My Posts

Once a month cooking…is it for me??

I have been toying with the idea of trying a monthly cooking day where I prepare a months worth of meals in one day.  I’ve been having a hard time sticking to eating healthy due to Mike’s and my own work schedules.  My schedule is going to get even tougher with my job moving to a different library farther away from home with later hours. So, do I want to try to use up one of my days off and cook an entire months worth of meals in one day and freeze them?  I’m not sure.

I have found a really cool website that provides a monthly menu utilizing foods that are on sale that month.  You get a shopping list, chopping instructions, recipe cards, and printable food labels showing reheating instructions…all for free.  The website is http://onceamonthmom.com/. There are several menus to choose from: Traditional, Whole Foods, Gluten/Dairy Free, Diet, Baby Food, and Vegetarian.  Each menu has a downloadable recipe card that lets you change the number of people you are preparing for and adjust the shopping list and instructions for that many people.  On each of the recipe cards, they show the number and type of container you will need to put the meal in.  I have been exploring this website for about a month and I’ve been impressed with the recipes. They just started a “mini” menu which consists of 10 days worth of meals.  I may start with that one to see if I like it and want to do a whole months worth. If I decide to do this, I will post a full blog with photos.

Christmas dinner for my husband

I haven’t had much to post lately because I haven’t had much of a chance to cook.  No Thanksgiving dinner. No Christmas Eve feast. No delicious dinner on Christmas day.  This year I was a guest.  I know, I know…a lot of people would be happy to not have to cook a complicated holiday meal.  Well, I’m NOT most people.  I love everything about preparing a meal, whether it is just for Mike or for a whole crowd. I love chosing the main dish and the sides. I love trying new recipes before hand to see if it is something I want to cook for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I was extremely sad knowing that I would not get to cook for Thanksgiving OR Christmas. So, today I decided that, since I’m not working, I will prepare a Christmas dinner for my husband.

Roast beef with roasted tiny red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Here is the before picture of dinner in my new Paula Deen roasting pan.

This is a really easy recipe for delicious roast beef.  Take roast out of refrigerator one half hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.  Place in roasting pan, sprinkle with garlic powder (NOT SALT) and cover with thinly sliced onion. If you are roasting veggies with it, place around the roast. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Once oven hits temperature, put roast into oven and set timer for 15 minutes.  When timer goes off, turn the oven off. DO NOT OPEN OVEN. Leave roast in the oven for 15 minutes per pound. (Thi one was in for 1 hour and 15 minutes.) Remove from oven and let the roast rest for 15 minutes before cutting.  DELISH!!

The finished product…

I can’t wait to feed him. It will finally feel like Christmas tonight. Merry Christmas, Mike!

The Thanksgiving Feast

As exhausting as it usually is, my favorite meal to cook is Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking the perfect turkey and preparing wonderful side dishes to complement the meal and then seeing the satisfied smiles on my family’s face is the most wonderful feeling.

This year at my house there will be no delicious smell of the turkey roasting, sounds of the mixer mashing the potatoes, or splashing of the folks washing dishes in the sink with talking and laughing. This year, we are not hosting Thanksgiving. We are going to be guests. Since there will be no new recipes to write about, I thought I would write about the previous eight Thanksgiving meals I have cooked since Mike and I got hitched.

Growing up in a three generation home was fantastic. Having our grandmother live with us as my brothers and I grew up exposed us to the wonderful stories of the past. Being the third female in the house however, relegated me to the position of sous chef’s assistant in the kitchen. I am NOT complaining that I didn’t get much “hands on” kitchen experience because I would give just about anything to be in my parents’ kitchen working with Mom and Gram to make that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner together one more time That is where I learned to make my delicious giblet gravy! (Yes Mom and Gram I WAS paying attention.) I was chopper and stirrer back then. When I got married all of a sudden I had to actually cook and feed my husband. I have many funny stories about my exploits in the kitchen but today I will stick to Thanksgiving stories.

How many times has my turkey not thawed in time to put right in the oven??? Out of 9 Thanksgivings together, my count is FIVE! Yes, I know, more than half of the time but I managed to get things done in time to eat. Thank you Alton Brown for sharing your quick turkey thawing prowess with the world!!!

Two years ago, my husband bought a 23 pound turkey for me to cook because he wanted lots of leftovers. It took so long to cook that darned bird that I believe we would have eaten it raw because we were so hungry. Luckily this was NOT one of the five ” not completely thawed” turkeys.

Number of times I have cooked the little bags of goodies inside the turkey? TWO. Yup, I apparently didn’t learn my lesson the first time.

Let me set the scene from last years Thanksgiving – turkey in the oven, parade on TV, guests on their way and zzzztttzzztt – the oven dies. Yes folks, the oven DIED while my turkey was cooking. What’s a girl to do???? In case this ever happens to YOU, here is my solution. I cut ALL the meat off the turkey and pan fried it. Instead of turkey drippings to flavor the gravy, I deglazed the pan. Dinner turned out delicious but it just wasn’t the same as that toasty, roasty delicious oven baked goodness.

And I saved my best “lesson learned” story for last. It was the eve of our first Thanksgiving that we were hosting at our tiny little apartment in NJ. My parents and paren-in-laws were coming for dinner the next day. Mike was working the crazy hours at the mall and I was home “prepping” for the next day. I opened a bottle of wine and by the time Mike got home, I had polished that sucker off and was feeling no pain. I was, however, feeling the pain the next day. I learned that cooking Thanksgiving dinner for six was not very easy or fun when hungover. Lesson learned. I have NOT repeated that mistake twice!!

Enjoy your family time and eat that delicious meal. Keep our troops and their families in your prayers. They are not together today because they are keeping our world safe. Thank God for what you have and what you DON’T have and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Celebrate good food

Sometimes I like to get inspiration from professional chefs. To do so, I need to taste their food.  There is nothing like finding a great new (or at least new to me) restaurant with fantastic food, to inspire you to cook.  Yesterday, my wonderful husband suggested that we finally go to Laishley Crab House in Punta Gorda.  And, being the loving wife I am, I said “I concur!”  So, off we went….

After reviewing the menu, I decided to start with the baked bruschetta. This was cuban bread topped with balsamic marinated tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil and mozzarella. It was then drizzled with balsamic glaze.  It was so good that I’m smiling thinking about it right now.  The glaze was FANTASTIC.  This dish was absolutely delicious.  However, had I known that we were going to get the most delicioius rolls with a delectable cinnamon butter, I might not have eaten ALL of the bruschetta. I did enjoy very well made Cosmopolitans with my meal.

Red Snapper and Scallops

For dinner I chose one of the specials, Red Snapper and Scallops.  This was served with the most fantastic mashed potatoes and perfectly cooked green beans.  Topping the dish was a bacon chipotle sauce that was a perfect complement to the fish and scallops.  It was one of the most delicious seafood meals I’ve had since living in Florida.

Jack Daniels Rib Eye

Mike, who is not a fan of most seafood, chose the Jack Daniels Rib Eye which was served over whipped garlic potatoes and green beans on the side. It was then topped with a delicious Jack Daniels sauce. Considering that there was nothing left on his plate, I think Mike liked it.

It is rare for us to have dessert when we go out, but the dessert menu was so enticing that we went for it.  I went for the Key Lime Calypso and Mike had the Apple Blossom.  Both desserts we fantastic.

Key Lime Calypso

The Key Lime Calypso consisted of a light key lime mouse, white sponge cake, chocolate, and whipped cream.  I would like to eat one of these every day.  It was not overly “limey” and it was not too sweet. On top of being delicious, it looked pretty.

Apple Blossom

The apple blossom was made of delicious flakey crust with roasted cinnamon apple filling.  It was drizzled with caramel sauce and accompanied by whipped cream with fresh apple slices for garnish. Mike let me taste his and it tasted just like homemade apple pie.  Delicious comfort food.

The whole meal, from the wait staff, to the ambiance, to the food was one of the most pleasant dining experiences I’ve had since moving to Florida.  If the food is good enough for me to want to copy the recipes, then it is a winner. Laishly Crab House gets the Kathy Harriott official seal of approval.

Mike likes steak

When I met my husband, he was a very, VERY picky eater. I am the exact opposite. I am pretty much open to trying any food and/or cooking method.  I thought that I was going to hate cooking for Mike.  Luckily, the opposite is true. I’ve found a way to get him to eat, not only his favorites, but some things that he thought he’d never eat.  Once, he even ASKED to try sushi!!!!

To make up for some of my more creative meals, every once in a while I like to make him his favorite meal – STEAK.  Tonight was one of those nights.  I made a garlic rubbed t-bone steak (from the WONDERFUL Kallis German Butcher), garlic mashed potatoes, and sauteed green beans. He is now sitting on the couch with a big smile on his face!! Here are some pictures:

The garlic rubbed t-bone
The garlic mashed potatoes
The sauteed green beans

Cheers…you just drank all your calories for the day!

Like any all-American girl, I like a nice adult beverage.  From beer to wine to frou-frou fruity girl drinks, I love them all.  As a person who is trying to enjoy food and drink AND watch her weight, those drinks can use up a lot of my daily calories. What’s a girl to do?

We all know about “light” beers. Most of them have about as much flavor as a cardboard box in a blender.  The only two I’ve been able to tolerate are Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra.  I rarely indulge in these two treats.  If it is extremely hot, like it has been lately, I do enjoy them after they have spent some time in the freezer.  Ahhhh….refreshing.

I haven’t found any other good light bottled adult beverages. I do love the Smirnoff Blueberry Lemonade, but I often think twice about drinking them.  There are several companies working on some lower calorie drink mixes, as well as some chefs sharing their lower calorie recipes.

I just tasted the Crystal Light Appletini mix.  Granted, I tasted it without alcohol, but I wanted to see how the mix itself tasted without the bad influence of the alcohol.  At 5 calories a serving compared to 160 calories for an alcoholic appletini, it is a great calorie deal.  The flavor is not quite as good as a real appletini, but it’s not horrible.  Unfortunately, they are limited time only. There are two other flavors – Mojito and Margarita. I’ve heard they are both good, but have not had a chance to try them.

Crystal Light Appletini Mocktail

There is another company that has zero calorie drink mixes.  Slim Stix has a margarita, a mojito, and a cosmo mix that have no calories.  The only calories you would take in are from the alcohol you add to them.  A while ago I signed up to get a free sample and have yet to recieve them. They are only available in stores on the West Coast. You can, however, order them from Amazon or the Slim Stix website.

Lisa Lillien, know to her fans as Hungry Girl, has a whole cookbook with guilt free cocktail recipes.  It is called Hungry Girl Happy Hour.  The recipes are really easy and use everyday items that you already have if you are watching your calorie intake. You can check out some of her cocktail recipes on her website, Hungry-Girl.

So, next time you want to indulge in an adult beverage but don’t want to ruin your diet, look into these ideas, and “Cheers!”

I love breakfast.

I love breakfast. It is, without a doubt, my favorite meal of the day. It is also the easiest meal of the day for me. Eggs, oatmeal, dry cereal, bacon…whatever I make is quick and delicious. Top it off with a nice hot cup of coffee and I’m in heaven.

Most days I have oatmeal with some kind of fruit in it. I don’t use the packaged flavored oatmeal anymore. Ever since I discovered the big containers of regular oatmeal, I’ve been enjoying adding my own flavors to the oatmeal. Bananas and brown sugar…yummy. Homemade blueberry syrup mixed into oatmeal is wonderful. Peaches with a little cream, heavenly. I’ve often wondered what people in other countries eat for breakfast. Do they have the same sugary cereals that we seem to push on our children?

Yesterday I wanted something different to eat, so I whipped up a batch of french toast. I have yet to find french toast out that I really love. I have only been satisfied with my homemade french toast. I am always looking for ways to improve my french toast.  This latest batch was fantastic.  It’s all in what kind of bread you use AND what you add to the egg mixture.  This time I used Arnold Whole Grains Health Nut bread – mostly because it was on BOGO at Publix this past week and I had PLENTY to spare. My egg mixture included two eggs beaten well, 2 tablespoons of Coffee Mate Italian Sweet Cream creamer, and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  I soaked the bread REALLY well in this mixture and then cooked it on my cast iron pan in BUTTER (yeah real butter!) So far this has been my winning combo.   Just the right amount of deliciousness from cooking in butter on the cast iron pan and creamy, custardy center from the egg mixture.  I topped it with little slivers of butter and some awesome blackberry syrup. Heavenly!!!