Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

I've been dieting the past few weeks and I've been doing pretty well.  Snacks of whatever fattening thing I can find have been replaced with ones containing fruit, vegetable and/or protein.  It's been a lot of changes along the way, but I seem to be doing OK.

A common snack for me now is hummus, vegetables and some crackers or my ultimate fave, Stacey's Pita Chips.  I take a paper dessert plate at work, divide it in half and put cucumbers and baby carrots on one side and some pita chips or Triscuits on the other side.  (the days of bringing the bag of pita chips back to my desk are over.  I might as well just strap on a feeding bag like a horse.) 

Know what makes a grumpy day even grumpier?  Covering a cracker with garlic hummus and taking a big bite, then looking at the container and discovering that it's furry.  Mmmmm....mold on my hummus.  that wasn't quite the vegetables I had in mind!  Guess who's turned off from hummus for a while?  This girl. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thinking Outside of the Can

Pie time!! We'll be bringing two pies to Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom and Dad's house, a pumpkin pie and a coconut custard pie.  I've been making pumpkin pie for years, and I've always relied on a can of Libby's pumpkin puree.  However, I really despise that said can of pumpkin puree shoots up to $5 per can at Thanksgiving time.  (Highway robbery, outrage!)  So when Brian watched an episode of (what else?) Good Eats and AB processed his own sugar pumpkins for puree, we figured why not?  Plus I've heard pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin is out of this world flavor-wise.

BTW, you can't just pick up any pumpkin and make puree for pie and expect it to taste good.  Sugar pumpkins are smaller and more round, and yield a superior puree.  I expected sugar pumpkins to be more difficult to find but there they were, sitting at the front of our new grocery store.  I was also pleasantly surprised by their price tag of 2 for $3.00.  Yes, it's going to take a little bit of elbow grease, more than it takes to wield a can opener.

The first step is cutting off the tops and scooping out the flesh and seeds.  (We're reserving the seeds for toasting. I've never had toasted pumpkin seeds but Brian assures me that they're delicious.)  Next, each pumpkin gets cut in half and baked in a 400-degree oven for 35 minutes.  After they cool for an hour, it's time to scoop out all the flesh, and use a food processor to turn it into puree.

Yield:  enough pumpkin for approximately four pies.  Or, for one Thanksgiving pie, some for the freezer, some for the baby (who loved it with a little cinnamon) and for these:

Pumpkin Pie Creme Brulee!

As expected, out of this world.  I don't think we'll ever used canned pumpkin again!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quick Pan Sauces

Dinner tonight was supposed to be baked Shrimp with Tomato and Feta....but alas shrimp doesn't just show up in your fridge because you want it to.  And I was too lazy to go out again after shopping with my older son this afternoon.  So after a quick freezer check, we settled on a simple supper of chicken breasts, oven red-bliss and garlic fries and canned green beans.  (hint:  it's the one veggie the three of us can agree upon without a fuss.)  

Naked chicken breasts aren't much fun, and I remembered that one of our cookbooks had a section on quick sauces for "the cooks' canvas."  I had all the ingredients for an apple and cider sauce so I got to work, thinly slicing apples and sauteeing them.  They made a great topping, and the book boasted that it didn't add a lot of calories.  Best of all...there's four more sauces in that chapter!  I can't wait to try the Spiced Pineapple one with some rice and chicken for a semi-Indian flavor.  Dinner was saved from blandness!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Admission is the Key to Everything

Hmmm, maybe if you admit there's a problem, creativity in the kitchen strikes.  Since posting that we're experiencing a rut, we've had some pretty good food.  Stuffed peppers, sweet and sour chicken in the crockpot, and tonight, braised pork medallions in cider.  Sounds like that rut has passed!

Thanks to everyone that sent me suggestions, I look forward to trying them.  :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In a Rut

Lately our house has been in a rut.  Nothing sounds good for dinner, we've tried it all.  Ugh.  There's only so much inspiration and creativity that one can have with a pound of ground beef.  Three nights per week, one of the adult members of the household either isn't home or has twenty minutes to eat before rushing off to class.  And starting in January, that number is going to jump to FOUR nights per week.

So, dear reader(s), I am going to put it out there to you:  Any suggestions on quick dinners?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nothing Like Roasted Chicken

BJ's had whole chickens on special a couple of weeks ago, so I brought home two for the freezer.  Nothing starts off a weekend nicer than a roasted chicken on Friday night!

People often tell me that they're mystified by roasting a whole chicken.  Oh, it's so easy!  Just take out the giblets (that plastic bag in the cavity filled with innards) and toss it in the trash.  Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Put it in a roasting pan, and then spread it with some butter.  Saute an onion and a celery stalk on the stove until slightly tender, and then stuff it in the empty cavity.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

I usually roast a chicken at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 375 degrees for an additional 45 minutes. The higher temp browns the chicken a little more, and makes the skin crunchy.  (yes, the skin is super-bad for you.  But just a little taste now and then won't kill you.)   However, to be safe, I also use a digital thermometer probe that beeps when the chicken itself is 160 degrees.  Then it comes out of the oven and is tented in foil, and the temp coasts up to 165 degrees, which is a safe eating temp. 

Mashed potatoes and canned green beans rounded out the meal nicely, along with my husband's homemade gravy.  Have I mentioned lately that he totally rocks with gravy and sauces!!!!