Sunday, December 26, 2010

Salsa Verde

I made this one up the other day by experiment. It's a keeper!

SALSA VERDE
10-12 tomatillos
3 jalapenos
white or yellow onion
cilantro
lime juice
cumin
salt

Fill a large boiler pan about 1/2 way full. Boil the husked tomatillos and jalapenos till the tomatillos skin is nearly falling off.

Carefully remove the vegetables from the hot water and set aside to cool.
Chop off the heads of the jalapenos and core the tomatillos.
Chop desired amount of onion into large pieces.
Set aside desired amount of cilantro.
Combine all of the above in your blender.

Blend till smooth.
Add lime juice, cumin and salt to taste...but be careful - a little goes a long way in this salsa!

It'll keep for up to a week in the refridgerator.

What foods do I like to use it on?
Drizzle on salads along with cottage cheese as a dresing replacement.
Anything "mexican".
Eggs.

Homemade Salsa

One of my roomates in college -Bonnie- taught me how to make the easiest and best tasting salsa....evah... Here you go!

HOMEMADE SALSA
6 ripe medium steakhouse tomatoes
3-4 jalapenos
white or yellow onion
bunch cilantro
8 garlic cloves
1 lime
salt

Fill a large boiler pan with water, about 3/4 full. Boil the tomatoes and the jalapenos until the skins on the tomatoes are nearly completely peeled off.

Remove carefully from the hot water and set aside to cool.

You can use a small food processor if you like. I just use a slap chopper.
Chop up your desired amount of onion into small bits.
Same for the cilantor - more is better. You want your salsa to be just as green as it is red.
Mince the cloves of garlic.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to touch with your hand, chop them up too. You will want to squeeze out some of the water if they are really juicy.

Bonnie likes to de-seed her jalapenos. It really depends on how potent they are. You can usually tell by the smell...but if you're not sure, just tap the end of a cut piece on your tongue for a second. You'll be able to tell the potency by the amount of heat. If it's too much, de-seed the jalapenos. If not, just chop off the heads and chop the rest up.

Combine chopped tomatoe, japaleno, onion, cilantro, and minced garlic in a bowl. Sqeeze as much juice out of the lime as you can.

Salt to taste.

Lasts for about a week in the refridgerator.

My favorite foods to put this salsa on?
Cottage cheese.
Mexican bowls (brown rice, taco meat, beans & lettuce).
Baked potatoes.
Seared chicken breasts.
Eggs or omelets

Thank you Bonnie!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vegetarian Enchiladas - A+ !!!

I tried this recipe the other night:
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/vegetarian_enchiladas.html

I can't give it enough props. It was amazing!
The corn sauce is very unique and a lovely texture.

I would have liked to add green chiles or salsa verde to the corn sauce - if the kids weren't eating with us.

I added zucchini, yellow squash, and doubled the mushrooms and spinach to the filling mixture.

I seared our tortillas with a little bit of oil before filling them as well. I think it helps to keep them from getting too soggy.

I used drained canned corn, and added a little extra cheese on top.

It has a nice sweet flavor to it and the vegetables - my o my every bite is a deliciously different surprise!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Green Protein Smoothies

Since starting my super fresh eating, I've been on a smoothie kick.
Here's the latest...and it's delicious!

Green Protein Smoothies

1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen fruit
5-7 ice cubes
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 serving chocolate, vanilla, or coconut protein powder
kale, spinach, or cabbage leaves
water

Combine all in your powerful blender, add enough water to make it easy to blend and loose enough once pureed that it is not too hard to sip through a straw. Pour into your favorite cup and enjoy!

Serves 2-4. 1 smoothie for breakfast gets me through to lunch and does not weigh me down. It's refreshing and light...especially great for these hot summer days!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scrambled Mexican Leftover Breakfast!

We eat a lot of egg whites in our house. HIGH protein, LOW calories. Since last nights meal was so delicious and there were leftovers thanks to my full tummy. I combined our typical eggy breakfast with last nights dinner to create an amazingly yummy egg scramble.

There is no recipe here. Just a tip:

USE your leftovers in your eggs for breakfast - it's a whole new take on them and you will LOVE IT!



So, I chopped up the stir fry meat and veggies, added the Mexican Cauliflower Rice, and cut the corn off the cob. With a little bit of olive oil in the wok, I reheated all of that. Then added 2 eggs and 4 egg whites and scrambled it up. Topped it with a little green tabasco.

Paired with half a banana and a chocolate protein shake was absolutely the breakfast my hot husband deserved for fixing my car yesterday!

SCRUMPTIOUS.

I also do this with my Roasted Cauliflower and Veggies.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Can't stand knowing that the rice you are cooking is just empty calories? Meaning: no nutritional value, high in carbs, and likely to leave your hungry in a short amount of time? Here you go...my gift to you.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice


1 head cauliflower
4-6 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes - mexican or italian seasoning
salt
parsley
ground pepper
chili powder
olive oil

Wash and chop the cauliflower into florets. Then "Rice" it. This is chopping it finely into small bits so that it resembles cooked rice. I use one of those slapper chopper thingy's. Works great! You can also grate it or use a food processor.
Over med-high heat, saute the cauliflower in a little bit of olive oil.

Drain the juice off the tomatoes. Mince the garlic. Add both to the cauliflower. Season to your liking with salt, pepper, parsley & chili powder.

Saute until desired tenderness - be sure to stir occasionally so it does not burn if the water evaporates quickly.

Serves 6-8.

Tip: I buy cauliflower when it's cheap. Rice it and freeze it raw for up to 3 months. When ready to use it, I just toss it in the pan and heat it up to evaporate any ice crystals. It's a great way to prepare ahead of time for a side item like Mexican Cauliflower Rice!

The first time I made this dish I tested it on company - daring AND foolish I know! But it was a huge hit and they could not get over the fact that it was cauliflower. I've since improved upon the recipe - I promise...if you like a little spice and a little bit of garlic, you will love this!

No guilt Mexican Grille

Last night was delicious! And HUGE - could not finish my plate...though even if I did I would not have felt an ounce of guilt over it!


On the plate:

Corn on the cob. A little tip for having fresh corn whenever you want it: Buy it when it's like 10 or 12 for a dollar, buy a lot. Husk it, wash it. Let it dry. Then bag and freeze it. Yes, freeze it raw. When you're ready to eat it, pop it in boiling water till desired tenderness! It tastes just like fresh. (I'm not sure how long raw frozen corn lasts in the freezer, but this cob was in there for almost 3 months.)

Stir fried round steak meat, onions, red peppers, mushrooms & jalapenos. Seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, and a little enchilada seasoning.

Spinach / tomato / scallion salad with homemade dressing: chopped cilantro, 1 tblsp hummus, 2 limes squeezed for the juice, serves 2-4.

Mexican Cauliflower "Rice." - low carb and low guilt!

Avocado and Jicama slices for garnishing the other items.


The kid plate.

And the best part? The breakfast the next day!

On a fresh kick...

In an effort to shed the "back pain, holiday, plantar fascitis...which led to laziness...and now dealing with a broken toe" extra 15 lbs I am still carrying since the end of January I have decided to embrace an old friend.

The McComb's plan.

I did this plan back in 2006 when i was in the same situation with my weight and my goal. (Though then, it was 6 months post-2ndpregnancy weight.) I reached my goal in 1 month - 14 lbs lost, to be exact. And without a specific exercise regimen but with a crazy schedule was successful in keeping it off for an entire year. I think the reason I kept it off is because the plan, though a bit extreme (in the most healthy of ways), is not a crash diet. It really does change your metabolism, eating habits, digestion...etc. I didn't finish the plan. I only did 4 weeks of it...because I was doing it for weight loss. My goal is still weight loss - but this time I hope to complete it...only I want to stick with the super fresh way of eating like the first 8 weeks. I am however, consuming small portions of beans, nuts, and trace amounts of whey (my protein powder and hummus). Because I think those are vital sources of vegan protein and omega oils - except the whey of course. And this time I won't gain the weight back because I now know how to control the migrains that caused my dehabilitation and thus weight gain 1 year after the last run with this plan.

3 days finished, 3 lbs lost! I love how quickly the weight drops, dress size shrinks, and energy goes sky high. I am having trouble sleeping past 5am! Even when I go to bed at midnight. Plus, when Mom is happy, I get more of these - not more children, just more smiles!



So the next month's posts will be a glimpse at our super fresh nutritious meals!

Another Summer Dinner

About a week ago it got hot here. Really hot. We've lived here for almost 3 years and are pretty much accustomed to it. But still - we like our meals light in the summertime. Here was what I came up with one night.



Ham and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread, toasted in the oven with mushroom, tomato, onion - finished off with lettuce.
Watermelon slices.
Salted avocado.

So simple, so quick, so nutritious & so delicious!

I have since sworn off cheese (and most dairy) for a month...so far, so good. Hopefully forever!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Whoa Veggie Plate!

So it's summer. It's 113 degrees outside. I am in no mood to really cook or eat much of anything heavy. I keep a lot of veggies in the fridge most of the time...why not have a large meal that doesn't weigh me down?

I can't even finish it...it's too much!

On the plate:

Roasted Cauliflower and Zucchini
1 head cauliflower
1 grey or green zucchini and/or yellow squash
olive oil
garlic salt
parsley
fresh ground pepper

Chop up veggies, Season with oil and spices, spread on cookie sheet, place on center rack in oven and cook on broil 15-25 minutes till tips are golden brown, but veggies are still crisp.

Banana Squash
HOW TO PREPARE HERE (do it ahead of time so all you have to do is heat it up

Spinach Salad with Bean Protein
Spinach Leaves
1/4 cup kidney beans
tomato
bell pepper
onion
1 tsp hummus
1 lime, juiced

Chop veggies, drain juice off canned beans. Arrange on plate or in a bowl.
In a separate container, mix lime juice and hummus to create a dressing, drizzle over salad.

The low down:
It's almost vegan (a little whey in the hummus and some dairy in the butter on the squash)
It's almost all freshly chopped
It satisfies the sweet tooth and the salt tongue.
It only has about 322 calories in the whole plate (as pictured!)
12 grams protein!
46 grams carbs...yes high, but nothing that is processed food and very few simple carbs = good for you and good for your energy level!
13 grams fat - almost all of it from sources high in omega fatty acids.

I feel very fresh!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Squashy Tale

Some interesting and valuable information about Squash HERE.

Are you afraid to buy squash because you don't know what to do with it? Don't think you'll like the taste? Looks boring?

Squash is a very versatile vegetable and can be added to almost anything to bump up the nutritional value.

But if you're new to squash and just want to do something simple, here it is:

Set your oven to 325 degrees on bake.

Wash your squash.
Lay tin foil over the inside of your baking dish.
Banana squash, cut it in half (if not purchased that way) place it on the dish with the "U" toward the ceiling, like a rainbow.
Acorn squash, cut in half, remove the seeds, and place the cut side down on the foil.
Other squash, whatever kind, remove the seeds and place on the foil so that the juice can drain off the vegetable, not into it.

Bake for approx 45-60 minutes, stabbing with a fork periodically to check softness. You don't want it to be too soft....so when there is just a little resistance, remove from the oven.

Let sit for a minute to cool a bit. Cut and serve. Provide a buttery spread and salt or brown sugar to your guests for seasoning. Don't eat the skin...or do, but you didn't hear that from me.

Makes a great side dish for almost any meal - and it's so easy to prepare!

Post Fish Tacos

We had some of the cabbage garnish left over from the fish tacos the other day and I wasn't in the mood to cook. After surveying the fridge, I came up with this deliciously fresh concotion...

Red Cabbage shredded
Green Cabbage shredded
Yellow Onion chopped small
Cilantro minced
1/2 an Avocado diced

Fresh Lime
Jalapeno (green) Tobasco Sauce

Mix everything together and season with the lime juice and Tobasco.

It was cool, tangy, crunchy, and fresh! PERFECT leftover meal or side-dish - and it only took me a minute to prepare!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Deep Fried...

...YES - I went there last night. For the first time in 7 years I deep fried something in my home. SHAME ON ME! My favorite part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was when they buried the deep fryer. TIS TIS TIS. However, here's how it went down:

I haven't been shopping lately so options were limited. I had frozen tilapia in the freezer that I've been staring at for probably 2 months. I looked online for some good tilapia recipes because fish other than salmon isn't really my forte. I saw some yummy looking fish tacos that struck my fancy. I LOVE fish tacos. We usually make them with salmon and just sear it in the pan and mix it all up with avocado and the works. But this was tilapia. And breaded sounded really good. So I went to YouTube and watched a few videos about battering up fish. Here is what I did.

Homemade Fish Sticks

4 fillets fresh or thawed tilapia - patted dry
1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs
1.5 cups corn meal
2 cups milk
1 egg
2 cups flour
vegetable oil

Pour several cups of oil into a pan 1-2 inches deep, preferrably non-stick or cast iron because stainless steel tends to change color when you use hot oil in it, heat on medium low.

Get three shallow bowls, fill with the following: 1st bowl - the flour. 2nd bowl - the egg and milk (wisked till evenly colored). 3rd bowl - combine the bread crumbs and corn meal. Line them up with bowl 1 furthest from the oil, bowl 2 in the middle and bowl 3 closest to the frying oil.

Cut fish into sticks no more than 1 inch wide, however long you wish but 3-4 inches seems to be good for finger food. Pat with a paper towel if they are wet or juicy - need to be mostly dry.

Do the following with each piece of fish:
1. Roll it in the flour
2. Quickly bathe it in the milk/egg
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2
4. Roll it in the crumbs till evenly covered
5. Gently place it in the oil

Bubbles should form quickly around the fish stick and it should sink to the bottom of the pan. Let fry for a few minutes - the fish stick will rise to the top when it is nearly done. Again, let it fry for a little longer or until the outside starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oil. Cut the first few in half after cooking to be sure the fish is cooked through. I did 4 pieces at a time and rotated them in the oil, so I had about 12 pieces in the pan at most times. Since 4 fillets makes about 40 sticks, it takes some time to fry up the whole batch.

Place on a plate covered in paper towels for several minutes to cool and for the oil to drain off a bit. Serve warm.

Eat as fish sticks with tartar sauce or ketchup OR throw them into corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, tomato, cilantro, hot sauce, and whatever toppings you prefer.

We had about half leftover today, so for lunch I turned the oven to 400 degrees and warmed them up for 15 minutes. We had sliced apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers on the side. BIG HIT with the kids, and we enjoyed them too! Crunchy, flavorful, and filling.

I can't really estimate the nutrition facts since it's impossible to tell how much oil, breading, milk and egg is in each serving. Fish sticks are low in saturated fat however, so that's a plus.

And this - here are the ingredients in a popular box of frozen fish sticks:

Minced Pollock, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)Vegetable Oil (Cottonseed, Canola, Soybean, and/or Rice Bran)Water, Yellow Corn Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Whey, Dextrose, Dried Yeast, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate)Caramel Color, Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Monosodium Glutamate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Colored with Paprika, Annatto and Turmeric Extracts, Natural Flavoring, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, TBHQ Added to Protect Flavor, Sodium Triphosphate (to Retain Moisture)Methylcellulose, Rice Flour, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein.

WOW - I've bolded the ingredients that I know are seriously bad for you. Preservatives, sugar, MSG, sodium, Phosphates.

I'm suddenly now kind of proud of my deep fry night! Though I don't think I'll do it too often...and you will NEVER find an electric deep fryer in my home.

I may however consider doing a big batch at times and throwing them in the freezer for quick kid meals.

TIP: MOST bread crumbs that you buy from the store contain many of the bolded ingredients above. So it's best to either make your own or find a brand that does not add MSG and phosphates for flavor or preserving.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Simple Protein Smoothies

I enjoy a good refreshing smoothie first thing in the summer mornings - and these are really easy!

Simple Protein Smoothies
1 scoop vanilla or coconut flavored protein powder
8 ice cubes
1/2 cup water (less if you are using melon)
1 tsp vanilla or coconut extract
1/4 cup oats (makes it creamy and is added fiber!)
1 packet no calorie sweetener like stevia, splenda, or pureVia
2 or 3 types of fruit like...
    1/2 banana chopped up
5 strawberries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
6 blackberries
1/2 cup melon cubes
1/4 apple skinless and chopped up
1/4 cup mango cubes
etc.


Put ice in your blender first, then add the rest of the ingredients. Blend together till smooth. Sip with a straw so you don't get brain freeze - never good first thing in the morning!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

COUPON SHOPPING!

I said "I DO" to coupon shopping in January 2009. And I will never go back!

I reduced our monthly grocery budget by 65%. We have more varitey because I buy things I normally wouldn't. It makes me get more creative with our eating. And it made me o-so-aware of the prices and how inflated they are if they aren't on a sale.

So, I think that after over a year of successful discount grocery shopping, I can adequately give some advice - or at least detail how I successfully prepare for shopping on the cheap:

Preparing for the grocery trip:
My preparation starts with glancing though my kitchen, pantry, and household items to see if I am running low on anything. Also considering any special occasions that may be coming up I make a MUST BUY list.

One or two Sunday newspapers is enough coupons for a family of 4. If you are paying more than $1.00 for your Sunday paper - you're probably paying too much. Call and threaten to cancel your subscription if they don't give you a better price - it typically works. There are a lot of people that don't use their coupons and offer them for free on Craigslist.org - you may want to go that route, but I have not needed to.

I use www.TheGroceryGame.com as a "cheat" to make my lists - much faster than canvassing all of the ads myself. PLUS - it shows me the percentage of markdown so I don't have to do the calculations - that would take forever. I pay for three stores (Fry's, Safeway, & Albertsons) so it costs me $10 per month - I feel it's totally worth it. You can try it for a month free - so you don't have to take my word for it. It also tells me exactly which coupon to clip or print to get the final price - so there's no guesswork. (I test drove CouponSense for 8 weeks and went back to The Grocery Game. Although I never found an incorrect price with CouponSense, I felt that I did not get as good of deals, and my preparation took longer. A lot of people use CouponSense - but I recommend The Grocery Game.)

When making my lists I look for the items that at their final price (after sale and coupons) are seriously reduced - like 65% or more. I try to only buy those items - and buy as many as I can find coupons for. This is called stockpiling. Of course, you can't do this with items that expire or go bad in a short amount of time...but many items can be bought way ahead of actually needing them.

CHANGE your way of thinking about shopping. Don't buy what you want or think you will need, unless it is for a special occasion or you use it frequently and are completely out. INSTEAD - Buy those items that are a great deal that week. AFTER SHOPPING, plan your meals from what you have on hand. It will take 4-8 weeks for your stockpiling to become more well rounded and full of variety.

How I organize my coupons.
I don't clip until I need them. When I get the inserts from the Sunday paper, I quickly flip through them to find the date of the latest expiring coupon in each one. I staple a blank piece of paper as a cover sheet to the front of each insert. At the top I write the name of the insert, date, and the date of the latest expiring coupon. I stack them in ordered piles - one for SmartSource, one for RedPlum, and one for P&G. With the most recent date on top. (I write the latest expiring coupon date on the cover sheet so that when that date passes I can just throw the insert in the recycle bin - less clutter to keep track of.) As I clip I write the product name and amount of each coupon on the cover sheet so that I know at a glance which coupons are now missing from that insert - this is for future reference organization.

If I did clip or print a coupon and didn't end up using it, I organize them in envelopes by month and year of expiration date. So my June envelope has the date 6/10 on it. Once June is over I can empty it out to de-clutter my coupon drawer. I also take a few seconds to log them into an excel spreadsheet before placing them in the envelopes. This way I can quickly search electronically rather than flipping through the envelopes.

Using printable coupons
I do print coupons from the internet. Many of them are on The GroceryGame site, so I don't have to search for them...but I find many others at www.HotCouponWorld.com. There is a searchable database there so it's pretty easy to click around and find more. I go through each item in my lists and search for extra coupons on HotCouponWorld prior to shopping - I often find more coupons and am able to buy more of each item that way. Crystal at www.moneysavingmom.com features a lot of deals and coupons on her site - I click over there frequently too, just to skim through and see if I like anything.

So here are my steps:
1. WRITE my MUST BUY list.
2. SELECT items and PRINT my 3 lists from www.thegrocerygame.com.
3. SEARCH my excel sheet and www.hotcouponworld.com for other coupons that are not in the inserts
4. CLIP my insert coupons and those printed.
(I have an envelope for each store. As I clip, I mark the coupon off the list and place it in the envelope.)
5. VERIFY that the number of items needed to satisfy the coupons are correct. For example, some coupons require you to buy more than one of the same item to get the discount. I do this as I clip to save time.
6. SCAN through the other circulars in your local area to see if there are any GREAT deals that you may want to make another stop for - if not, great!
7. TOTAL my quantities to buy based on special, deals, coupons. And ADD UP all dollar amounts to get an estimated before tax figure for each store. WHY? Because unfortunately stores often mis-mark items or their computers don't always give you your rebate and you have to correct them. (It's easy to see a mistake if you've kept track of your totals both before and during shopping.)
8. GO SHOPPING! Only get the quantities and the items on your list. You are not the only deal shopper out there, so if a deal is really good it might not be available when you get there. You can ASK for a raincheck and come back (usually with two weeks time) to get the same deal later. Due to some regional special deals the prices in the store do not always match the your list. It is frustrating, but you'll get used to it. Again, this is not all the time, maybe 1 or 2 items in a list of 20. Be sure to stop by the meat and bakery departments to see if anything is seriously marked down to get a great buy!
9. GO EVERY WEEK if you can. I cannot. I get burnt out, plus we travel quite a bit, so it's just not feasible. Shopping every week will help you get the best deals and keep your stock more varied.
10. FOCUS EFFORTS to spend more on produce and protein. I try to balance our spending so that I spend 2/3rds or more on fresh fruits and vegetables and protein rich foods, and 1/3 on everything else. This helps keep us in the well balanced and healthier range.
11. PLAN MEALS ahead of time. I spend a few hours once a week cooking 4-5 meals at once. Then I put some in the fridge and some in the freezer. This keeps me sane - with two little RugRatz who are always hungry, and a husband who travels for work and is rarely home, it keeps me from spending my days in the monotony of the kitchen - though I do enjoy it most of the time.


All in all it takes me about 1 hour per store to prepare, prior to shopping. One hour of preparation makes it so that I only spend 15-20 minutes in the store, keeps my budget in check because I stick to my list and don't shop emotionally.

YES, we buy the kids treats when they are with us - otherwise it would be no fun for anyone! I try to find bags of lollipops or jolly ranchers on sale so that we can have that in my purse for when they need to have their mouths glued shut, but I am not always THAT organized!

A few more things.

I buy most of my breads at the local organic bakery. They have discounted bread out for sale everyday at 8am. It's perfectly good bread - usually 3-4 days prior to it's sale date. It's only 50 cents to 1 dollar per loaf. AND it's healthy. NONE of that bleached or enriched flour. It's freshly ground from whole grains, no oils, natural sweeteners, and I feel totally good about it. So I buy like 20 loaves at a time and put them in the freezer till we need them. This way I only go the bakery once or twice a month.

I buy most of my produce at the local farmer's market. Where I live it's really hot outside in the summer, so the market is indoors and air conditioned - more of a grocery store setting, but almost all produce. The prices are really good most of the time so I fill my cart, sometimes two (dollar store size cart) overflowing and pay between 20-40 bucks. It lasts us about 2 weeks - and we eat a lot of fresh stuff around here!

BEWARE of the amazing deals on processed foods like cookies, crackers, etc. If you are watching your figure - and let's face it, most of us are - you will sabotage your efforts if you take advantage of those deals. NOW with that being said...I do buy baking supplies that are seriously cheap. Like frosting or brownie and cake mix for less than 25 cents. It's worth it having those types of items on hand when you need to bake something and don't have time to mix something up from scratch. They're practically foolproof too, so your recipients will undoubtedly compliment your treat!

BEWARE of warehouse stores. It's fun to shop there because bigger is better right? WRONG. If you do the math, most items are more expensive. I do make 1 trip every other month to Costco for a few items. Items I regularly buy there - cheese, sometimes eggs, dishwasher soap, laundry soap and softener, Flat-Out wraps, almonds, toilet tissue, and juice boxes.

PHARMACY DEALS
CVS, RiteAid and Walgreens offer some fantastic deals on household goods. It's a little tricky at first, but you'll get the hang of it. The concept is the same - sale price + coupon = low price...but they take it one step further. They often offer a cash back or rebate type incentive on many items, making them extremely cheap or often "free".

RiteAid - I've never shopped there so I can't give any advice

CVS - the cash back is called an Extra Care Buck or ECB. It's just like cash. You can use it on your next transaction, same day or later, and as many ECBs at a time as you want.

WALGREENS - the cash back is called a Register Reward and is a manufacturers coupon that you can use on any item in a future transaction (same day too). Walgreens limits your coupons to one per item however (with the exception of their circular coupons which can be paired with a manufacturer coupon). So for example, if your Register Reward is for $5.00 and you are buying a lotion priced $4.99 or less, you can't use the Register Reward because it covers more than the price. If your lotion is for $5.00 or more, you could use the Register Reward and pay the sales tax. If your lotion is for $7.00 and you have the Register Reward and a clipped manufacturers coupon, you must choose which you would like to use, the Register Reward or the coupon, but not both, pay the difference plus the tax.

The trick is to either separate your transactions so that you get "the cash back" on the first transaction and use it on the second. You can either do this the same day (which the cashiers find irritating, for obvious reasons) or on your next shopping trip. If you hold onto "the cash back" and use it in the following trips, you can often "roll" what you spent into new "cash back" on that weeks deals, thus hardly spending anything other than sales tax. This is ideal for stocking up at these stores - but you've got to keep it organized and watch the expiration date on the "cash back" or you'll lose it. I haven't shopped at any pharmacy stores in months because I have so much stockpiled already - but it's definitely a great way to get a lot of stuff for free - like toothpaste, body wash, soaps, shampoos, cereal, razors, first aid, canned goods, etc.

So how much do I spend?
My average for 2010 thus far is $306 per month for our family of two adults and 2 little hungry boys. (includes my newspaper and TheGroceryGame subscription)
That's only $70 per week!

I know others who spend even less...but I'm pretty happy with where we sit on our grocery budget.

Friday, May 14, 2010

OMG...

Have you had the pleasure of tasting these yet?


Costco - less than $10.
Healthy (I think because of the antioxidants and dark chocolate) and Delicious...just tough to stop!

Signs of Summer

It's hot outside. The A/C is on. Using the oven seems excessive. Wanting something light?

Never underestimate the freshness of the season!

Watermelon quenches the thirst of all ages.


And a light tuna salad or sandwich is the perfect light sensation.

What I put in my tuna salad:
Mayo
Ground Pepper
Tomato
Celery
Onion
Shredded Mozzarella
Squeeze of Lime

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nothing to make....

It's one of those days - when there is nothing to make...or maybe I just don't want to make anything.

But we gotta eat.

So I made "Throw it all in Chili". This is not a recipe...just a suggestion for when you have one of these days.

USE WHAT YOU HAVE! Do NOT go to the store. You have more in your kitchen than you think. Empty the leftovers in the fridge and add a few things to it.

Here is what I used:

Steamed cauliflower - chopped into 1/2 size bits (leftovers)
1/4 yellow onion diced (leftovers)
1/2 boiled corn - cut off the cob (leftovers)
1/2 cup prepared chili (leftovers)
3/4 cup cheesy rice/broccoli mixture (leftovers)
1 baked potato chopped into bits (leftovers)
1 can Turkey chili with beans
1 can stewed diced tomatoes
1 can White beans
1 can diced chiles

Dump it all in the pot and add water if needed. Bring to a boil and turn burner to low. Simmer till desired doneness and texture. Add seasonings if needed - mine didn't need it.

I served it with (you guessed it) leftover garlic bread.

IT WAS VERY SATISFYING...and very much the easy "I don't want to cook tonight" meal I was striving for.

This would work great in the crock pot on high for 3 hours or low for 6!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Craving Taco Bell?

The most common craving I hear of is Taco Bell. I'm not sure why, because the food is not amazing. But I am guessing it's their commercials. After you hear something to the tune of, "When a craving strikes, Taco Bell is open late!" so many times, it's got to get into your phsychi.

Something I often make for my hot husband to take on his business trips is bean burritos. Why? Because it travels well - does not leak, is easily wrappable, convenient to eat, does not HAVE to be heated up, is high in protein and fiber, etc. And the husband seems to like them. And so do the kids - so when I make him a few for his trip, the kids and I have them for lunch the next day.

BASIC BEAN & CHEESE BURRITOs

2 cans beans (I use black and white)
shredded cheese
whole grain tortillas (I use Flat-Out Wraps)

Open cans and empty the beans into a non-stick sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir. Use a potatoe masher to smash the beans into a paste. You could also transfer the beans to a food processor for mashing. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a different non-stick pan large enough to fit your tortilla when flat, omelet size?, set heat to medium. Place the tortilla in the pan and spread the cheese on top. Heat till cheese is well melted and the underside of the tortilla is crispy but not burnt.

Remove tortilla from pan and let it sit for a minute. Spread the hot bean paste over the cheese and roll it up into a burrito.



DEVOUR! serves 8

Now, if you like it spicy, add sliced jalapenos, hot sauce, or use pepper jack cheese. You can also add whatever vegetables you prefer like: tomatoes, onions, peppers, lettuce, etc. - they don't add substantial calories, but add much nutritional value!



On to my favorite part: LET's COMPARE!





COST & NUTRITIONAL COMPARISON:
BASIC BEAN & CHEESE BURRITO

261 calories
19 g (vegetarian) protein
36 g carbohydrate
7.5 g fat
562 mg sodium
13 g fiber
145 mg calcium


cost: less than 55 cents

WINNER!
1 Taco Bell Bean & Cheese Burrito

370 calories
14 g protein
55 g carbohydrate
10 g fat
1270 mg sodium
11 g fiber
calcium not mentioned on their nutrition facts

cost: 99 cents

LOSER!


With just a little bit of prep work you can have your own "Taco Bell" style meal, but with almost 1/2 the carbs, more protein, less than half the sodium, and more fiber!

Plus - I guarantee, your burrito will be bigger and ONE is completely filling. Seriously, who fills up on just one Taco Bell bean and cheese burrito right? You have to eat two or more, so consider the scary nutrition facts and cost at least doubled...doesn't the Basic Bean and Cheese Burrito sound better?

Something else! add some spanish rice, fresh salsa, and a little sour cream and your burrito will resemble Taco Bells most popular item: The Grilled Stuffed Burrito (which I will admit - are quite tasty).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I bought goat cheese the other day because it was on sale and I had a coupon which made it dirt cheap. I've used feta in many dishes, but never such strong tasting goat cheese as this. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but thought there has to be something that we will enjoy that will not be too strong tasting.

It was easier than I thought - I make bruschetta for most holiday appetizers, using mozzarella - why not goat cheese? It will just taste much more Mediterranean! It worked beautifully!

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

3 oz soft goat cheese
dried thyme
dried oregano
dried parsley

My cheese was in curds, so I used the back of a spoon to smash it into a paste. Season with Italian seasonings, I used parsley, thyme, oregano. Mix till evenly blended. (Spreads best at room temperature.)

3-4 ripe tomatoes
5-6 garlic cloves
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
fresh basil

Dice tomatoes, mince the garlic, shred the basil, and combine the three with the olive oil.

Toast your sourdough or baguette slices in the oven.

Each person can spread cheese mixture on their bread and top with desired amount of the tomatoe garnish.


A little spice, a little twang, a little bit of Europe!

(I didn't feel like running to the store to get fresh basil and I've never been diligent in growing my own herbs, so I used dried crushed basil - it was fine.)

Lemon Butter Spaghetti

Fresh, easy, delicious, healthy!

Lemon Butter Spaghetti

16 oz whole grain spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2-3 medium sized lemons
3 tblsp real butter
1 raw chicken breast
1 yellow squash
4-6 medium sized mushrooms
freshly ground pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Boil pasta till it reaches desired softness, drain and rinse. Set aside.

Chop squash, mushrooms and chicken into quarter sized pieces, about 1/4 inch thick.

On medium high heat melt 1 tblsp butter in wok. Add chicken and saute until almost done.

Add squash and mushrooms and saute till soft, but not mushy. Drain liquid.

Squeeze the juice out of the lemons and remove the seeds.

Turn heat to high and melt the other 2 tablespoons butter into the wok. Add the lemon juice and pasta and stir to well coated.

Season to taste with fresh ground pepper.

Serve immediately and sprinkle parmesan cheese on each serving if desired.



ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Roasted Veggie Pasta

I'm lucky my children aren't too picky when it comes to vegetables. Those they don't like: onions, celery, tomatoes, peppers, anything with a leaf. I hide these in marinara so they get them whether they are aware of it or not...

Something my family loves is roasted vegetables, namely cauliflower. Cauliflower is such a versatile veggie. Personal trainers suggest mashing it instead of having carb/starch loaded mashed potatoes. I've not done that yet, but plan to.

I usually roast our cauliflower. The other night I made this wonderful creation. It's so good that I almost didn't get any - caught hot husband snitching from my dish even though he had his own!

Roasted Veggie Pasta

1 head cauliflower
1 grey or green zucchini and/or yellow squash
olive oil
garlic salt
parsley
fresh ground pepper

whole grain pasta
grated parmesan cheese

Set oven to Broil. Wash and chop up the cauliflower. If your zucchini is prickly, shave the skin off. Cut zucchini to quarter size slices about 1/4 inch thick. In a mixing bowl, combine vegetables and about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste. Spread on your baking tray and cook under broil till lightly browned (about 20 minutes).

Cook and drain your pasta. When serving, layer your veggies on top of the pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, add more seasoning if desired.

NUTRITIOUS & DELICIOUS!!!

Spring Salad

I make this delicious salad for spring holidays like Easter and Mother's Day. It is always a huge hit! I came up with this recipe in college for an Easter brunch with friends.

Spring Salad
Dish Ingredients:
Baby Spinach Leaves
Fresh Raspberries or Strawberries
Mediterranean Seasoned Feta Cheese, crumbled
Sliced or slivered almonds

Dressing Ingredients:
Olive Oil
Honey
Red Onion

Make the dressing the night before so it can marinade in the fridge overnight. Chop about 1/4 of a red onion into tiny pieces. In your serving dish (I use a glass cup or mason jar) pour in equal parts honey and olive oil. Add the onions and stir well. Place in the refridgerator overnight. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 mins prior to serving, stir well.

Toast the almonds in the oven on broil until golden brown. Wash your spinach and berries and pat dry. Slice the strawberries. Combine it all in your serving dish.

Have each person drizzle their own dressing on their salad.

It's sweet, tangy, fresh, and crunchy!

Sorry no picture right now - just trust me on this one!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Me vs Kraft vs Pioneer Woman

OK - I know, I know. I've overloaded this blog recently with macaroni and cheese. The creamy fatty goodness ooseth over - I am sorry. I know what you're thinking...does this girl really feed her kids healthy foods?

YES - I do. And yes, we do eat macaroni & cheese on occasion - like once or twice a month in some form or another. But you see, I'm a little tunnel visioned, and when I wrap my head around something I don't let it go till I figure it out. Fortunately, I've found a way to make macaroni and cheese fresh and feel a lot better about it!

Here is my new recipe. It's still in the experimental stage...but it's at least now quite edible and tasty. I'm getting closer to making it taste nearly perfect!

Creamy Squashed Mac & Cheese - serves 8-10

12-16 oz dry pasta
3 tblsp butter
3 tblsp all purpose flour
3 cups low-fat milk
1 tsp yellow mustard
1.5 to 2 cups pureed cooked banana squash
.5 to .75 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt
ground pepper

Boil in salted water and drain pasta, set aside.
In a large & deep saucepan, melt butter. Turn temp to medium low and add flour to butter and stir or wisk constantly to create a roux, 3-5 minutes cooking time.
Add cold milk and stir.
Add pureed squash and mustard.
Cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes, allowing it to boil, stirring often.
Add cheese, stir to melt thoroughly.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add drained pasta to the creamy cheese mix and stir to coat.

ENJOY!

Now for a little fun!





COST & NUTRITIONAL COMPARISON:
Kraft "Cheesiest"
410 Calories
18 grams Fat
49 grams Carbohydrate
12 grams Protein

LOSER
My Recipe
282 Calories
6.8 grams Fat
42 grams Carbohydrate
12.8 grams Protein

WINNER!



Now, this fun would not be complete without a comparison to a mistake I made a few weeks ago, which was giving in to a hankerin and making a recipe I found online:

Pioneer Woman's Macaroni & Cheese
512 Calories
25 grams Fat
47 grams Carbohydrate
25 grams Protein

Wow, that's all I can say, "WOW!"

Did you enjoy the sneak peek 1 hr into Jamie Oliver's FOOD REVOLUTION last night? I did - can't wait to see how he does in the states!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interesting Article

I ran across this article today. It's got some good information in it. Some would say that articles like this "ruin" food. I guess the question that begs to be answered then, is: "Is it food that is being ruined, or is it highly processed chemically engineered food replacements - that are difficult to digest and glean nutritional value from?"

I'm the first to admit that there is a place for fast food. When I'm on the run and don't have time to eat at home or take a meal with me, my meal of choice is a Burger King Whopper Jr and a Spicy Chicken Sandwich with a cup of water. No - it's not great, and I know it. But I also know that with balance, I can "afford" those little slip-ups.

Let's just try to eat real food most of the time shall we?

Roast & Potatoes

I grew up in Idaho - yes, on the potato field side. Even though I lived in a pretty much dairy and meat free home, my husband also grew up on the potato field side, so meat and potatoes makes a showing in our home quite frequently. I don't profess to be a whiz at meat...in fact my husband usually cooks meat better than I do. And my baked potatoes? Well, they're usually a little underbaked.

I do however profess to be a whiz at CrockPot meat and potatoes. Here you go! It's in my crock right now.

Crock Pot Roast & Veggies

1 medium sized lean chuck roast
6-7 whole garlic cloves, peeled
balsamic vinegar
olive oil

tin foil
russett or red potatoes
carrots
onions
garlic salt
pepper

Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in your crock.
Place the meat in the crock.
Place the garlic cloves on top of the meat.
Pour several tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the meat and garlic.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

After 2 hourse, place 1 or 2 layers of tin foil on top of the meat and let the edges curl upward to make a basket.
Wash and cut the potatoes into 3/4 inch cubes, skins on if you like.
Peel and slice the carrots in slightly smaller bits than the potatoes.
Cut the onions to desired size - I prefer wedges.
Place the veggies to the tin foil basket.
Season with pepper and garlic salt.
Fold the corners of the tin foil toward the center.
Replace the lid.

When cooked long enough the meat will fall apart when you attempt to remove it from the crock - no matter - in fact, that means it's cooked to perfection!

I like to dip the potatoes in sweet bbq sauce or ranch....I know - extra calories.
Don't forget to add a fiber filled veggie like a green salad or broccoli.

It only takes 10 minutes to prepare this meal and it makes your home smell delicious while it cooks!

Don't throw away the AuJu (beef juice in the bottom of the crock). Strain it to remove the leftover chunks from the meat. Chill it, skim the fat off the top, and freeze it. This is the perfect base for homemade dark gravy - for the next time you make mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Parmesan Chicken w/a TWIST

I always think that parmesan chicken looks delicious but am ALWAYS disappointed with a lack of flavor and texture...until last night! Let's just get right to it shall we?

PARMESAN CHICKEN w/SPINACH & MUSHROOMS
6 chicken breasts washed and sliced in half
Shake N' Bake
Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

8-10 mushrooms washed and sliced
1 pkg frozen spinach thawed and fully drained
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Shredded Mozzarella
Fresh Ground Pepper

Spray baking dish.
Combine the shake N' bake and the bread crumbs into the shake N' bake bag. Insert 3 slices of raw chicken into the bag and shake till generously covered. Layer in the baking dish to form the bottom. Repeat until half of the chicken is battered.

Combine the spinach, mushrooms, cheeses, and pepper in a bowl and toss. Layer over the bottom layer of breaded chicken. (To fully drain the spinach place it into a few coffee filters and gently squeeze the juice out.)

( This picture was taken prior to adding the mozzarella - be generous with the cheese! )

Batter the remaining half of the chicken and place on top of the cheese layer.


Leave uncovered and follow directions on the shake N bake package for baking temperature and time, but add 5-7 minutes. Cut through all three layers to check that the chicken is fully cooked. Cool for a few minutes prior to serving.

Top with Sweet Marinara Sauce and serve with a quick salad and Easy French Bread!

You could go to the trouble of stuffing the chicken breasts rather than layering them if you want ... but this is QUICKLY Nutritious and Delicious!

French Bread

I've been messing around with a few french bread recipes and think I've got it mastered. This bread is soft on th inside, crunchy on the outside, tears apart beautifully, and is almost as easy as taking a nap.

Easy French Bread
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp salt
1-2 cups lukewarm water
1-2 tablespoons cornmeal (optional)

1/2 cup tempid water
3 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar

Start your yeast. Pour the tempid (hotter than lukewarm, but not scalding, just hot tapwater) water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast, and then the sugar into the water. Cover with saran wrap and and set aside for 7-10 minutes. The yeast and sugar will activate and you will see bubbles rise to the surface, covering it. (If you have stone countertops, place the bowl on a wood cutting board or a hot pad so it does not cool down too quickly.)

In a food processor, combine the flours and salt, pulsing for 1-2 minutes. While pulsing, pour the yeast water through the funnel into the dry mixture. Slowly add the lukewarm water until the mixture forms a ball, but not too wet - you may need more or less than 1-2 cups water. You should be able to remove the blade from the mixing bowl w/o much dough sticking to it. If using a small food processor, transfer the dough to a larger bowl for rising.

Cover with saran wrap and a towell to keep the heat in. Let sit for about an hour or till doubled in size. Remove the dough from the bowl and form two loaves on a floured surface.

Spray baking sheet (& sprinkle with cornmeal) and place loaves on it. Cut a few slits into the tops for venting and design. Cover with a towell and let rise again for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. (Again, if you have stone counters place a heat barrier under the baking sheet to keep heat in.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake on center rack for approx 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

After the tops have cooled transfer the loaves to a cooling rack. Brush butter on top if desired.

Slice when ready to eat or when fully cooled. This bread tastes wonderul with a rich garlic butter topping!


Would also make a great homemade batch of hamburger buns!

NOTE: My husband keeps saying how good this bread is. Last night he asked me where I got it.

More-inara

Ever wonder if the Ragu commercials are true? "There is a full serving of vegetables in one meal." Who knows - companies will say anything to get you to buy something - especially by appealing to your need to feed your children healthy meals.

I'm not a fan of store-bought spaghetti sauce...unless I don't have the time to simmer some up. I think it lacks flavor and that fresh taste I crave. I do however like to use it as a base. It's got good texture.

So here is my FULL SERVING of veggies recipe - fools the kids every time - they have no clue they are eating their most dis-liked vegetables...onions and peppers.

Sweet Marinara Sauce
1/4 red bell pepper chopped into small bits
1/4 green bell pepper chopped into small bits
1/4 yellow or orange bell pepper chopped into small bits
1/2 white or yellow onion chopped into small bits
1 small zucchini chopped into small bits
1/2 yellow squash chopped into small bits
1 jar pasta sauce (save the jar for refrigerator storage)
1 large can crushed stewed tomatoes
3 tablespoons minced garlic
dried basil
dried oregano
salt
pepper
a few tablespoons olive oil (optional)



Combine the chopped vegetables (first 6 ingredients) in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat to soften.


Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

Season to taste while simmering for 45-90 minutes (covered).

Serve hot over boiled pasta, use in your lasagna or favorite italian dish ...

and for the leftovers
After cooled, fill sauce jar and refrigerate for quick access during the week or fill a quart size bag 3/4 full and lay flat in freezer for later.

Now that's a lot of veggie!

Ice'd Eggs

I think peeling hard boiled eggs for potato salad or devil'd eggs has got to be one of the things most cooks are tempted to avoid. Not only is it time consuming, but those shells get caught under fingernails and it hurts! Half the time, the egg comes out of it's peeling looking more scrambled that hard boiled!

Due to my own frustrations with peeling eggs, I tried several methods of cooking, cooling, and peeling...and this is by far the best way that I came up with - your eggs will be beautiful and your time not wasted:

After gently placing eggs into pan filled with water, turn stove to high. Immediately set timer for 13 minutes. Start the timer before the water boils - this may be different in higher altitudes, but here at just over 1000 feet up, 13 minutes creates a perfectly cooked yellow yolk. Turn heat to med-low after 1-2 minutes on high.

When the timer beeps, immediately dump out the boiling water and fill with tap water. Dump and repeat. Fill again, about half way. Grab two large handfuls of ice and dump into the pot on top of the eggs. Let sit till the ice is melted - eggs will be completely cooled and the thin layer of egg skin that attaches the egg to the shell will now peel easily.


Give the egg a good smack (no, not a kiss you silly) on each end, and peel from those ends. The shell will come off in large chunks more like peeling an orange, and your egg is less likely to be damamged. (I've heard that fresh home laid eggs are difficult to peel no matter what, so hey - if you have fresh eggs, try this method and let me know if it works?)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Post SuperBowl Nachos

What to do with the leftover cheese sauce and corn chips that did not get consumed during the game?

This is what we did and it was a fun take on nachos!



BEAN DIP:
1 can black beans
onion finely chopped
white cheese

Bring the beans and onion to a boil and mash them, add the cheese and stir till melted.

THE REST OF THE PLATE:
shredded lettuce
cheese sauce
plain yogurt
salsa

Scoop up the ingredients however you like with corn chips. Filling and visually fun! Sort of like Nacho Fondue, only w/o skewers and a boiling pot.

Daily Veggie Tip

It's too easy. It is so easy to not eat vegetables. Why?

Because our wonderful technology (microwave) makes it possible to cook things so quickly that we don't take the time to chop things up! A microwave meal, whether store bought or leftovers is fast an easy. But is it nutritous? If you look at the ingredients you may want to puke in your mouth a little. The fat and sodium content along with a lack of necessary nutrients makes it nothing more than just a filler, and likely to leave you hungry within the hour due to low fiber content.

TIP: I started this little trick in college and sort of lost sight of it's benefits until just recently...trying to crave my post-holiday sweet tooth and insatiable appetite for anything rich.

Here's a picture of my little trick:


A little closer:


And even closer:


I chop up a huge chef salad and keep it in the fridge for quick meals - it'll last 4 days or more! It's full of water rich foods and raw intestine friendly fiber. It's also got all of my favorites to please my tastebuds so I don't feel the urge to go psychotic on the peanut butter chocolate cookies on the counter right afterward.

Here is what I chop into it:

Romaine lettuce
Spinach leaves
Green onion
Apple
Carrot
Bell Pepper
Tomato
Ham or Turkey
Colby Cheese

Topped with a light italian dressing, it is a wonderful crunchy delight - perfect for increasing the amount of fresh veggies in my day! And the sweet apple mixed with the meat and cheese make me feel like I've eaten a complete meal along with dessert.

Sometimes I'll mix it up by adding craisins or walnuts - yum yum yummy.

Today's lunch:
1.25 cups of salad
1.5 tblsp italian dressing
1/2 hass avocado with fresh ground salt

Approx 303 calories
8 grams Proten
15 grams Carbs
25 grams Fat (5 grams saturated)
508 milligrams Sodium
7 grams Fiber
88 milligrams Calcium

This lunch is a little high in fat, but more than half of it comes from the avocado which is high in omega fatty acids that are imperative for brain function and are the key elements to many of the weight loss phenomenons out there recently, including the "flat belly diet" which Prevention magazine has been preaching for a few years now. Wow, that was a long sentence.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

I don't remember where I got this recipe, nor is the source printed on the one in my recipe box...so I apologize for the blatant plaigarism here - but it's such a good recipe that I have to share it. I made this two Decembers ago for a 4 course Christmas dinner. This was the first course and was a HUGE hit - even the kiddos slurped it up.

Sweet Potato Soup
Olive or Canola oil spray
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp chilli, minced (I used chilli powder)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 large sweet potatos, peeled and cut into small cubes
3-4 cups veggie or chicken stock broth
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup fresh corriander leaves, chopped (I could not find these so omitted them - it was fine)

Spray sauce pan and heat.
Cook onion over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, chilli and ground coriander, cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add sweet potato and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 20 mins or until sweet potato is tender.
Cool slightly and puree in a blender until smooth.
Return to the saucepan and add milk. Reheat gently, stirring frequently.
Add the fresh coriander leaves and stir.
(I added a little sprinkling of nutmeg in each bowl for color and flavor - yummy!)

Serve piping hot with whole coriander leaves on top for eye candy.

Sunday morning Pancakes

This is my take on pancakes. I hate cooking them. I hate eating them knowing how quickly I am consuming nutritionless calories. I even hate the way they look. BUT...

I love the way they taste...mine that is. After trying many different store bought mixes, restaurant varieties, and trying a few homemade recipes, I came up with my own which I am quite keen to. They are made with mostly healthy ingredients. Easy to make and my family likes them too.



Sunday Morning Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 packets powdered stevia (or 1.5 tblsp sugar or 2 tblsp honey)
2 dashes ground cinnamon
1 1/2 - 2 cups cold milk
2 egs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup applesauce

Combine everything together and mix well.
Heat skillet to medium and coat with non-stick cooking spray (or use butter if you want)

Pour into desired sized circles and wait till bubbles form on top and edges begin to crust. Turn over and cook other side.

Serve hot with syrup, jam, applesauce, peanut butter, whipped cream, etc.

Squash PUMPKIN Pie

Exactly as it states - Pumpkin pie made with squash instead, and no milk. This is my step-mom's recipe and I like it much more than the traditional pumpkin pie. It's pretty much fool-proof, a little thicker texture and less potent than typical pumpkin pie so you don't walk away from the table with a heavy gut. I LOVE THIS PIE! (pictures to come)

1 3/4 cups baked and mashed squash
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp melted butter
2 unbaked 9" pie shells

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all together till well blended, but do not beat. Mixture will be runny and inconsistent. Pour in pie shells. Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Cool thoroughly before serving.

Top with fresh whipped cream!

I have had great success with this pastry shell recipe.

Amazing Cranberry Sauce

I don't need to type this one up because Stephanie has already done it, with a photo guide too!
And it's not my recipe...it came from a magazine.
But it's well worth being on this blog and I make it every year for the holidays.

CLICK HERE to get the best cranberry sauce recipe you will ever find!

Ultimate Guacamole

I've been making this for years and it is always a huge hit.
If you love avocados - you will love this dish!

Ultimate Guacamole
5-6 Hass Avocados
1/2 diced white or yellow onion (OR 1/4 finely chopped red onion)
fresh cilantro - finely chopped
1-2 diced tomatoes
1 lime squeezed or a few tblsp juice

SEASONINGS:
salt & pepper
chili powder
optional: fresh or dried basil



Dice the avocados - the best way to do this is to cut them in half lengthwise and dispose of the seed core. Use a sharp knife to cut each half into diced squares w/o cutting through the skin and then scoop out with a large spoon.

Mix all chopped and diced ingredients and juice in a bowl - don't mix it too much though - you want the avocado to retain a lot of it's cubed shape. Season to taste.

Serve with corn chips as a dip or on the side for a mexican meal.
For nutrition and taste, I like to eat mine with sliced jicama. What is jicama? It is a root vegetable similar in texture to a water crescent, but it has a little sharp flavor to it. Here is a picture: Sliced Jicama is best stored in water in a sealed container in the refrigerator. The vegetable itself (once cut into) will store for up to a week in the fridge.

No Bake Cheesecake

I found this recipe during Thanksgiving when I was looking for a pie to make that would go well with all of my frozen blueberries. The one I made at Thanksgiving was good, but not nearly as good as the one I made at Christmas. I altered the recipe to turn it into a Cheesecake instead of a blueberry pie because cheese is the "lover of my soul" and the blueberries in the Thanksgiving pie turned out a bit runny. This new recipe makes a very thick, whipped texture cheesecake! Not quite Cheesecake Factory, but definitely a few steps above Jello.

Sorry no picture - but I'll get one on here as soon as I make it again. (Which may not be until the holidays 2010 because my hips have begged me not to indulge again for at least 10 more months.)

No Bake Cheesecake

1 can crushed pineapple, drained, syrup reserved
16 oz cream cheese, softened
5 tblsp granulated sugar
3 tblsp milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small pkg plain gelatin

1 9" pie crust - baked or crumb

Thoroughly drain the pineapple - I found the best way to do this is to drain as much as you can from the can, then put the crushed pineapple into a pastry cloth or a coffee filter and squeeze as much juice out as you can, reserving the juice in a bowl.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, milk and vanilla together till smooth. Add the drained pineapple and stir.

Heat 1/2 of the pineapple juice in the microwave or on he stove - just close to boiling. Dissolve the gelatin thoroughly into the hot juice.

Pour the hot gelatin juice into the cold juice and stir to cool. While beating, pour the juice mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Add enough juice as needed, till you get a thick pudding-like consistency.

Pour into the pie shell and chill for a few hours to thicken and cool.
(Lick the spoon!)

Slice and serve cold with you favorite fruity topping!

VARIATIONS: (I have not made these versions yet, so create at your own risk.)

If you don't want a fruity cheese cake pie, just a basic cheesecake:
Omit the pineapple and the pineapple juice
Use 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice mixed with enough water to make 1/4 cup. Heat and dissolve gelatin into hot lemon juice. Add 1/2 cup cold milk (or more) to the lemon mixture to cool it and to get the pudding consistency needed before pouring into the pie shell.

Like chocolate?
Before pouring the cheesecake into the shell, smooth a layer of chocolate chips over the inside of the crust. Maybe add some caramel syrup too? Top with whipped cream when serving.

How about mint (and chocolate of course)
Melt milk or dark chocolate and stir in some milk to get a spreadable texture. Add a few drops of mint extract to the melted mixture and stir. After pouring the cheesecake mixture into the crust, drizzle the choc/mint mixture over the top and cut in with a butter knife in a cross-weave pattern to make a beautiful pie.

Yum, yum, yum!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mac&Cheese substitute!

OK, so we got all cheesed out last week. After I posted about the search for the best macaroni and cheese recipe, my friend Stephanie posted a recipe she found that looks like an equally delicious dish...though possibly a bit healthier.

I had no intentions of cooking anything fantastic this evening. I have been nursing an imbalance of equilibrium all day and standing upright for any length of time above a hot stove today did not really seem like the responsible/safe/sane thing to do.

We were however, hungry, and my asking the boys if they wanted cereal for dinner didn't go over well. AND I of course did not want to sabotage our nutrition or budget by running around the block to grab some cheap burgers.

Surrender: I just happened to have some leftover baked banana squash in the fridge and pasta in the pantry so I figured I'd try to come up with a dish something like the one Stephanie posted about. No cheese however, we're out and I'm happy about it. (except Parmesan)



Not wanting to be too creative, I pulled out a bag of Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers Basil Vegetable Medley from the freezer. It is carrot sticks, snow peas and cauliflower in a light buttery basil sauce. (These are often on sale and coupons are easy to come by, so they are also very inexpensive...say less than 80 cents a bag!)



So here are the ingredients...no measurements really, just thrown together however it looked right:

Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers - Basil Vegetable Medley (or your own mixture of fresh ingredients if you want to skip the pre-packaged stuff)
Parmesan Cheese
Cooked and drained Pasta
(cold) Baked Banana Squash Chopped into little squares
Grinding salt

Prepare the frozen medley as directed (lazy me used the microwave). Then mix it all together. The stringy but slimy texture of the banana squash mixed with the light buttery sauce coats the pasta and vegetables to the extent that it not only looks like melted cheese, but almost tastes like it too! Season to taste with fresh ground salt.


I had some thawed ground beef in the fridge...just enough for a small dish of meatballs, so we had that too.

Basic meatballs:
1-2 lbs Lean Ground Beef, Veal, Lamb, Turkey, Bison, etc...whatever you have - in fact, a mixture of three meats is delicous.
1/4 finely chopped white or yellow onion
1-2 tsp Minced Garlic
1-2 eggs
Seasoned Bread Crumbs (3/4 to 1 1/2 cups)
Desired seasonings (oregano, basil, pepper, parsley)
Olive Oil

Use a non-stick pan. If you need it, pour the oil into the pan and heat on low. If not needed, omit the oil. Combine everything together and form into 3/4 inch balls. This recipe is flexible: Use enough bread crumbs to get a good consistent texture, but not so much that the meat starts to feel like sand or become too smooth.

Place in the pan, leaving enough space to turn each ball a few times while browning the exterior. If not adding to a marinara sauce, turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook until desired doneness. You'll want to cut one ball in half to check.

If adding to a marinara sauce, don't fully cook the balls in the pan. Just brown the outsides and transfer them to the sauce to finish cooking through.

Wanting to keep things really simple today, I pan cooked the balls and near the end of the cooking, added some chopped up mushrooms to saute in the meat oil. After removing from the heat, I poured on about 1 tsp of barbecue sauce per meatball and stirred it in the pan to heat up a little. (I am also out of eggs and didn't want to bother mincing the garlic - they turned out fine considering!)

These meatballs also work very well in the crockpot for homemade slow simmered pasta sauce.

So I guess today I learned how to be dare I say "Deceptively Delicious" with squash. "Mom, I don't want that. I didn't like it yesterday and I don't want it today." My kids had no idea they were eating it today.

Making this meal also reminded me just how far a little creativity can go when it comes to cooking. Like many, I often look in the fridge, then the pantry, back to the frige, maybe the freezer, pantry again. Huff a little and say, there's nothing to make. But as of right now, I haven't been to the grocery store in over a week...yet I was able to come up with this healthy meal that we all enjoyed... in under 30 minutes. WINNER!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Devil in my Kitchen

Those who know me well know of my obsession with cheese. I am not real keen on all dairy - but cheese, any kind of cheese, you have my heart. My devilish heart. The other night I got a hankerin for Macaroni and Cheese. Yes - I did. I do quite frequently actually, but typically choose to ignore my hankerins. I chose to indulge...shame shame shame shake your finger at me please!

Alas...I caved, so here are my options when such a hankerin arises:

Option 1: The box

You all know the box. It's easy and equally delicious as it is bad for you. But my hankerin was taking me elsewhere that night.

Option 2: The quick prep


Sorry, no picture. Really, it's simple. Make pasta, drain it. Melt shredded cheese on top of it and season with salt and pepper. This simple delight has gotten me through many many a hankerins...and I was tempted, but not satisfied with this either. I wanted smooth, creamy, overwhelmingly cheesy macaroni and cheese.


Option 3: The internet


So I turned to the good ol' WWW and found a slew of cheese drenched pasta creations. I would have made one with jalepenos, onions and tomatoes if I didn't have two little spice and tomatoe despising boys waiting impatiently at the table with wide open drooling mouths. So I settled for this: Pioneer Woman's Homemade Mac & Cheese but only because she too shares a deep connection with aged curdled milk.

Here's how it looked right out of the oven:


And on my chipped plate - I attempted to make the meal somewhat nutritious with a spinach salad (insert halo).


I didn't feel like bothering with measurements, so I looked at her pictures and pretty much just poured the ingredients in, hoping the portions were at least close. I didn't have any dry mustard, so I used a few squirts of spicy brown mustard from the fridge. I didn't salt my pasta water, and probably should have. I used 1% milk. I added parmesan cheese. And I topped it with seasoned bread crumbs prior to baking. Luckily it worked. (she is right about constantly whisking the butter/flower mixture - it will burn if you don't, as I found out the hard way.)

It was good, and not difficult to make really. It was creamy, indulgent, and very tasty. (Especially the next day for lunch with a little sweet spaghetti sauce on top.)

But.....yes a big .....BUTT (pun intended), I still prefer my cheese to taste more pure....like straight from the block. Nothing beats a thick slice of cold sharp cheddar or muenster on the tongue. Though I recommend her recipe to anyone, I would have been satisfied with Option 2. So I am still on the hunt for the perfect mac and cheese - anyone want to indulge my hankerin with their recipe?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Got a carcass?

So it's not the holidays right now, but imagine this...you've just finished your holiday meal and the turkey carcass is sitting there staring at you on it's big platter. If you have a dog, he probably gets it - of course, you risk him choking on a bone and getting turkey breath. Let's not go there.

Use the carcass - don't waste it! It's full of meat and natural flavor - you can make hearty soup with it.

Here are my two favorite post-holiday creations:

Turkey Chili


1 meaty Turkey carcass (or less)
1/2 diced white or yellow onion
1 can kidney beans (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 small can chopped green chiles
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes (seasoned are great)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cinnamon stick

Salt
Pepper
Chili Powder
Ground Coriander

1. Place turkey carcass in large pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours or until the meat begins to falls off the bone. Remove the carcass from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth and return it back to the pot.

2. Once the meat/bones are cooled enough to touch, separate the meat from the bones and throw the bones away. Put the meat and other ingredients into the pot with the broth. Season to taste. Place the whole cinnamon stick on top.

(If making the Turkey Rice Soup recipe below, divide the turkey meat in half prior to step 2. If not and you like a meatier chili, use all of it.)

3. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour, removing the cinnamon stick after 20-30 minutes.

Serving Suggestion: Shredded cheese on top and a square of corn bread on the side.

(When I made the batch in the picture, I added diced celery - as you can see. It tasted fine, but I wouldn't say it was an improvement.)



Turkey & Rice Soup


1 meaty Turkey carcass
1/2 diced white or yellow onion
3 peeled and chopped carrots
1 cup uncooked brown rice or barley or both
3 diced celery stalks
2 chicken boullion cubes

Salt
Pepper

1. Place turkey carcass in large pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours or until the meat begins to falls off the bone. Remove the carcass from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth and return it back to the pot.

2. Once the meat/bones are cooled enough to touch, separate the meat from the bones and throw the bones away. Put the meat and other ingredients into the pot with the broth. Season to taste.

(If making the Turkey Chili recipe above divide the turkey meat in half. If not and you like a meatier soup, use all of it.)

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 1-2 hours or until the veggies and rice are soft.

Serving suggestion: While the soup is simmering you can bake up a loaf of Easy French Bread [HERE].

Once you get past the meat/broth separation stage, both of these soups can be finished in a crock pot if you like.

My husband travels for work and saving money on his travel food is always on my mind. I fill up quart size freezer bags with my homemade soups and he takes them with him. They act as ice in his travel cooler for his sandwiches and yogurts. Then when they've thawed, he just heats them up. Cost saving and Multi-tasking!

Chunky Chicken Noodle

Delicious, easy to make, and there's not question as to what is in it.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

1 rotisserie size raw meaty chicken carcass or 4-5 meaty ribs (breast meat removed)
3-4 chicken boullion cubes
water
4-6 medium size peeled carrots, chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
4-6 celery stalks, chopped
1 bag extra wide egg noodles or as many homemade noodles as you like
salt
pepper

Boil carcass or ribs until bones begin to fall apart (takes at least 2 hours, sometimes 3), pull chicken and bones from broth and let cool. Separate meat from bones. Strain chicken broth to remove any bones and extra fat. Set meat aside.
Place remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) into broth (add more water if needed) and boil until noodles and vegetables are at desired tenderness (best to overboil everything so that the noodles begin to puff). Add meat back to the pot, salt and pepper to taste if eating right away. If freezing for another day, add spices then.

(I don't make this in the crock pot because it is a little more involved than just dumping everything in and walking away...but I am sure it would work just fine after the meat/bone separation part.)

Perfect for freezing to eat later. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight or on the counter in a bowl for several hours. DO NOT put into a pot and add boiling water - this will make it all mushy. When completely thawed, reheat in the microwave or on a low heat.

I like to buy chicken on the bone so I can make soups with the meaty bones and put the breasts in the freezer for other meals. It's also A GREAT way to buy chicken on a budget because it is usually less expensive - Double High 5!

Banana Heaven

OK - so here's one on the not-so-healthy but o-so-heavenly side of the table. Good for your taste-buds, bad for your butt. It gives you a reason to keep those old bananas a little longer - less waste....um....more waist!

This is my grammy's banana bread recipe, altered to add moisture. It's easy to throw together and walk away while it bakes.

I eat this like cake with fresh whipped cream on top - delicious!


Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together:
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add to creamed mixture:
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 slightly overflowing teaspoon baking powder
10 dashes of salt from the table shaker
1 1/2 - 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3-4 mashed overly ripe and soft bananas
3/4 cup applesauce

Nuts are optional

Spray baking dish and fill - spread so the center is flat and corners are slightly peaked.

This will fill a 9x9 baking dish or you can make a tall bread loaf.
Bake 45-60 minutes or until center is stiff and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

If you actually have enough will power not to consume the whole loaf in a day, place the cooled loaf in a ziploc bag for counter storage or freezing.

This bread is very moist - you will not need to add butter to each piece like some recipes...but be careful - you'll most definitely catch yourself pulling chunks off of the loaf for the next few days - it is SOOOOOO tempting!