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!

Twerking. I mean, tweaking… recipes that is.

Not much has happened this week that is blog-post worthy … I mean, I made a phenomenal pizza which I’ll absolutely share with you – all credit goes to Ree Drummond.  Since I’m cooking a lot of repeats of our favorite recipes I do try to make at least 1 thing new each week or tweak an oldie to make it a “newbie”.

Oldie made “newbie” – salsa chicken (chicken breasts, salsa, cheese)
The recipe calls for taco seasoning to be sprinkled on the chicken … well I used fajita seasoning – WAY BETTER! Not just any fajita seasoning, you know it had to be Bolner’s. Pour on the salsa as usual, but get a fun one … something with chunks of veggies in it, not just runny/cheap/generic salsa. Considering chicken and cheese is el-cheapo, splurge a few extra bucks on decent salsa … it adds to the texture as well.

What else did I make … (I need to consult my menu board, it’s been a LONG and CRAZY week).
Oh yeah – store prepared kabobs (beef wrapped in bacon and scallops wrapped in bacon … double turf & 1 surf, HA!)  As a side I made a Martha dish, cherry tomato and basil crisp (which turned out more like a crumble, but it was still good 😉 ) It might because I used whole wheat bread – maybe it doesn’t firm up as nicely as white. I was trying to make a healthy swap.

So I ‘cheated’ with something prepared but wanted the meal to feel homemade. Easy.
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Another simple creation, inspired by Martha but I put my own twist on it.  Originally it was supposed to be spinach penne and ricotta… well that’s not substantial for this house so I bought regular penne, added fresh spinach which I had leftover, and sliced Italian sausage. Oh man, now that’s a filling dish. I didn’t have any pine nuts but I sure did have almonds! Chop those babies up and sprinkle on top – great textures between the pasta, spinach, sausage, shredded parm, and soft ricotta.
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Okay, okay … the pizza!
My cheat: Bisquick mix for the dough! Sprinkle onion and garlic power in along the way, BOOM. So good.
Follow Ree’s recipe for the pizza toppings … it’s easy; really, really, really easy. Don’t cheat on the cheese, get what the recipe calls for – all of the different flavors are like an explosion and when you add the tomato/basil/balsamic vinegar mixture to the top – holy cow. It’s amazing!
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I added the cheese to a RAW Bisquick dough (shoot, don’t forget the pesto!!!) – let the dough turn golden brown and the cheese becomes ooey-gooey – 15-20 minutes (25-30 if you like crispy) … let it sit for the cheese to firm up just a bit (it’s easier to cut), add the tomatoes and life will be good in 3, 2, 1… YUM!

This was our first pizza on a pizza stone – BUY ONE. Just do it. Those pizza pans with holes are garbage. Lesson learned.

We’ve got pork chops and a grilled zucchini salad for tonight. Not just any pork chops, hitting up the old blue cheese and cranberries (I’m going to freeze it like a ‘steak butter’ and let it melt over the pork chop as I’m plating).

ENJOY!

 

 

Quit Yer Belly Achin’

I love the Facebook posts around holiday season: “Oh my God I ate too much” or “Oh my God I REALLY ate WAY too much”.  I say, host your own gathering and control the food spread. Obviously you may not be able to do this every year but it could be a start; show your friends how you can create an amazing buffet and not feel disgusting at the end of it.  Oh the other part of that is, freaking control yourself! Just because 10 trays of cookies are prepared doesn’t mean you need to sample a few from each.

Honestly sometimes I eat a light snack before going over to someones house. It’ll hold me over in case there are some bad foods offered – I won’t be hungry to eat; it can also curve my hunger in case there aren’t any finger foods and one must wait until dinner.  I don’t want to scarf my dinner down so fast that my belly hates me. It’s all about self control.

I may be blessed in the sense that my good friend Chelsea is all for eating healthy and cutting processed foods, it made Thanksgiving easy. There were no cries from the peanut gallery when I introduced my low carb/low calorie menu.

On to Christmas, my family came to town! I got to cook one dinner (Christmas Eve) for them, Chicken Marsala.  It was a bit difficult cooking for 5 adults when I’m used to only myself and my husband (even though he counts for 3 or 4 sometimes 😉 ) Dinner turned out great and they liked it.  Clean plate clubs all around. I added prosciutto this time (now that I don’t live in the ghetto, my new/fancy grocery store sells it!) and now I can taste why it’s necessary.  You need some kind of salty flavor since mushrooms are quite bland – the flavor of the Marsala wine cooks out and even using s/p on the chicken, the dish was still missing something the first time I made it.

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Everyone was in the kitchen! Josh requested ‘rusty mashed potatoes’ so he had to prepare them. They are pretty easy because they don’t require any peeling. He lucked out. My mom is a slicing and dicing machine.  She turned her nose to my mandolin and said “I’m your mandolin, give me those veggies”. Yes that’s my standard peppers, zucchini, and squash medley. It’s easy and tasty. Plus how pretty is it? So many colors!

We did have Christmas dinner at home, it was prepped and cooked by everyone.  It started with marinating a 3 lbs beef tenderloin the night before. I’m still getting used to the fact that my fridge can hold such an item – I love marinating food over night, the flavors are amazing! Easiest marinade ever, I didn’t “food process” it, just throw everything in the baggie (yes, dice the shallots and I put the rosemary branches in whole). I doubled everything since this piece of meat was extra special. Let that baby sit over night, pull out 30 minutes prior to grilling and you’re set.

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My dad braved the cold San Antonio weather to man the grill. He is the ultimate grill master; I won’t EVER order steaks at a restaurant.  He has made me expect the best when it comes to meat.  We’re slowly working on our grilling skills so hopefully Josh learned a thing or two while my family was here. I never experienced an oven cooked meat for a holiday while growing up. Even in 5 feet of snow, the grill was going.

Of course we had a theme for dinner, surf and turf! The seafood market at my new/fancy grocery store is fantastic. Obviously so is the meat market; they trimmed the tenderloin to perfection.  Seafood counter purchases: large scallops, jump shrimp, crab legs, and salmon. We kept it simple with the first three items: melted butter and threw in garlic, boom, there’s your sauce.  I used my favorite Martha recipe for the salmon.  Chelsea helped prepare a double recipe of it, brushed some on prior to cooking the salmon and then people could spoon on whatever they wanted once it was on their plate.

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I know you must be dying to find out what side dish I served. Drum roooolllllllll…. Mushroom Orzo! Geeze it was delish! I went back for seconds and there was only a small spoonfull! WHAT! The chef missed out! I have officially added it to my recipe box and will be making it again.  I actually didn’t have enough orzo so I threw in some quinoa. It was so pretty!

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I went with probably 2 dozen pearl onions, I don’t even know where the creator got only 8 from. Each of us would get 1/4 of an onion? Ridiculous! You’ll have to peel these stubborn suckers. Boil them for a few minutes, let them cool, and you should be able to pop the skin right off. Do this, save your sanity. Why yes that is a wine measuring glass! An awesome gift from my parents, based on the cooking regime Julia Child believed in: “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” One side of the glass is “sips for the chef” and the other is an actual measuring cup.

I’ll leave you with an assortment of pictures from that day – going back for 2nds or 3rds isn’t so bad when you prepare a healthy dinner! Enjoy!

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We’ve Been Bad…

Real bad.  I’ve cooked only a few meals since last Wednesday.  

Days I cooked: Wednesday, sort of Friday, and tonight (Monday)
Days we cheated: Thursday (Panda), Saturday (Flying Saucer), and Sunday (Panera)

On top of that, I already know we’ll be cheating this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  Oh shoot, just add Sunday to that list as well.

This is clearly not typical but with our move fast approaching (SATURDAY!!!!) … I’ve given up on my current kitchen. I’m literally sick of it; knowing my new kitchen is so close to being ours, I can’t help but dream of the meals I’ll get to cook starting next week. I honestly have dreams about recipes I’ve been meaning to try. Please don’t think I’m strange.

So I’ll let you know what we’ve had on the days I cooked … Very tasty meals actually: one new recipe, a total cop-out pot roast, and a twist on something I’ve made 2x already.

Wednesday: Pasta with a TON of veggies.
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Don’t have time for fresh veggies like the recipe calls for? No worries, frozen is clearly the next best option.  I threw them in frozen, HA! Talk about being impatient.
Anyway, so SO easy.  Toss the veggies in a large pan – top with sauce – add cooked noodles. This is only a 2 pot meal! I picked up cute noodle nests (1 nest = 1 serving, all the measuring done for me).  Add a side salad and it’s complete!

Friday: lazy persons pot roast
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These kits exist that have the veggies chopped and vacuumed sealed… meat too, duh.  I was skeptical but Josh had picked it out when I really sent him to find a good hunk of beef to make our own roast.  Eh, figured I’d give it a try.  Just to note most kits don’t come with seasoning (why call it a kit then?!); this one came with “complimentary” spices.  Thanks Tyson, for “throwing in” a spice packet. I’m sure it was a difficult step to add in the assembly line. Sheesh.
End result: not too bad actually! It wasn’t like a homemade roast but if this is going to keep you from hitting up fast food, then purchase it (I know I’m not one to talk after all the cheats last week and coming up). 
My suggestion is to add an extra cup of water. The instructions say 1 cup but it just didn’t look right, the meat was hardly covered. Even with 2 cups it was still a bit dry so I’m going to guess that only 1 cup would make you some tasty shoe leather.
1 kit is perfect for 2 people; zero leftovers.

Tonight made for the saying “third time’s the charm” with spicy shrimp.  This version was our favorite, using hot sauce to marinate and then cook the shrimp (in it) was key. I probably used a 1/2 cup of hot sauce, added the 2 tbsp of lime juice, 1 tbsp of evoo, and then all the dry spices (cumin, chili powder) … mix together and let the shrimp sit. I dumped everything together in a pan and stove top cooked it for 4 minutes. Please PLEASE do not over cook shrimp unless you like rubber.
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I also swapped quinoa for brown rice because we were out of the first. It all turned out the same.  I put about 1 tbsp of lime juice in the rice along with cilantro for flavor. Delish!  Hopefully I can create this version or something close to it, in the future. 

Considering we’ll be eating out quite a bit over the next few days I think I’ll blog about those meals. I’m going to make a conscience effort to order as if I’m cooking a normal meal at the house.  Hopefully by making that statement public, it’ll hold me accountable! FINGERS CROSSED that I don’t turn into a blob.

watch your wallet & waistline

Another day of rain … figures, it’s my day off for errands and it’s completely gross outside.  I can handle hurrying into stores and dashing back to my car but it’s the drivers that make me nuts! A little rain and BOOM, people forget how to drive.

This of course adds to those who insist on going 15 below on a highway, chatting away on their phones or texting. Every person that I’m stuck behind and end up passing, ON THEIR PHONE. The people driving between 2 lanes, ON THEIR PHONE.  If I can’t see your eyeballs in the side view mirror, I’m going out on a limb here by guessing that you’re TEXTING IN YOUR LAP. Yesterday’s “cell phone driver” happened to be an older woman, handicap plates … she was going maybe 50 in a 65 on a 4 lane highway, hitting her breaks every few seconds … she was using her forearms to drive while texting with TWO hands. Seriously? Are your plates “handicap” because you’re stupid?!  It’s bad out here in San Antonio; I’m scared to go grocery shopping … praying no one side swipes me because the car in front of me is going too slow to get on a highway ramp … or praying that no one slams on their breaks when they see a yield sign (with no other cars in sight!).

Oh why should I think my life is more valuable than that phone call, which I’m sure just can’t wait. Or that text message, it just needs a reply RIGHT NOW.

At least when I’m home I can feel safe, I try to forget all of that craziness with cooking … I get in the zone and I don’t think about anything but the food in front of me. The last 2 nights were no exception with two new recipes. They checked off a nice list too: budget friendly, healthy, flavorful, and easy to make.

Monday: vegetarian quesadillas
The goal to use a nice variety of peppers and multiple cheeses.
Here’s my breakdown:
2 red bell peppers
1 green bell pepper
1 poblano pepper – adds a nice kick (control spice level with ribs and seeds)
1 sweet tomato
Diced green onions
“Fiesta” blend shredded cheese (colby, monteray, pepper jack)

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Yes, I have a GF grill that came with quesadilla plates but you can makes these on the stove in a large pan (make sure you flip them!). Use a pizza slicer and there ya go, easy dinner!  Pull out whatever toppings float your boat, we had sour cream and “guac” (I didn’t have time to make a true guac so I bought the imitation dip, which is actually really tasty) … and refried beans as a side. Everyone can create their own quesadilla, get the family involved in the kitchen.  This is a great ‘football Sunday’ or party dish, a perfect finger food that isn’t messy.

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Tuesday: Chinese Five Spice beef kabobs (with dipping sauce) + orzo with broccoli
It was a little time consuming only because I hadn’t made it before, but now that I’ve done it … it should only take 20 minutes as the recipe says. The steaks were perfect bite size pieces and the marinade was incredibly delish.  You could make the marinade as strong or weak as you’d like (increase/decrease the five spice, keep the amount of soy sauce so the meat doesn’t dry out). I did my own take on the dipping sauce, cut the mint and added it directly to the Greek yogurt, squirted in lime juice … done.
Orzo with broccoli was just a random thought I had on Sunday while doing my weekly planning … you can buy a bag of frozen broccoli florets (no stem pieces added), let it thaw and cut the stems off with kitchen scissors. Add that to the already al dente orzo (don’t drain yet!), let the broccoli cook through at a medium boil.  Make sure you HEAVILY salt the orzo water and once I drained the pasta/broccoli, I added more salt & pepper plus a big dose of grated parm cheese.

IMG_3878 … I accidentally deleted the finished product. WHOOPSIES!
It was just the meat and orzo on the same plate. No biggie, close your eyes and imagine it 🙂

 

There you go, 2 easy meals – cook and enjoy!