of Juice 2 before I head to bed, to stave off any midnight cravings. One of the things that has surprised me the most is that I am not all that hungry, but my mouth and brain are desperately craving something to chew. I broke down and have been working on the same piece of gum for the last hour and a half. It's sugar-free and curbed the war going on in my brain, so I'm not too upset about it. 

I hope to update daily with my other strange concoctions, and I have several recipes to post from my vacation when this madness is over!