Monday, August 30, 2010

I need chocolate!

Well, yesterday was a trifecta:

1. While taking Sam outside, I stood (not stepped) in an antbed. It hurt.

2. I dropped my iphone in the toilet. Enough said.

3. Because of said phone, very little studying got done on my only day off.

So I needed a dessert that would help me cheer up.

Cake + chocolate pudding + whipped cream = a party!!!!
I've eaten way too much of the hodgepodge but it has been tasty! And baking the cake (just a mix) with applesauce instead of oil and only using 2 instead of 3 eggs in the recipe, some of the fat and oily-ness was taken out. Try it, especially if you're having one of those days...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Say Yippee for Ziti!

After a long day at work yesterday, Matt & I made a classic that, strangely enough, I've never made before. BAKED ZITI! I don't think either of us have any Italian in our blood, but we felt quite Italian, pulling fresh rosemary and basil and throwing a big pasta together. Then we watched MTV's Jersey Shore...come on, so Italian! Haha We kind of threw stuff together for this:


1 TB olive oil
1/4 chopped onions
3 cloves garlic
3 cups frozen spinach (5 cups fresh)
1 lb. ground turkey
2 TB rosemary, chopped
2 jars (4 cups) your favorite marinara sauce
1 lb (ish) whole grain ziti
8 oz low-moisture lowfat mozzarella, slices
8 oz low-moisture lowfat mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Italian blend shredded cheese (Romano, Peccorino, Parm, etc)

1) Prehead oven to 400. Boil large pot of water, salting a bit.

2) Meanwhile, pour olive oil in skillet on med-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add frozen spinach to thaw, and then add ground turkey (if spinach is fresh, good turkey first and then add spinach). Slightly chop turkey into chunks (size of meatballs or so). Sprinkle in rosemary while turkey is cooking and toss all ingredients together until turkey is fully cooked. Drain excess liquid.

3) Add pasta to boiling water, cooking about 6 minutes or until al dente (cooked but still slightly firm).

4) Pour both jars of marinara in a large bowl and add turkey mixture to it. Tear mozzarella slices into large bites and stir into sauce. (Add other spices if you like, like dried basil, oregano, etc.)  

5) Drain pasta and add to sauce mixture. Stir well and pour entire mixture into a 9X13 pan.

6) Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and Italian cheeses over the top.

7) Bake for 20-30 minutes. Pasta is ready when cheese on top is all melted and a little "crispy" on the edges. Pair with a salad and some tasty bread!

A Crazy Easy Bread

As with some of my favorite recipes (mine and others'), they were created "by accident" because the original idea didn't work so well. Luckily, something good came out of it! This one was supposed to be twisted breadsticks for my parents' anniversary dinner...the dough was not cold enough, so they didn't work out, but this came out instead.

1 can of pizza dough
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB rosemary, chopped
1 TB basil, chopped
2 TB butter/margarine
1) Roll out dough and sprinkle garlic and herbs throughout. Knead together and roll into a ball.

2) Bake as directed on package. Spread butter on top and allow to melt all over. Serve warm.

I love pasta because it tastes better after the day it was made. Hmm, I see a lunch plan...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mom's Banana Pudding

The most underrated cook in my family is my mom. Here's a good one made with bananas, the perfect fruit.


8 ounces low fat cream cheese
1 can Eagle brand milk
1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix (large)
3 cups of milk
1 large container of low fat Cool Whip
6-8 bananas, sliced in bite-sized circles
1 box vanilla wafers
Large bowl or 8X12 pan

Mix cream cheese with Eagle brand milk.
Add vanilla  pudding mix.
Blend in 3 cups milk, then fold in cool whip.
Layer cookies, banana slices, and pudding mixture repeatedly.
Refrigerate for several hours (or freeze for 20 minutes, if you're impatient like me!), until pudding is set.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Waco so far

Classes have started again, and I jump into year three of grad school headfirst. These last two years have been the most challenging and rewarding times in my life thus far. I'll recap a bit.

Summer 2008
June: Put final touches on Matt and my dream wedding, finished up my time at South Main Baptist Church and was sent off to seminary with so much support and love.

July: My dearest friends and family were around me all summer until the wedding. July 12th was the most beautiful day I had ever experienced, not because of the fluff and the fancy, but because I had genuine, loving people around me as Matt and I publicly professed our love to each other and committed our marriage to God. It was special to me that day, but that act becomes more sacred and personal to me each day after the wedding. Costa Rica was an amazing getaway honeymoon. The day after we got back from our honeymoon? Leading music at a children's church camp! I have a wonderful husband. Then we moved to Waco after the 5-day camp.

Fall 2008: Stress, stress, stress. Not only are we just trying to get the hang of being married (okay, really I'm having to learn how to share for the first time in my life!), we are figuring out the foreign lands that are Central Texas. There is no live music in sight, and we played hide and seek finding the artistic culture the rest of the month (we're still working on that one). 

Money was the main stress then. It was horrible. But, somehow, we were able to pay our bills, buy textbooks and live frugally as much as possible. The most stressful part of grad school is not the reading, discussions, and long papers. It's the money! It's the stress that comes with wondering every day if you made the right decision to come to grad school and spend all of your time stretching and growing your faith and sense of calling, when all you really can think about is how you're going to pay rent this month or if buying groceries is even an option this week. (Okay, sorry, a tangent.) My point? It was a challenge. But the hardest part was that my beloved grandmother was sick, really sick, and I didn't know what to do. She was so supportive and enthusiastic about me going to seminary, but all I wanted to do was quit and go home and take care of her. She would not have it, though.

Spring 2009: Throughout the struggle, God kept showing me that this was exactly where he wanted me. It helped that my peers were--a number of them, at least--in the same boat. They were trying to make all of this work, too. Day 1 of seminary was a shock to the system--there are 2 creation stories in Genesis! Why did my Sunday school teachers not talk about both creation stories!? But what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? And I was certainly lifting heavier weights by this time. God was right there, this whole time. Still job uncertainty, a bad fit with a good church, and money stresses.

Summer 2009: Why do we live here? When do we get out? Can't Baylor be in another town? Is it physically possible for me to pick up the seminary's building and carry it on my shoulders a mere 90 miles to Austin? Oh, I would do that in a heartbeat! Anyone have King Kong's cell #? But this summer was a time to breathe, allowing Matt and I to get closer.

Fall 2009: My grandmother was still sick, my parents and uncle and aunt were running on less than fumes, and I wasn't able to be there. It was hard. I had come to peace with her death (and, really, her full life) which came during Thanksgiving. I miss her daily but God have me a supernatural peace when she died. I truly feel I need to live with her legacy in mind. Filling big shoes on a little woman, for sure. (Although she did wear size 7 1/2 extra narrow, she still had big shoes to fill.) Christmas was strange but peaceful. I got closer to my mom, dad and Matt, for sure.

Spring 2010: Matt and I finally came to a place of peace of where we live. No, it's not for us forever, but it will do for now. And having a job at a grocery store, where I'm around real people with really fascinating lives, was the most humbling and substantial parts of my education thus far. Not even all of those overnight trips to NYC to promote a band or support my musician buddies could prepare me for some of this stuff. My eyes were opened.

Summer 2010: Financial peace. Security. Heat. What a warm summer, but what a great Sabbath. This time of rest has been amazing. But now it's time to get the road on the show and dive back into our mission.

Fall 2010: Here we are. Literally. (The name of Matt and Chris' new album.) Here we are, living and learning and doing our thing. We're excited about things to come, grateful for things that have passed, and living in the moment that is the present. I'm taking one "pastor" class at the seminary and the rest are social work classes. I LOVE IT. This is exactly where I need to be. 

Here We Are, and who knows where we'll soon be?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Souper Quick Lunch

Once upon a time, in a very sleepy town, a girl named Laurel was home for her lunch break and really needed to eat. She pulled out a can of chicken soup, threw some veggies in a saucepan, and -*POOF*- out came a creamy, healthy soup. 


Sure, it could have been more complex. But why mess with a good thing? I ended up only being able to eat half of the soup (and that's a BIG green bowl!), so the rest made a tasty dinner later on. The veggies were cooked, a tiny bit crunchy and lessened the cream I was actually consuming. Try it, you'll like it!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Can't Stop Baking!

Yesterday, I got the urge to bake. So I baked...a lot. None of them were my recipes (originally), but I vamped all of them to make them 1) (hopefully) tastier & 2) healthier. That's what it's all about anyway, right?

THE MENU: chocolatey, cakey, sconey.
THE MUSIC: An old new favorite...Ella Sings Broadway on vinyl...

Sometimes I wonder if I was born 60 years too late...she's definitely one of my top 3 faves. So, while she & I sang Hernando's Hideaway and I Could Have Danced All Night, I baked and baked. Joy!

Here's what happened:

Bethenny's Low Fat Fudge Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have a guilty pleasure, I'll admit. I like the Bravo reality show "Bethenny..." about a New York housewife and her craziness. She's witty, crass, & wears beautiful clothes while pulling off her hectic schedule and chaotic life. She's a self-proclaimed healthy foods chef, so I thought I'd give a couple of her recipes a shot. They're simple and really tasty! This particular one is vegan, completely guilt-free and so chocolatey! The only thing I changed was using dark chocolate (non-vegan) chips instead of the vegan variety. (I'm too cheap to spend $6 on a bag of vegan chips.) The key is applesauce instead of eggs and oil, which I use a LOT for a sub. You don't notice the difference when all is said and baked!

You throw everything into a bowl (easy cleanup and quick!) and pop it in the oven. I eat them for breakfast/dessert, a side with lunch, and (sorry mom) for dinner sometimes, too. They freeze well, too.

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup raw sugar (1/3 cup packed brown sugar works, too; white if you must)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¾ cup oat flour (wheat works, too; white if you must)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips (for non-millionaires, reg milk/dark chocolate chips work, too)
  • 1 dash cinnamon (who am I kidding? I throw in MORE than a bitty dash.)
Preheat the oven to 375. Spray/paper-line 8 muffin cups. Fill each cup 2/3 full and bake for 17-20 minutes. You can use the toothpick method, but I usually know they're ready when the top is slightly firm and the visible chocolate chips look "melty." The applesauce allows for the entire muffin to bake really evenly, which is quite nice.

2) Low-Fat Coffee Cake (not the prettiest, but still tasty)

This came from that magazine "Taste of Home," you know, the one where you have to be Mary Sue Earl from Timbuktu and must have a degree in all things southern, just in order to submit your fave recipe! It's a simple, traditional cinnamon coffee cake you've had a million times before...lots of cinnamon, a sugary crumble on top, and gooeyness. I've gotta admit, this recipe wasn't my favorite. My grandmother loved coffeecakes, and she always used the base from Joy of Cooking...a classic. I like that one better. Of course, her's called for something like 2 sticks of butter...this LOW-FAT version requires no butter/margarine and only egg whites. The cake was moist and fluffy, but not as moist as the full-fat version served at every Baptist church breakfast and bridge club on this side of the Mississippi. (ha) This one is good (and guilt free!), but there are other really great ones that you can modify. Here's my moister (yet still low-fat) version:

  • 1 2/3 cups oat flour (all-purpose will work, too)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (turbinado or white)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk (cow's or soy)
  • 4 TB margarine/butter, unsalted & at room temp
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of granola/corn flakes, crushed


  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat egg whites, applesauce and milk. Add to dry ingredients. Pour into a 9-in. square baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Yield: 9 servings.

3) Raspberry Scones Recipe

I got this one off of Joy of Baking's website. I've used a couple of her recipes, and they're fun. While this was not an authentic British scone, it was good. The dough was tasty (you have to taste it!), and I used Strawberry Jam (my favorite) instead of fresh raspberries, like the recipe calls for. They turned out tasty, a bit crisp on the outside and soft and moist in the middle. Yum! Here's my version:


2 cups oat flour (1 2/3 wheat flour works, too)

1/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter/margarine, cold and cut into pieces

1/2 dark chocolate chunks or chips (optional)

1/3 cup strawberry preserves

1/4 unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chunks (chips) and raspberries. In a small measuring cup whisk together the yogurt, vanilla extract, applesauce, and egg. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat, or roll, the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into eight triangles. Place the scones on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 16-18 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.

Although not necessary, if you want the tops of the scones to be crispy, then turn your broiler on high. Sprinkle confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar over the tops of the scones and place them under the broiler. Broil for just a few seconds, turning the pan as necessary, until the sugar has melted and turns golden brown. Make sure to watch the scones carefully as the sugar will burn very quickly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 8 scones.

Fun, fun! I'll put the rest of my baked goods up tomorrow! Happy Monday. Relax, enjoy the week and try not to stress the small things.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More spinach & a Stir fry

Hellooo! I felt like a homemade quesadilla for lunch the other day, so I went at it. You know how I've been on a spinach kick lately, and it was natural to throw in Popeye's favorite tasty treat. I didn't want any meat in it (I just don't crave it anymore...weird), but we had some tasty muenster that went perfectly. It's healthy and cheesy and super tasty...why not? Oh, and it's such a QUICK LUNCH, you can eat at home or pack and take on the go!
Cheesy Spinach Quesas

1 cup of hot cooked spinach, drained and patted dry (w/paper towels)
2 slices muenster (lacey or reg. swiss work, too)
garlic salt
2 T flax seed (optional, but gives a little crunch)
2 tortillas, any size
1 T margarine

Heat a pan and "butter" one side of each tortilla with margarine. Put both, margarine-side down in pan to toast. Add spinach, cheese, and garlic salt (not too much) to one tortilla, topping it all with the other tortilla. Let grill for a few minutes, then flip. Once cheese is gooey and a bit crispy on the edges, it is ready. Tastiness.......

We also made a stirfry. After a recent trip to WholeFoods in Austin (one of my favorite stores on the planet...and the closest one is 1 1/2 hrs away!! Gasp! Where do we live, Timbuktu???), we picked up this tasty-looking Thai Peanut Ginger sauce. The bottle screamed STIR FRY!! (silently) So Matt & I decided that was what we needed to do. I've never been able to make the perfect peanut sauce to go with spring rolls, et cetera, but this was pretty darn close.

The thing I love about stir fry's is that they're never perfect, always messy, and don't need a lot of organization. (That is me in a nutshell, so it's a perfect meal!!) Here's how it went:

1) I basically gathered as many veggies together as possible:
Baby carrots
Green beans (snap beans, as my g/ma called them)
Green bell pepper
Red bell pepper
Tomato (seeded)
Mini new potatoes (so tiny!)

2) Matt wanted some meat, so we added some lean pork

3) We coated the veggies and pork in the peanut ginger sauce (I used the sauce we bought, adding more peanut butter, spicy spices, and some lime juice to top it off.).

4) Wow, it was so tasty, healthy, and made good leftovers! The key was to put the lid on the wok/saute pan to keep the moisture in the veggies AND to not overcook the veggies. I'm very bad about overcooking veggies, until they turn limp. But keeping a little crunch in them made them tastier and full of life! Try this at's too easy!

5)We added brown & purple jasmine rice to the dish...whole grains and pretty rice. (It's hiding in this picture.) Any rice will work, but you know I'll recommend a grain rice or pasta, not sugary white varieties.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Behold, the Blueberry...

(Thanks, state of Oregon, for the pretty blueberry pic!)

Some things just can't be planned or predicted.
Especially when I'm in a grocery store.

Yes, I spend up to 40 hours a week in the grocery store (because I work in a pharmacy at a grocery store).
On one of those dangerous days when I had recipes spinning through my head, I picked up TWO POUNDS OF BLUEBERRIES.

Yes, they were on sale. Yes, I am nuts for berries anyway, but blueberries were the only berry I hadn't overused this summer. I was determined to only find/create recipes that used a mere cup or 2 of the berries at a time. (A pie would be COMPLETELY CHEATING...dumping 8 cups of berries in a pot and making jam is also only for the weak.) I wanted to go all out. The result: blueberries on everything, even ridiculous things. The lesson: blueberries work everywhere!

Here are some of the results:

...and many more!!

Blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, blueberry/peach yogurt, and *my personal favorite* blueberry wheat pancakes!

The ones not pictured
(probably because I ate them before the thought of taking a photo popped into my head!):

*Blueberry mint cantaloupe salad
*Blueberry compote/sauce (for toast, vanilla ice cream, pork tenderloin)
*Frozen blueberry pops
*Blueberry pound cake

There were probably more, but that's all I can remember. And, YES, I FINISHED THE ENTIRE 2 POUNDS! Craziness...hopefully I won't start turning blue.

Violet Beauregarde