April 23, 2012

This Week In Food...Soup Season's Last Hurrah

As we tumble quickly toward Summer, I realize that we begin to move away from soups and toward grilling. But it's downright chilly here today and I have a little man who is in love with soups right now, so I thought I'd give soup one last shot before we pretty much call it quits till October. So if you're in the mood for one last taste of warm and comfy soup too, here's a recipe for you...

This one has made the rounds on Pinterest so you may have seen it or even tried it. If not, you must! It is so yummy, so easy, and such a crowd pleaser that you just can't go wrong with it. The original recipe, which I've adapted a bit, is called Cheesy Vegetable Chowder and came from luluthebaker.blogspot.com. But really, I think it's more of a nice, thick, cheesy, potato-broccoli soup...with a few other veggies thrown in. Regardless of what you call it, it's just plain yum. I highly recommend serving it with a nice loaf of bakery bread. I like a good sourdough. Though a country bread would be lovely as well...or even a rosemary or olive oil loaf.

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Chowder
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. finely chopped carrot
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
4-6 c. chicken broth (I usually use more like 6, maybe even 7; it all depends on how much bulk you end up with potato and veggie-wise; keep two things in mind: you need to cover the potatoes in liquid to cook them, and the soup will thicken considerably by day two, so plan accordingly. Also, you can always add more broth as long as you have extra on hand.)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp flour
1/2 c. water
2/3 c. milk
2 c. chopped broccoli
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots and celery and saute over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 more minutes. Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Mix flour and water in bowl and add to pot. Simmer until soup is slightly thickened. Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through. Stir in cheese and allow to melt. Serve.

I think we're also gonna revisit that Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu this week; we'll throw some chicken breasts and veggies on the grill one night, then maybe work in some turkey tacos another; and as for the other night I'm cooking this week...well, I hope to get inspired at the grocery store tomorrow. So that's what's cookin' here this week. Next week we'll see what kind of trouble I can get into with a few new recipes...could be great...could mean last minute take-out. We shall see.

Until then, happy cooking! (And stay warm.)

April 17, 2012

What The H*#% Is That? And Other Stuff That Is Ticking Me Off Right Now.

Okay, seriously, what the hell is that?
That is not a part of my current hairstyle. That is a photo of one of the crazy, one-inch-long sprouts of hair that has recently cropped up all over my head making me appear generally fuzzy and unkempt. Look at it...it's kinda like wildlife photography...or this book Portia checked out of the library last week called Look Look Look. You look through little 2"x2" clear windows to the picture on the next page and guess what is pictured. Not sure what I would have guessed with this picture. All I know is that I am thoroughly annoyed with this new hair phenomenon. I realize that it's regrowth from all the hair that fell out after I had Holden. And I suppose I should be happy that it's growing back. But it does not make for a good look right now, and nothing keeps it under control...not hairspray or gel or serum...nothing. It just stands straight up. Ugh.

I guess I should be honest, though. The hair, really, is the least of my problems. It's been over ten months since I had a baby and I am still not back to normal. And I'm not talking about my body--

That's not back to normal either, but I'm sick of us women bashing our bodies all the time so I just won't do it here. Someone has gotta take a stand somewhere, because I certainly don't want my daughter worrying about what her body looks like. I want her to think about how it feels and how healthy it is, but not what it looks like. I want her to love it and take care of it, but I don't want it to be a source of frustration or shame or anxiety. Unfortunately, short of moving somewhere remote or completely cutting off all access to American media (and every other girl it has touched), my quest for her body happiness will be a virtually impossible, extremely uphill battle. Still, it's one I'm willing to try and fight.

--I'm talking about my brain. I've gotten somewhat better since Holden started sleeping through the night, but I'm still more intellectually stunted than I would like. Maybe it's because I spend most of my time saying things like, "Can we please not talk about poop in public?" and "A doggie says, woof!" Ahh, the joys of a 3 year old and a 10 month old!

Really, most of it is a joy! I just caught myself yesterday sitting there, watching them play on the floor, with a silly grin on my face, thinking how adorable they are and how short this stage will be...how short every stage will be...oh, it's going by so fast...I'm gonna blink and they'll be leaving for college. And then I think that maybe I want a third...and then I think, OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU!!! You're getting old and you hate being pregnant...you felt extremely old and horrifically sick and incredibly huge for nine months and swore you would never do it again! Get a grip!

Whoa, alright, I'm okay now. So anyway...

I'd like to take a moment and tell you how incredibly awful food poisoning is. Don't worry, I won't gross you out with details. If you've had it, you know what I'm talking about anyway. It's sufficed to say that I won't be eating spinach salad again for a while. But what really ticks me off is that I got it twice...two weekends in a row...from the same f'ing spinach! The first time I thought it was a stomach virus and NEVER connected it to the spinach. But the second time, well, I figured it out. And felt pretty damn stupid. The worst of it is, the resulting weight loss won't even stick around. Such bulls*&#.

Speaking of bulls*&#, does anyone actually know how to figure out your bra size? Who invented this system? I am in dire need of a new over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder, but don't want to spend much because I'm still nursing and who knows where these puppies will end up once I'm done. (I'm hoping for a nice, perky 34B...but I haven't seen perky, 34, or B in a very long time, so I'm thinking that's not likely without cosmetic surgery.) So I figured a Target or Kohl's special is the way to go right now. To minimize my time in the store I thought I would first determine my current size, so I looked online for a refresher on how to measure myself. Well, based on the various sites I checked, there are two different schools of thought on how to measure oneself. Depending on which one I choose, I could either be a 38A or a 34DD. Seriously? Seriously. I even rechecked the measurements multiple times. What the f%$@? Guess I'll be spending an hour in the Target dressing room next weekend.

That kind of stuff really ticks me off.

April 14, 2012

This Week In Food...Do Something Good With Ground Turkey

Hello food friends! I'm pretty late to the food game this week, but my entire week was thrown off kilter by being sick Friday thru Tuesday. You know how it is...you get a couple of days behind on your to-do's and then you just frantically play catch-up all week. So here I am on Friday, just getting to This Week In Food! Tragic. I hope you haven't all starved without me...or worse, just eaten the same old chicken breast every day. Ick.

Anyway, let's start with a quick recap of last week. If you recall in last week's post I mentioned that I was starting a diet. Well, I worked really hard and did really well following said diet for one week. Then I got sick and now can't stand the thought of eating any of the diet food anymore because I now associate it with feeling sick. So much for that. And I had even lost a couple of lbs on it. Oh well. I guess it's back to my normal "eat healthy most of the time, exercise regularly, and hope for the best" approach. As my three year old says...whatever.

Speaking of eating healthy, how about doing something good with ground turkey this week? I've got two good, healthy ground turkey recipes for you that are on the menu this week at my house. "Sloppy Jan" sandwiches and "WW Shepard's Pie." Both are easy, tasty, and good for you. And both recipes have passed the husband and 3 year old taste tests, so they get the gold star. So here you go:

Sloppy Jans
(my version of Sloppy Joes, adapted from a Cooking Light recipe and named after my mom, who has a tendency to drop food on herself from time to time)

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 c. chopped bell pepper (red, yellow and/or orange)
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 14.5 oz. can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained (chopped or pureed-- I puree b/c Rolland doesn't like tomato chunks)
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp ketchup
Apple cider vinegar, to taste
Whole wheat hamburger buns

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey and bell pepper and saute until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Add corn, tomatoes and ketchup and stir. Add vinegar one tbsp at a time until desired flavor is achieved. (I usually add about 2 tbsp, I think--I really don't measure; I just dump some in.) Cook 5-10 mins. or to desired consistency. Serve on hamburger buns.

I usually serve this with a Tangy Broccoli Slaw. It's easy. Mix in a large bowl 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tbsp yellow mustard, 1/4 tsp salt. Then add one bag of broccoli slaw and about 1/2 to 1 c. chopped bell pepper (just chop extra when you're chopping it for the sandwiches). Mix it up really well so all the slaw is coated with the dressing, and there you go. Totally easy. Totally yummy.

Weight Watcher’s Shepherd’s Pie
 2  large  potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces 
1/4 cup  nonfat sour cream 
1  tablespoon  reduced-calorie margarine 
1/8 teaspoon  table salt 
2  teaspoons  olive oil 
1  cup  onion        (chopped) 
2  medium  carrots        (diced) 
2  medium  celery ribs, diced 
1  lb  uncooked     ground turkey breast (or morningstar farms recipe crumbles)
3  tablespoons  all-purpose flour 
1  tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped or 1  teaspoon  dried rosemary 
1  teaspoon  dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon  table salt 
1/4 teaspoon  black pepper 
2  cups canned chicken broth or 2  cups  beef broth (or vegetable for vegan)
 Preheat oven to 400ºF.    
Place potatoes in a large saucepan and pour in   enough water  to cover potatoes. Set pan over high heat and bring to a   boil; reduce  heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, until potatoes are   fork-tender. 
Drain potatoes, transfer to a large bowl and add sour cream   and  margarine; mash until smooth, season to taste with salt and set   aside. 
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over  medium-high heat. 
 Add  onion, carrots and celery; cook until soft, about 3  minutes. 
Add   turkey and cook until browned, breaking up the meat as it  cooks, about 5   minutes. 
Add flour, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper;  stir to coat. 
Add broth and bring to a simmer; simmer until mixture  thickens, about 3   minutes. 
Transfer turkey mixture to a 9-inch, deep-dish  pie plate.  Spread  mashed potatoes over top and using the back of a  spoon, make   decorative swirls over the top. 
Bake until potatoes are  golden, about   30 minutes. 
Slice into 6 pieces and serve. 

Six servings, 275 Calories each

WW Shepard's Pie
(adapted from a Weight Watcher's recipe)

1 container refrigerated mashed potatoes (you can make your own, but, on a weeknight, I just can't swing it and Bob Evans makes yummy mashed potatoes)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 c. onion, diced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
2-3 medium celery ribs, diced
1 lb lean ground turkey
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 c. chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until soften, about 3-5 mins. Add turkey and cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Add flour, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until mixture thickens, about 3 mins. Meanwhile, microwave mashed potatoes according to package directions. Transfer turkey mixture to a 9 inch square baking dish or deep dish pie plate. Spread mashed potatoes over the top using spoon to make nice little swirls. Bake until potatoes are golden, about 30 mins. Serve.

Now you've done something good with ground turkey. Hurray for you! This summer, once we really get going on the grill, I'll share an awesome recipe for turkey burgers--so good you may never make them any other way again!

I also made a yummy Spicy Vegetable Fried Rice this week. But with my being sick (read: take-out) and Rolland traveling for work (read: leftover take-out), that's about all that was on the menu this week. But who knows what's in store for us next week. Hmmmm...

Until then, happy cooking!

April 4, 2012

This Week In Food...Vacation Detox!

Aaaaaannnndddd, we're back! Vacation was awesome (hurray!). There really is no better way to take a vacation when you have small children, than with multiple grandparents! If they had just slept a little better, it truly would have been perfection. Still, it was great!

However, vacation bliss, at least for me, comes at a price...and that price is paid by my gut! You see, when I "fall off the wagon", I REALLY fall off (as anyone who has seen me pregnant can attest to--Whoa Mama!!)! One week with zero workouts and non-stop food indulgence means I came home not only looking worse-for-wear, but I feeling it! So it's time for vacation detox!

In addition to planning meals for this week that would allow both Rolland and I to detox from our crazy eating last week, I am also trying out a new diet in an effort to drop the last five pregnancy lbs...but we'll leave that for another post! Really, what it all means for this week's menu is that I'm doing simple, basic, healthy meals that are easy on our waistlines and easy for me to make (since I'm too busy catching up on laundry and cleaning and general whatnot to spend much time on food). So here's what's on the specials' board this week:

- Moroccan Rub Tilapia with Mango Chutney with Steamed Broccoli and Couscous
- Grilled BBQ Rub Chicken with Asparagus and Long Grain & Wild Rice
- Chicken, Rice and Edamame Salad
- Pear and Walnut Sandwiches, Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Salad
- Grilled Chicken TBD with Steamed Carrots and Couscous
- Deluxe Chopped Salad

These are all dinners I have made many times before, and are all, obviously, very basic. From this simple menu, I will share three things...

First, the asparagus...I suggested last week that you get some and grill it- a fantastic way to do it. Another great way, that's super simple, is this: Prep your asparagus (wash, break stems at natural break point), then chop each stem into about two inch sections. Heat a little bit of oil and minced garlic in a pan, then toss in the asparagus. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook about 10-15 mins, tossing occasionally. Don't over stir or they won't get a chance to brown up a little and get crispy. So yummy. Even Portia likes these.

Second, the tilapia...Tilapia is my go-to fish at home. It's easy to prepare and everyone likes it and it doesn't make the house smell fishy. And this is my go-to way to prepare it: measure out equal parts cumin and coriander (assume 1/2-1 tsp of each per fillet) and mix together. Rub the mixture over both sides of each fillet. Spray your skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium. Add fillets and cook for about 4 mins on each side, or until done. Remove and top with any fruit chutney you like. I use mango chutney most of the time, though Old Farmhouse Chutney from Stonewall Kitchen is THE BEST (I just can't find it anywhere nearby). Everyone loves this tilapia (yes, even my 3 yr old).

And finally, here's the recipe for the chicken, rice and edamame salad. This is SO simple and SO good. I highly recommend it!

Chicken, Rice and Edamame Salad
2 pouches of microwaveable brown rice (such as Uncle Ben's)
2 1/2 c. frozen shelled edamame (I often just use the whole bag, no measuring!)
A few tbsp water for cooking the edamame
2 c. diced cooked chicken breast (you can buy already cooked, diced chicken at the store and use that; I usually just cook up two large chicken breasts with salt and pepper in a skillet and use that)
2 tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp salt

Cook chicken and dice, if not already prepared. Combine edamame  and a few tbsp water in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high about 3-4 mins. Let stand 2 mins then drain. Microwave rice according to package directions. Combine ginger, rice vinegar, salt and oil in a large bowl. Then add chicken, rice and edamame and toss to combine and coat. Delish!

So there you have it, vacation detox! I hope to be feeling great and looking good within the next few days. Just in time for my diet cheat day Saturday...lock up your breads and sweets, I will be on the prowl!

Until next time, happy eating!

P.S. The pear and walnut sandwiches are also the bombdiggity. I will share that recipe at some point too!