Sunday, December 2, 2012

Better Boxed Mac

Product Under Review: Annie's Homegrown Shells & White Cheddar
More info:
First impression:  I've heard good things about this Annie person
Verdict: A great easy mac and cheese, but leftovers were not.

So I've heard whispers of this "other" boxed mac and cheese for a while now.  I finally bought some at the store and caved and made it!  It's just as easy as any other boxed cheesey goodness, and follows the same steps.  But I actually happen to love white mac and cheese to begin with, so I was pretty excited.  

Here's what you're looking for
 Three easy steps:
Boil up some water and throw the tiny little shells in!

Add the sauce ingredients to the pot. 

Mix in the finished shells!
 I had mine with some snap peas and a chicken cordon bleu.  Great little dinner I think.  The mac and cheese wasn't too in-your-face cheesy, but it was creamy and delicious!  It also only makes two servings, which is great for someone like me who lives alone and doesn't enjoy eating the same thing every day for a week!

yum yum!
The only downside I found was with the leftovers.  They tasted just like buttered noodles.  I had to top them with some grated parm.  Don't get me wrong, I love some buttered noodles, but that just wasn't what I wanted out of my mac and cheese leftovers.

womp womp.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cereal + Muffin = Yummy

Recipe Under Review:  HG's Surreal Cereal Muffins
More info:
First  Impression: How could this possibly be bad?
Verdict: Delicious but not perfect

When the new cereal inspired muffins came out I was pretty excited to try them, but muffin stats tend to get out of hand pretty fast so I was even more excited when HG tried out all the  lower-stat options for me!  Verdict was Cinnamon Toast Crunch mix + pumpkin puree was the best combo, and happened to be the one I already had the stuff for in my pantry anyway!  So here we go...

This is all you need!
Three easy steps!  One: 1 box mix + 1.5 cups pumpkin in a bowl...

Looks kinda funny like that...
 Two: Stir until combined
Looks much better here, super thick batter!
Three:  Divide and top! Definitely push the strudel into the batter a bit, it goes all over
Into the oven!
I pulled them out after about 14 minutes, but I think a few more minutes would have helped.  They look done and a toothpick comes out clean, but they were still a bit gooey.

I let them cool for a little bit before pulling one out and digging in
Looks great!
So they tasted delicious, not too pumpkiny and just a light fluffy cinnamon taste.  The topping adds a nice touch that makes it feel a little more decadent as well.  But like I said, there was a downside...

The muffin stuck to the paper :(
I think I just need to find a better balance of baking time, then they would be great!  Definitely a quick and easy muffin recipe that I would try again too.  I love having a small warm muffin with a smoothie in the morning, so that's my plan for this week with these guys.  

Anyone try any other of these muffin mixes or combinations?  Curious as to how the other ones are!


I popped one in the microwave for 15 seconds before enjoying this morning, and it peeled out of the wrapper perfectly!  Concerns for this recipe are now gone! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Quickie leftover trick: pasta

Quickie leftover trick: PASTA

Leftover pasta you aren't sure what to do with?  Don't want to open up a new jar of sauce or bother cooking some up?  

Saute some onions and bell peppers with garlic and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Toss in the pasta once they are about cooked to your liking.  (4 oz of cooked pasta is about one serving) Top with a little parm topping and dig in!

Quick and easy dinner!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lazy Morning Overnight Smoothies

Recipe under review: Make Ahead Oatmeal Smoothies
First Impression: This could be a lifesaver when I hit that snooze button...
Verdict: Pretty tasty, definitely need to experiment with some flavors!

So the tricky thing about these smoothies is you need Chia Seeds.  I found them at Whole Foods.  They are a bit pricey but you don't use too many so I'm hoping the bag will last a while.  Otherwise everything else is super easy to find and work with!
What I started with (see the Chia Seed bag?)
The first step is to pulverize the chia and oatmeal together to make a powdery consistency.  I did this (and the whole recipe) in my Magic Bullet, which is super awesome for smoothie-life in general.

Oatmeal + Chia
After that you just add the rest of your normal old smoothie ingredients!  I did peach greek yogurt, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and a banana.  Make sure you stir it a little at this point or the powder will get all stuck in the bottom/top (away from the blade and the mixing)
All in!
Then blend away until smooth!  Really, this is no more complicated than a normal smoothie you'd make in the morning.  No ice needed!

Magic Bullet does all the work!

All blended up!  
The great thing about the Magic Bullet, is that you can put a lid on the container you blended in to save for later.  No extra dishes to be cleaned!  So you just put a lid on it and stick it in the fridge to be enjoyed in the morning.  It magically thickens overnight to a thick-smoothie consistency.

Make sure you have some room in there for it.  
I think in the future I would re-blend in the morning with a little more almond milk, because it became almost too thick for me.  But overall it's great.  And as quick and easy as smoothies are, sometimes I'd much rather take that extra 10 mins in the morning to sleep or get cute.  This is also super portable so you can take it to work easily!  I also couldn't even finish the whole thing in one sitting, so two breakfasts for the work of one!

Also, she has great recipe/flavor ideas on her website!  I just happened to use what I had in my fridge already, so experiment and enjoy :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bisquick Complete Whole Grain Fluffy Goodness

Product under review: Bisquick Complete Simply Buttermilk with Whole Grain
First Impression: I hope this tastes as good as normal Bisquick
Verdict: YUM.  Fluffy pancakes and filling whole grains!

So I had some blueberries to use up before they went bad and some Bisquick in my pantry... seems like a no brainer!
blueberries in my berry strainer
the pancake mix (looks sophisticated, doesn't it?)
 My favorite thing about "complete" pancake mix... it's so easy to just add the water!  Add a little more if it's too thick, add a little more mix if too thin.  No ratios or anything to worry about.  Just stir it right up!  If you are also adding blueberries, make sure to add them right before cooking, and stir gently, burst blueberries can make for funny-looking pancakes.

added water and blueberries to mix!  
I always make dollar sized pancakes, so they are small.  But you can make big ones the same way!  And just put on a greased medium-high heat griddle or skillet.

so nice and thick!

browned and puffed up really nicely.
 Flip pancakes after they start to puff and bubble, and they are golden brown and fluffy!  I put both servings on my plate because I was feeling hungry, but it was not necessary.  Half of what I made filled me up and kept me full for quite some time after.  This mix is definitely a keeper for me!

two servings (the smallest "recipe on the box"
Just a note, I used to use the Fiber One pancake mix, but I've stopped being able to find it.  These might be lower in fiber, but they are fluffier and if I find the F1 again I'm not sure I'd switch back.  These are definitely worth the calories and great for that pancake craving while still keeping full after breakfast!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spaghetti Squash - Yum.

Super Sauce Spaghetti Squash 

So there's no link for you to go check out some recipe on this one, because it's something I pulled together after about a year of experimenting with spaghetti squash (which is an amazing vegetable that you should certainly try if you haven't yet).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 

What you need
1/2 small-medium spaghetti squash 
2/3 cup meatless burger crumbles (I like Morninstar Farms)
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Swiss
2 tsp parmesean topping

Microwave safe bowl
Saran Wrap
Cooking Spray
Saute pan

2 slices sandwich thin/light wheat bread
1/2 tablespoon light butter substitute

1. Cut squash.  I try to buy smaller squashes so I typically just cut it in half.  This happens to have been the last one, so it was bigger than I'd like... I cut it into awkward thirds.  Then you put it into a microwave-safe bowl with a bit of water, cover with saran wrap and cook for 7-10 minutes.  

Cooked!  Caution, this is HOT after this step.  I try to do it a little in advance, makes it easier to scoop out the goods.
2. Use fork to magically transform squash into spaghetti-like goodness. (Just scoop it out into a bowl)
3.  Bring a pan to medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray.  Add burger crumbles.  Once they start to cook, add the sauce.
Mmm now things start smelling delicious!
4. Once everything in pan is hot, add Laughing Cow wedge (this is my secret trick!) It gives the whole dish a more creamy texture and makes it taste more like it's full of naughty calories, although it's still completely healthy!  Stir it around until it melts and mixes in to everything. 

You don't want it to look like this... get that mixed.
5.  You now have two options.  A) Add spaghetti squash to pan and sautee until all mixed and covered.  B) Dump sauce onto bowl of spaghetti squash.  Both are good options, depends on how much time you have and when you microwaved your squash.

Squash-in-pan approach
All stirred up!
6. (Optional) Pop bread in toaster and top with butter.  Saucy spaghetti squash is a great toast-topper.

7. Serve and top with parmesean cheese.
Sauce-on-squash approach.
Maybe not as pretty, but just as delicious!

The whole dish is super filling and clocks in around 500 calories (with toast!) depending on the brands and types of certain things you use.  It's one of my favorite things to make because it's quick and easy and chocked full of veggies and vitamins.  It also is a pretty good pasta swap if you are trying to watch carbs.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Frozen Food Trick

What you need: Lean Cuisine Chicken Alfredo (or something similar), frozen peas, microwave

So this post is going to be short and sweet and isn't really a review but just one of my favorite tricks for a quick healthy meal.

So many of the "healthy" frozen dinners out there skimp on vegetables.  This doesn't really sit so well with me since trying to get veggies into my day is something I sometimes struggle with.  My solution: frozen peas!  I take a seemingly boring veggie and add it to any frozen pasta dish and voila!  Bigger portion and more veggies!  I typically go for something with a cream sauce because I just think it pairs great with peas, and let's be honest, those pasta dishes typically have way too much sauce in them anyway, so there's no reason to let that go to waste :)

The box!

The result!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quickie Stir Fry Chickie

Recipe Under Review: Super Speedy Chinese Stir Fry 
 More Info At: Hungry Girl's 300 Under 300 
 First Impression: always looking for new stir-fry ideas! 
 Verdict: not too shabby, but not amazed.

So I haven't been around for a while because I spent the last few months graduating college, moving halfway across the country, and starting a full-time job. I'm finally all settled in and ready to start making time to cook new things for myself again. I'm still getting used to my new kitchen and different pots/pans so I think that has a lot to do with why this recipe didn't come out better.

One of the reasons I really like this recipe is that not only is it quick and easy to make, it's also easy to keep the ingredients on hand at all times so you can always make it in a pinch. Frozen veggies, canned fruit, (frozen) chicken breast... simple and versatile!

These are the frozen "stir-fry" veggies I opted for, but there are a ton of options in the freezer aisles these days so you can easily pick one to suit your preferences.  

10 oz chicken breast, cut up salt & peppered and teriyakied
So there are the ingredients.  One 16-oz bag of stir-fry veggies works out perfectly. The big can of mandarin oranges was too much.  I'll throw the extra ones on a salad tonight or something like that.  But yes, it's this simple overall!
Just added the veggies to the no-longer-pink chicken!

I added some extra teriyaki sauce and a few red pepper flakes at this point as well, I wanted this to have a good amount of flavor.
Mandarin oranges are the last step, just gently stir in!
Overall, I think the recipe only took about 20-30 minutes to put together (I'm a bit slow with the chicken trimming.  Be very careful at this last step though, mandarin oranges are quite fragile and tend to fall apart.
The finished product!

Flavor-wise this was real good!  Not too intense on the flavor, but a nice balance of light spicy and sweet, which I loved!  The serving size was also great, I couldn't even finish my bowl.  Definitely a full meal for 2, could easily be 3 if no one is starving.  I think it would pair great with some brown rice as well if you wanted to stretch this dish even further.  

Overall this is something I would definitely make again.  I would pay a little closer attention to my cook time though, as I accidentally overcooked the veggies.  The recipe says it's done when the "excess water has evaporated" so I was standing and stirring trying to get the water to go away and it never really did.  That was the major downside to this, there was a decent amount of liquid in the pan and that's just not something I like with my stirfry.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

SPICY Berry Chicken

Recipe Under Review: Sweet 'n Spicy Berry-yaki Chicken from
First Impression: seems like a perfect combo for me and my boyfriend's taste buds
Verdict: too spicy for me :(

I'm sorry in advance that there are no pictures to accompany this post, I was making it with the boyfriend and just completely forgot to grab the camera.  The hardest part of this recipe?  Finding all of the ingredients.  I had never heard of adobo sauce before so that was an adventure through the grocery store aisles for a while (it was kinda near the salsa and stuff).  Then there were no low-sugar raspberry preserves at my store either.  So I just got regular ones. 

The recipe itself was super simple, which was nice.  Whisk together some sauce ingredients, cut up some chicken, mix together and stick in the fridge.  Cut up some veggies (green peppers and mushrooms, which conveniently come already sliced!) Then saute veggies and add chicken with sauce once they are soft.  I would maybe just start the mushrooms first though, because I like my green peppers just hot, not mushy.  Also, the sauce doesn't really stay a sauce, it gets kind of runny and watery, which was very disappointing.

That's all there is to it!  We also made some brown rice and mixed veggies to go with it, but I would probably skip the extra veg next time because the recipe makes more than you would think. 

So time to eat!  Like I said, generous portions were made, so that wasn't a problem.  I also don't like mushrooms or very spicy things, so this was going to be an adventure for me (he pretty much eats everything, so no concerns there).  The sauce was SO MUCH spicier than either of us had thought it would be.  I couldn't really taste the teriyaki or raspberry which was disappointing because those are some of my favorite flavors. It seriously just tasted like chipotle.  The good news?  The mushrooms weren't half bad.  They just tasted like the sauce, so maybe I will start to give them more of a chance in the future.  

I think I would make this recipe again, but just half the adobo sauce and chipotle pepper to let the other flavors shine through a little more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I LOVE Mac & Cheese

Recipe Under Review:  Too-EZ Mac & Cheese from
First impression: please taste good, please taste good!
Verdict: Almost perfect mac & cheese swap!

I'm going to have to preface this post with the fact that I absolutely adore macaroni and cheese, and could easily eat it for every meal of every day.  Obviously this is a problem if you are trying to be healthier since it's traditionally white pasta and full-fat cheesy sauce.  I'm constantly trying to figure out how to keep my love of mac and cheese but not destroy my body at the same time and it's a much harder process than one might think.

I've known about this recipe for quite some time.  I found it one day and filed it as a "must try ASAP" and then just kept putting it off (cauliflower scares me!) until a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to try to make it.  Then I decided a vegetable shouldn't scare me enough to stop me from my love of cheesy goodness, so I scrounged up the ingredients the best I could and had at it!

Disclaimer: I did NOT do a good job getting the right ingredients, oopsie!

First step: boil water and pasta.  I used Ronzoni Smart Taste Elbows instead of whole wheat blend rotini...
If you haven't tried this pasta yet and are still stuck on white pasta, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I've converted my entire family to it, it's packed with good for you things and you seriously can not tell the difference!  
So boiling water and putting in pasta is all good and fine, but elbows do not take that long to cook.  This is the first snag in the recipe.  You have to microwave the cauliflower and cheese for 12-14 minutes, but the recipe says "while pasta cooks" to do it.  I ended up waiting around for an extra 8 or so minutes for the microwave to finish.  I would definitely put the water on, then immediately put the veggies in the microwave and get them started.  
I was surprised at how much pasta this recipe really called for, a ton!
 So back to the veggies, I definitely hit a snag here.  So you can find big family size bags of this stuff, but I could not.  So I ended up getting ...
Three 10 oz boxes!  Which, according to serving sizes, is only 4.5 cups (30 oz) even though the recipe says 24oz is about 6 cups... curious.

Anywho, I microwaved these bad boys anyway, thinking nothing would go wrong.  Then there was cheese sauce everywhere.  Fantastic.

It looks gross, I know.  It's also quite a pain to transfer all the contents of the packets into the pasta bowl without getting messy after this fact.
 Moral of the story: FIND THAT 24 OZ BAG!

I forgot to stir my laughing cow before transferring, but it stirred in okay anyway.  
 Done!  Seriously simple stuff, she was not kidding there!

Far away and close up.  See the chunks of cauliflower?  Yeah, me too.  A little bit scary.  I think it might be worth it to try to mash up the cauliflower into smaller pieces before adding pasta (but I also used tiny little elbow noodles when I wasn't suppose to, totally my fault I'm sure)
 Time to eat!

One serving in a normal sized bowl, pretty decent right?  Oh look, more giant cauliflower.
So I had this for lunch with a side spinach/strawberry/ham (AKA food that needs to be eaten in my fridge) salad.  Definitely a struggle to finish this bowl!  I was not expecting that, so a great serving size overall.  I think it would be fine by itself for lunch, maybe with an apple or banana or something small like that.  For dinner I think pairing it with a salad makes a great well-balanced meal.

How does it taste?  Great!  I was pleasantly surprised.  It's not overly mac-and-cheesy but it will definitely do in a pinch!  I still don't think I like cauliflower, it just seems so out of place in this dish.  I do think if it was smaller or if I microwaved it a minute or two longer it might be better though, because if it wasn't so firm I don't think it would have been so obvious!

THE DOWNSIDE:  I went to log this recipe on my calorie counter, it was about 100 calories higher than HG suggests.  I'm sure some of it had to do with my substitutions, but that seems a little much to be off by.  A little disappointing but still completely reasonable stats I think!  This recipe will definitely be filed away for future use though!