Picnic potato salad

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I have a picnic coming up this weekend, and I also am in the middle of a 2-week spending fast (meaning I can’t spend anything) so I had to come up with something that I already had all the ingredients to in my house. After asking friends for ideas and some searching on Allrecipes.com, I decided on potato salad.
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I personally don’t even like it much, but I’ve never made it and it seemed easy. Plus I had all the ingredients already. Once made, I tried it, and it was actually pretty darn good. Maybe it will change my mind about potato salads.

Ingredients:
about 5 cups peeled, diced potatoes
3 hard boiled eggs
1/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c oil
1 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp ground mustard
1/2 c Miracle Whip
1/4 c Ranch
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 med onion, diced
1/2 c shredded carrot
1 tbsp salad seasoning

Step 2: Peel and dice the potatoes. Then boil them in a large pot while you dice up the rest of the vegetables. Once the potatoes are soft, drain. Mix all the liquids and spices in a large pot.

Step 2: Put the potatoes in with the Miracle Whip, Ranch, spices, etc and mix well to coat. Add the other diced vegetables and the diced hard boiled eggs. Mix well.

Step 3: Put in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Hopefully everyone at the picnic will like it!

Finished product.

Kidney bean and quinoa burgers

Well, this one came from a combination of boredom, hunger and a determination to not go to the grocery store this week. I had half a can of kidney beans in the fridge, and some googling brought up this blog’s recipe: http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net/2009/02/04/kidney-bean-and-quinoa-burgers/

So of course I made my own version of it.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup kidney beans
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt, burger seasoning, Nature’s Seasoning, and cumin

Step 1: Add the chicken stock to the quinoa and microwave for 10 minutes. Then add the rinsed and drained kidney beans, and microwaved another 10 minutes.

Step 2: Mash the beans and quinoa together, and add the spices, flour and olive oil.

Step 3: Put some oil in a frying pan, shape 4 patties from the mixture, and fry them for about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Step 4: Drain the patties on a paper towel, and man they are delicious! 

You seriously need to try this. I put a patty on a slice of whole wheat bread with baby romaine and grilled bell peppers. Seriously, try it!

Meatless Mondays

 

For those who haven’t heard, “Meatless Mondays” is a newish eating trend. I’m not sure when it started, but basically you devote one day per week to a fully vegetarian day of meals. Typically Monday, but it can be whatever day you choose.

This trend has several very strong positives:

  1. Meat is more expensive than grains and vegetables, therefore eating less meat saves you money
  2. Meat is more of a burden on the environment to produce. It costs much less to grow one crop of grain or vegetables versus raise a cow or pig and butcher one pound of meat. You save water, energy, and the grain that would have been fed to the cow for one meal can now be fed to you directly instead.
  3. A whole food vegetable based diet is MUCH healthier overall for you. This way of eating lowers cholesterol, makes losing weight easier, decreases risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension, etc.

Look it up for yourself, or watch “Forks over Knives”. I’m not saying go cold turkey vegan, but adding in more fiber-filled fresh fruits and veggies plus 100% whole grains can never be a bad thing.

Mostly because of the health benefits, I’ve decided to try to incorporate one day a week as a meat-free day. No guarantees, but I have also been making a conscious effort to add in more whole foods to every day.

Today I pulled off a meat-free day without even realizing it.

Here’s an overview:
Breakfast: 1 small slice of banana bread and a Tropical Fruit Smoothie. Mango, pineapple, banana, orange juice. Delicious and refreshing, plus it is portable. 2 minutes in the blender and I can take it with me to the lab.

Lunch was a large salad consisting of a romaine leaves and spinach tossed with 1 plum tomato, 1/2 cucumber, 2 tbsp sunflower seeds and Italian dressing. I had a side of Quinoa & Veggies

Snacks: To work I brought a baggie full of 1 cup of cantaloupe and 1/2 cup of baby carrots. They also made popcorn in honor of National Libraries Week, so I had about 3 cups of popcorn.

Dinner: I had soaked white navy beans overnight and had leftover Easter ham and made myself some Ham & Bean Soup*: At only ~150 calories per cup, you can have a bowl for dinner and another as a snack when you inevitably get hungry a few hours later!

The whole day covered all the major food groups, provided lots of fiber and nutrients, and was under 1500 calories, my ideal calorie range to maintain or lose weight.

 

*Note: going back and re-reading this years later, I just realized I said ham and bean soup is vegetarian… LOL @ former me’s writing. Clearly NOT 100% vegetarian. But hey, life is a learning process.

Balsamic glazed lamb chops with salad and steamed veggies

.Well, Spring Cleaning finally reached my fridge and freezer today. I like to go through weekly just to look and see what I have, what needs thrown out, but once every few months or so I deep clean it, digging all the way to the back to remember what’s under those 5 bags of frozen corn, and re-organizing. That’s how I found the lamb chops I had forgotten about.My family purchased a lamb whole and had it butchered a few months back, and were nice enough to give me a few chops to take to school. I put the 3 chops on defrost in the microwave while I showered, and loosely based my recipe on one from Allrecipes.com.

Total time in the kitchen, about 20 minutes. Total spent: $0 (because I had the ingredients all on hand. If I’d had to purchase them all, it would probably be ~$25). That’s the way I roll. =)

Ingredients:
  • 3 lamb chops
  • Spice mix (I used dried rosemary, dill, sage, and mint)
  • 1/4 medium onion
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • ~4 redskin potatoes
  • Handful baby carrots
  • 1 tbsp Country Crock
  • Olive oil
(Also, salad and whatever toppings you like if you want a side dish)

The veggies I wanted to steam, so I got a big pot of water boiling right away, with some salt in the water. I diced up the potatoes into chunks and the baby carrots just threw in whole. Let those steam the whole time I was cooking the lamb.

Then I put about 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and added the defrosted chops. Cooked a minute or two, turning once. Basically until they were nicely browned but not totally charred. I like a little bit of pink.

 This is the salad I made to go with my meal. I happened to have some cucumber, olives, a roma tomato, and 1/4 of an avocado. Threw in a handful of romaine, toppings, and some Italian dressing. YUM.

These are the chops once cooked. They were oozing juice! Tasty.

Then add the onion to the pan. Cook a minute or two, until translucent and soft. Add in the chicken broth and balsamic. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get any lamb drippings mixed in. Let this simmer until about half the liquid boils off.

Once the potatoes were soft when poked with a fork, I took the veggies out and mixed in 1 tbsp Country Crock, sprinkled with Nature’s Seasoning and some sea salt. Holy. Crap. Steamed baby carrots are like candy! And the potatoes with them were a perfect pairing.

Once the balsamic is reduced to your liking, pour it over the chops. It smells SO good!

Then dig in! Such a delish mixture of flavors and textures. I served myself on smaller plates, so the portion sizes were perfect. I also have 2 lunches put away for the week now. A very productive Monday if you ask me. =)

Hearty Fruit & Nut Toast

 

Breakfast is reportedly the most important meal of the day. I know I function best with a full stomach right off the bat. But we rarely have time to cook a well-rounded, 30 minute breakfast, enjoy it and clean up, and still get to work on time, right? So I came up with some better alternatives. You only need a few minutes to throw these together, and they are even portable (as long as you bring a napkin as well and maybe don’t mind peanut butter on your car seat…)

#1: Strawberry almond delight
Toast a piece of wheat/whole grain bread to your liking. Spread with 1 tbsp strawberry jam. Sprinkle a handful of slivered almonds on top.

#2: Elvis toast
Toast 1 piece of bread. Spread with 1 tbsp peanut butter. Top with sliced banana. (This one’s my favorite!)

#3: Mediterranean breakfast on-the-go
Toast 1 piece bread. Spread with 1 tbsp Greek yogurt. Top with thin slices of pear or grapes. Drizzle a little honey on top.

#4: Sweet treat
Toast a slice of bread. Spread with 1 tbsp Nutella. Top with sliced pear or other fruit.

These are just the ones I’ve tried, of course the possibilities are endless. Try blueberries and crushed walnuts with almond butter, or applesauce and raisins with some flax sprinkled on top.

The point is to try to use spreads which are low in fat and pair with at least 1 fruit and 1 type of nut if you can. Start every day this way and I’ll bet your mood and productivity increase, and your weight will likely decrease because you will be less hungry later on in the day!

Multi-Mexi

One of my favorite kinds of food is Mexican inspired food. Why?

  1. It is usually cheap
  2. It is pretty easy to make
  3. A little goes a long way towards fulfilling hunger
  4. It is so versatile! 

I made a few favorites this week with a handful of ingredients. Let me walk you through my multi-mexi recipes.

This is a case where one meal gets transformed into a new one, and then another one! This keeps you from wasting leftovers and prevents food boredom.

Here’s a list of everything I used all week:
1 can diced tomatoes with green chili peppers
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 medium onion, diced
Lime juice
Lemon juice
Garlic powder
1 can refried beans
Cheddar cheese, shredded
1.2 lb ground beef
Taco seasoning

Ok, so meal #1:
I made my own salsa from the can of tomatoes and chilis, diced up fresh tomatoes and the onion. Added the cilantro and a dash of garlic, plus lemon & lime juice. Delicious with chips or as a topping!

Meal #2:
After 2 days, I still had plenty of salsa and was bored. So I heated a can of refried beans in the microwave, added all the rest of the salsa, topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese. You will be amazed at how delicious this simple dip is!

Meal #3:
Another 2 days goes by and it isn’t likely I will finish the huge amount of dip this made, so I browned the ground beef, drained it, and added taco seasoning. To this I added all the bean & salsa dip. This made for some very hearty tacos! Put over tortilla chips or wrap in a tortilla with lettuce, sour cream and cheese.

This is just one example of the many ways you can re-purpose leftovers into a different meal. It is thrifty, creative, and just an all-around good idea!

Thai green curry chicken

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This was my first experiment with Thai cooking. My master’s adviser is from Thailand and she brings us Thai food occasionally and it is always delicious. So I decided I wanted to give it a whirl. So I found some recipes online, and of course did it my own way anyways.
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Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 cup cilantro
1 hot pepper (I used serrano)
Lemongrass
Gingerroot
Garlic
Cumin
Limes/lime juice
1-2 cups vegetables of choice
Glass noodles

I had garlic already, and all the other ingredients added up to less than $20. (The bouillon and lettuce don’t count). It also makes a LOT of food, so that’s a total steal versus going to an ethnic restaurant.

Step 1: Get all the sauce ingredients ready: 2 tbsp diced garlic, 1 diced pepper, 1/4 can coconut milk, 2 inches sliced ginger, 1/4 cup diced lemongrass, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp lime juice, salt & pepper.  Put all the curry ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Step 2: Put 2 tbsp oil in a large pan, and add the curry paste. Apparently this releases the oils and flavors (?) Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Dice the chicken while the curry simmers.

Step 4: Add the chicken chunks to the curry.

Step 5: Cut the vegetables you want to use into bite sized pieces. I decided to use green beans and orange bell peppers. Add those to the pan and simmer 5-10 minutes.

Step 6: Boil the noodles or rice you want to serve with the chicken. I had some oriental rice noodles I purchased earlier.

Step 7: Put rice or noodles in a bowl and add chicken curry. Enjoy!

Obviously, you can make many variations. Add whatever vegetables you like, more or less of certain spices, more peppers if you want it spicy.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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A Slovak classic, cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and ground beef. There are of course many variations on the recipe, including ground pork or turkey or sausage, various forms of tomato sauce/paste, etc. This is my take on what I could remember from my grandmother’s recipe.

ROLLS

  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1.5 lb ground beef
  • 1 med onion
  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • Spices – garlic, italian seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika

SAUCE

  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Step 1: Boil a huge pot of water. Carefully remove the outer large leaves and blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes or until soft. Remove and drain.

Step 2: Add all sauce ingredients and simmer on low. Brown the ground beef. I also made mashed potatoes to go with the rolls. Just peel and dice up several potatoes and boil until soft.

The picture looks foggy bc there was so much steam from boiling the cabbage and rice

Step 3: If you’re making mashed potatoes too, add butter, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sour cream and some salt, and mash together.

Then I put the potatoes in a small crock pot to keep warm because I was transporting them. Also I sprinkled some paprika on top.

Mashed potatoes are always a good choice. Especially with anything tomato-ey involved.

Step 4: Drain the ground beef. Add diced onions and cook 5 more minutes until soft, and add any desired spices. Also, boil or microwave the rice. Mix beef, rice, and tomato paste together. Fill cabbage leaves with about 1/4 cup (fist-sized) of mix. Fold over one end, tuck both sides, and then roll tightly.

Step 5: The extra cabbage from inside I also boiled, poured some tomato sauce over, and added to the bottom of a sprayed crock pot. The rolls I began layering over the cabbage.

Step 6: Pour the sauce over the rolls, and then enjoy! (I was taking them to class for lunch. Lucky classmates right?!)

Stuffed pepper casserole

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If you’ve been following along, you know I love stuffed pepper. You also know I love my crock pot. Stuffed peppers in the crock pot tend to come out a little mushy, so I decided to try making a casserole instead of leaving the peppers whole. They get cut into tiny pieces when you eat it anyways right?
Ingredients:
4 large red bell peppers
1.5 lb ground beef
1.5 cups rice
1.5 cups chicken broth
1 can tomato sauce
Garlic, italian spices, pepper, salt
Step 1: First cut the peppers into small chunks and line the crock pot.

Step 2: Then add the chicken broth to the rice and cook, following directions for the type of rice you use… the chicken broth just gives it more flavor, if you’re watching your sodium you can omit it.

Step 3: While that’s cooking, brown the ground beef.

Step 4: Then mix the rice, sauce and beef together. Pour over the peppers. I actually added 1/2 a chopped onion to the beef to give it more flavor. Season with whatever spices you like.

Step 5: Cook on low for 1 -2 hours and enjoy!

Crock Pot miracles – Stuffed Peppers & Strawberry Apple Crisp

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Crock Pots are miracle workers for students, busy moms, professionals, anyone who is pressed for time but still wants a healthy, home-cooked meal at the end of the day. As a full-time graduate student writing her thesis, with 2 other jobs and several PhD interviews to prepare for, I have been running a pretty hectic schedule lately.
It goes something like this:
7am – wake up, go to lab, begin an experiment.
8 am – rec, run or elliptical.
9 am – home, shower, breakfast, maybe an hour of free time.
10/11 – meetings.
12-2 find time for lunch.
Afternoon – classes and more experiments.
4 – 9: work or write, depending on the day.
So, in the one hour of free time I had the other morning, I realized I had 3 red bell peppers, minute rice, and ground beef. Plus two old apples and baking supplies I hadn’t used in ages. Therefore…

Crock pot stuffed peppers:
3 red bell peppers
1 pound ground beef
1 cup rice
1 can tomato sauce
Spices to taste (garlic, italian, black pepper)
Step 1: Brown the ground beef and cook the rice.Step 2: Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds. In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice and beef and 1 can tomato sauce, plus any spices. Stuff each pepper with mixture.
Step 3: Put in Crock Pot on LOW for 2-4 hours.
Dinner and dessert, will be ready and waiting when I get home.
The pepper, exploded on my plate. =)

 

Dessert went from plain apple crisp to strawberry apple crisp because I couldn’t find any plain oatmeal. So I made do with what I had. And I’m glad I did!

Crock Pot Strawberry Apple Crisp:
2 apples, 1 red & 1 green
1 packet strawberries & cream oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter/margerine
Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract

Step 1: Dice the apples and mix in a bowl with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Put apples into a sprayed slow cooker.

Step 2: Mix the sugars, oatmeal, flour, butter, 1 tbsp. vanilla and another sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl.

Step 3: Sprinkle a tbsp sugar over the spiced apples in the crock pot, and cover with crumble mixture. Cook on LOW for 2-4 hours. The sugars carmelize, the apples are soft and tangy, it tastes like heaven warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!!!

This is so completely fabulous I can’t even describe it!

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.