Top Ten Tuesdays – The Un-bookish Blogs I Read

Courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish, here are… The Top Ten Blogs I Read that are NOT Book-Related Home Decorating Blogs I start with this category because they’re the ones that got me into blogging. A friend introduced me … Continue reading

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Hamburger Salad

I haven’t posted many recipes recently because, to be honest, the new ones we’ve tried in the past few weeks have been mostly “meh.”

We tried a Sloppy Joe recipe that used ground turkey in the Crockpot and it was… fine.

I found a Peachy Pork & Rice recipe that used taco seasoning, salsa, and peach preserves to flavor pork served over brown rice. It sounded good, but basically just tasted like pork, salsa and rice.

Plus, we’ve been awfully busy recently, and have really only been eating 1-2 dinners together each week.

But, I thought I’d pass along one of my own tried-and-true, go-to recipes. This recipe is loosely based on this Hungry Girl recipe that I read a couple of years ago. This is the meal I choose when I want something protein-packed, filling, BIG, and low-cal. Here it is:

Katie’s HamburgerSalad

1 Boca Burger (I use original)

2% shredded cheese (I like cheddar)

Dill pickles

Tomato (Roma or grape)

Spinach

Fat Free or Light Dressing

Croutons

Mushrooms

Heat the Boca Burger in a small pan on the stovetop. Using your spatula, break the burger into 1-in cubes. If you like your mushrooms a little bit cooked, add them to the pan at the end. In the meantime, put as much spinach as you want in the bowl. Cut up the tomato and add it. Add some pickle slices, the cheese, and the dressing. Then, dump the burger and mushrooms on top. Add some croutons, and voila! A filling salad for around 200-250 calories, dependent on the dressing, the amount of cheese you use, and how honest you are about the crouton serving size.

Cooking with What We Know

Have I told… you lately… that I love you… (TOH Comfort Food Diet cookbook)…

That’s right. Our love affair has continued. And our most recent fave is the Baked Tilapia (found in the new 2012 version).

Baked Tilapia

We also tried the Savory Baked Chicken (from the 2011 edition)–forgot to take a picture of this one–and the Chicken with Rosemary-Onion Sauce. Both of these were deemed good. Not in the top five, but decent enough to be repeated.

Chicken with Rosemary-Onion Sauce

Then, on Friday night, we tried Hungry Girl’s Sweet Apple & Chicken Stir Fry. Mmm, mmm, mmm! The combination of flavors in this one–garlic, oregano, balsamic vinegar, onion, and apple–was so different than anything we normally have. The picture is proof that it’s not exactly the prettiest recipe, but it will definitely be repeated.

Hungry-Girl Sweet Apple & Chicken Stir-Fry

The theme of all four of these recipes is that they contained ingredients that we had around the kitchen already. One of the hard things about this resolution to stretch my dinnertime imagination is that it runs the risk of being especially strenuous on our grocery envelope. So, besides looking for and trying out new recipes, I’ve been trying to take note of ingredients already in our kitchen. Besides saving money, this approach helps us try recipes that we’re more likely to repeat, because they’re easily accessible.

You’ll notice we do a lot of tilapia, because 1) it’s the only fish B really eats, and 2) we buy them frozen at Sam’s. We also do a lot of chicken because… well, we’re American. Who doesn’t eat a lot of chicken? The rut we’re trying to get out of now is… Hmm. What’s another way we can bread chicken?

What’s on tap for this week? A new Lemon-Garlic Tilapia recipe, Applesauce-Glazed Porkchops, and, for Super Bowl Sunday, a lightened-up lasagna recipe. (All are Taste of Home diet recipes!)

Menu-Planning

When B and I moved in together, we faced one startling fact of the adult world: we were going to have to pay for our own food. In the past, I’d either lived with my parents and we’d eaten there most nights, or I was in college and my parents paid for my groceries (Thanks, Mom!). Alas, we knew the time had come that we had to be real grown-ups.

I decided that in order to make the most of our limited budget, I needed to commit to sticking to my grocery list each week. In college (with Mom and Dad’s credit card), I generally just perused the store and swiped anything that looked good. This meant that I made multiple trips to the store each week, because whatever willy-nilly recipe I decided to try, I had to go buy most of the ingredients. So, I started a routine in April that I’ve continued faithfully since–every week, before I shop, I plot out our meals for the week. I plunk myself down with a few cookbooks and my recipe box, then decide what we’ll eat each night of the week. I make my list as I go. Then, I add in all of our “basics” like deli meat, yogurt, spinach, apples, bananas, and (of course) Goldfish crackers.

I also divide up my list into two sections: “Sam’s” and “Grocery”. I learned the value of shopping in bulk from my Mom. We buy most of our fruits & vegetables, canned goods, and snack foods at Sam’s. It ends up saving us A LOT each year–as a matter of fact, the savings in croutons well pay for our Sam’s membership. (You can get a 2-lb. bag of croutons at Sam’s for under $4, whereas at the grocery store, you’d pay that amount for about 5 servings!)

Menu-planning has really helped me with this New Year’s resolution so far. This week alone, we had three new recipes: Black-Eyed Pea soup, Rosemary-Garlic Chicken, and Lemon-Garlic Tilapia. (The soup was definitely the favorite of the week, the chicken we deemed “just okay” and the lemon-garlic tilapia was way too easy to even call a recipe. Basically, I just took two frozen tilapia fillets, squirted them with lemon juice and sprinkled a little garlic salt on top, and baked ’em for 15 minutes.)

Black-eyed Pea Soup

Super-Easy Lemon-Garlic Tilapia

Soup-Inspired Christmas Party

Not to brag, or anything, but I got right on that New Year’s resolution to host more dinner parties. As a matter of fact, I hosted one the night before that post was published (Ba-ha-ha. Delayed publishing. Just one of the many tricks of the blogger’s world.)

A few months ago, I offered to host my Faith Club’s annual Christmas party. At this time, our group was fairly small–we regularly had about 5-6 women. Well, over the past few months, as word spread about our group’s awesomeness, more and more people began to join us. We now have about 12 regular attendees. I started to get a little nervous thinking about all these people dining in my one-bedroom apartment, but knew I could make it work.

Luckily, a few people couldn’t make it that night. (Just kidding, ladies, we missed you!). It was a tight squeeze, but with the help of my mom’s card table and some borrowed folding chairs, we all fit around the table!

Looking Christmas-y

Definitely a tight fit!

I spent the day cleaning, setting up chairs, moving furniture, and cooking. I found some empathy for mothers who complain about their house not staying neat for very long. Every time I turned around, there was stuffing from another chew toy, dirty clothes, or tennis shoes strewn around the room.

It's amazing how much havoc two little pups can manage in such a short amount of time.

Looking guilty...

Since I have yet to purchase any Christmas dishes (next year, I’m snapping up a set of Target’s plastic plates early!), and my Fiestaware is about as far from Christmas-colored as possible, I went the paper plate route. (I know, I know. Not exactly fancy.) And, with nine place settings on a teeny-tiny table, there wasn’t much room to get fancy with the decor. However, I did dress the table up with some patterned napkins, and Christmas-y drinkware.

Notice the patterned napkins (and the paper plates!)

Then came the food. I decided to go the soup/salad route. I provided two soups, while friends brought salads, bread, and desserts. We ended up with quite a delicious spread. And, I must say, my soups were pretty popular. I made two choices–one, a veggie-based soup, and the other, a cheesy, creamy-based soup. (But, you know me–they’re both healthy and low-cal!)

So, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to introduce… (drumroll, please…)…

Sharing Closet Space’s new Recipes page

I plan to post about our hits and misses on recipes throughout the year, but I know it can be hard to find exactly the post you’re looking for when you’re searching through a blog. So, I wanted to create a resource for you. Come back to the this page any time to find recipes (or links to recipes) of some of our favorites.

All in all, I was very pleased with my dinner party. Yes, someday I’ll look back and remember how everyone had to sit in their chair at an angle because nobody’s legs could fit under the table. But that’s life in a one-bedroom apartment for you… and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Hearty Minestrone Soup

Hearty Minestrone Soup

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (18.7-oz each) tomato with basil soup
  • 1-2 cans water
  • 1 bag (approx. 5 cups) frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 bag (approx. 3 cups) frozen zucchini & yellow squash
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (I used small shells)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • french fried onions (optional)

Combine all ingredients except onions in slow cooker. Heat until serving temperature. If desired, serve with onions sprinkled on top!

Nutrition information (per serving, without onions): 109 calories, <1g fat, 22g carbohydrates, 4g protein

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Serves: 2 (I tripled the recipe for my Christmas gathering)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C chopped onion
  • 3 oz. pared potato, diced
  • 1 C each, water & skim milk
  • 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash each white pepper and ground nutmeg (I used black pepper and ground ginger–because that’s what I had!!)
  • 1 C frozen cauliflower, cooked until tender-crisp
  • 2 oz. 2% American cheese
  • 1 Tbs chopped parsley

In 2-qt. saucepan combine onion & potato; add water, cover pan, and bring liquid to a boil. Cook over high heat until potato is tender-crisp, 5-7 minutes.

In small bowl, combine milk & flour, stirring until flour is dissolved. Stir milk mixture into potato mixture; add salt if desired, pepper, & ginger and mix well. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes. Add cauliflower, cheese, and parsley to saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted and cauliflower is cooked through, 2-3 minutes.

Nutrition information (per serving): 228 calories, 4.5g fat, 14g protein, 35g carbohydrates

Eating Our Luck for the New Year

One part of married life we’ve really been enjoying this year is starting (and continuing) some of our own traditions.

The Birthday Plate

Jack-o-Lanterns

Christmas Eve Lights Tour

And now, as of New Year’s Day, we can add another one to the list: Black-Eyed Pea Soup.

According to good ol’ Wikipedia, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity. As an environmentalist and a teacher, we can use all the help we can get, so I googled black-eyed pea recipes while menu-planning this week. On this blog, I found¬† a soup that calls for black-eyed peas. I made a few minor tweaks, and here’s what it boiled down to (little soup pun, there):

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Serves: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed (or 4 tsp minced garlic from a jar, like I used)
  • olive oil (I used garlic-infused… yum!)
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, cubed
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • 2-3 C bagged spinach
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 6 C water

1. Brown onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil.

2. Add water, heat to a boil. Add bouillon cubes and stir.

3. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer until flavors are blended, approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Nutrition Information (approx. 1-1/2 C serving): 118 calories; <1g fat;  26g carbohydrates; 4g protein

I served the soup with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a take-and-bake honey whole wheat baguette from Hy-Vee. Deeeelicious addition, perfect for scooping up the peas-y goodness. Yummmm!

New Year’s Resolutions Part 2

be more inventive in the kitchen (a two-part resolution)

We run our dishwasher at least once a day, which may seem like a lot for a household of two. But the higher water bill is offset by our economically-friendly habit of eating at home. During our dating years, B and I were in the habit of eating out almost every time we shared a meal. It was just easier; I lived with my parents, and B’s apartment was a bachelor pad in every sense of the phrase, right down to his bare refrigerator. If we wanted a little privacy for a meal, we had to 1) kick my parents out of their house, 2) cart all the ingredients from their house to B’s apartment, or 3) eat out. For simplicity’s sake, we usually fell back on the latter choice. However, when we moved in together and took a closer look at our budget, we knew that for our wallet’s sake, that habit would have to change. We now eat out, on average, once a week. The rest of our meals we cook at home.

In the past eight months that we’ve lived together, we’ve developed a standard repertoire of dishes:

Occasionally we’ll venture out and experiment with some ground beef or throw together a different kind of soup or pasta, but overall, we’re stuck in a bit of a food rut. Much of this is my fault–I do most of the cooking, and am constantly scouring cookbooks, websites, and magazines for recipe ideas. However, during the work week, I just plain don’t feel like figuring out a new recipe. So, part one of this resolution is to:

try new recipes

But, wait! There’s more. Since moving in, we’ve really only hosted dinner for other people three times, and I’m embarrassed to admit that each time the menu was the same. I blogged about the menu of our first dinner party in July, and it really was not that astounding. But every time we’re set to have people over, I get nervous. I don’t want to try out a new recipe on guests; what if it’s awful? So, I end up making our same-old go-to dish.

A couple weekends ago, my good friend and her boyfriend had B and I over for dinner, and I was so impressed with the menu. She had cheese, bread, and grapes for appetizers, a seasonal salad, lightly-glazed roasted chicken, and a Pinterest-inspired potato dish. Not only that, but the presentation was lovely. For dessert, she’d even put together a little picnic basket with all the makings for s’mores. The whole evening was beautiful, comfortable, and adorable.

Therefore, the second half of my food-related resolution is to:

learn some guest-worthy dishes and host dinner parties

Not only will this two-parter of a resolution spice up our dinner life a bit, but I plan to keep you all up-to-date with my kitchen accomplishments, as well. Coming soon is a page with some of our favorite recipes, the tried-and-true as well as the new.

Actually, here’s an idea–let’s make this a back-and-forth. If you’d like to share a recipe with me, I’d love to try it out!

Update: Check out this new page, where I’ll keep track of some of our favorite recipes we try throughout the year!

Dinner for Six

Last night I hosted my first dinner party. (Not inclusive of the few times I made spaghetti for friends in college.) This was a true-to-form, used-real-plates, cooked-four-dishes, honest-to-goodness dinner party.

Fun fact about Katie: I began my college career as a journalism major, writing “full-time” for the campus newspaper. (I use quotes, because full time here implies writing two stories per week for minimum wage.) So, in honor of this tidbit of my personal history, let’s cover the ins-and-outs of this event.

THE WHO: My mom, my dad, my cousin, my husband, an ex-baby-sitting charge, and me.

)

Dinner Party Guests

THE WHAT: Asparagus & Tomato Salad (from Taste of Home Diet Cookbook), Fiber-ific Chicken Tenders (by Hungry Girl), Roasted Red Potatoes (by my hubby–you’ll have to ask him for that recipe), and Apple Crisp (recipe found below) with Edy’s Slow Churn Vanilla Ice Cream. After-dinner entertainment was a rousing game of Apples to Apples.

This salad is quickly becoming a staple in our household.

THE WHEN: Approx. 5:58pm – 8:57pm

THE WHERE: Our apartment

THE WHY: That’s a complicated story. But, basically, my wedding was a fabulous place for match-making.

THE HOW: We spent the later-afternoon cooking together.

"You're messing up my crumbs!"

"Are you sure we need this many apples?"

DE-BRIEFING: All in all, the dinner party was determined a success. Delicious (and healthy!) food was eaten, fun (and fascinating!) games were played. Oh, and we scored three bottles of wine. Sweet!

My Mom’s Magnificent Apple Crisp

lots of apples

1 stick margarine or 1/2 C margarine (this is the healthiest part)

1/2 C + 1/4 C Splenda (divided)

3/4 C flour

cinnamon

Core all the apples, and slice ’em up into small slices. Put sliced apples in a 9 in. x 9 in. pan or maybe a pie pan. Either one will work. These apples should be mounded up over the top. Apples really cook down. Sprinkle 1/4 C Splenda and some cinnamon on top.

For the topping, combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor. It should create a crumbly topping. Or, if it’s not crumbly (like mine was), crumble it with your fingers as you top the apples.

Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the top starts to look browned. I like to leave it a little gooey still.