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!

 

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even the best cooks (HA!) need a sabbatical

So I’ve been at this “healthy cooking” shtick for almost a year and I feel like I need a make-over. One can only go on so many rants about: how a diabetic diet should look … that I keep reading FB posts “I don’t have time to cook” … complaints that people don’t know what to cook … and my favorite ‘gripe’ of wanting to feel/look better. Those will never go away.

If you take away ANYTHING from all of my posts, I really hope you’ve realized that healthy cooking/eating isn’t brain surgery.  Stop all of these nonsense “detox diets” – sure they give you immediate gratification but try staying on that diet for more than the suggested 30 days – who can live without carbs, sugar, or alcohol for more than that time? I’m sorry but your brain needs carbs, your body needs sugar, and geeze- I need alcohol come every Friday!  Stop that detox and you’ll balloon right back to what you were before. GUARANTEED. How about changing your lifestyle and maintain a weight loss pattern that you’ll be pleased with for years to come.

I have to say that I get excited when I see another person join the healthy living side of things … IG posts and blogs, you name it; it keeps me motivated to keep doing what I’m doing. I love that there are more healthy cooking shows on my go-to channels (Food Network and Cooking Channel), they give me new ideas every Saturday (when I sit down to plan my weekly menu).

So I’m debating what improvements I can make on my blog for the year to come… The humor is slightly gone of me tripping over my dogs – we’ve moved into a bigger house, our sous chefs can watch from the stairs. There is no annoyance of trying to chop/slice/dice things on 2’x2′ counter space – I now have counter space for days! The frustration of not being able to buy fresh produce due to lack of fridge space or buy meat in bulk due to a freezer that defrosts has erased itself with our amazingly awesome new fridge.  The reason I started my blog was to prove that deliciously tempting and healthy meals could be prepared in the most depressing kitchen.  My new kitchen is far from depressing – I LOVE BEING IN IT!

I’ll continue my nightly #kitchentails posts on IG as I prep for dinner.  I’ll keep my blog-posts coming, they just might not be as frequent.  I’m going to start revisiting our favorite meals which I surely don’t have to post about every few days as I do now. We are going on vacation soon and I have every intention of reporting back to the blogging world about our food intake. I already let y’all know that taking a break on our healthy eating adventures was not a good idea on my last vacation. While I do some soul searching of how to update my blog take a look back and see how I’ve turned our eating habits around in 1 year.  Just remember: YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Have fun and be sure your sense of humor is around too – you’ll need it when a dish doesn’t turn out properly or if something doesn’t taste quite right… get in the kitchen and start experimenting.

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what happens in Vegas …

Sous Chef Geno has been getting the royal treatment lately.  He got into some trash (not our doing or fault… don’t get me started, I have the issue under control and have spoke to the appropriate people) and hasn’t been feeling or acting like himself. 3 trips later [to the vet] and slowly his usual cuteness is returning. The royal treatment per meal: 2 spoon fulls of pumpkin pie filling, 1 tummy ache pill, 1 steroid, and 1 pro-biotic … plus us having the pleasure of watching him go to the bathroom. I know I know, this is close to TMI (especially for a food blog) but I started off mentioning all of this because a dog eating trash and getting sick was similar to us eating crap … resulting in not feeling well. Could it be a metaphor for life? Maybe. STOP EATING TRASH! What’s that saying… you are what you eat? I think it totally holds true.

<end rant>

So I’m home from Vegas and I’ll tell you what, I went against everything I’ve been working hard at since last year – eating right, not eating as much, etc. I did manage to not snack although it was tempting. You’re on vacation and you think “I can cheat”. DON’T DO IT. You’ll thank me later! I cheated, big time. I had fast food, sweets, soda, and mega-carbs. You name it, I ate it. Boy did my stomach hate me (maybe I could have used some of Geno’s pills.. JUST KIDDING. Chill). It was all so delish though! Geeze did I miss the flavor of grease and the sweetness of real sugar. Then again, I ended up with massive headaches and my guilt kicking in. The next vacation I really do need to stick to my new eating habits, not feeling well for 4 days while I was supposed to be enjoying time off, was definitely not worth it. Listen, in moderation I think all of things are okay but not jammed packed, back to back for each meal, 4 days straight.

Okay, okay – I’ll give you menu for this past week.  Thank you for sitting through my venting.

Tuesday- Zucchini Lasagna.
“When you said zucchini lasagna I didn’t know you meant no noddles” Josh. Who didn’t listen when I explained that this zucchini lasagna used NO NODDLES; the zucchini becomes the layer separation. Which also means he took too much insulin because he thought there’d be a lot of carbs. I did serve garlic bread though to help balance veggies vs. carbs but it wasn’t enough; he went hunting in the fridge for more food. MEN! 😉

This is not a vegetarian lasagna, it calls for ground beef (I used turkey). I’m sure you could remove the meat because there are a ton of veggies in it, or just double what the recipe says and there will plenty of “sauce” to add between the layers.

My dish did not come out as pretty as the allrecipes.com post, of course. It’s incredibly messy but it was sooooooo good! Bit of a change to the recipe: I forgot the thaw the spinach so it didn’t get added. Oh well. I honestly ran out of stacking space so it worked in my favor (Take out the meat and use spinach? You’d have the room for it). I think next time I might grill the zucchini (on the g.f.), the dish needed structure which stiffer/thicker noodles typically provide. By grilling, I’d think that it’d firm the veggies, giving it more structure instead of just slopping onto my plate.

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Wednesday was a slow cooker repeat, our favorite enchilada meal. I used baby shrimp this time around – so good! I love that recipe, it’s the easiest and tastiest. I didn’t double it, just made enough for one night. Thursday had shrimp planned again and I didn’t want insane leftovers of shrimp dishes although my husband wouldn’t care. He’s my garbage disposal after all!

Thursday brought on a new recipe via Paula Deen which we all know means there was a TON of butter in the recipe. I cut it by half and you wouldn’t know the difference (my arteries did and thanked me).  This was my best creation yet. I’m still trying to figure out the correct amount of s & p to use; I know that sounds ridiculous but I honestly can’t get it right! It’s either too much and I feel like I’m licking a brick of salt or there’s not enough and I may as well be eating cardboard. Cooking takes work on balancing spices, keep at it and one day, voila, success! I wanted to go back for seconds but I knew better. ImageImageImage

To make eating easier, I cut all of the shrimp tails off PRIOR to cooking. I don’t feel like working for my meal … either way I’d cut them, may as well do it before I sit down. On top of the called for ingredients I added my last zucchini, rather use it than toss it! You can add any veggie to this, at least that’s my opinion. We have leftovers which I’ll be enjoying tonight – Josh is off to Austin for a JROTC competition, only 1 night so he won’t get to enjoy that weird city (so many great food options out there!). 

That’s my week, feel free to wear it [the recipes] out! Bonus: my tummy is almost back to normal. I think my body absorbed more than I thought…

P.S. that enchilada recipe was my first pin on Pinterest … what was yours? Comment below! Also, how many of you actually make the things you pin? Sure, I have my “one day” kind of board, like artwork I’d love to create or furniture I’d love to own … but I stay true to my “yum-o” board. I’ve cooked almost everything pinned.

Don’t forget my IG food tags #kitchentails to see my current cooking adventures!!

 

It’s like a game of Tetris

As tradition would follow, our latest pizza night was “ham and pineapple”! Add a cute decoration of BBQ sauce and we’ve got a winner! We made 2 differently built pizzas … 1: BBQ sauce as a base and 2: BBQ as a pretty design on top.  The 2nd one was waaaaaay better; the sauce made the dough soggy. So there’s that experiment figured out 🙂

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Italian night … cut the casings off of sweet Italian sausages and slice into bite size pieces to make life easier. Next add thinly sliced veggies (green and red bell pepper and a white onion), pour in the crushed tomato sauce and let that baby simmer for 30-ish minutes. I love soggy veggies when using bread to soak up everything. I added some extra spices to boost the flavor, not necessarily needed depending on what sauce or sausages you buy but we like big flavors. A one pot dish makes for an easy dinner and easier clean up.

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On Sunday my lovely husband kindly reminded me we were going to have a guest over for dinner, THAT NIGHT. He is so amazing, I just love how he has the best memory. Clearly, sarcasm 😉 . I love him to pieces but I can’t remember his life and mine. Anyway, he has a friend in town from NoVA (due to work) so he came over for a home cooked meal. Really simple, throw it together in minutes, kind of BBQ. The weather is holding true and is as whacky as ever.  It was 75 over the weekend and today I’m shivering since it’s 40. WTH. I’m so over this.

Ok, back to the BBQ. I cubed baby red potatoes, diced a large sweet onion, cubed butter, and threw that thing in the oven for 40 minutes on 375 (covered for the last 15 min or so because the onions were done, like charred done). I added more butter once it came out to keep things juicy 🙂 .  I had asparagus leftover so I threw those in the grill basket, sprinkled S & P plus grated parm – boom, another stellar side dish prepped in 2 minutes.  A total cheat: store bought salmon burgers – jalapeno and cheddar cheese salmon burgers to be exact. I love these things. Set out sliced tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and red onions – dress that burger to your heart’s desire.  I made a quick community salad as well (BIG BOWL, you serve yourself): dark greens, sliced mushrooms, cubed tomatoes, grated swiss cheese, and croutons … let everyone pick their own dressing (plus this won’t make the salad soggy and depressing – which makes for a bad table presence).

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There you go. Fast, healthy, and delicious meals.

This week is all about leftovers (I mean it this time) … I’m going out of town and leaving Josh with as much food as possible.  I am making 6 servings for each meal, our fridge is beginning to look like a game of tetris. Don’t mess with my stacking system! Not only does this work if the main chef ever goes on vaca but this could work if you’re super busy during the week.  Cook large, multiple meals on the weekends or whenever your free day is – store those dishes for their specific night and you have complete meals ready to go! Make extra and have some leftovers for a real lunch the next day (PB & J or ham sammies get old, REAL FAST).  Those are my tips – use ’em or whatever 😉 .

I’ve linked my IG account to the blog so we’ll see how that works … I’m still trying to figure this technology thing out.  I mean, I’m not a dinosaur but sometimes I feel like crap changes overnight and I find out 5 months later. I still refuse to use my iPad to blog post; I do use it as my cook book though! I like typing on an actual keyboard, can you blame me?