Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back in Action

Hi there!  I must apologize that I've been so MIA this month of March - I can't believe I haven't blogged in over 2 weeks.  So, what I have been up to?  Well, I'll admit, I've been a busy bee.  In the past 2 weeks, I've gone on 2 job interviews, spent time with my friends on St. Patrick's Day, celebrated friends being in town & celebrated friend's pregnancies, visited my family in the Windy City, found out I have an almost stress fracture, read The Hunger Games, American Wife & The Lucky One, baked and cooked a lot of recipes including this incredible one for gluten-free vegan banana bread and spent time enjoying the springtime weather.

Today, I'm going to see The Hunger Games!  I'm a little apprehensive, I know there are so many die-hard followers of the series but I have to admit I'm definitely not one of them.  The book was well written, but it didn't leave me begging for a sequel as most series books do.  The plot was disturbing to me, probably because it involved children fighting on another in the games.  As far as post apolyptic novels go, I'm a much bigger fan of The Handmaid's Tale.  I'm also going to be picking up Wither from the library today and I'm hoping that I have better success with that - has anyone read it? 

Today's post features my favorite pasta sauce EVER.  It was introduced to me by my friend Katie and after I tried it my life was never the same.  Seriously.  The biggest downfall is that it's super pricey but Whole Foods had it as their Friday deal of the day a few weeks ago.... so here it is :) 

Italy in a jar.
I'll cry when my stash runs out and that is not the dramatic side of my personality talking.  I wanted to come up with something new to do with my Rao's though.  How many dishes with marinara and edamame can one eat?  No matter how incredible the marinara, it's hard to eat 8 servings before it expires.  I had seen a recipe on pinterest for a cream-based pasta using alfredo sauce, whole cream and homemade marinara.  So, I got inspired by one of my former recipes from when I first began this blog!  I decided to do something similar combining the base roux that I always use for creamy pastas and combining it with marinara.  Let's quote The Bachelor again and just say winning.

the last step: adding the noodles

Tomato Cream Pasta


2 1/2 cups gluten-free corn pasta
1.5 tbsp butter/trans-fat free margarine
2 tbsp brown rice flour
1 cup milk, skim 
1 tsp garlic, minced
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup high-quality marinara sauce

1. Boil water pasta and prepare according to package directions.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add brown rice flour to butter mixture, fold with a spatula until combined.  Continue to cook until lightly brown, about 2 minutes.
3. Add skim milk to saucepan, turn heat up to medium.  Continuously stir milk in the pan, scraping the bottom, until mixture begins to thicken.
4. Reduce heat to low, add garlic and marinara sauce stirring to combine.
5. Add drained pasta to sauce, stir to coat.  Serve!

perfect with veggies

What's your favorite marinara sauce? Any brands I should try?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zucchini Fries, Need I Say More?

Happy Tuesday!  I hope you've had a fantastic day.  My agenda including Pure Barre, grading, grocery shopping and one epic cooking fail.  Crab stuffed mushrooms sounded divine after finding a recipe on pinterest.  The recipe seemed pretty sound.. so into the oven they went.  They were so gross, I only ate half before I gave up and threw them in the trash.  I'll stick with making crab cakes and goat cheese stuffed mushrooms from now on thankyouverymuch.

However, I'm going to share a recipe with you that was a success.  In my book, a success is something I want to make over and over again, which is why I'll post it on my blog to share the love.  It's no surprise that I love vegetables, but sometimes I just get bored with roasting them.  I've always loved zucchini - roasted, spiralized, fried. That's right I said fried, have you ever had fried zucchini?  If your answer is no, I'm so sorry... but now you can have a healthier version of the deep fried favorite.

Now, here's a little background story. When I was little, my mom used to always take me to Red Lobster.  One of the things we would always order for an appetizer were the fried zucchini.  They were incredible... flaky, crispy and lightly sprinkled with parmesan... yum.  Of course, now I couldn't eat fried zucchini at a restaurant even if I wanted to.  However, I had a lonely zucchini in my fridge and roasting it seemed so boring.  So, I created this recipe!
I love these :)
Zucchini Fries


1 1/2 zucchini
1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup marinara

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Cut ends off zucchini - cut zucchini in half, cut halves in half and continue cutting until you have sticks.
3. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and basil in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Beat egg in a separate bowl, set aside.
5. Dip zucchini sticks into egg, letting excess run off.  Next, dip into breadcrumbs, turning to coat.  Place on the baking sheet.  Repeat with all zucchini sticks.
6. Lightly spray zucchini on sheet with nonstick spray.
7. Bake for 25 minutes or until browned - flip after 12 minutes of cooking.

fresh out of the oven!
See you later, I'm off to watch New Girl!  PS: Don't forget Registered Dietitian Day tomorrow!!

What's your favorite way to eat zucchini?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Copycat Cheese

Hi there friends!  I hope you are having a fantastic start to your week.  I'm still mourning the loss of an hour yesterday, but am happy that this means spring is a tiny bit closer.  The birds have been chirping non-stop and I love it.  Today, my agenda includes lots of grading and the finale of The Bachelor... even though we all know who is going to win, or be "winning" shall I say.

Today's recipe is for shells and cheese.. but not just any shells and cheese...Panera style shells and cheese :)  Now, I must say that I loved Panera's shells & cheese before going gluten-free...but not the calorie and fat info.  Recently, I'd seen a pin for Panera's actual recipe from their website and considering the fact that I'm obsessed with macaroni and cheese, I decided to try it!

So, being the super sleuth that I am, I checked out the ingredients on Panera's website first to see how they compared and was horrified.... basically, once I left out all the chemicals listed, what was left was: pasta shells, skim milk, american cheese spread, soybean oil, cream, cheddar cheese, cheese sauce, butter, dry cream, bleached flour and a bunch of other random thickeners I don't feel like typing.  

I wanted to make a Panera copy cat, but wasn't sure that I entirely trusted their recipe - first of all, the ingredients from their website weren't even close to what they listed in their recipe.  The proportion of flour to butter for the roux seemed WAY off and so did the entire tablespoon of dijon mustard.  I modified things using the same proportions that I do for my normal macaroni and cheese and figured I would get a great result... and I did!  It definitely wasn't as creamy as Panera's macaroni and cheese - I didn't bake it like I normally do and I also didn't use full fat cheeses or cream.  I was definitely impressed, using grueye instead of american cheese added a more sophisticated taste. 

Of course, I have my favorite brands of certain products so that's what I used.  I rarely use butter in recipes and often use Smart Balance Light w/Flax instead - it's one of the few brands of margarine that doesn't contain "hidden" trans fat - it's also gluten-free and vegan.  I love the taste too and no they aren't paying me to say this, but yes, I do recommend it to all of my nutrition clients so now I've given you free dietitian advice today.  I used Cabot 50% cheese, but only because I've never seen any other brands of lower fat white cheddar at my store.  I've also heard that Cabot is ridiculously amazing....and it was!

Now, my next goal is to make a mexican inspired macaroni and cheese with jalepenos similar to the one my friends rave about at Nada...or maybe truffle macaroni & cheese...but those are other posts for another day :)

White Cheddar Shells & Cheese, Adapted from Panera Bread


1 - 8oz box + 1 cup quinoa pasta shells
3 tbsp butter or trans-fat free margarine
1/4 cup brown rice flour
8 oz low-fat white cheddar cheese 
1/3 cup shredded gruyere
1/2 tbsp dry mustard 
1/4 tsp hot sauce

1. Bring your water to a boil and throw in your pasta.  Follow the box directions - mine too about 8 minutes
2.  The trickiest part, making the roux.  Melt your butter/margarine in a saucepan over medium low heat, then sprinkle the brown rice flour on top.  Fold the brown rice flour in with a spatula.  Allow the mixture to cook for ~2 minutes.
3.  Pour your skim milk into the flour mixture.  Continue to stir, occasionally scraping the bottom with your spatula.  Turn your heat up to medium high,  your mixture should begin to thicken and your mixture should begin to start to bubble.  Remember, to keep scraping the bottom of the saucepan with your spatula so it doesn't burn.
4.  Turn the heat down to low, add the mustard powder and hot sauce. 
5. Fold in shells to cheese mixture.  Top with a little extra gruyere.

What's your favorite kind of macaroni and cheese? Are you more of a traditionalist or are you more adventurous?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Best Breakfast Ever

Hi there!  I hope your Saturday is off to an amazing start.  So far, I've brunched with friends - which is obviously my favorite way to start off any weekend. The rest of my day will be spent grading and lounging around.  There is nothing I love more than a lazy weekend day... although grading is work, so I'm not technically sure how that counts as lazy.  We're expecting weather next week that's in the 70's, so I'm anticipating this coming week as being a simply fabulous one.  

Today's recipe might just be one of my favorite breakfasts of all time. This recipe is oh so easy and ridiculously delicious.  I've always loved oatmeal... it's so easy to personalize.  My oatmeal always explodes in the microwave, so obviously this recipe requires minimal clean-up compared to my normal oatmeal disasters.  It's also easy to personalize - I used chocolate chips and walnuts - next time, I'll try shredded coconut.  The original recipe used SO MUCH sugar so I cut some things out and changed it around to make it a healthy breakfast that you can enjoy everyday. I loved having the leftovers cold, but I'm sure you could also heat them.  Of course, I topped mine with almond butter :)  Go to your kitchen and prep this for breakfast tomorrow, I promise you won't be disappointed! 

Baked Oatmeal, adapted from Cooking Light


2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts 
1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 egg
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Pre-heat oven to 375.  Spray a 9x9 baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.
2. Combine oats, baking powder, brown sugar, chocolate chips and walnuts in a small bowl, set aside.
3. Combine milk, egg, applesauce, vanilla and butter, stir until combined.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
5. Pour mixture into baking pan and bake for 30 minutes until edges are lightly golden brown.  Cut into four squares.

I'm off to grade :)  Have a great day!

Any big weekend plans? 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday Musings

Hi there :)  Happy Wednesday evening!  I hope that you've had a fabulous day.  We were lucky to be blessed with some unusually warm weather in the Midwest - I'm definitely not complaining.  While I love spring weather, I have to say that I'm a little sad that we didn't at least get one decent snowstorm... but it's only March, so I suppose there is still a little time for it to happen :)

My day was non-eventful - I went home to take care of some things with my grandmother's medications, took my car to the car wash, went grocery shopping and finished The Midwife's Confession.  I had every intention of making it to the gym for an easy cardio day, but the book kept me reading until the very last page as good books often do.  I don't normally post personal thoughts on my blog, but occasionally I do and I felt like I needed to today.  I started this blog for a variety of reasons, but mostly for myself... so that in the future I'd be able to look back on it as a diary of sorts that held my favorite recipes and things that were going on in my life at the time, both the good and also the bad.  I'll admit that the past few months have been very hard for me - graduating was a huge step in my life and I'm so grateful for the friends and family that helped me celebrate it.  Afterwards, it was a different story.... for almost the past 2 years, I've been a graduate student.  My whole identity revolved around classes, learning, working in the nutrition research lab and now it was over... and now that I was done there was one overwhelming obstacle in front of me... finding a full-time career.     
When I finished my dietetic internship, I'm not putting it lightly by saying I had so much trouble finding a full-time job.  I studied hard and passed the RD exam on the first try and then I searched for a couple of months before deciding to pick up a part-time job at the Gap.  I went on numerous interviews where I received great feedback, but sadly was told they decided to hire a candidate with more experience. So many times I received personalized, kind rejection letters - which almost made things worse.  There were really great interviews and really terrible ones. On one interview in particular, I was even told that they didn't like my voice and that I was too tiny... sigh.  To put it bluntly, this period of my life was miserable - I felt so defeated every second of every day.  I had followed my heart and chosen a career that I loved and it was getting me nowhere.  I finally decided to go to graduate school part-time as it seemed like something that could keep me still involved in my field.  When I started graduate school and received a full scholarship and graduate assistantship - thus giving me the opportunity to go full-time, it was the silver lining to all of my clouds and all of the challenges I had been through.  I was able to gain valuable experience in my field, made wonderful friends and completed a thesis that felt like it took me forever and stole some of my sanity.

When graduate school came to an end, I must say that I was terrified.  Of course, I couldn't tell that to people because I was afraid that no one would understand.  I convinced myself that I wouldn't worry about finding a job in December as no one hires then because of the holidays.  I went to Hawaii with my family in early January and started to worry.  I made lists of what I wanted in a career and tried to calm myself and rid myself of my negative shadow - I'd been working part-time as a dietitian and had also worked as a research assistant - I had fabulous experiences and now a MS degree.  I thought outside of the box and considered the possibility of moving within a 2-hour distance of where I live now.  I did not see anything outside of this distance as a possibility for me as my grandmother is ill and I help to coordinate her care.  Besides, she raised me as if I was her own daughter and she was my mother in almost every sense of the word.  She nursed all my wounds and chased away my nightmares.  In all of the world, she is one of the people that I love the most.  Leaving her has never been an option for me and even this 2 hour distance would be rough on my heart...

A little time passed and things started happening, slowly but surely - I had a phone interview for a job that I didn't end up with and attended a presentation for another opportunity in another city for a job in pediatrics (my dream) to be told by the recruiter afterwards that I would be called for an interview shortly - only to never hear from them again.  I fought to stay positive and kept moving ahead... applying for new opportunities, thinking outside the box, focusing on the things I'm doing now and somewhere along the line I felt my faith slipping, slowly at first but then more quickly.  Ironically, I'm incredibly positive about every other area of my life and the multitude of possibilities that are there everyday... but not with this.  I've been fighting to keep my faith, to stay positive, to believe in God's timing - but I'll admit it's becoming challenging and I feel the way I did before - completely and totally defeated.  So much of my identity is wrapped up in being a dietitian, after all, I chose this career path because I wanted to help other people.  I followed my heart and I've never once doubted that it's the career for me... I truly do love what I do.  All that I feel I can do right now is to sum it all up in the words of Mary Anne Radmacher, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."  

If you've read my random musings - thank you for listening... so now it's time to enjoy What I Ate Wednesday, which as always included lots of unpictured green tea....

baked oatmeal with peanut butter & strawberries
hummus veggie sandwich with more veggies & sweet potato fries
mini larabar, so cute
dark chocolate raw macaroon with peanut butter x 2
greek salad with ground pepper & oregano
white cheddar mac & cheese... recipe coming soon!

See you tomorrow with a recipe for baked oatmeal :)

What was your favorite part of your Wednesday? Any advice on how to stay more positive about my current situation? 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Throw It All Together

Happy Sunday evening friends :)  I hope that you've had a nice little weekend.  While I didn't do anything out of the ordinary, my weekend was just the relaxing one that I needed.  I spent a lot of time with my good friends and relaxed.  I also made an incredible stir-fry last night that I enjoyed in my pajamas on the couch while watching all of the episodes of New Girl.  Tonight's agenda includes a gluten-free cookie from Trader Joe's and Lifetime movies!

Oh and before I forget, a recipe for you. When I was in college, one of my roommates would always make pasta with olive oil and parmesan.  It's such a simple dish but loaded with flavor - almost like a grown up version of the noodles with butter that I'm sure we all ate as children :)  I've kept it in the back of my repertoire and when I'm feeling lazy and have parmesan, I'll throw it together.  However, it's basically become impossible for me to eat pasta without "healthifying" it.  So, I expanded upon this simple dish and came up with the recipe below.....  

Parmesan Pasta


1/2 cup brown rice pasta
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Boil brown rice pasta according to package directions - during last minute of cooking, add frozen edamame.  Drain.
2. Add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and parmesan.  Toss to coat!

Love these noodles - such a fun shape!
 What's your favorite noodle shape?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Easier Than Boxed

Hi there :)  I hope you're staying cozy and warm wherever you might be this weekend.  I also hope that you didn't have any bad weather and are safe - we had some mighty scary storms in the Midwest yesterday.  I never used to get scared of the weather but now I'm a total fraidy cat.  Today, I was pretty lazy.  I went shopping for a pair of colored denim but my trip was totally unsuccessful - I don't want to spend a lot for a style that might not be around next year - but I couldn't find anything that fit regardless of the price.  I ended up shopping with one of my friends instead and came home with a new candle :)

When I was younger, I used to love the blue box macaroni and cheese.  It was so easy and so cheesy.  It makes me think of winter days when the nights would start so early and I could cuddle up with a big bowl of mac & cheese.  Every time winter would come, I would crave that blue box.... but somewhere along the line, I stopped eating it...

Obviously, I still love macaroni and cheese - it's one of my favorite meals, especially with edamame.  Very rarely do I buy the box kind anymore - Annie's and Trader Joe's both make gluten-free versions but they just don't seem to be the same as what I remember from my childhood and teenage years.  Now, when I make macaroni and cheese I go by my favorite recipe ever (you can find it on my recipe page, but I'm constantly adapting it, so I'm sure there will be another update in the future) but sometimes I just don't feel like putting the work in of making the roux, gathering all my ingredients and buying skim milk.... 

A couple of days ago, I modified a recipe that I had seen in Cooking Light.  I had created a single serve version before and I remembered it being pretty good, not to mention ridiculously easy.  The only thing I needed to buy for this was cottage cheese.  The idea is genius - you blend the cottage cheese in a food processor to make a creamy sauce and add cheddar to it.  Then, you pour it over your pasta and bake it.  The original recipe used less cheddar and full-fat cheeses, but I modified it to cut out more calories but not flavor.  Of course, I added edamame which made it slightly less creamy since there was less sauce to go around.  It's just as easy as adding the powdered cheese to milk, but so much more flavorful.  Enjoy!  

Simple Macaroni & Cheese, adapted from Cooking Light


8 oz quinoa pasta
16 oz edamame, shelled
1 1/2 cups 2% cottage cheese
1 cup 2% sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp pepper
1 slice gluten free bread
2 tbsp dried parsley

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring water to a boil, add pasta and cook for 8 minutes.  Add edamame, cooking for 1-2 more minutes.  Drain.
2. Meanwhile, process cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth.  Add cheddar, 1/4 cup of parmesan and pepper. Process again until combined.
3. Add cheese sauce to pasta, stir until combined.  Pour into six 2 cup glass dishes (or use one large baking dish)
4. Combine bread, parsley & remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan in a food processor.  Top pasta with bred crumb mixture.
5. Bake for 12 minutes until top is lightly browned. 

simple and delicious

I baked mine in 6 mini dishes :)

Do you love the blue box or are you a baked mac & cheese person?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Outfits Inspired by Pinterest

Hi there friends :)  Happy Thursday.  I hope your day is off to a fantastic start.  My plans for the day include coffee with one of my friends, possibly going to spinning and working a nutrition event in my old dorm.  Taking a flashback in time that's for sure! 

So, I'm not entirely sure if anyone is as obsessed with pinterest as I am, but I'm sure plenty of you are :)  I've pinned more pins than I can count and a few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to start putting my style board to good use.  Which, means that today instead of the usual recipe post, I'm going to be presenting you with pinterest outfit ideas and ways that you can copy these looks yourself!

Top - Threads for Thought Organic Cotton Tee (not what I have, but similar)
Blazer- Gap (mine is old, but this is similar)
Cheetah Scarf - Mine was a gift, find a similar one here
Jeans - J Brand 910 Skinny 
Boots - Rampage Bradshaw Boot

Top - Gap (mine is old, get a similar look with this)
Sweater -  Gap (mine is old, but this is similar)
Necklace - Target (not what I have, get a similar look with this)
Watch -  My grandpa's :)
Jeans - Gap Vintage Flare (no longer made, find a similar look with these)

Pin It

What's your pinterest name?  Leave it in the comments so I can follow you!