Monday, October 05, 2020

PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!!! -with recipes

Each year I feel that more and more products are spicing up their fall routine making them pumpkin flavored.  Some people think it is getting a little out of hand, but I for one am not one of them.  Not only do I get to shine this month because of Vegetarian Awareness Month, but I also get to cook, bake, and blend with my FAVORITE ingredient of all…pumpkin

My husband and children laugh at me because I work to incorporate pumpkin into almost every meal.  It is so easy adding and making pumpkin recipes because it tastes so good in everything.  My family gets sick of pumpkin by the end of the month but I never do.  I make special pumpkin treats and dips for friends and family just so I can keep cooking with this great seasonal gourd.

I found some wonderful new recipes with pumpkin and have tried them already this month. 

I promise you won’t be disappointed if you try them.

For breakfast you can try Pumpkin Baked French Toast

3 ½ cups cubed bread, I used cinnamon raisin to have a little more flavor
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 tbsp. sugar
1 ¼ cup fat-free milk
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup pumpkin puree
Additional raisins if desired

Grease an 8x8 pan and place the cubed bread into the pan.
Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, covering evenly.  Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30-35 minutes.  You can top with maple syrup if you would like.  Enjoy your fabulous pumpkin breakfast!

For a fabulous snack you can’t go wrong with Pumpkin Nutella Dip!

½ cup Nutella, softened in the microwave
½ cup pure pumpkin puree
1, 8 oz. container of Lite Cool Whip
Mix all the ingredients together until completely combined.  Serve using cinnamon graham crackers to dip.  Enjoy your mid-day pumpkin fix!

And to complete your trifecta of wonderful pumpkin recipes, my favorite…

Pumpkin stuffed with all the Good Stuff.  (That is a very technique name)

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs.
Salt and pepper
¼ lbs. stale bread cubed, or just normal bread chunks
¼ lbs. cheddar cheese, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup sliced scallions
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
½ cup heavy cream
A dash of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit, make sure there is enough room on the middle shelf to fit the pumpkin.  Line a baking sheet that is large enough to fit the pumpkin. 
Prepare the pumpkin by cutting the top off and removing all the “guts” from the inside and the cap.  Season the inside of the pumpkin with plenty salt and pepper. 
In a large bowl mix the bread, cheese, garlic, scallions, and thyme until combined and pour into the pumpkin.  In another bowl mix the cream and nutmeg and pour over the mixture in the pumpkin.  The mixture should make the contents moist, so if you need more or less do so accordingly.
Re-cap the pumpkin and bake for about 1½ hours until the filling is bubbly and the pumpkin is tender.  Remove the cap and continue baking for about 20-30 minutes, so the liquid evaporates and the filling is browned.
Remove from oven and let cool, and serve your wonderful pumpkin goodness!

If you have a favorite pumpkin recipe I would love to hear it, I go through so many pumpkin and vegetarian recipes this month because I try not to repeat them.  Pleases leave the recipe in the comments below!

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Friday, February 28, 2020

Baby Shower Brunch

One of my good friends is having a baby girl in a few months hosted a baby shower brunch this morning.  I hadn’t been to a baby shower in many years and have never been to a brunch shower.  She decided to have the brunch because she wanted her other daughter to be able to come and still be able to have a normal nap time.  It was such a great idea and turned out so cute.

A few weeks ago she asked if I would help her prepare the food because of my “background.”

 Of course I wanted to help in a baby shower brunch, breakfast is one of my favorite meals of day and who doesn’t love it for lunch too?  She wanted to keep it simple and easy so that it wasn’t too hard for her to set up with the help of her mother.  She decided to have a waffle bar, a couple salads, parfaits, and cheesecake pops.

She found the idea for the waffle bar on Pinterest and I thought it was a great idea.  To save time in the morning, I came over the day before and made the waffles and froze them.  In the morning all my friend had to do was heat them in the oven and keep them warm until the guests arrived.  She had quite the assortment of berries and sweet sauces to top the waffles and chocolate chunks to make it even better.

I came over in the morning to help her make the parfaits and cake pops.  It is so easy making a delicious parfait.  You can’t really go wrong with yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit.  My friend had the batter mixed already for the cake pops so all we had to do was make them.   She found this wonderful recipe for chocolate caramel pops…they were dangerously delicious.  Her mother threw together some easy salads for a healthy option.

It was a huge success.  A lot of my friends family were able to attend and a couple of her friends.  The food was a huge success and everyone had a great time.  I forgot how much happiness and joy is at a baby shower.

Now I can’t wait to meet her little girl.

Go green and stay keen,


Friday, January 24, 2020

Full Day with Old Friends

I had been waiting for this day for a quite some time, three of my best friends from high school came to town for a business trip.  They arrived early this morning before their conference and we were able to catch up and hang out together all day.  I try to keep in contact with all my old friends but it is always hard because we all have families, children, and jobs.  It was a real treat to see them this afternoon.

They arrived mid-morning and we all met up for a brunch at a local restaurant they picked out.  I had never actually been there, but they swore they had the best breakfast sandwiches…and they did.  I don’t think there was a silent moment the entire time we were there.  It took over two hours to finally eat our brunch between sharing stories.

After we finally made it out of restaurant one of my friends set up a bike tour and rental for the afternoon.  I have never taken a bike tour of the city and after all these years living here, I wish I would have before.  I learned so much about the city that I never knew, it was really an eye opener.

The four of us had so much fun biking around with our tour guide I think we were his most entertaining guests.

After the tour we had an hour and a half to ride the bikes around town and mess around.  I think that was almost more fun than the tour.  The moment we were let free of a tour we went right back to our high school years and were racing each other and yelling like children.  We spent the hour racing through the parks and along the sea side.  We were pretty exhausted when we were done, but not enough to bail on dinner.

We were starving after biking all afternoon, we went to a lovely restaurant near the hotel they were staying at.  We still chatted throughout the entire meal, but by the time we ate and had a few drinks we were ready for.  We definitely aren’t as young as we used to be.

It was such an incredible day catching up and acting like children again.  I always cherish time spent with old friends.  It is incredible that over all the years apart, we get together and pick back up like we didn’t miss a second.  It was a great day, but I am ready for my bed.

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Fun All Day -with recipes!

The kids have officially been on Christmas break for almost four days and boy, oh boy have we been busy.  I thought they would just want to be lazy and hang out but I was wrong, they have been going at 110% since they got home on Friday.  We have made Christmas cookies, Christmas decorations, and DIY Christmas gifts.  They always surprise me with all of their ambition and creative ideas.

The first thing Hannah and Liam wanted to do on Saturday when they got up was make Christmas cookies.  I have been busy keeping up with them and work I hadn’t had time to make all the cookies I wanted to so it worked out perfectly.  We made traditional sugar cookies and Hannah and Liam decorated them, cranberry and almond shortbread, and Christmas wreaths.

Cranberry and almond shortbread-

•    1 cup softened butter
•    2/3 cup white sugar
•    ½ tsp. almond extract
•    2 cups flour
•    ½ cup cranberry jam
•    ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
•    ¾ tsp. almond extract
•    1 tsp. milk

•    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
•    Mix the butter and white sugar together in a medium bowl and then mix in the ½ tsp. almond extract and flour until the dough is formed.  Make about 1 ½ in balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Use your thumb to form small indentation and fill with cranberry jam.  Bake for about 15-18 minutes and let cool.
•    In a bowl mix the confectioners’ sugar, ¾ tsp. almond extract, and milk until smooth and drizzle over the warm cookies.

Christmas Wreaths

•    ½ cup butter
•    30 large marshmallows
•    1 ½ tsp. green food coloring
•    1 tsp. vanilla extract
•    4 cups cornflakes cereal
•    2 tbsp. cinnamon red hot candies, or red M&M’s, or other red candies

•    In a large saucepan over low heat melt the butter.  Add the marshmallows, constantly stir until melted.  Remove from heat, immediately add the food coloring, vanilla, and cornflakes and mix.
•    Drop heaping tablespoons of mixture on wax paper and form into a wreath shape.  Immediately decorate with red candies and allows to cool before removing.

On Monday while my husband was at work the kids made homemade gifts for their grandparents and dad.  They painted wooden trays with chalkboard paint and glued photos on them for the grandma’s, painted coffee mugs for the grandpa’s, and made Lego cuff links for dad.  All their gifts turned out beautiful.  I believe that homemade gifts are the best and mean the most; I know everyone is going to love them.
I can tell already this is going to be a great Christmas break for the kids.  I hope they start getting worn out and want to take it easy.  :)

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Friday, November 29, 2019

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner

This year has been flying by (again), another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  We hosted another wonderful vegetarian thanksgiving dinner with my parents.  I always look forward to Thanksgiving as a time to showcase delicious vegetarian dishes that are even better than traditional dishes.  This year was very special, my mother came over early in the morning and helped me cook all day, while my father, husband and kids played outside.  It was a Thanksgiving for the books.

My parents have really changed their lifestyle over the past couple years.  They have been learning and really diving into the vegetarian lifestyle.  They have always been healthy people but after seeing all the possibilities of cooking vegetarian and getting protein from plant sources, they have taken the challenge and have been eating mainly vegetarian meals.

In morning on Thanksgiving Day, my mother came over and started helping me cook.  I believe that cooking is one of the best ways to spend time with loved ones.  It had been so long since my mother and I cooked a meal together.  She was so interested in all the spiced and different herbs I used in making the meals.  Finding the perfect mixture of spice and richness is the key in making a delicious dish.

I love trying new recipes so when my mother said she found some she wanted to make for Thanksgiving I couldn’t wait.  She found a really interesting recipe for Portobello mushroom caps and parmesan-herb stuffing.  They ended up turning out great; I will definitely being making them again. 

Overall, our Thanksgiving Day was one of the best I have ever had.  Spending all day in the kitchen with my mother cooking and sipping cider reminded me of all the years as child trying to help her cook dinner.  The meal turned out absolutely incredible.  Everyone, especially the men and the kids, scarfed downed our vegetarian Thanksgiving meal and fell into a food coma, the sure sign it was a great meal.

When I decided to make the change and become vegetarian, I never expected my parents to change their lifestyle but watching them grow and change their eating habits has been a truly rewarding experience.  This Thanksgiving has been one I will never forget.  I am so thankful for my wonderful family and everything I have been blessed with.  Hope everyone had a special Thanksgiving as well.

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Friday, October 25, 2019

How do you take the perfect nap?

Yesterday at work we had a discussion about taking naps.  If they are good or bad, how long they should be, when you should take them and where.  I am a fan of naps but I only take them in 20 minute intervals and if they are in the afternoon before 3pm.  If it is later than that, I know I won’t be able sleep at night or won’t get a good night’s rest. 

One of the waiters at the restaurant says he can take a nap anytime of the day, even one at 6pm!  He also said he takes 4 hour naps?! To me that is almost a night of sleep.  We were all disagreeing about how to take a proper nap, so when I woke up this morning I decided to do a little investigating so I can set our staff right. 

The first and most common thing I read about taking naps is that there needs to be a time limit on them.  A few studies and articles I read said they should be around 25-30 minutes.  It is the amount of time that allows your body to rest without falling into a deep sleep and end up waking up even more tired.

They also suggested, if you have time to take a “full sleep cycle nap” that is about 90 minutes.  It allows your body to go into REM sleep and make up for lost sleep and can enhance your creativity.  So the decision I made is that either you should take a 25-30 minute nap or a 90 minute one, not longer, not shorter, or not in-between.

I also read about a caffeine nap that really confused me at first.  They said that you quickly drink a cup of coffee before a nap and then sleep for 20 minutes and when you wake up the caffeine kicks in and you will have a few good and energized hours after.  The idea of drinking a coffee then sleeping really baffled me, I don’t think caffeine naps are for me!

I knew I was right about the late nap idea.  I read that if you’re tired because of sleep deprivation a nap in the afternoon can help boost energy levels and naps between 12-4pm match the body’s natural circadian cycles.  Naps taken after that will just make you more tired and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep that evening.

I think napping is good for those days when you are just not feeling 100%.  I am still sticking firm with my nap criteria; 20 minutes and before 3pm because I know it works for my body to feel rejuvenated and awake. 

What is your take on napping and what is your idea nap?

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Sunday, August 25, 2019

You Can Make Anything in a Skillet

Every Sunday we make sure make time to sit down and eat dinner together and prep for the week ahead.  With the summer winding down we are finally able to relax a little more and not worry about running somewhere quick or getting ready for a game tomorrow.

Liam and Hannah finished soccer this week, so we have the one week to relax and get ready before school starts.  Tonight for dinner, I did not feel like having dishes to wash after so I made skillet vegetable curry.

I think skillet recipes are the best, they are fairly easy, quick, and they don’t dirty a lot of pots and pans.  No one really likes doing dishes, but when I don’t feel like washing up, I always try coming up with something in the skillet.  You can cook anything in a skillet, I have mastered that art. 

Here is the recipe for my fabulous Vegetable Curry and my not-so-healthy brownie s’mores I made for dessert.  I also have the best lemon parmesan asparagus recipe for the skillet too!  I hope you love them as much as we do, and don’t worry about lots of dishes.

Vegetable Curry

3 cups frozen peas
1 ½ lbs. fresh green beans
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 handfuls of spinach
1 tsp. black mustard seed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. garlic paste
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ cup coconut milk
Cilantro for garnishing
Rice to serve on

Heat the oil in a large skillet on high heat then reduce the heat to medium and add the mustard seeds and onion.  Cook for a few minutes then add the green beans, broccoli, potatoes, and carrots cook for about 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are almost cooked.
Add the peas, ginger, garlic, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and paprika, cook for 3-5 minutes then add the spinach and cook until it turns bright green.  Add the coconut milk, stir and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Serve over a bed of rice and enjoy!

Not-So-Healthy Brownie S’mores

1 boxed brownie mix
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 bag of marshmallows
Chocolate syrup

Prepare the brownies according to the directions and while they are baking, melt the butter in a small skillet then add the graham cracker crumbs and cook until the crumbs are lightly toasted.  Let cool and set aside while the brownies are baking.
When the brownies are baked and cooled, assemble the marshmallows on top of the brownies in the skilled and turn the oven to broil and place in the oven until they are toasted.
Take them out of the oven and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the brownies and marshmallows and top with the chocolate syrup.  Enjoy your not-so-healthy brownie s’mores, I know you will!

And just in case you need a delicious side dish, my all-time favorite:

Lemon Parmesan Asparagus

1 lbs. asparagus, washed and clean
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. lemon pepper

Melt the butter with olive oil in a large skilled on medium heat and add the asparagus.  Flip and stir the stalks to coat them with the butter and oil mixture.  Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, salt, lemon pepper, and half the parmesan cheese to the skillet.  Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes more until the asparagus gets tender.  When they are cooked, flip and top with the other half of parmesan cheese and serve.  Enjoy!

I hope these recipes find you when you don’t feel like dirtying a bunch of pots and pans.  Don’t let the richness of the brownie s’mores turn you off, they are great in moderation! 
Go Green and Stay Keen,