What’s Your Hashtag?

I love Instagram. I love feeling like I’m part of someone else’s dinner when I see other home cook’s uploaded pictures. I love feeling excited when the “ding” pops up that a celebrity chef liked one of my pictures. I love when another user asks for one of my recipes. Yet I still have plenty of moments where I shake my head. Such as, when I look through pictures of users who are on Weight Watchers. They have usernames like WWjen or WWfoodlover … all of them start with “ww”.  Anyway, I scan their photos and most of the time I see healthy meals, small portions, point tracking, and updates of their weight loss progress.  A recent WW person started following me and I took a peak at her photos. Corn dogs, chili covered fries, ice cream sundaes, fast food french fries, fried seafood … the list goes on and on. This lady did her point tracking but her meals were disgusting! Who thinks a corn dog and a side of chili fries is healthy? I guess a corn dog is 2 points and fries were like 4 … she had some left over points and made an ice cream sundae, topped with whip cream and chocolate sauce. What that heck is she not learning from WW? She had other photos of her “progress”, usually the screen shot was something like “come on, you can do it … the points are adding up but you’re still struggling to lose weight”. NO KIDDING! She would tag the photo with something like #TailgateWeekendFail or #ICheatedThisWeek. Sorry hun I’m pretty sure your 75+ photos are not just from a bad weekend or a few cheat meals.  You can’t cheat the system! If you eat like garbage you body will become a wasteland.  Cut out the junk, cheat ONE day a week so you don’t go crazy, start to work out (walking around the block for 30 minutes is a great start), and then maybe you’ll see weight loss. It’s obviously not guaranteed and everyone is different but it’s a good start. You won’t see a change if you don’t make any!

Here are some yummy meals that can help you get going to that goal of a slimmer waist:-)

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First up, pesto covered salmon with a veggie quinoa salad. Buy jarred pesto and slather that fish up! Bake for 10 min on 400 – done. The “salad” was prepped in the morning so all I had to do was reheat it after work. Quinoa takes 20 minutes to cook and it needs to be constantly stirred, the last thing I feel like doing at night. Anyway, chop a red bell pepper and red onion, (cook until veggies are soft), mix in balsamic vinegar, top with pine nuts – serve. PS the ‘white stuff’ on the fish is fat, don’t be grossed out. I buy frozen filets; 1. 4 pieces = $12 (2 fresh filets cost that) 2. I don’t have to deal with the skin 3. My fridge doesn’t stink like fish. Sounds like a big bonus to me.
Next, turkey burgers! Cut the beef y’all, do yourself a giant favor. If you get the “fatty” turkey then you may be able to trick the meat lover in your family however don’t quote me on that. Ok so the burgers – bust out your food processor and toss in an onion and garlic. The juice of an onion is a great way to add moisture to turkey burgers or any burger for that fact. Added to the mix, wor. sauce and Fiesta burger seasoning. Crucial. I love the flavors and with the food processor no one got large bits of anything, it was pulverized to perfection. With 1.25lbs of ground turkey I made 5 burgers, 2 small ones for me and 3 bigger ones for my husband. I ate 1 and he at 2 which meant leftovers. I’m finally getting the hang of this! I forget what our sides were but you could do a salad, baked sweet potato (better than regular), cole slaw, corn, peas/carrots, etc. Nothing greasy! Don’t forget a whole wheat bun; slower releasing carbs compared to white bread.

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A fun weekend activity: we made salsa. I have no idea how to can so that’s on my bucket list … because we have a mega tupperware filled to the brim of fresh salsa. It’s not perfect, it was also our 1st attempt but it’s yummy. My husband added roasted corn which was necessary for sweetness with all of the acidic ingredients (tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, onion).

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We all love take out right? Of course! Do yourself another favor and make your favorite meal at home. Our test was general tso’s chicken. I found this awesome website Damn Delicious and found a recipe for a lighter version of this favorite “Chinese” dish. I say that with quotes because you should know that is an Americanized menu item. Made with corn flakes and just absolute yumminess, this will be a keeper! We loved it – paired with quinoa fried rice and not only did it feel like we called in this order but we felt good afterwards. You know how you feel after ordering take out – BLOATED & full of regret. Not with this dish! It was a bit time consuming but my husband helped and we cut the prep time down. I don’t like spicy food so he added red pepper flakes directly to his bowl instead of the sauce.  We have at least 1 serving leftover.

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Remember my new goal of creating leftovers? Well I have been making extra and hiding it. Literally. I take the extra portions, put them in tupperware, and hide them in the back of my fridge. I love my husband but if the food doesn’t smack him in the face then he won’t look for it. HA! The leftovers aren’t meant to make a full meal, he has them as snacks when he comes home from work (if he works an AM shift he’s home around 3, eats, heads to the gym, and dinner is between 6-8pm depending on my teaching sched). This works out perfectly

This could work for anyway, serve your plate and hide the rest! That way you won’t be tempted to go back for seconds or thirds.

Back to the meal – sloppy joes. I freaking love Martha Stewart. This week is all about my favorite cook book, Great Food Fast. Easy recipes to follow, simple ingredients, and minimum prep/cook time. I prepped this one in the morning, again making an easy reheat for my 1 hr time slot for dinner😉 A recent discovery, all of the nutrition facts are in the back of this book! If you need to light that fire of learning how to cook you should buy this book. It’s the one I started with and love it.

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Again I used ground turkey to cut the red meat. Make breaking up the meat easy, I use a rubber spatula and basically stab the you-know-what out of the meat, ha! Hold the pan with your free hand or you may have treats for your fur-babies. The meat gets super tiny and there aren’t any lumps. A wood spoon doesn’t get the meat broken up very well and half of the meat gets stuck to the spoon too. DO NOT BUY Manwich – that stuff if filled with nasty/bad for you ingredients. Make it yourself, hide those veggies, and you’ll never know the difference. Except you won’t feel like garbage afterwards.

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Hold on to your bloomers because this dinner was ready in a blink of an eye and it only used 5 ingredients. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Red & yellow bell pepper, sweet Italian turkey sausage, pasta (we use Dream Fields, slow releasing carbs),  Parmesean cheese, and butter (only 1 TBSP!!!). Seriously that’s it! The salty flavor of Parm. cheese and flavorful sausage will blow your taste buds away. Isn’t it funny how the simplest of meals can make you the happiest?  Yes, a Martha meal. My husband was a bit skeptical of how it’d turn out but was pleasantly  surprised:-) Martha does not disappoint!

time to kick off the holiday season

The Rockettes were just on TV so I had to go there …

And if you’d like to be able to high kick like those girls may I suggest that you don’t stuff your face silly with “all the dressings” at the dining room table. Once again I’m on the hunt for diabetic friendly Thanksgiving recipes, I’ve found a few including one that is supposed to mimic a sweet potato casserole but with squash instead. It’s all about the spices to be honest – color is the same and texture is close so if it can also smell appetizing I think it’ll be a hit. I also researched a rub for the turkey instead of brining it like we did last year. It was good but let’s try something new shall we?! I think a ham might go on the grill depending the number of guests we have. Friends will bring a green bean casserole, stuffing, and appetizers. OH! I’ve done a run through of a pumpkin pie and it’s safe to say it was a success!

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The recipe was not enough to fill my spring form pan so it will be doubled for Thanksgiving. I used a small casserole dish instead but was impossible to serve. Although after watching Good Eats last night, I might purchase a tart pan. Back to the pie, it’s crust-less and almost sugar-less! Instead of a 1/3 cup of sugar I used 4 tsp of Stevia and it tasted gooooood. It needed more pumpkin pie spice and I will add cinnamon per request from my husband. Suggested by the recipe was to crumble ginger snaps, sprinkle on top of each slice along with dark chocolate chips. That helped to add texture since there isn’t a crust. This was a huge deal and my husband was very appreciative; I do not bake… not a fan of it because it has to be precise (there’s no option to add your own twist to things) and most of the time you have to wait 2-24 hours before eating any of it. Stupid desserts need to cool down for a day … dinner is ready as soon as it comes off the stove.

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Had some favorites last week, cheeseburger pie (added mushrooms since they were leftover) and quesadillas (chicken, spinach, onions, 1 red bell pepper, and whole wheat tortillas … topped with sour cream, salsa, and a chunk of avocado).

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A new recipe I tried last week was a shepherds pie (I’ve never had it before!). It was pretty easy to make and very yummy! I had originally found a Campbells Soup recipe and as I rattled it off to my husband he said it wasn’t even remotely close so I found a new recipe and it was a success. Of course it was because it’s an Alton Brown recipe! I cheated with instant mashed potatoes (2 small packets), skipped the addition of an egg, didn’t miss it. I also used ground turkey instead of Lamb. My time and wallet are precious, do what you need to do to make dinner at your household😉

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Staples so far this week: chicken bombs and butternut squash soup.

Monday’s chicken bombs were the best yet. I don’t know what it was but they were extra yummy… I added sides of mushroom orzo and peas, kept it simple.

The soup was almost a disaster because I followed the recipe, ha! It instructed to bake the squash for only 20 minutes (to make it soft) and I knew better, it needed at least 45-60 minutes. I was also rushed but you know the saying “do it right the first time” … yeah, I wasted more time trying to fix things and clean up a huge mess. After 20 min. I tossed the veggies in my soup pot, covered with all the liquid, attempted to mash it before using my immersion blender. Umm… nothing mashed. IT WAS SOLID AS A ROCK. Liquid flew all over the tile back splash (now I know where the name comes from😉 ). Awesome. It’s all covered with liquid and now I must dump it in a blender. By the way, it had been simmering for 20 minutes as another attempt to soften the veggies … so not only is it hard as a rock it’s also scalding hot! Soup splattered everywhere as I transferred it from the pot to the blender, the blender was filled too high so I poured it in a large measuring cup since it was near by. More splatter. I blended everything in 2 batches, pouring the chunky/baby food textured “soup” back into the pot, it tasted good but the texture was nasty. I partially chewed the soup. I cooked it down some more and busted out the immersion blender again … that little device saved it. It was so smooth after that and the soup actually looked like soup. My husband missed an exciting afternoon! When he came home he got an ear full while cooking the grilled cheese (at 9:30pm) … I don’t do grilled cheese. I burn the bread and the cheese manages to not melt. Riddle me that. Yes, I ate that late which I know is not healthy but with our schedules we don’t get to eat dinner together often. I at least ate my soup earlier and waiting to share a grilled cheese with him❤ .

So the rest of this week & next week will be “figure friendly recipes” that are restaurant favorites (i.e. BAKED general tso’s chicken, pesto salmon … yummmm); we must prepare for Thanksgiving … shed the last few pounds right before adding them back on, lol. Let’s all be thankful for the food we eat, the family and friends we share it with, and a lovely house to make memories in.

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Taking a day off …

No that doesn’t mean we’re going out to eat tonight … my husband is in the kitchen whipping up his famous chili! While it may only be famous in this house it is pretty yummy and I’m sure it could win an award. Beans and meat make a chili, please don’t argue with that. If it’s only meat then it may as well be spaghetti sauce; if it’s only beans then it’s a soup. GROSS. I just love that I don’t have to lift a finger for today’s dinner. What a blessing:-) As I type this he is wandering around the kitchen looking for things … so I’ll just direct from the couch as I sip my morning coffee. Today he picks up a flight so it’s a slow cooker dinner since we don’t know when he’ll be called in to work.

As for the last week, he got to grill a few more times before going back to his hectic schedule.

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Teriyaki pork chops, rice, and egg rolls … I decided to make my own marinade to control the ingredients and boy am I glad that I did! The recipe called for 3/4 cup of sugar which surprised me and after finding a few other recipes I saw they all called for sugar. Of course we don’t use real sugar so I did a quick look on my Stevia conversion chart: 1 cup of sugar = 1 tsp of Stevia. HOLY COW! It’s such a drastic decrease. Do yourself a favor and make the switch (if you can eat Stevia) – stop consuming so much sugar – GROSS!
1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup water, just under 1 tsp Stevia, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 3 tbsp white vinegar, 3 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp garlic powder, just under 1 tsp ginger (I used powder, it called for fresh) … mix and pour over chops, let marinate for at least 30 minutes – I let them sit for maybe 5 hours.
Easy sides: 5 minute white rice, I put a few dashes of soy sauce on it and frozen egg rolls. How easy is that?! It was so good and even better since the chops were grilled. YUM!
IMG_8040 Not a grill night … just enjoying a glass of wine after a crazy day. Of course McLane had to be in the picture. These nights about about to be a rarity with my husband’s leadership class ending however that will make them even more special.

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I loosely followed this recipe by Giada for sausage and peppers … I think the marsala wine made the difference. It’s a keeper!  My husband helped make the side, squash and zucchini cakes (baked not fried, thank you Paula…). DO NOT USE a ton of salt, parmesean cheese is salty enough. We dipped the caked in the juice left behind from the hoagies, so good!

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The intended dinner was to be fajitas but that idea quickly faded when the peppers and avocado had gone bad😦 So when life hands you chicken and onions … you make tacos! My husband asked for pickled onions which is super easy and added flavor to the chicken because other fajita seasoning, I had nothing, lol! I used leftover chicken pieces and let them sit (seasoned) for the day, bake and it’s done. As always, Mexican rice as a yummy side.

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I’m always looking for new pasta dishes and found this one on Pinterest, of course mine turned out nothing like the blog however it was pretty good. Yes it looks like a pile of poo-poo but I’m a home cook and who really has time for pretty presentations?

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Another popular dinner, pork chops – this time stuffed with blue cheese and topped with pears. I couldn’t find thick cut chops at the store so picked up butterflied chops, put a spoonful of cheese in the center, and tied the chops shut. Easy. The pears go in after to soak up all of the juices from the meat. Buy a steam bag of veggies and dinner is complete.IMG_8092

A super simple “gratin” also known as a casserole, lol. Mushrooms, potatoes, turkey sausage, and swiss cheese. This was a great diabetic friendly dish since there was no sauce (which is where most the “bad stuff” hides in a recipe). Mushrooms contain so much moisture that when cooked down and all of the seasonings have time to mix it flavors the entire dish.

Last but not least, mozzarella stuffed meatballs! There’s no recipe for this … it’s pretty basic.IMG_8097

Italian seasoned ground turkey, I added bread crumbs and an egg. Portion out a sch-medium meatball, flatten it, place a DRIED OFF moz ball in the center, and roll up! Bake at 400 for about 12 minutes (while the pasta boils/cooks) and dinner is ready.

So in the time that I wrote this post my husband got dinner ready and in the slow cooker. The house smells amazing and I can’t wait for some yummy chili. Sorry folks, he doesn’t follow a recipe … honestly! He tosses stuff in the slow cooker and it always comes out amazing. It’s a bit different each time and I think that’s what I like most about it. You never know just how yummy it will be, 5pm can’t come soon enough!

Trick or Treat, gimmie something good to eat!

Last time I checked, you can’t eat pencils or stickers.

So what’s up with the teal pumpkin project? What happened to the days of dumping your candy bag on the kitchen table, mom/dad sitting with you as you searched for opened wrappers/tossed, things you couldn’t eat/tossed, and sneaking as many of the “okay” pieces as possible without your parents seeing? Go back to that first point … “mom or dad sitting with you” … In my opinion (after all this is my blog so I do get a say) parents have become lazy. They are relying on others to cater to their child’s food allergy; finding non-food items to pass out to those kids. I’ve seen some parents bragging about how much they’ve spent on fake tattoos, stickers, and pencils to pass out – some in the upwards of $40! Others promised to not run out (on food & non food items) and have bought enough goodies to fill 4 paper grocery bags. What the what?! Heaven forbid you run out and have to turn off your porch light; I bet these parents also believe that every child should win a medal.

Back to my main point, I cringed at spending $12.50 on 5 bags of candy and being the teacher that I am I made sure to buy “peanut items” and “non peanut items”. Teach your kid to speak up or wear an allergy bracelet and I will gladly give them 1 of the non peanut items. FOR SHAME! Parents having to do their job! Just because we’re a ‘diabetic house’ doesn’t mean I’m going to pass out freaking pencils (or paint a pumpkin grey). NO KID WANTS PENCILS. The kids who are allergic to peanuts want candy too, as do diabetics (I’ll get in to nutrition facts in a second…). PARENTS: be involved and sort through those bags with your kiddos and stop expecting everyone to bend over backwards. Also teach your kids if porch lights are off that the house is not passing out candy, they’ve run out, or are not home.

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BTW this will be your kid’s face when you tell them they can only accept pencils on trick or treat night.

— END TEAL PUMPKIN RANT —

**BEGIN CANDY NUTRITION INFO** this is for the other diabetics out there … it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be!
– ‘Fun Size” M & M bags :: serving size is 3 bags (no wonder American’s are fat) but limit yourself to 1 and it’s only 11g of carbs
– ‘Fun Size’ 100 Grand :: serving size is 2 bars but limit yourself to 1 and it’s only 15g of carbs
– Generic orange lollipops (like the kind bank tellers used to send in the vacuum thingy if they saw a kid was in the car😉 yeah, YOU KNOW) :: serving size is 1 and it’s only 14g of carbs
‘Snack Size’ Kit Kat :: serving size is 3 two-piece bars but limit yourself to 1 and it’s only 9g of carbs
‘Fun Size’ Snickers :: serving size is 2 bars but limit yourself to 1 and it’s only 10.5g of carbs

… after reading all of these labels, yes that takes time but worth it when I get to tell my husband he can have some of the candy. Mind you 1 a day is all he can have but it’s better than nothing (it’s all anyone should have, let’s be real)! Now I’m not a candy lover but he’s the one who used to eat a mega bag of the “gold bag” gummy bears (this was pre-diabetes) so he’ll be happy that I’ve done my research.

Most important though, have a safe and fun Halloween. Put on an awesome costume, carry a heavy duty candy bag, wear something reflective or a glow stick so you can be seen, and really – beg your parents to come with (probably suited for 6th grade and younger – middle school & older are just too cool to be seen with parents😉 ). I was chatting with my husband about Halloween memories and we agreed that our parents stood at the edge of a driveway while we (the kids) walked up to the doors. Now that I’m the one passing out candy it’s nice to see parents out there giving a friendly wave and not slowly driving by in a car … which BTW is super creepy.

Educational moment: At first I thought these pumpkins were supposed to represent a “ribbon”, like pink is breast cancer. I decided to look up what a teal ribbon means and 1 of the “awareness” points is for sexual assault victims. So yeah, there’s that. I had this at the beginning of my post but moved it to the end … didn’t want to put a damper on your day right off the bat.

Leftovers can be exciting!

So you know I’ve been trying to branch out by trying new flavors … not just for dinner but for bbq’s as well, hoping to prove that eating healthy is yummy! There are plenty of skeptics out there but come over to the dark side, I promise you won’t regret it😉

My new go-to dip is cucumber salsa – people stuff their faces and about 5 scoops in I hear “what is this… it’s awesome!”. Just note that you should really use English cucumbers. The last 2 times I have but the 3rd time I picked up regular cucumbers … let’s just say it became a soup! Regular cucumbers are full of so much water; I had to drain the salsa before serving it. Even 1 day later (I prepped the day earlier), having 2 drains, and serving it up in smaller bowls … each bowl was filled 1/2 way with liquid after an hour😦 Spend the extra $1 and buy an English cucumber.
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Next on deck .. chicken wings! You don’t have to make hot wings/fatty ranch for dipping or greasy fried wings for football Sunday, check these out – no breading, no “bad for you” ingredients, just 100% yumminess! I forget the site I found this recipe on so here is the check list:
To make apprx 24 wings –
2 cups lime juice (1 large bottle)
4 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more or less depending on your tolerance of heat!)
4 tsp minced garlic (I used 3 medium garlic cloves OR you can buy pre-minced garlic & measure … either is fine!)
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups olive oil
MIX everything in a large bowl, pour over chicken, and marinate for 30 min-2 hrs
We grilled them or you can bake them … enjoy!
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Ahhhh, the pasta salad. It’s such a familiar dish that you don’t even have to tell people what’s all in it … all you say is “there will be a pasta salad” and you know it will be devoured.  I don’t know what it is about this comfort food but everyone likes it.  This version is: 1 box of low carb rotini pasta (Dream Fields / black box), 1 medium “summer sausage” log cubed into even chunks, frozen corn (microwavable steam bag, cook for 6 min & let it cool), 1 large block of cheese cubed into even chunks (use your favorite cheese!), and roasted red peppers (I had a jar in my fridge already opened, may as well use them!), and top with Italian salad dressing (1/2 at prep time and 1/2 before serving it … mix well!).
Cook the pasta FIRST, drain/let it cool … then start slicing and dicing the ingredients. Once the pasta is cooled, combine ingredients into a large bowl & stir:-) EASY

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Now I’m just going to overwhelm you with a ton of photos … recipes will be in links!

IMG_7886 Tater tots! Toss tots with hot sauce, crumbled blue cheese, chopped celery and diced chicken.  I left the chicken out because I used this recipe as a side dish to smoked sausages … it was out cheat night😉

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steak with french onion sauce! We have mostly red wine in our collection so I bought this cute picnic white wine cup; it was perfect for the recipe so if you are not a big wine drinker, look for one of these guys. Also have no fear if you can’t fine veal consomme … I used beef stock and it turned out a-okay😉 Since the main dish took some extra energy (it was difficult but you have to keep your eyes on it!) I opted for canned green beans and frozen/oven baked bread sticks. An easy meal that you could order from a steak house … at your own kitchen table, LOVE!

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It was cooler last week and I busted out my immersion blender to whip …er, rather blend up some sweet potato soup. It’s from my favorite magazine, Cooking Light. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these guys! Rather than pouring hot things into a blender and risk burning yourself just keep everything in 1 large pot and blend together. I paired a yummy smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwich and the dinner was perfect. In with the new … you don’t have to use Kraft singles for grilled cheese! I love using new cheeses each time we make grilled cheese – yes, a good cheese will cost a few more dollars but it’s so worth it as a splurge meal.

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Saw this on an episode of Barefoot Contessa and it couldn’t have been easier! Cripsy mustard chicken and cheesy grits (again I opted for microwavable veggie since the 2 other items took some energy). Another must have gadget, I love my pint sized food processor. It’s easy to store since it’s small and it’s perfect for our family (there’s only 2 of us) however if you only want to spend $30 and have a larger family – just make recipes in small batches & combine in a large bowl, you have to dump most mixtures into a bowl anyway! The grits will need your attention as it must be stirred every few minutes as to not burn on the bottom of the pot, it is an easy recipe though. I used those ‘5 minute’ grits – just not the instant (comes in packets), you don’t have to buy anything crazy. Trust the recipe and use 1/2 & 1/2, the grits are beyond creamy. These are 2 yummy recipes you can impress your guests with … hello, holiday season is around the corner!

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Okay these 2 dinners are buddies … one night it was garlic shrimp & potato/onion pouches and the other was meatloaf with the same pouches.  I made 2 pouches to be grilled on the same night so I could have a plan ahead dinner:-) Who says everything has to be cooked fresh each night?! Yeah so this meatloaf was the bomb dot com. Yes, I went there😉 A little over 2lbs and we still have leftovers! I have found a dish that has outsmarted my husband, lol! I made/cooked the meatloaf earlier in the day (Friday morning) and reheated it for dinner; I hid the leftovers in the back of the fridge so we’d have dinner for Sunday … he had no idea! Plus we still have 1/3 of it left. Leftovers can be fun, take these open-face meatloaf sandwiches: toasted bread, thinly sliced tomatoes, meatloaf (reheated first), a fried eggs, and ketchup or gravy.

IMG_7968 Pizza night! My husband got spicy Italian sausage and I got mild … everything else was the same: sliced red bell pepper, moz & parm shredded cheese, sauce… done. I love pizza night & trying new toppings!

IMG_8023 Okay this was our splurge meal last night … a 3lb brisket ($20!) which was actually a good deal but it’s the smallest guy I could find so I took it. Into the slow cooker it went and 6 hours later, dinner was ready. We had leftover pasta salad and veggies … I love clearing out the fridge.

Last but not least … brats simmered with onions and beer. One of my husband’s favorites (that he actually cooks! I’m not allowed to help w/ this one… okay😉 !)
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Simmer for 30 minutes and throw the brats on the grill to crisp the skin … pour the leftover ‘sauce’ (beer/onions) into a large dish, place grilled brats on top, and let people serve themselves. Oh, I should mention we cooked this up for a bbq (along with the pasta salad & cucumber salsa). I also made burgers and they were devoured. We had 2 sausages leftover so of course we took the cheesy grits and cubed the sausages for breakfast the next day. I LOVE LEFTOVERS.

It’s been a good few weeks of leftovers … It was a bigger grocery trip than usual HOWEVER we had and still have meals ready to go. Whether it’s making over a dish (meatloaf turned into sandwiches) or just throwing things together (sausages in grits), don’t think leftovers have to be boring. Same for dishes that you’ve made 10 times … try a new sauce or seasoning. Making something seem “new” can make dinner or any meal for that matter, exciting!

flip it, change it … rearrange it.

I caved. I put up all of my Halloween decorations. Plus fall decorations (minus a few Turkey’s; one holiday at a time THANK YOU).  The last Halloween I decorated for was 3 years ago, in 2012 we had our wedding and then moved, again in 2013 we were packing to move into our new house… so yeah. With that being said some of the items have seen better days, candles melted, things were beyond squished, and I couldn’t figure out a few other things, lol! So I guess when things are looking a little sad it’s time to find new decorations to replace them.  It’s good to update what you already own, kind of like food…

Look at what you’re eating and see if there’s a way to revamp it; cut out food that doesn’t look fresh, bring in colorful veggies, or buy 1 beginner cookbook and make a promise to try a few new recipes. Trying something new for the first time can be scary but the outcome becomes better and better each time, you have to start somewhere.

That was my experiment for the last few days, I took known favorites and did something new with them.

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We often have fish and pork chops so those were at the top of my list to have a make over.  For the fish I used a lemon vinaigrette recipe but changed one of the sides by using cabbage instead of radicchio. I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out but it was sooooo good! The sauce was so flavorful; it made the cabbage/bean side edible (we know those 2 items have ZERO flavor). The fish was lightly coated in flour and quickly pan cooked to create a slight crust then I finished it in the oven at a low temp. for maybe 15 minutes. We needed a starch and I had a bag of baby red potatoes, whipped up an easy version of rusty mashed potatoes. I quartered the potatoes, placed them in a bowl filled with water (covering the potatoes), and microwaved them for 15 minutes while the fish baked.  I then gave them a rough mash, added garlic powder and cheese, done! Oh, also milk and sour cream to help with the mashing.

On to the pork chops where I used a Trisha Yearwood recipe. The cut of chops were awful and made it quite difficult to make them pretty. I didn’t have thick chops but usually with the thin cut I can put “stuffing” in the middle and wrap the meat around, securing with a tooth pick.  This meat was paper thin and tearing from every way possible.  I made it work somehow and it turned out okay. I didn’t have any sides in mind so I scanned my pantry and grabbed hese tomato-basil noodles, given to us from a friend (the house we watched over), then over to my fridge which had leftover veggies.

Classic ingredients made over; it was rough trying something new but in the end I’m glad that I did because next time I know what to do and not to do – you learn each time you cook!

I made a special breakfast on Sunday … my husband surprised me with breakfast last weekend at a yummy cafe so I surprised him this past weekend. I’ve made a frittata once before and we loved it so here’s another one! I used the foundation of one that the Pioneer Woman cooked, changing some ingredients.  Really though, you can use whatever you want in one of these! I used: canned/pre diced potatoes (this is a Sunday morning we’re talking about, ain’t no one got time for dicing!), canned mushrooms (read previous statement about dicing), onions (I cut those myself, thank you), and red peppers (from a jar too). I added cheese, LOTS OF CHEESE – parm & cheddar. I had to up the cooking time to 45 minutes, the eggs were not setting like I had hoped, no biggie though.

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I guess this could be one of our favorite dishes too, spaghetti and meatballs. I took my world famous meatball recipe (as in, famous in this house) and added shredded parm cheese … soooo good.  Just remember that with parm cheese you don’t have to add a lot of salty, it’s a very salty cheese.

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THESE WERE FUN! Spaghetti squash burrito bowls. AWESOME-SAUCE!  The blog post where I got the recipe from was lacking some instructions but I figured it all out.  Bake the squash ‘meat’ side down on a lined baking sheet – 425 for 45 minutes, the ‘meat’ will scoop right out, no effort needed. Use whatever veggies you might order at say, Chipotle or Freebirds, and boom, done! I used canned corn, canned black beans, 2 green bell peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 red onion diced, cilantro, fajita seasoning, cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  Layer everything like a lasagna in the squash shell: cheese, veggies, squash, cheese, veggies, squash, more cheese, salsa & sour cream. We each went back for 2 helpings – it didn’t leave us feeling gross but we were definitely full. I’d suggest 1 squash per person, you serve the burrito bowl in one of the halves. This recipe is staying in rotation. LOVE!

Go find “old” recipes and brainstorm how you can make them over. Add a new sauce or try to make a meat dish into a vegetarian dish (swap a steak for shrimp), even if it’s 1 ingredient that you change (I added parm cheese to my meatballs, they tasted new to us!) it can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to change up your routine.

Slowly introducing cool-weather comfort foods

Finally. It’s finally October however that doesn’t mean the weather is cooling down any😦 We had an enjoyable weekend with windows open and the AC off… today it’s sticky-humid and 72 at 8:30am, a high of 90 is expected. Just when I wanted to start decorating for Halloween/Autumn the weather gods turn! I love heat and I love sun but I’d take a real fall before winter gets here – it’s supposed to be a doozie again this year. So with the tease of cooler temps I started to introduce new comfort foods to the weekly menu.

How about stuffing covered baked pork chops.Yes you read that right. Since stuffing is a no-no item with our new eating ways, I was missing it. I think it’s overlooked 99% of the year and then everyone goes crazy with it at Thanksgiving, it needs to be used more often and this is a great way to incorporate it throughout the year.
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Egg wash, flour, egg wash, coat in uncooked stuffing – seriously it’s that easy! Bake it and cover with yummy gravy (it’s absolutely needed or else you might chip a tooth on the stuffing, lol). Add some veggies (steam bag, cheat!) and instant mashed potatoes (added lots of shredded cheese, another cheat!). I’ll tell ya once again – if you have a “labor intensive” feature for dinner then opt for easy side items, in my case steam-in-a-bag veggies and instant potatoes. Use your own extras or seasonings to add some creativity and flavor. Although 2 pork chops took maybe 10 minutes to prep but dredging is messy which is why I picked easy side items.

Baked fish was on order as well this past week, I’ve made it once before – it’s a Rachael Ray recipe. Giving another nod to comfort foods I whipped up a mushroom & orzo dish, this one I’ve made 2 times before (1st time grand reveal at Christmas), the 2nd time I used whole wheat orzo and it was disgusting … the texture was not appreciated by myself or my husband, it was like cardboard! SOGGY CARDBOARD! I went for regular orzo this time and it was just as yummy as I remember the 1st time was. It’s a keeper.  I’ve also started using frozen pearl onions, do yourself a favor and copy me. Peeling a pearl onion is a pain in the neck x 12 (how many I originally used).

I had to turn it in to a casserole because I cooked it in the morning and reheated it for dinner.

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Who’s up for a 2 pot meal? EASY CLEAN UP!!! I heart the Pioneer Woman and her yummy creations. This recipe was on her show a few weeks ago when it was still 90 degrees and I was waiting for the right time to make this. Friday it was beginning to cool off and I knew the weekend would be nice as well; we always have leftover pasta so I wanted to enjoy it over the weekend too; anyway it was perfect! We got comfy on the couch with this piled high in a bowl, then there was silence. A sure bet that the meal is delish. Ok so back to the easiest dish ever; the pasta is cooked in 1 pot and the sauce/chicken/moz cheese goes into another. The cutest thing EVER at the grocery store were these mozzarella balls – you could either fight with the huge ball of moz and slice/dice it into small pieces to scatter around the sauce OR buy these lil fellas! Same price and none of the fuss. Yes of course it made plenty of leftovers which we enjoyed on Sunday, we needed a meal to comfort an embarrassing Steelers loss … while it didn’t make us feel any better about that game our stomachs were at least satisfied.

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At the beginning of last week since it was bea-u-tious and I figured to make a fun, tropical inspired steak. The sun was shining and screamed “MANGOES!”. I found the most amazingly juicy mango and was incredibly pleased with how much “meat” was on that sucker. I’ve finally figured out how to slice mangoes the right way, thanks to The Kitchen (TV show).

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Here it goes – I used the mango mixture on top of the rice and steak, 2 for 1 deal.  All it is, is mango/jalapeno/cilantro/lime juice. DONE.  While the rice cooked I tossed in cilantro and lime juice to boost the flavors.  Once plated I topped the rice with mango and same for the steak, add a side salad and it really looks like something you’d pay a good penny for at a restaurant. Hubby is home for dinner for the next few weeks due to a training class he’s in right now so he actually has “normal” work hours. I love it and am living in the moment each night we get to have dinner together – no planning what can be reheated and not turn in to rubber, it’s pretty fantastic.