Foodie Pen Pals-November! #foodiepenpals

I participate in Foodie Pen Pals and I love it!  It’s really fun!  Just like pen pals before email, foodie pen pals is organized by Lindsay at the lean green bean.  Thanks for organizing this! Foodie Pen Pal is an amazing program where bloggers (non-bloggers too) connect and each send to each other some foodie love!

My pen pal this month was Michelle and she delivered the motherload of Asian offerings!! Thanks for the nosh! She sent me some awesome eats, some unique snacks, and something I think we can all agree on: oodles of noodles! Asian carb heaven 🙂

I will admit, I haven’t had time to try it all, it arrived the day before I left for home for Thanksgiving and unfortunately, that meant flying 600 miles away from my beloved foodie pen pal box 🙂 I know a few things: I adore edamame and seaweed snacks. If you ever need a little kick to a salad, toss some of these on it and it will change your foodie life. The wasabi sauce is amazing and the crystallized ginger will make a great topper to salads, all those noodles, and when I make a giant hot pot or homemade lo mein, I’ll be using the ginger, mushrooms, and wasabi sauce in them. The napkins are adorable and I used them when I hosted a thanksgiving dinner last week. Thanks to Michelle for the thoughtful, well planned, and AMAZING box this month! My foodie heart runneth over!

If you want to become a foodie penpal, check it out and learn more about it.  It’s a great way to connect with other bloggers, check out some of the awesome eats, and have a little fun shopping for your own eats to send to someone. I sent my pen pal two kinds of homemade granola and some energy chunks this month and hope she enjoyed them!

I sent a package to Mary, what a great gal!

Interested in participating with us?  Here are some of the dirty details!

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.


Lemon Cream Cheese Cake

Half cake, half cream cheese filling, a WHOLE lotta LEMON LOVE!!! As great love stories go, this one is turning up roses! I’d like to point out one thing: no butter. I used non-fat greek yogurt (Chobani of course!) instead to see how it would turn out. This would make a great dessert or breakfast item to share with company and the slices are delightful.

You’ll be happy to know that I had to give the rest away to keep myself from eating it! I love lemon desserts so it was no surprise when this one came to me and all I could think was, “can i make it w/ greek yogurt and will it taste rich and delicious?” If you feel like you need more lemon in your life check out some lovely lemon curd, lemon-licious lemon bars, lightened starbucks lemon loaf, greek yogurt lemon raspberry bread, or oatmeal lemon bars. I think I’ve got this lemon thing covered like a cat in a litterbox! 😉

For the cake –

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (heaping)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • juice of one lemon or about 2 TBS
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of one lemon

For the cream cheese filling —

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or spray a 9″ springform pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Make the filling — In a large bowl or bowl of a standmixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high to high speed for about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until completely combined, about 1 minute. Add butter, both extracts and lemon zest. Beat until completely combined, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  4. Make the cake — In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk in melted butter, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Pour batter evenly into springform pan. Carefully pour filling mixture evenly over the cake batter to within about 1/2 inch of the edge of the pan. (The filling should cover all but the outer 1/2 inch, at which point the cake batter will be visible.)
  6. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake has puffed up and toothpick inserted near edge of cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove springform sides and allow to cool on rack for 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator and chill completely before serving.
  8. Serve chilled, with a little sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

Spaghetti & Mini Turkey Meatball Soup

I love this dish since it’s warm and hearty and you can cut the amount of noodles in it if you’re watching your carb intake. I’ve made this soup for years and chose to give you the turkey meatball recipe. Pin this or bookmark it for after the holidays when you’re trying to shed the holiday weight gain but still want to feel “full” without starving yourself. A bowl of this has veggies, lean protein, and some pasta to keep your stomach happy. This would also be a great meal choice anytime but weeknights are always a great time to serve this since it can be on the table in about 30 minutes with enough time to get out the door for holiday school concerts, basketball games, or to feed the crowd when no one is at the table at the same time. The leftovers heat up beautifully.

Healthier, comforting, warm, and a little bit fun! This take on classic spaghetti and meatballs is just as easy to prepare with no fuss. Taking the help from canned tomatoes made for a quick meal that can be on your table in no time. You can cook the meatballs right in the soup by boiling them in the stock/tomato mixture but I prefer to brown them a little bit in a pan or in the oven for a nice crust.

You’ll need:

Serves 4 + leftovers

Turkey mini meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 c. onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp./clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 TBS. italian seasoning (may omit if ground turkey is ‘italian style’ or reduce for personal taste)
  1. Mix all ingredients together and form small meatballs.
  2. Brown in a saute pan for approximately 8 minutes while shaking/turning for even browning.
  3. Meatballs will finish cooking in soup
  4. If you bake them, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes.

For the soup

  • 1/4 c. onion finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cans italian diced tomatoes (standard can)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 2 oz. dry spaghetti (I use thin spaghetti–this is a small handful of dry pasta)
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • Mini turkey meatballs
  • Parmesan Cheese
  1. Sweat the pepper and onion in a large sauce pan or small stock pot.
  2. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. ]
  3. Bring to a boil
  4. Break the spaghetti into small pieces and add to the boiling pot.
  5. Cook for 6 of the 8 minutes.
  6. Add the mini turkey meatballs to finish cooking the last few minutes. Turn heat down to simmer .
  7. Taste to add any remaining italian seasoning, salt, or pepper.
  8. Serve hot with parmesan cheese.

Parmesan Crusted Grilled Cheese

Can I make grilled cheese even tastier? <–this question crossed my mind. I answered my own question with YES! The parmesan cheese forms a beautiful crust and paired with some warm soup or cut small and served over a salad, you could make your own parm crusted croutons!!! I used sharp cheddar and some colby jack in mine but almost any combination of cheese is a good way to go. If I were going to request my last meal, it would involve some kind of melted cheese or a cheese board the size of my kitchen table. I’d probably weigh at least 10 lbs. less if I quit eating so much cheese. Since that’s not happening, we’ll just move on, shall we?

My issue of everyday food arrived and it took me weeks to get to it. I just didn’t have the time to go through magazines or I was too busy watching bad tv at night instead of stimulating my brain. This led to a ‘food funk’ where I didn’t feel like cooking for about a week and proceeded to eat cheese, crackers, pepperoni, and slices of apple for most meals. Thank goodness I don’t have kids or a demanding husband or something. I don’t know if feeding them cheese and crackers for a week solid would be good parenting/spouse behavior. I was brought out of my food funk with this sandwich. I thought, “it looks good, how can it be bad, it’s grilled cheese with more grilled cheese.” I was sold.

you’ll need:

some self control

15 min.

  • 4 TBS. parmesan cheese
  • 2 pieces of bread, your choice
  • cheese of choice
  • mustard/jam/condiments of choice
  • thinly sliced apples/ham/other sandwich fixin’s’
  • butter
  1. Pre-heat a skillet on medium
  2. Lay out other ingredients in an assembly line style (comes in handy later, I promise).
  3. Pour parmesan cheese in a shallow plate or dish.
  4. Butter one side of a piece of bread.
  5. Lay butter side down in parmesan cheese. Press firmly and get it covered.
  6. Lay bread, butter/cheese side down into heated skillet
  7. Layer on other ingredients: cheese, mustard, apples, etc…
  8. Take remaining slice of bread and butter.
  9. Lay in parmesan cheese to coat.
  10. Top sandwich.
  11. Toast sandwich about 3 min. on each side or until desired brownness is reached.

My Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

I love Thanksgiving. I make the meal. My mom isn’t much in the kitchen department but she’ll peel potatoes and do whatever it takes to get the meal on the table. I’m the boss in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. I do the standard turkey with stuffing but have some fun with the sides! Check out some of my favorites below and Happy Thanksgiving!! I’ll be on vacation from blogging to enjoy time with my own family and I hope you do the same!  I can’t wait to hear how all of your dishes turned out and how you’re using those leftovers. My personal favorite is a stuffed turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, mayo, and almost anything that I can jam between some bread. 🙂

Say hello to my favorite potatoes. Really. I put out these Horseradish Cheddar Mashed Potatoes and it’s like the same chant that comes with ice cream. Sometimes, I’ll add in some small onion pieces to really give them a kick. Leftovers are amazing in shephards pie, in fried patties with eggs, or just with more gravy.

This is not my best photograph, but trust me, Sweet Potato Bake will give those tater’s something to smile about. This is full of real maple syrup and warm fall spice. Top it with some whole or crushed nuts and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece. This can be made the day (or a few days) before and kept cold. Top it with the nuts or marshmallows just before putting it in the oven and you’ll be good go to!

You’ll be too busy worrying about bread dough. Take the help of a can of biscuits and dress them up into Garlic Parmesan Cheese Knots! Warm rolls with garlic, parmesan, and herbs will help sop up that extra gravy.

I never met a biscuit I didn’t like and the fact that these beauties are full of blue cheese makes them a great addition to your table. Blue Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits always go quick on the table and they couldn’t be easier to put together. Get little hands and bored hands to help you out!

Baked Cilantro Corn is a great way to free up a stove burner for gravy making and still get those vegetables to the table. I add heavy cream, butter, and plenty of spice to my corn each year. I also get the luxury of fresh/frozen corn from the farm that has a lot of its’ own liquid, a double win!

Loaded corn bread is a vegetable AND a starch! Sneaky, full of corn and you can add jalapenos, cheese, or just about anything else. A sure winner on the table.

5 Ingredient Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

5 ingredients–and one of them is water! How exciting is that? Make sure you get these good and cold before serving, they really are better this way! I love the texture of these and the angel food mix makes them super easy to put together so you can focus on other things: like your LIFE!!!  I’m all for taking time to make really good things but sometimes, especially during the holidays, you just want to make things so you can enjoy all of the family that will soon be arriving. These will not leave you disappointed. I made these the night before, tossed them into the fridge and they were ready the next day for serving/sharing.

I did use reduced fat cream cheese to try and help out the calorie intake and leave room for something really good, like stuffing! I think you’ll enjoy the simplicity of putting these together, I know I did!

you’ll need:

make 9×13 pan

prep time: 10 min.

  • 1 box angel food cake mix- the 1 step kind
  • 1 15oz can Pumpkin
  • 3/4 Cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 8oz pkg. reduced fat cream cheese
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the cake mix, pumpkin, water, & cinnamon together until it is smooth & well mixed.
  4. In a 9×13  dish add HALF of the cake –pumpkin mix. Then smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Spoon small spoonfuls of  the cream cheese (about half of it) over the top of it and take a small spatula to smooth it over the top. Add remaining cake-pumpkin mix & also the remaining cream cheese just making layers.
  5. Finally take a butter knife- stick it into the mix and go back & forth over the top of the cake making figure “8’s” – to blend it a bit.
  6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.