Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Your Favorite Kind of Cake...


Who says pancakes can't be healthy?  If you eat them in a restaurant, they are usually full of butter and drenched in syrup...the epitome of fat and sugar!  But if you stay in your robe and slippers and make them at home, you might be surprised how light and fluffy you feel afterwards!

I use Hodgson Mill Buckwheat pancake mix and follow the directions on the box.  And then I add about a cup of oatmeal!  

The oatmeal adds a little heartiness to the cakes, and creates a great texture.

Top with some vanilla yogurt, fruit, and a touch of maple syrup if you just can't live without it.  Or make them your own and add whatever you want! Enjoy!

Combine with a long, leisurely walk taking a good look at the changing leaves.  It only comes once a year!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

After School Munchies

After a long, crazy day at work, coming home feels like heaven.  I kick my work shoes off, throw my purse aside, and slowly feel myself unwind from the day.  Sometimes I have the urge to lace up my running shoes and run a few miles around the neighborhood.  Other days I manage to get myself back in the car with my yoga mat and spend some time at the local YMCA.  But sometimes, I just need to postpone exercise and relax.  These are usually the days I feel like I got enough exercise running around at school chasing kids!

No matter what my agenda is after school, I'm always in the mood for a snack.  Stress has a tricky way of making us crave salty, sugary, fatty foods.  My solution?  Don't buy them!  Instead, try to fill your pantry with foods that will satiate your palate without going on a total binge of potato chips and chocolate cookies.

As an example, here is an after school snack that includes a little fat, a little salt, and a little sugar.  In addition, it includes fresh items that pack in a lot of great vitamins, minerals, and protein.

sliced apples with homemade peanut butter and blueberry vanilla granola

See how to make your own peanut butter HERE.

So before you let your stress craving control you, take a deep breath and spend some time with your after school snack.  I promise it will be worth it.

Combine with...GROUP EXERCISE!  My gym puts on a great PUMP class that is about 45 minutes and targets arms, back, legs, and abs.  Sometimes working out with a group is what you need to get yourself moving!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Apples!

If you still have a bag of apples sitting in your kitchen, it's time to make apple soup!  This is a very easy recipe that is simple, wholesome, and delicious. 

You will need:
-7-9 apples, any variety
-1 sweet onion
-2 tbs. canola oil
-1 cup milk/cream

Chop the onion into medium sized pieces and cook on medium low in a big pot with the canola oil.  Peel and slice the apples and add them to the pot.  Slowly add water to allow the onions and apples to steam and cook down.  Turn the heat to medium.  When the onions and apples are soft (about 30 minutes), remove from heat and pour into a blender.  Blend until liquified.  Return the mixture to the pot and heat on low.  Add milk, cinnamon and cloves.  Add more or less spice as you see fit...I only added about 1/2 tsp of cloves and 1 tsp of cinnamon to keep the flavor of the onions intact.

Serve with some crunchy bread and enjoy!

Combine with a 30 minute walk (pushing it!) and a 15 minute strength session...even if it's just alternating between push-ups and lunges.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Try a Chicken Pot Pie

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be raised by a mother who was a fantastic cook.  She receives this coveted label not only for the healthy, tasty dishes she prepared, but also because she planned her meals and cooked every night.  I remember her sitting down at the kitchen table with coupons spread out in front of her, carefully making a list of meals we would enjoy in the next 5-7 days and creating a detailed corresponding grocery list.  She would sometimes ask us, the kids, for suggestions.  Oftentimes, one of us would blurt out "chicken pot pie!!"  A warm gooey, chicken and vegetable filling inside a buttery, flaky crust...who wouldn't want to come home from school and smell a chicken pot pie in the oven?

Talk about the ultimate comfort food! 

So I will share this delicious recipe with you and hope that it brings you as much comfort as it always does for me.

You will need:
-3-4 cooked chicken breasts (cook them however you want, boiled, baked...)
-1/2 box low fat/low sodium chicken broth
-5 red potatoes
-parsley (other spices you want, ex. pepper)
-1/2 sweet onion
-1-2 stalks celery
-1-2 big carrots or 7-8 small carrots
-3/4 cup corn
-any other veggies you like (mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, peas)
-3 tbs butter
-3 tbs flour

Cook chicken and set aside.
Cut veggies and boil in water with a pinch of salt until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add corn and drain.  Cook butter, flour, parsley, and other spices on low-medium heat until mixed thoroughly.  Add veggies and stir, slowly adding chicken broth until veggies are in a nice gravy.  Add more flour and butter if you need to.  Test for flavor!
Remove from stove.  Cut the chicken into small pieces, add to veggie mixture and mix.
Spray a pie pan with non-stick oil and line with a pie crust.  Scoop chicken mixture into the crust, filling to the top.  Cover with second pie crust and pinch shut.  Stab with a knife 2-3 times.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 35-40 minutes.
You might want to put a pan underneath the pie in case it bubbles and drips out.  Inside of pie should be bubbling!

*I need some more practice with pie crusts from scratch, so I'll give you that recipe later!

Thanks Mom, for so many delicious pot pies over the years!

Combine with some competitive sport playing!  Dig out that old tennis racquet or basketball and head to a park.  Even if you are not good, it doesn't matter!  It's fun, you will work a whole new set of muscles, and who knows, you might be better than you thought!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Apples Apples Everywhere!

Tis the season for apple picking!  Find a local orchard, grab a friend or two and pick a peck or bushel for a good time and delicious dishes to follow.  Mr. PT and I found a great orchard nearby with several different varieties of apples and picked 1/2 bushel.  So far we have enjoyed apple tarts, apple sauce, and apple muffins!  Hopefully this entry will inspire you to channel your inner Johnny Appleseed.

French Apple Tart

I actually borrowed this recipe from Ina Garten...that woman knows what she's doing!  It was quite simple to make and the final product was beautiful and delicious!  

I actually made this tart instead of cake for Mr. PT's birthday.  It was a nice change!

Next, Mr. PT helped me peel apples for apple sauce.  This is a very simple recipe to follow and a great way to use a bunch of apples if you have them!

Fill the bottom of a big pot with about 1/4 inch of water.  Peel and slice as many apples as you can fit in your pot and let them simmer and steam until they are mushy and at your desired consistency (either more lumpy or smooth).  I added 2 cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla, and a little honey.  That's it!  I plan on taking this to school for lunch, eating it on pancakes, and freezing it for later! Yum!

Now it's time for apple cinnamon muffins.  This is a recipe I got from my sister's mother-in-law when Mr. PT and I tied the knot (thanks Bobbi!).  They are an easy muffin to make and not overly sweet.

You will need:
-3 cups flour
-2 cups sugar
-1 tbs baking powder
-1 stick butter melted

Mix all together and set aside a heaping cup of above mixture for muffin topping later.  To remaining mixture add:
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 tbs cinnamon
-1 cup apples (chopped into small pieces)

Mix these and pour into muffin pans with cupcake paper liners.  Fill papers 3/4 full saving room for crumble topping.

To the cup of mixture set aside earlier add:
-2 tbs melted butter
-1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all. Sprinkle on top of batter in pans. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Test with toothpick insert.  Makes 20-22 muffins!

After all this, I still have a serious amount of apples left, so stay tuned for more yummy apple ideas!

Combine with an orchard hike, followed by a steady bike ride on your favorite path.  Enjoy this autumn weather while it lasts!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Squash Soup

Acorn squash is a food item you see everywhere this time of year.  They are hanging out with the pumpkins as decoration or being cooked up into a mushy substance you sprinkle with nutmeg.  To be honest, I have always been a little intimidated by the idea of cooking an acorn squash and eating it.  It just seemed too....jack-o-lantern-y.  But I recently attended a cooking demonstration where I got to watch firsthand an experienced chef cut up an acorn squash and turn it into a delicious soup with only a few other ingredients!  My confidence was boosted so I had to try this at home. 

The hardest part of this soup is peeling and cutting the squash themselves.  They are pretty tough and require a good, sharp knife.  I might consider baking or boiling the squash before cutting them next time to make this process easier.  Any suggestions from experienced squash cookers?

Anyway, I found out that one squash fills about one bowl of soup, so if you are cooking for a lot of people you might want to make this ahead of time!  My proportions serve two people.

You will need:
-1 big sweet onion
-2 acorn squash
-1/2 cup cream (more or less as needed)
-1/4 cup brown sugar

Start out by chopping your onion into small-medium pieces.  Throw these in a pot with some canola oil and let them simmer.  Once the oil has been "soaked up," add water and continue to add water to create a broth and allow the veggies to steam.  While the onions are cooking, use your sharp knife to chop off the top of the acorn squash to give yourself a flat surface.  Starting at the top and moving your knife down, peel away the tough exterior.  This may take a while, as you will want to get the entire peel off.  Repeat for both squash.

Scoop out the innards of the squash then cut the squash into cubes.  Throw the cubes into the pot with the onions and water.  Again, continue to add water to allow the veggies to steam.  Season with a pinch of salt.

Once the squash is cooked and soft, pull out your blender!  Transfer the squash, onion and liquid mix into your blender and liquify.  Add your cream and blend some more!

Transfer the blended mix back into your pot and cook over medium heat as you add your nutmeg, brown sugar, and vanilla.  I added some cloves as well!  Season more or less as you like.  It is very important to taste this soup as you go!

Mmm...this soup was so delicious!  I loved the way the nutmeg really brought out the taste of the squash.  It was a perfect autumn dish.

Combine with a brisk walk or run combined with a solid 15-20 minutes of stretching.  Your muscles will be warm from the cardio exercise and your body will love you for the time you take to get limber!