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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Painted Brick Fireplace

Today's post is a classic example of a DIY gone wrong, that actually ended up even better than anticipated. When we moved into our home a few weeks ago, I knew that I wanted to paint the fireplace. Some people love old brick, but it just wasn't working for me, and it made the room in the basement look a lot darker.

Plus, there was a section of mismatched brick and ugly mortar in the middle of the wall, where a hole was clearly patched.

I was at first inspired by this gorgeous painted fireplace, so I started by following those instructions. The two paint colors that I chose were "Creamy White" by Behr Ultra, and Behr "Blanket Brown", both satin enamel. I used a roller to paint the brick with the white shade, and a paint brush to paint between the bricks and completely cover the mortar. I used roughly two coats, to completely cover the brick.

Now, the blogger at the previous link stated that her brick had a rough texture, and was uneven, which helped to get the almost spattered look of the painted fireplace. Because my brick was mostly smooth, I used a pair of scissors to give the roller some texture for the top coat.

Then, I rolled it in the brown paint, and lightly painted over a section of the wall.

I don't have a photo of that part, but maybe it was the color, maybe it was the texture of the brick, but whatever it was, it was unfortunately not the effect that I wanted. 

We mixed some white paint with the brown to lighten it up a bit, and tried again. Still something was off.
"I kind of like the white better," my husband said. So we decided to try and wipe off some of the brown paint, wait for it to dry, and then repaint that section white. As I grabbed a paper towel and smeared off some of the paint (which actually just smoothed it out), my husband stopped and said, "actually, I kind of like how that looks."

A new plan was born.

We painted the walls, still using the textured roller and a light hand, and coating the wall and fireplace in sections. It's important to roll vertically instead of horizontally, or the paint will cover the mortar. Then using a dry paper towel, smudge the paint horizontally along each brick. This part of the process is really quick, and the goal isn't to make it look completely perfect. 

Here is the finished product (excuse the table full of supplies)!

Close up:

Painted brick fireplace.
All in all, I think it turned out really well for a a DIY accident, and it really makes the room look much brighter and put together!

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Recycled Chairs: Wooden Chairs Turned Teal & Chevron

We've recently moved into a new home, and after ripping out some hideous wallpaper (post to follow), and painting our bedroom our beautiful shade of teal, I had some paint left over. In a rush to get some seating ready for our housewarming party, I used it to transform some old dining chairs into cute, comfy seating.

Using some upholstery tacks, grey and white chevron printed fabric, and leftover paint (and some primer!), I was able to turn these chairs (which I got for free from a friend) into something eye catching and new.

To prime them, I used Kilz Original primer, and painted one coat (kind of haphazardly) over all four chairs. I wasn't really worried about getting paint on the seats, since I planned to cover them anyway. After letting the primer dry, I painted each one with a coat of teal paint. The paint brush definitely leaves some lines in the paint, but that was the look that I was going for. If you want a smooth finish, you might want to try a roller.

To cover the seats, I simply cut enough printed fabric to stretch over the top of the seat, and stretch around the edges. I placed of bit of polyester batting between the fabric and the top of the seat cushion. It doesn't add ton of cushion, but it fluffs up the seat a little bit to make it look newer, and less worn in.

I used some upholstery tacks to attach the edges of the fabric underneath the seat cushions, and reattached them to the frame of the chair, and there you go! Brand new chairs from an old dining set that was destined for the dumpster.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Chicken Cordon Bleu is a fancy-sounding recipe that involves stuffing chicken breasts with ham and cheese. That sounds pretty labor-intensive to me, so this Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole is a perfect way to get all of the flavor, with minimal fuss!

It's low carb, gluten free (assuming you have gluten-free panko for topping), and most importantly, it's really, really good.

You will need:

  • Approximately 6 cups of cooked chicken. You can use less, but more makes for a bigger casserole. It needs to at least cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  • 1/2 pound of honey ham
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of swiss cheese, depending on how thinly it is sliced.
  • 4 tbsp of flour (I use Bob's Red Mill, for gluten free!)
  • 6 tsp of butter
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of spicy mustard
  • Lime or lemon juice
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Parsley for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken in a layer in the bottom of a greased baking dish. Chop up the ham, and layer it on top, and then cover with the swiss cheese.

In a pot or pan, melt the butter over high heat. Slowly add the flour a scoop at a time, stirring constantly to mix it in. Gluten free flour tends to clump, for me at least, so stirring quickly and constantly while adding a little at a time really seems to help.

Slowly stir in the milk, paprika, salt, and mustard. Lower to medium heat, and let the sauce thicken for about ten minutes, continuing to stir occasionally so that it doesn't burn.

Pour the sauce over the casserole, covering it completely. Sprinkle panko and parsley over the top of the entire casserole, and bake for 25 minutes. The casserole should be bubbly when it has finished cooking. Let cool, and serve!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ravens Purpletini

Are you looking for a purple drink for the Baltimore Ravens football, or for a wedding or event? Then look no further than the Ravens Purpletini!

My husband and I are huge Baltimore Raven's fans, and since I'm a big fan of the color purple in general, it only makes sense that we had to perfect a purple drink recipe!

Please note that this drink recipe is for two drinks per batch. While I'm sure that you could use your math and create a big pitcher of it, if you are looking for a party-size serving, I highly suggest you try this purple punch.

You will need:

  • A shaker (if not, you will have to guess your measurements)
  • Three ounces of vodka
  • 2-3 ounces of cranberry juice
  • 1 ounce of sour mix
  • 1 ounce of lemon-lime soda
  • 1 ounce of Blue Curacao
Shake. Pour. Enjoy!

You may also enjoy:
Purple Yucca
Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Chili

I have to admit that cooking with a slow cooker/crockpot made me slightly anxious. I was, perhaps unreasonably, worried that leaving the appliance plugged in and cooking all day would leave me to come home to a flaming pile of rubble where my kitchen used to be. Luckily, this did not happen, and using a crockpot has become one of my favorite ways to cook.

I <3 Crockpot

One of my go to meals is this simple chicken chili, which uses only a few ingredients, but is so simple and tastes great! Feel free to modify to use whatever you have on hand.

You will need:

  • Approximately 6 chicken breasts (depending on the size). You can also substitute ground chicken, but the shredded chicken breast is definitely better, in my opinion.
  • One 28 ounce can of diced (not crushed!) tomatoes
  • One jar of salsa
  • 1 can of corn
  • 2 cans of the beans of your preference. I usually use cannellini, but I've also used black beans and kidney beans, or a mix!
  • Cheese, for topping
*If you're feeling spicy, try making it buffalo-style, by adding 1/2 tsp of oregano (approx.), and 3/4 cup of buffalo sauce!

Place the whole, uncooked chicken breasts in the crockpot first, then dump the remaining ingredients on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Afterward, the chicken will shred easily with two forks. Mix it up and enjoy!

You might also like to cook:
Moussaka Casserole
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sweet Potato Cheese Fries

I'm sort of at the point where I've cut so many things out of my diet, that things I once hated are now delicious. Example: sweet potatoes. So how did I manage the cheesy mess that is pictured directly to the left?

Enter cheesy sweet potato fries. They aren't actual fries, though I suppose you could cut them into fry shapes. However, if you're like me, you won't care, and will choose to simply have your husband cut sweet potatoes into slices.

The following recipe will let you treat yourself with a healthier version of cheese fries that tastes suspiciously similar to it's fattening alter ego.

You will need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 5 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 4 tsp garlic
  • Cheese (cheddar, mexican blend, etc)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and cut your sweet potatoes into slices that are roughly 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices into a bowl, pour in the olive oil, salt, and garlic, and toss until the slices of sweet potato are covered.

Spread the sweet potato slices out on a tray (it's okay if they are overlapping) and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping them with a spatula halfway through. After 30 minutes, take them out, and cover with your chosen cheese. Bake for about 2 minutes, and remove from the oven.

We ate ours with some chipotle ranch dressing. It was amazing!

You may also enjoy:
Peanut Butter Fruit Dip (great with apple slices and strawberries)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

Finding a low carb or grain free alternative to pizza is not the easiest task, but if you like (or don't mind) mushrooms, this may be the answer to your pizza cravings. There are no measurements, as this is a fairly straightforward recipe using a few simple ingredients:
  • Portobella mushroom caps
  • Pizza sauce of your choice
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Pizza toppings, if desired
You need to cook the mushrooms before adding the toppings. You could probably cook them for a few minutes in the oven, but I chose to grill them using a counter-top grill/sandwich maker. First, wash the mushrooms, removing the stems and gills, which should come out easily with a spoon. Coat with olive oil, and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.

Add some sauce, your cheese, and toppings, and cook for about 5 minutes in 350 degree oven, or until cheese is melted, Then, enjoy!

These little pizzas are filling, low carb meal or snack, or could even be served as an appetizer.

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Moussaka Casserole

This moussaka-style casserole is made with lean meat, eggplant, and feta cheese for a tasty casserole that is even better the next day. This recipe was inspired by the one found here, though the one that I actually made, detailed below, is slightly different.

In my effort to eat more veggies, the husband and I picked up two eggplant about a week ago at the grocery store. Not wanting to waste it, after I found it still sitting in the refrigerator, I scrambled to find an eggplant recipe that looked intriguing, but wouldn't take up the greater part of the day.

You will need:

  • 2 pounds of ground turkey, or other lean meat
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 large eggplant
  • 2 pounds of cauliflower (I thawed and salted a bag of frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • Shredded mozzarella & feta cheese
  • Jar of Alfredo sauce
First, I recommend salting the eggplant to draw out excess water, in order to avoid a soggy casserole. To do this, peel and cut up the eggplant into slices, and then bite sized chunks. Place the eggplant pieces into a colander, over the sink or a bowl to catch the water underneath. Shake about two tablespoons of salt over the eggplant, tossing the pieces so that everything is coated. Let sit for at least half an hour. Then, rinse the eggplant with fresh water, and press between paper towels to absorb the moisture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground turkey in a large pan, and drain the grease. Add the eggplant, cauliflower (thawed and pressed between paper towels to remove moisture if you are using frozen), olive oil, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, oregano, garlic, and diced tomatoes to the ground turkey, cooking on medium heat until most of the juices have evaporated.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 13" x 9" casserole dish. Pour Alfredo
sauce over the top of the mixture, completely covering it. Sprinkle a light layer of mozzarella and feta cheeses over the top of the sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until the top is bubbly and golden. Let cool.

In my opinion, this recipe was even better the next day, when I took leftovers for lunch, which means it would be a great "make ahead" dinner. The cauliflower is used in place of chopped potatoes, which cuts down drastically the number of calories, and carbs. They are close enough in texture that you shouldn't really miss them in the finished product.

You may also be interested in:
Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken
Buffalo Chicken Chili

Peanut Butter Fruit Dip (Made with Greek Yogurt)

Peanut Butter Dip
If you are looking to add a little something extra to your fresh fruit, but you don't want to pack on the calories, you should definitely try this simple and amazing peanut butter fruit dip!

Why should you try it?
  1. It's delicious.
  2. It's easy to make.
  3. It's low carb.
  4. It's gluten free.

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup of plain, non fat greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsp of peanut butter (room temperature works well)
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or sweetener (I used Truvia)
To make the peanut butter dip, simply mix everything together. The peanut butter was a little hard to mix at first, but blended after a few stirs. Serve with sliced fruit, such as apples or bananas!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Cayenne Pepper Tea

This weekend, I completed my first 5k in the Color Run! Most people will tell you that, after a good run or athletic event, you will feel "awesome". In my case, this was true until I got home, when I was suddenly sick. Since cold medicine seems to do nothing, I have been experimenting with various natural remedies found on the internet, using ingredients found on my trusty spice rack.

That's a nice rack.
A surprising solution for a sore throat is cayenne pepper, which also helps ease congestion. Sure, the spiciness of the pepper burns a little, but it helps. If you're miserable, it's worth it.

To make the hot pepper tea, you will need honey, lemon or lemon juice, ginger and cayenne pepper. I used two tablespoons of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice, and several shakes of ginger and cayenne. I didn't use exact measurements for the spices, so vary it depending on your preferences, and how much "spiciness" you can handle. Add boiling water and stir-- I simply used my Keurig for the hot water, on the lowest water setting.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken

Jalapeno popper + anything sounds delicious to me, so when I saw a recipe for jalapeno popper stuffed chicken, I had to give it a try. While my first run was not a great success (due to a failed gluten free chicken coating), several weeks later an improvised second attempt at the recipe proved to be every bit as delicious as it sounds.

Coincidentally, the panko bread crumbs that I used for the coating were gluten free, but just be sure to double check the label of yours if you are avoiding gluten. This recipe, as written, serves two.

You will need:

  • 4 chicken breast fillets, thawed or use two thicker chicken breasts, which will be cut and stuffed
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar, or cheese of your choice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
The chicken breasts that we had were rather thin, so instead of butterflying and stuffing them, I simply stacked two on top of each other with the filling in the middle. This is completely up to you, and does not affect the finished meal.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix the softened cream cheese, minced jalapeno, and cheese together in a bowl. Mix the egg and panko together in a separate,shallow bowl. Coat the outside of your chicken fillet (or one side of each fillet, if you are using two thinner ones), layer the cream cheese mixture on one fillet, and stack the other half of the coated chicken on top.

Cook for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, or until chicken is fully cooked, and enjoy!

You may also enjoy:
Bacon, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Muffins
Buffalo Chicken Chili

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Experience with LASIK: Confessions of a "Glasses Kid"

In spite of the name of this blog, nothing about my LASIK procedure was performed in a kitchen, thankfully, but I have been wanting to share my experience with laser vision correction since I had it on September 14, 2012, at LASIK Plus in Towson, Maryland (I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by LASIK Plus for writing this review of my experience).

I was lucky enough to get glasses before I was even two years old, when thankfully my mother decided to take me to the doctor, which saved me from a life of being cross-eyed. Though I'm grateful for my eyesight, most of my life consisted of several "glasses kid" related things:

  • "Cool" accessories that were really straps to keep my glasses stuck to my toddler head.
  • The annoyance of having my glasses slide down my nose whenever I wanted to ride my bike.
  • The "cool trick" that happened when I switched glasses with my best friend in sixth grade, and my eye turned in.
  • Being told that my "glasses were broken" because bifocals were very, very noticeable in the 1990's and everyone wanted to alert me of the fact that something was very wrong with my glasses constantly.
  • Being told that I was cheating "because I had glasses" at the "no blinking" game, where two bored kids stare at each other and the first one to blink loses.
  • Everyone confusing "needing glasses" with "being blind" and asking me "how many fingers they were holding up" whenever I took my glasses off.
And then I got braces.

Anyway, when I was thirteen, I finally got contacts, which was a moment I had looked forward to forever. Unfortunately, contacts are expensive, irritating, and, since I was also graced with the gift of astigmatism, if they didn't sit juuuuust right (which they never did), I couldn't see anyway. So, ten years later, two months before my wedding and right when I had reached the last pair of contacts in the box of six, I decided that enough was enough, and I was going to schedule a LASIK consultation.

Wrong. No one looks like this while putting in contacts.

I honestly expected the staff at LASIK Plus to tell me that I was not a candidate for the surgery, and send me on my merry way. That isn't what happened. The initial consultation was a series of vision tests, where I stared at various points and dots and my eyes were mapped, cornea thickness tested, etc. I was told that I was a candidate for LASIK, and upon checking out, my appointment was set for the next week. Your contacts have to be out of your eyes for a certain amount of time before the procedure, which is why I had to wait until the next week.

I didn't watch any videos of the procedure online, but I did search for reviews of LASIK in the days leading up to my procedure. I also asked people that I knew who had also had the procedure about their experiences. Still, having your eyes sliced -ahem, lasered- open is not a comforting thought, and no amount of research really calmed me down.

I emailed the LASIK Plus office and asked if there was any sort of sedative that I could use before the procedure. They wrote a prescription for me, and said I could pick it up the day before the surgery. Just so you know, this had absolutely no effect on me, so if this is not an option for you, don't worry.

The day of the surgery, my mom picked me up and we drove to the office. The cool thing about the LASIK office is that the walls of the surgical suite are glass, and a close-up view of the procedure is displayed on a television in the waiting area in real time. I had another quick eye exam before the surgery to make sure everything was consistent, and then eye drops were placed in my eyes to numb them, and my hair was pulled up into a cap.

The surgeon then came in to speak with me, and drew on my eye balls, which I was not actually aware of because my eyes were numb at that point. Then, I was escorted to the surgical suite.

There were two cots in the suite, and I was led to the first one. The first step (that I was aware of) was to cut the "corneal flap" which essentially opens the eye in preparation for the vision correction. A brace is placed on the eye to prevent you from blinking. Remember, your eye is numb at this point, and the medical staff use eye drops to keep the eye from drying out. You don't notice that you are not blinking. In fact, it still sort of feels like you are able to blink. The surgeon talked me through every step of the process, while asking me questions about my job, life, etc. to keep my mind at ease. It had been mentioned to me before hand that some people report feeling more pressure on the second eye to be operated on. This is true. In fact, I felt a slight burning sensation on the second eye, but I also had a headache on that side of my head that day before surgery even started, so that may have played a part. It wasn't painful, I was just aware of it. As the laser is working, pressure is placed on the eye, and my vision went from fuzzy to black/gray until the pressure released.

At that point, I was led from the first cot, to the second. I remember being really shaky while walking, but there were two nurses that helped me move, and, as mentioned before, everyone talks to you through the entire procedure, which helps. After laying back down on the second cot, I was instructed to stare at a green light over my head. While doing so, the laser works its magic, and strangely, the light actually came into focus as the laser was working. The same thing was repeated on the other eye. Absolutely nothing was felt at this point in the procedure.

Then, the surgeon put my eyes back together. According to my mom, he used what looked like a mini paint roller to flip the corneal flap back over, and smooth it out over the surface of the eye. I definitely felt pressure at this point, and as the flap moved, my focus moved all over the place (even though I was looking straight up from the cot, my vision at points was looking straight down at my body... weird!).

Immediately afterward, the surgeon took a look at my eyes. I was able to see clearly at this point, but there was a haze over everything. This may have been partly due to the medication that is placed on the eye after the procedure. I was instructed to wear my sunglasses, go home and take a nap (while wearing a really sexy pair of goggles made of plastic and tape), and to use a ton of eye drops (both medicated and moisturizing).

My mom drove me home, and told me all about the procedure ("It was gross!" and "You do have some yellow in your eyes... maybe they are green!"). As I drove home, my eyes started to get that burning, "dry eye" feeling, and I jogged from my car to my apartment with my eyes shut. My mom helped me tape the plastic goggles to my face, and I tried to take a nap before the numbness fully wore off.

Now, if you take a nap like you are supposed to, you will probably fare better than I did. Instead, I couldn't sleep, so I laid on my bed while fiery tears streamed from my eyes. LASIK Plus did call to check up on me several times throughout the day, and I did finally fall asleep. When I woke up, the fiery tears had stopped, and I was able to see!

At first, night time vision was blurry, mostly due to the halos around lights. Those disappeared within a few weeks. While my nighttime vision isn't fantastic, it's better than it was before I had the surgery, and my vision in the light is amazing. The day after surgery my vision was 20/15, and at my most recent (and final) appointment, six months later, it was 20/10! For the first few months, I did have very dry eyes in the morning, but after about four months that had almost completely resolved.

So, do I recommend LASIK? Absolutely. I wore glasses and contacts for 21 years of my life, and, six months later, I can hardly remember what it was even like to have to put in contacts every day.This past week, I saw a 3D movie, and went to a baseball game, and it was amazing to be able to see everything. Silly as it sounds, it's even amazing just to be able to see the thermostat setting from across the living room! So, I definitely recommend laser vision correction, and, if you are planning to have the procedure yourself, I hope that I was able to set your mind at ease, and wish you the best of luck!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Buffalo Chicken Chili
If you love the flavor of buffalo chicken, you'll have to try this easy buffalo chicken chili! I started with a recipe I found on Pinterest, but the version below is the one I that made.

You will need:

  • 1 pound of ground chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 half of a diced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz canned white beans (drained)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups of hot sauce
  • cheese for topping (bleu cheese, feta, cheddar)(optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
To make this chili, cook the ground chicken. Add the oil to a pot, along with the onion, carrots, and celery, cooking them for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken, garlic, oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, and beans. Stir in the chicken broth and hot sauce, and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, until hot. Top with your choice of cheese or toppings, and enjoy!

This a great twist on chicken chili, with a kick of spicy buffalo wing flavor!

Try it in the crockpot!

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

To make this recipe non-gluten free, simply substitute an equivalent amount of flour for the gluten free flour called for in this recipe, and omit the xanthan gum.

You will need:
  • 6 maraschino cherries
  • 10 ounces of crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1 & 1/3 cup of gluten free baking flour
  • 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup of shortening
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
Note that, instead of butter and brown sugar, you can also use caramel topping (usually an ice cream topping). If you choose that option, you may want to lightly grease your muffin pan. 

For this recipe, there is really no way to use paper muffin cups, because the cupcakes are made upside down (hence the name "pineapple upside-down cake"), but you will need to have both a muffin tin, and a regular baking pan that is roughly the same size available.
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Split the butter among the muffin tins, and pop into the preheating oven for one to two minutes. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the brown sugar into the melted butter. Slice the cherries in half, and place in the center of each muffin tin, with the flat side facing up. Drain the juice from the pineapple into a bowl or cup (be sure to keep the juice!), and spoon the pineapple into the bottom of the muffin cups, around each cherry. 

Blend together the rest of the ingredients, including about 1/4 cup of the reserved pineapple juice (you can vary this amount, but don't add so much that your batter becomes too watery). Pour the batter into the muffin tin, over the pineapple & cherries, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place the baking sheet upside down over the top of the muffin tin full of cupcakes. Immediately (and carefully) flip the entire tray over, and let sit for a few minutes. Lift the muffin tin away, and your cupcakes should be sitting right side up on the baking tray!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Black Bottom Cupcakes (Gluten Free!)

Sometimes, the strangest food combinations actually go together, and combine to make something amazing, like chips on sandwiches, or cupcakes with bacon. Enter one of the most deliciously strange food combinations of all, chocolate and cheese, and you have the black bottom cupcake.

There are plenty of black bottom cupcake recipes to be found on the internet, but I decided to take a traditional recipe, and attempt to make it gluten free. It has been three months since I gave up gluten, and with Easter occurring in two days, it was important to me to have a recipe that would be safe to eat, without tasting "off" to the friends and family I would be sharing it with.

You will need:

For the cream cheese topping:
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cake bottom:
  • 1 & 1/2 cups of gluten free all purpose baking flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients for the cheese topping together, and set aside.

Mix the xanthan gum in with the olive oil until dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients for the cake bottom, and mix until smooth. Pour the cake batter into greased muffin tin (I used muffin cups), filling each cup about halfway. Top with a scoop of the cheese mixture, and bake for 25 minutes.

This recipe makes 18 regular sized cupcakes, and they are amazing!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Faux Potatoes: Mashed Cauliflower

When it comes to eating healthy, potatoes, in their many delicious forms, are my weakness. Sure, they technically count as vegetables (depending on who you ask), but they are, unfortunately, purveyors of copious amounts of sweet, sweet carbs.

I had heard of using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes, and I was intrigued, but not totally convinced that mashed cauliflower didn't just look like mashed potatoes, without tasting like them. Here is the recipe that I used:

Note: I'm short on space in this apartment, and I'm not always sure that I will be able to use fresh veggies in time, so I chose to use frozen cauliflower. You can substitute a head of fresh cauliflower as you wish.

You will need:
  • 1 lb of cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tsbp of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic (add more to taste)
  • 1/3 of an 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup of ground or grated parmesan cheese
  • Chives, basil, or other seasonings for garnish
  • A food processor
To make, boil or steam the cauliflower until hot. While it is still hot, add to the food processor along with the butter, cream cheese, parmesan, and garlic. Blend until smooth. Serve topped with chives (optional).

This recipe was really, surprisingly good, and similar to potatoes! While it was not exactly the same, it was definitely close enough, and would probably work very well in recipes that call for mashed potatoes, as a way to cut carbs.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

This chicken bacon ranch pasta recipe is a very filling dinner dish that is great served hot, or cold leftover the next day.

Note: this recipe is not gluten free as written, so be sure to substitute the flour and pasta for a gluten free variety if you are avoiding gluten!

You will need:

  • 13 ounces of pasta
  • 12 ounces of chicken
  • Bacon (approximately 10 strips)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Cook your chicken thoroughly, and cut into bite sized pieces (or you can use precooked chicken if you wish). Cut up your bacon into smaller pieces and cook with the butter until crispy.

Cook the noodles as instructed on the package.

Add the chicken, flour, ranch, milk, and cheddar cheese to the pan with the bacon, and cook over medium-high heat until all ingredients are blended and the cheese has melted. Pour the sauce over the noodles and mix everything together. Serve topped with parmesan cheese if desired, and enjoy!

This chicken bacon ranch pasta recipe is very filling, but also really good, and the leftovers are an easy lunch, because this pasta tastes great (maybe even better!) cold.

You may also enjoy:
Buffalo Chicken Tacos
Easy Mac and Cheese

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

These buffalo chicken tacos are extremely easy to make! Prep time is 10-15 minutes.

You will need:

  • 6 crunchy taco shells
  • 12 ounces shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing (can use bleu cheese if desired)
  • Shredded cheddar or other cheese of your choice
  • Cole slaw (you can find this with the pre-packaged salad in your grocery store)
Mix the chicken together with the hot sauce and ranch dressing in a small bowl. Arrange your taco shells on a baking sheet, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Fill the taco shells with shredded chicken, and top with cheddar cheese.

The stand up taco shells will be much easier for this, because at least one of the regular taco shells will fall over. However, if you have the regular taco shells, just be sure to stuff the cheese back in if they tip over. Bake the shells for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Add the cole slaw to the tacos, and enjoy!

The cole slaw adds a nice crunch to the taco, and offsets the spiciness of the chicken, while baking it all together not only heats up the chicken, but melts the cheese on top to help hold the contents together. That way, when you bite into your taco, it doesn't crack apart into so many pieces!

  You may also enjoy:
Buffalo Chicken Chili
Zesty Chicken Taco Quesadillas
Breakfast Muffins: All the Best Parts of Breakfast in One Little Cupcake!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spicy Hummus & Parmesan Chicken

This recipe was so easy. I am always looking for ways to use chicken breasts in recipes, and this was a great way to use some leftover hummus!

You will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
  • Approx. 4 tbsp hummus
  • Paprika
  • Lime or lemon juice
  • Grated parmesan
  • Parsley
For this recipe, I used a spicy hummus. If you have a regular hummus on hand, try mixing in some cayenne pepper to taste. While it definitely had a kick, this recipe is not too spicy, but it has a great flavor!

To start, arrange the chicken breasts in a baking dish or pan. While I used a baking pan (as you will see in pictures), I recommend using a smaller dish, where the chicken pieces will be closer together. This is because the hummus may melt while in the oven, and a smaller dish will help prevent it from sliding off of the chicken.

Cover your chicken breasts with the hummus. Be very careful not to dip the spoon used to press the hummus on the raw chicken back into the tub of hummus. If your spoon touches the raw chicken, and ends up back in the tub of hummus, do not eat what is left over.

Squeeze a few spritzes of your lemon or lime juice over the chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, and cover with a generous helping of grated parmesan. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley.

Cook the chicken in an oven preheated to 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes. 30 minutes worked for my frozen chicken, so if your chicken is not frozen, it should be finished in about twenty minutes.

Remove from the oven and enjoy! I served this with a side of quinoa pasta with alfredo and a mix of vegetables.

You may also be interested in:
Breakfast Muffins: All the Best Parts of Breakfast in One Little Cupcake! (gluten free/low carb)
Zesty Chicken Taco Quesadillas (gluten free/low carb)

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Zesty Chicken Taco Quesadillas

Tortillas were definitely off the table (literally and figuratively) when I decided to try a gluten free diet. Crunchy tacos seemed to be the only option, especially when my first and only attempt at soft tacos using corn tortillas was definitely not up to standard.

When I made my most recent grocery list, I casually browsed for another substitute item, prepared to risk another "sort of palatable" dinner. I found tortillas made of brown rice, which had mostly positive reviews. The only negative feedback was that they, like many other gluten free tortilla options, tended to get "crispy" or crumbly if the temperature was too cool. My reasoning for purchasing them was that I could use the brown rice tortillas for quesadillas, since the tortillas could remain flat (and not folded, which poses a problem with crumbly tortillas) and, since quesadillas are cooked on the stove, who cares if the quesadilla is a little "crispy"?!

You can use whichever tortillas you like, but, if you are on a gluten free eating plan, I highly recommend that you give this recipe a try.

Easy, Zesty Chicken Taco Quesadillas
(two servings)

You will need:
  • 4 tortillas
  • 12 oz. shredded chicken
  • Taco seasoning to taste (about 1/2 of 1.25 oz packet)
  • 1 & 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice
  • Salsa & toppings as desired
To start, mix your shredded chicken in a bowl with the seasoning. I just used a pre-cooked can, but with a little extra prep time, you can cook and shred your own. Mix the seasoning well, making sure to coat all of the chicken, and avoiding clumps of seasoning.

Next, get your tortillas ready. If you are using regular wheat tortillas, you are probably all set.

If you are using gluten free tortillas, they may be frozen to start. Lay them flat between two paper towels (keeping another paper towel or wax paper between them) and microwave them for 30-60 seconds until warm. 

Next, layer cheese, the seasoned chicken, and another layer of cheese between the tortillas. Lightly coat a frying pan in non-stick cooking spray, and turn the stove to medium heat. Gently place your quesadilla in the pan, and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the bottom tortilla! Using a spatula, gently flip the quesadilla, and cook the other side for an additional 3-5 minutes. 

Repeat the process for the next tortilla. Slice the finished quesadillas into pieces with a pizza cutter, serve with salsa and toppings, and enjoy!

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Breakfast Muffins: All the Best Parts of Breakfast in One Little Cupcake!

These breakfast muffins are super simple to make, and they really have something for everyone! They are perfect for breakfast-lovers, and those who are eating a low carb or gluten free diet.

You will need:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of shredded cheese of your choice (I used cheddar)
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 6 sausage patties
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

I will admit, I used pre-cooked bacon and sausage for this recipe, but raw will work as well. Just be sure to check that everything is fully cooked before eating!

This recipe makes approximately 6 muffins. I ended up with a little bit of egg mixture left over, so I added a seventh muffin to the tin. 

To make, lightly spray your muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix your eggs and cheese together in a large bowl, along with the dash of pepper, or other seasonings as desired. Press the sausage patties into the bottom of each muffin tin, and wrap the bacon strip around the edges (it's okay if the bacon is sitting on top of the sausage patty, rather than wrapping all the way around the edge of it). Then, pour your egg and cheese mixture into the muffin tins. Because the egg will rise as it bakes, you only need to fill each tin about half way.

Sprinkle cheese on top if desired, and pop in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, and enjoy!

This was a really great and simple breakfast food that was filling and easy to make. They would also probably be good with the addition of peppers or mushrooms to the egg mixture.

You may also be interested:
Zesty Chicken Taco Quesadillas
Confetti Cake Brownies

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