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.

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!

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!

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!!!!

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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