Monday, February 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Provencal Pasta

Pasta Topped With Tomatoes and Mushrooms
Tonight's dinner taught me two things: The husband and I do not like provencal sauce (at least not BHG's recipe) and homemade gnocchi should not be frozen. I was really looking forward to dinner, too, because it's Monday. And when I come up with a meatless meal that the husband isn't terrified to eat, I consider it a success. But this, my friends, was not a total success.

I got home a bit later than usual tonight, thanks to absurd amounts of rain and flash flooding. But I can't even blame our mediocre dinner on my tardiness. I've known since yesterday that I wanted to make gnocchi and provencal sauce for dinner. I even called the husband as I sat in traffic and asked him to open a bottle of wine so it'd be ready when I got home. I needed it for the sauce. Really, I did.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Venison Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

venison burger and sweet potato fries
Venison Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries
Not only did the in-laws bring us leftover wedding wine, jelly jars they'd like refilled, homemade Chex mix (which I've eaten about 2 lbs of so far) and Valentine's presents from my parents, they also brought something very special that we only get about once a year. Of all the things we knew the family would deliver, this rare item was one we were really looking forward to. The wait was killing me. I knew Da was sending venison.

So only a short four days after the long-awaited meat was in the house, it was time to thaw that gamey goodness and put it to use. This evening, I weighed out a five-ounce burger for myself and a six-ouncer for the husband. Usually the husband is in charge of all burgers and grilling in this house, but he got a wicked blister working in the backyard yesterday, which left me to deal with the raw meat. I let him be in charge of all spices and flavorings, though. "Don't do anything to it," he told me. "I didn't use anything the last time I made venison burgers." The man who rarely makes decisions was so serious about this direction I had to listen to him.

Dinner was quick and easy. The potatoes took about five minutes of prep time, and about 20 or so minutes after the burgers were on the grill, we sat down to dinner. (Honestly, it may have been a full half hour, but I'm not sure. It's easy to lose track of time when you're enjoying a sunny 60-degree evening in February.) But dinner wasn't just quick and easy to throw together, it was good. I mean, this meal was good. The husband's reaction made me know, without question, that he felt the same.

"I love me some venison," was all the husband could say after he took his first bite. And honestly, that was the first thing that came to my mind, too. Venison has such a unique flavor the meal truly would have been ruined had I doctored it up with seasonings or sauce. It was perfect all by itself. This meal was definitely worth the wait!

Chili Sweet Potato Fries

10 ounces sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed up salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and spray a baking sheet or foil-lined pan. 

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into fries. Brush the potatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle with chili powder and mixed up salt evenly.

Bake for 30 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.

Looking Back: February 2011

Today's breakfast: yogurt with honey and strawberries on the side of oats
I've been thinking, since the beginning of the year, actually, of writing regular end-of-month wrap-ups. Somehow, though, the moment passed when January came to an end, and here we are saying goodbye to February already. But I figure now is better than never, so here we go. Here's a look at 10 thingsa I'm loving this month. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hot Slow-Cooker White Chicken Chili

Slow-Cooker White Chicken Chili
The husband and I went out on a date last night. Sure, we have fun nights at home and sometimes go out to dinner within a 10-mile radius of our home. But last night we went out to see my boyfriend and the man who sings our wedding song. And let me just tell you WOW. We had such a great night of live music. But before we could leave the house for the concert, I needed to put a quick dinner on the table. In my never-ending quest to reproduce the white chicken chili we've come to know and love from one of our favorite local restaurants, I told the husband I thought I'd make chicken chili in the slow cooker. We've had our share of slow-cooker meals burn while we were at work, so the husband was a bit hesitant at using the slow cooker. But I assured him I had it all figure out and we wouldn't come home to burned food - again.

I found a recipe in one of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks and pawed through the pantry to see what we had in stock. We had a little chicken thawed, two cans of white beans, veggies, jalapenos and a can of chicken stock, so I figured we could make it happen. I cooked the chicken the night before in our convection oven - a perfect invention for a home of two - and threw the rest of the meal in the slow cooker the next morning. Everything filled the slow cooker perfectly. I had no worries that the meal would burn during the day. But   I did worry a little about how it'd taste: Our can of jalapenos had carrots in it. What was that all about? I crossed my fingers, kissed the husband and doggies goodbye and went to work.

When I got home the house smelled amazing. I was so excited about dinner. The husband sat down to his bowl first and immediately let me know how salty it was. For the record, I'm blaming the overwhelming taste of salt on the seasoning packet. I think next time I'll try to replicate the seasoning packet with my own seasonings and skip any sodium that may be in the McCormick's package. Once we got past the initial saltiness, though, everything was fine. It was actually quite good - but hot! I thought it was so hot I had to top mine with light sour cream last night and nonfat plain yogurt today. Yes, I'm a bigger wimp when it comes to heat than the husband, but still. It must have been the entire can of japalenos (and carrots) the husband threw into the slow cooker when I wasn't paying attention. I had wondered if we should drain the can, but he beat me to it, throwing the entire can in without question. 

Despite the chili's heat and initial sodium shock, it was a good meal. Dinner was ready and waiting the minute I walked in the door. How can you complain about that? And the meal made about seven servings, which meant we had plenty for lunch today. All in all, this meal was a win for everyone. Usually the husband will have a suggestion as to how to improve the dish the next time, but he told me this one was a keeper. 

White Chicken Chili Topped With Nonfat Plain Yogurt
Slow-Cooker White Chicken Chili
Inspired by BHG

5 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
salt, sprinkled on chicken to taste
ground pepper, sprinkled on chicken to taste
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can great northern beans, UNDRAINED
1 (7 ounce) can diced jalapenos (for some reason, our can had carrots in it!)
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (1 1/4 ounce) envelope Mccormick white chicken chili seasoning mix
2 cups 99% fat-free chicken broth (reduced sodium, preferred)
1 cup water

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper; cook at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until no longer pink. (This can be done the night before and kept covered in the refrigerator.).

Cut the chicken and veggies and throw them into the slow cooker. Add in the beans - two cans rinsed and drained and one can UNDRAINED. Add the jalapenos and seasonings; stir to combine. Add the chicken broth and water.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Makes 7 servings
Amount per serving: Approximately 216 calories, 1.7 g fat, 35 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 16.5 g protein

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flatbread Pizza

Quick and Easy Flatbread Pizza
Since waving goodbye to the in-laws yesterday morning, the husband and I have been working on getting back into our routine. Translation: We need to detox. After a full weekend of eating out at our favorite restaurants, indulging in old-fashioned coconut candy, introducing our company to the goodness of Froyoz and watching college basketball while we threw back a couple of pints, it's time the husband and I lighten things up a bit.

We didn't make our guests participate in Meatless Monday, and last night we dashed around the kitchen eating leftovers before we ran out to go grocery shopping. But tonight felt a bit more like usual. Knowing we won't be having dinner at home Friday night - we'll be out on a date! - we decided to have our weekly pizza tonight. And we kept the meal meatless, killing two birds with one stone.

While staring at the bread aisle last night, searching for the most reasonably priced and healthiest whole wheat bread while the husband patiently waited by the cart, a package of flatbread caught my eye. I've never noticed Flatout flatbread before or I've never had an idea as to what I could do with it. But last night I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it. The wraps were speckled with grains and flax, and they were thicker than regular old tortillas. The husband wasn't too excited when he saw "multi-grain" written clearly across the package, but was. I just couldn't wait to make dinner tonight.

It's nice when you know what you'll be making for dinner. (I absolutely hate driving home and wondering all the way what I'm going to make the husband.) It's even nicer, though, to be excited about the meal. We'd never had flatbread pizzas before, and I was really hoping the husband would be impressed. As soon as I walked in the door, I headed for the kitchen. I chopped up half of a green bell pepper and half an onion, and the husband spread two flatbreads on a baking sheet and prepped them with a little tomato sauce. We topped our pizzas with veggies, a little part-skim mozzarella cheese, red pepper flakes and, because I can't help but put it on everything I eat, a little mixed up saltWe threw the pizzas into the oven before it even had the chance to reach 350 degrees. I'd say they cooked for about five whole minutes at 300 degrees and that was perfect. 

As we ate dinner I asked the husband what he thought about the flatbreads. Surprisingly, he thought they were really good. He actually ate two and suggested we buy more of them the next time we're at the store. No, this probably isn't a meal I'd serve trying to impress company, but at about 200 calories per pizza, they were just what the husband and I needed tonight.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grilled Steak and Veggie Kabobs

Do you want a large mug or a tiny mug?
Last weekend marked the in-laws' first visit to our house since we've been Mr. and Mrs. As as you can see, I really should have registered for mugs. That's how most of our mornings looked - large mugs and tiny mugs. And although it made the husband laugh at me, I insisted on using my sugar and creamer dishes. They make me happy.

We did more than just drink coffee, though. It's hard now to think of all that we did - or all of the local places we hit up for food and locally brewed drinks. But I was able to make dinner one of the nights our company was in town. Against my better wishes, the husband wanted to grill a steak. The weather was perfect for grilling in the middle of February. We had sunny skies and the temperature hovered around 60 all weekend. The husband actually dragged out the porch furniture and we sat outside until the sun went down Sunday night. We couldn't have asked for a better evening at home. But we haven't had the best luck with buying steaks since we moved. We've bought our fair share of tough and tasteless beef, so I was more than nervous about how this meal would turn out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Garlic Knots Good Enough for Company

Garlic Knots
Me: "And we'll take an order of garlic knots."
Pizza guy: "Garlic nuts? Nuts?! No, we don't have those."
Me, to the then-boyfriend: "Apparently, we aren't gonna get garlic knots down here."

That was me about two years ago. Da and the stepmother had driven the 700+ miles for their first visit to our tiny rented house. The husband and I (just a boyfriend and a girlfriend, back then) had only been living south of the Mason-DIxon for a couple of months at that point and were still settling in. 

The then-boyfriend: "He's never heard of garlic knots?!" 

You can only imagine the husband's disappointment when he realized his beloved knots weren't going to be so easy to come by in our new state. We were so used to ordering pies and garlic knots it never occurred to us that this may not be the norm everywhere. But he has adjusted - we've adjusted. A couple of years, another dog and a new house later, his parents are now visiting. And we no longer need to argue over who has to call the pizza place and ask - with crossed fingers - whether they make garlic knots. 

Garlic Knots

Dough recipe from Eating Well

1 lb whole wheat pizza dough:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup hot water, (120-130°F)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

garlicky herb butter:
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
a dash of salt
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

Prepare the pizza dough
and allow it to rise on the counter for about 30 minutes. Pinch of pieces of dough and roll into small snakes. Tie the dough into knots and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. (A quick spray will do.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F while the knots are rising.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and garlic until fragrant. Turn the burner off and allow the butter to remain warm.

Sprinkle the knots with a dash of salt and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown. (Be careful not to let the knots bake too long and harden.)

Baking Garlic Knots
Put the baked knots in a bowl and cover with the warm garlicky butter. Sprinkle the herbs and cheese on top; serve warm.

Makes 24 knots

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Newfound Food Crush

I like to watch Ghost Whisperer. Yes, it gets a little bit old that at the end of every episode everyone cries. But it's a guilty little pleasure that I like nonetheless. And lucky for me, the husband doesn't mind watching it either. He'll probably die if he finds out I told you, but he's a fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt. Overall, the system works for us: I get to watch mind-numbing TV, and the husband gets to enjoy Ms. Hewitt's superb acting abilities. 

I've always enjoyed kidding him about his celebrity crush, partly, I'm sure, because I never really had one. Honestly. I've seen Ethan Hawke - actually talked to the man, though I'm sure he doesn't remember - and the sight of him in his Carhartt pants took my breath away. (You know this was years before your time, Husband.) But I've never been able to put my finger on my celebrity crush. That is, until yesterday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Simple Valentine's Celebration

The husband and I are simple. We live in a small house that sits on less than an acre. I drive a car that was made almost 10 years ago. Sometimes we spend the whole afternoon watching college basketball games in our living room. Does that sound simple to you? 
Simple adjective, noun not elaborate or artificial; sincere

Our three-bedroom home has a view of the mountains that I never get tired of looking at. My car has more than 100,000 miles on it and it gets me to and from the best job I've ever had every week. And we look forward to putting on our orange every Saturday and camping out on the couch in the comfort of our living room. We're simple. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Giant Pizza Roll

Pizza Roll
We realized the other day that six months have already passed since we became husband and wife. Seriously, where has the time gone? I guess that's how it goes when you look back on the best day of your life - it feels like it was just yesterday. It's true the long engagement was, at times, frustrating and stressful. We planned a wedding from 790 miles away. The process was not all rainbows and butterflies. But the wait was all worth it in the end. I gained a fabulous husband, a shiny new piece of jewelry, supportive in-laws and a food processor. And I love them all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ginger Honey Chicken

Ginger Honey Chicken
The husband and I have been flirting with the idea of clean eating for about the last month. Well, let's be honest here: I've been thinking about it and making clean recipes from time to time; the husband has been my guinea pig. 

Clean recipes aren't very different than the recipes I usually try to serve, but they sometimes require a bit more thought and planning. For example, I don't have a supply of agave nectar in the cupboard - yet - so I usually have to skip over those dishes. Lucky for us, I was able to find a very simple, clean recipe for tonight's dinner. Unfortunately, it was a bit, how do I put this? Dinner was underwhelming. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Dough Balls

I went to work with bed head today. The husband said it looked good, but I don't think I pulled it off quite like Jennifer Nettles. Either way, I rocked it. All. Day. Long. I just plain didn't care. The momma wouldn't have been proud, I know, had she seen me walking around with this mess on my head today. But I just woke up in one of those moods. I tried everything I could to make it better, including wearing a new favorite pair of black cowboy boots and my most flattering jeans. (Oh, how I love jeans with buttons on the butt pockets. Thank you, Banana Republic, for making my favorite jeans. You've made my days of pants shopping complete. I am no longer in love with your sister store. Why oh WHY, do you not make my size in tall, Gap?)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Layered Veggie Enchiladas

Alright, tonight's dinner may look like a big pile of rubbish, but I swear, it was a total success. I turned to my Whole Foods app once again for this week for our vegetarian dinner and was quite pleased to find a recipe the husband and I both enjoyed. About half-way through cooking the meal I started to worry the husband wasn't going to be impressed. I had to mash the black beans and as soon as I did that, our black beans began to look like refried beans. And the husband hates refried beans. So, I naturally tried to hide this fact from him; I thought I'd get away with it until he walked into the kitchen and saw the bowl. One quick look and he said: "Ew! What is that?!" But I told him they were just black beans and they wouldn't kill him. I promised they were refried beans.

The recipe was rather easy. I threw the corn, pepper, tomatoes and a little chili powder into a pan to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. The only issue I had with this step was that the recipe said the liquid would evaporate after about 15 minutes, but my mixture was quite soupy. I ended up spooning off a little of the liquid and still had to be careful to scoop vegetables - and not tomato soupiness - onto the tortillas when assembling the "enchiladas." (Aren't enchiladas supposed to be filled and rolled? I don't know, but Whole Foods called the recipe enchiladas.)

A tortilla, a little of the bean mixture, about 1/2 cup of veggies, cheese, another tortilla, more veggies and a little more cheese, and dinner was ready to go into the oven. Because the meal didn't really need to cook, we took ours out after 10 minutes - instead of the full 15, as instructed by the recipe. I'm sure an extra five minutes would have helped the tortillas firm up a bit more, but I don't think we missed much. 

When I told the husband I was pretty excited that my Whole Foods app was two for two when it comes to good vegetarian meals, he couldn't hide his confusion. "What do you mean?" He frowned. "Last week's dinner was awful! This was good. It might look like poop, but it's good." Whatever. Maybe I wouldn't win any home ec awards for presentation with this one, but I definitely scored points with the husband on taste.

Layered Veggie Enchiladas
Adapted From Whole Foods

1 (15 1/4 ounce) can corn
1 cup green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes (no-salt-added tomatoes, preferably)
1 (15 ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
8 corn tortillas
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the corn, green pepper, lime juice, 1 1/2 TBSP chili powder and tomatoes; cook over medium-high heat. Simmer the mixture until liquid is almost evaporated, about 10 minutes or more.

In a bowl, mash the beans with 1/2 TBSP chili powder.

Lay four tortillas on a lightly sprayed baking pan. Spread the bean mixture on the tortillas, then 1/2 cup of the vegetable mixture and a little cheese. Add another tortilla, about 1/4 cup more of the veggies and any leftover cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through and browned to your liking.

This recipe made four filling servings. Whole Foods calculated the nutritional info (as per the Whole Foods recipe) to be 380 calories, 5 g fat, 6 g carbs, 14 g fiber and 18 g protein per serving. When I plugged the info into, though, it said the recipe was 417 calories, 10.5 g fat, 63 g carbs, 13 g fiber and 23.9 g protein. Either way, I'm counting this as a rather healthy dinner!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hard Rolls for the Husband

I gave the husband his chili options yesterday, to which he said: "Why do you always do this? How about you just use the recipe you've been using?" Well, the truth is, I haven't been using a recipe. I throw different stuff in that pot every single time. So I humored him and skipped the recipes I wanted to try and stuck to my usual I'll-put-whatever-I-think-sounds-good-in-this-pot routine. And to top it off, after choosing chili for dinner, the husband said he thought he'd rather wait until today to eat it. I was back to square one.

Since I was planning to make chili, we had ground turkey and ground beef thawed in the fridge. I decided to use half of it for the chili and half of it for meatballs. I had never made meatballs with ground turkey before, though, so I was a bit skeptical. (Turns out, they were great! But the husband thinks ground turkey has a slightly strange taste, so I think we'll always have to use half turkey and half beef.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What to go with our homemade meatballs and Marinara? I knew if the husband found the turkey meatballs only mediocre, homemade rolls would make up for it. I threw on my vintage apron (thank you C & A!), and grabbed my classic cookbook.

There's something about that cookbook that makes me feel like I'm channeling my great-grandmother. So instead of lending the recipe to my own interpretation, I followed it exactly and pretended it was 1950. And I'm pretty sure the husband was happy I didn't put my own spin on these rolls - they were amazing! I've never made rolls so soft and chewy on the inside and crusty and hard on the outside. Best. Rolls. Ever. Apparently, sometimes a tested recipe really is a good idea, ha.

Hard Rolls
Hard Rolls

1 package yeast
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted flour (up to 4, if needed)
2 stuff-beaten egg whites

Soften yeast in 1/4 cup water, warmed to 110 degrees F. 

To remaining water, add sugar, butter and salt. Add 1 cup flour; beat well. Add yeast mixture, egg whites; mix. Add remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead till smooth and satiny. 

Place in greased bowl, turning to cover; let rise till double.

Punch down and let double again. Divide for rolls; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape.

Place 2 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover; let double. Brush with egg yolk diluted with water. (I brushed mine with a  little egg white.)

Bake in preheated 450-degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Place a large flat pan of boiling water on floor of oven to give crustiness. Makes 24 rolls.

(Truth be told, I only made 12 rolls, but that's because I was using my rolls for meatball sandwiches. I'm sure these would make 24 perfectly sized dinner rolls, though.) 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No-Sun Saturday

Not Cinnamon Cranberry Granola Bars 
From the looks of my recent posts, you'd think we haven't been eating much scratch-made food lately. Unfortunately, that's the truth. Wednesday night I caved and made a casserole with canned soup, Thursday we - eek! - ate a rushed dinner of frozen food prepared in the microwave ('cause we had to get the taxes done) and last night we had to go out. The husband had a long day at work, so we headed to our new favorite brewery, I mean restaurant, and grabbed a pizza. I usually like to end the week with homemade pizza, but last night's dinner was awfully good, topped with chicken, roasted tomatoes, a garlicky white sauce and spinach. Can you believe that, MIL? Your son likes pizza with spinach! Mmmmmmm. 

But as good as last night's dinner was, I still felt a little guilty this morning about not putting a homemade meal on the table in days. So I asked the husband over breakfast (my Cinnamon-Cranberry-Granola-Bar-turned-granola) what he'd like me to make him today. It's a damp gray day here; he looked out at the foggy mountains behind our house and told me chili sounded like a good idea. I couldn't agree more. My only dilemma now is deciding which recipe to use. 

The husband's choices:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pie ... and Cinnamon Cranberry Granola Bars

Pumpkin Pie
If I wasn't already sure of the husband's love for me, the fact that he ate last night's dinner without complaining much proved this is true love. So I made it up to him tonight (after a simple dinner of tacos) with a pumpkin pie. I've made him pumpkin pies in the past, so I thought I'd make him another something special, which I haven't necessarily made before: granola bars. I know, I attempted granola bars last week. But as the days went on, the bars fell apart and we were left with - rather tasty - granola crumbles, which we've been eating on yogurt and fruit.

Peanut Butter Granola & Apples
The granola bars I made tonight, though, are holding together quite nicely. If only we can wait until they cool completely, I am quite confident they're going to cut into squares and hold together well enough to go in the husband's lunch tomorrow. And not to pat myself on the back too much, but they smell so good I think he's going to fall in love with me all over again. They might even make him forget about last night's dinner.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...