Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Perfect Golden Chicken Nuggets

{eat your heart out Mcdonald's.}

When I saw Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution a while back, he did a special on "what's really in chicken nuggets?" It was enough to make me want to run for the hills! So instead, I found a great recipe will real, whole ingredients that I know you will enjoy.

When I am dealing with a picky-food child, I turn to none other than Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld to help me out. The premise of the book is that vegetable purees are added to sneakily "up" the nutritional value to her recipes. So when a friend graciously gave me this book as a gift, I turned to the chicken nuggets recipe (here) ASAP. The result was crispy, golden, tender chicken nuggets that blows McDonalds' out of the water by a million miles. I have to admit that I didn't have time to add the purees to the nuggets, but I will try to in the future.

{the secret is in the breadcrumbs and spices.}

{this is how I prepare, using an assembly line after cutting chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks.}

{the key to the "perfect" golden nugget is to coat skillet with non-stick spray. let it get hot. then add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. let that get hot again before adding nuggets.}

{let the chicken sit for a few minutes to develop a nice golden color. then flip.}

{nuggets will develop a delightful golden color. yum!}

Everyone loves these delicious nuggets! I serve these usually with homemade mac 'n cheese (or Annie's mac 'n cheese if I'm in a time crunch, link here) and a vegetable. With football season here, it's the perfect appetizer to wow your crowd. I dare you to find someone who doesn't enjoy these!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Ode to Cinnamon, Misunderstood Spice

I recently found this wonderful article (link here) on the health benefits of cinnamon and wanted to share it with you. When I say "misunderstood," I mean that cinnamon is often an ingredient in desserts such as cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, etc. However, cinnamon alone has the beneficial properties of lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels--a great reason to include it regularly as part of your diet.

Fall is a great time of year for cinnamon to make a cameo appearance as it's a great compliment to apples. I put cinnamon in oatmeal, whole wheat waffles, and whole wheat pancakes regularly. Here's a great quick and easy oatmeal recipe that even the pickiest of picky eaters seem to love! This is from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet:

Quick Date-Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving
1 cup organic rolled oats (I happened to use Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats, but Stop and Shop has both their Nature's Promise as well as the Quaker ones for the same price, $2.69)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/3 crisp apple, cut in cubes
About 5 dates, pitted and chopped
Fine sea salt to taste
3 shakes of ground cinnamon
Scant 1 teaspoon flaxseed oil (I would refrain from this if/when you are trying to conceive)
Note: I have made it like the above recipe, but really you can put whatever dried fruit you want---dried cranberries are also great.
Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Combine the oats, syrup, nuts, apple and dates in a bowl. Add a pinch or two of salt, then pour enough hot water to just cover the oats; don't add too much or it will be watery. Cover the bowl with a plate or pot lid, and let the oatmeal stand until the oats have absorbed the water. Stir, and add a little more water if the oats look too dry or a little more oats if it looks to watery. Let the oatmeal cool a little, and then drizzle with the flaxseed oil. Enjoy!

This recipe is so quick to make and the taste is much better than those bagged oatmeal packets. Plus, you won't be on a jacked-up sugar high all morning and the fiber will keep you fuller, longer! *phew!* You can tweak this recipe to be whatever you want. Experiment! If you find a new combo to put in the oatmeal, let us know!

Let's Wrap Things Up

{fresh tomato, baby spinach, avocado and hummus on a whole wheat tortilla with organic red apple slices}

I've been running around like a madwoman lately with various appointments and places to be. In my post yesterday I had mentioned that my body craves clean food when I'm running a little ragged and need an energy boost. Today was one of those days. I didn't have a lot of time to make myself lunch but wanted to whip up something with lots of vegetables, a nice creamy spread, and a hearty bread. This wrap met all of those needs! I love wraps because they are so versatile. You can pretty much put anything in them; you can even make a breakfast burrito out of the tortilla!  

We were lucky enough this year to have a beautiful vegetable garden, compliments of my husband. There is something about knowing where your food comes from and the process of growing it yourself that is so satisfying--even if it's just herbs on the windowsill. Doesn't get much more local and "green" than that! For this particular post, I used our garden fresh tomatoes for my wrap.

{spread hummus on whole wheat tortilla, add fresh tomatoes, avocado, and spinach. A dash of pepper and roll it, "cigar style"}

{healthy, fresh, simple. what could be a more perfect? }

Note: Some turkey slices, alfalfa sprouts, and/or julienne carrots would have also been a nice addition to this quick and easy lunch. Next time! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vegetarian Highlight: Collard Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins

I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Although she has been a long-time vegan, many of her recipes appeal to vegans and non-vegans alike. Dark leafy greens are one of the most healthy veggies you can add to your diet. According to Alicia, "Greens are packed with a mind-blowing amount of nutrients, but especially nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. They also include the antioxidant vitamins and tons of fiber. Greens are that rich, dark color because they absorb so much sunshine, so eating greens is like eating light" (p. 63). I mean, common...who wouldn't want to eat sunshine? These are living foods that add vitality!

Collard greens may be a bit bitter for some people and are an acquired taste. For that reason, you may want to cook them a little extra longer. In addition, the raisins add a nice sweetness to the dish and the pine nuts pack a nice crunch (as well as being rather nutritious. Here is some more info on the benefits of pine nuts).

I have served this dish with  plain brown rice in the past for myself, but can be a wonderful accompaniment to a simple lemon chicken or grilled steak. Either way, it's a nice way to add some vital nutrients to the dinner table.

{toasted pine nuts have the most AMAZING aroma!}

{after removing collard greens from stem, slice into bite-sized pieces and sautee.}

{collard greens with pine nuts and raisins}

Monday, September 19, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

I'm a little late in posting this but wanted to include. This summer, I got festive with my 4th of July dessert. I wanted something both appealing to the eye as well as to the stomach. Nothing says Independence Day like red, white, and blue and what other way to celebrate than with good old strawberry (and blueberry) shortcake? I found the following Alton Brown shortcake recipe  online. The shortcake was so simple to make, it's almost a sin to get it from a store when most of the ingredients can be found in the common pantry. Add to it some all-natural Breyer's ice cream, a dallop of whipped cream, some in-season fruit and you have yourself a party on a plate.

{carefully spooned batter on parchment paper lined baking sheet}

 {right out of the oven}

{strawberry shortcake with blueberries and vanilla ice cream}

This strawberry shortcake?: Refreshing.

Copycat Boston Market Dill Potatoes

{copycat boston market dill potatoes}

Warning: If you don't like butter (and I mean tons of it), skip this post.  

It's possible that I can blame my Irish roots for this one, but I've never met a potato I didn't like. Potato salad, baked potato, boiled, scalloped, twice-baked, etc. You name it, I like it. That is why it was only natural that I find a copycat potato side dish recipe from one of my local fast-food restaurants. I have no idea what the original ingredients are for the recipe, but I found this recipe online and knew I had to make them immediately. Ok, so the tons of butter that the recipe calls for is not exactly the most healthy. I personally think that you can use the butter sparingly just enough to coat the potatoes with the seasonings and then add to it at the dinner table if you feel you want more. Or not. I threw it all in since I normally eat vegetables plain with no butter--why not splurge just this once? 

{small red-skin potatoes to be boiled}

{boiled potatoes + seasonings + butter=woah!}

The result: the dill brings a lovely taste to these potatoes and the butter and garlic make this one of the most comforting foods I have ever made. Butter lovers, unite! One word to describe these potatoes: satisfying. 

Not-So-Ordinary Salad

I love me a good salad. If I go a few days eating a little less than healthy, my body gets confused and I end up craving clean foods which usually includes a hearty salad. However, let's admit it. Salads can be boring. I found a really great link from one of my favorite blogs, Cupcakes and Cashmere, entitled "101 Simple Salads for the Season" (link can be found here). The author of Cupcakes and Cashmere added avocados, which I also added into the mix. I dare you to try some of these sophisticated yet simple creations to test your taste buds. I happened to make #2 on the list. The result was an alluring combination of sweet (tomatoes and peaches) and spicy (red pepper flakes). The cilantro and onions added a wonderful earthiness to the dish. This recipe in a word: unexpected.


Funfetti Cupcakes from Scratch!

The inspiration for my first blog post occurred on a not-so-unusual day like today. I invited some  friends over for a little cupcake birthday party for their daughter. The next day, kids in tow, I headed to the grocery store looking for the perfect boxed cupcake mix. Funfetti cupcakes came to mind. I eagerly grabbed the box and then I glanced over at my children. It was like something out of a movie. My inner voice said to me, How innocent and perfect are they? How can I feed them or any of the kiddos who were coming over propylene glycol monoesters (an actual ingredient in the mix)? My mission was clear. I had to find that same mix recipe somewhere else with ingredients I felt good about serving to others.

When I got home, I found this recipe. I felt good about this. At 1:00 a.m., the only time I had to make these yummy delights, I still felt good about this.

{paisley cupcake liners up the cuteness factor}

{I decided to tweak the recipe by putting sprinkles IN the cake batter, not just in the icing}


To say that these were good would be an understatement. The cake was fluffy, moist, and rich--unlike any cupcake I've ever had, period, let alone out of a box. The icing was buttery, tangy from the cream cheese, and smooth. These cupcakes in a word: heaven.

Well Hello There!


Ok, so...I don't know about you...but...when I pick up a box of macaroni and cheese, I cringe when I read the list of ingredients. I quickly put that box back on the shelf and begin a quest to find that same dish using *real* ingredients. Guess what? A majority of the time I can find that recipe online or in a cookbook of mine and usually it's with ingredients I can pronounce.

My main purpose here is to inspire others to bring back healthier cooking by keeping things whole, fresh, simple, and mostly from scratch. Above all, I'd like to keep it fun and non-intimidating. My recipes will be diverse from clean, healthy foods to baked desserts with the common denominator being that they are mostly whole foods without preservatives or weird stuff you can't pronounce.

Though this blog is still in its infant stages, I would like to eventually include posts on crockpot cooking, time-saving tips for busy moms/workaholics who want to avoid resorting to fast food, reviews on health food restaurants, guest blog posts, ways to eat healthy on the cheap, organizing menus, and other snippets of information that might be handy to keep things "real" in the kitchen. Stay with me through this journey!

Thanks for visiting and let's get started.