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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back to life, back to reality …

You’re welcome if you’ve got En Vogue stuck in your head now. Oh, you didn’t before but now you do? My job is done.

I’m finally back on track! I haven’t spent my usual $80-90 for a week’s worth of groceries in a LOOOOOONG time. That’s what the holiday’s will do to ya! My cooking routine is normal once again as well because as I tried to eat Kraft Man n’ Cheese on Sunday night, my tummy gave me a big “F YOU” and probably the middle finger. Proof that I need to stick to healthy eating.

I can’t believe that I used to be able to eat an entire box of mac n’ cheese; the other night I got through 1 bowl and felt so incredibly sick. I guess the rest of those boxes are going to the food bank. I had purchased a 12 pack at Sam’s Club BEFORE we found out about the Diabetes; I donated 6 to a food drive a few months ago but I held on to the rest for an emergency snack situation. The new emergency was how my stomach was feeling. HA!

This week has an amazing line up – Monday was a German inspired pork chop with a side of brown rice/mushrooms; last night we had feta/spinach sausages and a baked sweet potato.

You have to know by now that we love pork chops – they are so cheap! Buy them already butterflied to make cooking time faster, plus it’ll look like you’re eating a huge piece of meat when in fact you’re not.  Recall that saying “you eat with your eyes”? Totally true! Even my husband was shocked at how big the chops were and I informed him they were just butterflied … a healthy deception.

This recipe is simple but  you’ll need some time to slice everything, get out your mandolin to help.  For 2 people, I used half a large jar of sauerkraut, 1 apple, 1 medium onion, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 table of caraway seeds. We have a small storage containers worth left over but it is so good served cold, making extra is okay 🙂 .

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Those of you who follow a Diabetic diet would know apples are a huge no-no with the natural sugars they contain. Yes, if you eat an apple by itself your sugars will spike however mixing them with protein and other veggies, it ends up balancing out.  I went easy with the brown sugar because well, it’s sugar! I put just enough in to cut through the bitterness of the sauerkraut – my husband didn’t even taste the sugar which is what I was going for, he only noticed the sauerkraut wasn’t so’ sauer’ 😉 .

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Simple side dish, you don’t need a formal recipe to make this. Boil a small box of chicken stock and 1 cup of water – pour in rice (I used just over 1 cup … the rice absorbed the stock so quickly, which is what the extra water is for), let it cook for 5 minutes – add sliced mushrooms – bring back to a boil – now simmer/cover for 15ish minutes. Done. You’ll need salt … or any kind of seasoning you’d put on steamed veggies (lemon/herb … garlic salt … whatever!).

So yeah, that was Monday. Now on to last night.

A slight cheat… I bought prepackaged feta and spinach stuffed sausages, added a delish baked potato, and a fun ‘hint of spring’ salad.  No “real” cooking occurred but that’s okay, it’s still better than that drive through line!  For you grillers out there, yes the sausages should have been grilled but the wind was like a tornado and actually knocked ours over. Yes, very windy. So onto the stove they went.

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For the sweet potatoes (Again, you don’t need a formal recipe! Just start cooking!) – poke ’em with a fork, spread EVOO all over, cover in salt, and let sit.  OMG these were the BEST ones I’ve made! They sat the entire day, just soaking in the EVOO and salt. My husband was in charge of cooking these since he got home before me, so I had to include instructions. It’s the teacher side of me, I can’t help it. What teacher doesn’t love stickies?!

 

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The sausages took 20 minutes on the stove (put in a pan of water, submerging half of the sausage), cover and cook on medium/high. Easy. Okay the ‘hint of spring’ salad: orange wedges! That’s it 😉 I mean, yes to lettuce, sliced carrots, and cucumbers … but the simple addition of oranges was a nice treat. My husband and I split 1 orange as to not send him into a sugar coma (those are real, stop laughing! 😉 ). A different topping choice for the sweet potatoes was cinnamon honey pecan cream cheese. You put those things in a typical casserole right? Why not a baked potato? Shoot, it was so yummy! Of course I picked up ranch salad dressing from my new favorite brand, Bolthouse. I’ll be using it again tomorrow on a pizza. I actually don’t like ranch but this one was goooooooood.  It wasn’t sweet or thick because it doesn’t use buttermilk; yogurt is the base. Plus only 45 calories per serving.

And to continue the trend of my snooping dogs …. bingo: sausages were opened. They came running.

 

We Survived the Holidays

Sort of.

I didn’t feel like cooking the day after my family had left. We decided to try out a burger place near by … it kept popping up on my dad’s phone as a place to try; that marketing sure did work.

I’ve got to give this place credit for cooking delish burgers, perfectly seasoned with a ton of toppings to choose from.  The grease on the other hand (and face and dripping down your chin) was not gentle on our tummies.  Good grief we needed a roll of paper towels while eating! I don’t understand why so much grease is needed for a freakin’ burger!  I was in pain right away and Josh was hurting the whole next day. So while we did incredibly well over the holidays we completely face planted the day after. It goes to show once you commit to a certain way of living (see, I didn’t say “diet”) your body doesn’t want you to go back! NEVER. GOING. TO. BOBBY J’s. AGAIN.

I had to get back on track this week with some healthy meals.  I kept it simple with salsa chicken, sweet potato burritos, and today will be a slow cooker kind of day with meatball minestrone soup.  It’s darn cold enough to have a hearty soup!

Salsa chicken couldn’t get any easier … chicken breasts, taco seasoning, and salsa. DONE! I made a version of this in my slow cooker once before and it didn’t turn out so great, the chicken was really dry.  I love this oven version and will definitely make it again. I picked up some Spanish rice – of course I didn’t look at the box to see it required me to add my own tomatoes. WHAT?! Since when? Thankfully I had a can of zesty green chile and diced tomatoes in my pantry. Phew.

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We ran out of spinach, oops.  So I snacked on grape tomatoes and mini corn while I was cooking.  It didn’t spoil my dinner, don’t worry. I literally had 3 of each to get my veggies in and a yogurt thousand island by Bolthouse Farms… try it out. Yes it tastes different than what you’re used to but the calories drop from 140 per serving to 35. HELLO! Thank you Miss Chelsea.

You might be cringing at the idea of sweet potato burritos but oh man are these SO GOOD! With the combo of spices it tasted like a sweet chili. Don’t let your stomach rule how many burritos you put on your plate – 2 was plenty. Josh barely finished the 2 large burritos I served him. Success! This meal could be vegan if I omitted cheese. Tell me, how many of you would be really turned off if I started this with “I made a vegan dish last night”. It only means everything used was grown/planted… not derived from an animal! No seafood, meat, or dairy (minus my cheese). Another dish that I’ll add to my recipe rotation. **I left out the water, I didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t want soupy potatoes.**

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Yes you are seeing that right … an upside down apron, so clever! Another cute gift from my parents.  It’s your measuring chart, just look down. I love it. And I am chief of quality control … the potatoes were good on their own. I had to resist until dinner was ready.