Easy Weeknight Dinner

8 Sep

It’s no myth that eating healthier foods takes some time and effort.  Sometimes, it’s a lot of time and effort…it’s usually worth it to me, but there are some days when 4:30 arrives and all I want to do is have someone cook for me, clean up and refill my glass of iced tea. Many nights like this I’ve usually forgotten to take something out of the freezer, too.   But, when even a trip to Jason’s Deli or Chipotle costs us around $20 (and there’s no one really serving us), it’s not really feasible to go out as often as I’d like.  Plus, eating away from home really limits how much control over what’s being put in to your food. 

Last night was one of those nights.  We had a really busy (but fun!) day and about 4:00 I realized I’d not taken anything out to cook that evening.  Plus, I was TIRED.  I was on the verge of calling Justin to tell ask him to stop and pick up something for dinner, but at the end of the day, I knew he was tired. One more stop on the way home isn’t really his idea of relaxation, either.  Then, I remembered my trusty favorite for a night like this.  SALMON.  Salmon has always seemed to me like a special occasion or “company’s coming” kind of meal, but it really is the fastest and easiest dinner you can make.  Fifteen minutes (maybe 20 if you take the time to defrost the fish first) and you’re DONE.

Salmon also has a tendency to be pretty expensive, but this is the brand that I buy and I find it at Aldi at just over $4 for a 1 lb. package.  It’s enough for all of us to have a piece, with at least enough for one of us to have leftovers for lunch the next day.  If it’s still frozen, just put it in a sink of cold water for a few minutes.  It’s okay if it’s not 100% defrosted.

There’s only one or two things I buy at Aldi, but this is definitely worth a trip and I stock up when I’m there (at least four or five packages).  It’s wild caught salmon (no pink dyes added, antibiotics or “fishy” feeding practices) and I believe it’s from somewhere in the Pacific northwest area–Alaskan salmon (not to be confused with Atlantic salmon!) is best, but this is an affordable alternative.

Preheat the oven to about 420 degrees and place salmon in any baking dish or cookie sheet.  I usually drizzle the dish with a little bit of olive oil first.  Salt fish on both sides,  top with the seasoning of your choice and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  I used my new Parisien Bonnes Herbes spice blend from Penzey’s, a spice store that my mom found in Omaha.  I was absolutely thrilled to know they opened a store in Arlington, too!  I can’t wait to run out of something else, so I have an excuse to drive out there.  All of their spices are non-irradiated and smell FANTASTIC.  Our dinner had so much flavor!

I also used the greek seasoning to make our salad dressing.  Very delicious. 

While salmon is cooking in the oven, I make whole wheat couscous and a salad.  Couscous is done in about 5-7 minutes from beginning to end.  Yes, seriously.  Boil 1 1/2 cups of water (add a little salt if using water) or chicken stock; once it comes to a boil, pour in 1 cup of couscous, stir, cover with a lid and remove from heat.  That’s IT.  Last night I tried something different and we all liked it–I saved the cooking liquid from the chickpeas I made the night before and used that instead of water or stock. When it’s time to eat, just fluff with a fork.  

While the couscous is steaming in the pot and salmon still has a few minutes, whip up a quick salad.  This one had spinach, onion, walnut, chickpeas, parmesan cheese and greek vinagrette.  Voila!

No complaints, few dishes to clean, and eaten by an almost-three-year-old.  Success!

 

An Oatmeal Kind of Day

23 Aug

Good Morning!  Well, at least it was after I sent Olivia back to bed for a few extra minutes to think about her poor attitude.  Once she realized I wasn’t kidding, she got up with a smile on her face and a tummy ready for some breakfast.  I made oatmeal for all three of us.  I’m also using oatmeal in two other recipes today, granola and granola bars.  Better get going while it’s still cool outside. 

Started with the finest ingredients.  Ok, well the pretty darn delicious ones.  Justin requested the addition of butter and like the good wife I am, I obliged.  Pecans were also involved.

 

“Mama, I’m hungry.”

I think she likes it…

Farmers Market Dinner

22 Aug

I really love to spend time in the kitchen, but if we’re friends on facebook, you know that the little fan I use to get ready in the morning is now making rounds about the house…it’s spending a lot of time in the kitchen, too.  Yeah, I’m tired of being hot, but we still gotta eat.  I think we’ve encountered several challenges within our 10-Day Real Food Challenge, and the blistering heat can honestly make the list.  On some days it could pretty much TOP the list. 

Anyway.

Things are actually getting easier, even though I’m having to use some good ol’ fashioned creativity and ummm…home economics to figure things out.  Because real food costs more than processed or boxed food (go figure…I still don’t understand this), I’m really working to stretch everything I purchase.  A pastured chicken from the Dallas farmers’ market gets morphed into several meals, for instance.  Last week it was roasted with red onions and potatoes for a main dish.  This weekend I completely stripped what meat was left, re-seasoned it with some Emeril’s Essence (the homemade version, of course), and put it into some yummy quesadillas with cheese, onions and pinto beans.  Finally, you guessed it…the bones are in the freezer waiting to be morphed into chicken stock for yet another meal (or to cook quinoa, pasta or whole wheat couscous).  Ground beef for taco salad?  Add kidney beans to make enough for friends and a hungry husband.  And leftovers…where would we be without them?  Justin nor I are huge fans of leftovers, but I think with better food comes better leftovers.  I had the pleasure of enjoying a night off from the blazes of hell hot kitchen while Justin made some whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce.  He used some ground italian pork, also from JuHa Ranch, mixed with some grass-fed beef from our freezer.  It tasted great the night he made it, but I was sure glad we came home after church for leftovers instead of heading to Central Market like I wanted to do, because it was infinitely better this afternoon.  So good, in fact, that I passed out for a nap afterward, instead of cleaning the kitchen…or anything else productive, for that matter.

I pulled myself out of the chair just in time to get dinner started.  What a treat!  Tonight’s dinner was almost entirely locally produced, with the exception of the seasonings, garlic, olive oil and butter.  We had New York Roast Beef, a recipe from my Mama.  To that, I added some sautéed veggies, but I let them cook on the stove for quite a while.  Add in a cantaloupe and I call it dinner. 

Start with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in the pan.  Then the BUTTAH (I use Costco’s organic butter).  Something magical happens when olive oil and butter are used together.  Unexplainable.

   

Add in some garlic and then diced potatoes.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt or kosher salt and let the potatoes cook until almost done.

Add in yellow and zucchini squash along with yellow onions, add in just a little more salt and some pepper.

Let everything caramelize, stirring every once in a while.  I would normally add in some extra spices here, but this smelled so good with only salt and pepper that I just left it alone for a change.

That’s it.  Delicioso!  Here’s the other little beauty–she got a little more done than I wanted, but still quite tasty and plenty for leftovers.  Hurrah!

Snack Time

19 Aug

These are soooooo delicious, I wish I had ordered more from Azure!!

That is all.

Different Can Be Hard

19 Aug

Today has been much better, but yesterday…well, that’s a different story.  Anyone who has gone on a diet knows the first couple of days are rough.  Even though I’ve been eating whole foods for some time now, I still allow myself a few treats and this past weekend was no exception.  We had friends over on Sunday afternoon and of course a there was a ton of food!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go crazy but I overindulged, even on the “good” stuff.  Then on Monday I had Justin bring home dinner…pizza (traditionally my favorite, but it wasn’t that great.  I really wanted it to be good).  Then there was just a little bit of ice cream left in the freezer, so we both had a some of that.  And then…I felt gross.  I hadn’t eaten like that in a LONG time and I was so sluggish, tired and just did not feel good at all.  What a good reminder of why I changed my eating habits in the first place!  But, even though it had only been a few days of going back to the way I used to eat, it’s still been tough to get back into the swing of things. 

Justin and I both had headaches yesterday, which I largely attribute to ridding our bodies of junk.  I really feel for Justin, since he’s making some pretty radical changes in a short amount of time.  I’ve gradually changed what I put into my body, but one thing I did cut off completely and cold turkey was any kind of soda.  It was so bad at one point that my brother told me that he didn’t know I actually drank water, only Diet Coke.  My usual at Sonic was “half and half Coke”, so I was still taking in a lot of sugar.  Since the beginning of May I haven’t had a single sip.  It’s still hard for me to avoid craving it, especially if I see one that’s nice and COLD, but honestly the best part about not drinking it anymore is not having that dependence.  You know…it’s 2 o’clock and all drinks are 1/2 price!  And it’s hot outside! It’s just a two-minute car ride and I don’t even need to wear my shoes!  And if I don’t have it, I’m just going to go NUTS!  Yeah.  It’s nice not being that person anymore

Knowing that my husband might abandon ship if I don’t get him something sweet and stat, tonight I made granola bars.  I even let him have some of the batter.  Ok, I had some, too.  I made this batch with walnuts and almond butter and I’m eager to see if I let them sit out overnight if they will stay together a little bit better.  It’s been a while since we’ve had them, but I had been waiting on an order from Azure Standard.  This time I ordered 25 lbs. of organic oatmeal.  Yep.  I know I sound like some crazy food storage nut job (Glenn Beck, anyone?), but I really think we will eat it all.  I’m eager to see how long it will last around here.

Curious what we’ve been eating?  Some really good stuff : sautéed gulf shrimp with whole wheat couscous, roasted chicken with red onions and potatoes, and tonight we had salmon, green beans from the farmer’s market (with BUTTER) and quinoa.  I’m also looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch with a friend or two; I’m making taco salad with grass-fed ground beef and a homemade cilantro-lime dressing.  YUM.

Image

Welcome!

18 Aug

So.  It’s been forever.  Practically an eternity.  I committed to blogging during Olivia’s first year, but sadly I found other things to do for the next two years.  And just what could that be, you ask?  Well, I’m not sure either…just living life, making a few changes, taking up a few new hobbies, playing with my sweet girl and hanging out with my amazing husband (hi, honey!).

Speaking of changes, one of the biggest differences in our home is the way we are eating these days.  It’s been a gradual change, but after Justin and I watched Food, Inc., there was almost no way we could go back to the same ol’, same ol’.  I’ve started buying more organic options (easy), attempting to eat more local foods (harder) and removing all processed foods from our home (hardest).  This has all required some sacrifice, patience (thanks for playing along, babe) and a lot of trial and error.  Homemade wheat tortillas, for example….yeah, I’ll just be buying those from now on.  But, homemade yogurt?  Yes, please!

I’ve been eating this way for several months now, but over the next 10 days our entire family (yep, even Olivia) is taking part in a 1o-day challenge to only eat real food.  I’m hoping it will be a good experience for all three of us and I know there’s even more steps that I personally can take to change my diet for the better.  I’ll be posting photos, links, challenges and feedback from the other two eaters in my house.

Pastured eggs...the best tasting eggs I've ever eaten.

Pastured eggs...the best tasting eggs I've ever eaten.

Today is day two, but yesterday got off to a pretty good start.  As many of you may know, getting up early isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I wanted Justin to leave for work with a full belly, so I got up to make breakfast for him.  The pancakes were just defrosted from the stash I made last week, but were still really yummy.  I poured on real maple syrup, one of the two sweeteners (honey is the other) allowed during our challenge.  I get up to make eggs for myself on a pretty regular basis, so that was pretty easy.  I’ve gotten used to how they taste when made with coconut oil and I’ve really grown to love it.  My palate has really changed over the past few months, but that’s another post for another day 🙂

Banana walnut pancakes with maple syrup, watermelon and scrambled eggs made with coconut oil.

Our lunch was just about as simple as it is on any other day.  Olivia had walnuts, cheese and carrots and I made myself a yogurt, blueberry and almond smoothie.  Justin sent me a few texts about what he could eat for lunch and he ended up having a really yummy salad at Central Market: romaine, chickpeas, eggs, red onions, kalamata olives and a greek dressing that is made at the store.  Since he could pronounce all the ingredients in the dressing, he thought it was a pretty safe bet.  He was right…and it’s a dressing I’m going to work on perfecting at home.  SOON.