angie food cake

Family-friendly recipes from a frugal gal that likes to eat

American Macaroni Salad

On the Fourth of July, Scott and I went to a BBQ at his parents’ house, and I wanted to bring something to share. I had my mind stuck on pasta salad for some reason, so I began searching for something yummy and different. Well would you believe that there aren’t that many appetizing looking pasta salads out there? Or maybe I was just striking out or being picky, but nothing jumped out at me (not even on Pinterest – gasp!). I finally found the most simple and boring-sounding recipe of all time – American Macaroni Salad.

Not sure why I even decided to give this recipe a second look, but hey, it had a patriotic title, so I thought, why not? Turns out, this recipe rooooocks! Plus, I added bacon to it, and bacon makes everything better!

American Macaroni Salad
From Food Network

Ingredients

2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley (I didn’t use this)
1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato
1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato.
  2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with cooked bacon. Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

This was so delicious! The vinegar made it tangy, and the bacon was the perfect salty, chewy addition to this salad. I will definitely make this again!

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Cheesy Quinoa with Asparagus and Tomato

This recipe came to me in a dream. Er, I mean, from a Pinterest post. Like so many of the others that I make! The original title for this recipe is quinoa mac and cheese, which is a great name because you immediately know what to expect – a cheesy, baked casserole-type dish. I appreciate that, but I absolutely had to change the name because there is no mac to be found in this recipe, and I don’t want to confuse y’all.

I also added some veg (stuff that was on the verge of going bad) and increased the amount of cheese because cheese is the bee’s knees. Always trust a rhymer. 

Lemme be honest with you guys. This schtuff is deeelicious. And it’s even better reheated the next day. Plus it makes a TON, so you get to eat it all week – hooray!

Here are some things you need to get started:

Box ‘O Quinoa

A big bunch of asparagus, washed and chopped

One very lovely Roma tomato, diced

Cook your quinoa according to the directions on the box. While it’s cooking, saute your asparagus in a medium saute pan. I just do this with a little olive oil and salt, but cook it any way you prefer. Then, whisk together some eggs, milk and seasonings. I used garlic and season salt. I found out later that I should have used WAAAAAAAAY more salt. Quinoa is like rice or pasta – it craves salt, so don’t skimp here. The healthiness of the quinoa counteracts the fat in the cheese and the salt, so it’s all ok. 😉

When the quinoa is finished, fold it in to the egg and milk mixture and add the cheese and veggies. Stir until well combined and dump in a greased 9×13 pan.

SEE HOW MUCH FOOD?! So exciting.

Next, sprinkle some more cheese (I know) and top with about a cup of breadcrumbs. I used Panko, and it was perfectly crunchy. Place dish in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until breadcrumbs are nice and toasty.

It was about 7 p.m. at this point, and I was hangry, so I took mine out a little early. Not quite as brown as it should’ve been, but still crunchy, which is what really matters.

Let the dish cool for a few minutes, unless you like to lose the top layer of skin on your tongue. Then serve it up! I topped mine with some Frank’s hot sauce, but you can do as you wish.

Before Frank came to the party

Extreme close up (whoaaaaaa!)

This dish was excellent. It’s also really versatile, as you could add any combination of spices or veggies. I might try to make this into a Mexican-style dish soon.

Enjoy your weekend!

Cheesy Quinoa with Asparagus and Tomato
Adapted from Around the Table

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of asparagus, washed, chopped and sautéed in olive oil and salt
1 large Roma tomato, washed and diced
At least 1 Tbs of season salt or regular salt, but probably more (sorry, bad recipe blogger over here)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Rinse the quinoa and cook according to package directions (takes about 18 minutes)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 13×9 inch dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, garlic and salt in large bowl. Fold in cooked quinoa, veggies, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Stir until well combined.
  4.  Transfer mixture to the baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and the breadcrumbs.
  5.  Bake 35 mins or until breadcrumbs are browned. 

Top with anything you choose, but hot sauce and sour cream would be delicious!

Banana Soft Serve

If you know me, you know I love sweets. The second dinner is over, no matter how full I am, I have to go in search of something sweet. I mentioned in my last post that a graham cracker with a little schmear of Cookie Butter usually hits the spot, but tonight I wanted to try something different. On Monday night, I noticed that our bananas had gotten too ripe to eat, so instead of throwing them out like I normally would, I decided to chop them up and freeze them to make banana soft serve.

As an avid food/healthy living blog reader, I have been hearing about banana soft serve forever, but I never remember to make it. This dessert is easy and obviously super healthy since it ONLY requires bananas! Well, and a high-powered food processor or blender. All you do is blend/food process the bananas until they are smooth and look like soft serve. That’s it! It’s kind of a miracle that this actually works.

We made two different kinds; peanut butter banana and berry banana.  

Banana Soft Serve
(makes 2 big servings)

Ingredients

3 very ripe bananas, chopped into pieces and frozen solid

For the peanut butter banana:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs creamy peanut butter

For the berry banana:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs honey
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen strawberries

Directions

  1. Place frozen bananas in a powerful food processor and blend/puree until very smooth. You will have to stop and scrape down the sides quite a bit at first. Stream in vanilla extract and blend. You can stop here if you want because it’s ready to go!
  2. If you’re making the peanut butter banana version, scoop in the peanut butter and blend until well combined.
  3. For the berry banana version, toss in the blueberries and strawberries, begin blending. Stream in the honey. Blend until very smooth.

And there you go! Very simple to do, but you need to be patient because it takes the bananas a while to get going at first. I topped my portion with chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. So very delicious and a great stand-in for ice cream. Truly!

Trader Joes Product Love

I heart Trader Joes. I mean who doesn’t really? Their products are delicious, full of pronouce-able ingredients and are usually pretty cheap. My only gripe is that the stores are pretty small and CROWDED, so it’s hard to really spend your time looking at items on the shelf. To save you some time on your next trip, here are a few brief reviews of my current TJs faves.

Ok, stop reading this and run to your nearest TJs because you need to have this RIGHT. NOW. Speculoos Cookie Butter tastes like Biscoff cookies (you know, those little cookies they give you on Delta flights). If you’re not familiar with Biscoff, it’s similar to gingerbread, but has a smoother, less spicy taste. It’s the same texture and color as peanut butter, but it’s sweeter and more dessert-like. I spread it on a graham cracker for an after dinner treat. A little goes a long way, so it’s perfect like this. Yum yum!

Next up is a dinner staple in our house.

The frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken is so close to the real thing it hurts! Ok, maybe not real, authentic Mandarin orange chicken, but as close as the dish you get at your local Chinese food buffet. It’s crunchy and sweet and so easy to make. It takes about 20 minutes to cook and we serve it over brown rice and bell peppers (two more great products from TJs). The calorie count is much lower than the takeout version, and it’s just as good. Cross my heart!

Another Asian food product we love are the potstickers (or gyoza).

These are sautéed in a skillet for a little crunch and then steamed to heat through. Easy peasy and really tasty. They are the perfect side for the Mandarin chicken or work well as an appetizer (or late night after bar snack!).

The final product, Tricolor Quinoa, sounds really boring, but my love for this is really more about the packaging!

I have been buying my quinoa at Trader Joe’s all year (they don’t have it at my Cub!), and normally I would buy the regular kind that comes in a box. I always managed to rip the crap out of the bag, so I end up with a box full of loose quinoa (#firstworldproblems)! ANYWAY. This quinoa comes in a resealable bag, and it tastes great, so I’m sold.

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back soon with more reviews and some new-to-me products! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to stop my finger from finding its way into the Cookie Butter jar!

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage and Spinach

This recipe has been sitting in my Dinner Ideas Pinterest board for far too long. Now I know that heavy, doughy gnocchi and spicy italian sausage doesn’t exactly scream summer, but this is so good that it doesn’t even matter. Just crank your AC and pretend it’s winter, mmmkay?

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage and Spinach
Slightly adapted from Made in Melissa’s Kitchen

Ingredients

One 17.5 ounce package shelf stable gnocchi
1 lb Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (I didn’t have onion, so I used 1 tsp dried minced onion)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
5 oz. bag of ready-to-use baby spinach
1/2 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing

Directions

  1. Crumble and brown the sausage in a deep skillet over medium heat. When sausage is almost completely browned, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, chicken broth, spinach and seasonings, cover, stir occasionally. While sausage mixture is simmering, cook the gnocchi according to package directions.
  3. When gnocchi is cooked, drain and add to the sausage mixture, add cheese and toss together. Garnish with additional cheese, if desired.

 Mmm so good! This could easily be turned into a hearty soup by adding more broth and carrots. I hope you enjoy!

A Tribute to my Favorite European Eats and Drinks

In 2007, two of my girlfriends and I backpacked across Europe to visit our friend, Aboma. Aboma moved to Spain to live la vida loca, and one night when he was home in Minnesota for a visit, we got to talking and decided that now was the perfect time in our young lives to travel through Europe. The four of us leaned across the beer pong table, joined pinkies and made a (now legendary) promise to meet again in Spain.

We started planning our trip in September, and took off for a full month in October. The trip was fast and full! We visited Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Bern, Alicante, Barcelona, Brighton and London. We sightsaw, explored, rode on planes, trains and automobiles and ate and drink our way across Europe. I don’t have many pictures of the local fare we indulged in, but the memories I have are strong. I can still taste these delicacies! Here’s a rundown of some of my very favorites.

Source: Alacarta Express

The kebab. Or kebap. Or bocadillo – whatever you want to call it. Bottom line, this is the BEST sandwich I’ve ever eaten. We spent about 10 days in Alicante, Spain, and I had this sandwich at least four times. It’s very similar to a gyro, with shaved lamb or chicken, tomatoes, lettuce and a yogurt sauce, but this was so much more special than a regular gyro. It was fresh and the bread was so soft and flavorful. I’ve considered buying a plane ticket to Alicante just to eat one of these!

This next one, cafe con leche, is a no-brainer. Obviously one should drink cafe con leche in Spain.

Rich, bold, creamy and always steaming hot. Every morning in Alicante, we’d wake up and walk a few blocks to one of Aboma’s favorite cafes. We’d order cafe con leche and a pastry or toast and jam and spend an hour or two enjoying our coffee and playing Sudoku.

Perfection.

Another one of my Spanish favorites was the tea.

We frequented a small tea shop that served sweet, minty tea. We would order a pot for the table and play dominos for hours. So relaxing and enjoyable. Gosh I miss this tea.

My final favorite in Spain is Ensalda Rusa, or Russian salad.

Source: Supercook

This was a creamy potato and tuna salad. We often ordered it along with many other tapas to enjoy at dinner. It sounds/looks weird, but I loved it, and I’ve never seen anything like it here.

Let’s move Northeast to Munich, Germany. It was cold in Munich. Bitterly cold. So after a chilly, drizzly guided tour around the city, we ran to the Hofbräuhaus seeking shelter and authentic German brew.

I’d never typically order a big ‘ol German beer, but this was so much more about the experience. My girls and I downed two of these babies in a matter of minutes. 😉 I’d give anything to be back in that beer house with a mug of Hofbräu Original in hand.

Also, when in Germany, you have to eat a Bavarian pretzel, of course!

These pretzels were great, but they came with an even better story. You see, nothing in Europe is free, or cheap for that matter, so when we saw these pretzels sitting in a napkin-covered basket on our table, we were psyched! Free food for a change! After paying for packets of ketchup at McDonald’s, this was the best sight ever. We gobbled up all of the pretzels before our waitress arrived and then it occurred to us. These pretzels weren’t free. Of course they weren’t! So, being the sly cats that we are, we slowly recovered the basket and acted very innocent. Our waitress came, took our order and swooped in to grab the basket. Yup, she knew we had eaten them, and you better believe the price was added to our bill. Dang. Disappointing, but oh, so worth it!

I tasted so many delicious things in Europe, and of course the food is just a small part of the experience, but it was one of the most memorable. I dream of a day when I can go back and taste a million more new foods!

June Birchbox

BEST. BOX. YET!!!!! Not only are all of the products fabulous, but the sample sizes are very generous. And there was something to eat in the box, which obviously I like.

Let’s get started! 

  1. theBalm cosmetics Staniac lip and cheek stain – I’ve never used a stain before, so I have nothing to compare this to, but overall it seems pretty good. When I put the color on my cheeks, my first thought was, “Hello Shirley Temple!”, but after I applied the stain to my lips, everything came together. I’ve gotten pretty lazy with my makeup routine lately (powder, bronzer, mascara), but I could easily see myself adding this cheek and lip stain for a more complete look.
  2. Comodynes Self-Tanning Intensive wipes – What a smart concept! I usually use Jergens tanning lotion, but I’ve wound up with orange knees and elbows one too many times, so I’m open to a new method. One towelette is supposed to cover your whole body, but I just tried it on my legs. The color is really even and application couldn’t have been easier. I’d definitely buy these!
  3. stila one step bronze – This is the generous sample size that I was referring to. It’s one fluid once, which is the size you can buy for $36! That’s the cost of almost four months of Birchbox! Plus I just love this. It’s three different shades, so the color will work on most skin tones. It’s the perfect amount of color, it covers evenly and it’s not at all greasy. Love love love!
  4. Wonderstruck Taylor Swift perfume – Smells too old lady for me. Sorry, Tay Tay.
  5. LUNA Bar Peanut Butter Cookie – I ate this the second I saw it! So yummy, but there are way too many calories in this little bar for me. This type of snack would never hold me over, so I wouldn’t buy them. Plus, they are too expensive and full of wacko ingredients. 

So there we have it! Another month, another great box. Have I convinced you to sign up yet?! When is Birchbox going to start sending me my commission? 😉

Lighter Southwest Eggrolls (or wontons!)

Today’s recipe doesn’t come from a blog or a website or even a cookbook. It comes from me. This is the first time I’ve ever “created” a recipe for the blog. Sure, I’ve made plenty of “cook whatever’s in the cupboard” meals, but this is the first time I’ve actually taken notes while I cooked, and I’m so excited with the outcome!

Behold! Lighter Southwest Eggrolls!

Or, if you prefer, wontons!

I preferred the eggrolls because there was more cheesy filling to enjoy, plus they were easier to roll up.

Lighter Southwest Eggrolls

Ingredients

20 wonton wrappers
9 oz of boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used tenders)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried parsley
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup corn
4 oz can diced green chiles
vegetable oil cooking spray

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Season chicken breast with chili powder, cumin, salt, parsley and cayenne pepper. Saute chicken in a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat until the chicken is done. Dice the chicken.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine chicken, cheese, corn and green chiles. Stir until well combined.
  • Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  • For eggrolls, take two wonton wrappers and lay then next to each other, overlapping them.
  • Place about a tablespoon of filling across the center of the wonton wrappers. Lightly wet all edges of the wonton wrappers with water (just dip your finger in a small bowl of water). Fold the sides in and roll up like a burrito. Place the eggroll on the cookie sheet and spray the top with cooking spray. Repeat until all wrappers are gone. This will make ten eggrolls
  • If you want to do the wontons instead, just use one wonton wrapper and fill with a teaspoon of filling. Wet the edges. Fold in half and pinch the wonton on all sides. Place on cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray.
  • Bake the eggrolls until crispy, flipping over half way through. For me this took 16 minutes. Just keep an eye on them.
  • The wontons only take about 8-10 minutes.
  • Let eggrolls/wontons cool for a few minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sliced scallions.

 

Yields 10 eggrolls or 20 wontons. Serving size is 2 eggrolls or 4 wontons. 5 Points Plus per serving.

How I Ran my First 5k

Two months ago I got an email from my good friend asking me if I wanted to run a 5k that her work puts on for employees, friends and family. I sat on that email for five hours before I finally realized that I had no good reason to say no! I was immediately nervous and unsure how I could possibly run a 5k. I’m embarrassed to say that before that day, I hadn’t worked out in months. I walk the dog most nights and do a lot of walking at work, but that was the extent of my exercise routine. Pretty pathetic.

That night, I downloaded a couch to 5k app on my iPhone (this one). Here’s what the logo looks like:

Having technology to push you through your workouts helps a ton, but it’s not necessary. This particular couch to 5k program takes eight weeks to complete, three workouts per week, all in 25-40 minutes. Very manageable. There are many couch to 5k programs out there that help you gradually increase your running stamina. This is a very popular one.

 I also eventually started using a Map my Run app to help me keep track of mileage and pace.

For the first few weeks of training, I stuck to my treadmill. I was too nervous to run outside because I had tried it before and thought it was incredibly hard. Finally, after weeks of my runner friends telling me I had to get outside, I did it. On April 12th, I laced up my sneakers and set out on a straight, flat trail near my house. I ran/walked for 3.03 miles in 38:53 minutes. That’s a pace of 12:53/min. I was shocked. I had done it, and it was pretty darn decent!

After that first run on the trail, I was excited to get back outside. I haven’t stepped foot on the treadmill since because running outside definitely is easier and way more interesting.

I mainly run on the Gateway State Trail or around Lake Phalen.  I feel safe and comfortable in these places, but I know I should really branch out. I’m getting kind of bored. Although, Phalen is really beautiful!

So after seven weeks of training, logging about 10 miles/per week, it was finally time to do the 5k. I felt ready. I had worked hard and never missed a training session. The only real problem I experienced while running was that my right foot would consistently fall asleep during runs. It usually happened about 20 minutes in and would last until I stopped running and stomped my foot on the ground. It was awful and frustrating, but then I realized that it was probably happening because of ill-fitting shoes. I switched back to my old pair, and the sleepy foot syndrome stopped. Phew.

The race was on May 5th at the General Mills Campus in Plymouth, Minnesota. It was cool and drizzling out, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I had a nervous tummy, but managed to eat some toast with peanut butter and banana.

We had about a half an hour of standing around time before the race started, so naturally we did a photo shoot.

Finally, it was time to start the race! The faster people start closer to the front, so I moved my way back towards the end of the crowd. All of us had goals that we hoped to meet, and since my goal (finishing under 40 minutes) was the slowest of the group, I knew I’d be running alone, and I was ok with that.

I started the race feeling pretty good, but noticed that it was kind of hard to breathe. I found out later that it was 80% humidity that day, so that definitely affected me. I ran the whole first mile without stopping. As soon as I passed the first mile marker, I had to stop and walk. I was really disappointed because I was already feeling tired. Way more tired than I normally would after one mile. But I soldiered on and ran as much as I could. There were more inclines on the course than I was used to, and that slowed me down as well.

At mile two there was a water stop. At that point, I had started to get a light side ache, so water sounded terrible to me. I had two small sips and tossed the rest.

Between miles two and three there was a large hill. I walked up it and tried to take deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. My side was absolutely killing me, and my ankle was starting to hurt as well. I was in bad shape, but I just kept telling myself, the faster you go the faster you’ll finish. I picked up some speed through the end of the second mile and decided to walk for the last time when I was almost to the finish line. I wanted to be able to run down the whole chute, and finish strong. As soon as I turned the corner, I started to hear cheers and heard my friends yell my name. I was almost done!

Always be sure to smile for cameras on the race course!

I finally crossed the finish line in 35:05. I am proud of that time. I wish I would’ve had more energy left at the end, so I could have sprinted and finished under 35 minutes, but I gave that race all that I had.

Overall, I had a great experience, and I can’t wait to run my next race. I’m signed up for a 4k at the end of June and another 5k at the end of August. Having races to train for is the best motivation. Nothing else has worked for me, so I’m going to stick to it. I am so proud of myself, and I can’t wait to see what I can do next!

Creamy Garlic Pasta

Do you remember the first thing you ever cooked on your own? I’m fairly certain mine was Pasta Roni.

Angel Hair with Parmesan Cheese to be exact! I loooooved this pasta. Still do as a matter of fact! This is the perfect hangover comfort food. But, it’s loaded with salt, fat and calories, so imagine my delight when I discovered this recipe for creamy garlic pasta. It’s basically a healthier knock off of my favorite childhood cuisine. It’s just as fast and easy too!

Start by heating olive oil, butter and garlic in a large skillet.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add chicken broth, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Then add angel hair and cook for 3-5 minutes.

When pasta is cooked, mix in cheese and cook until sauce thickens up a bit. Finally, stir in parsley and serve. Sauce will thicken as it stands.

Creamy Garlic Pasta
From Stephanie Cooks

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/2 pound angel hair
1 cup parmesan
1 tsp dried parsley

Directions

  1. Heat the oil, garlic, and butter in a large pot. Stir frequently. After 1-2 minutes add the salt, pepper, chicken broth, and milk.
  2. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the angel hair and allow it to cook according to packaging directions.
  3. Add the cheese and stir well. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley. Serve immediately.

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