December 28, 2017

Spicy Cheesy Turkey Taco Soup

So, on a whim the other night, I decided to make a turkey soup. I then decided I wanted it to be healthy-ish, so I added almost an entire bag of fresh spinach, garlic and an onion. I need spice in my life right now because I have been congested and most likely will be catching my daughter's cold in the new year I'm sure.

This soup has a great kick in the pants spice thanks to the pepper jack cheese and red pepper flakes. It's comforting and filling for a frigid cold night and also makes an excellent lunch.  I love dipping tortilla chips in it. It's also crazy healthy because of the spinach.  My daughter doesn't care for many veggies, but when I am able to sneak any sort of green in something to where she won't notice, it's a win in my book! She also loves dipping the chips in it and putting the turkey on top of the chip. I hope you'll give this soup a try!  It's super easy and definitely hits the spot!


-1 can of diced tomatoes
-1 medium onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 medium bag fresh spinach
-2 cups chicken or veggie broth
-2 cups water
-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
-1 small can of tomato paste
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 lb lean ground turkey
-1 package low sodium taco seasoning
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 bag (4 ounces) of shredded Mexican-cheese blend or  one block of pepper jack cheese, shredded
-cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips for garnish/toppings


 1. Heat  olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the turkey down until all pink is gone. Add the taco seasoning and stir to combine. Set aside.

 1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Once hot enough, add the onion and garlic together. Cook down until brown in color. About 5 minutes. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and mix well.

2. Add the tomatoes, spinach, red pepper flakes, broth and water. Season to taste.

3. Cover and cook down for about 5-10 minutes over medium high heat until steaming and bubbly. Turn off the heat. Place hot soup mixture carefully in a blender and blend everything until well combined. Pour back in the pot and add the turkey. Let cook until hot and bubbly again. Add the shredded cheese to the mixture and stir well. Serve hot and with your favorite toppings.

Enjoy and stay warm!

* This soup is freezer friendly.

November 2, 2017

No Need To Get Back On Track

I have come across many different articles via all social media platforms recently that discuss Halloween candy, and how to burn off a snickers or milky way bar by performing 700 jumping jacks, and my favorite, "getting back on track tomorrow."  I want to vent about this topic for a moment because in my opinion, this is all utter bullshit.  We are human and we ALL have some sort of vice or favorite treat we adore.  So why not just be human and enjoy our favorite candy, not just on Halloween or any Holiday for that matter?  There is no such thing a a "bad food."  And there's no reason to "punish" yourself if you ate too much dinner or too much dessert or too much candy on one night.  Sometimes this happens on a regular old boring Monday night.  Again, we are human.

Let me state for a moment that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician or a doctor. I am just your average human being who believes in eating the things we love, those "sinful" desserts or foods that we hardly ever eat, and enjoying them in moderation.  I believe that when we eat too much of the same things, they lose their magic.  They lose their value.  Food, or anything else for that matter in life appear better when we don't do them often.  And when we finally do indulge in something or see a movie we haven't seen in years?  It's all so amazing and it's that much more special. Take me for example;  I am not a picky eater and love a variety of yummy foods. Therefore, I choose to space out the things I love and pick my days when I am going to eat them.  A muffin here, some candy there, pasta for dinner or ice cream for dessert.  I am still almost always, on most days, eating something I love.  But I choose to eat them in moderation.  This way of course doesn't work for everyone because we are different.  We are human. The difference is that when I go to eat a bagel or muffin for my breakfast, I am hungry and I know that will satisfy me more than just oatmeal or a banana alone. But afterwards, the difference is that I am not mad at myself for eating a carby muffin.  I am not thinking about the ways I can burn it off. I am not thinking about how that was a poor choice and how I should have just chosen the banana or salad instead.

I exercise for my overall health and well being, for my sanity, and to challenge myself some days depending on what exercise I choose to do.  I also swear it helps me be a better mom.  Okay, to quickly get back to the main reason of why I am writing about this and to sum up: There is no such thing as a bad food. Food is fuel.  Eat what you feel will satisfy you.  I also understand that if someone is actually trying to lose weight and really wants to make the effort to eat healthier, then yes, grabbing a banana with some oatmeal or a green smoothie for breakfast would be better choices than say grabbing that sugary muffin. But eating the things we want and love on the occasion, in moderation, will always top depriving yourself of the foods you love.  It's also simply not sustainable to think that never eating a piece of Halloween candy or a slice of cake will help you maintain or lose weight.We will always have to pick and choose when we want to eat the things we love because again, I personally believe moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle.  I have been on both ends of the spectrum, believe it or not and so I know how this all feels.

A quick example of choosing and picking when it comes to food is that I used to always use the phrase "I am going to be good until dinner."  I used it a lot. So yes, I practically would starve myself until dinner time but this wouldn't be just your average pizza night or Taco Tuesday.  This would be a birthday dinner with friends, where there would also be lots of alcohol and a cake.  So I would still eat breakfast that morning, but keep lunch very light.  I don't see anything wrong with that because I would want to save room for the delicious pasta dinner we were about to stuff our faces with and copious amounts of red wine, and of course later, cake!  I still eat this way depending on the occasion, but the difference now is that I never say those words again, " I am going to be good until dinner."  

So, just do you, eat what you want, when you want it, but try moderation.  Try to pick and choose what you'll have throughout the day because there's also a small thing that is big to others and it's called calories.  Try not to think of those calories, because again, food is fuel.  It's just food and it simply does its job by helping you out when you get hungry.  Try not to overeat and really try not to eat to the point of  being overly full.  It's not a pleasant experience. And yes, it's okay to always ask yourself " is that worth the calories." Because frankly, I love chocolate chip cookies like the next person, but if you offer me a slice of any kind of pie, its calories will always be way more worth it to me than a chocolate chip cookie.  Exercise for your health and sanity, not to punish yourself for indulging in pizza and oreos the night before.  

Again, we are human.  Shit happens.  We have to live and enjoy the things we love.  Just try sometimes in moderation.  You'll be happy again, I promise.  Maybe even  a little too happy.

October 26, 2017

A Glorious Baked Mistake

The other night I had the itch to bake.  That happens every now and then. But this time I was going to use a bar/cake mix from Betty Crocker.  Don't roll your eyes just yet, because A) shortcuts aren't always a bad thing and B) I had won a package at the pumpkin dessert contest a few weeks back and wanted to use it. And C) I'M SO GLAD I USED IT!  It gets better.  Keep reading.

Are you getting hungry yet?  So here's what I did and I started with having ZERO faith in this dessert.

- I wanted to use up a box of unopened graham cracker crumbles and I wanted to make a different type of treat with them. I'm also a sucker for a buttery graham cracker crust.  Can you sense I love cheesecake?  But hold the phone, this is far from cheesecake!

- I wanted to also the cake mix.  It's actually a bar mix and I have a feeling this is why this dessert actually turned out so good because the center is more dense like, well, a dessert bar treat.  I baked the crust for 8 minutes at 350 degrees after I added 1 stick of  melted unsalted butter to the mix and a 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, combined well.

- I had the thought of letting the crust cool for a few minutes before topping it with the Nutella I had in mind but after mixing together the bar mix, an egg and 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted, ( yes, this has a lot of butter in it but it's worth any and all calories)!!  I simply forgot and just started placing the bar batter on top.  So it goes, crust, Nutella, chocolate chips, bar mixture, more chocolate chips and Nutella.

- I put the Nutella in the microwave for about one minute and it was melted just enough to spread more easily and swirl.  By the way, I would use an 8x8 baking dish so you get a thicker bar.  Bake for 25 minutes, test with a toothpick to make sure all is well and baked ( it will be, promise).  Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes and enjoy.  I recommend dolloping with some whipped cream and a light sprinkle of cinnamon.  Enjoy!!

Sometimes when you have zero faith in something, it turns out to be the most glorious thing ever.  That's one of the many funny things about life.

October 25, 2017

El Vez Review

So I have been trying to write most days for just a few minutes, particularly about food.  I have a food writing book in which I have been writing certain exercises that are listed throughout the book.

Here is a short and sweet restaurant food review  that I wrote about and is an exercise from the book. The highlighted words are from a vocabulary list and its purpose is to learn to write in vivid description.

My most recent and wonderful experience dining out was at El Vez Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia. My husband and I had stopped in for a bite because it was pushing lunch time and well, we were hungry. I had gone to the city to pick up my half marathon racing packet at the expo and we went together.  We have been to El Vez a few times prior and just love it there.  The atmosphere is bright and cheery and fun with lots of backyard garden lights and many different colors. The service thus far has been stellar and the food is nothing short of amazing.

We have tried their black bean enchilada’s which are impeccable and their Mile High Nachos with pickled red onions, shredded, juicy chicken and the perfect amount of melty cheeses blanketed all over each nacho chip.  I highly recommend them as they are probably the best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a while and they are quite popular.  I think every time we go there’s at least one table that has placed an order for them.  My husband adores their steak tacos and usually always orders them for his entrĂ©e.  They are the perfect portion and honestly, so adorable in appearance. They have the most comforting and buttery bite. Get to El Vez soon! I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

October 18, 2017

I entered my first pumpkin dessert contest and it was a blast!

This past Saturday, I made two dozen pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with a dark chocolate drizzle and set out to have people judge them and hopefully like them! In South Jersey, Salem County, there is apparently a pumpkin festival each year that they hold and it's their 14th annual pumpkin dessert contest as well! I have always wanted to enter a food contest because I just find them to be so cool.  I used to be mesmerized by the Pillsbury bake off they would televise on The Food Network; talk about intense!  There were probably ten different desserts baked by many a talented people who simply love to bake and some that looked so delicious, I wanted to sample some myself!

From pumpkin cheesecake, to classic pumpkin pie and pumpkin whoopie cookies and pumpkin pudding, there was really cool options and it was overall such a fun time.  I was even able to make a network connection with a food editor from New York, who travels all over the country to do cook offs and contests just like this one.  I got her email and forwarded my resume to her so we shall see!  I felt like I was in the right place at the right time.

 Back to my entries for a second.  You were allowed to submit two desserts, so my other choice was a no-bake pumpkin pie bar.  It's a really tasty recipe but because it's no bake, I think it's a harder recipe to actually make into "bars."  You keep them refrigerated but the consistency of the pudding and pumpkin puree mix literally didn't gel well.  It's not a normal hard, baked-like brownie type bar; if that makes sense.  The weather that day was also quite muggy .  I was able to cut them as best I could into nine bars but they were melty and slimy.  When we handed them out to the public for sampling, it basically resembled pudding texture.  Oh well.  The taste is there- it's a great recipe in my opinion!  I'll link it here at the end. I ended up getting 3rd place, which was fine but I did feel my cookies were unique and would have gotten a little more recognition.  Usually, chocolate and pumpkin flavors don't always go together.  The whoopie pie cookies took 1st place.  I still received a nice gift basket of some nice swag and had a great time!

I think I would definitely try this contest next year, with two very different recipes!  Next up:  find a chili cook off.  I make a killer chili recipe- in my humble opinion!

No- Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars