Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lunch for $9 and a lifestyle change

I am turning over a new leaf now that the birthday calendar has turned over a new year and it's been a long time coming. My friend Chris gave me a "happy 3(1)" card which was sweetly "accessorized" with more candles...

We briefly experimented with a vegetarian lifestyle this summer, which went over fairly well, and now it's time to change things up even more. In an effort to eat healthy and turn my life back to active - approaching the six week mark since my plantar fasciitis procedure - it's time to make some wholesale changes.

The first is lunch. No more spending $9 a meal for a salad and diet coke. No more diet coke. This week's lunch will be pot roast, carrots and pearl onions ... simmering away in the crock pot in the kitchen right now. The whole shebang set me back about $9, not including the rosemary from the farmer's market. Five lunches for about two bucks a day isn't bad.

If I get tired of it by Tuesday, we can have it for dinner ...the tricky thing Is that the rest of my meal planning this week revolves around fish, a no-go at the office.

Other changes will be no sugar, no gluten and no dairy for the next 100 days... My hope is that it becomes a habit but I'm also interested in how it makes me feel. I have started drinking tea since my cough resembles that of a habitual smoker, a lovely leftover from being deathly ill over my birthday and thanksgiving week.

Back to the gym (and physical therapy) tomorrow. Can't wait. More recipes on the way this week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Party Recipes: Requested

Southern Living Blue Cheese Bacon Dip

I wouldn't say it's healthy or vegetarian, but this dip is pretty good. The recipe (with my notes)

bacon slices
  • garlic cloves (I used three)
  • (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
  • 1/3 cup  half-and-half (next time I would use milk)
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese (used about 3 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives (I sprinkled on dried because it wasn't farmer's market week)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted  (I didn't use)
  • Serve with grape clusters /celery /  Flatbread or assorted crackers (I used new Wheat Thin Flatbreads)
  • Preparation
  • Cook chopped bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Drain bacon, pat with paper towels, set aside. Strain fat from skillet, add minced garlicand sauté 1 minute.
  • (Be careful not to overcook).
  • Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add half-and-half, beating until combined. Stir in bacon, garlic, blue cheese, and chives. Spoon mixture into large baking dish.
  • Bake at 350° for 15-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Sprinkle evenly with chopped walnuts, and serve with grape clusters and flatbread or assorted crackers. (Mine didn't get bubbly or golden. Original recipe calls for several small dishes to bake dip in.)
See the recipe here.

  • Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
  • 1/2 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, warmed
  • Tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed, divided (I would use a large tub OR you can sub cream and sugar and make it from scratch)
  • pkg. (3.9 oz.) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding (I used fat free, the big box)
  • 8 OREO Cookies, chopped (about 1 cup) (You can use other candy or cookies as well)
  • 12  vanilla ice cream sandwiches (or other flavors)
  • POUR fudge topping into medium bowl. Whisk in 1 cup COOL WHIP. Add dry pudding mix; stir 2 min. Stir in chopped cookies. ARRANGE  4 ice cream sandwiches, side-by-side, on 24-inch-long sheet of foil; top with half the COOL WHIP mixture. Repeat layers. Top with remaining sandwiches. Frost top and sides with remaining COOL WHIP. Bring up foil sides; double fold top and ends to loosely seal packet. FREEZE 4 hours or until firm. 
  • You really can't get a better summer dessert. No bake, not much mess and SO good!
  • See the recipe here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The farmer's market rocks + DIY pizza crust.

There's not much else to say, so this will be a short section. I went to the DeKalb Farmer's Market the other day, which is like heaven for those of us who haven't yet mastered backyard gardening. The best way to describe it is as the size of a box store but with an international sampling of goods. The main aisle is Meat, Fish, Fruits & Vegetables, and when you talk produce, this is stuff you've never heard of before in abundance. Fresh aloe? Beets? Mung beans? Sugar cane? Look no further.

Our take:

From left to right: 10 pounds of red potatoes, 25-pound box tomatoes, three huge heads of romaine lettuce, spinach, a seedless watermelon, fresh celery, 5 pounds of oranges, 3 yellow squash, 6 zucchini, freshly-baked bread, goat cheese, 3 pounds of limes, 2 pounds of mushrooms, 3 peaches, asparagus, 6 ears of sweet corn and not pictured 6 freshly-baked bagels and cilantro.

The price tag? $67. Let me tell you my favorite purchase: $14.50 for the tomatoes. I purchased three tomatoes from Publix for $2.66 and they were half as big as the tomatoes in this box.

The best part besides price and obviously awesome, colorful and healthy food? This produce will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks. The lettuce will be 90 percent as good in three weeks as it was when purchased.

Consequently, after this trip, I punched up our dinner to full-on fresh tomatoe, spinach & mozzarella pizza.

Here's how to do it yourself:

Yummy toppings:
Four large tomatoes, sliced. You can seed if you want. I didn't.
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup grated mozzarella. We use part-skim.
Olive oil to drizzle
Italian seasoning
Parmesan to garnish

The crust (and for the love of all things kitchen, PLEASE don't buy or fake make or shy away from making a pizza crust. It is not that hard. I promise.)

In a mixing bowl, add 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (or that little packet they sell). Pour over: 1 1/3 cups hot water (I let the tap run until it's hot enough to soak dishes but not scalding). Do not stir this mix. Let the yeast activate (it bubbles). About five minutes is good.

Keeping with form, the actual recipe from the Joy of Cooking (which I believe every amateur and foodie alike should have) calls for a tablespoon of sugar. I don't think it's needed. I skip it.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir in 3 1/2 to 3/4 cups of flour. I use a wooden spoon to initially stir in the flour to the yeast and then switch to kneading. This allows me to use the flour I'm adding gradually to get the sticky dough off the spoon. I'd advise taking your rings off for the kneading. Add flour until your dough is slightly sticky and somewhat elastic. It looks like this:

When it gets there, oil another large bowl and put the dough in seam-side down (the seam is where you've last folded the dough to knead it). Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes (cover with a clean towel). Divide your dough into two - and flour a workspace.

Using extra flour, knead the dough again and use the flour you need to keep from sticking. Depending on the shape of your pan, you should be able to press out the shape of your dough - a circle or rectangle. You can't do this too much as the dough should now be smooth. I made my dough larger than the pan and folded the excess in to make a crust:

At this point, you can put your sauce on (I just used the raw, sliced tomatoes), drizzled olive oil and added toppings. The best part of this pizza besides the taste is that you know exactly how many ingredients your pizza has, and that there are no extra preservatives, colors, chemicals and random animal products.

*Note on the crust: You can use wheat flour, soy flour, a mixture of flours or regular old white flour. I use unbleached and add flax, cornmeal, rosemary, sesame seeds, and/or whatever flours seem right at the time. There aren't rules when it comes to add-ons. Just keep the actual flour to the same proportion.

*Note 2: Store uneaten pizza (hahahaha) in the fridge and eat within a day or so. Without preservatives, this goes fast. In our house, it goes in one meal.

*Note 3: Second crust can be frozen. More on that to come.

Eat healthy, my friends!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

We were invited to a football coaches party - always a little awkward because I feel I should hang with the guys, but Josh doesn't hang with the ladies. After three years, we all have our moments I think.

Anyway, Coach W hosted the event and I decided to bring this beauty to celebrate Memorial Day weekend:

Apparently it looked too good because no one wanted the first slice. The good news? I texted Coach W to see if he'd finished it up over the weekend and this was his response:

"Devoured it. It was outstanding!"

Thinking it was probably a bit much even for him to eat on his own, I probed for more details... especially since no one sampled (even me). So, I asked who he shared the treat with and was not expecting this response....

"I took it to a pool party Sunday. Said I made it."

I loved it. And that, my friends, is genius.

I cheated on the recipe: boxed white cake (major time saver but more expensive) + vanilla pudding mix made according to directions with three eggs and water. On top, cheesecake pudding (mixed with maybe 3/4 cup of milk set to firm and then folded in with most of a large container of Cool Whip) frosting + strawberries & blueberries.

Total decorate time ~30 minutes including washing / soaking the fruit.

Welcome to summer ... be safe when re-fooding!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10-minute summer pasta dinner

People think eating healthy is expensive. I can agree to some extent, but not tonight.

On my way home, I considered picking up Chinese veggie stir-fry, easily a $15 commitment and ~4,000 mg of sodium for two people. Tonight's dinner really did take 10 minutes and wasn't a recipe.

Dinner was this combination of kitchen supplies:

- Four diced tomatoes (seeded, which just means that when chopping, you keep the firm parts of the tomatoes and throw away - or save for later - the seeds / juice)
- One pound rigatoni
- One large bag frozen broccoli
- One can (thoroughly rinsed to save sodium) mushrooms
- 1.5 oz crumbled (or chopped) feta cheese

You wouldn't even need to scam for Publix coupons for this price: $6.07

We saved $8.93.

My supplies were a can opener, cutting board and one knife plus:
- Feta ($3 for the whole 4 oz) $1.50
- Broccoli $1.10
- Mushrooms - off-brand $.80 for the large can
- Pasta $.67 on a buy-on-get-one-free deal
- Tomatoes (usually the expensive part but these four were my last from a 20-pound box for $12, and you could always get canned diced for lots more sodium) $2

Spices excluded from the price since they are staples: fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes. The fresh tomatoes, cheese and sodium from the mushrooms gave it enough flavor. No salt needed.

I cooked the pasta and added the broccoli at the end - when the noodles were still a little firm. I strained all the water out, added the tomatoes, mushrooms and feta, and served. This no-recipe made easily enough to serve 5-6 very hungry people and will be a summer combination we try again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Messy clean ups but tasty rosemary sesame bread

So I told you what my favorite part of cooking is, the worst is obvious: 

The ideal goal is to have someone (hint, hint) help with prep so you can wash at the same time. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I'll rustle up a few more good kitchen recipes.

Along with Mango Salsa last night, I made this Rosemary Sesame Seed Bread.

It's only four ingredients: yeast, olive oil, flour, water. Made fresh with no preservatives, the bread should be sliced and frozen or refrigerated for 1-2 days within baking. I bet you'll find it hard not to eat it with double tomato sandwiches or french toast!

After my farmer's market trip tomorrow, I'll do some other variations with wheat, soy and almond flours and discuss the process. I'm definitely going to make a raisin-cinnamon swirl (thanks Stacy for the idea).

Making bread is no where near as difficult as imagined - more on that after the weekend. I used to think my grandmother's rolls were so tasty in part because of the giant green tupperware bowl she used to let the dough rise. It even has a lid. I know my dad gets frustrated because I'm not too fond of collecting "stuff" or saving things from our family. 

I do, however, lay claim to the green bowl (and at least a copy of all Grandma E's recipes). I think the real mystery is how four (or so) ingredients can create such a treat.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Salsa and Introduction

My name is Roseanna. 

I grew up eating fresh vegetables out of our Iowa gardens and though my green thumb hasn't come in yet, I do love to make magic in the kitchen. My favorite recipes run the gamut from my great grandmother's sugar cookies to fresh tomato sauce. 

There's something pretty amazing about making your own food: not just to know what's in it, but to experience the joy in doing it yourself. I don't get this feeling from home improvement projects, but that's not quite as fun a tale and one for another day.

There are a thousand websites, blogs and message boards devoted to recipes and cooking. I started this blog today, on a whim, because my fiancee and I are experimenting vegetarians. Almost three weeks ago, we started a month-long challenge to avoid meat. We're not quite vegan like Josh's friend Joe, or as healthy as HeandSheEatClean like my friends Scott & Whitney, but we're on the right track. 

Josh is usually a guy who eats an entire rotisserie chicken in one, maybe two meals. He's also that guy who needs meat with every meal, and at breakfast, six chicken eggs. 

This blog gets its name from Doug, Josh's boss. After about a week of the vegetarian diet during which double tomato-and-cheese sandwiches had become a staple, a guy came into his office selling BBQ raffle fundraiser tickets. When he asked if Josh wanted one, Doug said ... "The big guy eats plants." He's also not a fan of pork, but that's another story. 

We originally started the Plant Challenge to save some cash. I think we'll make it more of a lifestyle - with some fish and chicken sprinkled in along the way after the month is up. But, the great part so far about eating mainly vegetables and fruits is that eating is, by design, more creative. 

I didn't want to be that person who posted her food photos on Facebook, so I started this blog, which is equally lame. I can live with that.

I figured somewhere along the way, someone would probably want some of the recipes, and if nothing else, I can share more easily. 

Plus, even someone like me who doesn't much measure, freely substitutes ingredients and generally strays off the beaten path (sometimes a little too much) likes to see photos with recipes. It's just easier to imagine. 

Tonight we had Mary Ann's Mango Salsa (a recent recipe from my coworker): 

- 7 oz can whole corn, drained and rinsed (next time, I'll cut corn off the cob and boil to save sodium)
- 1 mango - peeled and cubed (I used part of a mango and fresh pineapple, both leftovers, which I would highly recommend)
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion (I used half a medium red onion)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (eyeball it)
- Juice of half a lime
- 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed well (you could easily cook the beans to also save sodium) 
Pepper to taste 

Other items listed in the recipe that I didn't use (1 t garlic salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/3 c fresh red pepper). More often than not, I change things on the fly, so I'll try to include the original recipe. 

The blog's web address comes from my grandmother Emogene, who makes the best cloverleaf and cinnamon rolls without frosting in the free world, and mother Merry, who provided a made-from-scratch-with-no-recipe meal every night growing up. They both smartly advised this benefit about cooking: you still get to eat your mistakes.

I think that's mostly true, except for the one time I tried to make eggplant. We threw that away.