Crabby Patty

With a lot going on in my life recently, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been the most pleasant to be around (heck, sometimes I haven’t even wanted to be around myself). Let’s be honest, no one likes a crabby person, and I’ve definitely been one over the last few weeks. I’ve had a few procedures in the past few weeks with still no answers, so that combined with a screwed up schedule from all the tests, and my inability to eat and exercise normally has resulted in a crabby Danielle.

Look at that crabby patty!

I’ve spent most of the last week and a half in what I like to refer to as “a ball of mean.” Thankfully, I’ve been aware of my mood, so I’ve just kept to myself. My mood has improved now that I’m back to a more normal routine, including cooking! Spending time in the kitchen can be hit or miss for me – it’s either really great and helps relieve stress, or it just adds to it. For awhile it’s been more of a burden than a pleasure, but that seems to thankfully be turning around. So, on one of the “better” nights I decided to throw together a polenta bake.

Despite not getting the official “ok” from my doctor, after consulting with nurse mom, we decided I could reintroduce some dairy, as not having it has made no change over the last few weeks. So I’m still limiting myself, but not completely avoiding it. After next week’s final test, we should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on down below. But until then I’m going to make things like this delicious vegan bake that can easily be turned vegetarian or even enjoyed by a meat lover. Make sure to choose your hot pepper wisely, though – this can get spicy quickly!

Vegan Southwestern Polenta Bake
– Serves 4 –

4 Tbsp oil for cooking
1 package of soy crumbles, about 1 1/2 cups of TVP, or 1 lb of ground turkey/beef
4 oz. cream cheese or cream cheese substitute (I love Trader Joe’s “Not Cream Cheese”)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 hot pepper of your choice, diced (I used a dried habanero and it was HOT!)
1 (150z) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package/tube of pre-cooked polenta (again, a big fan of TJ’s)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Adobo
1 cup of salsa
Avocado for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. In a small pan, sauté onion in 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat until translucent, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.   
3. In large skillet, cook your meat/meat substitute about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add in cream cheese until melted, as well as spices and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add in cooked onion, beans, and hot pepper. Cook till heated through and combined, about another 2 minutes. Stir in nutritional yeast.  
4. Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds, and layer in a 9×11 sprayed baking dish.
5. Top the polenta with the meat/bean mixture, and top with salsa
6. Bake 20 minutes or until salsa is bubbling.
Serve with sliced or mashed avocado.  

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

It’s no secret that I love a good burger. Since I’m trying to not eat meat too frequently, I’ve been on a quest for a really good veggie burger. I’ve made a whole bunch of them since the creation of the blog, but I haven’t been super successful, until the other night. I had made a version with lentils and black beans and they were almost perfect, but needed a little more work. After making Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cajun bean balls, I realized I could apply the same technique (no eggs, mushed and not food-processed beans, etc.), to a burger.

The hardest part for me in creating a good veggie burger was the consistency. I always find the recipes make the burger either too wet, causing them to not stick together, or too dry, making them stick together at first, but eventually flake apart and require a lot of sauces to eat them. Everything always tasted good, but the process of cooking them based on their all-over-the-place consistency caused me kitchen-induced agita.

So, I tried to take the bits and pieces of recipes that I knew worked, and left out the things that didn’t really seem to work well. Both my husband and I love spicy foods, so I of course had to add some heat into the mix, opting for a jalapeno. After telling my husband I only used one, he immediately replied, “What? Just ONE?!” until he took a bite… that single pepper wasn’t messing around, especially because it isn’t cooked, and I of course don’t de-seed it (that’s where all the heat is!). So, depending on your spice preference you can use more, less, or completely omit the pepper. We enjoyed ours with some oven fries, and topped the burgers with chipotle salsa and sour cream. If we had avocados on hand, those would have been toppers as well.

Perfect marathon-week meal 🙂

Spicy Black Bean Burgers
– makes 4 burgers –

1 150z. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 c plain breadcrumbs
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a medium sauté pan that’s been sprayed with cooking oil, and cook the diced onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chili and cumin and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl mush the beans, making sure there aren’t any whole beans, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Mix in the onion, jalapeño, and breadcrumbs until well combined.
4. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and line with burgers. Make sure to coat the tops of the burgers with some cooking spray as well. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, flip the burgers, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Sweet Potato Chipotle Beer Chili

This month’s Hormel Extended Family Food Blogger theme was slow cooking, specifically with a Crockpot. They actually sent me one in order to create my meal – how awesome! Having only just made my very first meal a la slow cooker last week (it was this), I was psyched to give a new recipe a try. I really love the idea of a slow cooker, since it gives you the opportunity to set up your meal, go about your day, and come home to something delicious. I will most definitely be putting some type of slow cooker meal into heavy rotation in our house this winter.

Because it’s fall and the weather is slowly getting cooler, I first knew I wanted to make chili, and as an ingredient have what I consider to be a classic fall food – sweet potatoes! From there, all the other ingredients kind of fell into place based on what I invision a good chili to include. And, of course I had to add beer – its such a great cooking ingredient. This also made enough for leftovers, which is always appreciated. While I don’t mind bringing frozen meals for lunch, I would much prefer a leftover, and I can’t justify eating out more than once a week (if even that).

So, after a long run and making a trip to the Halloween store in hopes of finding a costume for my husband, it was great to come home to this!

Sweet Potato Chipotle Beer Chili… with Turkey
– Serves 4 –

1.25 lbs ground turkey (or leave this out, use ground beef, etc.)
1 large Spanish onion, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 15.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 8 oz. cans diced tomatoes with jalapeños
12 oz. Mexican beer (I used Corona)
2 chipotles in adobo, plus 2 Tbsp adobo sauce [or less depending on your spice preference]
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder 

1.  Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker
2. Cook on the high setting for 2 hours
3. Serve with your favorite chili toppings (shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.) 

Chips for dinner

There are times when it’s okay to throw the rules out the window. Allowing yourself to let go of the idea that chips are not a suitable dinner is a prime example of that type of time. This is now the second time I’ve used chips in a dish aside from regular nachos, and the result has been pretty delicious.

While sifting through the pile of cookbooks I received for Christmas trying to meal plan, I remembered a tiny book I hadn’t yet given much attention – Eat Tweet, by @cookbook (aka Maureen Evans). The title alone is accurate for my own life… I eat and tweet (among other, less important things). I’m not going to lie that it’s a little difficult here and there to decipher the abbreviated language within some of the reicpes. But, the recipes are all pretty straight forward considering they’re 140 characters or less. I like the idea of a dish that can fit into a tweet.

This is by no means healthy, and I don’t even know how I got away with serving it as “dinner.” It’s definitely moreso a party snack to be eaten sparingly. However, my fiancé and I totally ate this for dinner, alongside a giant salad. And let me tell you, it was delicious. I’m thinking I should start cooking with chips more often…

I went ahead and decoded the recipe for you, to make it easeir to read… I figured a 140 character abbreviated recipe has it’s place on Twitter, but not neccessarily my blog. I can’t wait to decode more of these.

Frito Pie
via Eat Tweet
Serves 4

2 1/2 cups of chili, any variety  you like (I used Amy’s black bean)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cups Fritos (I used the lightly salted version, as I find their regular is super salty)
2 cups of shredded cheese
*shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In greased pie dish, layer 2 cups of Fritos, followed by 1/2 cup diced onion, 1 cup of cheese, and the 2 1/2 cups of chili.
3. Layer remaining cup of fritos, followed by remaining onions and cheese.
4. Bake for 15 minutes until chips and cheese are golden brown.

Planning for spice

When planning out our meals for the week, I ususally consult three sources; the internet, my pile of cookbooks, and the scariest of them all, my brain. Once I get my creative dinner juices flowing, I then have to consult our ever important calendar to see what we’ve got going on throughout the week. A lot of times, this then requires me to go back to the drawing board, since I tend to dream up elaborate dinners that just won’t be done before 9pm, causing me to probably gnaw off my arm before then.

It might seem a bit silly to plan my meals in advance, especially when it’s just myself and my fiancé. However, I’m obsessed with planning, which would explain why I have an extremely detailed Google Calendar, personal planner, and am always looking to schedule things in advance and confirm them. My meals seem to be no different; I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be making when based on my schedule, and more importantly, pick up the necessary ingredients while at the grocery store. I think one of the worst feelings in the world is getting home after having your heart set on a certain food/meal, only to find out you don’t have some of the ingredients. For me, that’s close to heartbreak. So I try to avoid it at all costs by planning!

I snagged a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson a few months ago, and just got around to actually making something from the book. While I’m not a vegan, the simple words fire and spice grabbed my attention. This particular book not only offers recipes with varying levels of heat (marked as one to three chiles), but they’re recipes from all over the world! I love that within one cookbook alone I can find a recipe from Thailand, Mexico, Africa, Morocco, and more, and they’re all spicy!

I had paged through the book marking off things I was interested to try first, so I decided to make the Red Hot White Bean Chili as my first dish. It was easy, spicy, and filling – what more could a girl ask for? Of course I went and completely de-veganized it by throwing regular cheese on top, but other than that and omitting carrots (I didn’t have any) I stayed true to the recipe. I’m really looking forward to making other things from the book – I like fire in my belly!

Red Hot White Bean Chili via Vegan Fire & Spice
– Serves 4-6 –

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno and habanero)
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups cooked or 3 (15.5oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, minced
optional – vegan cheese for garnish 

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Blend in the chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the beans, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes. Garnish with minced scallions.  

Veggieful Enchiladas

Since I didn’t use all of the Philadelphia Creme when I made the Baked Southwestern Pasta Skillet, I needed to figure out what to do with it. I decided to make enchiladas, since we hadn’t had them in awhile. I’ve made them with eggplant, poblano peppers, and some with your typical veggies (onions and peppers). So, this time I decided to combine it all! Since the creme takes the place of enchilada sauce, it’s super quick and easy.

After reading up on tons of wedding blogs, I’ve realized that I should try and tone my arms so they look fab in my wedding dress. Since I used to swim, I have pretty defined arm muscles as it is, without doing any extra work; it’s leftover residual muscle definition. But, I realized I want to make sure I don’t look bulky (something easily accomplished through swimming), and I’ve been noticing that my arms are looking nice and toned simply from yoga. So, in addition to some yoga, I decided to add in some free-weight exercises also. Conveniently, FitSugar recently posted “How to Tone Your Arms Picture-Perfect For the Big Day,” which offered up tons of exercise suggestions I can add to my repertoire. So, that was on my to-do list before getting to work on dinner.

After getting my arms nice and tired, I threw together these veggie packed enchiladas. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of the eggplant and green pepper I have from this recipe!

Veggieful Enchiladas
– Serves 4 –

2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Adobo
1/2 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1/2 large green pepper, sliced
1 hot pepper, diced (optional – I used a habanero)
1/4 cup Santa Fe styled Philadelphia Creme + 1/4 cup
1/4 cup shredded cheese + 1/4 cup
6 burrito-sized tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat oil in skillet, and add onions and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add eggplant, and spices, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until onions, peppers, and eggplant are soft.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup of cooking creme, cooking until headed through, about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of cheese, and remove from heat.
4. Evenly fill tortillas with filling, and place in a greased 8 x 11 baking dish.
5. Top with remaining cooking creme and cheese, and bake for 15 minutes.

Breakfast for dinner: Huevos Rancheros

I finally got around to making the huevos rancheros I had planned for last week, on Monday. It was yet another edition of breakfast for dinner. We still had a bunch of corn tortillas left from when I made fish tacos, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try and finally use them up. For whatever reason, ShopRite doesn’t sell ripe, or almost ripe avocados (at least at the one near me). So, if you want a ripe avocado you need to buy it at least 2 weeks in advance. Unfortunately this meant no avocado on our huevos rancheros, but at least I’ll be able to use them in two weeks… So frustrating!

This is a quick and easy dinner, but can definitely be made any time of the day. I don’t really know much about “traditional” huevos rancheros, so I kind of just did my own thing, based on the flavors I tend to enjoy most in burritos, tacos, etc. I really like the idea of being able to customize the meal depending on what you’ve got in your pantry, and how you feel that day. These would be great for brunch, with a whole bunch of toppings laid out like a finxin’s bar so everyone can pick and choose. I should have a brunch party soon!

Huevos Rancheros
– Makes 4 –

4 small corn tortillas
4 eggs
1/2 cup shredded blended cheese
1/4 cup chunky salsa
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 chipotle in adobo, diced
1 serrano chile, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Meanwhile,  preheat oil in skillet. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add green pepper, serrano, and chipotle chile, cooking for an additional 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
3. Once oven is heated, place tortillas directly on the highest oven rack; warm for 3 minutes.
4. Using the same greased skillet, cook each egg over-easy, leaving on either side just until it begins to crisp.
5. Remove tortillas from oven, and spread salsa evenly between four tortillas. As each egg is cooked, add to each tortilla, top with onion and pepper mixture, and finish off with a sprinkle of cheese.
6. Once all tortillas have been topped, put back in the oven for 5 minutes.

Meatless Monday: Black Bean and Broccoli Pasta

When I got home from work on Monday, I realized that my favorite part of the day during the week is when I pull into our development and swing around into my spot. It means I can get started in the kitchen, relax and enjoy some TV, workout, and also exercise my brain just a little more for the day with homework. I oftentimes wonder how I fit so much into so few hours, and day dream about what I could do if there were more hours in the day… or at least more hours spent not at work. Even though I’m all for three day weekends all the time, it doesn’t seem like corporate America agrees.

This recipe was inspired by one I found on The Nest. I’m one of those people that subscribes to, or at least puts my e-mail address wherever anyone asks. That results in a LOT of automatically deleted messages every day, but sometimes I find a gem. Enter this recipe, for Black Bean Orecchiette with Spicy Pork and Broccoli. I modified the recipe quite a bit (of course omitting the pork) and it was really good!

I’d like to say per the usual that it was quick and easy. For the most part, it was. But, I had some trouble opening the wine bottle. We don’t have the best openers, so I was left with this, until my fiancé came home to save the day:

The past few days have been about trying new things. On Sunday, I tried my hand at fish tacos. Then on Monday,  for this recipe, I got to cook with wine – another first! And aside from my little mishap in opening the wine bottle, it was easy and yummy, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Black Bean & Broccoli Pasta inspired by this The Nest recipe
– Serves 4 –

8 oz. pasta (I used elbow, but you can use any kind)
2 medium broccoli crowns, separated into florets
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 Italian long pepper, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salt water to boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
2. Once water is boiling, add broccoli for 1 minute to blanch. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to bowl of ice water to cool.
3. Keep the water from the broccoli, and add the pasta to it. Cook for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse, and set aside in a separate bowl.
4. Dry out the pot, and coat with oil. Once oil is heated, add garlic, onion, pepper, and black beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add white wine, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add broccoli and pasta into pot, sprinkle in red pepper flakes, and combine, making sure to heat through, about 5 minutes.

**DON’T FORGET TO ENTER MY GIVEAWAY! Head here for your chance to win a bag of TERRA Blues Chips!

Roll With It

After struggling through last week in terms of work stress, piles of homework, and wedding planning, the past few days have had their share of good news. In going with the theme of wedding planning since we’re really in the thick of it now (6 months to go!), fiancé and I just realized we have officially reached our savings goal to comfortably pay for the wedding, and still have plenty left over. This is a great realization and relief, since we really cut back on our day to day activities and spending to make sure we met our monthly savings quota. Not that we plan on changing anything that we’ve been doing, but it’s nice to know we’ll have some cushion room too!

Even though I haven’t been running (thanks, foot) I have been dreaming about the moment I can comfortably go for a run without feeling like my foot might snap in half. I’m still not sure if I’m going to run the half marathon in April (just because I haven’t been able to train properly, aka at all), but I have every intention of signing up for the Philadelphia Marathon on April 1st when registration opens. My first full mary will probably be my first race post wedding – double excitement!

For dinner on Tuesday, I wanted to somehow use wonton/eggroll wrappers, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. I grabbed a bag of rainbow cabbage mix at the grocery store over the weekend, and just hoped for the best. What I actually got were some pretty awesome veggie eggrolls, that served alongside some steamed vegetables and a salad was the perfect weeknight meal! The best part was that they tasted fried, but I didn’t have to actually suffer through any flying oil, and they wound up (hopefully) healthier. It took about 20 minutes in total to prepare, and was super easy. The package of wontons I got had quite a few in it, so I’m hoping to try my hand at some Southwestern eggrolls later this week.

Easy Baked Eggrolls
– Makes 8 rolls –

8 eggroll wrappers (I used Nasoya brand)
1/2 bag Rainbow cabbage mix (I used  Mann’s)
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Sambal Olek
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tsp Chinese 5 spice

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Heat oil in skillet, and add cabbage mixture, pepper, and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, until cabbage mixture begins to wilt
3. Add soy sauce, Worcestershire, Sambal Olek, and 5 spice. Cook additional 5 minutes
4. Once mixture is well combined and heated through, remove from heat. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into middle of wrapper, and fold in each side, starting at the bottom and rolling as you work your way up.  Place the rolled wrappers on a greased baking sheet.
5. Brush some oil on the top of each of the rolls before placing in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes on the top rack in the oven.

Southwestern Breakfast Bake

Thankfully, Saturday’s excursion to find Bridesmaid dresses was a success! Not only did we find those dresses, but my mom also found her dress, and I stumbled upon an adorable dress I’m planning to wear for either the rehearsal dinner or bridal shower, and will definitely be taking on my honeymoon. Triple score at Macy’s!

After the shopping trip, I had worked up a serious appetite, and since I had been out pretty much all day, felt as though I needed to spend a little time in the kitchen. This recipe really didn’t require much kitchen time, though, because as soon as a I put it in the oven, I went off to do a 30 minute yoga session. If any of you have iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, Macs, etc., I highly recommend Pocket Yoga (the app) – you can choose between three different practice styles, three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), and also three lengths of practice. It also has a library of all of the poses, and a few sun salutation sets also. I’m no yogi, but I’m really enjoying it!

But back to the food. It’s a really yummy twist on a quiche, and by naming it “breakfast pie,” it gets you excited for something different. Even though it’s a savory pie and isn’t sweet, it rightfully owns the title. The great thing about a breakfast bake, quiche, etc. is that you can really throw anything into the mix; anything goes. So I suggest getting creative!

Southwestern Breakfast Bake
– Serves 4 –

1 pre-made pie crust
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 chile peppers of your choice (I used habaneros)
1/4 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp taco seasoning (I used chipotle, but any flavor will do)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Adobo
6 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream, or Greek yogurt (I used plain Chobani)
2/3 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 scallion, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Sauté diced onion and peppers about 3-5 minutes. Add spices, and continue to cook an additional 2 minutes. Add corn and black beans, continue cooking for an additional 3 minutes.
3. Place pre-made pie crust in a greased pie dish, and layer cooked bean, corn, and pepper mixture.
4. Whisk eggs together in a medium bowl, adding the sour cream/Greek yogurt. Mix in cheese and cilantro until combined, and pour mixture into pie dish.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, top with scallions, and a sprinkling of cheese (if desired) and cook for additional 5 minutes.
6. Serve with additional sour cream/Greek yogurt, and salsa