Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Recipes of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on all the recipes I have made this year. When my daughter was born in late 2011, I was too exhausted to cook.  I found myself heating up freezer meals and ordering take-out most nights. My love of cooking had diminished considerably. Eventually, the baby started sleeping through the night, and I decided I needed to get my cooking mojo back.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012


A few weeks ago, my husband and I ventured to Downtown Athens for a date night.  It was much busier (and colder!) than we anticipated, due to a show at the Classic Center.  After trying to get a table at a few different restaurants, and not even being acknowledged by the hostesses, I felt my annoyance growing.  When I'm hungry, I have very little patience, unfortunately.

Sweet Potato Souffle

This year's fall garden yielded a ton of sweet potatoes, so I knew that I had to make a sweet potato side dish for Christmas this year.  I settled on Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Souffle, because of the hundreds of glowing reviews, and the fact that it was topped with pecans instead of marshmallows.  Don't get me wrong--marshmallows have their place--but not on a beautiful Southern sweet potato souffle.  I altered the original recipe by adding more sweet potatoes and reducing the amount of sugar.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Soft Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day I sent my husband out to the store for some chocolate chips.  I was annoyed when he returned with milk chocolate chips instead of the normal semi-sweet chocolate chips. They sat unused on my kitchen counter for a few weeks, while I contemplated what to do with them.  My brother's birthday rolled up, so I decided to make cookies for him using the milk chocolate chips. Well, my husband's erroneous purchase ended up being quite a blessing! Everyone loved the large milk chocolate chips in the cookies.  My Cookie Monster-like brother liked them so much that he announced that they were the best cookie he ever had, which is literally the highest of compliments.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mashed Cauliflower

You may have seen a few recipes on Pinterest lately for Pureed Cauliflower.  Basically the idea is to use cauliflower instead of white potatoes, and make mock mashed potatoes.  You may be wondering, what is the point of the substitution since white potatoes make such splendid mashed potatoes?  From a diet standpoint, there are huge benefits.  Cauliflower has about a fourth (!!!) of the amount of calories and carbs as white potatoes.  There are also advantages strictly from a health standpoint too, as cauliflower contains significantly more Vitamin K and C than potatoes.  My husband is not a fan of cauliflower and was very reluctant about trying out this substitution.  To both of our surprise, he loved it.  He said it tasted exactly the same as really good mashed potatoes.  I've made it a few times since then, and I have found that it is vital to puree the cauliflower very, very well, so that the texture is creamy.  It is also vital to make sure that the steamed cauliflower is well-drained (or the water is completely evaporated), or you will end up with a watery taste.  Finally, it really does need that tablespoon of butter to put a richness in it.  Feel free to add cheese if you have calorie room too!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Ten (Diet) Commandments

I have been on what I lovingly refer to as the "Lifestyle Change Diet" since September.  As I mentioned in my Weight Loss Update, it has helped me lose twenty pounds and counting. My husband also has been following this diet and has lost 26 pounds without even having to exercise.  Although I definitely recommend at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, that is mainly for overall health benefits. If you want to lose weight, your primary focus should be on what you eat. My Ten Diet Commandments outline the rules I have been following since I began my weight-loss journey. It is not from a peer reviewed medical journal, it has not been endorsed by Jillian Michaels, I don't have any client testimonials, and it is not intended to be a bunch of rigid rules that I think everyone should have to live by. My Ten Diet Commandments are just my own personal guidelines that were created from my own beliefs, experiences, and research.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Losing the Baby Weight, Update #3

It has now been over a month since the last Losing the Baby Weight update.  I'm happy to report that not only have I reached my goal weight, I'm actually two pounds below it.  I have lost 20 pounds by eating healthy and jogging. No fad diets or extreme exercising for me! My ultimate goal wasn't just to lose 20 pounds; it was to make a lifestyle change. Sure, a strict diet or doing intense workouts probably would have helped me lose the weight quicker, but those things have always been impossible for me to maintain for more than a few months.  Eventually I would tire of it, and the pounds would slowly trickle back on.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Peanut Butter & Banana Pancake Muffins

I recently found a recipe on Pinterest called "Toddler Muffins" made with pancake mix and bananas. I made them and my kid loved them, but I just didn't feel good about giving them to her on a regular basis. The recipe called for 1 cup of pancake mix (the "just add water" kind), 1 diced banana, 2/3 cup water...and 2/3 cup of maple syrup.  That's a lot of sugar.  It's no wonder my 14 month gobbled it up. The little voice inside my head was repeating "increasing her risk of diabetes" over and over every time I gave it to her, but she's become such a picky eater, and it was literally (and I mean literally) one of the few things I've been able to get her to eat lately.  So I decided to create my own Toddler Muffins recipe; one that was made with a little  bit healthier ingredients.  Fortunately, my first attempt was met with resounding success.  She gobbled them down just as quick and happily as she did the high sugar ones.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Last Resort Grill

My favorite restaurant in Athens for a sit-down meal is Last Resort Grill.  The food is great, the prices are reasonable, and their menu reflects the Athens' food culture.  It is my recommended restaurant for out-of-town visitors to get a feel for Athens' adventurous take on southern cuisine.

Skinny Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Ever since I made the Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, I have been dying to try out more healthy cookie recipes.  After a bit of recipe searching, I decided to once again trust Chocolate-Covered Katie, who has yet to steer me wrong.  I changed a few small things in the recipe to suit my own tastes (i.e. chocolate chips!).  The cookies turned out amazing.  Like so amazing that I honestly think they are superior to traditionally made peanut butter cookies.  They were gooey and soft, with the perfect balance of salty and sweet.  It was incredibly hard not to eat the entire batch in one sitting!