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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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!

Is fall really around the corner?

This past weekend was a tease of fall weather; it was 95 on Friday and Saturday morning – a shocking 60! Talk about a drastic change. It remained cool through Sunday thanks to some rain and a slight breeze but Monday morning, BAM, right back up to 87. Of course people of this city freaked out and I saw some scarves, fuzzy boots, and velor track outfits. I mean really… scarves? I don’t mean cute or fashionable scarves I’m talking bulky winter scarves. *face palm*

With the reminder of fall being around the corner I was excited to see a slow cooker feature in a diabetic magazine while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store. I picked up a copy because honestly I have about 4 slow cooker recipes that are my ‘go to’; it’d be nice to add some variety and find some new ‘go to’s’. There are some breakfast recipes which look interesting, the only down side is that they take 2-3 hours so you can’t cook them overnight. I don’t see myself waking up at 5AM to start breakfast so I can eat at 8AM. Maybe if we have overnight guests I’ll cook something the night before and reheat it in the morning however who likes rubbery, leftover eggs? I’ll have to find a way to create those meals. There were also great tips if you whip up your own recipe; protein to liquid ratio, % of starches to liquid, etc. Overall I’m ready to use and abuse my slow cooker this coming fall season.

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Speaking of my slow cooker, a classic in this house was Wednesday’s meal, stuffed cabbage. I followed that recipe for ingredient purposes only but I also added 1 large can of crushed tomatoes and 1 more can of tomato soup. To the meat mixture I added maybe 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes (strained w/ a slotted spoon), I didn’t want the meat to dry out since I used lean ground turkey.  To the slow cooker I poured 1 can of soup, placed the cabbage rolls, poured the 2nd can of soup and the remaining crushed tomatoes (including all liquid).  They turned out so good! My house smelled amazing and dinner was super yummy 🙂

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We had shrimp fried rice …er… quinoa! Last Monday I cooked most of dinner that morning! I have 1 hr from the time I get home from teaching lessons to leaving for band rehearsal, clearly not enough time to prep and cook an entire meal. When I got home I threw the egg rolls in the microwave (hey, if the cooking directions offer oven and microwave instructions, opt for the faster one when time is not on your side), pan cooked the shrimp (which takes maybe 4 minutes?), and dinner was ready! Oh yeah, microwave the quinoa for a few minutes and cover it with a damp paper towel to create steam. A quick and healthy dinner, a much better option than fast food!

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I’ve been on a mushroom kick and last Thursday I found this yummy recipe. I had a leftover mixture of mushrooms/bacon from pork chops the week before and when I saw a honey-dijon chicken recipe topped with bacon and mushrooms, it was like the recipe was waiting to be found.

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Who can resist a good burger? I’m going to dub this one as the Thanksgiving burger. At first I wasn’t really sure of the ingredients and how it would taste but hello, it’s a Rachael Ray recipe so you know it’s gonna be good! I forgot to take an ‘after’ pic but click on the link and you’ll see it there 🙂 . These were super easy to prep and I cooked them on the stove. Also don’t be turned off by the grainy mustard (as I was) – I cut the amount in half so there would just be a hint of it in the cranberry sauce. Basically, it was delish. This is a keeper! Oh, english muffins are the buns (toast them so they don’t become soggy!), so fun! It kept the burger light.

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Last night’s meal was on point! Again, having only 1 hr to eat on Monday’s means getting dinner ready in the morning. These chops were so easy to put together, maybe 20 minutes to prep and cook (totally doable if you need a quick dinner after working a long day!). Since I’d be working when things would need to be reheated I left detailed instructions for my husband to get dinner going, at 4:20 he preheated the oven to bake roasted red potatoes (from the freezer section), after a few minutes he put in the pork chops, the remaining 6 minutes were used to steam veggies in the microwave. I love those steamer bags but these are plain veggies, no extra fatty or sodium filled sauces. Sprinkle some seasoning on the veggies and boom, a lovely side dish. Dinner was ready by 5:05 (I get home at 5pm) and devoured by 5:40.

Don’t ignore the freezer section, you can find some yummy things in those aisles.

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I think I forgot to write about these mini taco cuties last week. So easy and perfect for game days! Use won ton wrappers (I used 2 partially layered on top of each other, for each mini taco), fill with browned/seasoned meat (I used regular ground turkey + chili seasoning + diced onions), top with shredded cheese, and bake for 8 minutes (or until won ton wrappers are golden brown) at 350 degrees. Top with salsa once they’re done! These were scooped up so quickly so if you’re the chef for the day be sure to taste your creation before serving to guests!

Beautiful Disasters

Sometimes the best meals come to you when you’re not even thinking about … A few days ago I was getting excited about football season beginning this weekend and in the mix of things I quickly missed Pittsburgh and all of my yinzer friends. Lightbulb, peiorgies and kielbasa! Let’s pay homage to a wonderful city, beautiful friends and family, by eating a yummy meal that can be served with a side of fabulous memories. We love pierogies. LOVE. My husband will think this is silly but when we first started dating, he cooked pierogies a few times and it was ‘his thing’, no one was allowed to help. He’d be so proud of how perfectly they were cooked and would brag all night about dinner, that’s just sort of how he is but I loved watching him cook.

Another bonus for this meal, I can make a double batch and freeze them for a friend who is expecting a baby annnnnny day now (hurry up little one!!). Not all delivered meals have to be casseroles, spaghetti, or lasagna. I mean can you imagine? 5+ nights in a row of essentially the same thing. God Bless people who volunteer to bring meals over (whether there was a loss in the family, a birth, major surgery, etc.) but it’s okay to turn those offers down … I know the meals are meant to be quick and easy to reheat but real meals would be nice. Anyway, who wouldn’t love homemade pierogies and kielbasa?! I know my friend will as she’s a fellow yinzer friend, friends with benefits, HA 😉 !

Let’s take a look at some meals from the last few weeks … I had leftovers *whhhhaaaaat?!* but made sure to revamp them. There is a ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad, it’s entertaining, just wait. My husband also made a request and over of course I couldn’t pass it up. ENJOY!

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A simple meal, smoked sausages (Oscar Mayer, they are so yummy … and better for you!), green bean salad, and roasted potato wedges.

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Chicken and spinach quesadilla and a corn/grape tomato/lettuce salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

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This was one of my revamped leftover dishes.  I made a slow cooker lasagna the previous week and had plenty leftover, I used it as a side dish and baked a quick chicken Parmesan.

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Here is the original dish – Lasagna Soup … which wasn’t soupy at all … so yeah, don’t let the name freak you out. Oh, I couldn’t find a single bottle of V8, small bottles came in 6 packs and we don’t drink that stuff so I used a can of plain tomato sauce.

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We love our pork chops! This version: honey & Dijon ‘sauce’ is the key component to pretty much everything on the plate. I coated the chop in a nice layer of the sauce, let it sit for an hour. While that was going on I pan-cooked mushrooms, bacon (already baked in the oven), and onions – drizzled more of that sauce and just let it simmer for 20 minutes until the onions were really soft. I added the chop into the pan and cooked everything for another 10 minutes, cover the pan so it steams, less splatter and faster cook time! On to the baked sweet potato which took 2 hours to bake. Really. I let my husband pick them out and of course he picked the most gigantic potatoes. As I sliced them open I went to the fridge and realized we were out of butter. Oops. No biggie, we had cream cheese and honey! Oh it was so good… think about it, what do you add to a sweet potato casserole? Usually cream cheese and brown sugar; we had brown sugar but I didn’t want the grittiness opting for honey instead.

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This is how I do corn when the husband isn’t home to man the grill. Salt, pepper, Old Bay (if you’re not from the East Coast you are truly missing out), and 3 blobs of butter. Loosely wrap each ear of corn in foil and bake for 40 minutes … I think I put the oven to 350.

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Another revamped leftover, quinoa stuffed peppers.  I served the corn with it, usually I cook Spanish rice … so just by changing up the side it appears to be a new meal. So if I didn’t tell you I used quinoa it may look like ground meat; I’ve made this one other time with white quinoa and it’s totally an image thing – using red quinoa made the meal look better, closer to using meat, it’s okay to trick the brain. The color really does help! Back story on the quinoa: we got a cute ‘thank you’ bag from a friend after keeping watch on her house while she and the kiddos were out of town and the red quinoa was included. I mean talk about a thoughtful gift, I’d say she knows us pretty well!

A few other cute items that were included was a Parmesan seasoning, add olive oil and it’s ready for bread to be dipped in it. Oh man it was sooooo good!  This shot glass was hiding as well …
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How fun is that? I’ve used it a few times already … so much easier than measuring spoons. I didn’t have to worry about spilling or pouring too much as I measured. It’s now best friends with my wine glass measuring ‘cup’. Greatly appreciated gifts! There are a few other things that I still need to use but I’m sure they will be yummy and fun!

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This was my husbands request … breakfast for dinner! I jokingly suggested chicken and waffles and husband loved the idea, so there that is.
Here’s the waffle recipe

Beer Waffles

2 cups Original Bisquick™ mix
1 egg
1 1/2 cups regular or nonalcoholic beer (12 oz)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

The beer made the waffles so light and fluffy – usually 1 waffle fills us up but being lighter we scarfed down 2 waffles each! Please don’t judge. You couldn’t really taste the beer, we used Dos Equis which is a very light beer. For the chicken, I covered tenders in panko seasoned with cayenne pepper, not too much though, just enough for a tiny kick of flavor.  DRENCH in your favorite syrup and dinner’s ready!  Not exactly a diabetic friendly dinner but we’re allowed to cheat every now and then. I’m considering this meal for when my husband’s family visits next month, I see this being a crowd-pleaser.

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Tell me this doesn’t look yummy.  It’s a cucumber salsa. Healthy and delish. Easy to prep and even easier to enjoy.  Keep this in your back pocket for game days; nasty, greasy food is typically served up along a riveting football game. Opt for something like this! It looks like avocados but when it hits your taste buds it’ll be light and tangy.  I can’t remember what I served this with, I used it as a side for dinner one night. Yes it’s okay to use a ‘dip’ as a side.

AS PROMISED, the tale of the ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad.

Friends invited us to their lake house for Labor Day weekend (the same friend who is STILL pregnant 😉 ) … I offered to bring a pasta salad. This wasn’t just any pasta salad, it was inspired by an Italian hoagie. We’re talking red onion, pepperoni, sausage, olives, red wine vinaigrette … the works. After making an early trip to the grocery store I slave over the counter slicing and dicing and boiling 8 cups of pasta:
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I combine everything and let it chill in the fridge:

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Beautiful, right? This is only a half serving, for photo purposes only, lol; aluminum tins don’t look pretty in pictures.

Back to the story, after everything was wrapped and ready to go, the salad was on the corner counter; my husband told me to get the lake house address … I went off to text my friend (my purse was in the car because we were pretty much ready to leave). I send the text and my husband gets in the car, we leave. Surely you know what’s about to happen. 45 minutes later we arrive at the lake house, I start walking to the house and my husband asks “aren’t you going to get the food?” OH SH*T. It was still sitting on the counter!  I got sidetracked, thought my husband would have seen the 10lbs of pasta salad to bring to the car.  Well that’s not what happened at all. He then asked if I wanted him to go back and get the salad, I said “yes” without hesitation, lol! I offered to do it since I forgot it but he’s the best and began his journey to save the salad.  Friends at the house asked if anything would go back in the salad, my response: the cheese, meat, onions …everything that made the salad cost $40. That’s right, I spent $40 on a pasta salad. D’oh. It’s not like we left behind a bag of chips. So he made the 45 min drive home and 45 min drive back to the lake house, hence the newly named ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad. It was a beautiful ALMOST disaster of the night which is okay because it was delish and all of it went. Well thank goodness … I mean, if it were out of pity then only some of it would have been consumed but not 1 noodle was left.  In the end, I’m glad he went back for the pasta and thankful I have such an awesome husband. LOVE YOU BABE!

 

A day in my flippy floppy’s.

I’ve been asked these questions by a few of my friends and hopefully the answers will help people get in my mind (just not too much though, it can be scary 😉 ).

 

When do I plan my grocery list/weekly menu?
                  Typically every Saturday morning I watch the Food Network as my inspiration, 3 shows are my staple: The Pioneer Woman, Trisha Yearwood, and The Kitchen.  I grab ideas from Giada and Bobby Flay if I sit around long enough.  Funny how when one becomes older it goes from Saturday morning cartoons to cooking shows; I become grumpy if I miss my shows!  For the meals, I always make sure to have 1 of each if possible: fish, vegetarian, 3 different meats; leftovers happen 2x a month if I’m lucky. If you don’t have the time to watch TV (it’s ok, not everyone does – I happen to be off on Saturday’s so it’s my only time to sit down & breathe), start searching the Food Network website. The recipes are very clear and pictures are super helpful plus you can see a scale of how easy/difficult a recipe is. For the most detailed pictures go to The Pioneer Woman.

                   I honestly keep an open mind as to how I plan on preparing any of the said main ingredients.  We became tired of fish filets so I’ve attempted fish stick a few time and they were successful, fish tacos are also fun which you can switch up for shrimp. I’ll try turkey burgers with all of the “toppings” diced into the meat with a yummy sauce and pretzel bun. Most of you know we love pork chops so I tend to keep those pretty simple and make different sides each time.  We love stuffed peppers (with OR with out meat!) and I can’t leave out my pasta dishes. Lord know I still have plenty of Dream Fields pasta from the recipe contest I won. Don’t let your slow cooker catch dust – it’s underrated in the kitchen and nothing is forcing you to cook a “casserole” or “soup” in it – I’ve done pulled bbq chicken and pork, stuffed peppers, curry chicken and rice, mashed potatoes, veggies, and spaghetti. Of course you need to think how long you’ll be out of the house, not all recipes call for an 8 hour cook time.

When do you go grocery shopping and what do you buy?
                I go shopping on Monday’s – this specific day serves a few purposes.  Most people go on Sunday’s by default, if you work weekdays it would be a tight squeeze between work/cooking/family time, plus kids need lunches for the week so going on the weekend is usually the easiest. Which ever works for you, do it. Back to my day of shopping, the store is empty and I get in/out under an hour which is all I really have time for! I allow for 30 minutes of unpacking once I’m home and then I begin to prep that night’s dinner (I have an hour between lessons and band rehearsal which is obviously only enough time to eat). So while I don’t have kids I am certainly on a tight schedule.

                 We used to belong to Sam’s for the cereal, meat, and house goods (paper towels, napkins, etc) bulk purchases.  I tried bulk fresh produce but it only lasts a week and forget about fresh bread not going bad in a few days.  So those adventures ended within the 1st year of our membership. I go to HEB, our local grocery store or Wal-Mart, it depends how I’m feeling.  I buy what I need for the week I’ve planned for and that’s it! I’ve stopped having to throw away rotten veggies/produce and if I make extra sauces I try to use it the following week. My fridge is no longer hiding 10 day old food, my counter is clear of produce and bread clutter, and my pantry is pretty organized (almost TOO organized) which makes it easy to see what I have or what I ran out of.  If your pantry is cluttered you could easily begin a collection of vinegar, spices, evoo, etc. and that stuff runs up a hefty tab if you keep purchasing it unnecessarily.   Once a week to the store also helps with our budgeting; my job doesn’t really pay on the 1st or 15th, money trickles in throughout the month and it’s not even guaranteed to be the same each week.

Here’s a few pictures of my thought process … I mean, weekly menu and grocery list:
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                   I use a standard ‘legal pad’ of paper, the back side from the previous week is used for my meal inspirations and the front side is where I break down each category of what’s needed.  Once I have 5 meals figured out then I ask my husband what his schedule is – I really should do that first and actually, I used to. It began to cramp what I wanted to create. If he worked nights I made sure something was on the menu that could be reheated quickly. We got into a rut of yucky food, ha! So I do my planning and then tweak meals if they don’t exactly fit our schedules or I’ll flip them around to different nights

                  The categories on my list consist of produce, dairy, meat, canned, frozen, and other. I go through each recipe and write down how many onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. that I’ll need. This way I never buy too much or too little. Once I write down the main ingredients I go back and fill in the usual essentials: coffee, yogurt, cereal, toilet paper, napkins, etc.  If my husband needs something off the norm it is his responsibility to add it. Seriously. If he doesn’t write it down and only tells me, it won’t get purchase because I will forget about it. He’s learned the hard way a few times and is much better now. Oh, once the entire list is “done” i do a quick check to make sure I am actually out of everything I put down. If I happen to have it then it gets crossed out, one less thing to buy… plus I hate getting up/down to check the fridge and pantry, I do it all at once at the very end.  Also if I notice we’re low on random items I’ll add them at this time.

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So I hope this helps to give you an idea of what goes on with my planning and grocery shopping. Having it all planned on one day and shopped for on another allows me time to do other things in my minimal spare time, like buy dog food, get my car washed, fill up with gas, clean the house, take out trash, do MY laundry (husband does his own), clean up the back yard (remember, we have 3 sous chefs), etc. You can see why I don’t feel like running to the store last minute but sometimes it’s inevitable which means a text is sent to my husband asking if he can pick up ketchup or milk, luckily with him in the Air Force it’s an easy stop for him to make at the commissary.

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Keep those questions coming and I’m here to help you meal plan! If you want my exact recipes and list layout, I literally have my lists going back many, many weeks.  I can use it for reference but really it’s just easier to have that note pad instead of loose paper floating around.

TV Dinners 2.0

I’ve been seeing more pictures in my news feed of friends finding a new love for cooking – awesome! I read further and find out they are using these food delivery companies, which at first I thought was a time saver from having to go grocery shopping, I’m all for time savers if it means not eating fast food BUT THEN I realized all they are getting delivered are vacuumed sealed meals that they reheat in the oven. Hence the “TV Dinners 2.0” title of this blog post.  I applaud those people for taking the time to eat ‘right’ but please don’t brag you are learning how to cook.

When I see friends getting in to cooking I begin to borrow their recipes, stalk their Pinterest boards, or check their blogs to see what they cooked each week.  You fake cookers, I applaud your efforts in wanting to be ‘healthy’ however do not label yourself a ‘home cook’. Do not use hashtags that link yourself to people who painstakingly plan out their weekly grocery trips or scientifically figure out their schedules as to how much time they have to cook.  The best thing yet, these people actually accept compliments from their friends – “oh I didn’t know you knew how to cook, that looks amazing!” or “please give me that recipe, it looks tasty!” – well they can’t cook, all they are doing is pressing a button on the oven or microwave and don’t think you’ll get that recipe, they don’t even know what’s in it (other than the main ingredients … but sauces/seasonings, forget about it), especially nutrition facts – all of those pre-made sauces are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt.  So much for being “healthy”.  Don’t claim you made the recipe like it was your own.  That’s like plagiarizing a report – it’s not your idea nor did you put any effort in to making it.  I always post who I got a recipe from, whether it being a friend or Food Network chef.  If I make my own changes I make sure to give credit to the original and then add what I did.

I think a better thing to do would be, order these meals for a few weeks then learn how to make them yourself. Guaranteed it’ll be cheaper AND healthier! Any pre-packaged, store bought frozen, vacuum sealed meal is loaded with preservatives, sodium, and fat.  Hello, why do you think they taste ‘sooooo goooood’. Nothing healthy comes TV dinners.  You know Lean Cuisine is in major trouble for false advertising … they brag about low calories but never mention the % of sodium.  Where one thing “lacks” they boost up another. It’s unfortunate but true.

Bottom line, make your own food – quality, nutrition, and serving size are now in your control.

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Here’s the food I made this week!
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Homemade pizza 🙂 I love pizza night. My husband is the best dough/crust maker and it’s usually an ‘event’ when he’s helping in the kitchen. Caramelized onions, cheese, bacon – BOOM. Done. Best pizza yet!

IMG_7240  white bean, spinach, Italian 3-cheese blend, rotini ‘pasta salad’
Borrowed from a friend – I turned it into a casserole, once cooked pop it in the oven, top w/ crunch onions & more cheese… bake until the cheese lightly browns.  Sprinkle more EVOO when it comes out, the pasta may be a bit dry.

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This was almost a 1 pot dish, I added chicken for protein 🙂 Super easy, I let Bolner’s Fiesta chicken rub marinate on the chicken for an hour before cooking; make the one pot pasta dish as the recipe says.  Oh, I used Bolner’s Fiesta chili seasoning instead of the packet taco seasoning. Really yummy, plenty of leftovers which was important since my husband worked night shift all last week – he needed something to take with him.

IMG_7280A yummy repeat – The Pioneer Woman’s flat pizza taco … so good 🙂

IMG_7312 A major disaster, mashed cauliflower.  My husband and I wanted to add garlic & shallots because there wasn’t any flavor in the recipe (we tried it prior to adding those things and it was gross) … after adding those things – NASTY! I have a ton left over which is probably going in the trash. I don’t see it being fixed.

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 A slow cooker BBQ chicken – so easy & delish. I’ve made a few slow cooker BBQ’s and this one was the best yet. Served with smashed potatoes which were pretty fun.  I changed them up and added chopped onions, shredded cheese, and butter … once out of the oven I added sour cream. So the bbq chicken was supposed to be served as chicken breasts but I went to flip them in the cooker and they fell apart .. no biggie, I shredded them right before serving & we ended up with shredded chicken sandwiches, yum!

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One last repeat for the week, french onion soup.  I’ve made this once before and it turned out like a pot of mushed onions with some liquid. The onions absorbed all of the liquid … this version cooks the onions down FIRST then adds the liquid. So much better! Of course it’s a Pioneer Woman recipe, go figure. It was a labor of love – 2 hours of cooking time but totally worth it. You could probably cook the onions in a slow cooker for 4 hours on ‘low’ or 6 hours on ‘warm’ (make sure there’s enough butter so they don’t dry out). When you get home put them in large pot & add the liquid, let it simmer on the stove for 30 min.

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See something you like? MAKE IT! They are all worth the time and effort, then you can really brag about your cooking skills 😉