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 🙂

IMG_8292 IMG_8266

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.

IMG_8312

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).

IMG_8317IMG_8315

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.

IMG_8329

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.

IMG_8339 IMG_8340

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.

IMG_8337

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!

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.

.IMG_8025IMG_8026

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.

IMG_8068

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!

IMG_8069

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.

IMG_8065

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?

IMG_8090

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!

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, eat with your eyes today!

 

I’m just throwing pictures at you today … enjoy this buffet for your eyes!

 

ImageImage

 

Here’s a perfect party food.  I made this as a snack while my husband and I watched the Penguins during their (miserable) playoff run. It’s a really easy Trisha Yearwood recipe that I remembered seeing on her show.  We used the pulled out bread center to then dip with, chips and veggies (carrot & celery sticks) were options as well.  Here’s a hint for buying 6 oz of corned beef – head to your deli counter and ask them to slice thicker pieces and you can dice them up at home.  Pretty fancy looking, right? Make this and it’ll be a show stopper at your next gathering! Or make it for yourself and your husband … who says you have to share 😉

ImageImage

 

These next two recipes are courtesy of Ree Drummond, surprise surprise!!! She’s always in our weekly menu.  First up is a pepperoni pizza burger … how fun is that?! I figured this would be the perfect dish to make plenty of, so my husband would have leftovers while I went out of town for the weekend. I made 5 patties (I used a full pound of the ground Italian sausage); they are yummy reheated … I had the last one yesterday 🙂 Love having leftovers of my creations! It’s a one pot meal, hello! I mean, you mix the meat and whatnot but everything is cooked in 1 pot! It will get smoky cooking the burgers on the stove so throw that fan on & open a nearby window if possible.  My healthy swaps: ground turkey and sandwich thins.  No excuses that you can’t do a “grill out” if the hubby isn’t home; whip this dinner up on the stove and have an indoor BBQ.

Second in line is a simple foil pasta dish. I thought it was weird but went with it anyway. Follow the directions and TIGHTLY wrap that foil package or the shrimp WILL NOT finish cooking.  Trust me. I experienced this firsthand with my husband’s dinner. I made mine first – which turned out perfectly. When he came home I threw his foil bundle in the oven however I clearly didn’t pay attention when I wrapped up the pasta, there was a hole at the top which let the steam out … the shrimp were partially cooked 😦 We threw it in the microwave – IN A BOWL – NOT IN THE FOIL!!! The shrimp finished cooking just fine then.

Image

FISH STICKS! HOME MADE! I can’t believe that when I put this on my menu board my husband literally thought I was buying frozen Gorton’s Fishermen … WHAT?! I got so mad! Seriously, all of my cooking adventures and he thought I was buying frozen nastiness.  ROAR! He also kept calling them an inappropriate name; I won’t write it.  There was a dipping sauce included in the recipe and it was GROSS – Giada, what were you thinking? Were your taste buds not working when you made it?  Ok so I bought 2 BEAUTIFUL-FRESH salmon filets, my husband pulled the skin away, cut each in half, then length wise to create “sticks”. The breading was crunchy and the parm cheese had that nice salty flavor. Usually cheese and seafood don’t go together but this one worked (unlike the sauce, ha!). Oh fortunately I had some pesto (also needed for the veggie bake) in the fridge and that was a great choice to dip the fish sticks in.

Onto the veggie bake that you see … courtesy of Instagram! YES! A fellow military spouse posted a chicken casserole she made topping the chicken with artichoke hearts, fire roasted tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. I drizzled pesto over the top, tossed the veggies, and put it in the oven maybe 20-30 minutes BEFORE the fish sticks; I used the same temp to make planning easier. Total cheat: I bought all canned/jarred items for this veggie bake. Sorry but not sorry, ha! I will try this again and absolutely make it with chicken breasts, maybe even on the grill. Yummmm imagine those flavors!

 

Image

Last but not least, straight up simple salmon filets in a yummy brown sugar/honey/mustard glaze – thank you Bobby Flay.  Halved potatoes so they cook faster … add a salad – DONE!

 

Bon Appétit!!!

 

I’ve got you beat, Olive Garden.

I was craving Panda on Sunday … not just “Oh I could go for some Panda right now” … but “I really REALLY want stir fry and egg rolls, there’s a Panda 5 minutes away”. I think I was craving it because there’s one next to the UPS store I’ve been frequenting.  You pass something enough and your brain starts wanting it. I had a moment to myself and gave a kind reminder that any trip to Panda has left us not feeling well. Take matter into your own hands and make a home made stir fry! Which is exactly what I did 🙂

Seriously it couldn’t be easier. Chop up your favorite veggies; I used:
– yellow squash
– green bell pepper
– yellow bell pepper
– orange bell pepper
– onion
– broccoli
– water chestnuts
– baby corn
– bok choy
– garlic

Here’s what took some time – I had to find the best choice of stir fry sauce, originally I wanted teriyaki but the sugar content was really high so I went for stir fry sauce instead. The goal is 2g of sugar per serving, I used the entire bottle though because I wanted leftovers and MADE a ton of it! I read about 6 bottles/labels and picked the best, so do your reading!

Image

How could anyone NOT want to eat that beautiful rainbow of veggies?

Image

Yes I cheated and bough yummy, crunchy egg rolls.  They actually weren’t greasy like most of these prepared items are.  20 minutes in the oven and a delish side dish.  Regular white rice was the base; with the amount of veggies it was ok to eat 1 1/2 servings of rice (measured out, seriously do it – you’d be surprised what 1 serving actually is). Such a filling dinner and it didn’t require extra insulin for my husband, he did his normal 3 units. When we’d go to Panda, he’d take 5 units… what a difference!

Image

My sous chefs staring at me because I NEVER cook on Sunday’s. They were really confused.

Monday: venison sausages and polenta bake.
The sausages were from our friends in Austin. These were packaged after a hunting trip, so we’re talking FRESH and absolutely not processed in some big ol’ factory. There was pork added (fat is necessary with such a lean/gamey animal), jalapeno, and cheddar cheese chunks. WHOOOO WEE these were good and super spicy! I could only eat one saving the other two for my husband. Now onto the polenta bake; I never get these kind of casseroles to turn out properly! It’s like, there’s always too much liquid. I drain and strain but crap keeps coming out soggy! I’m getting so tired of this. The flavors were good and boy did it look pretty but I’m going to leave out the spinach and tomatoes next time.
ImageImageImage

Tuesday: chicken alfredo.
Yes, this was a diabetic friendly dish … I KNOW, RIGHT?! Quick, to the kitchen you must go!
White sauce is typically a ‘no no’ item but again, read your labels and find the right brand for you, I picked Bertolli Light. Really flavorful, lots of garlic – YUM!

I used Dream Fields spaghetti *GASP* I didn’t use ‘alfredo noodles’ … oh please. But, but, but … you’ll have a bigger butt if you opt for the regular, carb filled noddle. Ha!

IMG_5764 IMG_5765 IMG_5766 IMG_5767

Steam fresh broccoli (it takes 20 minutes … don’t be lazy); I baked 3 chicken breasts (evoo, s/p); stir in enough sauce (lightly coat) once the noddles are done, add in broccoli, slice the chicken and serve it on the side. I put a bit of the sauce on the chicken so it wouldn’t be dry. You don’t need a ton of sauce! It’ll weigh the noddles and broccoli down, becoming slimy and gross. You want to keep the integrity of your dish! I mean, you bought fresh broccoli so why not showcase it. Again, husband only needed 3 units of insulin, his norm/doctor recommended.   You know Olive Garden probably charges $12.99 for chicken alfredo … mine was $4.30 per serving.

Voila. 3 easy dishes that were nice to my wallet and really friendly to our health. My menu board quote for this week: “good food doesn’t have to be fancy”.  I hope I keep proving that to you with my weekly blog posts!

food is essential to life: make it good

I actually remembered to plan a meatless meal for tonight! BOOM!

With my new cooking adventures I think it’ll be easier for me to come up with vegetarian meals each week. In years past I would buy boxed fish sticks and whip up some mac n’ cheese. Every Friday this was my dinner! I may as well have gone to McD’s and picked up their fish sandwiches (God I love those things, don’t get me wrong – there is something about them that are addicting! I would LOOOOOVE to go for one of those now but I know better). Lenten meals don’t have to consist of seafood though, not everyone likes fish or shrimp. So I’ll give you tonight’s dinner.

Grilled cheese & sweet potato fries. Simple!  We’re not talking plain old Kraft slices either. I picked up smoke provolone, an avocado, and I’ll saute red onions – stack it up on some sourdough bread. I’m making homemade fries too – 1 potato per person, slice them up, and sprinkle smoked paprika – bake and eat. That sounds DELISH!!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I’ll do a picture show of the last few nights of meals (in no particular order). Chicken sliders inspired by Ree Drummond, remember that you can change recipes – the recipe police will not come after you! This also shouldn’t stop you from making something that looks good; if an ingredient doesn’t seem necessary to the overall flavor then it’s okay to omit.

IMG_5677 IMG_5678

Another Pioneer Woman recipe, this one I followed to the T. There wasn’t anything you could leave out. When you open the link it will say quick and easy – so true, it was ready in under 20 minutes. The only thing that wasn’t quick and easy, opening the darn pasta box. SERIOUSLY! “Tear here” is a bunch of BS.

IMG_5672IMG_5674

I forgot to include the picture of me food processing the red peppers but that is an important step. Look at Ree’s instructions, she gives step by step pictures – love her blog!

Next in the line up braised short ribs. A bit pricey but this isn’t something we will make on a regular basis; it was actually my first time cooking short ribs. I found this on the Food Network’s website from Claire Robinson’s 5 ingredient fix. The only thing I changed was the cooking time… I did it low and slow – 300 for 6 hours! Do it and you’ll thank me later.

IMG_5679 IMG_5680

I had planned root veggies as a side however the tax office took waaaaaay longer than expected. So I didn’t have time to put them in the oven and had to bust out the insty mashed potatoes. No biggie. As I pulled the meat out of the pot, the bones fell off – yepp, I knew this was a good plan 🙂 This could easily be a slow cooker meal but you’ll still have to brown the meat before, it’s crucial to keep the juices inside the meat.

Oh yes, on the disaster that was brinner. It was a huge hit the first time around, I had to plan a second one… except it actually became a real breakfast. I didn’t feel like cooking that night and since we were both home the next day for breakfast, why not make a proper meal to start our day.

IMG_5675 IMG_5676

Seriously, Pinterest… you can really suck sometimes. My cute idea quickly changed to scrambled eggs with chopped green peppers. That is where Josh stepped in, he makes THE BEST scrambled eggs; McLane agrees.  Want to make your waffles stand out? I added cinnamon, so yummy.  We needed protein so I cooked JD’s sausage patties. There’s an easy meal!

The final dish: mahi mahi with a mango salsa. I used the root veggies that were skipped from the night before, didn’t want them going bad and having to toss. The marinade that I found for the fish was s0-s0, I think I just needed to have more liquid but the fish was covered … maybe it was the marinade. I won’t even post it. It wasn’t bad, it was just lacking flavor.

IMG_5681

That’s it! I know it’s a lot but now you have no reason to be uninspired. So many meals to choose from 🙂 Pick your weapon!