Category Archives: cooking

Big Shopping Trip

I had to fuel myself before my big shopping trip. Everyone knows you can’t go to the grocery store hungry.

I had a big bowl of my homemade yogurt with strawberries, honey and Kashi Go Lean cereal on top. It was delicious!!

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Notice the cat toy in the background.

I filled up and I was off to the grocery store for a TON of food. I have a pretty empty fridge right now and have a bunch of meals planned for this weekend.

I had to make a list for this trip. Two sided!!!!

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I never make lists when I go to the store. I’m just not a list kind of girl. I know they are great and I would probably not forget stuff at the store if I had  a list. But it just doesn’t work for me.

This time I had so many ingredients to buy a list was a necessity. I pretty much found everything to needed at two stores. And I found some good deals too.

I had to make three trips from the house to my car to get all these bags into the house. The pic doesn’t look like many but there were 14 bags of groceries.

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My bill was a little higher than I prefer but I had to buy other items like cat food, shampoo and toiletries also. They add up!!

I know that plastic bags are horrible for the environment and I hate having them pile up in my house. I forgot my reusable bags at home today. Hanging right on the hook. Happy Earth day!! Woops!

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I have done that quite a few times. I think I really need to be better about this in the future.

Ton of groceries and only two impulse buys. Not too shabby!!

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Cinnamon Raisin Pretzels!!! How could I not try these?

Sandwich bread in the shape of Goldfish?? Again, how could I resist?? Plus they were on sale and a coupon was attached, so paid less than $2.00.

On the menu for this weekend:

  • Beans and Greens Pasta
  • Beef and Vegetable Stew
  • Korean BBQ Short Ribs
  • Chocolate Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake.

I will be very busy!!! Cooking and running a half marathon this weekend!!

Falafel Success !

Last week I made a falafel recipe and it was a complete fail. This week I gave it another try and…..success!

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I love falafel! Every time I go to a fair or the Tulip Fest, I have to find  a vendor who is selling falafel. Yum, wrapped in the pita bread, covered in yogurt sauce!

I know that falafel is normally fried in oil to give it that crisp on the outside. I decided to try and bake them to cut down on the calories and fat.

Last week I had made this recipe but I put all the ingredients in food processor and it basically made a falafel puree. It was like chickpea mash potatoes. It taste good but not what I was looking for. Of course I ate all of them. I can’t waste food.

I decided to try again but this time I mashed the chickpeas by hand.

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I used a potato masher and I worked perfectly. No puree this time.

Then I added about 3/4 cup of chopped onion.

This was the biggest onion I think I’ve ever bought. Scary to think what they do to it for it to get that big.

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Chopped up and it to the chickpeas!

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Time for mix-ins!!! Lemon juice, parsley, cilantro and bread crumbs.

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After a taste, I added, chopped garlic, coriander, salt, pepper and then an egg white to hold it all together. All mixed it and now it’s time to roll up my sleeves.

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I balled the mixture up and put them in individual muffins tins. I love my muffin tin!!

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In the oven, they crisped up on the outside and didn’t fall apart at all!! Falafel success!

It tasted GREAT on top of a salad with a drizzle of yogurt sauce.

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Baked Falafel Cakes

  • 2  15 oz cans of chickpeas
  • 1 small onion chopped  (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 c of bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tbl of lemon juice
  • 1 tbl of dried parsley
  • 1/2 tbl of fresh cilantro
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp of coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and mash by hand until coarsely mashed. Then add in all remaining ingredients and blend well. Form into balls the size of a golf ball and pressed into muffin tins. You could also from them into patties and baked them on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until browned up on top. 

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp of fresh cilantro

Mix together and chill in the refrigerator.

Homemade Yogurt Experiment

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When I was in Florida I stumbled across a website that talked about making your own yogurt. I was immediately intrigued since I eat yogurt everyday. Plus, I always think I can make anything that can be bought.

I used to eat 1 Dannon Light n Fit everyday for lunch. Last year, I reevaluated my eating habits and decided to cut out artificial sweeteners. For years, I was eating Splenda in everything!! I drank it in my coffee, in my oatmeal, yogurt, Crystal Light and pretty much any other fat-free “health food”. I’ve really come a long way with my eating habits.

Recently, I started buying the large containers of plain yogurt and was adding my own mix-ins for flavor. Less waste, less cost. So the idea that I could make my own yogurt sounded perfect. Eat healthy, help the environment  and save money!

There are a lot of different ways to make homemade yogurt. In a cooler, in your oven, with a heating pad or in your sink. Basically the most important thing that you need to watch is the temperature. It needs to stay at a constant 110 degrees for 8 to 12 hours. I was going to try the heating pad method until I found a recipe using your crock pot.

I love crock pots!! Just turn it on and walk away.

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To make your own yogurt, you start with milk. I read that you could use any type of milk, whole, 2%, 1% or whatever you choose. I decided to use fat-free since that is the type of yogurt that I generally chose to drink. It has to be pasteurized, which is how milk from most stores are sold. Be careful when using organic milk that may be ultra pasteurized, it won’t work.

I started with a 1/2 gallon of fat-free milk. I thought a gallon of yogurt might be a little too much for me to eat in 10 days. That’s a lot of yogurt!

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I read that adding dry milk to the mix can help it thicken. So I added 1/2 cup of fat-free dry milk. I’ve never bought dry milk before. Didn’t even know where in the store it was! My local grocery store only sold it in large packages. $10 for dry milk seemed a little too much for this experiment, so I found it at Walmart for about $3, Much better!!

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I whisked the dry milk into the crock pot with the milk. Turn it to the lowest setting and left it alone.

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3 hours later I came back home and unplugged the crock pot. I used my thermometer and it was 180 degrees. Perfect!! It was slightly boiling now.

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I took the lid off and left it for another 3 hours. It has to cool to 110 degrees -120 degrees. I actually met my friends for drinks for a little too long, so when I came back it was around 105 degrees. I reheated it back to 116 degrees, since that was what it should be when you add the “active cultures”.

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When it reached 116 degrees. I took out 1 cup of warm milk and added 1/2 cup of plain fat-free yogurt that I had already purchased. Whisked it together and it went back into  the crock pot. Now the “active cultures” are in there waiting to start growing.

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This is where it got a little weird. I had to make sure that the crock pot didn’t lose too much heat so that the milk could incubate.  I wrapped two thick beach towels around the crock pot and placed it in my oven. I also turned on my oven light to add a little more heat.

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Then left it along for the next 11 hours.  Directions say any where between 8 hours to 12 hours. It was hard not to want to check on it but I knew I couldn’t disturb it during the incubation. So hard to not take a peek! Luckily I went to bed a few hours later, so I wouldn’t be tempted.

I actually slept pretty crappy that night. I must have woken up 10 times! I never do that so I figured that I must have been worried about the yogurt. I told myself to not be disappointed in case it didn’t work out. I was only out the cost of the milk – $1.19.

But there was nothing to worry about!! I woke up to an entire crock pot filled with creamy yogurt!! The crock pot was still warm 11 hours later, so the towel trick must have worked! There was a thin layer of whey (yellowish water). This is fine and can be mixed back in.

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I was so excited!!! Really it doesn’t take too much to get me excited.

I poured the yogurt through a strainer because it has a “skin” on the top that I wanted to take off. I read that you could also put it into a blender to puree it also.  You can also strain small amounts at a time using a coffee strainer. This takes out the whey and makes it think like Greek yogurt.

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The strainer worked great. Then I put it in the fridge so get cold and thicken up. The yogurt has a great taste. It’s smooth, creamy and tart. I like the taste of plain yogurt to begin with so I think it’s great on it own.

Of course you can add anything to flavor it up!! Some of my favorite choices

  • peanut butter
  • jelly, jam
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • granola
  • coconut
  • chai seeds

The possibilities are endless!!!!!

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Homemade yogurt all week long!

On to my next experiment!! Getting ready to bake some bread so keep reading.

Out of Oats

I’ve been out of oats for a few days now. I normally eat a bowl of oats every Monday through Friday, During the week, I need a quick breakfast that doesn’t take too much time to prepare. Oats are perfect for it!

I cook it in the microwave with milk and then add whatever toppings are calling my name.

I normally buy old fashion oats instead of quick cooking because I like to chew my oats! I always get the generic brand at the store because honestly I think they taste the same as Quaker Oats.

On Thursday I realized I was out of oats!! The poor scooper down there only had a sprinkle of oats to keep him busy.

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I like to have bigger breakfasts on the weekends. Pancakes, eggs and toasts, muffins and fruit.

But sense I was out of my normal breakfast, I decided to make pancakes!!

I had a box of Trader Joe  multigrain, pancake mix from my trip to New Jersey in November.

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Just add milk and egg and you’ve got pancakes.

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They are delicious!! Soft, puffy and a little bit of sweetness.

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Yesterday I added some strawberries on top.

But today…….

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I added pumpkin to the mix!!! (I had opened a can last week and was afraid if I didn’t use it up, it would get a little green).

Oh My God, they were so much better! This is now my favorite way to make pancakes.

Oh yeah….I’m running again. My foot pain is better. Not gone but better. The race?? It’s only a maybe right now…..a distant maybe 😦

Cumin Spiced Lentil Burgers

This is my favorite “burger” to make. I’ve tried the bean burgers in many different ways and this recipe is by far the best one I’ve found.

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No need for a bun!

Cumin Spiced Lentil Burger – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 1 1/2 cups of lentils
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 cup of carrots chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp of garlic chopped
  • 3/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • dash of salt and pepper

Preheat broiler. Place lentils in strainer and wash well. There will be dirt in there! Place lentils in pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.

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Heat oil over medium heat. Sauté chopped onions for 5 minutes and add carrots. Cook until tender. Add chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Take off heat and add cumin and cayenne pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

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Once cooled add cooked lentils to onion and carrot mixture. Mix well. Then add bread crumbs, whole egg and egg white. Mix well.

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Form into burgers and place on cookie sheet or broiler pan.

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Cook under broiler for 5-7 minutes, flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The outside will get crispy and brown up. Watch them so they don’t burn.

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They will store in your fridge for 7 or 8 days. Reheat in the microwave and enjoy!

Refreshed and Relaxed

I’m back from Florida and feel so much better. Last week was no fun. Super stressed out and my foot issue was really getting to me.

What a perfect time to get outta town!! My parents are in the Sunshine State for the winters, so I went for a visit.

The weather on the first day was a little rainy.

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What do you do on a rainy day? Go shopping!!

The next 3 days were beautiful. There we are!

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It was great to see the family and get away from work. I read, went to the beach, shopped and of course there was a bunch of eating!!

Here are some of the food highlights.

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Scallops, veggies and a baked potato

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My father’s homemade bread. So good! Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I had a piece almost every day for breakfast with peanut butter and a sprinkle of cereal.

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Best Chocolate Chips ever!! I will never buy another brand.

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I would show you a picture of the cookies we made but they were eaten so fast it never happened.

My mom and I also cooked together.

Here she is making her lemon chicken in her super small kitchen.

Ya gotta work what you got!

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It made a delicious dinner. Lemon chicken, brown rice and a side salad.

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Veggie Packed Mac and Cheese

I’m always looking for ways to add veggies into my meals. So I thought why not give it a try with a classic “Macaroni and Cheese”

How good is macaroni and cheese? Honestly it is a treat to me. All that cheese and pasta make it an occasional meal at my house.

I had been wanting to try a new recipe since reading about Rocco Dispirito’s Mac and Cheese in my Fitness Magazine. He takes out the milk and butter by making  his own “secret weapon”. I took a few of his ideas and a few of my own for this recipe. If you’re interested in Rocco’s recipe, you can find it here

Once I had mac and cheese with shredded lamb in the bottom of the dish. I thought why can’t I do that with zucchini! So I tried it.

two zucchinis found their way into the food processor.

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Zucchinis have a lot of water in them so you will want to squeeze out the excess water after it’s shredded. I used my hands but you could also use paper towels.

Then I layered in it the bottom of a 9 by 13 casserole dish and baked it for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

Of course there is the cheese!!! I used about 4 oz of pepper jack but you could use any kind.  More shredding, this time by hand. I got lazy so there are some big chunks in there.

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I then modified Rocco’s  “secret weapon”. Half a large onion, 5 garlic cloves and 1/2 cup of water microwaved for 10 minutes. Then all of that goes in the food processor to make a puree.

His recipe called for mustard powder and greek yogurt. I had neither so I substituted 1 tbsp of spicy mustard and 1/2 cup of plain fat free yogurt. Spiced it up with salt and pepper. I added the cheese slowly and whisked until it was all melted. Then I took it off the heat and stirred in the yogurt.

I added the cheese mixture to cooked pasta. I used whole wheat shells.

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I poured it on top of the zucchini that already baked up in the oven.

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Sprinkled with whole wheat bread crumbs and about a little bit of parmesan cheese.

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Baked for about 15 minutes at 475 degrees. So good!!!!

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I estimate that if you cut this into 6 servings, which is about 1 cup, it around 231 calories. This is just based on my own estimations of the ingredients that I used.

Veggie Packed Mac and Cheese

  • 2 medium zucchinis shredded
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 4 oz of shredded cheese (I used pepper jack but you could use any type)
  • 6 oz of whole wheat cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup of fat free plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp of mustard
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Shred the zucchini by hand or in a food processor. Once shredded squeeze out the excess water by hand or with paper towels. Then layer the zucchini in a 9 by 13 baking dish and bake for about 15 or 20 minutes.

While zucchini is baking, place onion, garlic and 1/2 cup of water in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap. Microwave for 10 minutes.  Then puree in food processor until smooth.

Heat the puree and slowly add in the cheese in 1/4 cup increments. Stir continuously until cheese is completely melted. Take off the heat and stir in the mustard and yogurt.

Turn up oven to 475 degrees. Add cheese mixture to cooked pasta and pour on top of the baked zucchini. Sprinkle bread crumbs and parmesan cheese over pasta.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bread crumbs brown and it it heated through.