Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creme de Menthe Cake

I have made this cake many times in the past. Its so good. I got the recipe from a friend of mine at work, Kathy. In the past, I always made it the "easy way," as I've described below. But this past weekend, I made a white cake from scratch (I doubled that recipe in the link to do a 9x13) and just added the creme de menthe to that, rather than using a boxed cake mix. I also made my own hot fudge. I did use a tub of frozen whipped topping from Whole Foods, rather than making my own whipped cream... I did think about making it, but decided against it. It turned out even more delicious making most of it from scratch!

I'll try to remember to take a picture of some of the leftover cake that we have at home.

Creme de Menthe Cake

1 white cake mix
1 jar fudge ice cream topping
1 container Cool Whip
Creme de Menthe liquor

Prepare the cake mix as directed (or make your own from scratch), taking 3-4 tablespoons of water out and replacing with creme de menthe. Bake as directed.

Soften the hot fudge enough to spread on top of the cake (or make your own from scratch).

Add 3-4 teaspoons of creme de menthe to the whipped topping, stir. Spread on top of cake. Its usually easier to spread the Cool Whip if you let the fudge set up a bit.

Chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cheesy Potatoes

I wasn't going to post this since everyone makes these already, I think. At least pretty much everyone I know has made some version of hash brown cheesy potatoes. But I figured I'd post it anyway. These are very good and super easy to prepare. I made some yesterday to go with our ham and lamb chop dinner with my cousins. These are pretty versatile in that you can use whatever cream soup you have on hand. I've used cream of broccoli, potato, celery, and mushroom in the past. My favorite is with cream of celery, so that's what I used yesterday (an organic cream of celery). I'm hoping to make my own homemade cream of celery one of these days, and I imagine these would be even more tasty with some homemade ingredients.

I didn't take a picture b/c I didn't plan on posting it.

Cheesy Potatoes

1 30-oz bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
2 cans cream soup
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded cheese

Mix all ingredients together in a 9x13 casserole dish. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week will be a bit busier than the last couple have been - it'll be nice to get back into things again. Today, we're having my grandma and my cousins Michelle, Tyson, Josh, Mandy, and Macie over for dinner, so that will be fun! My second session of Zumba starts up again on Tuesday night - I'm looking forward to it. I missed having it last week and I have several old friends in this new session, so it'll be fun to catch up with them. Thursday I'll be in Detroit for meetings. Friday is my flex day, but we're going to skip Kindermusik. Carson will be sad about that, but he'll still get to have fun. We're meeting Kevin's family in East Lansing at the MSU Butterfly House and Children's Gardens to play for a bit and then go out to lunch together afterwards - either in East Lansing or in Ionia if we end up meeting Kevin's grandparents now, too. We'll be celebrating three of Carson's cousins' birthdays that fall in March and April. Then it's home to start the baking and food prep for Easter dinner. I think we'll just hang out at home on Saturday - prepping for Easter and working on some projects inside and outside. Although, we may go up to a local easter egg hunt... we'll just see what we feel like doing.

We'll be continuing to work on Carson's new bedroom this week. We didn't work on it much at all this past week. We ended up doing projects outside or just relaxing instead. The weather is supposed to be super nice this week, so we'll see how much painting we get done again. I'd really like to have the walls done this week and get started on the doors, if not the trim. In addition to the bedroom project, I'm planning to do some more spring cleaning, and we're hoping to get quite a bit of work done outside in the yard.

I've been focusing on trying to use up some things from the pantry and freezer lately. I'll be continuing it this week. I just have quite a few things that need to be used up fairly soon. Plus, it's always nice to see the pantry and freezer stocks reducing in size in preparation for the upcoming harvest season. I'll be doing tons of preserving from the garden, orchard, and farmers' markets before I know it, so I need to get everything ready. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking for meals this week...

Sunday ~ family over for dinner
(make ABin5 dough for week and bake a loaf; make steel cut oats for week; work outside in the morning/afternoon or paint walls in Carson's new room)
B: pancakes with strawberry syrup
L: tuna sandwiches on toasted bread with dill pickle slices; raw green pepper slices; oranges
D: ham (from our pig last year); lamb chops; cheesy potatoes; roasted cauliflower/carrots/zucchini/brussels sprouts; creme de menthe cake

Meatless Monday ~
(clean out and organize the upstairs pantry; work on debris pile in backyard)
B: steel cut oats with dried cherries and brown sugar
L: leftover ham, potatoes, veggies
D: bean chili in the crockpot (no meat)

Tuesday ~ Zumba
(clean kitchen and bathroom; work on debris pile in backyard)
B: toast with PB
L: leftover chili
D: ginger glazed mahi mahi; whole wheat couscous with mushrooms; pea pods

Wednesday ~ Kevin leaves for Lafayette
(vacuum entire house)
B: steel cut oats with maple syrup and brown sugar
L: misc.
D: baked chicken with garlic scape pesto; potato wedges with garlic scape pesto; broccoli; applesauce

Thursday ~ Detroit for work; pick up 2-year portraits; Kevin comes home from Lafayette
(paint in Carson's new room; remove doors and prime)
B: banana bread from freezer
L: S - lunch at my meetings; K & C - leftover chicken, potatoes, broccoli, applesauce
D: salmon cakes; green beans; peaches

Friday ~ flex day; MSU Butterflies and Children's Garden; podiatrist
(make lemon blueberry cookies for Easter dinner on Sunday; paint in Carson's new room; paint doors; work outside)
B: banana bread from freezer; fruit
L: out to lunch in East Lansing or Ionia
D: beef roast in the crockpot with potatoes and carrots

Saturday ~ Ben and Kati over for dinner and MSU Final Four game!
(make blueberry buckle and layer salad for Easter dinner on Sunday; paint in Carson's new room; paint final coat on doors; work outside)
B: scrambled eggs; toast with homemade jam
L: leftover beef roast; misc.
D: peanut turkey burgers; zucchini fries; pineapple grilled food... steaks or burgers; grilled baked potatoes; applesauce; Kati's bringing salad and a dessert

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bruleed Yogurt Parfaits

Forgot to post this one last night. I made these for breakfast on Friday morning. I found the idea on Baking Bites and thought it sounded good and fun. Plus, I got to try out my new kitchen torch that I inherited from my late grandma. These were super easy and very tasty. I'll definitely make these again! I made them with vanilla yogurt and thawed blueberries. Delicious! Can't wait to try out different combos!

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture.

Bruléed Yogurt Parfait

Vanilla or plain yogurt
fresh or frozen berries
sugar, regular or superfine

You will probably use 1 cup of yogurt and 1/2 cup berries per serving. Feel free to change the proportions to suit your tastes, the size of your dishes or the number of people you wish to serve.

In a single-serving heat-resistant bowl (glass or pyrex), layer yogurt and berries into 3-5 layers, making sure to top the parfait with a layer of yogurt. Sprinkle sugar generously over the top of the yogurt and toast with a kitchen torch until caramelized and bubbling. Let sugar set, then serve.

Parfait is best when berries have had a few minutes to soften.

Note: While creme brulee can go under the broiler to caramelize, I don't recommend it for this yogurt dish, as the heat from the broiler can curdle the yogurt and cause it to separate.

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is going to feel busier than it really is, I think. In terms of plans, we have another really quiet week. But Kevin will be in Lafayette for part of the week, so that will make things feel more chaotic than they really are. Today we're heading over to my grandpa's house to go through more stuff of my grandma's and have a big family dinner. Kevin might stay home to work on some projects in the yard, but he hasn't decided yet. Today is also my mom's birthday. Carson and I made her a strawberry birthday cake yesterday that we'll take over to my grandpa's house. I don't have Zumba on Tuesday - its our week off between sessions. I'll be taking Carson in for his 2-year portraits finally, instead. Wednesday Kevin leaves for Lafayette. He'll be coming home on Friday. And Saturday we have no set plans, but I think we'll probably end up going to breakfast with my parents for my mom's birthday. So its a pretty tame week again, which will be nice. Though I doubt we'll get as much done as we would normally since Kevin will be gone for several days. We'll see, though.

Last week didn't go quite as planned with the 3rd bedroom project. I started to move the computer down to the basement play area on Sunday and realized that Kevin hadn't wired the play area yet, like I thought he had and he hadn't thought about it being an issue. So we left the computer hooked up still and sitting on the floor of the 3rd bedroom until we can get the wiring done in the play area. Kevin and his dad worked on it yesterday afternoon/evening and got everything but the light switch wired, so Kevin should be able to finish it up this week on his own. And we can move the computer down today. Most everything else is out of the 3rd bedroom, though. And it's ready to be painted. We will hopefully be painting it this week and we will hopefully have the three coats of solid paint done by the end of next weekend. Then we'll just have the stripe to paint and the really time-consuming part... the trim and doors. Even though we didn't make as much progress as we'd hoped on the 3rd bedroom, I did get some unplanned spring cleaning projects done instead, at least. I cleaned out the entire cedar closet, moved some shelves in there, and now it is finally completely organized and looks nice. I also cleaned out the closet in the playroom, which we use for coats, shoes, and misc. stuff... and had become a place to hide things that I didn't know what to do with. So that is all nice and organized now, as well. I also cleaned out Carson's closet and went through all of his summer clothes from last year to see what will fit him this year. Most of his 18m shorts still fit him (and some are still too big!), so it'll be nice not to have to buy him many new shorts. Other than some sandals and some new hats, I think he's pretty much set on clothes and gear for this spring and summer, which is very nice! So all of his spring/summer stuff is now washed and hanging in his closet.

This week I'll continue to do some more spring cleaning chores and we'll continue to work on the 3rd bedroom. I think I'm going to can the cannellini beans, as well. I canned cream of mushroom soup last week since mushrooms were on sale. And I need to clean out my car so that it looks nice for our trip in a couple of weeks. I haven't vacuumed and dusted it out, or cleaned the windows since early fall, so it is pretty filthy! I think I'll put the stuff in my car and work on it during my lunch breaks at work this week.

So here is our menu and plan for the week...

Sunday ~ family dinner and cleaning out at Grandpa's
(make bread for week; move computer down to basement;paint ceiling of 3rd bedroom; worked outside cutting down bushes and trees and cleaning up some debris)
B: waffles from the freezer; strawberry syrup
L & D: it'll be a combo lunch and dinner at my grandpa's since we'll eat around 2 or 3

Meatless Monday ~
(clean out foyer closet; dust entire house; paint first coat on walls in 3rd bedroom; paint ceiling of 3rd bedroom)
B: PB toast and banana
L: S - yogurt; dried cherries; cashew butter with crackers; K - ham sandwich, chips, applesauce; C - cheese and crackers; apple slices with PB
D: spinach and chickpeas; fruit salad

Tuesday ~ Carson's pictures
(vacuum entire house; clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: smoothie with blueberries, banana, almond milk
L: leftover spinach and chickpeas; fruit salad
D: pork shoulder roast with potatoes and carrots in the crockpot... this will be our last roast from our pig last year... :(

Wednesday ~ Kevin leaves for Lafayette
(sort toys in Carson's bedroom and play room; put toys he is getting too old for into storage; make a list of toys to take in the car to Cleveland)
B: millet muffins
L: misc.
D: macaroni and cheese (with an irish white cheddar cheese); green beans; applesauce

Thursday ~ Kevin in Lafayette
(pull fridge and stove out and clean under and behind; clean out and organize lower corner cupboard in kitchen - its a huge cupboard that I completely filled and unorganized right now)
B: blueberry zucchini bread
L: leftover mac & cheese
D: grilled cheese sandwiches; tomato soup; sliced apples

Friday ~ Kevin returns from Lafayette
(cook beans in crockpot to can when we get home from work; paint second first coat on walls in 3rd bedroom)
B: blueberry zucchini bread
L: misc.
D: baked pork chimichangas using leftover pork roast; apple enchiladas

Saturday ~
(paint third and final second coat on walls in 3rd bedroom; take doors off in 3rd bedroom, prime, and paint 1st coat; start cleaning out part of the garage; finish electrical work in play area if necessary)
B: scrambled eggs; toast with strawberry jam
L: panini sandwiches with shredded pork, pear slices, and brie cheese

Saturday, March 20, 2010

LaBamba Casserole

I have been making this casserole for years. It's been awhile, though. It comes from the October 2002 issue of Cooking Light. This is a super easy casserole to make and it comes together pretty quickly, too. And it's pretty versatile. I've used ground chicken in place of the turkey and I'm sure any ground meat would work well. I've also added black beans in the past and its been very good, too. This week, I made it to the recipe written below.

La Bamba Casserole

1 (5.25-ounce) can whole green chiles, drained (I usually skip these)
Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped tomato (I usually just use salsa)
1/2 cup chopped green onions (I usually just use salsa)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut green chiles in half lengthwise. Arrange chiles in a single layer in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add turkey, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add diced tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

Spoon turkey mixture over chiles. Top with corn. Carefully spread beans over corn. Sprinkle cheese over beans. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; top with chopped tomato and green onions.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

NUTRITION PER SERVINGCALORIES 344(28% from fat); FAT 10.7g (sat 6.3g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 32.2g; CHOLESTEROL 77mg; CALCIUM 269mg; SODIUM 902mg; FIBER 7.4g; IRON 3.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30.7g

Strawberry Cake

Carson and I made a strawberry cake for Nana's birthday tomorrow. I got this recipe/method from my coworker, Brenda. It uses a boxed cake mix, but it is so good. You could definitely make a homemade cake and use the same method, too, though. I just decided to use the mix for ease and convenience today. I forgot how easy a boxed cake mix is to make - wow! If I wasn't so turned off by the ingredients, I'd totally still buy them all the time. Anyway, I hope this cake goes over well tomorrow. I'm sure it will, though, because it is absolutely delicious!

I'll try to remember to take some pictures when we cut into it tomorrow and will update.

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry cake mix, made and baked according to ingredients and directions on box
Frozen strawberries, thawed (organic)
4-serving instant vanilla pudding (Trader Joes brand)
3 cups milk (organic)
1 8oz tub Cool Whip (I used Whole Foods Mkt brand)

Bake the cake as directed on the box. Let cool slightly. Using the end of a round tool (end of a spoon), poke holes evenly throughout top of cake.

Thaw strawberries and lightly puree in a blender or food processor. Pour strawberries into holes.
Mix together milk and pudding. Let thicken in the fridge for a few minutes. Then fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cake. Keep cake in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Ranch Potato Wedges

We have had these quite a few times, but I just keep forgetting to post them. This recipe is from Heavenly Homemakers. These are super easy and super yummy! We all really love them! I use my homemade ranch mix rather than a packet as listed in the recipe below. I've made these with organic red potatoes and organic yukon golds and both were delicious!

Ranch Potato Wedges

4 medium sized potatoes
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (I use organic canola oil mayo)
½ package ranch dip mix (I use my homemade stuff)

Scrub potatoes and slice into eight wedges each. Stir together mayonnaise and ranch dip mix in a large bowl. Toss potato wedges in mixture until coated. Lay wedges singularly on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Corned Beef and Cabbage

We had an Irish meal in honor of St. Patty's Day this week. I found some naturally raised, hormone/antibiotic-free, grass fed corned beef briskets at Whole Foods Market and figured I'd give it a try. I've only ever had corned beef once... in a casserole... and I was not a fan. So I was a little skeptical about trying this. I'm so glad I did, though! This was delicious! All three of us really loved it and I will definitely make it again if I can still find some good, quality briskets. It had a really good flavor and the meat was just falling apart, it was so tender.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 medium onion, cut into wedges
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound baby carrots
3 cups water
3 garlic cloves, minced1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (3 pound) corned beef brisket with spice packet, cut in half
1 small head cabbage, cut into wedges

Place the onion, potatoes and carrots in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Combine water, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper and contents of spice packet; pour over vegetables. Top with brisket and cabbage. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three Bean Casserole

I've made this several times in the past, but realized that I have never posted the recipe. I got the recipe from AllRecipes. This really isn't my kind of meal, but it is Kevin's, so I make it for him sometimes. Carson also really likes it. Kevin wasn't crazy about having mac and cheese this week, so I ended up making this for him instead. Its super easy to prepare. I was able to use my home-canned baked beans with it this time, so it tasted extra good! I even kind of liked it this time. I also used one of our last packs of pork sausages that we got with our pig last winter. They also made this one extra yummy. :). Kevin likes to use Fritos Scoops to eat his three bean casserole, but its still good just eating it plain with a fork.

I'll update with a picture whenever I upload pictures from the camera. We're kind of in limbo right now with our computer... the desk is in the basement and the computer is still hooked up on the floor of the 3rd bedroom. I didn't realize they hadn't already wired the play area part of the basement and Kevin didn't think about it being an issue until I started moving the computer down and we realized we couldn't plug it in down there yet. So anyway, the computer is useable, but its not convenient, not to mention we've been spending every spare minute either outside or spring cleaning. I'll update all the posts with pictures this weekend, hopefully.

Anyway, here's the recipe.

Three Bean Casserole

1 pound beef frankfurters, sliced
1 (15 ounce) can pork and beans
1 (15 ounce) can butter beans
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine the frankfurters, pork and beans, butter beans, chili beans, onion, sugar, oregano and vinegar. Mix all together and pour mixture into a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish. (I just mix everything right in the casserole dish to save on clean up.) Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until cooked through and bubbly (I usually take it out after about 40-45 minutes).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Banana Pudding

I haven't made banana pudding in ages, so with some surplus ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, I figured I'd make it on Sunday. We all really like it, especially Carson and Kevin. This isn't the recipe I've used before, I couldn't find it written down in my cookbook anywhere. So this one is from AllRecipes. It was very good and very rich in vanilla flavor. We all liked it, but I still want to find my old standby recipe. Sorry, no picture... I didn't think about taking one.

Banana Pudding

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (organic)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (organic)
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (Trader Joes stuff w/out all the junk)
3 cups cold milk (organic)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (organic)
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed (the all-natural/70% organic stuff from Whole Foods to avoid HFCS, antibiotics, and hormones)
4 bananas, sliced (organic)
1/2 (12 ounce) package vanilla wafers (organic)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in condensed milk, pudding mix, cold milk and vanilla until smooth. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch dish with vanilla wafers. Arrange sliced bananas evenly over wafers. Spread with pudding mixture. Top with remaining whipped topping. Chill.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Another fairly quiet week for us. Today we're mostly just taking it easy and working on the play area for Carson in the basement. We should finish it up today, we just have to move the computer desk and computer downstairs and we'll be done and can start a new project. We may run over to my Aunt Jeri's at 1:00 to help them tear out some carpet, but that's up in the air right now, so that might affect how much we get done here today, but maybe not. Tuesday I have Zumba. Friday is my flex day, which means Kindermusik for Carson and I! I also have another appointment at my podiatrist for my third (and final) injections. On Saturday, we're heading to the children's museum in Albion with our friends (it was postponed from two weeks ago). And I think we'll do a family movie night on Saturday night. Hopefully the weather is super nice again this week! We have really been taking advantage and playing outside, riding bikes and cars, every night when we get home from work. Everyone in our house has a bad case of spring fever, for sure!

I think we'll try to tackle another spring cleaning type project again this week. I want to clear out the 3rd bedroom so we can start painting it. We have a lot of stuff in there that we'll need to find new homes for. That will be the main focus this week. I'd also like to do some other spring cleaning chores, too.

Sunday ~
(make bread for week; make banana bread to use up some bananas; finish up play area in basement - move computer desk and computer down... and we're done! (computer is still in 3rd bedroom on the floor until we can get the wiring done in the play area); clear off shelves in 3rd bedroom and move shelves to basement cedar closet; clean out cedar closet and organize; clean all light fixtures/ceiling fans in the house; wipe down all the baseboards in house)
B: pancakes with blueberry syrup
L: sandwiches, leftovers, misc.
D: baked chicken with balsamic bbq sauce; roasted carrots and cauliflower; banana pudding

Meatless Monday ~
(move filing cabinet to cedar closet or basement playroom closet; start cleaning out closet in 3rd bedroom; vacuum entire house)
B: smoothies with frozen pineapple, peaches, mangoes, coconut, and almond milk
L: S - yogurt with peaches and granola, PB toast; K & C - leftover chicken and veggies
D: cheese and veggie quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole; fresh mangoes and oranges

Tuesday ~
(clean kitchen and bathroom; clean out Carson's closet)
B: PB toast and banana
L: S - out to lunch for Tim's bday; K - out to lunch; C - leftover quesadilla and oranges
D: meatless... baked macaroni and cheese (with an irish white cheddar cheese - yum!); three bean casserole; steamed broccoli; applesauce

Wednesday ~ Happy St. Patty's Day!!
(do some St. Patty's day crafts with Carson; continue cleaning out closet in 3rd bedroom)
B: hard boiled eggs; toast
L: leftover macaroni and cheese; broccoli; S: PB toast and a banana; K & C: three bean casserole; applesauce
D: corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots; irish soda bread with strawberry jam; creme de menthe cake or chocolate mint brownies

Thursday ~
(finish cleaning out closet in 3rd bedroom; remove all other stuff from room; remove blinds from windows; tear out remaining carpet)
B: millet muffins from freezer
L: leftover corned beef and cabbage; irish soda bread
D: la bamba casserole; bread; fresh pineapple and bananas

Friday ~ Flex Day! Kindermusik; Podiatrist
(tape off trim in 3rd bedroom; prime walls in 3rd bedroom; install kitty door in door to basement; clean windows in dining room, living room, and kitchen)
B: bruleed yogurt parfaits
L: leftover la bamba casserole; misc.
D: order pizza or grill steaks and baked potatoes

Saturday ~ Albion Childrens Museum; Family Movie Night
(make breadcrumbs from leftover bread; paint first coat on walls in 3rd bedroom; get play area in basement wired; clean windows in bedrooms and playroom)
B: scrambled eggs; fresh fruit; toast
L: out to eat in Albion
D: vegetable beef soup in the crockpot; zucchini yeast rolls from freezer; pound cake with strawberries (both from freezer)
Family Movie Night: We'll pop some popcorn in my new electric popcorn maker that I inherited from my Grandma and watch some movies... "The Bee Movie" with Carson and then Kevin and I will rent "New Moon" from OnDemand after Carson goes to bed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Biggest Loser, Weeks 12, 13, 14

I haven't been posting Biggest Loser updates the last few weeks because I have been out of the office on Tuesdays and unable to weigh-in. I've been weighing myself on the scale we use on other days, though, and I'm just maintaining again. I'm glad I'm not gaining, but I need to lose still. I doubt I will win the challenge at work anymore (though it'd be awesome!). I'm sitting at 4.8% and there are three others ahead of me now at 6.2%, 7.1%, and 7.8%. So they'll be hard to catch... I'd have to lose at least 8 pounds in the next 2 weeks... and that is assuming they don't lose anymore. We'll see how it goes.

I feel like I'm starting all over again, since I've been out of it in terms of having an exercise routine and I've been drinking pop again for a few weeks. I'm starting out with some small goals each week to get me back on track again. This week, these are my goals:

1. Go all weekend without pop... I don't think this will be too hard since I don't really struggle with pop at home.

2. Limit pop during the week - no more than one per day and I'm aiming to go at least every other day without any.

3. Continue to eat breakfast each morning and come up with healthy, yet filling, mid-morning snacks. I used to be able to make it till lunch just having a cup of coffee and drinking lots of water. Now that I'm eating something for breakfast, I'm starving by 9:30am. So I have been trying to make sure I have healthy snacks on hand at my desk - raw carrots, string cheese, whole wheat crackers with peanut or cashew butter, bananas.

4. Do at least 30 minutes of exercise for three days in a row, followed by one day off, and then three days on. I'll also be alternating cardio days and strength days. I've still been getting in some walks and stairs at work, too, but I haven't listed those below. Here's my plan this week:

Sunday - stationary bike, 10 minutes; walk on treadmill (speed 4, incline 4), 20 minutes
Monday - benchpresses and arm curls
Tuesday - Zumba, 45 minutes
Wednesday - off
Thursday - box punching bag, 15 minutes; stationary bike, 15 minutes
Friday - pilates, 30 minutes
Saturday - kettlebells, 15 minutes; walk on treadmill (4/4), 15 minutes

Hopefully this will get me going again. I am starting small, but its better than doing nothing. Hopefully I can find my determination and motivation again. As much as I tried to not let it, being told that I cannot run (and therefore will not be able to do the 5k races I had planned in May and June) was a huge bummer for me. I still don't like it, but if its what I need to do to help my feet, then I'll have to do it. I'm still hopeful for the 5k Crim in August, but we'll see where I'm at in a month or two. If the injections and home therapy work and I can continue to lose weight, that will help my feet tremendously and will increase my chances of running again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Penne

I tried a Rachael Ray recipe for one of our dinners this week for spinach artichoke chicken pasta. This was very good! And quick to make, too. I used some pre-cooked chicken that I had frozen, so I didn't have to worry about cooking the chicken. From start to finish, it took me about 15 minutes. This makes a LOT though, as is usual with Rachael Ray recipes. I only did a half recipe and we all had it for dinner and also each had it for lunch and we still had some leftover. Anyway, this is a keeper! If you like spinach artichoke dip, you'll love this, too! This would be good without the chicken as a meatless meal, too.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Penne

1 pound penne rigate or whole wheat or whole grain penne rigate
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, 2 small pieces
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Black pepper
2 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup cream or whole milk
A few grates of nutmeg
1 cup grated Asiago or provolone cheese
1 10-ounce box chopped frozen spinach, defrosted, wrung dry and separated
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained well and chopped
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, poach chicken. Place chicken in small pan and add water to top of meat but do not cover completely. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, reduce heat and gently simmer to cook through 10-12 minutes. Shred meat into small pieces with forks or dice into small pieces.

While chicken cooks heat EVOO in large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter into oil and add onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle flour over cooked onions and garlic and stir 1 minute then whisk in white wine. Add stock and stir 1 minute then stir in cream and season with nutmeg. Thicken sauce a couple of minutes over low heat then stir in spinach and artichokes and heat through, melt Asiago or provolone cheese into sauce and turn off heat.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce and chicken to combine, adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Steel Cut Oats

On Sunday, I cooked up at batch of steel cut oats to have for a couple of breakfasts this week. It worked out really well cooking them on the weekend and then just re-heating what we needed for our breakfast. Steel cut oats are so good! They're not mushy like quick cooking oats (which I think are gross!) and they're more crunchy/chewy than old-fashioned oats. They take a little longer to cook than old-fashioned oats, though. Although, I picked up a canister of quick-cooking steel cut oats (first I'd seen any quick cook steel cut varieties) this week at Trader Joes that I'm going to try in a few weeks to see how they compare to the real thing. I used the base recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod. On Monday, I mixed in some mashed ripe banana and some chopped walnuts. And on Wednesday, I mixed in some homemade applesauce, cinnamon, and raisins. Both were delicious!

I guess I didn't snap a picture of this. I thought I did, but it wasn't on my camera. I'll update next time I make them.

Steel Cut Oats

1 cup steel cut oats
3 1/2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon, raisins, bananas, applesauce, dried fruit, or whatever toppings you like

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the steel cut oats and and salt. Stir. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure you stir the oats occasionally so they don’t stick to the pan. When the oats start to thicken, at about 30 minutes, add in the milk and vanilla. I think the milk makes the oats creamier. Stir the oats, milk, and vanilla together and cook for ten more minutes. Add in the cinnamon and raisins or whatever toppings you wish.

If you want to make bruleed oats-put the oats in a bowl, sprinkle with brown sugar and turbinado sugar. With a creme brulee torch, fire the top of the oats until the sugar is crystalized.

Serve the oats hot. This batch makes 4-6 servings. If you want you can let the oats cool and then portion them out into smaller containers. To reheat, add a splash of milk and reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

*Note-you can use 4 cups of water and omit the milk, I just like the creaminess the milk adds.*

Monday, March 8, 2010

Garlic Croutons

I am still so behind on posting recipes that I've made in months past and I'm not sure I'll ever get around to posting them all. I also realized that I don't post some of the smaller things I make. I've been making homemade garlic croutons now for several months and I just realized today that I have never posted the method I use. I've been making homemade bread every week now since the end of November and have made several batches of these croutons to use up the last inch or so of a loaf that we may have leftover at the end of the week. I also make breadcrumbs regularly with that leftover inch of the loaf... I just do them unseasoned and store them in a container in the freezer.

I decided to use a recipe/method that I found on Baking Bites the first time I made croutons and I've used this ever since. (Although, I may try out a new method this week from Cooking Bread to see how they compare...) I never make croutons with a 1/2 loaf of bread, so I just adjust the recipe below for my quantities/taste. And I use whatever bread I made that week - and they've all made great croutons.

I'll try and take a picture next time I make them if I think about it.

Homemade Garlic Croutons

1/2 loaf french bread (approx.)
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
olive oil or melted butter
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the french bread into slices no more than 1/2-inch thick. Rub each slice with the cut side of your garlic. Brush lightly with butter, if desired. Cut the bread into cubes and place in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.

Spritz with olive oil if you have not yet rubbed the bread with butter or oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until croutons are crisp and lightly browned. If croutons are not browning evenly on all sides, turn over after 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet before adding to a salad.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week doesn't look too busy, which will be nice. Hopefully we can bust out some projects this week. We hired a tree guy to do the drastic pruning of the existing 13 trees in the orchard (and cut 2 down that are beyond saving) - he got it all done yesterday. I'm so relieved to have that done! We had planned to do it all ourselves, but life has been so busy these last few weeks, so it was worth the $300 to have it done and checked off the list. We need to finish cleaning the basement and get a play area set up for Carson. So this week, I'd like to get the area under Carson's bedroom (right outside the fitness room) cleared out and cleaned, carpet laid out, computer desk and computer moved to corner, TV armoire set up, and some toys moved downstairs. That will be quite a time-consuming project, so it'll probably be the only project we can/should tackle this week... and hopefully we can actually finish it this week! I also would like to do our taxes this week.

Today we are going to church in Swartz Creek with much of my family. Then we'll be heading over to my Grandpa's for a ham dinner/lunch. Tuesday I will be in Detroit for meetings and I have Zumba. Friday I will be working in the morning and then I go back to the podiatrist in the afternoon for more injections into my heels. Saturday we'll be going to our cousin Mackenzey's 1st birthday party in Flushing.

I'm trying something new with the format of our menu this week. I'm going to try listing out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a few weeks and see if it helps me at all. I know its a lot of detail to list on a blog, but I'm trying very hard to plan breakfasts during the week these days, so I figured this may help me accomplish this. And I figured, why not just have lunch in there, too. Lunch is always confusing, though... most days we all take different things, but some days we all get the same thing. It'd be much simpler if we all took the same thing every day... maybe that is something I can work towards. All steps toward getting a little more organized and making our work nights go more smoothly.

So here it is...

Sunday ~
(make steel cut oats; make bread for week; clear out area in basement; demo existing cabinets and remove)
B: mini frittatas with broccoli and swiss
L: ham; fried potatoes; veggies; applesauce at my Grandpa's
D: salads with leftover blacked red snapper; clementines and pineapple

Meatless Monday ~
(finish clearing out area in basement; vacuum ceiling, walls, and floor in basement; dust 1st floor)
B: steel cut oats with bananas and walnuts
L: S - yogurt with peaches, PB toast; K - leftovers; C - cheese/crackers, yogurt, peaches
corn chowder; homemade bread with apple butter; fresh oranges

Tuesday ~
(clean kitchen; vacuum entire house)
B: double berry scones from freezer
L: S - lunch at my meeting; K - ham sandwich, chips, raw carrots; C - millet muffin, scrambled egg, string cheese
D: baked chicken breasts; broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce; peaches

Wednesday ~
(make pumpkin scones; clean bathroom; lay out carpet in play area in basement; move TV armoire to space and fill with TV, DVD player, games, toys, etc.)
B: steel cut oats with applesauce, cinnamon, and raisins
L: S - out to lunch for Niles' bday; K & C - leftover corn chowder; bread; oranges
D: spinach, artichoke, and chicken penne; side salads; pear sauce

Thursday ~
(scrub floors in kitchen and bathroom; clean off computer desk)
B: pumpkin scones
L: leftover spinach, artichoke and chicken penne; pear sauce
D: brisket; ranch potato wedges; corn; applesauce

Friday ~
(taking it easy b/c my heels will be quite tender after the injections again; finish cleaning off computer desk; do 2009 taxes)
B: smoothie with frozen blueberries and strawberries, plain yogurt, almond milk
L: S - leftover corn chowder; K - leftover brisket and corn; C - leftover potato wedges and corn, applesauce
D: turkey tortilla casserole

Saturday ~
(make breadcrumbs or croutons with leftover bread from week; bake something with Carson; move computer desk to basement and computer)
B: scrambled eggs; turkey sausage links; toast with strawberry rhubarb jam
L: leftover turkey tortilla casserole
D: Mackenzey's 1st Birthday Party!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cajun Style Blackened Snapper

I picked up some good red snapper at Trader Joes this week and wanted to try out this recipe from AllRecipes. Kevin and I both love blackened fish, so I figured I couldn't go wrong - and was hoping Carson would like it, too. We all thought it was delicious!! Definitely a great recipe - super fast to prep and make, super easy, and super tasty! This is just a typical blackened seasoning, so you could definitely use it with whatever type of firmer fish you have on hand. I think I will try it with Mahi Mahi some night soon.

I totally forgot to take a picture... sorry!

Cajun Style Blackened Snapper

2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (I just did 1 teaspoon since I wanted Carson to eat it)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons onion powde
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (6 ounce) fillets red snapper
1 1/2 cups butter, melted

In a small bowl, mix together paprika, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and oregano.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat for 10 minutes, or until extremely hot.

Dip fish into melted butter, and sprinkle each fillet generously with the seasoning mixture. Place the fish fillets in the hot skillet. Pour 1 tablespoon of butter over each fillet. Cook until the coating on the underside of the fillet turns black, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the fish over. Pour another tablespoon of butter over the fish, and cook for 2 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.


I made a meatloaf for dinner one night this week. I used my MIL's recipe and made a few modifications this time. I always use her recipe when I make meatloaf and generally make it as-written. But I decided to add a little extra seasoning and stuff it with cheese this week. It was really good! I'll post the recipe as-written and my changes in parentheses below.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I only used 1 pound)
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 small onion, chopped
(I also added about 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon onion powder)
(I stuffed it with 1/3-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese)

Sauce topping:
1/3 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon mustard

Mix all ingredients together. Make sauce. Press meat mixture into loaf pan. Pour sauce over top. Bake for one hour at 350.

(I pressed half the meat in the loaf pan, pressing a small indentation in the middle. I put about 1/3-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese in the indentation. Then pressed the remaining meat mixture over top.)