Friday, October 18, 2013

Healthy Apple Stir Fry Sauce

I love to make stir fry for dinner.  We probably have it at least a few times a month.  There are thousands of ways to make stir fry, using various cuts of meat, vegetables, sauces, whether any or all of them are store-bought or homemade.  I don't think that I ever make a stir fry the same way twice, even if I follow a recipe.  It always seems to come out different.

I recently had a thought pop into my head regarding oil, sugar and apples.  Applesauce can be used as a substitute for oil in baking.  It's also a natural sweetener.  Some of my stir fry recipes use honey, brown sugar, and/or oil in the sauce ingredients.  In trying to figure out a way to make a healthy stir fry even healthier, I wondered if applesauce could be used as a substitute for honey/brown sugar/oil.  I figured it was worth a try.

I came up with the following stir fry sauce recipe and was VERY well-pleased with the result!  The whole family enjoyed dinner, and hubs was surprised when I told him that the secret ingredient was an apple.  I gave myself a mental pat on the back. :)

Note that this is a recipe for a sauce, not the stir fry itself.

Healthy Apple Stir Fry Sauce

1 apple, peeled, cored
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder

Place all ingredients into blender or Magic Bullet.  Chop/process until well-blended and apples are finely chopped.  Add sauce to your favorite stir fry recipe.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wok's For Dinner: Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

I've been expanding our food horizons the last few weeks, coming up with some new recipes & trying new foods.  The other day, we had our first taste of spaghetti squash, a much healthier alternative to traditional spaghetti pasta.  I threw together a few basic ingredients and, voila!, I was really impressed & pleased!

Spaghetti Squash Meatballs

1 spaghetti squash
1 package of your favorite frozen meatballs
1 jar spaghetti sauce
grated Parmesan cheese

Wash outside of spaghetti squash, then place into a large stockpot of boiling water.  Boil for 30 minutes or until rind is fork-tender.  Meanwhile, brown meatballs in saucepan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  Stir in spaghetti sauce.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  When squash is finished, remove from pot and place on cutting board.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Slice squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Remove flesh with a fork or spoon.  Serve meatballs and sauce on top of squash, sprinkling some grated Parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

$1 Coupon Off Naked Juice!

Click here to request your coupon.  This juice comes in tons of flavors & is great for making smoothies!

Wok's For Dinner: Seafood Soup

When our local Harris Teeter first opened up this Summer, one of the first things that I purchased was a box of frozen mussels.  They were unshelled, fully cooked, and the right price.  The first time I had mussels was at a restaurant in Wilmington, NC, when hubs and I were celebrating our anniversary a few years ago.  The mussels were in a huge pot of steamed seafood.  I was quite a bit intimidated at trying them, but I did and found that I enjoyed the flavor.  I hadn't seen any at the grocery store until that first trip to H.T., so I thought that I'd give them a try at home.  I didn't have the foggiest clue how to make them, so the mussels sat in my freezer eve since I bought them.

But this week, I vowed to give them a try.  I scoured the Internet, looking for recipes and ideas.  There were lots of recipes, but none that "spoke" to me.  I decided to make a soup, using some of the ingredients that I found in a recipe for Cioppino on

The verdict?  Hubs and I LOVED it!  I thought it was perfectly flavored and was really surprised at just how well it tasted.  As for the kids?  Well, not so much.  All three refused to take a single bite.  My oldest daughter said that it looked like there were eyeballs in her soup (referring to the mussels).  Note to self: next time just make popcorn shrimp for the kids! :)

Seafood Soup

4 Tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) stewed tomatoes
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) chicken broth
1 can-ful of water
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
8 oz fully cooked, shells removed mussels
8 oz crabmeat (I used imitation, I admit it)

Melt butter in 6-qt saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute' until translucent; stir occasionally.  Stir in tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in mussels and crabmet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat gain to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bad Quality?

I worked over 10 years in manufacturing, and one of the big topics we heard routinely was about quality.  In its basic form, quality is about satisfying customers and continuous improvement.  We tracked issues that our customers reported to us, reviewed with the team, and determined ways that we could prevent those issues from repeating.

In my private life, I've never been big on reporting poor quality when I've encountered it.  Especially at a restaurant.  I usually just make a mental note not to order/buy/use again whatever it happened to be.  But due to the training on quality I had on the job, and how hard we strove to satisfy our customers, a few years ago I started giving companies the benefit of the doubt.  Overall, employees really do try to do a good job.  I know our employees did.  Unfortunately, mistakes happen and quality can be affected, whether it's a variation caused by a machine, material, person, or whatever.

I don't always do it, but when I think about it, if something goes wrong & depending on the circumstances, I contact the manufacturer or company responsible.  Each time, the few moments of inconvenience (experiencing the poor quality and the time it takes to reach out to the company) work out to my favor in the end.

For example, a couple years ago, I found a hair in a package of turkey burgers that I had purchased.  Yuck!  Nevertheless, I contacted the manufacturer and was rewarded for doing so.  Why?  Companies want our business!  If their customers are not satisfied, then they take their business elsewhere, share the bad business with their friends, and companies lose sales.

That wasn't the first time I reached out to a company about poor quality, not was it the last.  I recently purchased a bag of grapefruit at my favorite grocery store.  I love grapefruit -- tart, juicy, tart, tangy, and just a hint of sweetness.  Yum!

Fast forward to breakfast the next morning, and yuck!  Peeled & opened my first grapefruit from my purchase and found the inside of the grapefruit to be black, mushy, and looking more like mud than ruby red grapefruit.  I should have taken a picture, but it was pretty gross to look at, so I just tossed it in the trash.

The disturbing grapefruit, however, weighed on my mind, so this morning I decided to contact the company that this particular bag of grapefruit came from, Sunkist Growers.  I wasn't interested in getting something in return, simply wanted to inform them of the issue I encountered.

Within an hour of completing the online "Contact Us" form, this is what I received in return:

Anthony, Winnie J.
To Me

We appreciate your taking the time to contact Sunkist Growers regarding your recent purchase of Sunkist grapefruit.
Sunkist Growers and its affiliated packinghouses are very conscious of the quality image associated with the Sunkist trademark.  Through the efforts of packinghouse personnel and the Sunkist Quality Assurance Department, every effort is made to maintain this image.
The normal way of examining citrus is to cut random pieces and inspect for interior quality.  Obviously, it is impossible to cut every piece of fruit, but this sampling method usually allows inspectors to separate the good fruit from the bad.  Unfortunately, some inferior fruit can get by.
Citrus is a perishable commodity that is subject to so many variables.
We apologize for any disappointment you may have experienced with our product.  While only the retailer can issue a refund, I am sending by mail some coupons we hope you will use to try our citrus again.
Sunkist Growers

Surprise!  A super quick response to my notification.  Plus, some coupons coming my way to make up for the inconvenience.

It doesn't require someone to get angry, yell, scream or fuss.  Just simply saying hey, something went wrong and I want to make sure you're aware.  Like I said, companies want our business.  They'll thank you for taking your time to contact them. And you'll be glad you did. :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Free Ovaltine Sample Pack!

Visit the BabyCenter Timeline on Facebook here to request a FREE sample pack of Ovaltine, which includes two samples of Rich Chocolate Ovaltine and a $2 off coupon!

Homemade Fat Free Raspberry Salad Dressing

Fresh, tart & sweet, and fat free!

Homemade Fat Free Raspberry Salad Dressing

1/4 cup raspberries
1/2 navel orange
1/4 tsp dried oregano
smidgen of ground black pepper

Rinse & pat dry raspberries.  Break orange half into wedges.  Place all ingredients into blender (I use a Magic Bullet and love it!).  Turn blender on and run until berries and orange wedges are liquified.  Pour dressing over your favorite salad.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spectacular Sides: Stuffed Mushrooms

My first time making stuffed mushrooms!

I bought fresh white button mushrooms recently, and could not believe how big some of them were.  I couldn't help but try my hand at stuffing them!  Had I thought of it earlier, I would have taken a "before" picture to show you how big they were.

There are innumerable ways to make stuffed mushrooms & variations on what you can stuff them with -- cheese, seafood, breadcrumbs, etc.  To keep things simple, I opted to make a low carb, protein & dairy-free version.  I could not find many recipes that fit the idea that I had in mind, so I just made something up on my own.   These are divine!  Hubs complimented me many times on how much he enjoyed them.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 stalk celery, diced small
6 button mushrooms
1 carrot, grated fine
1 green onion, diced
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Saute' diced celery in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until slightly tender.  I used just the natural oil in the celery in lieu of nonstick spray or olive oil.  Meanwhile, remove stem from mushrooms.  Slice off the bottom end of the stem & discard.  Chop mushroom stem and place in medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients including saute'd celery, mixing with a spoon until well-blended.  Spoon stuffing into cavity of each mushroom.  Place stuffed mushrooms, stuffing side up, on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Better Breakfast: Kale & Mushroom Saute'

Vegetables for breakfast?  Why not?

I recently posted my Orange & Bok Choy Smoothie recipe, where I mentioned how hubs & I got our healthy act together & dropped a ton of weight.  I studied up on nutrition when I was in college and knew what it meant to be healthy, but didn't do a good job following & living what I knew.  Kind of hard to do when your loved one is not supportive and will end up spending money not in the budget on greasy burgers & fries in lieu of eating what you worked so hard to make.

A little over a year ago, hubs finally got on board and committed to changing his heating habits.  Halleluia!  I never thought that I would see the day arrive.  And I had to commit myself as well.  And the kids!  Even they made the transition.

The biggest challenge, for me, was breakfast.  I was used to cold cereal & milk day in & day out.  Hubs and I decided that we would initially switch to 1-2 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit, then later add 1 serving of protein or dairy.

Vegetables for breakfast?  I balked at the idea.  I couldn't do it.  I literally couldn't do it.  So I had to psyche myself into it.  I spent about 2 weeks eating just a banana first thing in the morning, then waiting 1-2 hours and eating my vegetable as a mid-morning snack.  Before long, I was able to progress and eat my vegetables early in the morning before heading out to work.

Kale has become one of our staple breakfast items.  It is easy to prepare and the health benefits are awesome.  Loaded with iron, antioxidants, vitamin K, kale is low in calories & high in fiber.  Hubs and I love it--yes even hubs loves it!--and so without further ado, here is the recipe. :)

Kale & Mushroom Saute'

3-4 fronds fresh kale
2-3 fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks geen onion, diced
1/8-1/4 tsp soy sauce (I'm guessing here since I usually do 2-3 "splashes" straigh from the bottle)
pepper, to taste

Rinse kale leaves.  Remove leaves from stems, discarding stems (we feed them to our chickens!).  Place kale, sliced mushrooms & diced green onion in skillet over medium heat.  Stir occasionally for 4-5 minutes or until kale and mushrooms are tender.  Stir in soy sauce and season with a little pepper.

Interested in more kale recipes?  Consider purchasing Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh and Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please, just $9.78 for a used copy at!

Wok's for Dinner: Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

We really enjoyed this meal.  Not only was it quite out of the ordinary, it was quick and simple to prepare and was a great way to eat a couple of our favorites, sausage & acorn squash.  And the sausage came out of the oven looking like a muffin, making a great conversation starter. :)

Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
salt & pepper
12 oz ground turkey sausage
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/3 cup breadcrumbs

Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Remove & discard seeds (we feed these to the chickens).  Place squash cut-side up on a baking pan; sprinkle with salt & pepper.  In a large bowl, combine sausage & remaining ingredients.  I started off using a spoon to mix everything together but ended up using my hands.  Spoon sausage mixture into squash halves.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Snapfish: All The Prints You Want Just 1 Cent Each!

This hot deal is here for a limited time!  Visit Snapfish here and buy as many 4x6 prints as you like for a penny each!  Use coupon code UNLIMITED when you check out.

A Better Breakfast: Orange & Bok Choy Smoothie

I started making smoothies for breakfast a little over a year ago to give the family something that was not only different but nutritious and delicious.  Hubs and I have tried to be very conscious about what we eat as well as what we serve to the children--ingredients, portion sizes, food combinations, etc.  We have our moments and indulge in food that is sinfully delicious, I must admit.

But, overall the changes we made a little over a year ago have improved our health as well as our appearance.  Hubs lost about 60 pounds, and I lost 45.  I'm quite self-conscious when it comes to my weight, so I don't speak much about it and what I did to lose it.  I'd rather ignore the fact that I have a weight problem.  But I will try to post recipes & small tips here & there on occasion.  Maybe it will help me become more comfortable talking about it...

At the very least, keep in mind a few tips when I post a recipe:  for meat, I trim the fat & serve small portion sizes; we use fat free sour cream/cream of mushroom/chicken soup; and in lieu of mayonnaise we use plain nonfat Greek yogurt.  I'll try to be more specific when I posts my recipes here on out =).

Orange & Bok Choy Smoothie

2-3 stalks bok choy, fronds/leaves removed & discarded (we feed these to our chickens--they love them!)
1 navel orange, peeled (unlike bok choy fronds, our chickens do NOT like orange peels, so these get turned into compost)
6 oz vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup 100% apple juice

Cut bok choy stalks into 1-2 inch-size pieces.  Separate orange wedges.  Place all ingredients into a blender (I use a Magic Bullet that hubs bought me last year -- love it!).  Blend until all ingredients are chopped & liquified & mixed together well.  This takes probably 5 seconds with the Magic Bullet.

If you want to add a little color to your smoothie, throw in 2-3 blackberries or raspberries. :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

TruMoo Milk: The Verdict

I recently posted that I was participating in a BzzCampaign for TruMoo milk and how skeptical I was about the value of the product.  I finally used the coupon that BzzAgent sent me and picked up a free gallon of TruMoo.  The store didn't have the new limited edition Halloween Vanilla milk flavor, so I opted for the traditional chocolate milk variety.

You got it -- free!  (One of the perks of being a BzzAgent!)

Ok, perhaps not completely free.  Just one of the non-perks of having a state food sales tax!
The verdict?  The kids were not only ecstatic about the fact that I bought TruMoo, they were in heaven with the taste.  My son doesn't usually drink milk, regardless of the flavor, and even he chugged back a tall glass.  The three of them finished off half the jug of milk within minutes.  My oldest daughter kept going on & on about how much she loved TruMoo.  She is a huge chocolate milk lover, so I wasn't surprised by her reaction.  My son's reaction definitely surprised me.  And even the littlest one surprised me by chugging down her chocolate milk in minutes versus hours.

And yes, even I indulged in a glass.  It is creamy and smooth and the perfect balance of chocolatey sweet goodness.

OK, I loved it.  It was so convenient to just pour it into a glass and drink it.  No need to stir in chocolate syrup and worry if I put in too much / too little.  I thought it might not be sweet enough.  Or chocolatey enough.  I was wrong.  It was the perfect balance.

Now comes the hard part.  Once this gallon is emptied, do I buy more in the future?

I bought this gallon on the 5th, and its "best by" date is 10/9, so 4 days to enjoy the best of its flavor.  I prefer to buy milk with a much longer window.  But given that 1/2 of it was gone so soon after getting home, it's likely to be completely gone in the next day or two.  So the date is a moot point.

Our grocery budget is REALLY tight. I was fortunate enough to get this gallon for free, but the regular price is $4.99.  That is really way out of our budget.  TruMoo offers a coupon when you register for updates and notifications when coupons are available.   That is a huge plus in my book.  I don't know if / how often TruMoo goes on sale, but if that were to happen combined with a coupon, then perhaps it would be worth purchasing, assuming the price were right (it would have to be around $3 or less for a gallon).

So I registered myself for updates & coupons.  I'll keep my eye open for coupons and match them up when the store puts TruMoo on sale, assuming it gets put on sale.  I don't anticipate buying it regularly.  At the very least, it would be a nice treat for the kids and healthier than cakes or cookies.

Wok's For Dinner: Pork & Egg Noodle Skillet

This was delicious.  And quick and easy to make.  And DELICIOUS.  It was completely out of the ordinary from what I usually make when it comes to pork, which is exactly what I was trying to achieve.  Did I say it was delicious?  It was so good!  Hubs was very complimentary of the meal.  Come to think of it, he's been complimentary of nearly every meal that I've made the past week or so.  (Recipes to come!)

Pork & Egg Noodle Skillet

6 oz egg noodles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sliced frozen or fresh mushrooms
1 med. bell pepper, diced
1 med. onion, diced
1/2 lb diced pork chops (you can use a full pound if you prefer)
1/2 cup milk
1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese, cubed
1 can (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 jar (4oz) sliced pimientos
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute' mushrooms, bell pepper, onion and diced pork in skillet, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until pork is no longer pink.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat, cooking and stirring for 2-3 minutes or until cream cheese is melted & blended well into mixture.  When noodles have finished cooking, drain well and stir into pork mixture.  Serve once heated through.