Saturday, April 30, 2011

Salad's Night Out

One of the best things about salad is the many, many ways you can dress it up.  Like eggs, there are infinite ways to eat them.  You can make them with meat, veggies, fruit, or my personal favorite, ALL THREE!

I recently spent some time with my sister, and after a long walk in the rain with her doggy, we needed a nice meal to warm us up.  After compiling ingredients from our two refridgerators, we came up with a family classic, hot chicken on salad.  This is a great meal to prepare because it is incredibly easy and incorporates many wonderful flavors.  I start out with a nice helping of salad greens and top it with hot chicken pieces, sauteed veggies, fresh avocado, strawberries, and homemade dressing.  The chicken is simple, just do the following:

Cut boneless chicken breasts into small pieces
Dip pieces into whisked egg
Dip pieces into a flower/herb mix and coat
Cook chicken in a hot pan with olive oil until brown, crispy, and done in the middle.

Put all ingredients together, pour a nice glass of red wine, and enjoy the company around you.

A Second Look

A more palatable picture of sweet potato burritos.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Grown-Up Taste Buds

Everyone has a certain food they hate.  Not a food you do not care for, or that you do not choose to eat, I mean hate.  For me, it's olives.  I have always hated olives and probably always will.  So much for looking sophisticated with my dirty martinis.  Oh well.

When I was little, I hated brussel sprouts.  Yuck.  Just the smell of them coming out of a pot of boiling water and steaming in my face made me gag.  I remember thinking no amount of butter could make those mini cabbages edible.  Yuck.

However, my tongue has grown some new taste buds, and I now have a soft place in my heart for these awkward little green balls.  I would not choose to eat them every night (mostly because they produce some weird tasting burps) but once in a while, I will serve them as a nice side dish.

I did some quick research on these gemmiferas, and apparently they contain some pretty potent chemicals that boost DNA repair in cells, and may even block the growth of cancer cells.  Pretty cool!

You are better off baking or stir frying brussel sprouts, instead of boiling.  Boiling causes the antioxident chemicals to leak out.  I like to bake them with olive oil, rosemary, and black/red pepper.  They are incredibly easy to make and are surprisingly quite yummy.

Follow these simple steps:
-cut the stalks off the brussel sprouts, peel off the outer layer of cabbage, and slice in half
-spread them on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil
-drizzle with olive oil
-sprinkle with rosemary and pepper, salt if desired
-mix around and bake on a 375 oven for about 25 minutes

Add that to your vegetable repertoire!

I served these with fresh hummus made in the food processor.  My mom came up with the idea of adding dill to the hummus and I must admit, it's a great addition! 

Not the most colorful meal I've prepared, but hey, can't win em all!

Friends, Family, and Food, of Course!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  Mr. PT and I had a full weekend of traveling, laughing, hugging, and eating.  The weekend started out with a home-cooked meal made by the woman I owe most of my cooking and baking instincts to, my mother.  She started the weekend off with a bang, making homemade pizzas and warm chicken noodle soup.  I will be posting the pizza crust recipe in a future entry, but maybe Mom will post her secret for soup in a comment??  We'll see!

It was the perfect mix of warm yummy goodness with the casual feel of a Saturday night.

Of course, Sunday was the big meal.  My wonderful and gracious Aunt Heather and Uncle Tom had the extended family over to celebrate.

It can be overwhelming sometimes to see a huge spread of food and still feel pressured to stay healthy.  But I tell you, it can be done!  The number one rule to follow? DON'T DENY YOURSELF.  How often do you get to break bread with your family?  Enjoy it!  Personally, I look forward to my family's cheesy green beans, buttery lima beans, creamy au gratin potatoes, and juicy ham.  This is my strategy:  make the salad take up the most room on your plate.  Surround it with little servings of your favorites.  That way you are enjoying all those wonderful flavors without filling up on the rich stuff.  I promise, you will still feel satisfied at the finish.  For dessert, I had some fruit and shared a piece of cake with Mr. PT.  I was full, but still able and ready to take a stab at the new boxing game on Kinect shortly after.

Happy Holiday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teggs and Kippers

I think everyone has a happy place.  It is a place you can mentally go when stress takes over or you need help falling asleep at night.  I have two happy places.  The first is on a beach, in a beach chair, listening to the ocean, digging my toes in the sand, and sipping on a cool drink.

My second happy place is a cabin hidden up north in Canada.  A place you have to drive on a dirt road for an hour just to get to.  My extended family has been going to this cabin for almost 30 years to fish, eat, play cards, and enjoy eachother's kooky-ness.

I have only gone the past two years, but they are experiences I will never forget.  It is a place you can swim in clear, cold, clean river water and soak in a wood burning sauna to warm up.  You wake up to the sound of the loons as you pack up your fishing gear to get the morning catch.  You play hard all day so you eat heartily at night.  And when the sun goes down, you feel like you are being swallowed up by shooting stars.

It was at this magical place that I learned the art of teggs.  My Uncle (and Godfather) Ed was the king of breakfast in Canada.  The first morning we were there he knocked on my door and yelled "time for teggs and kippers!"  I could have slept for at least another hour, but I was so intrigued by the breakfast call that I pulled myself out of bed.

Teggs turned out to be a cross between toast and eggs, and kippers were sausage links.  Where their name originated, I will probably never know.  All I did know is that both were delicious!

In order to bring a piece of this happy place back home with me, I occasionally make teggs for Mr. PT and I.  They are incredibly easy, fun to look at, and even more fun to eat.  And of course, they are just down right good for you.

Start with a piece of whole wheat, all natural bread (I like Nature's Pride).  Lightly butter both sides (use butter or margarine, just try to avoid those partially hydrogenated oils).  Tear the middle out to create a small, egg size hole.  Do not tear it out completely, but let it flop over on top.  Put the bread on a non-stick skillet.  Crack an egg inside the hole and season with red/black pepper and garlic powder, if you like.  Cook until you feel that the underside is toasted (about 3 minutes).  Flip the egg and cook the other side to your desired egg consistency.  I like my egg yolks runny, so I only leave it flipped for about a minute.  Press down on the bread with a spatula to help with the toasting.  This also helps the egg whites fully cook.  Flip again, flop on a plate, and you have teggs!

Cooking teggs makes me think of Canada, with its cool mornings, warm afternoons, and starry nights.  It makes me laugh remembering all the crazy times I have had with my family there.  It makes me smile that my husband and I shared that experience as a newly engaged couple.

Find something that takes you to your happy place.  Do it at least once a day.  The only person that controls your happiness is you.  So do something nice for yourself today.

Warm Weather Meals

To me, nothing beats coming home from work, opening all the windows, going for a nice jog outside, and eating a light dinner composed of fresh food.  Ahhh...spring is here!

Last week, Mr. PT and I enjoyed two delicious meals al fresco.  I know these meals may seem scant, but this is something you might want to try.  Eat a big breakfast, eat two small meals during the day (small lunch, snack after work) and finish with a light dinner.  Most people do not engage in a lot of activity after 6pm, so really, it is unnecessary to stuff yourself.  You might find that you wake up hungrier, hence, the big breakfast!  If you are not a breakfast eater, turn your breakfast into two small meals as well.  One of the ways I keep my eating in check is to have a high awareness of my hunger.  If I'm hungry, I eat!  If I'm not hungry, I do not eat!  Sounds simple, but this can be one of the hardest lessons to learn. 

I'm not perfect, I still tend to munch on a bag of jellybeans every once in a while, and going out for dinner with friends can complicate things.  But I would say that if you follow this rule 85% of the time, you should be good to go. are the two yummy meals we enjoyed on the porch this past week.  The first hardly requires a recipe:

 Fresh fruit (strawberries, apples, pears) with mozzarella cheese or dipped in peanut butter-yogurt or yogurt with cinnamon

The second recipe I like to call "dirty guacamole."  This means I made typical guacamole and spiced it up with whatever I had in the cupboard!

You will need:
-2 avocados, ripe
-2 tbs lime juice
-guacamole seasoning, or some mix of Mexican spices
-1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
-1/2 can corn, rinsed
-1/2 can black beans, rinsed
-1/2-1 cup of brown rice, cooked (I just had this leftover!)
-1/8 cup red onion
-1/2 tomato, chopped
-1/8 cup cilantro

To be honest, I did not measure out these ingredients, but this is my best guess on the ratios.  Feel free to add or take away any ingredient.  But this is the fun part about cooking! Get creative!  This could have been just regular guacamole, but I figured since it was going to be dinner, I would make it a little heartier.

Try the lighter dinner idea, you might be pleasantly surprised how much more energy you have in your day!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yams in Burritos? Try it!

Sometimes I am amazed at how much money you can save just by cooking your own food.  Instead of going to a restaurant and easily spending $30 for two meals, you can pull together your own ingredients and spend next to nothing for a fantastic meal.  This next recipe is just one example of how it can be done.

Spicy Sweet Potato Burritos

You will need:
-2 sweet potatoees ($1.74)
-3/4 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp ground coriander
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/4 tsp black and red pepper
-2 tbs lime juice
-1 15oz can black beans
-1 cup corn 
-1/2 tomato
-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 cup shredded Mexican or cheddar cheese
-corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 400.  Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork, place on a baking sheet and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of the sweet potatoes.  Or, if you're in a hurry, microwave the sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and let cool.  Reduce oven heat to 350.  Scoop the insides out of the potatoes into a bowl and mash with the spices and lime juice.  Stir in the beans, corn, tomato, cilantro, and cheese.  Add salt to taste if using.  Spoon the mixture in the tortillas, roll up and bake for 10 minutes until heated through.  Serve with avocado, sour cream, and/or salsa.

Since I already had the spices I needed, this recipe cost me under $15!  And it made way more than Mr. PT and I could eat in one sitting.  In fact, it made enough for 2 more lunches!

So if you are trying to think of ways to save money, or need motivation to cook more at home, go to the grocery and DIY!

Friday, April 8, 2011


I love eggs because of their many personalities.  They can be easy, medium, or fried hard.  They can be flat, scrambled, or dipped from a cup.  They can be hard boiled, peeled and eaten, or they can be soft boiled, mushed with bread in a bowl!  Eggs can be paired with so many ingredients, from fancy mushrooms in an omelet, to hash browns and ketchup.  They can be slapped between two pieces of toast, or delicately placed on a French croque madam.

Another great thing about eggs? You can eat them any time of day!  Sometimes I just don't have the energy to get the skillet hot in the morning, but at night, they are a quick and easy way to fix a delicious meal.

The other night, I felt like some BFD (breakfast for dinner).  I started with a base of red onions, mushrooms, red and green pepper, and fresh spinach softened in the skillet with some (1 1/2 tbs) butter and spices.  Then I added 3 eggs with about 1/3 cup milk and scrambled them all together.  I laid the eggs on top of some whole wheat bread, topped them with some mozzarella cheese and toasted the whole thing until the cheese melted.  Then I added fresh avocado.  It was a very fancy egg sandwich.

Stay tuned for more ways to do eggs!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Disappearing Dinner

I made a dish tonight that was gobbled up so quickly I did not even have time to take a picture! I apologize, I know the pictures help.

However, it was so yummy that I still have to share.

I started with a non-stick pan and about a tablespoon of butter.  I slowly melted the butter over low heat and added about 2 heaping tablespoons of flour.  I slowly mixed this together until it became chunky.  Then, I added the magic ingredient: homemade chicken stock.

This is basically a mix of water, olive oil, and spices used to slowly cook chicken breasts in.  When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, you are left with a pot full of wonderful, flavorful chicken broth that beats anything you can get at the store.  You can refrigerate it for...well, I'm not sure.  Mine was about 2 weeks old, but once I scraped the fat off the top it was as good as new.

I slowly added the chicken broth to the flour-butter mix, throwing in some pepper, a touch of sea salt, Italian spices, tarragon, parsley, and dried garlic.  In all, the base of this sauce probably took about 3 heaping tablespoons of flour and 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth.

Then I added the veggies: 1/2 cut up zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, 1/4 cup chopped red onions, and about a cup of torn up fresh spinach leaves.  I let this slowly cook for about 30 minutes until the veggies were soft and the sauce was nice and thick.  I then boiled some whole wheat pasta and topped it with the chicken/veggie sauce and mozzarella cheese.  It was kind of like a chicken alfredo, but with veggies instead of chicken.

It was SO GOOD...we ate every last bite.  It was rainy and stormy all day today, so this warm dish made for the perfect meal.

How did I come up with this?  Well, I looked in the refridgerator and picked one ingredient that I needed to get rid of, and fast, before it was too late.  Then, I brainstormed what I could add to that ingredient to make a full meal.  Tonight, this ingredient was the chicken stock. 

If you struggle with coming up with new ideas to cook with, or always feel like you are tethered to a recipe, now is the time to get creative.  Pick one ingredient you love and trust your instincts.  You will be amazed with what you can come up with!  And as most things go, practice builds confidence!

Now I just need to apply this principal to my gardening skills...