Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Today is January 6th, 2011.  It's been a long time since I logged on to blog on, but the holidays were here.  Easy, yummy, healthy, cheap over the holidays??  Please.  Not in this house.  The holidays are the one time of the year that I allow myself to eat, well...anything.  Everything.  I mean...EVERYTHING.  Out late shopping??  How about a 5 Guys double cheeseburger and fries at midnight to wake ya up??  Up late baking??  Nothing like raw cookie dough to give ya some energy.  Holy crap and good grief.  I ate it all.  ALL.  And chug a lugged some good wine in the process, too.  And gin and tonics.  And rum and cokes.  Yummy yummy yummy yummy.  But now the holidays are gone and with them went my waistline.  8 pounds.  E-I-G-H-T POUNDS!!  How does someone put on 8 pounds in one month?!?!?  I did it once before, but I was pregnant at the time.  Perfectly understandable.  Adorable even.  Aww...look at the chubby little mommy.  Can I rub your belly?  But 8 pounds from raw cookie dough and fries?  No one wants to rub THAT belly.  That's just gross.  Time to take control and get back on the health wagon.  I started with a bang and went vegan.  (For a day.)  Oatmeal for breakfast, a salad for lunch and quinoa stuffed peppers for dinner.
I gotta be honest, though.  Quinoa??  What the hell is that??  But after a whole wheat couscous disaster, some friends recommended I try it.  Try it??  I can't even pronounce it.  Quinoa...quinoa...quin-o-a???
I am a geek at heart and HAD to research this strange little word.  Here's what I learned...Quinoa.  Pronounced "keen-wa."  (Keen-wa.  Sounds like something you say in karate class as you karate chop your opponent.  Keeeeen-WA!!!!!)
ANYWAY...quinoa is actually a POWERHOUSE of nutrition!!!  I was blown away.  It's loaded with vitamins and minerals, and those very minerals make it an EXCELLENT food choice if you suffer from migraines (hello), diabetes (cousin Tim????), or atherosclerosis. 
Keen-waaaaaaaa?!?!?!  How can I NOT eat you????
I also learned that quinoa is not a grain at all, but a seed of a leafy plant.  That means...gluten free!!   Quinoa, you just keep getting better and better!!'s grown in the Andes mountains of Ecuador.  NOW I understand the price tag.  What can brown do for you??  Those poor little UPS men have to climb the mountains of Ecuador, pick teeny, tiny seeds, and drive them all the way back to the US.  No wonder it $4.49 for a 12!!  But I bought it and I WILL buy it again.  How can I not??  It used to be referred to as "the gold of the Incas" as it gave their warriors increased stamina.  Warrior stamina??  I want warrior stamina.  In fact, I'm training for a race called the Warrior Dash.  What better to feed a warrior in training than stamina seeds???  So I thank you, Michelle, Mike, Allison, Stephanie and Colleen.  I TRIED your quinoa and LOVED it.  Thank you.


 This Ancient Harvest Quinoa was the only brand I could find at the store.  It was in the organic section, and rather pricey, but well worth the money.  Did you know quinoa is a complete protein??  It is!  It contains all 11 essential amino acids and thus qualifies as a complete protein.  So.  Dollar for dollar, 12 oz of quinoa at $4.49  is pretty cheap when compared to beef or chicken!!  Well worth the money.  And the most delicious recipe for quinoa stuffed peppers is right on the back.  Bonus.  A recipe and a shopping list all in one.  I just carried the box around and filled my cart with dinner ingredients.  Couldn't have been simpler.


I'll reprint it, though (with Ancient Harvest's permission) for those of you with old lady eyes like mine.

                            Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
4 large green peppers
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 TBS. butter
1 - 28oz can diced tomatoes (reserve juice)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 -12 oz jar Mexican salsa
2 TBS. dry sherry
10 oz. mozarella cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 325.

Place 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water or chicken broth in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed.  (10-15 minutes.)
Meanwhile, steam 4 green peppers until soft, but not limp.

In a large skillet, saute the onion and mushrooms in butter.  Add the diced tomatoes (reserve the juice).
Add the crushed garlic and Mexican salsa.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the sherry and simmer for 10 more minutes.  Fold in cooked quinoa.  Place peppers in baking dish and fill with quinoa mixture.  This will take about half of the mixture.  Thin remainder with reserved juice and pour around peppers.
Sprinkle shredded mozarella over peppers and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Done and yum.

Again, I have to say thank you to my friends who urged me to try this grain (seed).  Positively delicious.  Just had the left-overs for lunch...mmm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving...there's nothing easy, healthy, or cheap about it.  But it's oh-so-yummy and I CAN'T WAIT!!!  Bring on the bird!!
God bless you all.  I am so very thankful for each of you.
Blowing hugs and Thanksgiving kisses your way.  MOOWAAAH!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup...A Hug For The Soul

In my 38 years, I've learned that sometimes life can sucker punch you in the gut SO HARD that you think you may never breathe again.  I don't have much more to say other than this...when your hearts and minds are confused and broken...your soul needs a hug.  Make chicken noodle soup.  And if you are REALLY hurting...make some homemade bread to go with it.  And a hot cup of coffee.  God bless.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 (6- to 7-pound) chicken
  • 2 quarts chicken broth or canned low-sodium broth
  • 1 quart cold water, or as needed
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups egg noodles
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces. If there are any pads of yellow fat in the tail area, do not remove them. Add the chicken to the pot and pour in the broth. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Add the parsley, thyme and bay leaf.

Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender, about 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the parsley and thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Discard the chicken skin and bones and cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Add the noodles and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Stir the meat back into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot. (The soup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months.)

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Great Grandma Devere's Irish Soda Bread

3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1tsp baking soda
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 TBS oil

Mix all of the above in a large bowl then pour into a greased bread pan.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

In loving memory of Steve Borghero...may you rest in peace, my friend.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I know I've been on a Hungry Girl kick lately...but it's with good reason.  Lisa Lillien is a genius.  A food scientist.  A magician.  A foodgicianist.  She was on Rachel Ray last week and announced that she will soon have her own show on the Cooking channel.  I'm looking forward to her show much the same as a child awaits Christmas.  Wild anticipation.  I know for sure and for certain that it's destined to be my #2 favorite show.  (I'd say #1, but let's get real.  McDreamy vs. Hungry Girl?  Please.)

So.  Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms.  GAWD, these were good.  Good doesn't cover it.  Yum doesn't cover it.  I-want-another-one-right-now doesn't cover it.  They seriously were that good.  The kids wouldn't touch them so I can't give their review, but the hubster ate his all gone and said it was delicious.  That's enough for me!  I'm adding this recipe to my favorite's list and I think you will, too.  Try it.
OH!!  I didn't tell you the best part!!  You make this in a foil packet...NO MESS!!  If I was an octopus I'd give it 8 thumbs up.

2 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/8 tsp salt  (I used more...go figure)
Dash ground thyme, or more to taste
2 large portabella mushrooms
1 summer squash, ends removed, finely diced  (I didn't have squash so I used cauliflower...SO GOOD!)
1/2 TBS reduced fat Parmesan grated topping

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine cheese wedges, garlic, onion, salt, and thyme.  Mix until smooth.  Set aside.
3.  Remove mushroom stems and finely chop.  Add chopped stems to the bowl and set mushroom caps aside.
4. Add squash (cauliflower...) to the bowl and stir well until the veggies are coated in the cheese mixture.  (Doesn't that sound yummy?  "Until coated in the cheese mixture"...those are beautiful words.)
5. Lay a large piece of heavy duty foil on a baking sheet.  Lightly spray both sides of the mushroom caps with olive oil nonstick spray, sprinkle with salt, and place next to each other on the foil with the rounded sides down.  Spoon veggie-cheese mixture into the mushroom caps.  Sprinkle with grated topping.
6. Place another large piece of foil over the caps.  Fold together and seal all 4 edges of the two foil pieces, forming a well-sealed packet.
7. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.
8. Allow packet to cool for a few minutes, and then cut to release steam before opening it entirely.  (Careful-steam will be hot.)  Season to taste with additional salt and thyme.  Enjoy!

Makes 2 servings.
92 calories, 2.75g  fat

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creamy Caramelized Onion Bisque

Creamy Caramelized Onion Bisque...I gotta tell ya, the recipe name alone had me tearing up and drooling.  I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating...Lisa Lillien??  I love you.  I love you and I thank you and my tummy thanks you.  I think Rob's tummy thanks you, too.  This soup was outta the ball park good.  And 109 calories per cup???  Seriously???  I dub thee Saint Lisa.  Canonized for life.  You performed an onion miracle.  Even She Who Must Not Be Named had two cups!!  You have earned your title, Saint Lisa.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your recipe.  I made this soup on a cold, rainy Monday...the house smelled amazing for HOURS (unless you hate the smell of onions) and I was warmed from the inside out.  I served it with a salad and called the whole thing dinner.  Truthfully, it was the best dinner I've had in a long time.  Two thumbs up and an mmmm mmmm mmmmmmmm.  My only (itsy bitsy) complaint is that it takes FOREVER to properly caramelize onions.  BUT!!   It's so worth the time it takes, so I'll zip up my complaint, lock it and throw away the key.

Creamy Caramelized Onion Bisque

1 TBS light whipped butter or light buttery spread (we use Smart Balance Light)
2 large sweet onions, chopped
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 TBS chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt  (I used a lot more...always do)
Dash cayenne pepper or more to taste
4 cups fat-free beef broth
4 TBS fat-free creamer

1. Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat on the stove.  Once butter has coated the bottom of the pot, add onions, shallots, garlic salt and cayenne pepper.  Onions may be piled high, but they'll cook down.  Saute for 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and caramelized.  (SOOO worth the time...)

Mine still had another 10 minutes to go at this point.  Kind of a pain, but again...mmmmmm.

3. Remove 1/2 cup of the caramelized onions, to be used to top soup, and set aside.  Add broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove pot from heat.  Stir in creamer and let cool for several minutes.

5. Working in batches, puree onion mixture in a blender until smooth, 1-2 minutes per batch.

'kay...I guess this is my second complaint.  I hate using the blender.  Especially when hot liquids are involved.  But this is the step that transforms your soup from an onion-y broth to a creamy, bisque-y heaven.  It gets yummy and creamy and looks almost gravy-like.  109 calories???  I'm still not believing it.

Anyway...that's it!!!  Your soup is now done.  Top with the reserved caramelized onions, scallions, a crouton or 2 (or 3) and some extra cayenne pepper.  Yum.
Rob topped his with croutons and cheese and broiled it till melty and brown.  Damn, his looked good.  But so did mine.  No cheese needed.

Enjoy!!!  (And if you make it...invite me over.  I want another bowl.  Thanks.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

Yesterday morning my oldest daughter declared that she was looking for a good lawyer and was going to divorce me. Initially I found the whole thing hysterical, but as the day wore on it became less funny.  Our family has been through a series of traumas and I thought perhaps this was at the root of her divorce decree.  I decided a TV Mom moment was in order.  A clean house, chicken and dumplings simmering on the stove and homemade peanut butter cookies in the oven...very TV mom-ish.  By the time she got off the bus I thought the house smelled amazing.  It looked pretty sparkly, too. My job as a TV Mom was done.  She was sure to apologize and un-divorce me now, right???

Wrong.  A teenager is a teenager.  At precisely 3:15, She Who Must Not Be Named walked through the door, threw her bookbag on the floor and said, "Ewwww.  What's that smell???" 
Mental scream.  Next time I'm just gonna ground her.  The cookies were yummy, though, so I thought I'd share.  I found the recipe in the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook on page 259. 

Don't those look yummy???  Yup.  I thought so, too.  They're made with all natural peanut butter and have absolutely ZERO flour in them.  Not one pinch.  Sold.  Not only is refined white flour bad for you, it's also a pain in the ass to measure and mix in.  I don't know about you, but when I use flour, my entire kitchen becomes a mess.  Flour all over the floor, flour all over the counters and flour all over me.  It's disastrous.  Yay for no flour.  I set my oven to 350 and got down to business.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.
3. Shape the dough into 24 balls and arrange on 2 cookie sheets.  Gently press a crisscross pattern into the top of each cookie with the tines of a fork.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom.

Serving size: 3 cookies.
Calories: 315.
Serve them with a glass of milk...that will add 80 calories but makes the entire cookie eating experience complete.

Yum, yum, YUM!!!!
My cookies looked NOTHING like the cookies in the cookbook (I think they were a little over-done.  Maybe decrease the cooking time to 8 minutes...) but they sure did taste good.  The recipe made 24 cookies.  This morning there were only 4 left.  She Who Must Not Be Named even had one for breakfast.  Maybe she'll stick around after all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leggo My Eggo

That's all I can say.  Leggo my Eggo and...mmmmmmmmmmm.  Mmmm mmm mmm mmmm mmmm.
A couple of months ago I picked up the "Flat Belly Diet Pocket Guide."

Buy it.  Of all my books this is, by far, my favorite.  The recipes are delicious, ridiculously easy AND...they target belly fat.  Does it get any better than that?  It was written by the editor-in-chief of Prevention magazine so I believe it to be credible.  The theory behind the flat belly diet is that monounsaturated fats target belly fat.  Monounsaturated fats (MUFA's) are healthy oils that are found in many plant foods.  In the exact words of Liz Vaccariello, "They fill you up fast and keep you full longer."  Eat a MUFA at every meal and soon your tummy will be tinier.  Pretty damn easy.  And yummy.

There are 5 categories of MUFA's:

1. Oils
2. Nuts and seeds
3. Avocados
4. Olives
5. Dark Chocolate

Isn't that list amazing????  Avocados??  As in...guacamole????  See??  Told you this book is awesome.  You just have to watch the MUFA serving size.  MUFA's are calorie dense so a little goes a long way.  If your chosen MUFA is oil, the serving is 1TBS.  Nuts and seeds...2 TBS.  Avocados...1/4 cup.  Olives...2 TBS.  And chocolate???  I can't eat chocolate.  It gives me a migraine.  That super sucks.  But the serving size for dark chocolate is 1/4 cup.  That's 4 TBS.  Back in my chocolate-doesn't-give-me-a-migraine days, I woulda been THRILLED with 4 TBS of chocolate.  4TBS of chocolate chips on top of a waffle??  Oh my yum!!  Chocolate in my oatmeal??  Chocolate on strawberries??  Chocolate chips right outta the bag??  Sigh.  I hate migraines.

BUT!!!  I can eat all of the other MUFA's and they are delicious.  This morning I chose pecans as my MUFA.  Toasted pecans and strawberries over whole grain waffles with a little agave nectar drizzled on top...mmmmm.  This afternoon I chose avocados and had a guacamole sammy.  Yum.  Not sure what dinner's gonna be, but Liz Vaccariello has that covered, too.  She put out the Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook and I'm pretty sure the fam would like just about everything in it.  (Except the fish recipes.  I still haven't figured out how to get my kids to eat fish...)

...'kay.  I'm done blabbing.  The Pitt game is on.  Gotta go!

Woops!  Forgot to include the 4 Flat Belly Diet rules:
Rule #1: Stick to 400 calories per meal.
Rule #2: Never go more than 4 hours without eating.
Rule #3: Eat 4 times per day.
Rule #4: Eat a MUFA at every meal.

Easy.  LOVE this book!!!!