Friday, January 31, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away..

I'm one of those people who really enjoys a rainy day, especially if I'm able to stay home, cuddle up on the couch with a book or a good movie, and just listen to the sound of the rain hitting the roof. However, after a couple of days I'm over it! I know, after seeing what my friends up north are going through with snowstorms, I shouldn't complain, but still..this is the Sunshine State, after all! Loki and I have had to forgo our morning walks, and neither of us have been able to play outside, making for a slightly grumpy mama and doggy!

In my opinion, this weather calls for comfort food. Warm, rich & hearty stick-to-your ribs kinda stuff, the meals your mama would make. Nothing too fancy, though, because who wants to drive in a downpour to the grocery store in search of some fancy ingredient? Not me, that's for sure! So I searched my kitchen yesterday, gathered a little of this & a bit of that, put them all together and came up with the ultimate rainy day dinner: Chick'n and Dumplings. Mm...doesn't the thought of it just warm you right up?

I combined several different recipes to create this slow cooker version, so easy yet delicious, and much healthier than the traditional version. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 Slow Cooked Chick'n & Dumplings 

Chick'n & Dumplings photo 2014-01-30-18-32-14_deco_zpsvmcyvxtd.jpg

                       For the Base:
  •   2 faux chicken breasts (I used Gardein Chick'n Scallopini) -- thawed and chopped
  •   2 cups vegetable broth (or water mixed w/veggie bouillon)
  •   1 1/2 cups  non-dairy milk (I used Silk Almond Milk, Unsweetened)
  •   4 tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  •   1 teaspoon  sage (or more, to taste)
  •   1/2 teaspoon  garlic powder
  •   1/2 teaspoon  salt (or to taste)
  •    pepper -- to taste
  •   1 small  onion -- chopped fine
  •   1 clove  garlic -- minced
  •   4 small  red potatoes -- diced (more or less, depending on your love of taters)
  •   10 ounces  frozen mixed vegetables (or a mix of whatever you have on hand - peas, carrots, corn, etc)
                       For the Dumplings:
  •   1 cup  Bisquick® baking mix
  •   1/3  cup non-dairy milk
  •   1 teaspoon  paprika -- plus more for sprinkling
  1. First, you're going to make a roux, or as my mom called it, white gravy. In a medium saucepan, put the vegetable broth and flour and whisk until smooth.  Turn the heat to medium and add the sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper,onion and garlic.  Allow the broth to thicken up nicely then add the non-dairy milk, stir to combine. Taste the gravy to make sure it's seasoned how you like it. I myself prefer stronger flavors so I threw in some other spices (rosemary and a pinch more sage). 
  2. In the slow-cooker crock, place your potatoes, veggies and faux chicken.  Pour the gravy over the top. Turn heat to low and cook for about 6 hours, until everything is heated through and your potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
  3. Now, you're gonna make the biscuit dumplings.  Mix the Bisquick, milk and paprika until a soft dough forms. 
  4. Turn the Crock-pot heat to HIGH, open the lid and get ready for the fun part! Take your biscuit dough and form it into cute little balls, don't worry about them being perfect or uniform. This is country cookin', we're not fancy like that! Drop each little ball gently onto the top of your chick'n veggie mix, covering as much of it as you can.  They will sink a tiny bit, about halfway maybe, which is just fine.  Once all the dough is gone, cover the crock and leave it alone for a little while. 
  5. After about an hour, poke your biscuits with a knife to check for doneness. If they are solid and not mushy, you're done! Ladle out the yummy-ness into a bowl and dig in. If your crock-pot isn't as hot as mine, you might need to cook a little bit longer, but it shouldn't take more than an hour and a half. 
  6. You can sprinkle some additional paprika or even parsley sprigs on the top if you want to dress this up.  Enjoy!

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 generous portions; Per Serving 333 Calories; 7g Fat (19.5% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1326mg Sodium. 

I think I see the sun trying to peek through the clouds, crossing fingers!

Have a Beauty-full day,


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Strikes...

I've been diligently making my way through the "mystery" items in my pantry, tried several new recipes this week. Unfortunately, not all were winners. I list them here not to criticize the authors because whether due to cooking skills or simply taste buds, the "failure" is mine! I just think that I post so many delicious recipes, my friends think every night I knock the ball out of the proverbial ballpark! Nothing could be farther from the truth, and here's the proof:

Chipotle Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts:  This is from PPK, can usually rely on Isa for a fail-proof recipe so I must have done something wrong. I  had never worked with cashew "cheese" before, figured a nice bowl of mac & cheese would provide the comfort food I was looking for, and the addition of the chipotle would add a bit of zip and make it a grown-up version of a childhood favorite.  Well, turns out that 4 peppers might have been a little too much spice even for this gal! I ended up with a grainy messy sauce which was so hot, I could only eat a few bites before tossing the rest into the trash.  Sad but true. Maybe my peppers were abnormally large? Perhaps I used the wrong miso or didn't get the sauce smooth enough? I don't know, but I definitely struck out on this one.  No pics because the end result wasn't pretty.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Chard Dal: Well, this dish certainly made up for the over-spiciness of the mac & cheese.  While the spices were blended nicely, there simply wasn't enough of them.  The recipe lacked..something.  I had to add too much salt to perk up the flavors, perhaps more chili powder would've helped? The consistency was kinda weird, too, kinda "gloppy." Not my favorite and certainly not photo-worthy.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Cornbread Casserole: Now, I hesitate to call this one a "strike" because it tasted delicious..until I added the cornbread topping.  Even though I cooked it about an hour longer than suggested, my bread never quite firmed up.  We ate it anyway, kinda picking around & under the slightly-mushy-ness, and could tell that the flavor combo was a real hit! Maybe it was my Crock-pot, have never tried actually baking it in before. I would definitely make the base of this again, perhaps just bake some cornbread in the oven and top when serving.  Again, not a nice picture.

So, after all of this disappointment, I decided to go out to dinner last night. Honestly, we had a reason to celebrate (more on that later) so why not?  We tried a new neighborhood cafe, Broccolini's, known for good Italian food and large portions. I didn't check the website beforehand but I can almost always find something Italian to eat.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the vegetarian options highlighted on the menu, and even though there was only one truly vegan choice, it was a good one! Also, they offer whole wheat pasta for a tiny bit extra, perfect! My Penne Primavera was very tasty and they weren't kidding about the portion sizes! I barely made a dent in it, this will easily provide two more meals for me.

Penne Primavera photo 2014-01-29-18-45-46_deco_zpsokv7rje8.jpg

My only complaint is the amount of oil. You can see the shininess even in the photo, right? I understand that we are a fat-loving society but my veggies and whole grain pasta were so good, all of that isn't necessary. Before heating up the leftovers, I'll strain it through a colander.

So, now that I have the strikes behind me, I'm quite sure my next dinner will be a hit! I'm counting on a veganized version of a downhome favorite - Chick'n and Dumplings.  I hope you'll pop back by tomorrow for my recipe and results!

Have a beauty-full day,


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Back in the Saddle

I know that two days doesn't really constitute a habit, but according to Loki it does! Yesterday I got up early and had my morning coffee with Chip before he left for work, as usual. However, instead of lounging around in my pajamas, perusing the internet as I normally do, I got dressed, put on my sneakers and grabbed Loki's leash. We took a brisk walk around the neighborhood, then I came home and hopped right onto the treadmill for another 30 minutes. I think Loki heard me tell Chip that this was going to be our new routine, because this morning he was dancing around in expectation before I even finished my coffee!

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Another walk, another treadmill workout, happy dog and happy mama. It feels wonderful to be moving again! I think we'll both benefit from this healthy habit.

 Have a beauty-full day,


Monday, January 27, 2014

Hot Dish: Slowcooker Vegetable Barley Soup

So sorry I've been out of touch; last week my computer had a run-in with a cup of coffee, thanks to a clumsy cat..grr...I was out of commission for a bit but luckily found an old laptop of Chip's to tide me over til my new keyboard arrives. Whew!

I haven't done a whole lot of proper cooking this past week, have been kinda throwing stuff together based upon what we have in the house.  The post-holiday budget has been a bit tight, am sure many of you can relate, so I've kept my shopping to a minimum. No fancy ingredients or gourmet dinners, just basic good stuff.

I cleaned out my pantry and chose to focus on a few "mystery" items this week.  Here we have a package of elbow pasta, some barley, orzo, Jambalaya mix, yellow split peas and half a can of Chipotle in Adobo (from the fridge).  Now, I'm not suggesting that I toss all of these ingredients together (ewww!), just that I find or create some recipes using what I have on hand.  Sounds fun, right?! Yeah, I'm easily amused.

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First up: barley. This was actually an easy search, found a quick recipe for Vegetable Barley Soup which I adapted for the slow cooker.  This made a wonderful Sunday meal, perfect for a lazy day just hanging around the house.  I had almost everything on hand, just had to buy a zucchini which happened to be on sale this week.

Vegetable Barley Soup Ingredients photo 20140126_103144_zpsql4yt6kr.jpg

I'm sharing the original recipe; the only change I made was using my slow-cooker instead of stove top.  I put everything into the crock and cooked for about 6 hours on High Temp. You might need more or less time, check your veggies after about 4 hours to see if they're tender then adjust the temp accordingly. Oh, wait! I also did not include the Worcestershire since I was too lazy to run to the health food store for a vegan version.

I did not run the nutritional info on this one, but as the ingredients are "power foods" on Weight Watchers, you really can't go wrong! I'm calling this a Simply Filling recipe and as long as I don't indulge in the beer bread I made for hunny..groan..I should be ok.

Vegetable Barley Soup photo 20140126_161334_zpseion8xra.jpg

Beaker's Vegetable Barley Soup
Prep Time: 15 MinutesReady In: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Submitted By:BEAKER1Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 MinutesServings: 8
"Easy to make and delicious. Vegetable broth, barley, and lots of veggies make this soup hearty and filling. I use and recommend organic products. Please add a review if you make it. Enjoy!"
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked barley
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with
1 zucchini, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans,
1 onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1.Pour the vegetable broth into a large pot. Add the barley, carrots, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, garbanzo beans, onion, and bay leaves. Season with garlic powder, sugar, salt, pepper, parsley, curry powder, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 90 minutes. The soup will be very thick. You may adjust by adding more broth or less barley if desired. Remove bay leaves before serving.

The Verdict: I loved this recipe! It was so easy to make, and the flavors came together so nicely. While certainly not as spicy as I normally like my food, there is something to be said for a good, solid comforting bowl of soup. The barley added some thickness and created a heartier dish, and with a good hunk of bread for dunking this was a very healthy, filling meal. I'll definitely be making this one again. As for my hunny,he filled up on some other leftovers, didn't get around to trying it but I'm sure he will have a taste sometime this week.

As far as weight loss, I didn't make it to last week's meeting but my home scale shows that I'm holding steady.  I had a few days of emotional eating last week, not proud of that, but this is a new week and I've decided on a new routine. Starting this morning, I'll be taking Loki on a quick morning walk, followed by 30 minutes of treadmill time (just for me, not Loki..grin) before I do anything else. No computer, no hobbies, nothing else until the workout is done! This habit has worked well for me in the past, I know I can do this. I just need to stop being so lazy!

On that note, since I'm making another slow cooker meal for tonight I'd better get my buns into the kitchen!

Have a beauty-full day,


Friday, January 17, 2014

Sweater Weather

The weather has turned chilly here in the Sunshine State, was able to turn off the a/c and actually open the windows yesterday! It's not cold by the rest of the country's standards, but at least we can dig out our favorite sweaters for a day or two.  Of course, when the temperatures drop, we all want warm & cozy comfort food, which is where this next dish comes in.

Red Lentil Thai Chili. Yep, another Thai dish for you, you are going to love this one! It uses two of my favorite foods - red lentils & sweet potatoes, both lurking in my pantry, just begging to be eaten!

This recipe comes from Post Punk Kitchen, Isa's recipes are always a sure bet! I tweaked the original a bit, leaving out the oil and only using 1/2 a can of coconut milk to cut down on fat/calories. I also used my Crock-pot instead of stove top, allowing me to dump everything into the crock in the morning and forget about it 'til almost dinnertime. I posted this at my other blog a while back, it's definitely worth a repeat performance!

Slowcooker Red Lentil Thai Chili

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced medium
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced medium (I use green any color, whatever I have on hand)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes cut into ¾ inch chunks
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can lowfat coconut milk (I used half a can I had saved from other recipe)
  •  ½ cup fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • Limes for garnish (optional)
  1. Put all ingredients except for coconut milk, cilantro & limes into slowcooker.  Cook on Low for 8-10 hours, or until veggies are tender.  Add coconut milk about 1/2 an hour before serving, allow to warm through.  Stir in cilantro just before serving, garnish with extra cilantro and a squeeze of lime if desired. 
Makes Approximately 10 Servings

Per Serving: 295 Calories; 4g Fat (12.3% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 18g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 743mg Sodium.  4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus

I hope you're enjoying your day, whatever the weather!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Weekly Weigh-in

 I had to change my weigh-in day back to Thursday because there are no WW meetings on Wednesday morning.  Since I missed last week's meeting, I was very anxious to see the official number on the scale, and very pleased to report that I'm down 3 pounds! I really think the Simply Filling plan is responsible; I feel more full, and even though I'm (mostly) eating from a limited food list, I feel less restricted.  If I find myself hungry in the afternoon, I'll have some brown rice & beans which are always present in my refrigerator.  I am jokingly calling this the "potato diet" because I'm eating a lot of them! Roasted potatoes (with 1 tsp of olive oil) every day for breakfast, baked potatoes with veggies for lunches &dinner, etc.  I feel like what Dr. McDougall calls a "Starchivore!" Though I am eating my share of carbs, I'm focusing on the whole-grain, brown variety.  What I have not been eating: white flour.

Yes, I've said it before and I still believe it to be true - for me, bread, at least the fluffy white variety, does evil things to my body! When I remove it from my diet, I lose weight, no longer feel bloated, and don't have the crazy food cravings.  The only "bread" I've had this week is whole grain Sandwich and/or Bagel Thins a couple of days, and Ezekiel Sprouted grain. No fluffy Italian bread, no giant bagels, no white pasta.  It's been much easier than I thought, and the number on the scale is proof that it works!

Hope you're having a beauty-full day,


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hot Dish: Thai Food Eat-In!

Last night I was in the mood for Thai food, but didn't want to spend too much money and calories on the restaurant version.  A quick search led me to this recipe, and allowed me to use up one of the "mystery ingredients" I have in my refrigerator: green peas.  I often make a dish that calls for a cup or so of peas, but not the whole bag, and since they aren't my absolute favorite vegetable, I never eat them on their own. So, I end up with little half-eaten bags of them in my freezer, forgetting their existence when I go to make another pea-required recipe!

This would be considered is a yellow curry, I guess, with a splash of green thrown in.  I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, always a plus! Sorry that I don't have any pretty pictures of the finished product because, once again, by the time I ate dinner it was too dark to capture one.  However, here's the tofu & onions being sauteed, isn't that a gorgeous golden color?!

Tofu with Red Curry Paste, in Progress photo 20140114_125224_zps0wbih2ba.jpg

Please note: the original recipe states that "Red curry paste can be found in the ethnic or gourmet sections of most large supermarkets. The paste is a blend of clarified butter (ghee), curry powder, vinegar, and other seasonings" which is not accurate. Not all curry paste contains clarified butter and, as a matter of fact, the most commonly available brand, Thai Kitchen, is vegan.

Tofu with Red Curry Paste, Peas & Yellow Tomatoes

 Randy Mayor

Image courtesy of Cooking Light


  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 cup shelled green peas (about 1 pound unshelled) or frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow tomato
  • 4 cups hot cooked long-grain rice (I used brown rice)


  1. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; cook until liquid from tofu is evaporated (about 3 minutes). Remove tofu from pan; sprinkle with lime juice, turmeric, salt, and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add tofu, and cook 7 minutes or until golden. Combine milk and curry paste; add to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Add peas and tomato; cook 2 minutes. Serve over rice.
Source: Cooking Light MAY 2000

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup tofu mixture and 1 cup rice)

Nutritional Information, per serving:   Calories: 421; Calories from fat: 23%; Fat: 10.6;Saturated fat: 3.1; Protein: 15.5g; Carbohydrate: 66.9g; Fiber: 5.3g

The Verdict: Very tasty!! I will warn you that unless you like your Thai really spicy (probably 3 stars), you should stick to one Tablespoon of curry paste. I used two and it had quite a kick!

Other than the coconut milk, this recipe is relatively low in fat and if you use brown rice, as I did, could almost be considered Simply Filling.  I ran the original nutrition info through the WW calculator, not the Recipe Builder, because I was lazy, came up with a total of 11 PointsPlus.  A little higher than I normally spend on dinner but certainly less than it would "cost" at a restaurant!

Off to do some laundry, have a beauty-full day!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Hot Dish: Veggie-and-Bean Burritos

Well, this is a first: I am actually blogging from the a car..thanks to Chip's "jet pack" mobile WiFi thingie. Ha! Technology is a wonderful thing. We got up early (4 am) in order to hit the road by 6, needed to do a couple of chores, feed the critters, etc. before loading up the car and heading north. We are on the way to Ormond for the weekend. Chip has a work meeting and then we're off to look at houses! That's right, we are hoping to buy a new home. I won't say any more just yet, don't want to jinx it, but rest assured I'll be blabbing about it should the plan come to fruition.

Now, let's talk food. Last night I scrounged up some "mystery ingredients" from the fridge: half a zucchini, a few carrots, half an onion, etc, along with the cooked brown rice and beans I always keep on hand. Along with some spices and condiments, I was able to create a vegan version of this recipe. I didn't total up the calories, etc but I did run the recipe through WW's Recipe Builder.  It was but since I'm following Simply Filling, it only cost me 6 PointsPlus for the tortilla and condiments; everything else was a Power Food! Also, though the original recipe says it serves 4, I had a ton of filling left over, enough to make one more burrito if not two! I left the serving size at four, didn't have time to edit last night.

So, without further ado....may I present to you the healthiest, yummiest burritos I've ever made! Ta-da!

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Veggie-and-Bean Burritos

(print friendly) 

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup frozen white or yellow corn, thawed
  • 15-ounce cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if using canned
  • 2 tablespoons picante sauce or salsa (I used taco sauce 'cause that's what I had on hand)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or brown basmati rice
  • 4 (burrito-size) flour tortillas, regular or whole grain (I used Smart & Delicious 100-calorie)
  • 8 tablespoons shredded vegan cheese (I used Vegan Gourmet)
  • 4 tablespoons vegan sour cream (I used Better Than Sour Cream by Tofutti)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional, can leave it off it you've got a cilantro-averse family member as I do)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and golden. Add the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir to coat. Add the carrots, zucchini and corn and cook for 3 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the beans, rice and picante sauce and remove from heat.

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  3. Arrange the tortillas on a flat surface. Spoon and equal amount of the vegetable filling onto each tortilla (right down the middle). Top the filling with the cheese (2 tablespoons each). Roll over one side of the tortilla to cover the filling. Fold in the ends and then roll up completely. Arrange the burritos, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until warm and golden. Top each burrito with sour cream and cilantro before serving. Serves 4 generously, with leftover filling for another use

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Again, please forgive my crappy photos. The lighting is rotten in this house, and even taking the food out to the patio doesn't help when we're eating at dusk. But I trust that you all can look beyond my limited photography skills and see the goodness of the food itself.

Ah, look at that, it's breakfast time! Chip's pulling into a fast food restaurant, have no clue what the heck I'm gonna eat, wish me luck!

Have a beauty-full day..


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hot Dish: Mexican Chowder

Day Two of my "mystery ingredient" recipe; this time I focused on the abundance of green bell peppers in my produce drawer.  Chip loves bell peppers, puts them in his salad and fries them up with vegan Italian sausage for his own version of sausage & peppers.  So, when they went on sale last week, he scooped up a bunch. Too many. I also had some cooked black beans and frozen corn, voila! Mexican (Corn) Chowder from Happy Herbivore, also featured in Forks Over Knives. Below is the original recipe, along with picture of finished product, because once again my photo was awful!

Mexican Chowder in Progress photo 20140108_174041_zpsghwbqljv.jpg

Note: I served some of HH's cornbread alongside, you can find that recipe from Everyday Happy Herbivore right here.

Nutritional Info: 252 calories; 2.4g fat; 43.4g carbohydrate; 9.6g fiber; 13g sugars; 16g protein; 5 WW PointsPlus

The Verdict: While the flavors were good and I loved the consistency, I would've liked a bit more spice.  Next time I'll toss in a little jalapeno or hot sauce.  Also, I'd double the recipe as it hardly seems worth it to make only three servings, what an odd number! Overall, I think try another chowder recipe next time.

Tonight's "mystery ingredients" will be black beans, (more) corn, brown rice, and (more) carrots, stay tuned to see what I come up with!

Have a beauty-full day,