Thursday, April 29, 2010

Steak Dinner + Best Mashed Potatoes Ever + Amazing Cheese=One Amazing Culinary Experience!

Tonight I had a nice appetizer of crackers and havarti dill cheese. My grandmother use to always have havarti dill out before family dinners, and it was a favorite of mine. So, I decided to buy some the other day. It is a great creamy and flavorful cheese.

For dinner I made steaks, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and mashed potatoes. For the steak, I basically followed a recipe I came up with a little while back. You can find it here. This time I used fresh chives and chopped garlic also. For the asparagus, I wrapped them in bacon and baked them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (until bacon is browned), if the bacon doesn't cook all the way, you can turn it to broil for a couple of minutes.

Now, to the most amazing part, I came up with a new version of mashed potatoes tonight that were absolutely delicious! I was inspired by the havarti dill I had before dinner and decided to use it in the potatoes. This is how you make my havarti dill potatoes: Bake 3 small baking potatoes at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (don't forget to poke holes in the potatoes with a fork before baking). Next, cut the potatoes in half, remove flesh, and place in mixing bowl. Add about 2-3 tbsps. butter, about 1/2 cup shredded havarti dill, salt, and pepper. Use mixer to combine all ingredients. These potatoes were my favorite mashed potatoes ever! They were so creamy and flavorful. I would definitely recommend trying them out!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baked Potatoes Two Ways

I bought a bag of baking potatoes recently for a specific recipe, and since I had so many potatoes, I figured I would use them! So, last night I made this great appetizer/snack/should have just been my meal. I cut 2 potatoes into wedges and placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet, and drizzled them with a little melted butter. Then I baked them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (just until they are a little soft and some were beginning to brown). Once I took them out of the oven, I covered them with shredded cheese, chopped chives, bacon pieces (that I made on my own), and season salt and pepper.

I should have added the cheese to the potatoes for the last couple of minutes they were in the oven to make the cheese melt completely, but I forgot, so I had to stick them in the microwave. So you could do either one. Also, as the true Texas girl that I am, I drizzled some Ranch on top (don't worry, it was light). So, this may not have been the most healthy of snacks, but it was delicious!

For lunch yesterday, I made a baked potato for a fresh, fast meal. I cooked the potato in the microwave (since my lunch break was short), then filled it with bacon pieces (homemade), shredded cheese, chopped chives, butter, season salt, and pepper. This was a great way to have a somewhat healthy (think portion size) and tasteful meal for lunch. There are so many variations with baked potatoes too, depending on what you decide to fill them with, and potatoes are a pretty cheap and healthy option!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Great Light Meal

Monday night I made a healthy meal for dinner (which I definitely needed after all the sweets this weekend!). I found salmon fillets on sale a couple of weeks ago, and kept them in the freezer. I decided to bring them out tonight. I placed the 2 salmon fillets in a baking dish, then made the following mix to pour over the fish:
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Lemon juice (about 1 wedge)
  • Pepper
Pour this mixture over the fish and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. I also cooked the asparagus in the oven at the same temperature for about the same amount of time. I placed the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzled it with a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and pepper. I served white rice as well.

Josh and I both loved this meal. It was so flavorful, yet still light and healthy!

I also played another basketball game Monday night, which, as always, was a great workout. Halfway into our game, one of my teammates told me that most of the women on the opposing team were former Texas Tech basketball players, which definitely made sense! These women were so fast, could shoot 3's without a problem, and had huge muscles. It was kind of funny to me to compare my scrawny, somewhat flabby arms, and my slow-moving body with theirs! Oh well, it was still fun and a great workout, even if they did cream us!

More Party Food

Here are some pictures from the shower we hosted. Above is the great spread. I made my salsa, the cream cheese pound cake, and the great blueberry-almond-lemon cookies. The other hostesses contributed some wonderful food as well, so there was plenty of great food!

These are the blueberry-almond-lemon cookies. You can find the recipe here. The only things I changed were not using almonds (I don't like nuts in cookies, but there is almond extract, so you still get the flavor), and instead of putting the dough in the fridge, I spooned the dough onto the cookie sheets then placed it in the freezer for about 5 minutes. This is a trick I got from the Cooking Light cookbook. It allows the cookies to maintain their shape and not flatten out too much when cooking. I also just bake them about 10 minutes. I like them soft, so I just keep an eye on them and pull them out before they get any brown on them.

And last but not least, my salsa!

Best Cake Ever!

On Saturday I co-hosted a shower for two friends of mine who are both getting married in the next few months. I also had a birthday party that night for three friends of mine who have birthdays this month. So, I decided to pull out the big guns for this festivity-filled Saturday. I baked two delicious cream cheese pound cakes.

My kitchen turned into a bakery, and I was up way late baking away, but it was definitely worth it!

I found the recipe for this cake in Southern Living a few years back. It was the first cake I ever made from scratch, and it is absolutely amazing! Everyone that tries it always loves it too. You can find the cake recipe here. You can find the recipe for the icing here.

This is the batter-rich and delicious!

Here is the cake first thing out of the oven.

And here is the final product-voila! Strawberries or other fresh fruit make a great garnish around the cake. If you are going to break the diet, this cake is the way to do it!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Indian Food at Home

The other night I made tikka masala (our favorite Indian dish) at home with the help of some sauce and rice from World Market. It is a very easy meal, and really good! All you have to do is cut chicken breasts into pieces, saute until cooked through, then pour sauce in the pan with the chicken and let it simmer about awhile. You can substitute veggies, shrimp, or any other meat for the chicken. The rice is simple too, you just put the bag in the microwave! Although it is not as good as Maharaja, it is still pretty tasty!

Above is a picture of the sauce and rice, in case you are interested. They have many other sauces as well.

Tonight I am baking up a storm in our kitchen in preparation for a wedding shower I am co-hosting tomorrow, and a birthday party tomorrow night for some friends. I am making a wonderful cream cheese pound cake for both parties, and for the shower I am making my blueberry lemon cookies and my homemade salsa. I will have pictures and recipes up in the next couple of days for those.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Mexico Night

Last night I made my New Mexico Green Chile Enchiladas again with Mexican rice and black beans. I love this recipe because it is so easy, and very inexpensive. I cooked them basically the same as before, except this time I made them in a lasagna pan and did 5 layers instead of 3. I topped it with a fried egg again and served with rice (the kind you microwave in the package), and black beans, which I just heated up on the stove. Seriously, this is one of the easiest meals ever. Josh and I decided it is a good "poor man's" meal because it is so cheap, but it is still very filling and flavorful!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sushi Day

On Friday, I brought this sushi to my geography class. I taught them about Japan last week, so I decided to bring sushi. I usually try to find food I can bring from the different places we learn about. I bought this sushi at Market Street here in Lubbock. I didn't want to buy it from a restaurant since I was buying it for the whole class. They have a sushi chef in the store that makes the rolls each day. The box pictured above had a variety of rolls, and was $8.99 (not too bad), and I also bought a box of just vegetable rolls for those students a little unsure of seafood. I think it was about $5. I was surprised that they all ended up trying it and most of them liked it. It is fun to introduce them to new foods.

The sushi was pretty good, especially for the price. I think the fish and all other ingredients are probably higher quality at some of the sushi restaurants in town, but this is great for what it is. I need to pick it up more often since it is so easy and not too expensive. It would be great for parties too!

I forgot to mention in my previous posts that I have lost weight! About 4 pounds from when I started. Getting back into eating healthy and exercising this past couple of weeks has been very good. I have gone back to eating multiple snacks throughout the day, and trying to always eat something for breakfast, even if it just means grabbing a yogurt from the fridge on my way to work. This really helps with controlling portions and not feeling like I am starving (since there are not long stretches between meals). I am going to do my best to keep this up, especially since my sister's wedding is now less than a month away! I can't wait!

Good Morning

This morning I woke up to lots of rain, which made it very difficult to get out of bed. However, a good breakfast helped a little. I cooked this waffle, which I found in the frozen foods section at Target. It is the Target Archer Farms Organic waffles with flax seed. I topped it with chopped strawberries and blueberries, and a light drizzle of pure maple syrup. I also had a nice glass of orange juice and some coffee. This is a very easy and healthy breakfast.

In the last post I forgot to mention the exercise update. I went climbing on Tuesday, which was fun, and a great workout. Afterward I was pretty sore with the combination of a night of basketball and a night of climbing back to back. I haven't had a chance to workout since then, unless you count detail cleaning my house on Wednesday night! I was scrubbing bath tubs, showers, and sinks, so I think it should count!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Attempt at Tuna...Not Too Shabby

Last night I cooked seared tuna for the first time, and I have to admit, I am pretty proud of myself! I found tuna steaks on quick sale at the grocery store (they were about to expire), so I got them for about half of what they usually cost. Looking at quick sale meat items is a great way to save, especially on the seafood and meats that might normally be too pricey. I bought the tuna and some salmon, and put them in my freezer.

So, last night, I figured I would try the tuna. Now, when most of you think of tuna, you imagine canned tuna, which is great for sandwiches, but nothing special. Tuna steaks are really good, and far from the flavor you might be accustomed to with canned tuna.

To flavor the tuna, I decided I would make a marinade, which was pretty tasty, I just didn't have time to let it marinade very long, so it did not soak in the flavors as much as I would have liked. For the marinade, I figured some Asian flavors would give it a nice taste. So, for the first time, I bought fresh ginger (pictured above). It is kind of ugly, but has such wonderful flavor, so I would definitely recommend giving it a try. Just cut off the rough outer edge, then use however you would like. I minced some, then mixed it with one clove minced garlic, fresh lime juice (about half of a lime), 1/4 cup rice vinegar (less sodium kind), and 1/4 cup soy sauce (less sodium kind). Then I poured it over the tuna. I also sprinkled sesame seeds on both sides of the tuna.

I looked online for an idea of what heat and how long to sear the tuna. I have ordered it at restaurants before, and it is best just seared on the outside and rare inside.To sear the tuna, spray a non-stick cooking pan with canola cooking spray, and turn stove on high heat. Once pan is nice and hot, turn heat to medium and sear tuna about 2 minutes per side (remember, you are just searing the outside, not cooking it through). Then remove from pan, slice, and top with chopped chives. My tuna slices were not as clean as I would like, which is most likely due to the fact that my knives aren't that fancy!

To accompany the tuna, I cooked some broccoli that I also found on sale (I was also going to do rice, but ended up cooking late and did not want to take the time to cook it). I placed a pan on high heat with a little oil to get it very hot. I cut the broccoli up, then turned the pan down to medium, threw in the broccoli, and added a dash of garlic salt and a little soy sauce. The broccoli will cook quickly, and you have to make sure you move it around a lot so it doesn't burn. This only takes a few minutes, and you are done! This entire meal only took me about 15 minutes to prepare, and it was very healthy, easy, and tasted great! I think cooking a variety of vegetables together like I did the broccoli would also be good over some rice or noodles.

For dessert, I made a smoothie. I put 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt, and one frozen banana. When our bananas start to turn brown, I put them in the freezer, and they work great for smoothies (or banana bread). Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This is a great way to have a healthy dessert, or would also make a good breakfast or snack.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Pasta Dish & Another Basketball Game

Tonight I tried a new recipe I found in the April issue of Sunset magazine. I followed the directions except I used cherry tomatoes rather than regular ones, and no purple basil (don't know if they carry it at the local grocery store-I might have to look harder next time). This dish was pretty good, but I forgot to season it before serving, so it seemed a little bland. So, if I try it again, I will season it ahead of time and try to find the purple basil! This was very easy to make, and pretty fresh and healthy! You can find the recipe here.

Tonight I had another basketball game. The last one was canceled, and I had plans the week before that and couldn't play, so I finally got to play again tonight. This evening's game was much better than the last one I played in. Our opponents were not high school varsity players (more women in their 20s and 30s like us), and they had no subs, so we beat them pretty easily. I felt much better playing (most likely because I wasn't trying to keep up with 17-year-olds!), and I had a few good shots which boosted my confidence!

I am going climbing again tomorrow too, so I am slowly getting back into the work out mode. I realized today that I haven't done any of my at home weight workouts, I guess I just slowly quit, without really meaning to. So, I am going to try to start doing that again too.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Attempting to Get Back In the Game...

So, with all of the busyness lately, I have not been eating well. I decided on our way home from our Easter trip that we really needed to get back to cooking at home more regularly and eating healthier.

So, on Tuesday night I made this wonderful meal. I had seen something similar in a recent issue of Sunset magazine, and just changed it up a bit. It was easy and delicious! This would be a great brunch meal for guests, or just a Sunday morning on your own.

With the leftover ciabatta, I have enjoyed a nice appetizer throughout the week of ciabatta with a dipping sauce made of toasted garlic, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and a little salt. Yum! The only problem is it's so good I want to eat tons of it!

Last night I made an easy pasta with this Arrabiata sauce I found at World Market. Making homemade pasta sauces is great, but it's always nice to have this on hand when I want to make a quick, easy, and healthy dinner.

I poured this sauce over whole wheat noodles and sauteed zucchini, and topped it with a little grated parmigiano reggiano. The sauce was good and had a really nice spice to it. I will definitely try it again!

Easter Weekend

Okay, it has been forever since I have written. Life has been busy! Last weekend we went out of town for Easter. Josh and I drove to Dallas Thursday night and spent the night there, and most of the day Friday. We picked up my sister at the airport in Dallas that night, then went to Tyler to see my family for the weekend.

On Friday we went to lunch at one of my favorite Dallas restaurants, Mi Cocina. They have a few locations, usually we go to the one in Highland Park Village, but since our hotel was near the Galleria, we ate at the one there. It is right on the ice rink, so you can watch people skate, which is very entertaining!

They have good lunch specials. I ordered the #5, which is: One Cheese Enchilada, One Beef Taco, One Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada, for $8.75, and I actually only ended up eating the taco and the chicken enchilada, so it was plenty of food!

In Tyler, we ate at Smashburger, which just recently opened in the Southeast Crossing shopping center (Troup Hwy. and Loop 323). This is a national chain. I had the Spicy Baja Burger with sweet potato fries. The fries were great, and the burger was pretty good. Although, of the many new burger chains popping up, I think I like some of the other burgers better. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere, and a great patio (which isn't very common in Tyler).