Sweet & Sour Brisket

I have been a busy busy girl the past week or two with the holidays and some other things going on.  Dave and I split our holiday time between our two families so we got to celebrate Passover sedar twice!

I was so excited when my Mommom told me I could make something to help out this year.  I was back and forth as to what to make but finally decided to take on the responsibility of making the Brisket.  This would be a risky choice, having never made it before… but I was up for the challenge.  With the assistance of my crockpot and my handy-dandy Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I made one hell of a brisket!  Yay!

I realize Passover is OVER for this year, but there is always time for a good Brisket.

Sweet & Sour Brisket


1 4-5lb Brisket (mine was 5.25)

1.5 teaspoons Sea Salt, plus some more for seasoning the meat

Black Pepper

1 cup Beef Broth

3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

4 teaspoons Paprika

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

2 Tablespoons Onion Powder


Step 1:  Cook Brisket.  Season the meat with Salt and Pepper on both sides.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Place the meat in a slow cooker, pour the sauce over it, and set it to cook on LOW for 10 hours.  Your house is going to smell phenomenal.

Step 2:  Rest Brisket.  Resist the urge to eat the brisket… it’s going to get better with time.  While the meat is still hot, scrape off any large fat pieces on the edges.  There was a TON on mine.  Transfer the brisket into a baking dish, making sure to keep all of the sauce too.  Chill in the refrigerator for anywhere between a few hours to a whole day.  

Step 3:  Re-Heat Brisket.  An hour before you need to eat the brisket, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Remove the grease that has hardened on the top of the meat and sauce (or not, but it’s really nasty so I recommend it).  Remove the brisket from the dish and place on a large cutting board.  Slice while cold and transfer back into the saucy baking dish and spoon the sauce over the meat.  Bake in the oven until heated through, the sauce should be bubbly on the edges.  Serve immediately.

Recipe from:  the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Note:  The original recipe includes directions for cooking in the oven.  Briefly… Cook the meat in a 350 degree preheated oven in a dutch oven or in a baking dish tightly covered with foil.  Bake for 3 hours.  

photo 4 (2)

Had to stuff this bad boy in there!  It's amazing how much it shrinks though... so much fat to remove.

Had to stuff this bad boy in there! It’s amazing how much it shrinks though… so much fat to remove.

Gettin' Saucy!

Gettin’ Saucy!

This is all I had to dirty while making the brisket... love it.

This is all I had to dirty while making the brisket… love it.

I was SO nervous about this silly brisket!  I really wanted to make something big and new and exciting and I didn’t want to screw it up.  To add to my new recipe anxiety, I was stupid and didn’t read the cooking time until I had already started at 6:30pm on Saturday.  If I did it the right way, that would have meant to take it out at 4:30am.  LOL.

Lucky for me, Dave was out at a bachelor party and I was already waiting for him and awake at 2:30 to finish the brisket up.  Lesson learned:  read directions first.  Duh.

Cooled brisket with the grease scraped off.  Ready to be sliced.

Cooled brisket with the grease scraped off. Ready to be sliced.

It's easiest to slice the brisket when it's cold.  You'll get better slices whereas when you cut it after it's reheated it'll be more fork tender and fall apart.

It’s easiest to slice the brisket when it’s cold. You’ll get better slices whereas when you cut it after it’s reheated it’ll be more fork tender and fall apart.

Once the brisket is cut, I transfered it to my dutch oven to heat up for dinner.  Don't stress if the slices break a little... those will be the best bites!

Once the brisket is cut, I transfered it to my dutch oven to heat up for dinner. Don’t stress if the slices break a little… those will be the best bites!


What a great spread... brisket was so good.

What a great spread… brisket was so good.

Despite my nerves and anxiety, the brisket was awesome.  It was so easy to make and turned out absolutely perfect and delicious.  The brisket was so moist and flavorful, it was also the perfect combination of sliced pieces and the fally-apart pieces that sop up all the sauce.  MMM!

I do have to pat myself on the back once more and mention to you that my Dad who has NEVER tried Brisket in my lifetime not only tried this one… but really liked it.  Whatttttttttt?!

It’s a good thing when there are no leftovers, right?  I’d say next time I’d make a bigger one but this 5.25 lb baby hardly fit into my crockpot!




Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes

I really have no idea what inspired me to make Sloppy Joe and put it into a wrap.  Let me tell you… the meal was JUST as sloppy as it is on a potato roll, if not MORE!  Grab a few paper towels and make this one for your fam!

Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes

Makes 8-10 Servings (3/4 cup)


Olive Oil

1 Red Bell Pepper

4 Large Carrots

2 Stalks Celery

1/2 Sweet Onion

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

Sea Salt & Pepper

2.5 lbs Ground Beef (lean, 93%)

2 8oz cans Tomato Sauce

2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (I used the tube kind)

1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory Brown Sugar BBQ Sauce (+more)

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2-3 Tablespoons Hot Sauce or Buffalo Marinade

Buns (for traditional SJ’s), Wraps (what I did), or a big spoon!


1.  Finely dice all of your veggies.  Heat about a Tablespoon of Olive Oil in a very large skillet or dutch oven.  Season with Sea Salt and Pepper (just a pinch of both will do) and saute for 5-10 minutes.  Add Garlic and cook for another minute.

2.  Add the ground beef to the veggies.  Chop, stir, cook until the meat is no longer pink and is fully cooked.  Chop and chop and chop until the meat is almost the same size as the veggies.

3.  Add your tomato sauce, tomato paste, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, and Hot Sauce.  Stir, cover, and simmer on medium-low heat until it has thickened (for about 10 minutes).  Serve any way you’d like… buns, wraps, or just enjoy with a big spoon!

Recipe adapted from:  Spenser’s Sloppy Joe’s, Down Home w/ the Neelys

Get your veggies sauteed up!  I liked chopping them really small so they would mix well with the ground beef.

Get your veggies sauteed up! I liked chopping them really small so they would mix well with the ground beef.

Finished product!  YUMMM!

Finished product! YUMMM!

A Sloppy Joe wrap and a side salad

A Sloppy Joe wrap and a side salad

Digging right in... Sloppy is right! :)

Digging right in… Sloppy is right! 🙂

So, for some reason I had imagined Sloppy Joe in a wrap… so that’s exactly what we did.  I used those Ezekiel Sprouted Wraps which are super healthy; they have only 9 ingredients (all organic), are high in fiber, gluten-free, and taste really good.  You can find them in the frozen section of the grocery store if you haven’t tried them yet!


The Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce is so freakin’ good in here.  It is my absolute favorite BBQ sauce as it is, but the sweet & smoky Hickory Brown Sugar flavor is perfect for Sloppy Joe.  I added some extra onto the wrap before I closed it up as a nice finishing touch too.  You can try to use any BBQ sauce but if you see this stuff on sale… pick one up… or two… because it is SO YUMMY!


Although it made the recipe sorta non-traditional… I loved adding the veggies to this Sloppy Joe.  It gave the mix tons of flavor but also they bulked it up allowing you to eat more for the same amount of calories.  Hm… now that I think of it, what a great way to sneak in veggies for kids too!

We shared this batch with our roommate Adam and had enough for extras and leftovers the following day at work.  This is a great recipe for those one-pot cooking nights and for when you need to feed a lot of people!

Sweet Baby Ray’s Sloppy Joes Nutrition

Servings: 8-10 (3/4 Cup)

Calories: 311

Fat: 7g

Protein: 28g

Fiber: 2g

Carbs: 29g

Leftovers Quick

Purple Pesto Chicken w/ Tomatoes

Present Beth would like to give a big shoutout to Past Beth for freezing lots of leftover Purple Pesto.  Back when I brought home this pretty Purple Basil from the farmers market in Baltimore, I decided to freeze the leftover Pesto I made using it into little individual Tablespoon packages.  I wrapped them separately with some Plastic Wrap and kept them all together in a Sandwich Bag.  This was a great thing to use to make a normal, boring chicken dinner into something fabulous!

Purple Pesto Chicken w/ Tomatoes


2 Chicken Breasts, sliced in half to make thinner and then into half again to make into smaller strips

Salt, Pepper

2 Tablespoons Purple Pesto (recipe below, or store bought pesto sauce)

1 Large, Ripe Tomato

1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (I used reduced fat Cheddar, that was all we had)


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Place the raw chicken into the baking dish in one layer.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Black Pepper.  Put the baking dish in the oven.  Let cook for 8 minutes.

2.  Place the frozen pesto in a small saucepan with a few drops of Olive Oil.  Heat, or open up your store-bought pesto.  Slice your tomatoes to make 8 pieces or more if you’d like.

3.  Remove the chicken from the oven, flip and cook for another 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of chicken.  Take the baking dish out of the oven, add a little bit of Pesto to the top of each piece… then add tomato… and a sprinkle of cheese.  Put back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melty.

Purple Pesto Recipe:
2 Cups Purple Basil Leaves, stems removed, rinsed, dried.
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
¼ Cup – ½ Cup Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (what I used) Cheese
¼ Cup – ½ Cup Sunflower Seed Oil (or other oil)
½ Cup Toasted Sunflower Seeds
Salt, Pepper
Put the basil and sunflower seeds in the food processor.  Blend for 30 seconds or until the basil no longer takes up most of the space.  Add ¼ cup of Oil to start (you can always add more) and ¼ Cup of Cheese (again, you can always add more).  Blend in the food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, more cheese or oil if you need to.

Check out those Tomatoes… perfect.

We ate this dinner with a small salad on the side.  It would go great with pasta if you’d like, but I really liked how light the meal was with just the chicken.  What else should I make with my leftover Pesto?!  Yum, yum, yum!


Lunchtime Tuesday, Week 6

I’m not gonna lie.  Today’s lunch is soooooo boring.  I ran out of time last night to make a substantial and interesting healthy lunch for myself.  Whoops!  In typical Good to be the Cook fashion, I’m eating a plethora of seriously random but healthy things today:

1/2 Leftover Grilled Chicken Breast

2 Large Carrots, peeled, cut, and ready to dip into 1 Laughing Cow Wedge

1 Salad, complete with a whole bunch of lettuce, sliced carrot, sliced sweet pepper, 3 sliced Grape Tomatoes and 1 Tablespoon Dressing… that’s all I had left!

and… 2 Hard Boiled Egg Whites.

See what I mean?  Like, how boring, and strange of me?  Oh well!  I save one Apple and a Greek Yogurt for later and I’ll be roarin’ and ready to go for my long workout evening.

Since today’s lunch is so not photo worthy, I wanted to tell you about a lunch I made last week…

If you didn’t see this ridiculous all-in-one dinner of Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Baked Potatoes, check it out now!

For this lunch, I used the leftover chicken I had while making this recipe.  I love to make enough food the night before that I’ll be able to use it over again for lunch.  It’s a great way to save money and time!

Grilled Chicken Wrap

1 Whole Wheat Wrap 

4-6 ounces Grilled Chicken Breast, diced or pulled

1 Tablespoon Honey Mustard

1 handful Lettuce

2 Slices Cucumber, cut into smaller pieces

2 Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 Avocado, Diced

Directions:  Starting with the chicken, pile everything onto the middle of the wrap.  Drizzle with the honey mustard.  You can use more if you’d like… mustard is the best dressing you can use (in terms of healthy!)  Fold the wrap first lengthwise, then from the bottom, and then the long side.  I recommend starting the folding already on a sheet of foil, so you can use the foil to keep everything in place.  (Burrito style)  When you go to eat it, pull the foil back and keep it on the bottom so it doesn’t fall apart.

This was a great meal and an awesome change up from my normal Turkey Sandwich.  I think that the avocado replaces the need for cheese… it’s creamy and tastes so good!  I ate the wrap with a handful of baby carrots, a laughing cow cheese, and an apple.  It was really filling!  I wish I had this today too 😦


Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Happy New Year!  So, it’s January 2nd… do you know what that means?  It’s Day 2 of our Challenge!  I hope you have decided on your own goals and rules and have started working on them.  Last night, I did the best thing for the start of my diet- I went food shopping.  Personally, this is the most helpful thing for me when I am trying to be “good” with my diet.  I have found that I will start making better eating decisions if I surround myself around lots of healthy choices.  I bought a few yogurts (Dannon Light & Fit), apples, oranges, carrots, Reduced Fat Wheat Thins, Special K Cereal, and Blue Diamond flavored almonds.  When I have foods like these in my house or at work, I’m less tempted by my Dad’s snacks and ordering takeout, and am more likely to stick with my diet.

As I mentioned earlier, my “make my own” rule for my challenge is that I am not allowed to eat Chinese food!  When I was making Dave and I dinner last night, I started thinking that I’m going to sound pretty hypocritical when I tell you what I made… Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup.  In my defense, I totally meant I’m not allowed to eat Chinese TAKEOUT!  The soup turned out awesome, and it actually happens to be a recipe from Cooking Light.

I even entered this recipe into my Livestrong My Plate recipes page… here it is!  Only 286 calories and about 1.5 grams of fat per serving.  Not too shabby!

The recipe was meant to make 4 servings, but since we ate this as our main dish, we ended up getting 2 big bowls and some leftovers out of it.  It is spicy, but you can control the heat by how much of the Sriracha you add.  Next time, I would add more.  Duh.


3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast

1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium)

1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas

2 teaspoons Sriracha

2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger

6 cups water

3 ounces uncooked wide rice sticks (rice-flour noodles)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions


–           Bring first 9 ingredients to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm.

–           Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add rice noodles; cook 3 minutes.  Drain.

–           Place about 1/4 cup rice noodles in each of 4 bowls.

–           Discard ginger.

–           Add juice to broth mixture; stir.

–           Ladle 1 1/3 cups broth mixture over each serving; top with 1 tablespoon each mint, cilantro, and green onions.

The fresh herbs really made the flavor so amazing in the soup! What a nice touch.

Not like your Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup!

A few notes:  I was pretty excited because on my supermarket trip, I bought a container of “Better than Bouillon” instead of the normal Chicken Broth.  I find that we end up wasting a lot of chicken broth buying the pre-mixed kind, since they only last about 2 weeks once they’re opened.  I really liked the way it turned out, and it lasts a really long time.

Also, although the purpose of using rotisserie chicken breast is to save on time, I actually used my own chicken.  I had some frozen chicken that I defrosted, and baked in the oven before shredding.  You can really just use whatever you want.

One thing I’d change for the next time I make this (and it was so good, believe me there will be a next time!!) is that I would break up the rice noodles before I cook them.  They become very sticky and in a soup it’s hard to eat them with a spoon.  Dave and I even had to use forks.

I had to use my fork for the rice noodles!

Since I had made some chicken, I had a little leftover and decided to make chicken salad for lunch today.  It ended up being so good and so easy.

First, I shredded the chicken as I already did for the Asian soup.  I cut one stalk of celery into small pieces and put about 1/8 Cup of Craisins in the bowl too.  I used 1 Tablespoon of Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ Sauce and about 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil Mayo.  You should always start with less of the sauce and add more depending on how you like it.  MMM!

A great use for extra chicken!

The soup was a great idea for satisfying my Asian cravings but keeping the calories and fat so much lower than if I had ordered Takeout.

How have the first few days of the Challenge been treating you?  What guilty pleasure food did you decide to give up?  Also, what are your favorite healthy purchases at the grocery store that have saved your diet??