Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Butternut Squash Extravaganza.......

First, let me apologize for my infatuation with soups & muffins lately.....this cooler weather has me so excited I just can't help myself.

Part 1 of my Butternut Squash Extravaganza..... and it was so super simple!  I pulled out a hidden ziploc freezer bag from my freezer this morning filled with the golden goodness.  I had totally forgot about it and it was such a nice surprise to not have to make dinner tonight.  That should tell you that the following soup recipe freezes very well...I made it about 3 months ago.  :)

This creamy butternut squash soup recipe is adapted from my Grandpa Ray's recipe.  Well....he doesn't really have recipes, but it is his "estimation" of what goes in it.  However, I've of course lightened it up a bit by decreasing the whole stick of regular full fat yummy butter down to a half stick of light butter.  As well as, using fat free half-n-half instead of cream.    Feel free to reverse this because as some of you may know, my Grandpa Ray is the best damn cook in the entire world.  He puts the Bobby Flay and Emeril to shame.  So...his version this soup is out of this world.  However, my version won't give us a heart I think that's pretty damn good too.  :)

SERVES 4 - Approximately 1&1/2 cups per person (4WW points)

I tried to get all girly swirly with a little extra half-n-half on top, but it didn't work so well :(

10 oz. butternut squash, peeled & cubed
32 oz. chicken broth
8 oz. white wine
2 T fresh ginger root, sliced
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup light butter (or even just 1T of olive oil is good too)
1 cup fat free half-n-half
2 tsp. Wyler's instant chicken bouillon granules (I season a lot of soups with this/found in the soup aisle)
1 tsp. black pepper

In a stockpot bring squash and chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to med-high and cook approximately 9-10 minutes or until squash is fork tender.  While squash is cooking steep ginger root with white wine in a small saucepan over low-med heat.  In a seperate small skillet saute onion, celery, and garlic with 2T of the butter until vegetables are soft.  When squash is tender; drain ginger slices from wine.  Combine wine and onion mixture into the pot of squash.  Puree soup in a blender (or a stick blender works well too) and return to pot.  Add half-n-half and remaining butter.  Stir until half-n-half heated through and butter has melte.  If needed season with chicken bouillon and black pepper.

Part 2 of my Butternut Squash Extraveganza was dessert tonight, snacks and possibly breakfast tomorrow and of course Ethan's lunch box treats for the rest of this week.  I found this recipe on the WW website.  They are 3 points each.  You may remember a while back I mentioned how sad I was about the pumpkin shortage and that I was going to use butternut squash in place of it for a pumpkin muffin recipe I had.  Well, I bought a butternut squash....and then found this recipe which actually called for I decided to make it instead. :)

They turned out really moist and yummy.  Great fall spice warms your heart.  As usual, I substituted half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and I didn't have ground ginger so I used 2T of grated fresh ginger instead.  (BTW, fresh ginger is one of my favorite ingredients).  I imagine this recipe would work well for a spice cake and would be absolutely AMAZING with a schmear of cream cheese frosting too!  So here is is folks........

Makes 12 muffins - 1 Muffin per serving = 3WW points

Served with a piping hot after dinner cup of coffee...Mmmm! (I promise I really am only 31 years old)
Cooking spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup pureed cooked butternut squash
3T canola oil
1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
3T molasses
1 large egg

Prehat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 12 muffin tin with cooking spray or use cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whish together flour, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, combine sugar, squash puree, oil yogurt, molasses, and egg.  With an electric mixer on medium speed, mix for 1 to 2 minutes.  (I used my magic bullet, but you can also do this by hand)

Make a well (a scooped out indention) into the center of the dry ingredients; pour in liquid mixture and gently fold to combine (batter may be lumpy).

Evenly pour batter (approx 1/4 cup) into prepared muffin tins.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes. 

Note:  The best way to make squash puree from whole squash is to peel and cube the squash.  Place into a microwave safe dish with 1/4 cup of water.  Cover with plastic wrap and cook for approximately 8 minutes or until tender.

Just in case you needed to know.....this is a butternut squash.  They can be substituted for any pumpkin instead of buying some overpriced pie pumpkin...just get one of these instead.  :)  Enjoy!

OH......and one more thing.....if you happen to have a six year old little boy running around in your house....hide your muffins or this may happen. :)
Ehhh...nothing a dollop of cool whip can't fix, right?
As you can also see he doesn't know how throw away his stolen cupcake paper either...typical male...gets caught every time...geesh!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spinach Salad w/ Warm Bacon Dressing

OMGosh....I'm totally disgusted. I was completely grossed out when I read the ingredients and the nutrition facts on T. Marzetti Spinach Salad Dressing.  The first ingredient is High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Ugh.  It also has brown sugar...holy the first ingredients being HFCS isn't enough sugar already!  So...I set out to find a better alternative.  After googling a few recipes I put together what I think is a Warm Bacon Dressing that is worth eating.  :)  Tonight I served it with a spinach salad, but it could also be used to dress potatoes as a warm potato salad dish.  Mmmm!  In my salad tonight I used 2 oz. baby spinach, 1/2 of a hard-boiled egg, 2 thinly sliced radishes, and 4 sliced fresh mushrooms.  You could also add chopped nuts, dried cranberries, or other items.  More of this or less of that.  Make it your own!  It will be wonderful ~ I promise!

Now before you freak out on me about this dressing...I know my version has a few more calories, more fat and tad more sodium.  It may not seem like the "healthier" option.  Let me say this though:  sugar and bad carbs are what make you FAT.  With that said, I've decreased the carbohydrates by over HALF from 13g to only 6g.  The sugars were dropped even more from 12g to only 3g.  Also, while agave nectar does the same amount of calories and carbs as sugar, it does not effect your blood sugar like other sugars.  All and version is the much more healthy option.

Serving Size:  2T
Calories: 70
Total Fat: 1.5g
Sodium: 250 mg
Total Carbs: 13 g
   Dietary Fiber: 0g
   Sugars: 12g
Protein: 0g

Serving Size:  2T
Calories: 71.5
Total Fat: 4.1g
Sodium: 280.2 mg
Total Carbs: 6.1 g
   Dietary Fiber: .5 g (don't get too excited WW fans, that is a POINT 5)
   Sugars: 3.1 g
Protein: 2.3 g


1 tsp. olive oil
4 slices of turkey bacon, chopped
1/4 cup of red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup water
1 T dijon mustard
1 T agave nectar
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp. cornstarch

Add olive oil to a small saucepan (a small omelettte skillet works great too) and saute turkey bacon on med-high heat until crisp.  While bacon is cooking; combine water, mustard, nectar, vinegar, and cornstarch to a small bowl; set aside.  Add onions and garlic to bacon.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add mustard mixture to the saucepan, stir while cooking for another minute until the dressing thickens up.  Serve warm.

I know! This dressing isn't very pretty, but it makes up for it in flavor.  It will be slightly thick so depending on your preference, feel free to thin it out with extra water.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Update on my Produce Day blog.

Thanks for reading!!!

♥ Jess

Beer Muffins

Yes, I said BEER Muffins!  Well, really it is beer bread, but you know how I am about the servability of muffins. :)

More than anything, I'm here to ask you a question.  Please please please STOP spending your money on those wonderfully overpriced beer bread mixes that every in-home party company is selling these days.  It is so super simple to make your own.  I do highly suggest using a good beer, but just a good ole' can of Bud Light will work just fine.  Play around with the types of beer for different flavors.  Some of my favorites for this time of year are Samuel Adams Octoberfest or Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale.  I haven't tried this, but if you live in the St. Louis area and come across some Schafly Oatmeal Stout try it out for me, would ya?  This almost black beer I bet would make some really wonderful bread!!!

WARNING:  If you are not a beer drinker you may not like these muffins.  The yeasty beer flavor really does shine through.  However, don't be too's nothing that a creamy pat of butter can't tone down.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

I'm a fan of muffins...that is no secret.  I usually make some sort of muffin almost every weekend.  I pack them in my son's lunchbox, I sometimes have them as a quick breakfast or take one along to work for my afternoon snack.  I mainly use quick bread type recipes, but I decrease the cooking time by about half.  I love that muffins are a single serving.  I could bake 12 muffins and easily only eat one.  I couldn't bake one loaf of bread and easily eat only one slice.  Why is that?  They also freeze easily which keep me from eating them all and when packed in my son's lunch they are perfectly thawed by lunch time.  :)

Zuppa Toscana

Soup weather has officially arrived.  Today, it is gloomy and rainy with a high of 65 (it's slmost noon and it's only 54)....anyway.....BRING ON THE SOUP, BABY!!!

I absolutely love love love soup.  I could probably eat it for every meal summer, spring, winter and fall.  For me soup is just one big bowl of comfort.  For the most part soup is healthy and can incorporate all of the food groups in one bite.  :) 

My soup today is my recreation of my all time favorite soup ~ The Olive Garden's  ~ Zuppa Toscana!  My version today has been lightened up just a tad by using fat free half-n-half in place of heavy cream, but it can certainly be made into a lower carb version by substituting cauliflower for the potatoes or lower fat by using hot italian turkey sausage in place of the pork sausage.  I've made it all different ways and each matter is delicious. 

Please add this to your meal plans this fall and winter.  You can thank me later!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UPDATED: Produce Day

Well...I have to say this is the first time that I've been a little disappointed with my delivery.  I think I probably got my money worth, but then again...I'm not really sure?  Also...the first thing I saw was a fuzzy strawberry.  It's not like I don't know that is gonna happen from time to time....but it was the first thing I saw.  Boo!

Here is what I got:

2 yellow squash
3 small zucchini
2 sweet potatoes
4 vidalia onions
10 bananas
7 yukon gold potatoes
10 apples
1 head of cauliflower
1 lb. strawberries (boo for the two of them stuck together with fuzz)
1 lb. radishes
8 oz. whole mushrooms
6 limes
6 peaches
4 nectarines
large bunch of broccoli

PLEASE DON'T LET MY TINY BIT OF DISAPPOINTMENT THIS WEEK DISCOURAGE YOU FROM TRYING THIS OUT.  I have been participating in this for many months now and I am normally super excited with everything!!!  I'm gonna chalk this one up to the fact we are in between seasons.  I'm looking forward to winter veggies!!!  Whoot :)

If you are interested check out: for more information.

*UPDATE*  I should have noted this in my original post.  My disappointment wasn't with the quantity of food in this last delivery, but more along the quality side of things.  Like I said before the fuzzy strawberry was the first thing I saw.  The zucchini and squash were teeny tiny and already starting to wrinkle.  The peaches just like the strawberries and zucchini are just way out of season so they  weren't that good.  However, it is peek apple season yet the apples were really bruised and one had all kinds of those little wormy hole lookin' things - eww!    I normally find a use for them, but we are always getting limes - kind of tired of them.

I guess what I'm really waiting for is stuff like the different types of winter squash, leeks, and I explained's in between seasons and I totally understand, but I see them in the stores and I want to whine about it and be a big baby.  Haha!

Until my next delivery.......

Chicken Cordon Bleu Rollups w/ Mashed Cauliflower

Tonights blog is short and sweet....wait....savory!  If you haven't tried mashed cauliflower - you totally should!  When I'm trying to watch my carbs I like to have it in place of mashed potatoes or even rice.  The Pampered Chef Mix N' Chop is the perfect tool for making a rice-like consistency.  Add a little soy sauce and try it sometime with stir fry!

Sorry guys.....there are no measurements on this you're just gonna have to wing it.  It's super simple!  This is what you will need:

Chicken Cutlets (or chicken breasts pounded out thin)
deli ham
swiss cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper

Here is what you're gonna do:

Chicken Cordon Bleu Roll-Ups
Roll up ham and swiss cheese inside the chicken cutlets.  Secure with a toothpick.  Melt about 2T butter and 1T olive oil in a stainless steel skillet.  Saute' chicken roll ups for about 4 minutes on each side and finish in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  When finished drizzle the browned butter and any escaping cheese from the skillet over the top of chicken.  Enjoy!

Mashed Cauliflower
Meanwhile, cut califlower florets and place in a saucepan covered with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until califlower is fork tender.  When done, mash together with about 2 T butter and season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blueberry Updside Down Corn Cakes

This recipe was from another food blog I came across here at Blogger.  I love this lady's if you are a foodie blog lover you should check it out at She is also an official contestant in Project Food you should totally go vote for her. :)

Okay, my review of her recipe....the cake was a dense cake, but not in a dry and heavy way.  It had a nice crumb and wasn't too overly sweet, which I appreciated.  It had a nice light flavor due to the lemon zest and the sweetness of the blueberries.

When I saw this recipe I was excited because it took me out of the pineapple box and pretty much just opened up the entire world of upside-down cakes for me....I can't wait to try out other fruits and flavor combinations!  Also, I did not have fresh blueberries so I used frozen just because the summer berry season is coming to an end....there is no excuses not to try this recipe out.  :)

How cute are these?

Mmmmm.....Blueberry Upside-Down Corn Cakes


2T butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of one lemon
1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease the cups of a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin.
In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and blueberries.  Spread the mixture evenly amound each muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whish together olive oil, honey, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and lemon zest.

In a seperate bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

Gradually beat the dry mixture into the wet ingredients, stirring just to combine.

Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter on top of the blueberries into each muffin cup.

Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a moist crumb.

Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for approximately 15 minutes.  Once the cakes are cooled, run a knife along the edges of each cup to loosen, then very carefully invert onto baking pan. Spoon any berries left in the tins over the cakes.


Spaghetti Squash Bake


6 Cups of cooked spaghetti squash (pressed with paper towels to remove extra water)
3 eggs
8 oz. shredded italian cheese blend
1 lb. cooked ground beef (or one 8 oz. package of sliced turkey pepperoni)
3 cups of marinara sauce
italian seasoning, salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

  2. Combine squash, 1/2 cup of cheese, eggs, and a sprinkle of italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and cook for 15 minutes.

  3. Next layer with ground beef then the marinara sauce.  Smooth evenly across pan.  Cook for another 10 minutes.

  4. Last sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown on top.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley (optional).

  5. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kid Friendly Fare...

MINI CORNDOG MUFFINS.....yep that's right.  Tonights dinner was corn dog muffins!

I know, I is a little kookey, and so rediculously easy so why blog about them?  I could I not blog about these....I mean really....look how freakin' cute they are:

This is so super simple that just posting the picture below and telling you to follow the baking directions on the package of corn muffin mix should do it.  Just in case you are wondering though...3 hotdogs, each cut into 8 equal pieces.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weeknight Wonder: Spaghetti Squash

It's Tuesday and that means it's just me and the boys for dinner.  Tonight the plan was to make Pumpkin Muffins (pumpkin flavors are my craving this week), the boys were gonna have PBJ and I was gonna heat up some leftover Taco Soup.  Well, I ran into the grocery store for canned pumpkin...what the heck was there a recall I didn't hear about???  The entire shelf was empty!  Oh well....I guess someone else must have been craving Pumpkin Muffins too. :) 

Anyway....while I was there, I ran into the cutest little spaghetti squash and decided that he was coming home with me and THAT is what I was having for dinner.  I love, love, love spaghetti squash and it's that time of year again!  Yay!  These little guys were also the smallest spaghetti squash I've ever seen and perfect for my one serving meal tonight.  Double Yay!

First, let me show you the easiest way to prepare it and from there....the possiblities are endless!

Step 1 - Cut the squash in half lengthwise.
Step 2 - Scoop out seeds from both sides.
Step 3 - Season with salt and pepper and place cut side down in a shallow baking dish.
Step 4 - Place 1/4 cup water in baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 8 - 10 minutes.
Step 5 - Squash is done when you drag a fork through it and the spaghetti squash strands simply pull away. 

Step 2
Step 3

Step 5

SUPER SIMPLE, right?  It is wonderful as is with just a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt and pepper, but honestly the possiblities are endless.  As winter approaches I'm fairly certain I will be posting several recipes using this healthy, affordable, and delicious winter squash.  Here is what I made tonight:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Green Tomatoes!!!!

With our 6 plants my hubby planted this year we STILL have green tomatoes popping up in our garden.  So, last week I decided to make a recipe that I shared the page with in the Fall 2010 edition of ACRES magazine.  See my Welcome! blog entry for more information on that. :)

The recipe was submitted by a lady named, Lucy Martin, from Dundee, New York.  The orginal recipe called for 3 Cups of all-purpose flour and 2 cups sugar BUT like usual I don't follow directions very well and I made a few changes. 

I should also mention....I made the bread again today (picture below) and I "weight watched" it a tad by simply substituting applesauce for the oil.  It wasn't quite as moist, but it did save a HUGE amount of calories and fat.  The substitution saved 152 calories and 18 grams of fat PER SERVING - WOW!!!!  Totally worth it in my book.  :)  From 9 WW points down the 5 WW points per serving!!!  Amazing!



1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup white granulated sugar
1 Cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canola oil (or light olive oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Cups finely chopped green tomatoes
1 1/2 Cups chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Set aside.
  3. In another bowl combine eggs, oil, vanilla, green tomatoes, and pecans.  Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened.  Batter will be thick, and lumps will remain.
  4. Spoon batter into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.  Bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

NOTE:  You could also make this into muffins (my favorite because it is portion controlled) or mini loaves.  You will just need to decrease the cooking time down to 30 - 40 minutes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My favorite color is brown....

....GOLDEN BROWN that is!!!  There is absolutely nothing green on this plate tonight.  My plate only included the drab and neutral colors of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy!

I'm jumping back on the wagon in approximately 34 hours and I've been thinking and even talking about this meal for quite a while now.  I was originally going to go to our local Cracker Barrel a few weeks ago when I first fell off the wagon, but decided I would try to save a few calories and make it myself.  By no stretch of the imagination am I trying to say that this meal is healthy, but I would like to think it's a tad healthier. :) 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weeknight Wonder: Brown Butter Tortellini with Spinach & Ham

WEEKNIGHT WONDERS for me are meals that I can prepare and have ready on the table in about 15 or 20 minutes. This recipe is from the Pampered Chef cookbook, 29 minutes to Dinner. It's simple, fast and kid-friendly. A few things I may do different next time would be to add a few red pepper flakes to the butter for a little heat. Although, then it may not be so kid friendly?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Westview Wine Cellar & Bistro (♥♥♥)


1803 Ramada Blvd.
Suite B101 (lower level)
Collinsville, IL 62234


Well, here it first restaurant review and I'm rating it 3 ♥♥♥ out of a possible 5. It's a bit lengthy, but I felt there was a lot to share. :)