Friday, September 13, 2013

Trinity of despair

Sick kids, broken and flooding washing machine, dog died.  All in the span of 24 hours.  Talk about taking the wind out of someone's sails.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What's for Dinner tonight?

Campbell's has some exciting new prepared stuff that make life a bit easier for those of us with little weeknight time.

Check out the soup aisle, but look high and low for some of their bagged "Skillet Sauce" mixes.  They are so simple. You need the product itself, a pound of meat (specified on the bag) and then whatever sides you choose. Visit their website to snag a coupon.

I highly recommend the green curry chicken mix. We have also tried a Chicken Marsala and tonight's selection is Toasted Sesame (chicken).

You seriously just chop the meat according to package directions, brown it, add sauce, warm and serve over pasta or rice.  Waaaay too easy.  And also well within dietary limitations for point watchers.

Some are a teeny bit too sweet, and I prefer homemade Marsala, but I plan to keep this in the pantry because it is too easy to brown chicken and steam rice!  It gives me a lot more time to play with this girl: 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Iced Coffee

There are so many differing opinions out there about what makes a good cup of coffee, and what specifically, makes a good cup of iced coffee.

Iced coffee, for me, is pretty addictive.  I love it.  And living in Austin in the summertime, one needs to have a constantly available array of cool beverages from which to imbibe.

I grew up drinking both coffee and tea.  My parents didn't withhold coffee from us, and we drank "coffee-milk" as children.  It was a treat.  We drank a ton of iced tea, unsweet, sometimes with mint or lemon and sometimes without.  My mother always bought Lipton Decaffeinated tea bags, and this is my preference for iced tea today.

(You may be thinking that a southern gal drinking unsweet tea feels a bit blasphemous, but I grew up in the home of a dietitian, so just stay with me.)

Iced coffee came along in our home later in childhood, perhaps around my teen years when my mother began making a shaken iced coffee beverage with milk, sweetener and instant coffee.  This luckily, has been replaced in both her home and pretty much everywhere with freshly brewed coffees.

I'm very partial to a cool cup of espresso, and will frequently stop for an iced cup of java while out and about, but for my own kitchen, I love cold brew iced coffee.

For a while, I thought it might be silly to have another kitchen accoutrement just for the purpose of making cold brew coffee, but once my parents bought one of these, I couldn't help myself and had to buy one!

I use my Toddy weekly in the summertime.  It is pretty easy.  You wet the filter and add seven cups of cold water and a pound of coffee grounds (alternating) to the plastic brewing container, let it sit overnight on the counter, then drain and store in your fridge for up to two weeks. My only complaint is that the Toddy carafe is more like a laboratory beaker and is pretty thin glass.

This cold brew coffee is lower acid, and unfortunately begs to be used up way too quickly!  I like to use flavored coffees, too, which I don't normally drink.  And this summer while nursing V2.0, I've switched to decaf cold brew, so that my wee one isn't overly caffeinated throughout her day.


Roasted broccoli

I've always been a broccoli eater, but as an adult - and especially while I was a pregnant adult - I found and find it difficult to eat the same old, steamed broccoli once or twice each week.

It is SO good for me.  High in iron, high in fiber, a seriously positive food for nourishing our bodies. . but sometimes boring. 

I'm all for a cheesy or creamy vegetable side dish from time to time, but you sort of negate the purpose of healthy eating when you add cheese. (Do you hear me, San Antonio Squash Casserole?  Or Fried Cabbage?  Or all of you Brussels Sprouts recipes that call for extreme amounts of bacon???)

I love all of these, but trying to eat healthy is a marathon, not a sprint, and one more easily done with lighter foods in one's tummy.

So, caramelized, roasted broccoli.  This is a recipe that is all over the internet, so it cannot really be credited to any one source.

Caramelized Roasted Broccoli

One head of broccoli, washed, dried and cut or torn into small, bite-sized florets
Cooking Spray
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
One lemon

1.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees. 
2.  Place broccoli in a large bowl or zipper bag and spray well with cooking spray.  (I like to use my Misto oil sprayer that pumps and allows for refills and therefore use olive oil without any chemical propellant.)  Toss broccoli in oil and spray again, if necessary, until you can see that the broccoli has at least a visible coat in some places.
3.  Combine salt and sugar and sprinkle over the broccoli, tossing well.
4.  Place broccoli on a cookie sheet in a single layer and place in oven for ten minutes.  Watch carefully.  You are looking for browned spots, but the broccoli should not be burned or blackened.  Serve warm, sprinkled with lemon juice, if desired.

My husband does not like the lemon juice, nor does V1.0, so I usually don't use it. 

Also, do not omit the sugar.  The amount is negligible, and it is needed to assist in the caramelization process. 

This is one of those recipes that is so easy and has been a go-to food for our family.  I snack on any leftovers while doing dishes.  Never thought I'd be a broccoli-snacker!

Emergency tacos

While on maternity leave, V1.0 has still been going to daycare.  That may be flameworthy to some, but it has given me the fantastic opportunity to bond equally with V2.0, and also to get some things done around the house.

I've found my kitchen again, and that's a good thing.   We are eating more at home, which is really great, for both our budget and our waistlines (both always a struggle for this mama).

The trouble is that we like to eat out.  It is so convenient and doesn't involve a clean up.  I just need to be better about keeping certain staples around.

So, this afternoon, when I was thinking about what might be for dinner, I realized that we had ZERO to feed this family.  What could be healthy for mama, feed V1.0 and interest the mister without heading to the grocery store?

Emergency tacos.

I realized that I had everything to improvise a quick taco dinner already at home!  The only thing missing were the crispy taco shells and taco seasoning.

The last time I needed ground beef for some recipe, I only needed half a pound.  Luckily, I had browned the entire pound with chopped onion and froze half.  So, I threw that in a skillet to warm up.

Then I added a few cubes of frozen chicken broth to help get some moisture back in the beef crumbles.  "Cubes?" you ask?   I use a ton of chicken broth around here.  But never the entire container.  I always pour leftovers in an ice cube tray to use later.  Just pop them out and throw in a freezer bag and keep going!

To make your own taco seasoning in a pinch, add equal parts of the following ingredients:

Onion powder
Garlic powder

Then add chili powder, but two times the amount you did for everything else.   To clarify: if you used 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt, etc., then use half a teaspoon of chili powder. 

I have ancho chili powder on hand, so I did half ancho chili and half regular. The ancho is mild but a bit darker and I think it gives depth to anything calling for chili powder.

So, for my half pound of meat, I used a half teaspoon of everything and a teaspoon total of chili powders.

Throw that in the skillet and mix well into your ground beef/onion mixture. Give it a minute or two on low heat.

I hate to crumble lower fat ground meat when cooking. So, this is when I'm willing to dirty another dish. I throw the meat in the Kitchen-Aid, and using the whisk attachment on a medium speed, I walk away. :)

While that's happening, put everything down and cuddle this person:

Now, put her down and drag out everything else you're going to need:

Shredded cheese
Canned, refried beans
Whatever else you think sounds good

I also have some Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch dressing (have you tried this stuff?!?!?!), and canned chipotles in adobo.  Did you know that chipotles are just smoked jalapenos?  This is another thing you can freeze in ice cube trays.  No recipe EVER calls for the entire can.  One thing to consider, however, is that some chiles lose a bit of heat in the freezing process. 

So, I made our own chipotle ranch by combining two tablesoons of ranch dressing, and one ice cube of adobo with a chopped chipotle. And I had a salad. Sans chips or tortillas.

The mister ate a taco and a salad with beans on the side. 

V1.0 had a beef and cheese quesadilla with beans and tomatoes.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sugar Free Baked Blueberry Oatmeal. And a weigh-in day!

Weigh in.  Ran into the clinic and acted like I owned the place now that I know how to use their scale.  I'm down another four pounds.  I could get used to this!   My goal was a loss of five pounds before the end of maternity leave, but as long as I lose a half pound in the coming week, I will be down ten.  Could we see a total of fifteen before August 20?  That would be awesome.

Moving forward.

So, I've been searching for a hand-held, baked, oatmeal breakfast thing.

I've been searching for a couple of years.

I decided to try another one that would fit a couple of needs: as I mentioned, I need to be able to carry it. I also want copious oatmeal in it; anything else defeats purpose. It needs to taste good, and it must be enough to serve as the main staple for any breakfast. 

Oatmeal can get a little sponge-y when baked with too much moisture.  One thing to watch out for.

So I found a recipe.  I made substitutions based on diet.  It is a decent start. I imagine the original is pretty good as is. I love rhubarb.  I don't feel one can go wrong with that tarty goodness. You can find the original on over here.

So, my version contains blueberries, as you can see. I hit our grocery store and alas, rhubarb in neither a fresh nor frozen state was available.  I also used Splenda, instead of honey, as called for by the original recipe.  Let's digress for a second...

Generally speaking, I am not supportive of using sugar substitutes - particularly in baking. Some have a detectable and particular taste, others may have an aftertaste, and many are not widely appreciated by moms because of their chemical composition. My biggest argument against using a substitute is the outcome of your recipe.

Baking is more of a science. Heat, applied to certain materials, results in particular chemical reactions. The ingredients we use impact these reactions, as well. A substitution like Splenda (for sugar, for example) can make a baked item more brittle and dry.

I used the Splenda because I wanted to use up the giant box that lives in our pantry without feeding to the wee ones.  I bought it to make a dessert for my dad (diabetic) a while ago.  I hate throwing stuff out.  So I thought, "Hmm.  Probably can reduce the WW points in this with that box of yellow."  There you go.

I also omitted the almonds by accident. This lowered the calorie content, but seriously think about using almonds.  

Finally, if you're planning to use blueberries as I did, I would zest a lemon and add that - and also roll your berries in sweetener/sugar before throwing them in the pan.

Anyway, I cut this recipe into eight servings.  That's three points a piece.  Not too shabby. And an added bonus is that oat is a galactagogue, so while losing weight, I continue to support lactation in other ways through my diet.  And oats can help me lower my cholesterol.  So many bonuses.

In all, I'm going to keep working on this one.  I want to do the original with rhubarb. I don't even care about the strawberries.  Rhubarb without strawberries is equally fantastic.  I love rhubarb pie - not strawberry rhubarb. It is an undersung produce item.   I want the final product to be dry and crumbly, so I've got to work on that.  I want it to be awesome and we aren't there yet.  

If you find what I'm looking for, please share it!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I wouldn't eat it

The other day, while pondering what we could eat for dinner that would fit within my plan and also feed the mister, I discovered a half pound of ground turkey in the freezer.

Now, normally, I buy turkey and ground beef simultaneously and then combine in recipes to reduce my intake of red meat. 

I should have stuck with this plan.

Instead, I made a WW recipe, Southwestern Turkey Burgers. 

Ground turkey
Baked tortilla chips crumbled into the mixture
Other ingredients that don't help

What a horrible idea. What I can say that was good about the recipe: the portion size of the patty was generous and filling. 

What I can say otherwise:  not funny, self. Not funny, at all.  No matter what, turkey is pretty dry. The recipe suggests that one add a quarter cup of salsa to the pound of turkey before forming patties to add moisture. I assure you, the moisture cooks out. Completely.

And, the burger patty by itself had absolutely no flavor. Not very satisfying for someone losing weight when every bite is being counted.

In the end, what made these salvageable was to add a quarter cup of canned, fat-free, refried black beans to the sandwich.  Give yourself a tablespoon of shredded cheese on there. Blacken a poblano pepper and add half of that. If you are feeling like you can afford it, throw a few crumbled and salty tortilla chips on there.  In salvaging the burgers, we simply masked anything else in there with this new stuff.  

Dinner saved. Whew!!!