Monthly Archives: March 2011

Worse at breakfast.

I’m bad at lunch breaks, but I’m worse at breakfast.

Considering I spent years of my life studying nutrition to become an RD (before just turning that scary Chemistry ridden major into a minor), I know that breakfast is seriously important. It helps with weight loss or maintenance, helps you focus, gives your body fuel and numerous other awesome things. I know this, but I consider myself a failure when it comes to morning eating.

I spend my mornings getting a skim latte (iced please!), or eating a string cheese, or maybe having a piece of fruit with my latte. My problem is not only am I not hungry, but I get full pretty quickly and I’d rather eat later in the day. However, I know how important it is, so I’m attempting to get better.

One morning, I was looking around my office and saw this.

No, not all the booze. That’s old news. Look a little closer and you will find this:

Leftover from a work weekend in Nisswa. I decided to bring milk in the next morning and make a good breakfast with the raisin bran, considering it isn’t just sugar flakes. I never eat or buy cereal at home but raisin bran is awesome.

I knew cereal would be in the mix, so I needed something else. I, again, had to be a little innovative considering I was just trying to use random stuff I found around my (pretty nicely stocked) office. Then I stumbled upon this row of breakfast looking goodness:

So I decided to create a breakfast mocktail by adding these two guys together, which you can see is trophy worthy:

The above is a combo you must try. Take a glass and fill it with half oj half plain seltzer water. You just cut out 50% of the calories in a regular glass of OJ and it tastes way better. A little morning fizz is great.

all together on my desk

There are so many awesome healthy things for breakfast: smoothies, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, eggs…and all of these can be made and eaten quickly.

Do you eat breakfast? Why or why not… and what are you eating?!


Easy Vegan Indian Food

I love Indian food. Love it. I love going to an indian restaurant and trying something new, but that can be pricy. And often unhealthy. My mom makes indian food all the time so I had her send me some recipes. These are vegan, easy and healthy! Here are my two favorites.

Cauliflower & Potatoes
1-3 T Shan Dal seasoning (yellow box)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
6 circles of sliced ginger, 1/8” thick, peeled and diced
3 T Fresh Cilantro, chopped – add more if you like
½ -1 tomatoes, diced (fresh is best)
1 head cauliflower
1-2 russet potatoes or any type chopped in bite sized pieces
2-3 T tomato paste
1 cup water, add as needed
1 cup green peas (defrosted)
1 teaspoon veg oil

1. Sauté onion, green pepper, ginger and garlic in one teaspoon of vegatable oil, until soft.
2. Add the diced tomatoes, potatoes, tomato paste,  1 T “Shan” dal seasoning and 1 cup of water.

3. Cook covered until potatoes are ¾ cooked tender.
4. Add cauliflower and cilantro; cook with lid on until tender.

5. Add more water, seasoning (if you need more spice) and tomato paste as desired. Stir to cover.
6. Add 1 cup (room temp) green peas and cook for 2 minutes.

7. Garnish with cilantro!

NEXT UP! The easiest recipe known to Indian cooking!!

½  cup red lentils
1 cup yellow moong dal
4+ cups water
1-2 T Shan Dal spice mix (go with one if you like it not so spicy, two for spice)
½ med. Onion, chopped
2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 clove fresh garlic, smashed

1. Sauté onions, ginger and garlic in a tiny bit of olive oil until soft.
2. Add lentils, water and Shan Dal spice mix, and cilantro.
3. Cook covered for about 30 minutes until soft. These will have a creamy polenta-y texture to them.

Some of the items (dal, seasoning) could be a little hard to find, but check out your local Indian or Asian food store, or even Whole Foods. is often a great resource for finding weird and hard to find packaged foods as well.

I can’t tell you how amazing this meal is. The leftovers will make your co-workers jealous. I like to serve this with a little bit of rice and some white wine. Vinho Verde is the best if you can get your hands on some. Trust me when I say that Indian food and wine is one of the best combos out there.

indian food

Meat free Friday?

There is a recipe here on Lots of Dishes that isn’t quite getting the attention that it deserves. And, considering a lot of people aren’t allowed to eat meat on Fridays until Easter, why not try skip the unhealthy and meaty (fish is meat in my world!) fish fry tonight and make this very very easy vegan chili. I added some photos to the recipe to entice you!

Try it! It’s a little sweet, a little spicy and full of flavor… not fat or fish.


Bribery works

That’s right. Read the title. I decided for all of the annoyance my co-workers went through on figuring out some logistics to a weekly meeting, they deserved to get the results coupled with an e-mail promise of cookies sitting at my desk.

I do not like cookies from a roll or tub of store bought dough. It just isn’t the same. I promise making your own cookie dough only takes about 10 minutes. Less if you aren’t texting in between cracking eggs.

My go-to recipe is the one on the back of the Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips. It’s the best I’ve found and they come out perfect every time, if you use my tricks + tips which I have bolded in the directions.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Ingredient List: My way

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened/ at room temp
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • almost a full (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels


1. PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees F

2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a separate large mixer bowl until creamy. Add room temperature eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

3. Stir in morsels. I like to use almost the full bag of chocolate chips, but save about 1/2 cup in the bag and stick it in the freezer. The cookies have too much chocolate in them if you skip that step.

4. Put the dough in the fridge for about 10 minutes to get it cold, then drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. These are the best cookie sheets ever. Don’t ever use a regular baking sheet again. Buy them now!!

5. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until nearly-golden brown. If the cookies look like they need about a minute more cooking time, take ’em out. They will stay soft the next day this way.

6. Cool on baking sheets for a minute; remove with a METAL spatula to wire racks with newspaper underneath to cool completely. The newspaper makes for an easier clean-up.

Make sure you test a warm cookie (you know, to make sure they aren’t poisonous?) first. Then, take ’em to your co-workers who will be delighted to go through 100 e-mails only to find out everything has changed! Bribery works.

So. Much. Pasta.

This weekend, Brent’s family was in town. They are in town a lot considering Brent’s sister Megan is going to give birth sometime within the next two weeks. We were called to come on over!

We got up to Megan + Sam’s house and after a rousing time including someone (read: me) breaking a dining room chair (if someone tells you the chair is about to break, do not taunt the chair owner by jumping on it… it will break.)… we went into the kitchen to start cooking.

I had no clue that we’d be cooking, so this was kind of surprise blogpurtunity (blog opportunity, new word). Excuse the camera-phone pics.

Anyhoo, Brent’s family is a meat and food-loving crew. His Mom knows I don’t eat meat so she talked to her friend with a vegetarian daughter and got some recipes from her. Nice, right?

First up we started making Spinach Manicotti.

The Ingredient List:

  • 1 carton (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 jars (28 ounces each) Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 package (8 ounces) manicotti shells


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Cook manicotti noodles according to directions on the package, drain and allow to cool. (You could put these in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds to cool them quickly, or just run them under cold water.)

3. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, onion and egg. Season with parsley, pepper and garlic powder. Mix in 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

4. Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Stuff manicotti shells with ricotta mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.


single file manicotti line.

4. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted.

cook until it looks like this.

This was good, but needed some more flavor. I’d recommend using fresh garlic in place of garlic powder (a clove or so) and a more flavorful cheese inside in addition to the mozzarella, maybe an Italian cheese blend. I also am all for making your own spaghetti sauce when there is time for it. It always tastes better. The recipe also calls for one egg to bind the ricotta mixture together, but I find that to be unnecessary so I’d leave it out.

Next… it was time to make some more pasta! Brent’s mom decided to double the recipe below.

Cheese Tortellini + Vegetable Primavera

The Ingredient List

  • 1  (13-ounce) package Cheese Tortellini (we used Butoni mixed cheese)
  • 1/2  bunch (8 ounces) asparagus
  • 1  zucchini, diced
  • 3  tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
  • 2  tomatoes, diced
  • small amount of olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2  cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut tips from asparagus, and place in a bowl. Cut remaining asparagus into 1/4-inch pieces; add to bowl. Dice tomato and zucchini.

Brent getting in on the chopping fun.

2. Sauté asparagus, green onions, and zucchini in hot olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Stir pasta into asparagus mixture, and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

dinner all together

The tortellini primavera was pretty good, but, it was missing garlic. I’ll repurpose the 2 HUGE tubs of leftovers with some pesto to give it a little more of a kick. I might also cook it up with some parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic + parmesan. (Anyone want to come over for leftovers?)

Brent’s mom added salad and some garlic bread and we were ready to go. The dinner (shown all together above) left five meat eaters and myself satisfied.

What do you make to feed a large group of hungry people?

Weekends are for Grocery Shopping.

Since both Brent + I take our lunches to work and we only eat out about once a week for dinner, I like to do a big grocery shop every week or two on the weekend.

Our grocery trips involve some planning. I first look through the food ads we get in our mailbox or check them out online. We get flyers to about 4 stores, but I usually stick to shopping at just one or two per trip. I figure out what is on sale and what I can base our meals around. If we are craving a certain item that day/week I can hunt around to see who has the ingredients on sale. I think spending some time up front saves money and saves us from the “we don’t have anything for dinner let’s go out” excuse. I also like to meal plan in that if we are getting cilantro or something for one dish, we figure out another recipe to use it with so we don’t waste it. Also- we live a few blocks from three different grocery stores so if we miss something, it’s no big deal to pop in for a quick item.

This week, we went to Costco + Rainbow. Costco has amazing deals on produce and chips. They have great deals on everything, but we just don’t need 10 pounds of one thing most of the time. Rainbow is where we go most of the time (with Trader Joe’s and Target a close second!) as it is typically the cheapest. (It is the SuperSaver or Shoppers of Minneapolis.)

bounty! (click on it to enlarge)

Here it all is. Brent + I usually shop together, and when we do there is always a few ridiculous items thrown in the cart. For example: 10lbs of potatoes (we only needed 3- but these were just as cheap as 3 potatoes. weird.) and Salt + Vinegar potato chips (that he opened inside Costco). Admittedly, I bought some ridiculousness too. Kraft Mac + Cheese (Shapes! So good!), margarine (bad for you, good for baking for your co-workers) and the wrong flavor of yogurt (hopefully Brent will eat Raspberry Cheesecake!). The Fritos, while not healthy will be toppers to some chili this week.

We spent about $70 this week. That is within our budget, but I like to spend a little less. You will notice there isn’t much fruit in our bounty, but that is due to having a ton leftover from last week.

When do you grocery shop? Do you plan before you go? Do you try to stick to a budget, and what is it? What on earth am I going to do with 10 lbs of potatoes?!?