March 31, 2014

Homemade French Toast

There are certain behaviors and topics that get me overly excited or irritated. Respect or lack there of is a big one with me. Normally I can ignore most things, but last weekend my family and I went shopping in the capital city of our state. I don't know if everyone in the particular store had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or what, but everyone was rude. One women went so far as to push me in the checkout line and then rudely tell my oldest son 'excuse me'. This is a store which is a national chain and we shop at the location near our house frequently. At the location near us people are always friendly, but not this location. And I'm sorry to say it hasn't been just one time, it's every single time we shop at this location. I think people in this store location have had a little too much caffeine or lack thereof. It's funny how geography can make personalities completely different. By the time I leave the store I seem to be far less friendly and a lot more angry.

When I get stressed, or angry, or just because, I tend to make breakfast foods. I love breakfast foods, there is something so comforting about eating a big plate of waffles or pancakes. Last week I tried a new recipe for French Toast from the Food Network.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only changed a few details from the original recipe. First, I used homemade challah bread (leftover from my giveaway). Second, I served the French toast with butter, not maple syrup. My youngest refuses to eat maple syrup, so I used butter and powdered sugar instead. Finally, I increase the amount of vanilla to a teaspoon and added a slight bit more of nutmeg.

This French toast turned out really well. It browned beautifully on the griddle and my youngest loved it so much that he ate 4 pieces as soon as it was done. I froze the leftovers and they re-heated well in the microwave (or you can use a toaster oven) for a quick weekday breakfast. This recipe would also work well for a brunch party or a holiday since it looks so nice on the plate and you could make big batches at once and keep them warm in the oven.

For the recipe go to French Toast.

March 26, 2014

Quick Shepherd's Pie

I need to add more hours to the day. It seems that I only am able to get half of the things on my to do list done everyday and by the end of the week my list seems to just get longer and longer. I thought that as my kids got older things would be easier, I was wrong. Now I have more dishes, laundry and general mess than I ever did when they were younger. Most days I fall onto the couch exhausted at the end of the day and almost fall asleep watching tv. Weekends are almost worse. With my husband home there are even more cups and bowls to wash and another person to clean up after. My family goes through more cereal bowls that I would ever think humanly possible. Weekdays are easier in many ways since my husband and oldest leave for part of the day. However, my youngest seems to make the mess of three people.

Since I have been short on time the last couple of months I have been looking for recipes that are easy to put together and cook. Last week I tried a new recipe for Quick Shepherd's Pie from the March/April issue of Eating Well Magazine.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used baby Yukon Gold potatoes. I find the baby potatoes easier to work with in soups and stews since they can just be cut into fourths. There is only one kind of lamb available in our area, so that is what I bought. Since it was higher in fat I drained the lamb after it was browned and added it back into the pan. I prefer the flavor of higher fat meats, but not the grease so the modification enabled the flavor without the greasiness. Finally, I did not thaw my corn. I threw the corn in still frozen and just upped the total cooking time at the end. Honestly, I hate thawing frozen veggies and rarely do it.

My family really enjoyed this recipe. It is very easy to prep and put together so it's perfect for a busy weeknight meal. Lamb is one of my favorite proteins. A little amount adds great flavor to dishes, I love it. This recipe is also nice since it has 25 grams of protein, which with two growing boys is always something that I look for.

For the recipe go to Quick Shepherd's Pie. 

March 22, 2014

Gouda and Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops

I am a very impatient person. So much so that I am horrible about waiting to talk while having a conversation. I also have a tendency to watch a season of a show and then skip to the final episode (I blame Netflix and Hulu for this) or read the majority of a book and then skip a few pages (or 10) to get to the end faster. Part of the problem seems to be that my attention is less as I get older and partly that a lot of books and television just don't seem to be that great. I know that sounds harsh, but great books. movies etc. still can hold my interest, they just are very few and far between. I guess as I get older quality has become much more important and I don't have the patience to deal with okay or mediocre.  Life is too short to spend a lot of time on something that isn't great.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes of total time, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I did make a number of changes to the original recipe. First, since I eat gluten free I used  gluten free panko. I used a block of Gouda which I sliced into thin slices myself. As suggested by the magazine I used a rimmed baking sheet and increased the amount of horseradish mustard. Finally, I used bone-in chops and my total cooking time as 25 minutes.

Make sure to pick fatty pork chops and spray the top of the chops with canola oil. This allows the chops to have a great crispy outside and tender inside. My family really enjoyed these chops. If you aren't a fan of Gouda other types of cheese would also work, especially sharp cheddar. The same thing goes for the Creole seasoning, if you don't like the heat you could use any other type of seasoning salt and it would work just as well.

For the recipe go to Gouda and Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops.

March 16, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Tostadas

I am so sick of school fundraisers. That sounds horrible I know, but also very true. It all came to a head last week with a fundraiser not benefiting the school. I won't go in to details, but since I decided that I didn't want to have my son raise money he was not allowed to enjoy the popsicles and apple juice that all the other kids received for participating. I could have done the fundraising, but I chose not to. It was the 4th fundraiser since the beginning of the school year. During the first fundraiser my son raised 1200 dollars. I feel that that should be more than enough as my contribution for fundraising for the year. Apparently not though, they have had 3 more. Maybe I am getting old, but when I was growing up we had one fundraiser a year. One, nothing more. I understand that times have changed, things cost more money etc. However, I would rather donate supplies that I bought at 90 percent off at Target than donate to 4 fundraisers in 8 months. I joked with my husband that I am going to run for PTO next year with the slogan work smarter not harder. Obviously that won't happen, I'm way too much of a perfectionist to deal with all the fundraising drama. In the meantime I bought my son a whole box of popsicles for the dollar that he would have had to raise to enjoy the one at school.

 I try to incorporate at least one vegetarian or vegan meal into my meal plan every week. If left to their own devices my family would only eat meat (mostly bacon) three times a day. I prefer a more varied diet and have slowly converted them to my thinking. My husband has even started drinking the banana tofu smoothie I blogged about recently for breakfast every morning. Major progress. Last week I tried a new recipe for Spaghetti Squash Tostadas from the March 2014 issue of the Food Network Magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used homemade beans instead of canned. I prefer homemade beans, they are cheaper and far lower in sodium than store bought. Secondly, my microwave wasn't large enough to fit the spaghetti squash in so I roasted it in the oven instead. It was easy since it could roast the squash while the tomatoes and onions were in the oven. Finally, I make my own chili powder. The flavor is better and it stores for 3-6 months, so it saves money.

With 440 calories and 11 grams of protein these tostadas were a nice vegetarian meal option for my family. My husband absolutely loved the spaghetti squash and ate the leftovers without the tostada shell for breakfast the next morning. Like most kids my sons were thrilled with the spaghetti squash, it's very kid friendly. To cut down on the heat for their servings, I tossed sour cream with the squash on their plate.

For the recipe go to Spaghetti Squash Tostadas. 

March 9, 2014

Curried Chicken Chowder

I am so ready for spring to start next week. While I don't mind winter, this winter has been colder and had far more snow than we normally receive. Even my kids are sick of the snow and complained when my oldest was out of school for snow days twice last week. I think everyone in my house is ready for a little bit of warmer weather and sunshine. Granted we will start complaining about the heat and humidity in the summer (I hate humidity), but for now the 60 degree weather we had yesterday was perfect. Spring also gets me excited about gardening, which I love. It's a great way for me to relax and I love eating all the vegetables and fruit I am able to grow in our backyard. So I am impatiently waiting for the nights to get warm so I can start my planting.

Since our weather was cold last week I made a number of soups and stews. One of the new recipes I tried was for Curried Chicken Chowder from the November 2013 issue of Southern Living Magazine.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 1 hour of total time, 40 minutes of which is active, and makes 16 cups. I made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used frozen corn. Fresh corn is hard to find in the winter and frozen is much cheaper. I added the corn frozen and it worked well. For the coconut milk I used light coconut milk and added a tablespoon of corn starch mixed with water to the chowder as a thickener to make up for the fat. Finally, I used homemade chicken broth. The taste is better and it is far cheaper than store bought.

If you are looking to feed a crowd this is a great recipe. It made enough for three meals for my family. I served the chowder with naan bread for the rest of my family, which worked well flavor wise. The edamame is a great way to add protein and add a little bit of crunch to the chowder. Plus using chicken left from another recipe is a great way to save money.

For the recipe go to Curried Chicken Chowder. 

March 8, 2014

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Television seemed more exciting to me when I was younger. The same goes for movies, I used to love going to see new movies every Friday evening in my twenties. I would get addicted to television shows and be excited for the next weeks episode. Now in my middle thirties television and movies just don't seem to hold the same appeal. A big part of the change might have to do with the Internet and the way that I watch movies and television. My family dropped cable years ago, we now rely on Netflix and Hulu. It's cheaper and we don't miss having all pointless channels that have nothing to watch on them. However, I also seem to not enjoy television the way that I used to. I get bored halfway through a lot of episodes and more than a couple of seasons of any show is just a little too much. There are exceptions, there are some shows that I have watched for years, but they are the exception not the norm. Maybe my expectations for television and movies have gotten higher the older I get. I have far less time to waste hours watching a movie that I hate. Maybe I just haven't watched anything great lately. Whatever the reason I have preferred books to television and movies for years and the trend seems to get only stronger the older I get. Hopefully I'm not alone.

Last week I was having a strong craving for pancakes. Gluten free pancakes can be very hit or miss, some are great, others barely edible. I decided to try a new recipe for Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes in order to utilize the large amount of oat flour I had in my cupboard.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active, and makes 8 pancakes. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First I had a large container of coconut oil so I used it in the recipe. I warmed it in the microwave and I had no problems with it re-solidifying (like the recipe mentioned). I also cheated and didn't let the batter sit for 10 minutes. It was breakfast and I was hungry and I just wanted to eat. Not letting the batter sit didn't seem to change the outcome of the  pancakes. They were still fluffy without the wait time. Finally, I doubled the recipe and made my pancakes a little bigger than the recipe suggested so I ended up with 12 pancakes total.

These pancakes turned out very well. I topped the servings with melted peanut butter (which is delicious on pancakes and waffles - just heat peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds and it pours like syrup). The pancakes had a great banana taste and rose well on the griddle. They were delicious with peanut butter, but would also be great with butter or syrup. The only change I would make would be to add a small amount of vanilla extract the next time.

For the recipe go to Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes.

March 2, 2014

Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens

Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens
Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens

wish I had been more grateful in my twenties. At the time I thanked my friends and family, but I didn't really think it through. In my thirties I realized just what a big thing little gestures can be. Sometimes we can all forget to be thoroughly grateful when someone goes beyond the usual and does even a small gesture. If I could go back I would take a few minutes and really be grateful for the small things. Many of my favorite memories are the small things that were done for me: my roommate renting my favorite movies after having my wisdom teeth removed, my work friend helping me move at the last minute and my college friend that always have coffee and turbo truffles ready when we studied until 2 in the morning. I remember all of these things and as I get older I cherish the people that helped make the memories. Many of the people attached to the memories are no longer a part of my current life, but they are an integral part of my memories, and for that I am extremely grateful. I just wish that I had been better about being grateful when the memories happened.

With the weather being very cold I have been making a lot of soups and stews. When the temps dip their is something soothing about warm foods. Last week I tried a new recipe for Spicy Beans and Wilted Beans from the February 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.
Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens
This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 4 and a half hours of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 6 servings. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. First I used red pepper flakes instead of chiles de arbor, chickpeas for the beans and kale, spinach and arugula for the greens. Using a Parmesan rind adds great flavor and I used it in this recipe. In order for the beans to be soft and tender I allowed the beans to cook for the full 4 hours of time, adding water when needed.
Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens
These beans turned out delicious. My husband and I loved this recipe, it was great on a cold night. It was a little spicy as written for my kids so we added sour cream to their servings. The beans would be great with a loaf of homemade bread for a fall or winter dinner. A great filling meal.

For the recipe go to Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens.
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