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Monday, May 23, 2011

Guiltless sweet potato fries...

As a child, I despised sweet potatoes.Well, to be honest, I despised them until about two years ago when I finally gained the courage to try them. To my surprise, I loved them and have been eating them ever since. Christmas and Thanksgiving are much more delicious now that I eat sweet potato casserole (I was missing so much all those years).

Sweet potatoes are great prepared just about any way, but one of my favorite ways to eat them is by slicing them in long shreds and baking them until tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.

I call them my "Guiltless Sweet Potato Fries" because it gives me the satisfaction of having French fries but without the guilt and extra mile on the treadmill. With just a little over 100 calories and approximately 2.4 grams of fat (according to, these fries will definitely satisfy your taste buds and give you a feeling of indulgence.

They are super simple to fix and you probably have everything you need for them right in your pantry. Next time you're grilling burgers or needing an easy side dish, try these and feel good on the inside and out!

Guiltless Sweet Potato Fries

1-2 medium size sweet potatoes (1 medium potato can easily feed two girls...maybe slice up another if a guy will be present)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika (I like to use sweet Spanish paprika)
1-2 T. extra virgin olive oil (depending on how many potatoes you use)


#1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
#2: Slice sweet potatoes longways and place on baking sheet.
#3: Drizzle EVOO over potatoes to coat.
#4: Add salt, pepper and paprika.
#5: Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes and then crank oven up to broil for 5-8 minutes (watch them carefully here so you won't burn them).


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Homemade Granola....

With the lack of sweets in my life at the current moment (only 11 days to go), I am reaching for things to hold over my taste buds until that glorious Easter morning. A couple of weeks ago, my roommate Andrea shared with me her recipe for granola. She is a true pro at making the energy snack and has so graciously shared it with me. 

The great thing about granola is that you can make it your own. You can add/substitute anything you like and it will still be heavenly. Last month when I drove the 10 hours back to Alabama, I made a huge bag and nibbled on it throughout the trip. It made for a great breakfast the next day when added to yogurt and fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas and grapes).

Give this recipe a try. It's simple and so much better (on your body and your wallet) than buying it at the grocery store. You'll know what you're putting in it and that makes all the delicious difference. 

Enjoy and happy trails!

Homemade Granola

2 cups oats (steel cut)
1/2 cup slivered almonds- or any nut you like (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, etc.)
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup honey (sugar free maple syrup works as well)
1/2 cup safflower or vegetable oil (I like to use safflower)
Big dash of cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix all the above and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes stirring every 15 minutes. 

When done and still hot, put into a bowl and add dried fruit. I love to use a container of dried mixed berries. It includes cherries, blueberries and cranberries. Add about 1 cup of dried fruit (give or take depending on your preference...I like a little more and to taste the sweetness in each bite).

***Cool tip I learned from Andrea: If you let it cool in a bowl, it will solidify and you can break it up into pieces. The chunks are always the best! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A little bistro right down the road...

There is a really cute little area very close to my house. This little strip of real estate houses my favorite cupcake shop (and oh how I've missed it these last few weeks! Can't wait to be reunited once Lent is over!), a family meat market, Starbucks (of course, they are everywhere!), a bakery and Oh Yumm! Bistro.

I have wanted to try out this quaint little restaurant for quite some time and finally got the chance last week.

I love it and wanted to share with you. Just saying that you're going to eat at a bistro makes you feel so special, so French. Or at least it does me. Although this bistro sends off French vibes through and through, it creates delicious American favorites which all of us enjoy such as fish tacos, fries and Kobe sliders.

All in all, I can't wait to go back. And now that the weather is FINALLY getting warmer, I can just walk there. And soon, Lent will be over and I'll be back in that cupcake shop for dessert! :)

The outside of the restaurant. It was drizzly and not quite a pretty day for pictures, but this gives you a little idea. Can't wait to sit outside when it's a bright, sunny and warm afternoon!
Some of the tables inside. It's a really small venue but they do a great job with the space. Old wooden frames, wine bottles lined against the walls and simple paintings give an Old Country meets French Sophistication feel. 

Fresh flowers make everything better. And on a rainy cold day, it's just what you need to see. 

Got a few things that day (I was hungry). This is baked goat cheese with marinara and crostini. Absolutely heavenly. Warm, not too overpowering, and the cheese spreads effortlessly across the crispy bread. I just needed about three more dollops of that cheese!

Black and white tuna. Raw and tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The sesame seeds give texture without added too much flavor. The yellow pepper cabbage salad was a perfect compliment.  

What's a lunch without French fries?! I couldn't resist. It came with three dipping sauces (ketchup, a sweet chipotle, and gorgonzola). Seasoned to perfection and displayed in a cute tin cup. 

(All pictures courtesy of PK)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A trip to temptation island...

Giving up sweets for 40 days has proven challenging already. For some, it's a piece of cake (no pun intended), but for others like me, it's a daily struggle. Candy, desserts and anything comprised of butter, sugar and eggs have always been a daily staple in my life.

Honest to goodness, my first word as an infant was Da Da, and my second was chocolate (I kid you not). I get it from my Mom what can I say? She's the same way. When I go home to visit, she always has a cake or something sweet waiting for me. We tell ourselves that "we're only going to have a bite," but when that cake becomes your breakfast (hey...I said eggs right?), after lunch snack and bedtime nightcap, you know you have an addiction. That's one reason I wanted to give them up because I knew it was getting a little out of hand...well...give them up for 40 days (there is nooooooooo guarantee after that).

It's funny, I've been off sweets for two weeks and the longer I stay away, the more apparent they become in my daily existence. For example, I went to Fresh Market the other day to pick up a few things and instead spent the trip gazing at the candy bar in the middle of the store. I literally circled the island of tooth decay five or six times. 

A store worker came up to me twice asking if I needed some help finding something, but all I wanted to do was look. Look with a possible drool as I read each label so carefully (chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered malt balls, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, the list goes on and on...) remembering what little I could of their taste. I admired the little gems as long as I could without breaking down, reaching my hand into that jar and stuffing my face just like a kid playing Chubby Bunny.

I am hoping simple trips to the grocery store will get easier as time progresses, but for now, it's just a trip to temptation island.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mac-n-Cheese: Upscale twist to a classic favorite...

A weekend over at my friend Lindsay's house is always a treat. She is an excellent cook with a sensational ability to find delicious recipes that have an upscale twist. There isn't much that this cool chick can't cook (actually...I can't think of anything).  She amazes me in life and in the kitchen, and she did once again when I spent the weekend with her recently while her husband was out of town.

While I played with her adorable son (almost eight months), she whipped us up Truffle Mac-n-Cheese. The star ingredient she used was oil infused with truffles. The only truffle I ever really knew before this was the chocolate ones from Godiva. Hard chocolate outside...soft, creamy inside filled with hazelnuts, peanut butter or better yet...more chocolate.

Actually, the type of truffle I'm referring to today is a type of mushroom. They are wild and rare and have a earthy and pungent taste. Doesn't sound so great does it? Actually, mixed with cheese and pasta and these little shrooms are actually quite tasty.  Truffles can be incredibly expensive because of their scarcity, but using truffle oil cuts down on cost and still keeps a great taste.

It's delicious and very easy to make. This dish is powerful enough to be the main course or as a ritzy side dish. It's heaven on a plate and goes perfectly with a chick flick and the gas logs burning (that's what we did)!

I asked her for the recipe and she has happily shared it with me so I can pass it on to you. Enjoy!

Truffle Mac-n-Cheese

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups cooked cavatappi pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (equal parts rosemary, thyme and basil)
1/4 cup infused white truffle oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler.
Add butter to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and garlic until they turn slightly brown. Add the flour and whisk together for 3 minutes to make a blonde roux. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent the roux from burning. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the roux has dissolved completely and you can no longer taste the flour. Add the pasta and stir until hot. Add the fresh herbs, the truffle oil, and half of the Parmesan and stir until dissolved. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Put all ingredients into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top evenly. Place under a broiler until top becomes golden brown.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I'll have what she's having...Italian style...

I tell you what, Italians sure do know how to eat! Everything from the bread to the pasta is without a doubt heavenly. Who doesn't love a big plate of pasta or that bread and olive oil combo?!? I talk a lot about comfort food, and this too is added to my growing list. Another wonderful example of comfort food developed and mastered by our friends across the globe.

I love an occasional splurge at an Italian restaurant. The atmosphere is always so relaxing, and nobody ever seems in a huge hurry to get back to work or call it a night and head home. You're encouraged to enjoy your time savoring the meal and the company of those around you.

Buca di Beppo is no exception to fine Italian cuisine. This chain restaurant has everything but the chain restaurant feel and brought joy and comfort to my mind and stomach. The gingham table cloths, the wooden corner booth with bright red leather seats and Italian memorabilia hanging on every inch of the walls made for
a great getaway for lunch. 

PK picked me up from work (I never go out for lunch so this was a real long turkey sandwich today!) and we savored the tastes of Buca di Beppo.

Pretty hungry, we ordered the Bruschetta, Linguine Frutti di Mare and the Cheese Manicotti. Amazing selections! The linguine was filled with shrimp, baby clams, mussels and calamari and was tossed with a spicy red clam sauce. The manicotti came in these adorable pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesean cheeses. Marinara and Alfredo sauces completed this dish and made for the perfect blend of creamy deliciousness.

If you see a Buca di Beppo near you, I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taco soup and fresh bread...

I have always loved a good bowl of soup. It dates back to my childhood when I would go over to my cousin Leslie-Ann's house and my Aunt Cindy would make us two huge bowls of Spaghetti O's. Tomato sauce and those cute little pasta circles made for an entertaining and satisfying meal. A glass of milk and a sleeve of Ritz and we were set...content, warm and feeling right at home. In fact, while Leslie-Ann and I were roommates in college, we continued to stock our apartment cupboard with cans of the comfort soup.

Soups just have a special effect on me. On a cold day, it's nice to ladle piping hot soup into a big bowl and surround it with some kind of carb (go ahead and give know they are a delightful combination).

Moving to Indiana at the end of December meant many days and nights of cold weather. As I watched the snow fall from inside, my heart began to crave the comfort of soup. Not only to bring me back to the fond memories of home and childhood, but "to warm the cockles of my soul" (as my Mom always says). And I came across a perfect recipe I would like to share with you.

This taco soup recipe comes courtesy of PK's Mom. She is an amazing cook, and I love to eat anything and everything she prepares. A few weeks ago, she emailed me this taco soup recipe. It's low in fat but definitely not low on flavor. I made it for PK and my roommates one cold night, and we all really enjoyed it.

My carb of choice and sidekick to my soup was ciabatta bread with melted fontina cheese. Previously, I had watched the Food Network channel where Giada de Laurentiis (from Everyday Italian and Giada at Home) used ciabatta and paired it with fontina. Excellent decision! I layered slices of cheese on top of thick portions of bread, cranked the oven up to broil and tried to patiently wait five minutes until the cheese got melty, ooey-gooey and perfect.

The thing I love most about this soup recipe is that it requires no cooking skills whatsoever. You just brown your meat, open some cans, combine and let it simmer. Soooo easy and soooo satisfying. Since, I have shared the recipe with some ladies from work and they all approve as well.

You will not regret reading this post and trying this soup! May the warming of your soul begin!

Taco Soup 

1 lb. ground turkey
2 medium onion-chopped

*No need to drain the following, just combine in a large stove pot:
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 11 oz.  can vacuum packed niblet corn
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 4 1/2 oz. can green chilles
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 1/2 c. water

1 package taco seasoning
1 package Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix

Step #1: Brown meat and onions together in skillet (set aside until a little later)
Step #2: While meat is browning, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, chilles and water and bring to a boil.
Step #3: Add dry seasonings to the soup and reduce to a simmer.
Step #4: Add the meat and onions
Step #5: Let everything marry for 20 minutes still simmering until nicely incorporated.

*Feel free to top with sour cream and shredded cheese for a little Mexican flare!

(Serves approximately 6-8 people and freezes very well)