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Archive for the ‘free recipes’ Category

11-Minute Tomato Soup

It is fall and for me this means one thing: my evening meals center around soups, casseroles and my Crockpot. I absolutely adore fall and cannot be more pleased to have it knocking on my front door every morning with a crisp, leaf-scented hello kiss. Tonight’s culinary adventure? Tomato Soup 🙂

11-Minute Tomato Soup

  • 1 lg can whole tomatoes + liquid
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. margarine
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 c. fat-free half & half
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • pinch Mrs. Dash Hot N Spicy (or Sriracha- my personal fave!!)
  • asiago, parmesan, mozzarella or romano cheese for topping
  1. In large cooking pot, saute garlic and onions in butter over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  2. Add can of tomatoes to your favorite blender. Once onion mixture is cooked, add to blender with basil. Blend until smooth.
  3. Return contents of blender to pot & heat over medium. Mix half & half with cornstarch to make a slurry; slowly pour into pot, stirring to combine.
  4. Heat to desired temperature, top with cheese (if desired) & serve with grilled cheese sammiches!!! 😉

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Today was a sort of rough day at work. The classroom has been the site of a recent plague for the past two weeks. We have eight children, ranging in age from 2 to 5, and for the past two weeks we have averaged four per day out with ear infections, whooping cough, intestinal tract issues, stomach flus and run-of-the-mill-ick. Today, even though some should probably still be at home, all eight were present and accounted for. I, for one, had become incredibly spoiled by our 1-on-1 ratio, and now that we’re back to 2-on-1’s I realized that I got lazy. I love all the kiddos and I love having them all there, but I can’t help but think how much more they would benefit from a proper ratio.

That being said, I came home and for once I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted a cigarette and an hour or two with some of my favorite literary friends. So now here it is, nigh on 5 o’clock, and I’m just now getting in my “afternoon snack.” What’s worse is that I broke down at lunch and ate a chicken tender dinner from the little grocette across the street from my school. Then, I get home and realize that, yet again, I didn’t stop at the grocery store to pick up any soy milk. I have not a single lactose-alternative in the house, and none of us actually want me to have milk products. So, against my better judgement, I decided I wanted cherries in my GM today. With only orange juice, I was worried about the outcome of this one. But to my surprise, it was actually rather tasty 🙂

Cherry Green Monster “Surprise”

  • 1 c. frozen cherries
  • 1 c. Trop-50 orange juice
  • 1 c. fresh baby spinach
  • 1 Tbs. chia seeds

Place all ingredients in your magic bullet, in this order. Blend about 15 seconds or until smooth. Tangy but a little sweet, and a glorious garnet color. The “surprise?” It’s yummy! 

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So I’ve decided to try and jump-start my weight loss again. From May to August I lost nearly 35 pounds, but I’ve been stalled at the same weight since the first week of August. And I’m definitely not where I want to be. So to try and get myself back on track, I’m doing another round of my Green Monster 14-Day Challenge. The rules are simple: drink one Green Monster smoothie, once per day, whenever I decide to do so. My previous challenge brought me 14 days of Green Monster breakfasts, but I’m not quite back up to speed with my early morning routine since school started back. I’ve been struggling with afternoon and late night eating since I started working again, so today I’ve made my first GM my afternoon snack. I’ll include recipes with each entry. Wish me luck!!

Mango Strawberry Green Monster

  • 1/2 c. frozen sliced mango
  • 5 frozen strawberries (about 1/2 to 3/4c)
  • 1 cup raw baby spinach
  • 1 Tbs. flax seed
  • 1.5c. Trop-50 orange juice

I actually really like this smoothie combo. Normally, I tend to go for soy or almond milk in my GMs because the orange juice, well, makes it taste a little too “green” for me. But the combination of mango & strawberry made this smoothie a little slice of the tropics. Part of me wanted to throw in a little splash of peach schnapps and vodka and just skip the spinach all together (after the week/weekend I’ve had), but that wouldn’t fulfill my challenge requirements. Lol.

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Well, looky there! Another recipe 🙂 I adapted this one from Debi Cooks and I absolutely loved it, as did everyone else who tried it. The stew itself is good, but if you add the toppings, it really does taste like a cheeseburger.

Cheeseburger Soup (serves 4 hearty portions)

Soup/Stew Base:

  • 1 lb. hamburger, lean
  • 1/2 lg. sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 5 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, Jane’s Crazy Salt or Mrs. Dash to taste (a good pinch of each)
  • 1 c. skim milk

Fixin’s:

  • ketchup
  • yellow mustard
  • sweet pickle relish
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • saltine crackers or Ritz crackers (for a buttery flavor)
Instructions:
  1. Add hamburger, onion, carrots & potatoes to stock pot over medium high heat. Salt lightly to draw moisture from veggies. Cook, stirring frequently, until hamburger is done & vegetables are almost tender (about 7 minutes). Drain mixture and return to pot.
  2. Add 5 cups chicken stock, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until vegetables are done, about 20 minutes. **Soup can be held here on stovetop until everyone is ready to eat. Be sure to give yourself 5 minutes to finish it off… Keep an eye on stock level and add more stock as needed if you have to simmer it awhile.**
  3. Five minutes before serving, stir in 1 c. milk and allow to heat through.
  4. Spoon stew into bowl and top with cheddar cheese, yellow mustard, ketchup, relish and crushed crackers.
Some of my friends prefer to add diced tomatoes, diced onion, French’s french fried onions, bleu cheese (in lieu of cheddar), or A-1 to theirs. However you like your burger, that’s how you’ll like this stew. Feel free to play around with it as much as you like. You can add Montreal Steak seasoning to the soup, Mrs. Dash, cayenne pepper, anything you would prefer. This is just a basic starter recipe.
Give this stew a shot next time it’s too cold to grill and you have a mean hankering for a cheeseburger. After all, who needs McDonalds anyway? 😉

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Seafood Pot Pie

We all have to admit it. Some nights we want real stick-to-your-ribs food, but our pants warn us that we really, really shouldn’t. Here is where Seafood Pot Pie comes in. It’s a traditional dish normally made with heavy cream, real butter, flaky butter pie crust and lots and lots of rich seafood. I remember growing up watching my grandmother knead little pieces of butter into her crust and my fingers itching to do the same. As I have grown, I have realized that I will simply never be a pastry chef (my internal body temperature is just way too high and I melt every little morsel of butter in the dough) but I can make a mean semi-homemade meal. I count that an accomplishment 🙂

This lightened twist on a Irish/Southern classic is sure to become a staple in your home. And, if you can believe it, the leftovers are even more delicious than the first night!

Ingredients:

8oz. to 1 lb. crab/lobster/shrimp (or imitation crab) *I used 8oz. but that’s mostly b/c it’s what I had in the freezer*
2 Tbs. margarine
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup flour
2 cups of chicken stock
1 c. fat-free half & half
½ c. skim milk
1/4 cup sherry
Up to 1 Tbs. cornstarch for thickening, if necessary
1cup frozen peas
½ tsp. thyme
1 tsp. Old Bay
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crust (that’s 2 indiv. crusts), or homemade crust to make 9×12″ pie 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté the carrots, celery, and onions in margarine until they are soft but still slightly firm. Next, add the flour to the sautéed vegetables and cook for about 3 minutes.

Continue by adding the sherry, chicken stock, and cream and stir until smooth. Simmer for about 5 minutes (if using fresh, raw seafood, place in mixture now). Add the seasonings, peas and simmer for 1 minute longer (if using imitation crab, add now instead of earlier). If the mixture needs thickening, add cornstarch now. If using cornstarch, simmer and add’l minute.

Prepare the 9″ x 12″ baking dish by placing one pie dough round in the bottom, making sure to stretch it as high on the sides as you can. Add the mixture into the baking dish and cover with the other pie dough round. Seal the edges and bake for 30 minutes. The crust should be golden brown when done.

**note: I had no problems with the cornstarch clumping, but if you find that you do, you can make a slurry by mixing your cornstarch in a few Tbs. of chicken stock before adding it to the mixture**

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Ok, so it’s not your tpical banana pudding recipe, but it is low in calories, and incredibly easy for little munchers to make 🙂 You can add your favorite mix-ins but just remember to calculate the calories you are adding if you are on Weight Watchers or any other calorie-watching program.

Banana Pudding In A Bag

  • 1/2 small banana, cut into pieces
  • 3 Tbs. unsweetened applesauce (without cinnamon)
  • 1 Tbs. lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. graham cracker pieces or granola

Place all ingredients into a sandwich-sized zip top plastic bag. Squish until all ingredients are incorporated. You can eat it straight out of the bag for minimal clean-up 🙂 Makes 1 serving.

130 calories, 2 g. fat, 2 g. protein, 29 g. carbohydrates, 2 g. fiber.

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Irish Soda Bread

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, I tried my hand at coming up with a traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Normally, the bread is a slightly sweet tender loaf with raisins and caraway seeds. The friends who were going to help me eat the loaf don’t like raisins & I’m not a huge fan of caraway so I made some substitutions. Keeping it marginally traditional, I took a kids’ tradition of drinking currant juice and translated that into including the fruit in my bread! It turned out really well & I am so excited that I actually measured when I was trying to come up with this one. Normally I skip that step and then kick myself when I can’t exactly duplicate it the next time 🙂 So without further adieu…

Heather’s Irish Soda Bread

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups raisins or currants (works out to one box of Sunmaid Raisins or Currants)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    2. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk and sour cream. Stir wet ingredients into dry and fold until all flour has been incorporated (about 30 strokes).

    3. Pour mixture into greased 9″ cake pan or cast iron skillet. It will be the consistency of a thick cookie dough, and will be slightly sticky. Press down with the back of a greased spatula & score an “x” in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

    4. Bake at 350 degrees for 65-75 minutes. Remove from oven and turn loaf out onto wire rack to cool. For a traditional rustic look, dust lightly with flour before cutting.

    Yields about 8 large servings or 16 breakfast portions.

    The leftover bread is great as french toast or bread pudding as well! Feel free to make it your own; just remember who turned you onto it! 🙂

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    DIY Fun!!!

    A friend of mine has started a new blog and asked me for some recipes for crafts and projects for her kids and the blog. I ran across some really great recipes from my years of babysitting and taking care of my neices and godchildren & thought I would share them with all of you! You can also find them on Michelle’s blog, Mommy Magic. It’s awesome and she’s amazing and I highly recommend that you check it out!!!

    Victorian Salt Clay (can be used to make beads/small objects)

    2 c. salt
    2/3 c. water + 1/2 c. cold water
    1 c. cornstarch
    Food coloring (optional)

    1. Mix salt & 2/3 c. water in large saucepan.
    2. Stirring constantly, heat over low heat 4 minutes. Do Not Boil (In my craft notes, I wrote this instruction like this: DO NOT BOIL!!! Lol).
    3. Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch and cold water. *You can add the food coloring at this point for a large batch of the same color, or keep reading for my little tricks :)*
    4. If the mixture is not a thick paste (think bread dough consistency), place back over low heat for approx. 1 minute. Again, Do Not Boil.
    5. Remove from pan; place on working surface dusted with cornstarch. Knead as you would dough until pliable & smooth.

    *Heather’s Tip* I like to take small portions of the dough and add a different color to each one. You can then knead them individually and mix them together when making your beads or objects for awesome patterns and textures.

    This dough can take up to 3 days to completely dry at room temp. or you can do a Quick Dry: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Turn oven off & place model on pan in oven. Wait until oven has cooled. Remove and paint if desired.

    Ice Cream in a Bag

    1 Tbs. sugar
    1/2 c. half and half or milk
    1/4 tsp. vanilla
    6 Tbs. rock salt
    ice cubes
    1 pt. & 1 gal. ziptop bags or 1 sm. and 1 lg. metal coffee can

    1. Fill lg. bag or can 1/2 full with ice cubes. Add rock salt.
    2. Place milk, sugar, & vanilla in sm. bag or can. Seal well (if using a can, put duct tape around the lid to prevent leaking).
    3. Place sm. bag or can into large and seal securely (again using duct tape if necessary).
    4. Shake about 5 minutes or play Kick the Can with the kiddos!!

    *Heather’s Tip #1* Try replacing the milk with fruit juice and the vanilla with a fruit extract. I like using pineapple juice and coconut extract. Smells and tastes like summer, even in the throes of winter.

    *Heather’s Tip #2* Invent your own flavors! This is an endlessly customizable recipe and I would encourage you to come up with your own flavors. Or you can try one of my inventions:

    Mocha Chip Freeze: Add up to 1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder and 1/4 c. mini chocolate chips. This one is great if you replace the vanilla with peppermint extract!

    Salted Caramel Freeze: Add up to 2 tsp. of caramel ice cream topping to the original mixture and shake an extra minute to incorporate. Transfer to your serving dishes (or just straight in the bag if you want it all for yourself!) and top each serving with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. You’d never know this trendy dessert was made in a coffee can!

    Flubber
    (Make sure your little ones are past the “I have to stick everything in my mouth” stage or surpervise them with this activity)

    Mixture 1:
    3/4 c. warm water
    1 c. Elmer’s glue
    Food coloring

    Mixture 2:
    2 tsp. Borax
    1/2 c. warm water

    Mix each mixture in separate bowls. Combine Mixture 1 into 2 & work about three minutes.
    Instant Fun!

    This has been safe for kids with sensitive skin in my experience, however, with Borax you may want to have some extra moisturizing lotion on hand for after clean-up.

    @–v– DIY Solid Perfume –v–@

    1 unscented tealight, broken into small pieces
    8 Tbs. petroleum jelly
    1 tsp. fragrance oil or about 3 drops of essential oil (perfume grade only- available at most co-ops and health food stores)

    Heat petroleum jelly over low heat in double boiler. Stir in tea light until all has been incorporated and melted.
    3. Remove from heat. Allow to sit 1-2 minutes then stir in fragrance.
    4. Pour or spoon into small containers.

    *Heather’s Tip #1* I always save my empty tealights after I have burned them. I wash them with warm soapy water and then reuse them for crafts like this one! Pour your mixture back into the clean tealight, let cool, cover in saran wrap and package in sheer colored fabric to give away as gifts!

    *Heather’s Tip #2* Use a floral fragrance like lavendar, rose or lilac and wrap in pastel colored sheer fabric for Easter basket stuffers… or peppermint oil and green fabric for St. Patrick’s Day…

    This is a great project to let the little ones exercise their creativity. Johnny wants to make licorice-scented tins? Sure, why not? Little Susie wants to make pineapple jelly bean? If you can find the scents, they can smell like anything! (If you can stand it, that is. Lol.)

     
    ~*~*~*~*Body Glitter *~*~*~*~

    1/2 c. clear aloe vera gel
    1 tsp. glycerin (the liquid kind, not the suppository kind. :P)
    2 tsp. fine glitter
    Metallic or shaped glitter (optional)

    1. Mix gel and glycerin together.
    2. Sprinkle in glitter(s) and blend.
    3. Store in empty baby food containers or other small containers.

    **Make sure the children have no allergies to any of the above ingredients, as with any product that will stay on their skin**

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    So today, treat yourself to an at-home spa day before you (if you even do) opt to clean the house. Follow my tried and true recipe for a spa day & you will feel refreshed, relaxed and invigorated.

    Start out by making yourself a healthful meal line up (like one you would get at a fancy shmancy spa). It would be preferable if you could do this a day in advance, or do all your cooking before you start your treatments. The goal will be to flow from one “treatment” to the next with minimal interruption.

    Try this meal plan:

    Strawberry Sunshine Smoothie– Blend 2/3c. frozen strawberries with ¼-1/2 c. vanilla soy or almond milk. Add one packet of no calorie sweetener if desired. About 45 cal. Per smoothie.

    NBC’s Biggest Loser® Ginger and Lemongrass Sliders in Lettuce Cups (from SpaIndex.com)

    1 – 20 oz package of Extra Lean Ground Turkey
    1 clove garlic, minced fine
    1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
    1 Teaspoon fresh lemongrass, grated super fine
    1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped rough
    2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
    6 drops toasted sesame oil, divided
    Fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
    ½ Cup orange juice
    1 cup red cabbage, cut into ribbons
    1 large carrot, finely grated
    8 whole leaves iceberg lettuce, washed
    Whole cilantro leaves for garnish
    Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

    Directions

    1. Preheat a grill or grill pan on medium high heat.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chopped cilantro, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce and 3 drops sesame oil. Mix well until fully incorporated and season with fresh cracked black pepper.
    3. Form the turkey mixture into tight balls of approximately 2 ½ ounces each – there should be 8 balls. Flatten them into patties about ½ inch thick.
    4. Brush the grill lightly with oil and place the turkey patties onto the grates. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165F in the center of the burgers.
    5. While the burgers are cooking, mix the cabbage and carrots in a separate, medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in the remaining soy sauce and sesame oil along with the orange juice. Mix well and season to taste with black pepper.
    6. Remove the burgers from the grill and let rest for 2-3 minutes. To serve, place a burger into each lettuce leaf or cup and mound a small amount of the cabbage and carrot salad on top. Garnish with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately. 195 cal. Per serving (2 burgers)

    Fruit Sushi

    1 firm, ripe honeydew or cantaloupe melon
    1 fresh pineapple, papaya, and starfruit, peeled and julienned (or fruit of your choice)

    Peel, halve and seed melon. Using a potato (veggie) peeler, obtain thin, long and straight slices from the flesh. Lay melon strip down and place a few julienned pieces of fruit at one end. Roll strip and secure with a toothpick if necessary.

    Your preparation period being done, now you are free to move on to the most relaxing part… the spa treatments

    1. Your spa day begins with your most overworked body part; relax your brain first. As you release all of your stresses and anxieties, your body will surely follow. Play some music (try my Snow Day Spa Playlist!!!), light scented candle in a relaxing scent (like lavender or chamomile), dim the lights, and meditate or try to achieve “no thought” or a blank mind.
    2. Now, onto the face. Our faces are the way we greet the world and, though we may not often realize it, people generally make assumptions about us based on this feature, whether we like it or not. So put a fresh face forward with this delectable mask:Chocolate Facial Mask
      This creamy mask is an excellent moisturizer, leaving your skin baby soft. Recommended for normal skin.
      1/3 cup cocoa powder
      3 tbsp. heavy cream
      2 tsp. cottage cheese
      ¼ cup honey
      3 tsp. oatmeal
      Mix all ingredients together (I use my Magic Bullet) and smooth onto face. Relax for ten 10 minutes, then wash off with warm water. Follow with a gentle toner and sweet smelling moisturizer.
    3. Next, move to your hands and feet. I like to do a soak, then a scrub, then slathering on a moisturizing cream or oil. Sweet Feet Spa Treatment

    INGREDIENTS

    1 cup epsom salts

    1 cup apple cider vinegar

    4 drops peppermint essential oil

    several marbles or smooth stones

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Boil a large pot of water. Using a large spoon, stir in the epsom Salt. Add the vinegar and essential oil and stir. Pour the mixture into a basin or a footbath that you’ve already filled with warm water. Add the marbles or smooth stones. Put your feet into the footbath and swish your feet through the water, allowing the marbles to massage your feet.
    2. Now that you’re in the thick of it, we’ll move to your crowning glory: your hair. Whether you have short hair or long, curly or straight, color processed or natural, everyone could use a little follicle pampering J For an ultra-moisturizing hair mask: Mash the flesh of one avocado with 1/2c. of honey and spread on dry hair. Leave on hair for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse with water. Follow with gentle shampoo.
    3. And… the piece de resistance… the body scrub & soak!! I prefer to soak in a dimly lit bathroom, with a  few candles and mood music playing; after about 20 minutes, I let the water out & apply the body scrub (made earlier). I follow all this up with a nice warm shower and then slick on a liberal amount of body butter. I like to make mine a mocha routine (just a little nod to my addiction to both coffee and chocolate!).

    CHOCOLATE BUBBLE BATH (from SpaIndex.com)

    1 cup of unscented bubble bath
    1/3 cup of unsweetened soy milk
    3 oz. of grated or powdered dark chocolate

    Heat the soy milk and add in the grated or powdered chocolate. Stir well until melted and blended, but do not boil. Allow to cool.  Mix well again just before adding to your bath.

     Morning Buzz Coffee Scrub (from Veria.com)

    INGREDIENTS

    1/2 1 cup used coffee grounds from your coffee pot

    2 tablespoons coarse salt

    1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

    DIRECTIONS

    Empty out your coffee filter into a bowl or container that will be safe in the shower. Add the salt. Drizzle in the olive oil and stir with your fingers to blend. Take it with you into the shower. Scrub gently, being careful to avoid the eye area.

     Now that you’re all lubed up and relaxed, you will be better able to face any challenges that await you during the week. Or maybe even… those dishes you didn’t do before the spa J

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