Friday, April 25, 2014

No Soda and Other Stuff...

So this past Monday, I gave up all least while I'm withdrawing. I make no promises that when my monthly aunt visit comes around, that I will not break down and have a real coca cola, but I need to get off of as much sugar as I can... and all the artificial stuff if possible. I feel like the little engine that could: " I think I can, I think I can..." Let me say after 5 days, I know I can!   Here's how the week progressed for me soda free.

Day 1:   No soda (no coca cola or diet soda of any kind)...I have drunk more water today than I've had in a long time. It’s evening now and I was pretty busy today so I didn't miss it too much during the daytime hours. Now, however, its wind down from the day time, and while I’m not “jonesing” for a diet soda, I am missing it a little bit. I also have a slight headache. Today I have only had water and unsweetened iced tea with lemon and lime. I almost got some sugar free hard candies, but then realized those were sweetened with artificial sweeteners as well so I decided against it.
I’m mostly concerned about artificial sweeteners because they are not real food, and I hear they play heck with your insulin levels. As someone who worries about diabetes, getting off the stuff just makes sense. I also am concerned about tummy bloating which is also said to be a byproduct of artificial sweeteners. I don’t know that they make me crave more sweet stuff, but they do make me crave more soda. I read an article about the sodium in soda causing you to retain water as well. I have never thought of that before, but I can totally see that. This is hard.
Day 2 and 3:  Oh my lord, my head hurts! still staying strong though. really missing the soda flavor.
Day 4:   Went through  Mickey D's to get husband a coffee,  and I did not get a coke or diet coke. I thought about it briefly, but did not do it. Not having the sugary sweetening taste in my mouth feels good. Still have a slight headache although it's better.
Day 5:  Keeping a Vitamin Water 0 in the fridge to take sips of periodically as a “helper” (Thanks for the tip Jennie Mulhall). One of them lasts me several days. I don’t drink them all at once because they still taste sweet to me, and even if Stevia is the sweetener, I want to avoid all if possible.Only a slight headache today...wanting a soda less. I am feeling cleaner. Not sure how to explain that.
Stay tuned for more about kicking the soda habit.

On Maple Syrup:  The big Costco Maple Syrup is by far the best syrup value I have found. Between the kids using it for breakfast and me cooking with it, maple syrup doesn't seem to last too long in our house. One thing you have noticed if you use maple syrup is that the openings are large. In our house this causes waste when the kids use too much because they forget how fast it comes out. To solve this, I have started using a Wilton cake decorating bottle (really cheap at Michael's) to control the flow. So far, this is working perfectly. I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

On homemade, no bake granola bars:  I made some very delicious granola bars this week. The flavor was great, and they looked yummy too. The only problem is that they didn't hold together very well. I'm not sure if I need to press them down more or if I need to adjust my ingredients. I'm going to try them again next week and once they are perfected, I'll post the stay tuned. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

I found a basic recipe for Emeril's Split Pea Soup that I wanted to try Here is the original recipe.  I,  of course, decided to change it up just a bit by omitting the salt,adding diced carrots and ham, and using a lot less oil. I also kept some texture to my soup and did not puree it all the way like Emeril did. I don't care for pureed soups. Instead, I need more texture. I also used less onion and garlic.

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

1 cup diced onion 
Spritz of olive oil (I use a misto)
A few generous pepper shakes of black pepper
3/4 c diced carrot
1 good shake crushed red pepper
3/4 Tbsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf 
1 1/4 pounds dried spit peas*
8 c low sodium chicken broth 
A leftover hunk of ham
1 c skim milk

Rinse and drain peas. Pick through them to weed out any bad ones.
 In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the onion carrot, and hunk of ham if using. (I normally wouldn't have thought to use this ingredient, but I still had a little ham frozen from leftovers at Christmas.) Then add a little bit of water to your pot for sweat sauteing. Next, spritz the top of the veggies with an olive oil misto if you have one. (Using the misto is great because it allows me to use only a fine olive oil mist making it easier for me to actually control my oil better. If you don't have one, that's okay, but a misto makes adding the oil so easy.) Season the veggie mixture with black pepper and a little crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes. Next add garlic, bay leaf, and split peas. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. The peas should be tender and breaking apart.  Let the soup cool slightly, and then add the milk and stir to combine.  Remove bay leaf and ham hunk if using. Put about half of the pea and carrot mixture and some juice in a blender and blend till smooth.  Add the pureed pea mixture back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve hot or cool a little while longer before storing in the fridge.  Serve with crusty bread and a little garnish of salt and hot sauce if desired.

This recipe gets 5 spoons. Both DH and I LOVED it and he said it was the best split peas soup he's ever had.(That's high praise)  Thanks, Emeril, for a basic recipe I could work with to make it more of my own. Check out all of Emeril's recipes because he really does rock!

*I used 1 # of split peas, however, because I didn't plan to puree the entire pot of soup, it didn't seem like I had enough peas to make it thick enough for me. Because I thought it was too thin,  I ended up using about 2 Tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour blended with some of the juice to thicken the soup base, and it worked really well. Next time, I will use 1 1/4 # of split peas for a little more bulk.

I think this soup could be made vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken, omitting the ham altogether, and using a nondairy milk substitute. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Bean Patties

Even though I am vegetarian, sometimes I just get the hankering for a good "burger." I haven't eaten a real burger in several years, but I have tried many black bean burger recipes. Some have been better than others, but none have been terrible. I decided to give it another go last week, and while my creation was not a "burger," it was a bean patty to be proud of. I may tweak this recipe when I make it again (more on that later), but its pretty good just the way it is. Here's how I did it:

Black Bean Patties


  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c bread crumbs and a heaping 1/2 c Panko
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder (more or less according to taste-I used 1/2  tsp)
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (I use Trader Joe's brand)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's 
  • Extra Tony Chachere's for sprinkling 

How To

In a bowl, mash your beans. There is really no magical way to do this. You can pulse them in a food processor to the desired consistency, or you can mash 1 can and leave 1 can whole, or you can fork or hand mash both cans like I did. Next time, I may try the food processor (less mess :)

Once your beans are the consistency you want, mix all other ingredients together (except the extra Tony Chachere's). Your mixture will be wet, but still manageable. If it's too wet for you, simply add some more bread crumbs. See review below for other ideas.

Patties before cooking

After cooking...nice and brown

Separate into 6 balls and flatten into patties. Then sit them in the fridge separated by wax paper or parchment. This lets the flavors meld and helps patties to form and firm up. I made my bean mixture in the morning and cooked them at dinner time. I sprayed my griddle with nonstick spray, sprinkled the patties with extra Tony Chachere's, and cooked the patties over md heat till browned on one side. Then I flipped them over and cooked them till brown on the other side. They browned beautifully and stuck together well. Serve and eat. Yum.


On a bun as a burger
While these were great patties, they were not "burgers." They were crisp on the outside, but softer on the inside...tasty, but not the burger consistency I was hoping for. DH was skeptical because he doesn't like the general consistency of black bean patties, but he said they were good. He didn't love them, but they were better than he expected them to be. For him it is a total consistency issue. 

On a tortilla with  melted cheese
and light  sour cream
I thought they were really tasty and versatile. I ate them 3 ways over the course of a week: on a bun, as a "burger," crumbled on a salad with corn, salsa, and ranch, aka taco salad (no photo), and crumbled on a whole wheat tortilla with sour cream and melted cheese and rolled up like a burrito.

Rolled up to eat like a burrito
I am wondering if mixing some Boca crumbles in it will help to make the consistency more burger like. I don't know. Or perhaps a grain like rice or quinoa. I will definitely keep working on this.  I think this will also help keep the mixture from being just a tad too wet.

These froze and reheated well.

Enjoy! This recipe get 3 1/2 spoons. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vegetable Soup Yum Yum

Last week I made a big pot of vegetarian vegetable soup. I say vegetarian because it had no meat in it. I don't have a problem with chicken and beef flavored broths, but if you do just use the vegetable broth and it will still be delicious.

I eat soups all year round, even in the summer. As long as I'm cool, soup is good for me. I don't always like cooking it in the summer though. Turning the stove on just makes the house hot and in the desert you really want no part of that. 

I always make good vegetable soup, but this time around it was extra specially delicious... Not sure why.  I rarely follow my own recipe exactly, but I do have a basic recipe that I go by and it is petty good. I am a "put some spice in and taste it" kind of girl so my spice measurements are a guideline. Below is my recipe. It is delish and doesn't take all day to make. It's great to make on the weekend so you can enjoy it all week long.You can use whatever veggies you and your family like, but the ones I use ( roasted corn, baby limas, peas, and greenbeans) are my go to vegetable soup veggies.

DH also noticed that this batch of soup was particularly good. The only thing I did differently was subbed Pinot Noir (Little Black Dress brand, but any will do) instead of red cooking wine since I had run out. I'm not sure if that little switch alone was enough to elevate this soup, but it must have because that was the only difference. 


Vegetable Soup 

In a soup pot, put a little water. Add the following ingredients:
  • 3/4 c diced onion
  • 1 1/2 stalks chopped celery
  • 2 sliced carrots
  • 1 1/2 tsp bottled minced garlic (or 3 cloves, minced)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good sprinkling of Spike Seasoning over all

Water saute till veggies are soft. 

Next add
  • 8 c low sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 c water
  • 1/2 -1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c low sodium V8 or a 12 oz bottle
  • 1/8 c red wine
  • 1 Tbsp each oregano and basil
  • 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • A pinch or two of sage
  • 2 1/2 tsp beef bouillon
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed*

 *sometimes I use beans and sometimes I used barely...I like the beans better because as they break down they add a starchy texture and flavor to the soup that makes it taste heartier since it has no meat in it.

Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Taste the broth and re season to taste. This is where I add extra oregano usually and sometimes more sage and bouillon if needed. Another spice that I used to put in was thyme, but I didn't use it this time and I didn't miss it. I suggest you use whatever vegetable soup spices you and your family enjoy.

Next add 

  • 1 large chopped potato (this also gives good starch breakdown.)
  • 2 c of frozen veggies (usually baby limas, peas, Trader Joe's frozen  fire roasted corn, and green beans)

Bring the soup back to a boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes more. Taste broth again and re season if needed. Turn off heat, lid it, and let soup sit in post till it cools slightly before you put it away. This extra "wait time" really helps the flavors to meld. I do my soup like this because I generally make it in the morning, then store it in the fridge, and DH and I warm up bowls of it in the microwave whenever we want it. If I were going to make it later in the day and serve it for dinner, I would still want some "wait time," 30 minutes at least. And don't forget to remove the bay leaf!

I have also used fresh sliced zucchini in the past. If you use zucchini or yellow squash just make sure to add those with about 5 minutes left of cooking or they will get too mushy.

This is a 5 spooner soup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole

I had been looking for a recipe that all the kids would eat, that was a casserole, and that was relatively inexpensive. Bubble up pizza recipes kept coming up when I was searching the web, and I was intrigued. What do all my kids love, I thought? Cheeseburgers. So, I searched cheeseburger casserole recipes, but most used a tomato base as a sauce with ketchup and mustard involved, and quite frankly, they didn't look that good. My boys all eat their cheeseburgers plain so I knew that the casseroles I was seeing would not work. I never saw a Bubble Up Cheeseburger recipe, but I figured it couldn't be too difficult, so I figured out how I wanted to do it and voila! Here is my recipe complete with notes and reviews from my boys. Since this was the first time I ever made this dish, I expected that it would be a first draft that I would revise before making a final copy. I was very happy with how this casserole turned out.

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole by Shannon

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole


2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp dry mustard
2 c milk
4 oz + more cheese (I used 4 oz Velveeta + 1/4 c of low fat shredded cheddar cheese-Taste the sauce and use the type of cheese and amount that makes it taste good to your family, but starting with 4 oz cheese is a good starting point.)
1 # ground beef
1 container refrigerated biscuits
Some cooked bacon if your kids like bacon cheeseburgers


Cook ground beef till done. Then, drain and rinse.

Heat butter in a saucepan. When melted, add flour and mustard and stir till smooth and bubbly. 

Whisk in milk and heat to boiling stirring regularly.  Boil 1 minute stirring constantly.

Spray a casserole dish with nonstick spray while sauce is working. Cut refrigerator biscuits into fourths and place in the bottom of your casserole dish. 

Remove white sauce from heat and stir in cheese, stirring till melted and smooth. Add more than 4 oz cheese according to your tastes.

Add ground beef to cheese sauce and mix.

Pour meat and sauce evenly over the biscuits and then gently stir to make sure biscuits are well coated. Sprinkle with or mix in cooked bacon if using.
Layered biscuits

Ready to go into the oven

Preheat oven to 350. Cook for 20-30 minutes till biscuits are brown and cooked all the way through. About 10 minutes before it is done, sprinkle a handful or two of shredded cheese on top. (My casserole took 30 minutes to cook, but every one's ovens cook differently so adjust as needed. I also covered it up the last 5 minutes of cooking with foil because I didn't want the biscuits to burn.)


The twins both liked it and said the flavor was great. One thought it needed more meat, and one thought it needed less biscuits. Both said they would eat it again. My oldest ate it warmed in the microwave the next day and like it as well. He said "tastes like a cheeseburger." That's exactly what I was going for. He didn't think anything needed to change.

(We collectively agreed that  I should not use as many biscuits or maybe cut them smaller. I used regular Grands Home Style biscuits. I think I'll try  either making my own or  will use Jr. Grands next time. I also think I should use a 9 X 13  casserole dish. Mine was a little smaller than that so my biscuits were closer together than if I had used  the 9 X 13 pan. I made my casserole half cheeseburger/half bacon cheeseburger. I  will be adding a little more bacon next time  as was requested.)

All in all, this was a real hit! Easy on the pocketbook, tasty, and easy to make. I'm giving it 3 1/2 spoons awaiting the final draft. then I think it will go up to four.

McDonald's Egg White Delite Copycat Recipe

What McDonald's wants their
Egg White Delite sandwiches to look like.
 It is actually half this size.

 I rarely eat fast food, but sometimes when I have to, I like to get the McDonald's Egg White Delite sandwich minus the Canadian Bacon.  So I decided to try to make one at home this morning. It worked really well.  It was also super easy.

It fit on the bun perfectly.

My Egg White Delite

McDonald's Egg White Delite Copycat Sandwich

For 1: 


1-2 eggs
1 thin slice cheese
1/8 tsp butter
Non stick spray
Seasonings of your choice
1 whole wheat English Muffin

Directions and Tips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a ramekin like this with nonstick spray.

Mix 1-2 eggs in the ramekin and add any seasonings you want and 1/8 tsp butter. I scrambled/stirred mine for just a second with a fork.
I used 2 eggs this first time, though I think 1 egg would have been fine for me. I used a little seasoning salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes till set. Time will depend on your oven.  I put the ramekin on a small cookie sheet to make getting it in and out of the oven easy. You can also use a sprayed cupcake tin instead of ramekins.

Remove ramekin from oven and let sit one minute before turning it upside down on top of your English muffin (or HB bun). I used a whole wheat hamburger bun because I didn't have any English muffins, though English muffins would be better, I think.

Top with 1 thin slice cheese. I like to use Boar's head Vermont White Cheddar. It tastes the closest to the cheese on the McDonald's sandwich, I think. Add any other topping you like such as Canadian bacon, bacon, sausage, etc.

Other copycat Egg McMuffin recipes on the web say you can freeze these and thaw them for a quick breakfast treat. I will try one next time I make them just to see if that's true. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Recipe Reviews and Links from Last Week

Last week, I tried 4 new recipes. 

My own stir fry with HHLL Pad Thai Sauce 
My favorite was the Pad Thai Sauce from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean.  I followed the sauce recipe exactly adding my own Udon Noodles (found at my local Fry's) and stir fry vegetables, some frozen and some fresh. I will use more fresh veggies when I make it  again this week, especially more broccoli, but I used what I had the first time. I also added some peanuts for crunch and texture. The sauce is delicious and contains pantry staple ingredients. DH loved it too. Fabulous!

Basic Lentil Soup
The  2nd recipe that I tried which was fabuloso was this Basic Lentil Soup recipe from It was quick and easy to make and packed with flavor. It also was not an expensive meal to make. We ate it by itself, with Alexia  Whole Grain Rolls, and with a salad.  I did tweak the recipe a little. First, I sweat sauteed my veggies to avoid using any oil, and I left out the spinach since I had used all mine the previous day. I also did not add any salt since most of what I cook is lo salt or salt free for dietary purposes, and I used fire roasted tomatoes instead of regular for a deeper flavor. I also blended 1 1/2 c- 2 c of the soup then added it back to the post for texture. And, like other reviewers, I did have to add some more broth or water as it was very thick due to the lentils. I suggest either lowering the amount of lentils you use or just add more liquid like I did. I was dubious using the vinegar but it worked. DH tasted the soup and asked if it had meat in it (it did not) because it was so hearty. A little Cholula on top is also good before eating it, but absolutely not necessary. This recipe is going into our regular meal rotation.
Perfect Chicken
The other two recipes I tried this week were chicken recipes. The first one was a hit with all and just like the name suggests, it really is Perfect Chicken.  All my kids liked it and DH too. He ate his on top of a salad while my boys ate theirs with veggies and a fruit. I didn't eat it since I've not been eating meat, but I did taste it (and spit it out) and it was flavorful and juicy. It is great too because like the two previous recipes, it only used staple ingredients that most kitchens , I would imagine, have on hand.
The other chicken recipe I tried was Betty Crocker's Parmesan-Dijon Chicken.  It also was easy and flavorful, though not as good as the Perfect Chicken. I was a little dubious that the kids would taste the Dijon and say "ick," but it was subtle and I think added moisture to the dish.

Did any of you try any new recipes this week?