What did you have for lunch?

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As I’m on the journey I am learning so much more and my relationship with food has changed for the better. I don’t look as food as an escape but as nourishment. Today for example I had a filling breakfast of oatmeal made with almond milk and banana slices.

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And for lunch I made this delicious grilled chicken taco. Inside is grilled chix chicken marinated in a tomato sauce I created, sauteed with spinach, corn, and red cabbage. Lastly I added a lil salsa and avocado. .let’s just say DELICIOUS!

So I hope today you take the time toneay something not only delicious but will nourish your body ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Eating,
Norah โ™ฅ

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7 Days Clean and Awaken! My Journey Through The 7 Day Slim Down…

Food and Fitness go hand in hand [Image from: www.healthcareguaranteed.org ]

Food and Fitness go hand in hand [Image from: http://www.healthcareguaranteed.org ]

Hello my fellow foodies especially Team Fit and Clean! (Or getting there like me! lol)

So this is a couple of days in the making, my schedule this week has been fun but beyond busy and now we are here at the end of the week! I wanted to talk about my journey through the 7 day slim down challenge designed my Jillian Michaels through the Body Revolution (90 Day Fitness Challenge). I was inspired to buy this because I honestly wanted a workout routine that I knew would give me results but I also wanted something that was longer than 30 days but also realistic. I am NOT going to lie, I have not worked out in a MINUTE! Thank God for my job that keeps me busy and active throughout the day, because without it I have NO CLUE where my “fitness” would come from lol. Unfortunately I have been lazy for quite some time using the excuse, “Oh I am so busy I have no time to workout!”, but truth was I just did not want to workout, mentally or physically. ย I had rather laid in bed catching up on my favorite shows eating ice cream or going out with friends, baking, the list goes on. While in this state of laziness, I was not happy with myself. I did not like the way I looked, I felt so unmotivated about life, and health wise I felt sluggish and gross. One day I looked at myself in the mirror at work and said, “What the hell happened to me!” I used to love life so much, I was ambitious, I felt like the world was at my fingertips, but now I was so mad at everyone but I really had to say I am mad at myself. I made myself this way, no one but me. So I said, ENOUGH is ENOUGH! I am too young to feel like this, and I went on the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution website and bought the DVD set after looking at all the great success stories of real people. I felt like if they can do it, so can I so after about a week of waiting I finally received it and got to it!

Jillian Michaels Body Revolution Kit

Jillian Michaels Body Revolution Kit

So as you guys had noticed I had been on a slow but positive journey of clean eating. Clean eating (in my opinion) is consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, whole grains, etc and excluding lots of things like processed foods, fast food, high calorie/sugar foods; basically all the fatty but the oh so tasty stuff! I had also stopped drinking coffee as well which was sooooo HARD! I am a avid coffee drinker who had at least 2 cups a days. So when I stopped, it felt like an addict going through withdrawal, I felt so so sick that I thought I was dying! Well after that lovely experienced subsided and eating pretty clean for almost a month helped me transition into the 7 day slim down. Now the 7 day slim down may seem easy but I DO NOT suggest to go cold turkey or binge right before this diet. If your a big eater try to eat less at least a week before this diet, if you love carbs, try to consume fewer carbs, or love sugar, ease your way down. If you can do this for at least a week, the transition to the 7 day slim down will be ALOT easier than if you just jumped right into it. Now to some of the key components of the 7 day slim down:

  • No fruit, sugar or artificial sweetners such as Splenda, or carbs throughout the whole 7 days
  • You are allowed 3 meals and one snack which is great so you are eating throughout the day
  • 1 low calorie dairy product a day such as plain non fat greek yogurt
  • No alcoholic beverages, and only one serving of caffeine if otherwise
  • Now raw veggiess such as broccoli cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kale, bamboo shoots
  • No bacon (I know tear), lunch meat, hot dogs, or sausage
  • Drink lots, lots, lots of water – Great concept but I will not lie I have been making A LOT of trips to the bathroom….(Not fun AT ALL…)

With these rules in mind I knew my meals would consist of lots of greens and protein such as chicken and fish. Jillian Michaels gives you an option of following her meal plan during this slim down and I have to say it was pretty great. She had lots of stuff like steak salad, poached eggs, turkey burgers, greek yogurt with almonds,

Yummy non-fat vanilla greek yogurt with silvered almonds and cinnamon

Yummy non-fat vanilla greek yogurt with silvered almonds and cinnamon

to say a few. I did not follow it to a T because I was not crazy about all the items, plus I do not have time to make myself a full fledge breakfast but I did enjoy the greek yogurt with the almonds, which I ate everyday. Also you do two 30 minute workouts everyday instead of one. This was a bit challenging at first because the workouts are intense but you feel soo accomplished after that it is all worth it. Now throughout the weeks was some highs and some lows, heres how my week looked like:

Monday – Yes I am so excited about this, I do miss carbs but I can do it!

Baby Veggies with Grilled Chicken and Sauteed Spinach

Baby Veggies with Grilled Chicken and Sauteed Spinach

Tuesday – Wow I feel soo light today and yesterday was not so bad. The workouts were intense and I am sore but hey I am good!

Spring Mix Salad with lean  steak strips and avocado

Spring Mix Salad with lean steak strips and avocado

Wednesday – Okay…no offence I would KILL for a piece of bread (damn today is roll day at work….) I can do this though..I feel lighter than ever and hey is my face shrinking!

Thursday – Sore but I feel strong ย and lighter than ever before. Well I am sick of eating nothing but boiled eggs for snack so lets try a scramble with avocado (Yum!)

Friday – I want PIZZA! Oh well I have this yummy stir fry to hold me off. Workouts kicked my ass but I am still feeling good!

Broccoli and Chicken Stir Fry with Green Beans and Almonds

Broccoli and Chicken Stir Fry with Green Beans and Almonds

Saturday – I am hungry and a bit tired. The week was long and the transition was not so bad. For some reason I am feeling a bit bitter (I did 2 intense cardio sessions)…I crave chocolate and keep telling myself two more days in my head…

Sunday – its the LAST DAY YAYYYYY!!!! I ate my spinach and tomato omlette like a champion

Spinach, Tomato, and Cheddar Omelette..yumm

Spinach, Tomato, and Cheddar Omelette..yumm

and enjoy turkey burgers and veggies. I feel soo light and strong and the fact I have a break feels sooo awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

Delicious homemade turkey burger with low fat cheddar cheese, tomato, natural guacamole on a bed of  romaine lettuce

Delicious homemade turkey burger with low fat cheddar cheese, tomato, natural guacamole on a bed of romaine lettuce

Now as you can see I experienced some highs and lows but it was a great feeling to finish. I have to say I have not once cheated throughout the whole 7 days and I was BEYOND proud of myself. I reminded myself a couple of things, first how I love working out, how I love the euphoria feeling at the end of it, how eating more healthy can give you energy that you forgot you had, and I am A LOT stronger than I thought I was. This week was not only a test but a HUGE wake up call. It reminded me of goals I wanted to accomplish and I am so excited to continue to do this journey. It has been 2 weeks since I have started Body Revolution and I have to say I am in love with it. I have lost over 10 pounds and I feel soo great and have energy for days. I hope I can continue this amazing journey with you all and I will strive into bringing not only yummy but healthy dishes that I love.

I hope you guys think about goals you once had and really see if you can tackle them. Whether fitness, health, fashion, beauty, baking, whatever it is, if you have a goal, YOU CAN DO IT! I am working on my goals and I have to say, my outlook on life is better than ever! If I can do this, you sure can accomplish ANYTHING!

โ™ฅThe Sky Is The Limit! Go For It And GOOD LUCK โ™ฅ

Always remember no matter what...

Always remember no matter what…

ย 

Sweet Sundays: Oreo Chocolate Madness!!!

Chocolate Oreo Madness :-)

Chocolate Oreo Madness ๐Ÿ™‚

Hola My Foodie Lovers and Friends! ESPECIALLy the Sweet Tooths :-)!

First off hope everyone had an amazing weekend, hopefully filled with fun, good food, and of course some much needed REST! I know for myself my weekend was pretty decent and it actually taught me a lot (I know how can two days really teach you anything, but it did!). Lately I have been feeling that I am at a crossroads. There are so many different opportunities to choose from and with a busy yet pretty much redundant schedule I was losing my love for life. In other words I felt like I was stuck in a HUGE rut! People around me seem to have a lot more going while me was same old same old! Than I realized that I cannot just sit there and let life pass me by, but rather create new opportunities and experiences for me. I almost thought that running away from this place was the best option but I realized that it would not help my situation of my lack for lust of life. So I decided to LIVE, LIVE, LIVE. I am expose myself to new and more exciting experiences and hope that it will cure this “ailment” so to speak LOL. Only time will tell but I will DEFINITELY keep you in the know ๐Ÿ˜‰

This week I was inspired to bake because not only had it been a while, but I wanted something to pick me up from my “funk”. Cooking as I have said before is one of my forms of therapy and I love to go through the pantry and create new dishes or treats that I know my family and coworkers would enjoy. Thats when I decided to make a cake with crushed Oreo’s and a yummy chocolate drizzle. Decadent I know but oh so yummy! I even cheated a little bit from my clean “diet” and had a small slice just to test it out of course. This cake recipe is simple and oh so delicious and is HIGHLY recommended for the chocolate lover ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients:

  • For ย Cake:
    • 1 box of Betty Crocker Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
    • 3 Eggs
    • 1-1/4 cup of Milk (I used 2%)
    • 1/2 cup of cooled melted Butter
    • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
    • 1 box of Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
    • 1-1 1/2 cups of crushed Oreo Cookies
  • For Oreo & Chocolate Drizzle/Ganache Topping
    • 9 ounces of Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate Chips
    • 1 cup of Heavy Cream
    • 1 cup of crushed Oreo Cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven for 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium size bowl combine dry ingredients: cake mix and pudding mix and set aside.
    Cake and Pudding Mix

    Cake and Pudding Mix

    ย Also crush your Oreos for both the cake and your cake topping and set aside.

    Crush Oreo Goodness!

    Crush Oreo Goodness!

  3. In a medium-large size bowl whisk together your eggs, milk, and melted butter till combined.
    Egg Mixture

    Egg Mixture

    Than pour your cake mix into the egg mixture and whisk till combined and smooth.

  4. Pour in your crush Oreos and fold into your cake batter till combined.

    Oreos folded into cake batter

    Oreos folded into cake batter

  5. Spray your tube cake pan with baking non stick spray and pour in your batter. (I was lucky enough to find and aluminum angel food cake pan so cleaning was essentially a breeze!)

    Cake batter in pan

    Cake batter in pan

  6. Bake the cake for 20 to 30 minutes or until center of the cake is baked (toothpick test).
  7. Once bake remove from pan and let the cake cool till cold to touch.

    Delicious and warm cake!

    Delicious and warm cake!

  8. Meanwhile you can make your chocolate ganache: add your chocolate chips into a medium size heat proof bowl and set aside. Add your heavy cream into a small sauce pan and heat till simmering (small bubbles in the corners). Than pour your heavy cream to your chocolate chips and whisk till combined and has a velvety texture. (This recipe makes about 2 cups so you can use the amount desired for your cake!)
  9. Once cake is cooled pour about half your ganache onto your cake (I use a cup to pour the ganache to make it easier). Than add your crushed Oreos and pour the rest onto your cake (Make a drizzle effect).

    Finishing of a ganache and drizzle oreo cake

    Finishing of a ganache and drizzle oreo cake

  10. Let this set for about 20-30 minutes before serving.
  11. Slice this yummy cake and ENJOY!

    Sliced deliciousness :-)

    Sliced deliciousness ๐Ÿ™‚

This cake was yummy and I think it came out pretty awesome! It was moist and soo delicious and it was gone in about an hour at work. I wanted to put up this recipe because its deliciously homemade and easy enough for any baker who is just starting. It does not matter that the starter is a cake mix, creativity makes anything yours. So go out and buy any cake mix and add some delicious add ins! You never know what you can create ๐Ÿ˜‰

Love you all and hope you have a happy and yummy rest of your Sunday and a great week!

Norah ๐Ÿ™‚

Life Motto [Image from: www.verybestquotes.com]

Life Motto [Image from: http://www.verybestquotes.com]

Never To Late To Show A Little Love! Last Minute V-Day Gift Idea:Chocolate Lollipops!!!

Instagram Lollipop Picture

Instagram Lollipop Picture

Hola My Creative Foodies,

As you know Valentine’s Day is just ONE DAY away and if you already have your gifts (most of us foodies like to show our love by baking!) that’s awesome, but some of you may be scrambling for time! (Which is OKAY because with busy lives some may not have time to shop let alone bake). One of the things I make for not only Valentine’s Day but for every major holiday is chocolate lollipops. There ares soo many awesome molds and this is a great treat idea for children. I make them for my mothers students all the time and they LOVE them! It is soo quick and easy and is pretty inexpensive.

Heart Shape Lollipop Mold

Heart Shape Lollipop Mold

Most craft shops sell these molds for under two dollars and around the holiday season the melting chocolate is on sale for 2 dollars or less even (Bought my chocolate for $1.99 per pack!).

Example of melting chocolate (Image from:countryliving.com)

Example of melting chocolate (Image from:countryliving.com)

Chocolate lollipops are an awesome and quick idea, it takes minutes to melt the chocolate and you can set the molds and pop them into the freezer and in 10 minutes there are ready to go! I like to pack them in decorative small cellophane bags. I usually find really cute ones at a dollar store or a craft store like AC Moore and Michaels.

Heart Designed Plastic Bag (I bought this for a $1)

Heart Designed Plastic Bag (I bought this for a $1)

With these simple and easy directions and tips you will be making these all the time!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Melting Chocolate (I use Wiltons Melting Candy)
  • 1 package of Lollipop Sticks
  • 1 Chocolate Lollipop Mold
  • Cellophane Plastic Bags (Optional

Directions:

  1. Melt some of your chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and set for one-two minutes (1 minute usually does the trick)

    Melted Chocolate

    Melted Chocolate

  2. Pour your melted chocolate with a small spoon or squeeze bottle into your molds. (I usually fill it 3/4 of the mold) and add your stick

    Chocolate in Mold

    Chocolate in Mold

  3. If you want to make a marble chocolate pour a little bit of one type of chocolate than another and swirl with a toothpick

    Making a marble chocolate lollipop

    Making a marble chocolate lollipop

  4. Put your molds into your freezer for about 10 minutes or till harden
  5. The lollipops will than pop out easily once than. Repeat the same process till you have the desired amount of lollipops

    Chocolate Rose Lollipops

    Chocolate Rose Lollipops

  6. You can put your chocolate lollipops in your small cellophane bag or just eat and enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lollipop in Decorative Cellophane Bag

    Lollipop in Decorative Cellophane Bag

I hope you guys enjoyed this last minute V-Day gift idea, especially for kiddies to big kids ;-). I love making these awesome and easy lollipops and I hope you one day try it and be creative with your molds and different types of chocolate. So show some love to your favorite person and give them some chocolate!

Happy V-Day and Chocolate Making ๐Ÿ™‚

Chocolate Quote! (Image from: iheartinspiration.com)

Chocolate Quote! (Image from: iheartinspiration.com)

Sweet and Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies With a Hint of Nutella

Chocolate and Nutella Gold

Instagram Photo: Chocolate and Nutella Gold

Happy Sunday My Sweet Toothed Foodies,

I hope you all are having a great sunday, mine of course was traditional and relaxing with church and brunch with the family. Nothing beats my sunday morning than a great service followed by some yummy food! After brunch I was lucky enough to whip up a quick batch of cookies and I thought why not play with it. I had a Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix and I was ย OF COURSE craving cookies. This by far is one of my favorite mixes not only because the results are some yummy cookies but you can make the mix your own with your own variations.

Image from bettycrocker,com

Image from bettycrocker,com

As you all know I love to experiment with all kinds of food products so of course I had to make these cookies with a twist, Nutella!!! Now if you know me I am a LOVER OF NUTELLA! I grew up eating Nutella when a family member brought a jar overseas or was lucky enough to find it in a store. I remember countless times eating Nutella on toast or bagels while watching cartoons or movies to now baking Nutella into cupcakes and delicious creme frostings. Basically Nutella is an honoree family member in my family who must always be in my house (aka in my pantry LOL). Now on to the recipe, this is just my version of making quick and easy chocolate chip cookies with a delicious Nutella swirl!

Heaven on EARTHH!

Heaven on EARTHH!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 softened stick of Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 -1 cup of Mini Hershey Kiss Chocolate Chips or any kind of Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of Nutella (Hazelnut Chocolate Spread)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven for 350 degrees F
  2. In a medium size bowl combine your chocolate chip cookie mix, one egg, unsalted butter (chopped into pieces), vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, and chocolate chips
    Pre-Mix Cookie Dough

    Pre-Mix Cookie Dough

    and mixed till combined. (I like to mix it with my hands but a wooden spoon will do)

    nutella2

    Mixed Cookie Dough

  3. Split your cookie dough is half and scoop in some Nutella and swirl it with the cookie dough.

    Swirled Nutella Cookie Dough

    Swirled Nutella Cookie Dough

  4. Use an ice scooper and scoop on some dough and place on your baking pan to bake for 10-12 minutes (**Cookies will be done when you can lift the corner slightly)

    nutella4

    Chocolate Chip and Nutella Swirl Cookie Dough

  5. Remove and let them cool slightly or like many others just enjoy the soft and warm cookie fresh out of the oven!

    Finished Product...delicious cookieness!

    Finished Product…delicious cookieness!

Now that you got the gist of how to make simple and easy Chocolate Chip Nutella Swirl Cookies now go and make your own! This is definitely a crowd pleaser and the kids will love this as well. So next time you pick up a cookie mix get creative ๐Ÿ™‚

Creativity is Key :-)

Creativity is Key ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Baking ๐Ÿ™‚

Rice Cooker Series: 123 Flavorful Chopped Grilled Chicken!

Grilled Chicken Tacos!

Grilled Chicken Tacos!

Hello my foodies!

I am back again with another creative and yummy way to use the rice cooker. I am not sure if I ever told the back story of how I started using my rice cooker for things other than rice…well here it goes! In my current job I have the pleasure of running a food program for a preschool/childcare center. I create monthly menus, prep and make the food, do weekly food orders, I do it all! When I first started I was introduced into a kitchen that was not like the typical commercial kitchen I was used too, in my opinion my now kitchen is a better version home kitchen but with a big freezer and fridge with:two convection and convectional ovens, a movable stovetop (its on wheels), dishwasher, two food warmers, and two rice cookers. Now with these kitchen appliances you can make lots of things but you have to be creative and think bigger. Everyday when I go into work I think of, what can I do to make this recipe better. I love that I even have the creative freedom to make anything in that kitchen mind. (I know I am going sooo off topic and your saying go to the recipe!) But I just wanted to say without this creative freedom it would be difficult to truly enjoy what I do. As you have read, creativity is a way a life for me and without it I feel lifeless. I am sure every single one of you feel the same way one way or another. But in short that is the back story of the birth of my countless rice cooker recipes haha! Now on to the recipe!…

This recipe in my opinion is one of my favorites to make. I love how the chicken comes out and you can make this recipe in sooo many different ways! It is also very simple (Beauty of the Rice Cooker my friends!). So without further ado the Grilled Chicken for Quesadillas, Tacos, and many other things LOL.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds of coarsely choppedย Grilled Chicken Breastsย (I used frozen grilled chicken breast that I had thawed)
  • 4-5 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
  • 1 can or 1-2 cups of Diced Tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp of Minced Onion
  • 1-2 tsp of Minced Garlic
  • 1-2 tsp ofย Chicken Poultry Seasoning
  • 1-2 tsp ofย Garlic and Pepper Powder
  • 1-2 tsp ofย Onion Powder
  • Paprika (Sprinkle for color)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • ***All seasoning measurements are optional, in my opinion seasonings should be measured according to YOUR taste level, so you can add less or more to make this dish yours ๐Ÿ™‚

Directions:

  1. Coarsely chop your cooked grilled chicken breasts to small shredded pieces and set aside.

    Chopped Grilled Chicken

    Chopped Grilled Chicken

  2. In your rice cooker add about 1-1 and 1/2 cups of warm water and add your bouillon cubes, minced onion and garlic, onion and garlic powder, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste and to create a broth.

    Chicken Broth

    Chicken Broth

  3. Once your broth is boiling add your chicken and stir your chicken in the broth.
    Chicken Stirred in Broth

    Chicken Stirred in Broth

    You will notice it seems a bit dry but your chicken will create more juice.

    Chicken moistened

    Chicken moistened

  4. As your chicken is cooking add your diced tomatoes and paprika to your chicken and let your chicken cook for at least 10 to 15 minutes till serving time.

    Chicken w/ Diced Tomatoes and Paprika

    Chicken w/ Diced Tomatoes and Paprika

  5. Now your chicken is finally cooked!
    Chicken Cooked and Full of Flavor

    Chicken Cooked and Full of Flavor

    The chicken is tender and filled with flavor, it is also low cal for all our health conscious foodies! You can make delicious dishes like chicken tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, the list goes on and on!

    Making of a Chicken Quesadilla

    Making of a Chicken Quesadilla

  6. Serve hot and enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Chicken Quesadilla w/ corn and salsa

    Chicken Quesadilla w/ corn and salsa

This dish was something I just came up with and its a favorite of everyone at my job. It is filled with delicious flavor and I am sure if you make this it will be a favorite of yours as well! I hope you guys experiment with this yummy dish and even a create a taco night!

Chicken Tacos!

Chicken Tacos!

Happy Cooking ๐Ÿ™‚

Rice Cooker Series: Simple Yet Yummy Penne with Meat Sauce

Yummy Penne w/ Turkey Meat Sauce!

Yummy Penne w/ Turkey Meat Sauce!

Hello My Creative Foodies,

So I decided to start a series of post about dishes I have made or recipes I have tried using a rice cooker. In my previous posts I have shown a couple recipes (Creative Mac and Cheese) that I have used the rice cooker for certain components of the dish. Using a rice cooker is quick and simple and it is an alternative than using a stove. Since I started my current job I use my rice cooker at least twice a week. I love the simplicity and the easy clean up. I recommend the rice cooker for anyone especially people who like cooking made easy and fast. A good rice cooker makes not only nice and fluffily rice every time but you can use it for other things such as sauces, soups, certain meats such as chicken, the list goes on!

One of the dishes I love to make is penne with turkey marinara. It has since than become a staple dish on our current menu and it is so easy yet DELICIOUS to make! I recommend it to anyone who is not only a pasta lover, but wants something quick and healthy with A LOT of FLAVOR ๐Ÿ™‚

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of your favorite brand of Turkey Meatballs (My favorites are Perdue or Shady Farms)
  • 1 can of crush tomatoes
  • 1 can of Hunts diced tomatoes (If you enjoy a chunky marinara sauce, if not just two cans of crushed tomatoes)
  • Olive Oil – enough to coat the bottom of the rice cooker pot
  • 2-3 tsp of minced garlic (I love Garlic but maybe one tsp is just enough for you, its all about your taste buds :-))
  • 1-2 tsp of minced ย or chopped onion
  • 3 tbsp of Sugar
  • Chopped Parsley and Basil to taste
  • Italian Seasoning to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Water (if sauce is too thick, splash some hot water to think it out)
  • Cooked Penne Pasta
  • Parmesan Cheese to sprinkle (optional)

Directions:

  1. What I love about the rice cooker is you can make Pasta! So before you make your yummy sauce, you can boil enough water for your pasta and add some salt, olive oil, garlic and onion powder for taste. Set aside once cooked.

    Cooked Pasta

    Cooked Pasta

  2. In a clean pot add your mince garlic and onion and add enough oil to cover the onion and garlic.
    Olive Oil and Garlic with Onion

    Olive Oil and Garlic with Onion

    Saute for a minute or so than add both your crushed and diced tomatoes and stir. Add your seasoning: salt, basil, italian seasoning, sugar, pepper, and any other seasonings. I like to add garlic and onion powder to enhance the flavor.

    Sauce with Herbs and Spices

    Sauce with Herbs and Spices

  3. Let your sauce cook and simmer while occasionally stirring for about 10-20 minutes. *** Rice cookers can cook at a quick rate compared to stovetop so keep a close eye. Also if you do not stir, your sauce can burn from the bottom so REMEMBER to STIR! lol )

    Cooked Plain Marinara

    Cooked Plain Marinara

  4. While your sauce is simmering either thaw out your turkey meatballs or id there already thawed using your hand crush your turkey meatballs till it resembles ground turkey.
    Crushed Turkey Meatballs

    Crushed Turkey Meatballs

    Add your ground turkey to your sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring.

    End product of delicious meat sauce

    End product of delicious meat sauce

  5. Once sauced is made you can pour on your penne and ENJOY! ***Warning: sauce is SUPER HOT so DO NOT BURN YOURSELF! Lol ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that you know how I make quick and easy penne with meat sauce I hope you all try it. The beauty of using a rice cooker or any kitchen appliance in that ย nature is you can be creative and do something different. Even with this simple recipe, thinking outside the box can result in delicious outcomes. So let’s throw on our aprons and get CREATIVE!

Happy Cooking my friends ๐Ÿ™‚

Creative Quote (Image from inmyownstyle.com)

Creative Quote (Image from inmyownstyle.com)

When Distraction Leads to New Creations… Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake

Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake!

Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake!

Hey My Sweet Tooths and Chocoholics (I admit I am one of each!)

I am finally making my first baking post in a looong time! I guess when you get consumed with work and life you tend to not have time to do what you love! Well I finally took the time to test out a recipe that I have been trying to make for the longest! Well it all started when I stumbled on the recipe online while looking for a new cake recipe to try out. The recipe ended up on allrecipes.com. I have to say allrecipes.com is one of my top sites to look for recipes because it not only has all kinds of sweet and savory recipes but the reviews are honest and really helpful. While on the cake hunt I happen to have found a recipe called “Better than Sex Cake”. The name alone would make anyone stop and be like for real?! So I looked through the recipe and I thought why not give it a try! The combination of chocolate and caramel with sweetened condensed milk, I was like that’s my kinda combo!

Example of Better Than Sex Cake : allrecipes.com Image from Erica

Example of Better Than Sex Cake : allrecipes.com Image from Erica

I decided to make it with my sister as something fun to do on a cold day. The process was a lot of fun to make but heres the thing. I kinda winged the recipe LOL. I had thought I memorized the recipe in my head but I did not make the exact recipe and made something entirely different! (I blame it on my sister for making me laugh and distracting me LOL) I have to say I still like the results and the cake was flavorful and very rich. So without further ado here is Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of Carnation Whole Milk
  • 1 can of Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 cup of Melted (Unsalted) Butter or Margarine (cooled)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 box of Chocolate Fudge Instant Pudding Mix
  • 1 jar of Caramel Sauce
  • (Optional) 1/2-1 cup of Chocolate Chips to melt for chocolate drizzle
  • Utensils and Gadgets
    • Whisk
    • Rubber Spatula
    • Wooden or Plastic Mixing Spoon
    • Baking Nonstick Spray w/ Flour
    • Large and Medium Mixing bowls
    • Standard Bundt Pan
    • Wire Cooling Racks
    • (Optional) Decorative Squeeze Bottles for chocolate and caramel (Can be found in craft stores such as Michaels and AC Moore)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven at 350 degrees F and spray your Bundt Pan
  2. In a Large Bowl add in your dry ingredients: Chocolate Cake and pudding mix and mix together with a whisk till combined

    Cake and Pudding Mix

    Cake and Pudding Mix

  3. In a Medium Size bowl add your wet ingredients: Whole Milk, Melted Butter, Eggs, and Vanilla Extract and whisk till combined

    Egg and Milk Mixture

    Egg and Milk Mixture

  4. Pour your milk and egg mixture to your cake mix bowl and mix till combined**cake batter will be very thick. (**The reason why I like this method of combining your dry and wet ingredients is your cake batter will mix more efficiently and your cake will have a fine texture)

    Chocolate Cake Batter

    Chocolate Cake Batter

  5. Pour Cake batter in your greased bundt pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or till cake springs back when you touch it or toothpick method

    Before Baked

    Before Baked

  6. After it is Baked

    After it is Baked

    Once cake is done remove from oven and poke holes throughout cake with either a toothpick or knife and pour sweetened condensed milk. Once soaked in take your wire rack or even your cake plate and flip cake over (**WARNING!!!: By mistake I had left the cake soaked in the sweet condensed milk for WAY t0o long and it had become stuck in the pan! (I told you my sister distracted me!) So my friends if your cake does become stuck, DO NOT PANIC! Just simple put your pan carefully in a hot water bath for a couple of minutes and your cake will come right out unharmed. DO NOT FORCE IT OUT!)

    Sweet Condensed Milk being poured into cake

    Sweet Condensed Milk being poured into cake

  7. Once cake is ready and cooled, drizzle both caramel and chocolate onto the cake. I used my decorative tubes to make the drizzle easier and there a great investment for any baking project!
  8. Serve and enjoy!

    Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake!

    Chocolate Caramel Bundt Cake!

The chocolate cake is rich with flavor and quite delicious. I had made a cake for my family and for my coworkers and they had both enjoyed the cake very much. I hope some of you may even try out this recipe and let me know what you think! I have to say I had a lot of fun making this with my sister. During that time we caught up with stuff going on in our lives, joked around A LOT and I even taught her a couple baking tips. So next time you bake, do it with someone you love, whether your sibling, child, significant other, or a friend; you will see how much fun you will really have! So my friends hope you get inspired with a new baking recipe and even if you get distracted you never know what delicious creations you come up with!

Happy Baking ๐Ÿ™‚

Baking quote <3

Baking quote โค (Image from pininterest.com)

For Those Winter Days…Creative Cream of Chicken & Rice Soup

Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup

Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup

Hey my culinary foodies!

So if anyone lives up north you probably feeling as cold as I am! It is FREEZING!!! I mean living in NY has its many advantages, the cold winters is NOT one of them! One way to comfort yourself is making a nice bowl of hot soup. While I’m not a soup person, this cold front were having would convert a non soup person into a soup lover! At work today I made a Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup for the children and I have to say the children loved it. While I like to make soups from scratched for the most part, I am a fan of Campbells Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup.

Campbell's Cream of Chicken

Campbell’s Cream of Chicken

I used it as the starter of my soup, and I have to say it makes life easier ESPECIALLY when you have to make soup for 100+ kids. Even when using condenced soup from a can you can be so creative especially with cream of chicken, you can use it for not only soup but different sauces, cassoroles, the list is endless. Here is my quick and easy Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Campbells Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup
  • 2 (cans) of Hot Water – use the can for the hot water
  • 1-2 cups of Fresh or Frozen Veggies – I used broccoli, peas, carrots, and corn but you can pick whatever works for you

    Broccoli, Peas, Corn, and Carrots for color and flavor..gorgeous huh :-)

    Broccoli, Peas, Corn, and Carrots for color and flavor..gorgeous huh ๐Ÿ™‚

  • 1/2 – 1 cup of Cooked Brown or White Rice – while I am a rice lover and love lots of rice some may not so the amount of rice is up to you

    Cooked brown rice to add texture to the soup

    Cooked brown rice to add texture to the soup

  • 2 tsp of Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp of Onion powder
  • Parsley to sprinkle in and on top of soup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour the can of soup in your pot and scrap off the rest with a rubber spatula

    Cream of Chicken Soup in pot

    Cream of Chicken Soup in pot

  2. Add cans of hot water and whisk soup till combined

    Soup and Hot Water being whisked

    Soup and Hot Water being whisked

  3. Add spices and herbs and set your soup under medium heat till simmering

    Herbs and Spices added to the soup

    Herbs and Spices added to the soup

  4. Combine veggies and rice to soup and simmer for about 20 minutes

    Cream of Soup w/ Veggies and Rice

    Cream of Soup w/ Veggies and Rice

  5. Add salt and pepper to soup and set to low heat
  6. Serve and enjoy the hot soup with nice crunchy bread, cold or hot sandwich ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup w/ Turkey Grilled Cheese

    Cream of Chicken and Rice Soup w/ Turkey Grilled Cheese

I told you that this recipe is easy! You can add whatever spices get you going or any veggies you like the choice is yours. Being creative no matter how you start a dish is the beauty of cooking. So I hope you get a chance to either make your own version or if you do not have the time go to your fave ย local restaurant and buy a nice cup or bowl of hot soup, find a good movie and keep warm in your favorite blanket when you get the chance on a cold day.

Enjoy and keep warm my culinary friends ๐Ÿ˜‰

MACing it Up! Creating Your Signature Mac and Cheese

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese w/ tomato and grilled chicken

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese w/ tomato and grilled chicken

Hey my culinary peoples!

So during this long and crazy week I had the pleasure to make Mac & Cheese for the kiddies. Normally I would make a standard mac and cheese but lately I have been experimenting with different old recipes that I normally use. Maybe because it is the new year but I definitely been in my creative flow and have been making new changes to recipes ever since!

Now Mac & Cheese is nothing to really mess with, while it is a simple dish, many make different variations and there is always a debate about whose Mac and Cheese is the best! Reason why I love Mac and Cheese, you can be as creative as you want to be You can go either simple or gourmet, death by cheese or subtle, or even add various things like chicken, bacon, veggies, the possibilities are endless. So in my search for a unique way to make mac and cheese, I came across this homemade baked mac and cheese recipe (Courtesy of divascancook.com). What was unique about it was they had added cream cheese to their cheese mixture and I thought that was just brilliant! Once I had tried the recipe I knew it would become a stable for future mac and cheese creations. Another thing that I about the recipe was how creamy and flavorful the mac and cheese to the point it resembled the Haitian baked macaroni and cheese that I LOVEEEE (A staple side dish at any haitian event involving food, if you do not believe me ask any haitian person!) The haitian mac and cheese or macaroni de gratin, is filled with yummy flavors such and onion and garlic, they many put different meats and cheese or keep it simple. Now that you clearly know how much I love Mac and Cheese we will now get to the recipe!

Courtesy of plumsintheicebox.com

Example of Haitian Mac and Cheese: Courtesy of plumsintheicebox.com

I will not lie there are alot of steps to my new mac and cheese creation but once you make this once you will not miss a bit in the future. It is simple and fun and guess what, I made EVERYTHING in my rice cooker prior to baking it in the oven! (I told you I love that rice cooker!) Now lets get crackin!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Pasta – (Your choice of elbows, rotini, any of these pastas will do)
  • Equal parts of Chicken Broth and Water to boil the pasta (Example: 1 cup of water and 1 cup of chicken broth)
  • 1 cups of Chicken Broth
  • 1 cups of Evaporated Milk (such as Carnation Milk) or Half and Half
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • 8 oz of Cream Cheese (1 package of cream cheese)
  • 1-2 cups of Diced Tomatoes (I used 1 can of Hunts Diced Tomatoes) or you can use fresh (I def will try in the near future :-))
  • 2-3 cups of Diced Grilled Chicken Breastย 
  • Olive Oil (enough to cover the minced garlic in the bottom of the pan)
  • 1 Tbsp of Minced Garlic
  • 2 tsp Onion powder
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • Paprika (to sprinkle on top)
  • 3 cups of Cheddar Cheese blend (I like to blend sharp and mild cheddar and you can even add montgomery as well or gouda – the desicion depends on your taste buds)
  • (Optional) 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese (to sprinkle with the cheese and on top of the baked mac and cheese you put it in the oven)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of Panko Bread crumbs (I found that panko bread crumbs are lighter and give the mac and cheese a great crunch)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Boil pasta with equal parts of water and broth till cooked and set aside or put in your baking pan
  3. In your rice cooker sautee your minced onion in some olive oil than pour in your diced tomatoes and stir in till simmering

    Diced tomatoes and minced garlic in Rice Cooker

    Diced tomatoes and minced garlic in Rice Cooker

  4. Meanwhile dice your already cooked grilled chicken breast and add the chicken to your diced chicken and minced garlic and simmer to enhance flavor.

    Diced chicken cooking in diced tomatoes and garlic (In Rice Cooker)

    Diced chicken cooking in diced tomatoes and garlic (In Rice Cooker)

  5. Meanwhile add chicken broth and butter to a medium size pot and reach to near boiling. While in the pot you can add in your seasonings such as garlic, onion, and salt and pepper. Than slowly add your milk or half and half to the broth and stir till near boiling and remove.
  6. Cut your cream cheese into chunks and add to your milk and broth mixture and whisk in, I had also used a hand blender to blend in the cream cheese to make the mixture smooth.

    mac and cheese 3

    Broth and milk mixture blended with cream cheese

  7. Once blended you can now stir in your cheddar cheese to the cream mixture than pour into your macaroni, than add your tomato and chicken mixture.

    Macaroni w/ chicken, cheese, tomato, and milk mixture

    Macaroni w/ chicken, cheese, tomato, and milk mixture

  8. Once all added sprinkle parmesan and cheddar cheese on top of macaroni mixture and put into the oven for 25 minutes or until golden.

    Mac and Cheese prior to being baked

    Mac and Cheese prior to being baked

  9. Serve straight out of the oven as a side dish to your fave meal or even by itself with your fave veggies.
  10. Enjoy and trust me you will!

    Bon Appetit!

    Bon Appetit!

I hope you are not overwhelmed with the recipe, this is one of my many creations of baked mac and cheese. Cooking should be looked as a creative form of expression, when I cook or bake anything I like to be creative and see how far I can take a standard recipe and make it my own. I encourage anyone who cooks or bakes to next time instead of following the recipe to the T to switch it up! You might surprise yourself on what kind of new creation you make ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy Cooking my culinary friends ๐Ÿ˜€