Weekend Recipes

Sunday, August 21st, 2011 by Rachel

Here are some recipes that we came up with over the weekend, using items that we already had in our house! These are all simple, easy, healthy, vegetarian-friendly, and gluten-free.


Summer Smoothie


4 ice cubes
1 cup sliced peaches
1 peeled and sliced mango (about 1 cup)
Lemonade powder (we used Country Time—to about the 2 quart line)
½ cup water


Put ingredients in blender, and blend! Makes 2 servings.




Derrick’s Black Bean Tacos


(Yes, we’re still trying to get rid of those taco shells. We made black bean quesadillas last week and had leftover black bean mixture in the fridge. Derrick put the ingredients together to make a tasty lunch!)


1 can black beans
1 small can diced olives
Taco shells


Drain and rinse black beans and olives together. Put colander over a plate (so it doesn’t drip over the counter!), and season with cumin, cilantro, oregano. Black bean mix is complete. Fill taco shells with black bean mix and whatever other toppings you choose. We used Wholly Salsa “Medium” and Mexican cheese mix. Some shredded lettuce would’ve also mixed in well. We did microwave the tacos for 30 seconds in the microwave after adding the cheese, to give the tacos a little “melty-ness” to their texture.




Sunday Salad


1 can chickpeas (but I only used a few spoonfuls and saved the rest in tupperware!)
1 large tomato
1 oz. goat cheese
Salad mix
Olive oil


Drain chickpeas. Chop tomato and goat cheese. Build your salad, lettuce on the bottom, then tomatoes, then chickpeas, then goat cheese, drizzling with olive oil after all ingredients have been added. Serves two (but since Derrick isn’t quite ready for dinner…I’ll probably end up eating the other half in an hour!)

Quick Recipe: Goat Cheese & Spinach Scramble

Thursday, August 11th, 2011 by Rachel

This is the second scramble recipe that I’ve posted on www.rachelm.com , because it’s one of those meals I cook all the time. Remember that I believe strongly in using what you have! Scrambles are great for this! I had grits for breakfast this morning, but, after mopping and exercising this morning, I wanted to make sure to get some protein in for lunch. We’ve eaten goat cheese veggie burgers two nights this week, and, though Derrick likes goat cheese, I knew I needed to figure out another recipe to use up the leftovers. We’ve been eating spinach on the burgers and on salads, but there’s still quite a bit left in the bin. We had leftover chopped red pepper from making a blueberry salsa this weekend. A good scramble should be flavorful, colorful, and filling, and this one definitely was!


Goat Cheese & Spinach Scramble


2 organic cage-free brown eggs
1 handful baby spinach
Chopped red pepper (add enough to give color and crunch to the dish!)
1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 tbl. olive oil
Pinch kosher salt
Dash black pepper


Pour in olive oil and preheat pan to medium. When pan is warm, add two eggs. Scramble. When eggs are almost complete, add salt, pepper. A minute later, add spinach, red pepper, goat cheese. Make sure cheese is mixed around, since goat cheese likes to stick to one place. When eggs are done and spinach is wilted, so is the meal. Enjoy!

Bratwurst Bake

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by Rachel

A family friend has given us lots of vegetable jars from her garden, so I’ve been gradually finding ways to use them up. Yesterday, I created this easy recipe, and it turned out great. I used to bake bratwurst on their own when we lived in Flagstaff, but lately I’ve only been cooking them in a stovetop skillet, so this was a nice change of pace. The bratwurst flavor made its way into the veggies without taking over. Even though this bratwurst bake has the side “built in” already with the green beans, it lends itself well to being mixed and matched with other foods. I served it with corn on the cob last night, and tonight I’ll be making some pesto pasta for a fresh side with the leftovers.


Bratwurst Bake


1 package (5) Johnsonville Brats ( choose the flavor of your choice. I used original)
1 big jar green beans, about the equivalent of 2 cans
1/2 jar chunky tomato paste, about 1 can tomato paste and 1 can diced tomatoes mixed
Cooking Spray (I use Smart Balance)


Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add brats and boil for 15 minutes.


Preheat oven to 375. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish/casserole pan with cooking spray. Drain and rinse green beans. Create a green bean perimeter in the baking dish. Put tomato paste in the middle, like a lava lake.


When brats are done boiling, drain and put them in the middle of the casserole dish on the “lava lake”. Put a dollop of tomato paste on each of the 5 brats. Sprinkle entire dish with oregano, cilantro, parsley. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when brats have browned nicely.

Restaurant Reviews: Metropolis Cafe and BoJo’s Boardwalk Cafe

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Rachel

We tried two new restaurants during our Staycation. Here are my reviews of each restaurant experience.


Metropolis Café:


We arrived around 1 for a late lunch. The restaurant was empty, so we were told to go ahead and seat ourselves. We were quickly approached by a waitress who got our drinks quickly (water for me and a black & tan for Derrick).


We were excited to see calamari on the menu, and we always have to order it when we see it. Though it was really good, with a light batter and subtle flavoring, I would not recommend this particular appetizer for “calamari beginners”. Very often people are grossed out by the texture of squid. I am not. But it had an olive oil coating underneath the fried batter that made it feel much more tentacle-y in your mouth than other kinds of calamari.


I’d been craving a gyro for months, so of course I ordered myself one. The lamb/beef meat came with lettuce and tomatoes on a pita. The sauce was on the side, which I appreciate, but it was difficult to spread on the pita because the pita was loaded with goodies. It was delicious and came with a side of curly fries, which might be my favorite curly fries ever.


Derrick ordered a kabob platter with steak and chicken. It came on a bed of basmati rice with some pita triangles off to the side. He thought the chicken was a hit. He did wonder if the seasoning of the dish as a whole was a little limey. The next day, we were able to use his leftover steak and veggies in a breakfast scramble, and the flavors worked well with eggs.


BoJo’s Boardwalk Café:


After being turned away at PJ’s because they were “closed”, we headed across the street to BoJo’s. We were meant to end up here, and I’ll always regret not going there earlier.


We happened to arrive during happy hour, when drinks are half priced. Derrick got two Sam Adams in bottles. Strangely, despite their large beer selection, they don’t have beer on draft. I got a “Week on the Beach” drink, which was a pineappley drink very similar to the Pineapple Express drink I had at Planet Hollywood on our honeymoon. When I asked the waitress about the drink, she didn’t know exactly what was in it, so she went and talked to the bartender and brought me back the whole ingredient list.


Derrick and I both ordered the Admiral Platter, which seemed like the best deal for us wanting to try a variety. The Admiral Platter comes with the fresh catch of your choice ( I got salmon and Derrick got mahi mahi), shrimp, scallops, lobster cake, and two sides (I got salad and fries, and Derrick got steamed veggies and fries). Our meals were wonderful. I think the scallops really stole the show. They were big and juicy—four bites each. We’ve only ever had scallops like this at Fripp Island. Who knows where they came from—not Lake Sinclair!


The service was wonderful. Quick too—Derrick and I were out of there in 45 minutes, even with our drinks and feasts! BoJo’s has a great, relaxed, lake-house atmosphere, and it’s definitely the best seafood option in Milledgeville.

Quick Recipe: Spinach, Arugula, Tomato Scramble

Monday, July 18th, 2011 by Rachel

Remember that every ingredient in your kitchen presents an opportunity. Use what you have. When I wasn’t in the mood for granola or cereal this morning, I looked in the refrigerator and put together this healthy, colorful, and delicious recipe. I don’t have a picture because I ate this meal too quickly! Yesterday, I bought an organic spinach and arugula salad mix. Arugula has been tough to find in Milledgeville until Walmart started carrying it a few weeks ago. Arugula is a strong, flavorful salad green that I use in both regular salads and pasta salads. I also had a red tomato in the fridge that needed to be used.


Spinach, Arugula, Tomato Scramble


2 organic cage-free brown eggs
1 medium tomato, diced (if you have an extra slice, eat it while you cook!)
1 handful spinach and arugula
Smart Balance Cooking Spray or 1 Tsp Olive Oil


Spray frying pan and preheat it to medium. When pan is warm, add two eggs. Scramble. When eggs are almost complete, add spinach, arugula, tomato. When eggs are done, so is the meal. Voila! Enjoy your breakfast!

Thoughts on the Gluten-Free Diet

Friday, July 15th, 2011 by Rachel

Yesterday, I saw crackers at the end of a Walmart aisle labeled Gluten-Free. Today I was surprised to pull a bottle of organic Caesar salad dressing off the shelf to reveal a little Gluten-Free sticker. Gluten-Free is everywhere, but most people don’t even know what it is.


Gluten-Free isn’t just a diet craze. For people who suffer from celiac disease, gluten-free is a necessary way of life. Though I don’t have celiac disease, during my period of weight gain, my mom suggested that I consider gluten-free options. As I began to rethink the way I viewed gluten, breads, and carbohydrates in general, not only did I begin to lose weight, but I also found that my whole body began to regulate itself, and I felt much closer to what I thought “normal people” felt like. Derrick and I think that I am “gluten sensitive”, and the simple awareness and reduction of gluten in my diet has been enough to push my body in the right direction.


So no, not everyone NEEDS to be gluten-free, but if it makes you work for a healthier diet, it seems to be a useful tool. I only allow myself two pieces of bread a day maximum, and I ideally avoid it completely. I rely much more heavily on gluten-free tortillas. When I bake bread, it is always gluten-free. (If you’re interested in the gluten-free diet out of choice and not necessity, I must warn you that gluten-free bread has a much different consistency than regular bread. Derrick doesn’t like it, describes it as “crumbly” and “grainy”.) Mom surprised me with some gluten-free cookies on our last trip, and they were delicious. I don’t drink beer anymore, but there are gluten-free beer options out there which I might try at some point. I hope to continue to examine gluten in every part of my diet, evaluate, reduce, and eliminate it as much as I can. My next step: Pasta!


For more information, here are the three most useful links I’ve come across regarding gluten-free diets and the gluten-free rationale.


One of my favorite blogs:
Gluten Hates Me


Two Articles:
Who Really Should Be on a Gluten-Free Diet?
Will a gluten-free diet improve your health?

Finding Fun in Food

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Rachel

On our drive back from Arkansas, my grandmother and I followed my parents and sister for a little while in a car caravan. After checking out roadside attractions along our driving route, I suggested that we stop at Borroum’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain in Corinth, Mississippi, and everyone thought it was a great idea. This is Mississippi’s oldest drug store and soda fountain, established in 1865. Though I’d originally intended to get something much more appropriate to a soda fountain like an ice cream sundae, I was intrigued when I saw fried hot dog on the menu. I’m a hot dog fan, but I don’t get the chance to eat them very often. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.


So I ordered myself a fried hot dog and some onion rings. Grandma chose the same with potato chips. Dad ordered a slugburger (which is not what you think, but this isn’t the place for that explanation). Mom ordered a chicken salad sandwich. Sarah ordered something vegetarian with pimento cheese. That fried hot dog, sliced in half long-ways so it lay flat on the bun, covered in slaw was delicious. I don’t even like slaw, but I really enjoyed that hot dog.


So this past weekend, hot dogs were on sale. Plus I had a coupon. So I picked some Oscar Mayer Classic Weiners. I know at this point a lot of you regular readers are thinking, “What??? This is someone who preaches happy, healthy living. Hot dogs aren’t healthy.” Part of what I’ve realized in my diet journey is that no one should deprive themselves completely. If you want a donut, eat a donut. Don’t say “No, I’m not allowed donuts” then begin to obsess about this food. If you have a craving, satisfy it. Better eat ONE donut now than a whole box later. Better eat that ONE donut you’re craving than try eating the “healthy” bowl of cereal, then a handful of crackers, then a popsicle, then another bowl of cereal, then a granola bar, which will all add up to the same amount of calories, if not more, than the donut. Satisfying the craving now will help you from overeating later. If I want some chocolate, I help myself to a handful of dark chocolate chips. If I want to order a steak, I can, but I’ll order the 9 oz instead of the 12. The key is to allow yourself these “bad” foods while also understanding that you cannot overdo it. You can’t eat a donut or a steak every day.


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The Taco Philosophy

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by Rachel

A Flagstaff doctor once told me, “It’s okay to eat tacos. But don’t go out and eat tacos. Make them at home”. I know that’s a silly quote to hang onto four years later, especially since I would never list tacos in my top ten favorite foods, but it’s one that really stuck with me as I moved towards a life of happy, healthy eating. We used to go out to eat at restaurants two or three times a week, and we’ve moved to once a week or every two weeks. Not only is this good for our wallets, but also for increasing my awareness. I now care what goes into my food. I now know what every single ingredient is. With restaurants, that’s all a mystery, and it shows in terms of calorie intake, weight gain, and sometimes even the aftermath of a food-hangover.


This is an idea that I don’t just apply to eating out, but also to buying prepackaged meals, meal helpers, or meal kits. We used to eat meals like hamburger helpers at least once a week, and I was addicted to Hot Pockets, Lean Pockets, and Eggos. But I asked myself, “Why buy a taco kit when I could buy the tortillas, meat, cheese, and veggies separately, minus the preservatives and msg?” I know it’s difficult to eliminate all of these boxes from our cupboards and freezers, but, once I began making the adjustments, it came along much easier than I expected. When we want lasagna, we don’t pick up a prepackaged Stouffer’s, but make one from scratch. I’ve always been a big pizza fan, but we now make our pizza at home, mixing and matching toppings, cheeses, sauces, and crusts we choose. If I want a wrap or a sandwich or a waffle, I make one— I don’t just microwave it.


The reliance on restaurants and these prepackaged meals is one of the biggest food-related problems that I see in people our age—and usually these are the same people who complain: “I don’t have time to make meals”, “Cooking is complicated,” “why I can’t lose weight?”, etc. I value the time and effort that go into making our food. Yeah, it is tough at first, but I take every new recipe as a challenge. Because I’m the one spending the time seasoning the roast, stirring the risotto, and ultimately conquering the recipe, I have become invested in my food. I am already mentally full by the time I sit down at the table with my plate, and it enhances my enjoyment of each meal.


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Rachel’s Three Bean Pasta Salad Recipe

Friday, July 8th, 2011 by Rachel

I came up with this recipe because tonight we are having a dinner guest who doesn’t like tomatoes. I wanted to make a pasta salad, but I knew omitting one of my favorite ingredients would force me get creative. My mother-in-law made a delicious salad last weekend with chickpeas, so I decided to that beans would be the base of the pasta salad. Because the olive oil, rotini & cheese were already in my pantry/fridge, this also made for a inexpensive pasta salad at under 7 dollars. It would’ve been cheaper if I hadn’t bought the pre-sliced veggies, but I thought the extra dollar saved me chopping time. I had a small bowl (warm) after making the pasta salad, and it was definitely a success. The onions give it crunch and kick! Enjoy! Let me know if you try it!


Rachel’s Three Bean Pasta Salad


½ box of rotini noodles (leftover from our last pasta salad)
1 can cannellini beans (All beans are Bush’s)
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas
½ container Walmart pre-sliced green onion
½ container Walmart pre-sliced red onion (leftover veggies are destined for a weekend frittata)
½ block mozzarella cheese, cubed (leftover from our last pasta salad)
Splash of olive oil


Boil noodles. While noodles are boiling, chop up veggies (if needed) and cube the cheese (Derrick likes small chunks, and I like big, crazy chunks—cube to your personal preference. Tonight I went with small, bean-sized cubes). Drain noodles, and put them in a big bowl. Drain the beans. Add beans, veggies, and cheese to big bowl. Mix carefully as you add each ingredient, since pasta salads want to explode when stirred. Drizzle top of bowl with olive oil. Refrigerate 3 hours. Serve.


The Importance of Eating Breakfast

Friday, July 8th, 2011 by Rachel

I’m not a morning person. After waking up, I need about an hour before I’m sociable, another hour before I stop feeling drowsy and nauseous. And though breakfast foods arguably make up some of my favorite foods, during my undergraduate and MA degrees, I slipped into the bad habit of skipping the first meal of the day. Of course, by skipping that first meal, I ultimately overindulged in lunch and dinner and second dinner. Eating that second dinner at 9 kept me up until 2 or 3. Missing breakfast not only affected my diet, but also my sleeping habits.


So when I decided to begin my quest towards happy healthy eating, one of the first things I did was begin to eat breakfast….at its regular breakfast time in the AM. This is one of those easy adjustments to your diet that most people know about but inevitably ignore. I’m not sure why some of us think by skipping this meal we are ultimately gaining something. There is no benefit to skipping breakfast—that extra half hour of sleep isn’t worth it! You will not lose weight by skipping this meal. Beginning your day with a meal not only starts you off with an energy boost but sets you up for good habits later in the day.


My body’s natural clock wakes me up around 8 or 8:30. If I’m not hungry, I will still eat. I need to get something in my stomach within the first hour or so of my morning, otherwise I find that my day’s food consumption will inevitably be out of whack. I am a creature of habit, so both my mind and body appreciate this routine. Today, I’ll be eating two leftover gluten free pancakes. Yesterday, I had a single serving of cottage cheese with two pineapple rings and a glass of apple juice. The day before yesterday, I had a bowl of fruit and nut granola topped with almond milk. The trick is figuring out what you like—and sometimes I like a meal so much that I’ll eat it every day for a month or more. This spring was the spring of grits, when I microwaved myself a bowl daily. When I was feeling a little bored, I would sprinkle cheese on top or drop a fried egg in the middle, but I usually had it plain with a dollop of Smart Balance Butter. During the stressful time of trying to graduate and get married, I liked knowing that every day I would get up to a meal that would fill me up. I just didn’t have to think about it—grits were it for me.


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