What’s Your Hashtag?

I love Instagram. I love feeling like I’m part of someone else’s dinner when I see other home cook’s uploaded pictures. I love feeling excited when the “ding” pops up that a celebrity chef liked one of my pictures. I love when another user asks for one of my recipes. Yet I still have plenty of moments where I shake my head. Such as, when I look through pictures of users who are on Weight Watchers. They have usernames like WWjen or WWfoodlover … all of them start with “ww”.  Anyway, I scan their photos and most of the time I see healthy meals, small portions, point tracking, and updates of their weight loss progress.  A recent WW person started following me and I took a peak at her photos. Corn dogs, chili covered fries, ice cream sundaes, fast food french fries, fried seafood … the list goes on and on. This lady did her point tracking but her meals were disgusting! Who thinks a corn dog and a side of chili fries is healthy? I guess a corn dog is 2 points and fries were like 4 … she had some left over points and made an ice cream sundae, topped with whip cream and chocolate sauce. What that heck is she not learning from WW? She had other photos of her “progress”, usually the screen shot was something like “come on, you can do it … the points are adding up but you’re still struggling to lose weight”. NO KIDDING! She would tag the photo with something like #TailgateWeekendFail or #ICheatedThisWeek. Sorry hun I’m pretty sure your 75+ photos are not just from a bad weekend or a few cheat meals.  You can’t cheat the system! If you eat like garbage you body will become a wasteland.  Cut out the junk, cheat ONE day a week so you don’t go crazy, start to work out (walking around the block for 30 minutes is a great start), and then maybe you’ll see weight loss. It’s obviously not guaranteed and everyone is different but it’s a good start. You won’t see a change if you don’t make any!

Here are some yummy meals that can help you get going to that goal of a slimmer waist 🙂

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First up, pesto covered salmon with a veggie quinoa salad. Buy jarred pesto and slather that fish up! Bake for 10 min on 400 – done. The “salad” was prepped in the morning so all I had to do was reheat it after work. Quinoa takes 20 minutes to cook and it needs to be constantly stirred, the last thing I feel like doing at night. Anyway, chop a red bell pepper and red onion, (cook until veggies are soft), mix in balsamic vinegar, top with pine nuts – serve. PS the ‘white stuff’ on the fish is fat, don’t be grossed out. I buy frozen filets; 1. 4 pieces = $12 (2 fresh filets cost that) 2. I don’t have to deal with the skin 3. My fridge doesn’t stink like fish. Sounds like a big bonus to me.
Next, turkey burgers! Cut the beef y’all, do yourself a giant favor. If you get the “fatty” turkey then you may be able to trick the meat lover in your family however don’t quote me on that. Ok so the burgers – bust out your food processor and toss in an onion and garlic. The juice of an onion is a great way to add moisture to turkey burgers or any burger for that fact. Added to the mix, wor. sauce and Fiesta burger seasoning. Crucial. I love the flavors and with the food processor no one got large bits of anything, it was pulverized to perfection. With 1.25lbs of ground turkey I made 5 burgers, 2 small ones for me and 3 bigger ones for my husband. I ate 1 and he at 2 which meant leftovers. I’m finally getting the hang of this! I forget what our sides were but you could do a salad, baked sweet potato (better than regular), cole slaw, corn, peas/carrots, etc. Nothing greasy! Don’t forget a whole wheat bun; slower releasing carbs compared to white bread.

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A fun weekend activity: we made salsa. I have no idea how to can so that’s on my bucket list … because we have a mega tupperware filled to the brim of fresh salsa. It’s not perfect, it was also our 1st attempt but it’s yummy. My husband added roasted corn which was necessary for sweetness with all of the acidic ingredients (tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, onion).

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We all love take out right? Of course! Do yourself another favor and make your favorite meal at home. Our test was general tso’s chicken. I found this awesome website Damn Delicious and found a recipe for a lighter version of this favorite “Chinese” dish. I say that with quotes because you should know that is an Americanized menu item. Made with corn flakes and just absolute yumminess, this will be a keeper! We loved it – paired with quinoa fried rice and not only did it feel like we called in this order but we felt good afterwards. You know how you feel after ordering take out – BLOATED & full of regret. Not with this dish! It was a bit time consuming but my husband helped and we cut the prep time down. I don’t like spicy food so he added red pepper flakes directly to his bowl instead of the sauce.  We have at least 1 serving leftover.

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Remember my new goal of creating leftovers? Well I have been making extra and hiding it. Literally. I take the extra portions, put them in tupperware, and hide them in the back of my fridge. I love my husband but if the food doesn’t smack him in the face then he won’t look for it. HA! The leftovers aren’t meant to make a full meal, he has them as snacks when he comes home from work (if he works an AM shift he’s home around 3, eats, heads to the gym, and dinner is between 6-8pm depending on my teaching sched). This works out perfectly

This could work for anyway, serve your plate and hide the rest! That way you won’t be tempted to go back for seconds or thirds.

Back to the meal – sloppy joes. I freaking love Martha Stewart. This week is all about my favorite cook book, Great Food Fast. Easy recipes to follow, simple ingredients, and minimum prep/cook time. I prepped this one in the morning, again making an easy reheat for my 1 hr time slot for dinner 😉 A recent discovery, all of the nutrition facts are in the back of this book! If you need to light that fire of learning how to cook you should buy this book. It’s the one I started with and love it.

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Again I used ground turkey to cut the red meat. Make breaking up the meat easy, I use a rubber spatula and basically stab the you-know-what out of the meat, ha! Hold the pan with your free hand or you may have treats for your fur-babies. The meat gets super tiny and there aren’t any lumps. A wood spoon doesn’t get the meat broken up very well and half of the meat gets stuck to the spoon too. DO NOT BUY Manwich – that stuff if filled with nasty/bad for you ingredients. Make it yourself, hide those veggies, and you’ll never know the difference. Except you won’t feel like garbage afterwards.

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Hold on to your bloomers because this dinner was ready in a blink of an eye and it only used 5 ingredients. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Red & yellow bell pepper, sweet Italian turkey sausage, pasta (we use Dream Fields, slow releasing carbs),  Parmesean cheese, and butter (only 1 TBSP!!!). Seriously that’s it! The salty flavor of Parm. cheese and flavorful sausage will blow your taste buds away. Isn’t it funny how the simplest of meals can make you the happiest?  Yes, a Martha meal. My husband was a bit skeptical of how it’d turn out but was pleasantly  surprised 🙂 Martha does not disappoint!

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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

Twerking. I mean, tweaking… recipes that is.

Not much has happened this week that is blog-post worthy … I mean, I made a phenomenal pizza which I’ll absolutely share with you – all credit goes to Ree Drummond.  Since I’m cooking a lot of repeats of our favorite recipes I do try to make at least 1 thing new each week or tweak an oldie to make it a “newbie”.

Oldie made “newbie” – salsa chicken (chicken breasts, salsa, cheese)
The recipe calls for taco seasoning to be sprinkled on the chicken … well I used fajita seasoning – WAY BETTER! Not just any fajita seasoning, you know it had to be Bolner’s. Pour on the salsa as usual, but get a fun one … something with chunks of veggies in it, not just runny/cheap/generic salsa. Considering chicken and cheese is el-cheapo, splurge a few extra bucks on decent salsa … it adds to the texture as well.

What else did I make … (I need to consult my menu board, it’s been a LONG and CRAZY week).
Oh yeah – store prepared kabobs (beef wrapped in bacon and scallops wrapped in bacon … double turf & 1 surf, HA!)  As a side I made a Martha dish, cherry tomato and basil crisp (which turned out more like a crumble, but it was still good 😉 ) It might because I used whole wheat bread – maybe it doesn’t firm up as nicely as white. I was trying to make a healthy swap.

So I ‘cheated’ with something prepared but wanted the meal to feel homemade. Easy.
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Another simple creation, inspired by Martha but I put my own twist on it.  Originally it was supposed to be spinach penne and ricotta… well that’s not substantial for this house so I bought regular penne, added fresh spinach which I had leftover, and sliced Italian sausage. Oh man, now that’s a filling dish. I didn’t have any pine nuts but I sure did have almonds! Chop those babies up and sprinkle on top – great textures between the pasta, spinach, sausage, shredded parm, and soft ricotta.
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Okay, okay … the pizza!
My cheat: Bisquick mix for the dough! Sprinkle onion and garlic power in along the way, BOOM. So good.
Follow Ree’s recipe for the pizza toppings … it’s easy; really, really, really easy. Don’t cheat on the cheese, get what the recipe calls for – all of the different flavors are like an explosion and when you add the tomato/basil/balsamic vinegar mixture to the top – holy cow. It’s amazing!
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I added the cheese to a RAW Bisquick dough (shoot, don’t forget the pesto!!!) – let the dough turn golden brown and the cheese becomes ooey-gooey – 15-20 minutes (25-30 if you like crispy) … let it sit for the cheese to firm up just a bit (it’s easier to cut), add the tomatoes and life will be good in 3, 2, 1… YUM!

This was our first pizza on a pizza stone – BUY ONE. Just do it. Those pizza pans with holes are garbage. Lesson learned.

We’ve got pork chops and a grilled zucchini salad for tonight. Not just any pork chops, hitting up the old blue cheese and cranberries (I’m going to freeze it like a ‘steak butter’ and let it melt over the pork chop as I’m plating).

ENJOY!

 

 

cheap cheap cheap eats

I’m all about cheap eats and recreating dishes I see on menus, for waaaaaaaay less.  With returning from vacation and a few inspirations I decided to make our final Lenten meal a special one. Considering my husband will be working on Easter, why not splurge on a dinner I know he’ll be able to actually enjoy fresh.  I say ‘splurge’ in the sense that it’s not a dish I’d typically cook; just a touch of fancy. It was definitely not a splurge on my budget, which I’m sure anyone would appreciate.

My inspiration: Salmon Niçoise Salad … I know it sounds fancy but it’s quite simple. I saw this on 2 different menus while in Palm Springs, CA. Now, the spinach salad alone (some versions are a dark green leaf or spinach, doesn’t matter) was $10, if you wanted to add salmon it was an extra $10. I mean, what a rip off! I can buy 3-4 bags of spinach for $10 … yes salmon can be pricey especially if it’s fresh, but I’d be more content with it only being an $8 surcharge.  Anyway, I wanted to create my own version on a smaller budget. Needless to say mine was $6 per serving … that’s $12 for the two of us. HELLO! I just saved $28 🙂 .

On to my version: I didn’t like how the salmon filets were looking on my grocery trip and then I eyed tuna steaks. They were frozen which is a great way to save and only $6 for 2!

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No it doesn’t look exactly like the Nicoise Salad but again, it’s my version! We wanted baked potatoes so instead of incorporating them into the salad, it became a side.

Tuna marinade: EVOO, honey, dijon, parsley. Let it sit for 30 min or more (S & P both sides of the steak!)
Salad dressing: red wine vinegar, EVOO, dijon, pepper
I kept similar flavors from the original but after finding so many versions of this recipe, I took ingredients from a few and combined them – it turned out quite nicely!
Baked potato: butter, cheese, S & P (really, did you need me to explain that to you?)

I grilled the tuna on my George Foreman, they only need 4 minutes to cook – no sense in heating up the grill for that.  Let them sit for 5-10 minutes OFF of the grill so it can cook all of the way through without making the center too tough.

Man this was the best idea ever and I’m so glad the salmon looked sad at the store. It’s okay to improvise if you can’t find an ingredient, find something in the same family and you’ll be just fine.

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Here are a few other creations from this week:
Lasagna – ground turkey, mushrooms, cheese, onions, DONE.
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Josh’s famous chili:
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Annnnd Feta/Spinach Chicken Sausages with spicy black bean patties

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So there you go, a few new recipes. Try them out & let me know how they go!

 

Eat to Live!

I was determined to have a vegetarian night this week.  Back in the day (ha) I was able to plan an entire week of meatless dishes, I’ve lost my inspiration.  However Tuesday’s dinner was yummy and so easy to make – no meat!  Monday, total meat dinner … salsa meatloaf. Don’t be grossed out by using salsa – try it first.

Ok, meatloaf Monday + bacon wrapped asparagus + peas. Josh worked a late shift so I wanted to make something that would be tasty reheated (aka doesn’t turn into shoe leather after nuking it).  I put his bacon wrapped asparagus in the oven when I got the “on my way!” text message. I obviously got the peas (asparagus = aspara-gross); sorry, I don’t care for it all that much. I do like most other veggies, even lima beans!! Yeah so this salsa ingredient… it does indeed make the meatloaf soggy so you must add a good mound of breadcrumbs or panko; don’t forget eggs, you still need something to act as a glue.

I follow my mom’s cooking instructions- 350 for 1 1/2 hrs. PERFECTION! Low and slow baby, low and slow.

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I add extra red onion because we love the flavor – feel free to try a sweet or white onion.

 

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Use a potato masher to mix the meatloaf! DUH! Once things are sort of combined switch to mixing with your hands.

 

 

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And those are our yummy veggies 🙂

On to vegetarian Tuesday – delish veggie melts courtesy of Martha Stewart. Slice the mushroom caps, 1 small head of broccoli, 1 green pepper, and 1 red pepper – for 2 people it made 8 melts (or open face sandwiches).

I actually purchased a jar of mayo … OMG it’s been a minute since I’ve done that! I needed a bit more than a Chick-Fil-A packet so I caved in, got the smallest jar I could find.  Adding the garlic was crucial, it was so good! And then topping the veggies with shredded Gouda cheese – oh stop me now!

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I’m sure you recognize that side dish … opted for the yummy mushroom/orzo dish I made at Christmas.  A huge whoopsies: I forgot to buy chicken stock! Seriously … I didn’t write it down therefore it never had a chance.  Luckily I had an unopened bottle of wine so I used that in place of the stock. Holy moly was it just as good.

There you go, 2 days down and we’re at hump day. I’m so over this cold weather and no I won’t be the one complaining when it’s “too hot”. It’s never too hot in my opinion. I like the pool and I like the sun. Don’t get me wrong, sweating after a short walk to the mailbox certainly does suck but at least I’m not shivering and unable to feel my fingers. CAN’T STAND COLD WEATHER!

Cheeseburger Pie tonight; ham and pineapple pizza tomorrow; Italian sausage and peppers on Friday.  Then we celebrate Valentine’s Day on Saturday 🙂 ❤ Yes it’s early but that’s what fits our schedules.

Buca di Higby

Lasagna + ricotta stuffed chicken parm = bonus Italiano week!

I had most of the ingredients to make both dishes and since I’m all about using what you already have, it was the obvious choice to put them on the menu last week.  I only needed to buy chicken breasts and ricotta cheese; cheap shopping trip!

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But of course, this is a recipe promoted by Martha Stewart – the dishes are easy, only call for a few ingredients, and are seriously fool proof … perfect for a beginner cook!  I cut the ingredients down for a smaller lasagna (we still had leftovers!), just for 2 people.

I had 2 sweet Italian sausages leftover from the spaghetti bake. I had lasagna noodles leftover from the slow cooker [lasagna] attempt. We always have plenty of sliced cheese options in our fridge, I’m telling you- we love cheese. I typically have 1 or 2 jars of marinara sauce in the pantry, never know when it will be a spaghetti kind of night. Ok, easy peasy, it’ll take you maybe 15 minutes to prep the lasagna and 40 minutes to bake it.

Having friends over? Make the original recipe, it’ll definitely be a crowd-pleaser.

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Josh requested garlic bread as a side but to mix it up I found garlic knots which were super squishy and nice change from the usual “Texas Toast”.  Oh and that’s me as “quality control” to ensure the cheese was indeed delicious.  Approved.  I added a picture of the counter to show you I am not the neatest of cooks; feel free to make a mess while you’re cooking – I don’t have assistants cleaning up behind me like they do on TV shows. So if you’re wondering why Giada’s kitchen is so CLEAN … she has minions doing all the dirty work during commercial breaks.  I do have an amazing husband who cleans up after dinner though. God bless. If he ever complains, I remind him that scrumdiddlyumptious dishes mean a not so tidy kitchen as the end result.  If he wants an easy clean up, he won’t get a fulfilling meal. HA!

BTW: the lasagna picture from the recipe website looks a little deflated. I made thick layers to give it more appealing finished look.

 

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Originally on the menu was plain old chicken parm.  It’s becoming one of our favorites around here and I’m making it about every other week … so to change it up and use the leftover ricotta, I figured – ricotta stuffed chicken parm. Best idea ever! I butterflied the chicken breasts, breaded both sides, and spooned on the ricotta. Bake time is the same, it came out bubbly and oozing with cheese.   This became a fancy-pants lunch since it was intended for dinner the night before (we had date night to Ruby Tuesday’s); I didn’t want the ricotta going bad so why not make a decent lunch.  Plus Josh was heading out for the weekend for work … sent him off with a full belly 🙂 .

If you’re wondering about my nifty dredging set up – Pampered Chef! I just got it the other week and was excited to put it to use. It’s the simple things! They clip together and are dishwasher/microwave safe.  Possibilities are endless: chocolate covered strawberries, deep fry station, sundae toppings, whatever!

Why can’t I buy just 1 TBSP of something?!

I LOVE MARTHA. What more needs to be said? Half of my recipes are from this book right now. My love affair with arts and crafts easily begun at a young age, really taking off in college- just ask any of my sorority sisters.  I’ve always liked to cook but now I’m enjoying it with the help of Martha. This cook book is not “health conscious” so I replace things with a better version, keeping taste in mind.  Not everything needs to be the “light” version; plan a balanced meal instead. Her meals are always portioned for 4 servings which I follow because Josh eats a lot of food. Cut it in half if you’re cooking for yourself & freeze the left overs! Need more convincing to try out this book? Most of the meals take under 45 minutes to prep; who doesn’t have 45 minutes of free time? Seriously, no excuses.

Another reason I like to stick with one book at a time, the same ingredients keep popping up!  Who needs a jar of hoisin sauce when you can only find one recipe calling for 1 TBSP?  Map out your week, rotate nightly themes (one night Asian, next Mexican, followed by Italian, etc)… use that same list each week. You’ll use all of your purchases before they go bad!

My second “go to” is this magazine, which I got free using airline points!!! I made 5 recipes out of the first copy, it’s that good. The people behind this magazine are genius’… download this app and you can save recipes to your phone (take it one step further: pin to Pinterest, share on Facebook, or email it!). I like having recipes printed out but since I have almost zero counter space, my phone is the best solution.

Next chef to take on: Rachel Ray