learning to cook healthier & without a recipe!

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Italian Chicken and Mushrooms with Spinach & Kale Ravioli

So… I wasn’t going to post this recipe because I didn’t home make a lot of it but then I thought… sometimes it’s nice to just spice up easy eats like jarred pasta sauce and pre-made raviolis! Why not share it? So here it is (serves 2-3, but can easily make it for more):

  • 1 package of ravioli of your choice- I got a really great spinach and kale one from Costco!
  • 1 c of your favorite pre-made pasta sauce
  • 1 c of thinly sliced baby portabello mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, flattened to about 1/2 in thick or a little thinner
  • 3/4 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • parmesan cheese for topping

Cook the raviolis by the package directions and heat up the pasta sauce on the stove over med-low heat. Slice the mushrooms thinly and saute in 2 tbsp olive oil and balsamic vinegar until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Flatten the chicken breast and mix the breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet of medium heat and dredge the chicken in the egg and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Saute in preheated pan for about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through- take your time! Don’t burn the chicken before it can cook all the way through! Reduce to a little bit below medium if needed.

Layer it up! Pasta- sauce- mushrooms-chicken sliced into strips- more sauce- parmesan cheese- fresh basil… So easy but looks so fancy!


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Grandma’s Homemade Cream Corn, Skillet Chicken, and more…

Wow! We’ve begun our road trip and I already have a lot to catch up on! Forgive all the posts at once… Our first stop was Sandy Springs, GA right outside of Atlanta for some good home cooking by my grandma (a.k.a GaGa). She taught me the ways of cream corn and I’m excited to share!

Our dinner consisted of Breadcrumb skillet chicken, cream corn, mashed sweet potatoes, and butter beans (she warmed frozen and added a little butter- there’s the recipe for that!) It was delicious!

For the cream corn:

  • 8 mature ears of corn (they are mature when the kernels are large and full- mature corn thickens better)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp flour (add more if needed)
  • 1/4 c of milk
  • and NO sugar, she says!!
Cut off tips of kernels. The go back and scrap ear back and forth about 3 times until you get all the goodness off of it. Add to sauce pan with butter, salt, and milk. Put on medium low and whisk together flour with a little water until free of lumps and slowly add into mixture, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 8-10 minutes. If you need to thicken it more make a little more flour-water mixture and add it in!

For the sweet potatoes:

  • 2lb (3 large) sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • I added a little cinnamon to mine…
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil for about 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash using an electric beater, add butter and sugar and stir together!

For the skillet chicken

  • 4-6 chicken breasts flattened to about 1/4-1/2 in thick
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 c Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • a little salt and pepper if desired

Dip flattened chicken breasts into egg then dredge in mixture of parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add about 1 tbsp of veggie oil to a skillet and heat pan to medium heat. Add chicken breasts and cook for 4 minutes on each side.



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Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Chicken

Day 5 of 5 days of fresh.

Goodness, it hasn’t been easy to find time to cook but here it is! Last day of 5 days of fresh! This meal is really quick and easy which is great for when you get home a little late.

The recipe (serves 2):

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2-4 slices of natural mozzarella cheese
  • A couple leaves of fresh basil (mine isn’t doing so hot so I used like 10 little leaves)
  • A good few shakes of Mrs. Dash tomato, basil, garlic seasoning (all natural)
  • 4 slices of fresh roma tomatoes
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Nature’s Seasoning to taste
I used my George Foreman grill to start the chicken, it is so fast and easy! Preheat the oven to 400 and warm up the George Foreman. Generously sprinkle the chicken breasts with the Mrs. Dash seasoning. Put the chicken in the George Foreman for about 10 minutes depending on the size of your chicken breasts. While they are cooking slice the tomatoes and mozzarella.
Take out the chicken and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Add basil and tomato on top of chicken breast and cook for about 7 minutes. (I put the mozzarella on top right away but it didn’t give the tomatoes any chance to cook so I think it will be better this way!)
Add the mozzarella and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until melted. While it is cooking add a little olive oil, about 2 tbsp, to a pan and heat over medium heat. Add the entire bag of spinach, I know it seemes like a lot but just do it!
This is how it ends up! A lot goes just a little way! Season with salt, pepper, and nature’s seasoning to taste.
Once the chicken is done place it on a bed of spinach and enjoy!


Chicken Avocado Soup

Day 2 of 5 days of fresh!

Mmmmm! This was some good soup! Its so fresh and could be a ‘clean’ recipe if you omitted the tomatoes. This recipe came from, you can find the original recipe here. It called for 5 cups of chicken broth and since I’m not using any preservatives this week I decided to make my own. It turned out really tasty I think I’ll use this technique a lot more now!

For this recycled recipe:

  • 5 c homemade broth (so easy-ingredients and directions below!)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 2 tsp corriander
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 roma tomatoes diced
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1-11/2 c chopped scallions
  • 2 ripe hass avocados
  • 1/2 c cilantro chopped
  • 1 jalepeno (optional- can use a little cayenne pepper instead if you want)
  • 1 lime
  • a couple dollops of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • cumin to taste

For the broth:

Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker sprinkle on the thyme and coriander.

Add 5 cups of water, 1/2 onion whole or in wedges, 2 carrots and the bulb of garlic with the top cut off. Cook on low for 8 hours.

For the soup:

When you get home from work or wherever you go for 8 hours, add a little olive oil in a soup pot and heat over medium-high heat.

Saute the scallions, tomatoes, and jalepeno until soft. Once soft, move the pot to the sink, put a colander on top of the pot and drain strain your broth from the slow cooker into the soup pot.

Discard the onion, garlic, and carrots (or use for something else!) set the chicken aside, and place the soup pot back on the stove and bring to a boil. Shred the chicken. In a bowl put 1/4 the chicken, cilantro, and 1/2 an avocado (cut around core, separate into two pieces, slice into small squares in the skin, then turn the skin inside out to dump the squares into the bowl).

Pour hot broth on top, garnish with lime wedge and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Whoo hoo! Healthy and delicious!


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Creamy Broccoli and Potato Soup with Cornbread

You have to really love goat cheese to love this soup. I saw a little blurb in Rachel Ray about three ingredient soups. This one was broccoli, potato & goat cheese. It just had you add water and salt and pepper and I decided to spice it up a bit. I liked cooking this recipe because it made me realize there are really basic elements to soup- you can make whatever soup you like if you know what you want! My idea for the basics of soup:

  • water or broth- more or less depend on the thickness of the soup
  • heavy cream or half and half for creamy soups like potato or wild rice soup
  • salt & pepper
  • other spices
  • probably some butter no matter what
  • a protein
  • some veggies
  • time to simmer
I know you all are probably saying… duh… but for some reason I just never thought to throw a bunch of stuff together to make a soup. Now I have. Now I will!
For this recycled recipe:
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic gloves diced
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 celery stalks diced
  • 4 cups of broccoli
  • 2 baking potatoes diced
  • 21/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 2 handfuls of chives, chopped
  • heavy cream or half and half (optional)
There are a couple of things I would change about how I made this that I’ll insert in… Start by melting the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted add the onion and garlic. Let cook for about 5 minutes then add the celery. Cook until soft. Add a little salt & pepper. Next add the potatoes with the broth and water.(Or cook potatoes separately in a pan with water but still add broth and 1 cup water to soup- see below) Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes then add the broccoli. I used frozen broccoli which worked well. Cook until potatoes are soft then add the goat cheese, (If you don’t like goat cheese- don’t add it! It is REALLY strong. This would be just as good would a little cheddar cheese sprinkled on top) If you don’t add goat cheese add a little heavy cream or half and half here. Add the chopped chives. Next is where I would do something differently- Rachel Ray said to blend all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender- which I did. I don’t know about you but I really like chunks of potato in my potato soup. Next time I would separate out the potatoes and cook them separate, blend the rest of the soup- then add the potatoes.
This soup is really creamy and nice but I think I would leave out the goat cheese next time and just use a little cheddar on top.
For the cornbread:
It has the word ‘bread’ in it which is a guarantee that I won’t get some part of it right…
I used Mama Kim’s recipe which is southern and delicious!
The recipe goes like this….
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c of milk
  • 1 dollop of plain yogurt
  • 1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
I disregarded the importance of cornmeal MIX. Hmmm…. this is an important word at the end of cornmeal. I used medium grind cornmeal because it looked healthier and ended up with some crunchy cornbread. Come to find out, if you do use this medium grind cornmeal you need to add 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour and 4 tsp of baking powder. I did add baking powder but it didn’t do much with the cornmeal alone!
Anyway- use the right ingredients (I have in the past and it turns out so good!). Take out your milk and egg and let them sit on the counter.  Melt 1 stick of butter in a cast iron skillet or in a 8×8 baking pan in the oven while it preheats to 400. Take the pan out when the butter is melted and pour the butter into a mixing bowl, return the pan to the oven. Mix the egg and milk together as well as the dollop of yogurt (I used 2 dollops and added about 3 tbsp of flax). Mix the egg mixture with the one cup of cornmeal mix, add the butter after it has cooled a little bit and pour into the hot skillet. Mmmm listen to how it sizzles as it crisps up the bottom of the cornbread! Bake for 15-20 minutes. Then enjoy!

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Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns, Sweet Potato Fries & More!

Nothing makes me happier than getting to spend an afternoon cooking. I know it sounds crazy but it really is fun! We had a few people over for dinner the other night and decided to make some homemade hamburger buns. I wasn’t sure how it would work out but was excited to try! 

Rachel Ray has had some awesome little recipe blurbs in her magazines lately that have things you can make with just a couple of simple ingredients. That is the source of the butternut squash dip and the sweet potato fries… although the fries didn’t turn out very fry-ish…

For the buns- the original recipe came from, you can find it here. A bread mixer would be really awesome for things such as this. I think hand kneading just doesn’t quite give you the rising results you need. I also doubled the recipe and couldn’t find my dough hook attachment for my electric mixer so this process was a little messy. I’m going to post the recipe for the original amount (8 buns) instead of the double amount. Here it is…

  • 12 1/2 ounces whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 ounces vital wheat gluten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
  • beaten egg
  • poppy seeds (optional) or sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200. You start by mixing together the flour, wheat gluten, and salt. Vital wheat gluten is awesome- I’ve never had anything whole wheat rise like it did with the vital gluten. (P.S. obviously I got my allergy test back and am not allergic to wheat!! or anything! So awesome!) Set aside the dry ingredients and dissolve the honey into the warm milk then add the yeast on top. Let it mush up a little bit before mixing it in all the way. Let this sit for about 10 minutes to really get active and bubbly. Once it has add it to the dry ingredients and add the cool, melted butter.
Turn the oven off. Hopefully you have a dough hook (it looks like this) for your electric mixer, if you don’t its hand kneading time! There is a video to show you how on the post of whole wheat bread. Mix for 5 minutes with the mixer or knead for about 8 -10 minutes by hand. Check to see if the dough is forming into a nice ball and if it’s too dry or too wet. If too dry add water, if too wet add flour. Mine was a little to dry. I got a spray bottle at the grocery store which was perfect for wetting the dough just a little bit to make it a good texture. Continue to mix for 5 minutes or hand knead for 8-10.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Place in the warm oven for 10-15 minutes to rest. Mine rose like crazy during this time!

Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal. After the bread has rested, punch it down and roll it out. Separate into 8 buns and shape them how you would like them. Tuck the seams under and place on the pan. Boil some water on the stove top or in the microwave, carefully pour the boiling water into a pan and place on bottom rack in oven. Put bread, uncovered, in the oven to rise for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, replace water with more boiling water and let rise for 25 more minutes.

Take bread out, make sure it isn’t sitting under the AC vent, and preheat oven to 350. Whisk the eggs and brush buns with the egg wash and sprinkle poppy seeds or sunflower seeds on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned. These were pretty heavy, one hamburger went a long way, I kind of felt like I had eaten 3 hamburgers after I finished 1 but it was well worth it!

While the buns are cooking…

Make some butternut squash dip!

You’ll need

  • 1 butternut squash- medium to large
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • a little salt & pepper
  • olive oil
Slice the top and bottom off of the squash. It is so pretty- enjoy the beauty of it:
Peel starting at the bottom and sliding the peeler up. It took me a couple tries to realize this way was a lot easier! Chop up into small pieces. Dice the onion and add to the squash. Pour a little olive oil over both, add salt and pepper and stir it up.
While the bread is cooling…
Put on a baking sheet and roast at 400 for 25 minutes. Once the veggies are soft, throw it all in the blender and puree it. Put in the fridge to chill. Serve with crackers (my favorite are the Back to Nature Crispy Wheat Crackers) as an appetizer!
Meanwhile, while the dip is chilling, slice up a couple of sweet potatoes (they go a lot further then you would think) for some sweet potato fries, all you need is:
  • a couple sweet potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • cinnamon (optional)
Turn the heat up in the oven to 475. Toss the thin sliced, fry shaped, sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I think I over did it on the olive oil, sweet potatoes get so soft so fast, they don’t need much extra liquid. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I wish I had done this- those suckers stick to the the pan quite a bit) and pour the potatoes on. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes after 15 minutes. My first batch burned on one side but they still tasted ok. My second batch were too soft and I tried flipping them too soon and they started falling apart. I’ve got some work to do on these. I turned the oven to broil at the end and that seemed to help a little. Let cool and serve like that or with tossed with some cinnamon.
Our friends brought over some delicious veggies we put on the grill and we sauteed some onions and mushrooms in butter, olive oil and salt & pepper for the burgers. Put it all together and you have a really tasty cookout!
Listening while cooking: Blind Pilot- listen to them for free on npr first listen- they are really great!

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Michael and I went to Panama City this past weekend to see our friends Matt and Janelle. Janelle has an awesome cookbook by Pioneer Woman, i.e. Ree Drummond. She is awesome (Janelle and Ree). We watched her show over the weekend and Janelle and her mom made some incredible chocolate cake with one of Ree’s recipes. O yeah- and some caramel brownies- o my goodness- they were amazing. So, I took a gander at her website which is full of great recipes and found this one. It is an Indian dish, which I’ve been really wanting to make some Indian food lately so it was perfect! There are quite a few steps but it is very worth it!

The recycled recipe:

  • 3 whole (to 4) Chicken Breasts
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground Coriander
  • Cumin, To Taste
  • 1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter (originally 6)
  • 1 whole Large Onion
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 piece (approximately 2 Inches) Chunk Fresh Ginger
  • Garam Masala
  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Organic Tomatoes with juices
  • Sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup Half and Half (originally heavy cream)
  • 2 cups Brown Rice (originally basmati rice)
  • 2 cups organic chicken broth
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Turmeric
  • Frozen Peas
It starts likes this…
Sprinkle the chicken breast with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander on both sides. You can be pretty generous with the cumin and coriander- they’re both delicious. Then take the plain yogurt and cover all of the chicken breasts with it on both sides. Place chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and preheat the oven to broil. Move the oven rack pretty high up. I think I jumped the gun on putting the chicken in, I don’t think the broiler was all the way hot but cook for about 10 minutes on each side, watch to see when the chicken starts to crispy. It may take a little longer a little less time depending on your oven.
Now is the time to start the brown rice since it takes a little while to cook. I wasn’t sure the rice would turn out as good since it wasn’t basmati but it had a lot of flavor and was pretty tasty! Add the rice, 1 tbsp of butter, 2 cups chicken broth and two cups water and a generous helping of tumeric to a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium low- more low than medium- heat for about 40 minutes. Add more water if need and don’t forget to keep stirring it on occasion!
Melt the other 2 tbsp of butter in a good sized pan over medium-high heat and dice up the onion. Add the onion to the hot pan and cook until translucent. Dice up the garlic and ginger really well then add to the onions. Add a little salt and the garam masala seasoning. There was only one brand of this at our Publix- so if you don’t see it at first- keep looking! McCormick makes it!
Now dice up that jalapeno and add it in there if you like spicy! Dump in the tomatoes, scrape up any tasty bits sticking to the bottom of the pan and add the 1 tbsp of sugar to help with the acidity of the tomatoes. Let all of that simmer for about 15 minutes.
Check on the rice…
Now add in the half and half. Half and half still isn’t amazing for you but it is a little lighter than heavy cream so it’s a good alternative! hopefully you didn’t forget there was chicken in the oven- if you did it will just be crispy and delicious!
Chop up the chicken breasts and add into the sauce. I let this simmer for about 10-15 minutes while the rice finished up- add cilantro when you are just about ready to serve it
Once the rice is finished add in about 1-2 cups of frozen peas, let them cook for a minute in the rice then remove from heat.
But the chicken mixture on the rice, put a little fresh cilantro on top- get a glass a milk because it’s a little spicy and enjoy! It’s pretty delicious!!