Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte, without the Guilt!

The hubby has a cold, and brought PUMPKIN DONUTS home last night. Apparently, he felt the need for some "comfort food". They are REALLY good!  (I've had them before .... )

AND right now, I'm not going to have ONE.  NOPE.  Not going to do it!  (The struggle is real.)
BUT, I wanted something that would help satisfy that "pumpkin craving".  This Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte was SO good.  I mean, really good.  And, did just the trick. 
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
(Modified from a recipe via Against All Grain)
*21 Day Fix-Approved*
1 cup brewed coffee
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp. local organic honey
2 tbsp. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until hot.  Carefully transfer to a blender and cover the top with a towel.  Blend until thoroughly combined and foamy.  The blender really helps to create that foam we all love from our local favorite coffee shop! 
(21 Day Fixers: 1 yellow, 2 tsp. and a bit of a green [if you want to count that])


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trick-or-Treat doesn't HAVE to kick off a downhill spiral.

Does Halloween mean the start of a long, downhill spiral for you?  It used to for me.  It all starts with the plethora of trick-or-treat candy, then Thanksgiving is around the corner, followed by some of our favorite Winter holidays! 

It is one, long, "food festival", from the end of October until the New Year, when many make their New Year's resolutions.  At the expense of 8-15 pounds for the average person!

BOO to that!  So, I thought it might be beneficial to provide some tips, so that you can STOP the downhill spiral before it even STARTS.

  1. Plan your workouts -- especially on Halloween day.  You'll feel better, have a lot more energy, and it will put you in the right mindset to make healthy choices later on that evening.
  2. Don't buy YOUR favorite Halloween candy.  If you like chocolate, buy only sour and gummy candies to hand out to the little ones.  You will find that you are much less tempted when you don't have YOUR greatest temptations immediately at hand.
  3. Don't skip any meals on Halloween day.  You may think that you want to bank your calories for Halloween evening.  Don't do it!  You'll be hungry, and more likely to binge on too many sweet treats.
  4. HAVE A PLAN.  If you do want to splurge a tiny bit, do so -- but PLAN it.  If you love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, buy 2 (only!) and enjoy them.  Then STOP.  Don't buy a bag of peanut butter cups to hand out (see #2).
  5. If you have young children, the reality is that they will come home with candy.  If you live in a neighborhood like we do -- they will come home with a lot of candy!  Put it out of sight.  If you see it daily, you are more likely to eat it.  Put it away, up high, in a closet or pantry.
  6. Plan your workout for November 1st. 
We exercise because we want to feel good, be healthy, look good, and perhaps drop a few pounds.  Who wants to work out because they feel guilty and need to work off a day's-worth of unnecessary treats?  Not me. 

However, if you DO go overboard, I have a plan for you:


This short, 5-day group is coming soon, along with plenty more details! This revamped group will include a fresh, brand-NEW menu-plan and grocery list -- just in case you've participated in one of my previous free 5-day challenges.

AND, daily workouts will be provided, if you need them.

You can detox after a sugar-filled Halloween ... and before the next big holiday ---> Turkey Day!

If you want to be the first to know as details about this new group become available, click here: Skinny Turkey Slim-Down, and I'll add you to the list.  Space is limited.

P.S.  Did you know that Halloween is my BIRTHDAY?  I'm a good witch ..... most of the time. 


Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Sure, I know beer is a more typical pairing choice for chili. Some folks even swear by milk! But wine is definitely my beverage of choice to enjoy with a meal, so I've been working on getting chili and wine pairing down to a science.

During my latest chili and wine pairing adventure, I started with the wine I wanted to serve. I had another bottle of the 2012 Halter Ranch Syrah from Paso Robles waiting in the wings. It paired nicely with this grilled tuna, which was served with a mix of grilled eggplant and spicy peppers. I had a notion that it could also do very nicely with a chili.
Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

One key that I've found to chili and wine pairing is to make a chili that is flavorful but not overwhelmingly hot. You start making 5 alarm style chili, then you are going to need to defer to beer. I made this chili with some healthy ground turkey, and a nice blend of spices to give it plenty of flavor without overwhelming heat. Though I prefer wine with the chili, I did use some beer in recipe. And yes, a little bit of chocolate goes in to deepen the flavor.

Here are the details:

turkey chili topped with avocado. Cooking Chat recipe.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, most of the seeds removed (a few left for a bit of extra kick!)
1 carrot, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups red kidney beans, cooked (I started with dried)
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
generous pinch cinnamon
juice from 1/2 lime
about 1/2 cup beer
1 tsp bittersweet chocolate
for toppings: grated cheddar, chopped avocado, sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the vegetables through carrot as they are chopped.

Next, add the ground turkey and brown, about 10 minutes.

After the turkey has browned, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the dried spices, cover and simmer for at least an hour.

After an hour, add the lime and beer simmer, and simmer for 1 more hour.

Serve the chili in bowls with the toppings. Avocado is a very nice touch here! I found we needed less cheese and sour cream with the healthy fruit in the mix. Enjoy!

Turkey Chili with Wine Pairing: Halter Ranch Syrah

Wine Pairing: The Halter Ranch Syrah has a big fragrance of violets and forest floor. I got blackberry jam and white pepper taste. The Syrah opens nicely and shows a lot of finesse on the long finish. There's a depth and complexity to the wine that works nicely with the lively flavors of the chili. This wine definitely qualifies as a good pairing for a flavorful, mild to medium chili. Give it a try!

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of the wine from the winery. As always, the opinions and recipe are entirely my own.

Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Healthy Crunchy Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

For ME, chicken or tuna salad MUST have some crunch.  Do you concur?  If so, give this recipe a shot!

Plain Greek yogurt is a great alternative to mayo.  I use it with tuna, and for this fresh and tasty Chicken Salad recipe -- which is oftentimes my lunch!  Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Healthy Crunchy Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
(Makes 2 hearty, filling servings)

1-1/2 cups cooked chicken breast
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red grapes
About 15 almonds, chopped or crushed
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 packet of Stevia
2 tsp. chopped dried parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Taste, and adjust seasonings to your preference.  Enjoy with fresh peppers and celery, or some whole-wheat crackers.

*Note:  Tastes better after chilling in the refrigerator for at least several hours.

(21 Day Fixers: Count 1 serving as -- 1.5 red containers, 1/2 a green, 1/2 a purple, and an orange.)


Friday, October 24, 2014

12 Healthy Favorites for #FoodDay2014

Grilled Tuna Steak with Eggplant and Peppers Served with a Halter Ranch Syrah for #winePW 4.

Happy Food Day 2014! I'm very committed to eating healthy food, but also making it taste great. So I had to join in on this day celebrating real food, and share 12 healthy favorites for #FoodDay2014. 

Good, healthy food means something a little different for everyone. For me, it means building meals around vegetables, whole grains (yes, I like whole grain pasta!), and a modest amount of lean protein. We love our cheese, but use it in moderation and always the real deal. Extra virgin olive oil goes quickly in our house. Organic and local when possible; meat and fish that meet humane and sustainable standards. Limiting highly processed foods is a must. If you've read this blog before, you know that many of these wholesome meals are enjoyed with a glass or two of nice wine, typically from a small producer.

I also believe that if most of our eating conforms to the above goals, we don't have to sweat an occasional veering from this path. But I find when you come to appreciate what good, real food tastes like, you will opt for the sweet potato with cumin sage butter over the potato chip most of the time!

OK, that's it for my #FoodDay speechifying. On to 12 recipes that prove healthy and tasty work wonderfully together!

Grilled Tuna with Eggplant and Peppers This one shown at the top of the post gets lean protein from the tuna, and was a creative way to use the abundance of eggplant we had on hand from our farmshare.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Mushrooms via Cooking Chat

Butternut Squash Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms and Sage This simple vegan soup gets a touch of elegance from the sautéed mushrooms. One of my popular posts to date!

Cilantro Lime Marinaded Pork Tenderloin I had to get a pork recipe in here! Tenderloin is a lean cut of pork, not to mention delicious. The healthiness and flavor of this dish gets punched up a notch by serving it with Sweet Potatoes Mashed with Cumin Sage Butter.

Grilled Swordfish with Garlic Soy Marinade for #WeekdaySupper

Grilled Swordfish with Garlic Soy Marinade This is a quick, easy way to enjoy healthy swordfish. We use the low sodium version of soy sauce in the marinade. Our 9 year old loves it, so we have this a lot.

Salmon with Mixed Mushroom Sauce Probably my favorite fish, it was hard to pick which recipe to feature here. I gave the nod to this tasty one with mushrooms, which goes very well with a nice glass of Pinot Noir (I'm in the red wine is healthy camp!).

Linguine with Kale Pesto. Cooking Chat recipe.

Linguine with Kale Pesto I was excited to come up with this way to make one of my favorite things--pesto--featuring the super-healthy green kale. For someone skeptical about kale, this could be the one to sway them over!

Muhammara Spicy Red Pepper Dip Figured I'd throw in one appetizer here! No cream here like other dips. The flavor comes from plenty of garlic, and it has pomegranate molasses in the mix to get some of that healthy fruit.

 Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach

Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach A nice way to get your healthy protein and veggies all into one dish.

Hearty Chicken Stew I make this stew with homemade broth, made from leftover roasted chicken. Packed with veggies along with chicken, I'd anticipate this might be even better for you than traditional chicken soup!

Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa Swordfish is good many ways, but topped with this pineapple salsa is especially tasty! And pineapple is a good fruit to mix into the diet. In fact, reminds me I haven't chopped one up for us in awhile.

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat recipe.

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger Ok, I just posted this recipe, but it definitely qualifies! It's a lightened up version of one I got originally from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons. You get protein from the lentils, some good green spinach, and ginger which is pretty healthy too. Not to mention, it's super-tasty!
12 healthy recipes from Cooking Chat for #FoodDay2014, including Penne with Red Lentils

Farm Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ground Turkey OK, you may need to bookmark this for next summer to make with farm fresh tomatoes. But I needed one more to make it an even dozen here, and this was another one of my post popular posts so thought it would be good to share. That makes dozen of my favorite healthy recipes to enjoy on Food Day or any day!

12 Healthy Favorites for #FoodDay2014, including this Farm Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ground Turkey

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger for #WeekdaySupper

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.

Fast, inexpensive and tasty: all that you want in a #WeekdaySupper! No wonder why we make this Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger so often. I tend to have most of these ingredients on hand, making it easy to whip up. A great follow-up to the theme of the recent Budget Friendly #SundaySupper.

This dish is based on a recipe from The Vegetarian Planet. I've lightened it up with less butter then the original recipe, offset by an increase in garlic. So it's got healthy going for it too.

We enjoy this year-round, but there's something about sage that says fall to me, making this particularly well-suited to fall. Give it a try next time you are looking for something fast and tasty!

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.
1 lb. dried penne or other short pasta
3 tbsp butter*
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 2 inch piece of ginger, minced (or ¾ tsp powdered ginger)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced sage, or ½ tsp dried sage
¾ cup red lentils
1 cup water (plus extra during cooking as needed)
3-4 cups tightly packed baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

*Substitute dairy free spread or olive oil for the butter to make this dish vegetarian.

Begin boiling water for pasta. Melt butter in a medium pan, let it start to brown slightly, then sauté garlic and ginger for a couple minutes over medium low heat. Add the lentils, sage, a bit of salt, cup of water, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover pan.

Check and stir the lentil mixture every few minutes. If the lentil cooking liquid begins to evaporate, add another quarter cup or so of water. The lentils take about 15 minutes to soften...they should be soft but retain their shape as opposed to turning to lentil mush which can happen if you cook too long or too much water.

Add the spinach after the lentils have been cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring it in so that it wilts slightly.

Start cooking the pasta about 5 minute after you start cooking the lentils. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

When the pasta is done to your liking, drain and combine the cooked pasta with the lentil mixture and an extra tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.

Wine Pairing:  A chardonnay works well with the lively ginger flavors, or you can also go for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Check out the Weekday Supper lineup!Sunday Supper Movement
Monday – 15 Minute Beef Soup by MealDiva
Tuesday – Salmon with Kale Chimichurri by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Wednesday – Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger by Cooking Chat
Thursday – Curried Chicken Wraps by A Mama, Baby and Shar-pei in the Kitchen
Friday - Spinach Ricotta Meatballs by Feed Me, Seymour

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An Act of Violence.

That's right.  An act of violence.

I've often heard the quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Solid truth there, right? 

Recently, I was browsing Pinterest one morning, and came across this photo and quote, also about COMPARISON.  Wow.  Did this one hit home?  Right in the gut.

We all know how dangerous comparison can be, in theory.  We all get -- on some level -- that it is damaging to our self-esteem.  We are deluged daily with photo-shopped images and advertisements, magazine articles and television shows:  perfect lives, perfect bodies, the perfect balance. 

And, don't even get me started on Facebook.  Known as the "highlight reel", where you never see the behind-the-scenes stories and struggles.

We all do it.  We are all guilty of comparison.

  • Our friends have perfect lives, perfect spouses, and such well-behaved children.
  • Our fitness friends have perfect bodies, and their scale cheers for them every morning.
  • Our neighbors have perfect houses, that are perfectly decorated.
  • Our acquaintances have the perfect hair and the perfect make-up.
  • Our mom-friends have their lives together, and are so balanced. They somehow manage to get it all done, have a clean house, look great, and aren't stressed.

Bullshit (excuse the language).

I know I don't have a perfect life.  My husband isn't perfect.  My kids are sure-as-heck not always well-behaved -- just listen for the bickering coming from our house nearly every night.  I certainly don't have a perfect body and I'm pretty sure my scale groaned when I stepped on it this morning (I'm chalking that one up to PMS.)  My house is far from perfect, and I think I just saw a "tumbleweed" of dog hair go floating by. 

I am sitting here typing this with my glasses on, covered in post-workout sweat, yesterday's make-up on, and in my workout pants.  In which I slept last night.  I am SO NOT balanced and stress-free.


Read it again:  "Comparison is an act of violence against the self."  VIOLENCE. 

I want to stop this cycle.  It is no good.  I'd love to see others stop it as well.  Here is what I know. 
  • We ALL do our best.  Nearly every day.  And, that's simply enough.
  • My life is good, and I'm thankful for it -- all of it, especially this past year.  I'm thankful for my husband, and for my constantly-bickering children.  They all bring joy to my life daily .... despite the craziness, fighting, and chaos.
  • I work out almost every day and I aim to eat healthy.  I am in NO WAY perfect and deal with serious food issues (more to come on that in a future blog post) daily.  It is a struggle, but I am trying.  Recovery is hard, but I'm in it.  I know for a FACT that if I wasn't at least trying:  I would weigh well-over 300 pounds.  That is my truth.
  • I love my house,  and the people that fill it, despite the clutter that also seems to fills it.
  • Perfect make-up?  Nah.  I don't even know how to properly apply eye-shadow.
  • I am not balanced and not stress-free.  Like, ever.  I am a true work-in-progress in that area.
So, let's stop the violence, okay?  Stop the comparison.  It is nonsense, it is false, and it isn't what we all deserve.

Just do your best.  Your best may not look like my best, either.  But, guess what? 

It is good enough.  And, SO ARE YOU. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Not Your Mom's Meatloaf . .

Not Your Mom's Meatloaf . . .

My family -- especially the kids --- loves anything that has a Mexican "theme" to it, for dinner. 
Maybe it is that they absolutely love "queso"?  I mean, LOVE.  Though, I don't really serve that at home, and that isn't part of this meal.  I digress.   
These Meatloaf Mexi-Muffins are easy, a little more fun than your Mom's meatloaf of yesteryear, and they take a lot less time to cook, too.  Bonus:  they are 21 Day Fix-approved!
Meatloaf Mexi-Muffins
2 lb. lean ground beef
2 eggs
2 tbsp. chili powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Pink Himalayan salt, as desired
1/2 cup organic or fresh salsa
1/2 cup (two blue containers) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
And, 1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (for Meatloaf Mexi-Muffin topping)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients -- EXCEPT for the 1-1/2 cups cheese -- well by hand or in a KitchenAid stand mixer until just combined. 
Spray muffin pan with coconut oil (I love Trader Joe's brand) cooking spray.  Divide meatloaf mixture into 8 portions (I used my red container to do this), shape into balls, and plop into your prepared muffin pan. 
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, and top evenly with the remaining shredded cheese.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. 
Serve with your choice of reduced-fat sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), and fresh avocado.
(21 Day Fixers:  Each Meatloaf Mexi-Muffin = 1 red and 1 blue container.)

*If you are feeling extra-daring when preparing these for your family, finely mince an onion and a red pepper and toss them into the meatloaf mixture as well -- a few added veggies never hurt anyone!
**I may also try adding finely-crushed whole-wheat tortilla chips to these too the next time I make them.

If you would like to participate in one of my monthly 21 Day Fix online accountability groups, get in touch with me here, or email me directly at!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole for #SundaySupper

Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole for #SundaySupper.

Please don't follow this Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole recipe.

Well, sure, I'd like you to try to make a tasty casserole for your family too. But one key to budget friendly meals is to use everything. Casseroles are a great way to use up various veggies you have on hand. In this one, we give a starring role to leek tops, an item that often gets thrown out. But sautéed with onions, garlic and other veggies available, they can be pretty tasty!

Leek tops can be sauteed and added to casseroles. Cooking Chat recipe for #SundaySupper.

I had this casserole in mind when having dinner at my sister's home recently. My brother-in-law asked if I'd "help" use up some of their abundant basil before it fell victim to the frost. So this casserole got some pesto as a bonus ingredient. Add it if you have some basil or pesto on hand, but of course don't out and buy pesto for this if you want to stick to the budget theme. Add an extra clove or two of garlic if you're skipping the pesto. Here's my pesto recipe if you want to make some.

I love the challenge of cooking great, healthy food on a budget. So I'm pleased to co-host this Budget Friendly #SundaySupper with T.R. Crumbley of Gluten Free Crumbley. Today I'm focusing on casserole as a good way to use what you have on hand. For more of my budget friendly tips, check out "8 Planning Tips to Feed Your Family Well and Under Budget."

Time to get to the recipe. Use it as a launching point for your own casserole to use what you've got. Red cabbage looks nice, but if it's green you have, put that in there! Got extra spinach or other greens? Add the into the saute too. OK, I think you get the idea here...

Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole uses leek tops with red cabbage for nice color. Tasty for a Budget Friendly #SundaySupper!
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 leek tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups red cabbage, chopped into thin slices
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup cheddar, divided
1/3 cup feta cheese
10 ozs elbow macaroni or other short shape
1/2 cup pesto (optional)
tsp dried basil if you aren't using pesto
handful or two of pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds also a good option)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, sauté on medium heat for a few minutes, then stir in the garlic.

Add the leek tops, bell pepper and cabbage. Stir well to combine all the veggies, then add the chicken broth. Cook for about 10 minutes until the veggies have softened a bit.

Put on a pot of water on to boil as you start cooking the veggies. Add the pasta after you've added the chicken stock, and cook al dente according to package instructions. Don't overcook the pasta as it will cook more in the oven.

Drain the pasta when done, and toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Combine the veggie mixture with the pasta, then add 1/2 cup of the cheddar plus the feta.

Spray a large casserole dish with oil. Add the pasta and veggie mixture to the casserole, leveling it with a spoon so that it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over the top, followed by the seeds.

Cover the casserole, and place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Uncover the casserole took bake uncovered for another 5 minutes, this helps get the casserole browning nicely on top. After that final 5 minutes, you are are ready to eat. Scoop a generous serving of the casserole onto each plate and enjoy!

Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole for #SundaySupper

Wine Pairing: I tend to think of a nice medium bodied red with a casserole. We enjoyed this with a great Dolcetto/Barbera blend from Italy's Piedmont region. You could also try a full bodied white with this.
Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole for a Budget Friendly #SundaySupper.

Be sure to check out all the great Budget Friendly Recipe from the #SundaySupper crew!

Scrumptious Mains (Breakfast and Dinner)
Satisfying Sides
Sweet Treats
Sips, Spreads, and Snacks
Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Baked Butternut Squash Fries - 21 Day Fix Approved


If you are like me, you want to eat healthy, but you want to eat food that TASTES GOOD!  These fries definitely do the trick!  For variations, after baking, sprinkle with either cinnamon OR curry powder for a different twist! 

Butternut Squash Fries are a great alternative to regular fries, and are also 21 Day Fix-approved!
2 lb. butternut squash
Pink Himalayan salt
Coconut oil cooking spray
Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, slice the ends off your butternut squash, then cut it in half width-wise. (Squash can be hard to cut, make sure you haven't done a strenuous arm workout recently - ha!) Peel squash with a vegetable peeler or knife. Remove the seeds from the inside of the squash.

Cut squash into "French-fry shapes".

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and place squash on it. Spray squash with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn squash over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crispy on the outside.

21 Day Fixers: Use your green container to measure out your vegetable portion.

If you would like to participate in one of my monthly 21 Day Fix online accountability groups, get in touch with me here, or email me directly at!


Budget Friendly #SundaySupper Preview

Mac, Veggie and Cheese Casserole. #SundaySupper post preview.

Eat well, spend less. That is one simple goal I'm sure many of us food bloggers share. Preparing most of our meals at home gives us more control over what we eat and it's also a great way to save money. But how can we home cooks really get that food bill down while making food that is healthy and tastes great? We will be picking up on this theme for the upcoming Budget Friendly #SundaySupper on October 19.

I'm excited to co-host the Budget Friendly Sunday Supper with T. R. Crumbley of Gluten Free Crumbley. I relish the challenge of coming up with great meals while keeping within our budget, and over the years I've been honing my approach for achieving this goal. I broke down some of my tips in this post, "8 Planning Tips to Feed Your Family Well and Under Budget."

I'm excited to share the recipe for  my casserole shown above (great dish for adding in what you have on hand!) and hearing more about all these tasty recipes from the #SundaySupper crew! Be sure to check back on Sunday for all the recipe details, and join our Twitter chat at 7 p.m. ET.

Scrumptious Mains (Breakfast and Dinner)
Satisfying Sides
Sweet Treats
Sips, Spreads, and Snacks
Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Roasted Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Halter Ranch Cab

Roasted Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Halter Ranch Cabernet. Cooking Chat recipe.

Do you start with the food or the wine when coming up with a wine pairing? Well, I go both ways, but I do love the challenge of creating a recipe that will be well-suited for a particular wine. OK, sometimes this isn't all that challenging. Like when you have a bottle of Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. A bold California Cab calls out beef to me. I'd picked up some dried chanterelles mushrooms recently, so it wasn't long before I came up with this Roasted Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms to go with the Halter Ranch Cabernet. An easy idea to come up with, but very tasty!

Lest you think I always go for such natural pairings, be sure to check out the Grilled Tuna with Eggplant and Peppers I came up with for a different Halter Ranch red.

Back to the steak dish. This is my standard way to cook steak when it's not grilling season. Quick pan-sear on the stove top, then roast briefly in the oven. The lean sirloin cut cooks quickly, and is best served medium-rare. You could definitely go for a cut like ribeye with more fat content, might be an even better pair for the Cab. But we were definitely very happy with this dish and pairing!

Chanterelle mushrooms, reconstituted and ready to chop for steak sauce. Cooking Chat recipe

One other quick note before the recipe. I combine "regular" mushrooms with the fancier chanterelles as a cost-effective way to get the deeper flavors from the gourmet mushrooms. You could go with a full ounce of chanterelles and skip the regular mushrooms if you like.

Roasted Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Halter Ranch Cabernet. Cooking Chat recipe.
For the steak
1 large sirloin steak, about 1.25 lbs
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

For the mushrooms
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 oz dried chanterelle mushrooms
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup red wine
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the dried chanterelles by pouring boiling water over the mushrooms, then set aside for 30 minutes. Drain the water, and then chop the chanterelles into bite sized pieces.

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

Make the rub: combine the herbes de provence, garlic powder and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle half the rub onto one side of the steak, then gently rub it into the meat. Turn the steak over, and rub the remaining half into that side. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to let the rub absorb a bit into the meat.

Make the mushrooms: heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add the shallot, sauté  on medium for a few minutes until softened. Add the button mushrooms first, stirring them into the pan along with another tablespoon olive oil. Add the chanterelles a minute or two later, stirring to combine everything. Add salt and pepper to taste along with the thyme.

Chanterelle and button mushrooms to serve with roasted sirloin.

Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes until they begin to "sweat" (moisture starts coming out of the mushrooms). Add the cooking wine, bring to a boil briefly, then reduce to simmer until the wine is mostly absorbed, about 5 more minutes. Finish the mushrooms by stirring in the butter, letting it gradually melt in and combine with the mushrooms. Keep warm on low heat as the steak cooks.

Cook the Steak: You can start the steak around the time the wine gets added to the mushrooms. Add a tbsp of olive oil to an oven-proof skillet (if you don't have a cast iron skillet, it's a must have in my kitchen!), and heat the skillet on medium high. When the skillet is good and hot, with oil beginning to shimmer, add the steak. Sear on one side for one minute, then turn to sear the other side for a minute.

Move the steak from the stove top to the oven. Roast the steak 11 to 12 minutes for medium rare. Adjust the cooking time slightly based on the size of your steak and your desired doneness. (The steak in the photos here came out at 10 minutes, at which time it was rare. I correctly figured that rest of the steak would continue to cook up as we were taking these tasty photos!)

Let the steak rest for a minute or two, then slice it up, and serve topped with the mushrooms. Enjoy with a green salad, and a potato of your choosing if you're not shunning the carbs. Of course, there's that glass of wine to enjoy with it too...

Roasted Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Cooking Chat recipe.

Wine Pairing: This dish was created with the 2012 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon from Halter Ranch in mind. I hadn't tried it before, but based I expected it to be a big, beef-worthy wine. I wasn't disappointed.

2012 Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles.
The wine is deep red in the glass. I got eucalyptus on the nose. I tasted blackberry and cherry fruit, along with notes of charcoal. Tannins are well-integrated. It's approachable now, but I suspected decanting or aging would really make this shine. So I decanted after the first small tasting pour. Just 15 minutes or so in the decanter really help show a nice long finish on the wine.

No surprise that this robust Cab paired nicely with the steak. In addition to standing up to the beef, there was enough nuance to the wine to play well with the subtle flavors of the chanterelle mushrooms. A winning match for sure!

One more note on the wine: this Cab is comprised of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. I'd say the grapes blended in with the Cab add to the depth and complexity. Halter Ranch is a SIP Certified sustainable winery, too. One more reason to grab a bottle!

Full disclosure: I received a courtesy sample of this wine from the winery. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash and a Garnacha for #winePW 5

Linguine with Carnival Squash and a Garnacha for #winePW.

I mulled over for some time what to do for the "Fall fruits and wine pairings" Wine Pairing Weekend 5 theme announced by our host, Culinary Adventures with Camilla. Apples and pears came to mind first, but I haven't cooked with them much. Then I realized squash was fair game, and I sure enjoying cooking with them in the fall. I had some colorful carnival squash on hand from our fall farmshare, and thought they'd be fun to use. So I came up with this Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash recipe.

carnival squash for a linguine dish.

Now, what wine to pair with this roasted carnival squash dish? You could make the case that a white might be best for this fairly light pasta dish. In fact, we did enjoy a white with the leftovers (Gastronomie Rousette de Savoie). But when the weather starts turning cooler, I'm definitely gravitating more toward reds. Smells of roasting garlic and squash in the house, that seals the deal.

While I wanted red, I didn't want something heavy or tannic with this pasta dish. I'd enjoyed a Garnacha from Abadía de la Oliva Winery recently and had an extra bottle on hand. I welcomed a chance to open that bottle and see how it paired with this dish...stay tuned for the pairing details after the recipe!

Linguine with Carnival Squash and a Garnacha for #winePW.
1 head garlic, root end cut off for roasting
2 small carnival squash, cut in half and seeds removed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cooking liquid or water (more as needed)
2 to 3 cups baby arugula
1 tbsp parsley
12 ozs linguine or penne
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on the root end of the garlic for roasting. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, wrap tightly with foil and place in oven.

Drizzle the squash flesh with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a baking tray with oil spray, and place the squash flesh side down on the tray. Put the squash in the oven to roast.

After the squash has roasted for about 30 minutes, start a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Check to see how the squash and garlic are coming along, though they will need closer to 45 minutes. A fork should be able to puncture the squash skin easily when it is done, and the flesh should be soft and beginning to brown. The garlic should be down around the same time, with soft, browned cloves.

Remove the squash and garlic and set aside to cool for a few minutes. When the squash is cool enough to work with, scoop out the flesh into a bowl and break up with a sturdy spoon.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium in a large skillet. Squeeze the garlic into the the skillet, stirring it in to combine with the olive oil. This is a good time to add the pasta to the boiling pot of water.

Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash and a Garnacha for #winePW 5

When the garlic has begun to sizzle, stir the squash into the skillet, combining it with the garlic and oil. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes, adding 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water toward the end of that time.

Stir the arugula into the squash mixture, cooking for another minute or two to wilt the arugula. Cover and keep warm on very low heat until the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta when cooked to your liking, then gently toss it with the squash mixture. You need to stir it up pretty well to get the squash evenly distributed. Add the cheese and the parsley, and you are ready to serve along with a glass of wine.

Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash and a Garnacha. Cooking Chat pairing for #winePW 5.

Wine Pairing: So our September #winePW selection was the 3 Riberas Garnacha 2012 from Abadía de la Oliva Winery, located in the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. This Garnacha also had a small amount of Graciano blended in. This wine has violet on the nose. Blackberry and cherry fruit, leathery on the back end. I recall this wine being a bit more fruit forward when I first had it (perhaps in contrast to the sausage I had it with!) which is why I thought of it to go with the sweetness of the squash.  It worked reasonably well, picking up the pepperiness of the arugula as well as matching OK with the squash. Definitely a good Garnacha for the price, but I wouldn't say this was as spot-on as some of my other #winePW pairings, such as last month's Grilled Tuna with a Halter Ranch Syrah. Nonetheless, this Garnacha is a good value wine and a decent pairing.

Abadia de la Oliva Garnacha, a good value wine from Spain. Cooking Chat #winePW post

Wine Pairing Weekend #5 Bloggers
Here's what all of the bloggers have created for the October Wine Pairing Weekend!

On the Menu...

Pumpkin Lasagna with Halter Ranch's Côtes de Paso by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Squash and Sausage Soup with Pumpkin Cornbread and McKinley Springs 2010 Bombing Range Red by Tasting Pour
Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash and a Garnacha by Cooking Chat
Pinot Vs. Syrah - Pork Tenderloin with Fig & Apple Sauce by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake with a Late Harvest Riesling by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Wines for a Sweet & Savory Fall Harvest Meal by foodwineclick
Fall Fruit and Wine Pairing by Rockin Red Blog
Autumn Pumpkin Food Flair by Vino Travels -- An Italian Wine Blog
Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you're reading this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme "Fall Fruits + Wine" on Saturday, October 11, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the November Wine Pairing Weekend focusing on "Creative Thanksgiving Pairings", hosted by Curious Cuisiniere. This #winePW 6 will be on Saturday, November 8.