I wrote recently about my Hamburger Salad, which is one of my go-to meals when B and I decide to “do our own thing” for a meal. I’d like to share one of my other faves when I’m cooking solo. … Continue reading
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).
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.
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.
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!)
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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…)…
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
- 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
Serves: 2 (I tripled the recipe for my Christmas gathering)
- 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
One part of married life we’ve really been enjoying this year is starting (and continuing) some of our own traditions.
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
Serves: 6-8 people
- 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!
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:
- Fiber One Chicken
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Parmesan Tilapia
- Chicken Sausage & Lentil Stew
- Barbecued Pork Chops
- Chicken Stir-Fry
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!