time to kick off the holiday season

The Rockettes were just on TV so I had to go there …

And if you’d like to be able to high kick like those girls may I suggest that you don’t stuff your face silly with “all the dressings” at the dining room table. Once again I’m on the hunt for diabetic friendly Thanksgiving recipes, I’ve found a few including one that is supposed to mimic a sweet potato casserole but with squash instead. It’s all about the spices to be honest – color is the same and texture is close so if it can also smell appetizing I think it’ll be a hit. I also researched a rub for the turkey instead of brining it like we did last year. It was good but let’s try something new shall we?! I think a ham might go on the grill depending the number of guests we have. Friends will bring a green bean casserole, stuffing, and appetizers. OH! I’ve done a run through of a pumpkin pie and it’s safe to say it was a success!

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The recipe was not enough to fill my spring form pan so it will be doubled for Thanksgiving. I used a small casserole dish instead but was impossible to serve. Although after watching Good Eats last night, I might purchase a tart pan. Back to the pie, it’s crust-less and almost sugar-less! Instead of a 1/3 cup of sugar I used 4 tsp of Stevia and it tasted gooooood. It needed more pumpkin pie spice and I will add cinnamon per request from my husband. Suggested by the recipe was to crumble ginger snaps, sprinkle on top of each slice along with dark chocolate chips. That helped to add texture since there isn’t a crust. This was a huge deal and my husband was very appreciative; I do not bake… not a fan of it because it has to be precise (there’s no option to add your own twist to things) and most of the time you have to wait 2-24 hours before eating any of it. Stupid desserts need to cool down for a day … dinner is ready as soon as it comes off the stove.

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Had some favorites last week, cheeseburger pie (added mushrooms since they were leftover) and quesadillas (chicken, spinach, onions, 1 red bell pepper, and whole wheat tortillas … topped with sour cream, salsa, and a chunk of avocado).

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A new recipe I tried last week was a shepherds pie (I’ve never had it before!). It was pretty easy to make and very yummy! I had originally found a Campbells Soup recipe and as I rattled it off to my husband he said it wasn’t even remotely close so I found a new recipe and it was a success. Of course it was because it’s an Alton Brown recipe! I cheated with instant mashed potatoes (2 small packets), skipped the addition of an egg, didn’t miss it. I also used ground turkey instead of Lamb. My time and wallet are precious, do what you need to do to make dinner at your household 😉

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Staples so far this week: chicken bombs and butternut squash soup.

Monday’s chicken bombs were the best yet. I don’t know what it was but they were extra yummy… I added sides of mushroom orzo and peas, kept it simple.

The soup was almost a disaster because I followed the recipe, ha! It instructed to bake the squash for only 20 minutes (to make it soft) and I knew better, it needed at least 45-60 minutes. I was also rushed but you know the saying “do it right the first time” … yeah, I wasted more time trying to fix things and clean up a huge mess. After 20 min. I tossed the veggies in my soup pot, covered with all the liquid, attempted to mash it before using my immersion blender. Umm… nothing mashed. IT WAS SOLID AS A ROCK. Liquid flew all over the tile back splash (now I know where the name comes from 😉 ). Awesome. It’s all covered with liquid and now I must dump it in a blender. By the way, it had been simmering for 20 minutes as another attempt to soften the veggies … so not only is it hard as a rock it’s also scalding hot! Soup splattered everywhere as I transferred it from the pot to the blender, the blender was filled too high so I poured it in a large measuring cup since it was near by. More splatter. I blended everything in 2 batches, pouring the chunky/baby food textured “soup” back into the pot, it tasted good but the texture was nasty. I partially chewed the soup. I cooked it down some more and busted out the immersion blender again … that little device saved it. It was so smooth after that and the soup actually looked like soup. My husband missed an exciting afternoon! When he came home he got an ear full while cooking the grilled cheese (at 9:30pm) … I don’t do grilled cheese. I burn the bread and the cheese manages to not melt. Riddle me that. Yes, I ate that late which I know is not healthy but with our schedules we don’t get to eat dinner together often. I at least ate my soup earlier and waiting to share a grilled cheese with him ❤ .

So the rest of this week & next week will be “figure friendly recipes” that are restaurant favorites (i.e. BAKED general tso’s chicken, pesto salmon … yummmm); we must prepare for Thanksgiving … shed the last few pounds right before adding them back on, lol. Let’s all be thankful for the food we eat, the family and friends we share it with, and a lovely house to make memories in.

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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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expect a few things

With this blog you will see A) pictures of meals I pull off and B) pictures of my sous chefs… I mean, the blog is titled in their honor.  In case you don’t know me, my sous chefs are 5 years old, 4 years old, and just about 1 year old.  I do not have kids, instead I have 3 dogs.  I consider them my sous chefs because they get in my way, I curse at them, they help clean up … er… scavenge for dropped food, and I know they are secretly judging me with every move I make.  Whatever, I try to not let them get to me; after all the most important judge is myself. I’m critical and very much a perfectionist which absolutely carried over from my real profession as a musician

Of course I can’t forget about my husband Josh, although his opinion doesn’t matter much to me, he eats PB&J and cereal for every meal when I go out of town. He’s also my human garbage disposal, I wonder if he tastes anything. Seriously though, I actually took up this new cooking hobby because of him (clearly that makes my previous statement a joke, I love him).  He was recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes; no more fried chicken, mac and cheese, carb loaded dinners, and late night trips to Sonic (happy hour shakes, anyone?!). I had to figure out a new way to cook and if you’ve read any “healthy cooking” blogs or books, maybe you too get the taste of cardboard in your mouth.

Our first grocery trip after the diagnoses lasted 2 hours. 2 HOURS!  We left with maybe $100 worth of food after feeling burned out from reading labels and taking in sticker shock (healthy shopping does cost more, I don’t care what people say). Notice how I said “healthy shopping” not “healthy eating” … yes, getting all the no sugar, lean, and light foods does add up HENCE my new hobby of cooking. There had to be a way to not spend an entire pay check on nasty tasting, sugar-free food.

I may be on to something but making my own mayo, salsa, guacamole, marinades, and sauces just tastes better. I know what went in to everything and there’s a satisfying feeling knowing we’re doing our best to be healthy plus we’re not broke after an entire week of homemade meals. Oh most important, I don’t have to read labels anymore! Sure, I have to be aware of what fruits or vegetables have a high amount of sugar but that’s second nature now.

So while this first entry is pretty dull, it’s just that, my first entry. I’m new at this and I will be sure that my dinner posts are funny because lord knows I’m not a professional cook.  I have about 60 inches of working counter space, the stove/oven is lopsided, my sink is 5 inches deep, the fridge actually freezes and the freezer defrosts, all of my small appliances are on top of cabinets in which I need a step stool to reach or I just trip over it most of the time. 2 of my sous chefs beg and 1 sits on my feet.  I drop knives and curse (like a sailor as Josh would put it); you’d think the kitchen was going down in flames.  Somehow delicious meals always end up on the table, sure they may not look like the recipe picture but they are pretty darn close (I blame the camera). Bonus from all of this, Josh has been told by his many doctors that he is one of the healthiest diabetics they’ve ever seen. He actually had one nutritionist tell another guy (in the diabetes class) “you need to get one of those”, referring to Josh’s personal chef, ME.