Happy New Year!

Now that we are a couple weeks into the new year, it’s time to get back to business! I’d like to first start by wishing all of you a Happy New Year! From my family to your’s, I wish nothing but happiness and joy in the new year.

I was beyond happy to spend Christmas back in Pennsylvania with my family. It was great to see everyone to have time to just catch up and relax for a week.

The holidays came and went so fast. And I actually did some cooking over the past few weeks, regardless of the sickness that had plagued our house again. My coworkers and I had another potluck lunch. For this I made my aunt’s deviled eggs and baked corn. I also made the chocolate and M&M pretzels that I had made for our Thanksgiving potluck.

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Merry Christmas Circles Printables
Striped Paper Printables

While I was home in Pennsylvania, I took the time make dinner for my parents, brothers and their families. On the menu was…..slow cooker Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and roasted green beans. Recipe for the Salisbury steak to posted later this week.

I have also made a few meals for my family since being back in Tampa, including Alfredo stuffed chicken breast and stove top macaroni and cheese. Recipes also to be posted later this week.

One of my favorites was the slow cooker chicken tacos we had for dinner last night. So simple and quick to put together. The hardest part was setting up all the fixings buffet style for us to assemble our tacos.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg reduced sodium taco seasoning
1 jar mild chunky salsa
1 cup chicken broth/stock

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine taco seasoning, salsa, and chicken broth. Lay chicken breasts in bottom of slow cooker. Pour salsa mixture over chicken. Cover, and cook in high for 3-4 hours, until chicken shreds easily with a fork.

**Recipe credit: Guilt or guilt free?

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Serve along with any toppings you and your family like. We had lettuce, tomato, red onion, corn, black beans, taco sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, as well as store bought chipotle and ranchero dressings. I also served a combination of hard and soft shell tacos.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. Looking forward to leftovers tonight!

Don’t forget to check back later this week for more recipes that I have made over the holidays.

ENJOY!! πŸ™‚

Very Inspiring Blogger!!

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I had ever intention of sharing this sooner, but my little guy had gotten so sick, and it was very difficult for me to take the time to sit down and focus on it.

At the end of last week I woke up to find out I had been nominated for the “Very Inspiring Blogger” award by The Single Gourmet, who as you can tell, is also passionate about food!

There are a few rules that apply to this nomination, as you will see below.

The rules of the awards are:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.

3. Share 7 random things about yourself.

4. Select 15 blogs for the award.

5. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

7 Random Facts About Me:

1. I spent most of my young childhood and teenage years in a ballet studio for more than 30 hours a week. In fact, I still keep in touch with my dance teacher on a regular basis (The Hanover School Of Ballet).

2. As a member of the dance company growing up, I had the opportunity to travel to 7 European countries (England, Scotland, Wales, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria) and China as an ambassador of dance for the United States.

3. I am 1 of 4 children, with 3 brothers. Family is everything to me!

4. I LOVE college football!!! (As has been evident in some of my previous blog posts.) GO IRISH!!

5. My real job is working as a Speech-Language Pathologist at a local hospital. And, oddly enough, I have my former, childhood dentist to thank for introducing me to this profession! So rewarding, and I actually love going to work every day!

6. I am originally from Pennsylvania, and I miss all the restaurants and foods I can only get there!

7. I wish I had a green thumb! I attempted to grow my own vegetable and herb container garden, but I was not successful. I started with 4 herbs and 3 vegetable plants, and only 1 remains, my green pepper plant!

Nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are:

Most of the blogs nominated are in some way related to food and/or cooking because that’s where my passion lies, but there are blogs with other interests mixed in. Please take time and check them out!

1. Eating Naturally

2. The Nutrition Doctor

3. Ranting Chef

4. Hiking Photography

5. Delicious Goodies Galore

6. Train Lean. Think Clean.

7. Simply Speech

8. The Southern Yankee

9. Weeknight Treats

10. Fitness Food and You

11. Running On Pumpkin

12. The Cook’s Life

13. Fitness and Feta

14. Balanced Fork, Healthy Life

15. Sweet and Crumby

Congrats to all those that were nominated, and I hope all my viewers enjoy looking to see what each of these bloggers have to offer!

ENJOY!! πŸ™‚

Leftovers and Coworker Treats!

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First, let me say, as you can tell from the picture above, our leftover fish tacos and black bean soup were a success!! Click here for recipes. They were just as delicious as last night, but I changed it up a bit.

Instead heating the tortillas and making a traditional taco, I made tortilla chips, as I had previously posted here, and using the shredded cabbage as my base, I made a fish taco salad. It was equally delicious! The crunch of the oven-baked tortilla chips were a perfect compliment to the salad.

So, since I did not make dinner tonight, I felt compelled to make a treat for my coworkers. Only problem was, after being on-call this weekend, I had zero energy to drive to the grocery to buy anything. Therefore, I needed to make something of whatever I already had on hand.

I took to my Pinterest profile to see what I had pinned that I could make, and I discovered these yummy lemon poppy seed cupcakes with lemon glaze. My version altered slightly from the original recipe, in that, I tried to make them a bit healthier and cut down on the amount of lemon zest because I only had a few lemons on hand.

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Lighter Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup 1% milk
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup margarine, softened (Smart Balance Light)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar (I used the Splenda blend equivalent, which was 3/4 cup, divided)
3 large eggs
1 tbsp poppy seeds

For the citrus glaze:

1 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
For garnish: lemon zest, poppy seeds

Directions

For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degree. Line a cupcake pan with the liners of your choice.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl.

Stir together milk and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small bowl.

Using a hand mixer, beat butter, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and the lemon zest on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Mixing on low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Beat in poppy seeds.

Divide batter among muffin tins (filling each cup two-thirds full). Made 22 cupcakes.

Bake until golden around the edges, 20-22 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Let stand until ready to use

Brush warm cupcakes with half the lemon juice mixture. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack, and let cool for 30 minutes.

Brush cupcakes again with remaining orange juice mixture, and let cool completely.

For the citrus glaze: Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle on the cupcakes (about 1 tsp each) to cover the tops. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, and garnish with strips of lemon zest if you desire. Let sit for about 20 minutes or so until glaze is set.

Luckily for my husband, I made enough for him to try one tonight! Hopefully my coworkers find them as delicious as he did!

ENJOY!! πŸ™‚

Tis the (college football) season!

As I may have mentioned before, other than cooking, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE college football season!!! Growing up, my family was all about Notre Dame football. We would always watch the games on television on Saturdays and on occasion my dad would take us out for a game. I do not know what it is about that campus. Many people say Disney is the happiest place on earth. I say….the University of Notre Dame is the happiest place on earth!! I know my dad would agree too! πŸ™‚

When I went off to college my school had a football team, but they weren’t anything to write home about, and just couldn’t get in to investing myself in the games. But, after finishing my undergraduate degree, and went on for my Master’s degree, I definitely chose right this time. Although the University of South Florida (USF) football is relatively new, considering the deep rooted tradition in Notre Dame football and many of the other NCAA teams, I still love every minute of their games.

Tonight we play Rutgers. Always a tough game for USF! They seem to always have our number. I’m hoping tonight that will change. USF had an amazing win last week end against Nevada, and hopefully they will keep their winning record going.

Anyway, my purpose for posting, tonight will be a night off for me in the kitchen. Look for me on the visitor’s side, 50 yard line cheering on the USF Bulls!

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Check back in a couple weeks for some tailgate recipes I have at our game against Florida State!

GO BULLS!!!!

Cookingwithatwist Fan Page

I have recently created a Facebook fan page for my blog. Until today, I was just using it as a way to share my blog posts, but I have decided to choose a different ingredient (fruit, veggie, herb, etc.) every week or so. I will then share recipes I find online that incorporate the chosen ingredient.

This week I have chosen chicken breast as the ingredient. Chicken breast is very versatile, and takes to other favors so well. Head on over to the Cookingwithatwist fan page to see what recipes I choose this week to amp up chicken breast!

Feel free to leave comments on any ingredients you wish to see on my weekly recipes!

ENJOY!! πŸ™‚

Happy Monday!

I know it is hard to believe, but today truly was a happy Monday for me!! We survived the threat of a tropical storm and hurricane, and I got saw a great number on my scale this morning!!!

No one ever said losing weight was easy, but I have found that by simply making wise food choices makes it seem easy! Once I got serious about losing the extra baby weight in July, I began weighing myself daily, usually every morning as soon as I wake up. Since I had not weighed myself since Friday morning, I was not too thrilled to step on the scale this morning, but I knew it needed to be done! Much to my surprise, I had lost a bit more weight!!! Bringing my total weight loss to 12lbs!!! I was beyond excited because this was a weight I had not seen in more than a year!! πŸ™‚

Seeing this weight only further motivated me to continue to make good food choices and eat healthy. Especially since it is difficult for me to incorporate exercise into my daily life. Eating smarts really is my only option.

So, this morning before walking out the door to head to work,I took a look in my freezer to see what types of protein I had in there. My choices were chicken and fish, and since we had chicken last night, fish it was! However, I still did not know exactly how I was going to prepare it. During my lunch break, I did a little searching and came across the recipe below. (NOTE: I did not have enough of 1 type of fish for dinner. So, I used 2 cod fillets and 2 tilapia fillets.)

Broiled Parmesan Fish

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt (I did not have celery salt. I used half celery seed and half regular salt.)
1 pound tilapia fillets(The cod was delicious too!)

Directions:

Preheat your oven’s broiler. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery seed, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes.

Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan mixture on the top side.

Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork.

**Recipe credit: All Recipes

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I served the fish with a garden salad and steamed green beans. I was hoping for leftovers to take to lunch tomorrow, but it was so delicious my family ate it all!

**Please do not forget to participate in the challenge for your chance to win a FREE slow cooker. See my previous post, Seafood Lasagna, for details.

ENJOY!!!

Family <3

I apologize for my blogging hiatus the past few days. I took the weekend off to meet up with my parents (who live in PA) in Charlotte to visit with one of my brothers. Even though it was too short, It was a fantastic weekend!! Being so far from home, I miss my family terribly, but it’s quick trips like this that help get me by.

A couple of “firsts” happened as well. It was my first time taking my son on a road trip solo. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. I had no idea how I was going to keep an active 15 month old contained in a carseat for 9 hours. It went a lot better than expected. He was content looking out the window and watching some of his DVDs.

Another first….my son said what I would consider his first “unprompted, purposeful” word. Any guesses as to what it was???? CAR! As we sat down to eat a quick dinner during our travels, all of the sudden, he says, “car” as one pulls past the window. I thought maybe I misheard him or that it was just a coincidence, but no! He said it again, and again, and again, each time a car went past the window. I couldn’t help but smile and clap for him. He was so tickled by my reaction. The other people there must have thought we were crazy!!

While in Charlotte we enjoyed a bit of shopping, some great food, and Discovery Place. Little man loved the water play area. Surprisingly, he also enjoyed the IMAX polar bear movie. I think it lasted about 40 minutes, and he just sat on my lap and watched so intently.

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After a 9 hour drive there, 2 days on-the-go (with very little napping), and a 9 hour drive back home today, my son was exhausted!

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Since this road trip went so well, I’m already looking forward to the next! Possible home for Christmas!!

Happy 15-months today to my little munchkin!!! πŸ™‚

Just not enough hours….

So, today I think I bit off a little more than I could chew. On top of working 6 hours and taking care of my son, I thought I would be able to get a manicure/pedicure, go to the grocery store, do laundry, pack, and make dinner all in a matter of a few hours. Well, needless to say, something had to give!! Tonight, that was dinner. This was definitely a lazy dinner night, but still so yummy and comforting. One of those meals that you can eat any time of the year, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup!

Although I used a canned white chicken chili soup, with the addition of some black beans, I did make the grilled cheese. Well, BAKED grilled cheese! This is my first time making grilled cheese in this way, and I honestly had my reservations. I expected the bread to not get as crispy and crunchy as when you make it on the stove top. Boy, was I wrong!!! They turned out perfect!

Baked “grilled” Cheese

Ingredients:

8 slices of your favorite bread (I used a whole wheat bread.)
8 slices of your favorite cheese (2 slices per sandwich. I used a combination of Swiss and American, but you could also use shredded cheese. Just as long as it is a good melting cheese.)
Soft butter or margarine (enough to coat the bread slices)

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place this baking sheet along with another on two separate racks in the oven (I used one slightly smaller than the other). Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

While the oven and baking sheets preheat, spread enough butter on 1 side of each slice of bread to cover and cook evenly.

Once the oven is preheated, remove the foil lined baking sheet from the oven. Build your sandwiches on this sheet. Bread, cheese, bread.

After the sandwiches are assembled, cover them loosely with another piece of foil to keep butter from getting on the bottom of your other baking sheet. Take the other baking sheet from the oven and lightly press the bottom of that baking sheet on to the foil-covered sandwiches.

With the baking sheets stacked, put the, back in the oven.

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove. Flip the sandwiches. Cover with foil and second baking sheet. Then bake another 5 minutes so both sides are crispy and cheese well melted.

Serve with your favorite soup.

**Recipe inspiration: Cooks Country

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Next time, I will try this with addition of some ham or turkey to the sandwiches. And if time permits, some homemade soup!

Now, I’m looking forward to our long weekend in Charlotte visiting with my brother, who we haven’t seen since Christmas!

ENJOY!!!

Whoa….BABY!!!

Where to begin…..

First, I want to thank all of those who have viewed, followed, or “liked” my posts! You have all been fantastic in showing your support by helping to boost me to nearly 500 views in less than 2 weeks.

Second, a little history about me. Last year, my husband and I welcomed our first bundle of joy! As some of you may know, he came as quite a shock to us. I was nearly 5 months along before I knew I was pregnant! CRAZY…..I KNOW! Imagine our surprise! Thankfully, our little man is perfect! Given the situation, I had little time to mentally prepare for everything to come, including losing weight post delivery. I wasn’t sure I had the physical or mental capacity to lose the extra weight.

Now onto business….

Other than creating this blog to share my love of cooking, I also wanted to use it as my motivation to have not only myself, but my family eat healthy. It has been just over 14 months since we welcomed our first baby. What an amazing year it has been, but I continued to dread what seemed like an uphill battle to losing the extra baby weight!

I tried so many times in the last year to eat healthy, and tried so hard to motivate myself to exercise a few times a week. I even went as far as to join a local gym that had babysitting. That was a HUGE failure! I quit after the first day when I discovered my nine-month old had pen marks all over his arms!!! So, I was back at square one.

A couple months passed by, and zero motivation. Then one day (July 9th, to be exact), it was like someone lit a fire under me! I had what I considered a “good eating day” the day before, and decided to weigh myself that morning before work. Much to my surprise, I had lost 2 lbs!!!

I began by altering the way I eat, and what I eat. Mind you, I was never a terrible eater, but I didn’t eat great! And I definitely didn’t eat well enough to promote weight loss. I rarely ate breakfast, and ate just OK for lunch and dinner. I always ate a lot of vegetables, but never included much fruit into my daily diet.

Below is a typical day’s food diary:

Breakfast — Fresh fruit with an iced coffee — I have never been a huge fan of coffee, but I really like iced coffee. Thanks to my parents, we have a Keurig machine. I use the vanilla syrup from Starbucks, and add some fat-free half/half.

Lunch — Salad or Sandwich with water or iced tea (sometimes low fat or fat free chips)

Snack — Fresh fruit or vegetables (This is the hardest time of day for me!)

Dinner — Protein (usually chicken or fish for my family) with steamed or roasted vegetables

On occasion I will treat myself to frozen yogurt for dessert.

I have also cut out all soda (with exception to Friday Happy Hour, when we go). I have also cut down on my portion sizes. NO MORE SECOND HELPINGS, except for veggies! I have limited the amount of pasta and potatoes I make (both used to be a big part of our weekly meals). Although, I have kept sweet potatoes.

In terms of activity and exercise, I’m going to be honest. I do not set aside time daily to exercise. I don’t have a gym membership either. However, I have gotten into the habit of taking the stairs at work more often rather than the elevator, and I am also chasing around my son on a daily basis. I try to keep busy as well. I find when I’m not at work, and I’m at home with nothing to do is when my hunger cravings are at their highest!

For some people, losing weight comes naturally. For other people, they need the help of others to lose weight. My husband is not very good at telling me what do, and I’m not very good at taking his advice, but I have to credit my husband for his vast knowledge of fitness and weight loss as well. Hence, why he has made a career of helping people lose weight everyday (www.gxprogram.com). One thing I always hear him say is, “Losing weight is a lifestyle change, it’s not just a diet.”. This is one time I can admit he is….RIGHT!!!

In my opinion, it’s all about finding what works best for you. For me, I needed to wait until I was mentally ready to tackle it. And today, I can say I am officially 10 lbs lighter than I was 3 weeks. I am not on a mission to get in the best shape of my life, but I would like to lose this extra weight before baby #2 comes along (hehe)!!! Ideally, another 10-15 lbs would be great!

Hopefully some of this information can help to motivate or inspire you! This handsome little man is my motivation!! πŸ˜€

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Stay tuned for my progress!

Double Rainbow!

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Although this picture has nothing to do with cooking or food, I felt compelled to post it! When I first saw this double rainbow on my drive to work, I thought it must be the sign of a good day ahead. But the more I thought about it, I think it was simply a sign of everything and everyone wonderful in my life right now. Seeing this rainbow, I found myself taking a minute to stop and appreciate life!