Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One Year Down!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of My Great Big Recipe Challenge. Can I have a woot woot?

In all seriousness, this is the perfect opportunity to do a little reflecting on the challenge and lessons learned. Get on your reading glasses - here we go with a super fun list!
  1. My love of cooking and baking mostly healthy fare for my family and friends has not diminished, nor has my obsession with recipes. As you may remember, I was already cooking dinner 4-5 nights a week when schedules allow because I think it is important to do the whole healthy eating/family meal thing, and my commitment to clean/healthy family food has not and will not waver.
  2. The course of the challenge has introduced us to several new foods and some new cooking techniques.
  3. That being said - I still tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of recipes. If I had more motivation, I'd actually go through and count how many versions of chicken fingers, stir fries and sloppy joes I've made during the past year.
  4. I started this blog as an accompaniment to the challenge as I wanted to use it as a learning mechanism for professional development (ugh -really with that sentence?!). After doing this for a year, I completely appreciate now more than ever the time and effort a truly successful blog takes, and I also completely realize that I have zero desire to create a truly successful blog. It's totally OK by me for my readership to mainly consist of my family and friends when they remember to read it (i.e., I tell them to check the blog).  
  5. I seriously want to kick people who compare this effort to Julie & Julia. Not. Even. Close.
  6. I love kale and have been eating it 4-5x/week for the past several months.
  7. I am pretty much the worst food photographer in the world.
Now that I've reached the year point, I have some decisions to make re: the blog and the challenge. That means you get another list - this time in an extra-fun Q&A style.

Q: Am I going to continue with the challenge?
A: After discussing it with the boys tonight, we decided that I will continue with the challenge, but will allow for exceptions/favorites. For example, the kid has been begging for a specific meatball recipe since I last made it (around Thanksgiving), and there are a couple of dishes I love that I would like to add back into the rotation. We all like the spirit of the challenge, and since my recipe collecting obsession is not slowing down, I will continue to try my best to select new recipes each week to try.

Q: Am I going to continue the blog?
A: To be honest, I don't know. The blog has been a bit of a challenge because I find it to be a little repetitive and often times the last thing I want to do after long days that usually start at 4:30a or earlier. If I keep it going, I don't want to half-ass it, but I just don't know that it's really worth it. So, I will give it some more thought. I bet you won't sleep until I make this all-important decision.

Q: Will my obsession with The Beatles ever end?
A: No. It's been 24 years and I'm still going strong.

Amazing. I have nothing more to add. Listen to the guitar riffs. And listen then listen to it again and again and again like I do.

As for the food: With tonight being the one-year anniversary, I took a look at the first recipe I made for the challenge - Buttermilk Pecan Chicken from Health magazine - and went for something similar - Spicy Pecan Popcorn Chicken with Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dip from EatingWell. I am not typing it out because this blog is already way too long and I don't feel like it, but the boys gave it a gold medal.

Thanks for the support...








Monday, July 30, 2012

Orange You Glad?

I am lacking in energy and inspiration tonight, and still have some other non-blogging things to do before I lose myself in the Olympics, so lets get right to it.

Orange Chicken Stir-Fry
Source: The Carb Lovers Diet Cookbook by Ellen Kunes and Frances Largeman-Roth

Ingredients:
  • 2 navel oranges, cut into segments (1 c.) and squeezed to make 1/4 c. juice
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (used minced)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
  • 2 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c. brown rice
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil (used canola)
  • 1/4 c. sliced almonds
  • 2 bundles watercress (used broccoli instead)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
Directions:
  • Whisk together OJ, vinegar, ginger, garlic, crushed red pepper and scallion whites in a large shallow bowl. Add chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.
  • Cook rice.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken from marinade and transfer to hot skillet. Cook about 3 mins or until partially cooked through; stir in almonds and watercress. Cook, stirring until watercress is wilted and chicken is cooked. Gently toss orange segments and sesame oil into stir-fry, serve over rice.
Yield: 4 servings (4oz chicken mix; 1/2 c. cooked rice)
Per serving: 378 cals; 10.1g fat (1.3g sat, 3.9g mono, 3.6g poly); 54mg chol; 26g protein; 47g carbs; 135mg sodium; 6g fiber

Reviews:
Eh. The intro graph for this recipe promises a taste similar to Chinese takeout. I haven't had real Chinese takeout in years (seriously - it is so, so unhealthy I can't justify it on my worst days) - but I can tell you that this didn't fill that void. It was uber-healthy, so that's a plus. The hubs picked out the broccoli and oranges, and the kid discarded his oranges, so that was a minus. The orange taste itself didn't come through - I mostly tasted the sesame oil. One other positive? Super easy for a weeknight.

Ranking:
Bronze
Gratuitous swimming picture of the day: Matt Grevers. I won't ruin the results for you, like CNN does for me



Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Olympic Effort

Olympic fever has hit our house, with the hubs reporting on and watching almost every event possible. I have to admit, even when the hubs isn't around to lord over the TV (and he was gone doing his Man Weekend thing most of this weekend), I switch on the channels to try and get a glimpse of my boy Lochte or listen to some of the inspiring stories that inevitably make me get a little choked up every time. I'm a total softy at the core. Just don't tell anyone.

While tonight's feast would certainly not make for a carb-loading pre-race choice, it was a major effort in prep work. Once all of the chopping was complete, the sprint to the finish was almost as fast as Lolo Jones. (See how I did that?!)

Rosemary-Scented Turkey Quesadillas
Source: Clean Eating, November/December 2011

Ingredients:
  • 8 stalks celery, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 4 oz fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped (thaw if frozen)
  • 1 large green pear, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp evoo
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 10oz ground turkey
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 2 oz shredded mozzarella
Directions:
  • Make salsa: Combine 2 stalks celery, half onion, cranberries, pear, 1 clove garlic and OJ. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt. Set aside.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on med for 1 min. Add remaining celery and onion and saute for 3 mins. Stir in rosemary, remaining garlic and 1/4 tsp sea salt and saute for 2 mins. Add turkey and cook for 5 mins. Drain turkey mix and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Wipe out skillet and return to med heat. Working in batches, add tortillas to skillet (I could do 3 at a time). Top each with 1/4 c. turkey mix and 1 tbsp cheese and cook for 3 mins. Gently fold 1 side of each tortilla over to make half circles and cook for one more minute, lightly pressing the top of the tortillas down. Repeat with remaining tortillas, etc. Serve with salsa.
Yield: 4 servings (2 quesadillas and 1/2 c. salsa)
Per serving: 345 cals; 10g fat (4g sat, 1g mono, 1g poly); 42g carbs; 7g fiber; 23g protein; 523mg sodium; 65mg chol.

Reviews:
Ugh - the prep on this was annoying. I could have bought pre-minced celery and onions, but I decided to chop away. Regardless, once it was done, it was super fast to cook. I am not a big fan of cooking food in batches because we eat as a family (sans baby, who for now goes to bed way too early), and I always try hard to make sure the food I serve is very hot and fresh. As far as taste - I was kind of expecting the boys to turn their noses up at this one, due to the carefully chopped fruit - but I was pleasantly surprised as the hubs really liked the salsa. The kid? Not so much. Me? Not worth the effort, but it made the entire meal very fresh tasting. The quesadillas were good - despite the batch annoyance, I liked the overall effect once they were done.

Ranking:
Silver (Get it? Going with the medal ranking this week). Good taste, major effort.

PHOTO: Ryan Lochte reacts after finishing first in the men's 400-meter individual medley swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Saturday, July 28, 2012.
Nothing silver about this performance! Lochte Nation!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Fruity Foil

Continuing on with my clean eating efforts, I decided to try a very new dish from one of my fave cookbooks, Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods. Of course, since it is summer and just a teeny bit warm out, most comfort foods aren't necessarily the best choice for a dinner, but I thought I'd go with it anyway.

So, the meal for tonight - Chicken & Fruit Tangine - includes three ingredients that I have never, ever cooked with: Olives, apricots and prunes. I know for a fact that I do not like olives, so I omitted them immediately. Prunes and dried apricots? I don't know that I've really ever eaten either dried delicacy. In fact, whenever I think of dried apricots, I am reminded of my father calling them "little ears" whenever my mother had them around. You are welcome for that visual.

I wasn't totally sure how any of us would react to this, so rather than typing out the recipe (which I don't feel like doing anyway), I will instead provide you with a snapshot of our reactions. The recipe is very saucy, so I thought the boys wouldn't notice - or might actually like - the prunes and apricots. Plus, I cut them up into little pieces in hoping that they wouldn't be too intrusive.

Me: Yum! Easy to make, delish sauce. Seems like a huge portion for not a lot of calories (429 cals for 1.25 c. chicken mix and 1 c. couscous).

Hubs: Sauce is tasty. I don't do texture or fruit (i.e., he ate only the chicken and couscous).

Kid: Chicken is great! I picked around every single other thing. How many times do I have to tell you I don't like couscous?

In summary, I was the only one who really liked this meal in its entirety. Because peeps, in my book, picking out the prunes and dried apricots and eating the chicken doesn't really count as "liking the food."

Ranking:
Two Forks - ONLY because of the boys. Up to me? Four forks. Yum!







Monday, July 23, 2012

Not-So-Meatless Monday

When I cook several nights in a week, as I am hoping to do this week, I typically try to throw in a Meatless Monday. First, I like the challenge of finding a meatless recipe that the boys will eat, and two, there are a ton of studies out there proclaiming the health benefits of going meatless for a day. I totally subscribe to that theory, and think the whole Meatless Monday movement is a good thing.

However, tonight was not one of those meatless nights. When I was meal planning, I basically picked the first several recipes that jumped out at me, mostly because we had just gotten home from vacation and I didn't have the patience to find something meatless that would appeal to the boys. Plus, this particular recipe has been calling my name for a while, but I never got around to cooking it until tonight. And it has loads of mushrooms!

Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes
Source: Cooking Light, June 2011

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12-oz ground sirloin
  • 2 (8-oz) packages pre-sliced crimini or button mushrooms
  • 1 c. pre-chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. no-salt added tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano (didn't use fresh)
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 3/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • Buns
Directions:
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add oil, swirl to coat. Add beef, cook for 4 mins or until browned, stirring to crumble.
  • While beef cooks, finely chop 'shrooms in a food processor. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic to pan; cook for 3 mins or until onion is tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to pan; cook 5 mins or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates. Stir in pepper and hot sauce.
Yield: 4 servings (1 c. beef mix/1 bun)
Per serving: 439 cals; 14.7g fat (4.6g sat; 6.8g mono; 1.9g poly); 27.3g protein; 49.7g carb; 4g fiber; 55mg chol; 618mg sodium

Reviews:
The kid devoured his sammy and asked for seconds. Methinks he did not notice the mushrooms, because he is not typically a fan of the fungi. I, on the other hand, pretty much love all things mushroom, so the taste was kind of lost on me. The hubs grunted his approval as he shoveled in the food. Overall, this was a good dish, but I didn't find it to be that different from other sloppy joe/jane dishes we've had in the past. One note: Cooking Light did include this in its 20-minute "Super Fast" section, and it took exactly that amount of time - and I even chopped my own onion!

Ranking:
Three Forks

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to Reality

Well peeps, vacation has officially come to a close. After stops in the historic burgs of Fredricksburg, Jamestown, Williamsburg and Norfolk, we hit the Outer Banks and did a significant amount of beaching and family-ing (YES, I know that is not an official word, but it is in my world). And now we're back home.

My mood re: vacation being over matches this song. Plus I tend to dress in black.


Some quick notes for you re: the vacation. I heart Fredricksburg and Williamsburg. Way different than I expected - lots of shopping and super quaint. In Norfolk, we hit two spots from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Get Fresh Cafe at the Five Points Community Farm Market for dinner and Doumar's to taste ice cream from the place that originated the ice cream cone. The kid is mildly obsessed with "Triple D" and has decided to email the show to suggest Guy visit the amazing Duck Donuts.

On to the recipes. Whilst on vacation, I volunteered to make dinner two of the nights. I like to cook, so this really wasn't a problem or burden, and, as I've mentioned, my family is always over-enthusiastic about my cooking abilities, so who wouldn't like that little ego boost? To keep things simple, I selected the recipes in advance, and made No-Boil Lasagna and Turkey Enchiladas, both from "500 Low-Sodium Recipes" by Dick Logue. I also made Oreo & Fudge Ice Cream Cake from Kraft Food & Family (Summer 2007). All of the recipes required few ingredients and all received standing ovations from the crowd (I kid, I kid).

As we are just returning from vacation, I felt like our meals needed a clean kick-start this week, since we did some minor indulging (although I did manage to squeeze in a few morning walks and runs!). So tonight we had Chicken Rotini from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, by Tosca Reno. I don't feel like typing in all of the ingredients, but let's just say that it involved fresh chopped tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, basil, sweet potato, and more.

Reviews:
The kid was not a fan. He liked the chicken (plain) and that's about it. The sauce "wasn't his thing." Despite all of the offending veggies, the hubs liked the meal, as did I. The hardest thing with this one was the chopping, but otherwise it was pretty easy. I feel cleaner already.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Turkey Tuesday

Last week we had Taco Tuesday, so today we're going with Turkey Tuesday. Color me creative.

Today we could also go with Tired Tuesday as I am feeling a little spent.


Luckily, tomorrow is my last day in the office for about a week and a half, as we are heading to the beach with the fam. I'm not sure if I am going to blog while I'm being lulled to sleep by the ocean, but I do have a couple of meals planned and will catch you up on my exciting (non) adventures upon our return. So yes, peeps, this is probably your last blog for a while.

Road trip!

Turkey Tenders
Source: Cooking Light, March 2011

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound turkey tenderloin
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup egg substitute
  • 3/4 c. panko
  • 2 tbsp grated parm
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt (used garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut tenderloin in half lengthwise; cut into 20 (2-inch) pieces.
  • Place flour in a shallow dish. Place egg substitute in another. Combine panko, cheese, garlic, salt in another dish. Dredge turkey in flour; dip in egg, and dredge in breadcrumb mix.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high, swirling to coat. Add turkey pieces to pan; cook 2 mins on each side. Place turkey pieces on a broiler pan. Bake for 5 mins, then turn over and bake 5 more mins or until golden brown.
Yield: 4 servings (5 pieces/serving - I assumed 4oz)
Per serving: 227 calories; 6.1g fat (1.2g sat, 2.7g mono, 1.3g poly); 32.9g protein; 11g carb; 47mg chol; 237mg sodium

We also had:
Lemon-Herb Rice
Source: 500 Low Sodium Recipes, by Dick Logue

Ingredients:
  • 2 c. cooked rice (used brown)
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley (skip - didn't have)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (skip - don't like)
Directions:
  • Stir all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat through. Eat.
Yield: 4 servings (I assumed 1/2 c./serving)
Per serving: 105 cals; 2 g protein; 0g fat; 9mg sodium; 0mg chol.

Reviews:
I changed up the turkey recipe a smidge. Because I am not the most adept at pan searing, and I don't like smelling my my kitchen after I do it, and I was being lazy (please refer to song selection "A" above), I instead just put all of the tenderloins on a baking sheet and sprayed them with cooking spray, then flipped after 10 mins and sprayed again. I think the result worked. I also think these are like pretty much every other tenderloin/finger/nugget recipe I have - nothing special, but tasted good. The rice was also nothing special - a nice little switch-up from plain brown rice, but it did not garner any oohs or aahs from the crowd.

Ranking:
Turkey: Three forks
Rice: Two forks

See you in a few!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Quiet Kids?

Two quiet boys obviously means they are up to no good... or that there's one delish meal happening!

We have a guest for dinner tonight - our neighbor and one of the kid's best friends. And when these two are together (which is pretty much almost every waking moment when they aren't busy) they are not exactly wallflowers.

As I am writing this blog they are finishing up in golden silence, so I will take these precious few moments to breathe deeply and relish in the quiet.

This song actually bores me to tears. You?

Grilled Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon
Source: Every Day with Rachael Ray, June 2012

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce (used low-sodium)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp mirin or dry sherry (used sherry)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1clove finely chopped garlic (used minced)
  • 4 skin-on, boneless salmon fillets at room temp
  • Vegetable oil for brushing (used canola)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan, bring the soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin/sherry, ginger and garlic to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half, about 15 mins. Divide the sauce into two small bowls; reserve one for serving.
  • Preheat grill to high. Oil the grate (sprayed it). Pat the salmon dry, brush with oil, then brush flesh side with some of the sauce. Arrange salmon on grill skin side down, cover the grill and cook, occasionally basting with more of the sauce, until the sides are opaque, about 8 mins.
  • Transfer salmon to plates and drizzle with reserved sauce. Top with scallions.
Reviews:
Both kids had very, very high praise for this dish. I even got a "best salmon ever" from the buddy. I don't know that I would agree with this assessment. The salmon was good and the glaze was nice - probs too high in sodium and calories (the nutritionals are not provided immediately under the recipe and I am way too lazy to look them up), but this certainly wasn't the best ever, IMO. I didn't drizzle the salmon with the remaining sauce b/c I let it simmer too long and it became a goopy, slightly burned mess. Overall, the meal was super-fast to throw together. We had equally-fast mushroom risotto from Trader Joe's and steamed broccoli.

Update (because I know you are wondering): The boys are still somewhat subdued, most likely because they have rec'd multiple death stares from me and the hubs due to the sleeping babe upstairs.

Ranking:
Three Forks: Easy peasy, especially for a week night.


The salmon was not burned, despite what the picture looks like


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Unbelievable

To know me is to know that I love cheese. In fact, I love it so much that I don't keep it in the house unless absolutely necessary for recipes, with the exception of swiss slices (low sodium) and cheese sticks for the kids (low taste).

This unabashed, lifelong love of cheese was going to be fulfilled tonight when shredded Mexican was to serve as a topper to the main event. Except that I forgot to add it. And just realized it as I was sitting down to type this post.

Who forgets the cheese?

Luckily - I pretty much had nothing to say, so this omission served as the jump-start to tonight's post.

In addition to cheese, I love dark chocolate. Luckily I can manage to keep that in the house without shoveling it in by the fistful (thanks to those ingenious pre-packaged individual chocolate squares from Ghiradelli). I don't often bake with dark chocolate, but a few days ago I happened upon an amazingly easy fudge recipe that catered to my dark chocolate needs. So we'll start with that because honestly peeps, it is so so so easy to throw together that you must make it immediately. And bring me some.

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge
Source: Cooking Light (not sure of issue)

Ingredients:
  • 1 (14oz) can of fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips (used dark chocolate)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa powder (used regular unsweetened)
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter chips
  • 1/4 c. salted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Directions:
  • Line an 8-inch square dish with wax paper.
  • Place 9 tbsp milk in a microwave safe bowl. Add chocolate chips, cocoa and coffee. Microwave at high for 1 min or until melted. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Spread into prepared pan.
  • Combine the remaining milk, peanut butter chips and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 min or until melted. Stir in remaining vanilla. Spread evenly over chocolate layer and sprinkle with peanuts.
  • Cover and chill 2 hours (I chilled overnight). Cut into 25 squares.
Yield: 25 servings (1 square)
Per serving: 123 cals; 4.7g fat (3.1g sat, 0.7g mono, 0.1g poly); 3.5g protein; 47mg sodium; 2mg chol

For tonight's (cheese-free) meal, we had:
Charred Corn Chop Salad with Chipotle Cream Dressing
Source: Clean Eating, August/September 2011

Ingredients:
  • 2 c. fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears corn)
  • 1 med. poblano pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 15-oz can no-salt added black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • lettuce of choice
  • 1/2 c. low-fat cheddar cheese
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss corn, poblano and potato with oil. Spread mixture onto a 9x13 baking sheet and roast for 30 mins, tossing every 10 mins.
  • In a large pan cook turkey until browned. Add 1/4 c. water to pan and scrape browned bits from bottom. Add cumin and beans and stir to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, buttermilk, chile powder and white scallions. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Plate: Divide lettuce among plates and top with turkey, veggies, etc. Sprinkle with remaining scallions and cheese, and top with dressing.
Yield: 4 servings (2 c. lettuce; 1/2 c. turkey-bean mix; 1/2 c. veggies; 3 tbsp dressing)
Per serving: 470 cals; 11g total fat (3.5g sat; 3g mono; 1g poly): 61g carbs; 10g fiber; 31g protein; 220mg sodium; 40mg chol.

Reviews:
Fudge: My family went a little insane about the fudge (it was for a 4th of July gathering) - to the point that I had to fight them to bring some leftovers home for me us. I made the fudge on one of those super-hot nights, and it was so fast and easy, and the results so stellar that this is a must-do for pretty much everyone.

Salad: The kid requested a salad for dinner, so a salad he received. He did not appreciate the sweet potatoes, and the hubs made a nasty face when he saw the veggies sullying his turkey/bean combo. If it wasn't for the annoying chopping associated with this dish, it would be very easy to throw together. I liked it a lot - despite the lack of cheese - and we have enough leftover for lunches this week.

Rankings:
Fudge: Four Forks
Salad: Three Forks

Did you really think I'd use the "clean" version of this song?



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Taco Tuesday

Not a particularly creative blog post title, and I know I've used it before, but... my brain is officially turned off until the 5th.



Tonight, the oven was totally turned off too as I continued my salad/grill plan. And I almost completely screwed this one up because it requires an hour of marinating, which I completely forgot about until one of my neighbors asked me about the recipe. She has three kids under 4 (!!) and is more on top of my recipes than me. Awesome.

Luckily, I managed to pull it together and you know what else was awesome? The marinade.

Korean-Style Beef Tacos
Source: Cooking Light, June 2012

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp chile paste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 oz flank steak, sliced against the grain into thin strips
  • 1/8 tsp salt (skip)
  • 6-inch corn tortillas
Directions:
  • Combine first 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a shallow dish. Add steak, cover. Marinate in fridge for an hour, turning after 30 mins.
  • Preheat grill to med-high heat.
  • Remove steak from marinade. Thread steak onto skeweres, sprinkle with salt. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.
  • Grill tortillas 30 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Divide steak onto tortillas.
Yield: 4 (2 tacos/serving)
Per serving: 270 cals; 6.3g fat (1.6g sat; 2g mono; 1.4g poly); 18.1g protein; 37.1g carb; 21mg chol; 568mg sodium; 3g fiber

We also had brown rice tossed with a tablespoon of sesame oil, per the suggestion of Cooking Light.

Reviews:
No chopping. No oven. No stove. Chef Hubs once again manning the grill. Great! We all really liked the marinade. I can't necessarily comment on how "Korean" these tacos truly were, but they were pretty delish. I found the grilling of the tortillas pretty pointless and in fact they ended up a little chewy. I would probs just use my whole-wheat low carb wraps next time (or no-salt hard taco shells). The sesame oil added to the rice was a waste of calories. I don't know that the boys even noticed.

Ranking:
Three forks because the main event - the steak - was really good. The rest was meh.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hello, It's Me

Channeling a little Todd Rundgren for you.



(BTW - my spellcheck isn't working tonight. Go ahead and judge. I would.)

So, I've been totally MIA for a while. Mostly because of the same old excuse - schedules haven't allowed for much cooking here. Partly because I'm getting a little bit bored of the blog. But mostly the schedule thing. As I've noted before, I'm not tired of the challenge or the cooking in and of itself, but the whole documenting all of the meals thing is feeling a little tired.

Luckily for you (ha) I'm in the mood to post tonight, and I have a feeling that there might be a bunch of posts in the next week before we hit the beach. Plus, as of tomorrow night, all of our travel sports will be done for at least a few weeks. Woo!

Now let's get on with the task at hand.

Unless you are reading this from some faraway locale, you are experiencing the same heatwave we are. I am not going to complain about it because I prefer to reserve my weather-related complaints for the winter/snow/ice/gray, and I think it would be a bit hypocritical on my part. I despise the winter and will always take 100 degrees and humidity (and bad hair) over snow any day.

The heat inspired me to focus on salads and grilled items this week. Peeps, we don't have air in this old house, so the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove or fire up the oven for an extended period of time. Plus, it gives me a fun theme for these posts.

Chicken and Wild Rice Salad with Almonds
Source: Cooking Light, December 2009

Dressing:
  • 1/4 c. fig vinegar or white wine vinegar (used white wine)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dijon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
Remaining ingredients:
  • 2 c. chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1.5 c. uncooked wild rice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lbs boneless, chicken breast
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1/2 c. shredded carrots
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. chopped almonds
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion (skip)
Directions:
  • Prepare dressing: Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Add oil, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Cover and chill.
  • Combine broth, rice and butter in a med saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 mins or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove rice from heat and cool.
  • Grill chicken; cool; cut into cubes.
  • Combine rice, chicken, celery, carrots, cranberries, almonds and onion in a large bowl. Add dressing, toss to coat. Cover and chill.
Yield: 6 servings (1-1/3 c./serving)
Per serving: 352 cals; 10.3g fat (2g sat, 5g mono, 2.5g poly); 25g protein; 40.6g carb; 4g fiber; 49mg chol; 357mg sodium

Reviews:
My laziness overpowered my budget-consciousness, so I bought pre-chopped celery, pre-shredded carrots and pre-sliced almonds. This resulted in a super-easy-to-throw-together meal. Chef Hubs pitched in and grilled (and cut up) the chicken, so the most time-consuming portion of this recipe was the sitting around and waiting for the rice to cook. I only wish I had more time (patience) to let the salad cool down more (I stuck it in the freezer for 10 minutes), but we all really enjoyed the chow.

Ranking:
Four Forks




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wonky Wackiness

Let's make a list for tonight's post.

1. I was going to blog on Sunday night, but we lost power for almost 14 hours. Luckily I had just finished making our Father's Day Feast (chicken fingers from EatingWell... the hubs has simple taste); unfortunately I spent the rest of the night either fretting about all of our food spoiling or calling First Energy and yelling at them. I may or may not have been the crazy 1:30a and 5a caller. Just sayin.'

2. Due to an unfortunate eye infection, I am functioning with one contact lens. No I don't own glasses. Yes I am dealing with that. Therefore you can't hold whatever I type here with my wonky eye (new fave word, stolen directly from Andy Cohen and his wonky crossed-eyes) against me.

3. This recipe is a continuation of the Waste Not Week. So note the asterisks for those ingredients I had on hand.

4. Nick Cannon annoys me on AGT. Yes?

Turkey and Black Bean Chimichangas
Source: HeartHealthyOnline.com - from a magazine that doesn't exist anymore

Ingredients:
  • 6 10-inch whole wheat, low carb tortillas*
  • 8 oz turkey meat*
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion*
  • 1 15-oz can no-salt added black beans, drained
  • 1 14.5-oz can no-salt diced tomatoes, drained*
  • 1/4 c. bottled salsa (Newman's Own)*
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro (skip)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice*
  • 1/2 tsp cumin*
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with spray, set aside. Heat tortillas in oven for 5 mins (I did not heat mine).
  • In a large skillet, cook turkey and onion. Add black beans and mash slightly. Add tomatoes, salsa, 1/4 c. cilantro, lime juice and cumin. Heat through.
  • To assemble, scoop about 1/2 c. of turkey mix into each tortilla, fold up. Place on baking sheet, spray tops and sides with cooking spray. Bake 10-12 mins or until golden brown.
Yield: 6 servings (1 chimichanga per serving)
Per serving: 206 cals; 4g fat (0g sat); 25mg chol; 424mg sodium; 33g carb; 23g protein; 18g fiber

Reviews:
I made this while the boys were at soccer (tourney time!) so once I rec'd the call that they were on the way home, I popped it into the oven and voila - dinner was served (with brown rice - yum). I actually got 8 chimichangas out of this, so we have some leftovers. The kid did not like the black beans, despite my best superfood pitch.

Ranking:
Three Forks


Monday, June 11, 2012

More Meatless (Operation Waste Not, #2)

Because I have high hopes of cooking more this week, I decided to torture the boys with tofu tonight. In addition to the meatless, this recipe met several of my criteria for the week:
  • Salad (Summer salad!)
  • Bunch of ingredients I had on hand
  • Lettuce Wraps
I have a bunch of lettuce wrap recipes floating around, but have never gotten around to making one. In fact, I have never, ever eaten lettuce wraps.

Huh?

They always look really good on menus, but so does about a million other things, so I have never ordered them. Obviously I get the concept of lettuce wraps, but nary a wrap has passed these lips.

Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce
Source: Cooking Light, June 2012

(For your reading pleasure, I am going to star all of the fun ingredients I have in my cupboard.)

Ingredients:
Sauce:
  • 1 tsp canola*
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot*
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter*
  • 4 tsp hoisin sauce*
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper*
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice* (used bottled)
Filling:
  • 1 (14oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil*
  • 6 thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp cilantro (skip)
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce*
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger* (used refrigerated)
  • 2 tsp sugar*
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha*
  • 1 c. matchstick-cut carrots
  • 1 c. matchstick-cut cucumbers
  • 2 c. hot sticky rice
  • Bibb lettuce
Directions:
  • To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot and saute for 2 mins. Add 1/3 c. water and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper), and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil, cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.
  • To prepare filling, spread crumbled tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 mins, pressing down occasionally.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add sesame oil and swirl to coat pan. Add 1/3 c. green onions, saute 1 min. Add tofu, saute for 4 mins. Add 2 tbsp cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar and Sriracha; saute 1 min. Remove from heat, stir in cucumbers, carrots and remaining green onions.
  • Spoon 1/4 c. rice into each lettuce leaf. Top with 1/2 c. tofu mixture; sprinkle with 1 tbsp cilantro. Serve with sauce.
Yield: 4 servings (2 lettuce wraps and 2 tbsp sauce)
Per serving: 355 cals; 15g fat (2.1g sat, 8.5g mono, 3.7g poly); 16.2g protein; 42.6g carb; 3.9 fiber; 0mg chol; 568mg sodium

Reviews:
Despite the hubs asking :"Where do I need to put this crap?" in reference to the tofu when he was putting away groceries, he did a pretty good job of eating most of the crap on his plate. The kid really enjoyed the peanut sauce, asked for seconds, and ate almost his entire portion. I thought it was very flavorful. Unfortunately, I don't know if I can truly call these "wraps" as the lettuce leaves I bought were kind of tiny, so it turned out more like a salad.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Ha ha ha - get it? At least I amuse myself 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Operation Waste Not, Night 1

I know I'm not the only one out there who buys a random ingredient here and there only to find I don't have any other uses for it. This has resulted in a very nice little collection of sauces, oils, spices, etc.

That's why I decided to - with the help of a somewhat willing Chef Hubs - to make a master list of what I have stockpiled and build this week's meals around them.

Truth be told - I came to this idea when I noticed I had two bottles of marsala wine sitting around. This obviously means I needed to include chicken marsala on my list. I searched through my chicken recipe binder, pulled a Clean Eating marsala recipe, and was well on my way to recipe blissdom.

Except for the fact that upon further inspection before starting tonight's meal I realized that this recipe in fact doesn't call for even a smidgen of marsala wine. Um. Oh. Hm. I guess Operation "Waste Not" was not a success.

Side note: For the millions of readers out there wondering, I DID NOT save any money on my grocery bill, and in fact spent $20 more than usual. WTF?

Chicken Marsala
Source: Clean Eating, October 2011

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 c. flour (used 1/2 c.)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (used 2 tsp)
  • Two 5oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin (used a pound of thin-sliced, which is why I increased the flour and oregano)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 c. chopped mushrooms
  • 2 c. 100 percent apple juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Directions:
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, oregano and pepper. Spread on a plate, dredge chicken through mixture to coat and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat oil on med. Add mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 mins. Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate.
  • Add chicken to skillet and brown on med heat about 5 mins per side. Remove chicken and transfer to a plate. Add 1/4 c. apple juice and deglaze skillet by scraping any browned bits from the bottom. Increase heat to med-high and add parsley and remaining 1-3/4 c. apple juice. Cook until juice is reduced by half, about 20 mins.
  • Return chicken and mushrooms to skillet and cook for 5 more mins, until heated through.
Yield: 2 servings (4.5oz chicken, 1/2 c. mushrooms, 1/2 c. sauce). Per serving: 370 cals; 11g fat (2g sat; 7g mono); 33g carbs; 95mg sodium; 3g fiber; 35g protein

Reviews:
Honestly, I was more than a little annoyed that Operation Waste Not was not incorporating the marsala, and I actually kind of searched through my chicken binder for another recipe. I then decided this was stupid and stuck with the original recipe. Sometimes I get too anal for my own good, peeps.

Anyway, I'm glad I did. Despite the kid giving it a "mediocre" (didn't like the sauce) both the hubs and I liked this a lot, and it did taste marsala-y. It was also a snap to pull together. One note: The serving supposedly includes mushrooms AND sauce, but - at least the way I cooked it - it was one in the same.

Ranking:
Three Forks



Monday, June 4, 2012

I'll Be Back

It seems that the start of summer has gotten the best of this blog. Between travel soccer, travel baseball, the call of the grill and other randomness, our family meals have become few and far between. As have my blog posts.

Do note: I have cooked some meals here and there - meals, party dishes, etc. - but I've been too tired or too busy or too lazy to write about any of them. Note number two: Although the blog has been lacking in posts, I have continued on with the challenge and have not repeated anything. In fact, I have so many frickin recipes that I plan on continuing this challenge indefinitely.



But that's for another blog.

Tonight was one of the rare nights without any commitments. So we grilled! With a recipe! For your reading pleasure!

Grilled Taco-Barbecue Chicken
Source: Betty Crocker Summer Favorites, Summer 2007

We had the chicken with steamed broccoli and:
Parsley-Farro Salad
Source: Cooking Light, June 2012

Reviews:
This was the first time we've had farro. The best way to describe farro is that it is like "barley on steroids." (Not my quote - just like it) It has a kind of chewy, nutty flavor and of course has a lot of health benefits. Much to my surprise, the hubs declared that he actually likes farro more than our old standby, brown rice. Hmpf! The kid didn't appreciate this change up quite as much as the hubs, but the kid was also having a mildly pissy night (i.e., he's exhausted), so I don't think any change up would have worked for him tonight. The chicken was good - nothing special, but totally edible. That's a ringing endorsement, right?

Ranking:
Three Forks

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two-fer

Two-fer one, that is. I cooked last night, but I didn't blog because I was so totally and completely exhausted.

For the one of you who don't know, I ran my first 10K yesterday. In fact, it was my first race ever, and my first athletic competition since high school (unless you count some fierce games of whirley ball and a random staff softball game long ago). Needless to say, the entire experience was intimidating, overwhelming, exhilarating and exhausting all wrapped into one. And needless to say - even though I am very used to waking up at obscene hours to work out - I was just spent last night and didn't make it past 8:15.



So now you get double the recipe pleasure.

Last night we had Chicken Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato and Fresh Red Pepper Sauce
Source: Clean Eating, July 2011

Ingredients:
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1tsp evoo
  • 2 tsp low-sodium dry rub or blend
  • 1.5 c. uncooked penne
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced (skip - didn't feel like chopping)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped basil
Sauce:
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c. unsalted raw cashews
  • 1/4 c. whole fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 shallot, halved
Directions:
  • Diagonally score chicken and rub with thin coating of oil and dry rub. Grill chicken. Chop and set aside.
  • Prepare pasta while chicken cooks.
  • Prepare sauce. In a blender/food processor, combine all sauce ingredients until very smooth.
  • Toss everything together and serve.
Yield: 2 servings (we had more than enough for 3)
Per serving: 648 cals; 13g fat (2g sat); 85g carb; 14g fiber; 50g protein; 402mg sodium

Reviews:
The hubs took one look at the unblended ingredients and had major doubts. But, the sauce turned out awesome. I ended up heating it up so the meal was hot, but otherwise have no changes to this. It was a different flavor but different in a way that even the kid and hubs enjoyed.

Tonight we had Tuna Salad Melt
Cooking Light, June 2012

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 c. chopped red onion (skip)
  • 1/4 c. canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c. canola mayo (I use Spectrum)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • salt/pepper (skip)
  • 1 (12-oz) can white tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • bread, shredded Swiss, tomatoes, spinach
Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients (through bread/cheese, tomatoes, spinach) in a bowl.
  • Top bread evenly with cheese and broil. Arrange tomato slices, 1/3 c. tuna and spinach on top of bread.
Yield: 6 servings (one sandwich)
Per serving: 231 cals; 11.1g fat (1.9g sat, 2.9g mono, 3.8g poly); 15.2g protein; 18g carb; 3.9g fiber; 21mg chol; 500mg sodium

Reviews:
Of course we had soccer practice tonight, so I made this and let it hang in the fridge until the boys got home, and simply broiled the sandwiches upon their arrival. So that was the best part - I was able to make this ahead and have something fresh for dinner. I thought it was OK, the hubs liked it, and the kid wasn't the biggest fan. He gave it an encouraging thumbs up at first, but a few more bites in and he was done. Personally, I prefer another tuna recipe I make - with spectrum mayo, diced apple, topped on fresh spinach with a teeny douse of Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing. Yum.

Rankings:
Chicken Penne: Three Forks
Tuna: Two Forks

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rated R

For all my younger fans (!) out there, this blog post might not be the most appropriate of reads tonight.

Today at lunch, me and two of my co-workers had an extensive conversation about cups. Not the kind of cups that you drink from, mind you, but the kind of cups that - as a female - I have no experience with. Side note: We had this appealing discussion at the NEO famous Melt. Yum. Good thing I saved my run for after work today.

I digress. The cup conversation continued with a couple of follow up text messages tonight to confirm some of our sneaking cup suspicions (i.e., husband consultations). These messages happened to come in when I was making tonight's dinner... meat balls.

You know you love it. Class act all the way.


"I'm A Boy" from The Who album "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy" Of course

Every Day is a Meatball Day!
Source: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. oat bran or breadcrumbs (used oat bran)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp seat salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, place egg and oat bran. Add spices and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop (I used a smaller scoop) make meatballs and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 20 mins or until golden.
Reviews:
Super easy, super fast. I liked baking the meatballs instead of pan frying them. Because I am not great at pan frying anything. While they balls were a-bakin, I prepared the pasta (whole wheat rotini), garlic bread for the boys and steamed broccoli, so everything was timed perfectly. They tasted great (except for being a little too "crusty" for the kid) and there are a bunch of leftovers.

Ranking:
Three Forks




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What About Bob?

No no - we don't have any crazies hanging here - despite the opinion of my hubs and some of my peeps.  But, we do have kabobs!

Who doesn't like food on a stick? Ice cream on a stick? Score. Cake pops on a stick? Double score. Meat on a stick? Ummm.

Italian Beef Kabobs
Source: The New American Heart Association Cookbook

Ingredients
Marinade:
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 c. dry red wine
  • 2 tbsp light Italian dressing
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil (used canola)
Directions
  • Marinade 1.5 lbs sirloin tip (cut into 16 cubes) in a large, resealable plastic bag for about 8 hours.
  • This is the combo we used for the kabobs: steak, portobello mushrooms, red peppers, red potatoes cut in half. I would use onions next time too.
Reviews:
When I think about it in advance, I like marinating things. I really think it deepens the flavor. How foodie of me. What was kind of a hassle about this was the actual kabob-ing. It took a few too many minutes to skewer the food, so that was annoying to my impatient (and hungry) self. However, once that unpleasant task was done and we had grilled the 'bobs, it was all positive, all the way around. Kid approved. Hubs approved. Hfish approved.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Monday, May 14, 2012

Best Email Ever

Hey ho peeps. Today sure has been a Monday in every sense of the word, right? Are you feeling it too? Do you feel like I do? (Bonus points for lyric reference, btw)

A few items to quickly address.
  • Great Mother's Day! My wonderful boys and babe spoiled me with some super fun presents and by grilling a delish healthy meal (chicken and asparagus).

  • I am ridiculously excited about Howard Stern on AGT tonight. YES I am one of those Stern Super Fans who has listened to him for almost 25 years. LOVE HIM.

  • Over the weekend, I made two desserts: One for us and GA, and one for a little shin-dig we attended on Saturday eve.
A note about these desserts. Once again, due to our awesomely ridiculous schedule, I had to squeeze both in during the baby's nap. Blah blah blah. Schedule blah blah. Anyway. On behalf of GA, I cranked out two dozen Triple-Chocolate Cupcakes (source: unknown) and for the soiree, I butchered Tiny Lemon Gem Tarts (Betty Crocker Indulgent Desserts, Winter 2007). And that's what leads me to this email thing.

I received an email from a certain party hostess who was frantically searching for more lemony things. At 4 a.m. Peeps! This made my life for a number of reasons. One: Hysterical email in and of itself. Two: Despite my inability to remove the tarts from the pan without completely crumbling more than half of them (and then hiding this effort in muffin tins), they were edible! Can I have a woot woot?! And I had my doubts! Side note: I was NOT awake at 4 a.m. to receive this email. For once.

On to tonight's dinner:
Asian Chicken Salad
Source: EatingWell Diabetes Cookbook

Reviews:
As you may remember, during the warmer months I like to throw in a salad or two every once in a while. Plus, this one promised to be quick and easy. And it was! I made some simple substitutions to meet our tastes (no radishes, romaine instead of cabbage), but otherwise this required no chopping, some measuring and easy mixing. We all liked this dish - lots of flavor, not too heavy.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'm Nine Now!

I fear that this blog has evolved into a documentation of kid randomness instead of my adventures in recipe hunting. But, the kid typically has way more interesting things to say than I do, so deal with it.

Per usual, tonight at dinner I asked the hubs and the kid for their meal ranking. Both the hubs and I agreed that the meal (cornflake crusted chicken fingers/almond rice pilaf) was a three forker. The kid vehemently disagreed - anointing the chicken with four forks - and then denounced our over-ruling with a "I'm NINE now."

Being nine apparently brings a lot of new topics to the table, btw, because immediately following the ranking conversation, we had an extensive dialogue about what it means to call someone "hot." Because, dear readers, he has officially gone there. Because he is nine now.

Duh

Cornflake-Crusted Chicken Tenders
Source: The Carb Lovers Diet Cookbook, by Ellen Kunes and Frances Largeman-Roth


Almond Rice Pilaf
Source: Four Ingredient, 10 Minute Recipes, Weight Watchers, December 2011

Reviews:
So, why did we give this meal three forks instead of four? I needed a super-fast and easy meal that I could prepare and have ready immediately after baby bedtime and soccer-practice, and both of these recipes fulfilled that. The rice was really good - it included almonds and shallots - and the chicken was also good. But not great. Not four forks great. Just good. Unless you are nine.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Mmmm steamed broccoli




Monday, May 7, 2012

Bowling for Tacos

Ugh - so that might be the worst blog title ever.

Luckily, dinner tonight was not the worst. Because we have limited family meals this week, the boys were off the hook for Meatless Monday. Instead, we went gluten free!

A word re: gluten free. No one in my family (as far as I'm aware) has any gluten-based tolerance issues, so the reason I selected this recipe was simply because it looked yummy. Color me stupid, but I couldn't really tell you why this was gluten-free.

And, since I don't feel like typing out the entire recipe, you won't get the opportunity to look at the ingredients, so you won't be able to figure out the gluten-free for me thing either.

Kind of depressing?

Gluten-Free "Taco" Bowls
Source: Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/February 2012

Reviews:
First of all, let's start with the preparation. For a weeknight, this was not the best choice. It was supposed to simmer for 55 minutes. Because my stove tends to cook a little faster than usually indicated, I was able to cut that time down by about 15-20 minutes, so we didn't have to eat super late. Besides the long simmer time, the meal was fairly easy to throw together. Limited chopping, mostly just a throwing a bunch of spices together. As far as the food itself, no one missed the gluten (ha ha), because it was really good. The kid really liked it and didn't notice the fun pinto beans thrown in. It was basically like a shell-less taco, although the boys did use taco chips to scoop it up. And there are lots of leftovers.

Ranking:
Three Forks


Kind of NOT depressing?!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Testy

Today and tomorrow, the kid is taking some sort of standardized test at his school. Unfortunately I can't expound much more on the nature of tests because the hubs keeps me away from most things having to do with academics. What I can tell you is this test taking thing inspired my recipe selection for tonight.

Here's hoping the salmon brain food not only helps the kid out tomorrow, but helps me with the copious (my new fave word, btw) amount of writing I have to do tomorrow.

PS - I didn't feel like blogging last night, but we had steak tacos from EatingWell for the kid's birthday dinner. HB kid!

Grilled Salmon and Brown Butter Couscous
Source: Cooking Light, May 2012

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 c. uncooked couscous (used whole wheat)
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine
  • 14.5 oz low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (skip)
  • 4 (6oz) skinless salmon fillets
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  • Preheat grill to med-high heat.
  • Heat butter in a small saucepan over med-heat; cook 3 mins or until browned. Add nuts; cook 1 min, stirring occasionally. Add wine and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 5 mins. Fluff with a fork; stir in rind, juice, 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper.
  • Combine white pepper and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 tsp salt) in a small bowl. Coat salmon fillets with cooking spray. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Place salmon on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill over med-high heat 4 mins on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with couscous.
Yield: 4 servings (1 salon fillet and 1/2 c. couscous)
Per serving: 457 cals; 15g fat (4.9g sat, 4g mono, 4.1g poly); 41.2g protein; 35.8g carbs; 556mg sodium

Reviews:
Salmon: 3-0 - we all liked the grilling method (kudos to Chef Hubs)
Couscous: 2-1 - the kid did not care for the couscous (texture, peeps); the hubs and I liked the lemon-y change-up
Difficulty: This was no problem at all. I reduced the overall cook time (40 mins?!) by having Chef Hubs grill the salmon while I dealt with the couscous.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Super food bonanza

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stuffed

Ugh. So, last week brought three days of business travel for me (i.e., way too much food and two sips of Grey Goose) and this upcoming week brings birthdays for both the kid and the hubs (i.e., big dinner out last night, oodles of cake and ice cream). The words "over-indulged" don't even come close to my state of being right now.

To be honest, I probably could have skipped eating today altogether, but we all know that's not the healthiest of choices. Instead, I selected a dinner that would be both appealing to the boys and not too heavy for all of us. Because obvs we need to save room for leftover cake from the kids' laser-tag shindig yesterday.

Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry
Source: Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2012

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth (used no-salt)
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp chile paste
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 pound chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 c. snow peas
  • 1/2 c. sliced onion
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (used minced)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 c. rice
  • 1/4 c. slices green onions
  • 1/4 c. chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
Directions:
  • Combine 2 tsp sesame oil and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a small bowl.
  • Heat wok or large skillet over med-high heat. Add remaining 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp canola, swirl. Add chicken, stir-fry 2 mins. Remove chicken from pan.
  • Add remaining 1 tbsp canola, swirl. Add bell peppers and next 4 ingredients (through garlic); stir-fry 1 min. Add broth mixture; cook 30 seconds or until thick. Return chicken to pan; cook 4 mins or until chicken is done.
Yield: 4 (1/2 c. rice, 1 c. chicken mixture, green onions, peanuts)
Per serving: 420 cals; 16.7g fat (2g sat, 8.2g mono, 5.1g poly); 32.3g protein; 32.3g carb; 66mg chol; 478mg sodium

Reviews:
Mid-way through dinner, the kid gave me his very thoughtful review: The chicken and the peas went great together - the crunch of the peas and the chewiness of the chicken (is that good?); the rice just slipped down the throat and you didn't have to chew it (bonus?); and the sauce was awesome - not too much of it.

While I don't know if the kid's review would give me any sort of Michelin stars, in the "Kid Star" world this was a four forker. The hubs liked it a lot too - with the exception of the peppers. I thought it was good, but didn't quite taste as much flavor as the kid apparently did. This certainly fit the bill for a lighter meal.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Soccer, baseball, soccer, baseball

That's right sports fans. We are in the midst of travel soccer and travel baseball season. So when we don't have rain outs or wind outs (like last night), we have a commitment many nights of the week. Whether or not I cook will depend on timing and location.

Tonight we had a soccer game. I decided to cook - despite the fact that we weren't going to do the family meal because of timing. I wanted the boys to have something hot to eat when they came home. Side note: I attend as many games as possible, but when certain little women hit the hay at 6:30, it makes it difficult during the week.

Southwestern Skillet Mac & Cheese
Source: Weight Watchers "Make It In Minutes" 2001

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. elbow mac
  • 1 lbs ground skinless turkey
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped green pepper (skip)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with juice (used no-salt added)
  • 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce (used no-salt added)
  • 1 (4.5oz) can chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar (used mozzarella b/c I had it on hand)
Directions:
  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add turkey and cook until no longer pink. Stir in onion, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Cook for 3 mins. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chiles and water.
  • Simmer, uncovered for 10 mins. Add in pasta and cheese, stirring to combine.
Yield: 6 servings (1 c./serving)
Per serving: 297 cals; 13g fat (5g sat); 73mg chol; sodium in original is too ridic to include; 22mg carbs; 22g protein

Reviews:
Fast, easy, hearty, bit of a kick. Win win win. Just like our soccer boys - they brought home a 7-0 win tonight (and the kid scored 2).

Ranking:
Three Forks



Monday, April 23, 2012

Shhhhh

Don't tell the boys, but I decided to try and pull a secret Meatless Monday on them.



I hatched the plan when I bought the soy crumbles. Despite the fairly obvious packaging, the hubs - who puts away the groceries - didn't pay too much attention and threw it in the pantry along with the cereal and other random items. Luckily I discovered this snafu almost immediately and put the soy stuff in its rightful shelf in the fridge.

The recipe for tonight also made it easy to try and hide the soy stuff in casserole form. I don't know that this is even close to the healthiest, cleanest or leanest of recipes out there, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to attempt another meatless recipe.

Sloppy Joe Casserole
Source: Family Circle, May 2012

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped (used 1)
  • 2 green peppers, chopped (used 1/2 red)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (used minced)
  • 1 (12oz) package soy crumbles
  • 1 (8oz) can no-salt added tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 package Arnold pocket thins, Italian Herb, split open
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar
Directions:
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13x9 dish with cooking spray.
  • Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook 7 mins, stirring so garlic doesn't burn. Stir in soy, tomato sauce, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, cover and simmer on med-low heat for 10 mins.
  • Line bottom of dish with half the flatbreads, tear to fit if needed. Spread half the skillet mix over breads, sprinkle with 1/2 c. cheese. Layer with remaining breads and skillet mix. Cover with foil.
  • Bake for 25 mins. Top with remaining 1/2 c. cheese and bake uncovered 5 more mins to melt cheese.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 355 cals; 11g fat (4g sat); 24g protein; 47g carbs; 12g fiber; 805mg sodium (ACK!)

Reviews:
The only one who really liked this meal was... the hubs! In fact, I haven't yet revealed the "secret" ingredient, so I'll be curious to hear his reaction when he reads this blog. My hunch is he will claim he was on to the soy the entire time. Regardless, he dug right in and noted more than once how much he liked the meal. The kid didn't like it at all ("too close to hamburger pie") and while I liked the soy stuff, there was too much bread. I even removed the top half of the bread and just baked it as a single layer, because it was too much. I also didn't love the taste of the Italian Herb pocket thin.

Ranking:
Two Forks




Sunday, April 22, 2012

Words

Well peeps, I have writer's block. I have found that over the past several blog posts, I have been struggling with things to share, and I feel like my blog is getting a little repetitive. Luckily, the entire point of this challenge was not to create an awesome blog, but to not repeat recipes, and with the exception of my accidental repeat, the spirit of this challenge is still going strong. So, no matter what I write or don't write, do know that the dishes are going to keep on keeping on. And who knows? Tomorrow the block might have lifted and you'll once again have super-extra-awesomely-witty words to read.



Couscous-Stuffed Chicken
Source: Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2011

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 c. chicken broth (used no-salt)
  • 1/4 c. uncooked couscous (used whole wheat)
  • salt/pepper (skip)
  • 3 tbsp chopped plum tomato (used diced)
  • 2 tbsp olives, chopped (skipped -blech)
  • 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tsp chopped oregano
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 (6oz) boneless chicken breast halves
  • cooking spray
Directions:
  • Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover and let stand 4 mins. Place couscous in a small bowl, fluff with fork. Cool for 10 mins. Add ingredients to bowl (through garlic), toss.
  • Pound chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Divide couscous mixture evenly among breast halves; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Secure with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with salt/pepper (skipped).
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Heat a large ovenproof skillet over med-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook for 6 mins or until browned. Turn chicken over. Bake at 400 degrees until chicken is done.
Yield: 4 servings (1 stuffed breast)
Per serving: 271 cals; 10.7g fat (2.2g sat, 6.5g mono, 1.3g poly); 31.9g protein; 10g carbs; 78mg chol; 546mg sodium

Reviews:
First - a word to the wise. Do not use colored wooden toothpicks to secure chicken rolls unless you like the lovely blue, green and red dye colors in your food. D'oh. Second - this was so-so. It was good and edible and all that, but the only flavor that really came through was the lemon. I didn't get enough of the tomatoes or feta in my serving for it to be worth the mess and kinda hassle.

Ranking:
Two Forks

Fresh from the oven - spot the blue hue!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

At the Hubs' Request

Last week, the hubs requested something "Italiany." Tonight, in lieu of Sophia Loren (circa 1960), he got chicken with garlic-tomato sauce.

(Sorry peeps - not feeling it tonight.)

Chicken with Garlic Tomato Sauce
Source: Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet, Spring 2008

Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4oz each)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (used no-salt diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 c. tomato sauce (used no-salt added)
  • 3/4 c. chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. tomato paste (used no-salt added)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
Directions:
  • Sprinkle both sides of chicken with pepper (skip). In a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat, brown chicken on each side in 1 tsp oil. Remove and keep warm (note: I browned each side for approx 3 mins).
  • In the same skillet, saute tomatoes and garlic in remaining oil for 1 min. Add carrots, saute 2-3 mins longer. Combine tomato sauce, broth, tomato paste adn rosemary. Stir into skillet and bring to a boil.
  • Return chicken to the pan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-12 mins or until chicken is done. Serve with pasta.
Yield: 4 servings (4oz chicken + 3/4 c. sauce)
Per serving: 197 cals; 5g fat (1g sat); 63mg chol; 510mg sodium; 10g carbs; 3g fiber, 26g protein

Reviews:
The kid LOVED this meal. He liked the chicken. The sauce. The pasta. The garlic bread. The whole nine yards. No weird after taste or crazy, hidden veggies. Or potatoes. The hubs also liked the dish, but I don't think it was quite as palate pleasing to him as it was to the kid. Overall, this was simple to prepare and I liked the timing because it allowed me to make the pasta, the garlic bread (for the boys) and the kale (for me, duh), while it was simmering.

Ranking:
Three Forks