Crockpot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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I made this for a family Thanksgiving almost four years ago, and I swear I’ve made it almost 100 times since. A-M-A-zing and so easy!! Here’s how this delicious appetizer goes down…

Ingredients

2 8oz. packets of 1/3 fat philly cream cheese-room temperature

1 can quartered artichoke hearts-make sure these are chopped up and drained of any excess liquid before mixing into dip

10 oz. thawed spinach-(use the frozen kind. Fresh spinach doesn’t have the right texture for this one. Make sure you drain the spinach of any excess liquid before mixing it into dip

1/2 red onion

6 garlic gloves (Ive been known to add more on occasion. Especially if I know the guests I’m cooking it for loves garlic)

Italian seasonings-(dried oregano, parsley, basil-1/2 tsp each)

2 strips crumbled turkey bacon, (or real bacon if you’re going for gold πŸ˜‰

1/3 cup light mayo1 cup freshly grated Parmesan. Do NOT use powdered Parmesan. You will not be happy with the results.

S+P

Start by putting cream cheese, mayo, and cheese in bowl. Mix in your salt and pepper (1/2 tsp each) Italian seasonings and blend well. Then add in your chopped garlic and onion. I like to mix with a spatula to really blend the flavors. You gotta put some elbow grease into it at first especially if your cream cheese is still a little cold. Once that’s blended add in the rest of your ingredients, (artichokes, spinach, bacon). Mix completely. If you feel it needs more of something try adding a little extra Parmesan or s+p. That usually does the trick πŸ˜‰ You can double this recipe for larger parties too. Just use a bigger crock pot. I just use a small one for a small batch. Make sure you spray the crock-pot with canola oil spray before you put it in there. It usually takes about an hour and a half for it to warm up completely. This is also even better if you make it the night before and allow all the flavors to “marry” overnight. This is a huge favorite among family and friends. Cant get enough of it! Oh and serve with Blue Corn tortilla chips or a side of cucumber and carrots.

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Taco Soup

530657_10151477363670228_1478460624_nSo this recipe is special to me for a variety of reasons. One being, it was introduced to us by our dear neighbors when we lived back at Ft. Lewis, after I gave birth to my firstborn, Madison. My dear friend, Natalie was kind enough to prepare it for me so me and the hubby didn’t have to worry about making dinner one night. The minute I took a bite, I was hooked! I think we had like 4 bowls that night, haha, it was THAT amazing. Another reason being, is that same dear friend is the one that encouraged me to start this blog. So thank you Mrs. Thomas for not only motivating me to create this blog but for passing down such an amazing recipe! There are a few things I have added that I’ll note in the recipe itself. Trust me on this one folks once you make it the first time it wont be the last. It is perfect for game days, potlucks, and having mulitple guests over. Here is goes…

Ingredients for Taco Soup:

-1 lb pulled chicken
-1 small white onion chopped
-1 small red onion chopped-my addition

-1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped-my addition

-1 fresh jalapeno finely chopped-my addition
-1 (16 ounce) can black bean-low sodium-my addition
-1 (15 ounce) Dark red Kidney bean-low sodium
-1/2 can of chili beans
-1 (15 ounce) can of whole kernel corn
-1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
-1 cup water
-1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
-1 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers
-1 (1.25 ounce) packet of taco seasoning-McCormicks low sodium

Directions:

– Poach your chicken in boiling water with a splash of vinegar for 10 minutes then take off the stove and let sit in the hot water for another 15 minutes. Then pull your chicken off the bone. I personally just used boneless skinless breast.
-Place all of your ingredients in the slowcooker. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Cook on low for 8 hours or if you are in a bit of a rush you can cook it on high for the first 4 hours then low the next two.

Its really that simple and it is absolutely DELISH and healthy! Personally I used low sodium black and kidney beans as well as the McCormick low sodium taco seasoning packet. Trust me it had plenty of salt flavor!

Also, I love to put a dollop of low fat sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and crushed blue corn tortilla chips on top.

Enjoy!!

Baked Zucchini Sticks

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This is a pretty simple one and is a perfect side dish. Here it goes…

Broiled/ baked zucchini sticks ;p…sliced zucchini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic, topped with sliced grape tomato, fresh mozzarella,just a dust of bread crumbs, and fresh Parmesan. Bake on 350, then broil to brown cheese. Sprinkle with s+p and voila! Enjoy!

My Moms Family Famous Spaggetti and Meatballs

So this is a recipe that many in my family would say is simply the best when it comes to meatballs. Personally I’ve never had a meatball quite like it. Sadly, I don’t have a photo for this one, but next time I make it I will for sure add it here. For now hereΒ  is a pic of my mom, (aka Grandma Susan :)) ImageIf you make it and you love it please leave me a comment and let me know so I can pass the thanks on to her πŸ˜‰ Meatballs make you HOLLA!!!

Mom’s Spaghetti & Meatballs:

Ingredients:

1lb Ground Beef (Ground Round)

1lb Ground Turkey or Italian Sausage (if you’re gonna do it right do the Italian Sausage-Go big or go home! πŸ˜‰

1 onion

1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic

2 large cans of tomatoes, 1 crushed, 2 puree

Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley)

2 tbls sugar

red pepper flakes

bread crumbs-one cup

fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 cup water

1 tsp salt

black pepper

Mix beef, turkey/sausage with one egg and Italian seasonings (1 tbls), s+p. Form in 1 inch meatballs, Roll the meatball in the breadcrumbs and cheese mixture. Cook in olive oil (1 cup) and brown. Cook each side about 5 minutes on (medium heat). Drain the meatballs on paper towels and put to the side.

In pan brown chopped onion, red pepper, and garlic. Put into blender and add tomato puree and tomatoes. Also, add 1 tsp olive oil. Blend 1 minute in blender until smooth (ie-pureed). Put into saucepan and ass Italian seasonings, sugar, pepper flakes, and s+p. Bring to a boil then put on low heat and allow to simmer for one hour. Put the meatballs into the sauce 15 minutes before serving to allow soaking up of the flavors.

You can also add turkey sausage links for a meatball/sausage pasta dish. Just brown and add them along with meatballs 15 minutes prior to serving.

Serve over Thin Spaghetti

Homemade Honey Flax Bread

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Okay so I was always intimidated by the idea of making bread. I guess IΒ  figured baking was way too much a science and for an “eyeball it” cook like me, well that’s intimidating. Fortunately another fellow Army Wife (I’ll leave her name anonymous for sake of internet privacy ;)) was kind enough to lend me her recipe to get my feet wet in the whole art of making homemade bread. She told me I would never buy another store bought loaf after I got the hang of it, and boy was she right. Last night’s loaf proved that with a little time, finesse, and technique-good things come to those who wait. It took me a while to figure out how to knead the dough properly (you have to be careful not over over-knead whole wheat because it can actually counteract the effectiveness of the yeast), and there were a few times I forgot something simple like the
“salt” component, etc. Regardless, I am so happy I started doing this because I can see what goes into the bread my family and I eat. That and I love being able to add in whatever ingredients I like. Part of the recipe I am posting was given to me by my friend. A few additions and kneading techniques I have added. I hope you enjoy making this as much as I do!

Ingredients:

3 cups luke-warm water
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. salt
6 – 7 cups Ultragrain white whole wheat flour. I find that I use more towards 7 cups…plus a little extra for kneading and dusting.

4tbls Wheat Gluten. I discovered I desperately needed this if I wanted to use the Ultragrain flour. Which by the way has more whole grain nutrients than traditional wheat flour. Th Wheat Gluten allows it to rise properly.

1-2 tbls organic honey. Try it first with one and see if you like the sweetness. If not sweet enough go for two next go around πŸ˜‰

2 tbls flax-mix this and the wheat gluten in when you add your dry ingredients

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“In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes. Add the oil. Add the dry ingredients starting with 6 cups of flour. Mix all together. Knead the dough thoroughly until all ingredients are incorporated, and dough is smooth, elastic, very slightly sticky, and pulls away from the bowl (6-10 minutes). As you knead the dough, you may add more flour as needed, and repeat the process until dough reaches the desired consistency.”

So I actually mix the dough up first then remove the dough and do all of my kneading over a flour dusted counter top. I do that for 6 minutes. Again I don’t like to go any longer because the wheat will actually start to break down the yeast.

Once I’m done with the kneading process I roll it into a ball then place in a bowl and cover with Seran wrap. I try to keep it somewhere warm, but if it’s not warm, I’ll just let it sit a little longer until it has doubled in size.

Once your dough has double in size rip it in half. This batch yields two loaves so if you don’t need to cook two loaves right then, just store the other half in a zip lock bag in the freezer.

So take the other half then roll out onto a floured surface. I try and roll it out to about the length of your loaf pan and keep the width around 8 inches. Try and shape it into a flat rectangle. Then fold one side (lengthwise) half way then take the other side and fold it over as well. Then pinch shut all the open areas. So once your done folding it you want it to look like this: 018

Then take a knife and make a slit (lengthwise in the top. Let sit for about another hour until its risen to about this height:

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Notice how the slit at the top has opened up and now the bread will bake more evenly and have a roll top look.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

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Take out of pan immediately and let cool. i like to serve everyone a piece when its warm with Land O Lakes Cinnamon and Sugar Butter…amazing! Once its cooled down for a few hours, store in a partially zipped zip lock bag over night, then the following day and until its gone zip up completely.

Enjoy πŸ™‚

Artichoke, Spinach, Gouda, Chicken Breast

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This is one of my own “South Beach” phase one inspired recipes. Here is how to make it happen…

Ingredients:

Serves two large adults and one toddler. Add more if you have a larger family πŸ™‚

2 large chicken breasts

1 can sliced artichoke

half a bag of spinach

3-4 slices of Gouda Cheese

1/2 package sliced mushrooms-Crimini do the trick.

Italian seasonings

s+p

EVOO

Start by splitting up two grilled chicken breast. Grill them up in a hot pan oiled up with EVOO. While that is cooking up in a separate pan get your diced fresh garlic cloves, about a half of bag of fresh spinach, 1/2 package of sliced mushrooms, and one can quartered artichokes cooking together in some EVOO. Sprinkle both chicken and veggies with some oregano, basil, s+p. Once both chicken and veggies are about 80% cooked through top butterflied chicken breast with veggie mixture. Then place one to two slices of Gouda cheese on each chicken breast. Cover pan, turn on low heat and allow cheese to melt while chicken finishes cooking. Serve up by itself or cook a side of cauliflower mash if you wantΒ  a low carb side.

Cauliflower Mash:

Steam until cooked one full head of cauliflower-take off the green stem and leaves part…yuck! lol

Then full drain and chop up the florets or heads if you will. Then I just added on top (after they were drained and placed back in pot) and then mashed in over low heat these ingredients…Mind you these are as close to “exact” measurements as I can remember. I eyeball alot of what I do when cooking

-2 tbls butter-I use the Smart Balance blend kind, but any ol butter will do the trick
-2 tbls low fat sour cream
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-1 cup low skim cheddar or any kind of cheddar blend of shredded cheese
-dash of garlic powder, or garlic salt if you feel you want more salt in it.
-Splash of half and half, but I’m sure a splash of milk would do the trick too. You’re really just adding this to either give the mash a more blend able texture, but if you find that the aforementioned ingredients give it the texture and consistency you want then don’t bother.

Then I chopped up about 1/4 cup scallions and added them on top as a garnish. Bu they also add a lot of good flavor too

So really you could just take these ingredients and add as much or as little as you want. There are ways to substitute them for healthier ones or if you want “full flavor” then go for full fat ingredients. Either way you’re getting a boatload of nutrition from the cauliflower and a low carb, low sugar side everyone will appreciate at the dinner table. I blended mine with a handheld masher but I’m sure you could use a mixer if you wanted. I just liked mine to have a little more texture. Enough so that Maddy could eat it with a fork or with her hands if she chose to

Have fun and enjoy!!

Muffin Egg Soufles

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For when you have a real “hankering” for eggs πŸ˜‰

Started by scrambling up about 8 oz. of breakfast turkey sausage, once cooked drain on a paper towel on the side. Chopped up half a red onion, and about 2 cups of fresh spinach and cook in pan with leftover turkey sausage grease. Mixed all ingredients in the bowl with eggs that I had and added about 1/4 cup half n half. Then after mixing added in some tastyImage crumbled goat cheese πŸ˜€ . To flavor I added (and totally eyeballed it so add whatever amount suits your fancy), dash of ground mustard, oregano, cayenne pepper, s+p. Mixed some more than poured about 3/4 a way full in each muffin cup. With 5 eggs it yielded 5 large muffin cups πŸ˜‰ I then popped in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. What came out was a little muffin of tastiness to start off our morning right πŸ˜‰ The beautiful thing about this easy breakfast recipe? It can be changed to add whatever ingredients, flavors you like. Immediately after biting in I knew I could have added a little shallot to make the flavors in this pop a little more. And now I’m already thinking of making a more decadent one (for those special weekend mornings) , possibly with some shredded Jarlsberg, Canadian bacon, Roma tomatoes, Scallions…oh my the possibilities are endless! Also, if you make more than the mouths you need to feed in the morning, these can easily be frozen and or stored in the fridge for a later date. Happy breakfasting!

No ordinary breakfast sandwich :)

“The Breakfast of Champions” as my dear friend likes to call it πŸ™‚

This is a spin off of her mother’s amazing egg sandwich she used to make for us in high school.

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Toast your bread then, add a little lite butter and mayo. Then fry up two eggs and two slices of turkey bacon. Topped that with a slice of Gouda, two slices of Roma Tomato, and a few pieces of Iceburg lettuce. Then I topped it with S+P, and a bit of sun dried tomato vinaigrette. I think the salad dressing and mayo is what makes it so dang tasty. Her Mom would put ham on it and a few other fixins. It’s a fun sandwich to make and there are so many ways to make it. When I want to go light on the carbs I make mine with in a lettuce wrap.

Super Lean Stuffed Green Peppers

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Here is my version of stuffed peppers minus the traditional rice and bread crumb filling…

Ingredients:

Yields 4 servings

4 Large and ripe Bell Peppers

1.25 lb White Ground Turkey

I package grated Mozzarella

1 package freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 package sliced mushrooms

1 yellow onion

6-10 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp of each of the following (basil, oregano, parsley)

15 oz. Low Skim Ricotta Cheese

1 egg

About a 1 1/2 -2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce

EVOO

-Start by gutting out 4 Green Peppers. Cut off the bottoms as well (just enough to make them flat. You do not want there to be a gaping hole in the bottom for stuffing to cook out) to give them stability to stand upright while they cook.
-In a saute pan cook up in VOO one yellow onion, a cup of sliced mushrooms, 1/2 red bell pepper, and about 6 fresh garlic cloves, (I’m not going to lie, we threw in 10 but we’re obsessed with garlic in the house)
-Then in another pan get your meat filling cooked up. I used Ground White Turkey-(about 5 grams less in fat than traditional ground turkey) Kinda taste like chicken, lol
-Add a dash of your favorite Italian seasons to both meat and veggies. I use a fresh Italian herb past and that usually does it just right.
-Then in a saucepan get your favorite tomato sauce recipe going. I just made mine with a can of tomato paste and added my usual spices, seasons, etc. I wanted a thicker consistency for the tomato sauce so the peppers could be smothered in it.
-Once your veggies and meat are browned-(not fully cooked) drain them in a colander to rid of any excess water cooked out from veggies and meat. This is absolutely necessary! I learned by trial and error :/
-Place meat and veggies in a mixing bowl and add 15 oz. Part Skim Ricotta cheese, one beaten egg, and about 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan. Mix together thoroughly with spatula to make your filling.
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-Then in your baking dish add about 1/2 inch coating of your tomato sauce. Stuff your peppers then place your peppers on top then pop in 375 oven for 30 minutes.
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-Take out peppers then add a spoonful of your sauce from bottom of pan onto the top of each pepper.
Last but not least continue the cheesy goodness and top with shredded mozzarella-as much or as little as you like….mmmm, cheese πŸ™‚
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Pop back into oven on broil setting for 7 minutes to brown and melt the cheese on top-Note I did not broil them last night and wished I had in order have the same brown/baked effect. Update…I did that last night and here is how they turned out…perfection!
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And presto! You have yourself one mean and lean stuffed pepper! Guilt free, super tasty and super good for you. The hubby had two and I managed to work my way through 1 1/2…had to save myself something for lunch today! πŸ˜‰