Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-Invent

I have been doing a lot of cooking again now that the holidays are packed up for a year(well the tree is still up, but only because it literally has been to cold to walk it to the trash!). And last week, I was able to stretch one WHOLE ROASTER CHICKEN in to 4 separate meals. I’m pretty proud of that! Here’s how I did it:

1. I made this Moroccan roasted chicken from a Williams Sonoma Cookbook. All you do is make a paste with some olive oil and spices, and run it on the bird and bake it. We roasted the chicken with cauliflower, red onion and sweet potato. Seems like an old vegetable combo, but it works!!! Trust me!

2. We has so much left over chicken, and we also freeze that extra container of rice they give you with Chinese food, so I thawed on out, cut up the extra chicken, and made THE BEST chicken fried rice ever. I’ll post the recipe next blog.

3. Think again before throwing out that carcass- there’s chicken stock to be made! And this stock has the subtle flavor of the Moroccan spices in it, so there is a ton of depth. I used some of the broth for a butternut squash stuffing the recipe called for.

4. There was lots of stock left over. I could have frozen it for a later date, but the weather was sooooo cold, chicken soup was a must. I had baked some chicken breasts, and sautéed some veggies and in an hour- soup!

In the end, all of these dished took, at most, 30 minutes to prepare for. And many of the ingredients were basic staples in the home- garlic, onion, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, spices, etc. I won’t say this happens every week, and that a little thinking ahead didn’t happen, but this can work with all sorts of things- pasta, sauces, casseroles…endless possibilities! Here’s my advice- start with a dish you REALLY want…and then go from there. Satisfying the urge to eat what you really want first, so that everything else is like a bonus.

I have realized from my eating changes that when you force yourself to like something, you’ll never like it. So if it’s chicken park you want, make that sauce! But bread the chicken in almond flour, or even ground oats. USe spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The reason you like that dish so much anyway is the sauce- it’s the strongest flavor of the dish. So cut 500 calories out of the rest of it- I swear you won’t taste the difference!

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Back From the Black Hole

I know I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I’ve been busy- busy being an understatement. I am a set director for our school play- and before you laugh at that, we do our plays hardcore. Months of planning, building, carpentry…and it always comes out fabulous! Here’s some of my favorite pieces we did this year:

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I didn’t do super good with the gluten free. There are two factors- there are NO good take out places nearby. Pizza or sandwiches. One day I ordered a salad and it sucked. The second- there were times I didn’t plan staying as long as I did and the times I could eat were really off. Timing truly was everything. Next year, I will have to bring a meal as a ‘just in case.’ However, all in all, I can’t complain. I ate much better than last year, and I learned some lessons for next year. The important thing is busy times like those can cause me to stress eat, and I didn’t. And last Monday I was back in the GF saddle again- going strong!

I joined a boxing club. It’s pretty sweet. And it feels really good to punch things.

This week I had my first cooking disaster in a long time. It was so bad we had to order out. My husband bought an entire Salmon filet Monday because he was afraid to ask the fish monger to cut him two portions. So we had two pounds of salmon, and didn’t know what to do with the leftovers. I’ve always wanted to make salmon cakes, but we were about 4oz. off the recipe so we got a can of salmon to add to the fresh. First I misread the recipe for 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper sauce for 1 tsp. of straight up cayenne pepper. WOWZA! That sucks! Already mixed everything together before I realized the mistake. THEN, I open the can of salmon and it’s basically the back end of the fish cooked and canned- bones and everything. And for those of you who don’t know, salmon has these little tiny bones called pin bones that need to be pulled out of the meat before cooking. I tried to get them out, but they were brittle and breaking and ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!’ After a long day, would you want to tackle this?

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I thought so. So mexican it was. We have an awesome Mexican takeout place by us. Maddy’s Mexican Grill for those of you in the Morris County area. Authentic and fresh!

Moral of the story- I’m back. Looking forward to continuing to share my triumphs and woes of food. Look forward to more restaurant reviews too in the upcoming months!

Snow Days

With every endeavor comes challenges. I guess when one makes a lifestyle change, anything out of the ordinary brings a new road block. It’s up to you to decide to jump over it or stay where you are and go back- only to never know what lies ahead.

I felt this way when I had the flu a couple weeks ago. Could I get through without bread? And I did…

Snow days are also a time when I want to bake and snack and my culinary goddess is alive and well. And again, I jumped over the hurdle and kept running!

Yesterday I tried to hit up this gluten free bakery for the second time. However their hours suck! and they weren’t open. I REALLY wanted a cupcake. I made gluten free ones from a mix- I really need to try and find a recipe. This sh@t is expensive!!!!!!!!!

This morning I made a quiche with a sausage crust. I got the recipe from Paleomg.com. I love this girl Juli. I wish I was as creative as she is. She rocks! This afternoon I’m going to bake her Chai muffins.

So diet…I kicked your snow day ass!!!!

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Mussels in Coconut Thai Broth

Growing up in North Jersey, most of my food influences are Italian. Having to eliminate tomatoes and garlic for a minimum of two weeks (maybe forever), I am finding it REALLY hard to cook. And when I saw mussels on sale at the supermarket for nearly nothing (and wild caught might I add!), I HAD to get them…and then I had to get creative.

I had to think of a broth that doesn’t have garlic and still pop. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking of these coconut thai duck wings Mike and I had on our honeymoon. Just like buffalo wings, only duck and tossed in a coconut curry sauce. UGH! I’m salivating just thinking about them!!!!! Anyway, I thought I could do a Thai broth- and that made me think of that recipe I posted earlier from Cooking Light Magazine for a Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. So I took some of the components of that recipe to create something that would suite my needs.

And I wish I could bring this to dinner tonight. I’m going out for dinner to ring in the New Year and it’s my first time going out to eat with my new restrictions. I feel embarrassed that I’m going to have to be picky to the waiter, and draw attention to myself like that. Lucky, I could review the menu online to see if there were any meals that i could order. Thankfully, there are 3-4, but I still have to make sure there isn’t flour, corn syrup or garlic in them. My hope is that I don’t have to ask for plain chicken and vegetables- that will suck royally. At least eating home I know I’m safe. I really sympathize with the kids at school who have those killer allergies. Mine just give me tummy troubles. Anyway, back to the mussels…

Mussels in Coconut Thai Broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped mushroom

1 tbsp. minced ginger

2 tsp.  sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

2 tsp. fish sauce

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup coconut milk

1 stalk of lemon grass sliced in half

2 lbs. mussels (about 3 dozen scrubbed clean)

1. In a deep sided saute pan, Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms and ginger in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add samba oelek and fish sauce and cook for about 1-2 minutes

3. Add stock and milk and bring to a boil. Add lemon grass and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Bring back up to a boil and add mussels. Cover pot with lid and cook until all mussel open. About 5-10 minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

5. Serve mussels in a soup bowl and pour broth over mussels. Serve with crusty bread (or my rice bread!).

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Condiments are the Enemy No More

The first two days of my new diet haven’t been that bad. A co-worker (thanks Brian!) told me about  a website called paleomg.com. It’s a pretty awesome site and the author is pretty funny. She posts several recipes, and they all follow the paleo diet. For those of you that don’t know what that is, check out this very abbreviated list of what you can and cannot eat here. Basically, you are eating the same way our paleolithic friends ate thousands of years ago. I was attracted to this diet because they don’t eat ANY grains, because grains have to be processed and cave men did not know how to do that yet. I agree with the bulk of this diet, however I don’t want to give up legumes- me likes the beans!!! And with most carbs off my plate, beans fill that void.

The hardest part of this diet I’m finding, isn’t WHAT to eat, but the ingredients used to make them-especially the ingredients that are pre made. They most likely contain wheat, gluten, soy or corn based products. My first snag came when I wanted to make a dip for some family coming to visit. I pulled out the vegetable soup mix I always use, thinking it was okay-but there was wheat and soy in that mix, so that was out. ‘Think Liz, think. I know!!!! Dill dip!’ That’s mayo, sour cream, dill and onion salt. I thought I was good. And then I read the ingredients of the mayo- Olive Oil mayo: made with soybean oil. OUT. I made the dip anyway, and was confined to grapes and cheese for the afternoon, secretly feeling duped that a label wouldn’t be deceiving (what was I thinking?!?!?). However, I will save my label rant for a another blog I’m working on.

I walked away from that situation with a realization that I didn’t think was part of this new diet- I WILL HAVE TO MAKE ALL MY CONDIMENTS FROM SCRATCH. And that may seem like a pain in the ass, but it really wasn’t that bad. I made my own mayo and hot sauce yesterday. The only annoying part was doing the dishes. And the piece of mind that I can make good tasting food that doesn’t have chemicals and preservatives I don’t even know how to pronounce is priceless.

Basic Mayo

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar

1 cup light olive oil

1. Get your ingredients ready first, cuz once you start the emulsion, you can’t really stop until it’s done. And an electric mixer will be your best friend- unless you’re trying to bulk up your arms!

2. Whisk the egg yolk for about 30 seconds and add the vinegar/lemon juice.

3. Whisk for a bit and then SLOWLY add oil, whisking heavily. If you start to see oil pooling on the sides, stop pouring oil until you whisk it away (ha!).

4. Keep whisking after you add all the oil until it well, looks like mayo!

5. You can add garlic if you want. I added onion powder and some salt to give it a little more flavor. And because I’m an art teacher and don’t throw things away, I had an old mayo jar and stored my mayo in it!!! It will keep for 5 days. And you can double your recipe!!!

Can you guess which one is mine?

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Grigio’s Hot Sauce- YEOWWWWWW!

10 green hot peppers

10 dried red hot chili peppers

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup acai pomegranate vinegar

1 onion loosely chopped

salt to taste

1. Slice the green peppers and place them in a sauce pan- seeds and all.

2. Add dried peppers too

3. Add both vinegars. I’ll admit that I really didn’t measure how much vinegar I put in. I just used half of each until it covered all the peppers. 😛

4. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. About 2-3 minutes before it’s done, add the onion. I did it this way because I wanted that raw onion strong flavor. If you add the onion too early, the onion flavor will weaken.

5. Let cool for a few minutes and then run in a blender for a couple minutes.

6. Pour mixture through a sieve, getting rid of skin and some seeds that didn’t break up in the blender.

I’m not sure how long this keeps, but I’m sure the vinegar allows it to last a few weeks.

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PS- The mayo on the left is mine! 😛

The Christmas Cookie Countdown!!!!!

Christmas is a holiday that’s backbone is built on tradition for someone like me. I’m extremely sentimental, and when I put hard work into something…it’s for good reason. I put most of my energy every year into Christmas. Especially baking.

People think I’m cuckoo, and I probably am, for baking 15-20 different cookies every Christmas. However, I can rationalize my overly nutty, wacko, get a life behavior. It’s a given that every Christmas must have 3-4 staples- my grandmother’s ginger bread, a sugar cookie cut out sprinkled with colored sugar BEFORE baking, white chocolate covered pretzels and something chocolaty! But that gets boring year after year…and I like to try new things. So I’m screwed!!!! For the last three years, I try something, love it along with everyone else, and thus it becomes added to the holiday ‘must have’ list with Christmas Eve dinner.

So, in honor of the 15 days left before Christmas starting today, I will post the recipe of every cookie I make for this holiday. Each day will be something different. Some are family recipes, some are just fun recipes I found in a holiday issue of a magazine over the years. Feel free to play/bake along. I may even throw in some bonus recipes, just because I get extra neurotic toward the final days and decide what I’ve already baked simply isn’t diverse enough in flavors.

So here’s my first. It’s my mom’s recipe, but it reminds me so much of her mother. My mom starting making these cookies for everyone special occasion our family has had over the last 15 years. Anniversaries, showers, weddings, birthdays… it’s a special cookie to my family.

Ginger Bread Boys

In a seperate bowl mix

7 cups flour

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. all spice

1tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

Mix in a kitchen mixer:

1 Jar of Grandma’s Molasses

1 cup of packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup crisco

Add:

1/2 ice water

Add half the flour mixture. Then add

2tsp. baking soda mixed in 3 tbsp. cold water

Add the rest of the flour mixture.

Divide dough into four sections and wrap in saran wrap. Chill dough for a minimum of 4 hours or even over night. When ready, roll out 1/3″ to 1/2″ thick and make cut outs with. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Cool and decorate!!!!

The icing I use to decorate these cookies with is just milk and confectioners sugar. I can’t really tell you exact amounts of each. I add back and forth until the icing is thick and can still be spread with a fluid feel to it.

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