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!

I ran out of ketchup.

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My parents would be shocked.

I was saddened by the discovery.

My husband just laughed.

At 3:30pm yesterday I realized I didn’t have enough ketchup to make a bbq sauce; I didn’t even have enough to make 1/2 of the recipe. I had maybe 2 TBSP of ketchup remaining and that surely wasn’t going to cut it. There was a day when my mother always had a back up bottle in the pantry because I literally drank ketchup.  I too began stock piling ketchup, buying the mega 4 pack at Sam’s however as of lately with all of my new cooking adventures, I find myself using less and less of this fabulous condiment. I mean, to give you an idea of my ketchup addiction: I wouldn’t even touch a steak without ketchup – I don’t care if I was at home or at a 4 star restaurant. I could give a hoot about the eye rolls in my direction. I LOVE KETCHUP. My favorite dinner is chicken nuggets with too much ketchup for every bite.

You know you’re obsessed when:
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This is the first time I’ve ever run out of ketchup and I’m sure it’ll happen again but it made me stop and think – I hardly buy ketchup anymore, it’s not on my weekly shopping list anymore… maybe monthly if that. Wow, what a difference a year makes. Yes, in 1 year I’ve almost kicked my addiction of ketchup. I still use it but as sauce bases or for the obvious hot dog dinner.

I digress; hubby picked up an emergency bottle on the way home from work and dinner continued.
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burger recipe here                                                                       green bean salad recipe here

A ‘montage’ of pictures for the last 2 weeks of meals …
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slow cooker ribs                                                       meatball subs – leftover from a spaghetti & meatball night 😉

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mac n’ cheese & pork chops w/ caramelized onions/apples               slow cooker stuffed peppers

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potato salad (Martha, you disappointed me… this was not very good; from her “Great Food Fast” book)

IMG_6521 PIZZA NIGHT! No recipe… just used my imagination 🙂

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stuffed portobello caps (George Foreman recipe)                                pork chops … try this yummy marinade
goat cheese, evoo, black pepper, pesto, & I added tomatoes

Brinner!

It’s not a term that IHOP made up for their newest commercial… It’s a term clearly made up by college students that when the cafeteria didn’t have anything tempting for dinner, you went directly to the cereal bar. How can you go wrong with cereal? It’s seriously a life saving creation and clearly needs its own triangle on the food pyramid. So you get aquatinted with ‘brinner’ but after 22 y.o. it seems unacceptable to eat only cereal for dinner (my husband will tell you I’m full of lies) … Introduce the frittata. It’s like the rich uncle to a scrambled egg. You can add whatever you want, I picked (actually, Martha) ham, fontina cheese, green beans, and chives.

It’s like a quiche but minus a crust. It’s like an omelette but minus the flipping and folding. It’s way better than scrambled eggs, and it just makes for a hearty meal. Whip up home fries and voila! Brinner is served.

Martha will instruct you to cook using a cast iron skillet but I haven’t made that purchase yet. It’s not necessary so no excuses to not make this… I sautéed everything on the stove and while that was going on, I popped a casserole dish in the oven to heat up. Throw the cooked mixture into the casserole dish, pour in eggs/cheese and it will turn out perfect. Promise*

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It’s pretty funny to see the difference in Josh’s plate vs my plate. That boy eats so much food! His doctor reminded him that he needs to keep up his carb intake because diabetics need that for their brain. Carbs = brain food, in moderation of course. That’s why I chose regular potatoes and made a huge amount of the home fries (more leftovers while I’m out of town). I got on this shopping habit of ‘no carbs’ but that’s what doctors are for, to keep you in check.

As usual dinner didn’t happen on Thursday (hopefully the ingredients are still good for Tuesday!) … We ordered pizza, which I felt bad about since my husband’s friend was over again. Although we didn’t just call Papa John’s, we kept it classy with BJ’s and got 2 yummy pizzas. One they messed up (ordered the 5 meat and asked for jalapeños to be added to 1/2… Yeah well only half got meat and the other only jalapeños. Really?!) we also got a buffalo chicken pizza and it was definitely spicy. It was no Frank’s Red Hot but it was still good.

I’m in Vegas for one more night, I return tomorrow… Back to the daily grind and figuring out my weekly menus. I’d have to say that I’ve enjoyed having a few days off from cooking but I sure do miss it. We all need vacations and while you may think it’s for one reason, it can easily inspire you for another.

Disclaimer
* if you can’t even boil water than this guarantee is void.

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To give thanks … part 2

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Phew-wee! It couldn’t have been easier, honestly. May I suggest frying a turkey for anyone reading this blog.  My dad is cringing as he reads this, he is the ultimate grill master. I never recall a Thanksgiving where the turkey was indoors. In fact, most meats were grilled… mom was in charge of sides and dad took care of the protein.

Anyway, we set the turkey to brine on Wednesday night and just let it sit for 16 hours (Thank you, Alton Brown). DONE. Washed it off at 3pm (the next day), let it get to room temp & then off it went to the oil. 40 minutes and it was done. What? No 8 hour cooking time in my oven so I can’t cook anything else? Not this year! It was the best thing EVER!!!

You’ve already read “part 1” of this blog so you know what I cooked up.  Here’s the order it all went down.

Bake the sweet potatoes at 9am, cooled and then prepped as the recipe called for.  I opted to not do the twice baked part; I turned it into a regular casserole. I was having issues not tearing the skin while scooping the “meat” out. Hey, last minute changes are okay.

Start the green beans at 11am, cook the beans and mushrooms and prep entire casserole.  Let it cool then into the fridge it goes, it’s ready!

My only ‘last second’ dish was the grits/mushroom/cheese casserole … for fear the grits would get soggy if prepped ahead of time.

Chelsea had the mac n’ cheese already done upon arrival. She whipped up her famous crab dip for an appetizer (took 20 minutes: 5 minute prep & 15 minutes to cook, easy & yummy!!!).  Stuffing would be made right before dinner and O.M.G. was it delish!

Two cooks in this kitchen was no issue at all and having my oven turkey free, it made for a calm afternoon. As the turkey took an oil bath we started the oven for reheating.  Since the turkey would only take 40 minutes we had to add in “cool down” time, another 20-30 minutes. You must let meat sit before cutting or carving so the juices don’t run out. No one likes dry meat.  We put all the sides in the oven at 300 for almost an hour. Yes, my oven was able to hold 5 large casserole dishes. I could literally hear the heavens above singing in glory.

What do I hear you chanting…. <we want pictures, we want pictures>  HERE THEY ARE!

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(yes I carved the turkey… after all, I sat at home watching many MANY episodes on the Food Channel as to how to carve a turkey.  I did pretty good!)

I actually forgot about another appetizer that Chelsea made and it dawned on me why … we ate it so fast that our brains didn’t have time to process the info but our taste buds sure loved it.  Melon wrapped prosciutto, is there anything easier than that? Take a cheat, buy pre-cut melon and this can get made in about 5 minutes (which is what Chelsea did). No one will shake their finger at you for not buying a whole melon and if they do, then ban them from the dish 😉

Also for dessert I bought pecan tarts and sugar free vanilla ice cream. Walmart had sugar free sweet potato pies and that’s about it, made for a sad shopping trip. So I opted for personal tarts which were 36g of carbs; again personal portions means no over indulging.

Overall it was a successful holiday … minus Hines Ward saying he was thankful for the Macy’s day parade (I’ll chalk that up to him getting hit a few too many times).  I hope you had a fantastic and stress-free Thanksgiving. As tradition for me at least, I started my day with the Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the dog show. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

To give thanks … part 1

Author’s note: I wrote this on Thanksgiving Eve … we’re without internet for a few more days but I was feeling the urge to blog.

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How do you prep for a diabetic Thanksgiving and keep traditions going?  I’ve gotten some grief for changing recipes you’d typically see on the table.  My gut feeling tells me that once you actually see what I’m doing, you might be inclined to change your eating habits for next year … or why wait, try it for Christmas.

1 carb count (1 dose of insulin) = 15g of carbs … be shocked as you read some of this info.

Green bean casserole … you know, the one drenched in cream of mushroom soup.
My spin on it: green beans, low sodium vegetable broth, sliced mushrooms, flour (to thicken), and top with a light sprinkle of crunch onions
Classic: 1 carb count/161 calories (per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 1 carb count/98 calories (per serving)

Sweet potato casserole … you know, the one covered in candied pecans and marshmallows.
My spin on it: twice baked sweet potatoes – brown sugar, cream cheese, and various spices.
Classic:  3 carb counts/326 calories (per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 2 carb counts/under 200 calories (per serving)

Cream corned / any kind of “gratin” dish / some kind of overloaded veggie with cheese
My spin on it is a huge stretch actually: cheesy mushroom casserole – grits, sliced mushrooms, and topped with shredded cheese.
Classic: creamed corn – 4 carb counts/376 calories … gratin dish – 2 carb counts/360 calories … veggie & cheese – 2 carb count/295 calories (all per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 2 carb counts/235 calories (per serving)

So those are the sides that I’m whipping up and to keep people from going back for 2nd and 3rd helpings, I’m making 4-6 servings for each recipe (there will be 4 adults eating).  That’s the easiest way to cut your intake – if it’s not there to eat then how can you over-indulge?  My partner in crime (Chelsea) is taking on the task of mac n’ cheese, stuffing, and a few appetizers.  She’s also keeping in mind the 4-6 serving limit and is swapping out some bad ingredients for better choices.  Just to give you an idea: the stuffing calls for apples which are a complete no-no for diabetic folks. She opted for apple & chicken sausage; it calls for sausage anyway so by doing this she cuts out the ground beef too. You might be wondering about the mac n’ cheese; there’s no way to cut corners on this dish.  It is what it is and Josh will only be able to have a spoonful. Not everything can be improved!

At the end of the day Thanksgiving isn’t all about food, we need to be thankful for our family, friends, and health.  The last thing takes on a bigger meaning in this household.  I am thankful for the night I saw a diabetes commercial and forced Josh to see a doctor. I am thankful for my friends who we get to be with on this holiday but I’m also thankful for our long distance friends.  It’s hard to maintain friendships when hundreds of miles separate you but I think we’re all doing a pretty good job. I am thankful for our family, that no matter the distance our parents find a way to visit and they understand (with Josh’s job) it’s easier for them to come to us. Trust me, we sure do wish we could visit Florida and Pennsylvania but give us a few months and we’ll be able to make that happen. 

And to end on a lighter note, please, for the love of God … I hope you watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Not the Macy’s Day Parade (unless the Pilgrims had Macy’s, then by all means…).