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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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.

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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watch your wallet & waistline

Another day of rain … figures, it’s my day off for errands and it’s completely gross outside.  I can handle hurrying into stores and dashing back to my car but it’s the drivers that make me nuts! A little rain and BOOM, people forget how to drive.

This of course adds to those who insist on going 15 below on a highway, chatting away on their phones or texting. Every person that I’m stuck behind and end up passing, ON THEIR PHONE. The people driving between 2 lanes, ON THEIR PHONE.  If I can’t see your eyeballs in the side view mirror, I’m going out on a limb here by guessing that you’re TEXTING IN YOUR LAP. Yesterday’s “cell phone driver” happened to be an older woman, handicap plates … she was going maybe 50 in a 65 on a 4 lane highway, hitting her breaks every few seconds … she was using her forearms to drive while texting with TWO hands. Seriously? Are your plates “handicap” because you’re stupid?!  It’s bad out here in San Antonio; I’m scared to go grocery shopping … praying no one side swipes me because the car in front of me is going too slow to get on a highway ramp … or praying that no one slams on their breaks when they see a yield sign (with no other cars in sight!).

Oh why should I think my life is more valuable than that phone call, which I’m sure just can’t wait. Or that text message, it just needs a reply RIGHT NOW.

At least when I’m home I can feel safe, I try to forget all of that craziness with cooking … I get in the zone and I don’t think about anything but the food in front of me. The last 2 nights were no exception with two new recipes. They checked off a nice list too: budget friendly, healthy, flavorful, and easy to make.

Monday: vegetarian quesadillas
The goal to use a nice variety of peppers and multiple cheeses.
Here’s my breakdown:
2 red bell peppers
1 green bell pepper
1 poblano pepper – adds a nice kick (control spice level with ribs and seeds)
1 sweet tomato
Diced green onions
“Fiesta” blend shredded cheese (colby, monteray, pepper jack)

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Yes, I have a GF grill that came with quesadilla plates but you can makes these on the stove in a large pan (make sure you flip them!). Use a pizza slicer and there ya go, easy dinner!  Pull out whatever toppings float your boat, we had sour cream and “guac” (I didn’t have time to make a true guac so I bought the imitation dip, which is actually really tasty) … and refried beans as a side. Everyone can create their own quesadilla, get the family involved in the kitchen.  This is a great ‘football Sunday’ or party dish, a perfect finger food that isn’t messy.

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Tuesday: Chinese Five Spice beef kabobs (with dipping sauce) + orzo with broccoli
It was a little time consuming only because I hadn’t made it before, but now that I’ve done it … it should only take 20 minutes as the recipe says. The steaks were perfect bite size pieces and the marinade was incredibly delish.  You could make the marinade as strong or weak as you’d like (increase/decrease the five spice, keep the amount of soy sauce so the meat doesn’t dry out). I did my own take on the dipping sauce, cut the mint and added it directly to the Greek yogurt, squirted in lime juice … done.
Orzo with broccoli was just a random thought I had on Sunday while doing my weekly planning … you can buy a bag of frozen broccoli florets (no stem pieces added), let it thaw and cut the stems off with kitchen scissors. Add that to the already al dente orzo (don’t drain yet!), let the broccoli cook through at a medium boil.  Make sure you HEAVILY salt the orzo water and once I drained the pasta/broccoli, I added more salt & pepper plus a big dose of grated parm cheese.

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It was just the meat and orzo on the same plate. No biggie, close your eyes and imagine it 🙂

 

There you go, 2 easy meals – cook and enjoy!