Monday, February 8, 2016

My Favorite Cookbooks

I was inspired to write this post after reading my girl Christina's (I actually started typing Xtina three times) post about her favorite healthy cookbooks.  The following is a list of my go-to cookbooks when I am looking for something new - they're a combination of both healthier recipes and not so healthy recipes.

Paleo Cookbook by Juli Bauer While I am not following a paleo diet, I am always looking for new and creative spins on the classics.  I made her slow cooker fall off the bone ribs for dinner last night and they did not disappoint.  There's a reason Juli is a #1 New York Times bestselling author!

The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka I have used Gina's website as a resource for healthier versions of my favorite recipes for years.  I don't think there is a recipe from either her website or book that wasn't delicious.  Not to mention, the photos are beautiful!  This is definitely a cookbook I reference more than a few times a month.

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten I couldn't have a list of my favorite cookbooks without including Ina!  I have used this cookbook primarily as inspiration for when I entertain.  Since receiving this cookbook for Christmas a few years ago, I have tried quite a few recipes - my favorite being her roasted shrimp cocktail and sauce.  I will never boil shrimp or use store bought cocktail sauce again!

The All New Cooking Light Cookbook by Cooking Light magazine I have had this cookbook for nearly 10 years and I generally pull it off the shelf when I am craving sweets and want a healthier version.  Most recently, I made their chocolate sheet cake to celebrate National Chocolate Cake day and it was really good.  Even my friend who doesn't do "light" versions of anything raved about it!

Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant Again, I couldn't have a favorite cookbook roundup without this one!  I was super excited to purchase this cookbook as Jessica's blog has been a favorite of mine for years.  Jessica's personality really shines through in each story she tells as well as her gorgeous photos.  Her creativity and recipes are just amazing.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman I love Deb's personality and she has been a great resource for delicious recipes.  I don't know how she does it in her tiny NYC apartment, but she never ceases to amaze me.  Love.

What cookbooks do you love?  Do we share any favorites?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Trader Joe's Haul and Meal Planning - Week of 2/7

Happy Saturday!  I hope you're all enjoying your weekend.  I started off mine with a workout before heading to Trader Joe's for my weekly grocery shopping trip.  I'm trying to get better about buying only the food I will need for the week, but with so many great products at Trader Joe's, it's hard not to pick up a few extras!

I love reading other blogger's posts about meal planning and shopping since it often gives me new ideas when I'm in a rut.  It's also a great way to discover new products.  I thought I would start a weekly blog series showing you my grocery store haul(s) (sometimes it's more than one store!), as well as my menu for the week.  Hopefully this will inspire some of you if you're ever in a food rut!

I didn't have an actual plan written down when going shopping, but I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to make for meals next week.  The following is what I picked up specifically for my menu:
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Light cheddar cheese slices
  • Liquid egg whites
  • Canadian bacon
  • Riced cauliflower (FINALLY found it!)
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Apples
  • Shredded carrots
  • Pineapple
  • BBQ sauce (three kinds!)
  • Pretzel bagels
  • Boneless chicken breasts (not pictured)
  • Uncooked shrimp (not pictured)

The following items were purchased as impulse buys to stock up my pantry and fridge/freezer:
  • French roast coffee
  • Ancient grains super seed oatmeal
  • Super seed blend with cranberry & coconut chips
  • Barbara's cinnamon puffins
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns
  • Corn & wheat tortillas
  • Reduced fat cream cheese
  • Wine country chicken salad (purchased purely out of hunger/laziness to eat for lunch today!)
  • Flank steak (not pictured)
  • Shaved steak (I had a craving for steak and cheese! Not pictured)
  • Pork loin (not pictured)
  • Unsweetened coconut milk
On the menu for this week:
Sunday - Slow cooker BBQ ribs from Julie Bauer's cookbook with leftover roasted acorn squash and roasted broccoli
Monday - Skinnytaste's slow cooker buffalo chicken lettuce wraps with leftover veggies (the obsession continues!)
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Shrimp fried "rice" (hoping to create a recipe good enough to share)
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Dinner in NYC!

My breakfasts will be egg sandwiches with a side of fruit.  Lunches will be leftovers (leftover burgers, as well as leftovers from dinner.  Snacks will be fruit, hummus with veggies, string cheese, yogurt or popcorn.  I always make sure I have plenty of options for snacks!

What's on your menu for next week?  As you can see, I eat a lot of leftovers!  Since it's just me most nights, I prefer to make larger meals a few nights and eat the leftovers throughout the week.  It really saves me on nights I work late.

What's your favorite grocery store?  Favorite Trader Joe's buy?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Blue Cheese Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Burger Recipe

After drooling over reading Jessica's recipe for buffalo chicken fries, I've had buffalo chicken on the brain.  So, when meal planning for the week, I made sure to include a buffalo chicken burger on the menu and picked up all the necessary ingredients.

The best part of this burger is it's stuffed with blue cheese!  Yes!  It's a nice little surprise when you cut into the burger and see the melty cheese inside.  I decided to add shredded carrots to the burger to make them a bit healthier.  Plus, it's just another way to get in some veggies.  I also grated onion into the mix since ground chicken breast is so lean, I wanted to make sure they didn't become too dry.  I often do this with lean ground turkey and beef.

I served my burger topped with a bit of blue cheese as well as a few dashes of Frank's hot buffalo sauce.  I put that **** on everything!  I also made a batch of confetti slaw from Skinnytaste's cookbook.  I modified it slightly by using broccoli slaw in place of cabbage and I omitted the cucumbers and peppers.  I also added some cilantro and parsley.  It paired nicely with the burger.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Burgers
Serves: 4 (or 2 generously)

1 lb. Ground chicken
2-4 T. Buffalo sauce (depends on how much spice you like)
1/3 c. Shredded carrots
1/3 Onion
4 T. Blue cheese crumbles plus more for topping, if desired
1 t. Garlic powder
Salt & pepper

Place chicken, buffalo sauce, carrots, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Grate onion and combine.  Be careful not to over mix as that will create a tough burger.  Divide into four even portions (or two, if you want a big burger).  Form each portion into a burger and make a dent in the middle.  This is where you will place the blue cheese (1 T. each).  Place the blue cheese in the dent and reform the burger, making sure all the cheese is sealed well.  Make another dent in the middle.  Doing so will allow the juices to distribute evenly and keep the burger flat while cooking.  Nobody likes a burger that's puffed up in the middle!

Heat up a skillet on medium and coat with nonstick spray.  Cook until brown and flip.  Continue to cook until done.  Normally, I would press on the burger to check its doneness, but with chicken or turkey burgers, I tend to use a meat thermometer.  You want to make sure the burger is around 160 degrees (will continue to cook once removed from heat and rested).  Let rest a few minutes.  Serve with sides of your choice and enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

February Running Playlist

When it comes to running, I like to mix it up with my music.  I don't always run with music, but I sometimes need a little motivation.  Here's what I've been listening to this month.  What are your favorite running songs?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Healthier Bananas Foster Recipe

Last night after dinner, I was craving something sweet.  I ran a quick inventory of my pantry in my head and decided I would make bananas foster.  Normally, I prefer this served over a big scoop of ice cream, but this still hit the spot.  The entire dish came together really quickly and I am looking forward to making it again!

Healthier Bananas Foster
Serves: 1 (can easily be multiplied)

1 medium banana, sliced
1 T brown sugar
1 T rum
1 T water
1 t coconut oil or salted butter
Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)
Dash of cinnamon
Splash of vanilla

Place a skillet on medium heat and add the coconut oil and brown sugar.  Stir until melted, then add water, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.  Turn heat up to medium high and continue stirring until the mixture bubbles and the sugar has dissolved.  Add bananas and stir until coated.  Turn heat on high, add rum and tilt toward flame to catch on fire.  Immediately take the skillet off the flame and stir until the flame has died.  Turn flame down to medium and return skillet to flame.  Continue cooking until bananas are well coated and cooked to your liking.

I ate this as is, but I bet this would be great over ice cream or topped with whipped cream.

Note: If you do not have a gas stove, you can easily light the bananas using candle lighter or a fireplace match (nothing so short you could risk burning yourself).


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesday Things

Good morning and happy Tuesday!  It just so happens to be Groundhog Day and good news - Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow!  Yay for an early spring.  Although, we have been and will continue to have spring-like weather through tomorrow in the Boston area. Since it's Tuesday, here are a few random things to help get you through your day!


  • Crock pot chicken.  I know, so simple, but I can't get enough of it.  For the past two Mondays, I've cooked some chicken breasts in the crock to eat all week.  It comes in handy to have shredded chicken on hand for lunches and dinners - especially the nights I get home last from the gym.  Since I cook them frozen, I usually just add salt, pepper and garlic powder.  I would add some chicken broth if they weren't frozen.

  • These egg white patties.  Yes, I know.  Whipping up egg whites is super simple, but these come in handy when prepping my meals for the week.  I have been making egg sandwiches with these and it just makes my life easier.

  • This Kate Spade watch.  It's super adorable with the martini glass.  It comes in a variety of colors and I can't decide which I like best!

  • These trashed up buffalo chicken fries.  Jessica always seems to know the way to my heart and I haven't been able to stop thinking about buffalo wings since reading this recipe.  I ended up making some buffalo chicken burgers stuffed with blue cheese last night for dinner which almost satisfied my craving.  I'll be sure to share the recipe this week.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie Recipe

My love for smoothies is still going strong!  I whipped up this peanut butter cup smoothie the other day for an afternoon snack.  After lunch, I was craving something sweet, but not too sugary -- It sure hit the spot!  Since this was a snack, I made the smoothie using Tru-nut as I wanted the peanut butter flavor, but not all the calories.  If I was making this for breakfast, I would certainly use real peanut butter.  If you make this, let me know how you like it!

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie
Serves: 1

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or milk of your choice)
1 medium banana, frozen (if not frozen, add a large handful of ice)
2 T cocoa powder
2 T Tru-nut or peanut butter
2 scoops Tera's Whey unflavored protein powder

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until well combined.