Low Carb Buffalo Turkey Bake

zucchini boats 1

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About a month ago, Stephan and I started an Atkins-type diet, where we’re watching our carb intake. We tried keto about a year ago, ended up GAINING weight, and we both experienced all of the negative effects on our guts. Never. Again. BUT! We both agreed that we should cut back, even if we’re not cutting out carbs completely.  We’ve found some things that we love (Low Carb Tortillas, anyone?) and some that we haven’t loved so much. This recipe came from Pinterest and was a winner!

Start by cutting 4 zucchinis in half lengthwise, and scoop out the centers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet or in a 13×9 Pyrex pan depending on the size of the zucchini. The ones I used were HUGE, so I used a jelly roll pan.  You can see that I tried to use a fork to scoop the center out of the first one and ended up breaking it, so I switched to a spoon. No big deal.

zucchini too

In a large saucepan, cook 2 pounds of ground turkey until fully cooked, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup hot sauce (any kind, but I used a basic hot sauce), 1/4 cup melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini boats, filling them as evenly as you can.

zucchini 3

Top with 2-3 cups of shredded mozzarella and cover with foil.

zucchini 4

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Serve as-is or with ranch/blue cheese dressing.

zucchini boats finished

Variations: You can use ground chicken or ground beef instead of ground turkey. You can substitute pepperjack cheese for the mozzarella. You can use a bottled wing sauce instead of the hot sauce/butter/garlic powder mixture. You can slice the zucchini into rounds and lay them in the bottom of the pan instead of scooping them into boats. You can also cut the filling ingredients in half if you have normal sized zucchini instead of the monsters that I bought! It’s your meal–make it the way you want it.

What you’ll need:

2 pounds ground turkey or chicken

4 zucchini

1/4 cup hot sauce

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

Salt and pepper

 

Black Forest Pudding Cake

black forest 1

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Twenty-fiveish years ago, I worked for a huge living history museum here in Williamsburg, Virginia. We often held breakroom parties in my department for holidays since we probably wouldn’t have had time to eat if we didn’t feed each other–and we worked EVERY. SINGLE. HOLIDAY. I was around 23 and had the energy to bake on a regular basis in addition to my two jobs, so I usually brought a dessert to share. One of my staples was a Black Forest Trifle which was delicious, but once several people had taken servings of it, it sort of collapsed into a pile in the bowl. Still yummy, but not as pretty to look at. In fact, I can remember my boss/friend Suz asking me before one party “You’re bringing Goo In A Bowl, right?” It was a little bit popular…  Layers of chocolate cake cubes, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, and cherry pie filling. It looks lovely in a glass bowl, and I still make it sometimes for a crowd.

This cake contains the exact same ingredients, but about half the quantity, and it’s a lot easier to fit in the refrigerator!

Start with a chocolate cake mix and bake it according to the package directions in a 13×9 Pyrex dish. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes evenly(ish) across the top of the cake once it’s cooled.

black forest 2

Prepare a package of chocolate pudding according to the package directions. Before it sets, pour the mixture evenly(ish) across the top of the cake.

black forest 3

Smooth one tub of whipped topping across the top of the pudding., and then use a spoon to place dollops of cherry pie filling on top of the cream.

Black forest 5

I like to swirl it into the cream a little bit to make it pretty. When I make a trifle instead of a cake, I save a few cake cubes and then crumble them over the top of the pie filling to make it EXTRA pretty! You could also top it with chocolate sprinkles or chopped nuts if you’d like. Slice into squares and dig in! This doesn’t last long in my house, and since it’s dead simple to make, why not make one and see how long it takes for your family, friends, or co-workers to devour it!

Can you make this from scratch? Absolutely! Use your favorite cake recipe. Use sugar or a sugar substitute. Use a gluten-free mix. Substitute almond, soy, coconut, or other milk when you make the pudding. Make your whipped cream from scratch and sweeten with sugar, sugar substitute, honey, or whatever you like. It’s going into your stomach–make it the way you want it!

What You’ll Need:

1 Chocolate Cake Mix, prepared according to package directions

1 Package Chocolate Pudding Mix, prepared according to package directions

1 Tub of Whipped Topping

1 Can of Cherry Pie Filling

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

lasagna ingredients

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Being half Sicilian, I grew up eating a lot of pasta. A LOT of pasta. Spaghetti, penne with Italian sausage, lasagna, all with red sauce, at least once a week. As an adult, I rebelled against red sauce, until I started making my own (but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

I became a much bigger fan of garlic and olive oil (preferably over penne with broccoli), Alfredo, primavera, vodka sauce–anything except marinara. So when I found a recipe that loosely resembled this one, I jumped on it. Of course, I have to tweak, and change, and do things my way, so after some trial and error, I came up with this creamy lasagna that my family LOVES.

Now, I know the package says no-boil lasagna noodles. I know this. I also know that if I parboil them, they still maintain their integrity, so they’re easier to set in layers, but it also cuts the baking time in half. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to boil them, parboil them, or just lay them in the pan straight out of the box. Just adjust your baking time accordingly.

lasagna step 1

Start by pouring enough Alfredo sauce into the bottom of a 13×9 to just cover it, then lay down your first layer of noodles and cover with another thin layer of sauce.

onions and mushrooms

Saute a small onion and a package of sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, then spread over the noodles and sauce. Lay down another layer of noodles and sauce.

Squeeze as much water as you can out of a 20 oz bag of spinach and combine it with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the noodles and sauce, then top with two cups of shredded mozzarella, pepperjack, or a combination of whatever cheeses that you like. Build the final layer with another layer of noodles and sauce, and the last two cups of shredded cheese.

final before oven

It should look something like this when you’re finished building it, and before it goes in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the noodles are tender.

lasagna slice 2

Serve with a simple green salad and garlic bread for a hearty comfort-food dinner.

What You’ll Need:

One package of lasagna noodles–you’ll use about 12 noodles

Two jars of Alfredo sauce

20 oz package of frozen spinach

small package of mushrooms, sliced

one small onion

salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste

4 cups of shredded mozzarella, or other cheese

Olive oil to saute vegetables

 

What’s your favorite pasta and sauce combination? Let us know in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

Israeli Couscous Salad

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Since Stephan and I just moved into a new house and I had to pack, move, unpack, and re-shelve all of our pantry items, I decided to use up some things before making a trip to the grocery store. This simple salad is filling and delicious, and is perfect for hot summer weather, but can be enjoyed year round. You can serve it with hot crusty bread, but it’s also a fine stand-alone meal. The leftovers are even better the next day, because the flavors have time to meld.

couscous salad ingredients

Start by cooking a 12 oz package of Israeli/pearled couscous according to the package directions. For those who haven’t used pearled couscous, it’s firmer and more versatile than the fluffy couscous that you may be more familiar with.

plain couscous

As you can see, it looks a bit like tapioca when cooked. Let it cool for about ten minutes–though I like to throw in a little oil so that it doesn’t clump together while it cools.

mixing 2

Stir in four sliced mini cucumbers, three medium tomatoes, chopped, a six ounce can of ripe olives (any size you want), and approximately half of a bottle of Italian salad dressing. You can use any brand you want, or you can make your own. Stir together and chill for several hours.

couscous salad

When you’re ready to eat, crumble a package of feta cheese over the top and dig in. If you do have leftovers for the next day, you might want to add a little more dressing since the couscous will soak it up, but it should be perfectly fine without adding more. It just depends on how much dressing you prefer.

Israeli Couscous Salad:

12 oz package of Israeli/Pearled Couscous, prepared according to package directions and slightly cooled

6 oz can ripe olives, drained

4 mini cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bottle Italian Salad Dressing

1 package feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the cooled couscous with the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and dressing. Chill for several hours and top with feta.

Enjoy with crusty bread, crackers, or use it as a side dish with a cup of soup or sandwich.

 

 

Basque Garlic Salad Dressing

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Several years ago when I lived in Las Vegas, I had to make a few trips north for work, to a small mining town called Elko, Nevada. You have to fly into Salt Lake City and then drive several hours, or take a small plane from SLC. I was working as the buyer for the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association at the time, and one of our locations was the California Trail Interpretive Center. It was a nice little museum, and I had to go up a few times a year with the executive director and the director of retail.

The highlight of these trips was dinner at the Star Hotel. Built in 1910 as a hotel and restaurant, it now serves as a Basque bar and restaurant. The people are nice, the food is good and plentiful, and everything is served family style except the entrees.

Each diner orders their entree, then the food starts coming to the table. First, they bring out cabbage soup, bread, and salad with garlic dressing. Then with the entrees, they bring out beans, spaghetti, french fries, and a vegetable (the three times I ate there, it was green beans, but it may vary). Seriously–tons of food. If you leave the Star hungry, it’s your own fault.

To be honest though, my favorite was always the salad. It was just iceberg lettuce in a creamy garlic dressing. Believe me–I know. It looks like nothing special, but oh boy. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked.

I made this for Stephan last week and he couldn’t believe how good it was.

basque dressing

It’s also incredibly simple to make. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 4 garlic cloves, chopped, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise. Stick it in the fridge overnight to chill and let the flavors meld.

 

When you’re ready to serve, cut a head of iceberg lettuce into squares and dump it into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the lettuce and toss it together. It will look like there’s not enough dressing to coat the lettuce, but unless your head of lettuce is particularly large, it will be fine. Once all of the lettuce is coated, you’re finished! Serve with bread and soup or pasta. Could you add vegetables and other salad fixings? Absolutely! But do yourself a favor and try it this way first.

finished salad 2

Basque Garlic Dressing:

1 T olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t salt

1/4 t garlic powder

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 medium head iceberg lettuce

Whisk the first six ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Cut lettuce into squares and toss with dressing. Boom–dead simple.

If you’d like to check out the Star for yourself, their website is https://www.loc8nearme.com/nevada/elko/the-star-hotel/3457286/

If you’re in the area, definitely check them out–you won’t regret it!

 

Foodie Traveler: Oceans & Ale, Williamsburg, VA

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Stephan and I recently moved into a new rental house in order to get a little more space, some storage space, and two parking spaces! The house we had been renting had a very short driveway that only one of us could park in, so I usually parked on the street in front of the house. The only problem was that our neighbors across the street frequently chose to park in my spot instead. Grrrrrrrr.

So, the first weekend in March, we moved into our new place, which is awesome! It is also in a neighborhood right across Olde Towne Road from the Premium Outlets. Since we can see Oceans & Ale from our kitchen window, we decided to head over for dinner to celebrate the move and some work accomplishments.

Oceans and ale beer

We only had to wait a few minutes for a table since it was a Tuesday night, but you should be prepared for a longer wait on the weekends. We started by looking over their beverage menu, and decided on 8 ounce pours of two of the selections from their Rotating Taps menu–Double Vibes Blackberry Sour for me and Clockwork Stout for Stephan. The Double Vibes was from Crooked Run Brewery in Sterling, VA and was incredible! It is a Berliner Weisse with double blackberry, vanilla, and milk sugar. It was thick and sweet, and I REALLY wish I had gone for the larger size! The Clockwork Imperial Stout was from Commonwealth Brewing in Virginia Beach, and Stephan loved it. I smelled it, but didn’t try it because stouts make me want to shave my tongue (I don’t do coffee).

We then moved on to the task of trying to narrow down what we wanted to eat! We stuck to a seafood theme and ordered Seafood Nachos, Seafood Mac, and Seafood Spring Rolls.  Because we were sharing everything, we asked that all of it come out at the same time. We started with the nachos because the other two were insanely hot and we wanted to give them some time to cool down.

The nachos are made up of corn tortilla chips, lump crab, shrimp, lettuce, tomato, green onions, sour cream, hot sauce, and their awesome she-crab soup. We ate Every. Single. Bite. The soup didn’t make the nachos too soft–it added just enough flavor and moisture to each chip. We ordered the full size order, but would probably try the half order next time.

When we could safely try the spring rolls and the seafood mac, we found that they were just as good. The spring rolls were stuffed with shrimp, crab, vegetables, and mozzarella and were lightly fried and served with a tangy sauce. The flavor and texture were perfect–we will definitely get these again.

The mac n cheese was baked and served in a cast iron pan and was made up of macaroni, she-crab soup, lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops, and a three cheese sauce. It was delicious, but a little bit dry. A little more soup or a little more cheese sauce would have fixed it right up, but since we cleaned the pan, it obviously wasn’t too much of a problem!

 

About halfway through the food, we decided to get another round of drinks. We shared the Victory Brewing Sour Monkey and the Classic Mule. The Sour Monkey was awesome, but my taste buds and my heart had been stolen by the Double Vibes already! The mule was made with Absolut Citron, ginger beer, and lime and was a lovely take on a classic. One or two of those on a hot day, sitting on the patio would be lovely!

creme brulee cheesecake

For dessert, we split the Creme Brulee Cheesecake. It was light and creamy, with the classic burnt sugar topping that you’d find on Creme Brulee. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal, though I was surprised that we had room for it!

Since we live so close, we’ve already made plans to go back–next time we want to split the spring rolls again and get bowls of the she-crab soup. And beer. Definitely beer.

Oceans & Ale is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 am to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 2 am. They’re located in the Premium Outlets at 5601-I Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188 and you can check out their menus at https://www.oceansandale.com/

Whether you’re a Williamsburg local or a visitor to our fair city, please check them out–they’re worth the trip!

What Makes Someone A Foodie?

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food·ie

/ˈfo͞odē/

Foodie Traveler: Nawab Indian Cuisine, Williamsburg, VA

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We’ve both been visiting Nawab on and off since they opened in the late 1990s and have never had a bad meal there. Stephan and I were craving some comfort food on a cold evening not long ago and decided to head over.

We were seated right away by the owner’s daughter and she was also our server for the meal. We started with a bottle of Kabinett Riesling, which was one of the wine specials for the evening. It was perfect–lightly sweet and full of flavor. I like slightly sweet wines, but can’t handle ones that are too sweet. Around the same time, they brought out a plate of pappadums (apparently, there are a million ways to spell this, so don’t judge) with cilantro and mint chutney. I swear, I could eat that chutney on almost everything. The pappadums were light and crispy and not at all greasy. Perfect.

Pappadums

Next, we got our appetizer of garlic naan. It came with a small dish of raita, and was hot and garlicky, and yummy. There is no photo because we snarfed most of it up before I remembered to take one…

Our entrees came out shortly afterward–Methiwala Malai Chicken for me, and Bewali Chicken and Shrimp for Stephan.  The Methiwala Malai Chicken had a Mughlai sauce with cream, spinach, and fenugreek. The Bewali Shrimp and Chicken had a light cream sauce, a large piece of chicken, and four huge shrimp. We ordered both of them at a heat level of two out of five. While both dishes were delicious as they were, we agreed that we would probably order them at a level three next time. Don’t get me wrong–we both like spicy food, but we’ve found that with Indian food, we can taste all the different layers of  spice and flavor better with a medium heat level.  I remember many years ago, ordering a dish at level five–Indian hot. The server looked at me skeptically and said “Indian hot is VERY hot.” I told him that I wanted my lips to burn and swell up, my nose to run, and little beads of sweat to pop out on my forehead. He looked surprised and said “Indian hot then!” I saw him watching me eat with a huge grin on my face and I swear there was a look of admiration on his face. He never questioned my choice again. Ah youth…nowadays, medium is just fine.

blueberry cheesecake

For dessert, we shared a slice of blueberry cheesecake. Both the crust and the filling were dense (in a good way), and not very sweet. Not what we were expecting, but very good and a lovely way to end the meal.

I have often found that eating Indian food gives me a feeling of euphoria. I don’t know if it’s the spices or the whole experience, but I always leave Nawab a very happy girl.

They’re located at 204 Monticello Avenue, in a recently renovated shopping center. You can check out their menu at http://www.nawabonline.com/ and read reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor. Give them a try!

 

 

Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

 

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If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I was a vegetarian for over four years due to an allergy to meat. While I am now able to eat poultry and seafood, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat red meat again. This recipe is a go-to for me when I want a big pot of comforting soup, and it’s super versatile! Want to use ground beef, ground turkey, or Trader Joe’s Beefless Beef? Go ahead! Want to use a different type of pasta? I’ve used shells, elbows, bowties, and others. Want to add more vegetables? I’ve added sauteed bell peppers, and mushrooms, but you can add whatever you want.

pasta e fagioli ingredients

Start by chopping one medium onion and sauteeing it in a large pot in a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the onion is soft and translucent, add two 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, one 15.5 ounce can of cannellini beans, 32 ounces of vegetable stock, one tablespoon of Italian Seasoning, eight cups of water, salt and pepper to taste, and one cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein). Seriously–just dump it all in the pot and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 20 minutes.

I usually buy my TVP from Bob’s Red Mill, but I found a great deal on it at The Cheese Shop in Stuart’s Draft, VA. It’s a soy protein and soy flour product that works as a meat substitute in any recipe where you would use ground beef.  It has a similar texture, but almost no flavor, so you’ll want to season it before using in other kinds of recipes. In the soup though, you don’t need to season it separately.

pasta e fagioli pot

After 20 minutes, add 2-3 cups of dry pasta (I used elbow noodles this time). Simmer another 20ish minutes until the pasta is cooked.

pasta e fagioli bowl

Serve with rolls, garlic bread, or saltines. This recipe makes a HUGE pot of soup, so you’ll have leftovers for days. After the first night, the pasta soaks up a lot of the broth, so you can either add more broth, or enjoy the leftovers as they are.

What’s your favorite go-to winter warmer?

Sweet Potato Muffins

 

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Those of you who have been following this blog for a few weeks know that Stephan and I bought a box of sweet potatoes in early November at Powell’s Farm Market in North Carolina. Thankfully, sweet potatoes keep for a LONG time, which is good because it seems like no matter how many potatoes we use, the box never seems to get any emptier. It’s a magic box of sweet potatoes! Now could I have a magic box of money that never gets any emptier?!? Please?

Anyway, the other day, I decided to make a batch of sweet potato muffins to use up a couple of the small ones. I’ve had the recipe for years–it’s based on the recipe from a certain living history museum that I worked at for ten years, eight months, and nine days of my life…not that I counted or anything… *cough*

I’ve tweaked it to suit my taste and you can too. Don’t like raisins? Use dried cranberries. Don’t have pecans? Use walnuts. Don’t like or can’t have nuts? Leave them out. Don’t have pumpkin pie seasoning? Use nutmeg, cloves, allspice–whatever sweet spices that you like and have on hand (although if you use cloves, use half the amount). It’s pretty versatile. I also used an extra large muffin tin, but you can use a regular tin and get smaller muffins, but more of them. You can also double the recipe if you want tall bakery-style muffins in those extra large tins. I was just going for flavor instead of making them fancy, but you do whatever makes you happy!

sweet potato muffins ingredients

Start by boiling a couple small sweet potatoes and letting them cool. When soft, peel and mash them, then set them aside. In a mixing bowl, cream 1/4 cup of butter with 1/2 cup sugar, then add the mashed potatoes. In a separate bowl, combine 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning. Add this mixture alternately with 1 large egg and 1/2 cup milk (whatever kind you like). When it’s just blended, mix in 1/4 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup raisins. Don’t overmix or the muffins will be tough. This is what it will look like:

muffin batter

 

Spoon into greased muffin tins and top with chopped nuts, coconut, cinnamon sugar, or anything else that you want–or just leave plain on top.

muffins ready for the oven

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the muffins are done and starting to pull away from the edges of the pan.

sweet potato muffins

As I said, if you want taller muffins, double the recipe or use smaller tins. Either way, the muffins will be moist and yummy, and won’t last long!

Recipe:

2/3 cup mashed sweet potato

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup each: chopped pecans and raisins

Grease muffin tins and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook, peel, and mash sweet potatoes (or just use canned ones) and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg, half of the dry ingredients, the milk, and the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts and raisins and spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Sprinkle with additional nuts, cinnamon sugar, or whatever you like. Bake 25-30 minutes and enjoy!

 

What’s you favorite way to use sweet potatoes? Let us know in the comments below!