Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mexican Chicken

The following recipe is one of my favorite "meal jumpstarters." It's good on it's own, but it makes lots! The extras freeze fabulously and can be made into so many things, your family won't feel like they are eating the same meal, over and over.

Mexican Chicken

2.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 c salsa (preferably homemade)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained
1.5 c frozen or fresh corn
1-2 jalapeƱos, chopped (optional)

Dump all ingredients into crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred chicken when ready to eat.

So, how do we eat it? The first night, I make salad and Mexican rice and serve it over the rice. Then I bag the rest in 1/2 lb increments for the freezer. Pull it out and defrost to make nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas, top a salad with it cold, make Mexican chicken salad sandwiches, etc.

Tomatillo Salsa

In our most recent Bountiful Basket, I added on a Mexican vegetable pack. In that pack came tomatillos. Having never cooked with tomatillos before, I turned to good ole Google for a way to cook them and came up with this.

Tomatillo Salsa (aka Salsa Verde)
*Adapted from*

1 lb tomatillos, husked and halved
1/2 c chopped onion
1 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tbls fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 c water

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer on med-low heat for 15-20 minutes or until tomatillos are soft.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

Stay tuned for recipes using Tomatillo Salsa!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blueberry Pancakes

Remember those blueberries I spent time getting in the freezer? They didn't stay in there for long! The next day, Lydia and I enjoyed a breakfast of homemade, healthy, blueberry pancakes before church. Let me be clear that while I am a lover of the blueberry, Lydia is not. She's not a picky kid, but it's generally a bit of work to get her to eat them. This recipe did not suddenly change that, but she did eat half a pancake without much whining.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
(Recipe adapted from In the Little Red House)

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup quick oats
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups milk + 2 scant tablespoons vinegar (or 1 3/4 c buttermilk)
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, plus more for griddle
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups (1 pint) blueberries
Pure maple syrup, for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together all wet ingredients.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring just enough until the batter is combined.
Fold in blueberries or sprinkle on each pancake separately as they are cooking.
Add approximately 1/3 cup batter to a hot griddle for each pancake.
Sprinkle blueberries immediately on top if you did not add them to the batter. *Enlist your little ones for this job!*
Turn pancakes after 3-4 minutes or when edges appear set and bubbles are surfacing throughout the pancake.
Cook on the other side 2-3 minutes or until done.
Transfer to oven set to 200* to keep warm when cooked through.
Serve with butter and maple syrup. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bountiful Baskets

Not long before I decided to hop on the real food train, I came across Bountiful Baskets. It's a volunteer run, food co-op that provides fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, tortillas, and even granola at a fraction of the price. I'm constantly amazed at how much I spend at the grocery store. I'm not the only one who occasionally walks away with two measely bags of groceries for $50, right?!

Well look what my $50 bought me today:

5 loaves organic, whole wheat bread
13 6-oz clamshells of blueberries
4 limes
9 tomatillos
3 avacado
4 jalepeno
5 anaheim peppers
3 yellow onion
1 head garlic
2 grey squash
2 bunches green onion
1 bunch cilantro
4 tomatos
5 mangoes
1 lb cherries
7 nectarines
1 catelope
1 bunch celery
1 head romaine lettuce
5 lb potatoes
9 bananas

Wow! It's so exciting to see all this healthy produce in my fridge and fruit bowl just waiting to be devoured. I spent some time preparing some of it, and I've got lots of recipes to share coming soon!

I love blueberry muffins, pancakes, desserts, you name it, but they are generally so expensive! These worked out to about $1.20 per package - SCORE! We'll have plenty for all the blueberry dishes my little heart could dream of. The first order of business was to get most of the blueberries in the freezer.

First, wash all your berries and let them dry thouroughly. I dumped them into a colander in batches and rinsed them well, then laid them on a towel to dry.
Leave the berries to dry for 30-60 minutes, then roll around and leave for another 30 minutes to make sure they are dry all around. Transfer dry berries to a cookie sheet and spread out in one layer.
(Don't stress if they aren't pefectly in one layer either. You can see here I had a few too many on this sheet. It's not a big deal as long as the berries are dry.)
Pop the cookie sheet into the freezer until the berries are solid, about 60-90 minutes. Then pour into a ziplock bag and enjoy! They make a great treat frozen plain, are ready for a smoothie, and perfect for any baking! I don't mind them thawed in cereal or oatmeal either.

Stay tuned for recipes using those blueberries. First up - Blueberry Pancakes!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why I Care - Part I

I remember quite specifically the day I started caring about food and cooking. My mom had bought a random magazine (something she never does) which just so happened to be Cooking Light. I was 17-years-old, had a job, a car, and some money, and decided I was going to get ingredients and make my family dinner. I mean, Mom had only cooked for us for seventeen plus years without a break. It was the least I could do.

I made Grilled Herb Chicken with Brushetta and a Fruit Salad. And it was a-maz-ing! I remember it took me close to an hour to shop for the ingredients. They were relatively simple things - balsamic vinegar, parsley, grape tomatoes. But I'd never really grocery shopped before and it was such a challenge! Then the cooking. I was in the kitchen most of the day. I even measured the fruit with a ruler to make sure I was cutting it into proper 1-inch cubes!

I was getting anxious by the time dinner rolled around. Would they like it? Had I just wasted $50 worth of groceries? Thankfully, everyone loved it! It was much "fancier" fare than my family had generally, but it went over well.

Mom even asked for the recipe. I hope she still has it - I lost it somwhere in one of my moves.

Since then, Mom and I have traded many recipes. I've bought many issues of Cooking Light (and Clean Eating and Food Network and Real Simple and the list goes on). I've wandered around many grocery stores - sometimes a woman-on-a-list-getting-mission, sometimes just meandering. I mean, I did ask to just walk around Whole Foods for my mother's day gift.

I just love food. The preparation, the planning, the anticipation, the research, the smell, the sight, the taste. And I'm learning how to use that food to my body's advatage.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

Growing up, cauliflower was not a vegetable we ate often. On the rare occasion we had it, it was drowned in a cheese sauce, probably Velveeta. Since I didn't really like it, once I had my own household, I never purchased it. It just wasn't a vegetable I ate.
Then I started getting Bountiful Baskets. Of course when I opened my first basket, there was a head of cauliflower staring back at me. Ugh! As much as I didn't like cauliflower, I like wasting money even less! So, I determined to find a healthy way to fix it that I could tolerate.
And I did!

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

1 head Cauliflower
1 tbsp Oil (Olive or Grapeseed are my preference)
1-2 tbsp Herbs de Provence
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400*.
2. Cut cauliflower florets off of stem. Toss with oil and Herb Mix.
3. Spread cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning 1-2 times. Cauliflower is ready when fork tender and browning on the edges.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - May 28 - June 2

On last week's menu plan, I said I would let you know how well we followed the plan. I had great intentions. I really did. But then, my dad was readmitted to the hospital. I feel like that's a pretty good excuse for straying from the plan.

What We Ate
From the Menu Plan
Grilled Chicken, Carrot Risotto, Broccolette, and a Whole Wheat Cheddar Biscuit

Ham, Onion, Spinach, Tomato Quiche - I liked this, Lydia ate it with a little prodding, Jake was NOT a fan.

In the Hospital
Bacon, Eggs, Biscuits, Gravy, French Toast in many different combinations
Panera Muffins
Lots of Soy White Chocolate Mochas from Starbucks
Hospital Sushi
Hospital Mongolian Grill - this was actually really tasty!
Panera Salad/Sandwich
Chipotle - and I ate the whole thing and thought I might explode!
Chick-fil-a - at least twice
Salad Bar
Monster Sized Macadamia Nut Cookie

And probably other stuff that now escapes my memory. Needless to say, I did not eat real. Or even remotely healthfully. But I refuse to feel bad about it - I did what I had to do. Next week will be a better week!

Singapore Noodles (from Clean Eating June 2012)
Sesame Soy Cucumber - using this sauce.

Hamburgers topped with Pineapple and Bacon
Rutabaga and Sweet Potato Fries

Flank Steak with Orange Rice

Pasta w/ Smoked Bacon, Butternut Squash, and Spinach

Grilled Chicken
Amazing Kohlrabi
Steamed Broccoli
Here's to hoping for an only mildly crazy week!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And Then I Dropped Off the Face of the Earth

I started this blog with great plans for posting regularly. I lined up several half finished drafts as things came to mind. When I was confident I had enough material to last more than 1 day, I decided to launch. And then...

Then, last Monday night, just as I was sitting down to complete a few of those drafts, I got the call. One of those calls you really don't want to get. It went something like this:

Me: Hello.
My Mother: (quite cheerfully) Hey Cass, just wanted to give you an update on everything.

{Side Note: My dad had a heart transplant on April 12/13th of this year. Last week was his first week at home. Saturday and Sunday he had been having a bit of a rough time. We expected him to be admitted back into the hospital at his appointment Monday. And he was.}

Me: Great! How's everything going?
Mom: (major voice change) The doctor said your Dad is in rejection and it will be a miracle if he makes it thought the night. [Begins crying]

From there it went something like, "[cry] Should I come? [blubber] Of course I should come! What am I thinking?! [ugly cry] I'm coming! I'm packing my bag right now and I'll be there in two hours! [sobbing]"

Next up was me calling Jake to come get me since I could not drive like that and my friend Amy to come watch Lydia. For the first half of the drive, I quietly cried and mostly sat in silence. Then Mom called again. Honestly, I thought she was going to tell me I was too late. Instead she said he was doing better.

My first reaction? Extreme annoyance. I mean really, the man has been on the brink of death and subsequently resurrected more times than I can count. I'm starting to feel like the girl who cried wolf as I call in to work, send out the prayer requests, and cash in on free babysitting.

He looked great when we got there, but unfortunately, he wasn't. The next couple of days were horrible and we sat by his side, just waiting. It's pure torture. It's been almost a week since the rejection has been declared. He made it through that night, and several more, but it's been pretty close a time or two. Right now, he is in stable but critical condition in ICU as they fight for his life.

Once he reached the stable point, I decided to come home. I want to be there, but I have a family here with Lydia that I cannot abandon. So here I am.

Forgive me if blog posts are sporadic. This week (month? year?) has been a roller coaster. Feel free to come along for the ride.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And it's not JUST about Food...

I want our lifestyle to be more active. You know the old adage: Eat less. Move more.

We're working on the whole eating less (processed) thing, but what about the move more?

I'll admit. This one is hard for me. I really don't like to move. I like to sit. Or lay. Oh, don't get me wrong, I like to go places and do things. But getting that initial boost to get moving does not come naturally.

Maybe it's because I'm extremely unathletic. Maybe it's because I'm uncoordinated. Maybe it's because I'm out of shape. It's probably mostly because I'm lazy.

Not very long ago, my days went something like this:

Wake up.
Waller around in the bed until the last possible second.

My workout:
Rush like mad to get myself and L ready. Most of the time at least one of us will have wet/pony tailed hair.
Drive like a crazy person to drop L off and get to work. Silently curse out anyone who dares to drive the speed limit. Or stop at a stop sign. Or NOT turn right on red (I really if you weren't planning to go right, get out of the WAY!).
Sprint up the stairs to work. Think you may die at least once, but up to 10 times in the stairwell.
This concludes the workout portion.

Plop into rolling chair and do not get up unless absolutely necessary. *Note: I can reach the fax machine, filing cabinet, and printer all without standing. I do have to get up if I want water. So I generally just don't drink.
Work with minimal movement all day. Only get up for lunch or to ahem....relieve myself.
Walk down stairwell. Or ride elevator if I can think of any reason I might need to.
Pick up L.
Make dinner. Hey, at least I'm standing for this part!
Eat dinner.
Try to will stuffed self up to clean up dinner.
Lay on couch and mess around on phone until L's bedtime routine starts.
Bathe and bed child.
Lay on couch/bed/floor and chat with J or watch a movie. Or sleep. Ok, mostly sleep.
Go to bed for at least 8 hours.

It's really quite pathetic. No wonder I had no energy. I wasn't pushing my body to do anything.

But after watching Dad struggle so much with weakness as his heart started failing, I decided I should do something about it. Needed to. Had to.

So I started a boot camp app. Seriously, the first time was easy. Really easy, as in one of the exercises was just to support yourself on your hands and knees. I thought it was a joke. Then I was sore the next day. How embarrassing. Slowly the difficulty of the exercises and my strength has increased. I can see my calf muscles! And I feel great! Those stairs I used to huff up in the morning? I take them in stride now.

I'm still working on making movement a regualr and enjoyable thing for me and L, but I've got some ideas up my sleeve.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Because we are a small family with a toddler who randomly eats enough for a bird or an elephant, I generally plan five dinner menus that should feed four. If L eats like a bird, I have leftovers for lunch. If she eats like an elephant, well, there's always salad/sandwich/frozen something I can take instead.

I also found I do NOT do well with a very specific plan. I need the freedom to change what night we are having what dinner. Plus, we don't plan ahead very well for evening plans so I like to have some easy as well as more difficult meals at the ready. So, without further ado, here is what we plan to eat this week:

Grilled Chicken - Marinated in Balsamic Vinaigrette
Carrot Risotto using brown rice

Ham and Green Onion Quiche (from Clean Eating June 2012) - add spinach

Singapore Noodles (from Clean Eating June 2012)
Sesame Soy Cucumber - sliced and quartered cucumber that I add sauce from this to. Easy.

Mexican Rice

Jambalaya - Ok, this one is not real. A pack of Lipton Dirty Rice with half a cubed polish sausage and some bell pepper, onion, and celery thrown in. Once I run out of the Lipton sides, I'll be looking for a way to make this real.

So there you have it! I'll report back next week and let you know how closely we stick to it. And for more menu plans, check out Org Junkie!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Beginning

I plan to chronicle my family's switch from the Standard American Diet to a fresh, whole foods diet. It's something I've been interested in for a while. It has constantly drawn me in. Whole foods. Fresh foods. Organic foods. But it's consistently been just out of my reach. Or rather, just outside of how far I chose to reach. But finally (and slowly) I have made the decision to transform our eating habits.

How, exactly, would I determine the beginning of that change?

Was it seven years who when I moved out on my own and had to cook if I wanted to eat?

Was it two years ago when I started working a desk job and my metabolism (and daily movement) plummeted?

Was it eighteens months ago when my stomach started hurting

Was it a year ago when I determined my stomach hurt every single time I ate out?

Was it two months ago when I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan?

Was it a month ago when Dad had a heart transplant and I started viewing life differently?

In reality, each of these milestones has had an influence on how I eat. In a three steps forward, two steps back fashion, I have moved towards a healthy diet. But I've always found an excuse to not stick with it. Some excuses were even justifiable - though I will admit, I'm the queen of justification.

But this time - I want it to stick.