I’ll admit it. We’ve fallen off the healthy eating wagon. I guess the road got a little bumpy between Junior’s birthday, the holidays, and wanting comfort food in this cold weather. I started out clinging to the wagon, but eventually, let go. It’s time to climb back on the wagon, but that means I have to find it first. Which way do I go?
I’ve decided that one thing for me is convenience. I don’t mean packed, boxed, crap food. I just don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen every day. I want to use my time more wisely. If I’m making marinara sauce, I’m going to make a bigger batch so I can freeze a couple more dinners worth. One way to make this easier, is meal planning a month at a time. If I plan ahead, I should be able to use my efforts more wisely. I’m also going to use index cards to write down our favorite meals and their ingredients. When I menu plan, I’ll have a quick easy reference to everyone’s favorites.
Wish me luck!
This week, I was trying to think of some healthy twists on some classic comfort foods. I started with Shepherd’s Pie.
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and sorted
4-5 medium golden potatoes
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups stock (we’re not vegetarian, so I used beef. Veggie stock would be fine)
1/2 cup TVP (I threw it in because I had it, totally ok to skip)
1 cup frozen peas
In a small pot, simmer lentils in water until softened (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, boil your potatoes and make mashed potatoes in your favorite fashion. I used sour cream, garlic and margarine in mine.
In a large sauté pan, combine onion, carrot, celery, garlic and oil. Add any dry herbs you like now. Thyme would be great, but I skipped it because Hubs doesn’t like it. Stir until veggies soften. Add flour to make a roux. Add stock 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve got a gravy with your veggies. Stir in your cooked lentils, TVP and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish. Dollop mashed potatoes over the top. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes just to heat everything through and crisp the top of the potatoes. Enjoy!
My apologies. These are so not healthy, but a girl’s got to splurge now and again. And I’m totally blaming Hubs for this one. He’s been talking about cinnamon rolls for days. One of the downsides of knowing how to make just about anything from scratch, is there’s enough of something in the house to make something I shouldn’t. Oh, these were so good.
1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 tsp yeast (1 packet will work fine)
2/3 cup warm milk or water (I used half water, half almond milk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
And a bit more milk
In a bowl, stand mixer or bread maker, combine 1/4 cup butter, flour, 1/4 cup sugar, egg, yeast and milk (or water). Mix together and knead about 5 minutes until smooth and stretchy. If dough feels to wet or too dry, and flour or milk accordingly. Dough ma be slightly tacky, but shouldn’t stick everywhere, nor should it be difficult to work. Cover and allow to rise 30-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9″x9″ pan. Reserve 1 tbsp butter. Spread a little flour on counter and have a little extra on hand just in case. Roll dough into a rough square about 12×12″. Brush remaining melted butter (minus the 1 Tbsp you reserved) onto the dough. Spread 1/4 cup sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon on the buttered dough. Roll and cut into 6 pieces. Stand pieces on end in pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 30 minutes.
Remove wrap and bake about 30 minutes. While they’re baking, make your glaze. Combine 1 Tbsp melted butter, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and a couple of teaspoons of milk. Stir well. Add milk until you reach a consistency you like. The best way to check the rolls is with a good ol’ thermometer. They should temp at about 155-160 in the middle. Any less than that and they will likely be a little doughy still. As soon as they’re done, flip rolls onto a plate. You can add your glaze now (it will melt in a lot at this point), or wait until they cool (and the glaze will sit on top more).
This stuff makes a wonderful, healthy, protein packed side dish, or a super filling vegan entree. Dig in and enjoy. Oh, and extra points, its way easy to make!
2 tbsp oil or margarine (or butter if you’re not going for vegan)
1 large broccoli crown
1 cup quinoa
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
And some of your favorite herbs and spices
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop up your veggies. I chose to use the food processor, because I was feeling lazy and wanted everything chopped tiny. Do whatever works for you.
3. Sauté veggies and herbs/spices in oil over medium high heat until veggies are mostly cooked.
4. Add quinoa to the pan and sauté another minute or two. Add the stock and bring to a boil.
5. If your sauté pan is big enough and oven safe, cover it and pop it in the oven. Otherwise, pour everything into a casserole dish (my 9×9 was fine), cover and bake. It will take 25-30 minutes to bake. If you’re not vegan, you could remove the cover at the end and top it with some cheese. Toss it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.
A couple of months ago, I was thinking bat getting my wedding ring resized. It was too tight and I couldn’t take it off. Now, it slips off fairly easily. Woot, woot! Celebrate the small victories, right? Not only am I losing weight, but I saved the money of having my ring resized.
This year, I want to really start teaching Junior about giving. I want him to see us giving more than receiving and giving without expectation of receiving in return. I have three goals for the holiday season. I want to put together some care packages for some deployed service members. I’d really love to get some friends in on this too, so if you want to join me, let more know! My second goal is to provide Thanksgiving dinner for a needy family. Turkey, stuffing, beans, pumpkin pie, the works. Lastly, I want to adopt a family this Christmas. The whole family. Not just gifts for the kids, but for the parent(s) too. Heck, even the dog, if they have one.
Who’s with me?
Just a quick post today as my to-do list is screaming my name. But I just have to brag a moment. I went in a notch on my belt this morning! I might have done a little happy dance. Maybe. I’ve been wearing the same belt for a few years and gradually been going out a notch here and there. Today, I went in. As in smaller. Comfortably. Maybe this healthy eating stuff is paying off.
We’re big soup eaters. Can’t decide what’s for dinner? Soup. Want something lazy for dinner? Soup. Need to use up leftovers? Soup. Need to throw something in the crockpot for later? Soup. It’s always a winner around here. Since no two batches are ever the same, I call it Kitchen Sink Soup; I throw in everything but the kitchen sink.
The first step is the stock. Stash a zipper bag in your freezer. Every time you peel a veggie or trim the ends, throw the scraps in the bag. When the bag is full (or as full as will fit in your crockpot), dump the contents in the crockpot, cover with water and add some seasonings. I usually use some garlic and whatever is on hand. Last night, it happened to be dry basil and oregano. Parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc are all great choices too. I usually coarsely chop an extra onion to add too, but I love onion, so that’s up to you. Cover and set on low for 6-8 hrs. Drain and cool. You can reduce or freeze it from here, but I usually use it so quickly, I just toss it in the fridge. If you want to save bones from any meat dishes, you can use those in your stock too.
Now that your stock is out of the way, dinner is insanely easy. Start rifling through your fridge. What do you need to use up? Some leftover shredded chicken from tacos? Some veggies starting to get soft? I usually eyeball somewhere around 2 parts stock to one part stuff. Simple enough, right? Anything fully cooked, soft (like zucchini), or cooks quickly (like broccoli) can go straight in the crockpot with the stock. Hard veggies like carrots, onions, etc should be sautéed first. Once they soften, toss them in the pot too. Cook on low for 6ish hours or high for 3. Starchy items like rice and potatoes will thicken the stock a bit. If you want it thicker, about 30 minutes before serving, combine a couple of tablespoons corn starch with an equal amount of cold water. Gradually stir it into the soup. Let it continue cooking until you’re ready to eat.
Here’s what went in my pot today:
Directly into the pot: 4 quarts stock, 1 parsnip, 1 turnip, 1 rutabaga, 1 zucchini, and 1 head broccoli.
Into a sauté pan: 1 onion, 4 carrots, 4 ribs celery, 1 leek, 1 red bell pepper and 2 tablespoons garlic. Once these are softened, they go right into the pot too.
I prefer to season my stock strongly so that I don’t need to do much with the soup. I’ll add a little salt and pepper, maybe an herb or two, but that’s it. We like to eat our soup with rice, but I prefer to cook it separately. I make huge pots of soup because we love leftovers. I’m not fond of how squishy rice gets sitting in the soup for a day or two. If you want to add rice, white rice can go in about an hour before you plan to eat, brown rice will need longer (at least an 1.5 hours). Quinoa should work too, but I haven’t tried it yet. Pasta is definitely best cooked separate and added as y eat.
Now go rescue those leftovers and enjoy your own version of Kitchen Sink Soup!
I finally got around to making these black bean burgers I’ve been fantasizing about for over a week. Totally worth it. And I’m sharing them with you.
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water or stock (I used beef stock to make them a little more like traditional burgers for Hubs)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup TVP (that’s textured vegetable protein. I threw it in because I had it. If you don’t have easy access to it, just skip it or substitute with toasted bread crumbs)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1. Combine quinoa and water (or stock) in a small pot over high heat. When it reaches a boil, cover and simmer 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Using a fork or potato masher, gently mash beans and mix ingredients. Leave some chunkiness in the beans. When quinoa is cooked, fold it in to bean mixture.
3. Shape into patties whatever size you like. I made 6 patties. Pan sear over high heat for about 3 minutes per side until heated through.
Our review: 4 out of 5. Everyone enjoyed their burgers. Hubs and Junior even asked for seconds! If you like full flavored foods, bump up the seasonings a bit.
I needed to find Hubs a good protein snack to take to work. He’s never been super impressed the with packaged bars, and I have never been thrilled with the prices. Not to mention all the sugar in them. I read through a few recipes and created my own recipe. It’s fabulous.
Almond Protein Bars
1 cup real almond butter (just plain old ground almonds, you can do this yourself with a food processor if you can’t get it in a store near you)
2 Tbsp agave
1.5 cups vanilla whey protein powder (same kind used for protein drinks)
.5 cup oat bran
.5 cup wheat bran
.25 cup flax seed meal
.25-.33 cup water (start with less, you can always add more)
Just mix it all up. It’s going to take some muscle. Press it into a pan of your choosing; it really doesn’t matter the size. I used a 9×9. Pop it in the fridge at least an hour to set. Cut into bars. I made 12 as I want them to be snack size. If you’re looking for something more filling, you may want less pieces. It’s totally up to you. Wrap them in wax paper or plastic wrap as they will be a little sticky. Enjoy!
I read several other recipes online that suggest freezing the bars if you’re not going to eat them within a few days. I decided to freeze mine. Since hubs will be taking them to work, they’ll have plenty of time to thaw before he eats them.