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!

 

 

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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!

 

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.

 

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Another lasagna in the books … very different from any I’ve ever made before. 

This one had a cottage cheese filling/sauce so how could I say ‘no’ to Josh’s favorite snack item? Cottage cheese is a great super food for diabetics. He eats it by the container which grossed me out at first but now I know to buy it weekly.  I’ve taken a liking to it as well. 

This is the second recipe I’ve made that called for cottage cheese as a major ingredient, if you remember Moussaka … (something passed down from my mom).  

Okay this lasagna is so easy, Josh helped cook the veggies while I boiled the noodles & chopped different ingredients. I’m telling you, a duo is really helpful when trying to rush dinner and have it finished by the time friends arrive *permanently* from Vegas.  Our friends finally arrived last night after a horrendous 3 day drive – we’re talking 3 blown tires on a Uhaul along stretches of highway where there weren’t any exits in sight.  As soon as they walked in the door, a beer met their hands in minutes. We treat our guests right.  So they’re staying with us until they find a super hip loft in downtown SA. We love having them here!!!! 

Almost step by step pictures:

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Have to throw in a photo of Sous Chef Geno … so cute sticking his tongue out 🙂

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Poor Mickey was so confused with the hustle & bustle happening in the kitchen.

Since none of my casserole dishes are big enough, we actually had extra ingredients to make not only the large lasagna you see in the pictures but also a small meatloaf size lasagna.  I think it’s time I have a sufficient casserole dish that can hold a bit more.

farfalle … ain’t nobody got time for that

Another day of rain … good grief.  At least yesterday was BEAUTIFUL! It was a bit chilly in the morning but the afternoon warmed up nicely. The last 3 days we’ve had the windows open and AC off, I love this kind of weather! I was telling Josh the other night, San Antonio summers last longer than Vegas summers. Vegas is in a valley and when cold weather swoops in, it stays put and gets incredibly windy. We’re talking 30mph winds, trash cans flying around streets and dust storms blinding you. While it’s not super chilly, the wind is a total buzz kill; you can’t open windows or gritty sand will soon be covering your window sills and floors.   Even though I’m absolutely ready for cooler temps I’ll take crisp mornings turning into 80 degrees over 30mph dust storms any day.

So with cooler temps we usually start cooking “winter food” – think, stews, chili, soups … hearty dishes. Josh cooks up a mean chili and I can’t wait for the perfect day for him to make it. I asked him a few weeks ago and he reminded, you can’t rush perfection. Trust me though, when he makes it, he’ll have an entire blog post dedicated to him.

For today, it’s my creations 🙂  I dipped my toes into the water for a few “winter dishes” …

A hearty mushroom and spinach pasta (Wednesday) and gnocchi with chicken breasts (Thursday).

These are such easy dishes …

Saute diced onions, garlic, sliced mushrooms, and spinach while boiling the pasta in a separate pot.

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Once the pasta is al dente and the mushroom/spinach mixture is mostly cooked down, add the pasta and let everything finish cooking … be sure to stir! Educational moment: if you see a recipe call for “farfalle pasta” … it’s bow tie pasta! I wish they’d just use the names you’d see on a store shelf.  Good luck looking for a 6 oz. bag of farfalle 😉 .

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Since pasta is a “bad food” item for Josh and his diabetes, I added a side salad made up of dark greens. Now, spinach and mushrooms are “good food” items so overall, the dish balances itself out. Top the pasta with shredded parm and a garlic knot – there ya go. A hearty dish prepared, cooked, and served in maybe 20 minutes.  No sauce is needed – white or red … salt the pasta water accordingly while it’s boiling and add s/p to the spinach/mushrooms. There’s enough flavor from that for you to not miss a sauce.

Here’s another easy one, the gnocchi takes some supervision but only while they’re boiling.  Once you add them to the separate pan for the corn and onions to be added, you can relax … You should have already put the chicken in the oven … multi-task for quicker dinners!!!!

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Chicken first: butterfly 2 chicken breasts (decreases the cook time 🙂 who doesn’t like that?!)  I didn’t want just plain s/p chicken so I coated them in Stubb’s bbq sauce. Pop in the oven for 25ish minutes around 375-400 (depending how finicky your oven is, mine is a POS).

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Boil the gnocchi just like a pasta – once they float to the top, they are done.  Drain and move them to a separate pan, add corn and green onions. Salt and pepper that pan up! Gnocchi are globs of potato dough = NO FLAVOR. I used canned sweet corn and the onions are a necessary boost of flavor. Let that sit for the remaining time of the chicken, keep the stove top on low-ish. I wouldn’t cover it though, it’d probably turn the gnocchi and corn soggy from the steam.

Chicken’s done … plate it up – 35 minutes from start to finish. A filling and flavorful dish that I’m sure anyone would love.

Even with diabetes looming over our house, this isn’t a horrible dinner.  Chicken is a great source of protein which means it balances out the usage of corn and gnocchi – both of those are “bad starches”; actually not just for Josh but for humankind.   Just be sure your weekly menu isn’t filled with crap, if you eat 3 or 4 healthy meals per week, 1 or 2 “bad” meals won’t hurt you.

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Even our furbabies got some tasty treats the other night … marrow bones for the 2 big dummies and a pig’s ear for my little nugget.   QUIETEST NIGHT IN OUR HOUSE. The dogs kept to themselves for the entire evening, it was amaze-balls.  We must remember this for when we have guests over.

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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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