Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blueberry Buckle

I made some blueberry buckle this morning to have for breakfast this week. I made it once before, but it didn't turn out very well, so I wanted to give it another try. It turned out great this time! I got this recipe from my SIL. My MIL makes it quite often when blueberries are in season and it is always so good!

Blueberry Buckle

3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups blueberries (frozen from this past summer)

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup soft butter

Mix sugar, shortening and egg. Stir in milk. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Sprinkle in blueberries. Put in 8x10 pan and top with crumb mixture.

Topping:Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter.

Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes.

Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken

I made another recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking for cream cheese chicken the other night. This was very quick to prep, super simple, and very tasty. Definitely a keeper! Its pretty much like chicken stroganoff. We all loved it! I'll add a pint of mushrooms next time to make it even better!

Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken

2 cups homemade cream of mushroom soup (I used a pint of home-canned)
frozen chicken--enough to feed four adults
2 Tablespoon Italian seasoning (I just used some garlic, rosemary, oregano, parsley)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves minced garlic
block of cream cheese (to add later)
pasta (I used up some random organic sprouted wheat ribbons and organic egg noodles)

Put everything except for the cream cheese into the crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and begins to shred. Shred the chicken with two large forks, and mix in the block of cream cheese. Switch the crock to high and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is fully melted. Serve over pasta.

Crockpot Baked Oatmeal

I've been wanting to make this baked oatmeal for awhile, so I decided to make it for lunch today. This is another keeper from A Year of Slow Cooking. Very easy prep and super yummy!! I had never tried baked oatmeal, so I wasn't sure what to expect. This is so good, though! Even Kevin thought it was ok - and he doesn't like normal oatmeal. I think I may start making this regularly every other Sunday to have throughout the week. It will be fun to try different flavorings, too... different dried fruits, maple syrup and a little more brown sugar, applesauce and chopped apples, bananas and walnuts - yum!

Crockpot Baked Oatmeal

3 cups rolled (not instant) oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon flax meal (optional)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup dried fruit (I used some store-bought golden raisins and cranberries and some home-dried cherries and blueberries)

I used a 4 quart oval crockpot. You're baking this, but no need to vent the lid of the crock; keep all the moisture in.

Mix all the ingredients together in the crockpot. I dumped in all the dry stuff, then added the melted butter and milk. Stir well with a spoon. Make sure the baking powder gets dispersed evenly.

Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours, checking every so often. This is done when the edges are brown and are beginning to crust, and the center is set. An inserted knife should come out clean. (Mine took about 4 hours and 15 minutes).

Let it sit in the cooling crockpot for at least an hour before attempting to cut. The longer you let it sit, the more set and brownie-like the pieces will be.

Meal plans and the week ahead

We've got another busy week ahead of us. We had a lot of fun things planned for this week, but everything is kind of up in the air right now, with the passing of my grandmother. We'll just play each day by ear and see what I feel up to. Kevin will likely be in Michigan this entire week again. He's going to be one of the pallbearers at my grandma's funeral and thankfully his boss is being very understanding. So no Lafayette this week again. (Yay!!)

We may be heading to East Lansing this afternoon for a MSU women's basketball game - it'll be the Dutch giant, Allyssa DeHaan's last game before the playoffs, so we figured we'd better go see her in action! We had planned on meeting some friends at the game and then heading out to eat dinner with them in East Lansing after the game, but we'll see how this afternoon is going and whether I feel up to it or not (right now I'm not). I don't think I will work on Monday and definitely won't on Tuesday. Tuesday is the visitation and funeral. I have another podiatrist appointment that afternoon that I will have to reschedule (for hopefully later in the week) and I'll be skipping Zumba this week. Thursday I'll be in Windsor all day for meetings. Friday is my flex day and Carson and I have Kindermusik. And then I think we'll meet my friends Melissa and Jenny for lunch and to let the kids play a little. We'll head over to visit my grandpa at some point, too. Saturday morning, we're heading to Albion to visit the children's museum there with our friends, the Chapmans. Depending on when we get back (if we get back in time), we may head to the Flint Childrens' Museum for Seuss-a-Palooza to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday. We'll just see how it plays out.

No extras this week. It'll be enough to just go through the motions.

Here's what I'm thinking for meals... which may change if I don't feel like cooking some night(s) or if we end up at my grandpa's...

Sunday - out to eat in East Lansing if we go to the game or family dinner at my grandpa's house if we stay here

Meatless Monday - scrambled eggs with broccoli and green peppers; toast with strawberry rhubarb jam

Tuesday - funeral dinner after the burial

Wednesday - meatloaf; ranch potato wedges; steamed green and yellow beans; applesauce

Thursday - leftovers from funeral dinner... chicken; salad; cupcakes; applesauce

Friday - pesto cheesy chicken rolls; mixed greens side salads; fresh oranges and clementines

Saturday - cajun blackened red snapper; steamed brown rice; peas and carrots; fresh pineapple and clementines

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I made stuffed pepper soup the other night for dinner. I found the recipe on RecipeZaar and made a few changes so I could do it in the crockpot. I'll post the original recipe below with my changes in parentheses. This was a very good soup - it smelled so good when we came home from work! It tasted very much like a stuffed pepper - delicious! All three of us loved it!

Stuffed Pepper Soup

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (I used 1 pound ground lamb)
3 large green peppers, chopped (I used 4)
1 large onion, chopped
2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth (I used Organic BTB and water... and added about 3 cups extra water for the rice)
2 (10 ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted (I just used a pint of my home-canned)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained (I used organic, fire-roasted, diced)
1 (4 ounce) can mushroom pieces, drained (I used a pint of home-canned)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used 3/4 cup uncooked organic short brown rice)

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, cook beef, peppers, and onions over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the broth, soup, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, heat through and serve.

(I cooked the meat and then just threw everything into the crockpot and let it cook on low for 9 hours).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fruit trees, berries, and perennials

I've been working on filling out lots of order forms lately... many from our local Conservation Districts. In Michigan, every county has an established Conservation District that is dedicated to protecting our ecosystem. They are primarily funded from federal, state, and local sources, but they also all have Spring and Fall tree sale fundraisers. They sell all sorts of trees and plants - conifers, deciduous, shrubs, fruit trees, berries, native plants, etc. And they have AWESOME prices! I've decided to put in a few orders with our local and nearby county conservation districts this year to expand our home orchard and berry patches. I'm sure I'll also pick up some other trees and bushes from our local nursery, but for now, here is a list of my soon-to-be-added fruit trees...

1 Braeburn Apple Tree:
I LOVE Braeburn apples and just couldn't resist adding one to our orchard, even though we already have at least seven or eight apple trees (that I still haven't figured out all of the varieties... but I know that none of them are Braeburns)

1 Emperor Francis Sweet Cherry Tree ... and... 1 Bing Sweet Cherry Tree:
Since you need two varieties of sweet cherries to pollinate, I selected these two. Emperor Francis was actually my second pick during all of my research into different varieties last summer, so I was pretty excited to see it on the list for Shiawassee County. Bing cherries are so popular and do taste pretty good, too, so I figured I'd get a Bing as my second variety. I'm still hoping to find my top pick (Hedelfingen) somewhere, but these will do for now.

1 Balaton Tart Cherry Tree:
I figured if I was doing the sweet cherries this year, I may as well get a tart cherry tree, as well! Tart cherries are self-pollinating, so I only need one of them. This is a fairly new variety, but its supposed to be even better than the standard tart cherry, Montmorency.

1 Redhaven Peach Tree:
I waited and waited last year for our local nursery to get their stock in, but it was such a late shipment and I didn't feel comfortable planting that late in the season. I was so glad to see these listed as a variety to choose from... and for a third of the price as I would have paid last summer through our local nursery!!

We'll get to pick up the trees on April 16th and April 23rd (two different counties), so perfect timing for planting! And for celebrating Earth Day!! We started a tradition last year that we hope to always continue with Carson of planting a new tree or plant on Earth Day each year. It will be fun to help Carson learn about preserving our ecosystem and helping to beautify the Earth. Hopefully he will develop the same passion I have for this essential cause!

In addition to the trees, I've also ordered some berry bushes from one of the Conservation Districts...

Bluecrop and Blueray Blueberries:
I ordered 5 bushes total, 2 of one and 3 of the other. That should get my blueberry patch going pretty well. I do still want to pick up one or two Jersey bushes, but I'll get those from our local nursery. Now I've got to get on the ball and figure out where we're going to put the blueberries!

I've also submitted an order to Fedco Trees for some things that I see as garden essentials... I'll be splitting some things with some friends at work, since you have to order some in larger bulks. I'll list what I'm getting below.

Purple Passion Asparagus (25 crowns):
I've wanted to start some asparagus for a couple of years now, so I'm very excited to get it going this year finally! This variety is supposed to be sweeter and less stringy, so you can use more of the spear. They say they are tender enough to eat raw in salads, even. Yum!

Borderland Beauty Blackberry (1 plant):
This will add a little variety to my blackberry patch that I started last year with two Darrow plants from the local nursery.

Prelude Raspberry (4 plants):
This is an early variety ready in early July. I'm expanding our raspberries so that we'll have fresh raspberries over a long period of time with different ripening schedules.

Royalty Purple Raspberry (4 plants):
They just sounded too delicious not to order any and add to our raspberry patch. They are described as cohesive fairly firm large berries make outstanding jam and jelly and even better fresh eating. Their distinctive flavor is different from the red raspberries, with a hint of black-raspberry. Now doesn't that just make you want some, too?? :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yummy Yummy Coffee Cake

I made some coffee cake yesterday morning. This is a recipe that I got from my Grandma Burge. I've made it several times over the years, but its been awhile since I made it last. My grandma isn't eating much of anything these last few days, so I thought maybe she'd get a bite of this coffee cake down if I made it. She always loved this and made it quite often, so we'll see how it goes.

This is a great coffee cake - super moist and super delicious every time. Everyone always loves it. Its also very similar (even in name) to a recipe that my SIL posted last month. A little less butter, no baking powder, and a little less cinnamon in this recipe vs. hers. I included a glaze in the recipe below that we often will drizzle over the coffee cake, but its not necessary - its great with or without!

Yummy Yummy Coffee Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup nuts (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 11x7 pan.

Beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add baking soda, salt, sour cream, and flour.

Mix filling ingredients in a separate bowl.

Put half of the dough in the prepared pan. Top with half of filling. Spread the remaining dough on top. Then remaining filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes.

While still warm, mix glaze and drizzle over top.

Meal plans and the week ahead

Today is Kevin's birthday! Happy birthday, babe!! We'll be going out to breakfast with my parents to celebrate. Then we'll be heading over to visit my grandparents for a bit this morning. We'll also be seeing my BFF Jaime and her newly adopted dog-son, Jack, this afternoon, as they're in town from Phoenix! And we may go out to dinner, just the three of us, to celebrate tonight, but that's up in the air still. Tuesday I get my hair done (had to cancel last week) and have Zumba. Kevin is also likely to head down to Lafayette on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. Friday morning I'll be going to the podiatrist and then heading in to work. If Kevin goes to Lafayette this week, he'll be coming home late Friday night. Saturday I'll be going to a baby shower for my cousin in the afternoon and we'll go visit my grandparents at some point.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I need to start focusing on making sure I (and Kevin) eat breakfast every day. I always cook up eggs on Saturday mornings and pancakes on Sunday mornings, but both Kevin and I usually forego breakfast during the week. I know its not healthy and if I want to continue to lose weight effectively, I need to eat breakfast to get my metabolism started. So I've been trying to have something for us during the week. We need quick and easy.. something that is cooked ahead of time that we can grab and go. I made some millet muffins last week and took one to have with coffee for breakfast each morning. I've got some back in the freezer again, too. I also got a small loaf of zucchini blueberry bread out of the freezer to have a couple of mornings last week. And I made smoothies for us one morning. This week, we'll have coffee cake, some berry scones from the freezer, baked oatmeal, and I'm planning to make some blueberry buckle on Saturday. The hard thing is that the carb-loaded breakfasts are easiest to prep ahead, freeze, and eat... and I'd really like to get away from such carb-loaded breakfasts. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I've made breakfast burritos and have frozen them in the past, so maybe I need to make up another batch of those, too.

Anyway, that's about it this week. Here's the menu...

Sunday - TBD... maybe out to eat... maybe spaghetti and home-canned meatsauce at home

Meatless Monday - goat cheese, corn, and black bean quesadillas; applesauce

Tuesday - stuffed bell pepper soup in the crockpot; homemade bread; peaches

Wednesday - Likely to be just Carson and me, so we'll have some of his favorites... grilled cheese sandwiches; raw celery and carrots; sliced apples with peanut butter

Thursday - leftover soup; bread; applesauce

Friday - pork roast with potatoes and carrots in the crockpot; fresh pineapple and mangoes

Saturday - cream cheese chicken in the crockpot; quinoa pasta; sauteed broccoli and carrots in EVOO and garlic; blueberry buckle

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2010 Veggie Garden

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'll be focusing on the orchard and berries this year over the veggie garden. I'll still be planting a rather large garden with a good variety of veggies, but it will be nothing compared to last year's garden. I'm going for extra low maintenance this year, so I've decided not to grow corn, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, dry beans, okra, pac choi, brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks, shallots, or peas this year. But I'm also trying out a few new things this year - edamame, beets, pumpkins, kohlrabi, and cantaloupe. I've decided I'll take this year off from starting my seeds indoors. So all the seeds I ordered this year are ones that I can plant directly in the veggie garden. I'll pick up some plants at our local nursery to fill in the missing veggies that can't be directly seeded. So here's my plan...

Seeds ordered from Fedco Seeds:

Green Beans - Organic Provider
Yellow Beans - Organic Golden Rocky
Edamame - Beer Friend Soybean
Cucumbers - Organic Little Leaf Pickling Cucumber
Zucchini - Jackpot (green), Sebring (yellow)
Summer Squash - Gentry
Fall/Winter Squash
- Organic Uncle David's Dakota Dessert (buttercup)
Pumpkins - Baby Pam (pie), Lumina (white)
Beets - Organic Red Ace
Spinach - Tyee
Lettuce - Buttercrunch
Chard - Bright Lights
Kohlrabi - Kolibri

I'll pick up the following plants at our local nursery:

Tomatoes - heirloom varieties
Peppers - bell peppers and jalapenos

So that's my plan this year. Much more scaled back than last year's garden. I'm sure I'll miss having such a large variety of veggies, but I think we still are going to end up with plenty. :)

Nacho Cheese Dip

You can find this nacho cheese dip at probably 90% of my family parties. Everyone loves it and its always a hit with new people, too. I think this recipe came off of the Velveeta Cheese box, but I'm not sure. My family has been making it for as long as I can remember. Its super easy, very little prep, and super yummy. I made this for one of Carson's birthday parties and everyone loved it, so I thought I'd post it here.

Nacho Cheese Dip

1 pound bulk pork sausage, cooked
1 brick Velveeta cheese, cut into 1" cubes
16 oz jar salsa (or pint of home-canned)

Break up and brown the bulk sausage in a frying pan on the stovetop. Drain the grease and put sausage into the crockpot. Dice up the Velveeta into 1" cubes and put in crockpot. Pour salsa over top. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours until everything is melted. Once it is melted, you'll want to turn it to Keep Warm so that it doesn't burn. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crockpot Cream of Tomato Soup

On Monday, I made up a batch of cream of tomato soup in the crockpot. This recipe comes from my SIL Mary. This is a very good soup. It tastes as good as the last tomato soup I had tried (a Giada recipe), but its much simpler since everything is just thrown into the crockpot. We had a little for dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches and I canned the remaining soup into 8 pints. I'm very excited to have this on hand for quick lunches and dinners!

I'll update with a picture later on.

Crockpot Cream of Tomato Soup

(This cream of tomato soup is rich and hearty and very delicious. It can be used as a substitute for canned tomato soup with excellent results and cannot be beat when served with grilled cheese sandwiches. Mix and match any of the suggested herbs and spices for a marvelous soup. For a traditional blend we use 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, 1 tablespoon oregano, and 1 tablespoon basil.)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (I didn't add this)
1 large chopped onion
3 crushed garlic cloves
2 minced carrots (I just did a rough chop into slices)
2 pounds peeled and diced tomatoes (reserve and add all juices) (I used 1 large can of diced tomatoes and 1 large can of crushed tomatoes)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2-4 Tbsp. freshly chopped herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, savory, chervil, Italian parsley, mint, lavender) or 1-2 tsp. dried herbs or spices (Italian spices, basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, cumin, curry powder, nutmeg)
1 cup heavy cream (or milk - I used 1% milk)

Combine the oil, onion, garlic, and carrot in the crockpot. Cook on high, stirring frequently, until the onion softens. This can also be done in a skillet. (I skipped this step.) Add the remaining ingredients except for the herbs and spices and cream. Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours. Add the herbs and adjust seasoning. Cool slightly and puree in small batches (I used an immersion blender). Return to the crockpot and add the cream. (I just added the cream to the individual bowls and canned the soup plain). Reheat until piping hot, or else cool and chill before serving.

* Process at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes if you want to can it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Biggest Loser, Week 11

I've finally broke through the weeks of just maintaining and lost a pound this week! I wasn't really expecting it with the weekend full of birthday parties, but I sure do welcome it! :) I'm really going to push to lose 2 pounds next week, though.

With my heels killing me when I do much of anything lately, workouts have been extremely painful. I don't think I'm going to do any running until I get to the podiatrist. I'll continue to walk during the day on my break at work, as well as on the treadmill at home. And of course, I'll still be doing my Zumba class on Tuesday nights, as well as doing a little Zumba work once or twice during the week at home with my book and DVD. I've done Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred a couple of times in the last week, but I'm getting bored with it since I've done it so many times in the last few months. So I picked up a really good bellydancing DVD and a Turbo Kick DVD last week. A couple of my friends do bellydancing and say its such an awesome workout, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm planning to do it tomorrow night after my kettlebells. My BFF Sara does Turbo Kick and it sounded like something I'd love, so I started that yesterday. I love it! I had to tone it down and do some things more low-impact for my heels' sake, but it was still an awesome workout. Its a combo of kickboxing and shakin' it and it is so fun! I love kickboxing, always have and always will, so I'm really looking forward to adding Turbo Kick to my routine. I still do kettlebells, but I've cut back a little and only do them two or three times a week. I still love them - they're still my favorite thing to do - you seriously just can't get as good of a workout out of anything else in as little time. But you have to put your weight on your heels for the swings, so it has become quite painful.

Even with the pain in my heels, I'm not giving up on this exercising. Some nights my heels are just too painful to even think about walking, so I just take it easy those nights and do some benchpresses or arm curls. At least I'm still getting something. Hopefully by the end of today I'll have an appointment scheduled to see a podiatrist and can get some relief for my heels. For now, I'll just keep doing what I can to try to get healthy.

UPDATE: I have an appointment with a local podiatrist for Friday, February 26th. Wish I could get in sooner, but with my schedule at work, its the best I could do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heavenly Pink Salad

I made this fruit dessert salad for Carson's birthday party today. This is another AllRecipes recipe. This is more like a dessert with the marshmallows in it. Its not really the most healthy of recipes, but its a nice treat. :) Very tasty, very quick to prepare.

Heavenly Pink Salad

1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix together the cherry pie filling, condensed milk, oranges, pineapple, coconut, marshmallows and whipped topping. Chill for several hours and top with crushed pecans if desired.

Orange Cream Fruit Salad

I found this recipe for fruit salad on AllRecipes awhile back and decided to try it out for Carson's birthday party with my in-laws and friends yesterday. If you like creamy, pudding style fruit salads, you'll love this. I thought it was very good, Carson loved it, and Kevin liked it. Most people that like that type of salad also really liked it from what they said. It was very easy to throw together. I'll make it again and will add more fruit to it next time. Even with the extra can of mandarin oranges and extra banana, it seemed like it still had a lot of extra pudding.

I'll try to remember to take a picture and post it later.

Orange Cream Fruit Salad

1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup sour cream
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 (15 ounce) can sliced peaches, drained
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin orange segments (I added two cans)
2 bananas, sliced (I added three)
1 apple - peeled, cored and sliced

In a medium mixing bowl, combine pudding mix, milk, and orange juice concentrate. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Mix in sour cream. In a large salad bowl, combine fruits. Gently mix in orange dressing. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! We won't be celebrating ours today since we're having another birthday party for Carson today. We had Kevin's family and some friends over yesterday to celebrate the big 2 with us. Today we'll be having my family over.

We've got another very busy week ahead of us. Today is another birthday party, as I mentioned. Tomorrow I'm off for President's Day. Carson and I will go visit my grandparents in the morning and we have Carson's 2-year well-child appointment in the afternoon. Tuesday I have Zumba and then I'm getting my hair cut and dyed after Zumba class. Friday is my flex day, so Carson and I will go to Kindermusik in the morning. Auntie Jaime will be home this weekend!! So we're waiting to hear if it's better for her to hang out on Friday or Sunday. If we don't see Jaime on Friday, then Carson and I are going to head down to Rochester Hills in the afternoon to go shopping with Kati. Then Kevin and Ben will meet up with us after work for dinner. And Saturday, we'll head over to my grandparents' house again in the morning. In the afternoon, we're planning to head west to Grand Rapids for another Calvin basketball game and then we'll go out to eat with most of the Hollebooms, Kevin's grandparents, and I believe his aunt and uncle, too.

I'm not sure I'll have much time for extras this week. I do know I'll be canning the leftover soup tomorrow evening. And I want to do some baking with Carson since he has been asking me to for a couple of weeks now. Other than that, I'm not sure what I'll do. I'd like to spend a little time finishing cleaning and organizing the laundry and utility half of our basement. Its almost done, so it'd be nice to just get it finished so then we can focus on the main part of the basement and get a play area put together for Carson. I don't think I will have time for much else.

Here's what I'm thinking for meals this week... other than Monday, we'll be utilizing our leftovers from the birthday parties this weekend for all our meals.

Sunday - Carson's birthday party! Appetizers: pickle tray; cheese and crackers; chips and dip; veggies and dip; grapes. Meal: pizza and breadsticks from Rocky's; antipasto salad; fruit salad; jello; cake and ice cream

Meatless Monday - grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread; tomato soup in the crockpot; homemade croutons and shredded cheese for topping the soup; leftover fruit salad

Tuesday - leftover pizza; breadsticks; and salad

Wednesday - some sort of mexican taco/lasagna bake to use up some leftover taco meat and beans; jello; pear sauce

Thursday - leftover chicken fajitas; peaches

Friday - TBD once we figure out our plan

Saturday - out to eat in Grand Rapids

Friday, February 12, 2010

Biggest Loser, Week 10

Another stagnant week... but at least I'm not gaining anything back! This next week I am really going to try buckling back down and focusing on this weight loss. That has been my problem for the last month now - I just haven't been focused on it at all... worrying about stuff going on in my family and being stressed out at work mostly. I've just got to change my focus for a little bit. I'm in second place in our competition right now - I just got passed up this week, actually. So I've got to get going again so that I can win!! :)

I had my first Zumba class a couple of weeks ago - it was canceled this week due to the snow storm. It is such a fun way to exercise!! I'm reading the book that the creator, Beto Perez, wrote about Zumba right now... hoping I can learn from the book and practice at home how to get my salsa hips going! ;-P Anyway, I am loving it!

The 5K training had been going well, but I haven't been faithful in getting in three trainings a week this past week and a half. My heels are KILLING me ever since I started. It is looking like I have plantar fasciitis. And wow, is it painful. I'll be calling around on my day off on Monday to try to make an appointment with a podiatrist to figure out a treatment plan. Hopefully I can just do orthotics in all my shoes. We shall see.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a quick update since its been awhile now. I'll post more soon.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's that time of year...

So it's that time of year again! The seed catalogs have been arriving for a couple of months now and it's now time to start submitting orders for veggie seeds! The Conservation Districts are also all starting to release their lists of trees available for their Spring sale, so it's time to start putting in the orders for trees and bushes, too! I love this time of year! :)

I've been really struggling with some decisions about competing priorities this year... veggie garden vs. berry patches vs. orchard. And I think I've finally made up my mind on what to do. While I'll still be planting what most would probably consider a huge veggie garden, it will really be scaled back compared to the one we had last year. This way, I can focus on the orchard and berry patches. I'm afraid that if I don't do this now, we'll never get the orchard under control and producing good, quality fruits. So fruits will be the priority for 2010. For now, we'll keep working on getting all of the existing fruit trees pruned in the orchard. And I'm talking major pruning... like they'll all be about 1/3 of the size they were to start with once we're done. I'll also be adding some new trees this year (post to come on that). And I'll be working on growing our berry patches. I put in some blackberry bushes last year and I am planning to add a couple more to the patch. I'll also be re-working our raspberry patch again - moving it to a new location and adding some new varieties. I'd also like to get some blueberry bushes this year, but I still need to figure out where I'm going to put them. And hopefully I'll be able to make a decision on where I want the strawberry patch to go so we can get started on building up a raised bed for them this summer.

I'm hoping that by focusing on the fruits this year, we'll have a pretty self-sustaining tree fruit and berry production going on in a couple of years, which would be awesome!! I'll be posting again soon with my specific plans for the orchard and berries, as well as my specific plans for the veggie garden. Whomever would have thought that I'd be so excited about this kind of stuff five years ago? Haha! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Miso Soup

I made this for dinner last week. I had planned to make some salads with an asian ginger dressing, as well, but I gave up on that for lack of time and we just had this soup with some veggie stir-fry. It was a super tasty, very low-calorie, healthy meal! And pretty quick to prepare, too! Gotta love that kind of meal! :) This recipe is from my Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start book. I've always had miso soup at sushi or hibachi restaurants - they usually bring this out with a salad with ginger dressing before your main meal is brought out or prepared. Miso is such a simple, yet super tasty and warming soup - I love it! Kevin didn't think he'd ever had it and wasn't too sure what to think of such a simple soup, but he loved it, too. And Carson... wow, he totally loved it! He ate every last drop... drinking the broth from his bowl... and asking for more! I'll definitely be making this again very soon! Everything I used was organic.

I'll update later with a picture.

Miso Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil or sesame oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 Tablespoon peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie)
2 Tablespoons sweet white or yellow miso
4 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/4" cubes (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, cut in fine chiffonade
1 scallion, white and green parts, very thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add teh onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until very soft, but not browned. Add the ginger and cook for 1 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.

Whisk in the miso until it is dissolved into the soup. Add the tofu and spinach and simmer for 1 minute. Serve warm, garnished with scallions.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 90 calories, 6 g protein, 4 g carbs, 6 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 360 mg sodium

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Another busy week. Carson turns 2 on Saturday, so we'll be prepping for some birthday parties on Saturday and Sunday. Lots of cleaning and prepping food. And it will be another super crazy week at work, I'm afraid... I just hope I'm able to leave on time every night. I was planning to take a vacation day on Friday, but I won't be able to again. I'm hoping I can leave around 2:00 to get home early, at least. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Today we are heading to Brighton to celebrate my cousin Charlie's 17th birthday at my cousin Becky's house. Tuesday night I have Zumba. Wednesday I'll be at MSU for a forum. Friday I'm hoping to only work till 2. And Saturday we're having Kevin's family and some friends over for Carson's birthday party.

I didn't end up making the tomato soup last week since we had some leftovers to use up. And I didn't do the cannellini beans, either.... I totally forgot to do them. I'll hold off on both until next week, after the parties now, though. This week, I'll just be getting ready for the weekend and fitting in workouts. So I'm aiming for easy meals...

Sunday - eating at my cousin's birthday party

Meatless Monday - refried bean burritos; steamed broccoli; leftover fruit salad

Tuesday - chili in the crockpot; leftover fruit salad

Wednesday - meatless again... romaine and spinach salads with cukes, red bell peppers, cheese; homemade croutons

Thursday - leftover chili; random clean out the fridge stuff to make room for party food

Friday - meatless again... scrambled eggs with orange or red bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, and cheese; toast with homemade jam; home-canned applesauce

Saturday - Appetizers - veggies and ranch dip; nacho cheese dip and chips; Meal - mexican layer salad (maybe); beef tacos; chicken fajitas; beans; shells; lettuce; cheese; salsa; sour cream; guacamole dip; fruit or jello; Dessert - cake and ice cream; Drinks - water; juice boxes; and probably 2-Liters of pop (as much as I don't want to have those...)

Fruit Salad

I found this recipe on AllRecipes and wanted to try it out for our family party to celebrate my FIL's birthday yesterday. It was very tasty and something I'll make again, for sure. I followed the recipe as stated below this time around, but next time around I'll use my homemade home-canned apple or cherry pie filling, I think. Again, everything was actually organic, too (I don't normally buy organic bananas, but did this week since I was shopping at Whole Foods for everything).

Sunday Best Fruit Salad

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
2 apples, peeled and cored
1 (21 ounce) can peach pie filling
2 bananas, peeled and diced
3 kiwis
1 pint strawberries (I used some that I froze last summer)
(I added a can of mandarin oranges, drained)

In a small bowl, toss the chopped apples in reserved pineapple juice. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. In a large salad bowl, combine the peach pie filling and pineapple chunks. Remove apples from pineapple juice and add to pie filling and pineapple mixture. Add chopped bananas to reserved pineapple juice and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Peel and slice kiwi and 1/2 of strawberries. Chop the other 1/2 of strawberries and set aside. Remove bananas from pineapple juice and add to pie filling mixture. Add chopped strawberries; toss together. Arrange kiwi slices around the edge of the serving bowl and alternate with strawberry slices. Chill and serve.

Friday, February 5, 2010

German-Style Warm Potato Salad

This recipe comes from my February 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times. I had some potatoes to use up, I had most of the ingredients on hand already, and this sounded pretty good, so I thought we'd try it. This was a very quick, simple, easy-to-prepare, meatless meal... oh yeah, and it tasted pretty good, too! We all really liked it a lot. And like I said, its very quick to prepare - the entire meal from start of chopping to being ready to eat only took about 15 minutes... now that's my kind of dinner on a work night!! :) This is great as a meatless main dish - and this is actually vegetarian, too, which most of my meatless meals are not truly vegetarian. This would be a great side dish, as well. Everything I used was organic - which is pretty typical these days, but I just realized I never say what is and what isn't anymore...

German-Style Warm Potato Salad

8 oz baby red potatoes, cut into 1" x 1/2" pieces
4 oz green beans, cut in 2" pieces
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 green onions, white and pale green parts, chopped
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill (I used dill)
4 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves (I used a baby greens mix)

Cook potatoes in pot of boiling water, salted, for 8 minutes, or until tender. Add green beans during last minute of cooking.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat, stir in vinegar.

Drain potatoes and beans. Toss with oil mixture, parsley, tarragon. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm on a bed of spinach.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spicy English Layer Salad

I also made this layer salad for my cousin's baby shower. I found the recipe on AllRecipes - it sounded good and it had great ratings, so I thought I'd give it a try. It is so good! Better than your normal layer salad, in my opinion... partially due to the fact that this has no bacon and also because the dressing isn't sweet. It was a total hit at the shower, too. Everyone loved it and I now have a mass email to send out to everyone with the recipe from all the requests I was getting. Definitely a keeper for us!

Spicy English Layer Salad

2 cups small seashell pasta
4 carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 head leaf lettuce - rinsed, dried, and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
3/4 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water to cool.

Place the carrots in an even layer in the bottom of a large glass bowl, preferably one that is roughly the same diameter from top to bottom. Place the lettuce in a layer over the carrots. Combine the cucumber, peas and corn; spread in a layer over the lettuce. Once the pasta is cooled and drained, then spread that out over the top.

In a smaller bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, brown sugar, curry powder, and garlic salt. Spread this carefully over the pasta. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry Whip

I made this jello salad from AllRecipes for my cousin's baby shower on Saturday. This was very tasty and pretty easy make, too. Plus, it makes quite a bit - which always nice for a party.

Strawberry Whip

2 (6 ounce) packages strawberry flavored gelatin
4 cups water
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

Combine gelatin with 2 cups boiling water; mix well. When dissolved, add 2 cups cold water, mix and refrigerate.

Before gelatin is completely firm, stir in strawberries and thawed whipped topping. Refrigerate until completely chilled.