flip it, change it … rearrange it.

I caved. I put up all of my Halloween decorations. Plus fall decorations (minus a few Turkey’s; one holiday at a time THANK YOU).  The last Halloween I decorated for was 3 years ago, in 2012 we had our wedding and then moved, again in 2013 we were packing to move into our new house… so yeah. With that being said some of the items have seen better days, candles melted, things were beyond squished, and I couldn’t figure out a few other things, lol! So I guess when things are looking a little sad it’s time to find new decorations to replace them.  It’s good to update what you already own, kind of like food…

Look at what you’re eating and see if there’s a way to revamp it; cut out food that doesn’t look fresh, bring in colorful veggies, or buy 1 beginner cookbook and make a promise to try a few new recipes. Trying something new for the first time can be scary but the outcome becomes better and better each time, you have to start somewhere.

That was my experiment for the last few days, I took known favorites and did something new with them.

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We often have fish and pork chops so those were at the top of my list to have a make over.  For the fish I used a lemon vinaigrette recipe but changed one of the sides by using cabbage instead of radicchio. I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out but it was sooooo good! The sauce was so flavorful; it made the cabbage/bean side edible (we know those 2 items have ZERO flavor). The fish was lightly coated in flour and quickly pan cooked to create a slight crust then I finished it in the oven at a low temp. for maybe 15 minutes. We needed a starch and I had a bag of baby red potatoes, whipped up an easy version of rusty mashed potatoes. I quartered the potatoes, placed them in a bowl filled with water (covering the potatoes), and microwaved them for 15 minutes while the fish baked.  I then gave them a rough mash, added garlic powder and cheese, done! Oh, also milk and sour cream to help with the mashing.

On to the pork chops where I used a Trisha Yearwood recipe. The cut of chops were awful and made it quite difficult to make them pretty. I didn’t have thick chops but usually with the thin cut I can put “stuffing” in the middle and wrap the meat around, securing with a tooth pick.  This meat was paper thin and tearing from every way possible.  I made it work somehow and it turned out okay. I didn’t have any sides in mind so I scanned my pantry and grabbed hese tomato-basil noodles, given to us from a friend (the house we watched over), then over to my fridge which had leftover veggies.

Classic ingredients made over; it was rough trying something new but in the end I’m glad that I did because next time I know what to do and not to do – you learn each time you cook!

I made a special breakfast on Sunday … my husband surprised me with breakfast last weekend at a yummy cafe so I surprised him this past weekend. I’ve made a frittata once before and we loved it so here’s another one! I used the foundation of one that the Pioneer Woman cooked, changing some ingredients.  Really though, you can use whatever you want in one of these! I used: canned/pre diced potatoes (this is a Sunday morning we’re talking about, ain’t no one got time for dicing!), canned mushrooms (read previous statement about dicing), onions (I cut those myself, thank you), and red peppers (from a jar too). I added cheese, LOTS OF CHEESE – parm & cheddar. I had to up the cooking time to 45 minutes, the eggs were not setting like I had hoped, no biggie though.

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I guess this could be one of our favorite dishes too, spaghetti and meatballs. I took my world famous meatball recipe (as in, famous in this house) and added shredded parm cheese … soooo good.  Just remember that with parm cheese you don’t have to add a lot of salty, it’s a very salty cheese.

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THESE WERE FUN! Spaghetti squash burrito bowls. AWESOME-SAUCE!  The blog post where I got the recipe from was lacking some instructions but I figured it all out.  Bake the squash ‘meat’ side down on a lined baking sheet – 425 for 45 minutes, the ‘meat’ will scoop right out, no effort needed. Use whatever veggies you might order at say, Chipotle or Freebirds, and boom, done! I used canned corn, canned black beans, 2 green bell peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 red onion diced, cilantro, fajita seasoning, cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  Layer everything like a lasagna in the squash shell: cheese, veggies, squash, cheese, veggies, squash, more cheese, salsa & sour cream. We each went back for 2 helpings – it didn’t leave us feeling gross but we were definitely full. I’d suggest 1 squash per person, you serve the burrito bowl in one of the halves. This recipe is staying in rotation. LOVE!

Go find “old” recipes and brainstorm how you can make them over. Add a new sauce or try to make a meat dish into a vegetarian dish (swap a steak for shrimp), even if it’s 1 ingredient that you change (I added parm cheese to my meatballs, they tasted new to us!) it can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to change up your routine.

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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!

Redemption!

By now I’ve got about 15 new recipes under my belt… it’s time to start repeating our favorites (reuse your ingredients before they go bad!!!!).  It’s nice to ask Josh, “Hey, do you want ham and swiss Hawaiian rolls for dinner?” and he knows what I’m talking about!  I used to ask “what do you want for dinner?” and his answer “whatever”.  Surely he doesn’t mean “whatever” but honestly if I served up a bowl of cereal, he’d be content.  Boys are creatures of habit and I have finally figured out that no matter what I cook, he will eat it or else he’ll be in the pantry for cereal.

Last night was a repeat and it was even better than the first time! I make sure to write down improvements or things I didn’t care for on each recipe.  If you tweak a recipe so much from the original and it still isn’t what you expected, I’d say it’s time to toss that recipe. Third time’s the charm, right?  Back to the turkey burgers we devoured last night, I made them about a month ago and felt it was time to bring it back and make it better.   Once again Martha Stewart has a winner *SHOCK!*; Dijon mustard, Swiss cheese (my substitute for Gruyere cheese), breadcrumbs, and scallions.

Yeah so, the two grocery stores near my house do not have Gruyere… it’s a little too fancy for this area and I haven’t been able to find it at the commissary either.  I’m sure Whole Foods has it but that’s a 20ish minute drive- just for cheese, LOL.  I looked up substitutes and I’d have to say those cheese lovers out there were passionate about what you could actually use as a sub for Gruyere cheese.  I committed a sin by using Swiss (by their terms) but anything they suggested, womp womp womp, the stores didn’t have those as well!  One guy suggested Swiss cheese and he got chewed out! NO! How dare you insult the flavor of Gruyere by using Swiss! CONDEM YOU TO EATING FAST FOOD FOR LIFE!  I went with the guy who got yelled at and decided “I’ve got your back, bro”, let’s try Swiss cheese. Needless to say, the burger didn’t poof up in flames for using such a low class cheese… the burger was super duper

Here are a few pictures from last night’s dinner
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1) veggie medley: green peppers, red onions, yellow squash, zucchini & any marinade of your choice! Lawry’s has a herb and lemon sauce, so good! I’ve also used the Kraft Anything dressings, roasted red pepper is our favorite. Stick in the oven on 400 for about 30 min (cover is you notice the veggies starting to brown on the edges). I prepped this dish in the morning before I started my day, use your newly purchased mandolin… it took me maybe 5 minutes. Plus they got to marinate alllllllllll day in yummy goodness.
2) sweet potato fries: admit it, everyone loves a good french fry every once in a while.  These are obviously the healthier option over regular fries. Pop these in for the last 15 minutes of the veggies.
3) turkey burger: you know it, had to stick in the oven with Josh working late. I’m still scared to use the grill.  I put these and the fries in the oven together, when the veggies & fries were done, I switched on the broiler (HI) for maybe 5 minutes just to brown the meat. The turkey was cooked to perfection, nice and juicy!  How to make it better (IMO): add more shredded cheese and mustard. As much as I hate mustard, I love cheese.  The two flavors balance each other out and who doesn’t love EXTRA cheese?!

Since everything was in the oven at the same time, Josh decided that we should two-step around the kitchen… rather, in a small circle which led to me becoming dizzy.  A few circles, a spin, and a dip… ok back to dinner.  He’s so cute with his WBS (white boy syndrome), has to concentrate on the steps and counting. I give him a “A” for effort. My music skills are starting to rub off on him.

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1) want to cut calories? Use the 100 calorie bread, you won’t feel gross after eating this burger; you’ll want to actually eat the veggies and fries.
2) toppings! I had some leftover red onion from my veggie medley, pickles (FREE FOOD CHOICE: NO CARBS!!), and Swiss cheese. Don’t forget your ketchup and mustard!

A delish dinner for the start of the week, redemption from that beef flavored spaghetti on Friday. Tonight I’ll be making the ham and Swiss rolls as mentioned earlier…. You’ve got the recipe, now try it! They are very messy, FYI. I will be adding toothpicks to hold them together while being served (learned that the hard way the first time around).

TURKEY BURGER RECIPE
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