Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sunrise yesterday and today

Friday 6:36 am

Saturday 6:38 am

So similar but so different, too. These doggies have me up early. I don't mind though; I love seeing these gorgeous sunrises. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday Walk

Some pretty pictures from my walk with the doggies on Wednesday... 

Above: a pretty good shot of Brutus.

Guess what else I did on Wednesday?

Hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Taco Nacho Casserole

Turkey Taco Nacho Casserole
We had this for dinner last night and it was delicious. We made a few small changes to the recipe.  I saw the recipe on a blog called "Jeannette's Healthy Living", which is a blog I really enjoy.  I have tried a number of her recipes and I also get a lot of inspiration for healthier eating from what I see on Jeanette's blog. The recipe is posted HERE and is gluten-free if you make it to Jeanette's specifications. We were not worried about gluten so I made a few changes. We will definitely have this again! I encourage you to check out Jeanette's blog, too!
Turkey Taco Nacho Casserole adapted from
Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, chopped (I used an orange pepper)
  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used Jenni-O Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey)
  • 1 packet Old El Paso Hot & Spicy Taco Seasoning
  • 2 (15 1/2 ounce cans) black beans (rinse and drain)
  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce can) tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • Toppings
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • finely diced red or yellow onion
  • non-fat Greek yogurt, plain low fat yogurt, or sour cream
  • Baked Tostitos Scoops (corn tortilla chips)
  • finely shredded romaine lettuce 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
In a large skillet, cook and crumble the ground turkey. When nearly cooked through, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute until onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes.  Add taco seasoning, beans and tomato sauce. Stir well to combine. Cook until heated through.
Transfer to a casserole dish (I used a 9 x 13 x 2 pan). Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly, about 15 minutes.
Serve with desired toppings.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cabin Fever: Baked Fish Gremolata

Winter came to Colorado on Monday sometime after noon.  It blew in like a lion!  I was about to go outside and someone warned me I might blow away. I assured them I'd put some rocks in my pocket and I'd be okay. 
Monday morning I had an appointment with a physical therapist.  It was 6:00 am and I was quite comfortable in flip flops and shorts.  When I drove home from work, less than about 10 hours later, it was snowing.  I think it snowed on and off all of Tuesday and Wednesday, and then today it was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit first thing in the morning.  When the sun rose, we could see there was not a cloud in the sky and it was a gorgeous day.  Cold, drippy, and sunny... but gorgeous. We did venture down to the river with the dogs and went for a short walk.  The dogs loved it.  The dogs have been feeling a bit cooped up; the humans have, too. 
With so many hours at home (I only worked two days this week... vacation time to burn... Woo Hoo!), I've burned off some steam with some creative cooking.  Today, I made more of my Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats in the Crock Pot.  In a second Crock Pot, I made some Three Bean Turkey Chili.  For dinner, we thawed out some fish.  We bought a bag of swai at Sam's Club.  Swai looks like tilapia but the filets are a bit larger.  It's a soft, delicate white fish and it's very mild. Not fishy at all.  Years ago, I saw something on a cooking TV show about gremolata.  Basically, the gremolata was a combination of lemon zest, garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, and olive oil.  I looked at a few recipes today but I just sort of winged it.  My husband really liked it so I am typing this up before I forgot how I made this yummy and healthy dinner.
Baked Fish Gremolata (serves 2)
2 tilapia or swai filets
4 tablespoons Italian dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
zest from 1/2 to 3/4 of  a lemon
1 small to medium sized garlic clove, finely grated
1 tablespoon finely minced Italian flat leaf parsley
salt and black pepper
olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread about 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish.  Rinse fish with cold water and pat dry well with paper towels.  Place the fish in the baking dish, turn the filets to coat both sides in olive oil. Season top side of filets with salt and pepper. I used kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.  I used a Microplane grater to zest the lemon and finely grate the garlic.  Stir well with a fork until all ingredients are well combined and all of the bread crumbs are moistened.  Spread the bread crumb mixture on top of the filets.  Bake the fish in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily.  Then turn the oven to broil and broil until the bread crumbs are golden brown; keep an eye on it, as it will brown quickly. 
We had the fish with sauted bell peppers and onions.  I also made some quinoa.  The quinoa I made had an Italian flair as well.  I combined a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil with a pinch or two of salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil.  I stirred the olive oil and herbs into the cooked quinoa and topped it all with some Parmesan cheese.
Above:  a shot of the gremolata... great combination of flavors.

Above:  a shot of the fish just before popping it in the oven.  It smelled really great baking in the oven.

Sandy and Brutus have enjoyed me being home this week. We have been hanging out on the couch and knitting and looking out the window a LOT this week!
A few pictures of the great outdoors during this cold snap.  Ummmm, no grilling this week. The sun came out this morning and things got drippy but as soon as the sun passed over the house, things froze up really quickly again.  The high temperature today was about 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

Above:  I loved how the snow piled up on the pergola. 
Below:  What a difference a few weeks make... a photo from pretty much the same angle taken not too long ago.

Stay warm folks!

Our back yard.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sleeping Dogs...

I don't believe in reincarnation per se... but if I did, I'd want to come back and live a life like one of my two dogs... Sandy or Brutus.  They have it pretty good. 
Sandy is protective and loyal... graceful and ladylike.  She likes to nap in the chair by the computer in the great room of our house.   The chair has a good view of the back yard and also a good view of the humans in the house.  There is also an extra cushion on the chair which doesn't hurt either.  In the morning, the sunlight shines through the back door and warms this area.  Also not a bad thing...

Then there is Brutus. Unbridled and unparalleled enthusiasm. Happy go lucky and charming.  But even this teddy bear must rest... but when he rests, he keeps a toy with him.  Because when he wakes up, he'll be raring to go some more. Yep, he's just re-charging his batteries.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden Copy Cat Recipe)

Copy Cat Recipe: Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

I am getting closer.

I keep trying to make Zuppa Toscana like you get at The Olive Garden Restaurant:  spicy sausage, fresh kale and russet potatoes in a creamy broth.  

This is my closest effort yet!  I regret I cooked the kale at the end just a tad too long. I could have cut the kale more finely and I also used a little too much kale. But aside from these few things, I am on the right track.  I used Lacinato kale (also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale). 

Slow Cooker Recipe for Zuppa Toscana

1/2 pound Johnsville brand Hot Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled, drained on paper towels
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 to 4 small cloves garlic, finely diced
32 ounce carton chicken broth
1 large russet potato, skin on, finely sliced (see photo below)
2 tablespoons Hormel brand fully cooked bacon crumbles
1 cup kale (measure loosely), chopped in to small bite sized pieces
1 cup whole milk
crushed red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook, crumble and drain the sausage in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage to the slow cooker (Crock Pot) along with the onion, garlic, chicken broth, potato, and bacon.  Cook on low for 3 1/2 to 4 hours (until potatoes are desired tenderness).  Add kale to top of soup and cover the Crock Pot with the lid; no need to stir it in as the steam will turn the kale a beautiful green). After kale turns bright green (it will just take a few minutes), add in 1 cup whole milk, a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.  Taste to see if there is enough salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Above:  Here is a photo from The Olive Garden website. When I saw this photo, I knew I overcooked my kale and added a bit too much kale.   

I am also adding a photo of the sliced potatoes to show you how I sliced them up.  I like that Olive Garden keeps the skins on and slices the potatoes like this. Don't worry if your potatoes are varying thickness; some will break up in the soup and others will be a bit more firm.  It's all good!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Muddy Buddies

Proceed with EXTREME caution! These treats are DANGEROUSLY good!

So I remember a day many moons ago: I picked up Zach at daycare/pre-school (remember, Zach is now a Senior in high school... I told you... many moons ago...) and I was informed they had made "Puppy Chow" that day. Turns out Puppy Chow is a treat made with Chex Cereal. Chocolate and peanut butter get all melty and delicious and are stirred into Chex cereal until it's all coated. Then you toss the chocately-peanut-buttery cereal in powdered sugar. I understood why they called it Puppy Chow since some puppy food does have a white powdery-milky coating on it.

In the past few months, I've noticed Zach has gone to a nearby gas station to get snacks and he brings home a bag of Chex Muddy Buddies (AKA: Puppy Chow). So I told Zach the other day, "if you go to the store and get some Chex cereal, I will make you Muddy Buddies!".

I finally made Muddy Buddies Chow at home last night. It was very easy to make and I had all the ingredients on hand except for the Chex cereal. The recipe specifies using ONE two-gallon sized zip lock bag to coat the cereal. I used TWO one-gallon sized zip lock bags. The only tricky thing about making this treat was getting the coated cereal into the bag without making a big ol' chocalately mess.

Chex Muddy Buddies

9 cups Rice Chex™, Corn Chex™ or Chocolate Chex™ cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I ended up using a lot more than 1 1/2 cups)

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated.

Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

TURNS OUT there are lots of Chex cereal recipes out there. I think I might have to try a few more. I'll keep you posted! :)