Daily Dose of Rabbit Food

Daily Dose of Rabbit Food: September 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spinach, Ham, and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

This Spinach, Ham, and Cheese Breakfast Casserole was inspired by a casserole my best friend Meghan made on an annual "girls weekend" trip this summer. What is not to love about a casserole? They can be made a day ahead, it is easy clean-up, you can tweak the ingredients to your taste, and they make good leftovers! Even though this is a breakfast casserole we actually made it for dinner earlier this week. When I was a kid my mom use to make us breakfast for dinner as a treat. I don't know what it was about that but my brothers and I always thought it was so much fun! Whether its eggs or pancakes and bacon, eating breakfast for dinner always brings back some sort of nostalgia for me!


Spinach, Ham, and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

2 cups of diced ham (can substitute cooked ground breakfast sausage)
2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese (swiss would also work nicely)
1 bag or bunch of fresh spinach
1 package of crescent rolls
2 cloves of garlic, chopped (fresh is better but minced will work in a pinch)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil, saute garlic until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.

2. Lightly coat 13x9 baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Unroll crescent rolls and place
    in bottom of baking dish. Layer the ham, cheese, and spinach on top of the crescent
    roll crust.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper in bowl. Pour egg mixture on top of ham, cheese, and
    spinach layers.

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes or until top of casserole is
    slightly browned.

*This can be prepared the night before and kept covered in the refrigerator.

The best part about this recipe is the crescent roll crust! It provides a firm and crispy base for the fluffy egg, ham, cheese, and spinach filling. In the past, I have always used hash browns as a breakfast casserole base but I am now a crescent roll convert! The crescent roll crust holds all of the other ingredients together so nicely. Immaculate Baking Company makes crescent rolls that contain no artificial preservatives, no hydrogenated oils, and uses unbleached flour. I found Immaculate Baking Company crescent rolls at the Mishawaka Whole Foods Market.

Not only does this casserole taste delicious but the spinach gives it an additional nutritional punch. Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can consume. Spinach contains lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, vitamins C, E, and K, minerals, polyphenols, and betaines. WHEW... that was a mouthful! Long story short, spinach has been shown to have an inverse relationship with cardiovascular disease, cancers including lung, skin, oral, stomach, ovarian, prostate, and breast, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts. EAT YOUR GREENS PEOPLE!

I hope you enjoy this Spinach, Ham, and Cheese Casserole either as a breakfast or as a fun way to switch up the usual dinner routine! If you substitute different breakfast meats, cheeses, or veggies let me know what you used and how it turned out!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wilted Kale - I tried it and so should you!

I am so excited my Wilted Kale turned out tonight! I am on a comeback from my banana jalapeno experiment. I don't know why it has taken me so long to try kale. I have read about its many benefits, I have torn out kale inspired recipes, and I have even picked it up and looked at it in the store but that little leafy green vitamin packed powerhouse has always intimidated me for some reason! I am so glad I pushed myself over the hump and tried it!

While Cody was driving to Chicago this past weekend for our cousin Susie's wedding I was able to look through a small stack of magazines that had been piling up. I always go straight to the Cooking Light magazine and am always able to get some inspiration for dinner ideas. I found a recipe for Wilted Kale with Bacon and Vinegar. I figured if I had one chance to get Cody interested in a kale dish a recipe with bacon was going to be my one shot. It also didn't hurt that I suggested pairing the kale with char-grilled pork chops and baked potatoes!

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Vinegar
*Adapted from Cooking Light September 2013 Wilted Kale recipe

3 center-cut bacon slices
3/4 cup vertically sliced sweet onion
8 cups kale
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1. Cook bacon on medium-low in large pan. Remove from pan; crumble.
2. Add onion to drippings in pan; saute 5 minutes or until tender.
3. Add kale; cook 2 minutes or until kale begins to wilt, stirring occasionally.
4. Add stock; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
5. Stir in vinegar and syrup. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

This was so delicious! It remind me of a Southern greens type of recipe. Sauteing the onion in the bacon drippings really adds a great flavor and depth to the dish. The maple syrup adds just a touch of sweetness and it is not overpowering whatsoever. Cody went back for seconds and even said "the kale was the star tonight"! I couldn't believe my ears. I think his pork chop was equally as delicious. He is perfecting the grill. He has been using a seasoning called Sonny Salt that is made in TN. There is a lot more to the spice than just salt and we are obsessed!

If cooking the onion in bacon drippings isn't enough to entice you to try the kale recipe I don't know what is but I do want to mention its benefits. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It is loaded with vitamins K, A, and C, fiber, and calcium. It is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
 nutrients. It is one of the most nutritionally beneficial things you can put into your body!

Over dinner tonight we had so much fun reminiscing about our weekend. Our cousin Susie's wedding was at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, IL. The ceremony was tucked away in a beautiful little nook and you would never have guessed it was in the middle of a zoo. After the ceremony we hopped on a trolly that took us through the zoo to the reception area. We were able to see giraffes, a rhinoceros, and bears. The reception area was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the company was great!

My husband has such a spunky, fun, and loving family. We were able to spend time with a lot of people we are not able to see regularly. From the moment I started dating Cody the whole Brown family has always made me feel welcome. We cherish the time we spend with them. We also found out the good news that our cousin Jenny was recently engaged to a great guy, Chris! At one point, Chris got teased that when he marries Jenny he marries the whole family. I can attest to this but I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gina's Overnight Oats

Has anyone else tried multiple recipes for overnight oats? I love the idea of a simple, healthy grab and go breakfast. I have tried various combinations and measurements of oats, dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, berries, bananas, nuts, flax, etc, etc... you get the picture. I gave it a rest for awhile but recently revisited overnight oats and found my perfect combination. Now I am obsessed with it and can't hardly wait to wake up and eat breakfast. Well, that might be a stretch but I do look forward to breakfast!

Gina's Overnight Oats

1/3 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup raspberries
1 Truvia packet

Put all ingredients into glass bowl and put in refrigerator overnight. Enjoy the next morning!

As you can see, the directions are really complicated. I prefer using unsweetened almond milk and adding a Truvia packet. However, if you prefer original or vanilla almond milk adding the extra Truvia may be too much for you. You are not me and I am not you but I do encourage you to play with your food and find the right mix for your perfect overnight oats! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Barre Beautiful and Banana Chicken

Has anyone tried a Barre class? If not, I highly suggest it! I started my Saturday with a 7:30 am class at a new studio in Granger, IN called B Present Studio. It was the perfect way to start the weekend! The studio space is so inviting, the workout was hard enough to make your legs shake (err... tremble), and the owner and instructor Tammy is so positive and upbeat. She always makes sure there is a modification for beginners while still keeping the class challenging for the more experienced. I left feeling refreshed and motivated! I will definitely be back!

After Barre, I stopped at the Granger Farmers Market and picked up some fresh produce for the weekend. Local food just tastes better! 

My husband has been in Hershey, PA for the past week working an RV show. The house is not home when he is gone! One of our favorite things to do together is cook so after he got home we relaxed with a bottle of wine and spent some quality time together in the kitchen. I am convinced food not only nourishes our bodies but our spirits as well.

I was planning on being able to share a chicken recipe with you but it didn't quite turn out the way I had hoped! The recipe idea started with a banana! As much as we eat bananas I always seem to have one or two that start to brown faster than we can eat them. Instead of a smoothie or banana bread I thought I would use it as part of a sauce. I recently saw a recipe in our local newspaper that called for banana, jalapenos, and ketchup blended together. I was hoping the outcome would bring an equally sweet and spicy sauce but the banana was a little too overwhelming. We tried to like it, I really wanted to, I thought maybe I would have a change of heart after the second or third bite but I just couldn't bring myself to like it! 

With all things in life we have to look on the bright side! The bright side of this chicken fail is that we realized how much we love garlic mashed red potatoes, I got to use my immersion blender for the first time (it has only taken me 11 months to take it out of the box), and I was able to use up the bananas! Plus, by the time we got to the main course we had already filled up on antipasto from Whole Foods and salads put together with the goods from the Farmer's Market.

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes:

8 red potatoes, skin on                    salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup skim milk                            6-8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt              1/2 cup good parmesan cheese (not pictured above)

Put clean potatoes and chopped garlic cloves into a large pot. Put enough water in pot to completely cover potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 25-30 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce potato. 

Drain potatoes and garlic. Cut potatoes in quarters. Add potatoes, skim milk, plain greek yogurt, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese to mixing bowl. Mix until you have reached desired consistency.

Unless you are channeling your inner monkey I would suggest trying the mashed potatoes before you try mixing banana, jalapeno, and ketchup together! The mashed potato recipe is a trustworthy side dish that uses ingredients that most people will have on hand. 

This is one of my favorite pictures of Magic. That has now become "his spot". Even though we have only had him for about 6 months I couldn't imagine life without him. He keeps me company while Cody travels and never complains about being a guinea pig for my new recipes! 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Organic vs Non-Organic... Organic Wins!

If you are like me, you have asked yourself, "What is the hype about organic produce, is it really better for me, and is it worth the money?". I have done a lot of reading about this and wanted to share with you what I have found. 

Organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or hormones. Organic farming works with the land. Crops are rotated to allow soil to retain nutrients, animals graze in different areas each season to let grass replenish, and farmers feed the soil with compost, rather than artificial fertilizer. This type of farming is a long-term, sustainable method for producing crops.

Conventional, or non-organic produce, relies on large-scale farming, which involves the use of chemicals, to yield a plentiful crop. This type of farming works against the natural cycles of the earth by depleting vital minerals and nutrients found in soil. When eating conventionally grown items we are subjected to the chemical residue that is left on the produce. A conventionally grown apple contains 20-30 artificial chemicals on its skin, even after washing. These chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, liver, kidney, and blood disease. 

Fresh, organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients than conventional produce. Organic fruits and veggies have 50%-60% higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than non-organic fruits and veggies. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to improving public health and the environment. They have developed a “Dirty Dozen” list of conventional fruits and veggies that have been found to contain the largest amount of pesticide residue. They have also formulated a “Clean 15” list of conventional fruits and veggies that have been found to have the lowest amount of chemical residue. 

You can use this list as a guide when you are grocery shopping. It will help you focus in on what items are most important to buy organic. Hopefully this will help maximize your dollar!

Most grocery stores have a specific "organic" section but if something is not clear you can refer to a fruit or veggie's PLU code. The International Federation for Produce Coding standardizes PLU codes for ALL grocery stores. This is the purpose of that little white sticker found on produce!

Conventional fruit and veggies usually have a 4-digit number and begin with a 3 or a 4. A conventional banana would have a PLU of 4011.

Organic fruits and vegetables have a 5-digit number and begin with a 9. An organic banana would have a PLU of 94011. 

Genetically modified fruits and veggies have a 5-digit number and begin with an 8. A GM banana would have a PLU of 84011.

I encourage everyone to buy organic when possible, especially if the item is on the "Dirty Dozen" list. It is more expensive up front but you are doing something good for yourself and your family. By eating clean and wholesome you are preventing chronic conditions, improving vitality, and encouraging sustainable farming practices! Happy shopping!

-Statistics in this post are from "Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness" by Joshua Rosenthal

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bars

We had a great weekend with our cousin Heather, her husband Steve, and their beautiful daughter Frances. It was so nice to relax at our home, catch up over cocktails, and enjoy many delicious meals. There is something so rejuvenating about slowing down your normal pace, putting down phones, computers, and tablets, and being present in the moment. These little snippets of time really make life beautiful. 

I wanted to share a recipe with you that I recently made. Even though I love bookmarking and pinning recipes there is something I just love about having a tangible recipe in my hand. I constantly tear out recipes from magazines or mark pages in my cookbooks. I tend to put the recipes I tear out into a folder on my desk and when I am feeling motivated will look through the folder and pull out one that inspires me. I recently found a recipe from a July/August 2012 Health Magazine issue called "Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bars". The recipe had me at chocolate! I made a few modification to the recipe that made the energy bar even healthier... I just can't help myself! 

I made these last Sunday. I took half to work on Monday and I have had a few co-workers ask for the recipe! That must be a good sign, right?! I froze the other half over the week and took them out this past Friday to thaw. They were great to have on hand for a mid-day "dessert". They satisfy a sweet tooth but are filled with healthy yummies that include dark chocolate, dried cranberries, and peanuts! 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bars
*Original recipe from Health Magazine July/August 2012 edition

Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (organic preferred)
2 large eggs
2 TBSP no-sugar-added applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries (dried cherries would work too)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and cinnamon in small bowl. In large bowl, beat brown sugar and peanut butter until well combined. Beat in eggs, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture. Gently stir in rolled oats, cranberries, peanuts, and dark chocolate.

Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool completely.

To me, this recipe is definitely a keeper! You can always experiment with substituting different chocolates, nuts, and dried fruits. Have a Happy Labor Day!