3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 31

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

1.  Roasted Okra

Last week when I posted about roasted veggies, someone mentioned roasting okra.  I decided to give it a try, even though I was skeptical.

okra

The verdict – It’s pretty good!  I’d definitely make it again.  Even our youngest daughter liked it.  Roasting really does bring out the goodness in all kinds of veggies.

The photo isn’t great, but I snapped it with my cell phone and I’m sharing it here anyway.

Give me a list – what should I try roasting next?  Turnips? Rutabaga (never had it)?

2.  Home Seasoned Turkey Sausage – recipe coming soon

Homemade turkey sausage ingr

 

I used these simple ingredients to season plain, ground turkey and give it a sausage flair.  It was easy and full of flavor.  Then I turned them into grilled turkey sausage burgers.  So good!

3.  New podcast discovery

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.57.58 AM

 

I usually listen to podcasts when I’m driving, but sometimes it’s nice to listen while I’m cooking or cleaning up.  I recently discovered the Sorta Awesome podcast and it’s a lot of fun.  The episodes are chatty and friendly.  It’s a nice way to make doing dishes more enjoyable.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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My Daily Green Smoothie Recipe

Easy Every day green smoothie recipe

Every day since the beginning of the year, our breakfast has included a green smoothie.  It’s a small change, but it gets more fresh fruit and veggies in our diet in an easy way.  We even packed the blender for our beach vacation, along with a Costco sized box of oranges, several bunches of bananas and a big box of spinach.

It took a while to land on a combination that we really like.  I tend to get hooked on one thing for breakfast and repeat it over and over.  Smoothies can be made a kajillion ways, but keeping it consistent means I always know what I need to pick up at the grocery and putting the ingredients in the blender becomes an easy routine.

green smoothie ingr blender

 

I make enough for two servings every morning.  I’ve found that if we have a little extra, it can be frozen and added to the next day’s blender of ingredients.  If I’m adding smoothie from the previous day, I just cut back on some of the ingredients so we don’t end up with leftovers again.

The first few times I tried adding pineapple, I didn’t care for it.  I think I may have been experimenting with carrots and apples at that time too, and those may have been the texture issue instead of the pineapple.  Now we love having pineapple in the smoothies.  I buy bags of frozen pineapple chunks from Costco to keep it easy.

Daily Green Smoothie Recipe

Serves: 2 servings

Ingredients
  • ½ cup apple or orange juice or water
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Blend in a blender until smooth.
  2. If using a Vitamix, add ingredients in the order given.
  3. If using a regular blender, blend juice and spinach first, then add remaining ingredients.

 

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Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken

I can’t wait to try this recipe from Kate.  She is fantastic at coming up with slow cooker recipes.  That works out great, because she’s also the one who puts together our Slow Cooker version of Weekly Meal Plans.

We’ve been in a huge take-out rut for most of the summer. There’s been so much going on that it’s been easier to grab something while we’re out and about than to try to work in time to cook. The Eat at Home Challenge was a great reminder that I can do better for my family – so I doubled-down my efforts to actually plan. One of the things I started playing with after the challenge were at-home versions of some of our take-out favorites.

Peanut chicken from our local Thai place is always a huge hit. It took me a few tries to get a sauce that was close but I finally hit on a version we love! And this takes even less effort than getting in the car and driving to the Thai place. Truly a win-win!

ThaiPeanutChicken

Ready to make your own Thai take-out at home? Here’s what you’ll need:

ThaiPeanutChickenIngredients

Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken

Serves: 6 serving

Ingredients
  • 2½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • ⅓ cup teriyaki glaze
  • 2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • Brown rice, for serving
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Top with the sliced peppers.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, coconut milk, teriyaki glaze, vinegar and red pepper. Pour over the chicken and toss to coat.
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours.
  4. Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred. Whisk peanut butter into the sauce remaining in the slow cooker, until smooth. Return chicken to the slow cooker and toss to coat. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  5. Serve chicken and peppers over rice.

Kate is a home cook and new mom  from New Jersey. In addition to sharing recipes with Eat at Home readers, she blogs her cooking adventures at Kate’s Recipe Box. When she’s not in the kitchen, you can find her reading or tending to her garden.

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3 Things Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 24

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

1.  Soccer field picnics

Tuesday night we traveled to Louisville for a soccer game.  One son plays and the other is an assistant coach.  The game started at 5:30 and we just barely made it in time.  We knew we’d be running late, because of the boys’ class schedules.  Then we hit traffic and got a call that another family had gotten a flat tire on their way to the game.  We were able to pick those boys up on the side of the road and get them to the game on time, while their parents fixed the tire.  Whew!

I often pack dinner for us on nights like this.  It beats running through the drive thru.  Our picnic this time was purchased at Costco, since I’d run in there for a few things earlier in the day.  We made turkey sandwiches on croissants and had potato salad and grapes.  It was simple, but it worked.

If you’d like more ideas for meals during sports season, check out this post I wrote a few months ago.

2.  Birthday cake

 

IMG_6180

 

It’s not pretty, but it is chocolate.  Making a pretty cake does not come easy to me.  Actually, it’s pretty rare that I make a cake that looks really good.  I don’t have the patience for it.

Thankfully, boys who are turning 17 don’t really care what the cake looks like.  Especially if you make the Cannoli Cake that was requested.  Four light yellow layers, spread with creamy cannoli filling studded with chocolate chips and covered with chocolate ganache will make almost anyone happy no matter what it looks like!

The recipe comes from The Cake Mix Doctor cookbook, which is one of my favorites.

3.  Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos – a million ways to make them

There’s a reason that chicken tacos in the crockpot are so popular.  You can throw any type of Mexican-like ingredient in the pot and end up with something delicious at the end of the day.  This time I used chicken tenders, corn, black beans, diced tomatoes seasoned for chili and taco seasoning.  I melted cream cheese at the end of the cooking time.  So easy and good!

What worked in your kitchen this week?

 

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Boneless Pork Chops and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Chipotle pork chop sheet pan dinner

 

I really like using these thin cut boneless pork chops.  They’re relatively inexpensive (groceries are getting crazy high in price!), they’re versatile and easy to use.  I need to do a post with lots of different ways to cook with these chops.

I’ve made this sheet pan dinner several times now.  It’s easy and it cooks in just about 30 minutes or a bit less.

To keep the prep quick, I used very small potatoes that didn’t require any chopping.  The green beans took longer to prep.  Brussels sprouts would work well and might be quicker.  Or try slices of cabbage.

One benefit to using thin cut pork chops is that they cook in the same amount of time the vegetables need. With a thicker cut of meat, you would need to put the meat in first and then add the veggies to the pan later.  This way it all goes in at the same time.

I have a really big sheet pan that I bought at Walmart.  I love it, because it fits a whole meal for a family.  My sheet pan is similar to this one.  If you don’t have a large pan, use two regular sized ones.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this meal.  Keep in mind that the veggies and seasonings can be swapped for other things.

Boneless pork chop sheet pan dinner ingr

This time I used McCormick’s Smokehouse Maple seasoning on the chops.  I love this stuff!  We flew through the first container of it and when I saw it in the store, I grabbed another.

I kept the seasoning on the veggies simple with kosher salt and black pepper.  Sometimes I like to sprinkle McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning over everything though.  That’s another favorite for my family.

Boneless Pork Chops and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 cups small potatoes or chopped potatoes
  • 3-4 cups green beans, trimmed and cleaned
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 lbs. boneless thin cut pork chops
  • Smokehouse Maple seasoning or other seasoning blend
Instructions
  1. Brush one large or two small rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.
  2. Toss potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add them to a section of the pan.
  3. Toss green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add them to a section of the pan.
  4. Brush pork chops with olive oil and place in the remaining space on the pan. Sprinkle chops with seasoning.
  5. Place pan in a 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until meat is cooked through and potatoes are tender.

 

 

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Want to eat more vegetables? Start roasting them!

Easy changes for health

You might wonder why the cooking method would lead to eating more vegetables, but trust me – it does!

Since I started roasting veggies vs steaming them, we’ve upped both the quantity and variety of vegetables we eat as a family. It’s a small change that brings healthy benefits.

roastedredpepperandbroccolidone.jpg

 

Roasting brings out the flavor of foods in a way that steaming can’t.  I toss the veggies with olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper.  Often, I grab a seasoning blend instead of the salt and pepper.  Montreal Steak seasoning is one of our favorites.  Sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary are wonderful too.

When it comes to types of veggies to roast, the variety is as endless as the produce department.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 

It only takes about 15 minutes for many types of vegetables to roast.  Some potatoes and winter squash will take closer to 30 minutes.  I heat the oven to about 425 degrees, give or take.  It’s not an exact science, so don’t worry about getting it wrong.  If you want them to roast faster, turn the oven a bit hotter and cut the veggies a bit smaller.

I’ve found that vegetables I didn’t think I even liked are now favorites.  Things like green beans and brussels sprouts taste much, much better when roasted.  We also love combining several different types of vegetables on one pan.

Quick roasting (15ish minutes) options include:

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Zucchini and yellow squash
  • Tomatoes (grape, cherry or larger varieties that are quartered)
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant (although I admit we haven’t tried this one yet)

Roasted Butternut Squash or Sweet Potatoes

 

Best Ever Roasted Squash or Sweet Potatoes

Veggies that need longer roasting (30ish minutes):

  • Onions, quartered
  • Garlic cloves
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips

What are your favorite vegetables to roast?

P.S.  Since we’ve been talking about making small changes for health, I wanted to share with you a new program I found.  Jen from Healthymoving.com is doing a 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge during the month of September.  Jen is a yoga teacher.  I’ve been a member of her site for a while now (used to be called Stay at Home Yoga).  She has recently rebranded to Healthy Moving and is really promoting that we don’t need to make lots of time for exercise in our lives, we just need to get moving.  

This really speaks to me, because I work at my computer and also do a lot of driving each week.  All of that leads to lots and lots of sitting without much moving.  As part of the 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge, Jen is going to be teaching us to create a dynamic work station, where we get to move around instead of just sit.  

I’m really excited for the things I’ll learn during the 30 days of September.   It’s so much easier to make small changes for better health, than to try to fit in an hour long workout.  If you’d like to join me, click here!  The challenge starts in September.

 

This post contains affiliate links.  I only share things that I truly like and that I think you will too.

 

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3 Things That Work in the Kitchen This Week – August 17

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

Is anyone else longing to get back into some kind of routine?  I love summer, with its laid back attitude, but by this time of year I’m usually ready to get back into a new groove.  Part of that for me involves getting back to a few blogging routines that I’ve let drop over the summer.

It’s been forever since I’ve written a 3 Things post.  I’ve been hard at work on some things on the backend of the blog (new email systems, launching the first Eat at Home Challenge, working on a Volume 2 of Slow Cooker Freezer Meals, improving the Weekly Meal Plan Member Page…)  I’ve vacationed and taken time to swing in the backyard.  Books have been read.  Migraines have been fought.

This past week, we helped my daughter and her husband pack up their apartment, put everything in storage to move to Bolivia for four months.  They arrived at their new home Sunday morning, safe but with wet luggage (the airline left it outside while waiting for a storm to clear).

Now it’s time for me to get back to some normal routines.  Here are three things that have worked in my kitchen this week.

1.  Roasted Chipotle Pork Chops with New Potatoes and Green Beans.

Chipotle pork chop sheet pan dinner

This meal was so easy to make!  It all roasted in the oven in about 30 minutes.  I’m planning to make it again and take more photos so I can do a post with a real recipe.

Here are the details:

~ I used thin cut boneless pork chops.  This allowed them to cook in the same amount of time as the veggies.

~ I used really small new potatoes that didn’t require any chopping.  That saved time.

~ The potatoes and green beans got tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  The pork chops were brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with chipotle seasoning blend.

~ The pan full of good stuff went into an oven heated to 425ish (I can’t remember the exact temp I used) for 30 minutes.

2.  Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Slow Cooker

I found a pack of chicken breasts in the freezer the other day and decided to use them for soup.  There were two large pieces with bones in the pack.  This is perfect for making a rich broth the easy way.  Start by putting the chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Then add the other ingredients and cook.  Before serving remove the chicken from the crockpot and pull the meat from the bones, then stir the meat back into the pot.  This is the method I use for several soups, including White Chicken Chili, Chicken Cock a Leekie Soup, Thai Chicken Curry Soup and several others.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’d never tried this method of cooking the chicken right in the soup with Chicken Tortilla Soup though.  I put the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and poured the chicken broth over the top, the same amount the recipe calls for.  After cooking that on high for five or six hours, I took the chicken out and pulled it from the bones.  Then I added the meat and the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and let it cook an hour or so longer.  I also added a cup or so of water, to stretch the recipe and because the broth was rich enough to handle thinning it a bit.  It worked great!

3. Frozen Meatballs become Sweet and Sour Meatballs

One thing I did when I started feeling better after my stinky July, was to make a big batch of meatballs.  I love having meatballs in the freezer.  Sometimes I buy the pre-made kind and those are useful, but homemade is so much better.

Frozen meatballs can be used for all kinds of things – spaghetti, of course, but also this Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe.

sweet-and-sour-meatballs

 

I used an onion and a green pepper instead of carrots this time.  If you’ve got meatballs cooked and frozen, this meal is as fast as making the rice.  It’s a big hit with my family too.

What worked in your kitchen this week?

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Easy Changes for Health – Kefir Smoothies

kefir smoothie

 

My favorite way to get healthy is to make small changes that add up for a larger impact.  I’m not inclined to sign myself up for a marathon, but I have started walking nearly every morning.

It’s unlikely that I’ll do a complete overhaul of my eating habits (although I did try the Whole 30 once).  I’d rather make small changes that are easier to keep up with.

One of those things is adding kefir to my snack rotation.

What the heck is kefir, you may ask?

First, let me just say that it actually tastes pretty good.  The description I’m about to give you may turn you off of trying it, but stick with me.  Despite the description, I do enjoy these smoothies and I think you will too.

Kefir is fermented milk.  It’s a little like a thin, drinkable yogurt, but it’s not yogurt.  It’s possible to make kefir at home, but I haven’t tried that.  Instead, I buy Lifeway brand.

lifeway kefir

 

I’ve found it at Walmart, Meijer, Costco and Aldi.  Aldi has the best price on the quart size bottles.  Costco carries the individual bottles at a price just a bit more than Aldi.  (This post isn’t sponsored, by the way.  I’m just sharing a product I’m loving.)

Kefir comes in plain or various berry flavors.  I prefer the flavored.  Actually, I’m not brave enough to try the plain.  I even add to the sweetness of the berry flavor by blending half a frozen banana with it.  Of course, the flavored varieties aren’t quite as healthy as the plain, but I think it’s a lot healthier for me.  The reason, is I’d never drink the plain, so I’d miss out on the health benefits altogether.  At least with the flavored type, I get all the good probiotics and other goodness, even if it does come with a bit of added sugar.

Benefits of kefir

Because it’s fermented, kefir is full of probiotics – many more than are found in yogurt.  This is a real boost for gut health, but it also brings a lot of other benefits too.

This article goes into more details on the benefits, but here’s a quick list for you.

~ The probiotics are good for you gut and can help restore good bacteria after illness.  It’s also good for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

~ It boosts your immunity to viruses and infections.

~ It builds bone density.

~ Some studies show it helps both allergies and asthma.

~ People who are lactose intolerant can usually drink kefir with no problem.  In fact, there’s evidence to show that it will help people who deal with that.

~ There have been lab studies that show kefir fights cancer in animals.

~ There are only about 100 calories per cup.

It’s been easy to swap out my morning or afternoon snack for a kefir smoothie instead.  I just blend half a frozen banana with 1 cup of kefir.  If I don’t have the banana already frozen, I add a cube or two of ice to the blender.  Easy!

I’d love to know if you’ve tried kefir and what you think of it! 

 

 

 

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No Heat Dinners

No Heat Dinners to keep the kitchen cool

When I was little, we didn’t have central air in our house. My parents had a window unit air conditioner in their bedroom window that cooled their room and the short hallway to a bedroom my sister and I shared. During one especially hot summer, we would set up the card table in the bedroom to eat. It was just too hot to eat in the kitchen.

And the meal of choice was Chef Salad. Cool iceburg lettuce, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, lunch meat, sliced American cheese all topped with Seven Seas Green Goddess dressing or maybe Russian dressing.

Side note: Remember that Green Goddess Dressing from the 70s? I think it disappeared for a while, but now Kraft is selling it. I haven’t tried it since I was little.

Chef salad still makes a great dinner on a hot evening, but there are some other good no-heat meals too.  Here are a few that will keep you and the kitchen cool.

gazpacho done

 

Gazpacho

This cold soup is full of garden veggies.  It’s a great way to use all that zucchini!

tomato-sandwich

 

Tomato Sandwich

Admittedly, this is a pretty light meal for dinner.  But if you’ve got garden fresh tomatoes, what else do you really need in life?

Peach Chutney Chicken Salad

Peach Chutney Chicken Salad

This 15 minute recipe calls for using homemade peach chutney that you’ve already frozen.  You can skip that and use store-bought chutney instead.  Or go for this Chicken Salad recipe with grapes and pecans.  Use rotisserie chicken to keep it cool and quick.  (The photos on that post are old and not great, but the recipe is wonderful.)

tuna tomato salad done

 

Summer Time Tuna Salad

There’s no mayo in this version.  Instead the tuna is served over sliced avocado with plenty of tomatoes and other goodies.  This is one of my favorites!  It’s quick and easy to make too.

What are your favorite no-heat dinners to beat the sweltering summer heat?

 

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When illness derails even your simplest daily plans – survival mode meals

Survival Mode Meals

I’m going to be honest – the last month has been stinky.  I’ve been dealing with a virus along with migraines twenty out of the last twenty five days, including one episode that lasted for over 48 hours.  I bet you’ve had times in your life when illness (yours or someone close to you) takes all your energy, leaving nothing for even the most basic routines.  I’m not even dealing with anything series or life-threatening, but it still saps all my resources.  I can only imagine that when the diagnosis is more serious and severe, it would all take an even bigger toll.

It’s discouraging and disheartening.  The whole time the Eat at Home Challenge was going on, I was struggling to get dinner for my family or some days, to even make it to the table myself.  My plans of sharing our meals on Instagram and creating new recipes fell by the wayside.  Even the nights I did make dinner, I didn’t find enough energy to take photos.

It left me feeling like a bit of a hypocrite as I encouraged others to make meal plans and eat at home, while we were making do with quick runs to the grocery and more restaurant trips than normal.

But it also made me realize that there are seasons in life when focusing on meal planning and cooking is not the right timing.  That’s the season I found myself in and maybe that’s where you are (or have been) too.

Some seasons call for survival mode.

Here are some things that have gotten my family through this (hopefully) temporary situation.  Maybe some of these ideas will help you too.

1.  Be kind with yourself.

It’s okay to cut things out of the calendar, pare down the housework to bare minimum, and have the easiest dinners ever.  This season of illness and recovery are temporary.  There will be a season of thriving later on when you can get things back the way you like them.

2.  Fall back to your easiest meals.

If you find something you or a family member can easily make and that is tolerated on a sick stomach, it’s okay to have it regularly.  There’s no prize for variety in this season.

3.  Don’t worry about big grocery trips.

I usually shop once a week and try to keep extra trips to a minimum.  During the last month though, we’ve made more grocery stops than I can count.  It just wasn’t possible to think through what we might need or want more than a couple days out.

4.  When you start to feel better…

~ Make a plan for simple meals.  The slow cooker is your friend, as it can be loaded in the morning when energy is higher.

~ Set backs happen.  Try not to get discouraged as you recover.  Focus on the progress you’re making.  If you need to grab food from a restaurant one night, it’s okay.

~ As your energy returns, try making something simple to stock the freezer.  I made a double batch of meatballs the other day and put half in the freezer.  It made me feel like I’d accomplished something and we have something easy and homemade for later.  You can do the same by doubling a favorite casserole or soup recipe.

I’d like to know what has worked for you as you pull back together after a “survival mode” time.

 

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