Back in November, I made an amazing squash gratin casserole
for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit. However, it was also a huge pain in the tuchas (Jewish accent!) and so I knew that it would be a WHILE before I was able to make it again. A while was apparently a little over 2 months and I had to do it when I was on my staycation in early February. I actually forgot to buy onions and went without them and using the George Foreman Grill was a huge improvement over a grill pan (because the veggies grilled on both sides at once and I could walk away from it and it didn't fill my apartment with smoke and set off my smoke alarm!). What I love about this is that it's healthy with all sorts of veggie/fiber goodness and still so tasty (thanks to the Italian cheeses: Parm and Mozz). Also, for a 6-8 serving platter, it came out to be pretty cheap and there was plenty of leftover cheese to use elsewhere. I also wound up with quite a few leftover tomato slices, which I eventually put to use elsewhere.Click the link above for a list of ingredients and instructions
Well, the casserole turned out great and I learned to do a few other things. For example, I did some research and read some other blogs and found out how to deal with all my leftover basil. I can never manage to use all of mine. First, I started to add it to snack salads (this one was cucumber, some red bell pepper and some chopped basil dressed with balsamic vinegar). On the left is a big piece of bell pepper loaded with fat free cream cheese by the way.
Then I started to do some research and found that some bloggers out there have been freezing their basil. Some froze it in oil (so not my thing, feel that oil adds unnecessary calories ) and some processed it into puree, also with oil (doubly not my style). The thing I found that required the least amount of effort was simply chopping up the basil, dumping it into an ice tray and freezing it with water into ice cubes.
The reviews said that it wouldn't really be suitable for use as "fresh" basil garnish but would be fine in sauces etc. I have yet to find out if this is the case, but promise to try soon!
Also, never having been one to put all my eggs in one basket, I realized that the casserole is well....more of a side than a main for most people. It was time to start defrosting a few more of my hand-removed chicken breasts. I never posted this but I accidentally bought bone-in chicken breasts at the supermarket and was surprised at how cheap they were. Well, like Ikea, they required some manual input, though it was more like disassembly =) Anyway, I coated them with a spice mix (any store bought spice rub will do, but probably S+P+Italian Seasoning would be fine too)
Above are 2 chicken breasts, butterflied and seasoned. I grilled these guys on the George Foreman Grill then I chopped them up very finely for a chicken salad.
To the chopped chicken I added the remainder (1 cup?) of a frozen and sauteed veggie mixture (this was peppers and onions), also chopped and about 1.5-2tbsp Fage Greek Yogurt 0%. Of course, some more S+P went in too. I bet some cumin or paprika would have been perfect here, but it didn't come to me at the time.
Here's a shot of the ensuing dinner: 1 bowl of chicken salad (1/4 of the total) surrounded by PopChips with approximately 1/6 of the casserole on the side.
The "his" plate had a bigger bowl and I gave him some extra gratin casserole.
The chicken salad was later to be portioned onto toast and topped with cheese for chicken salad melts by the Boyfriend, who does not take pictures of his food like I do =)
So, I know a lot of people don't love to eat leftovers. I happen to enjoy leftovers, but even I sometimes get bored of them. My favorite thing to do is to adapt leftovers to salads, sandwiches or side dishes. It's easiest to throw anything on top of a bed of lettuce, add a few fresh veggies, a sprinkle of dressing and call it a salad. And it's amazingly tasty. I find salads to be one of the most satisfying meals because you can make it into whatever you want. Buffalo chicken salad, burrito salad, tropical salad, hearty veggie salad...you name it. Plus every single bite tastes just a bit different. You get a crouton with one, a protein with another, a bit of a jalapeno there, a bite of cheese somewhere else....how can you go wrong?
So far, the things that I've found go best in salads are 1) frozen/sauteed veggie mixtures 2) any yogurt-based salad: tuna, chicken, salmon 3) shrimp dishes 4) meatloaf-like dishes.
Also, you can portion almost anything into a snack or side and put anything between bread. That being said, that casserole was divvied into 6 portions and I ate each a little differently. The chicken salad was stretched into two types of meals too. It's harder to do the same with leftover ingredients, but not impossible =)
So kids, I hope we learned something today: cook in multiple servings, while you're already in the kitchen, cook 2 dishes. Or if you're REALLY good at multitasking, cook 3 or 4 =)
Hers <3 His
Why not, we did Valentine's Day on February 16th and I decided to cook a dinner that was going to be as unhealthy as it needed to be! And you know what? It turned out to be pretty healthy ANYWAY! And tasty!
On The Menu
New York Strip Steak with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce
Brussel sprouts baked with bacon and almonds, dressed with truffle oil and balsamic vinegar
Potatoes Gratin with Gorganzola cheese
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
In fact, after the meal, Boyfriend questioned me about the budget that went into this meal for comparison with restaurant prices.
FYI: $12 2 steaks, $3 Brussels sprouts, $1 2 potatoes, $3 Portabello mushrooms, $10 for the wine, $4 for the Gorgonzola cheese, $4 for strawberries, $3 for chocolate and other stuff that we already had in the fridge: probably $3. That comes out to $43 total. In a restaurant, a steak dinner with potatoes, a vegetable side, a bottle of wine and a dessert would run us at LEAST $100-150!
But you know what, it's not about the price....this meal was well portioned for the both of us so we didn't get up feeling too stuffed for comfort (though sharing a whole bottle of wine we may have felt too tipsy for comfort!) and we had leftovers both of the dinner and of the ingredients (sprouts, chocolate, strawbs, mushrooms, cheese) so we used them in other meals. But....it did take me just under 2 hours to fully prepare and there was a lot of cleanup that went with it.
Potatoes Gratin With Gorganzola
(Serves 2+1 leftover)
1. Thoroughly wash and slice 2 baking (Russet) potatoes into 1/4" thick slices.
2. Spray one side of all the slices with olive oil (or cooking spray) and place them on a baking sheet lined with foil, oil side down. Spray other side with oil and season liberally with salt, pepper, any herb you like on potatoes (I like Italian Seasoning) and garlic powder
3. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Flip each slice over after 30 minutes.
4. At 40 minutes, put a tiny slice of gorganzola cheese on each slice (or if you have crumbles, spread evenly) and continue to bake for about 4 more minutes. Obviously, the more decadent you want to be, the more cheese you can add).
*These come out really nice, crispy and tasty. The gorganzola adds a really nice touch. Obviously you can use any kind of cheese: blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, goat cheese....whatever works.
The Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Almonds (Serves 2+ 1 leftover serving)
Take a bunch of almonds (10-15?) This was way more than neccesary! and crush them in a ziplock baggie with something heavy. A pan? A bottle of beer? It's fun, try it!
Shred the sprouts by cutting across each sprout and separating the strands. I think I used 15 medium sprouts for this salad. Chop about 4-5 slices of turkey bacon into small pieces and throw on top of the sprouts. Add almonds
Add liberal S+P, balsamic vinegar, consider 1tsp truffle oil (omit for healthy salads).
Bake at 375 (or at 400 along with the potatoes) for about 20 minutes. Make sure to toss about 15 minutes in.
See below for healthy makeover version!
The Steaks (2 New York Strips)
1. Add some dry steak seasoning rub or just some S+P+garlic onto the steaks and let them come to room temperature.
2. Heat a pan to medium, add about 1tbsp olive oil and throw on the steaks.
3. Keep them on the pan for about 3min/side
4. Take them out of the pan and allow the steaks to rest until you are ready to eat (at least 6 minutes)
The Mushroom Sauce
1. Chop Portobello mushrooms
2. Add 2 tbsp butter (or any substitute) into a pan and allow to melt on medium heat. Whisk in 2 tbsp flour until blended
3. Add about 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup beef broth (no sodium added)
4. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to reduce until it's at the consistency you want it to be at.
5. Make sure to do some taste testing to add S+P and consider vinegar.
The Dessert (Serves 2)
Wash and COMPLETELY dry 10ish strawberries
Break 2/3 of a Hershey Bar into a bowl and microwave for 40 seconds, mix and microwave again. The chocolate should be melted.
Dip the strawberries in the chocolate and place onto a piece of wax paper on a plate in the fridge
Allow to cool while you eat dinner =)
My steak was slightly bigger than a deck of cards, which is what is considered an appropriate portion of meat. As you can imagine, it's about 1/3 the size of anything I'd get at a restaurant and it is half of one of the steaks I bought.
About 1/2 potato slices with some Gorganzola cheese and about 2/3 cup of the Brussels Sprouts Salad
1/2 slice of bread, a few tbsp of the mushrooms sauce and 1 glass of wine.
I did have seconds of both the sprouts and the wine (well maybe more than just seconds of wine)
**Check out how nice and pink the interior of my steak is!**
A whole New York Strip, probably a whole potato in slices, 1/2 cup brussels salad and 1/2 slice of bread with 1 glass of wine.
He also had seconds of wine and potato!
He piled his steak nice and high with the mushroom sauce, about 4-5 tbsp!
Leftover tally: 1 serving of steak with 1/2 cup sprout salad + about 4tbsp mushrooms sauce. There would have been extra potato left over but I dropped them all over the floor before they were even baked! There was plenty of gorganzola, about 1/2 of the package of mushrooms and about 10 uncooked brussel sprouts left over too.
Eventually I decided to do a remake of the Brussels sprouts salad from the 10 leftover sprouts for lunch.
I shredded the 10 sprouts and chopped up 2 slices of turkey bacon.
I sauteed all that + balsamic vinegar (1tbsp) on a sprayed non-stick pan on medium heat for about 8 minutes. I seasoned with S+P an a little garlic.
Super tasty and healthy with a VERY low calorie count (no nuts, no oils). 50cals for the bacon and no more than 100 for the sprouts.
Finally, this was dinner tonight. Salad+Beer =)
Salad: 1/3 yellow pepper, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, about 1/4 of a can of yams, 1/2 of a large chicken breast (marinated and pan cooked), mixed greens and 4 saltine crackers. The beer: Sam Adams Coffee Stout. Yummmm.
Wow, that was a looong post. I think I'll just leave it at that tonight. Also look out for recipe updates on the Recipage
The blog is back and rolling, not that I feel like I have any sort of real readership. But something about it is comforting so I am glad I can keep working on it. If it had been shut down entirely, I would have stopped.
Anyway, I'm back and don't have any NEW recipes, but I will soon (tonight?) post a few lunches/dinners/breakfasts that I've cooked up since my last post.
Just a quick digression though: Valentine's Day was yesterday. Did anyone do anything special? And if so, did anyone make dinner? I feel like going out for dinner on V-D can be really tough. It's hard to make a reservation and all the restaurants have limited pre-priced 3-course menus. I can't think of something less romantic than stuffing myself with 3 courses on a day when I'm supposed to look sexy! Anyway though, Boyfriend was on call Tuesday so we boycotted V-D and are having a date night tonight. He got me a gift, I will be cooking him something that used to moo. =)
Stay tuned for the V-D post! It will NOT be healthy, it will NOT be low-cal and I will NOT feel good about eating it but will just have to turn those feelings of guilt into some more intuitive eating next week (holiday and vacation-free, no excuses!)
I deleted the site and I got it back but now can't edit it once I close this one window! What do I do?
Well...not quite. I'm still technically on vacation
for another 9 hours. My vacation was 2 weeks (out of the 4 allotted to me) and I barely posted anything at all! Well it's also because I barely cooked anything at all. Quite frankly, the idea of making something and then being on staycation
alone in the house with a new batch of anything is just a little too difficult for me! No willpower
at all. I have at least 2 friends who think that's ridiculous. OK, down to business. Before we left for our ski vacation, I did make 2 things I have no yet blogged. I hope to make a batch of blueberry pancakes today as well.
The first, above, were skinny cheddar biscuits
that I modeled on a recipe from Skinny Taste
for the original post). I skinnified them just a little.
My Ingredients (Made 12-13 biscuits)
2 cups Busquick Heart Smart Mix
2 tbsp I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spread
2/3 cup skim milk
2 servings fat free shredded cheddar cheese
1.5 servings Weight Watchers Mexican Mix
1tsp (?) garlic powder
1tsp (?) dried Italian seasoning
*I happened to have those two types of cheese on hand. I would probably not want to make these with all 3.5 servings of fat free cheese because it's so dry.*
Instructions (preheat oven to 400 deg)
1. Mix the dry ingredients (Busquick mix, cheeses, 1/2tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning, salt
2. Add milk and stir. Don't stir TOO much but make sure all the floured mix is well in there.
3. Plop about 1tbsp of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Melt butter + 1/2 tsp garlic and Italian seasoning in microwave (30 sec?)
5. Lightly brush butter mixture over the top of the biscuit blobs. You should wind up with about half the butter mix left
6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, brush the biscuits with the butter mix again (generously this time) and let bake for another 5 minutes.
**Watch out though, they may be only a little brown on top but the bottom might be black (like mine). Beware of overcooking and remember that you can always pop them back in but you can't uncook them once it's been done!**
Reviews: There are about 100 calories/biscuit and they were quite tasty for dinner the night they came out of the oven. I wasn't too hungry that night and paired them with kale chips two ways (really just 1/2 of the plate had Dijon honey mustard and the other half got ketchup!). Boyfriend had 2 with his.
What they did not do: stay well overnight without refrigeration. They were hard little pucks the next day =(
What they did do: The few that I did pop in the refrigerator to have on day 2 were delicious. Guess these guys aged pretty well!
I also prepared a batch of cranberry sauce. Really easy stuff though. It's kind of tart, but I happen to love it that way when it's combined with some vanilla yogurt. I just put a pack of frozen cranberries in a pot along with 1 cup of water, 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 tbsp sugar. I also added 2 packets Sweet N Lo and a squirt of sugar free maple syrup. I brought the water to a boil and let it simmer while the berries began to pop. It was messy but in the end I had a nice big batch of yogurt and cereal topping! If I happened to have made a turkey sandwich, I totally would have used this on top. I'm going to finish this post now and start afresh with posts including food, exercise and social nonsense now that I'm all caught up. Below is my yogurt parfait that I took to work with me: 1 cup yogurt, 2-3 tbsp cranberry sauce, another squirt of sugar free maple syrup, topped with a fiber/nut Trader Joes cereal. Simple but so good and crunchy =) See you next time!
In the interest of keeping this very long post as short as possible, I will limit this to vacation recap and not discuss any new recipes (they are on the way, I promise). I am stocking up a few oldies but goodies and one new (semi-stolen) recipe that I love. Man, if I were to post more often, the posts would be shorter AND the process would be so much less hateful and I would then do it more often. What a great cycle that would be. Kind of like eating healthy making you feel good and making you want to eat healthy foods more often. Also, alcohol making you feel bad and leading you to drink less often....Too bad none of these things happened during my vacation thus far...-
Above is the beginning and the end of our first night out in Utah. We figured since we were going to be in a place where the restaurants were cheaper on the whole, why not go to the most expensive place in town and pay what we would have paid for a semi-special night out in NYC. We chose Bambara
and gosh was it a great choice! The place was decorated in black and white, making it very chic and it was small but...spacious. The meal started with a bread and hummus platter (complimentary) and we went to town on that hummus. I generally love it when restaurants provide a complimentary bread with something more interesting than butter. I would also love it if the bread were more interesting but I don't want to be TOO much of a snob ;-) (hehe). We continued on with a stuffed peppers appetizer and two main courses (a gnocchi dish and a tuna). Both were spectacular, but none were photographed before being devoured. The star (I think) was the dessert. It was photographed because it was MASSIVE. That boat of a plate it was sitting on is a pasta dish. Seriously. The pastries are filled with ICE CREAM. It is SWIMMING in hot fudge and wonderful black cherries and those "fries" underneath are sliced almonds. The last time I was faced with a dessert that rich I ate and ate and ate until I was sick and thought it was worth it. Well I ate and ate and ate this dish (I ate my whole half, Boyfriend did not manage to finish his....willpower) and waddled the whole 0.8 miles back to the hotel happy as a clam. A really, really stuffed clam. Moving on...
Our next night out was to Eva
, a much less pricey tapas and cocktails place. Unfortunately we had consumed 1.5 beers each while soaking in the outdoor hot tub (human soup!) so we were not really drinking that night. Still, it was really great. We started with two appetizers: Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potato Gratin. While the Gratin was a bit on the heavy side for me, the Brussel sprouts (left) were incredible. They were roasted with macadamia nuts. I WILL be recreating this dish (perhaps subbing in much less expensive almonds) in the VERY near future. I fell like this whole time I've been being so silly, eating Brussel sprouts whole. Silly me. We also had a lamb kebab (remarkable for coming with grapes on the skewers-yum!) and a Shrimp and "Grits" dish. This was also pretty nice and came with a sunny side egg on top. We would later realize that this was a recurring theme throughout SLC menus. Two nights later we went to the Copper Onion. This was kind of in the middle for fanciness (and price). We had an appetizer of Brussel Sprouts (I couldn't resist after Eva!) and sauteed mushrooms (middle picture). Surprise, the mushrooms had a sunny side egg on top! Both dishes were kind of the oily side (hence no link!). We continued on to a sturgeon dish (ok) and a Wagyu beef stroganoff (right picture) which was nice, but nothing to write home about. Also, cooking Wagyu beef to medium-well makes it taste the same as rump roast. We ended with a peach and blueberry pie a la mode (caramel ice cream). It was awesome. The crust had that touch of salt that's easily one of my favorite things on a pie. I ate my half of that too. Boyfriend continued to exercise moderation. We finished our dining out with some super junk food (fried, slathered in sauce, covered in sour cream, you name it) at the Beerhive which boasts a very wide variety of beers on tap. Utah, by the way, sells all it's beers at a 3.2% alcohol content, so you have to really go out of your way to find the strong stuff. Or go to Beerhive (they don't have a site!).
Finally, here's something more like what some of the people who read this site are looking for. Hotel Room Nachos! I mentioned in my previous post that our money does not grow on trees so we have been employing quite a few money-saving methods on our vacation. Not the least of which happened to be making our own breakfasts and packing our lunches. As an aside, we also didn't rent a car, used public transportation and walked everywhere (1.5 miles one way was our record, 0.7miles was our average, so figure at least 1.4 miles per day of walking). So we were also party green!
Anyway, our breakfasts consisted of yogurts with boxed cereal purchased at the supermarket, fruit and sometimes, cookies (guilty). We also bought a bunch of deli meat (3/4 lb each of turkey, chicken and roast beef), cheese (1/2lb pepperjack for him, Laughing Cow for me) and a loaf of bread. We took about a quarter of each of these with us to the mountain, left them in the lodge (unrefrigerated, yes!) and assembled sandwiches for lunch. Honestly, it was super tasty because the bread and the meat were both more gourmet than what we would be getting in the lodge AND it was a lot cheaper than buying a sandwich for $8! AND finally, we had 2 nights where we ate "in". Our first night we bought a supermarket enchillada (to microwave) and a shrimp ring. Our second eat in night was more innovative. I made hotel room nachos. A great money-saving idea.
Hotel Room Nachos (hers-healthier)
Ask your hotel to provide you with plates (or get paper plates from a market)
Spread each plate with tortilla chips (the flavored ones are great)
Shred (manually) 3-4 pieces of any deli meat all over the plate (I used 2 slices chicken, 1 slice turkey)
Take a fork and "crumble" 2 wedges of Laughing Cow Cheese over the chips
Top with Salsa
We also lucked out in the fact that our last ski lodge had salad bar toppings for "free" so I picked up some chopped tomatoes and lettuce from them.
Pop all that into the microwave in shifts for 1 minute each.
This wasn't a lot of work and tasted great and was easy to make in a hotel room. The only utensils required were plates and a plastic fork and knife.
Ok, this was huge. I'm going to describe the actual SKIING in the next post (hopefully Thursday?). I will, however, continue this post with something I think is worthwhile to share: a shopping list for thrifty vacationers.
Ski vacations are super expensive and it is the season, so maybe some of you readers are planning on taking them. Ever since I started taking ski trips without my family, I've learned that shopping for food and making at least some of your own meals is a must because lodges are expensive and sometimes you're just not in a big enough town to easily go out to eat. Here's a few staples I've found are great to have on hand. This is a list for 1 health-conscious girl and 1 not-too-picky guy for ~7 days. Also keep in mind these are meals for a rather active day!
1 box cereal
14 yogurts (more expensive than 2 tubs but more convenient)
Lunch Items (we packed our meals for 3/6 days+ had leftovers)
3/4 lb each of 3 different deli meats (try to keep 2 lean like chicken/turkey)
1/2 lb cheese
Laughing Cow Wedges (I find these are AMAZING on sandwiches)
Granola/Oatmeal Bars (Fiber Ones are the best!)
Chocolate Fun Sized Candies (for Him)
Loaf of fiber-heavy/whole grain bread
Dinner/Snack/Apres Ski Items
Chips (Tortilla is preferred)
Consider dried fruit/nut mix
All of these are easily storable in any hotel mini fridge and they make for a nice variety of meals (change up the Yogurt flavors, change up your sandwich assembly and fruit accompaniment).
In Utah this all cost us about $100 (including the beer and our meal "in" of shrimp and enchilladas). That came out to 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners (per person, so that's actually 24 meals). So, about $4/meal. I realize that a coffee/bagel would be less than $4, but there's no way you can get a ski lodge lunch for $4 and certainly not a healthy dinner!
Lastly (I promise this time!) here is the skiiers Mecca. The ultimate reward for a day spent doing some pretty intense stuff: chili in a breadbowl (with cheese).
The reason why I didn't want to pack lunches every day is because I know Boyfriend goes crazy for this stuff and also for big juicy burgers, so I thought I'd leave room for him to get get those things (and share with me!).
We had this on our 4th day and burgers on our 5th and 6th ski days.
There hasn't been a lot of dieting that week. Well I have vacation for 1 more week but judging by how it's been going, I think I'm going to continue with a milder degree of decadence anyway.
P.S. I did consistently have at least 1 alcoholic beverage every day but I never went beyond 2. I consider this pretty mature. Week 2 of the vacation appears to feature 1 alcoholic beverage every other night.
Adios amigos, I'm off to bed!