Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Follow-up Part 1: Broccoli Gruyere Gratin

For Thanksgiving this year we substituted a new Broccoli recipe, which I found here:

This substituted our usual velveeta cheese/ritz cracker/butter recipe, circa 1984 or earlier.

While definitely more of a "whole food" and gourmet type recipe, I was a little disappointed. When I was making it the day before the roux for the cheese sauce was absolutely beautiful and amazing - I would probably just use that by itself. However, after it was baked, it tasted like it needed more cheese (it just tasted milky) and definitely less milk - It was kind of "soupy" when I served it. Also, it could use some breadcrumbs or something like that on top for a special Thanksgiving-worthy "crunch".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Hello everyone,

Sorry I've been a blogging bum. It's time to talk about my annual Thanksgiving menu!

I pretty much do the same things every year. I say "I" instead of "we" because I tend to be a bit of a control freak about Thanksgiving and insist on doing the majority of things by myself. Don't come near my kitchen!!

However, this year we're going to ditch some of the "Americana casseroles" and kick things up a notch :) We are having 16 people over and I hope they enjoy it!

The "if it's not broken, don't fix it"/ same every year items:
25 pound butterball turkey, brined overnight ala Alton Brown and made on the grill by Dad
bread stuffing with everything delicious (no raisins... ugh)
turkey gravy
corn pudding
homemade cranberry sauce
homemade applesauce

The updated recipes new to this year:
Broccoli gruyere gratin (instead of broccoli ritz cracker/velveeta casserole)
Paula Deen's sweet potato casserole (just a bit naughtier than my regular casserole) - with marshmallows, of course
Roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon and bread crumbs (instead of green bean casserole) - made by Granny
A variety of homemade rolls (instead of sister Shubert's) - made by Debbie

And for dessert:
Paula Deen's pumpkin cheesecake (instead of the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe)
Chocolate pecan tart (instead of our pecan pie and chocolate pudding pie)
Pear pie with sharp white cheddar crust (well we had to have a third pie) - made by Mom

This year we also decided to ditch the garlic mashed potatoes. They are pretty time instensive towards the end of the meal prep and I dont' think we're lacking for carbohydrates, do you?? To satisfy the hubby's garlic obsession, we will definitely be having garlic rolls.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This post is dedicated to BREAKFAST, "the most important meal of the day".

It used to be that I ate the same exactly breakfast every. single. day.
1.5 cups of cheerios. Skim milk. 1/2 oz almonds. Green tea. Over and over and over and over.

If I varied from this breakfast, my tummy would be in torture for a week. Then, my life changed for the better when I discovered these:

Thank you, wonderful probiotics!! Now I can enjoy a variety of breakfasts :)

During the work week, breakfast usually consists of one of the following:
  • Chocolate banana breakfast shakes (especially in the summer)
  • Cereal with milk (bran flakes with craisins, quaker oatmeal squares, Quaker Corn bran, mmm)
  • Whole wheat toast with some smart balance or organic jelly; orange juice
  • Quinoa with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar
  • Very rarely or on a very special occasion (birthday, etc): Chick Fil A Chicken Biscuit or Lucky Charms (what, I'm human, I have NEEDS)
  • And my recent favorite.... Ezekiel English muffins and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter!


Weekends are for things that take longer like whole grain french toast and Oaty waffles :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quinoa stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Hello, all!

Remember these guys from the Pumpkin Patch?

The green & white ones are called Sweet Dumplings. Have to love the name :)

Tonight's recipe was adapted from a recipe on

Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash with Gruyère Cheese

  • 2 small winter squash (Sweet Dumpling, acorn)
  • olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped English walnuts
  • handfull of fresh spinach
  • about 1 cup cooked quinoa (or other whole grain like rice or couscous)
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Carefully cut out the top of each squash (like a pumpkin) and remove the seeds/stringy bits. A grapefruit spoon works great for this!

Spray the inside of each squash with cooking spray (or smear with olive oil) and put face-down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soft (my squash were bigger and took about 25 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare yourself about 1 cup of Quinoa*. Or rice, or cous cous.

Quinoa usually uses a ratio of 2:1 fluid to quinoa. I used 2 cups chicken broth 1 cup Quinoa. Rinse the quinoa in a fine strainer (to remove the bitter saponins) and then combine it with the chicken broth in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes. This amount will make MUCH more than you need for this recipe - I made extra quinoa because I like to eat it with cinnamon sugar for breakfast :)

Next, chop up an onion. Sautee up in a pan with some olive oil til tender. Add the walnuts and spinach until it is wilted. Mix in about 1 cup quinoa, or however much looks like it will fit in your squash!

After my squash was cooked, I cut them in half to be able to stuff them better. Don't you love my cute little Le Crueset dishes?

Next, the recipe calls for them to be topped with the shredded Gruyère and put back in the oven for 20 more minutes until the cheese is all melty (see suggestions below). Here is what they looked like when they were done. Mmmmm!

If I make this recipe again, I would do some things differently next time. Including:
  • Buy smaller squash. Mine were a little big so didn't have as "sweet" of a flavor. You could also use acorn, butternut, or any sweet squash
  • Use quinoa that is less dry - I would suggest cooking it a few minutes less so it still has some broth. After being cooked in the oven it dried out a little (you could also solve this by topping it with foil)
  • Mix in the cheese with the quinoa instead of putting it on top. I think that would really make this recipe next time :) Oh, and use MORE cheese.

*What is quinoa? Pronounced "keen-wah", it is often mistaken for a grain. However, quinoa is actually a seed native to South America. Like soy, it is unique in that it is one of the only sources of a complete protein that is not from an animal. It has texture similar to cous-cous. I buy mine in bulk for a great price from guess where?... Costco.

Finally... we carved pumpkins last weekend. Not to brag, but I am a self-proclaimed "master" pumpkin carver. However, this year Adam's pumpkin took the cake. I apologize for the lack of picture quality!

Fresh Market Disappointment

Hello readers!

Today I needed a quick lunch so I drove over to the Fresh Market and picked up a brown rice California roll from the sushi counter. The good news was, it was pretty tasty.

The bad news was the ingredient list: I have accepted the fact that most california rolls use imitation crab meat. This imitation crab meat, however, contained sorbitol (why do you need a sugar alcohol in crab meat??), as well as monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is listed later on in the main ingredient list, and the pickled ginger apparantly contains aspartame (Equal). What?? Let's say I won't be eating that for lunch again.

I realize that Fresh Market doesn't necessarily have the "product standards" that a store like Whole Foods does (no high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial sweeteners). I looked at their website and they just say that they strive for "quality foods" - ok, not a regulated term.

However, if you're going to put up the front that you're some type of health food store (which many people believe Fresh Market is), can you at least not have aspartame in your pickled ginger? MSG?? Seriously. For the price you charge, you can afford not to cut corners with cheap, unhealthy ingredients and actually use the real things.

Ok, enough bashing. I did pick up some Gruyere cheese that will be featured in a recipe later. Ingredients: milk, enzymes, rennet, salt. Now that is a real food. But it was also made in Switzerland where they generally have higher standards anyway :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate banana breakfast shake

Hello!! Sorry I have been a neglectful blogger!

This post is for my friend Jayme. She has been bugging me to update on my breakfast shake!

I have been loving Starbuck's chocolate banana shake. It has protein and fiber powder and keeps me full for a long time. When I was commuting 2 hours to work once a week, this was my go-to breakfast. It did make quite a hole in the pocketbook though.

So, I went on to try to find a way to make it for myself...

The most important ingredient, in my opinion, is a good protein powder. Being in the dialysis business, you come across a LOT of protein powders, and this one is my favorite: Publix's Greenwise Chocolate Whey Protein Powder. It is sweetened with all-natural Stevia and tastes soooo good. (The vanilla... not so much in my opinion).

Now, the recipe (makes shakes for 2):

1 cup milk
2 bananas (I like "sugar spot" bananas, but if you like starchy ones that works too)
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
2 tablespoons cold milled flaxseed (for fiber and Omega 3's - I get mine at Costco)
enough ice to fill 1 and a half serving glasses (tall "milkshake" glasses)

Put everything in the blender. Blend. Pour into glasses. Enjoy :)

You will have to experiment with how much ice you like!

If you want to go super "health nut", you can toss in a few handfulls of fresh spinach before blending. Believe it or not, you won't be able to taste it - it'll just make the shake turn green. Hence the name "Green Monster" from my good friend Carrie!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oaty waffles for two

This morning we wanted something warm and healthy. Oaty waffles! They are delightfully hearty, chewy, and full of oaty flavor.

Put into a blender (or better yet, food processor):
1 cup whole oats
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably unsweetened)
1 egg
2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

That's it.

Spray your waffle maker with non-stick spray. Fill about 1/2 full (note: these waffles will not rise much). Wait until the steam appears then goes away, and you should be done!

Our waffle maker, a VillaWare Waffle tone, is designed to make mini belgian-style waffles. With the molds filled half full, we had 5 mini waffles... perfect for 2 people. Our waffle maker beeps at us when it thinks the waffles are done... we used the darkest setting (7).

I found this recipe on and it was originally for pancakes. I tried this and it was a disaster! The waffle maker is necessary to give the batter some shape.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Patch! and pictures

Hello, dear readers!

This morning the hubby and I went to a local pumpkin patch, Tate Farms Cotton Pickin' Pumpkins. Out of all of the pumpkin patches I have been to, this one was the best! You could go out on a hay ride to pick REAL pumpkins from the actual field they grew in, most still attached to the vine. None of that "let's drive you out to an empty field with some squishy old pumpkins sitting on palettes". There was also roasted corn, farm animals, a hay maze, and a store.

Here is our bounty...

The tall orange one and the round green one will be our carving pumpkins this year. The one that looks like a huge apple is an "apple gourd" (non edible). The little green/white ones are called Sweet Dumplings and the little orange/white ones are referred to as "4 minute microwave miracles". Expect to see recipes for these very soon. :)

The loooong one is called a Georgia Sweet Candy Roaster. It is supposed to be one of the most delicious gourds ever. I am kind of excited. It's HUGE.

When we got home from the pumpkin patch, we whipped up a different variation of our Dagwood sandwich. This one had whole wheat bread, a smear of avocado, maple bacon, turkey, havarti cheese, spinach, and boiled eggs. Due to popular demand, I have included pictures!!

Yea, delicious looking, I know!

We ate our lunch on the balcony of our 3rd floor apartment (no elevator.. good exercise). I just had to take a picture of the view. Awesome, right? That's why we chose to live here:

And finally, now that I'm on a roll with pictures, a photo of the little sweet kitten who is the inspiration for the blog's name:

Introducing Oatmeal Cream Pie! She also loves pumpkins :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Cupcake/Muffins

Hello dear readers,

Today I will share with you one of my favorite recipes. It is SO easy.
Get ready, because the ingredient list can be daunting:

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling; just pumpkin - like Libby's)
1 box cake mix (your favorite flavor)

Ok, that's it. Seriously... no eggs, water, oil, nothing.

Preheat your oven to 400 degree and spray 12 muffin tins with non-stick spray (I prefer BakeEasy). Get a bowl and mix the pumpkin and cake mix together - the batter will be STIFF. Divide the dough among the 12 muffin tins and then bake for 15-20 minutes.

When you use a chocolate cake mix, it masks the taste of the pumpkin (also, it can be difficult to tell when they are done... monitor carefully). If you want to enjoy the pumpkiny taste pick a vanilla, spice, or my favorite... Funfetti cake mix :)

180 calories per super decadent, rich muffincupcake. With plenty of beta carotene and some fiber! You are welcome :)

Original recipe modified from:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Soup of Health

This is a soup I invented around this time last year. My husband lovingly refers to it as the “Soup of Health” with all of the veggies it has. It really has no specific amounts of ingredients… you can be very flexible! Not only is it healthy, but it is also a wonderful comfort food! The amount mentioned here makes enough to eat off of for a few days.

Start out with a big soup pot. Put in 1 can (I use low-sodium) chicken broth, and then fill up to about half way with water (mind you this is a BIG soup pot). Add in some ground pepper, a bay leaf, a sprinkle of rosemary, and some salt (I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos*).

Bring to a boil and add about 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I put them in whole and shred them later). Cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up about a handful of carrots, 1 sweet onion, and some celery. Add it in whenever you are done with the boiling chicken.

Once the 20 minutes is up, take out the chicken and shred it with forks. Add back to the soup pot with the veggies.

At this point, I like to add about 4 oz of whole wheat organic shell pasta (I use 365 brand from Whole Foods). Cook for as long as it says to on the package – around 15 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, I take a package of frozen chopped (plain) spinach and heat it up in the microwave. After the pasta is done, I add the spinach to the pot too. I think this is what really makes it special! Lastly, I add some diced baby bella mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add some parsley. Season to taste with additional salt/Bragg’s Aminos* and pepper. You could also sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top!

I have also tried variations with adding fresh tomatoes, chopped broccoli, anything… it is always delicious!

*What is Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, you ask?
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is a wonderful lower-sodium salt replacement. It has 320mg of sodium per teaspoon versus over 2,000 for table salt. It’s made from non-GMO soybeans and tastes similar to soy sauce. You can buy it in a spray bottle (great for at the table) or in a big pour bottle. I have found it at Publix and most health food stores. More info here:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Oatmeal Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Hello, readers!

Today is leftover day - I had leftover Butter Chicken (which I mixed with some leftover Brussels sprouts... it worked!) for lunch. I forgot to mention yesterday that in the last 5 minutes of cooking the butter chicken I added in about half pound of baby organic spinach (from Costco... once again, I love Costco)!

Tonight we're probably going to be having some form of the "Dagwood" sandwich again. However, we're out of bread. I was about to stop by the store then I realized I'm being a lazy butt and I need to get to making bread again. :)

This readers, is my friend, the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme!

My awesome Uncle got me this for Christmas last year. I picked it out from reviews on I have not been disappointed!... well actually, I was kind of disappointed with the dull recipes that came with the instruction guide (except that you can apparently make meatloaf in it... can't say I've tried that). For example: the "whole wheat" bread recipe they included only contained a bit of whole wheat and called for dried milk powder. Not exactly what I wanted. So anyway I went out searching for some of my own :)

My recipe is adapted from the one I found here:

Homemade Oatmeal Honey Whole Wheat Bread

  • 1 cup water, boiling
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use olive oil)
  • sprinkling of salt
  • 1/4 cup honey or Agave nectar (a low glycemic sweetener - get it at a natural health food store - or COSTCO!)
  • 1/2 cup oats, old-fashioned
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur flour)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast, sprinkled over flour


Put oats in the bread pan; pour boiling water over the oats. When oats have cooled but are still a bit warm, add remaining ingredients according to bread machine manufacturer's manual. For my bread machine, I add in everything but the flour and salt. Layer the flour on top of the other ingredients; then make a "well" to put the yeast in. Bake on light crust "quick" setting.

My bread is baking right now and smelling delicious :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Butter Chicken

Hello friends!

We all have days that are pressed for time. This is one of my favorite things for those types of days - Kitchens of Indian Paste for Butter Chicken Curry.

You will learn as this blog progresses that I am very picky about my products. This one meets my standards - no nasty preservatives, no trans-fats, no high fructose corn syrup or anything else gross.

I love Indian food. GOOD Indian food. And I have found that it is very difficult to replicate with pre-made sauces (I've tried Trader Joe's and mixes from Whole Foods but found them watery). I even have a hard time making Indian food taste good when I make it from scratch (although I've been getting better with tips and spices from my friend CJ. Hi CJ!).

This, my friends, really DOES taste like the real thing - thick and just the right amount of spice (for me... the Husband likes things a bit spicier).

All you do is add this paste to a pound of chicken (I use chicken breast cutlets from Costco... I LOVE COSTCO), 3 tablespoons butter (yes I eat butter.. that is for later), and 1 cup of water. Simmer for 20 minutes - which is conveniently the same amount of time it takes to make basmati rice.

Tonight I was actually on the treadmill and jumped off to whip this together then jumped back on for 20 minutes and then voila it's dinnertime!!

Oh, and obviously I bought it from :) Although I have seen it at Publix too in the ethnic food section.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I don't know about you, but I love sandwiches. (Please refer to one of my childhood favorites, The Sandwich Song.) I could probably eat a sandwich for every meal during the day and be happy.

On Sundays The Husband is usually wanting a very filling lunch (e.g., takeout Chinese). I just wanted a sandwich! The Husband is not too fond of sandwiches, unless they are something special. Today for lunch we compromised (and saved a lot of money and calories) by making a sandwich that was inspired by one of my favorite sandwiches at The Diplomat Deli in Hoover, AL. We were not disappointed :)

For each sandwich:
-2 slices toasted whole wheat bread
-smear of ripe avocado
-alfalfa sprouts (Publix didn't have any so we used bean sprouts, and they were just fine)
-chopped tomato
-thick sliced cream Havarti cheese
-2 slices of maple glazed deli turkey
-2 slices of maple cured bacon (mmmm)
-1 chopped hardboiled egg

It was delicious. Next time I will make sure I set out the cheese a bit before assembling to bring out the full flavor. I am thinking this sandwich will be our go-to "Dagwood".

First post!


Welcome to my blog! My name is Lauren and I am a foodie. I also happen to be a Registered Dietitian. I am a firm believer in "everything in moderation"!

While I have had food blogs in the past, I have been inspired by my friend Carrie to start a food blog again. I hope to share tasty (and healthy) recipes and ideas... and who knows what else. We'll see.

Why the name? Well, not only do I love the food oatmeal, but my cat's name is also Oatmeal. And she's very lovable :)