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5 Days of Crafting: Christmas Cookies

5 Days of Crafting: Christmas Cookies

Okay, I know christmas cookies aren’t my normal arts and crafts… but technically they are a part of the culinary arts! I went to a cookie exchange about a week ago  while my college roommate visited and we made three types of holiday cookies for the exchange.

The first cookies were typical peanut butter blossom cookies, but we decorated them as Christmas trees! I think they’re cute – definitely the most beautiful of all the cookies we made. The recipe can be found here.Christmas Tree Peanut Butter Blossoms | Reflections of Happiness

The next cookies we made were red velvet cookies. We added green food dye to the cream cheese frosting to make it more “holiday” and then added sprinkles… because who doesn’t like sprinkles? The recipe for these red velvet holiday cookies is located here.

Red Velvet Christmas Cookies | Reflections of Happiness

Lastly, we made Pecan Pie Cookies. These are so easy! Instead of mixing flour, eggs, butter, etc… you just buy pre-made pie crust and separate it out into small circles. These were my favorite (though all were delicious!) The recipe can be found here.

Pecan Pie Cookies | Reflections of Happiness

The cookie exchange was a lot of fun, and I have a list of recipes to try next holiday season. When you get a chance, try these three recipes and let me know which one you like best!

Chicken and Creamy Mushrooms

Chicken and Creamy Mushrooms

We’ve been eating very healthy lately – with a lot of home cooked meals. It’s a lot of fun, but can be a lot of work too. I try to make one meal a week that is a more extensive and time consuming meal, which usually happens on the weekend. For a weekday night, I either try to do crock-pot meals or something that will take no more than 30 minutes to prepare!

This is where today’s post comes in: Chicken and Creamy Mushrooms.

Chicken & Creamy Mushrooms - an easy and healthy weeknight dinner | Reflections of Happiness

Here’s everything that I needed for the recipe:

Chicken & Creamy Mushrooms - an easy and healthy weeknight dinner | Reflections of Happiness

Per serving, you’ll need:

  • 6 ounces chicken breast
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth (fat-free, low-sodium)
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream

I cooked enough for my husband and I for dinner and leftovers for the next day at work for me!

To create this meal, you start by chopping the chicken into 1″ bits and browning them with oil and pepper in the pan.Chicken & Creamy Mushrooms - an easy and healthy weeknight dinner | Reflections of HappinessThen, you add the broth and lemon juice along with the mushrooms. Simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the chicken is done.) While the concoction was simmering, I threw together aside salad to go with it.
Chicken & Creamy Mushrooms - an easy and healthy weeknight dinner | Reflections of Happiness
At the very end, throw in the chopped green onion and sour cream – mix it all together and then serve. A simple meal that took less than 30 minutes to cook!Chicken & Creamy Mushrooms - an easy and healthy weeknight dinner | Reflections of Happiness

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs – Keto Treat

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs – Keto Treat

Reflections of Happiness: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs - a delicious Keto, low-carb, no sugar added treat!While the term “fat bomb” may seem strange to some people, but in the ketogenic community this is a normal term. My husband and I occasionally do the “keto diet” to maintain where we are. Basically it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet. The reasoning behind this diet and information about how it works can be found here. I’m not going to tell you how great a diet it is – it works for some people and not for others, just like any other diet.

I want to share with you a struggle I have when trying to maintain a low-carb lifestyle: sugar cravings. These so-called “fat bombs” are a sweet treat that satiate that sugar craving while giving your body more fat to burn for energy.

I do indulge in sweet treats occasionally, but I also like to find sugar-free alternatives. These treats are a great alternative to a chocolate bar… though please note that they still have calories in them. If you eat a lot of them, the calories will add up quickly!

This will make about 20 servings, depending on how you break it up. What you will need is:

  • half a stick of your favorite butter
  • 4 tablespoons of unsweetened peanut butter (look for the natural ones without processing… containing only peanuts if possible!)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 tsp of stevia
  • any ingredients you’d like to sprinkle on top (like unsweetened coconut flakes)

Here’s how I made it:

Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave.20150727-134201-49321030.jpgAdd in the coconut oil, cocoa powder, peanut butter and stevia. Mix it together until it looks like melted chocolate.20150727-134202-49322539.jpgAt this point… if you have silicone molds, pour the chocolate in the molds, making around 20 total. I didn’t have any molds when I tried it for the first time, so I used a silicone baking tray. Using a mold will be much easier.

After pouring the mixture into the molds/whatever you have, sprinkle any toppings you want. I put coconut sprinkles over half of it to taste the difference later. I also lightly salted it for a salted caramel feel.20150727-134206-49326069.jpgI froze it for about 30 minutes until it was hard. As you can see, it hardened and started to lift off the bottom!20150727-134305-49385901.jpgSince I didn’t have a mold, I put it on a cutting board to chop into bars. Didn’t work too well as you can see – it crumbled in a few places! If you use a mold, you can just pop out the pieces at this point and put in an airtight container. Have one or two servings at a time for a sweet treat!20150727-134307-49387488.jpgIf you make 20 servings this is the nutritional breakdown:

  • 64 calories, 60 calories from fat
  • 6.7 g fat, 4.2 g saturated fat
  • 6 mg cholesterol
  • 31 mg sodium
  • 30 mg potassium
  • 1.0 g carbohydrates
  • 0.9 g protein
Munchery Review

Munchery Review

A few months ago, I tried out Munchery for the first time. For those of you that haven’t heard about it, it’s a meal delivery service where you go online and select fresh meals from local chefs. You select the time you’d like to to be delivered (a range, from say, 5-6) and someone brings it to your house. They send you a text 15 minutes before the food arrives and again as it is arriving so you know to listen for your doorbell. The main idea behind this company is that you won’t spend more than 10 minutes heating the food and putting it in on plate. Pretty cool concept!

I’ll be honest – the only reason I tried it was because they were having a new customer deal where you got $15 off. After that deal, I spent exactly 93 cents on dinner!(null)The food arrived in a recyclable paper bag with the Munchery logo on it and was nicely organized with compostable and recyclable materials.(null)The side of the bag outlined a little more about Munchery’s organizational beliefs:(null)Excited by their vision and belief to create something sustainable, I was ready to open up the entree and see whether it was good or not. The box had a sticker to show me which chef and restaurant created this dish for Munchery.(null)Upon opening the box, I found this: (null)After prepping, which took no more than five minutes, I had what looked like a nicely prepared dish that had taken me at least an hour:(null)

It really made me think of Mrs. Doubtfire… you could definitely order this and get it delivered at 3 pm on the day of a dinner party and pass it off as your own if you wanted to. I have too much fun cooking for dinner parties, but this thought made me giggle. The food was good. I enjoyed the meal, but it wasn’t absolutely incredible. Overall, I was happy with it.

For dessert, I had chosen a Lemon Bar. The instructions prompted me to eat it with a cup of chamomile tea, so that’s what I did!(null)I grabbed a Tazo chamomile tea off of our tea shelf (Munchery didn’t provide the tea) and quickly made a cup. The lemon bar was so perfect and the chamomile brought out the flavor even more. I don’t think I’ll ever have a lemon bar again without chamomile tea!(null)In addition to only paying 93 cents for a delicious meal, Munchery gave me a free snickerdoodle cookie, which I kept for after my soccer game the next day. I’ll give you a hint, the snickerdoodle was delicious as well. 🙂
(null)Lastly, I found a handwritten note at the bottom of the bag, which was a nice touch to an overall pleasant experience with Munchery.
(null)I don’t think that I’ll use Munchery often, but it is a nice service if I haven’t had time to go to the store and just want to stay in for the evening. You do have to order in advance though – either the night before or early enough in the day before the best entrees and desserts run out. They only have a limited supply of each item on the menu. I’ll also mention that at $16 for an entree and dessert (if you don’t have a coupon), it’s a very reasonable deal compared to many restaurants!

Mini Sweet Pepper Nachos

Mini Sweet Pepper Nachos

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I recently made low-carb nachos by using mini sweet peppers instead of chips. It was seriously so easy to make and a filling and delicious way to get your ‘carb’ cravings without actually having too many carbs.

Make it exactly how you want your normal nachos, but instead of chips buy a bag of mini sweet peppers and cut each one in half, taking out all the seeds. You could make cheese nachos with just shredded cheese, or add green onions, sour cream, bacon, etc to load them up. Use some form of shredded meat or black beans to add some protein!

If you want the nachos with meat, you should probably pre-cook the meat to save some time. I put some chicken thighs on low in my slow cooker for 8 hours with my selected sauce and by the time I came home from work, they were falling apart! Once you’ve halved the sweet peppers, lightly spray a cookie sheet with baking spray while pre-heating the oven to 450.  Lay out the peppers in rows spaced tightly together. 20150325-101004-36604282.jpg

I then took my pre-cooked and pre-shredded chicken and put more sauce in it (I used barbecue sauce), chopped green onion, and a little shredded cheese. I mixed it all together and then spooned it onto the sweet peppers.

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After that I placed chopped tomatoes, cilantro, more chopped green onion and sliced black olives on top of everything. Sprinkle as much shredded cheese as you want on top and then place the pan in the oven! Wait till it looks all melty and hot (it was 8 minutes for me) and take it out of the oven. Serve immediately and enjoy your mini sweet pepper nachos!

Mini Sweet Pepper Nachos

It’s March Already?

It’s March Already?

It’s nearly halfway through March – this year is speeding by so quickly! I’ve been a bit slow to post recently and I wanted to acknowledge that. Hubby and I have both been so busy, at work and at home, and I’ve been working on a couple larger projects that I’m not quite ready to post yet.

Today’s post is just a little recap post about the past month in cooking and crafts!

Cooking:

Food in February

Of course, I’ve been cooking a lot and trying to keep things interesting while staying healthy. Working from left to right, top to bottom, these were some of my favorite dishes this month:

  • Pan-fried chicken tenders with oven roasted sweet potato fries and a side salad
  • Pork chops with oven-roasted brussel sprouts and a side salad filled with goodies
  • Oven-cooked salmon in foil with a large salad
  • Filet mignon with asparagus

There were a few other favorite meals that I’m hoping to write posts about in the next few weeks.

Crafts:

As I mentioned above, I’ve been busy with a couple larger projects that I don’t want to talk about yet, but these are two of the things I did this month!

Mr. and Mrs. Signs:
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I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding in a couple of weeks and the bride asked me to create some signs for the chair-backs at the reception for her and the groom. I used the signs that I had for my wedding (that were handed down to me) that say Bride and Groom on the other side. I used the back/wooden part of the sign and painted the entire thing teal.

I then found a font and a flourish that I liked and printed it out. I cut it out with an exacto knife to create a stencil that I used to pencil the design onto the teal sign. I painted the design in very carefully and slowly with the thinnest tipped brush I could find!

Ayyám-i-Há  Sign:

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I don’t talk about the Baha’i faith much on this blog, but with this project, it’s important for you to know that I am Baha’i. Ayyám-i-Há is a Baha’i holiday that’s basically the equivalent of the “Baha’i Christmas.” It’s at the end of February each year  and Baha’is celebrate with presents, service projects and parties/gatherings.

I took some fun printed paper and cut out the letters for the holiday using an exacto knife. Then I cut little holes in the top of each letter and drew a piece of string through it. Lastly, I hung it up with some painters tape.

I’d really love to create more of these hanging signs for our house for other holidays and birthdays! (And, also, find a way to hang it without using tape.)

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to in the world of cooking and crafts. I hope to have time this week to work on the next set of Travel Tuesday posts and some more in-depth cooking and craft posts. Thanks for reading!

Meatless Mondays

Meatless Mondays

A few weeks ago, I saw a Pinterest post about Meatless Mondays and a “Rainbow Salad” that someone created. I decided to try my own take on a Rainbow Salad for Meatless Monday. While we do eat meat, I realize that too much of one thing is definitely bad for our health. I feel like Meatless Monday is a good thing to try so we can find other sources of protein!

I started by laying down chopped romaine. On top of that, I set out sliced vegetables and fruits: cucumber, carrot, green and yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, olives and avocados. I also put out crumbled feta and walnuts.

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To add protein, I made an egg over easy to lay on top of the salad and then drizzled a small amount of balsamic vinaigrette on top. To add some carbs into the meal, I had two slices of an asiago cheese bread. I usually opt for wheat, but I couldn’t pass up the cheesy goodness at the grocery store!

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What veggies would you put on a Rainbow Salad? Any recipes that you’d make on a Meatless Monday?

 

Pizza Zucchini Bites

Pizza Zucchini Bites

I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with recipes so hubby and I can eat more exciting low-carb recipes. One of my favorites lately is a picture I saw on Pinterest: Pizza Zucchini Bites!20150111-102113-37273706.jpg For the Pizza Zucchini Bites, I pre-heated the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit. I used two small, organic zucchinis (one for each of us) and sliced the zucchinis with 1/3 of an inch slices. You don’t want the slices to be too thin or too thick. From there, I put a small spoonful of a tomato sauce (any kind will do, pick your favorite! I tried to pick the healthiest one at the store I could find) and sprinkled mozzarella on top. Put the pizza bites in the oven until the cheese has melted (about 5-7 minutes). Then they are done! The zucchini slices were still slightly crispy so you could pick them up with your fingers, but the inside of the slice was nice and cooked through. 20150111-102111-37271102.jpg Along with the Zucchini Pizza Bites, I pan-fried tilapia in butter and lemon and made Mashed Cauliflower. It was a strange selection of items that I put together here, but some of it was just what we had in the fridge. 🙂 Either way, the Zucchini Pizza Bites are delicious and something I’ll definitely make in bulk for our next game night!

Coconut Milk Shrimp

Coconut Milk Shrimp

I found this recipe in Sunset Magazine and thought it was so delicious! You are supposed to serve it over rice, but we didn’t. I think it would be scrumptious either way!

The recipe itself is very easy and takes 20-25 minutes tops (depending on how slow you are at cutting a carrot into matchsticks… I’m very slow, haha!)

This recipe serves four and is 369 calories per serving (plus whatever rice you eat).

The ingredients are:

  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 tsp. red chile flakes
  • 15 oz. coconut milk
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 lb. shelled and deveined medium shrimp
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

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Step 1: Prep the onion, carrot, tomato and cilantro.

Step 2: Heat the oil in your frying pan. Once heated, you cook the onion, carrot and chile flakes until the onion is soft. (About 3 minutes.)

Step 3: Stir in the coconut milk.

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Step 4: Add the tomato and shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. (About 4 minutes.)

Step 5: Serve with rice (or cauliflower rice) and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
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That’s it! Super simple, quick and so delicious! You can make it spicier by adding more chile flakes, or if you don’t like any spiciness… just leave the chile flakes out altogether.

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Chicken Chili Soup

Chicken Chili Soup

Since it’s the holidays, I’ve been busy hanging out with family and trying to relax. I didn’t have time to work on a Travel Tuesday post this week, so instead, here’s a fun slow-cooker meal I made: Chicken Chili Soup!

I found this super-easy and very delicious recipe on Caveman Keto’s blog. My sister bought me a crockpot a few years ago, and I haven’t used it as much as I should have in that time. Crockpot meals can have 10 minutes or less prep time and you just set them to go. 6 to 10 hours later, you end up with a succulent meal that hardly took any time out of your day!

Since hubby and I are are still low-carb, I searched and search for recipes that we could use. I stumbled upon Caveman Keto’s site and found a ton of recipes that look amazing!

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All the ingredients are shown above plus bacon (forgot it in the photo!) and the spices: salt, pepper, and thyme. For the exact list of ingredients and the directions, please go to this blog post.

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When I first threw everything into the crockpot, I was a little unsure. It doesn’t look too appetizing like this, does it? After 6 hours on low, the chicken fell apart and I stirred it all together. And, oh my goodness, the smell in my house when I came home from work? I was suddenly starving and salivating, and dinner wasn’t for another hour!

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The best part about this recipe? It makes a lot of food, especially if you serve it with a side salad or appetizer. I had leftovers to take to work the entire week! I look forward to trying more of Caveman Keto’s recipes – if they’re anything like this one, they’re sure to become a household favorite!