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Three Knees

May 13, 2011

For some reason, I cannot say the word “calzone” without thinking of the show Seinfeld.  Or New York.  Or an Italian Pizzeria.

I also cannot say the word without the terms “food coma” and “bloat fest” springing to mind.

Since my handsome hubby is a calzone lover, I decided to make an easy at-home version that is a bit lighter than the kind Kramer or George Costanza might eat.  And it won’t make him look like George either.


I used turkey sausage, but feel free to substitute chicken, extra veggies, or whatever makes you happy.

Lightened Up Turkey Sausage Calzone

Ingredients (for 2 calzones)

1 cup fresh spinach (or chopped broccoli)
1/2 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 pound sliced lean turkey sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil (I used Garlic Gold)
1/2 pound frozen multi-grain or whole wheat bread dough 
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup spaghetti sauce sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 egg white
1 teaspoon sea salt
Garlic Gold nuggets, optional

Combine vegetables, garlic and olive oil and sauté in a pan over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

Divide the dough in half and shape into two ovals.  Add half of the vegetables and half of the cheese to each.  Wet the edges of the dough and fold it together, press the edges together with a fork.  Brush the calzones with the egg whites.  Sprinkle with sea salt and Garlic Gold nuggets, if using.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Heat the pizza sauce in a pan over medium heat and serve on the side.

When he was eating this huge calzone (he actually just ate half), Michael said, “It has weenies in it,” referring to the turkey sausage.  I’m pretty sure he said that just so he could tell his weenie joke.

Michael: “I have three knees.”

Erin: “Really?”

Michael: “Yep.  My right knee, my left knee, and my weenie.”

That’s my husband for ya!   His lame jokes are just one of the many reasons why I love him.

Happy Friday!


Old School

May 12, 2011

When the grocery store clerk at Harris Teeter ran up my total yesterday, I counted out the $27.42, as she stood there waiting for me to swipe my debit or credit card.

She was nearly floored when I handed the money over to her in cash.

“No one pays with cash anymore!” she exclaimed, as though I was a circus freak.

“I’m old school,” I said and then I drove off in my horse and buggy.

When I got home from the store, I started to think about what to make for dinner.  I began to pull out my laptop to search for inspiration online…and then I stopped myself.

Since I was apparently a character straight out of Little House on the Prairie already, I figured that I should consult my good old-fashioned cookbook collection instead.

I nearly forgot that I have so many wonderful cookbooks, and I thought I’d share my favorites with you today.

I’d continue the old school theme and send each reader a handwritten letter or telegram, but for the sake of time, I’ll go high tech with this one and type it out. 😉

Favorite for guest-worthy meals: Essentials of Healthful Cooking (Williams-Sonoma)

The photos in this book are so beautiful that it is difficult to choose a recipe.  And the options range from pasta dishes to fish to beef and vegetable based meals.  Any meal that you make from this book will dazzle any guests you’re entertaining.  It will even dazzle yourself.

Favorite for comfort foods: The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

You can find healthy versions of all your favorite comfort foods in this cookbook, including turkey meatloaf, pizza, spaghetti, and pancakes.

Favorite for quick and easy meals: The I ♥ Trader Joe’s Cookbook by Cherie Mercer Twohy

I’ve talked this one up a lot on TGS, but I just cannot help it!  The book contains over 150 recipes using foods from Trader Joe’s, one of my favorite places on earth.  I haven’t made a single meal from this book that wasn’t a winner.

Glamour Salmon (Recipe from Trader Joe's Cookbook)

Favorite for exploring new healthy dishes: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I refer to this one as the “cookbook I use when Michael is out of town” since the recipes in this one are for big time health food lovers. Think Toasted Wheat Germ Soup, Baked Purple Hedgehog Potatoes, Sprouted Garbanzo Bean Burgers (which I’ve made), and Garlic Scape Soup).

Sprouted Garbanzo Bean Burgers

Favorite for a little something different: Tapas by Joyce Goldstein

As defined by this book, tapas are small plates from Spain.  What I love so much about them is that they allow you to sample so many different foods in one meal.  It is perfect for someone like me who is often indecisive about what to eat.  Some of the tapas in this cookbook are marinated olives, stuffed eggs, potato and onion omelet, grilled eggplant with onion and peppers, chickpeas with spinach, and sausage stuffed mushrooms.

Favorite for desserts:  1001 Cookie Recipes by Gregg R. Gillespie

I almost selected one of my many cupcake cookbooks, but I had to go with the cookies.  I’ve had this cookbook since college, and it is truly the cookie bible.  From almond crisps to chocolate chip, you can find a recipe for any cookie on the planet.  You can even make the recipes healthy if you choose, but personally, if I am going to have a cookie… I want a real cookie.

Do you have a cookbook collection?  What are some of your favorites?  I’d love to add some new ones to my mix!

(PS- Remember the Strawberry Cream dessert I posted yesterday?  Well, I spilled it all over my kitchen floor, so Michael never even got to try it.  Guess I’ll be making that one again soon!)

Have a great day!

Strawberries Galore

May 11, 2011

Over the weekend, Michael and I went to the Strawberry Festival in Fort Mill.   It was great to see so many people out and about on such a beautiful day. There were some vendors selling jewelry, clothing, and baked goods.  There were also bouncy castles, face painters, a REALLY scary clown, and a petting zoo.

But I was most interested in strawberries.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that it actually isn’t all that easy find strawberries at a Strawberry Festival.

We wandered around looking for a booth that was selling them, and when we finally found one…they were out of strawberries!

Luckily, there was a booth selling strawberries by the exit, so I managed to snag some for me and some for my mother just as we were leaving.  And on Mother’s Day, my mother-in-law brought me even more strawberries.

Needless to say, I’ve been putting strawberries in everything for days.  I feel like Strawberry Shortcake!

After adding strawberries to all of my smoothies, my cereal, my fruit bowls, and my salads, I decided to make a light Strawberry Cream dessert just for Michael.

Strawberry Cream

(Lightly adapted from here)


3 tablespoons cold water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4 cups hulled strawberries
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (or plain yogurt)

1 cup strawberries, diced
2 tablespoons cacao nibs (optional)
Drizzle with honey (optional)

  1. To prepare cream: Stir together water and gelatin in a small heatproof cup or bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 20 to 30 seconds. (Alternatively, bring 1/2 inch water to a gentle simmer in a small skillet. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture in the simmering water until the gelatin has dissolved completely.) Stir the mixture until smooth.
  2. Place strawberries, honey and vanilla in a food processor and puree. Add sour cream; pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the dissolved gelatin. Pour the cream into four 8-ounce bowls or wineglasses. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  3. Top with strawberries, cacao nibs, and honey, if using.  Serves 4.

This was a very easy light dessert to put together, especially if you’re also hoarding all of the strawberries in town right inside your  refrigerator.

The one glass of wine that I had at  Liu Liu’s last night with Brittney and Sara must have been one too many because I actually broke the first martini glass that I tried to fill with the Strawberry Cream.

Oh well, at least I had fun!   It is always wonderful see Brittney, and it was great to meet Sara for the first time.

Plus, I had an adorable fortune in my fortune cookie.

Have a great day, everyone!

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

May 10, 2011

Great title for a post, right?

It is also the title of a documentary Michael and I watched the  other night.

As we were clicking through our movie options, the title grabbed our attention, and we just had to read the synopsis to learn what it was about.

100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well- with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn’t far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health. With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long-term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body’s ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle. While talking to more than 500 Americans about food… (Source)

After reading, I immediately knew that this would be my kind of movie.  And I was right!

As Joe toured the country talking to everyday people about their health, it was amazing and sad to see how many of them didn’t make their health a priority.  It was also kind of funny to see their reactions to kale juice.

A large focus of the movie was on juice fasting.  The physical transformation of Joe (and two other people) during and after the juice fasting was incredible.  They went from dull and unhappy looking to completely glowing.  No joke.

As you may know, I have the autoimmune disease Lupus and have managed to control my symptoms through a healthy lifestyle.  It is no wonder that the best part of Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead for me was watching Joe take control of his own autoimmune disease.  Like me, he was able to eliminate the need for all prescription medications by changing his eating habits.

Once the movie was over, I found myself craving juice.  Since then, I have replaced my morning coffee with fresh juice that I make at home using my juicer.

The fact that I took nearly a three hour nap yesterday has caffeine withdrawal written all over it…  But I am willing to give the juicing a try for at least 10 days to see how it makes me feel.

This morning’s juice combo was apple, carrot, and ginger.  My favorite!

For anyone who is interested, you should check out the official Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead website and the Reboot Your Life site as well (especially since it has some great smoothie and juice recipes).  You can also watch the movie online through Amazon.

Have you tried juicing?  Did you find that it gives you more energy?  What are your favorite juice combos? 

Enjoy your day!

Mother’s Day Lunch and Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes

May 9, 2011

Michael and I are very fortunate to live near both of our mothers.  Even though we see them often, we decided to host a Mother’s Day lunch at our house yesterday to show just how much we appreciate them.

When they arrived, both moms received gift baskets with all of their favorite snacks.

My mom’s basket included packets of Justin’s Nut Butter, The Ginger People Ginger Chews, a jar of my homemade granola, pistachio nuts, organic dark chocolate, and a few other fun things.  Like mother, like daughter!

There were a total of eight people with different tastes, so I turned the island in our kitchen into a buffet table.  This is the best way I’ve found to offer something that everyone will enjoy, including healthier options.

The lunch menu included and assortment of sandwiches from Panera, including veggie, Italian, and turkey.  There were also chips (Kettle Brand, my favorite), pickles, and a salad bar with toppings, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, walnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, Mandarin oranges, feta cheese, bacon bits, and croutons.

In addition, there were spinach tortillas for anyone who wanted to turn their salads into a wrap (which is what I did).

Since no Mother’s Day celebration would be complete without dessert, there were brownies, banana bread, and homemade Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes.  My sister Melissa also brought cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkles (my favorite!) and coffee cake.

The Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes were a lot of work, but the moms really enjoyed them.  Plus, they made the setting look very pretty.  My dad actually asked if they were real cupcakes!

Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes

4 ounces Earth Balance butter, softened
4 ounces pure cane sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces self rising flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with paper cases. 

Put the butter and sugar in a small bowl and beat together until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs.  Sift over the flour and fold into mixture with the milk.  Spoon the mixture into paper cases.

Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.  Let cool on a wire rack before icing.

Ingredients for frosting

(Lightly adapted from here)

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 cups pure cane sugar
3 sticks Earth Balance butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, pureed

Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Switch to a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Use immediately, or cover, and refrigerate.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy everything, and it was so much fun to sit around and chat with our family over lunch.

In fact, I wouldn’t mind if this became a Mother’s Day tradition, especially since I was left with a house filled with yummy cupcakes!

What’s that line I always say?  Oh yeah, everything in moderation.  😉

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day?

Have a wonderful day!

Happy Mother’s Day

May 8, 2011

When I was a little girl, I loved to play house with my dolls all day long, and I’d pretend that I was their loving mother.

(Not actually me)

My daydreams were filled with thoughts of making every one of their holidays special with beautiful decorations and wonderful desserts.

In my imagination, I’d make sure that all of their Christmas gifts would be exquistely wrapped with gorgeous bows, silver bells, and notes from Santa.

They’d have balloons on their birthdays and freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate when they came inside from playing in the snow.

I’d take them to the toy store and ride tricycles with them down the aisles and shoot them with water guns in the backyard.

I’d be the very best shopping partner that my daughters would ever have, and we’d chat around the table and watch chick flicks in bed.

I’d give them big smiles and warm hugs, so they’d always know that they were loved.

I was pretending that one day, I’d be just like my mother, the very best role model a young girl, and now a grown woman, could have ever imagined.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!

Simple Weeknight Dinner

May 7, 2011

Even though I now work at home, I do vividly recall the stress of having to work in an office all day and come home to cook up a good dinner.

As much as I love to cook, there were days when I’d dread it because I was so drained from being at work all day.  In an effort to make my life easier, I’d constantly search for recipes that were delicious yet easy to prepare.

Last night’s dinner was one that I discovered several months ago.  It is flavorful, rich in veggies, and comes together quickly.  You can also adapt the recipe easily if you are a vegetarian or lactose intolerant.

Pasta with Italian Turkey Sausage and Vegetables

(Adapted from Cooking Light)


* 1/2 pound lean hot Italian turkey sausage (you can also substitute veggie sausage links or Boca protein crumbles)
* Cooking spray
* 1/2 cup chopped red onion
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 cup mushrooms, quartered
* 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen mixed bell peppers
* 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
* 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
* 4 cups hot cooked penne or whole wheat spaghetti (about 1/2 pound uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Remove casings from sausage, if necessary. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, and zucchini; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sausage is done. Stir in tomatoes; cover and cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. Add pasta and black pepper; stir well. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

You’ll notice that there are a few veggies to chop up.  If you want to save yourself some time, you can try chopping them up the night before.

Since sour cream and I do not get along well, my portion was served up (along with a salad) before the sour cream was added to the dish.   Not that I know any better, but I don’t think that the omission of the sour cream takes away any of the flavor at all.

Despite cooking this quick meal last night, Michael and I ended up going upstairs to bed at 8:55 pm last night.  I wouldn’t let Michael actually get into the bed until the clock struck 9:00 pm though…just because it seemed less pathetic.

We’re off the Strawberry Festival today in Fort Mill.  It should be fun!  I don’t plan on partaking in the pig races, but that strawberry pie eating contest sure sounds good. 😉