The Diet Can Start Tomorrow

pbamoresdipI was scrolling through Twitter this afternoon and saw a “food porn” video for something that made me want to ignore the fact that I really want to lose this post-surgery pudge and get myself into the kitchen using one of the three modes of transportation available to me:  my one legged scooter, wheelchair, or my crutches, so I can get into the kitchen to make some of this gooey deliciousness!

All four of the recipes in the video looked fabulous, but the first one, for the peanut butter cup s’mores dip looked too good to be true…

I tried imbedding their video, but nope, not happening.  Thank goodness for the internet.  Google came to my rescue once again and the recipe was soon found at www.pilsbury.com!

The recipe is so easy to make and has only 3 ingredients!

Peanut Butter Cup S’Mores Dip

  • 1 bag (12 oz) miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, unwrapped
  • 2 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (You can use the big marshmallows if you prefer)
  • 1 Box Graham Crackers

Heat oven to 450°F.   Place peanut butter cup candies in single layer in bottom of ungreased 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet; top with marshmallows. Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown and toasted. Serve immediately with graham cracker pieces for dipping.

Dip & Enjoy!

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Very Early Holiday Gift Thoughts

christmas-too-early-310x192Retailers believe it’s never too early to get the holiday decorations out, with some even starting as early as August to start vomiting Christmas all over their stores!  I strongly disagree with the practice.  Each season and each holiday  celebration deserves its own time.  Please, please, please let me enjoy Halloween before I have to start thinking about office parties, family Christmas, Chanukah and other end of the year celebrations.

In 2012, I was ready to seek out and high five Chris Matyszczyk of C|Net when he shared that stores decorating for holiday sales and playing holiday music earlier and earlier, was sending people like me online to shop in droves!  He even quoted a SOASTA poll with numbers showing how many other people feel just like I do:

  • 75% dislike that stores put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving
  • 78% hate holiday music played in stores
  • 75% believe the focus should be on Cyber Monday and not Black Friday

The only way I will even think about the holidays more than a month before they are upon me, is if I am planning to do any homemade gifts.  Anything that may require time to prepare containers, labels, and to sit for flavors to blend and deepen, like Lemoncello or other infused alcohol, flavored oils or vinegars, and especialy if I am going to be shipping those gifts, I want to have plenty of time to complete.

hot-honey-940x560I hadn’t settled on anything of that nature for this year, but did come across an interesting idea, courtesy of an article from the August 2015 edition of Bon Appétit Magazine: Hot Honey.  What a great idea for all of my friends who love to entertain, love anything with some kick and would appreciate the personal touch!

Hot Honey

  • 2 -4 Chili Peppers (Any variety, as hot or mild as you’d like)
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 8 oz Canning Jar
Bring 2 chiles and honey to a bare simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and let cook 1 hour to infuse. Taste honey and adjust heat with another chile or 2, remove from stove, and let sit 30 minutes. Transfer to a small jar, straining if desired. Cover and chill.
  • Do Ahead: Hot honey can be made 3 months ahead. Keep chilled

Bon Appétit readers shared some tips in case you’re using raw honey and don’t want to risk boiling out the health benefits: 

  1. If you mix the honey and chiles together and let them infuse at room temperature for a longer period of time before using you won’t have to boil the honey;
  2. Set the steeping container in the sun (like you would sun tea);
  3. Heat but keep temperature below 104°

Suggested Uses:

  • Add a kick to a cup of hot tea
  • Sweeten and spice up a spot of whiskey
  • Brushed on BBQ’d ribs or chicken
  • Added to sauce for stir fry
  • Brush on grilled shrimp
  • Baked apple or pear desserts
  • Pour over ricotta, goat, or cream cheese and serve with apple slices, vegetables or crackers
  • Glaze for baked ham or pork chops
  • Mix into butter for a spicy honey butter (for corn-on-the-cob, cornbread or biscuits)
  • Add to vinagrette for a spicy-sweet salad dressing

Here’s a bonus recipe that I can’t wait to make myself:

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1 TBLS Hot Honey
  • 3 TBLS Bourbon (I prefer Maker’s 46 or Marker’s Mark)
  • 1 – 3 1/2″ Strip of Lemon or Orange Peel (I like Orange)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

honey-bourbon-toddy-940x560Stir honey and water in a 1-cup measuring cup until honey dissolves. Add bourbon. Pour into clear Toddy glass or coffee cup.  Twist a strip of lemon or orange peel over the drink, then add to glass. Stir with a cinnamon stick and serve.

Now I just need the nights to cool down enough (or I need to lower the air conditioner) so I can justify the warm evening drink 😉

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Pumpkin Gingersnap Bars

pumpkingingersnapbarsFollowing the theme of all things pumpkin spice, here’s one that made my mouth water before I got beyond the picture!

I recently started following The Christian Science Monitor for another view on the upcoming Presidential election and came across their Culture – Food section where I was happy to see 22 new ways to use pumpkin in an article today.  I can’t wait to try these!

Pumpkin Gingersnap Bars With Cream Cheese Topping

By Amy DelineThe Gourmand Mom (From her Stir It Up Blog Nov. 13, 2013)

2 cups crushed gingersnap crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups pumpkin puree fresh or canned (1 15-ounce can will do the trick)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups half-and-half
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of ground ginger
Extra gingersnap crumbs for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the crushed gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter. Press in an even layer into the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves, until well blended. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin mixture, until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the gingersnap crust.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven. Cool at room temperature until no longer hot. Then, cool completely in the refrigerator. Cut into small 1 to 1-1/2-inch squares.

6. Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a pinch of ground ginger. Use a pastry bag to pipe a bit of the cream cheese topping onto each square. Sprinkle with extra gingersnap crumbs.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Time For Pumpkin Spice Everything

We are well into September and with the month coming into it’s final week, another season begins.  I’m not talking about Fall, I’m talking about Pumpkin Spice Season!

ddpumpkinSoon recipes for everything imaginable made with pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, or any combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger will be popping up on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and menus at nearly every restaurant you visit.  Today I had a pumpkin plain cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts that was unbelievably good!

pslatteAs a girl who adds nothing to her coffee but a bit of skim milk, I’ve never understood it, but people lose their minds when Starbuck’s announces that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back!  In case you wondered, there are 380 calories in a Grande (i.e. Medium sized) Pumpkin Spice Latte.  That’s a lot of calories to commit to a cup of coffee and it doesn’t even have any pumpkin in it!

You can save money, calories and actually include some pumpkin if you use Kitchn’s recipe to make it at home.

Makes 2 drinks

Ingredients
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (add a bit at a time)
2 cups whole milk (You can substitute skim milk)
1 to 2 shots espresso, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped until firm peaks form

  1. Heat the pumpkin and spices: In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the pumpkin with the pumpkin pie spice and a generous helping of black pepper for 2 minutes or until it’s hot and smells cooked. Stir constantly.
  2. Stir in the sugar: Add the sugar and stir until the mixture looks like a bubbly thick syrup.
  3. Warm the milk: Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Warm gently over medium heat, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  4. Blend the milk: Carefully process the milk mixture with a hand blender or in a traditional blender (hold the lid down tightly with a thick wad of towels!) until frothy and blended.
  5. Mix the drinks: Make the espresso or coffee and divide between two mugs and add the frothed milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, or nutmeg if desired.

Substitutions

  • Vanilla: Yes, this recipe calls for two tablespoons (not teaspoons) of vanilla. This sounds like a lot, but it does more than anything else to mimic the intense, even artificial, taste of the syrups used in coffee shops. But feel free to start with less and bump it up as needed.
  • Milk Fat: This recipe is most satisfying when made with whole milk, but 2% and skim can be substituted.
  • Canned Pumpkin Substitution: You can substitute 1 teaspoon Torani Pumpkin Spice Syrup for the canned pumpkin if you have it on hand.
  • Sugar Substitute: You can use a sugar substitute in place of the sugar if desired. Add to taste.
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice Substitute: No pumpkin pie spice? No problem — use our recipe to make it out of cinnamon, ginger, and other spices: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
  • Espresso Substitute: If you don’t have espresso on hand, you can use strong brewed coffee instead. Increase amount to 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Recipe Notes

homemadepslatteMake a big batch of pumpkin spice mix-in: If you like, you can make a big batch of the pumpkin spice base, and refrigerate. To make 8 full servings , cook 1/2 cup pureed or canned pumpkin with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice , 1/2 teaspoon black pepper , and 1/2 cup sugar . Stir in 1/2 cup vanilla extract . Refrigerate for up to 1 week and use as desired. To serve, blend 1/3 cup pumpkin spice mix-in with milk until frothy, and add 1 or 2 shots of espresso. Top with whipped cream and serve.

On a side note, I found out some very distressing news about canned pumpkin today.  Shape Magazine says most canned pumpkin isn’t really pumpkinSAY IT ISN’T SO!  “According to a report by Epicurious, the majority of canned “pumpkin” on the market is actually an entirely different variety of fruit. 85% of the canned pumpkin in the world is sold by Libby’s, and they grow their own tan-skinned pumpkin cousin, Dickinson squash, to help meet the demand. The kicker: This squash is more similar to a butternut squash than the bright orange pumpkins you’ll be carving up this fall.”  Not only did the FDA approve this way back in 1938, it’s a common practice among most of the brands.  Hmph!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Ceviche Style Shrimp Cocktail

cevstyshrcockIt may be starting to look like fall in the East, but here in Southern California, we’re getting ready for another 80°+ weekend.  It’s late September, and I’m not complaining.

With any luck, I’ll be out of my cast (fingers crossed), my stitches will come out of the four incisions on my foot, and I’ll be able to spend all day Sunday floating in my pool, catching some rays and we’ll BBQ a steak, some fresh asparagus, and some sweet potatoes for dinner.

Well before dinner though, I’m absolutely going to have a couple of these shrimp cocktails (thanks for the recipe Pampered Chef) prepared and ready to have for lunch while I’m lounging!

Ceviche Style Shrimp Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shelled, deveined, large cooked shrimp, diced (21-25 per pound)
  • 1/2 medium seedless cucumber, diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced and quartered red onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium avocado
  • Coarse salt, lime slices and whole shrimp (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
 Directions
  1. Combine shrimp, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño pepper and salt in mixing bowl; toss to coat. Cover; refrigerate up to 1 hour before serving.
  2. Immediately before serving, dice avocado and fold gently into shrimp mixture. If desired, rub the rims of four margarita glasses with one lime slice, then dip into shallow dish of coarse salt; spoon salad into glasses. Garnish with lime slices and whole shrimp.

Tip:

 For the best texture, do not prepare this recipe more than 1 hour in advance. Once combined with the acidic lime juice, the shrimp will begin to firm up and eventually become tough and rubbery.

Nutrients per serving:

Calories 200, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Cholesterol 220 mg, Carbohydrate 8 g, Protein 26 g, Sodium 550 mg, Fiber 5 g

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

How Often Do You Overeat?

eyesHow many of us have powered down dessert when we really didn’t want or need it?  We’ve all done it. We’ve let our eyes be bigger than our stomachs: we ate every bite of a filling meal, then compounded the problem by ordering a huge sundae, using the excuse that everyone else is ordering dessert, so we follow suit and then finish it all.

We then covertly unbutton the top of our jeans, back of our skirt, or adjust our clothing that has suddenly become very, very uncomfortable because we just ate way too much.

Unfortunately the uncomfortably full, bloated feeling isn’t the only discomfort we have caused our body when we consume too much food in a single sitting:

  • Your body has to work overtime to digest all of the (often) high fat food you’ve just consumed, causing you to feel tired and sluggish;
  • You’ll feel gassy and look bloated as your digestive process goes to work;
  • You may experience acid reflux;
  • You could (and probably will) gain weight;
  • You can then increase bad fat around your organs and create other health issues.

Tips to avoid overeating:

  • Use a smaller plate.
  • Slow down and enjoy your meal.  Taste what you’re eating and really appreciate your food.
  • Drink water while you eat.  It will help fill you up and slow you down so you give your brain time to respond to the sated hunger signals from the food you’ve already eaten.
  • Portion your plate using the 25-25-50 rule: 1/4 of your meal should be lean protein, 1/4 whole grains and 1/2 filling fiber like grilled vegetables.
  • If you order a meal that is large, immediately request a to-go box and place at least half of the meal inside.
  • Make it a habit to move around, even just take a leisurely walk, after your biggest meal of the day, so that your digestion process can get underway and you can begin to burn off a few of the calories you’ve just consumed.

It’s not the end of the world if, occasionally, you eat a larger meal than you intend to.  It only becomes a problem if it happens frequently and you fail to take steps to recognize a bigger, perhaps psychological, issue that could be leading you down the unhealthy road to obesity.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009–2010

  • More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
  • More than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese.
  • More than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
  • About one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.
  • More than 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be obese.

We talk about mouth watering recipes here, God knows I love to eat, but, as the sobering statistics from 2010 show, overeating and eating disorders are a serious problem in the United States.  I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t occasionally reach out to those who may need a little push to get healthy.

If you are there, you feel like your over or undereating isn’t an occasional issue, and you think you may have an unhealthy relationship with food, there are resources available to you:

Reach out and get help today.  If you aren’t ready to talk to a professional, talk to a friend, a co-worker or even your priest or other religious counselor.  There are people willing to help you on the road to better health.  Search the internet – there are free resources.  They won’t shame or out you, they are professionals who want to help you on the road to recovering your health.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

 

Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

kraft_macaroni__cheese_2011I grew up on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  The blue box with the skinny little noodles that Mom combined with a 1/4 cup of “Oleo” as she called margarine (she NEVER used butter) and 1/4 cup of low-fat milk was a crowd pleaser to my sister, brother and I.  Later she would splurge on the more expensive box of “Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese” with it’s tiny can of cheese sauce in it, but, to my taste, you still can’t beat the skinny blue box.

Thankfully, as I grew so too did my palate.  I rarely pass up a macaroni and cheese on any menu and have developed a couple of favorite styles:  Lobster macaroni and cheese, if it has large claw chunks (and not just minced remnants), is my favorite, followed by a good white cheddar shells and cheese prepared with a hint of truffle oil and just a few exotic mushrooms.

spicyspiralmacncheeseWhen I’m cooking Macaroni and Cheese, I like it to have enough flavor, that if I served nothing else beside it, except maybe a tossed green salad, it could stand alone as a “Meatless Monday” main dish.  You won’t need a fire extinguisher nearby for this spirited macaroni and cheese, but you certainly won’t fall asleep while you’re eating it either.

Lisa’s Fired-Up Mac & Cheese

  • 1 – 16oz Box Cellentani Pasta (I use Barilla)
  • 8 TBLS Butter / Divided
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 3 1/4 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 3 Tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Pepper Sauce (I prefer Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 1/2 Cups + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 2 + 1/4 Cup (for sprinkling on top) Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Panko

Before you start, I have a couple of tips.

  1. If you can’t find shredded Pepper Jack or Sharp Cheddar you can always use the packaged slices and tear them up.  Generally the 8 ounce package should equal about 1 1/2 Cups.  Use your own judgement.  I usually err on the side of too much cheese in that type of situation and gauge it based upon the thickness of my sauce.  You can always thin (God Forbid) a bit with milk if you think it’s too thick.
  2. You can use any macaroni type noodle you prefer (elbow, shell, spiral) but I prefer the Cellentani because it combines the features of a slightly larger elbow with a spiral and then throws in some textured grooves so you get as much of the sauce grabbing to it as possible in each bite.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Prepare 2 – 13 x 9 Pyrex baking dishes (I use the deepest ones I have), or 1 deep dish throw away baking pan, by buttering the sides and bottoms – then set aside while you prepare the ingredients.
  • In a large stock pot, boil your pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and pour into largest mixing bowl you have.  Set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan over medium heat melt 4 TBLS butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook about a minute while constantly whisking then begin stirring in the milk about a 1/2 cup at a time until it’s well combined.
  • Stir in the spices and 1/4 Cup of the hot sauce.  Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cheeses (not the cheese reserved for the top) until melted and smooth.
  • In a small pan melt the remaining 4 TBLS butter and stir in the bread crumbs.
  • Combine the remaining cheeses together.
  • Pour the sauce over the macaroni and, using a large rubber spatula, stir until all of the pasta is well coated.
  • Divide the pasta between the 2 prepared pans
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining cheese mixture over the top of each and put the pans, uncovered into the oven.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and beginning to brown on top.
  • Slide the baking dishes out of the oven and set the oven temperature to broil
  •  Divide the panko mixture between the two pans and return to the oven
  • Watch the pans carefully and remove from the oven as soon as your crumbs begin browning.

Make sure you’ve got a bottle of hot sauce out for anyone who wants to spice it up even more!  Serve your macaroni and cheese with a salad as a dinner on it’s own, alongside burgers, steaks, or inside a great steak/brisket/tri-tip sandwich!

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood