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!

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easy like sunday morning

Not that I’m channeling my inner Lionel Richie but Sunday’s are pretty easy … make my coffee, find the cook books and websites for my weekly menu inspirations, and just sit back – let my thinking cap go to work.

In no particular order … mostly because I don’t know Josh’s work schedule yet … this is what the week has in store for us, well, food wise at least.

Automatically Monday:  Leftovers and Salad (I need to clear the fridge out so I can go grocery shopping!!)

Spaghetti Squash and Quinoa/Pork Meatballs
– will post the spaghetti squash with my ‘daily blog’

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Broccoli Bites
— Reference: “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’ ” & “Remember Playground Slides? Those Were the Days”

Tilapia Burgers and Baked Veggie Medley
— Store bought burgers; will post the veggie medley with my ‘daily blog’

Chicken Marsala and Eggplant Gratin

veggie tails

Another lasagna in the books … very different from any I’ve ever made before. 

This one had a cottage cheese filling/sauce so how could I say ‘no’ to Josh’s favorite snack item? Cottage cheese is a great super food for diabetics. He eats it by the container which grossed me out at first but now I know to buy it weekly.  I’ve taken a liking to it as well. 

This is the second recipe I’ve made that called for cottage cheese as a major ingredient, if you remember Moussaka … (something passed down from my mom).  

Okay this lasagna is so easy, Josh helped cook the veggies while I boiled the noodles & chopped different ingredients. I’m telling you, a duo is really helpful when trying to rush dinner and have it finished by the time friends arrive *permanently* from Vegas.  Our friends finally arrived last night after a horrendous 3 day drive – we’re talking 3 blown tires on a Uhaul along stretches of highway where there weren’t any exits in sight.  As soon as they walked in the door, a beer met their hands in minutes. We treat our guests right.  So they’re staying with us until they find a super hip loft in downtown SA. We love having them here!!!! 

Almost step by step pictures:

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Have to throw in a photo of Sous Chef Geno … so cute sticking his tongue out 🙂

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Poor Mickey was so confused with the hustle & bustle happening in the kitchen.

Since none of my casserole dishes are big enough, we actually had extra ingredients to make not only the large lasagna you see in the pictures but also a small meatloaf size lasagna.  I think it’s time I have a sufficient casserole dish that can hold a bit more.

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!

kids need music … and P.E.

Things are a’changing around this house, the last few weeks have brought exciting news 🙂

First, Josh and I are purchasing our first home! You know what this means? A BIGGER KITCHEN! A fridge that cools and a freezer that won’t defrost; doors that don’t let rain in; a garage door that closes; blinds that are functional; walls that have wood studs and insulation; this list could go on and on and on and… you get it. We’re looking at a mid-November closing date. Gosh, I am so excited.

Second, I accepted a teaching position at a private school, classes start on the 26th!  This will be school #2 that I get to start a music program at.  Maybe that’ll be my “thing” – I go to school’s that don’t have a music curriculum and start one. Every school should have a music program, I could seriously go on a 10 page rant about kids needing a creative outlet in school. And P.E. … kids need P.E.; after all, San Antonio is the most overweight city in America.

Speaking of overweight, back to the blog topic… This recipe was passed along to me and who could resist a name of “chicken bombs” when thinking “I wonder if I’ll make this?” I made it the week after seeing it! The chicken was full of flavor and cheese oozed out; super easy to make and incredibly tasty.  I left off the bacon … originally planned on using turkey bacon for a healthier option but figuring I’d have to cook the dish inside, I didn’t need my house filling with smoke. I think I’ll nix the bacon even if we do cook it on the grill in the future, I can never get bacon wrapped items to turn out right.  The bacon is either soggy or burnt, no thanks! I love bacon but you know what, you don’t need it to survive.

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Josh requested a fresh veggie side, I hadn’t made steamed broccoli in a while so I knew it was time to get back to it.  Buy 1 head of broccoli ($1.50! CHEAP!), I added an onion that was already in my pantry. That’s it! It takes maybe 1 minute to prep and 10 minutes to cook. No complaining that you don’t have time! For flavor, I sprinkled on veggie seasoning, ex. Mrs. Dash … whatever you prefer.  I did add a SMALL dollop of butter just to coat the veggies once transferred to a serving bowl.

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For the chicken you’ll see I placed the cookie rack on a foil lined casserole dish.  Since the chicken needed to be basted a few times while baking, I didn’t want the BBQ sauce pooling around the chicken, making it soggy or turning in to burnt edges.  With a deep dish under, the sauce was able to drip off nicely.

Don’t want leftovers? I used 2 large chicken breasts and cut them in half (as directed), you can see it made 2 chicken bombs per person. One disagreement I have with the recipe, it says if you don’t care for spicy peppers then you should opt for green bell peppers instead of jalapenos.  Guess what, removing the seeds and ribs (as instructed in the recipe) leaves you with a bland pepper.  That’s where the “spice” is typically found. I hate spicy peppers and handled the rib-less/seedless jalapenos just fine.  Get your facts straight, Leslie. 😉

This one’s a keeper!

Remember playground slides? Those were the days.

Wait, whoa, it’s already Monday? How did the weekend go by so quickly?!  Shoot, running a 2 day yard sale is exhausting; I mean, I’ve been planning it for a few months already!  Saturday was a freakin’ hit and then Sunday was so horrible that I packed up two hours early. It seems that Friday & Saturday are the days to sell, Sunday is taken very seriously out here as a day of rest. I figured that as people came home from church then they’d stop by and look around but I guess not. Hey at least I met some of my neighbors, we’ve only been here since November. One guy even offered to by the house for $500 and I said “Sure, why not?!” He looked at me funny and then I said “I don’t care, we’re just renters, HA!” (I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be….) He goes “dang mija, I was about to get my check book… but I’ll take this *points to an item* for my lady” then he chuckles. PHEW!  I love meeting random people WHO have a sense of humor.

Let’s see… I’m starting to get feedback on the recipes I blog about – if you try something out, leave a comment! I want to hear if you stuck to the recipe or tweaked it, even a little bit.  I like finding out new tricks 🙂  If you think the recipe sucked, well I guess you don’t know how to cook. JUST KIDDING!  Seriously though, go back and make it again – things don’t always turn out right the first time. You’ll usually have less cursing the second time around as well (going off of my experience!).

Ok, so we had fajita’s on Friday courtesy of Kathy for watching Miss E again. That kid is so stinking cute and all she wants to do is “read”.  I learned the proper way to cut skirt steak, WITH THE GRAIN! DUH! You’d think I’d know that little piece of info… The first time I attempted fajita’s cut against the grain, the meat was so difficult to chew we ended up with fajita bowls (i.e. Chipotle status). Thank you Kathy for enlightening this blonde. Ha!  Other than that, I made a side of pre-packaged fajita rice which Josh was allowed to eat because we had so much protein in the main dish. P.S. can you tell that Kathy is a teacher? So organized with baggies, I love it!

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Something to add to my “to do” list… buy a vacuum sealer. K & J have one and they love it.  That gadget & my mandolin can be besties.

Saturday we attended a BBQ and I brought along a classic cold pasta dish. SO EASY and SO DELISH!
Spiral or bow tie pasta… boil/drain/refrigerate (I used the leftovers from Thursday’s dinner, remember – I boiled 2 bags…)
Italian salad dressing (zesty is even better), cube 2 blocks of cheese (I used cheddar & swiss), pre-sliced canned olives, halved grape tomatoes, canned corn, ham cubes (leftover from Thursday’s dinner as well)  Sorry, no pictures… I forgot 😦
STIR THAT SH*T! DEVOUR IT! You won’t have any leftovers, promise!

On to Sunday, we had dinner with Josh’s former boss’ (while at the Pentagon) family.  They have the cutest family, dinner with them is always relaxing and last night was educational… learning about Rome & France from their travels with the AF.  Makes us want to live overseas but A) we’d have to sell just about all of our furniture and B) more than likely couldn’t take our dogs. I don’t mind living through their photos 🙂 Anyway, they had purchased a chicken STUFFED with stuffing (I don’t care what food experts say about that, it was so good and no one got sick), they also made potato wedges seasoned with crushed rosemary and I provided broccoli bites … Josh picked out a PB & chocolate pie to bring as well; don’t worry, insulin was ready to go. The B.B. were a success, I doubled the recipe to feed 4 adults, Josh of course ate the leftovers (only 2!).  Adults are more than allowed to eat veggies in a fun way too, plus they are quick & easy to make, same concept as a meatloaf or meatball.  Josh told me to promise I’d mention him because he did help with the B.B., what a good husband.

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You’ll find out about tonight’s dinner in tomorrow’s blog… courtesy of Kathy [If she keeps preparing all these delish meals she might just find herself a full time sitter 😉 ]; I had Miss E all day, we went down slides together.  It’s nice to be reminded how much fun and simple a child’s life is.