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!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burrito Rápido

Seriously, these are super fast...because you cook them slowly...while you are busy doing other things...like work, cleaning, homework, or just spending time with a good novel. If you've got 5 minutes at lunch time, you can make these for tonight (you'll need 5 minutes then too).

Spanish Rice Burrito's - in the crock pot!

1.5 cups long grain rice
2 lbs chicken cut into fajita strips (about 3 breasts)
1 can chicken broth
1 diced white or yellow onion
1 can diced tomatoes
5-6 diced mushrooms
3-4 Tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
dried parsley
diced jalepenos or chile's (optional)

Pour olive oil into your crock. Set temp to low.
Dump in all ingredients and season with salt and pepper & parsley.
If you like it spicy, add your desired amount of fresh or canned jalepenos or chile's - diced.

Stir, cover and cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally if you are around to get the rice on top moved to the bottom. If your rice is still a little crunchy 30-45 mins prior to dinner time and the liquid is mostly gone, add 1 cup water, stir, and turn your temp up to high for at least 30 minutes...but not too long on high or you'll burn the meal. (Crock Pot recipes cook best when the crock is 3/4 full. Remember that with rice, it will expand upward, so when filling up your crock, be conscious of the volume.)

Serve with your favorite burrito toppings:




Serves: A LOT!
You will definitely have leftovers unless you are serving a crowd...perfect for lunch tomorrow!

I am not going to compare this to any fast food menus...or even gather the nutrition facts on this one. It's lean meat protein, fiber filled rice and vegetables, delicious and super easy to prepare - what more could you ask for? Oh yeah, this:

...but you won't have to ask!
[yes, my plates are chipped...please don't judge me]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Easy Taco Soup

It's 4pm and the kids are already hungry. I start thinking "What to cook for dinner?" Shopping this week was mostly pantry items so there's not much in the refrigerator. Papa won't be home for two hours. We WILL NOT order pizza. Sound familiar?

I plop the kids down with a cup of yogurt to pacify their taste buds and open the pantry door hoping to find a meal in there dropped off by my fairy god mother. Nothing ... except a few cans of soup that are there only for the most ridiulously busy of days. No pixie dust.

Soup eh? Actually that sounds really good! It's is a rainy day today - a pot of comfort soup sounds like just the love our bellies are begging for.

I love this soup because I usually have all the ingredients on hand and it is so easy to prepare. It is also very flexible and you can add just about anything to it.

Easy Taco Soup


1 lb (or less) Lean hamburger or ground turkey
1/2 white or yellow onion
1 or 2 cans beans (I prefer black, but pinto, garbanzo and kidney work great too)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce (not paste)
1 small can green chiles
1 can whole kernel corn
1 packet ranch dip/dressing mix
water
chili powder
garlic salt
ground black pepper
1 bag corn chips

Brown the meat and onion together until mostly cooked. If you have a lot of grease in your pan, drain the meat.
Open all cans and drain the corn and beans
Turn your burner to simmer and dump in the beans, tomatoes, chiles, corn, and ranch mix.
Stir and season to taste with the chili powder, garlic salt and pepper. Add water to thin the liquid so it's more like a minestrone soup.

Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. This also makes a great crockpot recipe that you can throw in at lunch time on low and six hours later you have a perfect meal.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Dip corn chips into bowl and scoop up the chunky soup for a crunchy, salty, taco like hearty soup delight!

You can also add a dallop of sour cream or shredded cheese to your bowl if you like...but watch how much - just a little adds up quickly in calorie counting.







COST & NUTRITIONAL COMPARISON:
Easy Taco Soup (no chips)
236 Calories
8 grams Fat
16 grams Carbohydrate
22.5 grams Protein

COST: about 71 cents


WINNER!
Wendy's large cup chili
280 calories
9 grams Fat
29 grams Carbohydrate
21 grams protein

COST: about $1.99


LOSER

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Golden Nuggats

I think most parents would agree that chicken nuggets are a staple. When you go to a restaurant what is your child likely to want? Nuggets, Strips, Poppers, Stars, Fingers, Popcorn, Crowns, etc... And what is in those delectible portions of, ahem "poultry?" Trust me, you don't want to know...in fact, neither do I.

Here is my recipe for combatting the "I want chicken and fries at a restaurant" line from my kids.

First, eliminate the fries - replace it with a healthy side item
- easier done than said really!

Second, bake this:

Golden Nuggats
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2 lbs thawed white meat chicken (about 3 breasts)
4-6 Tbsp butter
3/4 Cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
3 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese (fresh is best)
1 Cup Corn Flakes (crushed)
Ground Pepper

Prep:
Cut up chicken into bite size pieces. Don't worry about shape.
Melt butter in a small bowl.
Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, & crushed corn flakes in a gallon size plastic bag. Season with ground pepper if you like a little spice.

Take 5-7 pieces of chicken at a time and dip them in the butter. Shake or brush off the excess. Place the 5-7 buttered chicken pieces into the crumb mixture and shake/stir till you have desired coverage. Be sure to separate the chicken pieces to ensure consistent coverage. Place breaded nuggats on sprayed baking tray - don't worry if they touch eachother, they won't stick together.

Repeat the butter/bread process until all pieces are coated and placed on baking tray. You can cook the whole batch at once if your cookie sheet is large enough.

Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes or until bottom of nuggats are golden brown and outside is crispy. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes to allow the breading to bond with the chicken.
Makes about 85 nuggats.

Complete the meal with fresh vegetable slices and your dip of choice!

Variation: Stir a few tablespoons of barbeque sauce, ranch dressing, or honey into the melted butter prior to dipping the nuggats. This gives each piece a hint of special flavoring...making your finger food even more pleasing to your taste buds!

Here is how it looks at our house:

Kid Plate - approx 399 calories


Adult Plate - approx 540 calories


LEFTOVERS? Not likely, but if so, these are perfect for taking with you to work - pop them in the microwave for a minute or two and pair with a small salad for a perfectly balanced lunch. Also great for freezing to keep on hand for those times when you really only have time to nuke (microwave) something and run! (They even taste good cold!)




COST & NUTRITIONAL COMPARISON:
10 Golden Nuggats
199 Calories
10.5 grams Fat
13.5 grams Carbohydrate
.71 grams Fiber
12 grams Protein

COST: less than 60 cents per serving at $1.57/lb for chicken

WINNER!
McDonalds 10 pc Nuggets
460 calories
29 grams Fat
27 grams Carbohydrate
0 grams Fiber
25 grams protein (really?)

COST: about $3.39 per serving


LOSER

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Mission

The mission of this site is to encourage:
To encourage parents to cook for their children.
To encourage busy people to make time to eat nutritiously.
To encourage overweight people to strive for a healthful way of life.
To encourage the adults of the future to learn how to eat nutritionally.
To encourage everyone to save money by eating right.

This site will contain:
Delicious and nutritious RECIPES* that are
Simple to prepare [and cook]
Inexpensive
Time-Sensitive
& Child approved (most of the time).
and Tips and Tricks that I learn along the way
and links to interesting health articles
and my soap box...I'll try to keep this one to a minimum!

My Inspiration:
My children
"SuperSize Me"
My family's health
The rising percentage of obese Americans
My wallet

Disclaimer:
Most of my recipes are my own creation - but I am no genius. Of course I go online to find ideas on how to make things - so whenever I feel one of my recipes is not really one of mine, I will cite [and link to] the source. I am not into plagarism but if I inadvertantly seem to copy another, please forgive me. This site is meant to be a resource and if that means linking to another source, then so be it.

Side-Note:
Not every recipe here will be considered nutritious to all. Yes, there will be desserts...and recipes that may be high in fat content occasionally. Balance is key - please keep that in mind...and let yourself indulge a little every now and then...because every now and then you deserve it!

* Footnote:
Although I will try to list the nutritional and caloric content of my recipes, I am not a nutritionist. The values may not always be accurate but I will do my best. I am also not a trained cook by any stretch of the imagination. My mother taught me nothing about cooking ... in fact she used to pay me $1.00 per loaf to bake homemade bread each week because she was so horrible at it. So I don't always measure my ingredients...it's not a habit of mine...my apologies. I hope to inspire those exact people to be creative and enjoy the kitchen!

Please leave comments - your reviews are like gold to me! Try a recipe and let me know how it turned out. Have a tweek? Need suggestions? Looking for anything in particular that you'd like someone else to try first?

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