Crock Pot Turkey and Pumpkin Chili

I pre-ordered the new Skinnytaste Fast and Slow Cookbook and was thrilled when it got to my house…On the day it was officially released. I follow Gina’s blog and always love what she comes up with. I especially love recipes that involve the use of a slow cooker since you can set it and forget it. They’re the perfect recipes for days where you’re either heading to work or running errands and don’t have time to stand around the kitchen and prep a meal. This book also includes recipes that can be thrown together in under 30 minutes. That’s also great if you had a long day at the office and need something quick, that does not involve the drive-thru window. I decided the first recipe I was going to try was the slow cooker turkey and pumpkin chili. Gina uses navy beans in hers, while I opted for kidney beans. I also changed around the amount of ingredients here and there but at the end of it all, it’s a chili that is still incredibly delicious and perfect on a chilly day (see what I did there?).

  • Ingredients:
  • Cooking spray or oil mister (I used PAM olive oil spray)
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used Swanson)
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans chopped mild green chiles (Old el Paso makes these if you don’t know what to look for)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Coat skillet with cooking spray and add the ground turkey and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into pieces as it browns (this takes 5-10 minutes). Transfer to a slow cooker.
  2. Add oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent (5 minutes or so). Transfer to the slow cooker.
  3. To the slow cooker, add the broth, beans, pumpkin, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, oregano, black pepper, and bay leaves, as well as the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Stir well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (low and slow is always better IMO).
  4. Remove the bay leaves, adjust the seasoning to taste, and serve.

Chili isn’t the prettiest thing in the world but it sure tastes good!

This came out delicious with just the right amount of spice. The flavors blended together beautifully. And it was filling! Definitely a fantastic recipe if you’re looking for something to make as the months get cooler. This recipe also made a ton of food, which resulted in a lot of leftovers. I can’t wait to try out some other recipes from this book!

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Crock Pot Enchilada Orzo

It’s the end of the summer and it’s still hot in New York. Too hot to turn on my regular oven. This is why I own more than 1 slow cooker (and am looking to purchase an InstaPot by the end of the year). I happened to stumble upon this recipe while searching for something new to make in my Crock Pot. I’m typically not much of an orzo fan, however, the cheesy goodness of enchiladas is enough to make me say yes to almost anything. I tweaked the recipe a bit (as you’ll see below) but feel free to switch it up however you choose!

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (10 ounce) can Old El Paso medium enchilada sauce (feel free to switch to mild if medium packs too much of a punch for you)
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can Old El Paso chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth, plus more, as needed (we’ll get to that later, but I had 2 cups ready to go total)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned, or roasted (I used canned, if you do the same make sure you drain them!)
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Ground sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
  1. Place diced tomatoes, enchilada sauce, green chiles, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, corn, and black beans into a slow cooker; season with S&P, to taste. Stir until well combined. Top with cream cheese (the cream cheese does NOT need to be mixed in. It will melt as everything cooks up and you will fully incorporate it later).
  2. Cover and cook on either low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours (I did high).
  3. Uncover and stir until cream cheese is well combined. Stir in orzo. Stir in additional vegetable broth until desired consistency is achieved (I ended up using about 1.5 more cups so it wasn’t so thick). Cover and cook on HIGH heat for 15-30 minutes (15 did the trick for me).
  4. Serve immediately and transfer any leftovers to a casserole dish (it will begin to stick to the sides of the slow cooker otherwise).

What this baby looked like prior to adding the orzo 4 hours later.


All finished and quickly transferred to a casserole dish so I wouldn’t be spending hours scrubbing my Crock Pot.



This came out insanely cheesy (much like my sense of humor). Even with the additional broth, it still remained a bit thick but that was just fine with me. Make sure you don’t overcook once the orzo is added or you’ll have some mushy pasta (and who really likes that?!). This is guaranteed to taste even better as leftovers, which allows everything more time to come together and pack more of a flavor punch. The chiles and fire roasted tomatoes can make this pretty spicy so if you can’t handle heat, then I suggest substituting with something else.

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Cola Cake

A few years ago, for my birthday, a friend of mine made me Diet Coke cupcakes. They were easily the best cupcakes I had ever had. You can go ahead and tell me, “Magnolia is better!” but I will disagree. Since then I have wanted to make my own version of cola cake but not using a boxed mix (my friend’s version required Miss Betty Crocker which is fine and dandy in my book, but I love watching something come together with each individual ingredient). I finally tracked down a cola cake recipe in a Taste of Home cookbook. While I typically try to cut back on sugar and fat in my recipes, I simply could not do so with this particular recipe. You need the sugars, you need the fats. You’ve been warned. Your friend is on a diet? Too bad. Make this a cheat day meal.

  • Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 12-ounce can Coca-Cola (I prefer Pepsi but for this, you need good ol’ Coke)
  • 1 stick salted butter, room temp. and cubed
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows (I took jumbo size marshmallows and chopped them up)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 in. baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and baking soda.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the cola to a boil; cook 7-9 minutes or until cola is reduced to 1 cup. Stir in the butter, oil, and cocoa powder; return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in the marshmallows until melted. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla until blended. Add to the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake 30-35 minutes (33 did the job in my oven) or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in baking dish on a wire rack (this took almost an hour and a half to completely cool so go run errands or something).

I tested it twice (see the holes?) because I refused to believe a cake so moist was done baking in under an hour

  • Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, mix sour cream, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Frost the damn cake and pretend all that caffeine from that can of Coke is seeping into your bloodstream.



So moist, so good, so caffeinated (not really caffeinated but a gal can dream)

This is easily the most delicious cake I have ever made. It’s moist, filled with flavor (none of which is soda), and the topping adds a nice tart punch to it to cut some of the sweetness. Also no small appliances were harmed in the making of this baked good.

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NatureBox Review

I’m a snacker. I love to snack while I’m at work. I love having something I can mindlessly grab and eat while I bang out expense reports and go through hundreds of emails. The problem is, the office vending machine is full of junk food snacks. The bodega downstairs isn’t much better. Sure, they offer some varieties of nuts and such, but everything else is chips (full of sodium) and candy (full of carbs and sugar). That’s why I decided to seek a better option. That better option ended up being NatureBox. I got 50% off my first box since I was a newbie and moving forward it’s roughly $20 a month to receive 5 snacks that are on the healthy side and are, surprisingly, tasty. Below is what I received for the month of May. My June box just shipped and I’m excited to give my new snacks a try!

  • Coconut Cashews: These were my second favorite snack in May’s box of goodies. Cashews are one of my favorite things to snack on. These cashews were made even better by adding a hint of coconut flavor (it’s not overpowering). They’re also easy to snack on and they’re filling!
  • Apple Cinnamon Crunch: These were my least favorite but they were still pretty tasty. This was a mix of peanuts and other goodies, all with a hint of apple flavor. I barely tasted any cinnamon, which was mildly disappointing. Easy to snack on but not something I would add to my NatureBox pantry ever again.
  • Honey Crunch Crisps: These were my favorite! Crunchy snacks with the right amount of honey flavor. I could have easily polished off this bag in one sitting but then this snack would no longer be considered healthy so…
  • Salt & Vinegar Veggie Chips: I’ve always been a fan of salt and vinegar chips. These were good but my main issue is the fact it’s the only bag that does not reseal. Meaning either eat all servings in one shot (and risk going over your calories for the day) or wasting the remainder of the bag. I ended up doing the latter, which was a disappointment.
  • Asiago & Cheddar Cheese Crisps: I love asiago and I love cheddar. Hell, I just love (almost) all cheese. These were easy to snack on since the flavor punch was so strong and they were fun to crunch away on. I’m looking forward to receiving these again somewhere down the line.

What I saw when I opened the box


These are addicting!


My favorite


Second favorite

Overall, this is a great subscription if you, too, are a snacker and are looking for healthier options. Some of their snacks are also available in select Target stores. I might not continue with the monthly subscription but it’s easy to “pause” the plan at any time and pick it back up again later. If you’re interested in trying out a box for FREE (yes, free!) click this link and try it out! Happy Snacking!

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Homemade Twix Bars

Twix. A candy loved by (almost) everyone. A cookie topped with caramel topped with chocolate. I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate but damn if it isn’t fun to melt and play with. I found this recipe after trying to figure out what to bake. I tweaked it a bit since certain methods in the original recipe weren’t exactly working out for me (more on that later). I broke the ingredients down into three sections to represent all three layers.

  • Shortbread Layer Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Caramel Layer Ingredients:
  • 2 cups caramel chips (Kraft sells these in a bag that is more than enough to cover the 2 cups required)
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Chocolate Layer Ingredients:
  • 3 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. and line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the shortbread crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Mixture will be extremely dry but will come together after mixing.
  3. Press dough evenly into the pan. Lightly flour your hands (all the way to your wrists) to help with any sticking. Prick the crust all over with a fork to prevent bubbles.
  4. Bake the crust until it’s lightly-golden brown on top and the edges are a deeper golden brown, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife along the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.
  5. For the caramel layer: Melt the caramel and heavy cream using a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Quickly pour the caramel over the shortbread crust and smooth it using a rubber spatula. Put it in the fridge to 30-40 minutes to chill and firm up.
  6. For the chocolate layer: Melt the milk chocolate using a double boiler. Add the vegetable oil to thin out the chocolate. Next step is two different ways you can go about sealing the deal on these babies.
  7. Cut the caramel/shortbread twice lengthwise, then horizontally, to create “bite-size” pieces and quickly spread the chocolate over each piece with a knife OR take the chocolate and quickly smooth over the top and cut into bars. I originally attempted to use tongs to “dip” each piece into the chocolate but they started breaking apart as I did that so I said “eff it!” and went with working on parchment paper placed over a cooling rack. Tip: work fast with the chocolate, you might want to enlist a friend or relative to help you out. The chocolate thickens VERY quickly so it’s best to have someone continuously stir it as someone else works to get the chocolate onto the pieces.
  8. Place the chocolate-covered pieces in the fridge and let them chill and firm up for 2 hours. Keep them in the fridge whenever they are not being served since the caramel and chocolate will quickly breakdown.

Right before they hit the fridge for their final “firm up” session. Look at the beautiful artwork created on the parchment paper.


After chilling like a villain in the fridge.


A good chunk of caramel.


I love layers.

Let’s be honest. These were a bitch to make. My neck is shot from standing over my double boiler but the effort was well worth it. The worst part? Quickly working with the chocolate and figuring out a method to get them all over each piece without the pieces breaking. I first tried with larger pieces but that wasn’t working so ultimately each piece was cut in half from there. These taste delicious and are addictive. You’ll also be stuck with a bunch of them so as they say, “sharing is caring”. Bring some to work! I need a massage now.

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Baked Catfish

Fish. It’s something popular during the warmer months. Actually, fish is popular all times of the year. Some people dislike fish. Some people claim to dislike it but have never even tried it. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. Yes, I just rambled about fish. No, I had no good reason for doing so. Below is my take on baked catfish. A simple dish that you can whip up in a short amount of time. Oh, and catfish are not as ugly as monkfish (remember that recipe?).

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 catfish fillets (7-8 ounces)
  • ground sea salt (they sell this with a grinder attached)
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 ounces dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in a deep baking dish.
  3. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add wine, lemon juice, and garlic. Simmer about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon over fish.
  4. Sprinkle paprika over fish.
  5. Bake fish for 12-15 minutes, or until fish is cooked.

Make sure you spoon the extra sauce from the baking dish back onto the fish while serving it.

See? Easy! Catfish is a thicker fish than other fillets so your cooking time may vary. It’s also very filling due to its size. Absolutely delicious and takes little to no time to make.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

It’s busy season at work. What does this mean? Constant food. Everywhere you look…There’s food! I decided I needed to contribute to this movement and searched for a new brownie recipe. Oh, and, um…I bought a new double boiler, so I HAD to use that. The Epicurious line sold at JC Penney is pretty great and CHEAP (but still great quality!). Martha Stewart had this recipe for peanut butter swirl brownies. I made a few changes here and there and they came out delicious!

  • Batter Ingredients:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Make the batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing extra to hang over the sides. Butter lining (I used Pam Baking Spray) and set pan aside.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, stir butter and chocolates together until melted. Let cool slightly.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into a different mixing bowl than that of the flour mixture. Whisk granulated sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well-incorporated.
  • Filling Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Make the filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Combine the batter and the filling: Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Place dollops of filling (about 1 tablespoon each) about 1 inch apart on top of batter. Drizzle remaining batter on top and gently spread to fill pan. Place dollops of remaining filling on top.
  3. With a butter knife touching the bottom of the pan, gently swirl the filling into the batter, running knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers. Do NOT over swirl or the brownies will only look like peanut butter.
  4. Bake 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (the peanut butter might stay a bit wet but the chocolate should come out clean on the tester). Let cool slightly in pan (about 15 minutes) then lift out brownies and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting into squares.

Beautiful swirl.

These came out REALLY good. While they’re still cooling, the peanut butter will separate from the chocolate a bit. Wait until they’re completely cool prior to cutting into them.

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