Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weekly Menu Jan 18-Jan 25

This week Senor and I kick off our 12-week health challenge. I might share more on that later. I might not. I got other things to do that sort of take priority.

Here's our menu for this week (week 1)
Sunday-Parmesan-crusted Salmon, Red quinoa, broccoli and roasted carrots, baby kale/spinach & berry salad with pecans and goat cheese...verdict: delicious and seƱor and I had leftovers for lunch.

Monday/Tuesday-Grilled Rosemary Chicken with Farro Risotto, roasted sweet potato wedges, peas, and cauliflower. Verdict: this was so, so, so yummy. Had a hearty, yet light, earthy, amazing savory thing going on. The farro risotto was just, oh my, I could probably have eaten the entire pan by myself. But I didn't, because, I'm trying to do that whole eating and exercising thing. Yeah. So, my only negative complaint about this is the time factor. This is not your weeknight, quick draw meal. Definitely a keeper, but more likely for Saturday or Sunday evenings when I have more time. But still, definitely worth it. And just in case you want to make this, I found the dried porcini mushrooms at walmart, in the produce section right next to the regular mushrooms. The farro was a bit trickier. I'm sure places like whole foods and fresh market would have it, but they aren't around these parts. Publix had it in their rice section, but it was down on the very bottom and only one variety so it was a little hard to spot. I used fresh herbs, although I'm sure dried would suffice. And I used grated, canned Parmesan since it's what I had on hand; although, fresh would probably make it even more awesome.

Wednesday/Thursday-Taco Salad, mexican rice, black beans, corn. Avocado, etc

Friday/Saturday-Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet, doubling up the potatoes and green beans. Roasted carrots, lima beans & salad

Sunday-Leftovers

Senor is trying the Bony to Beastly regime and I'll be trying out the Kayla Itsines workouts. I'll let you know how it's going when I get a chance.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Recipes

So I am slowly getting back to the land of the meal-planning. It's about time, right?! Baby is just over 12 months so life is finally beginning to tilt back to normal. A few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox to find the latest copy of Cooking Light. I have to be honest, often, this magazine is major hit and miss for me. Well, this copy...total hit. I have marked over 20 recipes for us to try this month and we've already tried 5 of them.

Here's the take-away:
1. Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps --Total hit. Totally keep. The only modification I'd make is to make more of the marinade (to put aside for dressing later) and to make it into more of a salad vs wraps. My kids liked it, husband liked it, I thought it was delish. Couldn't keep my hands off the chicken. And it was so, so, so quick and easy. Seriously. Plop the chicken and marinade stuff into a bag in the AM. (or toss it into the freezer for a quick meal later), cooked it on my cast iron skillet. Made my rice while the chicken was cooking. Chopped up veggies. Dinner is done.  5/5 stars
If you wanted to add a little more "oomph" I think you could add in some mandarin oranges, fried wontons on top and it would be delicious.

2. Chicken and Dumplings Soup--This was not like the best-ever dumplings (but I LOVED that they don't use Bisquick!), but for the amount of time and effort that was put into it, the soup was really, really good. I loved that I didn't have to pre-cook the chicken. The flavor of the broth was light, but strong enough to please me. I doubled up the veggies and increased the amount of dumpling mix by 50%. It barely made enough for our family for 2 nights. We added salad and hearty multigrain bread and fruit. I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

3. Grilled Onion Cheeseburgers--To be honest, I am not sure how they were considered any more fancy or warranted a recipe than your usual burger. They were fine, they were burgers, but nothing about them was, "wow" or "why am I just now eating these!?"...They also required more time than a burger should! Can't say the few shaved-off calories were worth the trouble. We served it with roasted sweet potato wedges (I'll tell you about these below) and roasted carrots. Fresh fruit and added avocado wedges to the burgers. I'd give the burger recipe 1.5/5 stars.  Just toss on some grilled onions and fry sauce to your next burger and call it good.

4. Whole-grain Spaghetti with veggi-filled meatsauce--I guess I shouldn't claim that we tried this recipe. It's so similar to my own spaghetti sauce I make, only mine has more veggies. Maybe I'll post it sometime. I add zuch, shrooms, onion, tomatoes and carrots to mine. A mix of italian sausage and beef. Some seasonings. Anyways. I did switch out our usual spaghetti noodles for a mix of the veggie kind and the whole wheat kind. No one seemed to notice or care. I won't rate this recipe since I didn't actually follow it. :)

5. Broiled Grapefruit with Ginger and Maple--I did make this one and it was odd. I LOVE grapefruit. My kids LOVE grapefruit. The whipped topping on this was so light and yummy, I'm considering using it as a filling on cakes, BUT warmed grapefruit was just kind of weird. The flavors were all good, nothing tasted bad, per se...it was just odd to eat hot grapefruit with cold cream. It didn't jive for me. I'd say 2/5

I have plans to try some of the oatmeal recipes (look under the GRAINS section in the first link above) and we have more dinner recipes we will be trying out.

I'll also try to post my weekly or monthly menus as I create them.

As for the Roasted Sweet Potatoes I mentioned above...they're addictive. I would eat them every night if I could. And easy. So easy.
Pre-heat your oven to 425F
You cut your sweet potatoes into quarters length-wise (to create wedges)
Toss them in some melted butter (I use 3Tbsp butter/about 6-8 potatoes)
Lay them out on a lined cookie sheet, in a single layer
Sprinkle them with sea salt, black pepper, and crushed rosemary to your liking.
Bake for 8-10 min, swirl them around, rotate them, flip them, etc to get them roasting evenly, bake for another 8-10 min.
Serve!
you can eat the skins even. I'm not into that, though, so they peel off so easily.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lazy Saturday Morning Pancakes

I have tried many a pancake recipe. I have been many a time disappointed. That is, until I finally have the perfect basic buttermilk pancake recipe! They are fluffy, light, tasty, easily altered (add in your favorite fruit!), super quick and require only basic ingredients.

So tomorrow, as you pull yourself out of bed, do yourself a favor and make a batch of these for your Saturday morning. You won't be disappointed. You won't be out of energy from cooking. You'll be full and ready for whatever Saturday has for you.
Best, Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes approximately 12 regular sized or 30 small pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk (or you can use regular milk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice mixed in...let it sit for a few minutes)
2 Tbsp oil (or melted butter)
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a large mixing bowl stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together
2. In a medium mixing bowl mix together egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla; mix well
3. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork JUST until there are no large areas of unmixed flour. Batter should be lumpy. Don't over mix or you'll have flat pancakes.
4. In a large non-stick skillet, lightly butter the skillet over med-low heat and pour approx 1/4 c batter for each pancake. Allow pancakes to bubble up on top before flipping over.
5. Flip. Cook for a few minutes on second side. Remove from skillet and serve with butter, syrup and fresh fruit.


ENJOY. Now go forth with your lazy morning.


Cinnamon Roll Face-off

While I was making 2 versions of lemon icebox pie, I decided I should surprise Senor with homemade cinnamon rolls Sunday morning for Father's Day. I have a recipe I've used for several years and it is great, but I was curious if there were any recipes that might be better!  So, in true me fashion...I could only narrow it down to two recipes.

I don't have great pictures of either recipe because they were GONE! I made 2 pans of each recipe and froze 1 pan of each for later. I had a few scrap pieces left from each batch that were left in the fridge to bake the next day but, they weren't pretty at all; tasted divine, but not pretty.

Both recipes were similar in complexity. One requires you to proof the yeast first before adding dry ingredients. One requires you to mix the yeast in with the dry ingredients. I much prefer the previous method in my yeast dough.

Recipe #1: Culinary Couture

Recipe #2: Averie Cooks
The only alteration I made to either one was I added 1 tsp of vanilla to each with the wet ingredients.

I prepared both sets of rolls & icings on Saturday, covered them, refrigerated them until Sunday morning. I let them sit out for about an hour Sunday morning and baked them both at 350F for about 15-17 min; just until they were turning light brown. I iced both sets and we had a very critical taste-testing!

the verdict? Culinary Couture was by far the better cinnamon roll. Both were extremely sweet, the filling could easily by decreased on both! But honestly, can you ever really have a bad cinnamon roll?

Meringue, Icebox or just plain Lemon Pie

Whatever you call it, which ever way you prefer it, lemon pie is the perfect cool, tart treat for summer!  I remember growing up we always had Edwards' lemon meringue pies at family events. I loved the tart, smooth filling but ALWAYS peeled off the meringue topping. It was like eating some form of flotsam to me. The texture was just wrong.

This past weekend we were meeting as a family to celebrate Father's Day and to do a little praying for my grandmother. I asked my Pawpaw what kind of cake he would like for Father's Day.  He quietly replied he wasn't really a big fan of cake.  He's so funny. He finally mentioned that he really liked lemon icebox pie and he hadn't had a homemade one in years. I told him I'd do what I could to see that request through.
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My first step in researching recipes was to try and determine the difference between icebox and meringue pies...appears that meringue pies used the leftover egg whites to make the meringue on top, while icebox pies don't necessarily have a topping, other than whipped cream.  Other than that, I really couldn't pinpoint a huge difference. I looked through about 50 recipes and determined it boiled down to 2 main methods: 1) make a custard-like filling on the stove or 2) a filling mix you bake then chill.

I really wasn't sure which vibe my Pawpaw was going for in his lemon pie so I decided I'd make 1 of each genre to determine which would be my go-to recipe. Read on for the verdict!

For both pies I made a basic graham crust:
(for two 9 inch pie crusts)
1   14-oz box Graham crackers, crushed
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
12 Tablespoons butter (1.5 sticks), super soft
mini vanilla wafers, optional

1. Preheat oven 350F
2. In a food processor, process graham crackers until they're very fine, like sand; you should approximately 4 cups of crumbs
3. Transfer graham cracker crumbs to a large bowl
4. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well, the mixture should look wet and clump together nicely.
5. Divide mixture and place 1/2 into each 9 inch pie pan. Press it out, up along the sides evenly. You can press mini vanilla wafers into the top edge of the pie crusts.
6. Bake 8-10 min, until fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For Pie #1 I used Dana's recipe over at Dana Made It.
The only alteration I made was I used 1/2 & 1/2 instead of milk.
The mixture took quite a while to thicken up. It did eventually after probably 20-30min of stirring constantly. It had a nice pudding like texture to it.  I am not sure about the sour cream mixed in, it certainly didn't taste terrible but I wonder about mixing in greek yogurt or whipped cream instead.


For Pie #2 I used Life Love Sugar's Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe.
It came together very easily and baked up perfectly. I made no alterations. The texture was so smooth and delicious!

I topped both with simple whipped cream with a bit of vanilla and powdered sugar added. I did add non-flavored gelatin so that it would maintain it's shape and texture better, longer.

So the verdict?  Most people preferred the baked one. It was almost completely gone before even 1/2 of the non-baked one was eaten.  That's why I only have actual pie pictures of the no-bake. I forgot to take pictures until the next day!

Both were very delicious and it was very difficult, at times, for me to determine my preferred pie; they were both honestly, so yummy.

The stove top one definitely took more time but was not any more complex than the baked pie.

One word of caution, if you choose to make the baked pie, do not place any sort of wrapping over the top once it has cooled or you'll mare the beautiful, perfectly smooth surface!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pumpkin Oats

I wrote a while back about my obsession with slow-cooker steel cut oats. I ran out of apples and cranberries a few weeks back and REALLY wanted some more oatmeal. I remembered I'd come across "Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal" and had a few packs of frozen pumpkin puree from the fall left in my freezer just begging to be used. This version is so scumptious and has the added benefit of some vegetable involvement!

This makes a nice large vat of oatmeal and makes approximately 20 muffins worth if you are planning to use your muffin tin to freeze it in small batches.  (so for me this is 10 days worth of breakfast!) So just think, a few minutes of effort, a few hours of patience and you have a healthy, hearty, quick breakfast for TEN days! I found that I really liked mine topped with some sprinkled cinnamon, a tiny sprinkle of plain white sugar (like less then 1/4 tsp), a small bit of butter and dark chocolate chips!

2 c steel cut oats
6 c water
2 c skim milk (you can alter the ratio of milk and water a bit if you want more calcium)
28 oz canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
2 -3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves or allspice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Spray your slow cooker dish well with non-stick spray
2. Add all the ingredients, stir it up
3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until oats are done

To freeze, spray muffin tin well with non-stick spray, fill each tin with oatmeal mixture (fully cooked), allow to cool and them place it in the freezer for a few hours. When it's frozen, remove the pan from the freezer, carefully run warm water over the back of the muffin tin pan to loosen the "muffins" and pop them out, place them in a large ziplock bag, place them all in the freezer. When ready to eat, remove desired amount of "muffins" and place them in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 3-4 min or until fully heated. Stir and top as desired.

Chicken Meatballs & Stir Fry

So a while back it was determined that Senor was having some major issues with red meat and pork. For me, this was not a big deal...I was vegetarian for a while before we met and dated. For Senor, this was awful. So we've been eating alot more meatless meals and trying to find ways to adapt some of our recipes so we can keep eating them!

In the midst of recipe hunting and meal planning I came across these "meatballs" at the grocery store one day. They are tasty and so quick to toss into the oven, steam some broccoli and carrots, make some black rice...slice up some red pepper...delicious and QUICK!

We splash on some rice vinegar and a little teriyaki sauce/marinade and it's such a kid-friendly, tasty, healthy little dinner it's been in our rotation at least once a week for the past month.