Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pumpin’ It Up With Pumpkin

  Most people think of pumpkins as strictly a fall or winter food, but me, well I prefer them 12 months out of the year! I am not a big fan of fresh pumpkin(although I do like the seeds roasted), but I always have a stock of Libby’s canned pumpkin ready to be used for either a dessert, baking, or in this case, a main dish.

   A little about this wondrous squash:

  • Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae (which also includes gourds).[
  • The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon, which is Greek for “large melon". The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, “pumpkin".
  • Out of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Mexico, India, and China.
  • As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced each year. The top pumpkin-producing states in the U.S. include Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
  • Pumpkin growers often compete to see whose pumpkins are the most massive. Festivals are often dedicated to the pumpkin and these competitions.
  • The town of Circleville, Ohio, holds a big festival each year, the Circleville Pumpkin Show. The town of Half Moon Bay, California, holds the annual Pumpkin and Arts Festival, drawing over 250,000 visitors each year and including the World Champion Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Farmers from all over the west compete to determine who can grow the greatest gourd. The winning pumpkin regularly tops the scale at more than 1200 pounds. The world record pumpkin in 2007 was 1689 pounds, grown by Joe Jutras in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

A Few Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin:

  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Pumpkin Soups
  • Pumpkin Waffles
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Pumpkin Muffins
  • Pumpkin Breads
  • Pumpkin Rolls
  • Pumpkin Cookies
  • Pumpkin Flan
  • Pumpkin Cake
  • Pumpkin Frosting
  • Pumpkin Mousse
  • Pumpkin Dip
  • Pumpkin Spreads
  • And any way you can dream up!

If you have a can laying around, why not try out this winning recipe I made the other night?

Pumpin’ It Up Shepherd's Pie

Serves: 8


  • 1 large russet potato (about 3/4 lb.), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 can (15 oz.) 100% Pure Pumpkin, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 lb. extra-lean ground beef, ground turkey, or soy crumbles
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium fat-free beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)


  • PLACE potato chunks in medium saucepan. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to saucepan; add 1 cup pumpkin, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Beat with hand-held mixer until smooth. Cover.
  • MEANWHILE, HEAT oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until carrots begin to soften. Stir in beef, flour, garlic powder and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in broth, remaining pumpkin and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly.
  • PREHEAT broiler.
  • SPOON beef mixture into ungreased 9-inch deep-dish pie dish or other broiler-proof casserole dish (1 1/2- to 2-quart). Spoon pumpkin-potato mixture evenly over beef filling, spreading gently. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.
  • BROIL for 5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Recipe adapted from here.

Picnik collage

Picnik collage



Stay tuned tomorrow for a red, white, and blue tribute!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Minneapolis Recap!

  First and foremost, thank you all for your wishes and comments on the Rhubarb Contest—now I am going to enter recipe contests left and right because I now know there is a chance! :-) So like I said, Thursday I trekked down to Minneapolis to pick out apartment furnishings at IKEA and then made my way to Mall of America. For those of you who haven’t been there, hopefully these pictures give a little tour! (btw, if you haven’t gotten there, definitely do sometime in your life!)


That’s driving past the MOA. [Yes that is me in the rearview mirror ha!]






The very front of the mall. It was surprisingly packed for a Thursday too. Although I have never seen it not busy!




The Mall is 4 floors of peer shopping, food, movie theatres, etc. This is standing in the rotunda(where big events take place) and looking up at one of the many sets of escalators.






The Minnesot-ah store! Ode to my hooome state =)






The famous Rainforest Cafe! Love this place =)





I so want these bar stools in my house! Especially the zebra one!

Below is the Nickelodeon Universe that used to be Camp Snoopy! It’s so fun even though I don’t do rides. It’s a must see.



And of course some infamous Coldstone ice cream. New favorite alert: Birthday CakeBlueberries—and Cinnamon! Lately cinnamon has been making it’s way on everything! ;-)




Of course I always need to buy something. I picked up these cute ice cream serving dishes—5 bucks!






New salad spinner3 bucks!








Another ice cream themed item! This is so cute—it has 5 different colored “cones” with cute little glass spoons—all for 10 bucks!

I also got all my apartment furniture and figured I’d share my favorite piece with you—the rest you’ll have to wait and see till I do an apartment tour!



My couch! My living room theme is mod black and white with random pops of pastel blue, orange and yellow!




Have a super Monday night everyone!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rockin’ Around the Rhubarb Fest!

  Wow, I feel like I have been away from the blog world for weeks, but in reality it’s only been a couple of days! Looks like you all have been having great and fun-filled summer days which rocks! I went to Minneapolis, had a blast, got all my apartment furnishings, and walked the Mall of America for hours on end! Then came back, had to whip up batches up my rhubarb bars for the contest at the festival, went with the fam to the festival, enjoyed the day, and did some retail damage! ;-) Today I am going to do a run over of the Rhubarb Festival and then tomorrow will be my adventure at Mall of America and a brand-new recipe—so you’ll probably want to stay tuned! :-)

  So unfortunately, I did not win the contest, but it’s totally ok(read on for why)! The festival is held at a Lutheran church and involves some different church organizations to raise money for area shelters, relief efforts, churches, etc., so it’s not just a festival for fun, they make use out of it for the good which I think is wonderful! They have silent auctions on goods that local companies donated, bake sales(with rhubarb as the star of course!), and live music, games, contests etc.

   We started off the day inside—my mom couldn’t resist trying one of the many rhubarb treats! We were told they sell 900 rhubarb pies each year! She opted for a rhubarb cobbler with vanilla ice cream. They even had rhubarb ice cream, but unfortunately the temps were in the 60’s, so needless to say I was not feeling a cold treat!



She said it was great—looks good huh?!

  Next up, we made our way to the silent auction. I found a big cupcake cookie jar with a mini one that went with it! I placed my bid, but then I found out if you pay the valued price you could take it right away—well the value price was two dollars higher than my bid, so of course I bought it! Score—perfect for my cupcake/ice cream themed apartment kitchen right?!



Then came 12:30, and the recipe contest was scheduled to start at 12:45, so we made our way outside to the tent that it was under. The 3 judges for the contest were one of the big news broadcasters, a meteorologist and a radio station host. So these “media celebrities” were quite a hit and I was super excited to meet them because I watch them every morning/night!


That’s them!



Here’s the cart that had the 4 top recipes, the plates, napkins, and utensils for the judges to use. It looked like some kind of secret service event going down!



The judges are testing out my Sweet Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Bars and giving there feedback. One said they like the balance of tart and tangy, another like the crust, and the 3rd judge said they love the addition of strawberries with the rhubarb.



The judges huddling and discussing their thoughts on all recipes.




The winner (on the left) won with a Rhubarb Breakfast Bake that had a crescent roll crust, cheese, eggs, rhubarb, etc. They picked it because it was the most unique! It looked incredible. And this is why I am glad I didn’t win—she got a china set, and sadly I am not a fan of china at all—so she was overly happy and I was glad!


The 2nd place winner was not able to attend—she entered some brown sugar Rhubarb Muffins and won a gift card to a local restaurant. And there’s me winning my adorable Chinese dining set complete with 4 serving bowls, chopsticks, and decorative butterflies—I am in love!

CIMG0118And last but not least, a shot with the celebs!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Summer Food Finds + Reviews

  I’m off for my little vaca—right now I will already be on my way! We had to cut our time a day short due to the fact that I will be attending the Rhubarb Fest to have my contending recipe tested. I will also be posting a segment on how I pack snacks and food when I travel. I am pretty high-maintenance I would say, but not in a bad way! I just always like being prepared and who says a cooler loaded with healthy goods is a bad thing? So definitely stay tuned for that!

  Now that summer time is here, I find myself on the lookout for lighter fare and basically just tend to lean towards the “summery” foods. Here’s a couple I’ve recently tried out & had to share!

  • Fiber Gourmet Mac and Cheese & Light Fettuccine


CIMG0070 Usually pastas and mac and cheese would be categorized as comfort food which I would associate with winter eats, but Fiber Gourmet has really done a great job of lightening up these dishes while still keeping that comforting taste! I love mac and cheese, but after countless Kraft boxes consumed as a kid(c’mon, you know you did too!), I finally realized how unhealthy they are with preservatives and such—plus there is so many other healthy options now like Fiber Gourmet, Annie’s, Tofu Shirataki, etc. So what did I think? Well first off, the Light Fettuccine was super! No difference whatsoever from real pasta! Plus I noticed just a little bit made you full vs. times when you eat a giant plate of regular noodles and still don’t feel satisfied. The Mac and Cheese is a new staple on my shelves(I just ordered another batch of boxes!). Creamy, cheesy, the whole nine yards. You get a whopping serving for only 170 calories. It feels so sinful, yet it’s not! All you have to add is milk—I added unsweetened Almond Breeze instead of skim milk which made it creamy and delish! More about all the products here.

  • Swiss Premium Diet Iced Tea With Lemon


Normally, this is not a product I would buy because it’s much cheaper to buy iced tea mix and make your own, but I had a BOGO coupon, so I couldn’t pass it up! If you are a Splenda hater, beware this does contain it! Iced tea totally screams summer and this was perfect in a glass with a big ol’ lemon wedge. Not too sweet and not too tart. Perfect thirst quencher for 0 calories! Cheers to that =) Find out more health benefits of this product here.

  • Imagine Creamy Red Bliss Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup

CIMG0001 (2)

CIMG0004 (2)

In the winter months, I love sitting down to a steaming bowl of soup that is nice and thick—in the summertime, not so much. That’s why this soup is a staple May-September here because it’s light, yet filling, creamy, yet flavorful. All the goodness of a thick potato soup condensed! I actually love eating this chilled along with a bunch of other Imagine soups! Check out the whole line here.


  • Kellog’s All Bran Strawberry Medley Cereal

I’ve never been too big of an oatmeal fan—although all the blogger’s out there with there wonderful bowls of goodness do make it tempting, I am still a cold cereal girl at heart. But it’s definitely not a bad thing when companies keep doling out yummy kinds! I got a sample of this in the mail along with a coupon. I loved it so much mixed with some Kamut puffs, that I immediately went and bought another box! It has many various “pieces” in it. Check out the pic!CIMG0081

Got to love variety, right?! This has dried strawberries, some flakes, some puffs, and some waffle looking things. It stays great in milk, doesn’t get soggy, and has a taste that has me hooked—way to go Kellog’s! Find out all about it here.

And now I would just like to share a summery lunch I have been having a lot lately—so good!


A Joseph’s Pita fried in a dry skillet until crispy—topped with egg whites mixed with pineapple and topped with some turkey. On the side some grilled squash fries in parm cheese with a juicy peach on the side. (Excuse the fork BTW, I just finished stirring up my Fiber Gourmet mac & cheese!) And for dessert we have—>


Banana yogurt, crumbled Corn Vitamuffin topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and blueberries. This times about 3 was consumed!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Scoop On Scoops

  Today’s post is dedicated to one of my top five favorite things in life---ice cream!(You saw that one coming didn’t ya?) But before I give you the full scoop on scoops, I need to give you the scoop on something 100x more exciting!!!!!!

  Awhile back, when I made my Sweet Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Bars, I mentioned I had created the recipe to enter in an annual Rhubarb Recipe Contest that is held about an hour away at the Rhubarb Festival. Well, I got a call yesterday morning saying that I am one of the top 4 finalists!! This is super exciting for me because #1—I will be on the news! #2—I prepare 2 batches of the recipe, one for the judges(there are 4—a local celeb, the meteorologist on our news channel, the main news guy, and another lady) and one to sell at the silent auction and #3—I have never entered a recipe contest before, so obviously I have never competed or won(first time much be a charm,huh?). There was no category criteria for the recipes(dessert, side dish,etc.), the recipe just had to include rhubarb, so I don’t know what I am up against! Please keep your fingers crossed for me! The event is this Saturday—testing takes place at 12:45 and the winner is announced soon after. I will save my post for Saturday night to let you all know how it went down. Even if I don’t win, it’s just an honor to be acknowledged.  :-)


  Now onto all things ice cream. The days are hot, and you know when something cool and creamy beckons to be in your belly, you just can’t pass it up. Whether you have fond memories of dripping chocolate cones as a kid, or maybe your more of a “in a bowl” eater like me! Whatever your frozen fancy is, I hope you’ll enjoy this post about all things creamy, dreamy, and yummy!

First things first of course! The base—the cone. When you think of a cone you think of 1, 2, maybe 3 scoops piled high and ready to be licked away, but have you ever thought of using a cone for other ways such as…



  • Stuffing them with sandwich fillings: Scoop chicken or tuna salad into a wafer cone and enjoy the crunchy container instead of standard sandwich bread.
  • Fill them with popcorn: Sprinkle ground cinnamon, sugar, and salt over popper corn, drizzle some melted butter or olive oil on top and toss to coat. Then use waffle cones to scoop it up for an easy-to-handle, entirely edible treat.
  • Decorate cupcakes: Use them for witches hats at Halloween, as peaks on a castle cake, or Christmas trees around a gingerbread house.
  • Toss together a trail mix: Use broken up cones to add to your standard trail mix. Low in calories, they are a great addition to raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cashews.
  • Serve cheesecake: Ideal for a party because there is no utensils needed—Whip together light cream cheese with a pinch of freshly grated lemon zest, a drizzle of honey, and just enough low-fat vanilla yogurt to create a mousse like texture. Then pipe filling into cones and decorate them with sliced fruit. Faster + healthier than your standard cheesecake.
  • Make an ice cream cone pie: Use sugar cones instead of graham cracker crumbs to make a quick pie crust. Grind them in a food processor and stir in some melted butter and a little sugar. Press mixture into a pie plate and bake it briefly. Then fill with ice cream, sorbet, or fro yo and freeze.
  • Bake chicken tenders: Crushed waffle cones add crunch and a touch of sweetness to this favorite finger food. Mix the cone bits with bread crumbs, add a bit of olive oil then dip chicken tenders in seasoned flour, then egg, and then into the cone mixture. Place on nonstick baking sheet and bake until brown all over.

A New Way to Get Your Ice Cream--Find One of These!

 MooBella vending machines are so cool! It actually lets you make your own delicious hard scoop ice cream right there in 45 seconds! You can actually make up to 96 different varieties including 12 different flavors, delicious mix-ins (such as chocolate chips, M&M's® or cookies ‘n cream) in both Premium and Light varieties. And best of all, MooBella® is made with 100% all natural dairy so it not only tastes delicious but is wholesome too. Click here for flavors.

A Fun Twist On Ice Cream—One of My Favorites!

Oh my sweet love for Dippin' Dots continues to grow through the years! Have you tried em’?! If not, please find them ASAP! There’s just something about eating balled up ice cream bits that is so fun! Plus the flavors are to die for! I actually have some cotton candy flavored ones in my freezer :-)

A New Fro-Yo Find



Kemps Frozen Yogurt Parfaits are perfect for an on-the-go or just a convenient pre-portioned snack! I bought these with a BOGO coupon and loved the real and juicy frozen blueberries on top! There was a total covering of them before I nibbled half away in the picture—oops! =)You get this whole container for just 150 calories and the parfaits come in other flavors like peach mango, granola, and strawberry!

An Ode to My Favorite Frozens



All things cherry infused. DQ Cherry Parfait and a Cherry Blizzard!

All things from ColdStone Creamery—preferably cake batter with graham pie crust or Sinless sweet cream with fruit!!



So what’s you favorite frozen find?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good for You Goodies: French Meadow Bakery

  Hope everyone is having a super Tuesday! It’s not Monday, so that’s a plus right? But, it’s still not Friday—it will be soon enough! I guess I am looking forward to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday because I am heading down to Minneapolis to go apartment shopping! And of course we always hit up the Mall of America(I will take lots of pictures for those of you who haven’t been there). I have been there a gazillion times, so for me it’s just fun to look around and check out the new food places and stores! Our hotel does have free wireless(woohoo!) so I will still be around the blog world. =)

Now when I hear the word bakery, I am automatically taken off to some dough filled and flour covered room, scents of fresh baked bread, etc. When French Meadow Bakery offered to send me a wide array of products to sample, I jumped at the chance!—and no not just because their name contained “bakery”, although that was a plus because that almost guarantees goodness, right?

The Company: French Meadow Bakery

The Good for You Goodies: Assorted Breads, Cookies, and Pizza Crusts

The Chew Review: First off, I just want to thank all the amazing people at this company for sending me such a truckload(ok, not exactly—but alot!) of stuff. It was beyond my expectations for sure! My dad is the bread devourer eater of the house, and compared to my mom and I’s consumption, he can outdo us any day. So of course when I mentioned some new bakery bread came today, you better believe he came in acting innocent, but I already new his case. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to set up a little taste test station and get the family in on the fun.

  First, a little about French Meadow Bakery.--->

One Body, One Planet. Eat Well.

Since 1985, French Meadow Bakery™ has used only top-quality all-natural and organic ingredients, old world bread-baking techniques, ancient healthy grains and seeds, and cutting edge performance foods research to create baked goods the world loves. Here are four reasons you'll fall in love with us, too.

Our ingredients are all-natural.

Our skilled artisan bakers turn all natural, sustainable ingredients into tasty baked goods. We avoid using ingredients that contain genetically-modified organisms, which impact biodiversity in the plant world and have an unknown effect on human health.

We're certified by top agencies.

As a small company with sound practices, we're unwavering about standards of quality. We're certified organic by the USDA and Quality Assurance International, certified Gluten-Free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, and certified Low Glycemic for Diabetics by the Glycemic Research Institute. Search for Gluten-Free, wheat-free, and low glycemic index products.

Our foods taste good and are good for you.

We go beyond basic nutrition by using all-natural and organic ingredients that boost your health. Performance foods like hemp, sprouted grains, and flaxseed provide important vitamins, minerals, proteins, and good fats that help your body prevent and treat disease.

We're committed to sustainability.

Since its beginning, French Meadow Bakery™ has used ingredients and processes that help maintain the biological diversity and productivity of our world's resources. We use only certified organic grains and all natural ingredients grown in balance and harmony with nature. We support small farmers, the cornerstone of a natural, sustainable food system. And we're committed to educating our customers on the lifelong benefits of organic foods, which protect not only the planet, but our bodies and minds as well.

  • Summer Bread


“Summer Bread was created for the season when our bodies crave lighter, nutritious fare. Added wheat germ enhances its nutritious properties, while its light, almost-white texture is ideal for warmer weather, or those transitioning from white bread to wheat. Plus Summer Bread is no longer a seasonal item: this best seller bread is available all year for a taste of summer any time.” I really liked how this wasn’t your standard shaped loaf—I know I am crazy like that! It was more of a round bread which means bigger slices—yay! It was a perfect bread for a turkey sandwich. Not too hefty, but light just in time for summer! It had a nice sweet taste to it and that heavenly bread aroma I love. Nutritional info here.

  • Our Daily Bread


“Soft, sprouted whole grain bread made with CoroWise™ plant sterols for lowering LDL cholesterol and coated with chia seeds for a crunchy bite.”

This bread was very dark in color so I guessed it would have an earthier taste if you know what I mean? It’s made with a variety of wheat flours and Kamut which I thought was great because I just love my Kamut Puff cereal! This was denser than the summer bread and better for heftier methods of eating like toasting or sloppier sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly anyone? Nutritional info here.

  • Vegan Peanut Butter Bliss Cookies


“A harmonious blend of natural peanut butter and semisweet chocolate.”

My pros: All ingredients I felt were great! Not too long of a list either. Great balance of peanut buttery taste and semisweet chocolate made it a sweet delicacy! Plus you get to cookie bites for 150 calories.

My Cons: The size of these were definitely “bites”, as in gone in about 2 bites—I prefer my cookies flat and big. These did get a tad bit on the soggy side after taking them out of the freezer also.(That could be due to the fact of the extreme humidity we’ve had the past couple of days too.) Nutritional info here.

  • Gluten-Free Coconutty Macaroons

CIMG0204 “Naturally gluten-free macaroons with the tropical twist of coconut and semisweet chocolate.”

The pros&cons for these are pretty much the same as the previous ones except that I liked these better. I think I would definitely pick coconut over peanut butter in a cookie any day and these were not skimping on the coconut one bit! Nutritional info here.CIMG0008

  • Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

[Picture from website]

“Enjoy pizzeria style gluten-free goodness from the comfort of home. We now offer Gluten-Free Par-Baked Pizza Crusts. Our crusts are certified gluten-free, lactose free and casein free and full of flavor. They are packaged individually in aluminum tins for your convenience and to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. Each package offers 6 - 10.5 inch crusts, just top and bake!”

I haven’t tried these out yet, but I have 6 of em’! I am saving them for when I move into my apartment to have a “make and bake” your own pizza bash!! I will definitely let you know how these turn out ASAP. Nutritional info here.

Thanks again French Meadow Bakery—your great! :-)