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.

IMG_7807 IMG_7853

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.

IMG_7843 IMG_7846IMG_7845

IMG_7857

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.

 IMG_7878IMG_7870

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.

Advertisements

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.
IMG_7723IMG_7725

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.

IMG_7707

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.

IMG_7734IMG_7731

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).

IMG_7695

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.

Halloween decorations > Halloween candy

With it officially being fall I’m debating when to bust out my 5 storage tubs of Autumn/Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations. It is cooling off maybe 1 degree less each day but it’s still hard to think Halloween is a month-ish away with 90 degree days going strong. With Halloween around the corner we have to stock up on candy and be more prepared than last year. We ran out of 3 bags with in an hour or so! Lots of kids … but that was in our old neighborhood, I don’t know many kids we’ll get this year being in a new neighborhood where only 1/2 of the houses are completed. I know we’re a healthy house now but there’s no way I can’t pass out yummy, sugary goodness… we all have a guilty pleasure. I like passing out candy and seeing all of the kids in hopefully creative costumes, they get 2 pieces of candy and the teenagers who put on a mask get 1. Yes, I have a ranking system. If the costume is amazingly over the top they get 3 (a rare occurrence). I just wish candy isn’t so expensive – 3 bags of the good stuff costs about 1/2 of what my weekly trips are! Proves that eating right is better for your wallet – cut out the candy and save mega bucks. I always prefer decorating over buying candy; decorations can be recycled.

—-

On to our meals for the past few days …

IMG_7682

Who doesn’t love a casserole? 😉 I know, most of you cringe at the word but c’mon they make dinner easy and this one is a throwback to one my mother would cook up. I posted this picture on Instagram and a rude lady commented that she’d NEVER make this … her username was “diva” something or another, go figure. Well lady, just la-ti-da for you – I’m sorry that you’re missing out on the best casseroles ever and don’t know how to enjoy the simpler things in life. YOUR LOSS!

IMG_7601

I’ve made these once before and they were just as tasty. Gotta love a good Philly cheesesteak that you can make in your own kitchen, especially here in Texas.  I’ve heard of one restaurant that supposedly makes bomb.com cheesesteaks but it’s a 45-60 min. drive … yeah, I’ll keep to my kitchen.

IMG_7615

Y’all are gonna think I’m crazy, I’ve never done this before and I regret it so hard! I don’t really care for “naked” drum sticks (no bbq sauce) but I put a small blob of butter under the skin and the chicken turned out so juicy! I also doubled up on seasoning, under the skin and around the entire drum stick. I let them marinate for the day and they turned out great. I’m seriously doing this EVERY TIME from NOW ON. Bake for an hour at 350-375.

IMG_7678

This was a new recipe from the diabetic magazine I told you about in my last post.  Maple-mustard turkey thighs with tiny potatoes. Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or high for 3-3 1/2 hours.  You’ll need to spoon the leftover sauce over your plate once it’s all served up; the inner turkey thigh was a little dry and could have used a bit of the sauce. It was yummy and my house smelled amazing!

1 lbs tiny new potatoes (quartered)
4 turkey thighs (2-2 1/2 lbs total), skin removed –> BTW it was super easy to remove the skin with a paring knife
1/3 cup grainy brown mustard
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp quick cooking tapioca

1. Place potatoes at the bottom of the slow cooker. Arrange turkey thighs on top.
2. In a small bowl stir mustard, syrup, and tapioca.  Pour mixture over turkey.
3. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hrs or high for 3-3 1/2 hrs.

Serve turkey & potatoes topped with the maple/mustard sauce.

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!

IMG_7422
A simple meal, smoked sausages (Oscar Mayer, they are so yummy … and better for you!), green bean salad, and roasted potato wedges.

IMG_7361
Chicken and spinach quesadilla and a corn/grape tomato/lettuce salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

IMG_7507IMG_7504
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.

IMG_7363
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.

IMG_7479IMG_7478 IMG_7477
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.

IMG_7449
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.

IMG_7379
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 …
IMG_7371
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!

IMG_7419IMG_7414
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.

IMG_7374
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:
IMG_7382

I combine everything and let it chill in the fridge:

IMG_7383
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:
IMG_7389 IMG_7391
                   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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

———-

Here’s the food I made this week!
IMG_7237 IMG_7238

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.

IMG_7248 IMG_7267IMG_7266
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.

IMG_7317 IMG_7334IMG_7331

 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!

IMG_7343 IMG_7344
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.

——

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

 

Go ahead, judge my cart!

I’m baaaaaack … with new recipes too!

Let me start with an inspiring story first – while grocery shopping last week an older man in a wheelchair (one of those motorized ones with a basket) stopped me in the produce section and asked for my help. At first I thought he just needed me to reach something for him but then he informed me that he figured I was a good person to ask about eating healthy considering my cart had no junk in it and I’m skinny. His back story, he was a bit overweight and went into the ER for shortness of breath, found out he was experiencing congestive heart failure also tested for pre-type 2 diabetes, ended up staying in the ER for a week. So wow, right? He then handed me the grocery list his daughter made for him apparently food suggested by his doctor – it was a good start but not informative; he literally had what the doctor suggested (individual items, nothing that made a meal), this man honestly didn’t know what to look for on nutrition labels… this is where I proved useful. I gave him my back story, really my husband’s; then I helped him put together healthy lunches and snack options. Of course I suggested my blog for dinner recipes 🙂 I told him to find a nutritionist or a dietitian with his doctor’s office so he can be educated on what to buy because eating lettuce wrapped sandwiches is going to get old real fast; he needs to know how to grocery shop. I gave him a little pep talk but also warned him that my first shopping trip was 2 hours after reading all of the labels; he understood it’d be a learning process.

I give credit to this guy for taking action on wanting to become a healthier version of himself. He had a fantastic sense of humor and I could tell that he loved his family, it scared him to be in the ER for that long. So after swapping out orange juice (his orange juice was like my husband’s Kool-Aid; multiple gallons each week) for the Crystal Light squeeze packs we continued with a few other items and I introduced him to bread thins – his daughter told him ‘no carbs’ so I let him know our brains need some type of carbs, just don’t go eating an entire loaf of Italian bread with your spaghetti 😉 Everything in moderation.

I’m not looking to change people’s lives but it felt great to help that man (he gave me permission to write about our meeting). It also proves that people really do judge your cart, ha! Take a minute and judge your cart; is it full of junk? If so, what can you swap out? I challenge you to swap out at least 5 items for a healthier version (i.e. white bread for whole grain thins; or fatty ground beef for lean ground turkey). Eventually you’ll go straight to the new version and never look back!

——

Ok, my recipes for the last week!

IMG_7010                

Panko/paprika/s&p baked chicken with cheesy rotini & peas (left the bacon out)

IMG_6931

tortilla chicken casserole (I marinated chicken breasts OVER NIGHT with Fiesta chicken rub)

IMG_6903

Sirloin burger (a tasty cheat!) with red/green peppers & onions + Worcestershire + dijon mixed in; topped with guac + tomato + cheddar

IMG_6965

chicken Parmesan + spaghetti

IMG_6954IMG_6955

Philly cheesesteaks + veggie salad (grape tomato, corn, ice burg + dijon/EVOO/s&p)
— there were supposed to be red pepers on that cheesesteak however upon taking the “lid” of 2 peppers I had purchased, I was greeted with:
IMG_6945 BROWN SEEDS!
If you see this the pepper is moldy! Even if the pepper doesn’t look moldy, the bacteria is already there – don’t just slice out the seeds and then eat the pepper… YUCK!

Also a reason as to why you should save receipts, the peppers were purchased 1 day prior which means they were already bad in the store; fresh produce typically lasts for a week if stored properly (by the store & by you).