Snow Day Cookin’

Greetings on this beautiful, snowy morning!  Is anyone snowed-in, legitimately or otherwise?  Richmond is notorious for shutting down at the first suggestion of flurries.  I was thrilled this morning to see that my office is closed today; sure, we only have about two inches of snow, but I gladly rolled over and fell back asleep!

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Yesterday was my day off, and I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures, anticipation of the snow, or procrastination of the cleaning projects I’d planned to do, but all I wanted to do was cook delicious food!  And cook delicious food, I did. 🙂

First up was a batch of Raspberry Orange Muffins:

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I started with this basic muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but used gluten-free flour rather than whole wheat.  I used a cup of chopped, previously-frozen raspberries and mango-orange juice in place of the regular OJ.  Delicious.  They aren’t super sweet, but they are healthier than your average muffin.  Each one of these guys contains roughly:

-150 calories
-5g fat
-3g protein
-2g fiber
-5.5g sugar

Not bad!

Next up was dinner, and I was feeling ambitious.  For the first time in my life, I cooked a whole chicken.  You culinary pros are probably thinking, Yeah, so?, and my vegetarian friends probably just closed out this window (sorry, guys :)), but this was a big deal!  As someone who regularly reevaluates her stance on eating meat (you can expect a post about that in the near future), this was huge.  Aaand it was delicious.  I mean, seriously… how beautiful is this? :

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I basically used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Inside the chicken I put a lemon (quartered) and about four cloves of garlic (crushed).  After looking at a few other recipes I decided to cook it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees.  I took the chicken out of the oven after it had been on 400 for an hour just to check it, thinking it would need more time, and the internal temperature was slightly above where it was supposed to be, so I just let it rest!

With the chicken we had roasted beets, carrots, and red potatoes with rosemary

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When Andrew came home from work, the chicken was in the oven, and I was prepping the veggies.  He peeked in the oven, and was clearly surprised/impressed.  Because we still had about an hour to go until everything would be ready, Andrew decided to go to the gym for a quick workout.  When he walked back in the door, he was holding these:

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Me:  Flowers?? And wine??  What are these for?

Andrew: You made such a fancy dinner, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate it.

Me: I don’t know if it’s that fancy; I just felt like cooking!

Andrew:YOU COOKED A WHOLE CHICKEN!  That’s FANCY!

Love that guy. 🙂

So we ate our fancy chicken and roasted vegetables, and we drank our fancy wine, and we watched our fancy show, The Biggest Loser.  (Okay, I may be overreaching with my use of “fancy” ;-)).

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Andrew’s taste-test of the chicken went something like this:  “That’s good.  Whoa.  That’s like really good.”  I must say, I was not at all disappointed by how it turned out either!

Now that we have enough food to last us a few days, I’m afraid I actually have to use this snow day to do some house-cleaning…after I go to the gym, perhaps. 🙂

-Any snow outside your window today?
Have you ever cooked a whole chicken?

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Less Meat Monday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

“Less Meat Monday” admittedly doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Meatless Monday“, but it’s a huge step for some members of this household (read: Andrew :)).  Last week he acknowledged that he should probably be eating a little less meat and a little more fiber for his overall health, and he gave me the green light to try some new dinner recipes in which meat is not the star.

Naturally, I was thrilled—as Andrew puts it, I always have one foot firmly in the vegetarian camp.  Now, we are not going vegetarian, but I am planning to make Mondays “Less Meat Mondays”, and try new recipes in which I can cut the amount of meat significantly with beans, lentils, or some other form of plant protein.

Here’s what was on the table last night:

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos {with Chicken}

2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb chicken, cooked and shredded*
2 medium sweet potatoes
½-1 c salsa
olive oil
chili powder
cumin
salt & pepper
mixed greens
lime
cilantro
goat cheese
corn tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Chop sweet potatoes into ½-inch cubes.  Put in bowl, and toss with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  2. Spread sweet potatoes on a pan, and place in oven for 30 minutes, stirring/flipping halfway through.  3.  While the potatoes are cooking, combine beans, chicken, and salsa in a pot, and heat on low.  4.  When potatoes are done and beans are hot, place in tortillas with greens, cilantro, lime juice, goat cheese, and/or whatever sounds good :).

(*I actually cooked the chicken in a skillet as soon as I put the potatoes in the oven;  there’s plenty of time to do this and heat the beans, but if you have leftover chicken you want to use, this is a great way to do it!)

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The tacos were a hit!  Andrew said he did not miss the extra meat—typically we use 1- 1 1/2lb of meat for any given dinner, which will last us two nights, so only using 1/2lb of chicken was a significant drop for us.  You can also leave out the chicken entirely, and I doubt you’d miss it.

Happy eating to all! 🙂

-Do you observe Meatless Monday?
-Any recommendations for high-protein, meatless (or less-meat) dinners that I could try in the coming weeks??

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}

I don’t always cook with bacon, but when I do… it’s delicious.  😉  Yesterday we had about 1/2 lb of bacon that we needed to use (leftover from a Thanksgiving dish), and we’d picked up some green lentils at the grocery store this weekend, so I decided to create a new recipe.  The result was fanstastic.  I don’t want to oversell it, but this was a real winner for us. 

Vegetable Lentil Soup {with Bacon}
1 1/2 c green lentils
4 carrots
3 celery ribs
4 Roma tomatoes
2 c spinach
2-3 garlic cloves
6 slices bacon*
6 c chicken broth
Salt, pepper, & red pepper to taste

(*I used a natural, nitrite-free bacon.  When I sliced it, the last 1/2-1 inch was pure fat (as opposed to the other pieces that were half fat, half meat), and I couldn’t justify using it, so I tossed it out.  This recipe is actually 6 slices of bacon minus 1/2-1 inch of fat from each slice. :))

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1.  Chop carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic (minced).  Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.  2.  In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until cooked through.  3. Add carrots, celery, and tomato, and saute for 3-4 minutes.  4.  Add garlic (move other veggies and make room on the bottom of the pot so it can actually cook), and saute for about 1 minute.  5. Add chicken broth, lentils, and seasoning; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with lid tilted for 25-30 minutes (until lentils are soft).  6.  In the last 5 minutes add spinach. 

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Again, at the risk of overselling it, this was a fist-pump-because-I’m-so-happy-I-made-something-so-tasty meal.  The bacon just gives it so much good flavor!  It worked well for us because there was enough meat that Andrew didn’t feel deprived, but a sufficiently small amount of meat that I wasn’t picking around anything in my bowl (which sometimes happens; chicken is very hit-or-miss for me).  Most of the protein (13g per serving) came from the lentils, which I love.

When we bought the lentils, Andrew noticed the very high fiber content–15g per 1/4 c dry serving.  After we’d tasted and determined how good this soup was, as we were ladeling it into bowls, I had to remind Andrew that eating multiple large servings might have some undesired effects.  😉  He appreciated the reminder and held himself back a bit.

If you don’t have a Stewsday meal planned for tonight, give this recipe a try, and let me know what you think!

How often do you cook with bacon?

Chicken, Kale, and Black Bean Soup {Stewsday}

Around midday Tuesday, snow flurries landed on my face.

Shortly after that, my Facebook news feed exploded with posts declaring that it was, in fact, snowing in Richmond in November.  We Richmonders poke fun at ourselves for our level of freaking out at the first sight–or suggestion–of snow.  For a single inch of snow, school is often cancelled, the grocery store shelves go bare, people forget how to drive faster than 10 mph… It’s hilarious. 😀  Nothing stuck to the ground this time, but it was still fun. 🙂

With strong gusts of wind and near freezing temperatures (okay, they weren’t that close to freezing… but low 40’s feels cold!), it was a gross day to be outside, but a perfect day for stew.  Conveniently, it also happened to be Stewsday. 😀

Here’s what I threw together last night:

Chicken, Kale, and Black Bean Soup

1 lb chicken (cooked & shredded)
Diced tomatoes
Kale (a few large leaves torn into small pieces)
1 can black beans
2 c cooked brown rice
1 qt chicken broth
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp each: cumin, garlic powder, chili powder
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste

I first made a version of this soup after Thanksgiving last year with leftover turkey–if you have leftover poulty you’d like to use, this is a great way to use it.  I did not last night, so I cooked the chicken in a skillet with some olive oil first, then started the rice (1 c dry) in the rice cooker.  We have lots of bags of veggies in our freezer from our garden this summer, so I used a quart-sized bag of sliced tomatoes.  I’m not sure what the canned equivalent would be–one 15 oz can, perhaps?  Either way, they break down and blend in with the broth, so you aren’t eating huge chunks of tomatoes.

Put everything except the black beans and rice in a large pot (I used the same one in which I cooked the chicken), bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.  Add the black beans and rice (when it’s cooked), and let simmer as long as desired–the longer it all sits together, the better it will taste!

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So hearty.  So nutrition-packed.  So delicious.  Perfect for a blustery winter fall day.

 

-Did you celebrate Stewsday this week?
-Kale: do you eat it, and if so, what is your preferred method of consumption?  (I don’t love the stuff raw, so putting it in soup works well for me!)

Spousal Miscommunication and The Resilient Fish Tacos

Have you ever had a meal in which the individual components tasted just okay, but the combined result tasted rather fantastic?  Food synergy.  We had such a meal last night–one that was almost disastrous thanks to a spousal miscommunication (spoiler alert: it was Andrew’s fault).

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Fish tacos.  Simple.  Small pieces of fish, seasoned and baked + coleslaw + mango salsa.  I put Andrew in charge of the fish because he’s good at seasoning food, and I hate working with raw meat; I started the mango salsa, which we typically make with mango, red bell pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and a little salt–just something to sweeten the tacos.  We have a lot of tomatillos from our garden in bags in the freezer, which I thought would make a great addition to this salsa.

I mixed all the ingredients, ate a spoonful, and…

“This just does not taste great.”

“Really?

(Andrew takes a bite of the salsa and makes a funny face.)

“Yeah, that’s not good.”

“Right?  I thought the tomatillos would taste so good in this.”

“That’s just not how tomatillos usually taste… Oh.  Uh oh.”

“Uh oh, what?”

“Umm, I think you may have used unripe tomatoes.”

“Why are there unripe tomatoes in our freezer?”

“I didn’t want to waste them!”

That’s right–when we said goodbye to our tomato plants in September, Andrew couldn’t bear the thought of wasting the green tomatoes still on the branches, so he picked and froze them.  Why?  How would we use them?  Friends, I have no idea.  Unripe tomatoes and perfectly ripe tomatillos look dangerously similar, but taste very, very different.

Because couldn’t bear the thought of wasting the mangos and red peppers we’d already put in the salsa (and because I have just a touch of OCD…) I picked out all of the little green tomato pieces, rinsed what was left in a colander, and added actual tomatillos.

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<Sigh.>

The fish was a little bit dry, the salsa tasted okay, but I couldn’t get the memory of the original batch out of my head, and the coleslaw tasted like mayonnaise.  But together?  Together they tasted awesome.  Beautiful food synergy, in which the end result was greater than the sum of the individual components.  They even managed to survive a serious spousal miscommunication.

You go, fish tacos.

-Please tell me any hilarious miscommunications you’ve had with your significant other.
-Now that I know we have unripe tomatoes in my freezer, does anyone know how we can use them (if at all)?

Holiday Season Wellness Goals

Confession:  I’ve been hitting the leftover Halloween candy pretty hard this week.

As we move into the holiday season, where the sweets become even more abundant and most of the vegetables are cooked in cream-of-something soup, I’ve decided to set a few goals to stay focused, healthy, and feeling well.  Now, I’m a firm believer that wellness is the sum of the good stuff we do for ourselves rather than the absence of the bad stuff.  Along the same lines, I also believe in not depriving yourself if you really want something!  The following popped up on my Facebook news feed a couple nights ago, and I laughed and felt disgusted at the same time:

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Really, Health.com?  That’s the saddest little dessert I’ve ever seen.  That’s a garnish for a dessert, in fact.  There’s no way, if someone were craving pineapple upside-down cake, that that would satisfy the craving.  I commented, “#notdessert”.  😀

But I digress.

 Therefore, my wellness goals for the holiday season are cumulative and non deprivation-based.  If you count yesterday (when I intended to write this post) and Christmas day, there are 50 days until Christmas!  

Goals

That means that I am aiming for an average of 6 servings of produce, 30 minutes of exercise, and just one dessert daily (my dessert goal is to not exceed 5o servings.)  The beauty of the cumulative goals is that they allow flexibility:  Run for an hour one day?  Take a rest day.  Enjoy a few desserts on Thanksgiving?  Forego a sweet somewhere else in the week.  A few days of poor eating here and there won’t wreck a person; these goals will help me make sure a few days don’t turn into the whole holiday season. 🙂

After day one, these are my stats:
-Fruits & Veggies: 6
-Exercise: 1 hour
-Desserts: 1

Be good to yourselves, friends!  And for the love of all things delicious, please don’t ever eat a pineapple garnish for dessert.

Do you have any wellness goals for the holiday season?
What would you add to my three categories?

The Halloween Post

The doorbell rang.  Then the doorbell rang four more times in a row.  As we hurried down the front hall with a bowl of candy, we saw the door slowly open and a young boy with Down Syndrome peek around the corner, grinning as he took in the sights.  From outside his dad laughed and said, “No, you have to wait for them to open it!”  It was adorable. 🙂

The other trick-or-treating highlight from last night was when Andrew opened the door, and a boy looked up at him and said, “Whoa, you’re tall.  Like really tall.”

Halloween in the suburbs is great.  😀

While we didn’t dress up in costumes, we did celebrate the holiday in other festive ways:

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Just in case there’s any confusion, Andrew carved the scary face, and I carved the owl.  Ambitious?  Maybe.  Awesome?  I think so.

I also perused Pinterest for some Halloween dinner ideas, knowing that while Andrew wouldn’t necessarily appreciate a themed dinner, he would humor me.  Now, I thought I did well with what I made, until I looked back at the original ideas.  Let’s just say, the website Pinterest Fail exists for a reason.

The inspiration:

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The reality:

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Not the most handsome mummy meatloaf I’ve ever seen, but he actually turned out closer to the original than these mashed potato ghosts:

The inspiration:

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The reality:

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Bahahaha… I can’t stop laughing at this.  Oh man.  Hey there, lumpy ghosts!

Andrew got pretty into the themed dinner by the time we were ready to eat; he was actually disappointed that I didn’t have anything cool planned for the broccoli, so he gave his ghosts hats:

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He also doused them with ketchup/blood, but we didn’t get a decent photo of that.

For the meatloaf we found a basic recipe and used gluten-free bread and almond milk in place of the gluten/dairy ingredients.  We made the mashed potatoes with Earth Balance buttery spread, almond milk, and Silk coffee creamer instead of butter and cream.  Both dishes tasted great–the ingredient swaps were undetectable as far as I could tell!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Did you make any Halloween-themed food?  Did it turn out as wonderfully as ours? 😉
Did you wear a costume??