Saturday, January 17, 2009

Picture of the Day - January 17

The tiny bowler!

Pulled Pork (yup again!)

So as you may recall I posted earlier about Pulled Pork that we made in the slow cooker. (It is wonderful, feeds a large crowd and is SO easy to make that you can't not make it!)

The recipe I posted earlier but didn't get any pictures but I did this time.

Here it is once it is all pulled! 

From the start to the end of my actual cooking process it took about 20 minutes!

(I had the onions pre-diced from earlier in the week)
Just put those in the frying pan until they were slightly soft, added the ginger, garlic, chili powder, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, pepper and everything else.

We are contemplating trying the same thing with Beef to make a pulled BBQ Beef so my husband decided that we should try adding some molasses.  IT WAS WONDERFUL!  It made it have a very BBQ taste and quality!  Also added to the sweetness.

Now again, we pulled the meet and then added a couple of spoons of sauce instead of shredding it in the sauce because of our daughter. We then kept the sauce for the side to pour over ours!

Then we were going to have Potatoes for supper and I wanted something more exciting so we decided on having potato skins (ok not so healthy but very tasty and makes me feel like we were having a take out meal!)

Potato Skins
4 medium potatoes (use red or white, but try for oval and long vs. round shaped ones)
4 slices of precooked bacon
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Sour cream.
  1. Was the potatoes very well, then prick with a fork.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Pop the potatoes in the microwave on High heat for about 10 minutes.
  4. Dice the slices of bacon.
  5. Carefully remove the potatoes and slice them in half (along the widest part).
  6. Use a melon baller and scoop out the insides but be careful to enough enough potato attached to the skin to be able to pick them up.
  7. Sprinkle some Olive Oil on the potatoes, and some salt and pepper.
  8. Place the Potatoes on a cookie sheet skin side down.
  9. Sprinkle the diced bacon and shredded cheese on the potatoes. 
  10. Heat until the bacon becomes crispy, the cheese is melted and the potato is sufficiently soft.
  11. Serve with some sour cream! 
We use the insides of the potatoes to feed our daughter - other wise you can keep them for making mashed potatoes or other things!

Here is our supper!  (the corn and broccoli is missing from the plate but basically here you go!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

#04 Shopaholic takes Manhattan (2002) (Kinsella, Sophie)

#04 Shopaholic takes Manhattan (2002) (Kinsella, Sophie)
Summary: With her shopping excesses (somewhat) in check and her career as a TV financial guru thriving, Becky’s biggest problem seems to be tearing her entrepreneur boyfriend, Luke, away from work for a romantic country weekend. And worse, figuring out how to pack light. But packing takes on a whole new meaning when Luke announces he’s moving to New York for business—and he asks Becky to go with him! Before you can say “Prada sample sale,” Becky has landed in the Big Apple, home of Park Avenue penthouses and luxury boutiques.

Surely it’s only a matter of time until she becomes an American TV celebrity, and she and Luke are the toast of Gotham society. Nothing can stand in their way, especially with Becky’s bills miles away in London. But then an unexpected disaster threatens her career prospects, her relationship with Luke, and her available credit line! Shopaholic Takes Manhattan—but will she have to return it?

Pages: 400 pages
Rating: 5/5
Comments: I love this books - the story gets even better and I look forward to reading more of these!

The Meal Plan (January 18 - 24)

Here is the plan for the week!

Sunday:Herb roasted chicken, potatoes skins, Corn and broccoli
Monday: Sushi (*happy dance!*)
Tuesday: Shrimp, brown rice, Broccoli and Peas (maybe this will be a stir fry type thing)
Wednesday: Cod, brown rice, peas, and beans
Thursday: Rotinni, Meat balls, beans and broccoli (this is a Dad and daughter only night so I figured things should be easier for them!)
Friday: "Messy Giuseppe" (Rachael Ray "Express Lane Meals" p. 182) potato skins, corn and broccoli (basically this is suppose to be like sloppy joes!)
Saturday: Dinner & a movie (thanks to M&P for taking the kidlet for the night!)

Plus for the week we are going to be adding the following side dishes and salad:
- Linda's Thai Noodle Salad
- 4-bean Salad

*Yum* Grocery shopping was such a breeze this week! made it really easy I sat down looked at the weeks events, planned our meals and wrote down anything I didn't have in the house on the list and off I went.

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to come up with new ideas for meals. However, on the back of the grocery list I started writing down ideas for the future weeks as inspiration hit me in the store! I'll keep a master list in my binder then can refer back to it as we go on!

Ah yes, the binder. I keep a master binder of all my recipes - everything is in it, and it has a master index at the front, dividers and subdivisions to keep things organized (but I'll post more on that later!)

- UPDATE: only one problem has arisen now with the above. Apparently someone will be away Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week *sigh* however, it seems that the meal plan will be easy enough to adapt! Thank goodness for that.

Now I just need to find a few vegetarian items to try in the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Picture of the Day - January 15

And the sad part of the matter is....this is just a few of the shoes I have at work and a tiny part of the shoes I have at home.

Menu Planning Success

So this was our supper tonight!  If you look back at our meal plan for the night we were successful!!
We had pasta with sauce instead of rice because we had left over sauce in the fridge. Unfortunately the only frozen veggies that we had were the beans so we had that instead.

Tonight we had promised our daughter some ice cream and a cookie for a treat for having a good day!  So we went to Costco for that and while there we picked up some of the groceries while we were there and got to talk about our menu for the next week.

It seems that the once skeptical husband is actually liking the idea of menu planning! It was great this week to come home and know what we were going to do for supper, have already taken the food out of the freezer and just be able to do it.  I am so amazed because yesterday even the husband managed to make the Chicken Dumpling Stoup  on his own!  (it was easy considering that the veggies we all ready and cut for him!)

We'll see how this keeps up!

Picture of the Day - January 14

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Super - Chicken Dumpling Stoup

So for those of you who are not RR (Rachael Ray) Fan's a stoup is a mix between a stew and a soup. Thicker than a soup and thinner than stew. 

I recommend it for anyone that has little kids and likes having soup. It is easy to get a good mix of veggies into the meal and I find that soup is hard for my daughter to eat so it works well!

Here is the link to the Original Recipe Chicken Dumpling Stoup

Here is my Version:

Chicken Dumpling Stoup

Olive Oil
4 ribs of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
4 cups Campbell's Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 egg
1 pkg (about 2 or 3 lbs) of ground Turkey (it is more easily accessible)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tbsp Clubhouse Italian Seasoning
1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp minced ginger 
Dash of Nutmeg 
3 large potatoes cut into 1" cubes, or several baby potatoes quartered 
1 cup frozen peas or corn (what ever is on hand)

  1. Place a large pot on the stove. Pour olive oil into the pot (to turns of the pan).
  2. Add the celery, carrots and onions. Let them cook until soft.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. (the original calls for 6 cups, but I then end up with 2 extra cups so just throw the rest in).
  4. Bring to a Boil.
  5. Add the egg, bread crumbs, garlic, ginger, italian seasoning, cheese, nutmeg, and turkey into a bowl. Mix well until you have a good meatball consistency (you may have to add more bread crumbs).
  6. Roll into walnut-sized meatballs. Drop them into the boiling soup.
  7. Once the meatballs are all rolled then add the potatoes.
  8. Cook until the potatoes are soft but no over cooked.
  9. Pull off the stove, remove the bay leaves and add the frozen peas or corn to the soup!

So the largest difference is we add more broth because I never manage to use the other 2 cups. Although, if you end up keeping the remaining to cups you can use those to cook some rice the next day.

We also don't use the gnocchi because It always ends up overcooked by time we get to eat it, and we find that it doesn't heat up well the next day.  Plus then the recipe requires no special ingredients! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

4-Bean Salad (by request ;) )

4 Bean Salad

(or something like that ;) )

  • 1/2 cup dried baby lima beans
  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup dried chick peas
  • 1/2 cup dried navy beans
  • 1/2 cup any other beans/peas etc. dried (I usually use 6 different ones in my 4 bean salad)
  • 1/2 cup diced or very thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup red pepper with a fairly large dice
  • 1 small onion diced (I skip this if I am going to be eating this during the day at work)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar (We don't use this we use some splenda - about 1/2 cup)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Club House Italian Seasoning
  1. Fill a medium size mixing bowl with 3 times the amount of water than you have beans. Add all of the dried beans to the bowl. 
  2. Soak the beans over night. The next morning, drain and rinse the beans.
  3. Cook the beans over medium heat for 1 hour (keep it simmering just below a boil). To avoid boiling over add a little bit of olive oil.
  4. Drain and rinse the beans under cold water.
  5. Put all the veggies and beans in the bowl with the dressing. Let sit over night and keep stirring it. 
If you want to change it up try adding different veggies into the mix like zucchini. However, these ones don't stand up as long as carrots and peppers do. We keep this bean salad in the fridge for a week. 

We bring some for lunch and always serve it as a side dish for supper!  It's very tasty!

Picture of the Day - January 13

"It's REALLY cold out mom!"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Life Craziness and how I prepare for the week

So for those of you who haven't figured it out my life is usually pretty busy. I work a full time job (Monday-Friday 8:30 until 5:30 pm), I have a 3-year old daughter, and I also have a professional designation class that I am required to complete during this year that takes about 8 to 10 hours of work a week.

(and for the record - this is a slow down compared to my schedule before I graduated from my program.)

Anyways the biggest problem I encountered when I went back to school after having my daughter (I had her half way through my program) was ensuring that she had healthy and nutritious meals. My eating habits boggled my mind for the first time after I had my daughter. I tried to think about eating, and how to eat healthy and about a few of my friends who are not health nuts but live extremely healthy lifestyles.

In particular I thought about J. She is very healthy, does not drink pop, eat chips (or meat...) and runs every day. We talked about this once and she never missed it or ever really craved or desired it. I asked her why and the reply was simple "because my parents never really had it." I had the same reply when I asked how she stayed committed to running "my parents did it every day so we just did it." No great logic, sense or anything else that had just been her life.

So here I am with my diet and weight problems and where did I get it? Well I got it first and foremost from my parents. Not all of the bad habits came from my parents but my fundamental education about nutrition came from my parents. That really hit something for me with my daughter. Thinking that I am solely responsible for ensuring that this person has a healthy and active life. But I don't want to force things upon her as that can easily lead to severe eating problems like anorexia.

Then one day my husband and I were at Costco having a hot dog and drink and my daughter (still very young maybe a few months old) and I saw this woman giving her baby (may a year) a drink of Coke. I was shocked, then took a sip of my diet coke. I was being a hypocrite. Why is it ok for meat to eat these foods when I would never feed them to my child at this age?

So I came up with a new eating system - If I wouldn't feed it to my daughter I wouldn't eat it. That worked for a long long time, and it worked in reverse as well. I tried the canned baby food and they tasted awful so I opted to make my own.

But as she got ready to go to daycare I encountered a terrible problem - what to feed her for lunch and HOW to manage making a lunch every day for her on top of everything else. I tried many things like the gerber meals, sandwhichs etc. nothing seemed to suit my desire to send her with a healthy and well rounded meal and snacks for the day. Plus it ate up so much time in the evening having to prepare it. After much trial and error we devised a system of making ALL of our lunches on Sunday night!

We cut, prepare and package everything for the week on Sunday night for the entire family. Then in the morning it is a matter of simply grabbing the bag for that day and putting it into your lunch bag. (note; for salads i will toss the lettuce in that morning to keep it fresher)

I know a few new moms who will heading back to work shortly and figure d I would take pictures, and share some of my ideas.

SO my tips to start off with:
  1. Come up with a general plan for lunches that you can stand or stomach for the entire week and something easy enough that you can change it up easily! For example, during the summers I love making cob salads (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, ham, peppers, seeds and nuts) and then you can modify the dressing or the veggies on it.
  2. Find easy things to add to the lunch that are healthy - like a No Sugar Added yogurt, or a sugar free jell-o. I love the jell-o because it is an easy dessert and low in calories. However, to cost save, I make two batches of Jello and put them into individual containers myself instead of buying them prepackaged from the store.
  3. I buy fresh fruit in season and compare prices (e.g., the oranges today at the store were cheaper by the pound than in the bag, but the Apples were $0.40/lb cheaper in the big bag) I store all my fruit in the fridge so they last longer (except for Banana's).
  4. Cost save - do not buy any pre-cut, pre-shredded cheeses from the store do it yourself during your weekly meal prep (I have one exception - I sometimes use fancy cheese for lasagna and they are more economical in the pre-shredded bags because I don't end up having a bunch of excess cheese).
  5. Time save - once the meal plan is done and I have the recipes I generally know if I need anything cut, diced etc for the rest of the week (like carrots, onions, celery etc.)
  6. Cost save - buy dehydrated beans or legumes instead of canned version. A bag of kidney beans costs about $3.00 - the equivalent amount of beans in a can cost roughly $10.00. They aren't hard to use but you may have a miss or two before you get it right. Simply soak the beans in the water the night before and then cook for the time indicated on the bag and they are ready to go!
  7. Time save - made easy week long side dishes like a mixed bean salad, or a cabbage salad on the weekend and keep it in the fridge and serve it with the meals!

The basic system we have set up is that individual foods go into a snack size ziplock bag (I use the President Choice No Name ones). then each person has a Large Ziplock bag with their initial and the day of the week on it (e.g., C-Monday) once I am done cutting or preparing a food item I distribute them into each of the daily bags. Thus at the end the food is all ready for the week. In the morning we simply grab the bag, add a yogurt, Jell-O or No sugar added apple sauce for my daughter and we are ready to go!

Here are the two types of Jell-O I am making this week Strawberry Banana and Peach (note that they are both sugar free). Now I use Jell-O because they offer a better variety of flavors than President's Choice No Name does in the sugar free kind. However, I also pick these up in mass quantities on trips to the states (roughly $0.30/box)

While I boiled the water - I got the rest of the fruits and veggies out and on the counter.
In order to be more efficient I also use a plastic bag from the store as a garbage collector on the counter (no matter how hard I try I end up with a large stock pile of these). Now for the more environmentally conscious you can use a garbage bowl. It simply cuts down on the trips to the garbage can!

As you can see lots on the menu this week! After this I went and got the Jell-O all ready and mixed and poured.

These are apples for my daughters lunch. I usually use one or two apples depending on the size for the week. I slice and core them. Now to prevent them from turning brown we put them in a medium size ziplock bag and give them a good dose of lemon juice. I always start with apples and let them sit until the very end in the lemon juice before packaging them. They are tasty a little bit of lemon but not over powering.

I do the same with pears and set them aside. Next I cut up peppers for my daughters lunch, my lunches and for our bean salad. Makes it very effective to only have to chop the same veggie once during the week!

I then move on to carrots and celery. I need them for our lunches, the bean salad and the chicken dumpling stoup. SO i peel into my garbage bag then slice for lunches. I then do a fine dice on the carrots for the salad and soup. I place the ones for the salad right into the bowl and the ones for the soup go into their own ziplock bag. (I dice because I want to practice my knife skills - however you can just grate them too).

I do the same with the celery - cut and dice, bag and put aside. I also grate cheese for my pita's (my lunch this week and last very tastie!) and some for later in the week and then put that aside.

I cut my pita's in half and then put them back into the original bag and then just grab what need the night before and put it into my 'pita ziplock'

Here are my onions, and veggies chopped for the meals for the rest of the week!

Here are the beans that we soaked overnight and cooked earlier in the day. We then just added the veggies (peppers and carrots) and the dressing and we have a wonderful 4-bean salad

The result - my lunch:
Tuna salad (1 tbsp light mayo, 1 can tuna, 1 tbsp Italian stuff)
1 pita
1 oz grated cheese
1 apple
1 pear
Cucumber - for the pita
lettuce (missing) for the pita
peppers - for the pita

In the morning I add: a container of the bean salad, yogurt, Jell-O, and a Banana!

My daughters lunch:
- 1 mini muffin (yup store help there!)
- orange sections
- 1 mini cucumber
- 8 blackberries
- Grapes sliced up
- Carrots and Celery
- Apple slices
- Pear Slices
- Some meat
- 1 oz cheese

in the morning we add the NSA apple sauce and yogurt!

And Viola lunches for the week, cut veggies for the week and a healthy bean salad to be used at lunch and for supper as a side1

Total time (start to finish including pictures and cleaning): 1 1/2 hours