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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cauliflower Soup


Tis the season for full hearts and full bellies...and warm bellies. With the weather being as cold as it has been, it's hard to think about eating something cold for lunch. Lunch is not my favorite meal of the day. I'm always at a loss of what to make. I'm usually too hungry to go all out and make something that requires a lot of time. But I also tire easily of the typical turkey and cheese on wheat. Soup is always a good option, especially when it's paired with a fresh salad or crusty bread for dipping. I like to take advantage of the time on the weekends to make a big pot of soup; one that will leave me with plenty for the week and maybe even some for freezing.

I was invited to a friends for lunch recently, and she made a soul warming cauliflower soup with bread and salad. It was delicious and left me satisfied all the way up until dinnertime. I had never actually made cauliflower soup before, so it got me searching around for several recipes, and the one I settled on was this one from Rachael Ray. It's pretty simple to make and the effort pays off big time. You will be happy with this one! While it was simmering, I threw together a huge salad with the lettuces I received from the CSA box this week that should last several days. I now have my lunch dilemma solved for a while.

And get this...Wyatt actually liked it! I told him it was mashed potato soup.

Here you go:

Cauliflower Soup by Rachel Ray

Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 small heads cauliflower, or 1 large, cut into small bunches of florets
3 ribs celery and leafy tops from the heart of stalk, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
Hot sauce, optional
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves or chives, for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, for passing at the table

Directions
In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter, over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower florets and stir with a wooden spoon. Add celery, onion and thyme and cook for 3 minutes. Push the vegetables to 1 side of the pot. Melt 1 more tablespoon of butter on empty side of pot and add flour to the butter. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the flour in the butter. Mix in chicken broth and half-and-half. Bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Puree soup using an emersion blender, food processor or blender and return to pot. I like to leave it a little chunky. Check seasoning and add a dash of hot sauce, if desired.

Garnish soup with hot pepper sauce, chopped parsley or chives and serve with grated cheese to sprinkle on top.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stand-by's and a Thanksgiving side

Yesterday was a busy day. Actually the past two months have been busy, but yesterday was one of those days where I absolutely did not want to eat out again but didn't have a whole lot of fresh foods at home to make a decent meal out of. Then I remembered one of my "stand-by" meals that I had stashed in the freezer. I'm sure you know what a "stand-by" meal is: something that you keep the ingredients for on hand at all times and it can be quickly prepared. For most it's spaghetti or soup. Easy enough. Maybe even breakfast for dinner. That's always a great one. My favorite lately is all things I get at Trader Joe's (no surprise there, I'm sure). This is what I keep on hand in the freezer for days such as yesterday:
TJ's tempura chicken w/ sweet and sour sauce
TJ's Beijing style frozen vegetables
TJ's premade frozen brown jasmine rice
TJ's chicken egg rolls
TJ's sweet and sour sauce

Everything, except for the sweet and sour sauce, can be found in the frozen section. It's kind of like one of those stir-fry kits, except it's actually good. Those kits never seem to be enough, and the vegetables always end up soft and soggy. This works out way better, in my opinion. I usually fry the chicken up in a separate pan than the vegetables (and I use grapeseed oil or sesame oil...something that can be cooked at a high temp), heat the rice while the chicken is cooking, and then mix some of the sweet and sour sauce and the beijing sauce from the veggies and throw it all together at the last minute. I happened to have fresh broccoli and cabbage on hand last night, so I threw some of that in as well with the other veggies. The boys love it and it's usually the perfect amount for our family of four. It's also quick to make.

What's your "stand-by?" I'd love to know.

On another note, I made my sweet potato casserole today for Thanksgiving. I make it the way my mother has always made it; with a pecan praline topping. Let me tell you, it's way better than the marshmallow stuff. I've had some pretty bad casseroles, and if sweet potatoes are not done right, they can be downright disgusting. David and his sister swore they hated sweet potatoes, but once they had them cooked this way, they both say it's one of their favorite holiday dishes. I would give you my exact recipe, but I remembered Pioneer Woman makes hers the same way, so I'll just direct you to her recipe. This is also known as "I'm too lazy to get off the dang couch so I'm ripping somone else's recipe off and giving it to you." Seriously, though, it's a common way to make the casserole here in the south, and her recipe is almost exactly the same as mine.
One thing I've done differently with it this year is I've used canned organic sweet potato puree from TJ's. We'll see if it tastes as good but I was sure happy to not have to boil and mash the potatoes. Huge time saver there.

Sweet Potato Casserole that you'll actually like!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup


As I said in my previous post, I had two butternut squashes on hand from the CSA box. Other than making babyfood when my babies were babies, I don't recall ever making anything with butternut squash. It's not that I don't enjoy eating them, I've just been intimidated a little by them. One of my favorite pastas is butternut squash ravioli. It's hard to come by, but if I'm ever at a restaurant that serves it, I will most definitely get it. In fact, my favorite dish in all of Atlanta is Zuzza at Figo. Zucca is a divine butternut squash ravioli with a raddichio cream sauce. I cannot go to Figo and not get it. I salivate as I drive by the restaurant just thinking about Zucca. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

O.K., I'll stop going on about my little obsession.

Anyway, I'm certainly not going to attempt to make it; I'll leave that up to the experts.
But I had to come up with something to do with the butternut babies I had on hand.

After poking around online, I found this recipe by Ellie Krieger:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Perfect. Right up my alley. I've watched her show before on the Food network; Healthy Appetite, and she comes up with some pretty good recipes. I had everything I needed, so I sat the boys down in front of the TV with their lunches, and I got busy in the kitchen making a huge batch of the soup. And yes, I do use the TV as a babysitter at times. Well, a lot of the time if I'm honest.

The result...delish! And I mean it. I'm trying to make myself wait until dinnertime to eat a whole bowl, but I keep sneaking by the pot and dishing out little spoonfuls. Tonight, I'll top it with a dallop of yogurt (greek yogurt) as the recipe suggests. I know some are afraid of curry...don't be. This is just a rich, flavorful and slightly sweet soup that is perfect for this season.

I can't wait until dinnertime tonight!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons plain low-fat yogurt, for garnish
Directions
Heat oil over medium heat in a 6-quart stockpot. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft but not brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the butternut squash, broth, curry powder and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat stir in honey and puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Season with salt, to taste.
Ladle into serving bowls and add a dollop of yogurt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting creative with CSA




Heather recently posted about all the great things we got in our CSA boxes, so I won't list it all here. But I did want to post of pic of it all for you. I love the idea of doing CSA boxes, plus, it's always a surprise to see what you get. You do have to get creative and plan some meals around your fresh produce so it doesn't go bad, but you're usually getting what is fresh and in season at the moment and that's just what your body needs. The chicken, honey, and cheese were not in the box...they were additional purchases from Farmer Chad. We have really blown through the cheese, though. I'll definitely be buying another block this week.

I used several of my items tonight for our dinner. We started with a simple salad using the lettuces from Farmer Chad, along with the purple sweet peppers. I also topped the salad with sliced apples, candied pecans, chevere cheese with honey (a new find at Trader Joe's), and a homemade maple syrup salad dressing from Rachael Ray. It was definitely a nice departure from my typical tossed salads and the flavors were perfect for this beautiful autumn season we're in.

For dinner, I soaked black beans over night to make black beans and rice inspired by Joy. She puts curry powder in hers, and I have to say, that just takes a typical black beans and rice meal to a whole new level. It's very subtle, but the curry gives it a little bit of a sweetness. I also sauteed some onion, garlic, purple bell peppers, oregano, and white wine vinegar and threw it all into the pot with the black beans and let them all simmer for about an hour. Talk about making the whole house smell divine. While that was simmering, I braised the greens from the CSA box the way Heather does (amazing...thanks for the idea!), and grilled some chicken breasts to top off the black beans and brown rice. Once on the plate, I topped the beans and rice with a little of the cheddar cheese.

It sure feels good to have a full belly of fresh and good for you food. I've been feeling a little under the weather the past couple of days and this was one of those afternoons that I was really leaning towards not cooking. But I'm so tired of eating out and eating junk that I forced myself to get my butt in the kitchen and get to work. It's amazing how cooking can be therapeutic at times. Not only did I pull it off, I'm already feeling better for having eaten well.

I've got a plan for the acorn squash that we got in the box. I'll post about that later.
Now...if I could just get myself to the gym I'd be feeling a whole lot better about life. Unfortunately, that part of my life has really taken a hit since homeschooling. I just have to make the time.

Can't wait to see what we get in out boxes this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Octopus cake

Yes, it seems I have forgotten all about my food blog. I haven't really, but I've just been so busy and haven't had the time to get on here. My friend Joy started one and that reminded me about mine.

So...to start off...I'm posting pics of Wyatt's birthday cake from last week. He's been saying for months that he wanted an octopus cake. He's a little obsessed with all things nautical and is especially enamored with octopuses. I checked around online and the best I could come up with was this:

It's an Octopus cake pan from Williams Sonoma. It's something they had out a couple of summers ago, but the outlets about 30 miles north of me had some in stock. So one day last week, with both the boys in tow, I headed up to the outlets to go to ONE store. The things a mother would do , right? The cake itself is really cute without frosting. It's so intricate that it's really hard to frost (took me an hour) and when you do frost it, it covers up a lot of the detail. But, Wyatt was set on him being green with candy on his tentacles. So, this is the result:




I think it turned out pretty cute. The perfectionist in me was frustrated by how it turned out, but I know that to a child it was festive and fun. I found some cute ocean related gummie candies (fish, octopus, seahorses) so I arranged them around the cake. The cake itself was lemon flavor with cream cheese frosting. It was really tasty!

Other than that, there hasn't been many exciting things going on in the kitchen these days. David's on tour, so I've been cooking one really good and decent meal a week and then on all the other days we've been either eating out, eating leftovers, eating at other people's houses (my favorite!) or breaking out the mac and cheese and homemade chicken fingers. There are a few things that I've been wanting to get to on here. For one, remember my paella dilemma? I checked around online and ended up making my own version that turned out pretty good. I actually took pics of it, but now can't find them on my camera. Plus, I have now forgotten exactly how I made it. I know that it wasn't true paella, since true paella is so exact and complicated, but it was a good and quick substitute. I made it with chicken, shrimp, and sausage. Even made my own homemade saffron rice with basmati rice. If I can remember my method I'll post it.

Also, Jen asked me long ago to post my marinara sauce. I've hesitated because I don't really have a certain recipe or method even, but I'll try to get on here one of these days and post something for that. Other things I'd like to post...my homemade vegetable soup since we're getting into soup season, my banana bread and any other things I can think of.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paella?


We had a spontaneous date night Monday night thanks to the MIL. I've been craving good paella ever since I saw the movie Bella (good movie, by the way). We headed down to La Fonda in Buckhead where we had wonderful paella and white sangria. It totally hit the spot and satisfied my craving. It got me thinking, thought, that paella is a pretty simple dish and one I could perfect at home. So....I'm asking for some input here. Does anyone out there have a killer recipe for paella that they just love? Would you be willing to pass it along? If not, I'll start scouring the internet for a good recipe and will begin the process of trying it out. I'd like to find one with chicken, sausage, and shrimp. I'll leave the calamari and clams to the restaurants.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Turkey Burgers and Asian Slaw

Summer is busy! Especially for those of us with children that we're trying to keep occupied. As always, though, food is on my mind. I'm really enjoying all the fresh things out there now. If Summer were a taste, I think it would be that of a ripe juicy peach or nectarine. It just doesn't get better than that IMO.

Even with all the fresh produce available right now, Summertime is sometimes a trap of eating junk food as well. At least for me and my family it is. I've found that with our summertime activities and with our lack of properly planning the day out, we frequently run into a situation where it's dinnertime and we're either A). just getting home and there's nothing to eat; B). Out and about with just a small window of time to grab something to eat; or C). Still full from a late lunch and need to eat something that would qualify as dinner. The fast food visits are more frequent, as well as calls to the pizza delivery, and my personal "oh shoot, it's dinnertime" favorite...cereal and eggs. Yep, Summertime is not the most healthy for my family. Judging from the past, I tend to gain weight during the months of July-Oct. I think that's probably the opposite of most people. I can do o.k. through the holidays, but it's the warm months, and then especially the transition from Summer to Fall that have me cramming all the bad stuff in.

My friend Kim is really good at always having decent things on hand or in the freezer ready for her family. One of my favorite recipes of hers is for her turkey burgers. I like a good burger every now and then, but the guilt associated with a good burger often has me turning them down. These burgers are less guilt ridden, and in my opinion, every bit as tasty. When I made them this week, I used about 2 1/2 pounds of meat, which yielded about 16 burgers. I make mine somewhat small and some I made really small for the boys. I froze most of them so we'd have the burger option waiting for us in the freezer on busy days. So, without further ado, here's the recipe I got from my friend Kim:

Turkey Burgers
Equal parts ground turkey breast and regular ground turkey
1 egg for every pound of meat
1 cup dry breadcrumbs ( I make my own: equal parts whole wheat panko breadcrumbs and wheat germ)
fresh garlic
Spice blend (such as Spike, etc.)
Optional (but really good!): 1/2 cup. shredded monterrey jack cheese

Mix the turkey with the egg well. Start adding breadcrumbs by 1/4 cup intervals. You may not need a whole cup of breadcrumbs. You don't want the mixture too dry, but you do want it to be easy to work with. Once the breadcrumbs are thoroughly mix in, add the other ingredients. You may need to use your hands to really mix well. Form into desired size patties. At this point, I pour this following marinade over the patties and let them marinade for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.

Marinade for burgers:
10 ounces reduced sodium soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 TBS. Worcestershire
1/2 heaping teaspoon mustard
1/2 heaping teaspoon ginger (dry)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
2 TBSP brown sugar

After they marinated I grilled the ones we had for dinner, and then individually wrapped the others in waxed paper, put them all in a ziploc bag and froze the them. Much better for you than Bubba burgers!

They go great on a whole wheat bun. Thomas makes some cute little "bagel buns" that are a great size for the burgers and they come in whole wheat. I usually toast those on the grill for a minute just before serving. Kim serves hers on a crusty roll and they're wonderful!

Some ideas on sides? How about sweet potato fries? There's some pretty good panko breaded onion rings in the freezer section. And one more idea for a side:

Asian Cole Slaw:
1 pkg. Chicken Ramen Noodle
1 Pkg. cabbage slaw w/ carrots
2 red apples, peeled and chopped
sliced green onions
1/2 cup almonds.

Dressing:
2 TBS. Cider vinegar
3 TBS Water
1 TBS vegetable oil,
1/4 cup sugar,
1 minced garlic clove
ramen noodle seasoning.

Mix slaw ingredients together, mix dressing together and toss with slaw.

That's a great side dish for the summertime! Easy to take places and perfect for a cookout.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Meals on Wheels

The title clues you in to what's been going on in my kitchen this week. Let me back up and say last week, in the span of one week, I threw 3 different parties. I've been pooped out. That's a lot of work! I knew this week would be easier, but I did bring two meals to two different friends. One moved and one had a baby. I really do enjoy cooking for people, especially when it's needed, like after a birth or a move. It's always fun making dinner and having friends over, but there's something more sacrificial when you do it in advance and bring it to their doorstep. It gives me a chance to pray for the people that will be eating it, asking God to make the food a blessing to them.

So, for my friend that moved, I made her my sneaky chicken fingers with green beans, creamed potatoes, cornbread, creamed corn, and a peach cobbler. Typical southern meal, and I knew that this particular family would like it.

But, what I made for my friend with the new baby is the recipe I'm about to give you. It's amazing! I whipped it up in the late morning and It was SO hard not to eat it all right then and there.
I got the recipe from my friend, Judith, who got it from our friend Deborah, who got it from the AJC (I think) who got it from a restaurant. So...it's been in a lot of hands. I made extra so we'd have enough to feed my family tonight as well. I will warn you, though, it's not one for dieters! It's high in fat, but trust me, there will be a party going on in your mouth! I've made my own tweaks to it and this is what it is. I call it:

Sausage and Granny Smith Apple Penne

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
2-3 chopped shallots
2 Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and chunked (or diced)
1/4 cup White Wine
3 cups heavy cream (or may use 2 cups cream and 1 cup light cream or half and half)
1 pound cooked penne pasta
grated nutmeg (around 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
pinch of cinnamon
fresh basil
Parmigiano or reggiano cheese, grated

Remove any casings on the sausage and brown it well in a large pan. Once browned, drain and remove sausage from pan and onto a plate lined with paper towels. Saute shallots and apples in the pan. You may add a couple of tablespoons of butter for flavor at this point. Once they are softened, add the wine to deglaze the pan. Then add the cream. Return sausage to pan and simmer until reduced by 1/2 or 1/3. Toss with cooked pasta, grated nutmeg, pinch of cinnamon, torn fresh basil leaves and grated cheeses.

Like I said, it's amazing. Fattening, but amazing. It would be a great meal to have on Christmas Eve. Or June 5th. Or any day of the year for that matter.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Birthday cakes

Here's a fun post for you. I've been making my kids birthday cakes for the past year. I started it last year when I made Ethan's cake instead of ordering one from Publix, our usual. I have this cookbook of fun kid's recipes and he had picked out a spaceship cake that we made together. It turned out pretty cute. And of course, there was Wyatt's catipillar cake. A surprisingly simple cake to make.
This year, Ethan wanted a Star Wars Indiana Jones Lego cake. What was I supposed to do with that? Well, I found a pretty cool website that has some super homemade cake ideas and came across an idea for a lego cake. Here's how mine turned out.
In theory it was pretty simple, but it was work. I used two cake mixes (chocolate and butter cake) and poured the batter into two loaf pans and one sheet cake (rectangle). I did this a couple of days before the party and just froze the cakes themselves so they would be easier to assemble and frost the day before the party. The day of assembly, I trimmed the rectangles to make them look more "blocky". I frosted each one a different color, stacked them how I wanted them, and used large marshmallows cut in half for the lego prongs. I used Duncan Heinz cake mixes and so many people raved about how good it was. I think freezing them a couple of days enhances the flavor a bit, too. As far as the frosting goes, I used just a couple of tubs of the buttercream frosting. The fun part was Ethan got to be creative and pick out exactly which legos he wanted to go on the cake and he built some small spaceships as cake decorations. I think this part made him feel very important and he took it quite seriously. This cake was probably the most work of the three I've done in the past, but it was a labor of love.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New food blog

I've mentioned my Irish friend Judith before on both my blogs. She's an amazing cook. And I seriously mean amazing. She's been in the process of writing a cookbook that fuses Irish cooking with Southern cooking, and she's been writing this book for a couple of years now. The focus is on fresh, whole foods and she's got great stories of her upbringing in her lovely Ireland. The book is near completion and you should be on the lookout for it sometime early next year.
In the meantime, she's started a food blog and she's posting some of her delicious recipes. Check it out, get in your kitchen, and start cooking!

In addition to her blog, she's also got a website called The Ulster Kitchen, for all things Irish.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cheesy Chicken and Rice soup

My mother in law came over yesterday for lunch. This is what I made: cheesy chicken and rice soup.
Jen made this for me after I had Wyatt. It's a recipe from CL that I had overlooked at the time, but she zeroed in on it and I loved it. I had a craving for it over the weekend and got the ingredients so I could indulge.
My twist on it: I use precooked brown rice from TJ's instead of the wild rice it calls for. I also used a couple of glugs of white wine, red potatoes, doubled the amount of garlic, and added a little celery. I used half cheddar cheese and half processed cheese ( I just couldn't use the amount of processed cheese it calls for). The end result is sooooo good. It's similar to a baked potato soup. In fact, if you add a few slices of precooked bacon and chopped green onion, it would be a good version of baked potato soup. And who doesn't like baked potato soup? In fact, when I was pregnant with Ethan and couldn't stomach anything except fruit loops and cocoa puffs, I distinctly recall sending David out to Atlanta Bread Co, for a cup of this soup. And I guarantee that my version has lass fat and preservatives than theirs.

Warning...it makes a lot, so make it when you want to feed more than just yourself. I'm not too sure if it would freeze well since it is dairy, so I sent the mother-in-law home with some. And I had it for dinner and am eating it for lunch as I type. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Freak?

I've felt for some time now that I may be perceived as a bit of a nutrition freak. I realize with my posted articles of interest regarding diet sodas and plastics that I may be over the top for some. Compared to my extended family of good ole southerners, I guess I am a bit of a freak. I DO buy mostly horomone free meats, nitrate/nitrite free bacon, organic produce, and I try to avoid anything with enriched flour as the first ingredient. Other items I try to avoid...partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. I almost solely use brown rice, not white. Avoid white bread like the plague. While those are all things I do in practice, let me assure you, my pantry is full of things you wouldn't find in a true "freaks" pantry. Fruit Loops cereal straws, fruit gummies (no real fruit contained...sorry), chips, crackers, candy, etc.
While you won't ever see me drinking a diet soda (sorry, no bending on this rule), I will buy it for parties at my house.
And knowing all the hoopla regarding plastics contacting our food, have I gone "plastic-free" in my kitchen? Nope. My kids still drink and eat off of plastic. I did, however, recently throw out most of my plastic food storage containers and replaced them with glass pyrex dishes, and I like it much better. So much easier to clean.
It's all about trying to make better choices, educating yourself, and allowing yourself freedom at times.
And speaking of freedom, I'm really craving a big turtle sundae from Brusters today. I think my boys need some time out with mom.
Peace out.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm back...

I'm getting back into the swing of things here. We've had company with us since Wednesday and they just left this morning. Our sweet friends from Tampa spent their Spring Break with us and it was great having them. A lot of eating was done by all, though, so I'm trying to get back to a more "normal" routine. I did alright, though. I managed to run on the treadmill twice and walk my neighborhood once, so I kept with my 3 times a week workout. I just loaded up on sweets and white breads. We did have a nice dinner out a Zuma, where I actually consumed a good amount of sushi. We finished off the evening at Cafe Intermezzo where I had the best chocolate and coconut cake ever. Not surprisingly, the scale this morning was not nice. I've got to get back down to my comfort weight.
I've got a good start to the week...just finished an hour workout and a 20 minute sauna session. I'm hydrated and feeling good.

For dinner last night we had a little dinner party for our freinds and another couple. I tried a recipe from CL that I've had for a long time but never made and it was great! It's Chicken Supreme. You marinate it all night, so once you're ready to make it, it doesn't take long at all. Just bread it and throw it in the oven. The recipe calls for margarine, but since I think margarine is a four letter word, I used butter. I also used my own homemade bread crumbs that I use for everything (a mixture of equal parts whole wheat breadcrumbs, wheat germ, and ground almonds). I also threw in some Italian Seasonings in the crumbs. There you go...easy and good. Maybe next time I'll throw in some parmesan cheese to the crumbs as well. We also had roasted red potatoes with olive oil and seasonings, and a nice green salad with blue cheese and cranberries. A nice meal if I do say so myself.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Treats for the kiddies

I was a TJ's this week, and as usual, I had to stop by the demo area to see what they were cooking up. It was different this time, the lady said she was making something that her mother used to make for her when she was growing up. I think she called them cookies, but they were more like little donuts or fritters. Very simple...went something like this:
Take some premade pizza dough (usually found in refrigerator or deli section of store),
tear off little "bits", about 1 or 2 inches in size, fry them up in some oil (not olive...I think I'd use grapeseed) until they're browned on both sides, and top with what you want! They used chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. Other ides...cinnamon, sugar, jam, agave, etc.
See, so simple but they were delicious! I haven't made them, but I think I will at some point. The boys would love them and could help make them. TJ's sells whole wheat pizza dough...I wonder how that would taste? Hmmm...I just may have to try that out and let you know.

Thinking about treats for the kiddies, it reminded me of a recipe from a cookbook my sweet grandmother gave me when I got married. It has a recipe in it called "Instant treat for the kiddies." Let me back up. This cookbook is one of those cookbooks that has all those wonderful recipes from the good Christian women from the Extension Homemaker Council of Fannin County , GA. That's where Blue Ridge is. This book was printed in 1971, so all the women went by their husband's name, such as "Mrs. Homer Turner" or "Mrs. Dave Murphy." It cracks me up. Some women broke from tradition and listed the recipes under their names. I have to wonder if they were secretly looked down upon for that. Plus, many of the recipes call for lard, oleo, cheese whiz, or ritz crackers. I'm sure all staples of a good "Southern" pantry at the time, although they make me want to have a heart attack.
I bet many of you have a cookbook just like this, one that's been handed down, or purchased for a fundraiser, or just given to you. I treasure mine, because even though it was printed in 1971, I didn't actually get one until 1996 when I got married. I always grew up with the book, since my mother has one. As a kid I'd just "read" the cookbook for fun, looking for a cookie recipe I might be interested in making. Apparently my grandmother, Leslie, purchased many of these books, deciding that when her granddaughters, present and future, got married, she'd give them each one as a gift.
The inscription in mine says (in her sweet handwriting):
Jennifer, I hope you enjoy this cookbook and make a real good cook. I bought it a long time ago especially for you. I thought you might need it sometime. Grandmother." Bless her sweet soul. My Mamaw was an amazing woman. She worked so hard, was a farmers wife (my grandfather was also a schoolteacher), an amazing cook, always took such good care of her family, never gossiped, helped other families out even if she barley had enough for her own family, wrote poetry, and get this...she married her schoolteacher! There was a 15 year age difference! She really was amazing and I wish I had had more time with her on Earth. Imagine Caroline Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. I treasure my cookbook because it's a little tangible piece of my Mamaw.
So, back to the recipe "Instant Treat for the Kiddies".
It goes like this:
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt
Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Spread on soda crackers and serve immediately.

Funny...my mother never made this for me that I can recall. I can't tell you if it's worth making or not. Seems to me I'd like to make the TJ's treats. I may have to save this recipe for a rainy day when I'm desperate to do something out of the ordinary.
I'd like to hear from you on this. Do any of you have any good "treats" that you whip up for your little ones? Something maybe a little out of the ordinary? Or something that was made for you when you were little. Speak up! Even if you're a lurker to this site. I'd love to know!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I have to be proactive this week. Considering the amounts of sugar, sweets, candies, white bread, etc., I consumed over the weekend, and the fact that my birthday is this coming Friday and I have several outings planed that involve eating out, I have to take action! Cake is my weakness. I love it and have no control when there's good cake around. Since David will be out of town on my birthday, we're celebrating as a family tonight. We're going out to eat and the boys have gotten me a chocolate cake from the best cake place in town...Piece of Cake.
Not a "bakery" in the sense of artsy creations that don't taste good.
More of a homemade style cake that your grandmother would make. But man, oh man, the cakes are out of this world.

So far I have a good start to the week. It's Tuesday, and I've already been to the gym twice, worked out for an hour each time and did the sauna each day, so I feel good about all that.
And last night's dinner was really good. I wish I had pictures. Like I said, I totally ate junk over the weekend, so I wanted something really healthy and whole to eat for dinner. I made a huge salad with fresh artisan greens, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, green onions, artichokes and chickpeas. I'm in a big salad mood these days. I wanted to fill up on that and then just have a small portion of dinner. That's just what I did. I've been serving mine and David's dinners on smaller salad-sized plates to cut down on portion sizes.
What I made was the Parmesan Chicken and Rice Casserole from CL March 2008. The verdict...it's a keeper! I modified it of course. I used chicken breasts, instead of chicken thighs. Half and half instead of whipping cream, 1 cup broth instead of 2 (And I think I could have even decreased it a little from that), and I added 3 slices of cooked bacon to give it more flavor.


Don't let that picture fool you. I grabbed that from the website...not one of my own.
I'll be making this again for sure. It's also good enough to make for company.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A good start...chicken stock

Two nights ago, I was sitting on my deck while the boys ate dinner, enjoying a nice glass of red, watching the sunset, hearing the birds sing, and absolutely loving the warmth of the day. There was just a small taste of spring in the air. I started to remember what it looks like at my house in the summer. A small glimpse of the coming months.
It's a different scene this night. As I drank my coffee this morning, I watched the snow fall, and this evening, the fire I've made is crackling away in the fireplace, I'm enjoying another glass of red, Pride and Prejudice is on the TV, and the smell of my homemade chicken stock is filling the house.
Which brings me to my reason for posting.
With cold weather here yet again, I've been craving some warm food. Mainly, Chicken and Dumplings. Now, all my life, I've never really cared for the dish. I've always thought it to be congealed, and the dumplings mushy or slimy. It wasn't until I tried my friend Kim's recipe for chicken and dumplings that I found I really liked it. With this recipe, it's more like a thick chicken stew.
And to get a head start (I'm actually making them for lunch tomorrow), I wanted to make my chicken stock, since it's the base of the recipe.

Here's what I did...
Took a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (whole), put it in a heavy dutch oven, covered with water, and set it to boil on the stove. As the water was heating up, I added two sliced carrots, sliced onion, celery, a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme and about 1 teaspoon of herbs de provence. I let this concoction simmer for at least 2 hours.

As I type, the stove is off, the chicken has been removed to a cutting board to cool and the broth is also cooling. What I'll do in a bit is strain the broth, so I'm just left with a simple clear liquid, pull the meat (the nice pieces anyway) from the bone and place back in the broth, cover and refrigerate until tomorrow morning.

There's a good start for several uses. A nice chicken broth. Even without the meat, you've got a great start for chicken noodle or chicken and vegetable soup, chicken tortilla soup, or whatever you need a good chicken broth for. And if you picked up a rotisserie chicken, or happen to make roasted chicken for dinner, just use the bones and whatever pieces you didn't eat to make your broth with.

On to the dumplings. Here's the basic recipe for what I'll make...
In a heavy pot, melt about 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil) and sauté diced carrots, onions, garlic, and celery until soft and fragrant. Add about 1/3 cup of the chicken broth and 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour to make a thick paste. Slowly add more broth, a little at a time, until gone. You can also keep adding more flour to thicken a bit, if desired. Depending on how much you want to make, you may need to add more chicken broth (store bought) if you have some. Season with tarragon. Add the shredded chicken to broth. Slow cook for 1 to 2 hours. Bring to a boil, drop in 1 bag wide egg noodles (dumpling size) and cook for 10-12 minutes. Turn back to low. Add 1 can evaporated milk, or if you really want to go for it, use 1 1/2 cups half and half. Cook to a slow boil again and serve, or simmer until ready to serve.
You really can't mess this up, and you can add or take away ingredients depending on what you desire. As you can see, it turns out more like a thick chicken stew. I'm going to serve it with some garlic bread. My mother in law is coming over for lunch tomorrow, so I wanted to serve something really good.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Supper

Man, I wish I would think to take pictures of my meals. Honestly, when I'm all finished cooking, and the food is hot and on the plate, my first thought isn't "Well, look at how nice that is. I should take a picture of it." No, instead my thoughts are more like "Someone get the napkins, forks, drinks for the boys...turn off the tv, wash hands, wipe the cat hair off the table. I'm starving. Let's eat." That's reality. I will try to take more pics, but when I do, I know that means that when I do have time to post about a meal, I'll then have to find the cord that connects my camera to the laptop, load the pics, and all that other technicality that involves adding a pic to a post. Sometimes it's just easier to report about my kitchen happenings and let you use your imagination. But, I know we're an image driven society, and even I like to take a gander at what people's meals actually look like. Pioneer Woman does a great job of that.

Moving on...
When I was growing up, we had a pot roast each and every Sunday. My mom would get the crock pot out and get the roast cooking before we left for church and by the time we arrived home, the roast (always a chuck roast), potatoes, carrots, and onions were ready and the entire house smelled heavenly when we opened the door. Sometimes we had company join us, but mostly it was just us, the family. I soon took the heavenly smells for granted. I watched while other families got to go out to lunch after church. I always envied the families that would go to Picadilly together. I just knew those kids were getting the cool jello and whipped cream desserts that I would have killed for as a youngster. We rarely got to go out because my mother always had the roast on.

And the roast...I really hated it. Because it was always a chuck roast, there was so much fat sticking to the meat. I'd spend most of my time trying to cut the little globs off each and every piece before I'd take a bite. And I know I did my fair share of complaining to my mother about it. When I think about her getting the roast ready in the mornings, along with getting 4 kids ready for church, not to mention that she bought the roast because it would feed the family on a budget...I cringe to think of my complaining about it. Once I was a teenager, I joined the other kids out at Dairy Queen, Rio Bravo, or wherever the youth group kids ended up. My days at the family table for lunch were few and far between.
I really didn't make peace with the pot roast until I was married. I started to crave that heavenly smell in my own little apartment, and realizing the ease of cooking in a Crock Pot for a married full time college student/part time job holding girl, me and the pot roast made amends. It also helped that I learned that there were other cuts of meat that are not as fat as a chuck roast.

I've been nostalgic lately for Sunday suppers. I've said for a few years now that I'd love to have a meal waiting on me when I got home from church and I'd love to be able to invite others to join us. It a way of feasting together...breaking bread and enjoying a day of rest. Lets face it...as a mom, sometimes it's more restful to prepare a meal and serve it than to go out to a crowded restaurant and entertain two wiggly and loud boys while trying to carry on a conversation with someone that you really want to give your undivided attention to. That's mentally exhausting. I'd like to focus on family and those relationships closest to us and ones that I'd like to develop more.

That's what we did today. Our longtime friends, Dave and Kara, joined us after church up at our house. That's a commitment since we already live about 30 minutes from church, but they live north of town as well so I don't think they minded the drive.
Instead of a pot roast, I did a pork tenderloin recipe I found online, and threw it in the Crock Pot along with tons of baby carrots and sliced onions. I turned it on high at 8am and it was all finished when we arrived home (that heavenly smell!!). I'm not a huge pork eater, but I do like a good tenderloin and I usually buy pork that's all natural (no hormones, etc.). I also planned ahead and assembled Emma's candied sweet potatoes (from the Mitford Cookbook). They only take about 20 minutes to cook so while they were in the oven I also cooked some baby lima beans, honey grain rolls from TJ's and some sweet tea. This was definitely a meal that I didn't even consider snapping a picture of...we just wanted to eat!

And eat we did! I may be biased, but it was tasty! Of course, it was a typical "southern" meal considering the amount of butter used..but hey...we eat well during the week...it's o.k. to have an indulgence day.
The pork was very tender and flavorful. The carrots were so sweet, like candy, and I think they were my favorite item of the whole meal. And the candied sweet potatoes lived up to their name. Very good...almost like dessert. I loved every bite and will definitely be making this meal again in the future. But I have to say, it wouldn't have been the same if it was just the 4 of us on a Monday night. Somehow food tastes better when you're in good company. I wonder what would happen if we all made more of an effort to have Sunday supper at home and open our doors to our friends or neighbors. Just to take it easy for a day and enjoy each other's presence. I personally think it's a great way to get relaxed and refreshed for the week to come.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fish...again

So, after reading how Candace does her fish, I decided to do it her way. Instead of Talipia, I used a fish called "Striper" I found at TJ's. It was promised to be mild and never "fishy".
So I did it Candace's way...dipped it in an egg/milk mixture, bread crumbs (my mix including whole wheat bread crumbs, wheat germ, almond meal, and salt) and fried it a little in grapeseed oil.
The verdict...
So yummy! I finally found a fish I think I could add to our weekly menu. It was definitely light and not fishy at all. It didn't even need lemon. Wyatt loved it (which is saying a lot!), but he had to have his with honey on top. Yeah...fish and honey...not exactly what I'd do, but hey, whatever it takes.
I'm happy to have a fish success story to make up for the disaster from last week.
Thanks Candace!

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'll make it quick.
Tonight's dinner was Seared Scallops over Bacon and Spinach Salad with Cider Vinaigrette from CL.
Definitely worth the effort! A little gourmet than we're used to at home, but it was excellent. Just the scallops alone were great and I'd definitely make them again and serve with a couple of side dishes.
It took me longer to make than I'd like, and it's not the type of dish I'd make often, but definitely a keeper for special occasions.
For dessert, I whipped up a peach crisp. TJ's sells big jars of "peach sauce", like applesauce. I picked one up today thinking I'd use my mother's apple crisp recipe using peach sauce instead. It turned out great, and the vanilla ice cream I topped it off with didn't hurt, either.

Last nights' was good too, with a lot less work. A pot roast in the Crock Pot with tons of carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, and mushrooms on top of brown rice. I'm going to make an effort to get the Crock Pot out more. I love the time I save and the convenience of having dinner ready without really having to do anything.

Here's a recipe I ran across from Pioneer Woman. Sherried tomato soup. It looks amazing and I'd love to make it soon, especially when it's cold outside. I'm going to have to figure out a way to cut down on some of that fat content, though. I just can't use that much whipping cream in good conscience.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's day roasted chicken

It's Valentine's day, and for the past few years we've had an "I love you" party at our house. Not really a party in the typical sense of the word, but we call it that because the boys love parties. It's really more of a dinner. I decorate with red and pink hearts on the windows, light candles, make a special dinner and give everyone little presents and cards. It makes it really special. We always invite my wonderful aunt Kathy (her husband passed away 6 years ago) and just enjoy a quiet but festive night at home. Sure beats trying to go out to a packed restaurant.
In years past, I've made pasta dishes with salad, wine, etc.
This year I wanted something different. We're having "Mitford" roasted chicken. If you've been fortunate enough to read the Mitford series of books, you know food is a big part of life in Mitford. If you have even an ounce of Southern blood in you, you will have a physical craving for the foods they consume in Mitford. The roasted chicken recipe hails from the Mitford cookbook. I've been making it for several years now, but after talking with my friend, Kara, about how she does her roasted chicken, I decided to try her way as well. This is what I did:
I brined a kosher organic whole roasting chicken for about 7 hours today. Don't let the word brining scare you. Basically, I just "soaked" the whole chicken in a pot with salted water in the fridge. Did it this morning before I headed out. Do a google search on Brining to learn more about it. It's just a way to keep your meat juicy and flavorful. You can skip this step, but it's really not that hard to do and the results are wonderful. And don't let the 7 hour thing scare you either. You can brine it for as less as 3 hours if that's all the time you have.

I always roast my chicken with some veggies, so I had an array of fingerling potatoes (whole, not cut up since they're small), carrots, celery, and onion wedges ready. This is where I did things differently. I used my Pampered Chef stoneware bunt pan and arranged the veggies in the pan itself. Traditionally, I've put the chicken in a big cast iron skillet or a roasting pan and arranged the veggies around it. According to Kara, when you put the chicken on the bunt pan (plopping it over that middle part of the pan) the chicken gets roasted all the way around and the juices just run down into the veggies making them super tasty.

When I was ready to start roasting the chicken, I dried the chicken off, rubbed it generously with olive oil and a few crushed garlic cloves. Then I shoved lemon slices into the cavity of the chicken (about two lemons) as well as about 5 garlic cloves and a few sprigs of rosemary. Just under the skin of the breast, I also slid in a few more garlic cloves and about 4 more lemon slices and more rosemary.
I took the chicken and slid it neck side down just right onto the middle raised part of the bundt pan. I gave it a few more rubs of olive oil and a sprinkle of TJ's 31 seasonings salute.

See how the little buddy's legs were falling down? I tied them up with some twine to keep them in place.





Off the little buddy goes into the 425 degree oven.



After 30 minutes at 425, I turned down the heat to 350 and rotated the pan about a fourth of the way around. The kitchen was already smelling great after 30 minutes. It only gets better!

Here's Wyatt waiting at the table for dinner to start. We kept telling him it would be awhile, but that boy was ready. Funny thing is, though, he doesn't eat. He's terribly picky.

O.K...back to the chicken. After the 30 minutes at 425, the chicken stayed in the oven an additional hour and 15 to 25 minutes at 350, making the total cooking time just under 2 hours. Every 20 minutes or so, I'd rotate the chicken a little and stir the veggies around a bit to make sure they were all evenly coated. The buddy in the oven would tilt over a little, but I'd just try to even him out as best I could.

While he was roasting away, I also threw together a box of TJ's cornbread mix, lima beans, and sweet potato patties topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, and of course...butter.

Hey...it's Valentine's day. There's no love more sincere than the love of food. This meal is designed to warm heart and soul...not keep your waist trim. I'll worry about that tomorrow.

So, once the chicken was all done, I let him rest out of the oven for a bit. I've always heard it's important to let meat sit for a bit to keep it juicy. This is how he looked all roasted.


Don't let that dark brown circle throw you off. Just under the skin there is a nice lemon slice and the browness is from the sugars carmalizing into the skin. Not pretty, I know, but I cut it all up anyway.

I wish I had a good pic of all the veggies and chicken arranged on the platter. Don't know if you can get a good view from these pics. It really was a nice presentation.
There's Kathy in the background...

And me and the boys...



Now...the big taste test...it was simply amazing! I think it was the best roasted chicken I've made in my life (THANK YOU KARA!!). The flavors of the rosemary, lemon, and garlic all came through into the meat. And the veggies...SO very delicious!
We enjoyed every bite. I really think this was one of the top meals I've made, and really not all that difficult!
As they say in Mitford...I put a good Cabernet behind it. We finished our meal with slices of strawberry cake from Piece of Cake here in Roswell.

One last thing about Valentines...it's always been special because it's my mother's birthday. It was always a big day in my house growing up. I've wanted to make it as special for my kids as well, and hope they feel loved on and see that it's not just a day for mom and dad, but a day to show others how much we love them. I hope they always remember Valentine's with warm memories when they are men. I hope they remember the food, the warmth and smells of the kitchen, the cards, chocolate, and presents on the table, and most of all the sweetness of the day.

And happy 70th birthday to Marlene!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Nearly a decade ago, I visited a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant out in Tucker named El Matador. If you know me well, than you know that I'm not a huge Mexican food fan. Actually, I really enjoy it when it's fresh or homemade, but the typical "Combination" plate places (La Parilla, El Toro, Los Reyes, etc.) are NOT my favorite. The food always tastes cheap and full of fat to me. So, this particular day at El Matador, I wanted something lighter than an enchilada, rice, and beans. I went with their chicken tortilla soup. And let me tell you, it was great! So fresh and filling, yet light. Topped with fried tortilla strips, avocados, pico de gallo and lime juice...let me tell you, I was in heaven. I remember all the combination plate eaters were saying, "Wow, what did you get? That looks incredible." And it was.

Amazingly, just a few months after the soup and heaven experience, the AJC ran the full recipe for El Matador's Chicken Tortilla soup. I couldn't believe it! The one recipe from the one little hole -in -the -wall restaurant with the best soup was now all mine!
I've tried soups at many other Mexican restaurants, and while some are good, none have compared to El Matador's. I don't even know if the restaurant is still there.

Over the past several years I've made the soup for people and all have loved it. I've been asked many times for "my" chicken tortilla soup recipe. It's funny to me that even though Mexican is not my favorite cuisine, I'm known for a dish of this origin.
I've made a few tweaks to it to make it a little more healthy, such as using brown rice instead of white, chicken stock instead of chicken bullion cubes, and recently I fried up some whole grain tortilla strips in grapeseed oil instead of plain white tortillas.

Timesaving Tips: It calls for a homemade pico de gallo (below), but I usually use premade store bought fresh salsa. And if your life is anything like mine and you don't have all day to devote to one recipe, you can make the "special sauce" a day or two in advance. You could also cook the chicken in advance and just save the stock in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble it all together on the stove. The recipe calls for cooked rice, so make sure you do that in advance as well, or while the chicken is cooking. Don't even think about skipping the "special sauce"...it won't be nearly as good without it.

Also, please keep in mind that when serving the soup, it's imperative that you squeeze fresh lime juice into each serving, top with avocados and chips (or fried tortilla strips if you decided to be an overachiever and make some). Without the lime juice, the soup is flat. You can also add some hot sauce for those who like it hot.
One more thing...you'll need a big pot. Maybe not a stock pot, but grab your biggest soup makin' pot you have on hand. It makes a lot...invite people over to share. They'll be impressed!

And so sweet friends, here is the recipe as I make it. It is rather long.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic salt or powder
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 to 2 1/2 quarts water
4 cups cooked brown rice
special sauce (recipe follows)
3 avocados
3 limes
Pico de Gallo (for topping, recipe follows)
Tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips

In a large pot, combine chicken, salt, garlic powder and onion. Add the water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 30 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Remove breasts and allow to cool. When the chicken has cooled, shred and place back into the broth. Add rice and special sauce to broth. Simmer until hot or ready to serve. When serving, top with sliced avocado, pico de gallo (or salsa), freshly squeezed lime juice and crushed tortilla chips or strips.

Pico de Gallo
2 cups finely diced yellow onion
7 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves and be careful not to touch your eyes)
1 1/2 cups finely diced tomato
1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine onion, peppers and tomato. Stir in cilantro and mix until well blended.

Special Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt or powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
2 large fresh whole tomatoes (or used canned whole tomatoes) peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken broth

In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat the oil. Stir in flour, pepper, garlic, cumin and chili powder and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and tomatoes. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes.

There you go! If you make it, please let me know how it turns out.
Now I'm on to making dinner tonight...sweet and sour shrimp.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chicken Fingers and Veggies



I needed something easy for dinner since it's just me and the boys, but I needed them to have a decent meal after a weekend of not such good eating. I came down with a stomach bug on Friday. Thankfully, it was short lived, but it still took me all of Saturday to recover. Food was not on the top of my list of things to think about. You don't realize just how many commercials involve food until you're sick or you're pregnant and have constant morning sickness. We're definitely a gluttonous society and we like our cheap and nasty food.

Anyway, dinner tonight...
I whipped up some of "my" chicken fingers. I use the recipe from the book The Sneaky Chef. If you watch Oprah and saw Jessica Seinfield on promoting her new book Deceptively Delicious, you know the idea of pureeing certain veggies and/or fruits and slipping them into your meals as a way to get your kids to eat their veggies without having to fight with them about it. The book I have, The Sneaky Chef, is very very similar.
Anyway, the recipe is very yummy and I've made it several times. The breading is a mix of ground almonds, whole wheat bread crumbs, wheat germ and parmesan. I'm probably forgetting something. If you're thinking of making it, definitely check into the book. The vegetable puree you use is sweet potatoes and carrots. You dredge the chicken tenders in whole wheat flour, then dip in the puree with egg mixed in, and finally dredge in the breading. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once and they're done. These are really very tasty and if you hate the above mentioned vegetables, don't worry, you can't taste them at all. I think they really are way better than any frozen chicken tenders or any from a restaurant, and my kids love to eat them dipped in honey. I've also sliced them up for myself and topped a mixed salad with them for a more adult way to eat them. Tonight I just ate them like the boys do, honey and all. I'm very happy eating and feeding my kids something like that; packed with whole grains, vegetables, and a lean protein.

We also had a side of TJ's Brittany blend...green beans, yellow beans, and carrots, seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, parmesan, and TJ's 21 seasoning salute. You can find the Brittany Blend in the frozen section.
So there you have it...
With David gone for the next 7 nights it will be interesting to see what I come up with for me and the boys.

On a side note, I met my "goal" of working out 4 times last week! Woo hoo!
Now I'm on to this week. I got my workout in today, so 3 more to go. Shouldn't be hard to do.
I've felt great today. Tons of energy...just all around goodness. I woke up at 6:30 ready to take on the day! The lunches were packed before 7am! I thought it would be fun to play overachiever for a day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Vegetable lasagna

So, here it is...my first post on my "foodie blog." After being in a serious cooking "slump" over the holidays, I'm back in business in the kitchen and enjoying it. Hence, the idea for a food blog. I think about food a lot. It's a big part of my life and I'm constantly learning more about it. I thought this blog would be a good way for me to keep track of things I've made. And I'll be honest here as well. If I've made something that wasn't all that great, I'll keep it real and let you know. I'll most likely focus most of my health and weight loss posts here as well. I may play around with both blogs for awhile before I figure out what will work best, so hang on for the ride.

For dinner tonight, I made the vegetable lasagna from Cooking Light, Oct. 2007 issue, (pg. 173). If you're googling it, it's probably under "Colorful Vegetable Lasagna." I got crazy and even made the huge batch of homemade marinara sauce that it calls for. I made that around lunchtime while the boys were at school, and let me tell you, my entire house smelled like Heaven. It was amazing! I ended up using about 3 cups of the sauce for the lasagna and froze the rest for future meals. I'm glad I did because I was able to store about 8 cups in the freezer. I'll definitely be using that for my baked penne pasta in the future.



I used whole wheat lasagna noodles for this recipe. I always use something other than just plain white pasta. I feel so guilty using the white stuff and to me, the whole wheat pastas, or even quinoa pasta taste just as good or even better than the over-processed pastas.
The recipe also packed colorful bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini.


The recipe called for fat free ricotta, but I tend to stay away from fat free items. I opt for the part-skim.

It turned out great! I also served it with a tossed salad topped with pears and TJ's candied pecans, and toasted whole wheat sourdough bread (also from TJ's).
Yes folks, our bellies are full tonight. And there's tons of leftovers. We should have had people over for dinner to help us eat it!

As a special dessert (especially for the boys), we had cupcake sundaes. I picked up a pack of 4 chocolate cupcakes from the frozen section of TJ's. Cut each one in half, topped it with vanilla ice cream, cherries, and let the boys go to town with the sprinkles.
What I loved about this meal was the process of making it. I've always loved making Italian food. There's something soothing to me to sauté garlic and onions in a pot, add the tomatoes, spices, and let it simmer. The smells are amazing.