Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pizza Monkey Bread

I found this on pinterest (as usual) and made it tonight for a Halloween party. It took about 45 minutes prep time and was worth every minute in my humble opinion. It's a good finger food for appetizers, and I'll probably make it again for future bowl game (if Navy could actually win a game...), Super Bowl, and when all if right in the world again, baseball game parties. The original recipe called for homemade pizza dough, but considering my husband got home from the grocery store about 2 hours after I sent him for 4 things, I'm glad I opted for the ready-made pizza dough. This can be easily customized for your favorite pizza toppings. Here's what I used:

4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 Pillsbury ready-made pizza doughs
1 package of pepperoni (I need about 50)
fresh mushrooms
1 lb block of mozzarella, cut into .5 inch cubes

Melt the butter on medium heat and mix in garlic. With a basting brush, cover the sides of a bundt (or fluted) pan with garlic butter. Roll off small (golf ball size) balls of dough and flatten. Place a pepperoni, a couple mushrooms, and a cube of cheese on each of the flattened doughs and pinch sides closed around toppings. Brush with garlic butter and place in the bundt pan. Continue with remaining ingredients. Brush remaining garlic butter on top of bread in pan. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning over onto a plate. Serve with warm marinara sauce. There was none leftover, so I think it was a hit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Easy Crock Pot Zucchini Spaghetti

Today, Luke and I are celebrating 4 months of marital bliss. Like a lot of our friends, we are on the newlywed budget, which means no fancy dinners at Italian restaurants : ) But who needs fancy when you've got a crock pot and a few leftover bottles of red wine from the wedding?

This recipe only took 1 1/2 hours to make in the crock pot, which is a little silly in my opinion. Isn't the point of a crock pot to throw it in, go about your day, and come home 8-10 hours later to an already-cooked dinner? Anyway... it only took about 15 minutes to put together, so that's a plus in my book. Did I mention we're low on time lately? There's nothing gourmet or fancy about this, but it sure was delicious!

1 box whole wheat spaghetti, uncooked
1 16 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I like Ragu garden harvest because it has several servings of vegetables)
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup park-skim mozzarella, shredded
1 tsp Italian seasoning
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 large zucchini, shredded

Combine ricotta, mozzarella (save a little to sprinkle on top), Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. In the crock pot, layer as follows: spaghetti sauce, spaghetti (broken in half), cheese mixture, zucchini. I had enough for 3 layers of each. Cook on high for 1.5 hours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

Are you starting to detect a theme in these posts? I love pumpkin because not only is it so delicious, but it's also a vegetable with lots of fiber...the chocolate chips are negligible... ;-)

As most of you know, I am working toward my Master's in counseling. A big theme that is emphasized in counseling is "self-care" which is pretty self-explanatory. As you may have guessed, baking/ice creaming is my favorite form of self-care. So after a very trying week last week, I was overdue for some baking. I kind of made this recipe up, and it turned out pretty well! If you prefer the taste of pumpkin over chocolate, cut the chocolate chips back to 1/2 cup. Also, I would just like to state that I am not comfortable using the term "brownies" for something that is not brown. But I couldn't come up with anything clever to call them instead. Suggestions welcome.

1 can pumpkin
1 egg
2 egg whites
2 tbsp low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 shakes of cinnamon (....I don't always measure)
3 quick shakes of pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine all wet ingredients in one bowl and all dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) in another bowl. After each is well blended, combine ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips. Spray brownie pan with nonstick spray and bake at 350 for ~30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. We like our brownies to be gooey, so if you like cake-like brownies, bake longer or use 2 eggs and 1 egg white instead of combination listed above.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Turkey Chili

Luke isn't very picky when it comes to food, and he gives me way more kitchen ego boosts than I deserve. His only request is that dinners include meat - lots of meat - so I was a little nervous about how turkey chili would be received. He loved it so much that I made another batch only a week later. I found this recipe on Skinny Crock Pot and changed it just a bit to fit our taste and the things I actually had in my pantry. It's very low in fat (unless you add all the cheese pictured below...oops) and super high in both protein and fiber!

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
5-6 shakes of black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine these ingredients and "brown" turkey in a skillet on medium-low heat until it's not pink anymore. Drain fat from turkey.

1 can kidney beans with liquid
1 can black beans with liquid
1 can corn with liquid
1 can diced tomatoes (no salt is better)
1 can tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup water

Add turkey and all other ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. Stir before serving. We like to eat this with cornbread, and Luke likes it with shredded cheddar cheese on top, which is pretty much all that is visible in this photo.

Super Easy Chocolate Brownie Trifle

I made this for a couples Bible study over the weekend, and I think it must have been a hit based on the fact that more than half was eaten by only two couples : ) My mom has made this for several family get-togethers, and it's a great dessert that can easily be made "light".

1 box brownie mix
-1/4 cup Low-fat vanilla yogurt
-1 egg
-1/4 cup water

2 tubs fat-free Cool Whip
3 packs sugar-free Chocolate pudding
3 cups skim milk
1/2 bag dark chocolate M&Ms

Make the brownie mix according to the instructions on the package, or directly substitute the oil with low fat vanilla yogurt (my favorite substitute for brownies - makes them very fudge-y). The ingredients I listed below the brownie mix are just what I used; other brownie mixes may call for more. Once the brownies are done, let cool completely and then cut into 1x1 inch squares (mine completely crumbled, but no worries - just as delicious).

While the brownies are in the oven, whisk together the 3 packages of SF pudding and milk until it's incorporated. Add 1 tub of Cool Whip to pudding mixture and whisk together until the batter looks thicker. Chop M&Ms in a food chopper.

In a trifle bowl, layer as follows: 1. brownie chunks/crumbs 2. pudding mixture 3. Cool Whip 4. chopped M&Ms 5. Repeat - I was able to repeat 3 times with my bowl, but it was shorter than a typical trifle bowl. Keep chilled until you serve it.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Christmas Ornament

What to do with all those extra wedding invitations? We made a Christmas ornament! I cut an invitation, reply card, and one of those folders to hold all of the info into thin strips and stuffed them into a glass ball ornament ($4.49 for 4 at Michaels) with one of the ribbons that we tied on the invites. Then I tied a ribbon around the top and ta-da! Wedding invitation Christmas ornament!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chip Oreo Ice Cream

Luke loves the peanut butter Oreo ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop, Annapolis Ice Cream Company. I've been trying to copy it (actually, I've been trying to one-up it), and according to Luke, this recipe did the trick!

1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 shots Torani sugar free chocolate syrup (I buy this at World Market)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 "row" of peanut butter Oreos, crushed

Mix the first 5 ingredients until incorporated. Add the heavy cream and mix. Put the batter in an ice cream maker for 18 minutes. Add the peanut butter chips and Oreos and blend for 2 more minutes. Freeze ice cream 4-6 hours. You can also make this without an ice cream maker; just blend ingredients and freeze 8-10 hours (cinnamon chips might sink to the bottom).

Chocolate Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend, mainly because I know I won't have time once the week starts. I've been on an ice cream making kick since summer, and I made 2 flavors this week. First: chocolate cinnamon chocolate chip

1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 shots Torani sugar free chocolate syrup (I buy this at World Market)
2 cups half & half (you can also use heavy cream if you want creamier ice cream)
1/2 cup Hershey's mini chocolate chips

Mix first 5 ingredients until incorporated. Add half & half. Put batter in ice cream maker for 18 minutes. Add chocolate chips and blend for 2 more minutes. Freeze for 4-6 hours or until it reaches desired consistency. If you don't have a ice cream maker, just freeze it for 8-10 hours. The chocolate chips might sink, so you may want to reserve them to sprinkle on top. This is my favorite ice cream I've made so far!

Don't Forget to Laugh

This week has been particularly stressful for both of us. Luke had a lot of catching up to do at work from being out of town last week, and since I am closing in on midterm at school, I spent a lot of time preparing my case files for audits and wondering if I had even come close to doing it right. After being out of town 3 out of the last 4 weekends, our house hasn't quite recovered from the suitcases, laundry, and mail that we put down for "later". Looking around the house, the list of things to do seems to be never ending, so we vowed to clean it this weekend, which left both of us in kind of a sour mood.

While we were cleaning this afternoon, we had Pandora on to try to make the messy house a happier place. When Blues Traveler came on, we both dropped what we were doing and danced in the living room. I kind of wish we had a camera recording this incident because I am CERTAIN that we could have been youtube sensations and probably ended up on Ellen based on the sheer ridiculousness of this dance (if you've ever seen my husband dance before, you know what I'm talking about). Which brings me to my point: making time to be completely goofy and laugh at ourselves was just what we needed. If you find that you are easily offended, don't quite get other people's jokes, are constantly ruminating on what's wrong in your life, chances are you're not taking the time to laugh. Sure, life is serious and we all have serious issues going on, but we'll never survive if that's what we focus on.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

The stores are finally stocked with pumpkin, and I have once again single-handedly provided the pumpkin farmers of America their yearly salaries. Here's an easy recipe for fall breakfasts.

1 can pumpkin purée
2/3 cup applesauce (the original recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I wouldn't dare)
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar (see why I refuse the oil?)
3 cups all purpose flour (you can also do 1 1/2 cups each of all purpose and whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 bag of chocolate chips (or heck, pour in the whole bag)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.
2. Mix pumpkin purée, applesauce, eggs, and sugar until well blended.
3. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until combined. Fold in chocolate chips (and reserve a few to eat for yourself).
4. Spoon batter into muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 2 dozen*.

*only 20 featured here for obvious reasons. I call this a Pye's dozen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


As it turns out, today is a big day for us. Fruit flies have invaded our house. We noticed a couple when we got back from Orlando. Now it appears that this couple has discovered each other, fallen in love, and shared a marriage bed about 1,000 times. Their spawns are quickly making themselves at home. And it also appears that the spawns are partaking in incestuous behavior because they are reproducing at a rate similar to...well, I won't go there. It looks like all that preparedness training from Dad is going to pay off. If they don't surrender peacefully, they're not going to enjoy being introduced to my friends Smith and Wesson.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

For those of you who know me well, you know I am all about baking/ice creaming/cooking/etc. Here's a recipe I tried last night - it turned out to be really delicious!

2 cups skim milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half & half
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp mint (or peppermint) extract
3 drops green food coloring
1/2 cup Hershey's mint chocolate chips
1/2 cup Hershey's mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except chocolate chips. Stir until sugar is incorporated. If you have an ice cream maker, pour batter in and mix for 18 minutes. Add chocolate chips and let stir for 2 more minutes. Transfer batter into a freezer-safe container and freeze 4-8 hours depending of texture preference. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can skip that step and just freeze your ice cream for a longer time period - probably around 12 hours. In this case, your chocolate chips will probably sink to the bottom, so you may want to reserve some to sprinkle on top when you eat it! Delicious!

Just Getting Started

We are new to blogging but looking forward to it! In a sense we're just getting started in a lot of ways. Though we've been together for 5 years, marriage is a new endeavor, and we are learning new things every day! We are both also just getting started in our career fields with Luke in a new position with the Marine Corps and me beginning my clinical counseling internship. We're both really excited for all of the learning experiences we've been presented with, and we're also feeling very blessed for this time of semi-normalcy before Luke starts TBS.

We just got back from a trip to Orlando. Luke is currently on temporary duty with the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, and MCRC sent him to a conference in Orlando to coach a team of undergrads in a competition hosted by STEM. Luke had a great time coaching and learning from new leadership opportunities, and I had a great time reading Atlas Shrugged by the pool (for the 3 hours it wasn't raining). Before heading home on Sunday, we got a chance to go to Epcot, and we had a blast! It was nice to be able to enjoy a place with child-like excitement. And as for us, we're getting back into the swing of work after a relaxing and fun long weekend!