Recipe Review: Creamy Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon

creamy Linguini with Leeks and bacon

What carnivorous human doesn’t love bacon? Just add cheese and cream and who can resist? Sara Jenkins from Bon Appétit did just this. Searching for something fairly quick and satisfying, I decided to try this out. The first steps in this recipe are to heat the olive oil and add bacon. Sounds of sizzle and smoky flavors filled up our home with a warm welcome for my husband, who just walked in the door. I rarely cook with bacon, so it was a pleasant surprise for him. He swooned over the aroma as the leeks and seasonings were added in and warming up.

This dish kind of sounds like a ho-hum Alfredo sauce. The amount of fat in this recipe could make your heart stop as much as the actual dish if eaten in large quantities. Still we all love the combination of cream and bacon over a bed of grains soaking up all the yummy bits. The leeks here add a sweet twist on the pasta but do not come out in a strong powerful way. If you have never cooked with a leek and are slightly intimidated by it, don’t be. It doesn’t have a powerful destructive flavor nor is it difficult to use. You can play with it after you try a recipe. You will see what I mean. It is a savory sweet addition that adds a layer of warmth to this recipe. Mac n’ cheese may have new competition as a favorite comfort dish.

Needless to say, we enjoyed this dish. My husband, who tends to eat modestly, had 3 full servings! I had 2. My daughter enjoyed it so much that she rolled her sippy over to Bubby’s plate and stole his fork with one hand and grabbed a fistful of his pasta with the other. She is my foodie. At 20 months old, there is a lot of work to be done with her on table manners. My son tends to be pickier, but gobbled it right up. There is a feeling of complete fulfillment when your family enjoys the love you put on a plate.

Here is the link to the original recipe:

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/creamy-pappardelle-with-leeks-and-bacon

The calories per serving of this dish, as the recipe prepared, was 580/serving with 6 servings. My version was only 263 calories/serving with 8 servings or 351/6 servings. Here are the changes I made to the dish:

1. I used 1 slice less of bacon

2. I used Dreamfield’s Linguine Pasta (because of my disorder I choose to use this for a lower-carb option.)

3. I opted out of the butter addition since the dish was pretty creamy and had lots of fat already.

4. I drained the bacon grease before adding the leeks.

5. I used 1 cup of 1% Milk and dash of cream (about 1 tbsp) instead of the 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup of water.

6. I added 1 shallot in with the leeks to add another layer of flavor.

7. I took half of the pasta and half of the sauce and saved it for another meal this week.

Recipe Review: Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary

Chicy n grapes

In a mad dash for something yummy and quick after a long day, I reached for my Smitten Kitchen cookbook. In her book, Deb Perelman indicates that her desire is to fill the book with uncomplicated ingredients and recipes you were glad to take the time to make. I was looking for one of the quickest throw together recipes the book had to offer and this was it. Initially the name of this dish made me scratch my head. Then I began to think about chicken salad and how well grapes taste in it. The wheels began turning and I decided to give it a chance.

What I love, love, love about her cookbook goes beyond the humbly provocative images of her creations, and reaches to the text. Everything from the way she talks about each recipe to the guidance through cooking them, creates this personal connection showcasing her love for food and even more so the people she serves. This chicken recipe seems like a pretty interesting experiment, but my taste-buds were so not ready for what they encountered.

The sizzle of the chicken and bursting of the grapes, oozing into a nice sauce was just a start. This dish was absolutely the best chicken dish I have ever had or prepared. I make a lot of chicken and it happens to be a meat I cook very well with. This recipe rocked my chicken-loving socks off. The grapes soaked up all the love from the shallots and chicken juices, while giving flavor to the chicken. Then the sauce? Deb encourages cooks to observe how long it takes for others to slurp up the sauce by the spoonful. There is certainly a reason for that. It is killer.

This dish is the kind of dish you expect an amazing dessert after. Only because it demands a good follow up. The dish stands up and declares war on the idea that an upscale dish that serves a family with hugs and rainbows must take hours to reduce and simmer. The flavor is so wonderful you will be excited to see what you will cook next! It is also nice and easy for the inexperienced to gain confidence. The busy family on a budget can also enjoy this meal easily and feel as if they were at a fancy restaurant.

Recipe (According to the book):
Ingredients:
3 lbs chicken parts (thighs, breast, legs, etc.)
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup seedless grapes
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

How to make it:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle. Pat dry the chicken and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (use cast-iron skillet if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat until it simmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it.

Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives, and shallots. Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and shallots to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it is reduced by half, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with rosemary and see how long it takes guests to offer to slurp the sauce with a spoon.

Modifications/ Notes:
One note of importance, after you pull the pan from the oven and while making sauce over the stove top, be sure to use a glove. It sounds obvious but the pan is still hot! I have made the mistake, even after reminding myself. It is just habit to grab that handle when making a sauce stove top.

There are some possible modifications you may want to consider. If you want to reduce fat content you can remove skins after cooking in oven, skim some fat off the top of the reduced sauce, or drain some fat before making the sauce. The skin acts like a sealer for the juices and flavor being melded. I also kept the sauce separate and added a little on top of everyone’s chicken after it was plated. You can control the amount you want better this way. For sodium concerns, use low-sodium broth or organic broth and sea salt in place of table salt. You need less of the sea salt for the same flavor. Also I bought a whole chicken and cut it up, as it was cheaper. Use local or organic as you can.

Side dishes could include salads, whole grain crusty bread with olive oil, roasted vegetables, or mashed potatoes. Her recipes are amazing and I encourage you to buy her book and play in your kitchen! You can also visit her blog ( http://smittenkitchen.com/about/ ) for more recipes. Happy Eating!

Recipe Rating: 5 Stars

P90X2 Phase 3: Performance (Final Phase)

p90x2 phase3

I have come to the end of the series with a new mindset, body, and attitude towards straight forward fitness routines. The amount of time it would take to get these results at a gym would be twice as long. It cuts through the time wasters and acknowledges that people have little time to dedicate. The intensity is high and the energy you gain is great. Once again I did not use supplements or Shakeology pushed by Tony Horton.

Ending Phase 2 Stats: weight: 134lbs Waist:28 Total inches: 162
Ending stats for phase 3: weight: 127 waist: 27.5 Total inches: 157″
Pre-P90X2 Stats: weight: 145 Waist:30.5 Total inches: 168.5″
Ending results: Loss of 18 pounds, 3 inches off my waist, and 11.5 total inches lost.

Phase 3 Training Schedule: Day1: P.A.P. Lower Day2: P.A.P. Upper Day3: X2 Yoga Day4: Rest or Recovery + Mobility Day5: P.A.P. Lower Day6: P.A.P. Upper Day7: Rest or Recovery + Mobility

Equipment Needed to Perform:
-Again P90X2 does offer versions of exercises without much equipment. These usually still require different band resistances.
-Balance/Stability ball -up to 2 Medicine balls -Chin up and pull up bar -Resistance bands -Plyobox/ sturdy chair -Hand weights -Yoga mat – Door Hook Anchor for resistance bands – hand towels

This system really works. My body has changed and molded and I am in the best shape of my life. I can run faster, jump higher, dance longer, do a proper push-up, perform modified pull-ups, and balance on a tight rope! Well, the last one has yet to happen, but I do have pretty incredible balance now. Talk about flexibility skills. If you have tight muscles, everything from Neuro-integrated stretching to good-old-fashioned yoga will increase your range of motion.

This level of fitness in phase 3 is really for those who have performance-based goals. This is beyond being healthy and fit. This is about being able to run the best time of your life. I ran a 5k, Color Me Rad, at my best time ever. My time was 20:30, something I thought was impossible for me. I have always been slow and steady. I got that time with a foot that had been “R.I.C.E.-ing” all night, the night before the race. (R.I.C.E.= Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.) Heck my goal was to be under 30 minutes! It is also about being able to have incredible agility for sports like basketball, tennis, football, dance, racquetball, etc. The training for a combination of cardiovascular endurance, and power gains is very scientific and Tony Horton nails it.

The overall drawbacks to this system are few but important to me to share. Obviously I do not support the idea of supplements without consulting a nutritional professional. Here Tony really pushes his Shakeology. One reason you don’t want to get nutrition from shakes is that you are not really learning how to eat well. You are fooling yourself into thinking it is a meal. Then when you are done, either you have to continue with shakes for the rest of your life or you can teach yourself to eat well. Another issue I had with the system was the nutritional suggestions. The first bit is quite restrictive and not helpful for healthy change. When you make drastic changes and severely restrict yourself, most people cannot sustain it and gain weight back plus some.The best way to counter this is to listen to your body. If you are hungry, eat! Then choose to eat well. Replace some ingredients in your food with healthier options. Slow and steady wins the race of weight-loss. Your body has to have time to catch up with your changes.

This system is recommended for those who have a solid base of fitness. You can definitely improve where you are and build upon it for a while. Once you get a feel for the routine, you can increase repetitions, push yourself to move faster, and hold those difficult poses longer. If you buy this system and put in the time, you cannot help but see results! Money well spent. If cost is something that would keep you from buying it, check out ebay. Sometimes you can catch a good deal. You could also get a buddy involved and go half way on it and have accountability!

Phase 3 Rating: 10/10
P90X2 Overall Rating: 9/10

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Michael Symon’s Cincinnati Chili Spaghetti Recipe Review

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      Every area of the country has a specialty that shows off local flavors and inspirations. In Cincinnati, it is all about the Chili Spaghetti. It is a sweet and spicy sauce made with ground beef over a bed of pasta topped with wonders and magical sharp cheddar. Many natives that move away miss this taste. Micheal Symon from The Chew shared a recipe that comes pretty darn close to the real deal. I made it myself and found it absolutely delicious. Here are some tweaks for a healthier twist so you can still enjoy this dish in your own home.

1.  1 lb of extra lean ground beef and 1 lb ground turkey instead of 2 lbs of beef it calls for.

2.  Whole wheat pasta or Dreamfields spaghetti in place of regular enriched semolina pasta.

3. A vegetarian option could be to use portobello mushrooms or extra beans in place of meat.  

4. Go lighter on the cheese. Use good sharp cheddar and simply use less of it. Great flavor does not need to be in great volume to be treated fairly in a dish. 

5. Choose a smaller plate.

6. Use fresh organic when possible

7. Drain any meat fat after browning! (The excess fat can actually detract from the flavor)

   This recipe can feed a crowd of 6-8 so feel free to invite some friends. You could always reuse the chili sauce for a quick meal later. This meal makes for a great late Sunday Lunch without the cost of eating out.  Plus it is full of fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients that can help you feel good about what you are eating. Your tummy and wallet will thank you.

Here is the link to the original recipe: 

http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/Cincinnati-Chili-Spaghetti-Michael-Symon

Over all Rating: 8/10

P90X2 Phase 1:Foundation Review

p90x2_base

Phase 1:
So I signed myself up for the Warrior Dash as some of you know, because I have posted a link to our fundraising site on this blog. After making good progress (a loss of 42 lbs) post-baby, I knew I still needed something to push me to get in the kind of shape needed to succeed and not merely survive the challenge ahead. I turned to P90X2. I heard rave reviews on the products Tony Horton has put out and decided to go for it!

Starting stats: Weight:145 lbs Waist: 30.5 inches Total inches: 168.5
Phase 1 Ending stats: Weight:135 lbs Waist:29 inches Total inches:162
Results: Down 10 lbs, loss of 6.5 inches, and more definition.

Note: I did not order the shakeology or nutritional supplements pushed by Tony Horton. I ate what I normally would eat. With that said, you know my philosophy by now on food so take that into consideration. I believe that you should not take supplements unless prescribed by your nutritionist or doctor. ACE (a leading Nationally recognized brand for exercise professional certifications) states in the ethics section that they do not believe it is within the scope of practice for exercise professionals to push or recommend these products. I agree.

Phase 1 Foundation consists of the following:

Day1: X2 Core Day2: Plyocide Day3: Rest or X2 Recovery + Mobility Day4: X2 Total Body & X2 Ab Ripper Day 5: X2 Yoga Day 6: X2 Balance+ Power Day 7: Rest or X2 Recovery + Mobility

The best part of this phase is it teaches your body how to stabilize and strengthen what needs to be strong in order to progress. This phase also shows how important it is to recover and introduces foam rolling. Be certain you are ready for the challenges these exercises will place on your body. There is a test you should take, included in the set, before attempting the program.

I love the way the X2 Yoga is set up. It really challenges your muscles and gives you the permission to fail. While everything about P90X2 is challenging, you can definitely relax in the fact that there is no pressure to be perfect, but he does motivate you to push yourself. There are modifications available for almost every exercise. Sometimes you don’t get the modified information until after you have “started” the exercise, but over time of doing the phase you will learn them and know when to do them. I also like that you can up the intensity with alternate versions of the same exercise. The explanations of the exercises are nice because you can visualize what your body should be doing and how you should be engaging different muscles.

This phase adds a new dimension to fitness you may have tried in the past. The plan suggests working a group of muscles together along with the connective tissue will build better strength and mobility. It is a growing, newer concept in the fitness world. You first have to build up individual muscle strength to correctly engage the connective tissue and perform these movements. If one muscle is too weak to perform a movement that takes a team of muscles and connective tissues, then you could risk injury. This is why it is important to do the fitness test that comes with it. Also if you have heart health issues, metabolic diseases, or high blood pressure, please consult a doctor before performing this. It is a high intensity routine and takes cardiovascular endurance as well on some routines.

If you are not in condition to start this program yet, maybe start off with walking and jogging interval training style. Slowly build up endurance for 45 minutes of continuous, vigorous activity. Good heart health is an excellent foundation to fitness. Add 2 days of resistance training (2-3 sets of 8 exercises at 6-12 repetitions) to create a base to build on. Once you feel comfortable try the fitness test again. Focus on areas you were weak on previously to help you be ready for the challenge.

I have almost completed the final phase 3 and feel that each phase has definitely brought its challenges and pushed my limits. I even feel that I could go back through the program again and get even better results as I continue to get stronger. I love the way this program works for me and allows me to pace myself as I need to. If you are looking for a challenge and want to improve your fitness, then this system might be right for you!

Equipment Needed to Perform:
-They do have versions of exercises without much equipment. These usually still require different band resistances.
-Balance/Stability ball -up to 4 Medicine balls -Chin up and pull up bar -Resistance bands -Plyobox/ sturdy chair -Hand weights -Yoga mat -Foam roller – Door Hook Anchor for resistance bands

Overall Rating : 9/10