Spiced Blood Orange Champagne Punch

For Nick’s Thanksgiving I was tasked with food, and Nick with the booze. And not just any alcohol, but fun holiday-ish themed drinks. Buzzfeed came out with a timely article called “21 Big-Batch Cocktails to Get Your Family Drunk on Thanksgiving“, and Nick’s sister promptly forwarded it (one of the many reasons I’m a big fan of his family).

He was tasked to pick out two drinks, and I tried REALLY hard not to interject with my opinion. When it comes to food and drink, I definitely have an opinion, but I exercised some self-restraint and let him choose the drinks to bring. That being said, I had of course taken a looksy through the list a few times. Each time I kept coming back to the Spiced Blood Orange Champagne Punch and I just kept hoping that he would pick it. 
When it came time to make the big decision, he didn’t choose my champagne punch. Not wanting to be a poor sport, but also knowing that I’m picky about my alcohol (When it comes to alcohol, I basically live off of wine, vodka soda water with lime, an occasional Captain and coke, and a filthy dirty martini, but only if it has blue-cheese stuffed olives), I let him give me the recipe run down of his choices.
Now let me be very clear here. I am VERY aware that just because I don’t care for something, doesn’t mean that others don’t like it. I have zero expectations that people like only the same things that I do. So long story short – because good god I’m rambling – I definitely wasn’t on board for one of his recipes, and the other was really heavy on beer. I happen to really like beer, but it makes me SO FULL, so fast, so I can only drink one or two before I have to switch to something light.
It was the perfect opportunity to make my own little batch of the Spiced Blood Orange Champagne Punch. I had enough to share a couple glasses if others wanted, but I just sort of kept it in the corner so I didn’t steal Nick’s thunder. 
Only a few ingredients were required, and I’ll be damned if I couldn’t find cinnamon sticks and star anise to save my life. Enter Amazon Prime! One of the other loves of my life, Amazon Prime had exactly what I needed at a fraction of the price and was here in two days. So. Easy. 
You basically combine the star anise, a cinnamon stick and the blood orange juice, bring to a boil and let reduce for about an hour. Once completed, chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours and BOOM! Use about 3 tablespoons of the spiced blood orange mix and fill the rest of the glass about 3/4 full with Champagne. Delish. And since I received a pound of cinnamon sticks, I’ll be bringing this to Christmas as well.
Also, I have to note that Nick’s drinks were a huge success!

Spiced Blood Orange Champagne Punch (Recipe from SpoonForkBacon)
Serves 3-5
  • 3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice or store bought 100% blood orange juice
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 (500ml) bottle brut champagne, chilled
1. Place the blood orange juice, sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise in a pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half – 30-40 minutes.
3. While the mixture is still hot, stir in the white wine until completely combined. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.
4. When ready to serve, place 3 tablespoons of the blood orange mixture into the glass and top with champagne!
NOTE: For extra spice, add another cinnamon stick in while you sip!

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Pull-Apart Stuffing-Flavored Rolls

I don’t even recall how I stumbled upon this recipe. It seems the stars were aligned and the food gods were shining down on me though, because this recipe was one for the books. 

What I do remember was printing it off and pocketing it. Thanksgiving was approaching and I was going to help cook whatever needed to be done. And I was going to cook this as well, regardless of whatever else I was tasked with bringing. Just what every family needs at Thanksgiving – more food!
I had also decided that they were going to be a surprise. I would walk in and proclaim that I had brought the rolls to top all rolls! But as I talked to Nick’s sister and she tasked me with bringing the stuffing,  I kept my surprise rolls a surprise until maybe the 2nd message. When I’m really excited about something, I’m terrible at keeping it to myself. I think it stems from being an only child and not having anyone to tell exciting news to – but this isn’t a self-help blog and I’m digressing. So, the rolls!
They were make-ahead which was amazing for me. Not only did we have stuffing to bring, but we had to bring drinks and I just had to bring my rolls, so it was a huge timesaver to make them the night before. 
So you all know my golden rule by now – PREP! Seriously, I can’t stress it enough. Have everything you need out and ready to go. It will make cooking so fast!

Once all your veggies and herbs are chopped up, cook the sausage, dicing it into very small pieces. This is very important – the smaller the pieces, the better they stick to the rolls. Transfer to a bowl when cooked through.

So the next part I totally spaced on taking pictures.  This was my fault, but not without a little leeway. I was home alone, rolling dough, and had a hard time taking pictures of tying the dough into knots with floury hands. I guess I’ll just have to make these again and get some pictures. Sacrifices.
Anyway, once you have them tied into knots (and mine were NOT pretty or even sized), you’re going to roll them in the sausage mixture.

Next, you’ll line them in a pan and let them sit. 

So here’s where the recipe wasn’t true to form. It said that I could put them in the refrigerator overnight, for 12-16 hours or until they rose. I made it 15 hours before I had to bake them, and let me tell you that there was no rising happening. Of course when I baked them they rose, as dough naturally does, but not a damn thing happened in my fridge overnight. Ultimately, while delicious, the rolls didn’t quite look like the poofy, beautiful rolls that are on the original recipe. Naturally the only solution was to eat them quickly so no one noticed.

Pull-Apart Stuffing-Flavored Rolls (Recipe from Serious Eats)
Serves 8-10
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 8 ounces of sage sausage, or breakfast sausage
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 c.)
  • 1 stalk celery, fine chopped (about 1/2 c.)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 c. minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break into fine pieces (largest pieces should be no greater than 1/4″). Cook, stirring frequently until only a few pits of pink remain – about 8 minutes.
2. Add onions, celery, garlic and sage, stirring frequently until the vegetables are softened – about 10 minutes. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer contents to a large bowl and set aside until completely cool.
3. While filling cools, make knots. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into two even pieces. Working one piece at a time, roll or stretch into and oblong strip about 8″ long and 4″ wide. With a knife, cut crosswire into 12 strips. Repeat with the other half of dough.
4. Tie each strip into a knot and transfer to bowl with sausage mixture. Toss and fold with your hands until every knot is thoroughly coated in mixture. Grease a 9 x 13″ casserole pan with 1 tbsp. of butter. Transfer the knots to the casserole dish in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, cover tightly with plastic, and set aside until doubled in size – about 4 hours. Alternatively, refrigerate until doubled in size – 12-16 hours.
5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees and adjust oven rack to center position. Unwrap rolls. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown and crisp – 25-30 minutes.
6. When rolls are almost ready, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the microwave. Remove rolls from oven and immediately brush with butter.  Enjoy!

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Deconstructed Manicotti Skillet with Zucchini Noodles

In my quest to continue healthy eating until Thanksgiving, up on deck for dinner last night was Deconstructed Manicotti Skillet with Zucchini Noodles, from none other than my go-to food blog Inspiralized

Anything with a big pocket of cheese in the picture will automatically peak my interest, and this recipe was right up my alley. In fact, I put too much cheese in it. It’s a weakness. I love cheese. I swear that I could find a way to make all of these healthy recipes unhealthy without hardly trying. But zucchini noodles are still healthier than regular pasta noodles, so I’m calling it a win. 
Super easy and full of flavor (and cheese), the deconstructed manicotti definitely hit the spot for any sort of noodle craving. Typically made as a main meal to serve two, I decided to cut the serving into fourth’s and grill a stuffed porkchop on the side. I needed more than zucchini noodles; I’m going to turn in to a damn zucchini noodle. AND, my porkchop was stuffed with Thanksgiving stuffing, so now I’m even more excited for Thanksgiving food. Sigh. 
Anywho, per the usual, prep work is essential. Not only does it save a lot of frustration and running around the kitchen, but you will have multiple skillets going at once.  

Once everything is mixed and cooked, you’re simply going to layer. Half the sauce, zucchini noodles, the other half of the sauce, then you’ll make “pockets” in the zoodles to put your cheese and spinach mixture. FYI – the original recipe from Inspiralized says to make two pockets. In good conscience I could not let all that extra cheese go to waste, so I made four pockets.

The result? Cheesy, creamy, deliciousness. 

PS – I totally cheated on the pork chop and bought it pre-made and stuffed in a fit of weakness at the meat counter, at my grocery store, so no cooking review or pictures there. Hey, it’s better than a buying a bag of Doritos in a fit of weakness at the store (which is a real struggle I have a couple times a month). 
Deconstructed Manicotti Skillet with Zucchini Noodles (Recipe from Inspiralized)
Serves 2
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c. red onion
  • 1, 14oz. can diced tomatoes (No Salt Added for a healthier version)
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 c. baby spinach
  • 2 zucchini’s, Blade C
  • 2 tbsp shredded mozzarella
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
For the filling – 
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
  • 7.5oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the over to 375 degrees.
2. Place a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes and onions, cooking 2-3 minutes or until onions are translucent.
3. Add in the diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stir and let cook for 5 minutes. Add in your basil leaves, and cook for another 5 minutes or until your sauce is fully reduced.
4. While the sauce is cooking, mix together all of the ingredients for the filling. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. 
5. Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Once the skillet heats, add in the baby spinach and toss until wilted. Fold the spinach into the cheese mixture and set aside.
6. When he sauce is done cooking, remove half of the sauce and set aside. Make sure that the sauce is spread evenly at the bottom of the skillet (it will not cover all of the skillet). Top with the zucchini noodles, and top with the remaining sauce.
7. Make two pockets (or four if you’re like me and hate wasting cheese) in the zucchini noodles and fill each evenly with the cheese filling. Sprinkle the 2 tbsp. of mozzarella over the top of the skillet and season with pepper.
8. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and back for 25 minutes or until the noodles soften and the cheese in melted. Enjoy!
Calories – 462
Fat – 25g
Carbs – 25g
Fiber – 6g
Sugar – 10g
Protein – 36g
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Lemon Broccoli Zucchini Noodles with Prosciutto & Toasted Breadcrumbs

After a long weekend of traveling, I’m happy to say I’m not only back in town, but back to cooking and blogging! On Friday, Nick and I went to St. Louis for a date night; he had bought us tickets to one of my favorite groups, so we had a quick but fantastic date night, and were up at 7am on Saturday to drive back home, where I promptly turned around and took off for Green Bay with a group of my friends for the Packers/Bears game on Sunday night, and Nick took off to Virginia Beach for the week for work. I swear that sometimes we’re like two ships passing in the night!

I ate TERRIBLE during my four days traveling, and I don’t feel a bit bad about it! I have been eating very good and getting better every week at making good choices, so I decided that I would have fun this weekend and not stress about food (a rule I also wholeheartedly believe applies at holidays). On Friday night we went to this great little Italian restaurant and I had an amazing lasagna. I love my healthy vegetable noodles, but it tasted so good to have a little real baked lasagna with no substitutions on ingredients! Throughout the rest of the weekend I really did it – pizza, cheeseburger, tacos, chips – I went all in. While it definitely tasted yummy, I could tell that my healthy habits were becoming second nature to me, because by the time we ventured home on Monday I was so done with greasy, crappy food. I felt like crap and getting back on track wasn’t a chore, I was excited to eat clean and healthy again!
I meal planned for the next two weeks with the goal of eating great until Thanksgiving. I’m even thinking of giving up drinking until Thanksgiving as well, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that level of commitment! First up on the healthy meal agenda was this Lemon Garlic Broccoli with Prosciutto & Toasted Breadcrumbs. No surprises, I found this recipe on my go-to food blog site, Inspiralized
It looked light and easy-to-make; two things I really love on a weeknight, and I was happy on all accounts with this meal! I decided I need to add more broccoli florets to my meals; they provide a good texture that that contrasts with the zoodles perfectly, and adding extra greens to any meal is always a good thing! 
The recipe does not call for cheese of any sort, but I couldn’t resist sprinkling a little parmesan on top. Also, I never realized how easy it was to toast breadcrumbs in a pan for a little different texture and flavor; I will definitely be adding this little trick to other recipes.
I used the prosciutto that the recipe called for, but this dish is definitely versatile and you could easily add chicken, shrimp, or other meat to give the dish a little more heartiness. 
Lemon Broccoli Zucchini Noodles with Prosciutto & Toasted Breadcrumbs (Recipe adapted from Inspiralized)
Serves 2
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 large broccoli florets, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 zucchinis, Blade A
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 pieces of prosciutto, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil cooking spray

1. Place a small skillet over medium heat, coat with cooking spray, and add in the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until the bread is toasted and crispy. Set aside.
2. In a medium skillet over medium heat add in half of the olive oil and heat. Add in the broccoli, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes, tossing frequently.
3. Add in the garlic and the rest of the olive oil, and cook another 3-5 minutes, tossing frequently. When done, remove from heat.
4. In a large pan over medium heat add in the zucchini noodles, lemon juice and red pepper flakes (be careful with the red pepper flakes – this dish is so light that a little goes a long way!). Cook for about 5 minutes until the zoodles are al dente and warm.
5. Add the zucchini noodles to the broccoli and toss with the prosciutto to combine. Place into bowls and top with breadcrumbs. Enjoy!
NUTRITIONAL VALUE (per serving):
Calories – 414
Fat – 16.6g
Carbs – 30.9g
Fiber – 3.6g
Sugar – 5.2g
Protein – 35.8g
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Roasted Orange Pepper Butternut Squash Noodles with Chicken

I had been waiting a week to try this recipe – Roasted Red Pepper Butternut Squash Noodles with Chicken. Literally, a week; I bought the groceries for it last week, but things got crazy and I barely got to do any cooking, so I was VERY excited to finally make this dish last night. I have gotten so used to spiralizing zucchini noodles, and was itching to try a “fall” vegetable. Butternut squash was a no-brainer, but I realized that it didn’t come without a little bit of a learning curve!

First of all, when I went grocery shopping there was no red peppers at the store! Okay, well, there were red peppers, but they were packaged with green and yellow peppers; not available for individual sale. I love peppers, but I didn’t need multiple packages around the house just to purchase two simple red peppers. There were orange peppers though, so I decided to give them a try (hence the difference between the name of my blog entry, versus the name of the original recipe).
As I got out all of the ingredients last night to prep everything for cooking, I thought to myself “Hmm, I should probably Google how to spiralize a butternut squash“. Good thing I did! The first thing I realized I did “wrong” when buying the squash, was that you want to buy a squash that is as evenly cylindrical as possible. Not that my squash was bad, per say, but I didn’t realize that this was important at the time that I was grocery shopping. 
The next thing you need to do after cutting the squash, is peel it. Again, makes sense, but I’m so glad I had the forethought to research this before spiralizing. So I start peeling and apparently my trusty peeler that I’ve used for years, decided that yesterday evening, in the middle of prepping dinner, was the time to fall apart. I believe that I had to put the peeler back together 5-6 times while peeling the squash. I even ended up cutting my pointer finger on the peeler during this process, due to frustration. 
Once the squash was peeled, I was ready to start spiralzing. In the midst of switching out my blades for the correct one, I wasn’t paying attention and BAM – sliced my thumb. My first spiralizing “accident.” Here is me pouting with my bloody, bandaged fingers (I couldn’t even find matching band aids!) – 
Despite the cuts, blood, and frustration, I was determined to make this meal! I started spiralizing. Butternut squash is tougher than other vegetables, so I had to press down on the spiralizer with one hand, and press on the crank to spiralize with some force. It wasn’t “easy” compared to zucchini, but it looked delicious!

Once that part was finished, the rest was easy! You simply roast the pepppers and squash in the oven (seperately), and then blend the roasted peppers in the food processor, eventually adding them to the chicken, garlic and onion mixture.

Place the noodles in the bowl, then top with your pepper and chicken sauce!
The end result was fantastic! Well worth the blood and sweat (no tears)! While I did experience a bit of a learning curve with the butternut squash, I know the next time I do squash noodles I will be so much better at it. The flavor was great – a little sweetness with the butternut squash noodles, along with a nice kick from the red pepper. Everyone in my house was very happy with the outcome and I can safely say that this recipe will be made again!
Roasted Orange Pepper Butternut Squash Noodles w/ Chicken (Recipe adapted from Inspiralized)
  • 2 whole orange peppers
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, Blade C
  • Olive oil, to drizzle
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 c. white onion, diced
  • 1/3 c. chicken broth
  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and diced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Cut the bottom and tops off the bell peppers, remove the seeds inside, and place on a baking tray lightly coated with cooking spray. Place the peppers insides up, and roast for 25 minutes.
2. While the peppers are roasting, place your butternut squash noodles on a baking tray. Drizzle noodles lightly with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. When the peppers are done roasting, place the noodles into the oven and roast for 10 minutes. When done, remove from heat and place into bowls.
3. When the peppers are done roasting, place them into a food processor and pulse them until no major chunks are left. 
4. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Then, add in garlic, red pepper flakes and onions. Cook for 3 minutes and then add in the pureed peppers. Stir to combine, then add in the chicken broth and chicken. Cook for another 2 minutes to heat up the chicken.
5. Pour the pepper sauce and chicken mixture over the bowls of butternut squash. Top each with chopped parsley to garnish. Enjoy!

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Veggie Egg Muffins

Happy Monday, friends! I hope your weekend was as fun and productive as mine was! To be honest, I am surprised how productive it turned out to be, but felt so great this morning when I woke up and thought back to how much I accomplished. Nick was in a wedding this weekend, so Friday and Saturday was consumed by lots of food, booze, old friendships, new friendships, and a pretty great wedding. But when I woke up yesterday, I had a motivation unlike anything I’ve ever had on a Sunday!
We went to Menard’s and purchased the last of what we needed to complete our front door overhaul (Coming soon on the blog!), I went through my entire closet, drawers, scarves, and jewelry and ended up with four big boxes of items to donate to Goodwill, I did all of my meal planning for the week, and made this healthy snack that I’m pretty excited about – Veggie Egg Muffins.
They are the easiest things in the world, and quite honestly you can put whatever you want in them. Being a person that LOVES to snack and graze on food, it’s important that I have something healthy at my fingertips that can take the edge off of my hunger. I’ve gotten quite a bit better at not snacking, now that my stomach is starting to shrink from eating cleaner, but I’m just like anyone else and I have my good days and my bad days. What I’ve realized is that snacking doesn’t need to be bad, as long as you’re making good choices. 
For my Veggie Egg Muffins I chopped up peppers and tomatoes, and added in some cheddar cheese.
Once all the muffin spaces were filled, I took a spoon and mixed it all together so that the veggies and cheese weren’t layered. Next, I took egg whites that I purchased at the store and filled the muffin tins. 

Disclosure – I filled the first muffin spot to the top with the egg white mixture, then I remembered that eggs will rise, so I stopped about a quarter of an inch before the top for the rest. 
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes and ta-da! You have a super healthy snack for the rest of the week! Simply reheat in a microwave for about 30-45 seconds!

Veggie Egg Muffins

  • Peppers, diced
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Shredded Cheese (Your favorite kind!)
  • Egg Whites
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray (This is important – you’ll have a difficult time getting your egg muffins out if you don’t!)
3. Put your veggies and cheese in each tin.
4. Using a spoon, mix your veggies and cheese together.
5. Pour egg whites in each tin, leaving a quarter of an inch at the top of each tin.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, and let cool. Using a knife, pop out each muffin and package up into snack size portions. Enjoy!

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Roasted Corn and Crab Dip

On Saturday we went to a house warming party and while I usually like to make something unique for these types of ‘potluck’ occasions, I had a Roasted Corn and Crab dip I had found on Pinterest that I was dying to try. It seemed quite easy, so I decided to give it a try – it was a hit! 

If you’re looking for an easy snack, filled with cream cheesy goodness, I would definitely recommend this Roasted Corn and Crab Dip! 
Roasted Corn and Crab Dip (Recipe adapted from Vikalinka)

  • 1 c frozen corn
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 c crab meat or shrimp
  • 1 jar of marinated red peppers
  • 2 blocks low-fat cream cheese
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow dish combine olive oil and corn, and roast for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while until the corn is slightly charred.
2. Chop you the crap meat, set aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth.
4. In the same bowl, add the roasted corn, crab meal, chopped red peppers, green onions and shredded cheese, with a pinch of black pepper.
5. Add mixture back into baking dish and cook for another 20 minutes.
6. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.  Enjoy!

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