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The DIY Life: Arugula Pesto

22 Oct

So, um, wow. I haven’t blogged for over a month. Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I feel it’s a little ridiculous because I’ve been cooking my ass off making all this from scratch food. Lots of squash type dishes. Complete with photos. And yet, not a blog post to be found for over a month. Damn.

Well folks, don’t you worry your pretty little faces off anymore. I am back. I have recipes out the wazoo. But since it’s been so long, I wanted to start off simple. With a different twist of pesto sauce. Most of the time when you think of pesto, you think of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Which is delicious and simple in its own right. BUT…what if you were to try a pesto made from peppery arugula, mixed with salty parmesan and nutty roasted almonds?!?!?!? Have I blown your mind yet?!?!?!? It’s a simple list of ingredients, and the only other tool you need to make this is a food processor. And like, 5 minutes. Really. I made a bunch of this and froze it into cubes so that I could use it on pizzas, in sauces, or as a cooking medium for chicken. It’s pretty versatile. And tastes wonderful. For reals.

2013-09-07 12.07.28 2013-09-07 12.08.22

Arugula Pesto

7oz bag of arugula

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

2oz toasted almond slivers * see notes below on how to toast

Add your arugula, cheese, almonds and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to add the arugula in batches (I did). Once all of the arugula has been processed, turn the processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil until combined. Use immediately on whatever tickles your fancy, or freeze for later use.

Spoon into ice cube trays and let freeze until solid. To remove cubes. set the ice cube tray in a shallow dish of hot water to loosen up the pesto cubes. Place in a freezer safe bag or container and use as you need to!

Notes:

To toast almonds, put in a dry skillet that has been preheated over a medium flame. Toss around until they start to brown. Let cool completely before adding to food processor.

Don’t turn on the oven – easy Crock Pot Roast Chicken

8 Aug

Hi there. Remember me? I sure hope so, otherwise this post is going to fall on deaf mailboxes and feeds! I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I’ve had good reason. Our little mini Dachshund had some major surgery on his back, and I’ve been playing momma nurse to him. The good news is that he’s recovering really well, and starting to walk again. It’s a pretty wonky walk, and he flops down more often than not, but it’s a walk, and it’s going to get better as time goes on.

The bad news is that the rest of the world kept going on while I was playing momma nurse. Laundry, cooking, groceries, bills, work. They are all pretty rude considering they did not cease to exist until I was able to manage them again. The nerve. But, I’m BACK. Blessing you all with a weekly (maybe every other week) post of cooking, crafting or domestic bliss.

Today, it’s all about chicken. No, none of my chickens were sacrificed to make this lovely, filling and delicious concoction. But I’m sure they could smell it. And had they been given some of it, they would have gobbled it down like the little cannibals they are. Here is good old Pennsylvania, we had a week or two of fall like weather. Cool crisp nights, cool days. It was nice having the windows open, and the AC turned off. But alas, it is August, and summer is back with the 85 degree temps and ridiculous humidity. What does that mean? It means I’m pretty reluctant to turn on the oven for any extended period of time since it makes the AC run more often, which raises my electric bill, which taps into my food/fun/vet bill money. But a girl still wants a hearty meal of roast chicken every now and again. And wants it to be an easy meal. Something that cooks slowly while I’m at work. And the crock pot roast chicken was born.

This “recipe” if you can even call it that is a fairly simple one. I guess it’s more of a method. And it’ll get you to dust off your crock pot, and be almost done with dinner. I promise you won’t even break a sweat making this chicken. For real. It doesn’t have the crisp skin like you get from oven roasted chicken, but it’s tender and literally falls apart when you go to plate it. You don’t need to add any additional liquid since cooking it in the crock pot does a sort of self basting, and you can use the juices left in the pot to make a homemade gravy.

 

roast chicken sliced

Crock Pot Roast Chicken Method

Ingredients/tools:

1 whole chicken, 6-7lbs

1 lemon

Seasoning of your choice – I use Weber Roasted Garlic & Herb

Crock pot, preferably one with a timer function. Otherwise you’ll need to be around to turn it to warm at the end mark.

Start by removing the giblets if you have any. Hubs likes them, so they get tossed into the bottom of the crock pot. Rinse your chicken off and pat dry with some paper towels. Place the chicken in your crock pot, breast side up. Next, slice your lemon in half and squeeze both halves over your hand held over the chicken to catch any seeds. Toss the seeds, then stuff the juiced lemon halves into the chicken cavity. Sprinkle chicken liberally with seasoning of your choice, put the lid on your crock pot, and set it to cook on high for 6-7 hours (my rule is add 1 hour for each pound over 5lbs). After the 6 hours, remove your chicken from the crock pot and serve!

Since the crock pot doesn’t allow for crisp skin, and you may be into that – you can put the chicken in an oven safe dish and crisp up the skin under the broiler for roughly 5 minutes.

roast chicken whole

Quick Dinner – Spinach & Feta Chicken Burgers

29 Apr

We are getting to that time of year when things start to get busier at our house. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones either. Outdoor chores like weeding the flower beds, mowing the grass and planting the garden come into play. With warmer weather also comes more outdoor activities – motorcycle rides, outdoor parties, weddings, graduation parties, camping, bicycle rides. That means less time spent at home, which translates to quick dinner options on the weekdays. I don’t want to be stressing about what to make for dinner, or punk out and make something that is quick, but completely unhealthy. Since I am on the path to healthier eating, I’ve been thinking up meal options that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less, but are healthy, filling, and taste great. These burgers fit that bill. You get a burst of nutrient rich veggies from the spinach mixed into the burger, plus the addition of using more baby spinach in place of lettuce. The chicken is packed with protein but lower in fat than your traditional beef options, and frankly more flavorful than ground turkey. The feta cheese adds some dairy, and eliminates the need for additional salt since it helps flavor the meat. I used olive oil mayo that I spiced up with some wasabi sauce, giving the burger a little zing. It complimented the burger very well! Ciabatta rolls were a lovely change of pace from traditional burger buns, and could actually be skipped completely if you are looking to limit your intake of carbs, serving it over a bed of baby spinach with a little smear of the wasabi mayo. We enjoyed these with a large serving of garden salad, and it was delicious!

spinach & feta chicken burgers

Spinach & Feta Chicken Burgers

makes 4  1/4lb burgers 

1lb ground chicken

4oz feta cheese crumbles

1 1/2 cups baby spinach, torn into smaller pieces

1 small shallot, minced

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all of your ingredients in a bowl, and form into 4 1/4lb burger patties. Pan fry – no additional oil – or grill until cooked all the way through, 10-15 minutes. Serve on toasted ciabatta bread with baby spinach and wasabi mayo. Serve with a garden salad for a light and healthy dinner! Also great for lunch!

Healthy Meal Idea – Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

22 Apr

I’ve been on a blog hiatus recently. Not because I’ve been overly busy or anything. More like I’ve been trying to enjoy the lovely weather when it comes about. Catching up on some spring cleaning chores like cleaning out the chicken coop and run. Trying out new recipes, and revisiting old ones. I am always on a mission for easy, healthy, simple and QUICK meal ideas. Have you ever noticed that most of the easy meals tend to be unhealthy because you are either eating a premade meal made who knows when, preckaged stuff that has so many preservatives you feel almost pickled after, or it’s laden with fat to compensate for flavor? Blech. Enter in the Spinach & Bacon with White Beans. It’s fast. It’s tasty. It’s healthy. It’s LOW FAT. Even with the butter and bacon. Ya, that’s right. But it’s REAL butter. Not margarine. Not anything that’s 1 step away from being plastic. If you are going to ingest a fat, make it a natural one. BUTTER people. BUTTER. Say it with me….BUTTER. End rant.

Anyways, back to this meal. It’s filling. Because of the beans. That’s a lot of fiber. Good for you, keep you full fiber. It was delicious. No added salt or pepper was needed. I used precooked bacon because it’s quick, and it’s lower in fat and calories, and we always have some on hand. Don’t feel like you HAVE to. Don’t feel like you have to use bacon either – you could use some chopped country ham, prosciutto, salami. Whatever. And you can mix up the greens too – collard greens, mustard greens, kale. I just had a big ass container of spinach, which I happen to love, and wanted to use it up. Boy, I’m glad I whipped this up. I think hubs wished I made a double batch. He wanted more. So, I guess I should say this would serve 2 as a lunch sized portion. Double the recipe if you’ve got a big meal eating man in your life. Next time I make it I think I’ll cook up an egg over easy and top the greens & beans with that. And a little parmesan. Wow. I want that right now.

Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal

Ingredients

1 pound fresh organic baby spinach

6 garlic cloves, minced

8 pieces pre cooked bacon, chopped

2 cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon REAL butter

shaved parmesan

Add butter to a large skillet, letting melt. Add in your garlic and bacon, cooking until bacon is crisp and garlic is starting to get a little crispy looking – about 3 minutes. Add your beans, tossing to coat with the bacon garlic butter mix. Keep tossing until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add your spinach, in batches if necessary, stirring the mixture around to let the spinach wilt and cook through.

Serve immediately, and sprinkle with some shaved parmesan cheese for an extra hit of flavor!

German Pancakes with Wine-y Strawberries

18 Mar

Have I ever mentioned that I am a big fan of dessert? No? Well let me clear the air – I am a big fan of dessert. I feel so liberated now. Whew. So, on to the german pancake. I have been eyeballing this treat for some time, but never gotten around to making it.There are SO many recipes out there. Some that are super simple with few ingredients, others that are multi-layered, therefore making something that should be simplistic complicated. It’s called a pancake for goodness sakes! I had a hankering for dessert one day and figured what better time to try one out than right now? But wait. I would totally need a topping of some sort. What a surprise – I had frozen chopped strawberries portioned out into 2 cup servings from when they were fresh and on sale. Ta-da! And I wanted them to be juicy and warm on my warm german pancake. So Wine-y Strawberries were born!

I found the german pancake recipe in one of the old church cookbooks from my Bubba’s collection that were saved and given to me. It was as simple sounding as I was looking for and fairly quick to whip up. I cheated and didn’t sift the flour or really measure out any of the other ingredients. It turned out to be delicous as is. I don’t know the name of the cookbook since the cover has long since been MIA. But it’s got some good old fashioned recipes in it. Along with some weird sounding ones that I wouldn’t feed to an enemy. The recipe makes 2 pancakes, but hubs and split one because I didn’t want to force myself to eat a whole one. He had the other one the next morning for breakfast. Said it tasted great all by itself at room temp and a day old.

This pancake is a nice canvas to add anything you want as a topping, from the sweet to the savory. Just omit the vanilla for a savory dish. It would be good topped with some goat cheese, spinach and artichokes. Mmmm.

German Pancake

Serves 2

adapted from an old church cookbook

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon sugar

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons butter, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor or blender, add the eggs, salt and sugar and process/blend until a light yellow color. Add the milk, vanilla and flour and process/blend again until combined.

Grease 2 8 or 9 inch cake pans and divide the batter in between them. Add a tablespoon of butter to the center of the pancake.

Cook for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, rotate your cake pans and turn down the oven to 350 degrees, cooking another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and plate up, topping with Wine-y Strawberries. You could also top these with some jam or preserves, fresh berries and whipped cream, or just eat them like a pancake and douse it in maple syrup.

Wine-y Strawberry Topping

2 cups frozen strawberries, chopped (if using fresh, see note)

2 tablespoons sweet read wine

1 tablespoon sugar

In a small saucepan, place the berries, wine and sugar, stirring to combine everything together. Over medium-high heat, cook the berries until the are bubbling and the juices & wine start to cook off and thicken a little. Turn off heat and place the hot berries on top of your german pancake. These would also be a good topping for regular pancakes or even a chocolate sheet cake. Yum!

Note: if using fresh berries, chop them and place them in a small bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon of sugar, stirring your berries to coat and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This will get the juices in your berries to come out, helping you increase your sauce to berry ratio. Then just add the juicy berries to your pan with your wine and cook as directed above.

Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa – Filling, GF, Vegan – and 4 days worth of breakfast!

13 Mar

Let’s face it. If you are a working stiff Monday – Friday, you can be hard pressed to eat a breakfast that is healthy, filling, and easily prepared the night before. Skipping breakfast is not an option for me, and it shouldn’t be for anyone else either. Breakfast is the meal that gets our motors running, our brains firing on all cylinders. Your body NEEDS fuel.  My fellow working stiffs need me to eat breakfast. Otherwise, by 11 am, hunger has mixed with anger, making me hangry…and things can get ugly. So unless I’m not feeling well, I eat breakfast. I’m trying to lose some weight, tone up, and make some adaptable life changes. Eating healthier. Now, I’m not doing a gluten-free diet. I am trying to cut out white pastas & breads, white rice, “whole wheat” pasta’s & breads that aren’t really all that more nutritious than plain old white bread. I’m working to incorporate more whole grains, more quinoa. I’m lucky in that I don’t HAVE to do GF. That my stomach won’t be in an uproar if I eat a sandwich on wheat bread. But I know so many people out there don’t have a choice but to be GF. And since so many people are having to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, it makes gluten-free food items more readily available to the general population. A welcome side effect. Now, back to the recipe. I’ve been experimenting with quinoa, using it in place of rice and pasta where I feel it’s a good substitute. But everything I’ve been using it in thus far has been a savory dish. I wanted to try it in a sweeter option, like something for breakfast. I wanted to incorporate fruit, since I know that I’m not eating enough servings of it each day. I wanted the recipe to taste good, be healthy, but not lack flavor. I wanted it to be something I could make a big batch of, and reheat throughout the work week. Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa was born. It’s quick and easy to make, has a small list of ingredients, and is a healthy, portable, filling breakfast option! I get 4 packed pint jars worth.

If you aren’t into using almond milk, you could totally replace it with your regular milk. I think chocolate almond milk would also be a tasty sub. Raspberries aren’t your thing? Try blueberries or strawberries in the same ratio. Or do a mix! Use fresh if you have them. I’m using berries that I froze over the summer. Based on the ingredients I used, this recipe is around 125 calories per serving, with maybe 2 grams of fat. You can also sprinkle on some cinnamon, or unsweetened cocoa powder for an extra flavor boost!

raspberry almond breakfast quinoa

Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa

1 1/2 – 2 cups frozen raspberries

1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed thoroughly

1 1/4 cup organic vanilla almond milk

slivered almonds, about 1/4 cup – optional

Stevia to sweeten

In a medium saucepan, add your almond milk and 1 cup of the raspberries. Cook over medium heat until the raspberries start to soften and break apart. Add your quinoa, letting the mixture come back up to a boil. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 10 more minutes. Once the mixture has cooled slightly and thickened, sweeten with Stevia to taste. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons Stevia powder for mine to get it to the taste I wanted. Portion your quinoa mixture into pint mason jars, filling right up to the threaded part of the jars. Top each jar with the other cup of raspberries, sprinkling each jar with slivered almonds. Seal jars and store in fridge. You can reheat this on the stove, in the microwave, or enjoy it at room temp. Either way, it’s good!

raspberry almond breakfast quinoa closeup

Lighter Snack & Lunch Idea – Lightly Pickled Shrimp!

4 Mar

Every time a new year arrives, the gyms flood with people trying to set new goals with their brand new good intentions. The produce aisle and whole grain sections at the grocery stores are cleared of all things healthy as people embark on a quest for better eating habits. Then it dies off, at the latest, in early February and most people go back to their bad food choices and lazy ways. I never make healthy eating or fitness a new years resolution because it’s like setting yourself up for failure. Healthy eating, fitness, lifestyle changes – you can’t give them deadlines. You’ve got to be mentally ready for the challenge. YOU have to want to do it. I think I’m mentally ready to start getting back into shape again after too much good food & beer. I’m cutting back on the good beer, but not cutting it out. Cutting things out leads to binging on those things because you feel deprived. I need REAL life changes and choices, not a quick fix to drop some weight right now, just to gain it back when I get back to normal.

So for the first week I started getting a little more creative with my lunch choices. I wanted meals that would keep me full and give me the most bang for my buck calorie and nutrition wise. That’s why I started eating Spinach & Cheese Toasts – and I wanted to add in something that had some more protein than the mushrooms I was eating with it and it to be light, healthy & flavorful. So I decided to do a quick, light pickling of some medium sized shrimp. Don’t turn your nose up at the thought of “pickled” shrimp. These aren’t anything like eating a kosher dill pickle. These are brightly flavored without being too “pickled” tasting. They have zing from the apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice. There is a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes and garlic. They are just layered with flavor and I love it! I think these will be a great snack and lunch addition, as well as be a great option to take to a summertime picnic or BBQ as an appetizer to share! And the brine? Don’t let it go to waste. It’s lovely smeared on some crusty, whole grain french bread with a couple of the shrimp on top. I think it would also be great as a pasta salad, brining the shrimp overnight and then tossing the jar of ingredients into some pasta. Or quinoa. Next time I make this, I’m going to add in a couple extra shakes of the pepper flakes for a little more zing!

Feel free to double this recipe if you are making it for a group. I made this small batch because I wanted to only have what I would consume over a few days for lunches.

pickled shrimp

Lightly Pickled Shrimp

1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, raw, tails off

1 tbsp old bay seasoning

1/2 tsp mustard seed

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/2 – 1 tsp kosher salt

1 whole lemon, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

2-3 tbsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar

couple shakes of red pepper flakes

2 pinches parsley flakes

2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced

1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into half moons

Fill a small pot halfway with tap water and add the old bay seasoning. Bring to a boil and add shrimp, cooking until pink – about 2 minutes. Dump your shrimp into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water until no longer hot. (you are using the mesh strainer so that you don’t lose much of the old bay seasoning!)

Take your mustard seed, celery seed & the couple shakes of red pepper flakes and pulse them through a food mill or grinder  a couple of times just to break them up a bit and release their flavors. Add your salt, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic, stirring well to combine. Give it a taste and add more salt or vinegar to get the desired tang and flavor you are looking for.

In a mason jar, put a layer of shrimp, then a layer of onions, and keep layering until you run out of shrimp and onions. Pour the marinade mixture over your shrimp and onions, top with a lid, and put in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors melt together.

Before serving, let the jar sit out for at least 30 minutes. This will let the olive oil easily mix back in with the vinegar and lemon juices. Right before eating, give the jar a good shake to get everything mixed back together. Enjoy as an appetizer, alongside a sandwich, add to pasta, quinoa, rice – whatever your heart desires! Consume within a few days.