Thursday, April 22, 2010

Springtime—Time to Incorporate Fresh Veggies!

In just a handful of days, May will be here. That means that spring is definitely underway here in the US and new things are springing up, from flowers to a fresh bounty of produce in your local grocery store. May also means that this semester is wrapping up, which for me translates into spending countless hours studying  for finals. Needless to say, I don’t have too much time in the next 2 weeks to sit down and spend time on the computer, which is why I’ve decided to feature a few guests posts. If you have one you’d like to share—please email it to []. It’s a great way to give your blog some extra exposure as well!

This guest post is written by Donna—check out her blog here. 

It's springtime in the U.S., and many people are looking to incorporate elements of their spring garden or produce from their local farmer's market into their meals. Some of the best garden offerings that are emerging this time of year are the three A's: asparagus, artichokes and avocados. Not only are these foods widely available in the spring, they are healthy additions to spring meals.

The Los Angeles Times recently featured an excellent recipe for Grilled Lamb Asparagus Pitas that incorporate asparagus into a meal in the most refreshing way. This is important considering asparagus is not always the most sought-after veggie. Even so, asparagus has been described as one of nature's most perfect foods, as it contains no fat or cholesterol and is low in sodium, not to mention packed with folic acid, potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. Even with the heavier flavor of the lamb, the taste remains light and airy because cucumbers and mint are incorporated into this delicious spring recipe.

As for artichokes, a great resource online is It's a helpful site because most people think the only artichoke recipes out there that are any good are fattening spinach-artichoke dips. My personal favorite on this site has been the recipe for Penne Pasta with Artichoke Hearts. This delicious vegetarian recipe incorporates spinach and fat-free ricotta cheese, keeping the meal healthy and light. I personally like to use whole wheat penne pasta for this recipe, and meat-eaters can add grilled chicken if they wish. The great thing about incorporating artichokes is that they are packed with fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous and certain trace elements that we need.

Avocados get a bad rap because of their fat content, but they are packed with so many nutrients and they're so tasty, you can't help but want to use them for far more than just guacamole, especially with Cinco de Mayo so close! My favorite avocado recipe is this one I discovered online for Crispy California Avocado Tacos. You serve these bad boys open-faced. Poppy seeds, sesame seeds and quinoa lend a delightful crunch to balance out the soft avocado, and the recipe includes a flavorful corn relish that's simply to die for! Besides a healthy spring meal, you're getting 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid, when you incorporate avocados.

This guest post is contributed by Donna Moore, who writes on the topics of massage therapy schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Sweets & Sips

Do your eats tend to change seasonally?

Mine usually do—fall and winter are filled with comfort foods, hearty casseroles, baked goods that fill the house with a spiced aroma and an array of winter produce. Spring and summer are a variety of grilled fare, lighter and colorful mixed salads, and a rainbow of produce ranging from yellow summer squash to deep purple eggplants.

But one taste palate that never seems to change throughout the year is my sweet toothyes, it changes from fruit-studded tarts and back again to rich carrot cakes, however, it never seems to disappear throughout the 12 months of the year. I like to try a different  dessert once a week to switch things up, and every so often, I’ll make a recipe that deserves to be made once, twice, or in this case, three times within a three week period! I almost considered dedicating one whole post to this first strawberry-studded sweet treat, but figured if a little persuading and a few pictures couldn’t convince you, then a whole post certainly wouldn’t. So instead, I’ll give it the honor of being featured first, and then followed by a few other sweets I’ve been enjoying this spring.



Springtime Strawberry Cheesecake Yogurt Pie



  • 1 Fiber One pie crust (recipe here) or a store-bought piecrust
  • 2 c thinly sliced strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp strawberry jam—I used sugar free
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-8 oz package of fat free cream cheese
  • 1 (6 oz) container of strawberry cheesecake yogurt(from Target), pictured below
  • 2 Tbsp sugar—I used Splenda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 c frozen (thawed) fat-free whipped topping



  • Add sliced strawberries, 1 tsp sugar, strawberry jam, and 1 Tbsp water together in a small saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and then lower to a simmer until thickened, about 10-12 min. Remove from burner—let cool completely.


  • In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on high speed 30 to 60 seconds or until fluffy. Beat in sugar until blended. Add yogurt, vanilla and almond extract; beat on low speed 30 to 60 seconds until well blended and smooth. Fold in whipped topping just until blended. Spoon into crust; spread gently to edge.


  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until chilled.


  • Top pie with strawberry sauce. Store pie in refrigerator.


By far one of the best pies that I’ve ever tried/made..and if you make it with my Fiber One crust, it’s clocks in at just about 150 calories per huge slice!!


Cinnabon Clone with a Twist


  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup margarine, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 c apple pie filling—I used sugar free
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened—I used fat-free
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  • Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
  • After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Spread the apple pie filling evenly across dough, leaving enough of an edge so it doesn’t squeeze out.
  • filling

  • Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • baking

  • While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.
  • The addition of the apple pie filling really adds a lot to these Cinnabon clones and takes them from delicious to out-of-this-world.


    Chocoholic’s Scotcheroos


    • 1 c light corn syrup—I used Lite, see below


    • 1 c sugar
    • 1 c dark chocolate dreams peanut butter (from PB & Co.)


    • 3 c Rice Krispies cereal
    • 3 c Envirokids Leapin’ Lemurs PB and Chocolate cereal


    • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate morsels
    • 1 c butterscotch chips
    • 1/4 c Reese's Pieces for garnish, if desired


    • Place corn syrup and sugar into 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add cereals. Stir until well coated. Press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
    • Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Sprinkle with Reese's Pieces if desired. Let stand until firm. Cut into 2 x 1-inch bars when cool.

    I loved coming up with this recipe—using the dark chocolate PB and the PB and chocolate cereal really separates these from the original Scotcheroos, and makes them more gourmet.

    And now onto my latest favorite springtime sip…

    A few weeks ago I decided to drop an insane $4 on a Starbuck’s Lite Vanilla Frapbig mistake. It was so good, and I could see that a possible bad habit could be formed. Instead, I figured out how to make an almost identical version for only a few cents! Here’s my mock Starbucks Lite Vanilla Frap tutorial:

    1. Fill a blender or a Magic Bullet with 1/2 c ice.


    2. Pour in 1 cup of cold coffee—I keep a pitcher in the fridge.


    3. Add in about 2 Tbsp of milk—I use unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze—I recommend a vanilla flavored milk.


    4. Add in sugar free vanilla syrup, about 1 Tbsp. I use Sugar Free Vanilla Torani Syrup—found at Wal-Mart.


    5. Blend by pulsing about 5 times.


    6. Stick in a straw if desired, and slurp!


    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Chew Review: Made In Napa Valley

    Recently I got a great opportunity to try some glazes and dips from Made in Napa Valley! Never heard of em’?

    “Tulocay & Company is rapidly becoming one of the leading all natural food companies in the United States. The company was founded in 1993 with a single product: etched olive oil decanters, which it sold to wineries, hotels, and other private label customers. The success of this business led to Tulocay’s first foray into food manufacturing, an array of olive oils and vinegars created for leading specialty food retailers, including Crate & Barrel, Pier 1, and Dean & Deluca.

    In 2001, Tulocay took a significant leap forward when it established the Made In Napa Valley brand, a line of high-end gourmet food products. Today, the line includes dipping oils, flavored vinegars, marinades, simmer sauces, rubs and tapenades. The Made In Napa Valley product line has been enthusiastically received by gourmet food lovers around the country, and was recognized as the Outstanding Product Line of 2004 by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trades (NASFT).”

    I got to pick a handful of products I wanted, so I chose them envisioning how I could use them in a meal(and of course one treat!). Check it out!


     Roasted Onion Balsamic Grill Sauce


    “We’ve done the work for you on this one by roasting the onions to get that sweet, rich flavor that requires patience and time. Balsamic adds another layer of bright flavor that caramelizes when grilled.”


    Roasted Onion Balsamic Root Veggies



    • 2 c baby carrots
    • 1 c sliced parsnips
    • 1/4 c sliced white onion
    • 1/2 c sliced roasted red bell peppers, from jar
    • 3 Tbsp Roasted Onion Balsamic Grill Sauce
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 1/2 tsp pepper


    • Place all veggies, seasonings, and sauce in a bowl and toss to coat.
    • Add to a skillet on medium heat and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in a splash of water, lower heat to low, cover and let steam until fork tender (6-8 min).


    Sweet & Spicy Mustard


    “Who doesn’t love a sweet & spicy mustard, especially with the addition of chardonnay? It is a favorite component for a dipping sauce for egg rolls or pot stickers when combined with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.”



    Tuna Burgers with Sweet and Spicy Mustard



  • 2  tablespoons  nonfat mayonnaise
  • 2  tablespoons Sweet and Spicy Mustard + more for spreading on buns
  • 1  egg white
  • 2  (6 1/8-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 1/2  cup  dry breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1/4  cup  chopped green onions
  • 4  (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns, split—I used light wheat buns.
  • 4  lettuce leaves
  • 4  slices tomato
  • 4  slices sweet onion
  • Directions:

    • Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir well. Add tuna, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, and green onions; stir well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 4-inch patty. Press the remaining breadcrumbs evenly onto both sides of patties.
    • Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add patties; cover and cook 3 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes or until patties are golden.
    • Spread more mustard on buns. Place lettuce, tomato, onion, and patties on bottom halves of buns; place tops on sandwiches.



    Smokey Tomato Savory Spread


    “Sweet tomato flavor combined with a smokey undertone makes for a delicious and versatile savory condiment. Spread on pizza dough and top with your favorite cheese for a unique appetizer.



    [[Smokey Tomato Pulled Chicken Sandwiches]]



    • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts—cooked and shredded
    • 1/2 c smokey tomato spread
    • 1/2 c shredded coleslaw
    • 6 hamburger buns
    • Cheese, sautéed onions, and/or pickles if desired


    • Mix smokey tomato spread with shredded chicken. Warm in skillet until heated through. Add in onion if adding and cook till softened. (5-8 min)
    • Place on buns, top with coleslaw, cheese and pickles if desired—quick, easy, AND delicious!


    Carrot Spice Muffin Mix


    “Looking for more ways to incorporate vegetables into your diet—try these muffins. Tantalize everyone’s taste buds with the warm smell of spices permeating your kitchen as you bake.”



    Carrot Spice Muffins With Cream Cheese Frosting



    • One package Carrot Spice Muffin Mix and called for ingredients on package
    • 8 oz cream cheese
    • 1/2 c powdered sugar
    • 1 Tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla


    • Bake muffins according to package directions.
    • Meanwhile, mix  together room temperature cream cheese and powdered sugar with a hand mixer and slowly add in milk and extract.
    • Let muffins cool completely then frost with cream cheese frosting.

    All of these products were unlike any I’ve ever tried before—very unique in tastes, which I like! Sometimes it takes a lot to win me over, but these are all products I would consider buying again in the future! I would highly suggest you head on over to Made in Napa Valley and check out all they have to offer!

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Minneapolis and Museum

    It’s amazing what a little shopping, girl time, and some different scenery can do to refresh a person! Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, my grandma and I trekked 4 hours south to Minneapolis for a middle-of-the-week getaway. We usually spring clean our closets and then go shop for more! We hit all the big Saver’s thrift stores and this time we got to do a lot outside due to the unusually warm spring weather. And the highlight of my trip—The General Mills Museum in downtown Minneapolis! If you’re ever in the area it’s a must-see. And for only $10, you get access to the whole thing! Here’s a little sneak peak….


    Mill City Ruins—where the Mill weathered an explosion in 1991.



    Looking down from the 8th floor observation deck.


    Beautiful view of Minneapolis.


    One of the exhibits is the Flour Tower which is an 8 story interactive elevator ride that shows you what a day was like working in a flour mill.

    Then we went to the General Mills exhibit which included history on all their brands and the Baking Lab—right up my alley!



    General Mill’s top 4 produced flours.


    Maybe I will work here one day?


    CIMG2177 All about Pillsbury..



    Gotta love “The First Lady of Food”




    And the best for last….BISQUICK!





    So overall, the museum is a definite must see if your a General Mill’s fan like me!

    I also needed to make a much needed Trader Joe’s stop, since the closest one is 4 hours from me!




    We ate at Old Country Buffett..



    I love their steamed fish and roasted potatoes with onions.

    Dessert was ColdStone Creamery of course!


    I got a new creation which is now my favorite—half sweet cream and half berry tart n tangy with blueberries and cinnamon added in—sounds crazy I know, but I promise it’s delish!



    Have a super spring Sunday!