Is fall really around the corner?

This past weekend was a tease of fall weather; it was 95 on Friday and Saturday morning – a shocking 60! Talk about a drastic change. It remained cool through Sunday thanks to some rain and a slight breeze but Monday morning, BAM, right back up to 87. Of course people of this city freaked out and I saw some scarves, fuzzy boots, and velor track outfits. I mean really… scarves? I don’t mean cute or fashionable scarves I’m talking bulky winter scarves. *face palm*

With the reminder of fall being around the corner I was excited to see a slow cooker feature in a diabetic magazine while waiting in the check out line at the grocery store. I picked up a copy because honestly I have about 4 slow cooker recipes that are my ‘go to’; it’d be nice to add some variety and find some new ‘go to’s’. There are some breakfast recipes which look interesting, the only down side is that they take 2-3 hours so you can’t cook them overnight. I don’t see myself waking up at 5AM to start breakfast so I can eat at 8AM. Maybe if we have overnight guests I’ll cook something the night before and reheat it in the morning however who likes rubbery, leftover eggs? I’ll have to find a way to create those meals. There were also great tips if you whip up your own recipe; protein to liquid ratio, % of starches to liquid, etc. Overall I’m ready to use and abuse my slow cooker this coming fall season.

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Speaking of my slow cooker, a classic in this house was Wednesday’s meal, stuffed cabbage. I followed that recipe for ingredient purposes only but I also added 1 large can of crushed tomatoes and 1 more can of tomato soup. To the meat mixture I added maybe 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes (strained w/ a slotted spoon), I didn’t want the meat to dry out since I used lean ground turkey.  To the slow cooker I poured 1 can of soup, placed the cabbage rolls, poured the 2nd can of soup and the remaining crushed tomatoes (including all liquid).  They turned out so good! My house smelled amazing and dinner was super yummy 🙂

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We had shrimp fried rice …er… quinoa! Last Monday I cooked most of dinner that morning! I have 1 hr from the time I get home from teaching lessons to leaving for band rehearsal, clearly not enough time to prep and cook an entire meal. When I got home I threw the egg rolls in the microwave (hey, if the cooking directions offer oven and microwave instructions, opt for the faster one when time is not on your side), pan cooked the shrimp (which takes maybe 4 minutes?), and dinner was ready! Oh yeah, microwave the quinoa for a few minutes and cover it with a damp paper towel to create steam. A quick and healthy dinner, a much better option than fast food!

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I’ve been on a mushroom kick and last Thursday I found this yummy recipe. I had a leftover mixture of mushrooms/bacon from pork chops the week before and when I saw a honey-dijon chicken recipe topped with bacon and mushrooms, it was like the recipe was waiting to be found.

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Who can resist a good burger? I’m going to dub this one as the Thanksgiving burger. At first I wasn’t really sure of the ingredients and how it would taste but hello, it’s a Rachael Ray recipe so you know it’s gonna be good! I forgot to take an ‘after’ pic but click on the link and you’ll see it there 🙂 . These were super easy to prep and I cooked them on the stove. Also don’t be turned off by the grainy mustard (as I was) – I cut the amount in half so there would just be a hint of it in the cranberry sauce. Basically, it was delish. This is a keeper! Oh, english muffins are the buns (toast them so they don’t become soggy!), so fun! It kept the burger light.

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Last night’s meal was on point! Again, having only 1 hr to eat on Monday’s means getting dinner ready in the morning. These chops were so easy to put together, maybe 20 minutes to prep and cook (totally doable if you need a quick dinner after working a long day!). Since I’d be working when things would need to be reheated I left detailed instructions for my husband to get dinner going, at 4:20 he preheated the oven to bake roasted red potatoes (from the freezer section), after a few minutes he put in the pork chops, the remaining 6 minutes were used to steam veggies in the microwave. I love those steamer bags but these are plain veggies, no extra fatty or sodium filled sauces. Sprinkle some seasoning on the veggies and boom, a lovely side dish. Dinner was ready by 5:05 (I get home at 5pm) and devoured by 5:40.

Don’t ignore the freezer section, you can find some yummy things in those aisles.

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I think I forgot to write about these mini taco cuties last week. So easy and perfect for game days! Use won ton wrappers (I used 2 partially layered on top of each other, for each mini taco), fill with browned/seasoned meat (I used regular ground turkey + chili seasoning + diced onions), top with shredded cheese, and bake for 8 minutes (or until won ton wrappers are golden brown) at 350 degrees. Top with salsa once they’re done! These were scooped up so quickly so if you’re the chef for the day be sure to taste your creation before serving to guests!

Gotta pinch those pennies!

After splurging last week on my grocery trip I needed to pull from a colleague’s blog, all about cooking on a budget. As a fellow music teacher she knows all about making those dollars stretch.  I was inspired by 3 of her recipes and was able to come up with a remix of chicken alfredo, vegetarian quesadillas, and a polenta bake; the remaining 2 recipes for the week are basics: pork chops with new potatoes and veggies, and salmon burgers with a quinoa salad. I seriously planned this menu is record time! Sometime I’m beyond stumped on what to make and today I didn’t feel like dwelling on my grocery trip so I went to her blog, knowing I’d find something yummy! I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past and they were successful.

I’d also like to brag that last night I wrote on my menu board: “goal: leftovers” … WINNER WINNER! I cleared out the remaining containers and put together a real meal for myself! THIS NEVER HAPPENS. My human garbage disposal (aka my husband) takes care of any and all leftovers so I never have a chance to revisit my dishes.  His work schedule was in my favor – there was not enough for both of us. Anywho, with the fridge being cleared out I’m definitely ready for what this next week brings 🙂

On to the remaining of last week’s meals – gourmet grilled cheese (Wed) and blue cheese turkey burgers (Thurs)

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I used smoked provolone cheese and sauteed yellow onions, swapped out regular white bread with sour dough – so good! I brushed the bread with melted butter (you need something to keep it from turning rock hard!).  Nix the mayo (some people use it on grilled cheese).  I baked sweet potato fries; let them soak in evoo/garlic powder/smoked paprika – what a combo. This is absolutely diabetic friendly – surprised? You shouldn’t be if you actually listen to your doctor/nutritionist/dietician. And as always, we had a side salad… because who doesn’t love some greens in their life? It keeps you regular, people!!!

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Who doesn’t love a good burger? 1.5 lbs of ground turkey makes 4 perfect burgers 🙂 It’s cheap too! After I measured each patty, I flattened it out, sprinkled blue cheese in the center and mixed it. After the blue cheese looked to be evenly distributed I formed the patty, done! It was beautiful weather so Josh got to man the grill; he was off on Thursday so I took advantage of me not having to actually cook. I really do loathe cooking on Thursday’s – it’s my longest day with zero breaks, the last thing I want to do is stand for another hour prepping/cooking dinner. I was able to prep the burgers & corn in the morning before I left for work. I had 1 potato leftover from the day before – 1 large sweet potato makes enough fries for 2 people (good to know!).  I microwave-boiled them in quarter size chunks for faster cook time (12 minutes!); once they came out I sprinkled cinnamon, ground nutmeg, s/p, and topped them with hunk of butter… mashed them up in the skins and voila! A perfect side dish.  For the corn: rubbed on butter, sprinkled s/p and parsley, wrap in foil, and grill it. Top each burger with MORE blue cheese and dinner is ready!

Get your cookin’ started! Where do you get your inspiration from … a family cook book, TV shows, your favorite restaurant… tell me!

ice, ice, baby

Well, there goes my hopes of getting things done (outside of the house) today… San Antonio has pretty much shut down.  All school are closed and highways are blocked.  Listen, the weather isn’t bad but this city doesn’t have the trucks to clear icy roads; cars are stuck on overpasses (that are 4+ stories tall… no thank you!). And as I told my husband before he left for work … it’s not him I’m worried about (being from Erie, PA – he knows ice and snow), it’s the other idiot drivers out there.  Of course he called when he got to work to A) let me know he arrived safely and B) inform me about the dummy who tried to be cool and pass everyone, slammed on his brakes at a red light, and swerved sideways into the median, all in front of a cop. See what I mean?

So with that being said, if the roads melt a bit and I get the courage to drive amongst morons then I will head to the grocery store.  The cold front is supposed to be gone by Sunday where it will be back up in the 70’s and then 3 days later, freezing temps at night. This is insane.

Anyway, I have plans on making french onion soup tonight – never made it before and it’s been something on my “you must attempt this” list.

I have not cooked a decent meal since Tuesday. It’s been leftover central up in here! I love it though because I think it’s fun to find different ways to create something by swapping out the “usual”.  For instance, I made loco moco which is a traditional Hawaiian dish but instead of using rice, I used the leftover quinoa mixture from the stuffed peppers.

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So easy: make 4 burger patties, sass up canned gravy by adding extra mushrooms, you can make rice for the bottom, cook up some eggs, and it’s done! It’s really silly how delish this meal is.  We fell in love with it a few years back while in Hawaii. It’s so filling – it’s a “every 6 months” kind of meal; not something we could eat on a regular basis.  Plus it only took 20-ish minutes from start to plate.

Last night I marinated 2 chicken breasts in green chile sauce, pan cooked them, and served over top of the quinoa mixture – Josh loved it.  No one says a certain mixture can’t be used for other dishes.  Me on the other hand whipped up some nasty frozen “fish” filets – they were in the freezer as a back up meal in case I didn’t feel like cooking.  Yeah, do yourself a favor and DO NOT BUY THEM, I will never trust Gorton’s fishermen again. Once you start eating real fish filets from the seafood counter, there’s no turning back to buying the cheap garbage.

So as of Wednesday Josh is back to his 8 week schedule of hardly being home, it’s been nice having him around to help with dinner … he was put on patty duty:

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I will leave you with this fun piece of nutritional info on 1,000 island salad dressing, get ready to be amazed.

IMG_5202 Chelsea introduced a greek yogurt-based dressing to me not too long ago. Yes is absolutely tastes different (not yucky though) however notice the calories, 40 vs. 130 – holy cow! I don’t mind giving up its classic  flavor if it means I’m ingesting something that isn’t as bad for me.  Try it out, this company makes a variety of dressings (ranch, blue cheese, 1,000 island… ) Bolt House – got try it!

Oh lovely, it’s raining again.

This little piggie was full, full, full.

We officially gave our property management a 60 day notice to us moving out! WOOHOO!!! We were approved for our VA loan and the lead contractor on our house says Nov. 20 is a firm closing date. We have our rental until the end of Nov. so we can take our time moving the small stuff, no rush!  I will have an amazing kitchen and an actual music studio/office and Josh will have his man-cave 🙂 .  We can’t wait to spread out.

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In the mean time, I will put up with my current small/nasty kitchen for another 30 days and cook delish meals, to the best of my ability.  Having friends to help is a Godsend, chatting & drinking takes away the constant thought of how disgusting the kitchen is.

Let’s get to it, my menu changed mid-week because we decided to go to dollar beer night at the Rampage hockey game (Friday) so I needed an easy dinner.  Chelsea made her sword fish on Thursday, spaghetti squash moved to Friday, and I made the chicken marsala on Monday. If you know food won’t go bad feel free to moves things around, no one said your menu was set in stone.

Friday – spaghetti squash with quinoa/pork meatballs
You will need to put in some extra muscle for this meal. Holy cow, I seriously worked up a sweat between trying to cut the squash in half and then scraping the seeds + “spaghetti” out; I was so tired when dinner was done.  I couldn’t cut through the first squash, thank goodness Cory was here. The second squash was easier, smaller ones are not as tough but then you don’t get as much “meat” from them.

I got this recipe from Emily, a college classmate – her blog is all about cooking on a budget and the meals are healthy! So for all y’all complaining on FB “eating right is expensive… it’s too hard to find healthy meals that taste good… I don’t know how to shop for healthy foods” STOP IT!  Quit your belly aching and do some reading, educate yourself and you’ll quickly realize changing your diet is incredibly simple. I mentioned it a few weeks back, just by changing my diet I lost 6 pounds in 1 month. Just to note, I am a somewhat active person but I don’t go to the gym.

Anyway, back to the squash + meatballs.

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Spaghetti squash has zero flavor so you must add seasoning. Emily’s recipe called for sour cream, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes.  While I did not have sour cream (I hate s.c. at this point, I had to make 3 trips to the store because I kept running out of it last week. I refused to go back again.), I used a TON of cheddar cheese which melted nicely, get some s & p on there with the red pepper flakes – you’ve got yourself a tasty dish!  The quinoa meatballs were incredibly easy and took 20 minutes from start to finish. You’ll spend most of the time on the squash so the meatballs can be saved until the end or they will dry out from sitting around.

Monday – chicken marsala
WOW what a simple dish! I always thought it was this complex Italian meal that would take hours. Nope, maybe 30 minutes! For a protein and vegetable, of course we added a side salad, but this is a complete meal that people will be impressed with.

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What can be easier than coating butterflied chicken breasts in flour, cooking them on the stove for 5 minutes on each side (you can do 1 at a time and just stack them in a dish so they stay warm), throw 2 large packages of mushrooms in the same pan when the chicken is done … boom, dinner is ready.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, and butter – honestly though, I started at 7 and we were at the table by 7:45. The extra 15 minutes includes pulling out the ingredients, setting everything up, etc. plus setting the table and serving our plates.  Now this recipe calls for prosciutto which I left out, didn’t miss it.  My wallet appreciated the left out ingredient as well 😉 .

Tuesday – sloppy joes
HOMEMADE! None of that canned Manwich crap (which is incredibly delish but not the best healthy eating choice out there)
I’ll have to get the exact recipe from Chelsea but I believe she combined a recipe she already knew with a recipe from the Pioneer Woman’s blog.  BTW, love the Pioneer Woman. I think she might be the next cook I turn to for more inspiration.  Rachel Ray, while I love you and your “burger of the day” … I can’t stand how many ingredients your meals call for (like she’s actually reading this, HA!).

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Use any kind of meat, we had turkey and fake meat (hence the double stir action happening); halve *uncooked* biscuits, put cheese on one side, pile on the meat, and put in the oven to bake (until biscuits are golden brown). These were amazing and not sloppy! I know, totally defeats the name but these would be awesome for football Sunday’s or parties. Everything is contained in its own little biscuit of goodness. I ate 3 plus a side salad, Josh ate 5 (he’s so gross! LOL!) – between 4 adults I think 16 sandwiches were made and we have 2 leftover. Hello! Talk about being piggies last night. Whatever, you can indulge every once in a while.

Tonight’s line up is pretzel bun hot dog minis (stacked with cheese & sauerkraut), Thursday is shrimp scampi pizza (courtesy of Chelsea), and Friday calls for homemade pierogies + sauerkraut.

STAY TUNED & HAPPY COOKING!!!!

Go ahead, clog your arteries!

I love waking up on a Saturday and realizing we have nothing planned for the day. I can enjoy my coffee (BONUS: finish it before it gets cold); I flip between HGTV and cooking channels; and figure out what this week will bring in yummy dinner delights. My plan for repeating dinners has been great, I remember the recipes and already have the pantry ingredients which means less time at the grocery store. I guess I need to update you on a few days, of course all very hectic!

Tuesday actually wasn’t too bad but I got mad when I realized I purchased “sub” rolls instead of the normal “slider” rolls for my Hawaiian Ham & Swiss Sandwiches.  You know what, it actually turned out for the better.  It was so messy when I made it the first time, the lunch meat slid all over the place and cheese became a slimy mess; don’t let that scare you – it was and still is my favorite sandwich for dinner. The sub rolls made it easier to fit the meat and cheese perfectly.  This time around to make it a bit less messy (and better for you), I didn’t add butter to the mustard/Worcestershire sauce.   Josh and I agreed that we didn’t miss the butter; I sauteed onions, honey mustard (I don’t care for Dijon mustard), and Worcestershire  – it turned out great. When everything was ready to go in the oven I stuck toothpicks in each sandwich just to ensure they’d stay together. Since the bread was dry from not using butter, I had to cover the dish with foil about half way through so the bread wouldn’t burn. I made a side salad to accompany the sandwiches and dinner was served. Easy!

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my changes: no butter in mustard/Worcestershire sauce; used ham and turkey lunch meat

On to Wednesday … I prepped lasagna rolls before lessons even started; this is a perfect dish that you can keep in the fridge until dinnertime.  If you love lasagna but don’t love the cooking time, opt for these rolls.  You’ll get the same dish in about half the time. You can make it as healthy as you’d like; spinach is a super food for Josh so I added more than what the recipe called for.  I always purchase the fat free, low fat, or light versions of the called for ingredients or you can purchase the fatty stuff and feel your arteries clog as you eat; just sayin’.  I’ve made it in the past adding diced mushrooms; I’m guessing whatever you’d layer a lasagna with, you can add it “diced” to the ricotta mixture.  Again, served a side salad; another easy dinner.

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Thursday I was treated to dinner with one of my piano families. I hate losing students to a military move but am thankful for Skype; I’ll be able to teach her even being in a different time zone.

Josh was left to fend for himself… he managed to survive.

FRIDAY, FRIDAY, GOTTA GET DOWN ON FRIDAY! (You’re welcome) If my blog becomes as popular as Rebecca Black, my life will be complete. Seriously. 😉
Mexican Stuffed Peppers – a new recipe, but who doesn’t love stuffed peppers?! I about died when I purchased stupid quinoa, that crap is expensive! $*#^&$^^%&!!!!  Rice would have made the dish “heavy” (and technically unhealthy) so in my opinion, pay for the quinoa because it was worth it. Also for two people I could have cut the quinoa in half, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa made a butt load of leftovers which I will use on Sunday 🙂 Josh was actually left to prepare most of the dish while I taught lessons, I chopped everything and wrote on a note pad what he needed to do. He sent a text to inform me of the amount of cooked quinoa … I had to quickly text back that he should save it (didn’t need another cheesy chicken debacle, lol). To spice it up a bit, we used 1 can of mild enchilada sauce and 1 can of medium… yeah, too spicy for me!  I have weak taste buds but I know Josh loves spicy food so I tried it for him; I could only eat one pepper. I’ll stick to mild sauce only and maybe heat a small sauce pan with medium sauce then spoon it over his peppers next time. Half way through eating Josh realized it was a meatless meal and then I reminded him of the lasagna rolls… also meatless.  He was impressed that I could find such tasty recipes sans meat, that didn’t leave him hungry afterwards.

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Remember the diabetic dessert I wrote about the other day? It was a huge success; we both love it.  Since a.f.c. is so sugary, it balanced out the other ingredients that were f.f. or s.f.; you wouldn’t think it was a “diet” dessert.  Josh checked his sugars before eating a small square, it was 88 so he took 2 units of insulin to be safe (every 15g of carbs = 1 unit of insulin); after eating the dessert he checked it again and it was only 105! For those of you not having to live a diabetic life style, he could have taken only 1 unit of insulin to balance out this dessert.  This means the dessert isn’t really all that “bad” for you. So eat up and enjoy a no-bake cherry cake (one square per day, don’t be greedy) 🙂

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