7-Layer Dinner

Today marks the closing date for the little contest I held, and it failed miserably with zero recipe submissions. Sigh. Oh well, I tried!

This week’s post features a classic casserole that has been served on our dinner table for decades. While most casseroles of this type utilizes ground beef or crumbled sausage for the top layer, my family has always used sliced wieners. I am not exactly fond of using processed foods, so I am going to experiment by finding a meat that really compliments the dish and also a substitute for the tomato soup. But for now, here is our original recipe for 7-Layer Dinner.
3 medium potatoes, cooked and thinly sliced
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & corn)
6 all-beef wieners, sliced (we like Harvest brand)
2, 10 oz. cans condensed tomato soup mixed with equal amount water
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Layer potatoes, rice, onion, veggies and wieners in a large casserole dish. Whisk together soup, water, salt and pepper; pour over the casserole. Cover and bake until mixture begins to bubble. Lower temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for approximately 30 minutes longer. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Nutritional Information
Calories (per 1/6 of a recipe): 415
Fat: 10.5g
– Saturated Fat: 3.4g
– Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 933mg
Carbohydrates: 68.7g
– Fibre: 6.7g
– Sugars: 6.6g
Protein: 13.3g

Black Bean & Brown Rice Casserole

While most of my [favourite] recipes are a tad on the rich and heavy side, this one, chock full of veggies and protein, promises to deliver a light, flavourful, and nutritious meal.

The original recipe calls for Swiss cheese, and I did use it the first time around but I was not impressed. I felt that the cheese overpowered the flavours of the other ingredients. Later, I experimented with cheddar and mozzarella cheese and I would have to say that mozzarella gave the best results. Feel free to use your favourite :)IMG_0049Adapted from www.allrecipes.com

1/3 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 cup vegetable broth (I just use lightly salted water)
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 green peppers, julienned
2 carrots, shredded
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. cumin
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil; add rice and cook until tender. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 3 quart casserole dish; set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add peppers, zucchini, cooked chicken, mushrooms, and 1 cup of cheese. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Stir in the cooked rice and beans; mix well. Top with remaining cheese, cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Yields 8 servings.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 420
Fat: 11.3g
– Saturated Fat: 4.5g
– Cholesterol: 53mg
Sodium: 325mg
Carbs: 46.2g
– Fibre: 10.2g
– Sugars: 4.2g
Protein: 34.5g

BBQ Sauce

Just a quick reminder, there is still plenty of time to submit your all time favourite recipe to be the feature of my 100th post! I have not received a single submission as of yet and I’m about to resort to begging.

OK, I will spare you the theatrics and simply move on to today’s recipe!

As is the case with so many other condiments, and store bought foods in general, I was appalled by the ingredients found in bottled sauces. It wasn’t long before I decided to try my hand at a homemade sauce and began to search online. But I had some trouble finding exactly what I was looking for, whether they contained ingredients that I never purchase or was in combinations that sounded weird! So I finally picked out the best elements of several recipes and came up with this one.

That's a whole lot of ingredients!

That’s a whole lot of ingredients!

Though I have used this sauce very successfully on a variety of foods – such as steak, hamburgers, grilled chicken breast, BBQ chicken pizza, and even use it to drizzle on the beef casserole featured in last week’s post – I believe it is best suited to chicken and ribs due to the sweetness. If you prefer a bolder tasting sauce or will use it exclusively for steaks, reduce the sugar and honey slightly, increase the vinegar, and substitute mesquite smoke for the hickory. Just play around with amounts until you achieve the taste you’re looking for and make it your own!IMG_0156
1 cup ketchup
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. hickory liquid smoke
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. ground mustard powder
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, 15 minutes until reduced and thickened to desired consistency. NOTE: Sauce will thicken considerably as it cools. Let cool to room temperature before pouring into glass bottle or jar. Yields 2 cups.

Beef Noodle Casserole, and a contest… of sorts!

As I am fast nearing my 100th post (this one makes 96!) I have decided to get all of you involved in helping me celebrate! I am inviting everyone to submit their all-time favourite recipe – dessert or otherwise – for a chance to be the subject of said 100th post!

To participate: If you have a blog and your favourite recipe is already posted, simply email me the link to the post. If you do not have a blog, email the recipe along with a little write up telling me what you love about it, its history in your family, a photo of the finished recipe – if you have one, and the source. A link to the source would be great, but isn’t necessary, particularly if it was drawn from a book or is an original idea. Ideally, your submission should resemble a brief blog post.

The winning recipe will be the one that “speaks to me” the most, in other words, has me scrambling to the kitchen to whip up and devour!

Submissions will be accepted until midnight April 24th, with the winning post going live at 6:00 pm (central) on May 1st.

Good luck to you all!

In the meantime, let’s have a peak at today’s recipe.

Back in my younger [not-so-smart] days, I absolutely loved the boxed beef noodle dinner. Eventually I got clued in as to how unhealthy processed foods were and began eliminating as much of it as I could. And that included my much-loved beef noodle. Pout

It didn’t take long before I found myself eyeing those boxes on grocery store shelves, wondering if it would be so bad to buy one, just this once. However, the cravings were quickly silenced once I looked over the ingredient list.

I simply couldn’t justify putting that garbage into my system.

So what’s a girl to do?

Scour the ‘net for a scratch-made version, of course!

As usual, I found exactly what I was looking for!

And here it is, the recipe to give your hamburger a helping hand!
IMG_0140Adapted from: Cook Book Fixation

227g uncooked egg noodles
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
2 tsp. Bragg Liquid Soy Seasoning (a non-GMO soy sauce)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (honestly, I just use water and can’t tell that anything is missing.)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add beef; cook until no longer pink. Drain off any fat and return to skillet. Add seasonings, liquid soy, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in chicken broth (or water), flour and cheese. Cook, stirring often, until cheese is melted and liquid has thickened somewhat. Drain the cooked noodles and stir into the beef mixture. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Yields 4 Servings.

**I enjoy this topped with homemade BBQ sauce (recipe coming soon!) or even ketchup.**

(Calculated using water in place of broth)
Calories: 610
Fat: 28.6g
– Saturated: 12g
– Cholesterol: 96.3mg
Sodium: 1,134mg
Carbohydrates: 41.7g
– Fibre: 3g
– Sugars: 1.9g
Protein: 45.9g

Confetti Marshmallow Squares

Happy “First Day of Spring” everyone!

Today I have for you quite the adorable (not to mention spring-like) treat that is very popular here in central Canada. You will find these colourful squares in virtually all non-chain coffee shops and bakeries. And it’s no wonder…

These little morsels are VERY addictive!

But not necessarily the healthiest treat around, thanks to the mini fruit flavoured marshmallows. They are probably one of the most artificial and GMO (genetically modified organism) laden foods you can find on store shelves.IMG_0164While I normally do my best to avoid such blatantly artificial ingredients, on rare occasions I will live dangerously and indulge in things that I know are not good for me! ;)

Besides, it can’t be much worse than dining in some of those popular chain restaurants! So how about it, would you like to live dangerously too and enjoy a square with me?!IMG_0167INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
150g (that’s half of a standard package) butterscotch chips
250g package mini fruit flavoured marshmallow

Line an 8″ square pan with wax paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add marshmallow; set this aside. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter along with the peanut butter. Add butterscotch chips and turn off the heat. Stir until chips are completely melted. Remove from burner and let cool at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to help the cooling process.IMG_0163Once the pot has cooled enough that you can comfortably touch the bottom (marshmallows may melt if mixture has not cooled sufficiently) add the butter mixture to the marshmallows; stir until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and – here is my very own fool-proof trick – lay a second piece of wax paper over the top and press down evenly.IMG_0165This saves you the frustration of having the mixture stick to utensils or fingers and you will get a much more level and compacted square. Fold the wax paper tightly around the pan and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Lift square from the pan using the base layer of wax paper and transfer to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, or a large pizza cutter, cut into 25 bite-sized squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer (and they do freeze wonderfully!)
Calories: 115
Fat: 6g
– Saturated Fat: 3g
– Cholesterol: 4.9mg
Sodium: 51mg
Carbohydrates: 12.8g
– Fibre: 0.3g
– Sugars: 9.5g
Protein: 1.9g

Running News

It’s done. My old treadmill went out the door Wednesday afternoon and even though it kept me in running condition through many a winter, I was happy to see it go.

Without warning, the machine stopped dead In the middle of my second last run, and came very close to doing the same no less than four times during the last run.

So the old beast won’t be missed.

Especially since daytime temps have been above freezing all week, enabling me to run outdoors exclusively! Even though I’ve had to dodge a whole lot of puddles and a few small ponds along the way, I’m still very happy to take my training back outside! :)

Speaking of which, I am up to running 4 miles comfortably (6 on a treadmill) so I am ready to run at least a 5K for my first race of the year. (DISCLAIMER: I don’t actually “race,” I just enjoy participating in these events!) I have one picked out for the 29th, but the wimp in me is waiting to see what the weather will be like before signing up!

In other running news…

I purchased a new pair of shoes, the New Balance Minimus Zero to be exact. I believe they have been discontinued, but getting a great deal is far more important to me than keeping up with the latest, greatest thing. I haven’t taken them for a “ride” yet so I can’t comment on their feel and performance.

Last but not least, I’m thinking about joining a newly formed running group. I have never even run with a buddy before, let alone an entire running group, so I really don’t know how I will like it. I have some time to mull it over; their first group run doesn’t happen until April 1.

That about wraps it up. I will keep you all posted on how things pan out over the next few weeks.

Vanilla Wafer Cookies

Today I have for you a cookie that looks and sounds deceivingly bland, but pack a whole lot of flavour thanks to a whopping full tablespoon of vanilla extract!

I had reservations about using this much and thought it might be a typo… or a bad joke. I stared at the tablespoon, full to the brim with that aromatic black liquid we all know and love, and shook my head. Then I dumped the whole lot into the mixing bowl hoping that I had not made a huge mistake.

But it was no mistake, the resulting cookie was phenomenal!

As you can see from the photos, mine baked up thick and soft instead of wafer thin. I think the reason might be that I cut the sugar by half a cup then added 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. But I don’t regret the modification because I actually found these cookies to be very sweet. So sweet, in fact, that I may reduce the sugar even more next time then… as much as I hate this method… roll the dough out thin and break out the cookie cutters.IMG_0161Adapted slightly from Taste of Home

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and all that vanilla! Whisk together the dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yields 2 dozen.IMG_0162Nutritional Information:
Calories (per 2 cookies): 175
Fat: 8.5g
– Saturated Fat: 5g
– Cholesterol: 38mg
Sodium: 85.5mg
Carbohydrates: 22.1g
– Fibre: 0.4g
– Sugars: 11.5g
Protein: 2.3g