Woot woot!

September 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm (Food) (, )

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.

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Kitchen sink soup

September 24, 2012 at 7:45 pm (Food) (, , )

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!

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Black bean quinoa burgers

September 22, 2012 at 6:30 am (Food) (, , )

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 egg

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.

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Almond protein bars

September 19, 2012 at 4:03 am (Food) (, )

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.

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Day 6 – Chili

September 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm (Food) (, )

It’s a work night for me, so Hubs and the spawn will be having some veggie soup for dinner. Nothing exciting and no recipe for that one, but I was in the mood for something heartier for lunch and came up with a new chili recipe.

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 onion, finely diced
6 oz Boca meatless crumbles
1tsp cumin
1tsp chili powder
2 tsp minced garlic
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup black beans (either canned and rinsed, or dry beans simmered until soft)
6 oz can of tomato sauce

In one pot, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
While quinoa is cooking, sauté onion, Boca, garlic, cumin and chili powder in just a hint of oil. When onions begin to soften, add tomatoes, corn, beans, quinoa and tomato sauce. Simmer 15 minutes and enjoy!

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Dollar store organization

September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm (Uncategorized) ()

After cleaning out my cupboards of all the junk that’s accumulated over the last 4 years, and stocking up on stuff from the grocery store’s bulk section, my cupboards looked as messy as they did before. I entertained the idea of pretty glass containers for everything. Then I remembered my budget and the fact that glass breaks. Scratch that. I’m to cheap frugal for that. Dollar store time!

I found packages of 3 3 cup containers and packages of 4 1.5 cup bowls. Score. I also got a cute little set of mini rectangular pail things. The containers are perfect for all the goodies I buy in bulk now like almond meal, bran, beans, lentils, etc. The little pails are great for storing the bags of things I buy in tiny amounts or don’t use much.

Please excuse the ipadography, but here’s some photographic evidence of the organization.

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I highly recommend checking out your nearest dollar store for your next organizing project. I was really pleasantly surprised at all the containers, boxes and thingsmabobs I found there. The quality was better than I expected too.

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Days 4 and 5

September 17, 2012 at 4:34 am (Food) ()

I’m not counting Friday as one of our diet days. It didn’t count. Not even a little bit. I took the boys to the fair with a friend. We had a blast and ate a bunch of really horrendous food. And it was so good. Forgive me diet gods.

We’ll call Saturday day 4. It was one of those crazy days that would have been so much easier to order take out. I didn’t. Although it was rather tempting. I didn’t get home from work until 4:30 and needed to leave at 6:30 for a bachelorette dinner party. In two hours, I needed to cook dinner for Hubs and the kiddos, make a dish to bring to dinner with friends, shower and leave the house looking somewhat put together. Take out was really sounding good, but I didn’t cave. I made Hubs and the boys grilled salmon, brown rice and salad. I brought an awesome salmon and quinoa salad for the dinner party. People asked for the recipe. Win.

Tonight, we had a family dinner at my brother’s house. We decided to have barbecue pizzas for dinner. I made whole wheat dough, and topped it with ground tomatoes, Boca meatless crumbles, and about half the cheese I normally would have used. It was pretty yummy, but didn’t beat out the quinoa salad.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe for Salmon Quinoa Salad.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
4oz salmon, cooked, cooled and flaked
1/2 cup thinly sliced leeks
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely diced celery
2Tbsp olive oil
2Tbsp red wine vinegar
1tsp thyme
Dash of salt and pepper

1. Combine quinoa and stock in a small pot, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes until all stock is absorbed. Put it in the fridge to cool.
2. Lightly sauté leeks in a tiny bit of oil. Combine the cooked leeks with the cooked quinoa.
3. Mix in the celery and bell pepper with quinoa.
4. To make dressing, whisk together oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. When quinoa is cool, toss dressing with salad.

Done!

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Go Deuce!

September 14, 2012 at 5:30 am (Deuce) ()

Deuce is 19 months old now. For real. Already. Just like his big brother, he’s not a talker. When Junior was the same age he said a couple of words, but he’s making up the the lack of talking now! Deuce points a few things out like cars, balls, crackers, etc., but tonight he did something new. We were finishing dinner and he walked over to me. I asked if he was done, he looked me right in the eye and signed “all done”. I was so proud. Seems silly to be so proud of a 19 month old making a simple hand gesture, but this is the first time he’s really communicated a thought with me. Crap, I’m getting sappy now. My baby is growing up!

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Day 3

September 14, 2012 at 5:09 am (Food) (, , )

I was so excited for tonight’s dinner, we got distracted. My sister in law called and invited the kids and I over for dinner and blackberry picking. Hubs works very early in the morning, so he stayed home since we’re always late getting back after playing there. Typical for me, I took over in the kitchen while she played outside in the September evening sun. I rummaged through her cabinets and whipped up some spaghetti sauce. It was a quick combo of onions, carrots, zucchini, corn, and lean ground pork. Not quite as healthy as I was shooting for, but it sure was tasty. I tried to eat more sauce than pasta and I ate a side of broccoli too. I keep reminding myself that it’s not a diet, it’s about making better choices. I think I did ok with what was in front of me.

I was planning to make some black bean quinoa burgers for dinner at home. Now I probably won’t get to them until Saturday. Tomorrow is a huge cheat day. I probably shouldn’t even admit this, but tomorrow is the day my best friend and I have called “the day of gluttony” for years. We go the the fair together every year and gorge ourselves on everything that we won’t touch again for another year. I’m giving myself a free pass for tomorrow. I hope you’ll understand!

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The verdict on Coconut Lentil Soup

September 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm (Food)

I wasn’t sure how Hubs would respond to the vegan lentil soup I made yesterday. Much to my surprise, I came home to a half empty crockpot. Hubs said it was OK. For a guy that likes big, hearty meals and claims to not like any member of the bean/legume family (well, besides peanuts), “OK” is a win in my book. The boys also ate good size servings. Junior said he liked it. He’s a fairly picky kid and says he’d eat it again. Deuce is perfectly content to eat just about any food in front of his face (except mac and cheese. What kid doesn’t like mac and cheeses?), so I’m not sure his vote counts. I thought it was pretty darn good. I would have liked to have seasoned it more (some curry powder would have been great), but keeping Hubs’ preferences in mind I kept it more lightly seasoned. I might sneak in a little curry next time. Wish me luck! 😉

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5. Decent; everyone ate it, and I’ll make it again, but probably not anyone’s favorite meal.

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