learning to cook healthier & without a recipe!

1 Comment

Cheese Grits

So, I’ll admit… I didn’t change anything in this recipe or do anything to make it healthier… they were pretty delicious just the way the recipe had them! I got the recipe from Food Network’s Alton Brown, you can see the original recipe here. The recipe called for cornmeal instead of traditional grits which judged based on the ingredients list of what I had- Red Mill coarse cornmeal and the instant grits, the cornmeal seemed a lot healthier since the only ingredient in them was well… corn.

Here’s the recipe: (4 servings)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water (may need a little more)
  • 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or if you’re like me 2-4 tsp pepper)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese


Bring the milk, water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium pot or deep pan. For some reason boiling milk is always strange and a little icky to me… but here’s a picture for you, you can judge…

Once the mixture begins to boil add the cornmeal gradually, stirring constantly. I had a hard time keeping mine from clumping, it might not be a bad idea to pour your cornmeal into a small bowl first and make sure there are no clumps in it and break it up really good if it’s been in the pantry for a little while.

Reduce the heat to low and cover. The recipe said to stir every 3-4 minutes and he meant it- make sure not to walk away from these too long! Stir very frequently and let cook until creamy about 25-30 minutes.

Once you’ve taste tested to make sure the consistency is right and the cornmeal is cooked through, remove from heat, add pepper, butter, and cheese and stir together. Serve right away! If you need to reheat them or people are going back for second- you may need to reheat them on the stove with some more water to remoisten them.

Finished product! With BBQ chicken for some reason, it’s what we had…


1 Comment


Day 4 of 5 days of fresh!

I love salsa. I could possibly eat mexican food almost every day of the week and be content. This is the second time I’ve made homemade salsa and used roma tomatoes, I really think they are perfect for it. They have a great fresh flavor and don’t taste too acidic, they’re just good. on anything.

The recipe:

Serves 4-6

  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 big handful of chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalepeno, diced (makes it super spicy- use a lot less or just red pepper if you don’t like a lot of spice)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lime juiced

Mix it all together! If you don’t like chunky salsa then throw it in the food processor. Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Butternut Squash Risotto & Acre Peas

Day 3 of 5 days of fresh, Part 2.

Butternut Squash. I like to buy it and then I don’t know what to do with it! Luckily I found this recipe on One of my favorite websites. You can find the original recipe here. I had acre peas to make too and the combination of the risotto and peas were perfect. The risotto is a little sweet so it needed a not-so-sweet balance.

For this recycled recipe:

  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 c of diced butternut squash
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 c brown rice
  • about 4 cups homemade veggie broth

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook for about 3 minutes, add the squash. Cook for another 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the rice and a ladle of broth. Keep adding broth as the rice soaks it up. The brown rice I get takes about 40 minutes to cook so I just kept adding broth until it was cooked thoroughly.

Paired nicely with some homemade whole wheat biscuits (Michael made them!), breaded- pan fried chicken and acre peas!

For the peas- Mine came frozen from the farmers market so I had to let them thaw out. Add water to cover, about a tbsp of butter and some salt! Add more water or broth if you like, as needed. Let them simmer for about 40 minutes. Super tasty!

1 Comment

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!

Leave a comment

Peanut-butter Nutella Cookies or Cakesters…

O man. Sometimes a healthy cookie is just so good. These cookies were definitely best on the first day and they need some more peanut butter, the nutella kind of takes over- not that thats a bad thing!

I started with a peanut butter cookie recipe from Better Homes & Gardens:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

11/4 cup all-purpose flour

I decided to use Agave instead of sugar, which requires a lower baking temperature and a little more time, like honey, it makes whatever you’re baking brown faster (another good tip from Meredith Clark). It also means you have to reduce the amount of liquids a little as well. The recycled recipe:

3/4 of a stick of butter

1/4 cup peanut butter ( I would increase to 1/2 cup next time)

1/4 cup Nutella (could be reduced to about 2 tbsp)

2/3 cup Agave (Agave is 2/3 cup per every 1 cup of sugar to substitute)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp of ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp of water to substitute the egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp almond extract (could maybe increase to 1/4)

11/2 cups of whole wheat flour

mix it all up! Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes. These turned out a little more cakey than normal pb cookies but they were still pretty tasty!

1 Comment

Not healthy… but SO delicious!


My friend Michelle Vieira made these tasty treats one night- jalapenos filled with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon. Delicious and spicy! I decided to make them when we cooked out for Father’s Day with Michael’s family, for those who love spicy- they were a hit, not so much with those who didn’t…_

To make them:

Cut the jalapenos lengthwise, de-seed (take out ALL of those seeds!!! I left a couple with 3-4 seeds and it about melted our faces!) I also really suggest wearing gloves- I got jalapeno oil in my eye one time and it was awful.

Fill the halves with cream cheese

Wrap them with half a piece of bacon and place a toothpick down the center

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes



Two people really inspired me to make guacamole: Mrs. Woodrum and Michelle Vieira. I first ate and enjoyed guacamole at the Woodrum residence after watching her make it and realizing maybe avocados weren’t so scary after all (minus being $2 a piece geez…) Michelle told me how to make it, in her great Michelle way, add a little of this, a lot of that, and it works!

So for this guac….

3 avocados

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

a couple of good squirts of lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 small tomatoes (i got mine from my neighbors garden-thanks Mike!)

1/4 of an onion, diced

a good sized pinch of: coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper

Cut the avocados down the center and then around the core, then twist it in half, remove the pit and spoon out the goodness! Mash it up, add all the other ingredients, garnish, and enjoy! Rice chips are really tasty with it!