Spinach, Mushroom, and Feta Muffin Frittatas

Three of my current obsessions include food in muffin form, feta cheese, and dishes that are quick and easy to make.  Making anything in the form of a “muffin” automatically makes it more fun to eat, feta cheese adds a delicious bite to almost anything, and lately, I just don’t have the time or energy to cook elaborate meals.

Breakfast for dinner is pretty much the best lazy girl’s way of cooking and eating a healthy, filling, and varied meal.  And these spinach, mushroom and feta frittatas are clearly a manifestation of my three current obsessions.

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The inspiration for these came from Pinterest- yet another recent obsession.  I think I officially have an obsessive personality.  That’s ok- there are worse things to be addicted to than Pinterest and feta cheese, right!?

These frittatas are so simple to make.  The feta/spinach/mushroom combo was fabulous, but so many other mix-ins could work as well.  Sun dried tomato and feta or broccoli and cheddar cheese would be great twists.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Feta Muffin Frittatas

Yield: 9-10 muffins

Adapted from: The Manila Spoon’s Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Package (8 oz) baby bella mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 Package (5 oz) baby spinach
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 4 Lage eggs
  • 1-2 TBS olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Clean mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel, then finely dice them.

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3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat and add mushrooms.  Cook mushrooms for about 5-6 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.

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4.  In the same skillet the mushrooms were in, add the spinach and a few TBS of water.  Allow the spinach to wilt over medium/low heat for a minutes until it is all shriveled an wilted.

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5.  Remove spinach from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Then, gently blot spinach with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

6.  In a large bowel, whisk the eggs, then add the mushrooms (not including any liquid they released during cooking), feta cheese, and spinach.  Stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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7. Spoon mixture into a non-greased muffin tray.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool in tin for a few minutes, then enjoy :)

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These stay  fresh for a few days wrapped and refrigerated, so they also make the perfect grab-and-heat breakfast or light snack.  A weeknight meal that is easy, fun, and healthy?  Yes, please!

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What are your favorite ways to enjoy breakfast for dinner?

What are your favorite foods to make in fun forms?

A Very Special 3.1 Miles

This past weekend, I participated in the South Florida Brain Tumor Association’s 10th Annual Sprint for a Cure 5k.  This cause holds a very heavy and dedicated place in my heart, and it felt beyond wonderful to run for this purpose.

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Honestly, this was the first time I ever ran a race for a cause that meant so much to me.  Of course, I support all of the great causes I have run for in the past, but there is something about running for something so personal that leaves you feeling inspired, accomplished, and selfless.

An interesting and unimportant note- I ran my fastest 5k ever.  I think this is because I was so unconcerned about myself and my time and simply so focused on running with meaning.

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The weather was humid and wet, the course was nothing scenic, the competition was nothing fierce, and the distance was short- but this was beyond a doubt the best run of my life.

Goal: Run the 2014 1/2 marathon in Chicago for this same cause.

What sporting events have you participated in that were extra special to you?

Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins- Thank You Sally!

Ok: Apparently I have been living under a rock for the past year or so, but I recently discovered two websites that I am pretty much now obsessed with.  Those would be Pinterest and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Just to clear things up, it’s not that I hadn’t heard of Pinterest, I just didn’t explore it or understand what it’s purpose was exactly.  Maybe I really am getting old, but between blogs, facebook, twitter, and instagram, I didn’t really want to sit and learn how to use another form of social media.

I guess my secret is out, I am obviously 80 years old.

Anyways, I am now not only on Pinterest but constantly on Pinterest.  The website has already inspired two of my meals for later this week, so stay tuned.

Now let’s talk about Sally.  Have you guys visited her blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction?  Holy cow.  Sprinkles, cookies, cupcakes, muffins galore.  Honestly, I don’t even like to bake.  I have always preferred cooking over baking because I feel I am better able to create something unique that I cannot simply purchase by cooking instead of baking. Also, I have always felt it is rather easy to tweak meals and make them healthier but that is much harder to do with baking.  Well, Sally and her blog have pretty much inspired me to bake (or in better terms, follow her recipes step by step).

Ironically, I stumbled upon Sally’s blog during the peak of my “trying to eat super healthy for vacation” phase.  However, while perusing her blog, I noticed one of her most recent posts for ‘skinny double chocolate chip muffins’.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Now, normally I am just as skeptical of ‘skinny’ desserts as the next woman, but for some reason I trusted Sally.  Her plethora of drool-worthy photography and shared love of sprinkles made me think she knew what she was doing.  So, I ventured into the baking world with these delicious, gooey, healthy muffins.

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Sally’s Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction                         Yield: 12 delicious muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites (or 1 large egg)
  • 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or vanilla)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus a few more for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Do not use liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, honey, egg whites, greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Whisk them all together until smooth, with no yogurt lumps remaining.
  3. Sift* the flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Slowly stir in the wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Get any dry pockets of flour out. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. The batter will be a little chunky. This is ok.
  4. Divide the batter evenly amount 12 liners – fill them all the way to the top if you can. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. Keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature down to 375 and continue to bake for 13 more minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of one muffin. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, bake for only 2 more minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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The Verdict?

I absolutely loved these muffins.  I thought they were chocolatey, gooey, moist, and flavorful.  In my opinion, they don’t taste like anything has been sacrificed in making them lighter.  In fact, I have been craving a muffin for about two months now, and I can honestly say that these satisfied that craving.

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But….

I must mention that my boyfriend, for whatever credit this may hold, was not a fan of these muffins.  He doesn’t know why.  He can’t explain it.  He simply felt that there was a taste of sorts he didn’t like.  Luckily, these freeze well.  More for me.

I strongly recommend making these muffins.  They are delicious, health(ier), and super easy to make.  Some fun twists could be using peanut butter chocolate chips instead, or mixing some strawberries in the batter.

Do you guys prefer baking “healthier” recipes or do you subscribe to the notion that baking is meant to be pure fattening deliciousness?  

What are your favorite things to bake?

Do you prefer cooking, baking, or are you awesome at both?

Tips and Tidbits on Fitness; Get Going, Stay Going, and Avoid a Slump

About three years ago, I studied abroad for a few weeks in Asia. It was the trip of a lifetime, filled with memories, experiences, and tons of pictures. When I came home and developed, framed, and revisited those pictures is when it hit me: I was very out of shape. I had gained about 15 pounds that year, avoided exercise, and developed terrible eating habits. Ever since then, I have made working out a priority. Although my diet has improved greatly since then, I am not one to give up pizza, cupcakes, or candy. Say what you want about my reasoning, but working out, in my mind, allows me to indulge and still stay fit and healthy.

I think being active is such an important part to being healthy and happy. Here are some useful tips I believe anyone can benefit from, no matter what stage of fitness you are in.

Starting from Scratch

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  • When you are starting from scratch, motivation and choosing the right activity are key.
  • Choose an activity that is enjoyable and challenging but not overwhelming. Do not sign up for an intense spin class or a 6 mile race thinking that will motivate you. That will just emphasize how long you have been out of the game. Try run/walk intervals, elliptical training, zumba, bicycling, or even yoga/pilates. At this point, it is important to just get moving doing something you enjoy, but make sure you stick to a consistent schedule.
  • Motivate yourself! For $10 you can create an awesome playlist that distracts you, gets your body moving, and sets the tone and pace for your workout. For $20-$30 you can buy some cute workout gear that you will look forward to wearing. Or, you can sign up for a class at a local gym or studio.
  • Make your workout something you look forward to. If it’s something you dread, you won’t do it. Even though activities like yoga and walking are less intense (and you will burn less calories) than other activities, if it’s all that you will do, it’s most definitely better than nothing.
  • If you feel like time is a huge factor preventing you from working out, two important things to do are to plan and be realistic. Map out your week and realistically allocate certain days to certain activities, based on time. Some helpful suggestions are to invest in a few workout DVDs, a yoga mat, and some comfortable weights. Pick a TV show that you can watch mindlessly (Real Housewives, anyone?), and workout as you watch! You can get tons of great workouts for free online.
  • Also for busy individuals: remember, not all your exercise needs to be done at once. A 20 minute morning walk with 20 minutes of toning at night is 40 minutes you won’t even miss, trust me.
  • Don’t forget old reliable friends such as push ups, planks, crunches, squats, and lunges. These babies are classics for a reason and seriously require less time than an episode of Big Bang Theory. Added bonus: NO equipment required. No excuses for you frequent travelers!

Getting Too Comfortable

  • You’ve started working out, but now you are stuck in your comfort zone. Now is the time to kick it up a notch.
  • Challenge yourself. Were you walking/running? Try just running- you can probably go farther than you think! Were you bicycling? Try spinning or upping the resistance on your bike. Loved pilates? Mix in some resistance bands or switch to more intermediate level moves. No matter what your activity: change moves, add resistance, or up the incline
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  • Mix in a new activity. Ultimately, you want a good mix of cardio and strength training. Most of us tend to enjoy what comes more naturally to us. Just be sure to mix in a little of the other category for a nice balanced, diversified work out.
  • Update that playlist! Even a few new songs makes the world of a difference.

Been There, Done That, Now I’m Bored…

  • You’re fit and accomplished but the worst plague of all is hitting you: boredom.
  • Obviously, mixing up your routines are key. However, beware that sometimes trying a new activity is not as satisfying as your old passion. If you are a seasoned runner and try cycling, you may not like it! That’s ok. In that case, your disdain of cycling will remind you of you passion for running. Just try mixing up something: your pace, your time, your route, your company, your music.. anything to give your mind a new focus.
  • Constantly explore new options and activities. They key is not to give up what you used to do, but to add in a little variety so that your old routine is new and exciting again.
  • Find new motivation. I find signing up for frequent events such as races, especially for a meaningful cause, always ignites a spark in me. There are many more events out there than road races. Visit active.com to find events in your area.

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  • Splurge on new equipment. This is different than the “beginner motivators” such as music and workout gear. These items should be more of a reward to help re-spark your love of something; expensive running shoes, a Garmin, a good bicycle, a fitness class membership, expensive golf clubs, you name it! Or, ladies, any item from LuLuLemon!
  • Take a break! It sounds counterintuitive, but try not working out for 4-5 days. Take the time to relax, physically and mentally, and by the time you start again you will probably be itching to do whatever it is you do.

And Always Remember:

  • Every little step counts! Being fit is about being active. Taking the stairs, the long route, or walking your dog do count.
  • Push yourself, but within limits. Exercising should be kept as enjoyable as possible. Some days, exercising can wipe away your stress. But then there are always those days that Ben and Jerry will help you more. And that’s fine! Working out should be an ongoing lifestyle, not a daily chore.
  • One of the quotes that really sticks with me about working out is from Bethanny Frankel. “Do what you can, when you can”. Do not forego food, plans, or time doing other things in order to workout. Instead, maximize your free time, no matter how small, to doing something active.
He can do it.. so can you!

He can do it.. so can you!

Garlic and Herb Pasta with Chicken, Shallots, Tomatoes, and Feta Cheese

Last weekend I stumbled upon a cute little farmers market in my area.  One of the vendors was called Pappardelle, who specializes in homemade pasta.  They sell pasta in all different flavors; ranging from chive and lemon to sun-dried tomato.  We picked up a simple ‘garlic and herb’ linguine, and have been anxious to try it out ever since.

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Aren’t the hooks so cute!?

It was hard for me to find a true “recipe” to use this pasta in because the pasta already has so many flavors- garlic, thyme, rosemary- in it.  So, I actually did something I rarely do and made my own concoction.  I am obsessed with onions and cherry tomatoes, and the Liberty on Less blog inspired me to add feta cheese.  Really, how can you ever go wrong by adding cheese?

I heated minced shallot and ginormous, plump cherry tomatoes in a little EVOO on low heat for about 15 minutes, until the cherry tomatoes were just about to burst.

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Thank you Fresh Market for these beauties.

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As that was heating, I boiled the pasta and grilled some chicken breasts seasoned with rosemary and crushed black pepper.  I then topped the pasta with the warm tomato mixture, grilled chicken, and sprinkled in some a ton of feta cheese.  I actually meant to drizzle some more olive oil on the finished product but forgot to.

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The verdict?

Eh.

I was very pleased with the flavor combination of chicken/tomatoes/feta/shallots, and my improvisation of ingredients.  Yay me.

However, I was very unimpressed with the pasta.  I’m sorry but $5-$6 for 8.oz of pasta is insane as it is, but this “flavored” pasta was BLAND!  I was so really hoping that this pasta would be a farmers market “gem” of mine, but it definitely was not.  I certainly would not recommend this pasta, or at least this flavor, to anybody.  Bummer.

2 morals to this story:

1. Save your bucks for uber fresh produce at Farmers Markets and stick to good ol’ supermarket pasta.

2.  Feta and tomatoes are amazing together,and make any meal better.

Disclaimer: I booked two (yes two!) vacations last night, both in the month of May.  Translation: time to get in shape!  So, don’t be surprised if the food featured on here gets kicked up a notch on the health scale.  (Even though I try to be healthy anyways)

I hope everyone is having a great week and your meals are turning out a bit more satisfying than mine.

xx

Food Fail: Mustard Herb Salmon Gone Wrong

Hello again blog peeps.

I am saddened to report that tonight was a night of failures; on both the food and fitness front.  For now, let’s discuss food failures.

Inspired by awesome success with last weeks dijon crusted halibut, I decided to try a new salmon recipe for once.  I turned to my super reliable and trusty friend Giada de Laurentiis who rarely lets me down, and chose her herb and mustard broiled salmon.

This was the first time I used my broiler in this particular oven, and I have a feeling that it wasn’t fully heated when I put the salmon in.  The result was that the top of the salmon cooked way faster than the rest; the top was already cooked while the middle was still raw.  Ultimately, the salmon turned out EXTREMELY dried out, right down to the mustardy spread on top.  The mustard practically browned in the same way cheese would while baking in the oven (good for pizza, not for fish).  In all fairness, the actual flavor of the topping was very good.

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Random side note: how in the world is one supposed to chop fresh thyme without the sprigs getting in the way?  The thyme was not like rosemary where the herbs just fell right off.  This step was beyond frustrating for an already doomed meal.

To make matters even worse, I made this with lemon green beans and shallots (idea from Two Peas & Their Pod blog).  Seriously, this side includes three ingredients- how did I screw this up?  I’ll tell you how:  I used the amount of lemon called for in cooking the whole recipe even though I reduced the serving size drastically.  The result was overly lemony, under shallot-ed green beans.  Fail.

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The best part of this meal was contributed by good ol’ Uncle Ben.  Seriously, Uncle Bens instant brown rice and quiona mix with garlic is very tasty.  I highly recommed it for a healthy grain dish in a pinch.

And that is the sad truth- the best I can offer you from this meal is a thumbs up to Uncle Ben’s brown rice and quinoa mix.

Giada’s salmon may be worth a shot if you are confident in your broilers ability to work.  After tonight’s experience though, I think I will stick to grilling and baking my salmon instead.  While the mustard sauce was really good, it didn’t measure up to the simple blackening mix I usually use, which happens to be way less complicated.

Tonights adventures were a disappointment on all fronts.  I am sure the problem rests with me and/or my appliances so if any of you try out these recipes and have success, please let me know!

Since this post is filled with enough negativity already, I will save my rant about what happens when you try out a new workout and hate it for another day.  Also, to lighten up the mood a little, I have included a picture of my incredibly cute dog, Macy.  I always say she looks like a little burrito when she’s nestled in my covers like this, so technically she does belong in a blog post about food :)

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The Best Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Period.

I am breaking one of my own rules, and I don’t care.

I have always said I would not claim something as “the best I ever ate” if I had not tried enough of a particular food to compare.

Scratch that.  For now, at least.

This past week, I had the opportunity to try a local Italian restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Casa D’ Angelo.  I have wanted to try this place for a while now, but it is pretty pricey and shocking, not in my current budget.  What do you do when you really want to try a restaurant and can’t afford it?  You wait for your family to take you there.

I had family visiting from NY who suggested we all go to Casa D’ Angelo for dinner.  That’s right, I didn’t even have to debate internally whether it was rude of me to pick such an expensive restaurant because they picked it themselves.  Amazing.  The food here was so good and so authentic Italian, as judged by my relatives from Italy, that we ended up going back AGAIN before they left.  I seriously hit the food lottery that week.

One of the main persuasive forces of returning a second time was this risotto.

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

Mushroom Risotto at Casa de Angelo

I ordered it on a whim as an appetizer for my boyfriend and I because I have never had a truly authentic risotto, and I certainly don’t have the time or willingness to add 5 sticks of butter to make this on my own.  I don’t care that I have not tried other risottos, and I don’t care that this is one of the least photogenic dishes ever- this risotto was pure heaven.  The truffle oil and porcini mushrooms added just the right amount of flavor on top of the divine creaminess of the cheese and other goodness in here.  The rice itself was perfectly al dente.  My hard to impossible to please Italian grandmother raved about this risotto.  This was seriously one of my favorite appetizers from a restaurant ever.  You can also order it as an entree, but I think the appetizer portion was plenty satisfying.

If you are ever in Ft. Lauderdale and looking for the best Italian food, go to Casa D’Angelo.  Order this risotto whether or not it is on the menu that day.  Somehow.

Every other part of my dining experience was delicious and blog-worthy as well.

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I ordered the linguine positano as my entree, which is linguine with shrimp sauteed in white wine, with garlic, fresh tomato, and arugula.  I thought this dish was phenomenal- fresh, simple yet flavorful, and filling.  The shrimp were a bit on the firm side, but I suppose that is better than overly cooked, rubbery shrimp.

So, my recommendations to you all:  1. Plan a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if you don’t live nearby.  2. Invite family to cover the bill (joking, kind of.) 3. Demand to try the mushroom risotto. 4. Order anything else as an entree 5. Drink wine to enhance good time and better tolerate family and 6. Pass out in food coma.