Perfectly Seasoned Oven-Roasted Potatoes

I love potatoes in most any form.  When I send Andrew a text mid-afternoon that says, “Thoughts on dinner?”  and he replies, “Whatever is fine,” there is a very strong chance he’ll be eating potatoes that night.  Yesterday, to jazz up our go-to oven roasted potatoes with salt, pepper, and olive oil, I created what turned out to be a really delicious seasoning mix.  If you are a fellow lover of potatoes, give this a try:

Perfectly Seasoned Oven-Roasted Potatoes

-5-6 small red potatoes
-1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/4 tsp pepper

potatoes

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Begin boiling a large pot of water.  2. Slice potatoes into small chunks.  3. Boil potatoes for 5 minutes, drain, then transfer to a bowl.  4. While potatoes are boiling, combine all the spices and mix well.  5. Add olive oil and spice mixture to the potatoes, and stir, making sure all the potatoes are coated.  6.  Spread potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking pan, and place in oven for about 30 minutes, flipping potatoes with a spatula halfway through.

DSCN8551Oh man, they were good!  Boiling them first ensures that they are soft, and putting them in the oven makes the exterior crispy.  I could eat these every day!  They did have a little kick, so if you don’t like spicy food, make sure to reduce the amount of cayenne pepper (or eliminate it completely.)

In addition to the potatoes we had steamed broccoli and baked chicken breasts, marinated in raspberry-walnut vinaigrette (which explains the pinkish color. :))  With all the goods coming out of the garden, we have been eating a lot of salad;  last night I needed something that wasn’t raw, and the steamed broccoli hit the spot.

Enjoy!

Sharing the Harvest + Weekly Workouts

“Honey, we should share some of this produce with our family and friends.”

You know the look an eight-year-old gives you when you tell him he has to stop playing video games with his friends and clean his room?  That is precisely the look I received from Andrew yesterday when I uttered those words.  It was a mix of, “Are you really speaking English right now?” and “I cannot even believe how unfair you are.”

Share?  We can freeze it!  How are we going to store up for the winter if we share?

Family, friends–we are working on it. 😉

zucchini2

As it turns out, Andrew’s reluctance to share only extends to the zucchini because he loves it, but he is more than willing to part with some of the other veggies.  On the flip side, I am happy to hand out zucchini to anyone walking by the house because 1.  I don’t love it, and 2. We have so much of it!  The photo above is today’s harvest, which includes three zucchini totaling 4.5 lb.  Each one is seriously bigger than my forearm.  Also today we picked three cucumbers, one yellow squash, and about 10 oz of cherry tomatoes!

Here’s our haul from a couple days ago:

harvest1

Cucumbers (which are now in the process of becoming pickles!), fantastic peppers, even more zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and the coolest looking, most delicious tomato I’ve ever beheld (<–That sounds like an exaggeration simply because I used the word “beheld” in reference to a tomato… it was very tasty. ;-))

The goodness just keeps rolling in.

In other news, I am rebounding from my cold that developed last weekend.  I’ve been limiting my workouts this week to easy walks, yoga, and light weight-lifting.  Yesterday afternoon I was feeling mostly better, so I went to the gym to do intervals on the Elliptical.  I pressed through–10 minute warm-up, 10 minutes of 30 seconds hard/30 seconds recover, 10 minutes of moderate intensity, 5 minute cool-down–but during the last bit I felt exhausted, and not in the I-just-had-a-great-workout kind of way, but in the I-don’t-feel-well way.  I probably should have given myself one more day to recover.  Oh well.

I have a busy day ahead–my family is coming in town this weekend for my grandmother’s memorial service, so in addition to work, I need to do some house cleaning, and, uh, finally put on paper what I want to say at the service tomorrow.  I have been thinking about it, but putting off actually doing it because I know I will need a few boxes of tissues just to write it.

What’s on your schedule for the weekend?
Do you workout when you are sick?
Zucchini: love it or hate it?

MyFitnessPal and a Sweet Question

I consider myself a fairly healthy eater.  Yesterday, out of curiosity, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, entered my height and weight, set it to “maintain current weight”, and recorded my exercise and food to see how I measure up nutritionally.

Here’s my report card from the end of the day:

myfitnesspal

 

I fell short in a few areas–fat, calcium, iron–and really nailed a few others–protein, fiber, and vitamins A & C.

What stuck out the most was that I’d exceeded their recommended sugar intake before lunch.  Hah!  What sugar bomb did I eat before noon, you might ask?  Blueberry muffin?  Cinnamon roll?  Nay.  I had a bowl of Kashi Go Lean cereal with blueberries, raw almonds, and unsweetened soy milk, coffee with the same unsweetened soy milk, and after working out, a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter.  Somebody stop me; I’m out of control.  😉

This prompted me to do some research on sugar, and I found a lot of conflicting information.  From what I can tell, the recommended amount refers mostly to added sugar, rather that those occurring naturally in fruits and dairy products.  Why, then, doesn’t MyFitnessPal differentiate?  Two-three servings of fruit can easily put one over their limit!  On the other hand, with very limited knowledge of chemistry/biology/etc., my understanding is that our bodies cannot tell the difference–sugar is sugar.

So what do we do with that information?  I say (again, with very limited knowledge on the subject…this is purely my experience), take a step back, don’t hyper-focus on how many grams of this or that, and just eat real food.  I know there are many popular diets out there that limit (or eliminate) fruit, but are you really telling that a highly processed protein bar with who-knows-what as a sweetener is better for my body than something that grew from the earth?  I don’t buy it.  Intuitively, I just don’t buy it.  I feel certain that the benefits of eating an orange far outweigh the grams of sugar it contains.

I am not criticizing MyFitnessPal for this–it’s a helpful tool that prompted some research.  Near the end of the day yesterday, the app showed me that I’d fallen pretty short on fat, Vitamin A, calcium, and iron, so I made myself a kale salad with Balsamic vinaigrette (umm, raw kale is disgusting, but I muscled it down for the sake of my health. ;-))  That helped close the gap on most of those nutrients.

Ultimately, it all comes back to my very basic belief about nutrition–just eat real food.

Do you use the MyFitnessPal app?  What do you think about it?
Thoughts on sugar?

Impromptu College Reunion

I am currently experiencing a post-exhausting-week cold.  My throat began itching on the drive home Friday, and now I am in full blown green snot mode.  (You’re welcome.)  Andrew woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “Catherine… roll over.  You’re making funny noises….and you’re right in my face.”  😀  I consider myself to have a strong immune system, but I know I am highly susceptible to getting sick when I am stressed and/or overly tired.  Oy.

I spent most of Saturday recuperating, and on Sunday I met up with with my college housemates for an impromptu reunion.  We met at Kate’s apartment in the Fan and walked to Garnett’s Cafe for lunch.  I’d never been, but it was delicious, and they have gluten-free bread, so I will have to go back with Andrew very soon!  From there we walked to Kuba Kuba for their iced cafes con leche (by the way, I have been far too lax about the amount of dairy I’m eating…)  By the time we arrived back at Kate’s after two hours of talking, eating, talking, and walking, I was exhausted and had a bad case of medicine-head.  I drove home to take a nap, and the girls went to the river, with the plan to come over to our house later for dinner, prepared by Chef Andrew.

The meal included a salad with lots of fresh veggies from our garden, plus spinach and arugula from the store.  I was thrilled to be able to share the harvest with our friends 🙂

dollhousedinner2

In addition to salad, we had baked chicken with a roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade (the tapenade was from Trader Joe’s) and a lemon-basil quinoa.

dollhousedinner

It was all pretty delicious. 🙂

The girls were concerned that I was taking this picture because they’d come straight from the river/being out in the sun all afternoon, but I think they all look beautiful:

dollhouseI love these people 🙂 

We ate and talked and reminisced about things we did in college.  Andrew informed us that the more he hears about our college experience (mostly the pranks we pulled and the weird things we did that we thought were hilarious), the less he wonders why none of us dated very much 😀

We ended the day with a trip to Ray’s for ice cream and Italian water ice.  As always, it’s so good for my soul to spend time with this crew, even when I’m not feeling well!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Eating Well on a Budget

Last week over coffee, my friend Amy and I discussed the difficulty of eating well (and healthily) on a budget.  I confessed that Andrew and I really don’t have a budget for food;  with his allergies, there are some items (gluten and dairy free) that we have to buy, regardless of the price.  Plus, we consider the money we spend on organic produce an investment–we are hoping for lower healthcare costs down the road as a result of taking good care of ourselves now!  After all, it was Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine himself, who said, “Let food be thy medicine.”  That, however, is a post for another day.  Today I want to talk about eating well on a budget.

While Andrew and I do not have an official budget for food, we also don’t go crazy at the grocery store.  Here are some ways we keep down the cost of what we consume:

  • Buy in bulk, when possible.  We always have large containers of brown rice and quinoa that we refill with bags purchased at a wholesale club.  We also buy large bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and other items that will last a while.
  • Look for sales.  If our cereals of choice are on a good sale, we might buy five boxes (It is not uncommon for us to have ten boxes of cereal in our pantry at any given time. :))  Be flexible–if you were planning to have chicken breasts for dinner, but discover at the store that the pork tenderloins are on sale, it’s okay to change plans!  Or…
  • Buy meat when it’s on sale and freeze it.
  • Look for in-season produce.  It’s cheaper and tastes better.
  • Buy frozen produce.  It’s generally cheaper, has more nutrients than canned (and often fresh) produce, and works well in most recipes.  We always have a large bag of organic broccoli in the freezer that we can steam for a quick, healthy side dish.
  • Shop around.  We know, in general, which stores have which foods for the least money.  There are some items we always buy at Trader Joe’s, some we always buy at Kroger, and, surprisingly, a few items that are always cheapest at Martin’s.
  • Limit the number of packaged “treats” that you buy.  Generally, this is the stuff that ups the grocery bill, not the bananas that cost $0.20 each.
  • Grow your own food.  Sure, there were some upfront costs to starting our garden, but there’s a lot of produce that I don’t have to buy this summer!

Dinner last night was definitely a budget-friendly meal:

DSCN8484All grilled: marinated chicken, corn on the cob, zucchini and yellow squash.

Cost:  We purchased a 3.5 lb organic “griller pack” that included 4 chicken legs and 2 split chicken breasts on sale for $8.75.  We bought 4 ears of corn for a total of $1.33.  The squash came from our garden, but Kroger currently has them on sale for $0.69/pound.  Let’s say we bought 3 pounds for $2.07.  Assuming you have salt, pepper, butter (for the corn,) olive oil and vinegar (to marinate the chicken) on hand, the total cost of this dinner is $12.15.  The cost per serving obviously depends on the people who are eating–this would probably make 7 meals for me and 3 for Andrew ;-)–together, we will likely get 5 servings out of this, bringing the cost to $2.43 per serving.  If you factor in the cost of the items you had on hand (which I am not going to do,) I bet it’s still well under $3 per serving.

DSCN8483

That’s a lot of food for $12.15!

Eating well doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.  Look for sales, buy produce that’s in season–or better yet, grow your own–and you can eat very delicious, healthy meals on a budget.

Do you have any tips for saving money at the grocery store?

Squash, Tennis, and Homemade GF Cookies

Something tells me I will need to find an abundance of new squash recipes soon…and that something is that our zucchini and yellow squash are growing faster than the weeds surrounding them!  Yesterday we harvested (and ate) three, and we have three more that are ready to be picked today.

DSCN8443 DSCN8444

DSCN8447

Aren’t they beautiful? 😀  It is unbelievable how fast zucchini grow.  This particular one increased its size by almost 1/3 literally overnight.  We checked on it yesterday morning and thought, “Whoa!  Where did that come from?!”

For dinner, we kept the squash prep simple–sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried thyme, and roasted in the oven.

DSCN8459 DSCN8457

…Plus baked pork chops and brown rice noodles with garlic and basil.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t love squash, but this was actually very tasty!  Again, I am fairly certain food tastes better when it’s homegrown.  It’s not too late to buy a few vegetable plants! 😀  You can grow them in pots, and you wont regret it.

After dinner we went to a local public school to play tennis.  My quad is still giving me trouble from our softball game ten days ago–fifteen or twenty minutes into my runs, it starts feeling really tight and achy.  I was happy to do a non-running cardio workout!

tennis2

My husband has skills.

We played for just over an hour, and as we were driving home, Andrew reminded me of my promise to bake him something.  Wednesday afternoon I’d baked a few desserts for a meeting at church, and when Andrew got home the house smelled like cookies, but there was nothing he could eat, so I promised to bake him something gluten-free and delicious on Thursday.

cookies

There’s a decent selection of gluten-free all-purpose flours and baking mixes these days, but the best stuff we have come across is Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour.  The first few times I baked with it, I double checked the box to make sure the flour was GF after tasting how good the final product was.  More than once I did that!  We have even served GF baked goods made from this brand to our friends without them being able to tell they were GF.  That’s the true test. 🙂  Anyway, these chocolate chip cookies, made using Arrowhead Mills GF all-purpose flour, did not disappoint.  I’d need to do a side-by-side taste test, but I think I prefer these to regular chocolate chip cookies.  We may have eaten seven between the two of us (it’s okay… we eat our veggies too :-D)

Now, I’m off to pick some more squash before they grow too large to eat!

What’s your favorite squash recipe?  Do you have a gluten-free flour that you really love?

Jillian Michaels and Fresh Green Beans

I am officially bringing Jillian Michaels back into my life (her fitness DVDs, that is.)  Leading up to our wedding over a year ago I completed her 30-Day Shred workouts and really enjoyed them.  Well, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the right word;  I felt whatever it is you feel when you are successfully motivated by someone yelling, “Get up! Get up! Get up!  I have 400-pound people who can do this… so can YOU!” through the TV screen. 😉  Around the same time I purchased Jillian’s Ripped in 30 DVD.  I used it a few times, then fell off the wagon.  Yesterday I pulled it off the shelf, put it in the DVD player, and allowed my butt to be kicked.

I’d forgotten how much I love her workouts, and how much harder I push myself when, well, someone else is pushing me!  I am definitely feeling the good kind of sore today–like I worked hard.  Jillian is back in my regular workout rotation, and I am pretty excited about it. 😀

Transitioning from fitness to food, last night we cooked some green beans from our garden for dinner!


greenbeans5 greenbeans6 greenbeans4

We picked exactly thirty green beans.  Thirty beautiful, fresh, delicious beans.

Along with the green beans, which we lightly sauteed, we made mahi mahi, brown rice, and side salads.  We used this recipe for the mahi mahi, but we baked, rather than seared, the fish, and used a dairy-free buttery spread rather than butter for the sauce.  We also used fresh basil from the garden!

 greenbeans7 greenbeans3

It’s interesting how careful we’ve been to not waste food that we have grown.  Typically when preparing green beans, I snap off more of the bean than necessary for the sake of doing it quickly.  Last night I was so careful to only break off what was necessary.  It takes hard work to grow every centimeter of those beans!  I really think home-grown food tastes better too.  We have one zucchini and a few yellow squash that are about ready to pick, and I am so excited to eat them, even though they aren’t my favorite veggies.

After dinner we went to Ray’s for ice cream and DF frozen ice with our good friend Amy (she has an awesome blog you can check out here!)  She teaches in Florida and is town visiting for the week now that school is out for the summer.  It was so good to catch up, and made for a nice end to a great Tuesday. 🙂

Have you harvested/eaten any of your summer veggies yet?  Have you done any Jillian Michaels workout DVDs?

Baconfest: Redemption

Andrew, like most Americans, loves bacon.  I like it by itself, but I generally don’t want it cooked into something I am eating because it makes the whole dish taste like bacon (“Um… exactly.” Andrew)  However, after our disappointing experience at the Bacon Festival on Sunday, I wanted to give Andrew the bacon-filled feast he’d been hoping for.  Plus, I had my heart set on some bacon-wrapped scallops.  😀

bacon2

I had two goals: 1. Incorporate bacon into every dish.  2. Make those dishes as healthy as possible, considering they contain bacon. 😉

Here’s the menu (with links to the recipes we used) :

Bacon-wrapped Scallops

Braised Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Wilted Arugula Salad with Asparagus, Bacon, and Sherry Vinaigrette

Bacon Quinoa with Almonds and Herbs

As usual, we didn’t follow the recipes exactly, making adjustments according to our dietary needs and what we had on hand (the only ingredients I purchased yesterday were bacon, scallops, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.)  All we did for the scallops was wrap them in bacon and put them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

DSCN8360

As you probably know, bacon is a very fatty food.  Some of these recipes called for vegetable oil in addition to using the bacon fat to cook.  In order to minimize the artery clogging, we left out most of the added oils and removed some of the bacon fat from the pan so that we were getting the bacon flavor but not deep frying the vegetables. We also didn’t use as much bacon as the recipes called for;  I think we put 2.5 slices in the in quinoa, 2.5 slices in the Brussels sprouts, 3 slices in the arugula salad, and wrapped each scallop with 1/2 slice.  We used a pound of traditional-cut bacon, but have leftovers of everything. 🙂

DSCN8356Despite what the photo above suggests, I did not consume any bacon by itself.  Andrew cannot honestly make the same claim. 🙂

Bacon

Every dish was so, so delicious.  By the time I ate that last scallop though, my stomach felt a little crazy.  Andrew agreed.  It wasn’t that we ate too much in terms of volume and were stuffed; all the bacon grease was just so heavy. I had to stand out on the back deck for a few minutes because I felt nauseous from the smell lingering in our house.  Hah.

As much fun as it was to create our own Baconfest, and as delicious as those bacon-wrapped scallops were, last night confirmed what I wholeheartedly believe and regularly proclaim on this blog and otherwise:

You just feel better when you eat real food.  

Whole food.  From the earth.  More plants, less animals.

Bacon does not fall among these foods.  😉

Softball, Fresh Produce, and Unrealized Dreams

Tonight… I play softball.  I have never before played, with the exception of a few intramural games in college and, of course, gym class, but I have always suspected that had I played growing up, I could have been pretty good.  Just a hunch.  (A few years ago when I told Andrew about that hunch, he said, “I don’t know if you have the size necessary to be really good at any sport.” Dream crusher.)

DSCN8353

Yesterday my friend Evan from work asked if Andrew and I would be interested in playing on our church’s team.  In light of my unrealized dreams mentioned above, I gave him an immediate yes.  Our first game is tonight, so last night Andrew and I headed to a local high school field to play catch–or, as Andrew probably thought of it: give Catherine a crash course in fundamentals so she doesn’t embarrass me tomorrow. 😉

But first, dinner:

DSCN8348

 

Baked salmon with a Dijon mustard/soy sauce glaze, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.  Quick, simple, delicious… and eaten outside on our new deck furniture, which made it taste even better!

During dinner we spotted a rabbit munching on weeds around the garden.  We see them out there daily, and so far they haven’t touched anything in the garden;  we are hoping the weeds will be enough to satisfy them!

DSCN8338 DSCN8337

Hey, bunny… get away from those tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

DSCN8326

Ours are growing like crazy!  In the photo above, the tomato plants make up the jungle on the left.  Most have flowers on them, and the cherry tomatoes are starting to come out!

DSCN8331

We also picked our second strawberry last night;  last week we put netting around the plants to keep the birds out, so hopefully we will be able to harvest more than one berry at a time now 🙂

DSCN8342

As we split the single berry in half I thought, “Vegetable gardening really does make you appreciate the work it takes to produce food.”  You may be wondering at this point, “Is she going to post a picture of each individual fruit or vegetable they pick?”  The answer is: possibly, leaning towards likely. 😉

After dinner and bunny-watching and strawberry-picking, we grabbed our gloves and a softball and worked on some fundamentals.  As I suspected, I wasn’t terrible:  I caught the ball far more than I missed it, I threw it fairly accurately, and I was only hit in the shin once by a close-range grounder… And once in the knee, at which point I immediately fell to the ground in pain.  I now have a lovely bruise and pain to the touch. 🙂

“If that happens tomorrow during the game, you have to throw the ball before you can think about the pain.”  -Andrew

Thanks, coach.

I am excited to play tonight and hope I don’t embarrass the team too badly 😀

Any last minute advice from you softball or baseball players out there?

 

Fresh Salsa, Drying Herbs, & What Happens When You Grill Turkey Dogs

There are a few things I want to write about this morning, but none of them warrant an entire post, which means this post is extremely random (as you may have guessed from the title.)  You’ve been warned. 🙂

1. Grilling Turkey Dogs–on Monday night, we cooked dinner on the grill.  While evaluating our options at Trader Joe’s earlier that day, we decided on turkey dogs, rather than all-beef dogs, like usual.  I don’t know why, and I regret the decision for this reason:

DSCN8287

 

Appetizing, huh? 😉  On a positive note, we also grilled zucchini, and it turned out perfectly!

DSCN8285

Zucchini is not my favorite vegetable, so I made a dipping oil to go with it: olive oil + basil, thyme, and oregano from the garden + garlic powder + salt and pepper.  Delicious.  And speaking of herbs from the garden…

2. Drying Herbs–We currently have more herbs growing in the back yard than we can use fresh (though we have been using them often,) so we have started drying them to store for later use.  Last night while I was working on the computer, Andrew said he was going to hang some more herbs.  Twenty minutes later I turned around to see this happening in the kitchen:

DSCN8304 DSCN8308

DSCN8310

He may have gotten a bit carried away.  Anyone need some herbs? 😉

Speaking of things we’ve picked from the garden, we harvested one small, beautiful strawberry on Saturday morning:

DSCN8256

 

We had a few more turning red, but they have since been eaten by an animal (or possibly a neighbor.  We aren’t sure which 😉 )

3. Fresh Salsa–Last night (pre herb-drying,) Andrew and I made tacos and fresh salsa, the way my college roommates and I make it, minus the onion:

-6 Roma tomatoes
-2 Large cloves of garlic
-1/4 Jalepeno
-Juice of 1/2 lime
-A few sprigs of cilantro
-Salt & pepper

DSCN8296 DSCN8293

I found the most beautiful organic Roma tomatoes I’d ever seen at Kroger–bright red and unblemished.  Unfortunately, they did not look equally wonderful on the inside.  Still, the salsa was very tasty.

DSCN8300

And there you have it:  a 100% random post 🙂

Have you ever tried grilling turkey dogs?  How did they turn out?

Any advice for keeping critters off the strawberries?