Christmas Cookies for the Dogs

The weekend before Christmas is usually one full of holiday baking–families and friends get together to bake all sorts of goodies. I always enjoy baking, I just don’t do a bunch of it because I end up eating it all. But when it comes to baking for my pups and for my friends’ with dogs, I’m all about it. Which is why part of my holiday baking consisted of baking two batches of Christmas cookies…for dogs.

These two recipes are pretty easy, and healthy, for you. If you’re looking for some last minute gifts for dog lovers, or for your own dog, I highly recommend these two recipes.

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Chicken ‘N Oats Cookies

2 Cups + 1/2 Cup rolled oats
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 Cup low sodium chicken broth (can use beef broth)
1 Tablespoon parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups rolled oats with salt, broth, egg, and parsley. Once combined, add the 1/2 cup leftover oats.
  3. After laying out wax paper, pour out the batter and knead by hand for 3 minutes to firm up the dough. Let the dough stand for 3 more minutes.
  4. Roll the dough to about a 1/2 inch thickness and use cookie cutters to cut into the dough.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, with the option of flipping the cookies over for 4 additional minutes for extra crispness.
  6. Store in airtight container.

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Peanut Butter Puppers Cookies

1 1/4 Cups whole wheat flour
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup natural peanut butter (I like to use crunchy for texture)
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons honey
1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, baking soda, egg, and peanut butter.
  3. Add the water and honey (your dough will be very sticky).
  4. Allow dough to chill for about 5-10 minutes in the freezer to help quell the stickiness.
  5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness and use cookie cutters.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Sometimes I’ll flip over the the cookies after 20 minutes and bake an additional 4 just to get a little more crunch.
  7. After cooling, store in an air-tight container.

**If you’re giving these (or any) homemade cookies to a dog lover on your list, be sure to include the ingredients in case their dog has an allergy. (For instance, my mom’s dog cannot have gluten due to his epilepsy.)

Your turn: Do you do anything special for the dog lover in your life on Christmas?

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A Simple Thanskgiving

I know, I know, this should have been posted days ago, considering Thanksgiving is now a distant memory. But I wanted to share my first Thanksgiving where I fixed everything, by myself, for just myself and M. I was pretty proud of myself for putting everything together!

M had to work all week, including Thanksgiving, so that meant we were staying home. It would be our first Thanksgiving with just the two of us (instead of spending it with family)….and our last with just the two of us (considering Baby A&W will be here next year). I wanted to make it special, but we had a tight budget, so I did the best I could.

On the menu:

  • 3 lb. boneless turkey breast
  • Fresh green beans
  • Mom’s sweet potatoes
  • Hawaiian rolls
  • Spiced cranberry-apple chutney
  • Homemade pumpkin pie

Putting everything together was pretty simple.

Our little Thanksgiving dinner--not as heavy as traditionally, but still delicious!

Our little Thanksgiving dinner–not as heavy as traditionally, but still delicious!

Turkey

  1. Prepare the slow cooker by spraying cooking oil all over the inside.
  2. Leaving the skin and string on, rub the turkey breast with olive oil then sprinkle seasonings (I used rosemary, thyme, parsley, poultry spice, black pepper, and a dash of salt)
  3. Place skin side down in the slow cooker
  4. Add 1/2 cup of broth or water (I used low sodium chicken broth)
  5. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  6. Once cooked all the way through, remove the skin and string

So moist! And so easy! If you ever see a sale on boneless turkey breasts, get one to have on hand for any type of meal!

The rest of the sides came together easily. I used my mom’s recipe for sweet potatoes to make a small portion that was enough for M and I.

Mom’s Sweet Potatoes

  1. Combine 1 can of yams (drained) in a large bowl with a quarter stick of softened butter.
  2. Pour orange juice, to you liking, and mix with a hand mixer until incorporated. (There’s no measurement to the orange juice, you just want a nice consistency to the potatoes–not runny, but not stiff.)
  3. Add a handful or two of marshmallows and mix.
  4. Pour into a casserole dish and microwave in 5 minute intervals, stirring the potatoes every 5 minutes, until everything is cooked through.
  5. Spread mini marshmallows on top, covering as much as you’d like, then set the dish in the oven with broil on to brown the marshmallows. (Keep an eye on the marshmallows because once they start to brown, it won’t take long for them to burn.)

We enjoyed some sparkling white grape juice and dinner when M got home, then prepared for our friends to join us for “Friendsgiving–Desert Edition.” A few friends came over and brought desert as well (cherries jubilee and some spice-cake-slow-cooker-concoction that actually came out delicious) to go with my (very first) homemade pumpkin pie. We then watched football, chowed down on desert, and played Apples to Apples until it was time to go crash.

Friendsgiving--Desert Edition!

Friendsgiving–Desert Edition!

I missed spending the holiday with my family, but I was happy to be home for M and to get to spend some fun times with friends. I hope you did the same!

Your turn: Share one favorite part of your Thanksgiving 2014!

Recipe: Easy Mexican Slow Cooker Soup

For some reason I never think of using my slow cooker during the summer. I think when it comes to summertime cooking, we focus mostly on grilling. As much as I love grilling, with the way our schedules have been, it hasn’t been the most convenient to grill our meals. Most of the time M’s not home for dinner, and lately I haven’t been feeling up to cooking a full meal for just myself.

The other weekend I was trying to think of what I could make that would be multiple meals for M and I to grab and take to work for lunch/dinner. That’s when I pulled out the slow cooker from storage and went to work. What I came up with was a delicious Mexican soup jam-packed with veggies and protein.

Easy Slow Cooker Soup

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3 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans diced tomatoes with chili peppers
1 can reduced sodium black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package frozen corn
Chicken broth (I didn’t measure, I just poured until most of the ingredients were covered)
Chopped onion, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, black better to taste

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray to prevent sticking and making cleaning easier
  2. Place 3 thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the slow cooker.
  3. Dump the diced tomatoes, black beans, green bell pepper, and frozen corn on top of the chicken. Pour the chicken broth until most ingredients are covered (maybe 2 cups). Season as needed.
  4. Cook on high for 4-5 hours. After four hours, remove the chicken breasts and shred with forks, then place back in the slow cooker, stir to mix seasoning, veggies, and chicken.
  5. Enjoy!

I was able to ladle the soup into 6 different single serve, reusable containers to make it easy for us to grab and go. I also made some corn muffins to eat alongside and added a little bit of shredded cheese on top when I had some at home. It’s lighter than a chili, so just about perfect for a sumer soup.

Your turn: What’s your favorite summertime slow cooker recipe?

Easy Desert Recipe: Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups

Looking for a quick desert, or even just something to calm the sweet tooth? The other night I came up with this quick and easy desert that complimented our spicy dinner.

We had some leftover crescent roll dough, so I decided to make something with it. Enter Banana Roll-Ups.

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups: Ooey, Gooey & Yummy!

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups: Ooey, Gooey & Yummy!

Cinnamon Banana Roll-Ups

Crescent roll dough
1 banana, sliced
Butter
Cinnamon
Sugar
Honey

  1. Spread a thin layer of butter on the crescent triangles. Then sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar over the butter layer.
  2. Thinly slice the banana over the wider half of the triangle.
  3. Roll up the crescent dough, wide part first, careful that the bananas don’t all fall out. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and sugar, if you so desire.
  4. Bake according to the instructions on the package.
  5. After removing from the oven, I drizzled a little bit of honey over the top of the rolls and we enjoyed them fresh from the oven–ooey-gooey-ness!!

You could probably use any kind of fruit in this recipe! I just had half a banana that needed to be used up.

Your turn: What was the last desert you pulled off at the last minute?

Recipe: My First Try at Chia Pudding

I’m trying to do a better job at eating healthier, but not be boring. I’ve read a lot of different blog posts about chia pudding, and I’ve always been interested, but a little intimidated by the idea of it. But finally last week I looked for a simple chia pudding recipe that had ingredients that I knew I had already, and then made it my own.

Simple Chia Pudding with Strawberries & Bananas

Simple Chia Pudding with Strawberries & Bananas

I started with a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network and then just went from there.

Simple Chia Pudding with Strawberries & Bananas

1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/8 cup chia seeds

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the milk, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and pinch of sea salt together.
  2. Whisk in the chia seeds, then set aside to let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, stir to redistribute the chia seeds. I then divided the batch in half into two containers, cover, and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The next morning I sliced up half a banana and a few strawberries, added some cinnamon, and mixed it all up.
  5. Enjoy!

This was great for my breakfast, and to have it already complete was great! Next time I’ll try unsweetened vanilla almond milk (then not use the vanilla extract). But I definitely love this dish and can’t wait to make more. (And to be more experimental with different flavors like Tina’s Almond Joy Chia Pudding.)

Your turn: Have you ever tried to make chia pudding? What’s your favorite recipe?

Low Key St. Patty’s Day & Irish Soda Bread Recipe

I hope everyone had a good weekend and good St. Patrick’s Day. First, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean Blog. Every Sunday she does her “Sunday Food Prep” post and I was featured in her post this weekend! 🙂 I admit I haven’t done much food prep since that post, but I swear I will get back into it at a better level because it makes life so much easier!

I spent the weekend at my first dog agility trial since November and it was great to be back. The pups were great, I enjoyed seeing my friends, and I learned my handling wasn’t as rusty as I thought it’d be. We leave for the AKC National Agility Championships in a little more than a week, so I’m starting to get pumped.

M and I celebrated a low-key St. Patrick’s Day on Monday. Sunday night, when I got home from the agility trial, I was inspired to bake Irish Soda Bread for the holiday. I’ve made it a couple times before and I love it. This time I combined two recipes to make kind-of my own. I used Anne’s Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread and The Southern Lady Cooks’ Irish Soda Bread as my inspirations. What came out was a little sweeter, and more moist, bread that I’m obsessed with now.

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Irish Soda Bread with Apples

3 tablespoons (in chunks) softened butter or margarine
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 small apple, peeled and chopped (I used a Pink apple)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice in 1 cup no-fat milk–this is what I did)

  1. Preheat oven to 375* F
  2. Combine the flours, sugar, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl.
  3. Using a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles fine crumbs.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk.
  5. Stir in the raisins and chopped apple.
  6. Turn dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, until smooth. Shape into a round loaf and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut an X into the top of the dough about a half-inch deep. Baste with melted butter before placing in oven.
  7. Bake 35-45 minutes, until golden brown. Baste with melted butter half-way through baking.

I hadn’t thought of putting apple in until I saw Anne’s recipe. And I also mis-read the Southern Lady Cooks’ recipe and put in 1 cup of raisins instead of a 1/2 cup, but I love raisins, so I’m keeping it that way.

This was great with my scrambled egg whites for breakfast, plus a mid-morning snack at work.

And to top off the celebration, what else is better than green…..

My favorite Mexican restaurant had green house margaritas for the holiday!

My favorite Mexican restaurant had green house margaritas for the holiday!

margaritas! (You thought I was going to say beer, didn’t you??)

Your turn: What’s your favorite Irish recipe?

Recipe: Sandwich Pockets

I remembered I had wanted to share the recipe for the “Sandwich Pockets” M and I made to go with our potato soup last weekend. I call them “Sandwich Pockets” for lack of a better name because that’s kind of what they are, like Hot Pockets, but better!

M found the recipe some time last year. They’re so easy to make, and even better because we make them four at a time, so we have leftovers. In fact, I was able to take my leftover pocket with some soup to work the next week. Luckily we have a toaster oven in our break room, so I was able to warm them up like they were fresh from the oven again. Win!

The thing that’s also great about this recipe is that you can make these however you’d like. Vegetarian? Load it up with veggies. Meat lover? Pack in the protein punch you want. We’ve stuck with shredded chicken and veggies, but you can try other meats (as long as they’re already cooked). So this recipe is what I did with my pockets.

One of the best "football meals" ever! So easy and so yummy!

One of the best “football meals” ever! So easy and so yummy!

Sandwich Pockets

1 can pizza dough (I use Pillsbury)
2 chicken breasts, shredded (you won’t use the whole amount, but it’s good to have extra on hand)
Veggie cream cheese
Diced vegetables of any kind (I had diced green & red bell peppers and leftover broccoli, M had diced green & red bell peppers, diced cherry tomatoes, and pickles)
Herbs/spices

  1. Preheat oven to 400* F (or the temp designated by the crust)
  2. On a nonstick cookie sheet, roll out the pizza dough from the can, pressing from the middle out, until you have a decent sized rectangle (but don’t make the dough too thin).
  3. Using a butter knife, cut the dough into fourths. 
  4. Spread the veggie cream cheese on half of each fourth.
  5. Add your fixins to that half.
  6. Fold over the naked half and crimp the open ends together to seal the pocket.
  7. Sprinkle some seasoning (I do garlic powder and Italian seasoning)
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Enjoy!

This is the perfect lunch for everyone, or a side to soup or chili.

I’d love to hear your combinations!

Super Easy & Nutritious “Faux Mexican” Dinner

Looking for a quick, nutritious dinner with a little kick? I discovered this easy recipe from a friend who posted a photo of her dinner on Instagram, so I asked for the recipe, then made it my own.

Lindsay calls this “Faux Mexican”…I’m not quite sure why, but either way, it rocks! It has the right kick to it, and can be great with tortillas, tacos, tortilla chips, brown rice, as chili, or like I made it.

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“Faux Mexican”

1 lb ground turkey
1 can reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with green chills
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 package reduced sodium taco seasoning

  1. Brown the ground turkey. Meanwhile, dice the green and red bell peppers.
  2. Once the meat has been browned, add the black beans, green and red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, and a little bit of water (I put some water in the tomato can to get the last bits of tomatoes).
  3. Simmer for about 10-20 minutes, depending on how much liquid you want left, and until desired softness of the bell peppers.
  4. Serve with the desired sides: I used shredded lettuce to make a naked taco salad of sorts, with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a little bit of shredded cheese.

A one-pot meal with protein, fiber, and can be pretty darn filling! I served this with croissant rolls that I unrolled, sprinkled some garlic powder and shredded cheese, rolled up, and baked in the oven. They were just perfect for the meal on a cold winter night.

The finished product: So colorful (and yummy)!!

The finished product: So colorful (and yummy)!!

Your turn: What’s your favorite one-pot meal?

Going Meatless for #Elf4Health

Happy Monday! And Happy First Day of Elf4Health!!

Today is the start of the 2013 edition of Elf4Health. Last night I “met” my elf for the first round, Tracie! Tracie is training for her first half marathon in February, and now that it’s gotten cold in upper New York she’s having to do most of her training on the treadmill (oi vey!). But I know she’s going to rock it!

The first challenge is to have a Meatless Monday. It’s exactly how it sounds: make all your meals meatless. Breakfast is pretty easy for me, as this morning all I wanted was something warm so I heated up some oatmeal after CrossFit. Lunch was a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some cheesy broccoli I found in the freezer.

Now, for dinner. I’ve had a butternut squash laying around for a while, so I decided I wanted to try making butternut squash soup in the CrockPot. It’ll be served with a salad and homemade biscuits.

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Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash, peeled & cubed
Freshly diced yellow onion (I only used a couple slices, since M isn’t a bit onion fan)
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled and cubed
32 ounces low-sodium veggie or chicken broth
Cinnamon, nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste

  1. Prepare your slow cooker (I spray olive oil before placing the ingredients inside)
  2. Peel & cube the butternut squash and apple, dice up the onion and place it all in the slow cooker
  3. Pour the broth.
  4. Cook in the slow cooker. 6-7 hours on low, or 3-4 hours on high
  5. Once everything is soft, use an immersion blender (or do what I did, carefully transfer  contents into a blender, in batches, and puree) to blend everything.
  6. Once thoroughly blended, add your spices to your taste. (I just added a little of everything, and then let everyone make it their own (do they like it extra sweet? Or a little more pepper?)
  7. Serve and enjoy!

I served this with some homemade whole wheat cheddar biscuits, adapted from an easy recipe I found online.

Whole Wheat Herb & Cheddar Biscuits

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cold milk (I used fat free)
Italian spices to taste
Shredded cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450* F. Prepare an ungreased cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and Italian spices with a whisk or fork.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix those pieces into the flour. Continue until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Pour the milk and mix all together.
  5. Drop the batter onto the cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. With about 4-5 minutes left in baking sprinkle some shredded cheese on top each biscuit.

Here are a couple more Meatless Monday options, including what I made for last year’s Elf4Health:

Your turn: What’s your favorite Meatless Monday meal?

Recipe Adventures: Tuna Cakes

Ever just get a craving for one main ingredient and want to find a way to make it different? That’s how I was about tuna the other night. I just felt like having tuna, but I didn’t want to make the same boring tuna salad like I usually do, I wanted to make something a little more sophisticated. So I did a search of my Pinterest recipes, and then searched online until I found a tuna cake recipe that required only the ingredients I already had and went to work.

I used this recipe on AllRecipes.com as the base. When I finished making them, I decided to then incorporate a chipotle mayo for a sauce, just in case it needed to be kicked up a notch. So I used the recipe from the mayo from this tuna cake recipe (which I didn’t make because I didn’t have any Old Bay Seasoning, nor any panko), but substituted plain Greek yogurt for the light mayo.

The overall impression? It was a good base, but I need to add more to the tuna cakes for more flavor. I’m thinking maybe some minced garlic, or even just buying some Old Bay Seasoning. I also though about dicing up some green and red pepper to include, since I’ve had crab cakes with peppers inside that were delicious. The cakes I made held up well in the pan (after I make the patties I put them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up some, definitely don’t skip this step.)

I served the tuna cakes with some SteamFresh veggies with pasta and fruit for a well-rounded meal. I wish I had leftovers to flake into a big salad, but maybe next time?

Here they were in the skillet (I failed to get a photo of them on our dinner plates):

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Your turn: Share your most recent recipe adventure!