Monday, March 28, 2011

This Week in Fitness

work-out Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday 3/21:
10 lb Slimdown Blast + 10 lb Slimdown Core (Exercise OnDemand)

Tuesday 3/22: Couch to 5K Week 8, Day 3 (28 min. jog) + 10 lb Slimdown Yoga (Exercise OnDemand)

Wednesday 3/23: 45 minute Spin Class + some ab work afterwards

Thursday 3/24: Couch to 5K Week 9, Day 1 (30 min. jog) + Yoga Fitness Plus (Exercise OnDemand) (though I only did about half b/c it was too hard for my (beginner) level of yoga!)

Friday 3/25: Bodyrock.tv "Hot Mess" workout, using dumbbells instead of a "sandbag" (I was DEFINITELY a hot mess afterwards...it was killer!)

Saturday 3/26: Couch to 5K Week 9, Day 2 (30 min. jog)

Sunday 3/27: Planned on a Rest Day but ended up doing a 30 minute jog just because I felt like it.

Favorite Fitness Moment of the Week: I'd say my favorite moment was probably on Sunday when I had an urge to go running just because! This is huge for me, as I've always been a non-runner, so I was amazed that I was actually wanting to run and I really enjoyed it!

Favorite Workout Tune of the Week: (in honor of my "Hot Mess" Bodyrock workout)


I'm very happy with this week of workouts. I kicked my own butt! I must say, I am totally understanding the whole "the more you workout, the more addicted you get" thing now. I crave the sweat and the feeling of accomplishment that I get! Plus, it's fun to challenge myself and see if I can achieve things I never thought possible.

I guess you could say I'm on a fitness-high this week! :)

Hope you all had a wonderful week of fitness too!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Book List

Here are the latest books that I've read since my last post about books I've read in 2011. Feel free to click on the links to take you to my full Goodreads.com bookshelves to browse around.

(P.S. It's amazing how much more reading I can get done when I don't have a job! I've already read almost as many books as I read in all of 2010!)

Breaking the SilenceBreaking the Silence by Diane Chamberlain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a great read and a definite page-turner! It left me wanting to read more of Diane Chamberlain's books.



View all my reviews


The Bright ForeverThe Bright Forever by Lee Martin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


While I do believe this is a well-written book, I found it a little too disturbing and depressing to go around recommending it to all my friends. I tend to like when reading a book is an enjoyable experience so I have a hard time falling in love with books based around a plot (in this case, the disappearance of a young girl). It wasn't for me, but I can see how others would like it!



View all my reviews


Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The author of this book is actually a close friend of my in-laws so I may be biased, but I enjoyed reading this book much more than I anticipated. When I first heard it was a "children's book" I was more than a little skeptical. My mother-in-law assured me that it was a great story for all ages, and she was right!



View all my reviews


RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Interesting book. Took me quite a while to get used to reading it through a 5 year old child's perspective, but once I did it was very enthralling!



View all my reviews

My Name Is MemoryMy Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Loved this book! I actually listened to it on audio book but I found myself wanting to get in my car and drive around just so I could listen to it! It was an enthralling story with love, adventure, mystery and fantasy. My only disappointment in this book was I thought the ending left a lot to be desired.



View all my reviews

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is and always will be one of my ultimate comfort foods. I just love it.

Something about the creamy sauce, tender veggies & chicken and the flaky pastry crust just makes me swoon.

I hadn't made a good homemade chicken pot pie in far too long, so I decided that now was the time to do it (before it gets to be hot as hades and comfort food doesn't sound as appealing)!

I loosely based my recipe off of Alton's Curry Chicken Pot Pie. I really wanted to try the curry pot pie version but that was unfortunately nixed by the husband, who happens to be a curry-hater. :::sad face:::

So instead I just winged it and vaguely followed Alton's method. I tried to make my version very veggie-heavy to increase the nutrition a bit. I think even a veggie-hater would love this dish since the veggies are smothered in a creamy sauce!


It turned out really well so I think I'll file this one away for future reference when a pot pie craving hits. :)

Chicken Pot Pie
source: loosely based on this recipe

Serves 4-6 people, depending on portion sizes

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1 baking potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
1/2 packet of Ranch dressing mix
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (*see notes below)
1 sheet packaged puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add onion, celery, carrot and potato and cook for about 10 minutes, until the veggies soften. Add in the frozen veggies and continue to cook until they are thawed and heated through.

Stir in the Ranch dressing and the flour and continue to stir while it cooks, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and the milk and stir frequently until the mixture thickens a bit (about 3-5 minutes).

Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except for the puff pastry, and cook until everything is heated through (about 2 minutes).

Pour the mixture into a square baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Place the sheet of puff pastry on top of the mixture.

Cook at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the puff pastry has browned and the mixture looks bubbly.

*Notes: I didn't have any leftover cooked chicken to use for this recipe so I just cooked 3 chicken breasts with about 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a slow cooker on low for 7 hours. Works every time for perfect, tender chicken!

Feel free to increase, decrease or substitute the veggies to your liking!

Friday, March 25, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #35


It's that time again! For more info on the Fill-In and to check out other spouses' answers to the questions, visit Wife of a Sailor's blog.

1. What is your must-have gadget?

I don't think I can decide on just one! It depends on the category we're talking about.
Beauty = Hot Tools curling iron
Fitness = my iPod
Kitchen = Cuisinart Food Processor
Blogging = DSLR camera (Canon Rebel)

2. How does your adulthood compare to what you imagined it would be like as a little kid?

As a kid I thought I would be a veterinarian, married to a Texas cowboy, and have 2 kids by now! I definitely never thought I would end up married to a Kansas-born soldier and be living as an Army wife with no kids at the age of (almost) 26....but I wouldn't change anything! I love my life and I'm so happy I married my non-Texan guy. ;-)

3. What is your favorite chocolate recipe?

Double Chocolate Caramel Cookies were the bomb! As a quick and easy option, I'm also loving Single Serving Healthier Brownies these days.

4. How do you deal with military life when it gets to be too much or too hard?

I vent about it and get it out, either to my friends & family or on my blog. Here's a link to some of my venting-about-Army-life posts. Also I do something to get my mind off of it, such as working out, reading a book, hanging out with friends, etc. And finally, I try to remind myself of all the blessings in my life (easier said than done) and that "this too shall pass".

5. What piece of advice would you give a new military spouse facing their first deployment?

Oh gosh, there's so much I would say (and do say, when given the chance)!
~I know it's scary, but you WILL GET THROUGH IT. Have faith in yourself that you are a strong, independent woman and you will be fine. I doubted my ability to cope with a deployment wayyyy too much before our first one and it just made me (and him) miserable in the weeks leading up to his deployment.
~Stay busy and make sure you plan things to look forward to. A fun trip, a party, a night out, a spa day, etc. You still need to get out and have FUN while he's gone...don't feel like you have to stay in and be miserable!!
~Communicate and stay connected! If his phone access is limited, try sending him a daily email or send him weekly care packages with a hand-written love letter. Just try to stay connected in each others lives as much as possible. At first my way of coping with deployment was sometimes to try and shut him out of my life so I didn't have to feel the pain of him being gone. That is NOT GOOD! Learn from my mistakes! :)

Okay I'll stop there...it's a topic I'm passionate about obviously! :) Great questions this week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This Week in Fitness

I thought I'd start a new "segment" on the blog where I post what I did in the past week with regards to fitness.

There are two reasons for me doing this:

1. It will keep me accountable because I won't want to post "uh....I lifted the remote and food to my mouth" as my only workout for the week.

2. I enjoy reading what other people do for fitness as inspiration, so maybe you all will enjoy it as well.

I'm not quite sure what day of the week I will normally post the weekly fitness recap, but today it's going up on Tuesday. I'm thinking Monday or Friday would make the most sense, but I have a terrible memory so more than likely I will post it whenever the heck I remember.

So without further adieu, here is my first "This Week in Fitness" post!


Monday 3/14: Couch to 5K Week 8, Day 1 (jog for 28 minutes). Have I mentioned that I'm doing the Couch to 5k program? + 10 lb Slimdown Yoga (Exercise OnDemand)

Tuesday 3/15: The Firm Get Chisel'd DVD

Wednesday 3/16: 1.5 hour hike with my parents (They came to visit!)

Thursday 3/17: Couch to 5K Week 8, Day 2 (jog for 28 minutes).

Friday 3/18: Nothin'! Unless you consider laying by the pool at a resort in Tucson to be "exercise". No? Ok.

Saturday 3/19: Nada! Took my parents to the airport and then took a 3 hour nap. :)

Sunday 3/20: Nada. Zip. Zilch. It wasn't a good weekend for fitness but it was a great weekend for napping...I took another 3 hour nap! I don't know what was wrong with me but I was soooo tired!

Monday 3/21: 10 lb Slimdown Blast + 10 lb Slimdown Core (Exercise OnDemand)

Favorite Fitness Moment of the Week: Hiking with my parents. I loved every moment!

Favorite Workout Tune of the Week: "Do You Wanna Touch Me" Glee Cast feat. Gwyneth Paltrow


So that's it! It wasn't the best fitness week ever, but I'm okay with it since I spent time relaxing and enjoying my parents being in town.

What was your favorite fitness moment of the week??

Monday, March 21, 2011

Single Serving Healthier Brownie

Sometimes a craving hits me and I don't even really know where it came from.

For example, tonight I had a serious craving for brownies.

FYI I don't even like brownies (normally). They don't even tempt me (normally). I'd much rather have a cookie or a piece of pie or even a blondie (normally).

But tonight, I wanted brownies and I wanted them NOW.

The only teensy problem was that I had no eggs in the house and I was too lazy to make a whole batch of them. Plus, I didn't want a whole bunch of extra brownies sitting around the house for the next few days.

So I typed "single serving brownies" into good 'ole Google and found a recipe on Sparkpeople that looked perfect. Plus, it's healthy(ish), since it doesn't call for any butter or eggs! Bonus!

These turned out pretty darn good for a healthy and simple recipe! I was pleasantly surprised, as was the Hubs.

They totally fulfilled my need-a-brownie-now craving. I hope it does the same for you, if a Brownie Emergency arises in the future.


Single Serving Healthier Brownie

adapted from Sparkpeople

Serves one.

1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
a pinch of baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce or non-fat vanilla yogurt (I used applesauce)
splash of milk to thin it out as needed (I used almond milk)

Topping of choice (whipped cream, mini-chocolate chips, etc.)

Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients and stir until combined. The batter should be about like the consistency of pancake batter so add more milk if needed to thin it out.

Spray a microwave-safe dish (such as a ramekin or a coffee mug) with cooking spray and then pour in the batter. Microwave for about 60 seconds.

Top with mini chocolate chips, whipped cream, or other toppings of choice.


P.S. I realized as I was making the brownie that this would be the perfect dessert recipe for a military wife with a deployed spouse! When Hubs was deployed, I always craved sweets but never felt inspired to bake when it was just me around the house. Definitely tucking this recipe away for the next deployment!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

Sooo ummm...Don't hate me when I share this recipe with you.

Because this recipe is FAR from healthy.

In fact, it's sinful.

But if you don't make these cupcakes at some point, you won't know what you're missing out on....foodgasmic is one word that comes to mind.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes.

(Wipe the drool off your keyboard now.)

And, for the record, these are Worth. Every. Calorie. Trust me.

Just add in an extra 30 minutes of cardio and enjoy every last morsel of these scrumdiddlyumptious (LOL) cupcakes.

I came across these while searching for a good cupcake recipe to take to a party. I knew Annie of Annie's Eats is the queen of all things cupcake so I stopped by her blog for a looksie. I was not disappointed when I saw this gem of a recipe calling my name.


Chocolate chip cookie + Cupcake = BRILLIANT!! Two of my favorite desserts packed into ONE dessert.


I did take some liberties and simplified the recipe a bit. The original recipe called for stuffing the inside of the cupcakes with actual cookie dough AND topping the cupcakes with mini-chocolate chip cookies. I figured my brain (and waistline) would probably explode if I went that far, so I kept it to just chocolate chip cookie cupcakes with chocolate chip cookie icing.

They were so delicious as-is that I can only imagine the foodgasms that would result from trying the original recipe as-written.

The recipe below is how I made them (I also halved the original recipe), but please go check out Annie's blog for the original version as well (but be prepared for your pants to fit tighter just by looking at it).


Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

Source: Annie's Eats (adapted slightly)

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

For decoration:
Mini chocolate chips

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners (12 total). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling the cups about 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.

When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost them as desired (I used a star tip and a piping bag) and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips for decoration.

Ashley's Notes: Don't be scared of the flour called for in the icing. I was at first but you really can't taste it at all. It just helps to give the icing a more cookie dough-like flavor. Also, if you don't have a piping bag a zip-top bag works just as well for piping icing.


Oh and, in case you were wondering, these were a big hit at the party I went to.

Duh.

Friday, March 11, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #33

It's that time again! For more info on the Fill-In, visit Wife of a Sailor's blog.

1. During military separations (whether short or long) how do you keep yourself positive and motivated?
I can't say enough about FRIENDS when it comes to getting through a deployment. Friends, especially fellow Army-wives who know exactly what you're going through, are crucial. When one of you is down, the others can lift you back up. Friends also keep you occupied, distracted and laughing.

Also, I try not to focus on how much time is LEFT in the deployment, but rather how much time we've already accomplished. It may seem silly, but for some reason that really helped me.

2. What is your favorite concert you have ever been to?
Michael Buble. Hands down! That man knows how to entertain (and he's dreamy)!

3. What do you miss most about your “hometown”?
I think I really just miss my family the most. I can find positive things in any new place of living, but I can't replace the void created by my family being hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

But if I'm forced to come up with a less-mushy response I would say I miss the MEXICAN FOOD the most! It just isn't the same anywhere else. Tex-Mex RULES! :)

4. If you could run in any race, which charity would you choose to support?
I wish I could support all cancer-related charities but I have a soft spot in my heart for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society because my cousin, Thomas, was diagnosed with Leukemia a couple years ago. It's such a scary disease and no child (or anyone really) should ever have to deal with it. (Luckily, Thomas is doing GREAT after a successful bone marrow transplant, which you can read more about in this post.)

5. You find out Willy Wonka is your father, what 3 course meal do you INSIST he create in that stick of gum?
Fried Pickles, Cheese Burger w/ fries, and a Banana Split. Why? Because that's a suuuuper fattening meal that I love and it would be great if I could get it in one piece of calorie-free gum. :)

What was YOUR favorite concert ever?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nutella Macaroons a.k.a. Coconut Heaven

Lately I've been loving on coconut. Coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut butter, and (most of all) coconut DESSERTS!

I think its partially because it's a delicious way to add some richness and creaminess to foods, but mostly because my husband is a Coconut Hater. You know what that means? That means anything I make with coconut in it is ALL MINE!! Muahahaha!


And boy oh boy, do I ever have a doozie of a coconut recipe for you! I spotted the recipe for these macaroons on Oh She Glows and was shocked at how it didn't call for any flour or butter.

The "butter" is actually made from grinding up coconut flakes until they release their oils and becomes coconut butter! How cool is that?!

Note: This is not how the coconut butter should look....you have to keep processing it until it turns into a smooth oil-like consistency. I just forgot to take a pic of the finished coconut butter. Oopsie!

And, although the original recipe is brilliant on it's own, I just couldn't leave well-enough alone.

So I added Nutella. Because EVERYTHING is better with Nutella.


So if you're a coconut lover, MAKE THESE! Immediately. Because they are really amazing.

Nutella Macaroons


Adapted slightly from Oh She Glows
Yield: ~22 macaroons.

Ingredients:
• 2 2/3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (to make coconut butter)
• 2 (additional) cups shredded unsweetened coconut
• 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 vanilla bean (just omit this if you don't have it - no biggie!)
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 heaping Tbsp Nutella
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300F and line a baking sheet with a non-stick mat or parchment. In a food processor, process 2 and 2/3 cups of shredded coconut for about 5-8 minutes until coconut butter forms. You will have to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl. For a coconut butter how-to, see this post. Alternatively, you can use 1 cup of store bought coconut butter.

2. Once you have made the coconut butter, add the other ingredients to the food processor and pulse a few times until it's incorporated. (If you don't have a large enough food processor, just mix all the ingredients in a bowl...that's perfectly fine too, I just didn't want to dirty another bowl!)

3. Scoop about 1-2 tbsp of dough onto a baking sheet (with a cookie scoop, if you have it). You don’t have to leave much room in between as they do not spread out. Bake for 25-28 minutes at 300F. Watch them closely after 22-23 minutes.

4. Allow the macaroons to sit for 25 minutes so they can firm up. If you do not do this, the macaroons will crumble, so this step is crucial! Store in a sealed container at room temp (or in the fridge if you prefer).
I may or may not have gone out and bought an "economy size" bag of coconut after making this recipe so I can ALWAYS have enough coconut on hand for these macaroons! Mmmmm.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Did you notice the fancy new Foodbuzz advertisements on the blog?!? Well, I'm officially a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher now! Woohoo! Basically all that means is that I get to connect with other food bloggers and maybe even earn a small (teeny tiny) amount of money off of the blog now. :)

I am submitting this post as part of the Top 9 Takeover on Foodbuzz. In a Top 9 Takeover, Foodbuzz asks all Featured Publishers to construct a post around a theme and then, for one day only, all Top 9 posts reflect that theme. Foodbuzz will donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for this post and every other post submitted by Featured Publishers. Pretty cool, right?!

The theme for this takeover is "The Perfect Tea Party Recipe" and I happen to think that these semi-healthy, buttery and delicious macaroons would make a GREAT tea party dish!

But guess what?! YOU can participate too and help raise money for a great cause! Go to the Kelly Confidential website and pick out a perfect tea party outfit and Electrolux will donate $1 to the fund!

Cancer is something that affects EVERYONE in one way or another so whenever I can find an opportunity to help find a cure for ANY kind of cancer, you better believe I'm going to take it! I hope you feel the same way too and we can all pitch in to raise lots of money for this worthy cause! (Plus, you get to pick out a cute virtual outfit while you're at it!) :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Here are my MilSpouse Friday Fill-In answers! (For more info on the Fill-In visit Wife of a Sailor's blog.)


1. Do you or your {spouse} ever wish your {spouse} was in a different branch of the military?

Sometimes I wish he was in the Air Force because of the shorter deployments and because I think Air Force has some of the best base locations. But Hubs would probably not be happy in the Air Force...he's an Army guy all the way! Hooah!

2. What duty station(s) are on your “No Way, Hell No, Not Going, Have Fun Unaccompanied” list and why?
The only one location that I would probably not accompany him to is Korea, but those are usually unaccompanied tours anyway (from what I've heard). If we're talking about duty stations that I reeeeeeally don't want to ever go to that would be Fort Drum, NY & anything in Alaska....I don't do cold weather very well. :)

3. If you could be one age forever, what age would you choose and why?
Ohhh this is a good one! I guess I would be 29 (I'm almost 26 now) because I'd still be in my twenties, but old enough to have lived a little.

4. If you were a breakfast cereal, which one would you be?
I would be Special K Vanilla Almond because it's slightly healthy, but has a sweet side and it has a little something special in it (almonds).
5. What is your morning beverage of choice and why?
Definitely coffee with flavored creamer (a lot). I don't feel complete until I've had my coffee in the morning.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Meal Made for a 9 Year Old

I made my husband a very happy man last night.

Those of you having dirty thoughts right now, get your minds out of the gutter! :)


It wasn't because of that, it was because I made a meal that would make 9 year olds the world over jump up and down with excitement.

Buffalo Chicken Fingers and....

Mac 'n Cheese

In our house we pretty much swoon over anything buffalo-flavored and anything draped in cheese, so these foods are an obvious hit for us. But I've tried making healthier recipes for both of these items in the past and was totally unimpressed. I either ended up with soggy chicken fingers or not-so-cheesey mac. Not cool.

These recipes, however, totally accomplished the healthy-yet-delicious feat that I was searching for. The chicken tenders were perfectly crispy and tender and the mac was awesomely cheesy and creamy.

The Mac 'n Cheese actually has canned pumpkin in it for added nutrition, but I waited to tell Hubs that until after he tried it and began singing its praises. I'm sneaky like that!

The overall verdict on this meal was that "I can feel free to make this meal every week, or actually every day if you want"....and that is a direct quote from the Hubs.

Lightened-Up Buffalo Chicken Fingers
source: adapted slightly from the Active Foodie

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Frank's Red Hot
  • 1 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs or whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup crushed whole wheat Saltine crackers - about 10 crackers
  • 8 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Cooking spray (olive or canola oil)
  • 1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot

Preparation

  1. Whisk together chili-garlic sauce, Frank's, buttermilk, vinegar and salt. Add chicken and marinate for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight (I only marinated for 2 hours and it still turned out great).
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray wire rack with cooking spray.
  3. Combine panko, cracker crumbs, flour, paprika, cayenne and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Dredge chicken in flour mixture, shake off excess and place on wire rack. Repeat with all chicken pieces.
  5. Spray chicken breasts with cooking spray, making sure to hit all parts of the chicken.
  6. Cook for 10 minutes. Take out, turn chicken pieces over, spray again, and return to oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until all pieces are golden brown and crispy.
  7. When chicken strips are done, brush them with Frank's Red Hot (or just pour it over like I did). Serve immediately after topping them with sauce (otherwise they will get a little soggy).
Note: After I started cooking I realized I didn't have enough panko or whole wheat breadcrumbs, so I crushed up the Saltines to substitute. We ended up really liking the addition of the cracker crumbs, so I'll probably make them that way from now on. But if you don't want to use the cracker crumbs, feel free to just double the amount of breadcrumbs.


Lightened-Up Mac 'n Cheese
Source: adapted from Meals & Moves

Ingredients:

-3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
-2 cups broccoli florets (cut into small pieces)
-1.5 cups part-skim ricotta
1/2 cup 1% milk
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin
-a couple dashes of hot sauce
-3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
-1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
-salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil noodles according to package directions and toss in the broccoli for the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain well.

While pasta is cooking, combine ricotta, milk, pumpkin, hot sauce, salt & pepper in a large bowl. Stir well so that the mixture is completely incorporated and smooth.

Add drained pasta and cheese to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Pour the whole mixture into a square 9x9 inch pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Note: Janetha's original recipe called for cottage cheese (blended until smooth) instead of ricotta, but I didn't have it so I just thinned out ricotta with milk instead. This method saves you from having to clean an extra dish (the blender) and it turned out great. However, I'm still curious to try the cottage cheese blender method sometime soon! Click here to check out her method!

Also, I think the addition of the broccoli was a great way to add some extra veggies in the mix, but feel free to omit that if you'd like. If you don't use the broccoli, you will want to increase the pasta to 4 cups total.

Last but not least, don't worry - you CANNOT taste the pumpkin in this at all. I promise! Even the Hubs says so. :)