Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wee Bites - Sweet Potato Pie Bread

This is one of those recipes that came about by a fortunate series of events. We like to go to the local farmer's market every Sunday morning. Max loves to run around there and we always find something we just had to have while we're there.

Two weeks ago, while my mom was here, we brought her with us to the market. We wondered around checking everything out. Max became fascinated with the large bins of sweet potatoes at all of the vendors. Finally, we let him pick a few out to take home. He was so excited about his potatoes! But being a toddler with a short attention span, the beloved potatoes were soon forgotten about and thrown into a bin in the fridge.

Fast forward to grocery shopping day last week. I always, always, always, meal plan. This has not only reduced our food budget by half (that's right, I said HALF!), it is also a great way to keep me on track with my Weight Watchers points for the week. In order to meal plan effectively, I go through our pantry cabinets, the freezer and the refrigerator to take stock of what I already have on hand. I then go through my coupon stash and the weekly flyers to check for sale items. Doing this has cut our food budget by at least 1/4. I went from spending close to $800 a month on grocery bills to roughly $300-400 per month. This includes household items like toiletries and cleaning supplies.

Anyway, while looking through the fridge, I found the long lost sweet potatoes. They needed to be used in a hurry. The meals I had planned for the week didn't really go with having sweet potatoes as a side so I had to come up with something else to do with them.

Max has been devouring fruit and veggie muffins lately. The kid is a bottomless pit. I swear he eats all day long. You can tell that he's growing every day, he keeps outgrowing all of his clothes! I'm hoping that I can make it through the rest of the warm weather here without having to buy anything new for him. His obsession with muffins, and my desire to get a variety of food into him, gave me the lightbulb moment of making sweet potato muffins.

At first I thought I could just take a basic pumpkin bread recipe and swap out sweet potato. Then I started thinking about actually making pumpkin bread (I know, I know). So, I couldn't have two breads that were essentially the same thing now could I? The answer here is No, in case you were wondering.

I started brainstorming about what flavors I wanted to go with the sweet potatoes. All I kept coming back to was my famous (within my family circle) sweet potato pie. This pie is requested by everyone at Thanksgiving. I originally got the recipe from my Aunt who was in charge of bringing it to every holiday gathering. Once our families branched off to different parts of the country, it became my responsibility for our part of the family. The pie is basically like eating candy. Not only does it include the super sweet canned sweet potatoes in heavy syrup but also brown sugar and maple syrup! It is diabetes on a plate, but oh so good!

I just had to have that taste in my bread. I needed to find a way to not only get that sweet mapley taste but not have my kid bouncing off the walls after eating it. What I came up with was a homerun! I took a basic recipe and tweaked it to be what I was looking for. It tastes exactly like the famous Thanksgiving Day pie, minus the marshmallow topping. It would have been even better with some chopped pecans thrown in but since Max is not a fan of nuts, I didn't bother with them. This recipe made 24 mini muffins and 4 mini loaves. Honestly the sugar could probably be reduced since these came out super super sweet.

Max has devoured a couple of these a day since I made them. Vince took a mini loaf to work and said that it was gone within 5 minutes. He didn't even get a piece! I plan to make this one again, in fact I'm thinking of making it for Thanksgiving instead of the sugar laden pie that really no one needs to be eating. Maybe it's time to retire Aunt Emma's Famous Sweet Potato Pie.

Sweet Potato Pie Bread
Adapted from Allrecipes


1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Whites
3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Maple Extract
2/3 Cup Reduced Fat Milk (I used 2%)
2 Cups Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Optional: 1/2 Cup Pecans, chopped

  1. Lightly grease muffin and/or loaf pans with cooking spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Mix together just until all of the ingredients are combined.
  5. Pour into prepared pans.
  6. Bake mini muffins for about 25 minutes, mini loaves for 30-35 minutes, and regular loaves for 75 minutes (check for done-ness before removing from oven).
  7. Cool on wire racks and store in an air tight container or freeze.

Yield: 48 mini muffins or 8 mini loaves or 2 regular size loaves

Monday, October 1, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday

Monday, Monday. So good to me. Monday, Monday. It was all I hoped it would be. La la, la la la.

Welcome to October! We had a pretty full weekend. Things didn't go exactly as planned, but when do they ever? Friday night Vince and I had an at-home date night. We waited until Max was in bed and then ordered from our favorite Italian place and then vegged out on the couch watching Castle on Netflix. I'm now obsessed with this show. We just finished the first season. For years I was avoiding the show thinking it was similar to those cheesy murder mystery shows in the 80's. Like Hardcastle & McCormick or Remington Steele. My friend Kim convinced me to give it a try. She loves the show (and the hot Mr. Fillion). I'm hooked. I can't wait for the next disc to get here...and WHY is it not available streaming?!

Saturday we were supposed to go to the Claude Moore annual craft fair and maybe hit up the Apple Festival at the Heritage Museum in the afternoon. Instead, we all slept in and didn't have time to get out to the craft fair. Then Max took an extra long nap in the afternoon so we didn't get out of the house until almost 3 o'clock! The festival ended at 4, so it wasn't worth it to trek out there. Instead, we packed ourselves up and headed out to Cox Farms in Chantilly for the opening day of their Fall Festival. This is our third year going to Cox Farms. The first year, I had just found out I was pregnant with Max. We went with a group of people to the haunted corn maze and hayride. It was a blast! Last year we took Max to the festival. He was only 6 months old, so he didn't really have any idea of what was going on. It was cold and windy and it had rained heavily the day before so the whole place was a huge mud pit. Not so much fun last year. But this year. Whoo boy! Max climbed on the giant hay stacks, went down the big pirate ship slide, played in the old west town, crawled through the hay tunnels, danced to a live band, picked fresh apples and pumpkins to take home, rode on a really cool hayride, and saw all kinds of baby animals. While we were looking at a big sow and her piglets, all of the babies ran over to mom to start suckling. A girl next to us, around 14, gasped and asked her mom what they were doing? Why were they fighting over the mother pig like that? Max looked at the girl and told her they were drinking milk! I can't tell you how proud I was of my little guy at that moment.

Saturday night was very quiet. We were all pretty exhausted and went to bed early. Sunday morning we ended up going out to the apple festival. It was much smaller than I thought it was going to be but it was still a lot of fun. We did an apple tasting of different heirloom varieties of apples. Then we went through the little apple museum and watched a girl peel apples using a 100 year old apple peeling machine. Max got to use an antique machine to bag apples, and he got to keep the apples that he bagged. Then we saw an apple cider making demonstration using a 150 year old apple press. Max got to be the helper that threw the apples in the top of the press. We missed story time but we got to do a cute little apple craft, giving an apple a personality. Then we went outside where Max won some prizes playing some games like bean bag toss, tic tac toe (using apples), and apple bobbing. They had face painting but Max freaks out with stuff being painted on him (he did the same thing with those temporary tattoos at the ice cream festival). The last activity was in the pasture where they had set up large wooden animal cutouts along with tons of finger paints and brushes. Max went to town painting animals and amazingly didn't get any paint on himself or me! He took a 3 hour long nap and then went to bed early again. I think the day was a success.

Unfortunately, we took all of the pictures this weekend using Vince's new iPhone. On the way out to the apple festival, Vince put his phone on the roof of the car and forgot about it. We drove off, never to see the phone again. We drove up and down the street for hours looking for any sign of debris but it was gone. I'm assuming someone found it and took it home. Frugal Vince keeps the GPS turned off on his phone to save the battery life. If it was on we could have located it using the Find My Phone app. Lesson learned but it sucks that we don't have any pictures of our awesome weekend.

To celebrate the apple festival, I made today's lunch have an apple theme. I thought it was pretty cute but Max actually didn't like everything. He didn't like the apple yogurt so I switched it out for coconut and he gobbled it up. He didn't want his muffin or the Apple Jacks at lunch but ate them later for a snack. Everything else was gone pretty quickly. And he loved his apple sippy cup, which was a prize he picked out for winning at bean bag toss!

Today's lunch:
Max's apple craft from the festival
Sweet Potato Pie mini muffin
Apple Jacks cereal
Fresh apple, cut into chunks
Cheeseburger, leftover from dinner
Oikos 0% fat apple cinnamon Greek yogurt
Ice water in his apple sippy cup

Friday, September 28, 2012

Turkey Black Bean Chili

I don't know why but making chili has always kind of intimidated me. Every chili lover I've spoken to has said that it takes all day to cook, you have to have the right proportion (and kind) of beans, or is it no beans? The right kind of meat, the right chillies, the perfect blend of seasoning. It all just seemed really daunting for a dish that I don't really love that much.

However, chili is a great meal for those cool nights in the fall and the even colder nights in winter, when you want something rich and hearty to "stick to your ribs" and warm you up. Vince really likes chili, and all types of stew for that matter, and started begging me to make it for him. My quest for a simple yet tasty chili recipe began.

Right around that time I was discovering new food blogs. I was still pretty new to the whole blogosphere so I was very excited to find cooking related blogs. I stumbled upon one of my now favorites, PreventionRD. She was holding a chili contest on her blog. I scrolled through and waited patiently for the "right" one to appear.

Just by chance, she posted the perfect recipe on October 11, 2010. Our second anniversary. It was fate. I made it with a batch of corn bread and Vince devoured it. He was elated that I made him chili and I was happy that it not only tasted awesome but only took about an hour to make. I have been making this same recipe ever since.

So, once the temperatures dropped below 60* I decided it was time to make a batch of chili in our new house. It would be Max's first time having it. I wasn't too worried because the kid loves spicy food. I sometimes have to put hot sauce on his food to get him to eat it. Weirdo. Anyway, it was a huge success! This is the most I have seen him eat of any one food at a time. I think it knocked Chicken Tikka Masala out of first place for being his favorite food. He had three helpings at dinner, then he had it for lunch the next day and wanted it again for dinner! Seriously he could not get enough. He cried when we ran out. So I'll be making a double batch next time to freeze some. I might throw in a few more veggies too, just to get him to eat more of them.

Turkey Black Bean Chili
Adapted from PreventionRD


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
1 Pound Ground Turkey
2 15oz Cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
14oz Diced Tomatoes (I use fresh but canned work too)
15oz Tomato Sauce (I use homemade but canned or jarred work too)
3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano

  1. Heat the oil in the bottom of a large stock or soup pot.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and bell peppers.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  4. Add the turkey and cook through.
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and cover.
  7. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Turn off the heat and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
  9. Serve topped with diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, or anything else you feel like putting on it!

Yields 8 (1/2 cup) servings

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Starbucks Iced Coffee

I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks Coffee. I find their roasts to be a little too bold for me. They almost taste burnt. I do love foo foo drinks though and Starbucks has oh so many to choose from. Even though I could happily drink a Caramel Macchiato or Iced Mocha, I can not justify spending that kind of money on coffee. Vince on the other hand drinks them like water. Especially before we moved. Vince's daily commute was upwards of 1 hour each way. He would leave the house at an ungodly hour just to try to beat rush hour traffic. The years of this commute gave him a huge iced coffee addiction. He literally gulps them down in seconds. He would order several to drink on his way in to the office every morning. Do you know how expensive this got!?!

Now that we have moved, Vince's commute to work is literally 5 minutes, maybe 7 if he hits a red light. There is no more need for him to get several coffees on his way in to work and he really does prefer sleeping in to making a stop at Starbucks. However, he still loves his iced coffee.

I saw a post somewhere (I'll be honest, I don't remember where) talking about making iced coffee at home. We tried several variations and even bought the iced coffee k-cups for the Keurig. Nothing really matched the flavor of Starbucks. Then someone mentioned that The Pioneer Woman had an awesome recipe on her site that mimicked the ever elusive coffee. Sure enough, it was awesome!

The great thing about this is that it really does taste like Starbucks iced coffee and it costs pennies per serving. The unfortunate thing about it is that I now must drink at least one a day, sometimes several. If you know me at all, you know I can't tolerate much caffeine. I get shaky, jittery, and generally start acting like I just snorted a bunch of coke. Needless to say, that first big batch of fully caffeinated coffee concentrate did not do me much good. Vince and my mom both loved it though!

Moving forward, Vince has since kicked his iced coffee habit (for the most part) and my mom the coffee addict doesn't visit very often. I will be making a new batch of coffee concentrate using decaf and then proceed to horde it all. I mean it! I'm not sharing!!

Starbucks Iced Coffee
From The Pioneer Woman


1 lb of Starbucks (or your favorite brand) Ground Coffee
2 Gallons Cold Water
2% Milk (or whatever you prefer)
4 14oz Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk (adjust according to your taste for sweetness)
Optional: Flavored Coffee Syrups (I prefer Torani brand and the sugar-free syrups are zero points)

  1. Pour the coffee grounds into a very large container.
  2. Pour in the water.
  3. Lightly mix to wet all of the grounds.
  4. Cover and let sit overnight, or for 12 hours.
  5. Prepare a large pitcher or jug (must be able to hold 2 gallons of coffee).
  6. Place a fine mesh strainer over the opening of the pitcher.
  7. Line the strainer with coffee filters (or paper towels).
  8. Very slowly begin to pour your coffee through the strainer into the pitcher. This step takes some time but it is worth it to not have coffee grounds in your pitcher.
  9. Pour the cans of sweetened condensed milk into the coffee and mix thoroughly.
  10. Refrigerate the mixture.
  11. Once the coffee is cold, get out a large mug.
  12. Fill your mug with lots of ice (you can freeze coffee in ice cube trays and use that so it won't water down your drink as they melt!
  13. Fill your mug about with delicious sweet iced coffee
  14. Add a splash of milk (or your creamer of choice) and Voila! perfection.
  15. If you prefer flavored coffees, just add a splash of coffee syrup (like hazelnut, caramel, or coconut).

Yields: 2 Gallons of Coffee

Monday, September 24, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday

Well, here we are again. Monday. The dreaded day of the week. We're all exhausted here. We've been running with out of town trips and company for the past couple of weeks and now Max seems to be having a growth spurt and isn't sleeping well. What I wouldn't give for a few quiet hours alone in my house right now.

The first weekend of September, Vince's step-mother, two sisters, cousin, and I all loaded up in my car for a road trip to rural PA for Liz's bridal shower. That's right, Vince's baby brother Tony is engaged! Squee! We are so happy for both of them and they have asked Vince to be a groomsman and Max to be the ringbearer. Yay! I met the little flower girl that Max will be riding in the wagon with and she is adorable. The wedding is set for the end of December in Nashville. I've started getting Max's attire together, starting with a new pair of flame Vans. :)

While the girls were having fun at the shower in PA, Vince's dad was staying at our house. So before we left on our trip, I had to get our guest room and bathroom ready, stock the house with food, do laundry, clean, and all of the other stuff you do when overnight guests are coming. They had a great time! I was a little anxious since this was the first time I had left Max overnight but the guys' weekend turned out just fine. Max sure does love his Grandpa.

We had a little bit of a break until my mom came for a visit. She has been seriously ill since have complications from gall bladder surgery. She finally got the okay from her doctor to fly so I immediately booked a flight for her. It had been 6 months since I had seen her and couldn't wait for her to get here. It was the first time she was visiting our new house so we were out exploring every day! We went to the cool play area at the mall and rode the train and the carousel and had ice cream afterwards, we went to the Reston Zoo, the Leesburg Outlet mall, to Max's art class, the farmer's market, and we explored downtown Herndon. In our limited time at the house we managed to bake zucchini bread and chocolate no-bake cookies. Max helped Grandma make spaghetti and meatballs with homemade tomato sauce.

Needless to say, I haven't had much time to blog but I have been making new recipes like crazy. The only problem is that they typically get eaten before I have time to take any pictures. Oh well, such is life.

Max had a pretty good lunch today. It consisted of:
Snap pea crisps
Raspberry Jello
Juicy Juice 100% grape juice, 4oz box
Peanut butter & blackberry jelly on whole wheat squares (it is really hard to tell in the picture but the sandwich was cut using an Elmo imprint)
Green grapes
Oikos 0% fat blueberry Greek yogurt

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No-Butter Chicken

I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite some time now. I absolutely love butter chicken and when I found that it is Max's favorite meal, I knew I had to get a recipe for it.

For those of you that don't know, Butter Chicken is a very popular Indian dish that is thought to have originated in New Delhi. It is typically made with chicken cooked in a Tandoor, but can be roasted or pan cooked as well. The chicken is cooked with various spices (like Garam Masala, cumin, turmeric, and chili) and a tomato butter cream sauce.

This version is quick, taking about 30 minutes to prepare, very tasty, and omits the butter, making it a healthy option when you're craving this particular dish.

I knew I had a hit on my hands when I brought the bowl of chicken to the table and Max went crazy for it. He ended up eating three helpings! I served the chicken with brown rice and broccoli for a very healthy, filling meal.

No-Butter Chicken
From Gourmet Day to Day


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Ginger
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into cubes
4 oz Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 Cup Water

  1. Add the oil to a large skillet and heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, until the onion is golden.
  4. Add the tomato paste, sugar, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and salt.
  5. Cook for 2 minutes to incorporate flavors.
  6. Add the chicken and coat completely with the spice mixture.
  7. Add the yogurt and water.
  8. Cook, while stirring, until the chicken is done (about 8 minutes).
  9. Serve over rice and/or with naan.

Yields: 6 servings (approx. 1 Cup each)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wee Bites - Banana Peanut Butter Mini Muffins

I've decided to start posting about some of the food that I make for Max. Toddler food can be so much fun! It's all miniaturized and cute. I try to make his food fairly healthy. I sneak in fruits and veggies whenever possible. Like most kids, Max has a sweet tooth, so I play on that in order to get him to eat more healthy stuff.

I made these muffins for the first time this week. I've made other banana muffins for Max and he always enjoys them. These have peanut butter added in to give them a protein boost. I had some over ripe bananas that needed to be used up and with Max not eating well this week (he's cutting another molar!) I thought I could kill two birds with one stone.

I initially made these following the recipe I found to the letter. Vince ended up eating that batch. They were really really good. Then I played around with the recipe to cut the sugar and butter and I think they came out pretty awesome!

These muffins were featured in this week's Muffin Tin Monday post. They have been a huge hit with Max.

Banana Peanut Butter Mini Muffins
Adapted from All Recipes


1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Very Ripe Large Bananas
2 Cups All Purpose Flour (can sub Whole Wheat)
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips
Optional: 1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Lightly grease mini muffin tins with cooking spray, or use paper muffin liners.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the applesauce, eggs, and sugar.
  4. Add the peanut butter, bananas, flour, and baking soda.
  5. Mix well, making sure the bananas are completely mashed and incorporated.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips (and nuts if using).
  7. Pour the batter into the muffin cups until they are about 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  9. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.

Yields: 48 mini muffins