Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lunch Box...for dinner...

Sooooo...NEW GRAIN alert today!  I always like switching up & trying new things...and today's 'new thing' is MILLET.  

What's millet, you ask?  

Well it's a teeny-tiny grain that apparently is packed full of niacin, thiamine, magnesium & manganese  (read about the other slew of health benefits here).  But BEST of all:  I was able to get a perfect 1/2 cup to sample from the bulk bins at Whole Foods for under 25 cents!J
So what did I DO with this 'great grain?'  Well..I made some Spiced Millet Pudding!  I boiled it in some cinnamon water, added some almond milk & half and half, a handful of criasins, some brown sugar & cardamon and made it into a creamy breakfast!  (ps- the $.25 1/2 cup made about 3 servings that I'll be able to just heat & eat for the next few days)
I liked the consistency a LOT better than quinoa (which I still just don't LOVE....but I keep trying to!), and it was bit more 'heartier' and probably quite a bit more filling than couscous.  Either way, an interesting way to sneak a new grain into your diet.  It always makes 'healthy eating' easier when you switch things up!

Our dinner last night was another SUPERRRRRRR quick number, as I had finally got around to trying Kristin's Maid Rites after eyeing them for so long... 
What are 'Maid Rites?'  Hell if any of us New Jersey-ians knowJ  But apparently it's a popular sandwich in the Midwest made of seasoned 'loose meat.'  Prior to yesterday, the closest I had come to these sandwiches was through old episodes of Rosanne.  Anyone else remember "The Lunch Box" years??
 Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris, Sandra Bernhard as Nancy Bartlett and Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Connor - ROSEANNE was the simplest dinner ever as all you had to do was:
  1. Brown up 1 pound of ground beef (we used ground turkey) with a diced onion.
  2. Let the meat simmer for 30 minutes with:
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • 1/2 beef bouillon cube
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire  (not sure if that's 'official'...but it was a 'Scott addition" J)

Result?  A seasoned, salty, flavorful & yummy sandwich.  This one is going on the 'to be made again VERY soon' list.  We couldn't get enough!  So quick & easy.

Our side dish?  Well...that one was a little laziness on my partJ  It went in from Panko Sweet Potato Fries to Baked Sweet Potato 'chips' to "do you mind if we just have sweet potatoes??  I don't feel like dicing."  hahahahhahaaha... 
I guess my laziness produced the healthiest optionJ....minus my dollop of low-fat sour cream (my absolute kryptonite these last nine months!!)  Non-fat Fage as a sour cream swap will be resuming in the VERY near future!!

Alright, so that's all I got for you today.  I'm off to go heat up another serving of my millet puddingJ hahahhaa...Have a good LEAP YEAR DAY, everyone!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One failure & one success...

So last week I nearly made 'Rookie Cooking Mistake #1' by just BARELY remembering to read a recipe all the way through, almost missing the long cooking time. 

Cut to last night, where I committed 'Rookie Cooking Mistake #2:  Taste as you go.'  The WORST part??  It was for THE EASIEST DISH IN THE WORLD TO MAKE:  SALAD!
And I was all excited about this one.  I knew it wasn't going to be the healthiest of salads, but I knew it was going to be tastyJ

Starting with the homemade cumin & cinnamon coated almonds.  Yep...I whipped out the skillet, managed not to burn the sugar or the almonds and thought it was going to be alllll smooth sailing from there.

That was until I was whipping up the dressing and the lid of the white balsamic vinegar dropped into the bowl...along with a HUGEEEEE glug of vinegar.  Why I didn't TASTE THIS OR START OVER before pouring this over my salad is beyond me...

Result?  An ENTIRE salad that tasted like VINEGAR.  PURE VINEGAR.  And we're talkin sweet & salty almonds, mellow avocado, sweet craisins, earthy arugula.  And yet, nothing out-powered the vinegar.  I was so bummed.  Oh well....learn from my mistakes and I'll try this one again soonJ  I'm SURE it was tasty under all that TANG!

Anyway, onto another dinner that was WAYYYYY more successful:  Our dinner from Sunday night- Greek   'Stuffed' Chicken with Brown Butter Orzo...
We based it off this recipe, and even managed to simplify a Rachael Ray dish.  We are NOT fans of 'stuffing' chicken.  It seems like the meat takes forever to cook, the fillings get all messy and even though I KNOW it's all cooking together, something about stuffing cooked food into raw meat just *creeps. me. out.*  

So instead of 'stuffing'...we just 'top'!  After a quick butterflying of the chicken breast, we did a quick grill (using my Griddler pan) of the chicken coated with salt, pepper & Greek seasoning...

While the chicken was grilling up, I cooked up some diced onion & garlic before adding a box of defrosted & drained chopped spinach and some salt & pepper...

Once the chicken was cooked and the spinach warmed through, I topped the chicken with the spinach and finished it off with a little feta cheese....

A couple minutes in the toaster oven to warm the cheese and these were perfect.  Talk about an EASY AND HEALTHY dish...oh yeah, and REALLY tasty too.  If this took 15 minutes, I might be stretching it.'re never too far from a healthy & flavorful mealJ

And as a quick and different side (why, oh why, do I not make orzo enough??) I made an easy Parmesan-Browned Butter Orzo.  Which you start by melting butter in a saucepan until it becomes golden (that's when you know it's going to be goooooood!)

Add in the orzo to toast up for a few minutes...
A little white wine...a little chicken broth...a little time boiling on the stove (13 minutes) and a little Parmesan cheese...& WALLAH....
A perfect side to a light dinner.  This one is DEFINITELY going in the "Quick & Healthy" files that, I'M SURE, I will pulling from a LOT in the near futureJ

Alright, so that's one failure & one success for you today hahahahhahaha...hope you enjoyedJ  Have a good Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Once the dust settled...

Didn't I say I was going to be in a 'cooking frenzy' this weekend???  Oh boy...was I RIGHT!  It started bright and early (4am!) Saturday morning with me boiling up some wild rice and ended on Sunday with my wishing they had invented full body zip-up heating pads to soothe my sore shoulders, back and feetJ hehehehehhehehee....

Once the flour dust settled, I had quite a good stock of quick meals that I know will freeze & reheated quickly and tastily to help us out in the next few weeks as we adjust to our new lives as a family of three!J

2 recipes of plain & 2 recipes of roasted garlic gnocchi!  I had made these the 'cheaters way' with instant mashed potatoes since I had a HUGE box my aunt had given me in my pantry.  Which I would normally be SOOO against had I NOT had such success with my 'instant' basil gnocchi.
I used this recipe and just added 2 cloves of roasted garlic to the mix for the second bag.  Hope they're as good as they smelled! J

Also on tap was a double recipe of Jim Lahey's NO KNEAD pizza crust!  Perfect for pizzas OR calzonesJ

And just for kicks:  Since I had a container of blueberries that would not stay fresh one. more. day, I turned them into some low-fat Blueberry Corn muffins (made with non-fat Greek yogurt and my 'hydrogenated oil FREE corn muffin mix'J)

And lastly...since I knew homemade cookies wouldn't exactly be on my cooking radar for...a bit, I figured I might as well go out and whip up a batch of these MONSTER MARSHMALLOW COOKIES!  Milk Chocolate chips, oatmeal, RICE krispies & marshmallows??  I mean, REALLY!
No worries...more than 1/2 of this recipe went PROMPTLY in the freezer where they will be a quick defrost of 1 or 2 for future dessertsJ

The freezer REALLY is good for portion control.  We dived up each of the lasagna and meatloaves to create exactly one-meal portions.  Pretty hard to go back for 'seconds' if they're FROZEN, no?? J

So with all of that cooking, I just HAD to have some simple dinner recipes for the rest of the weekend!  First up was some Saffron Fettuccine...

Based on this recipe, your 'sauce' is made by a quick boil down of some chicken broth & white wine along with saffron, onions, garlic & carrots...
Once it's reduced, you drain the veggies and add in some butter & grated cheese...

But we didn't want those good saffron-infused veggies to go to wasteJ  So we just threw them on top of the pasta too!  This was soooo good after a long day on my feet and nice & warm while the wind whipped by outside!  (Wasn't Saturdays wind CRAZYYYYY, Jersey folks??)

And, on what I figured, may be one of our last 'leisurely cooking Sunday morning breakfasts'J, I picked this recipe for light, crisp & airy Oatmeal Pancakes to slowly savor in the peace & quietJ hahahahaha...
I had one more recipe that I made last night for dinner, but I figured I'd save it and share it with you tomorrow.  Salads are on tap for tonight and I'm not sure how 'unique' this one is going to beJ  We'll see!

Phew...sick of hearin from me yet??  Hope I gave you guys some good ideas for 'cooking ahead' AND a few quick recipes!  

Have a good Monday!J

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Solid Gold...

I should have known Scott's three choices for dinner last night would EASILY be narrowed down after I followed up one option with "and I bought tater tots to go along with it."J

After an "oooohhhhhhhh"....I just knew it.  Grilled cheese it wasJ

Which was FINE with me, since I had a great idea for fillings:
  • Fontina Cheese
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Pesto
  • My single favorite thing on earth at the moment: AVOCADO!

AND to REALLY make it 'special'...we used the leftovers of my homemade bread!   

 A quick dice, chop and assembly of everything...(and a THIN smear of butter on the outsides of the bread)

...and then popped on the griddle for a few minutes on each side.  Once I flipped the sandwiches, I covered them with a bowl to evenly heat the 'insides'... 

...and melt the cheese into GOOEY PERFECTION! 

And OF COURSE, those GLORIOUS tater tots on the sideJ hehehehehehe....the sandwich was soooo savory and delicious.  The only change I would make would be to the cheese.  The fontina was too mellow to all the other stronger flavors.  Next time I'm going GOOD OLE AMERICAN!J 

And as a special treat, I pulled one of THESE out of the freezer... 
LAST SUMMER Foodbuzz had sent me a coupon for a FREE box of Magnum Ice Cream Bars.  The hilarious thing was when I saw the expiration date, I was like "OH, we have PLENTY of time to get them!"  Fast forward what feels like FIVE MINUTES and I realized the expiration date of 2/29/12 was RAPIDLY approaching.  So this weekend we finally narrowed down our choice between dark, almond, double chocolate, white chocolate and classic to our final pick:  DOUBLE CARAMEL!

From GOLD coconut bars to GOLD ice cream bars...our house has been like 'Soul Train' latelyJ 

Talk about PURE DECADENCE!  Not one, but TWO thick coatings of pure, creamy milk chocolate surrounded by the smooothest and creamiest vanilla ice cream... 

And the best part??  Snuggled between those dueling layers of chocolate was a THICK layer of pure, sweet caramel.  Ooooooooooooooo.... 
Pick these up at your local grocery store if you're in the mood for an absolute decadent treat worthy of being slooowllly savoured.  They were sorta heavenlyJ

Alright, well I'm off to have myself a good ole cooking frenzy today.  My plan is to cook till I drop (which, honestly, might not take TOO long these days!) so we can have a bunch of meals at the ready for the next few weeks while we learn to balance life with a newbornJ  Not too much longer now!!

Have a good Saturday, everyone!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Always read ahead!

Did you ever have one of those recipe that comes up on your radar and you could not WAIT to try???  That you found in, say, a magazine and it became the center of your cooking week?  One that seems so different and unique that you know it'll put all the rest of your weeks dishes to shame?

Or is that just me??J

Anyway...such was the case of our dinner last night that I could not WAIT to try out:  Cashew Indian Chicken.

I just loved, loved that the marinade was made with TOASTED CASHEWS....I love me some cashews!
I whirled 2/3 cups of those up along with:
  • 2/3 cups marinade
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon garam masala (you can buy a bottle, or whip up a quick batch if you have these spices laying around.  They used seeds, but I just made a mix with the dried versions of these spices)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves

Add the blended up marinade to some diced chicken and let it hang out in the fridge for a few hours.  (Ironically, I thought the marinade smelled like TACO DIP...hehehehehhehee)

When it was time to cook, I let 2 chopped onions & a sprinkle of cardamom and cinnamon cook in a covered pot for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally...

...till the onions got nice and spiced!

Next in went the marinaded chicken to cook for 10 minutes....

Then a quick deglaze of the pan with a mix of 2 cups of chicken broth & 1 cup of crushed tomatoes...

And, if you follow me on Facebook, here's the part where I almost made "Amateur Cooking Mistake: 101"!!!  Thankfully, I had read the recipe when I was marinating the chicken and noticed you needed to let everything simmer together for ONE HOUR!!!!!  I had just assumed it was a 'once the chickens cooked & you've added all the stuff together, you're good!"  I was SOOOO GLAD I SCANNED AHEAD!  That would NOT have been a welcome surprise when I thought we were about 5 minutes away from having dinner only to discover it would be a whoooole nother hour!!
ANYWAY, after the chicken mix slowly simmered for 1 hour until it thickened up, you lastly add in 3 tablespoons of half & half and some salt to taste (oh yeah, you could also add paprika & red peppers to this dish if you like things SPICE-A!) and WALLAH!  Done!

And as a side, I couldn't decide if I wanted to serve dinner with some brown rice...orrrrr a nice slice of Garlic Naan.  So we had a little of both!!
I LOVEEED mixing the chicken with the rice and sopping up the extra sauce with the naan.  The chicken was soooo tender after the hour of cooking and the marinade was suchhhhhh a good mix of smoooooothhhhhh spices all mellowed out by the yogurt & cashews.  I was REALLY looking forward to this dish and it was WORTH the hype.  If you have a fear of Indian cooking, try this dish out.  It might just change your mind!

Yeesh...well, it's a gloomy day in the neighborhood.  Guess I can't complain after the positively San Diego weateher we've had lately!  I'm off to send Scott an email of his THREE dinner options for the nightJ  Either a  pasta, a sandwich or something completely new.  Stay tuned to see what he picksJ

Have a good Friday, everyone!!!

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