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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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!

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

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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!

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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.
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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!

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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!

You’re not dying: you just have diabetes: you can do something about it.

My latest blog search: diabetic cooking. I was hoping to find other adventurous home chefs out there, not people telling me what diabetes is (I already know) or how horrible diabetes is (um, get yourself together).

Here is what I found: “what is diabetes?”, “how to manage diabetes”, “Type 1 vs. Type 2”, “the worst day ever” (that person just learned of their type 2 diabetes), and other BOOOOOOORING blogs. It’s unbelievable that there are people out there posting blogs as if they’re doctors.  A lot of the info they give is incorrect, if I compare it to what Josh’s doctors/dieticians/nutritionists taught us. The last blog was a kicker, the author was pretty much in tears when they learned about having type 2 – they went on to say “I know I’m over weight and I want to see my kids grow but I am so devastated to learn of my diagnoses”. WTF?! You are overweight, you don’t have cancer! Get off your butt and do something about it! They continued complaining about how it’d be sooooooo difficult to change their eating habits. I get it to a certain extent, you’ve been eating fast food for pretty much every meal – it’s convenient, it’s fast, it can be cheap … but at what point is a cheeseburger ranked higher than your own life? I am going to follow up on that blog and see how this person is doing and suggest they follow me – I’m not the health queen by any means but maybe my dishes will help them get closer to either not being insulin dependent (some type 2’s only need a daily pill to maintain sugar levels) or hey, getting rid of diabetes altogether.  I don’t know what they physically look like (i.e. height/weight/body fat) however we all know exercise does a body good.  Even if it’s a 30 minute walk around the block each night.

Please note, I am not writing a “woe is me” post today … yes my husband will have diabetes for the rest of his life but he’s doing something about it. He’s eating right (thanks to MEEEEEE), watching his weight (to make sure he’s not losing any again), and he exercises daily.  He does his insulin routine too, obviously the most important thing to never miss. I just don’t understand why some people think their lives are over when learning about diabetes … put down the quarter pounder and diet coke, pick up a glass of UNSWEET tea (Crystal Light has come a loooooong way) and a grilled chicken sandwich on one of those “thins”, top it with lettuce, cheese, tomato, MUSTARD (no mayo!!). You have just taken your first step to eating better.

I must brag for a moment.  Those of you who can’t stand “skinny people” talking about losing weight, please stop reading. Now.

Since beginning this new cooking adventure I have given random updates about how my health is improving. Just because I’m “skinny” doesn’t mean I’m 100% healthy. I am 5’5″ and weighed 145 in November of 2013; mind you I was down to 130 one month prior. If you look up any height/weight chart, I was in the “large” frame category. SAY WHAT?!! I didn’t look large but I sure felt it – my jeans didn’t fit and I loved living in yoga pants (I literally got upset if I had to wear jeans somewhere). Fast forward to yesterday, I weighed myself at 130. HOORAY! It’s been over a year since I was that number. Over that time I started feeling better (not so tired, lazy, yucky) and my jeans started fitting again – I knew I was losing weight, I’d check every few months to see the results … you can’t check every day or week – dropping weight takes time. I’m not an exercise buff but I am up/moving every day … I really don’t like to sit on my butt, I get antsy watching more than 1 hr of TV.

It’s up to you – keep feeling gross and not like what you see while getting dressed or you can do something about it. Ya won’t lose weight but wallowing in your own pity. My husband and I have discussed this a few times – we’re in a way thankful for his diabetes diagnoses. Do not take that as me wishing anything horrible on him; we realized that our eating/cooking habits needed to change and this was our wake-up call. It’s just unfortunate it came as a life changing event.

 

what happens in Vegas …

Sous Chef Geno has been getting the royal treatment lately.  He got into some trash (not our doing or fault… don’t get me started, I have the issue under control and have spoke to the appropriate people) and hasn’t been feeling or acting like himself. 3 trips later [to the vet] and slowly his usual cuteness is returning. The royal treatment per meal: 2 spoon fulls of pumpkin pie filling, 1 tummy ache pill, 1 steroid, and 1 pro-biotic … plus us having the pleasure of watching him go to the bathroom. I know I know, this is close to TMI (especially for a food blog) but I started off mentioning all of this because a dog eating trash and getting sick was similar to us eating crap … resulting in not feeling well. Could it be a metaphor for life? Maybe. STOP EATING TRASH! What’s that saying… you are what you eat? I think it totally holds true.

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So I’m home from Vegas and I’ll tell you what, I went against everything I’ve been working hard at since last year – eating right, not eating as much, etc. I did manage to not snack although it was tempting. You’re on vacation and you think “I can cheat”. DON’T DO IT. You’ll thank me later! I cheated, big time. I had fast food, sweets, soda, and mega-carbs. You name it, I ate it. Boy did my stomach hate me (maybe I could have used some of Geno’s pills.. JUST KIDDING. Chill). It was all so delish though! Geeze did I miss the flavor of grease and the sweetness of real sugar. Then again, I ended up with massive headaches and my guilt kicking in. The next vacation I really do need to stick to my new eating habits, not feeling well for 4 days while I was supposed to be enjoying time off, was definitely not worth it. Listen, in moderation I think all of things are okay but not jammed packed, back to back for each meal, 4 days straight.

Okay, okay – I’ll give you menu for this past week.  Thank you for sitting through my venting.

Tuesday- Zucchini Lasagna.
“When you said zucchini lasagna I didn’t know you meant no noddles” Josh. Who didn’t listen when I explained that this zucchini lasagna used NO NODDLES; the zucchini becomes the layer separation. Which also means he took too much insulin because he thought there’d be a lot of carbs. I did serve garlic bread though to help balance veggies vs. carbs but it wasn’t enough; he went hunting in the fridge for more food. MEN! 😉

This is not a vegetarian lasagna, it calls for ground beef (I used turkey). I’m sure you could remove the meat because there are a ton of veggies in it, or just double what the recipe says and there will plenty of “sauce” to add between the layers.

My dish did not come out as pretty as the allrecipes.com post, of course. It’s incredibly messy but it was sooooooo good! Bit of a change to the recipe: I forgot the thaw the spinach so it didn’t get added. Oh well. I honestly ran out of stacking space so it worked in my favor (Take out the meat and use spinach? You’d have the room for it). I think next time I might grill the zucchini (on the g.f.), the dish needed structure which stiffer/thicker noodles typically provide. By grilling, I’d think that it’d firm the veggies, giving it more structure instead of just slopping onto my plate.

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Wednesday was a slow cooker repeat, our favorite enchilada meal. I used baby shrimp this time around – so good! I love that recipe, it’s the easiest and tastiest. I didn’t double it, just made enough for one night. Thursday had shrimp planned again and I didn’t want insane leftovers of shrimp dishes although my husband wouldn’t care. He’s my garbage disposal after all!

Thursday brought on a new recipe via Paula Deen which we all know means there was a TON of butter in the recipe. I cut it by half and you wouldn’t know the difference (my arteries did and thanked me).  This was my best creation yet. I’m still trying to figure out the correct amount of s & p to use; I know that sounds ridiculous but I honestly can’t get it right! It’s either too much and I feel like I’m licking a brick of salt or there’s not enough and I may as well be eating cardboard. Cooking takes work on balancing spices, keep at it and one day, voila, success! I wanted to go back for seconds but I knew better. ImageImageImage

To make eating easier, I cut all of the shrimp tails off PRIOR to cooking. I don’t feel like working for my meal … either way I’d cut them, may as well do it before I sit down. On top of the called for ingredients I added my last zucchini, rather use it than toss it! You can add any veggie to this, at least that’s my opinion. We have leftovers which I’ll be enjoying tonight – Josh is off to Austin for a JROTC competition, only 1 night so he won’t get to enjoy that weird city (so many great food options out there!). 

That’s my week, feel free to wear it [the recipes] out! Bonus: my tummy is almost back to normal. I think my body absorbed more than I thought…

P.S. that enchilada recipe was my first pin on Pinterest … what was yours? Comment below! Also, how many of you actually make the things you pin? Sure, I have my “one day” kind of board, like artwork I’d love to create or furniture I’d love to own … but I stay true to my “yum-o” board. I’ve cooked almost everything pinned.

Don’t forget my IG food tags #kitchentails to see my current cooking adventures!!