Tag Archives: easy
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Weekly Meal Prep: Mason Jar Salad – Shrimp quinoa with ranch and romaine

28 Apr

I’ve discovered something recently. My portion control had packed up and left me. Totally peaced out. So that meant I was eating larger than necessary portions, snacking in between meals on less than healthy stuff, and having one too many glasses of wine with dinner. The wake up call was the number on the scale. Don’t get me wrong – the number isn’t what matters to me. It is how my clothes feel. And my clothes were feeling hella small. The number on the scale was just the push I needed to start making changes.

Now, I don’t know about you but I cannot diet. I just can’t. As soon as something becomes off-limits, it is ALL I want to eat. So I started using My Fitness Pal again to keep track of my weight as well as all the food and drink I’m ingesting. I’m into week 3 and I’ve lost 5 pounds. Not huge, but slow and steady wins the weight loss race. I’m trying to lose weight, but I’m also trying to regain control of portions. To put more effort into planning my meals so that I refrain from eating convenience foods because I have a healthy meal on hand.

Here’s where the mason jar meals come into play. They are super portable. I have a plethora of jars due to my canning hobby. I can make a weeks worth of meals, and just grab a jar and have lunch ready to go. The lettuce or cabbage will stay crispy because it is as far away from the wet stuff – dressing/sauce – as possible. The meals are healthy. HEALTHY people! And full of flavor. The goal is to keep my lunches at 400 calories or less. This recipe falls around 300 calories – 14 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein, and is very filling from the combo of the quinoa and shrimp. I loved this meal.

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As always, I make everything from scratch. I try to have cooked quinoa frozen in portions in the freezer. That way it’s ready to use for salads or side dishes. For the from scratch ranch dressing – this is by far the simplest dressing recipe I’ve ever experienced. Everything goes into a mason jar, you shake it up and boom.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing: This is a big “to taste” seasoned recipe. The only thing I measure out is the buttermilk and mayo. The ratio of buttermilk to may is 2 to 1. So when I make a batch of this dressing for the week, I do 6oz buttermilk and 3oz mayo. I use the measurement lines on the side of my jars to show me.

For the additional flavor boosters (these measurements are not approximate, they are my best guess)

I use freeze-dried chives – probably about 1/4 cup

Dill – 1 tablespoon

Garlic powder: 1 1/2 teaspoons

Kosher Salt: 1 1/2 teaspoons

Black Pepper: 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Put all of these ingredients in a mason jar, shake like crazy and you have a ready-made, from scratch buttermilk ranch dressing that blows the store bought kind right out of the water.

Now onto the salad!

This list of ingredients will give you one salad. I usually make enough of everything to have a weeks worth on hand for my lunches.

You’re going to want to layer the ingredients in your wide mouth quart jar as follows:

1 tablespoon homemade buttermilk ranch

1 tablespoon 2% milk fat cottage cheese

1 tablespoon crumbled feta

4 tablespoons cooked quinoa

3oz (about 15) small cooked shrimp

2 cups chopped/torn romaine

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When I am ready to eat it, I add a little splash of water to the jar so that the dressing and cottage cheese gets a little runnier and coats all of the lettuce. I shake the jar up, and them pour the salad onto a dinner plate. As you can see from the photo, this is a nice hearty salad. The lettuce stays crisp because it is away from the dressing. The shrimp and quinoa get some flavor from sitting in the dressing. It really is a great salad, and so filling. With warm weather looming, this is going to be my go to meal of summer!
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Have you tried mason jar meals? If so, what are you eating?

The DIY Life: Habanero Pickled Eggs

2 Oct

Having backyard chickens means that there are times when we are buried in fresh eggs. Right now, the chickens are still laying pretty regularly, but the time is looming when the days get shorter and cooler and the girls will slow down production. So, while eggs are plentiful, I decided to pickle some. Beet eggs are usually the type that people are most familiar with. Since I’m limited in what I can do in the kitchen since I have no countertops, I decided to do a simple pickled egg and make it spicy. I made some jalapeno pickled eggs last year, but they really lacked the heat I was looking for. We grew habanero peppers in the garden this year, and they’ve done well. So I decided to use those for the heat factor. In 7 days, you’ll have nicely pickled eggs with a heat that varies. These are great to have on hand for a flavorful boost of protein, or to have out as a snack for guests with assorted meats and cheeses.

Habanero Pickled Eggs

Habanero Pickled Eggs

18 hard boiled eggs, peeled

3 cups vinegar

3 cups water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon pickling spice

6 cloves of garlic, mashed and roughly chopped into chunks

4 habanero peppers, tops trimmed off

 

Add all your ingredients (except the eggs) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat, stir and let sit to cool slightly.

Add your eggs to a heat safe glass container – I used a 1/2 gallon mason jar.

Pour the brine over the eggs until the container is almost full. Be sure to get the peppers, garlic and any pickling spices from the brine into the jar so that they can continue to flavor. You will have extra brine, but that is ok.

Add the lid to your jar and let cool for about an hour, then place in the fridge for 7 days to allow the mixture to pickle. Shake the jar each day to get the seasonings, spices and peppers to move around and flavor your eggs evenly.

After 7 days, your eggs are pickled and you can enjoy them!

Quick Weeknight Meal: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

10 Sep

Well hello sarcastic followers! I know, I know. I’ve been MIA again. SO much going on. Weddings, weddings and more weddings. An unscheduled kitchen demo and remodel (another post!), raising new baby chicks and incorporating them into the current flock, gardening, and just life in general has been…hectic. BUT, I’m baaaaaack!

With summer drawing to a close, I was on the hunt for a recipe that would let me use of the last of the fresh basil. I froze a container full to use during the colder months, but still had a nice amount left of the plants that hadn’t been attacked by bugs or started turning brown. Then the the kitchn showed me a way with Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil.  After I read the comments, I made some modifications since there were people saying it lacked flavor. I doubled the lemon juice and zest, didn’t really measure the ricotta (so I’m sure I used more than the 2 cups, probably by about 1/2 cup), and added in garlic. I used an egg pasta for a little bit of a richer taste. The result was a bright, flavorful dish that was like summer in a bowl.

Hubs loved this dish as much as I did. If I were to serve it to a group for dinner, I’d use it as a side with some baked chicken and a salad. It was so quick to put together!

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

1 pound small shaped pasta – I used an egg pasta in rolled tube shape

2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic gloves, minced

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup sliced basil leaves

1 cup reserved pasta water

 

Salt and boil a pot of water large enough to fit  your pasta of choice.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

Add your olive oil to a pan and heat over medium flame. Once oil is heated, add your minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring so it does not burn. Add your garlic oil mix to your cheese mix, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste (I went heavier on the pepper for more flavor).

Once pasta is cooked to package directions, drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to your cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta and basil, stirring to combine. If you would like the sauce to be thinner, add more pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. The heat from the cooked pasta and the pasta water will warm the cheese sauce and make it nice and creamy.

Serve immediately! If you have leftovers, save any leftover pasta water to add to the mixture when reheating. This will keep the sauce creamy and delicious.

 

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.

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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.

Use up that jam! Easy Homemade Jam Ice Cream.

30 Aug

I have to say, for a little bit there I was on a strawberry jam kick. It was easy to whip up and can a batch of it and be able to enjoy that one batch the whole year. But then I got chickens, which means I have lots of eggs. Which means my most favorite way to enjoy those eggs is over medium. What does that mean for my jam? It means it doesn’t get to make its debut on a buttery english muffin quite as often since strawberry jam coated english muffins do not go well being dipped into egg yolks. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not my thing. So my strawberry jam has been collecting a little dust, going unloved on the canning shelf.

Then Northwest Edible Life throws me a recipe that is simple to whip up and use some of that jam! This ice cream recipe is so simple to use. No cooking a custard base, no cooling. Just your ice cream maker and 4 ingredients and you’ll have a batch of homemade ice cream with homemade jam for sweetness and flavor. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it!

It’s a great way to use up some surplus jam. Don’t have any homemade jam? You could give it a try with store bought. Not quite as good in my opinion, but it will still be quick and taste amazing. After tasting this easy ice cream, I plan on making a large batch of jam – strawberry and apple pie – so that I have it on hand for a quick batch of this ice cream! And to smear on homemade bread and english muffins of course.

strawberry jam ice cream

Homemade Jam Ice Cream

Adapted from Northwest Edible Life

1 cup cold milk – I used 2%

2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 pint jar jam of your choice – I used strawberry

Put all your ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine using an immersion blender. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker, following the manufacturers directions.

Since this will be a soft set, I like to place it in a freezer safe container and firm up overnight. The lovely thing about this recipe? It doesn’t get rock hard. My ice cream scoop easily cuts through it and I serve it up with a little chocolate sauce for dessert. It’s rich, so one or two scoops will satisfy.

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

Easy side dish – Inside Out Pierogis

16 Jul

I am mostly Slovenian. My great grandparents came to America on a boat full of other immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves. When my gram married and had my mom, she didn’t dilute the gene pool too much. Same thing with my mom when she married my dad. I am German, Dutch, Indian and Slovak – but the Slovak dominates. I blame that for my unnatural love of pierogis. And I’m a bit of a snob about them. I’ll eat non church pierogis, but there is one local church that makes them twice a year around Easter and Christmas and they are AMAZING. The best ever. My gram buys dozens of them and shares them with the rest of us. I freeze a bunch to have later, but immediately fry up a dozen with butter and some onions and eat half of them. Yep. No shame.

Now, it’s summertime so that means my stockpile of church pierogis are pretty much depleted. <insert sad face here> So when I recently had a hankering for pierogis, the Inside Out was born. You’ve got the dough aspect covered by the gnocchi – and they are traditionally made with potatoes so there is the potato aspect. Add in the ricotta for cheese and the chives for the onion and voila! And amazingly, they do taste a whole lot like pierogis. I loved it! I will most certainly be making these again. And I actually ate this as lunch, not as a side. I accompanied it with a salad and it was a delicious and filling meal.

Inside Out Pierogis

serves 2-3 as a side dish

1lb gnocchi – store bought of fresh made

½ cup whole milk ricotta

2 tbsp chives

½ tsp garlic salt

1tbsp olive oil

1tbsp butter

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot the gnocchi were boiled in, add your oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted and the olive oil is hot. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat. Let the gnocchi cook for a few minutes so that they get crispy and brown on one side. While they are browning, add the ricotta, chives and garlic salt. Stir to combine and cook until ricotta cheese it hot.

Serve and enjoy!