time to kick off the holiday season

The Rockettes were just on TV so I had to go there …

And if you’d like to be able to high kick like those girls may I suggest that you don’t stuff your face silly with “all the dressings” at the dining room table. Once again I’m on the hunt for diabetic friendly Thanksgiving recipes, I’ve found a few including one that is supposed to mimic a sweet potato casserole but with squash instead. It’s all about the spices to be honest – color is the same and texture is close so if it can also smell appetizing I think it’ll be a hit. I also researched a rub for the turkey instead of brining it like we did last year. It was good but let’s try something new shall we?! I think a ham might go on the grill depending the number of guests we have. Friends will bring a green bean casserole, stuffing, and appetizers. OH! I’ve done a run through of a pumpkin pie and it’s safe to say it was a success!

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The recipe was not enough to fill my spring form pan so it will be doubled for Thanksgiving. I used a small casserole dish instead but was impossible to serve. Although after watching Good Eats last night, I might purchase a tart pan. Back to the pie, it’s crust-less and almost sugar-less! Instead of a 1/3 cup of sugar I used 4 tsp of Stevia and it tasted gooooood. It needed more pumpkin pie spice and I will add cinnamon per request from my husband. Suggested by the recipe was to crumble ginger snaps, sprinkle on top of each slice along with dark chocolate chips. That helped to add texture since there isn’t a crust. This was a huge deal and my husband was very appreciative; I do not bake… not a fan of it because it has to be precise (there’s no option to add your own twist to things) and most of the time you have to wait 2-24 hours before eating any of it. Stupid desserts need to cool down for a day … dinner is ready as soon as it comes off the stove.

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Had some favorites last week, cheeseburger pie (added mushrooms since they were leftover) and quesadillas (chicken, spinach, onions, 1 red bell pepper, and whole wheat tortillas … topped with sour cream, salsa, and a chunk of avocado).

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A new recipe I tried last week was a shepherds pie (I’ve never had it before!). It was pretty easy to make and very yummy! I had originally found a Campbells Soup recipe and as I rattled it off to my husband he said it wasn’t even remotely close so I found a new recipe and it was a success. Of course it was because it’s an Alton Brown recipe! I cheated with instant mashed potatoes (2 small packets), skipped the addition of an egg, didn’t miss it. I also used ground turkey instead of Lamb. My time and wallet are precious, do what you need to do to make dinner at your household 😉

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Staples so far this week: chicken bombs and butternut squash soup.

Monday’s chicken bombs were the best yet. I don’t know what it was but they were extra yummy… I added sides of mushroom orzo and peas, kept it simple.

The soup was almost a disaster because I followed the recipe, ha! It instructed to bake the squash for only 20 minutes (to make it soft) and I knew better, it needed at least 45-60 minutes. I was also rushed but you know the saying “do it right the first time” … yeah, I wasted more time trying to fix things and clean up a huge mess. After 20 min. I tossed the veggies in my soup pot, covered with all the liquid, attempted to mash it before using my immersion blender. Umm… nothing mashed. IT WAS SOLID AS A ROCK. Liquid flew all over the tile back splash (now I know where the name comes from 😉 ). Awesome. It’s all covered with liquid and now I must dump it in a blender. By the way, it had been simmering for 20 minutes as another attempt to soften the veggies … so not only is it hard as a rock it’s also scalding hot! Soup splattered everywhere as I transferred it from the pot to the blender, the blender was filled too high so I poured it in a large measuring cup since it was near by. More splatter. I blended everything in 2 batches, pouring the chunky/baby food textured “soup” back into the pot, it tasted good but the texture was nasty. I partially chewed the soup. I cooked it down some more and busted out the immersion blender again … that little device saved it. It was so smooth after that and the soup actually looked like soup. My husband missed an exciting afternoon! When he came home he got an ear full while cooking the grilled cheese (at 9:30pm) … I don’t do grilled cheese. I burn the bread and the cheese manages to not melt. Riddle me that. Yes, I ate that late which I know is not healthy but with our schedules we don’t get to eat dinner together often. I at least ate my soup earlier and waiting to share a grilled cheese with him ❤ .

So the rest of this week & next week will be “figure friendly recipes” that are restaurant favorites (i.e. BAKED general tso’s chicken, pesto salmon … yummmm); we must prepare for Thanksgiving … shed the last few pounds right before adding them back on, lol. Let’s all be thankful for the food we eat, the family and friends we share it with, and a lovely house to make memories in.

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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.

Halloween decorations > Halloween candy

With it officially being fall I’m debating when to bust out my 5 storage tubs of Autumn/Halloween/Thanksgiving decorations. It is cooling off maybe 1 degree less each day but it’s still hard to think Halloween is a month-ish away with 90 degree days going strong. With Halloween around the corner we have to stock up on candy and be more prepared than last year. We ran out of 3 bags with in an hour or so! Lots of kids … but that was in our old neighborhood, I don’t know many kids we’ll get this year being in a new neighborhood where only 1/2 of the houses are completed. I know we’re a healthy house now but there’s no way I can’t pass out yummy, sugary goodness… we all have a guilty pleasure. I like passing out candy and seeing all of the kids in hopefully creative costumes, they get 2 pieces of candy and the teenagers who put on a mask get 1. Yes, I have a ranking system. If the costume is amazingly over the top they get 3 (a rare occurrence). I just wish candy isn’t so expensive – 3 bags of the good stuff costs about 1/2 of what my weekly trips are! Proves that eating right is better for your wallet – cut out the candy and save mega bucks. I always prefer decorating over buying candy; decorations can be recycled.

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On to our meals for the past few days …

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Who doesn’t love a casserole? 😉 I know, most of you cringe at the word but c’mon they make dinner easy and this one is a throwback to one my mother would cook up. I posted this picture on Instagram and a rude lady commented that she’d NEVER make this … her username was “diva” something or another, go figure. Well lady, just la-ti-da for you – I’m sorry that you’re missing out on the best casseroles ever and don’t know how to enjoy the simpler things in life. YOUR LOSS!

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I’ve made these once before and they were just as tasty. Gotta love a good Philly cheesesteak that you can make in your own kitchen, especially here in Texas.  I’ve heard of one restaurant that supposedly makes bomb.com cheesesteaks but it’s a 45-60 min. drive … yeah, I’ll keep to my kitchen.

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Y’all are gonna think I’m crazy, I’ve never done this before and I regret it so hard! I don’t really care for “naked” drum sticks (no bbq sauce) but I put a small blob of butter under the skin and the chicken turned out so juicy! I also doubled up on seasoning, under the skin and around the entire drum stick. I let them marinate for the day and they turned out great. I’m seriously doing this EVERY TIME from NOW ON. Bake for an hour at 350-375.

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This was a new recipe from the diabetic magazine I told you about in my last post.  Maple-mustard turkey thighs with tiny potatoes. Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or high for 3-3 1/2 hours.  You’ll need to spoon the leftover sauce over your plate once it’s all served up; the inner turkey thigh was a little dry and could have used a bit of the sauce. It was yummy and my house smelled amazing!

1 lbs tiny new potatoes (quartered)
4 turkey thighs (2-2 1/2 lbs total), skin removed –> BTW it was super easy to remove the skin with a paring knife
1/3 cup grainy brown mustard
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp quick cooking tapioca

1. Place potatoes at the bottom of the slow cooker. Arrange turkey thighs on top.
2. In a small bowl stir mustard, syrup, and tapioca.  Pour mixture over turkey.
3. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hrs or high for 3-3 1/2 hrs.

Serve turkey & potatoes topped with the maple/mustard sauce.

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!

To give thanks … part 3

What’s the second best thing about Thanksgiving? LEFTOVERS!

I took a cue from Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman. I was watching her show and she stacked up the most amazing day after Thanksgiving panini. We don’t have a panini press so a hoagie roll had to make do.

I decided to not serve canned cranberries at our fabulous Thanksgiving feast but let’s face it, they are my favorite part of the holiday! With all of the amazing dishes that were made one would think, how do you still love that giggly canned formed crap? How does one not love it?! I used to mix up/confuse cranberries and beets on the reg when I was a kid, I love both though. So no biggie, I saved it for leftover sandwiches; I had to get my fix of this amazing canned product. Bust out all of the containers and top your sandwich as you please. Squish it all down, microwave for a minute and voila! Lunch is ready!!

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To give thanks … part 2

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Phew-wee! It couldn’t have been easier, honestly. May I suggest frying a turkey for anyone reading this blog.  My dad is cringing as he reads this, he is the ultimate grill master. I never recall a Thanksgiving where the turkey was indoors. In fact, most meats were grilled… mom was in charge of sides and dad took care of the protein.

Anyway, we set the turkey to brine on Wednesday night and just let it sit for 16 hours (Thank you, Alton Brown). DONE. Washed it off at 3pm (the next day), let it get to room temp & then off it went to the oil. 40 minutes and it was done. What? No 8 hour cooking time in my oven so I can’t cook anything else? Not this year! It was the best thing EVER!!!

You’ve already read “part 1” of this blog so you know what I cooked up.  Here’s the order it all went down.

Bake the sweet potatoes at 9am, cooled and then prepped as the recipe called for.  I opted to not do the twice baked part; I turned it into a regular casserole. I was having issues not tearing the skin while scooping the “meat” out. Hey, last minute changes are okay.

Start the green beans at 11am, cook the beans and mushrooms and prep entire casserole.  Let it cool then into the fridge it goes, it’s ready!

My only ‘last second’ dish was the grits/mushroom/cheese casserole … for fear the grits would get soggy if prepped ahead of time.

Chelsea had the mac n’ cheese already done upon arrival. She whipped up her famous crab dip for an appetizer (took 20 minutes: 5 minute prep & 15 minutes to cook, easy & yummy!!!).  Stuffing would be made right before dinner and O.M.G. was it delish!

Two cooks in this kitchen was no issue at all and having my oven turkey free, it made for a calm afternoon. As the turkey took an oil bath we started the oven for reheating.  Since the turkey would only take 40 minutes we had to add in “cool down” time, another 20-30 minutes. You must let meat sit before cutting or carving so the juices don’t run out. No one likes dry meat.  We put all the sides in the oven at 300 for almost an hour. Yes, my oven was able to hold 5 large casserole dishes. I could literally hear the heavens above singing in glory.

What do I hear you chanting…. <we want pictures, we want pictures>  HERE THEY ARE!

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(yes I carved the turkey… after all, I sat at home watching many MANY episodes on the Food Channel as to how to carve a turkey.  I did pretty good!)

I actually forgot about another appetizer that Chelsea made and it dawned on me why … we ate it so fast that our brains didn’t have time to process the info but our taste buds sure loved it.  Melon wrapped prosciutto, is there anything easier than that? Take a cheat, buy pre-cut melon and this can get made in about 5 minutes (which is what Chelsea did). No one will shake their finger at you for not buying a whole melon and if they do, then ban them from the dish 😉

Also for dessert I bought pecan tarts and sugar free vanilla ice cream. Walmart had sugar free sweet potato pies and that’s about it, made for a sad shopping trip. So I opted for personal tarts which were 36g of carbs; again personal portions means no over indulging.

Overall it was a successful holiday … minus Hines Ward saying he was thankful for the Macy’s day parade (I’ll chalk that up to him getting hit a few too many times).  I hope you had a fantastic and stress-free Thanksgiving. As tradition for me at least, I started my day with the Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the dog show. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

To give thanks … part 1

Author’s note: I wrote this on Thanksgiving Eve … we’re without internet for a few more days but I was feeling the urge to blog.

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How do you prep for a diabetic Thanksgiving and keep traditions going?  I’ve gotten some grief for changing recipes you’d typically see on the table.  My gut feeling tells me that once you actually see what I’m doing, you might be inclined to change your eating habits for next year … or why wait, try it for Christmas.

1 carb count (1 dose of insulin) = 15g of carbs … be shocked as you read some of this info.

Green bean casserole … you know, the one drenched in cream of mushroom soup.
My spin on it: green beans, low sodium vegetable broth, sliced mushrooms, flour (to thicken), and top with a light sprinkle of crunch onions
Classic: 1 carb count/161 calories (per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 1 carb count/98 calories (per serving)

Sweet potato casserole … you know, the one covered in candied pecans and marshmallows.
My spin on it: twice baked sweet potatoes – brown sugar, cream cheese, and various spices.
Classic:  3 carb counts/326 calories (per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 2 carb counts/under 200 calories (per serving)

Cream corned / any kind of “gratin” dish / some kind of overloaded veggie with cheese
My spin on it is a huge stretch actually: cheesy mushroom casserole – grits, sliced mushrooms, and topped with shredded cheese.
Classic: creamed corn – 4 carb counts/376 calories … gratin dish – 2 carb counts/360 calories … veggie & cheese – 2 carb count/295 calories (all per serving)
Diabetic Friendly: 2 carb counts/235 calories (per serving)

So those are the sides that I’m whipping up and to keep people from going back for 2nd and 3rd helpings, I’m making 4-6 servings for each recipe (there will be 4 adults eating).  That’s the easiest way to cut your intake – if it’s not there to eat then how can you over-indulge?  My partner in crime (Chelsea) is taking on the task of mac n’ cheese, stuffing, and a few appetizers.  She’s also keeping in mind the 4-6 serving limit and is swapping out some bad ingredients for better choices.  Just to give you an idea: the stuffing calls for apples which are a complete no-no for diabetic folks. She opted for apple & chicken sausage; it calls for sausage anyway so by doing this she cuts out the ground beef too. You might be wondering about the mac n’ cheese; there’s no way to cut corners on this dish.  It is what it is and Josh will only be able to have a spoonful. Not everything can be improved!

At the end of the day Thanksgiving isn’t all about food, we need to be thankful for our family, friends, and health.  The last thing takes on a bigger meaning in this household.  I am thankful for the night I saw a diabetes commercial and forced Josh to see a doctor. I am thankful for my friends who we get to be with on this holiday but I’m also thankful for our long distance friends.  It’s hard to maintain friendships when hundreds of miles separate you but I think we’re all doing a pretty good job. I am thankful for our family, that no matter the distance our parents find a way to visit and they understand (with Josh’s job) it’s easier for them to come to us. Trust me, we sure do wish we could visit Florida and Pennsylvania but give us a few months and we’ll be able to make that happen. 

And to end on a lighter note, please, for the love of God … I hope you watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Not the Macy’s Day Parade (unless the Pilgrims had Macy’s, then by all means…).