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.