Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29 - February 2

Yahoo!  January is almost done!  Not that I want to wish my life away, but winter isn't really my favorite thing.  But I'm trying...  so there are a few new soups and stews on the menu this week...

Chicken and chorizo stew:  based on a recipe from Jan/Feb 2012 Cooking Light, but with many, many different ingredients.  Here's what I'm doing (it's cooking as I type):

1.  Poach two boneless skinless chicken breasts in a mix of water and chicken stock.
2.  Remove chicken from pan, let it cool, then shred it.  Pour liquid out of pan and save.
3.  Saute some chorizo in a bit of olive oil.  Add (one at a time, stirring in and letting each cook for a minute or so):  chopped onion, chopped sweet potato, sliced mushrooms, chopped red bell pepper, corn, diced zucchini.
4.  Stir in some garlic (I chopped 3 cloves) and some spices:  a teaspoon of cumin, a quarter teaspoon salt, some saffron threads, a sprinkling of cayenne.
5.  Pour the cooking liquid back in, bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer.  Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.
6.  Add the shredded chicken back in.  Cook some more (at least until chicken is heated through) until you're ready to eat.  Be sure to check the seasonings, since measuring the amount of veggies was vague at best.
7.  Stir in a bit of red wine vinegar at the end.  Sprinkle with parsley.

I can't vouch for the taste yet, but it smells fantastic.

My favorite go-to dinner in the winter:
Grilled salmon (with bq sauce)
Roasted brussels sprouts (wash, remove stem bottom and cut in half, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.  Sprinkle a little bit of shredded parmesan for the last few minutes of cooking if you're feeling festive.
Sauteed veggies (a misture of mushrooms, onions, red bell pepper, green beans)

Spinach and lentil soup with cheese and basil

Beet soup with balsamic vinegar and feta cheese:

I'm making this one up as I go along.  Here's what I'm thinking:

Roasted golden beets, a chopped onion, some chopped garlic:  saute it all in a pan.  Add a bit of veggie stock and simmer for a while.  Puree.  Mix in some plain greek yogurt.

Top with some crumbled feta cheese, some toasted pine nuts, and a drizzle of 18 year balsamic vinegar.  I'm thinking it'll be good!

Have a great week!  Happy February!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15 - 19

Well, it finally feels like winter...  and I was kind of thinking that things might just jump straight to spring. I'm ready to be done eating oranges and soup.  But it's only the middle of January, so even though I wrote a generic "fruit" on the grocery list, I still came home with my weekly bag of clementines.  Sure, there are other fruits at the store, but they're looking about as vibrant as you'd expect cherries to look in January...  (not very).

So we're still working hard on reminding ourselves what real food tastes and feels like.  And since it's January, we're roasting lots of things.  Here we go...

Broiled barramundi (rubbed with a bit of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper)
Roasted brussels sprouts (again, olive oil, salt & pepper, perhaps a bit -- or a lot -- of garlic, and maybe some parmesan cheese at the end, when there are only a few minutes left to cook)
Salad, perhaps with some of those orange pieces (hey, if I'm gonna buy 'em, I gotta eat 'em, right?) and some fancy olive oil and vinegar we got for Christmas:  tangerine balsamic and blood orange olive oil from The Olive Grove in Farmington, MI.

It's a big old salad day.  Here's what I'm thinking:
Salad greens
roasted asparagus
sauteed mushrooms and onions
roasted red pepper (I can it in the fall in a mix of white wine vinegar and olive oil, so it has a lovely tanginess?  tangy-ness?)
feta cheese
olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
top it with a gorgeous fried egg

I can't wait.

Tuscan white bean soup with escarole

And we're gonna try something new...

Last night, as we had our usual really long wait for a table at one of our favorite restaurants (the French Laundry -- the Fenton one, not the California one), we began to reflect on this practice of going out to eat on Saturday nights.  Lovely, yes, but a bit claustrophobia-inducing as we huddle closer together as more and more swarms of folks come in the door.

There are some places we've really been craving lately (especially Union Woodshop -- but since it appeared on that Food Network show with Guy Fieri, we hear the wait is REALLY awful) but haven't gone since we'd be sitting around for hours waiting.

And Phil had this excellent thought:
1.  We like to cook.  It's hard to find time during the week, but we have more time on weekends.
2.  We like to go out to eat.  Often, it's a time-saver as well.
3.  The restaurants we love best are crazy crowded on the weekends.  Still full during the week, but not as bad.
4.  What if we swapped our Saturday for a weeknight?  We could go to our favorite restaurants again, and spend our weekends cooking elaborate & gorgeous (or at least a bit more time-consuming) dinners than we attempt during the week.

I like it.

But we have to make sure we're not just turning it into going out MORE.  Because that would mean that we're cheating something, somehow...  sort of.

So we'll see how this goes...  Have a great week!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 7 - 12

Week two of We-Cook-Our-Own-Dinners again...  And we're even planning to cook on a Saturday!  That would be big, even back when we cooked during the week.

But the LIONS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS.  Yep.  So we're having a lovely dinner and we're parking our butts on the couch to enjoy this grand event.  Happy playoffs to you!

Rotisserie venison roast (firing up the grill -- should be lovely)
Oven-roasted sweet potatoes (slice them, stir in some spices like cumin and chile powder and salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil, then spread on a cookie sheet and bake at about 400 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes)
Roasted brussels sprouts (olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so)

Chicken noodle soup (from Simply Organic, by Jesse Ziff Cool):
1 whole chicken
2 large onions
3 large carrots
2 celery ribs
5 peppercorns
2 sprigs dill
3 sprigs parsley
1 chopped parsnip
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 oz egg noodles

Cook chicken, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery rib, peppercorns, dill, and parsley in a large stockpot covered with cold water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 4 hours.  Cool slightly.

Remove chicken, pour everything else through a strainer.  Discard solids, refrigerate broth (3 hours or overnight) and shred chicken.

Remove fat from top of broth.  In a large stockpot, combine broth, remaining chopped veggies, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer one hour.  Add chicken and noodles, cook until noodles are done.

Omelette night!  My favorite has tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and feta cheese.  But this is a "whatever sounds good at the moment" kind of dinner, so we'll see...

Brown ground venison burger, mix in delicious spices (ancho chile powder, garlic, salt and pepper)
Chop veggies (onions, tomatoes, cabbage, avocado)
Maybe we'll cook a little corn in a pan too...
Warm tortillas, then build tacos.  Top with salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream

Grilled salmon

Have a lovely week!

Monday, January 2, 2012

January 2 - 6, 2012

So we're giving the planning thing a go again.  I'm leaving Tuesday as an open day -- it's the day that's the toughest for us to actually cook -- so that might be "leftover" or "cheese and cracker" or "make a bad choice about dinner" day.  Gotta leave myself a little wiggle room.  But the rest of the week looks pretty solid, and the grocery list is actually really small...  we already have most of what we need here.

Grilled salmon filets (perhaps with a bit of barbecue sauce)
Asparagus (done in a bit of olive oil in a pan)
Roasted potatoes (chop small, toss with some olive oil and seasoning, spread out on a cookie sheet and cook for 20 - 30 minutes -- depending on size -- at about 400 degrees)


Veggie fried rice:
1.  Chop whatever veggies are around.  Be sure to include onion and mushroom, then find whatever else there is (I'm thinking asparagus from Monday, some red pepper from the freezer, some edamame from the freezer, maybe some bits of broccoli, maybe a tomato).
2.  Saute the veggies.  Add some pre-cooked brown rice.  Mix it all together.
3.  Stir in some soy sauce and sriracha.  Sometimes some rice wine vinegar gives it a bit of zing.
4.  The egg:  either make a well in the middle and add an egg, then scramble it in with the rest, or fry an egg and serve it on top of the bowl of rice.

Slow cooker day!  We're trying Swedish Yellow Split Pea Soup, but instead of ham, we're using a pork chop, because that's what we have in the freezer.

This recipe is from the January/February 2012 issue of Eating Well.  I tried to find the recipe on their website so I could just link it, but no luck.  So here it is:

3c yellow split peas
4c reduced-sodium chicken broth
4c water
2c diced yellow onion
1c diced carrot
1c diced celery
8 oz ham, trimmed and diced (or a pork chop, in our case, left whole, then shredded at the end of cooking and mixed back in with the soup)
1 tbsp minced fresh (hah!  Or a jar -- that's just us) ginger.  On second thought, we might use garlic instead.
1 tsp dried marjoram
fresh pepper to taste

1.  Place split peas in a medium bowl.  Wash with cold water until the water runs clear; drain and spread in a 5 - 6 quart slow cooker.
2.  Add broth, water, onion, carrot, celery, ham/pork, ginger/garlic and marjoram to the slow cooker.  Stir to combine.
3.  Cover and cook for 5 hours on high or 7 - 8 hours (or 10, if you're us) on low.  Season with pepper.

Trying for home-cooked on a Friday night.  Our pizza is better than take-out anyway, and if we plan for it, we should have all the stuff at home to make it.

Pizza dough in the Kitchen Aid:
1.  Dissolve 2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) yeast in a cup of hot water.
2.  Add 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp olive oil, 2 1/2 c flour (I use equal mix of white and whole wheat).
3.  Mix for about 3 minutes with the dough hook.
4.  Put in a greased bowl and cover, let rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
5.  Put the pizza together on the pizza stone.  Top like this:  yummy sauce, slices of chicken pesto sausage, onion, mushroom, roasted red pepper, whatever other veggies still exist in the house by Friday night.  Top with mozzarella.
6.  Bake at 450 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, depending on how thick all the toppings are.


Beginning again

So, I've been a yoga student for at least 12 or 13 years.  And there are some things I still can't do.  Grab my hands/arms/elbows behind my back?  Ha.  Things that require balance?  Only when the universe is lining up perfectly.

So when I'm in yoga class, and it's balancing time, and I tip over (as I almost always do), my teacher says:  just begin again.

Last fall I got this new job kind of unexpectedly and rather quickly without much time for planning or adjustment.  And it has been a huge challenge in terms of finding a bit of balance with the rest of my life since September.  (And as I already said, I'm not naturally good at the balance thing).  One thing that has fallen apart for me has been planning and eating healthy meals.  Not knowing when we'd be home at night, not having the time or energy to cook when we got home, not being able to pull it together to find recipes that were faster and easier than what we usually do -- all these things led to the downward spiral of our eating.

And three weeks ago, I hit rock bottom.  All fall, things that used to be "not okay" were becoming "more okay."  Take-out on a week night?  Okay, because we're busy.  McDonalds for a french fry snack?  Okay, because I forgot to bring anything for lunch and just had a drinkable yogurt in the car for breakfast and I'm starving.  A meal without produce in it?  Okay, because we're hungry and we didn't have time to shop.

So I was driving around on a Saturday, doing before-Christmas errands.  Been up since 5, it was now midday -- this was my day to get it ALL DONE!  And I realized I was hungry.  Really hungry.  And my hungry little brain immediately thought that a spicy chicken combo from Wendy's sounded like a good idea.  I don't think I've had a fried chicken sandwich from a fast food place in about 5 years.  And I know that in moderation, everything's okay.  But I didn't have second thoughts, didn't consider the health or quality of the food, just that I wanted it.  And I drove through, and I got the combo, and I ate it all.

And I did not feel happy with myself at all afterward.

I haven't been doing this balancing thing very well lately.  So I'm going to begin again.

Starting with planning my dinners again.  If we have a plan, and we have the ingredients around to follow that plan, there's a better chance I'll eat something that will make me smart and strong and less likely to regret my dinner choices.  We might not follow through on the plan every night, but we definitely won't if there isn't even a plan in place.

So step one:  make a plan.

Step two:  look for quicker, easier stuff.  I love interesting recipes and will willingly try to make nearly anything.  But I need to acknowledge that those might need to wait for July.  So expect simpler, quicker, less ingredients.  This might be my bigger challenge.

Step one:  make a plan.
Step two:  get simple.

And step three?  When we fall off the good-food wagon (because January and February are not traditionally the best months for me to make healthy choices -- they're the months I just want to wear pajamas and eat cookies all day), just begin again.  Because what other option do I have?

Wish me luck.  This week's menu coming soon.

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