Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Game Day #2: Cold Vegetable Pizza

We're on day two of Super Bowl week!

And today I'm featuring vegetable pizza, which is actually shocking because Mr. B and I are not pizza fans. We might order pizza once a year. Seriously. (Come to think of it, I don't think we ordered any last year.) The only time we eat pizza is when we're at someone else's house and they order it, which is then followed by private eye-rolling and frowns from Mr. B and I. (Sorry if those people are reading! I apologize.) There's just something about pizza, with all of it's grease and empty calories, that is un-appetizing. [My dislike might be a result of both my parents managing and working at Dominoes when I was little. We had pizza every Friday night without fail.] I couldn't even touch the stuff in college. True story.

I strongly dislike pizza...especially "normal" pizza. I love taco pizza....and dessert pizza.

And this Cold Vegetable pizza. (However, I am sl.ow.ly liking pizza when I make it homemade. I make healthier crusts, and am happy that I know what's in my pizza. No grease!)

I've always loved this kind of pizza. It makes a great appetizer or snack at parties, and is a great lunch option for Mr. B and I. And the best part, you can put on whatever toppings you like, or whatever you happen to have at the bottom of your refrigerator that needs to be used ASAP.

I just happened to have this.....
Cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, red onions and tomatoes. Sometimes I put black olives on Mr.B's half, but he already ate them.

Mmmmm. So good. I'm sure I'd have no problem eating this whole thing. But I won't. Mr. B would be hangry.

Cold Vegetable Pizza

1 pkg (8-count) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/4 c mayonnaise
2 oz Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp minced chives (or fresh parsley, or 1/2 tsp dill....)
about 1 cup toppings of choice (peppers, cucumbers, red onions, mushrooms, olives, spinach, tomatoes...)
3 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese

Unroll crescent rolls and place on ungreased baking sheet; flatten dough and pinch together seams, forming one big rectangle. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. In small bowl, combine mayo, cream cheese and chives until well blended and smooth; spread over crust. Top with assorted vegetables of choice. Sprinkle with cheeses. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (If using tomatoes, chill for no longer because it will get soggy.) Cut into desired slices.

Don't forget to check back tomorrow for another
Super Bowl Party menu idea!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, January 30, 2012

Game Day #1: Nachos (Two Ways)

Since the Super Bowl is right around the corner, and I LOVE Super Bowl Parties, I've decided to dedicate this week's posts to menu ideas for the big game. We're huge football fans in this household. I love football just as much as the next man. (I come from a football-obsessed family.) My team is the Cleveland Browns. [Please keep your comments and jokes to yourself if you'd like us to stay friends.] Mr. B, however, is a die-hard 49ers fan and has been since he was a wee boy....that last game was heart-breaking.

Anyhoo, back to the party menu. My family always gathers on Sundays to watch the games, and the Super Bowl is no different. And no game-day party is complete without a big spread of nachos. Am I right, or am I right?

Here's what we put on our nachos in the Sweet B household:
  • cheddar cheese
  • black beans
  • reduced-fat refried beans
  • shredded lettuce
  • tomatoes, diced
  • green onions, diced
  • sour cream
  • salsa
I spread the nachos on a foil-lined baking sheet. Top with cheese and place under the broiler until cheese is melted. Then I top it with the beans, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. I finish it off with a dollop of sour cream and salsa. Then I set the baking sheet on the coffee table and we dig in while we watch the game. Occasionally, we will have this as a quick dinner. (And depending on if Mr. B wants a quick snack, I'll make him a small plate...where I melt the cheese on the chips in the microwave instead of the oven.)

But...sometimes, we (cough, because I have some crazy need to constantly change up Mr. B's favorites, cough) tire of our same-old nachos and crave something different. Enter the baked potato.

Just take whatever you throw on your nachos, and throw it on some baked potato wedges. Ah yes. Genius, I know.

I love nachos. I love baked potatoes...loaded. So I had the bright idea one day, when I discovered Mr. B had already devoured the recently-purchased bag of tortilla chips, to throw some potato wedges into the oven and top with my nacho favorites. And tada! Potato Nachos!

The "Baked Potato "Part

Just cut some potatoes into wedges (as thick or as thin as you like), toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip potatoes over and bake another 20 minutes or until done.

Add your favorite toppings, then add cheese.

Place under the broiler for 2 minutes, and then finish off with a dollop of sour cream, salsa, or guacamole (or whatever floats your boat).

Check back tomorrow for another
Super Bowl Party menu idea!

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Sweets

Every other Sunday I like to post a blog sharing my favorite finds from around the Internet and current obsessions.

What I Had For Breakfast Today: Oatmeal Apple Crisp from Yes, I Want Cake. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Katie's blog. She has amazing recipes, a killer work out ethic and the cutest baby girl. [This crisp is sweet, so next time I'm going to half the sugar and use two apples instead of one.]

Sweet Devotional: I'm currently studying the Psalms along with other Do Not Depart readers. It's not too late to join in on our "Run To Him" devotional! Follow the links and get the print out.

Favorite Mouth-Watering Dish: Vegetarian French Onion Soup. Yum!

Sweet Fashion Find: I need these shoes!!!! I love the pop of color.

Daily Inspiration: Psalm 138:7 Trust in the Lord.

Favorite Must-Make-Soon Sweet: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream. Seriously, all this needs is coffee and it would be my all-time favorite! (P.S. LOVE this blog!)

Daily Dose of Sweet Reality: These too-cute-for-words Siamese (twins) kittens.....

 turn into this demanding CAT! Oh Siamese...

Sweet Helpful Tip: How to replace every-day baking/cooking ingredients with Greek yogurt for healthier dishes. (Chobani Conversion Chart) Must print this out!

Sweet "I Want!": Check out this sweet coffee ring! A need for coffee lovers :)

Sweet Idea for a Super Bowl Party: Individual Seven-Layer Dips. This is so clever, and I like the portion control....because I could just eat and eat and eat Seven-Layer Dip!

Favorite Place: Bookshelves and a cubby....perfection.

Sweet Craft Idea: DIY Chore Blocks! I need to remember this idea for when I have children!

Sweet Library Story Time Idea: This would be a great idea for an ocean-themed story time! Colorful Jellyfish.

Sweet Movie Find: Courageous. I saw this in the theater this week with my in-laws. This movie is truly inspiring and full of love and, most importantly, God. So beautiful.

Best Day Brightener: I am convinced beyond a shadow of any doubt that the most valuable pursuit we can embark upon is to know God.  --Kay Arthur

Check out my other Sunday Sweets!
Sunday Sweets #1
Sunday Sweets #2
Sunday Sweets #3
Sunday Sweets #4
Sunday Sweets #5

Was there something you came across this week and just have to share?

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lemon Bread

When I stumbled across this Lemon Bread recipe a few years ago, I was extremely happy. I love anything lemon, and prefer a lemon dessert over a chocolate one any day. Although I'm not a huge bread person, I had a strong desire to become a bread-maker. Even though making bread from scratch intimidated me, I saw flashes of me baking up little mini bread loafs and handing them out around the holidays. (And I have since braved a few homemade pizza crusts, Fresh Strawberry Bread and Blueberry Zucchini Bread, both equally delicious...By the way, I can't tell you enough about this blog, My Baking Addiction. Added bonus: she's an Ohio girl, too. Awesome.)

I usually make this bread following the recipe exactly. However, I wanted to make it a little healthier this year, by switching some of the ingredients, because I tend to eat the whole loaf a few slices because it is sooooo lip-smacking scrumptious!

See that glistening glazed-crust on top of the bread? You must brush the glaze on as soon as the bread comes out of the oven! You wouldn't believe the difference it makes. Not so pretty and delightful if you wait until the bread cools. And don't skimp on the topping!

This bread is delicious both warm and at room temperature. The glaze is so perfect, you don't even need anything else with the bread. I promise!

Lemon Bread
*adapted from Better Homes and Garden

Makes 1 loaf (16 slices)

1 3/4 c flour
3/4 tsp Stevia sugar (or use 3/4 c sugar and omit Greek yogurt)
1/4 plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 c milk
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce (or use 1/4 c butter, melted. I tried both ways, and they're equally delicious.)
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1 Tbsp lemon juice + 2 Tbsp
1/2 c chopped almonds
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly grease bottom and half-inch up sides of 8x4" loaf pan. In medium bowl combine flour, Stevia, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl combine egg, milk, applesauce, lemon peel and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Make a well in flour mixture and add egg mixture along with yogurt (if using). Stir until just moistened (it's okay if it's lumpy!). Fold in almonds. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. NOTE: 10-15 minutes before done, check for browning, and, if so, cover with foil for remaining baking time. In a small bowl, stir together 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp sugar. While bread is still in pan, brush glaze over top of loaf. Cool in pan on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before serving? Yes, for best results. Honestly, I've never made it that far before slicing into this delicious, citrus bread.

Nutritional Information
Per slice my adapted way: Calories 85; Fat 2.2
(Per slice original way: Calories 147; Fat 6)

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bacon, Avocado and Egg Open-Faced Sandwich

During the week my breakfast is pretty simple. I either eat oatmeal, make a fruit or yogurt bowl, or energize with a smoothie. (Fact: My favorite is oatmeal. Love it. I could eat it every morning finding new ways to enjoy.) But on the weekends I like to mix it up. Try new things. Occasionally splurge. Fix an elaborate brunch. Whip up some homemade waffles. Cook an omelet. Sometimes Mr. B and I satisfy our morning hunger with cinnamon toast. And some mornings we reach for the cereal box.

A few Sundays ago, I decided to spice up my simple egg, bacon and toast breakfast. I was in the mood for something different and creative when I spied the avocado. It was just sitting there on the counter, begging to be eaten, slowly passing its prime. I stood amazed that I even had an avocado left. When those beautiful green things come into my house, I consume them. Quickly. They're great in my smoothies, on a salad, or chopped up in salsa. I must have missed this little guy.

But let me give you a heads up. This breakfast sandwich is super filling. I couldn't finish. It might have been because I'm not used to a heavy breakfast (I consider this heavy), or because it was quite rich. Whatever it was, it was good eats. Therefore, I think it might make a great dinner option. Actually, just go ahead and eat this whenever you feel like it!

Bacon, Avocado and Egg Open-Faced Sandwich

Serves 1

1 slice wheat toast
2 Tbsp Neufatchel cream cheese
1/2 tsp chopped chives
2 slices bacon, cooked and crispy
1 egg, over-easy
Ground black pepper
2 tomato slices
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

Stir together cream cheese and chopped chives. Spread over toast. Add freshly cooked egg, and sprinkle with pepper. Top with bacon, tomato and avocado slices. Serve ASAP!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, January 23, 2012

A.M. Banana and Apple Energizer

These cold January mornings give no encouragement to starting my Monday. It's hard to get out of bed when it's dark and cold. And when it's cold, there needs to be snow. What is with this weather? I've never seen so little snow by this date. And dang it! I'm complaining because I love snow. I like mornings where I  jump out of bed and rush to the window to see how much snow accumulated over night. (I guess I'm still a child at heart when it comes to snow.) But this January has been lacking in the snow department. [For instance, we finally got snow last Friday, about 5", but the temperature went right back up, and now this morning it's pretty much all melted.]

Because of this, I need a new morning "booster." I was extremely excited for my banana and apple smoothie this morning. I love awakening these classic fruits with spices, like ginger and cinnamon, and in turn, it awakens me.

I delighted in sipping on this throughout my cold, winter morning.

A.M. Banana and Apple Energizer

Serves 1

1 c apple juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp grated fresh ginger (ground ginger works well, too. When I need to, I use a scant 1/4 tsp.)
2 bananas, sliced and frozen

Place juice, cinnamon and ginger in blender; combine gently. Add in bananas and blend until smooth. Pour in a glass and enjoy!

*NOTE: Sometimes I split this into two servings depending on how hungry I am after my morning yoga.

Nutritional Information
Per serving (as in one big smoothie): Calories 342; Fat 14; Fiber 7.4; Protein 3

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What I'm Reading

Jane Austen.

I adore Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is my absolute favorite novel, and I set aside time to read Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's love story every summer. But I delight in all of Austen's novels; Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion all tie for second. Since I enjoy her writing immensely, I also try to devour everything I can on Ms. Austen herself. I read her biographies, watch the documentaries and catch all media renditions of her books. I'm in love with the movie version of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightly, and enjoy BBC's version of Emma. But I also adore movies like Becoming Jane and The Jane Austen Book Club.

Conversely, I read stories on Austen and her novels from other avid fans' views. I know some people have an issue when a writer creates sequels from beloved classic novels. However, I can't put the books down. Sometimes I, myself, wonder what life was like after the story ends, as with Emma and Mr. Knightly. I'm amused with what other writers' imagine. Just Jane and Sharon Lathan's Darcy series are some examples of this style of writing. And I recently stumbled across another such novel: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James.

Yes, I devoured this book. It was so interesting, and there was a time towards the very beginning that I thought the book was actually fact (which I heard happened to a lot of readers). A true fan of Jane Austen can't help but believe that Austen knew real love. How can someone who writes about it so well, with so much emotion, not? If you happen to be a fan of Austen, check out this story about Jane's secret love affair!

While obtaining my Master's in Library Information and Science, I read a lot of young adult books. And I have to say, most of them I truly enjoyed. There are excellent YA novels out there that adults would definitely find worth reading. Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is one of them. Although I did not read this book as part of my coursework, many people, friends included, told me I must read this YA novel. And all I have to say is that I'm sorry I waited so long!

Zusak's writing is brilliantly captivating, and the point-of-view lends itself to this heavy blanket of darkness with the turn of each page. The book's plot focuses on a German family, particularly a young girl, during WWII and the Holocaust. I couldn't put this book down. My heart was broken. I cried, more than once. The experience was a little life-changing.

Now...onto the new read for my book club. I love that my co-workers (they're more than just co-workers, I love hanging our with these girls!) and I have a book club! And we're moving on to Book #2: One of Ours by Willa Cather. Cather won a Pulitzer for this novel.

One of the members suggested this book because she had read other Cather novels and always wanted to read this one. None of the rest of us knew much about Cather, so we agreed. I downloaded it to my Kindle (for free, by the way) and dived in. I'm almost half-way through One of Ours, and I really like the main character 21-year-old Claude Wheeler, but I'm still waiting for a plot. The book takes place in the great farmlands of Nebraska as America enters WWI. (For some reason, recently I can't seem to get away from war stories...hmmm.) As of now, I'm still interested; however, it needs to get going.

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pear Salad with Walnuts

Let's talk salads. I could eat salads for days, and I try to incorporate a salad into at least one of my meals every day. But I can get bored pretty fast, so I have fun creating new ways to enjoy the vegetables and fruits I love. I also enjoy coming up with new homemade dressings. I try not to eat the bottled versions because they tend to be filled with tons of sugar and fat. And if I'm putting sugar in my dressing, I want to know exactly how much and in what form.

I've been eating this Pear salad for years now. It's one of my go-to-salads because it's full of my favorites, like pears, walnuts, Greek Yogurt, honey and Gorgonzola. It's full of simple imgredients and can be thrown together in a snap.

Here are the stars of today's show....and there's only nine! (And most are going in the dressing!)

You can eliminate the sour cream and use all yogurt for a healthier dressing, if you want. But I like the creamy consistency of both the yogurt and the sour cream. And as my family will tell you, I LOVE me some sour cream. I can literally eat it by the spoonful. So when a recipe calls for sour cream, you can bet I'm using it....and probably a little extra.

Oh, and I LOVE Gorgonzola. Sadly, the grocery store was out of it this week, and I had to settle for blue cheese. There's just something more sophisticated tastier about Gorgonzola. I like it better.

The secret to this salad is the black pepper. It works wonders on your taste buds.

I relish in this salad almost weekly. I can't help it; it's so tasty. Especially when you take that first bite and you taste the tang of the dressing, the crunch of the walnut and the sweetness of pear with a hint of black pepper. Mmm. You're almost in heaven.

*NOTE: I think the dressing makes enough for 6-8 servings!! And nothing will destroy a mouth-watering salad quicker than too much dressing. I loathe too much dressing. I've ruined many a salad by following most recipes' recommended amount. So only drizzle to your heart's content. (P.S. It is a very thick dressing, and a little goes a long way.)

Pear Salad with Walnuts

Serves 4

4 c mixed greens, preferably your favorite blend
1 (18-oz) can pear halves, drained and cut into large slices (or, if able, fresh pears)
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
3/4 c crumbled Gorgonzola
3 Tbsp walnuts
black pepper

Divide greens between plates and top with pears. In medium bowl, combine oil, vinegar, honey, sour cream and yogurt. Fold in Gorgonzola. Drizzle dressing over salad. Garnish each salad with walnuts and a dash of black pepper.

**Another NOTE: I tend to make this salad as my work lunch throughout the week. I cut the dressing ingredients in half, which, for me, makes enough for 3-4 salads. The dressing keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days. When I run out of dressing, I make another batch to finish out my week.

Oh, and here's a snapshot of Mr. B's salad. He likes his salad with the "normal" ingredients (green pepper, cucumber, tomato, green onion, hard-boiled egg, and either Ranch or French dressing or oil and vinegar). He doesn't like to branch out. I tell him all the time that he needs to broaden his horizons. But then he always responds with "if I have a quarterback who is winning games and doing everything I ask of him, would I say 'Hey, let's try the back-up and see what he's got?' No." So he sticks with what he likes.

I, on the other hand, seem to go through quarterbacks as if they were a new change of clothes.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Banana Breakfast Shake

Now that the semester has started and I'm back to work, I'm slowly getting my groove back and settling into a routine. After my morning devotional, five Sun-Salutations and a yoga practice, I'm ready for my breakfast. Once I saw the abundance of bananas on our kitchen counter, I knew a banana smoothie was a must.

Pssst... Bananas are a great source of potassium, which is said to play a role in controlling high blood pressure. So eat up!

I love bananas, but I am not a fan of banana-flavored things. I like to eat bananas in their purest forms....blended in smoothies, sliced on top of peanut butter toast, covered in chocolate and then frozen as a quick, satisfying snack, or (every once in a while) in a decadent banana split. I also love to freeze bananas and turn them into "ice cream." But banana bread, pudding, pie...forget about it. Not a fan.

However, this morning I decided to change up my traditional Banana Breakfast Shake. [You can find the original recipe below.] I didn't want to use too many bananas because I have plans for a banana facial this weekend as part of my new self-pampering habit of 2012. Instead, I used one banana and one peach (thankfully, I still had some frozen peaches left over from my freezing obsession this past summer) for this delicious shake. Since I'm currently fasting sweets and sugar, I omitted the vanilla and replaced it with one scoop of vanilla soy protein. And I skipped the honey drizzle. It.Was.Fabulous. Just the thing I needed to jump start my morning.

Oh, and since it was quite cold out, I finished my meal off with a mug of hot tea, Lipton's Lemon Lane. It was strong and delightful.

Banana Breakfast Shake

Serves 1 (or 2 if eating as a mid-day snack)

2 ripe bananas
3/4 c plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 c skim milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Drizzle with honey, if desired. Enjoy!

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Sweets

Every other Sunday I like to post a blog sharing my favorite finds from around the Internet and current obsessions.

What I Had For Breakfast Today: Bacon, Avocado and Egg Open-Faced Sandwich. (I'll be posting the recipe soon!) I only eat this once in a while because it's a little too rich and heavy for my liking. Which is why I have it for brunch, and make sure Mr. B is up so he can eat half! It's very filling. And this is also why this kind of stuff is only for the weekends.

Favorite Mouth-Watering Dish:  Gnocchi Mac and Cheese. OhMyGoodness.

Sweet Fitness Inspiration: Need to remember this, especially when I'm craving that gnocchi up there.

Daily Inspiration: "I believe if you want something with all your heart, you get it."

Sweet Fashion Find: Love the sweater and belt look. And the pearls!

Sweet Entertaining Idea: These two would be perfect for a tea party. Definitely having one of these soon. I'm also going to start a Mother-Daughter tea tradition....but right now it's just me and my girl friends. I love both ideas!

This looks so feminine and elegant. Everyone would be able to grab the set she prefers.
But this idea is neat because the tea and lunch are together in one quaint "set." It also allows the girls to grab what they want from the lunch buffet table. LOVE.

Current "I Want!": Banana Slicer! This would come in handy because I eat bananas, sliced, like there's no tomorrow...especially when I'm preparing my banana "ice cream."

Sweet Scrapbooking Idea: Great to do for kids and their friends, but I like it now for me and my friends and family.

Love For My Future Home: A screen door on the pantry!!!! Perfect. Check out the fork as the handle!

Favorite Must-Make-Soon Sweet: A new recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Espresso and Cream. Black Bean Brownies. I can't wait to make these. I'm so intrigued.....I've heard of them before but now I'm determined to try them!

Sweet Movie Watch: I can't help it. I have to watch Oklahoma! every time it's on TV.

Sweet Craft Idea: Making this Menu Board ASAP! I create a dinner menu for every week, and this would work great in my kitchen AND save on paper. See, I'm always thinking.

But I like this menu board too! This would work well for those favorite dinners we tend to have often. Hmmm, maybe a combination of both.....

Sweet Helpful Tip: I need to print this out and hang it behind my calendar in the kitchen! It's so easy when you know what fruits are in season. It's easier on my wallet, and helps me get the fruit I love, need and crave.

Favorite Place: This little cottage kitchen is just precious. I love it.

Best Day Brigthener: Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.  --Abraham Joshua Heschel

Check out my other Sunday Sweets!
Sunday Sweets #1
Sunday Sweets #2
Sunday Sweets #3
Sunday Sweets #4

Was there something you came across this week and just have to share?

With Love and God Bless,