Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Well, I’m older.

{<-Flowers, dinner, presents, drinks}

But, I guess 26 isn’t so bad…

Each year, my special day seems to kick off the fall season in my mind. Instead of dreaming of lazy summer evenings, ice cream, and days at the pool, I think of going for a run in the crisp sunshine, hearty comfort food…and presents. (And, who am I kidding, I think about ice cream every season.) :)

My awesome Husband and my fun family made my day great. The Husband and I had a date night complete with sushi, my favorite local pecan tart with vanilla gelato, tickets to see the Zac Brown Band and a weekend getaway. And then, we caught up with my parents and siblings for lunch at Local Roots and…. drum-roll.Jeni’s SPLENDID Ice cream!

{Sunday lunch with the Family!}

This restaurant was perfect – patio, zucchini fries, black bean burgers, calzones… everything was delicious, and we had a blast laughing, telling stories and just being together. Of course, the anticipation of the best ice cream on the planet also made things a little more exciting…

Jeni’s trio with salted caramel, brown butter almond brittle and black coffee… euphoria.

{All the best things: Jeni’s, little sisters, husbands, sunshine…}

Well, after this delightful waltz into the season, I was ready for some authentic fall flavors at home… and after that ice cream (and multiple other birthday-related treats that will remain unnamed), I was also ready for some vegetables. Lots of them. Plus, who doesn’t love dinner that can be made in one pan?

Win-win-win.

Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, and great for leftovers, this salty-sweet dish will make you want to jump in crunchy leaves, wear a scarf, drink a pumpkin spice latte and sit by a campfire all at the same time.

Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Serves 4, Based on this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 4 tsp olive oil (I used 1/2 garlic-infused olive oil, if you don’t have that on hand, just add a clove while cooking the chicken)
  • 1-2 Chicken or Turkey sausages, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 med sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, sage (and/or whatever else you have in your garden!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c real maple syrup

Directions:

1. SEASON chicken lightly with salt. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in large nonstick frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate.

2. RETURN pan to heat and add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Toss in sausage, and cook until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic, fresh herbs, and cinnamon. Cook 3 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth, bring to a boil, and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add reserved chicken and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Drizzle with maple syrup, add dried cranberries, and season with the salt and black pepper as needed. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes.

Enjoy!

{The fresh herbs, colorful ingredients and super-simple steps make this dinner a winner}

I can’t forget a Happy Birthday shout-out to my Father-in-law! We reallly enjoyed that classic DQ ice cream cake… mmmm. Happy 60th!

And, lest I neglect to mention it, FreshlyMinted has turned 1!

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Favorite Things {Snacks}

2011 was pretty good to us.

We saw some beautiful places, spent time with friends and family, went on adventures, ate amazing food, tried new things, enjoyed our little house and each other…

{This pic is from the inside of a car wash. Sweet, huh?! It has nothing to do with 2011.}

Every bit of it was great, but I do have some yummy little discoveries I’ve made in 2011 (or grew to love even MORE) that are my favorites

Okay, okay. If you ask the Husband, he might even go so far as to say obsessions.

Nah.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

A few are little odd (I mean, If I say “I love hummus”, you’ll just roll your eyes and say, “duh!. You and everyone else on the planet!) So, get ready to find some new things and branch out a little bit… totally worth it.

1. La Croix Sparkling Water – Coconut and Pamplemousse flavors:

I discovered this delightful, bubbly water in a can a few years ago, and I have one almost every day. No sugar or artificial sweeteners, no sodium, no artificial flavors or colors: just pure water, natural hint of fruity flavor and bubbles. Gotta love bubbles. I often mix half of a can with a dash of fruit juice and a handful of ice for a late-night TV watching snack. Easy to pack for lunches, good for you, and a great way to “quit” a pop habit. Find them a Kroger, Wal-Mart and lots of other stores in the “drink mixers” section!

2. Pineapple Chobani Greek Yogurt:

This yummy treat packs protein AND a grandma’s-amazing-marshmallow-fruit-fluff-salad-like flavor that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. We love a lot of Chobani’s flavors (lemon and blood orange are also favorites. But beware – passion fruit has funky crunchy seeds in it…).

Great 3:00p.m. office snacks and easy to pack. Grab ’em on sale for just a buck, or get a coupon here. Beware. Your man might ALWAYS steal the last one. Not that I’m bitter…

3. Morning Wheat Grass Smoothies:

I originally hated the cliche, and hated the taste. That is, until I tried one that was perfect for a “long weekend detox”!

And may or may not have tasted like an old favorite from Arby’s.

“JaMocha” Detox Shake

Makes one shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop wheat grass powder (I like Amazing Grass Wheat grass powder. They have a lot of great products for kids and adults who need a little green in their lives. Or, substitute a few handfuls of fresh spinach)
  • 1/2 to 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I’ve been using Designer Whey – 100 cal per scoop, no artificial sugars – but there are a lot of great options out there)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (Weird, but totally necessary for texture. You can’t taste it!)
  • About 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 6-8 Ice cubes
  • Splash of water
  • Directions:

Just toss everything in and blend until smooth! A ton of vitamins, protein and fiber, with  a slightly “green” mocha flavor. For a richer chocolate flavor, add a little unsweetened cocoa powder or use chocolate almond milk. It might take a few tries for you to adjust or find the right mix, but I wake up craving these quick little meals!

4. Sweet-Potato-in-a-Bag:

Sounds weird, but it’s the been the best thing for my lunchbox since sliced bread. Just wash a sweet potato, cut off a little of each end, poke several holes, then place in a heavy-duty Zip-Loc bag. When you’re ready to each, just open the bad a little at one corner to vent, and pop in the microwave for a few minutes until tender. I like to chop it up with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a little salt and pepper – filling, easy and delish with a side salad, an icy cold La Croix and an apple for dessert.

5. Thinly Sliced Apples with Cinnamon:

Simple, yet so, so good.My “yay for good life decisions” movie snack of choice, I love to slice a huge apple (Honeycrisp!) as thin as I can and sprinkle it with heavy dose of healthy cinnamon. It fills a whole plate and I can eat is slow…

Love that crunch!

6. Plain Yogurt with Starbucks VIA dust or Powdered PB:

You know of my love for zero fat FAGE – just mix in a quarter of a packet of Starbucks VIA  or a 1/4 t instant coffee (note: it won’t be sweet – tastes like black coffee! Add a drizzle of honey or agave for a little sweetness) and you have an awesome treat with maybe just a couple of added calories! PB2 is a fun, quirky product made of peanuts that have had the oil squeezed out of them. You end up with a powder packed with peanut flavor, but with 85% less fat! Nothing artificial and perfect for smoothies, sauces, spreads and… making PB “mousse” with plain or vanilla yogurt. Mmmmm….

7. Justin’s Maple Almond Butter – On anything.:

I’ve tried a LOT of great nut butters over the years, but Justin’s Maple Almond Butter is my favorite. All of Justin’s  butters are available in cute, perfectly portioned to-go packs that are ideal for traveling or packing in your lunch to take to the office. Add it to hotel oatmeal or an apple at the airport for a great snack and a filling breakfast, or use it in your “emergency stash” for when you get stuck at work late… don’t be too proud to eat it right out of the container.

8. Homemade Mocha Protein Bars:
I love me some bars. Of the granola, protein, chocolate, I-might-not-even-really-need-a-snack variety. Sadly, a lot of those chewy little suckers also pack a list of ingredients my little sister can’t pronounce. And that’s the rule: if your nine year old sister can’t read the ingredient list, you shouldn’t be eating it.

Try these instead….

Mocha Protein Bars

Inspired by MaMa Pea’s Chocolate Chip Zee BarsMakes 10 bars

Ingredients:

    • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
    • 1/2 c. oat flour (aka old-fashioned oats ground into a flour)
    • 1/2 c. chocolate protein powder
    • 1/2 t. salt
    • 1 T. baking powder
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. sweetened applesauce (if you use unsweetened, add sugar to taste)
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. almond milk
    • 1 t. vanilla
    • 1/4 t. cinnamon
    • 1/4 c. + 3 T. chopped dark chocolate
    • 1 T instant coffee powder (do you see a trend here?)
    • For topping, if desired: 3T dark chocolate, 1t. coconut oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine oat flour, oats, protein powder, baking powder, salt, coffee and cinnamon.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine applesauce, vanilla and milk.
  • Add applesauce mixture to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Add stevia to taste. Fold in 1/4 c. of chopped dark chocolate.
  • Pour mixture into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until bar is set and pulling away from edge of pan.
  • Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  • For chocolate drizzle (optional – you may, like me, choose to put all of your chocolate inside the bars!), place 3 T. of chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag and microwave in 30 second increments, kneading bag until chocolate has melted.
  • Add coconut oil to melted chocolate and knead again.
  • Snip a tiny corner of the bag with a pair of scissors. Pipe chocolate across cooled bars and stick bars in fridge or freezer to allow chocolate to set, if desired.
  • Store remaining bars in the fridge, or freeze for later!

The Husband totally thought I was kidding when I told him these puppies were good for him. At about 135 calories a piece and more than 10g of protein, I’m not lyin’!

9. Frozen Grapes:

Ok, kind of a “duh”, but always so good! The perfect snack to eat while reading a good book… or any time you shouldn’t mindlessly eat chip after chip… (grape after grape isn’t nearly as bad).

Speaking of chips:

10. Baked Hummus Chips, or Sweet Potato Chips Dipped in Greek Yogurt:

Tie. I love both for the crunch… sometimes you’ve just got to have a little snap with your sandwich or wrap (that isn’t a carrot. Let’s face it. They don’t always cut it.). Try Humbles Lemon and Feta or Sesame Garlic nestled by your next lunch (TONS of flavor, 55% less fat than potato chips! Find them at Whole Foods, or… TJ Maxx, like me!). Another fav is to grab some more FAGE and a few Food Should Taste Good sweet potato chips to scoop just like a sour cream dip. Touch of salt, bunch of crunch, hint of creamy… just do it.

Well I hope these ideas inspired you to branch out a bit with your snacking and lunch items this fresh, new year. Dive in. It’s so fun!

Do you have any healthy snacks to share?

Here are a few other “Best Snack” lists to try:

Peas & Thank You: Snacks and Treats

Eat, Live, Run: A Good Snack

Oh She Glows: Kid-Friendly Snacks

Iowa Girl Eats: Best Healthy Snack Ideas

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On a totally different note, here are my favorite Christmas presents:

{Ahhh – who knew they made Nutella “To-Go”?!}

And yes, the camera did beat the cocoa-hazelnut spread by a small margin.

Get ready for some beautiful new photography…. as soon as I figure out how to turn this thing on.

Jk.

Retro Squash {Truffles}

First off, these really aren’t truffles. Sorry to disappoint, but I just didn’t want the name of my post to be “Squash Balls”.

Umm… doesn’t exactly inspire cozy, happy, holiday thoughts. So, because these little treats are round and have somewhat of a crispy, sweet coating… truffles they became.

I found the inspiration for this recipe in a April issue of Family Circle from 1955 (one of my grandmother’s magazines). “Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls” – They are little funky-retro, and a lot fun to eat.

Unlike Mrs. Eisenhower’s Apple Pie, I did make some modifications to this recipe.

With the biggest eating day of the year looming close, I wanted to be sure I could pound some stuffing, mashed potatoes and Black-Friday-Power-Shopping-Frappuccinos without overwhelming guilt.

Don’t worry. The “yummier” PG-13 version is below also… Worth a shot if butter and zweiback crumbs are your thing. I’ll let you choose for yourself ; )

Retro Squash Truffles

Makes about 10 larger-than-golf-ball-sized truffles

Squash Mixture:

  • 2 Cups of roasted squash (I used a Kabocha, but Butternut or Sweet Dumpling would work well also, or even Sweet Potatoes like the original recipe suggests.)
  • 1 T Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1 t Brown sugar (May need to vary based on the sweetness of your squash)
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • Dash of Nutmeg and Pepper (to taste)

Coating Mixture:

  • 2/3 Cups of Panko Breadcrumbs (graham crackers or a few crushed pecans would be great additions, too)
  • 2 t Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Salt

Directions:

  • Mash squash in a large bowl; add remaining squash-mixture ingredients; beat until fluffy; form into balls truffles.
  • Combine coating-mixture ingredients in a pie-plate; roll truffles in the mixture until coated well, place in a shallow baking pan.
  • Bake in slow oven (325) for about 35 minutes, or until truffles are heated-through and coating is crisp.

Garnish these little spheres of sweet-fluffy-mashed-potato-like goodness with a drizzle of real maple syrup, or….

…yep, I went there.

Add half of a marshmallow for the last five minutes of baking time for a gooey treat. Perfect nestled next to a turkey, and fun to make (and eat) with kids.

That is, unless you get TOO into the retro thing, and make the whole family dress alike…

Just. Don’t. Do it. They won’t appreciate that when they’re older. And, therapy is expensive.

Enjoy!

For all of you adventurers out there, here is the original recipe, as printed:

Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls

Makes 8 large Potato Balls

Potato Mixture

  • 2 Cans (1lb, 2oz each) of vacuum packed sweet potatoes
  • 4 T (1/2 Stick) of melted butter or margarine
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1t Salt
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/8 t Pepper
  • 1 t Lemon juice

Coating Mixture

  • 3/4 Cup coarse zwieback crumbs (About 6 slices)
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 2T Melted Butter or Margarine
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt

Directions: Same as above, but bake for 40 minutes.

Tastes like {Home}: Vegetable Beef Soup

Everyone has that unique set of flavors, textures and smells that instantly transport them back home…

We’ve all been there: You’re rushing around making dinner after work, and then all of the sudden you find yourself sitting in your mom’s kitchen with the table at eye-level, a spoon in your hand and something dribbling off of your chin…

In your mind, of course.

For me, one of those time-travel dishes is my mom’s “Vegetable Soup.” With loads of vegetables, chunks of beef and its signature apple cider vinegar tang, it is my ultimate comfort food, and the first recipe I asked my mom for after the Husband and I were married. It’s also very easy to make. Definitely a bonus.

Some other yummy benefits:

  1. I almost always make it with leftovers – Clean out the fridge, stretch your $ and get an amazing depth of flavor!
  2. It gets better the longer that it sits – Seriously. It’s wonderful piping hot from the stove, but even better in two days.
  3. You can make a huge pot of the stuff and eat it for weeks – Let it “marinate” in the fridge, then freeze for great take-to-work lunches and fast dinners.

Here is the usual drill: The Husband starts dropping subtle hints that he would like to incorporate some meat into his dinners. “Hey babe – You know, you could say ‘Or just add chicken!’ to this meal on your blog. It’s REALLY good, but some people might like chicken…. yum, chicken… mumble, mumble, beef….mumble, drool…”

Then, after a few more meals, I can tell by the look in his eyes that the man needs some red meat. And, if I would like the trash taken out or my windows happily scraped or my next shopping trip approved, I had better serve some. Fast. (Ladies: Chickpeas can only take you so far in your marriage… Sometimes, it takes a pot roast to get things done).

So, I toss a roast, veggies, seasonings, some red wine and the kitchen sink into a crock pot before I leave for work, and we are greeted with delicious smells and a fast dinner when we get home. My favorite vegetable additions are sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts (fresh, cut in half), baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, onions and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Well, with just the two of us, we always have a ton of meat, broth and flavorful vegetables left over. That is where the soup comes in. Just separate everything, stuff it in the fridge, and pull it out when you’re ready. The exact quantities don’t matter (ANOTHER reason I love soup… ) so just go with what you have!

Homey Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients:

About 6 hearty servings

  • 3-4 cups Beef broth (Reserved from the roast, or purchased)
  • 1-2 cups Beef roast, cooked and slightly shredded/chopped into large bite-sized pieces (Or, whatever you have left. I like more veggies than beef, so even a little is fine!)
  • 1-3 cups of leftover roasted vegetables (or whatever you have left), roughly chopped (While not necessary for the recipe, the flavor is wonderful. If you aren’t making this from leftovers, just add 1-2 potatoes, cubed. They will cook with the soup.
  • 2 bags of frozen mixed vegetables, or one “family sized” package (corn, green beans, carrot cubes…you know the one.)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • About 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, or to taste (trust me… it makes the dish!)
  • About 1/2 cup of green lentils (Just for fun!)

Directions:

  • In a large pot, add all ingredients except vinegar, stir and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender. Add vinegar toward the end of the cooking time. Add pepper to taste – you shouldn’t need additional salt.
  • Serve with crusty bread, cheese and sliced apples. Warms you from the inside out, reminds you of dinners when you were 12…

Enjoy!

It’ll make you (and your man) happy for weeks to come.

What are some of those flavors and foods that make you feel like a kid again?

Curry for {Cheaters}

We had another jam-packed, fun-till-you-drop weekend.

Someday, I vow we will spend an entire weekend in our PJ’s at home. Like, when we’re 85… But for now, we love that we can go, go go!

Our days were full of family, friends and Jesus at an annual church conference in Columbus, amazing food at the North Market and a peek at Cole & Steph’s new house (where we ate more amazing food…big surprise)!

The Husband and I had such a rich time getting to know people from across the country, and having the opportunity to talk to them about the sessions we attended on “God’s Disruptive Goodness” (think: all of those times major events have happened in our lives that we didn’t plan for… and how they ended up bringing us closer to Him, teaching us things, and preparing us for even better things ahead!) . Though we learned a TON, I have to say that the North Market, my veggie curry lunch and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream were some of the major highlights of the trip : )

{Small photo above, right: Conference friends eating downtown. Sebastian, far left, assisted missionaries Dow & Lois Robinson in translating the bible into Aztec, and creating a written language for the Aztec people. The others at the table served in Costa Rica and San Antonio for the Boy with a Ball organization. Photo above: The North Market in all of its delicious glory!}

After staying up late (2:00a.m.!) chatting and hanging out downtown for two days, we were worn out on Sunday. But, not too tired to see Cole & Steph and their beautiful new home! Steph made the best, most perfect fall dinner possible with recipes from Daily Garnish and Eat, Live, Run (a couple of our favorite “blog ladies”!). Try these dishes…they are to die for. Then, you can invite me over because you’ll owe me : )

{Bison burgers with mushrooms and steak sauce, butternut squash and cranberry maple mixed grains and apple spice bread with apple cider glaze}

Well, I’ve had curry on the brain for a while. Hence the reason that I inhaled my lunch at the Market so fast that the Husband looked concerned and our new friends thought twice about inviting us to go with them… But, making real curry with real curry ingredients and real curry patience and exactitude doesn’t always float my boat. You know what does? Throwing stuff I already have laying around into one big pan. That is why I created “Curry for Cheaters”…sometimes, cheaters do win.

Real curry enthusiasts will cringe and squirm at this concoction, and I don’t blame them. But, If you want something fast and flavorful, this will do in a pinch. You can use ANY of your favorite vegetables in this dish (or whatever is languishing in your fridge). The only thing I think you should absolutely stick with is the sweet potato. Best part.

Curry for {Cheaters}

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Servings of short grain brown rice, prepared as directed (or 10 min. brown rice if you need something faster! Use Vegetable broth for the best flavor.)
  • Olive or Canola oil to saute
  • 1-2 T Garlic Gold (or one clove of garlic or garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 Bell pepper
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 1/2 Large onion
  • 3 Stalks of Bok Choy
  • 2 oz. Shitaki Mushrooms
  • 1  can Chick peas (15oz.)
  • Handful of Snow Peas
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 t Garam Masala
  • 1 t Yellow Curry powder
  • Dashes of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Smoked Paprika (or anything else that sounds yummy…)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (I always have this in the fridge…coconut milk, not so much.)

Directions

  • Heat oil in your pan on medium/ medium high heat (including Garlic Gold Garlic-infused oil if you have it…so good. A gift from Steph!).
  • Chop all of your veggies, and begin sauteing onions and peppers.
  • While onion and peppers begin to soften (about 8-10 minutes) placed diced sweet potato in a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover, and cook on high until tender (time will vary – 2-5 min.).
  • Add the rest of the vegetables and the spices to the pan, and continue to cook.
  • Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave when done, drain, and add to the pan with the other vegetables.
  • Saute the mix until vegetables are tender, but not limp. A crust will begin to form at the bottom of the pan (flavor!). Time will vary depending on your veggie choice, but try around 10 minutes and see where you stand.
  • Slowly deglaze the pan with the almond milk, 1.8 cup at a time. Stir in between.
  • Curry will become a little creamy and sweet, and a lot wonderful : )
  • Serve on top of rice, garnished with plain yogurt.

So delish, so easy, so healthy. Make it now, clean out your fridge and thank me later : )

Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite toss-together dish? Let me know about it!