Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Cooking

Butternut squash soup that I recently made for a client and for myself!

Well Hello.  I know, it's been ages.  Why do I always do this?  Always meaning to write, say that I'll write, but yet don't.  Here it is December and the last post I wrote was in May!  And then I think to myself, "why can't I get my blog more page views?"  Actually, I don't really think about that because I know that I don't put the effort in and so therefore this blog doesn't get seen.  So I'm going to try and set some realistic goals and plan out some topics so that come January, I will have A Plan.

But right now, let's talk about winter.  We are in the middle of a cold snap here; for this part of California that means it's under 40 degrees which feels freaking freezing to me and farther north it's below 20 degrees and there's snow.  I'm all about cooking foods that are appropriate for the weather.  I've made soup twice last week.  I also baked bread, which as you know if you read my recipe blog, I do regularly but I actually had not done as much lately because we had a rather warm fall, so I wasn't turning on the oven so much.

So I'm using this post to link up some previous posts that may be useful for you at this time of year and I've also got a short list of recipes that are easy, great for the cold weather and also budget friendly so you can spend less money on food and more on your holiday celebrations.

I created a December 9th Recipes Board on my Pinterest, so you can view that and pin to your hearts content.

Last year I posted some Holiday Food Gift IdeasIt has a good variety of types of gifts; sweet, savory, healthy, and one body scrub not meant to be eaten.  Check that out if you need some ideas for inexpensive but thoughtful gifts.

Meals for December 9, 2013

Taco Cupcakes- Kids love these, they re-heat well and you can serve with a salad for a quick dinner. You can also easily make these with spaghetti sauce and cheese for mini lasagna cupcakes.

Crock Pot Chili- I love my friend Kate's recipe for chili in the crock pot, I have listed it here in my blog many times.

Spinach, Artichoke and Chicken Pasta- If you love spinach and artichoke dip, this pasta is similar, cheesy, but not overly cheesy, so it's healthy.

Thai Turkey Zucchini Meatballs- These are gluten free, Paleo friendly, easy to make ahead and re-heat and is a nice change from the usual marinara and meatballs.

Cheeseburger Macaroni-No processed box mix here! Simple, clean eating, easy to make and kid-friendly.

Quinoa Salad with Pears and Baby Greens- this can certainly be a side dish but it's protein packed with quinoa and since it also has veggies, it's an easy one-dish meal.

Budget Beef and Broccoli- This is my own recipe for an easy and cheap version of beef and broccoli using lean ground beef. I sometimes make this with the frozen French style green beans from Trader Joes that I also have in my freezer.

Cock Pot Thai Chicken Soup- Delicious coconut Thai curry soup made with little effort in the crock pot.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Get Grilling!

So it's Memorial Day weekend.  It's actually a time that we remember those who died serving our country.  It's a very important time to honor them.  It also seems to be a time that people get together and barbecue.

Here is a previous post I had just before July 4th, there's some great grilling recipes and side dishes listed there- June 25, 2012 Post

And you know that of course I have a Pinterest board with grilling recipes.  :)

In addition, here are a few other grilling recipes that I think are great.  They are healthy and a change from just burgers and hot dogs.

Chipotle’s Adobo Marinated Chicken- I just shared this recipe for Cinco de Mayo but I think it’s great for a party and I generally have a couple of extra marinating or already grilled in my freezer.  Perfect to pull out for a quick meal. 

Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken- This is an outstanding way to grill chicken breasts.  Keeps them moist and flavorful.

Simple Grilled Tilapia- Very easy method for grilling fish, this is really healthy and so great with fresh veggies. 

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Glaze- Instead of bbq sauce, try making this sweet and tangy glaze with balsamic vinegar and a touch of honey.

Grilled Cilantro Lime Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes (yams) with cilantro and lime, a
fantastic flavor combination. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slow Cooking- A list of meals for your slow cooker (Crock Pot)

Some people just love their slow cooker (Crock Pot) and can't live without it.  I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with mine.  I do love the convenience it can provide and I have a few standard things I use it for.  But I also think it's not always as simple as it seems to cook with it.  Well, it's simple to just dump ingredients in and turn it on, but it doesn't always yield great results.  I think it's a bit of a science to fill the pot with the right amount and combination of ingredients for the size of the pot.  And sometimes you have a slow cooker that cooks faster than a recipe says it will and you've got burnt food.  So it's frustrating when you want so much to cook a meal with very little effort while you're away from home and yet it doesn't turn out.  My advice is to try to use recipes that tell you the size of the slow cooker and if you have the same size, then the quantities of the ingredients will work. When in doubt, you can double a small recipe for your big slow cooker. Many recipes want you to brown the meat or poultry on the stove before it goes in.  This can be a step that seems like a pain and defeats the ease of a slow cooker, but if the dish is supposed to have the meat still mostly intact, browning or searing it seals in the juices and the flavor.

Now, I know there are a billion blogs and cook books out there devoted entirely to cooking with a Crock Pot.  Some of the recipes I'm sharing are from those sources, but I wanted to put together a list of good recipes that are rather easy, yield good results and aren't filled with processed ingredients.  A bonus is that many of them are very economical and budget friendly.  It's not super long; you could use them all in one month and since several make a good quantity of food, you would have quite a few meals taken care of for a whole month. But even if you just tried several, you will probably find yourself with new favorites to add to your slow cooker arsenal.

Crock Pot Recipes

 I have a Pinterest Board that contains other links besides what is listed here:  Crock Pot Board

Cilantro Lime Chicken- This one is super easy to prep in advance in a freeze bag, then thaw and put in your slow cooker in the morning.  After 6 hours you have something you can eat in tortillas or over rice.  

Carolina Barbecue Pulled Pork- This is the perfect thing to make in your slow cooker.  It’s great to serve a crowd or to provide you with more than one meal. I have many friends who make this pulled pork on a regular basis.  It's really good!

Slow Cooker Chili- I don’t always make chili using the slow cooker, but when I do this is the recipe I use.  It calls for beer in the recipe, which I have used if we have it, or left it out and it’s still good.

Slow Cooker Lasagna- You can have lasagna on a weeknight!  This recipe just has meat, sauce, noodles and cheese, it doesn’t have a ricotta and egg layer.  It’s simple to assemble; you can just break noodles to fit them in the pot.  The recipe includes instructions for making the sauce.  You can always use y our own sauce or use my marinara sauce recipe

Crock Pot Thai Curry- You may have most of these ingredients on hand and simply need coconut milk and chili paste.  Feel free to substitute the eggplant for another squash or use whatever combination of vegetables you like.  Make it healthier by serving with brown rice, I happen to love brown jasmine rice.

Crock Pot Sesame Honey Chicken- Sweet and spicy chicken you can eat over rice or in lettuce wraps. 

Pasta Fagioli- This is a hearty pasta soup, which is the perfect sort of thing for a slow cooker.  Maybe not ideal in warmer weather, but awesome for the fall and winter.  

Crock Pot Rotisserie Style Chicken- A great way to roast a whole chicken that you can then use in a variety of ways just like when you get a rotisserie chicken at the store.

Shredded Beef Tacos- A very inexpensive chuck roast can give you several meals.  You can use the beef for more than just tacos too.  I love recipes like this. 

Chicken Taco Chili- Taco seasonings plus chili powder with shredded chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes and green chilies.  A delicious low calorie chili. 

Crock Pot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken- If you really want to keep it simple, this has three ingredients. 

Clean Eating Crock Pot Pineapple Chicken- Another very simple recipe- it’s just chicken and salsa in the crock pot and then you serve it with pineapple and zucchini. 

Vegan Crock Pot Lasagna- This is such a great recipe using lots of veggies plus polenta instead of pasta (which I love) and again, it's easy to have lasagna on a weeknight.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Food

I really don't need a pseudo holiday as an excuse to enjoy Mexican food.  I enjoy it anytime.  Some version of tacos or burritos are a regular occurrence in our house.  So I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon and give you a quick list of links of my own recipes as well as some favorites.  Enjoy them on Sunday or any random day you like.

Tomato, Avocado and Corn Salsa- Not really authentic, but that doesn't stop it from being good.  I'm actually starting to see fresh corn in the store.  However, both kinds of frozen corn sold at Trader Joe's taste great in this too.  Eat it with chips or spoon some on your taco.

Three Methods for Chicken Tacos- There are far more than three methods for making chicken tacos, but here are the three different ways that I typically make them.

How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips-  I love to make homemade chips when I have the time.  They are so good!  The fabulous blog Simply Recipes recently posted a great tutorial on several ways to make tortilla chips. 

Refried Beans- I stopped buying canned refried beans awhile ago and make my own.  This is the recipe I use.  Sometimes I put a smoked turkey wing in with the beans when they are boiling, which adds delicious flavor. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning- No starch or fillers, just spices.  I stopped buying taco seasoning in packets ages ago but did use the Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning for years. Then I started just "manually" seasoning taco meat with chili powder, cumin, garlic, etc.  Now I just mix this up a batch of this and keep it in a container.

Mexican Rice- In college, a friend taught me how to make her mom's Mexican rice.  I've made it that way for years and only recently changed it up a bit.  This recipe follows the same method of cooking, just slightly different ingredients than what I do.  I season my rice with a spoonful of the taco seasoning.  

Flour Tortillas- Very easy to make, just a little learning curve with rolling them out.  Super yum to eat.

Chipotle's Adobo Marinated Chicken- Love this, I've made it a lot recently.  It's supposed to be a copycat recipe for Chipotle the restaurant.  I can't say if it is exactly like it, but it tastes good, so who cares?

Fire Toasted Tomato Lime Salsa- Fresh salsa is awesome, but this salsa made with canned fire roasted tomatoes and chilies is really very good.  And so easy to make too!

Here's a little bonus right here on the page- my recipe for guacamole.  Around here, every Mexican food place has guacamole that is full of chopped raw onion and it makes me so frustrated.  It totally overpowers everything and you can only taste the strong onion.  I used to hate onions, now I wouldn't say I hate them, but I use them in cooking just like I would use garlic, it adds flavor, but I really don't care to actually eat onions and certainly not raw ones.  Anyway, all that to say I don't use raw onions in mine except for what might be in the bit of fresh salsa you mix in.  Again, it adds a bit of flavor, but it's all about the awesome avocado.

2 or 3 medium sized ripe avocados (if avocados are from Costco, 2 makes a lot)
Juice from 1 lime or 2 tsp of lime juice
2 TBL fresh style salsa or pico de gallo (Casa Sanchez brand is our favorite)
Chopped fresh cilantro, about 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder- season to taste

Remove avocado flesh from the skin and in a medium size bowl mash slightly with a fork, but leave it a bit chunky.  Mix in lime juice, salsa and cilantro.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Taste and add more of anything you want more of.  You can add more heat with a dash of hot sauce (like Frank’s or Crystal brand) or a dash of cayenne pepper.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Meals for the Week of April 8, 2013

Well I finally dusted off this blog and have written something after 4 months.  And looking back, even though I'd written several theme related posts I noticed that the last time I'd written a weekly meal plan post was in August!  So, my apologies for being so absent.  I've certainly been cooking a lot, I've been working with Mama Bootcamp, helping clients with finding new healthy recipes and making meal plans, facilitating cooking sessions for freezer meals and cooking for clients and my own family.  But I really don't want to neglect my blog and I've probably written that statement here before and yet I still neglect it.  So here it is, Spring as arrived, and so I should re-commit myself to making more of an effort.  I have been trying new recipes and I have ideas for things to write about so it's time to actually put them on the blog.

Some of my recent Instagram photos- home made bread, beef and broccoli for a client, homemade salsa, roasted veggies for soup, fruit and peanut butter dip, kale salad
So I have a great set of recipes for you to try.  My intention with these was how busy spring time can be for families.  Baseball or softball practices and weeknight games, swim team, and dance rehearsals.  Lots of evenings where you get home late or need to get dinner on the table quickly.  There's several crock pot recipes that will yield leftovers, some quick cooking meals and meals you can make ahead of time and re-heat.  I also tried to have some things that would use some of the same ingredients to help your grocery shopping budget.  Give them a try and let me know how they are!

Need to see them?  Here's the Pinterest Board- April 8 Recipes

Meals for the Week of April 8, 2013

Grilled Salmon Salad with Fresh Strawberries- This main dish salad is perfect for Spring.  It’s light but with a good source of protein. 

Asian Pulled Pork Sliders- You may already make pulled pork using your crock pot, this recipe is change in the flavors and although in this blog post she made them for a party (which would be great!) it’s an easy weeknight dinner for you and plenty of leftovers for lunches or another dinner.
Chili Taco Casserole- This is my recipe that I adapted to make it a little healthier and made from scratch.  The original recipe used canned chili, but if you already make your own chili, then you can either make it using leftover chili or just follow the recipe because it is still very easy.  This is a good meal to make in advance and re-heat or double it so you can have it again another night.  

Shredded Beef Tacos- Another crock pot meal for you that will most likely provide two dinners.  Simple shredded beef that you can use for tacos, which I love instead of ground beef now and then.  But you could also make burritos, or make enchiladas, eat it over a salad, there are lots of options. 

Easy Marinara Sauce- This is my recipe for marinara sauce.  I’ve started make a large batch (this recipe is easy to double) at the start of the month and then having spaghetti twice and plus using some sauce for something else like a lasagna or Chicken Parmesan.
Honey Chipotle Turkey Meatballs- This is a very simple recipe, you could make the meatballs in advance and freeze them, then use them either with the honey chipotle sauce or some other sauce you might want.
Cilantro Lime Chicken-  This is a crock pot meal that you can prep the entire thing in advance in a bag and then just put it in the crock pot in the morning.  Then you can serve it with tortillas or over rice for a burrito bowl.  Easy! 

Orange Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry- No need for take out!  This is delicious and I really like the suggestion that you cook some of the vegetables in advance by steaming or boiling them making them crisp tender for the stir fry.  She also has suggestions for making it sweeter or spicier if you like it that way.  

Cheeseburger Macaroni- This is like one of those boxed meal helpers, except from scratch and it’s not processed.  It’s uses taco seasoning, but you could also make it with just seasoning the meat with garlic and onions and using plain diced tomatoes if you don’t want the taco flavor, or skip using a taco seasoning mix and just season with chili powder, cumin, garlic and onion.

Lime and Coconut Chicken- This is a lime and coconut milk curry that is very easy to make and very tasty.  The longer you can marinate it, the better.  And then you take the marinade and boil it to be a sauce you pour over the chicken.   I suggest grilling the chicken if you can.  I then chop it up and put over rice, then pour over the sauce. 

Cheeseburger Casserole- A very kid-friendly meal that could be made ahead if you want to.  This is a light version that’s 261 calories in a 1 cup serving.  

Broccoli and Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes- This can certainly be a meatless meal or a side dish with some grilled chicken.  It’s a lower calorie recipe and a great meal with some good vitamins and minerals.  And you actually mix cooked cauliflower into the potato mixture that you then put back into the baked potatoes.  So it’s more veggies than just the broccoli on top!