October 24, 2015

I've Been Thinking About My Blog Lately...and All-In-One Burgers

It's been over 2 years since I have posted anything new to this blog, and I have been thinking a lot about why--lo those many months ago--I made the decision to stop writing and cooking. My blog had been a big part of my life for years. It was my outlet and my hobby. So why didn't I want to do it anymore? Why did I stop? Thinking back, I've come to realize the answer...I was unhappy. When I think about that period in my life, I have the distinct memory of feeling numb, and stuck, and not the least bit creative or inspired. I didn't want to cook. I took no pleasure in the process of making food for my loved ones. I didn't watch cooking shows. I didn't read any cookbooks, and I certainly didn't create any new recipes on my own. I merely wanted to get meals on the table as a means to survive. Quick and easy preparation...the path of least resistance. I became stagnant, and I didn't want to be bothered with actual cooking. Within my self-assessment of why I stopped blogging and cooking, I have come to understand that being unhappy effected everything. Well, duh right? Funnily enough,it wasn't so obvious for me. I never realized that the dissatisfaction that I was feeling overall was also being played out in my own kitchen. I knew I didn't have as much patience (just ask my kids about that one) and I was anxious and depressed,but I just never put two and two together.

Fast forward two plus years (and a bunch of significant life changes) and I am, once again, happy. I have the perspective I needed to resolve what I was going through and correlate that those feelings translated to cooking and writing, too. Overall, I think the break was exactly what I needed. I am settling into the rhythm of my own life and my interest in cooking has sparked once again. I have been looking at recipes, purchasing cookbooks, and I find myself looking forward to cooking dinner every night. I think I have decided to keep this blog (and actually update it) as a means to catalog what I am doing with recipes. During my hiatus,I've often referred to my blog to look up different dishes and I was thankful that I kept it as a database of sorts. I've decided that I want to keep the ongoing record by adding new meals that we love. I don't care about followers (I don't think I still have any, anyway), monotizing/advertising, keeping a rigid blogging schedule, or making the graphics look all fresh and cutting edge. Writing HTML code was always a pain in the ass for me, so I'm skipping it this time around. I've decided I want to start updating my blog again for me. I feel like I've rediscovered my voice. I may change my mind on all the other stuff eventually, but for now, the blog is going to be a myopic endeavor; purely for my own amusement.

So, with all of that said, here is my first new recipe since July of 2013. And trust me, it's a good one.

All-In-One Burgers
Adapted From: America's Test Kitchen The Best Simple Recipes cookbook

6 slices bacon, chopped fine
1 pounds 90% lean ground beef
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
Break beef into small pieces in bowl, then add bacon, cheese, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Lightly knead mixture by hand until combined. Divide into 4 equal portions, then form each into loose ball and gently flatten into 1-inch-thick patty. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In the same skillet used to cook the bacon, drain off most of the fat (but leave enough of the leftover bacon bits and a tablespoon or so of the grease). Fry the burgers over high heat, without pressing on them, until well seared on both sides and cooked through; about 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare. If you like your burgers a bit more done, add a another 1-2 minutes per side.

Once the burgers are finished cooking,transfer them to platter. Cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

I served mine on pretzel buns with mayo and ketchup, since the mustard was already combined into the burger. Whoa mama! These were delicious. All of my kiddos ate them with enthusiasm, including my youngest daughter...the pickiest of the picky. The original recipe calls for grilling the burgers, but I decided to cut out the middle man and just cook them in the skillet that I used for the bacon. It was one less thing to clean up and all the bits of bacon-y goodness were still in the pan, ready to be embedded into the seared burgers. The same pan was a good call, the burgers ended up to be exactly how I wanted them...juicy, bacon-laced perfection.

July 28, 2013

Permanent Vacation

I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish with this blog, and I'm just not certain anymore. I haven't really been cooking new recipes lately, and I've lost the motivation to chronicle my kitchen adventures...at least for now, anyway. I just have the feeling that my blog has run it's course. I'm going to keep it active for awhile, just because I still go back and use posted recipes now and then for reference. However, I don't plan on updating any new posts anytime soon. I may change my mind, but that's what I'm thinking for the foreseeable future. I've enjoyed blogging for the few years that I've kept it going, but I think it's time to stop. I appreciate those who still take the time to read or follow my blog and I will post again before either deleting it permanently, or (on the slim possibility) that I start it back up again. For now, though, this is goodbye.

May 8, 2013

Low-Carb Pecan Tilapia

This is a variation on a standard recipe for breaded fish. I needed to amend it to lower the amount of net carbs, so I needed to mix the breadcrumbs as one of the main components. It's funny, but I think it was actually crisper and more flavorful than the normal breaded fish variations that I make. I forgot to take a photo, but it turned out to be golden-browned, baked fish goodness.

Low-Carb Pecan Tilapia

cooking spray
1 cup of almond flour
1 cup of pecan halves
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of paparika
1 tbsp of tumeric
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
1 tsp of lemon pepper seasoning
4 large tilapia fillets
1/2 cup of egg whites
1 whole egg
splash of water

(Note: I put all the spices in as a substitute for seasoned salt, so if you wanted to skip the spices just use a couple of tbsp of seasoned salt.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by placing a cooling rack on it and spraying the rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine almond flour, spices and pecans. Pulse until combined and pecans are chopped. Place mixture in a shallow bowl or dish.

Combine egg whites, egg, and a splash of water in a separate shallow bowl. Whisk to combine.

Coat tilapia in egg mixture then coat completely in pecan mixture, making sure to press the coating into the fish with your hands on both sides. Place coated fish onto baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fillets. Spray the tops of the prepared fish with a light layer of cooking spray over the tops. Bake for 1/2 hour or until the fish flakes easily.

May 7, 2013

Buffalo Chicken BLAT Wraps

It was t-ball night again, so I packed these wraps as a picnic dinner at the ballpark. I wrapped the lettuce leaves in a gallon sized zip top bag with some damp paper towel, and then packaged up the rest in a divided Tupperware. It was a delicious, portable dinner that was healthy and satisfying.

Buffalo Chicken BLAT Wraps
Adapted From: Iowa Girl Eats website

1 (1 lb.) package of chicken tenders
2 Tbsp of Ranch Seasoning Mix (see below)
2 teaspoons of bacon fat
Buffalo Wing Sauce (I like Frank’s Hot Sauce)
4-5 slices bacon, chopped
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
a splash of lemon juice
a splash of lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
hearts of romaine

Ranch Seasoning Mix:
dried tarragon
lemon pepper seasoning
garlic powder
dried chives
dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine 1 tsp of each spice in a small, air tight bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store with spices for up to a month.

Cook bacon in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Drain some of the remaining bacon fat off (keep about 1 tsp), and heat the rest in the same skillet over medium-high heat.

Season chicken with Ranch Seasoning Mix and toss to coat. Add chicken to hot skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes a side, or until no longer pink in the middle. Remove chicken to a plate and let cool for a few minutes. Chop into bite-sized pieces and mix with just enough buffalo wing sauce to coat chicken pieces.

Cut tomatoes in half, then thinly slice. Sprinkle some Ranch Seasoning Mix over tomatoes and set aside.

Slice avocado in half, pop out the seed, peel, and thinly slice. Season avocado slices with a splash of lemon juice, a splash of lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cut core off of romaine hearts, then rinse and pat dry.

Assemble wraps by placing chicken, bacon, tomato, and avocado inside romaine lettuce leaves.

Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls

I've taken quite a long sabbatical off from eating right/working out and it's really caught up with me. While it was nice to "check out" mentally and physically, I think I've had enough. I'm ready to get back into the business of being healthy again. I've regained a decent chunk of the the weight I lost previously, and I'm now getting into the no-turning-back scary zone if I keep eating like crap and not focusing on regular exercise. Anyway, all this means is that I'm being more conscious about what I eat and more focused with my exercise routine. As part of that focus, I've decided to go fairly low-carb/low-cal for the next 30 days. I'm hoping this will give me a jump start so I can start to see some positive results on the scale. This is also good news, because I'll be trying some new recipes as well. Hooray! The first new recipe was these steak rolls, which were magically delicious. Really. So freaking tasty. This was the perfect dinner to kick start my plan to get back into healthy living!

Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls
Adapted From: Picture the Recipe website via Pinterest

1 (2 lb) skirt steak OR 8-10 thin sliced sirloin
Salt & Pepper (according to taste)
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Any steak seasoning you like (I used Steak Magic)
1 tbsp olive oil

For the Veggie filling -
* 1 carrot
* 1 bell pepper
* 1/2-1 a zucchini (depending on size)
* 5-6 green onions
* 2 cloves of garlic
* 1 tsp Italian herb seasoning

For the Balsamic glaze sauce-
* 1-2 tsp bacon grease
* 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1 tbsp honey
* 1/4 cup beef broth

- Start by prepping the steak. (I used skirt steak cos it’s what I had on hand, but in hind sight, I probably would have gone for a more leaner cut like flank steak or looked for thin sliced sirloin.) I trimmed as much fat as I could and cut the steak into 3 inch wide strips. I managed 8 strips and used the odd shaped ends to taste test my marinade and balsamic glaze. You can then tenderize the meat with a meat hammer (if you’re using sirloin it doesn’t need any tenderizing).
- Season the steak pieces generously on both sides with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. And let them sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes if not a couple hours.

- While the steak is marinating you can prep the filling for them. Chop up the carrot, bell pepper and zucchini into matchstick size pieces, little longer than the width of the steak strips. I used a mandolin slicer to jet thin sliced and hand cut them to make matchsticks. I then cut the green onion in a similar size and sliced them in half length wise. For the garlic, simply peel and crush the cloves with the flat side of your knife, just enough to bruise them.

- Now for the sauce, melt the bacon grease in a small sauce pan on medium heat.

- Add the finely chopped shallot and saute it for a minute or 2 until they turn soft and translucent.

- Add the balsamic vinegar, honey and beef stock and stir to mix everything well.

- Allow the sauce to come to a boil and reduce to almost half its volume. You’ll notice it starts becoming thicker and have the consistency of syrup. The butter also starts separating and comes to the top. Turn the heat off and transfer the sauce to a bowl.

- In the same pan (no need to wash it) add a touch of olive oil and toss in the garlic cloves to allow them to flavor the oil for a few minutes.

- Turn the heat up to high and toss in the carrots, bell pepper and zucchini (there’s no need to cook the green onion) and stir fry the veggies for no longer than 2-3 minutes.

- Season them with the the Italian herb seasoning and salt and transfer the veggies to a bowl.

- To assemble the steak rolls, simply take a strip of the marinated steak and lay it with the short side towards you. Place the veggies (don't forget the green onion!) in the middle and oil the beef up over the filling, securing it with toothpick. Repeat the same with the other rolls.

- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a touch of oil swirling to coat bottom. When hot, add beef rolls, seam side down, not touching and pan fry for a couple minutes. Then turn roll and cook it on all sides in the same way. Cook until you’re desired doneness. I cooked mine medium rare.

- Remove the toothpick and serve with the balsamic glaze sauce spooned over the top of each roll and any extra veggies.

April 18, 2013

Pecan-Parm Crusted Cod

I had a few leftover cod fillets, still frozen, from my cod endeavor a couple of weeks ago. Since I didn't want to do the same thing over again (i.e. bacon-wrapped cod...although, it was tasty), I decided to venture into different territory. I wasn't sure how this was going to come together, since I just had a basic idea in my head and no real recipe. Thankfully, it turned out great and this was an easy way for my family to ingest their fish. Score! I served our cod with quinoa and some roasted Brussel sprouts (which roasted in the oven at the same time/temp as the fish). This was another satisfying fish dinner!

Pecan-Parm Crusted Cod

2 handfuls of raw, unsalted pecan halves
1 inch piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4-6 cod fillets, thawed if frozen
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of egg whites
1/2 stick of melted butter
cooking spray

Prepare baking sheet by placing a cooling rack in it and spraying with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In food processor, combine pecans, parm cheese and pulse to chop into a breadcrumb-like texture. Remove mixture to a bowl and mix with panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder. Add egg whites to a separate bowl. Dip one fish fillet at a time into the egg whites, coating all sides. Then, dip into the pecan mixture, making sure to coat on all sides and pressing crumbs into the fish so they adhere. Place coated fish onto the baking sheet rack. Repeat with additional cod fillets. Spray tops of coated fillets with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes until fish is done and flakes easily. (cooking time may be less, depending on how thick your cod fillets are. Mine were pretty thick, so I needed the whole 30 minutes worth of cooking time.) Drizzle melted butter over top of the fish fillets and serve.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili

This recipe is so easy I think a chimp could put it together. Well, maybe that is overstating it a bit; BUT it is really easy...and delicious. This Pinterest find was another perfect remedy for a busy t-ball night at our house. I served it over tortilla chips (a la nachos), with some Greek yogurt (standing in for sour cream) and diced avocados for toppings. It was totally yummy! This would make for great burrito filling, or just as a stand alone chili, too.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Chili
Adapted From: Pinterest (not sure of original source)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.)can of Rotel original
1 (14 oz.)can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 small bag of frozen corn
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 tbsp of chili powder
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
(I also added a pinch of the following: garlic powder, cumin, coriander. This is totally optional)

Tortilla chips
shredded cheese of your choice (I used sharp cheddar)
diced avocados (marinated in lemon and lime juice, with a pinch of salt)
sour cream or Greek yogurt

Add all ingredients into the slow cooker, with exception of toppings. Cook on high for 4-6 hours OR low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with forks once cook time is over. Serve over tortilla chips and toppings of your choice.

April 15, 2013

Slow Cooker Salsa-Cream Cheese Chicken

My son has mid-week t-ball games scheduled right in the middle of our normal dinnertime. I am beginning to understand that this is the norm for kids' organized sports, but it still annoys me to no end. I decided on game nights I would pull out the slow cooker and make something that was relatively easy to pack up and take to the ballpark. This is another recipe idea that I found floating around on Pinterest. (Actually there was no official recipe source; it just a random suggestion that I pinned on how to put this together.) I took the basic concept and then morphed it into something that worked for us and the ingredients I had on hand. It turned out to be really satisfying burrito filling and very portable once it was all wrapped up in tortillas.

Slow-Cooker Salsa-Cream Cheese Chicken
Adapted From: Pinterest

1 block of cream cheese, softened
2-3 chicken breasts
1 jar of salsa
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of coriander
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Mix softened cream cheese and salsa together in a bowl and set aside.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a slow cooker. Pour salsa mixture over top of the other ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours in your slow cooker. Once cook time is over, remove chicken breasts to a bowl and shred with two forks. Add shredded chicken back to the slow cooker and mix to combine. Serve cooked mixture over brown rice or as burrito filling with tortillas.