Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Balsamic Bean & Quinoa Salad

This is a super basic, protein-rich salad full of fresh veggies and a simple balsamic dressing.

And, it's my new obsession.

Balsamic Bean & Quinoa Salad

Balsamic Bean & Quinoa Salad


2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1/2 cup red lentils (or regular), rinsed well
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup feta

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups quinoa and 4 cups of broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until done (still crunchy!). Let cool 10-15 minutes before adding to salad.
2. At the same time, in a small saucepan - bring 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until done. Let cool 10-15 minutes before adding to salad.
3. Mix the remaining salad ingredients - except the feta and spinach - together in a large bowl. Add in quinoa and lentils when ready.
4. Prepare dressing by mixing oil, balsamic, and red wine vinegar together with salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss.
5. Chill for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Toss in spinach and feta before serving.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Spiced Buttermilk Syrup

The Armenian influence has taken over breakfast at our house, so when my family or other "American" guest is over for breakfast - I always sneak in some type pancake, muffin or parfait to satisfy my early-morning sweet tooth.

I was excited to make whole-wheat pancakes this morning for my sister, and she suggested trying a pumpkin pancake. I had leftover pumpkin in the fridge from Thanksgiving that needed using-up, and after a quick Pinterest search, came across this vegan recipe that looked wonderful.

I adapted the recipe a bit, taking away its vegan status by subbing in an egg and using real milk, as well as throwing in a little sugar for good measure.

These were so soft and perfect. Topped with a spiced buttermilk syrup, we were in dessert breakfast heaven!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes with Spiced Buttermilk Syrup 
Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 cups water
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (or combine 1/2 cup milk + 2 teaspoons vinegar and let sit for 5 min to curdle)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1. Mix the pumpkin, spices, water, egg, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, stir lightly, and then let it sit for 5 minutes more.
3. Add in a little milk or flour to achieve the right consistency, if needed.
3. Pour 1/3-1/2 cup batter onto a greased pan over medium heat. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Top with spiced buttermilk syrup.

Spiced Buttermilk Syrup

3/4 cup buttermilk (or combine 3/4 cup milk + 3 teaspoons vinegar and let sit for 5 min to curdle)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A few generous dashes of nutmeg and cloves

1. Bring the buttermilk, sugars and butter to a boil in a large saucepan. (Keep in mind the syrup will more than double in size).
2. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Mix in spices.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crockpot Quinoa & Chicken Enchilada Soup

Enchilada soup is one of our favorites at home - the girls love it, daddy loves it, and I love it because it is so easy to make! This go-around, I decided to add quinoa for a little more texture and flavor, and for all of the obvious nutritional benefits. We went through the first batch so quickly that I made another double-batch the next day because we were still craving it!

I can't believe that this was the first time I had made soup with quinoa - I will definitely be adding it to more (if not all) of my broth-based soups from now on. On the first day - it added such great texture, and on the second day - it had almost completely absorbed into the broth, you would have never known it was there. So, even if you aren't huge on the texture, you could easily just let the quinoa cook into the broth until its soft - and still get all of the fiber, protein and nutrients that are packed into those little seeds!

This soup also makes an excellent meal for a crowd. It's easy to make in advance, very filling - and everyone can top it just the way they like.

Crockpot Quinoa & Chicken Enchilada Soup

Crockpot Quinoa & Chicken Enchilada Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin

1 chicken breast (use two if they are small)
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 (14-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (I use mild)

1 (10-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups corn (I use about 1/2 of a 16-ounce frozen bag)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup quinoa

Optional toppings:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar
Fresh lime wedges
Diced avocado
Tortilla chips
Flour or corn tortillas - cut or torn into pieces
Hot sauce

1. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add in diced onions, garlic and cumin. Saute until onions are tender.

2. Add chicken, 3 cups of broth, enchilada sauce, and sauteed onions into the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4-6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Remove the chicken from broth, and shred. I let my KitchenAid do the work for me - just put the meat in the bowl, and mix on low with the paddle attachment until it is perfectly shredded.

4. Return the chicken to the crockpot. Add in the tomatoes (including the liquid), black beans and corn. Heat on low for about 1 hour.

5. While the soup is heating through, prepare the quinoa by first rinsing it very well. In a small sauce pan bring 1 cup chicken broth to a boil with the rinsed quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let sit covered for 5 more minutes.

6. When the soup is ready to serve, add in quinoa and chopped cilantro. Serve topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, lime wedges, cilantro, avocado, chips or tortillas, and a little dash of hot sauce.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Deals to Meals Giveaway Winner and Sneak Peek

Well, I suppose its about time to announce the winner of the Deals to Meals Giveaway!!

I have been holding off posting the winner, hoping to have THE CUTEST tutorial to post along with it - but, life happens - and it's not quite ready yet. It's on it way. You will not be disappointed.

How's this for a little hint? Any guesses?!

Back to business here...

Christie Cook - Congratulations! You are the winner of the 6-month Deals to Meals subscription!

Here's what Christie said:
I am definitely a sales, couponer, price match-er!!! I try to do it all so I can save the most!

I know you will love this service just as much as I do! Please message me via Facebook or use the Contact button on my page to email me and I will connect you with Deals to Meals!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Poppyseed-Almond Bread

This recipe comes straight from a pin from The Girl Who Ate Everything - a wonderful blog full of phenomenal recipes and photos. I tweaked just a few ingredients, and made a different glaze - using what I had on hand.


I may, or may not, have eaten this bread for 2/3 meals yesterday. Or 4/3.

Oh, and PS - If you haven't already, check out my first ever GIVEAWAY! It's a neat thing. Make sure to leave your comment on Sunday's post by Friday night to enter.

Poppyseed-Almond Bread


3 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce (or replace this with 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons butter flavored extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour

1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butter flavored extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon milk, +/-
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pans by lightly greasing, or lining with parchment. Makes 2 large, 3 medium, or 6 small loaves. (I always line my quick bread with parchment. I never seem to have good luck getting the loaf out clean otherwise.)

2. Combine all of the bread ingredients, except the baking powder and flour - mix well. Gradually add in flour and baking powder, allowing the flour to be absorbed by the wet ingredients, stir until smooth.

3. Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes, depending on loaf size. (I baked mine in 3 medium pans for 55 minutes.) Let the bread cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan.

4. For the glaze: Mix together the extracts, powdered sugar, and just enough milk to bring the glaze to a runny/pouring consistency. Drizzle over warm bread. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting.

*Even better on day two - will freeze well. But, let's be honest...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Deals to Meals GIVEAWAY!! [Closed]


If you are like me, you want the best deal possible. When it comes to grocery shopping, there is a lot to save - but there is also a huge time investment involved in saving as well. I have tried couponing, and while I admire those who are so successful with it, it's just not for me.

But Deals to Meals, is.

Using their service, I save at least $60 every month on our grocery bill and let them do all the work for me!

Here's my own little rundown of what Deals to Meals offers:

1. They list, categorize and rank every deal advertized in the grocery stores in your area. 

2. They create a custom grocery list using the deals you pick that you can print off or view on your phone.

3. They create a full week's menu based on the current deals, and provide a complete shopping list for that menu! Almost every single item on this list is on sale - so by following their plan, you know you will be eating great at the lowest cost!

And this is just the beginning - they have a blog, weekly newsletter, and offer great advice on food storage.

My Shopping List

Let me tell you about my weekly Deals to Meals routine...

I login, scroll through the deals, and add any of our staples (bananas, grapes, chicken breasts, Diet Coke) to my shopping list.

Keeping an eye on the good sales, I think what I may want to put together for dinner that week. Then, I check out their weekly menu for even more inspiration. The recipes provided are fantastic, but they are also a great guide as to how to put ingredients that are for sale together into one of your family's favorites meals as well.

Once I have my meals planned out for the week, I head back to my shopping list and add any other ingredients I may need. Then, I print!

And, more times than not - I change my mind at the grocery store. Deals to Meals makes it easy to  just pull up the sales on my phone and add them to my shopping list in once click!

Seriously, give these guys a try. They offer a free 2-week trial for you to decide if their service is right for you. If it is, it's just $4.95 a month. Trust me, they will help make meal planning, shopping, and checking out SO much easier and save you SO much on your grocery bill!

But, here's the really cool part. Deals to Meals is offering one Toast reader a  


Wahooo! My very first giveaway! I am so stoked. Here's how it will all go down:

1: Head over to dealstomeals.com. Browse around, see what you think!

3: Leave a comment on this post describing what kind of a grocery shopper you are. Are you a couponer? Price-matcher? Costco fanatic? Or do you just get in and out with what you need?

The giveaway will close Friday night. I'll draw at random and announce the winner on Saturday!

**A few people have let me know that they cannot open the comment box. I am trying to figure out why, using this silly thing they call HTML, but until then - if you are having trouble use this link to add a comment.**

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thanks a Million, Giveaway & Fig Bars

First of all - thank you all so much for all of the kind comments and messages on the girl's dresses, you are all too nice! 

Second - I am so excited to announce Toast's first...

Well, almost announce it. For now, know it's happening. And know you will NOT want to miss out! I'll let you know all about it this weekend, so make sure to stop by then! Seriously. So cool.

- - - 

So earlier this year, our good friends challenged us to a month without white sugar. I was really hesitant at first, because I have such a strong sweet tooth - and I don't like making commitments I can't follow-through on. After a little self-deliberation, I decided I wanted to give it a shot. The Hubs and I decided to do it together - it ended up being such a good experience for us!

We were pretty strict the first few weeks (sugar is in EVERYTHING), but toward the end we relaxed a bit and allowed ourselves to have crackers, store-bought bread, and other foods that sneak sugar into their ingredient list.

At the end of the month, when we rewarded ourselves with our favorite candy - we didn't even want to eat it! Our sugar cravings were completely gone.

Another thing that I loved about our sugar-free month- was that I tried out so many new, healthy, recipes - that probably would not have made my list otherwise. These fig bars were my favorite, by far. I have never been a fan of Fig Newtons - they are too awkwardly sweet, even for me. However,  Winco started carrying a new variety of fig bars in their bulk section - we bought a little package on a whim - and fell in love with these yummy treats!

Our favorite are the whole-wheat blueberry and whole-wheat raspberry bars. I love them because the don't have any white sugar or white flour - they are such a good treat for the girls! These have become our go-to snack, we always have a little stash in the car just in case the girls (or Mommy and Daddy) need to nibble on something on-the-go.

Because we love these so obsessively much, I thought I would try to make my own. While .50 for a two-bar package is a good deal (Winco price), at the rate we eat these - it adds up quick.

I found a recipe (posted on wildyeastblog.com, original recipe from Green Market Baking Book) that looked promising, and after making them several times, have tweaked it to my own liking.

Oh my yum.

These homemade bars aren't identical to the store-bought variety, they are even better! And, I love knowing every exact ingredient that goes into what we eat, and especially love that my kid's favorite treat is actually very healthy for them!

You'll have to give these a try. No white sugar, no white flour. The perfect balance of blueberry, fig and orange wrapped up in a healthy little cookie!

Blueberry-Orange Fig Bars  
adapted from wildyeastblog.com, original recipe from Green Market Baking Book

Whole-wheat cookie dough:
3/4 cups honey 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup honey
2 cups figs, de-stemmed (I use half black mission figs, half kadota)
1 cup dried blueberries
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest

1/4 cup wheat bran (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, cream 3/4 cup of the honey with the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.

2. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and combine. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 2 hours, until firm (or overnight).

3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor with a metal blade, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of honey, the figs, orange juice, orange zest, and chopped nuts (if using). Process until the figs are finely chopped. Set aside.

4. When the dough is well chilled, dust a work surface and the dough with some flour. Roll half of the dough out into an 8x14-inch rectangle. Trim edges and cut in half lengthwise to form two long rectangles.

5. Spread 1/4 of the fig mixture evenly down the middle third of both dough rectangles. (I use my cookie scoop to place five scoops of filling across the dough, then spread out with the back of a spoon dipped in water.) Gently fold one side of the rectangle over the filling, then fold other over the right so they overlap slightly. Pinch the ends to seal.

6. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling (makes 4 bars).  Carefully place the dough logs seam-side down on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with wheat bran, if using.

7. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Cut into 2-inch bars.


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