Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The "Us Factor" and other delicious bites...

The other night I was sitting with the mountains and a glass of Chardonnay and my manuscript. I was thinking how amazing my life was at this moment, how great it was working out to choose love instead of fear, to take a risk and end up in bliss. I was also reading my manuscript realizing that it didn't suck as much as I thought it was going to and I was feeling pretty good about following my heart, staying in my bubble, and essentially doing what I want.

While I was in my bliss, I got a call from my boyfriend. I was delighted, as he is another part of my bliss and I shared my feelings of happiness with him. I was sharing how great it was that I kept myself happy while he did the same and all was terrific! Then we started negotiating about the first weekend that I had off since I started my bartending job. My only requirement is that we get 'lost in the woods'.

We both had great ideas, but with the 4 hour commute between us things weren't quite as easy as I had hoped. The conversation looked a little like me saying, "Well, we'll figure it out. Let's make a compromise, but we'll do whatever makes us happy like we always do. I will take care of myself and you take care of you and it will be perfect. I'm not worried." I was smiling as I said it naively, to which he responded, "Yes, but honey there is the 'us factor'.

I stopped cold and thought to myself, "What?!? Damn!" This is where the rubber meets the road, where it isn't ALWAYS entirely about me and what I want all the time?!? Maybe this is what my best friend meant when I told her I was afraid of loosing myself in a relationship and she responded matter of factly, "Good luck with that." I guess when you are in a friendship or romantic relationship compromises are important so is looking after yourself and being fair to the other person.

What do I do now with this "Us factor"? Instead of following that thought, I took a deep breath and realized that it's ALL GOOD. And it is. Everything will work out exactly as it is supposed to if I stay in this moment. In honor of the "Us factor" I am sharing my man's recipe for his famous balls (Mantastic Meatballs that is) and Beer Brownies. What could be more decadent? This meal is dedicated to the men and women in our lives that add the spice, the nice, and the chaotic complication that we all deserve and long for. This menu is designed for the men and women that share their lives, their lusts, their arguments and live in the "us factor" that is real life.


And P.S. as you may be able to tell from the pictures, the weekend was a huge success and we both did compromise, he probably more than me, but in the end we had a great weekend filled with hot springs, riverside camp sites, and gorgeous sunshiney skies. It turned out ALL GOOD just like I had predicted!



Man-tastic Meatballs

1 pound Italian Sausage
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup grated romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley; minced
1/2 medium white onion; diced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. dried red pepper
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs


Tantalizing Tomato Sauce

1/2 white onion; diced
3 cloves garlic; minced
1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
6 ounces water
1 can whole tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1 can Hunt's Tomato Basil sauce (29 ounces)
1 can crushed tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1 bunch fresh basil (1/4 cup chopped)

~Mix all ingredients with your hands lightly in a large bowl until all ingredients are incorporated into a thick meat mix.

~Using your hands form the meat into medium sized meat balls rolling the meat in your palms. The meatballs should fit nicely in the palm of your hand. Once the meatballs have been formed set them aside and lets start on the tomato sauce!



~Next, heat a large sauce pan. Place a small sprinkle of olive oil at the bottom and allow to heat. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions begin to blonde. Add the tomato paste and fill the tomato paste can with water and swirl together with the onions and garlic until smooth.

~Add the can of whole tomatoes and crush them into the sauce using a potato masher. Then add the Hunt's tomato sauce and the crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine. Then add the chopped fresh basil and turn the heat down to low. Now it's time to brown the meatballs.

~Heat a large skillet with 1 tsp. of olive oil in the bottom. Place meatballs in one layer in the hot skillet and cook on each side over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes or until each side is crispy. Once each side of the meatball is crispy; transfer the meatballs into the sauce dropping them into the yummy tomato sauce!

~Continue cooking the meatballs until all are cooked and swimming in the tomato sauce. Allow the meatballs and sauce to cook together for another 20 minutes while you cook your favorite whole wheat pasta noodles.

~Serve the meatballs and sauce over the pasta and you have perfect Italian delight!

Recipe Note: This makes a lot of meatballs. What we like to do is take half and freeze them either after they have been browned and re-heat them when you are ready over medium heat in a large sauce pan with tomato sauce for a few hours. Or you can freeze them raw and thaw them overnight in the fridge and cook them fresh the next day. It makes having spaghetti and meatballs an easy treat for a weeknight!

Beer Brownies

1 package brownie mix
1 cup beer (I used a local amber, but you can use a great stout like Guinness too!)

~Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

~Mix the brownie mix and the beer and pour into a 9 X 12 baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

~Bake for 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Chocolate Beer Ganache

6 tablespoons Smart Balance butter
2 1/2 cups baking splenda
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup amber or stout beer
 1/2 cup each semi-sweet and white chocolate chips

~Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl for 45 seconds.

~Add the melted butter, splenda, cocoa powder, vanilla, and beer in a mixing bowl using a wire whisk until it is smooth.

~Once brownies are done cooking; allow the brownies to cool for 20 minutes. Then pour the beer ganache over the top of the brownies and smooth over the top using a spatula.

~Sprinkle the semi sweet and white chocolate chips over the top and serve. It will blow your socks off! You'll never make brownies the same again! Serve with ice cream and whip cream over the top for an added treat. You deserve it!


Mental Health Benefit: Okay, so it might not always be about me or even about you, but it is important to always look after yourself first. I have learned this the hard way pretending I was an invincible Lumberjack only to find out that I am like everyone else, mortal and require assistance from time to time. Allow yourself the luxury of taking care of yourself and always accepting help when offered and ask for it when it's not. Also, don't worry if you are confronted by your own "us factor" it actually can be a lot of fun! Let the good shine in your lives and on your meals!

~ Wishing you the ALL GOOD vibes from my kitchen to yours!

A little Hot Mess lost in the woods! ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tacos for the whole family

 
Struggling to come up with something creative to serve your whole family that is simple, but yet somehow nutritious? Believe me, I have definitely been there. Through the years I have cooked and fed several families including my own. I have had the opportunity to cook for friends and loved ones. Some pickier than others, but what I have discovered is that the pickier the eater, the more creative I am forced to become. It is sort of fun actually. I know it might sound crazy, but having to work around taste buds and dislikes have brought me to some of my best recipes. 

I have actually come up with my Lucky Lemon Cupcakes because of someone who was trying to loose weight. Watch the video and I might reveal who that was, but despite what brought me to that recipe it is now one of my favorites and one of my crowd pleasers to be sure! 

I also have a dear friend and her husband is the pickiest eater I know and yet she continues to come up with new recipe ideas. Well, I think this one, Outrageously Delicious Open Faced Tacos, may be one she can share with him, however she may have to omit the beans and not top with lettuce, but otherwise this could fit the bill. That is something else I have learned about recipes. Nothing is set in stone, anything in a recipe can be changed, altered, or omitted. Much like life. 

In life, as I have said before, we get to decide what we keep, change, add, alter, or omit. It is that exciting! In life we get to decide what we do, who we do it with, and when! Just like cooking. So, cook like you live your life and make choices with your food that are the best choices for you and what you want!


Outrageously Delicious Open Faced Tacos

1 pound ground turkey meat
1 large white onion; chopped
4 cloves garlic; minced
1 cup celery; chopped
1 can (15 ounces) low sodium black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 ounces) green chilies
1 cup low sodium v-8 juice
3 jalapenos; seeded and minced
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
12 shakes of your favorite hot sauce

~Heat a large skillet and add the ground meat and brown until cooked. Drain the excess fat from the meat if needed.

~Transfer to a large pot and add the onions, garlic, and celery and turn the heat to medium and cover. Allow the vegetables to steam in the meat juices for 5-6 minutes.

~Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet or pot and cover and simmer on low for 1-2 hours.

~Serve over your favorite tortillas. We love the "Hand-made Corn Tortillas by La Tortilla Factory. Top with diced lettuce, tomatoes, and low fat sour cream and a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese and fresh sliced avocado.



Lucky Low-Fat Lemon Cupcakes

Crust:

7 oz low fat honey graham crackers
Olive oil cooking spray

Filling:

3 (8-ounce) packages fat free cream cheese
1 cup fat-free sour cream
2 cups baking splenda
6 egg whites
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice

Lemon curd:

1 ½ tsp. lemon zest
6 tbsp. lemon juice
1 large egg; plus one large egg yolk
½ cup baking Splenda
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (you can also use fat-free butter substitute)

Garnish:

2 lemons


To make the crust:

Place graham crackers in a zip lock bag and seal. Using a rolling pin finely crush the graham crackers until they are the consistency of lumpy sand.

Place paper muffin cups into a muffin tin and spray each cup with olive oil cooking spray. Pour 1 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs into each cup and spray again with olive oil cooking spray. Set the crusts aside.

To make the filling:

In a food processor place the cream cheese, sour cream, and egg whites and pulse on high until all ingredients are combined. Add the lemon juice, zest, and splenda to the food processor and continue to pulse on high until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

Pour the filling into the cupcake tins on top of the crust and fill the cups completely.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

To make the lemon curd:

Using a double boiler, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, and egg yolk and sugar substitute over gently simmering water. Whisk until hot and frothy for about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the butter for another 7 minutes or until the mixture is frothy and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and set in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill.

Once the cupcakes have been cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the freezer for 10 minutes.

To assemble: Using a spoon, pour 1 tbsp. of lemon curd on the top of each cupcake. For garnish slice a lemon into thin slices. Cut the slices in half and twist and place on top of the cupcake. Bon Apetite!

Serving size: 24 cupcakes

Mental Health Benefit: These recipes are sure crowd pleasers and like everything I do they are healthy, easy, and tasty. And in life don't we all deserve a little tasty! I would like to think so. And these two recipes can all be made in advance if you are having guests or just serving your family, so make it ahead of time for a busy week night or a gathering with friends where you are the host or hostess. Eitherway, make it something that you feel good about and serve this tasty meal the way YOU WANT TO!

Love and sane meals from my kitchen to yours and I hope you are having a wonderful summer so far!

~This little hot mess in the kitchen!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chicken with a Detour

Interceptions and Detours. Those are the things to pay attention too. Those things that pull you away from what otherwise would be a normal, controlled, and ordinary life. Those interceptions are what make your life amazing rather than perfect. I prefer amazing. In fact that is really the only choice for me now.

Just the other morning, I woke up planning to get lots of my work accomplished. You know, publish a bog, pay my bills, read and edit my manuscript. Very lofty goals really. And in the end, our house guests woke up and the chatter and surrounding me was so loud that accomplishing anything was impossible. I surrendered my agenda and instead enjoyed the chatter and noise. I know that my house guests are just that.. guests. They won't be here forever and I should enjoy them just as they are as they come and go. 


With my agenda abandoned, we had a wonderful day touring the area, tasting beer, and sight-seeing in the rain.  In the end I was dazzled by the guests and all of their insight and my mind was opened to new ideas, new people, and new experiences. I even found more inspiration for my future dream kitchen!

The interceptions are what brought me to this chicken recipe. Chicken can be one of those boring ingredients that provide healthy and lean protein. That was my goal with this recipe, but I wanted to so something a little different. I wanted to bite into the chicken and be surprised by an interception. What could be better to add flavor and juiciness then bacon! I think you will find that this chicken recipe is delightfully succulent and tender with a perfect interception in the middle.

Please join me and instead of being frazzled by your interceptions, enjoy life's little detours. Who knows you might learn something new or heaven forbid.. Even meet someone special, strengthen a friendship, or make connections that will change your life forever. Those interceptions are put in our paths for a reason. I vow to pay attention to all of them!

Besides, there is always tomorrow for what you can't get completed today. And you know what? Even if tomorrow doesn't come and this blog doesn't make it out into the web, at least I will know that I spent time with the people that matter most in my life.. My friends, my family, and you.

Added bonus: The spinach is packed with vitamins and is succulent alongside this chicken! Enjoy the meal in it's entirety and don't tell anyone you used tofu.. They'll never guess. It will be our little secret!





Stuffed Chicken

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tsp. Italian Seasonings
1 tsp. dried basil
3 slices low fat mozzarella cheese
3 slices cooked bacon
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

~Take each chicken breast and using a sharp knife; slice along the top of each chicken breast to thin out the chicken breast and create a fatter slice of chicken breast. Slice along each side to create 'wings' on the chicken breast. Repeat this process for each chicken breast.

~Sprinkle each raw chicken breast with 1 tsp. of Italian seasonings on both sides of the breast rubbing in using your hands.

~Place a slice of bacon, slice of mozzarella cheese, and a small handful of sun-dried tomatoes in the middle of each chicken breast. Cover the stuffing with the 'wings' of the breast like you are rolling up a tortilla around stuffing. Secure with toothpicks. 

~ Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately alongside the creamed spinach and Italian Bean Salad.



Creamed Spinach

1 package frozen spinach
1 pound package of silken tofu
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 white onion; diced
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1 tsp. kosher salt

~Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat with the one tsp. of olive oil. Once hot add the white onion and minced garlic. Cook until the onions have blonded (become translucent). Then add the flax seed, frozen spinach and package of silken tofu. Continue to stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

~Add one tsp. kosher salt and continue cooking over medium heat until spinach is cooked through and tofu is incorporated. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired

Italian Bean Salad

1 medium sized eggplant
4 cloves garlic
1 can garbanzo beans; drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion; diced 
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large tomato; diced
1 bunch fresh basil; minced
1/4 cup Paul Newman's Light Balsamic dressing

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

~Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay the eggplant in one layer on the cookie sheet. Add the cloves of garlic whole to the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant becomes soft and slightly caramel colored on top.

~Allow the eggplant and garlic to cool. Meanwhile place the diced onion, tomato, basil, garbanzo beans, and feta cheese in a large mixing bowl and lightly toss.

~Dice the cooled eggplant into bite-sized pieces and mince the roasted garlic.Toss with the rest of the ingredients in the large bowl.

~Add the balsamic dressing and lightly toss. You can use more or less dressing as desired. This can be served immediately or chilled and served later or even the next day!

Mental Health Benefit:  These recipes are easy, simple, and healthy for the whole family. I made this meal after a long day out in town and was still able to whip it up while talking to my boyfriend and sipping an adult beverage. It was warm, soothing, and healthy. It felt great after a long day out in the rain. Not to mention it looks impressive because you actually stuffed chicken! And this picture I took out of a moving vehicle.. If that isn't inspirational.. I don't know what is!

~Happy Summer from my kitchen to yours!

~ A little Hot Mess in the kitchen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dinner for Two.. Pork in a bag anyone?

About a week ago, I was with my boyfriend and I wanted to have a nice dinner, just the two of us. We commute about 3 and a half hours to see each other so when we are together, I like it to be special.  I also like to do things cost effectively as I think we all can agree is a great idea when you can do it. I took a long walk and wandered through the forest and found the most beautiful wild flowers and picked several to make a bunch of bouquets to spread throughout the house to set the tone for a beautiful meal. Then, I got into the kitchen.

I decided to make some pork chops using a new technique that I had never tried before. I've used the crock pot, foil wrapping, grilling, and baking in a pan, but I have never tried baking something in a bag. It sounded like a killer idea so I thought I would experiment with it and let you know about the results. Well, let me tell you.. It was a winning idea! The pork came out juicy, moist, and tender. The onions and peppers came out tender and flavorful and the pork paired perfectly with the Parmesean Polenta that I created to go along side.

You can also use this same recipe and technique with chicken using the same recipe if you happen to have chicken on hand at home instead of pork. You could also add different vegetables to the bag if you prefer carrots and celery, you can add those instead or in addition too the peppers and onions. This was a fun experiment and it turned out great. Why not get yourself some kitchen baking bags and try it out yourself! Let me know how it goes by posting a comment!


Herbed Pork Chops

4 medium sized pork chops (bone-in)
1 large baking bag
Pork herb mix (Like the one to the left)
1 tbsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 red pepper; sliced into rings
1/2 white onion; thinly sliced

~Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

~Rub the pork herb mix, rosemary, and thyme into the skin of both sides of each pork chop using your fingers.

~Place the seasoned pork along with the onions and peppers in the baking bag and seal with a twist tie. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. The pork will come out moist and tender and the onions and peppers will marry with the pork to create a delicious broth that you can save and use for soup later on.

~Remove the pork and vegetables from the bag and serve alongside my Parmesan Polenta (recipe below).



Parmesan Polenta

1 1/2 cup polenta
2 cups low fat milk
1 can cream style corn
2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

-Heat the milk in a large sauce pan until the milk slightly begins to bubble.

-Add the polenta and herbs to the milk and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. This will be about 5-7 minutes. Once the mixture begins to thicken add the can of creamed corn and continue to whisk together until combined.

-Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese and stir together using a wooden spoon or spatula. This can be served immediately. However, you can also place in a 9 X 11 casserole dish and continue to heat in a 250 degree oven to keep it warm until you are ready to eat if you have prepared this ahead of time and you can eat it when you are ready.

Mental Health Benefit:  This meal was extremely easy because I used only the ingredients that I already had in the house. I found flowers on the property and used what was already blooming around the house to make great bouquets. It was cost effective and sane! That is why I encourage you to use what you have in the house even if it isn't the same vegetables as I use, I know it will still turn out delicious, and why not pick yourself some wild flowers. Really? What could be better than fresh flowers that you cut straight from yours (or your neighbors) yard?

Happy Summer from my kitchen to yours!

~"Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Elegant Dinner for Friends.. Salmon with Garlic Aoli and Chocolate Eclairs

Just the other week we had our neighbors over for a nice friendly dinner. It is one of those times when you want to do something simple, but special. It can also be one of those times when we run out of creative ideas. This time my mom decided we would make Grilled Salmon and Twice Baked Spuds.  

However, she stalled out on the dessert ideas. She asked me and that's when I got my brilliant idea! Let's make Chocolate Eclairs! They are one of my favorite things and I have always wanted to learn how to make them. It was decided. We got all of our recipe books out and found the common thread behind all of them and then added our own little twists.

One thing that I used a lot of here, is the piping bag. This is the perfect tool to make things simple and a lot less messy. I found a great deal on amazon for some piping bags if you want to be fancy, or you can always use a regular large sip lock bag too! We used it to pipe in the potato filling for the Twice Baked Spuds and we used it to pipe in the pudding for the Chocolate Eclairs. It made my life extremely easy and there wasn't any messes to clean up. I simply threw out the empty plastic bag and voila! Everything was ready to bake and serve. I also had a blast putting the melted chocolate on the eclairs.

Dinner was easy to prepare and delicious. The other benefit of this meal is that everything was prepared ahead of time with the exception of the salmon (which only took about 15 minutes). Which allowed us more time to catch up and share stories with our guests. It was the perfect evening and the perfect meal. 
We served it with a nice tossed salad as always that included lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, and a little vinaigrette. Perfection!

Grilled Salmon

1 fillet of wild Alaskan Salmon
1 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. fresh dill; minced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
 1 tsp. pepper

1. Marinade salmon fillet by rubbing the olive oil on the top of the flesh. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salmon flesh. Then sprinkle with the dill, salt, and pepper. Wrap the fillet in foil and marinade for at least one hour in the fridge.
2. To grill, heat the grill to 300 degrees and place the salmon on the grill still wrapped in foil. Grill on medium heat on an electric grill for 10 minutes or until the salmon begins to sweat. 

We served with an aioli sauce using the recipe that we have published in our previous blog about salmon.  But it's worth publishing again and we made a few minor changes to improve things!

Awesome Aioli

3 egg yokes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. Italian Seasonings

1. Mash garlic cloves and sea salt together in medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Serve over the salmon for a delightful treat!

Twice Baked Spuds
5 Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 Cup Fat Free Sour Cream
1/4 Cup Fat Free Cream
1 tsp. Parsley Flakes
1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper

1. Bake the Yukon gold potatoes in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. They should be soft just like a baked potato. You can cool for up to a few hours if you are doing prep work or overnight if you are planning for tomorrow's dinner party.
2. Once the potatoes have cooled, cut an oval on the top of each potato and place the scraps in a large bowl. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the contents of the potato leaving about a centimeter of flesh and skin hollowing out the potatoes and adding all of the innards to the large bowl.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the potatoes and mash all ingredients together using a potato masher until the mixture is creamy and soft.
4. To stuff the potatoes, take the potato mash mixture and add to a piping bag or zip lock bag. Make a small snip in the corner of the zip lock bag and pipe the potato mixture into the hollowed out potato skin.

5. Sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with a tablespoon or sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese.

6. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheese on top bubbles and browns. This is an easy and elegant potato to serve your guests and impress.

Chocolate Eclairs
Serving: 9 medium sized eclairs

For the pastries:
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup baking splenda
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Combine the water, butter, and salt in a large sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Remove from heat and add the flour and sugar whisking vigorously until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be thick but glossy. It will want to stick together-- this is a good sign!

3. Add the eggs one at a time; whisking the ingredients together. The dough will be glossy and smooth and thickened and should resemble a thick pancake batter.
Pour into a plastic zip lock bag or a pastry bag and pipe onto a greased cookie sheet. Give each eclair enough room to spread out and grow. They will puff up in the oven. Use two cookie sheets if yours isn't large enough to accommodate and give them room to swell and grow.

4. Place them in the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutes. The eclairs will puff up as they cook. Make sure to monitor. If they start getting brown in the first 10 minutes, reduce the heat in your oven to 350 and continue cooking.

5. Once done, remove from the oven and move them to a cooling rack to cool immediately.

For cream frosting:
I took some shortcuts here that I think you will really enjoy!

1 box dried sugar free vanilla pudding mix
2 cups fat free milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Mix all ingredients together using a wire whisk until smooth and incorporated. Pour pudding into a piping bag or a zip lock bag. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes while the pastry shells are cooling in order to allow the pudding to thicken.

 To assemble the eclairs:
1. Gently slice the eclair pastries in half evenly. There will be a hollowed out portion in the middle.

2. Take the piping bag or zip lock bag and cut the corner and gently pipe the pudding onto the bottom half of the pastry filling it full and using all of the pudding mix across the 8 eclair pastry shells.

3. Place the top of the pastry over the pudding mixture making a sandwich of sorts.

4. For the chocolate drizzle on top. melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute in a microwave safe bowl and stir. Continue heating the chocolate in 30 second intervals until it is thin, glossy, and melted.

5. I used a fork and splattered the chocolate hot mess style all over the platter of eclairs. Splatter the chocolate until you feel they are sufficiently covered with just the right amount of chocolate for you and serve! They also can be stored at room temperature for an hour or refrigerated overnight.

Mental Health Benefit: Even though you are eating a chocolate eclair, you can feel a little better knowing that it's sugar free. Hey, sometimes dessert is necessary and if you are me, you might even eat the dessert first. What is that old saying again? Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first. I think whoever came up with this is on to something. Try these easy and healthy recipes out for yourself and let me know how it goes!

Cheers and best entertaining and eating!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

Friday, June 4, 2010

Keepin' it Simple with Cuban Chicken

Remember the old adage.. Keep it simple? Well, that is just what we aim to do. It helps ward off the evil Hot Mess in all her varieties. And she does come in all shapes, sizes, and occasions. She comes when I am doing too many things at the same time, when I am overwhelmed by my many projects, and when people want too much from me all at the same time. These are just a few examples, but the main reason she shoes up is that I am not being honest with myself and respecting my boundaries as a human being.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel the need to be everything to everyone, however you some how manage to fall short? Yeah, I thought that one might get you. Every once and a while I forget that the only one who is going to take care of me is... you guessed it.. ME! When I forget to take care of myself over-extending my boundaries because I say "YES" to everyone, my Hot Mess self almost always comes knocking. That is where I was at a few days ago.

So, this meal was prepared entirely by my mother. I said "YES" to myself and went on a road trip with my boyfriend (and YES, that's a 1981 Trans AM) and when I came back there was this delicious meal waiting there for me. It was pretty perfect and I said "YES" to letting her cook for me and I was able then to say "Hey! Let me do all the dishes" after dinner because I had nourished myself and allowed myself to have the gift of joy that I wanted.

In response, my mom got clean dishes and left overs put away from a gratitude filled daughter rather than an obligation filled one. It worked for everyone involved. Not to mention that this Keep it Simple Cuban Chicken is delicious and the Butter My Brownies are my new favorite dessert!




Keep it Simple Cuban Chicken 

1 whole chicken
1 pound bag of black beans; rinsed
1 pound bag of carrots; chopped
4 medium yellow onions; diced
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon Paula Dean's Poultry Seasoning
1 tablespoon chili pepper (can be less if you like it less spicy)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces low sodium chicken broth
Juice of one small lemon

1. Using a large 6.5 quart crock pot. Add the chopped vegetables and black beans to the crock pot and pour the chicken broth over the top of the vegetables in the bottom.

2. Place the chicken on the counter and rub all of the seasonings over the skin of the bird including the garlic, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and chili pepper. Then place the bird on top of the vegetables in the crock pot.

3. Squeeze the lemon over the top of the chicken and cover the crock pot. Set to high and cook for 4-5 hours.

This meal is perfect served with brown rice (cooked with chicken broth rather than water) and garnished with a little fresh cilantro, a few slices of fresh avocado, and a wedge of lime! It is easy and family friendly.

Left over magic: You can also use this recipe to make tacos or enchiladas by wrapping the chicken in tortilla's and topping with sour cream and green onion.

Tips and alternatives: It is extremely cost effective because the cost of a whole chicken is much less than buying breasts although you could also substitute the whole chicken for 4 large chicken breasts as well.

How to carve a chicken:

The great thing about cooking the chicken in the crock pot is that the meat turns out so tender it will literally fall off the bone! So to get started, take a large cutting board and your favorite large serrated knife. Place the whole chicken on the cutting board and have a serving platter handy.

Start by carefully breaking off the legs. You can use your hands if it isn't to hot, otherwise run your knife along the joint and press down firmly. The joint will break and you will have a leg free. Repeat on the other side.

-Now you have the breast and thighs. Start by carving slices of chicken from the breast on either side of the breast bone and cut thick slices until the breast is gone. Now you will see the thighs and wings. You can either cut them out or using your hands you can break them off like you did with the wings.

-Place all pieces on a serving platter and serve with the beans and rice or simply shred the chicken to make taco meat and add back into the crock pot with the beans and vegetables. Any way you serve this will be delicious!


Butter My Brownies

1 box double fudge brownie mix
2 eggs
1 container low fat vanilla yogurt
1 (8 ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese
1 cup all natural peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Mix all ingredients listed above in a large bowl until smooth and shiny. Pour into a glass baking pan.

2. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes in a glass 9 X 13 pan. Remove and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and serve immediately!




Mental Health Benefit: Saying "YES" is often a trap that we can all get sucked into. It isn't always a bad thing unless you are saying "YES" to obligations that you don't have your whole heart into. What I encourage you to do is say "YES" to yourself more. Say "YES!" to a nice bubble bath, a slow walk, or stopping to smell the freshly blooming poppies. Whatever tickles you pink, say "YES!" to it today and give yourself the much deserved pat on the back. We all deserve a little "YES!" in our lives!

Happy Friday and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! From our kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Easy Family Friendly Chili!

If you are like my family and friends, the sun has started to come out and we have been standing around the grill since we have seen 55 degrees outside. That means steaks, chicken wings, corn on the cob, you name it. It also means we have been making some really good cheese burgers. What that also means is lots of left over burgers and don't get me wrong a left over burger is pretty good, but in true hot mess style, we opted to try out something a little different and make our leftover burgers into chili. Some of you may even have some burgers left over from the long holiday weekend, so why not try out this simple recipe? It was a cold and rainy weekend for us, but we managed to get out and do some grilling. And we are converting our left overs into Cheeseburger Chili which is an easy and healthy meal option.

I know.. you are asking.. Healthy? Chili? Really? My answer is ABSOLUTELY! It is packed with tomatoes that are packed with all sort of vitamins and minerals, beans that are packed with fiber and protein, and when we add celery, onion, and garlic and some V-8 juice, this is pretty much a no-brainer for health. Don't forget the beer we add too. There is definitely some vitamins packed into that!

I also have a few friends who have recently admitted that they have never used their crock pot because they are scared of it! Okay, set the fear aside because a crock pot is one of the smartest and most brilliant inventions since the stove! I mean all you do is pile everything in and press go and the rest is taken care of. Not to mention they are safe to leave on while you are away and when you get back your house smells like you've been slaving in the kitchen all day instead of out playing in the yard. It is a no-brainer!

This recipe is perfect for a Slow Cooking Beginner because there isn't anything else required other than chopping and opening cans and dumping it all into the crock pot. You can even bring your kids in to help and have them break up the left over burgers to get them involved. If I had kids, I might have thought about that, but no little ones for me. So for those of you with them, get them in the kitchen to help. Who knows? Maybe they will be making dinner for you one day? Wouldn't that be a dream come true? Well, my parents are living that dream and they get to relax while I make THEM dinner! Not every night, but lots of them. Doesn't that sound great? Well, this happens now only because they both took the time to teach me the cooking basics. So why not make an investment in your dinner retirement plan and start teaching your kids tonight with this recipe?

Oh, and you are smarter than your crock pot. I promise! Don't let a little machine intimidate you. If you are reading this you have already figured out a much more complex machine.. the computer, so make friends with your crock pot and I have a feeling it might become one of your best friends.



Cheeseburger Chili

3 1/2 pounds barbecued cheeseburgers; chopped into bite sized bits
1/2 large sweet onion; minced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can chili beans
1 (15 ounce) can sweet corn
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and chilies
2 cups low sodium V-8 juice
1 (12 ounce) bottle of good Pale Ale beer (you can take a sip if you like!)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano

Combine all ingredients above in a 6.5 ounce slow cooker. Cook all day on low heat for 6-8 hours. After about 3 hours the house starts to smell like heaven. By the time you are ready to gather around the table your family will be salivating. No joke. Just try it for yourself and see.

If you want to cook it faster, you can cook it on high for 4-6 hours. It just keeps getting better and better over time. You can also use left over meatballs or even cut up meat loaf. Use your imagination! Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese and saltines if you like!

Now get in your kitchen and try it out. This is the perfect meal to use those leftover burgers on a rainy day in June!

Mental Health Benefit: This is a great beginning recipe that is uncomplicated and healthy to serve to your family. Whatever it is that you are intimidated by whether it be a crock pot or a new friendship or project, roll up your sleeves and conquer that fear. You can do anything you put your mind to and you are the only one who can overcome it. So give yourself the gift of learning and growing. You deserve to take a risk on yourself. The best things come out of people who take a deep breath, tie their shoes tight, and start walking towards a dream. Just think of Martin Luther King... What will you do? I know it will be amazing!

Health and well-ness from our kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes at the grill and in the kitchen