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.
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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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Tis the season for figgy pudding

With Halloween over we are officially in “Holiday Season” – time to indulge in food, drink, and good cheer … in small doses.   We had guests for the last two weeks which gave us a reality check that we really do need to be careful with how much food we intake.  While all meals were not horribly unhealthy, we just ate a lot of it; we also went through a few more six-packs if you know what I mean.   Restaurants were frequented as well, usually we have 1 date night per week but we went out maybe 2 times each week.  Even though we went on living our daily lives as normal it was hard to not have fun with our friends who just moved here. Yes we have 4 years to enjoy their company but we’ve really missed them the last year, it was good to catch up and hang out like old times.  Those old times are haunting us now, lol!

Josh’s sugar levels were all over the place, some reached 200.  He hasn’t seen those numbers since first diagnosed; he typically sits in the low to mid-100’s.  So even though I kept saying “we’ve been eating bad” – I got the cold shoulder.  I meant ‘bad’ with the concern of his sugar levels, not necessarily greasy or fast food ‘bad’.  This was a good lesson because it’s the first time we’ve had guests at our house [since the diabetes diagnoses] and it really showed us that with the holiday season fast approaching, we do indeed need to be more aware of what we eat while entertaining.   My family will be here for Christmas so you better believe I will be hounding Josh about what he eats; I’ll also do a better job of making just enough food so no one will be tempted with 2 or 3 servings!

On to the goodies we indulged in … man they were delicious.  I don’t regret the flavors of any meal but I sure do regret the amount I ate!

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Who doesn’t love a pretzel bun? It’s pretty much a trend right now and I completely understand why.  A giant soft pretzel that you can put your choice of protein (cheddar sausages for us) on. Hello! You can’t resist. Top that with American cheese, sauerkraut, and ketchup/German mustard, sign me up! We probably could have swapped out the tots & onion rings for a salad … but we didn’t. Talk about carb overload.  Now that we know where to buy these buns, I’m sure they’ll meet our dinner table in the future but making sure Josh doesn’t eat FIVE of them. Yepp.  *This recipe was a revamp courtesy of Chelsea – I’ll def. make it again; a great party/finger food sammie!  Originally planned were hot dogs/whole wheat buns, sweet p tots, and salad. As I started looking in my freezer I decided to clear it out and bake whatever we had.  Hence the salad getting cut, ha.
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Next on the line up: shrimp scampi pizza, 2 crusts: white & wheat. Another meal that doesn’t seem ‘bad’ but with all the butter for the sauce: fat turns into bad sugars.  How can one turn away butter though. I mean, it’s butter. It’s golden brick stature attracts people from afar. Of course you look at Paula Deen and what’s the first thing she cut from most of her recipes when diagnosed with diabetes – BUTTER! The sauce was amazing though, it had so much garlic I actually scared away one vampire that came to trick or treat 😉  No really, you could smell the garlic from our garage door before even entering the house. I loved it.  I’ll need to figure out a way to lighten up Chelsea’s recipe because we need that pizza in our lives.

Speaking of trick or treat … I have never seen so many parents driving along while their kids walked from house to house. Again, San Antonio is the most obese city in AMERICA for a reason. Get out and walk!!!!!

 

This was my Sunday activity:
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HOMEMADE PIEROGIES.  100% homemade in every definition possible.
I personally mashed the potatoes, diced the red onion and mushrooms, hand mixed the dough (Josh had to jump in and finish that), hand rolled the dough, hand cut the pierogi circles, and stuffed almost 3 dozen pierogies.  Josh boiled & pan fried them, kept them warm in a crock pot.  Was the 3 hours worth it to create these little boogers? YEPP!  Yes you read that correct – 3 hours.  I had packed my mixer and I don’t own a pasta thingy. Hey if you want something bad enough you gotta do what you gotta do!  So do you need a $300 Kitchenaid? Nope.  The mixer I have would have worked fine (old school Cuisinart that belonged to my mother); I could have used a hand cranked pasta thingy though, rolling took forever to get it thin enough and the consistency just wasn’t there [from pierogi to pierogi].

After all of that work I asked Josh how come bakers weren’t thin considering the amount of elbow grease goes in to baking … his response: because they eat everything they make. LOL 😉