Thursday, November 24, 2016

Panera Bread

Panera Bread Salad Dressings to enjoy at home!

Here's something to look for at your grocery store in the refrigerated section in the produce area.

You can buy salad dressings from "Panera Bread" restaurant to use at home.  I stumbled across these three (on sale!) a few weeks back and have been enjoying trying them out. Each bottle has a suggested recipe to enjoy the dressing... what type of lettuce or greens to use, what toppings to add, etc.  The Fuji Apple dressing is slightly sweet and the Balsamic Viniagrette dressing is very flavorful.  I have not yet warmed up to the Asian Sesame dressing.  I think I am finding that I am not a fan of sesame oil; I think it feels funny in my mouth.  Whatever the case may be, I am enjoying these dressings.  Hopefully you can find them at your grocery store if you are interested.





This was a super salad. Spinach, hard boiled egg, turkey breast, celery, carrots, and honey crisp apple.  Delicious with the Balsamic Vinaigrette or Fuji Apple dressing.

After trying these dressings at home, we actually ended up going to Panera Bread for dinner two times this past week. I had to get my car serviced about an hour from our home so we dropped off the car one night and picked it up the next night.  At Panera, I had an amazing salad called "Ancient Grain, Arugula, and Chicken Salad".  It was served with a Sweet White Balsamic Dressing. The salad was so good that I had it both times I was at Panera this week.  I also tried to replicate the salad at home (with some modifications of course).

BELOW:  The Panera Bread "Ancient Grain, Arugula, and Chicken Salad".  The salad has arugula and grilled chicken of course. I am not sure what grains these are.  The salad has apples and red grapes, as well as toasted pumpkin seeds, and the dressing is a Sweet White Balsamic dressing. You can get a half order of the salad with a half sandwich or cup of soup.  I got a full order of the salad.


BELOW:  This is my version of the salad at home. My salad is made with arugula and turkey, as well as hard boiled egg and toasted pumpkin seeds.  I used honey crisp apples and dried cranberries (Craisins).  My grain is an ancient grain called "Freekeh" and the dressing is the Panera brand Fuji Apple dressing.  This salad was so good I had it for lunch and for dinner yesterday. 


I love finding healthy options when eating out at restaurants, but I also enjoy coming up with my own version at home.


This is the first time I heard of Freekeh.  I got this sample at a Health Fair.  It's similar to brown rice in texture and also has a nice nutty flavor. I really like it!  Here is a close up of the cooked Freekeh. I am enjoying having a chewy whole grain on my salad.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Slow Cooker Black Bean Pumpkin Turkey Chili


Slow Cooker Black Bean Pumpkin Turkey Chili

I have been in a "soup mood" for the better part of two months now but it is finally officially soup weather in Colorado!  Earlier this week, it was 84 degrees Fahrenheit when I went for a bike ride; this, when I went for a walk with the dogs, it was 24 degrees.  Yep, soup weather!  Some areas of Colorado did get some snow this week but we haven't seen any white stuff yet, unless you count the super heavy frost on the roof tops.

This week I tried two new pumpkin recipes.  For breakfast, I have been having Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal (see LINK HERE).  The other recipe is this slow cooker turkey chili.  Both recipes call for an entire can of pumpkin.  I love that so that I am not searching for recipes to use up the leftovers.

This recipe comes from a blog called Ambitious Kitchen (www.ambitiouskitchen.com). 
I love the addition of some unusual ingredients in this chili, which makes this a very nice change of pace.  I altered the recipe just a tad.  I did not use any oil when browning the ground turkey.  Also, the original recipe recommended cooking the onions and jalapeno pepper before adding them to the slow cooker, but I just threw them in the slow cooker raw (which was even easier!).  For my chili, I used an extra large jalapeno for added spice.  Both of the pumpkin recipes I made this week are definitely recipes I will make again!

SLOW COOKER BLACK BEAN PUMPKIN TURKEY CHILI
Adapted from www.ambitiouskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean or extra lean ground turkey, cooked/browned/crumbled
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (preferably no salt added)
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (or 1 3/4 cup fresh pumpkin puree)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Instructions
  1. Cook/brown/crumble ground turkey in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat, until no pink remains.
  2. Add cooked turkey and remaining ingredients to the slow cooker; stir well, cover, and cook on low 6-7 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high.
  3. If desired, garnish each bowl with sour cream, Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, cheddar cheese, or any other desired toppings (I used none of the garnishes but they all would be great!)

I portioned my soup into 6 small containers and have been enjoying it all week long.

Happy Fall!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal


Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal


I tried something new for breakfast this week... Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal.  My concern was that I undercooked this (but it did not stop me from enjoying it; I just treated this like pre-cooked oatmeal). I had my canned pumpkin in the refrigerator so I ended up adding cold pumpkin, cold milk, and cold eggs, just prior to popping this in the oven.  I should have factored that in and baked this just a tad longer (or let some of the ingredients come up to room temperature first).  My Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal was a little gooey inside when I went to cut it.  I cut this into nine squares and each morning, I've been warming up a slice in the microwave oven for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; I just splash a little almond milk over the square before warming it up.  This recipe is from a blog called "Julie's Eats and Treats".  The recipe calls for Truvia products, which I think are artificial sweeteners or sweeteners which contain stevia.  I just made the recipe with a little bit of light brown sugar in place of the Truvia. My other alterations included the addition of raisins and chopped pecans.  This is not sweet but I like things which are not overly sweet.  If you like things on the sweeter side, you can add more sugar before baking or you can add more sugar or some maple syrup with each serving.  I will definitely make this dish again. I love that I am getting a vegetable full of vitamins in my breakfast and this dish is even easier to make in the morning than precooked oatmeal!  I might have to research some other baked oatmeal recipes.



Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Original Recipe Link:  http://www.julieseatsandtreats.com/baked-pumpkin-oatmeal/
Adapted from www.julieseatsandtreats.com

Ingredients
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 c. (not packed) light brown sugar          
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 1/2 c. dry old-fashioned
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Optional toppings when you warm up each serving:  maple syrup or more brown sugar and milk.        

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg until smooth. Whisk milk into mixture.
  3. Mix the dry oats, raisins, and chopped pecans into the pumpkin mixture. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until center no longer looks wet and edges are golden brown.
  4. Serve hot right out of oven topped with maple syrup or a sprinkle of brown sugar and milk (if desired) to taste or refrigerate until read to be served. Can be eaten cold or reheated.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Make Ahead Steel Cut Oats (Slow Cooker)

Wow! That's a pretty weird looking photo.  What's going on here!  Read on...

Make Ahead Steel Cut Oats

Let's talk about oats, shall we?

Over the last several years, I've been trying to learn more and more about health and nutrition.  I find it to all be pretty fascinating.  I've being eating a lot of oatmeal lately and it got me to wondering about which oatmeal is the most healthy and why.  Clearly, there are several options on the market... steel cut oats (also known as Scottish oats), rolled oats (also known as old fashioned oats), or quick oats (also known as instant or one minute oats).  Instant oats are pretty darn appealing because you can be sitting down to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning in just a few minutes, but I know the instant oats are more processed (more pulverized) so it made me wonder if they still have the same health benefits. 

I found this great little article (you can see the article HERE) which gives a side by side comparison of these three types of oats.  As I suspected, the steel cut oats seem to be the best option because of "glycemic index".  Instead of me trying to explain what that means, here is the part of the article which breaks it down:

It looks like they (these three types of oats) are pretty similar, but one thing that sets them apart is how they compare on the glycemic index. The less-processed steel-cut oats have a much lower glycemic load than higher-processed quick oats. Low-GI foods slow down the rate that glucose (sugar) gets introduced into your body, and in contrast, high-GI foods cause a spike in your blood sugar as well as insulin, causing you to crave more sugary foods when your glucose levels drop. The best option then are the steel-cut oats, with rolled oats a great second choice. They'll keep you feeling fuller longer, which will keep your energy levels up and help you lose weight.

Since I have been eating both instant oats this week and steel cut oats this week, I can definitely tell you I noticed the difference.  I go for long walks or hikes with the dogs every morning.  On the days that I have just the instant oats, I find I am hungry when I get home.  But I definitely noticed that the steel cut oats stick with me longer.  Far from scientific, but I am sold. Steel cut oats for me, please!

Now, the downside of steel cut oats is that they take a long time to cook.  Over the past few months, I've been making steel cut oats in the slow cooker (crock pot) and it cooks perfectly each time.  I usually just make up what I can eat within a week so it doesn't spoil in the refrigerator.  Just a few weeks ago, I saw an idea where you could cook your oats, portion them out into muffin tins, place the frozen portions (oatmeal popsicles if you will) and freeze the portions in a plastic zip lock bag.  Brilliant!  I gave it a try except my muffin tins were in the oven.  I ended up portioning out my cooled, cooked oats with a plastic container on to a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  It was pretty funny looking; it looked as if I was trying to make sand castles out of my oatmeal!  Once the oatmeal portions were frozen, I put them in a gallon sized zip lock bag in the freezer.  I just pull out one here and there and it makes for a really easy, quick, and healthy breakfast. 

Here is another thing I've done to make my morning oatmeal ritual quicker and easier.  I made a little Oatmeal Station.  See, it's right above my coffee maker in the open cupboard. 


In various containers, I have my favorite oatmeal add-ins:
  • raisins
  • chia seeds
  • brown sugar
  • chopped nuts
  • mini-chocolate chips
  • and on the counter there is fresh fruit, too



So good now matter how you top it.  Raspberries, pecans, cinnamon, and brown sugar.


I am calling this one Chunky Monkey:  banana slices, walnuts, mini-chocolate chips, and brown sugar.

Make Ahead Steel Cut Oats (Small Batch)

1/2 cup steel cut oats
1 cup water
1 cup almond milk (or milk of your preference)

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and give it a little stir. Set the slow cooker on LOW setting and cook for 1 1/2 hours; stir well. Cook 30 more minutes or until oats are desired tenderness.  Remove crock from slow cooker and allow oatmeal to cool (oatmeal will firm up considerably).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Portion out the oats as desired onto the foil lined baking sheet using a measuring cup (I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup).  Place the baking sheet into the freezer (uncovered). When oatmeal becomes solid (after a few hours), remove the oatmeal "popsicles" from the foil using a spatula and place in large plastic bag with zip closure and store in the freezer.

Thaw portion of oatmeal in the refrigerator overnight.  Reheat oatmeal in the microwave oven in a microwave safe serving bowl with a splash of milk on 100% power for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

*****

Make Ahead Steel Cut Oats (BIG BATCH)...
Just requires a longer cooking time in the slow cooker

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
3 cups water
3 cups almond milk (or milk of your preference)

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and give it a little stir. Set the slow cooker on LOW setting and cook for 2 hours; stir well. Cook 45 to 60 more minutes or until oats are desired tenderness.  Remove crock from slow cooker and allow oatmeal to cool (oatmeal will firm up considerably).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Portion out the oats as desired onto the foil lined baking sheet using a measuring cup (I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup).  Place the baking sheet into the freezer (uncovered). When oatmeal becomes solid (after a few hours), remove the oatmeal "popsicles" from the foil using a spatula and place in large plastic bag with zip closure and store in the freezer.

Thaw portion of oatmeal in the refrigerator overnight.  Reheat oatmeal in the microwave oven in a microwave safe serving bowl with a splash of milk on 100% power for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.


Looks like??? This batch gave me and my husband a little chuckle... looks like cow patties.  The oatmeal was still kind of warm when I portioned it out but it still worked fine.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Diner Style Chili




Diner Style Chili 
Adapted from www.beachbody.com

Ingredients
  • 1½ lbs. extra lean beef chuck, cooked/browned/crumbled (no pink remains)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (7 ounces) fire roasted diced green chilies
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 ounces of tomato paste (1/2 of a 6 ounce can)
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. to 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • a few pinches of granulated sugar
  • 1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
Instructions

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker; stir.  Cook on LOW setting for 5 to 6 hours.  Adjust seasoning to taste by adding in additional salt and/or sugar as desired. 

Top as desired with diced avocado, grated cheese, diced onion, tortilla chips, saltine or oyster crackers, sour cream, Greek yogurt, etc. 

Makes 6 servings. 

***********************

I found this recipe on the Beachbody blog (the original recipe can be found HERE).  The recipe called for cooking the veggies before adding them to the slow cooker and a few other steps.  I added some additional spices and some canned green chilies, as well as some water, and let all the ingredients simmer in the slow cooker.  My version was super easy and I really enjoy how tasty it is. Like many soups and stews, I think this tasted even better the next day.  This chili reminds me of diner style chili; it has a rich taste from tomato paste, garlic, and chili powder, and it has a really high meat to bean ratio.  Ordinarily I make chili with less meat and more beans.

Have you ever heard of Cincinnati Chili?  I've heard about it on Food Network cooking shows.  It's hearty chili served on top of spaghetti and can be served a variety of ways.  I found a description here:

History:  Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff created Cincinnati chili in 1922.  With his brother, John, Kiradjieff opened a small Greek restaurant called the Empress.  The restaurant did poorly however, until Kiradjieff started offering a chili made with Middle Eastern spices, which could be served in a variety of ways.  He called it his “spaghetti chili.”  Kiradjieff’s “five way” was a concoction of a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, chopped onion, kidney beans, and shredded yellow cheese, served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with more shredded cheese.


I got to thinking about Cincinnati Chili and decided to try my Diner Style Chili over zoodles (zucchini noodles).  If I had grated cheese, I would added some but I had none.  The chili over zoodles was a good and filing meal, but I think I prefer this chili best with some fresh diced red onion.  Of course a gob of grated cheddar cheese and oyster crackers would be really good too.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Healthy Cookies: Bananas, Oats, Almonds, and Raisins


Back from our hike; treats for me and treats for the dogs...

I honestly believe having a baked good every day makes the world a better place. Well, it makes MY WORLD a better place.  

I just love having a cup of tea or a cup of coffee and a baked treat every single day.  But a baked treat each and every day probably is not good for my waistline... so I love the idea of healthy cookies. It seems like a good compromise.

These cookies are based on cookies I've seen on the blog called "Skinnytaste" (www.skinnytaste.com).  The basic recipe is 2 ripe bananas and 1 cup of quick or instant oats and you can add in other tasty bits. I've made this recipe before and added chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.  This time, I added in peanut butter, raisins, and chopped raw almonds.  Next time, I plan to add in peanut butter, chopped almonds, and mini-chocolate chips.  But this time, it was all about using up my ripe bananas and using what was already in my cupboards.

These cookies do taste very healthy but I enjoy them!  Another great thing about these cookies is that they freeze well. I portioned them out (two cookies in a snack sized Ziploc plastic bag) and placed all the cookies in the freezer.  Before I went for a hike with the dogs this morning, I pulled out a baggie of cookies and they were perfectly thawed by the time we got home.

Healthy Cookies:  Bananas, Oats, Almonds, and Raisins

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup uncooked quick/instant oats
2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used extra chunky)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup raw almonds, finely chopped (I used my Pampered Chef food chopper)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with cooking spray or line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the mashed banana, oats, and peanut butter in a bowl.  Add in the raisins and almonds.  Stir well until combined.

Portion out the dough using a cookie scoop.  Cookies should measure approximately 1 tablespoon in size.  Place the cookies a few inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Flatten the cookies with your fingertips before baking.

Bake 15 minutes.

Makes 16 cookies (8 servings)




Notice how the cookies are flattened out before baking...


These cookies have a moist, soft texture and freeze well.  I love the addition of crunchy nuts for some contrast in texture.


Do you like the looks of the dog treats above?  Here is the RECIPE LINK.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Chipotle Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili


Chipotle Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili
Since I see and "like" a lot of healthy recipes on Facebook, it seems that more and more healthy recipes show up on my Facebook feed.  This recipe popped up on my Facebook page not too long ago and I only had to shop for two ingredients to make it.  I am very glad I did. I LOVE this recipe.  I always think as chili as having some kind of beans, but this chili has none.
Since I like this recipe so much, I went over to the blog from which the recipe originates and I signed up to receive their new recipes in my e-mail inbox.  When I signed up, they sent me a great digital booklet with 15 crock pot recipes. Nice!  I look forward to trying some of those recipes as well.
For this soup, I did not follow the recipe directions.  Instead, I just cooked up the ground turkey and threw all of the ingredients in the slow cooker. It turned out great. The only other changes I made include adding extra chicken broth and more onion and sweet potato than called for. 
Here is the ORIGINAL recipe source (click HERE):
CHIPOTLE TURKEY AND SWEET POTATO CHILI (Adapted from www.therealfoodrds.com)
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28-ounces canned or jarred diced tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ - ½ tsp. ground chipotle powder (may substitute 1 canned chipotle in adobo sauce)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium sized skillet, cook/brown/crumble the ground turkey.
Add the cooked ground turkey and the remaining ingredients to a slow cooker (Crock Pot).
Simmer on LOW for about 6 hours (or until sweet potatoes are desired tenderness); season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

****

I thought since the soup contained chipotle pepper (I used the dried spice), the soup might be really good with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt swirled in.  I have tried the soup with and without the yogurt and I prefer the soup without.