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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Slow Cooker Hacks to Make it Really Work for You

Using a slow cooker is such a time saver in the kitchen.  There’s nothing as satisfying as knowing your dinner is prepped, cooking and will be ready to eat when you are.  But it’s possible to get even more use from this appliance.  Check out these tips to really up your slow cooker game.

5 Hacks to Make Your Slow Cooker More Awesome

1.  Cook more than one type of food in the slow cooker at a time.

By using foil to wrap different parts of the meal, you can cook a whole meal that retains separate flavors.

using foil in slow cooker

BBQ Chicken Dinner in the Slow Cooker

Ham and Hash Brown Casserole

Try this method with steak, smoked sausage, pork chops or chicken.  Add packets of potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash…  Top with corn, peas, green beans, broccoli… And season each packet a little differently, if you like.

The possibilities are endless.

2.  Make your slow cooker smaller.

If you’ve got a large crockpot, but need to cook a small quantity of food, place a small casserole dish inside the crock.  This makes the inside much smaller, which keeps your food from overcooking.

3.  Add a timer to make it programmable.

slow cooker and timer

DIY Programmable Slow Cooker isn’t a perfect system.  It won’t switch off to a warm setting when the cooking time is up, but it does work for things like overnight oatmeal.

4.  Make it easier to clean with one of these three methods:

Line it with foil – Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures lines her slow cooker with foil to make clean up easier.

Use a plastic liner.  We use these on vacation.  I don’t mind cooking on vacation, but no one wants to scrub a dirty crockpot.

Spray with cooking spray before adding food.  This really does help the clean up process.

5.  Cook with a water bath for things like cheesecake or oatmeal.

Pouring some water around the bottom of a dish set inside the slow cooker creates a water bath.  This prevents foods from drying out or getting overcooked.  It works great for things like cheesecake and oatmeal.

Slow-Cooker-Chocolate-Cheesecake-with-Pretzel-Crust

 

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the Eat at Home Challenge!  Find out more here.

P.P.S. We’re also having a Facebook Party with prizes on July 16!

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Substituting when you can’t find the product a recipe calls for – Jalepeno Chicken Taco re-do

Sometimes companies come out with new products and recipes get created around those products.  Then a while later the products get pulled or you just can’t find them.  Or maybe you’d just really like a homemade version.

What to do?  Substitute!

Depending on the recipe and product this can be really easy or a bit more challenging.

Recently, I made Creamy Jalapeno Chicken Tacos, but I couldn’t find the jalapeno cream cheese.

Slow Cooker Creamy Jalapeno Chicken Tacos

 

Instead, I used plain cream cheese and a small can of diced jalapeno peppers.  It was a simple fix and the result tasted great.

Here’s another example.  We love the sauce packet for this Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks recipe:

Slow Cooker Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks

 

But I really wanted a homemade version that would be close.  This Korean Taco recipe comes very close to the same taste:

Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Tacos

 

Cream of…Soup Substitutions

Canned cream soups can be substituted with a good white sauce.  There are lots of ways to vary the flavors of white sauce so it fits your recipe.

white sauce how to make

 

Try to get close enough when making substitutions

Sometimes it’s not possible to get the exact flavor without the product.  I know a lot of people have been frustrated while trying to make this Creamy Pina Colada Pie.  Pina Colada jello is not easy to find.

PinaColadaPie

 

Try Island Pineapple jello instead.  It won’t be the same, but it will be close.  Or use any other flavor of jello that catches your fancy.

What are some ways you’ve made substitutions for products lately?

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Perfect Pasta Salad {plus tips I’ve learned}

4 Tips for Making Perfect Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a great dish to bring to a party, family get-together or for summer entertaining. It makes a great side, and if you are like me, you can make a meal out of it. It’s also so versatile, that you can add just about anything to it. However, for years…I just couldn’t get it right. After much trial and error, I have come up with what I think is the Perfect Pasta Salad!

Perfect Pasta Salad Bowl EAH

 

  • First tip, it’s important to cook your pasta al dente (it should say on the box how many minutes this is, I like to use rotini pasta and it’s usually 7 minutes). This will prevent the pasta from getting too mushy/soggy because the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
  • Second, and this is where I often went wrong, you need equal amounts of pasta to vegetables/add-ins. I like to chop my main veggies fairly uniform (“bite” size), like cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. My other ingredients that I use less of because of the strong flavor, such as onions and peppers, are chopped smaller. By add-ins, I am talking about not only vegetables, but also cheese, meats (pepperoni, ham, chicken), etc.
  • Third,  the dressing…everyone has their favorite and how much they like, but too much or too little can turn your perfect pasta salad into a “ehhh, it’s okay” pasta salad. My rule of thumb is 4:4:14 cups cooked pasta, 4 cups veggies/add-ins, 1 cup dressing. Even when I make a large batch for a cook-out or party, I stick with my ratios. See, math does come in handy sometimes! The pasta and veggies will soak up some of the dressing, so if you make this the night before, you may need to add a little more dressing the next day. This is a good starting point, and you can adjust to suit your taste buds.
  • Finally, and this is just a suggestion because they are not always readily available, but I highly recommend adding fresh herbs. My favorites to use are basil or cilantro.

Pasta Salad Ingredients EAH

I am particularly fond of the above ingredients for my pasta salad. However, I usually add peppers and I always add some kind of cheese, which somehow did not make the picture! I usually use feta, but feel free to add whatever is your favorite.

Perfect Pasta Salad {plus tips I've learned}
This pasta salad is the perfect side or light meal. Great for parties, cookouts, and more.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz dry pasta (will yield about 4 cups when cooked)
  • 4 cups desired vegetables/add-ins (such as cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, fresh herbs, cheese)
  • 1 cup dressing (such as House Italian, Oil & Vinegar, etc.)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package for al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  2. Place drained pasta in a large bowl, adding vegetables and desired add-ins.
  3. Add dressing, salt, pepper and stir to combine.
  4. Place in fridge to chill or serve immediately.

P.S. Want to save $60 and 2 hours each week on grocery shopping? Click herehttp://eatathomecooks.com/MealPlans429

Kim is a contributing writer for Eat at Home and author of food & family blog, Makin’ it Mo’Betta. She blogs about her adventures in the kitchen, incorporating life as mom to teen and tween girls, as well as a young son with nut allergies, and wife to a diabetic husband. Life is never dull!

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How to Adapt Your Meal Plans for Sports Season

Dinner during sports season

Sports season –  I’m not actually sure that it’s just a season.  I think it’s the norm.  It seems we’re always juggling things for soccer or volley ball.  I know many of you are in the trenches too with various sports.  It’s fun, and there are a lot of benefits for our kids, but there are trade offs too.

Family dinner is often the big loser during sports season.  It gets trampled under a schedule that has enough cleats to punch holes in the best laid dinner plans.

How to handle it?  Here are my top tips to keep the family eating together (at least most of the time) and avoid the drive-thru.

1.  Make a plan for the off nights

Be very intentional about planning meals together when you can get everyone gathered around the table.  And if having everyone there seems impossible (and with various teen schedules, it really is nearly impossible) go for as many family members as you can.

The way this works in our family is that if I’m home around dinner time, I will make dinner.  There may be two of us at the table or five of us.  Sometimes the kids bring a friend too.  I tend to cook for 6-8 people, no matter how many will be eating that night.  Leftovers get eaten up for lunches and late night boy snacks over the next couple of days.

We also aim to have at least one meal a week with all of us – and that includes our daughter and her husband.  This one takes some planning for all of us, but it’s so worth it.

Dinner gets harder on nights when I’m out to drive a child to a game or practice.  But there are strategies for that too:

2.  Use a slow cooker

If you’ll be home at a reasonable time to eat dinner, grab the slow cooker and fill it up early in the day.  Here’s a list I wrote a few years ago that categorizes slow cooker recipes for 5-10 minute prep, cook all day, and minimal sides required.

The key is to choose a recipe that works for your day.  If you’re looking for a big list of slow cooker recipes that can cook all day, check out this one.

22 Slow Cooker Recipes that can cook all day

And since that list is old, I think I need to do an update post for each of those categories with even more recipes.

3.  15 Minute Meal

If you’ll be home in time to eat, plus have 15 minutes to spare ahead of time, try a 15 minute recipe.  You really can get dinner on the table in just 15 minutes.  Here’s a list of 15 minute recipes.  Scroll down on the page to find the recipe links.

15 Minute Meals for Back to School

4.  Pack it

There’s no shame in eating on the sidelines or in your car.  I have a reputation on our kids’ soccer teams of showing up for games with a picnic.  It’s never fancy, but I never regret packing it either.  What I do regret is a run through the fast food place when I haven’t taken the time to pack a meal.  That’s expensive, doesn’t taste great, and not good for us either.

This week we had three soccer games.  I made packable food for all three, although two were so early we didn’t really need to do it.  No worries though.  Having a meal all done like that, meant that other family members at home were able to eat as well.

Here’s what we had this week:

  • Egg salad sandwiches (made with Greek yogurt), carrots and celery sticks
  • Pasta Salad with grilled chicken
  • Hummus Wraps, Green Bean and Tomato Salad (recipe coming soon)

Here’s a post with a few tips and ideas for packable meals that aren’t sandwiches.

P.S. Would you like a menu of easy meals, along with a color-coded grocery list all done for you? One of our Weekly Meal Plan members shared that she saves at least 2 hours each week by using the meal plans.  She also saves a minimum of $60 each week on food!  Find out how you can become a member by clicking here. Find your perfect Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan here.

 

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How to Use a Pizza Steel, a Pizza Peel and Parchment Paper to Make the Best Homemade Pizza Ever!

How to use a pizza steel, a pizza peel and parchment paper to make the best homemade pizza ever

 

Have you ever heard of a Pizza Steel?  Until a month or so ago, I hadn’t.

But this one tool has transformed the way I make homemade pizza.  More than any other purchase for my kitchen, this pizza steel has made a huge difference in the outcome of our homemade pizza making.

Now we turn out pizzas with crisp crusts.  The edges are soft and full of air bubbles.  The pizza doesn’t droop when you pick up a slice to eat it.

Basically, our homemade pizza is pretty amazing.

I’ve already shared 5 Ways to Improve Your Homemade Pizza, the Best Homemade Pizza Sauce, and our Pizza Dough recipe.

It’s possible to get decent pizza results from a regular pizza pan or baking stone, but using a pizza steel is a game changer.

Homemade pepperoni pizza

What is a pizza steel?

I bought my pizza steel from Falls Culinary.  It’s the Dough Joe Samurai.  It’s a 15″x15″ slab of steel that’s 1/4″ thick.  It won’t break or wear out, unlike pizza stones.

You place the pizza steel on the highest rack in the oven about an hour before you’re ready to bake.  Crank the oven as hot as it will go.  For mine, that’s 550 degrees.  I also turn on the convection fan, which gives it another 50 degrees.

The steel gets super hot.  Pizzas only need about 6 minutes of baking time when you use a steel.

The pizza peel.

You’re going to need a pizza peel as well.  The peel is how you transfer the uncooked pizza to the oven and then get the pizza back out again after baking.

I have this one from Epicurean.  Any pizza peel will work though.

How to get the pizza on and off the steel – parchment paper.

After trying flour and cornmeal on the pizza peel and still having the dough stick, I gave parchment paper a try.

We place the dough circle (sometimes ours isn’t as circle shaped as we’d like) on a piece of parchment paper.  Then pull this onto the peel.  Transfer the pizza on parchment to the hot steel in the oven.

uncooked pizza on parchment

 

In the photo above you can see an uncooked pizza on parchment paper.  It’s ready to go onto the peel and into the oven.

Six minutes later, I use tongs to pull the parchment and pizza back onto the peel and transfer it to a cutting board.  The parchment sometimes gets charred, but doesn’t catch fire or anything scary.

And it doesn’t interfere with the crisping of the crust.

leopard spotting on pizza

 

See the brown spots on the bottom of the crust?  That’s called leopard spotting and it’s what you want in pizza.  The crust was crisp, browned and perfect!

If you want to make really great homemade pizza, I recommend investing in a pizza steel and pizza peel.

Honestly, I’ve always thought that pizza was not something you could make at home and have anything that compares to getting it out at a restaurant.  But using the pizza steel has changed my mind.  Not that we won’t ever buy another restaurant pizza – that would be crazy.  But now I know we can have excellent pizza at home too.

P.S.  Do you want to save an hour each week on meal planning, plus more by cooking faster?  Sign up here for Weekly Meal Plans!

 

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What to Serve With Tacos and Enchiladas – Beyond Chips and Salsa

What to Serve with Tacos and Enchiladas

When I asked on Facebook about what meals you have trouble finding side dishes for, tacos and other Mexican and Tex-Mex meals made the list.

Chips and salsa and guacamole (here’s a tip to keep it from turning brown) are natural choices.  They’re quick too.

But what about other options?  Here are a few ideas:   [Read more…]

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What to Serve With Spaghetti or Lasagna (that’s not salad)

What to serve with spaghetti or lasagna that's not salad

 

Tossed salad is so easy with spaghetti or lasagna or any type of pasta with tomato sauce.  It hits everything that makes a great side dish.

But sometimes you just want something different.  Or something extra.

There’s always garlic bread.  Or hot, crusty bread with olive oil for dipping.

But what if you want something else?  Here are a few ideas to get started:

Antipasto Plate

A platter filled with marinated vegetables like artichokes and roasted red peppers, along with deli meats, cheeses and olives is a change of pace.  This works especially well if you’re feeding a lot of people, as it will really stretch the meal.

Roasted Vegetables

I’m becoming a fan of roasted vegetables with all kinds of meals.  My favorites would be brussels sprouts or broccoli.  Use good quality olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper to season.

Raw Vegetables tossed with Italian Dressing

Try cauliflower, carrots, cherry tomatoes tossed with vinaigrette.  Its’ still a salad, but it’s a little different than tossed salad.

What do you like to serve with spaghetti or lasagna?

P.S.  Do you want to save an hour each week on meal planning, plus more by cooking faster?  Sign up here for Weekly Meal Plans!

 

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How to Make Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough Recipe

 

We’ve been talking pizza here the last few weeks.  We talked about a few pizza game changers you can use to improve your homemade pizza.

And I shared our favorite homemade sauce recipe.  It’s easy and simple so that’s an added bonus.

Today I’ve got a pizza dough recipe for you to try.  This is not a quick dough to make, but it is worth the time.  I adapted this from the free Craftsy pizza making class.  Mostly, I simplified and clarified the recipe.  The original recipe calls for measuring everything on a scale.

While I’m sure using a kitchen scale will yield more consistent results, I’m resistant for a couple of reasons.  First, I don’t own a scale and I know many (probably most) of you don’t either.

And second,  I think there’s something to be said for learning to trust your own judgement when it comes to working with any type of dough.  There’s a satisfaction in making something enough that you begin to know when it needs more flour or when it could use some water.  When to leave the dough to rest a while and when to keep working it.

I’m still in the process of learning to really know my way around the pizza dough, but I am learning.

Before I share the recipe, let’s talk over a few tips.   [Read more…]

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What to Serve with Fried Rice and Stir Fry

What to serve with fried rice and stir fry

 

We’ve talked about the basics of choosing side dishes.  And last week we talked about side dish options for pot pies and other casseroles.

Today, we’re taking on fried rice and stir fry.

These dishes can be tough to pair with a side dish.  Honestly, I often skip other sides and just leave it with rice with the stir fry.  Or fried rice alone.

But there are times when you’d really like to have something else to round out the meal.  Here are a few ideas:

Vegetables

Try steamed or roasted broccoli, brussels sprouts, or green beans.  Or do a quick stir fry of zucchini, onions, mushrooms, carrots etc.  Season with garlic and soy sauce.

Fruit

Fresh cut oranges or pineapple can serve as a side/dessert.  The citrus sweet flavor is a nice opposite for the main dish.  Canteloupe in season is also really good with Asian main dishes.

Egg rolls, dumplings or spring rolls

This one is pretty obvious and not quite as high in nutrition either.  But they’re so good!

Salad

Green salad with Asian Vinaigrette, Asian Ginger Dressing, or Asian Sesame Dressing.  Asian Broccoli Salad, Hawaiian Cole Slaw or Tropical Salad would be good too.

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