Sunday, February 28, 2010

Super Soup Sunday

Is it just me, or during the cold months, curling up with a bowl of soup is just traditional? I find that my soup consumption October-March jumps significantly. Whether it be tomato soup, a hearty stew, or a broth based soup, they warm you from the inside out. For me, I am more fond of homemade soups because I still can’t seem to get past the canned taste of store-bought soups and sky high sodium levels. However, just recently I was contacted by the Progresso soup company and asked if I would be willing to try various cans of soup from their new line. I agreed with no expectations being I have only tried their Hearty Tomato which actually is now my favorite canned tomato soup!

“We craft all our soups, broths and foods from authentic recipes using only the highest quality ingredients. We are dedicated to making better taste better for you. We believe that food should always be delicious, and there is no reason that delicious food can’t fit within your diet. At Progresso, we love great food. It’s been our passion for more than 50 years.”

French Onion Soup
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Chew Review: I was highly impressed by this soup—I have tried another brand of French Onion, and it was too salty to eat. This had just the right amount of salt without being over powerful and it had the perfect balance of onions to broth. If you don’t have time to make a homemade French Onion soup, this would be a perfect substitute topped with a baguette and some Gruyere cheese.
 Italian-Style Vegetable
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Chew Review: This water based soup has carrots, celery, green beans, tomatoes, peas and enriched penne pasta. Growing up eating a lot of Italian soups, this soup had some good competition from my past. It would have been more flavorful if it were infused with a chicken broth instead of just water—I also would have amped up the seasoning, adding basil, oregano, and some thyme. But, if your in a pinch and looking for a fast veggie fix, this soup could be an option.
 Light Chicken Noodle
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Chew Review: Whether you have a cold or your grandma is known for making her homemade chicken noodle soup, it’s usually a soup eaten no matter where you are in the US. My grandpa makes a killer chicken noodle soup that sits and marinates in flavors for hours on end which results in an incomparable bowl of flavor. But I still tried to go into the canned chicken noodle with an unbiased review—the only thing I would change about this is by adding some celery and a little onion for more flavor. Other than that, the noodles and the chicken remained a good texture after being heated and the broth was a nice flavor. Plus it’s a light soup which is an added bonus!
 Manhattan Clam Chowder
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Chew Review: I am fond of eating the New England clam chowder, known for being a cream based soup with clams, potatoes, etc. So it was a definite switch to open a can of clam chowder and being greeted with a tomato based soup instead. It still had the potatoes, clams and celery, but also included carrots and tomato paste. Being a tomato flavor fan, I would have to say this is by far on top of the traditional New England clam chowder. And I was pleasantly surprised at the great texture of the clams and the veggie to broth ratio. If you haven’t tried a Manhattan clam chowder, I would definitely point you towards to Progresso brand if your not up to making your own.
  Light Chicken & Herb Dumpling
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Chew Review: Since this was another Weight Watcher’s endorsed soup, I was half expecting it to be a little bland like the Italian-Style vegetable, but I was wrong—without the added herbs it might have been a bit on the less-flavorful side, but the combo of parsley and chicken broth really set a base for the rest. The dumplings were a bit on the too-chewy side for me, but then again I don’t eat dumpling soup often, so I don’t have a wide variety of comparison. Plus, where else can you get a hearty dumpling soup for 80 calories a cup?
  Light Chicken Vegetable Rotini
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Chew Review: I loved that this light soup added corn to the mix—it seems to add a bit of a sweet contrast to the chicken. Progresso does a really good job of maintaining the texture of the meats in their soup, however this soup seemed to have too much pasta in it. I would have preferred about half the amount of pasta and double the veggies—I still don’t think this knocked my socks off, and I probably wouldn’t buy it again.
 Hearty Tomato
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Chew Review: Say hello to your new perfect match for a grilled cheese sandwich! This soup quickly shot to the top after the first bite. It definitely trumps Campbell’s original Tomato Soup and even their Healthy Request! The chunks of tomato added a lot and really made it clear that it is a “hearty soup”. The nice thing is, you don’t need to add water or milk—so as soon as it heats up and you are enticed by the smell, you can just dig in!
So does this post have you craving some soup, or did it just make you curious as to how the Progresso soups would measure up to your standards? Before you head out and buy some, how about entering a giveaway and try your luck at winning some soup, a nice Progresso soup mug, and a electronic jump rope for yourself? It’s much easier than getting in your car, going to the grocery store, finding the soup, buying it blah, blah, blah. Instead, Progresso will gladly deliver the soup and your other prizes directly to your door. Can’t beat that!
How to enter:
  • 1 entry: leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite canned soup flavor or brand.
  • 2 entries: Link back on your blog to this giveaway.

*Please leave a separate comment for each entry*

Contest ends Friday , March 5th 11:59 p.m. Central Time

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ending the Week Sweet

I lucked out with a 4 day weekend this week. I always have Thursdays off and then all of my classes got cancelled on Friday, but I’m not complaining. :-)

A lot of you have been asking what I have been up to lately, so I figured other than just sharing the recipes and meals I’ve been making/eating, I’d share a few pictures of what’s been consuming my time lately.

  • A lot of studying—with mid-terms next week things get pretty busy as in reading, reading, reading, and memorizing.


  • Packing for spring break—I’m taking a trip out to Boston starting next weekend for a few days to visit family. Any blogger’s in the area?—shoot me an email!


  • Reviewing ALOT of great products I can’t wait to share!


  • Enjoying the outdoors—I’ve been doing a lot of snowmobiling and four wheeling.


  • Hanging out with my main squeeze and flying in his airplane. We flew up North to my hometown last weekend which was a lot of fun.


  • And of course I couldn’t have a post without a new and sweet recipe right?! This cake is infused with a blend of aromatic spices, a fruit, AND a veggie! What a way to get five a day!!

Spiced Apple Carrot Cake

Serves 8



  • 1  cups  flour
  • 1/2 + 1/4  cups Splenda (what I used) or  granulated sugar
  • 1 1/8  teaspoons  baking soda
  • 1/2 + 1/4 teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/2+ 1/4  teaspoons  cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground cloves
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1  teaspoons  unsweetened cocoa powder
  •   pinch of  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c egg beaters
  • 1/2 + 1/4  cups  packed coarsely grated carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 1/2 + 1/4  cups  packed coarsely grated tart apples, such as Granny Smith (about 2 medium)
  • Frosting:

  • 4 oz fat free cream cheese
  • 1/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp  coconut extract
  • 2/3 c Cool Whip, thawed
  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8 inch square pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, splenda or sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, cocoa, pepper, and salt. Whisk to combine, then stir in applesauce and eggbeaters. Stir in carrots and apples.

    2. Pour into pan and bake until cakes pull away from pan sides and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling rack and let cool 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

    3. Beat cream cheese, cool whip,  and extract until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix until combined.

    4. Once cake is cool, cut in half and cut each half in half horizontally. Spread some frosting over it, then top with second layer. Generously frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Cut into 8 double-layer slices.



    Anything new and exciting you’ve been up to?

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Lightened Up and Layered

    Hello all!

    Sorry posts have been sparse, but lately the weather has been seeming more like spring and less like winter, so I try to take advantage of it while I can. It’s not often Minnesota winters treat us nicely! It seems as soon as the holiday hoorah slows down, I get into spring cleaning mode. Thursday my grandma came down to visit and helped tackle my apartment from top to bottom. We ended the day with a sparkling clean result an a definite appetite. Lately I’ve been really enjoying one of Applebee’s new menu items. I’m sure you’ve maybe saw the commercials for the new “Meals Under 550”—this is one of them and I would’ve never guessed that such a rich, flavorful and filling restaurant meal would clock in at that low of calories. It was a good surprise! Have you tried any of Applebee’s new “Under 550 Calorie” menu items? Raves/reviews?

    I got the Grilled Dijon Chicken and Portabellas

    “Marinated chicken breast grilled and topped with roasted red peppers, onions, portobello mushrooms, Dijon sauce, and aged cheddar cheese. Served with steamed herb potatoes and seasonal vegetables.”


    • Overall, this was a great meal for $9.99 and under 550 calories—I would highly suggest you try it!

    I also did the weekly grocery shopping and was pleasantly surprised that Wal-Mart had their giant bags of frozen chicken breasts on sale for half the price that they normally are—score! At around $3 for that big of a bag, I just couldn’t pass it up even though my freezer is really overloaded full. That is one of the reasons I really like Wal-Mart; their occasional sales can be a steal! However, Wal-Mart does have it’s pros and cons in my book.


    • They carry a wide variety of products.
    • Offer all departments needed for a single trip—no multiple stops.
    • Great Value brand offers similar products to name-brand at a cheaper price.
    • When they have sales they are worth the trip.
    • I really enjoy their self checkouts so I can bag things how I like them.
    • They are really good about accepting local sales ads and matching the lowest price.
    • Their bakery clearance can be a real deal for low-priced and fresh-baked breads/pastries.


    • Way too busy—it takes a lot of effort to get in and out of the one in my town unless of course you go at 6 am or 10 pm.
    • Sometimes the produce can be a bit on the low quality side.
    • Sometimes customer service can take forever to get through.

    What are your Wal-Mart pros and cons?

    So thanks to Wal-Mart, this delish recipe was born—the sauce makes a double batch so you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can use it to make another batch of this recipe, as a pizza sauce, a dip, or whatever else you can come up with. This is one of those recipes I could make numerous times a month—and even better is that it’s healthy!

    Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


    --Makes 4 large enchiladas—can be doubled without doubling the sauce--


    • 2 c chopped cooked chicken breast
    • 1 c green pepper
    • 3/4 c chunky mild salsa
    • 1 c shredded cheddar cheese (I used fat free)
    • 1 c diced green pepper
    • 4 oz fat free block cream cheese
    • 1 Tbsp water
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 4- 10 inch tortillas (preferably light and whole wheat)
    • 1 c fat free sour cream
    • 1 (1o 3/4 oz) can of fat free condensed cream of chicken soup
    • 1/2 c skim milk
    • 1 can green chilies
    • 1/4 c diced yellow onion


    • Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly spray 8 x 8 baking pan.
    • Beat cream cheese, water, seasonings, 1/2 c salsa and chicken together in mixing bowl.
    • Lay out 4 tortillas, place 1/4 c chicken mixture down the middle . Roll up and place seam side down next to each other in pan.
    • In large bowl, mix soup, sour cream, milk, 1/4 c salsa, chilies, and onion—pour half over enchiladas—reserve remaining for other use.


    • Bake 30 min. Sprinkle with cheese evenly and return to oven for 5 more minutes.



    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Cookie Dough Catch-up

    Ever feel like your constantly trying to catch up with things? This week blogging is one of them! I took advantage of the 3 day weekend to relax and get a lot a few necessary things done, but the rest of the time was spent celebrating Valentine’s! I get to pick out a deep fryer this week from the boyfriend. He also won us sweetheart tickets over the radio—they shut the whole movie theatre down except for the winners and they give away lots of prizes (which we did not win) and then watch a movie. The movie was Duplicity which we did not follow at all, but it was still fun! Have you watched that movie?

    So needless to say, I didn’t get around to posting about the last and best Valentine’s treat..but it’s not too late—these are perfect for any occasion when your looking to wow a crowd or just your significant other. Sure, homemade truffles may seem like a daunting task, but they really don’t take much longer than a batch of cookies—possibly just a bit more mess, but SO worth it! What is your favorite truffle recipe?

    Who needs a expensive chocolate shop when you can make your own?

    Cookie Dough Truffles

    **Hint—give your truffles away in egg cartons. Perfect size!**

    Makes approximately 33 truffles



  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted this)
  • 1-1/2 pounds dark chocolate candy coating, coarsely chopped
  • I decorated mine with assorted toppings—coconut, mini white chocolate chips, and chocolate jimmies.
  • Directions:

  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating, allowing excess to drip off; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in the refrigerator.
  • Saturday, February 13, 2010

    German Chocolate Peanut Butter Kisses

    Valentine’s Day 2010

    ♥    ♥   ♥


  • The holiday this year is expected to generate $14.1 billion in retail sales in the United States. The number is down from last year's $14.7 billion, because a number of consumers are choosing not to spend money on Valentine's Day this year.
  • The average U.S. consumer is expected to spend $103 on Valentine's Day gifts, meals, and entertainment, about 50 cents more per person than in 2009.
  • Spouses are spending less and plan to pay $63.34 on Valentine's Day gifts for their significant other, down from last year's $67.22 average.
  • Friends and co-workers will spend significantly more than they did last year, and more will be spent on pets.
  • Gifts♥

  • Spending for practical gifts, such as winter clothing and accessories, is up, while only 35.6 percent of those celebrating will plan an evening out. That's down from last year's 47 percent.
  • U.S. men will spend nearly twice as much on the holiday as U.S. women. In 2010, the average man will spend $135.35 on Valentine's Day gifts, while a typical woman will spend $72.28.
  • Cards♥

  • As usual, greeting cards will be the most common Valentine's Day gifts. Fifty-five percent of U.S. consumers plan to send at least one.
  • About 190 million cards are sent each year. That figure doesn't include the hundreds of millions of cards schoolchildren exchange.
  • Candy♥

    • About 47 percent of U.S. consumers will exchange Valentine's Day candy, which will cost about $1 billion. About 75 percent of that billion is from sales of chocolate. Chocolate has been associated with romance at least since Mexico's 15th- and 16th-century Aztec Empire.
    • About eight billion little candy hearts were made last year, with sayings such as "Be Mine.

    What are you doing this Valentine’s Day? And what do you normally get/give for gifts?!

    German Chocolate Peanut Butter Kisses

    Makes approx. 28 cookies



    • 1 box German Chocolate cake mix
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 c vegetable oil
    • 1 bag Reese’s PB hearts
    • 1 c roasted peanuts


    • Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix cake mix, eggs, and oil thoroughly. Set aside.
    • Grind up peanuts in food processor and pour into a shallow bowl or plate.


    • Start taking wrappers of a hearts.


    • Roll cookies into 1-inch balls and follow by rolling them in the ground peanuts.
    • Bake 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet for 9-12 minutes.
    • Cool for 2 minutes then press Reese’s heart into the middle.


    • Let cool completely—2 hours.

    1 more day of Valentine’s treats tomorrow—save the best for last!

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Chocolate Covered Strawberry Sweeties

    ((Countdown to Valentine’s Day-3 days))


    The day for all things love--

    hearts, teddy bears, flowers, diamonds,

    and of course sweet treats!


    If your not going out to eat for Valentine’s Day, why not put together a romantic dinner at home? Find ideas here and here! It’s almost more fun to cook together anyway :-)

    Even if your not celebrating Valentine’s, use it as an excuse to whip up some fun holiday treats! I usually come up with cookies/baked goods/etc. around things that are on sale. That’s what I did with today’s treat!!

    Who said cute and delicious goodies have to break the bank—not me!

    • Cake mix= $0.84
    • Valentine’s M&M’s= $2.69
    • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips= $1.79

    TOTAL for 28 cookies=$5.32

    1 cookie=0.19

    Chocolate Covered Strawberry Sweeties

    --Makes approximately 28 cookies--



    • 1 box Pillsbury strawberry cake mix
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 c vegetable oil
    • 1 bag Valentine’s M&M’s
    • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • Pink granular sprinkles, optional


    • Preheat oven to 350 F. Meanwhile, mix cake mix, 2 eggs and oil together thoroughly until mixed.


    • Roll into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
    • Bake 9-11 minutes—do not let edges brown.


    • Let cool completely—1 hour.
    • Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler on stove or in a microwave safe bowl for 2 min and stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
    • Carefully dip one half of each cookie into chocolate and shake of excess. Place on tinfoil and shake sprinkles if using. Then place 3 different colored M&M’s evenly across the chocolate coated side. Let cool completely—2 hours.

    Side note: I dipped about 4 cookies at a time before adding sprinkles and M&Ms.



    Stay tuned for another festive treat I created tomorrow!