Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Well, it’s nearly the end of 2015 and I still can’t believe how fast this year has gone by. I feel like I say that every year, but it does seem to be true that the years just go by a little faster every time. Anyway, a few nights ago, hell-bent on cooking something new for dinner, I decided to give a classic recipe (and a personal favorite) a try. It was one of those “oh crap, I don’t have anything in the house to cook” kind of meals, so I had to improvise. I found a leftover veggie tray, some frozen chicken pieces tenders and a leftover bag of Blue Apron jasmine rice. I was SET!

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I was pretty surprised how quickly the whole recipe came together, considering I travel at a snail speed when trying out a new meal. I just always worry that I’m going to miss a step or just get overly confident and wreck the whole thing. I actually pulled this recipe from my Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book that my mother-in-law got me for Christmas a few years ago. If you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend investing in one. It has recipes, kitchen and dining tips, including place settings and even basic etiquette! It’s a real treasure trove.

As you can see, I used carrots, broccoli, some of those baby pepper things, sliced yellow onion and snap peas. The best part of the stir fry was actually the snap peas, because they got all of the good marinade down inside of the pods. YUM! Anyway, here is the recipe. Obviously you can use whatever veggies you want, but I’ve found that broccoli and carrots are sort of my staple. Enjoy and happy cooking!

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Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  • 2  cups hot cooked white, jasmine, or basmati rice

Directions

  1. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. For marinade, stir together water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Pour over chicken; seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drain chicken, reserving the marinade. Stir cornstarch into reserved marinade; set aside.
  2. Pour oil into a wok or large skillet. (If necessary, add more oil during cooking.) Heat over medium-high heat. Add green onion, mushrooms, and garlic to wok; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Remove vegetables from wok.
  3. Add chicken to wok; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Push chicken from center of wok. Stir marinade mixture; add to center of wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return cooked vegetables to wok. Add water chestnuts. Cook and stir about 1 minute more or until heated through. Serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe credit: BHG http://www.bhg.com/recipe/chicken/garlic-chicken-stir-fry/

 

 

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Salad with a Side of Salad

Why, hello there.

Last week was a pretty decent week for my revamped healthy eating lifestyle. Since, well, moving into our house, my eating habits have been awful. (We moved in almost a year ago.) I’m not sure what the cause, but I’ve known for a while that things need to change.

The funny thing about eating healthy and exercising, is that it’s actually fun to me. I used to relish my Saturday afternoon meal planning sessions, even if it was just an excuse to sit on Pinterest for hours. I used to love that satisfaction of finishing a day under my caloric goal. Heck, I used to even enjoy the idea of hopping on an elliptical, just because it meant I could actually set aside some time for a podcast. However, moving in to my permanent fixture made me a bit…lazy. It was suddenly too easy to just come home, order take out and hit the couch. It was far too much effort to actually lace up my running shoes and head back out for a workout. Plus, for the first time in my adult life, I am without a gym. Sure, we have the treadmill in the basement, but I loathe it! I detest it! It’s honestly a torture device to me! Finally, the best part of eating healthy and exercising was being able to talk about it on Cat Hair in my Coffee. It gave me something to work toward, besides actual work.

Did you enjoy that derailment, because I sure did.

Last week, I made the effort to get up every morning and make breakfast, throwback style. I made two eggs, over-easy with two pieces of turkey bacon. I decided to skip the English muffin to see if I would miss it, and the good news — I didn’t! In fact, I found myself staying fuller longer throughout the day. Amazing.

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Another meal I was particularly proud of was my Caprese salad with a side of salad. I’m obsessed with mozzarella, tomato and basil, so I’ve been trying to incorporate some combination of those flavors into as many meals as possible. This particular one was just a classic serving of Caprese salad with toasted baguette pieces. Since I had a ton of lettuce/salad mix from Round Right Farm, I decided to make a big salad to along with it. I wanted a creamy dressing, so I opted for this amazing creamy avocado dressing recipe I found on Pinterest. The recipe can be found below:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

NOTE: Some people have said that this recipe is way too tart for their tastes. I’ve made it quite a few times (it’s a summer staple for us!) and still love it, but if you aren’t a big fan of tang, try reducing the vinegar to 1/3 cup and use only half a lemon.

  1. In a food processor, combine avocado, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Run processor until very smooth and creamy.
  2. With processor running on low, stream in olive oil through the shoot until just combined.

I personally used my Magic Bullet for the blending and it turned out great! I liked the tartness of this dressing and thought it really went well with the feta cheese I sprinkled on top.

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So there you have it. My “A for Effort” meal. This week, I’m expecting a Blue Apron delivery, so I’ll be back in the kitchen for that.

My Healthy Tip of the Day: Making drastic changes too quickly is a recipe for disaster when trying to maintain or work towards a more healthy lifestyle. Stick with small, gradual changes. For example, instead of buying a store bought dressing that is often filled with preservatives, find a recipe on Pinterest or another recipe site and take a crack at making your own. I found this amazing cheat sheet that might help with this!
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Cooking Away

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I started using the Blue Apron service. So far, I’ve found it to be a really fun way to get comfortable in the kitchen. I was always a standard lasagna, chicken tacos and soup/sandwich kind of girl, but now I’m making dishes like these!

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Flank steaks and creamed kale with sunchokes

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Seared hake with melted leeks and fingerling potatoes

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Pan-seared salmon with cranberry and walnut stuffing

Oh, and it’s totally true what they say about white plates — they do make everything look more beautiful! Anyway, The dishes above were a few of my favorites to make and definitely favorite to eat. I never realized toasted sunflowers and kale could go so wonderfully together! Also, leeks in a tin foil bag with potatoes might be my new go-to. The leeks had such a mild flavor and really complimented the light hake.

In other news, we’ve finally started putting together our last few rooms of the house. I think when anyone moves into a new house from an apartment/condo, they just fill what they can and let the rest come later. That’s exactly what we did. One of our spare rooms still needs some major work before it’s magically transformed into an office, but the entryway room is now on it’s way to being complete.

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Karen’s favorite spot! (We were trying to flatten the rug — hence, the boxes.)

After a lot of consideration, we decided against making this room a dining room. It just didn’t feel natural to us and we didn’t see ourselves ever using it. A sitting area with a big, comfy rug? Now that we will use! Oh and that mirror you see off to the right only cost me $25 at TJ Maxx. That will, hopefully, be used for this Pinterest idea.

Umbrella stand + coat rack | Dream Green DIY

I love the idea of pictures surrounding the mirror!

I love the idea of putting a little table in the entryway for dropping keys, pocket change, etc. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to do one last hair check before dashing out the door.

Well, that’s it for me. I’m off to pretend I’m finally going to start that 30-day lunge challenge, when I know I’m really just going to go eat and loaf on the couch. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Brady moments. You’ll see it ties in to this post, because…well, there is cooking involved.

 

 

Blue Apron

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A month or so ago, I heard about this cool food service called Blue Apron. I did some investigating, got a first-hand account of the process and decided it would be something fun to do this winter. This is how it works.

You sign up for the service and provide your general food preferences — fish, beef, vegetarian, etc. Then, the chef’s at Blue Apron sort out the recipes catered to your dietary preference. All of the ingredients for each dish (three meals per week)are shipped in a refrigerated box, along with the detailed recipe cards. That’s it! The ingredients are always fresh and the chefs try to choose meals that incorporate seasonal ingredients. Each meal ranges from 500-700 calories, per serving, but you can easily divide that up for smaller portions. This service is basically for someone who likes to cook, but ends up wasting ingredients. The plans are very flexible and allow you to skip weeks if you don’t have time to prepare the meals. The plans offered are $59.94/week for two people or $119.88/week for four people. Depending on when you sign up, you can expect your first delivery within two weeks. So cool!

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On Friday, I received this box with ingredients for the following amazing recipes.

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-Moussaka-Style Lasagna
-Pan-Roasted Chicken
-Crispy Fish Sandwiches

Tonight, I’m preparing the chicken and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Meal Planning 101

I’m sure many of you are already diligent meal planners, but this concept is pretty new to me. In fact, there have been many trips to the grocery store where I actually made my list in the parking lot! Of course I’d get home and realize I missed an ingredient or two and the whole dinner would be out the window. Anyway, after actually following through with one of the many “Pin Now, Read Later” pins on Pinterest, I discovered a pretty easy system that has greatly increased the efficiency of my grocery store visits. Here’s how it works.

I start with a quick recap of what’s in season. I have the binder broken down into season, which helps a lot with the planning process. (I actually pulled the list from here: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season) Not only is this more “locavore” friendly, but it actually helps me save money, because it helps cut the travel cost. Buy regionally and seasonally!

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Check your local store listings for deals.  The reason I recommend this is because, like I said above, a lot of the localand seasonal stuff is on sale. Plus, it can really help dictate your menu. If there’s a sale for 10/$10 on zucchini, you can try out all sorts of new dishes! Heeeeell zucchini bread muffins! So, sort through your in-season selection and pick the ones that are on sale.

Get out the recipe book. I usually have a good idea of what I can do with certain ingredients, however I like to keep my recipes on notecards in the front of the binder, so I can do a quick check of my current knowledge base. This also forces me to do a pantry check to make sure I don’t buy an extra ingredient when I’m at the store. If I don’t have any recipes to accommodate the seasonal fruits/vegetables, I hop online and do some digging.

 

 

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Pantry/refrigerator check. Once or twice per week, I’ll pop open the fridge and see what’s left from the previous week. This allows me to do a quick inventory of the staples, as well. I add these needed staples to my list of in season veggies and recipe ingredients, and then let the planning begin.

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Plan your meals for the week. I always find this to be the most challenging part, because you have to make sure you properly carry over leftovers to the following day, so you don’t double up on food and recipes for the week. A lot of times, I’ll make a giant salad for dinner and have enough leftover for a wrap the next day. I also try not to be wary of specific meals that I don’t like as leftovers. (Specifically, fish. EW.)

 

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Make the cooking process easier by pre-sorting ingredients. I love the purpose of the vegetable and fruit crisper, but sometimes stuff can get lost in there! I find that keeping the ingredients I want to use for dinner in these little plastic containers can really expedite the whole cooking process. For example, in the bin to the left, I have ground beef, onion and green peppers for the stuff Italian pepper recipe I love. When it’s time to cook, I just grab the container and everything is ready to go. I also keep the smaller fruits in the one to the right so I make sure to opt for fruit instead of pudding!

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This system is far from perfect, but for right now, it’s what is working for me. Of course I have to take into consideration that sometimes I will throw dinner plans out the window and be stuck with extra ingredients for the week, but I try to address that problem by incorporating these extras into something else for the week.

I hope this helps some of you regain control of your kitchen like it helped me!

Happy Earth Day!

Hi everyone!

Today is Earth Day, which means finally taking that load of magazines to the recycling center, making the effort to turn off the water while you brush your teeth and trying to be more mindful of the “carbon footprint” we will leave behind. I’m totally playing the Prius card to make up for the massive amounts of paper copies I made earlier today.

“Oh, how are you being green this Earth Day?”

“Prius.”

No, but seriously, I am going to try to make more of an effort to re-purpose and lessen the amount of trash I throw out. One thing my dad does that I always make fun of is reuse plastic containers, such as butter containers and this local brand of marinara sauce we carry in the area. In fact, I just took a marinara sauce tub of coleslaw home with me this weekend. I laugh, but in all seriousness, it does help with the seemingly constant overflow of trash I face daily. If the look of a butter tub makes you feel weird, decorate it! This sounds so stupid to say, but I bet a million dollars there is someone on Pinterest already slapping up some tutorials on this very subject. 

Speaking of green, I have had absolutely no desire to eat well these past few days. I think it all started with the massive amounts of sugar I consumed this weekend. Monday morning rolled around and I didn’t have the ingredients for my oatmeal, so I grabbed a Poptart instead. :-O This is why it is now Tuesday and I’m still dreaming of cake. It’s just that nothing healthy sounds good to me. I think it’s time to detox again.

To round out my “green” post, I’d like to share a zucchini muffin recipe I just tried out last night. Let me tell you this stuff is great. I never thought I would be this into zucchini bread!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

METHOD

You don’t need a mixer for this recipe.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins or cranberries if using.

2 Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin let cool another 20 minutes.

Note, if you are including walnuts and dried fruit, you will likely have more batter than is needed for 12 muffins. I got about 14 muffins from this batch, and that included filling the muffin cups up as far as they could possibly go (above the surface of the muffin tin).

This recipe was brought to you by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes

Next time, I think I’ll add chocolate chips!

A Few Days In

Well, I’ve survived the first few days of this sugar-free thing. Honestly, it’s not that bad. The key is moderation and being realistic. Realistically, I’m not going to give up pineapple or bananas — fruits that have higher sugar content — but I always try to fit healthy greens into my meals. I feel like that’s a good compromise. Another thing I’ve realized is that without some meats, I’d probably starve. As a former vegetarian, I can tell you that this is kind of difficult to do if you don’t eat meat. Without meat, you definitely need to stock up on beans and a ton of quinoa so you don’t pass out. That being said, vegetarians can definitely handle this; just use caution. Just replace the meat in the salad below with beans, beans, beans!

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Moving on to some exciting news. Morgantown is getting (or has?) a juice bar! I read about it online a few days ago and just drove by today to confirm it’s existence! If you live in the area, it’s actually right across from Black Bear Burritos. Seems like the perfect spot! If you aren’t familiar with Black Bear, they are famous for using locally grown produce and resources. Plus, their food rocks. A juice bar is the perfect neighbor for Black Bear! I haven’t been to this new juice bar yet, but my lady Candace Lately is already on it! Anyway, I’ll update when I’ve stopped in for a taste. (Check them out on Facebook.)

Tonight’s dinner: Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake!

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Fresh Salmon on a Cold Night

As part of an unofficial 2014 resolution, I am trying to squeeze in at least one new recipe per month this year. So far, I’ve already gotten way ahead of this! Last week, for instance, I made stuffed peppers and I cooked a steak for the first time ever! Alex helped with the steak, but it was still great conquering that fear I’ve always had of preparing red meat. Anyway, the stuffed peppers were amazing. I attempted to follow a recipe via The Food Network, but as always, delineated from it about four ingredients in. You can find that recipe here. 

So after two successful new-to-me meals, I decided to tackle another meat that I’ve had trouble with: salmon. A few years ago, I purchased frozen salmon and cooked it in the oven. To say it was disgusting would be an understatement. It was fishy, soggy and just plain gross. So, while browsing this week’s Kroger specials on my phone, I came across a deal on fresh center-cut salmon. For $3.99 a piece, I just couldn’t resist giving salmon another try. Now don’t get me wrong, I love this fish. I order it in restaurants quite frequently, but again, preparing it myself has been a challenge. I hopped online to find a recipe to follow and found this gem

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 pounds center-cut salmon fillets, cut into 4 portions
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges

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PREPARATION

  1. Preheat broiler. Line a broiler pan or baking sheet with foil, then coat it with cooking spray.
  2. Place salmon pieces, skin-side down, on the prepared pan. Season with salt and pepper. Combine sour cream, mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread evenly over the salmon.
  3. Broil the salmon 5 inches from the heat source until it is opaque in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

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NUTRITION

Per serving: 198 calories; 8 g fat ( 2 g sat , 6 g mono ); 72 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrates; 29 g protein; 0 g fiber; 375 mg sodium; 560 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Selenium (74% daily value), Potassium (26% dv), omega-3s.

Exchanges: 4 lean protein, 1 fat

I paired the salmon with a mix of quinoa, orzo pasta, diced red pepper and garbanzo beans, along with some brussels sprouts and roasted broccoli. Yum! Alex said it was a success, so I’m definitely adding this to the rotation. Tonight’s menu: Crockpot salsa chicken tacos with sweet potato fries. Hooray for a cold day and a slow cooker! 

Soup, Salad and The Walking Dead

Last night I had home dinner date with my friend Brianna. We decided soup and salad would be the way to go, so I  got to work on a variation of my mom’s crockpot vegetable soup.

Bailee’s Vegetable Soup (I’ve never claimed a recipe before, so what the hey.)

  • 1 box of beef stock
  • 3 cups of water
  • I packet of Lipton’s onion soup mix
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 4 red potatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onion tops, chopped
  • ¼ cup of garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups quinoa, uncooked
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Coat the bottom of your soup pot with the olive oil and place over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the minced garlic.
  2. Let that sit for 2 minutes and then add the garlic scapes and green onion tops; let sit for 1 minute. Add your frozen mixed vegetables and let them cook in the pot for about 2 minutes before adding the beef stock.
  3. Add the beef stock, water, Lipton’s onion soup mix, red potatoes, tomato, quinoa, salt and pepper. Cover pot and let cook on low for about 1 ½ hours, or until red potatoes are tender.

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**Note: The quinoa makes the soup a little thicker, so omit or add less if you like a brothy soup.

I have to say, I’m becoming more and more of a fan of soup over the years. I think it’s realizing how easy it is to make a good meal that is making it a staple dinner in my house. Anyway, after Brianna arrived, we sat down to enjoy the meal. Man was it good! She brought over an edamame caviar salad, which was probably the tastiest thing I’ve had in a long time. She picked it up at Kroger’s in the deli section. I Googled what was in it and found this:

  • 1 lb. bag frozen edamame beans (use shelled edamame – sometimes labeled as mukamame), thawed.
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped yellow red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red or yellow onion (depending on how much you like onions)
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) Simple Truth black beans, rinsed and drained (rinsing canned vegetables removes the majority of the sodium that they are generally packed in)
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) Simple Truth garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon miso (a fermented soybean sauce) may be mixed into the vinegar to add a delicious earthy flavor.

Mix all ingredients together and toss in vinegar.

I think this would make a great side dish for Thanksgiving!

After we ate, we settled in to watch The Walking Dead. It’s fun watching it with someone else, because it gives me the excuse to scream and be all “OH NO HE DIDN’T!” (Which is exactly what we did.) Now if I could only find someone to watch American Horror Story: Coven with me…

 

Hot Yoga!

Well, I went to my first yoga class this evening. Actually, let me correct myself. I went to my first hot yoga class this evening and actually really liked it! The idea of sweating in a room full of strangers always gave me the creeps before, but this was actually very fun. The studio fit about 25 of us pretty tightly, but everyone seemed to have room to grow branches during tree pose. The temperature read 91 degrees (Fahrenheit), but mid way through, I stopped even noticing it. The one thing I will definitely invest in is a towel mat. My hands and feet were slipping everywhere! All in all, I highly recommend it, but don’t go to a class where the temperature is higher. That’s just silly.

After yoga, I came home and heated up some of my leftover homemade Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque. I put extra pepper flakes in this batch, so I was on fire for the second time in the day. I chugged a Gatorade and hit the couch for some much needed cat time.

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Ok, now it’s time to get ready for American Horror Story: The Coven!