Monday, May 24, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Vol. 5

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie
I was looking for an alternative to the standard bowl of oatmeal with raisins my son and I have been eating for awhile.  This was mainly for my son's sake as he really doesn't like oatmeal but I like the health benefits it offers both of us.  The recipe as outlined is only for one cookie so I multiplied all ingredients by ten and made a whole pan full of oatmeal bars, approximately 12 servings.  I also added chopped up dried apricots, pears, peaches and prunes for an extra fiber boost.  I think I will add some almonds or walnuts to the mix next time around for a little crunch. They came out chewy and delicious! 

Green Monster Smoothie
I found this recipes on a blog called She Runs, She Eats.  I was looking for something different then my standard morning shake that would provide me with a couple fruit and veggie servings to start my date off right.  I found just what I was looking for in the green monster smoothie, complete with some banana, apple and spinach.  I know spinach in a shake sounds weird, but I couldn't taste it at all.  This shake is light, refreshing and delicious.

Easy Enchilada Casserole
Many people know me for my enchiladas.  I used to make them traditional style warming each tortilla and rolling up the meat and cheese one by one, a very time consuming process.  I discovered that making this casserole took half the time and tasted just as good.  This past weekend I taught the secret of my enchilada casserole to a handful of friends at an enchilada themed dinner party.  We went through 5 lbs of cheese, 12 lbs of chicken, 120 tortillas and a ton of salsa and sauce.  All well worth the work and everyone went home with a pan of their own.  This recipe makes at least 12 servings easy and every bite is a mouthful of happiness, I promise.  The recipe is for a red version but you can switch the red salsa out for salsa verde and use green enchilada sauce instead of red. Both the red and green versions are yummy, I suggest you try both!  An easy way too cut down on the cooking/waiting time is to boil the chicken in a crockpot beforehand.  Just drop the frozen chicken into the pot, fill with water, set to low and let it cook while you are at work.  If you prefer a non-meat version just double the cheese and leave out the chicken.

Meatloaf Muffins
My son has been getting bored with his daily school lunch which usually consists of a sandwich or two.  He loves meatloaf and could eat an entire loaf by himself.  I found this recipe and decided to jazz up his daily lunch with a meatloaf sandwich instead of good old ham and cheese.  I subbed out half of the bread crumbs with some old fashioned rolled oats for extra fiber and protein.  These perfectly portioned servings were tasty and the kiddo really liked his lunch.  I cut two muffins in half and placed them on some wheat bread with a little ketchup. 

Lentil and Rice Casserole
I am currently focusing on non-meat meals as a means to get more fiber into my diet and less cholesterol.  I love lentils but have never used them any other way besides soup.  I saw that they were in this casserole and thought I would give it a try.  The brown rice makes it filling but it isn't heavy like some casseroles can be.  You can add just about any vegetable you like to easily mold this recipe to your veggie preference. I used diced tomatoes in place of the tomato soup to keep the sodium down and mozzerella instead of swiss because that's what I had on hand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Garden 2010

Since discovering how cooking fuels my soul I've felt a strong urge to complete the process by growing my own food.  Earlier this Spring, if that's what one can call this crazy weather, my son and I started our first home garden.  We planted 2 types of bell peppers, zucchini, cumcumbers, strawberries and some herbs as well as some annual flowers.  We are also growing some tomatoes that we inherited from my Grandfather.

I have found gardening to be an exciting hobby.  I look forward to checking out the garden every day and am amazed by the progress.  Not only is it fun, it's cheap!  Yes, the initial investment of the EarthBox was expensive, but it can be used over and over again for years to come.  I plan to add a new box each year to expand the garden with new goodies.  Each veggie seedling only cost about $1-$2 plus the cost of soil, not bad when you consider the cost of buying veggies in the store.  The added benefit is that I know the food is being grown with organic soil and no pesticides.

Below are some photos of the progress.  Click on each photo to see a larger image.

Here are our strawberries.  They were purchased pre-planted at a local nursery.

These were our planting supplies.  We went with an EarthBox for the veggies since we rent our property I didn't want to kill the existing grass by building a garden bed over it.

On the left side are the bell pepper seedlings.  On the right the cucumbers are on top and the zucchini are on the bottom.  They were so small!

These are our herbs we're growing cilantro, rosemary, basil and oregano.  Yuuuumy!

Here's my son being my little helper planting the flowers.

Now for the progress.  Here are photos of the current state of the garden, it's been approximately 3-4 weeks since we planted.  Things are growing like crazy!

Mmmm mmm mmm the strawberries are growing nicely.  Got a couple that are turning red already.  Can't wait to bite into them!  Check out the close-up below.

Check out the size of these veggies.  The zucchini is really taking over.  I'm probably going to have to replant the cucumbers so they can get some sun.  You can't even see them in the upper right.

Got these tomatoes from my 90 year-old Grandfather. He and my son have been planting tomatoes the last 3 years.  This year my Uncle planted them on their behalf and we took them home to make sure they are getting enough sunshine and water.

Check out the cilantro growing like a weed.  Cant' wait to make some guacamole with it this weekend!!

Last but not least here is a super cute photo of my little garden helper.  Shakes, one of my two babies, decided to hang out in the sun while I photographed the garden this afternoon.

Adventures in Cooking: Vol. 4

The last few days I have been eating vegetarian. Here are a couple tasty recipes.

Primavera Salad a la Trader Joe's
I love LeBoulanger's Primavera salad, but it is so huge and high in calories due to the dressing they use.  Here is a lower calorie and lower fat recipe with ingredients all available from Trader Joe's.  The best part is the dressing.  At 25 calories per 2 tablespoons it doesn't get any lower in cals!  I whip up this salad at work in less then five minutes.

Eggplant, Black Beans and Zucchini
This was pretty tasty.  Reminded me of Rachel Ray's Black Bean Chili, but spicier.  I didn't have any eggplant on hand so I doubled the zucchini.  I also added some spinach to get in some more greens.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of chili powder but I was a woosie and only used 1/2 a tablespoon.  The chili pepper gives it a great kick of flavor.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Vol 3

Cheesy Stuffed Chicken Roll-Ups
I concocted these on a whim.  Very tasty and ubber cheesy, YUMM-Y! Very simple to make and you get to work out all your stress an anger for the day on a helpless piece of chicken!  

Easy Tamale Pie
This is a tasty, easy to make meal that you can make stretch.  My son especially liked it.  I would have liked more of a real tamale taste myself.  But not bad If you want to whip something up quickly.

Roasted Asparagus
I looooove asparagus and was so happy to find it was back in season!  Asparagus is good on it's own but add some parmesan to the mix and it really packs a flavor punch!  My son didn't agree but he hates asparagus, worth a try though right?

Green Beans Sautee
A delicious and flavorful recipe for green beans sauteed with onions.  My son gobbled them right up, though he swears it was just because he was "really hungry."  I think he just really liked it and didn't want me to know.

Zucchini Oven Chips
I will be the first to admit that I have never really liked zucchini.  Something about the mushy texture just grosses me out.  I thought I would give this recipe a try as a means of getting more vegetables in my stomach.  Boy was I surprised, these are great!  I forgot to spray the cooking rack with PAM first so if you make these be sure to do so because mine stuck like crazy, but they still tasted great!  The kiddo even gobbled them right up!

Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Shake
My friend Dwayne concocted this one.  We were discussing alternatives to oatmeal for breakfast and he told me about this shake that he has for breafast.  The oatmeal makes it very filling and you get an extra serving of protein from the protein powder.  Thanks D!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cooking: Fuel for My Soul

For the last several years now I have been surrounded by very talented artists who amaze me with their creations on the regular.  I would always think to myself why can't I do that, however I was never able to bring the thought of creating a piece of artwork to light.  I just never felt the urge or passion it would have taken to, as many of my artists friend have told me, just do it. Looking back on it now I can see clearly that creating art, in the traditional sense, was just not a passion that I had or felt like pursuing.  There was nothing inside driving me to paint, photograph, collage or dabble in any form traditionally labeled as art.

In the past couple of months I have been cooking frequently.  Experimenting with new flavors and recipes and using those around me, especially my son, as taste testers.  I get so much joy and happiness out of creating food.  It's like creating a fine piece of artwork and the ingredients are my pallet.  Cooking calms me and I feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment when I see someone enjoying the finished work of art I have created.  Nourishing other people nourishes my soul!

I have been thinking lately about the whole cooking process and decided to start a garden to incorporate the growing aspect of the food into my cooking to create a complete package.  My son and I planted our first garden this year.  Since we rent and don't own the property that is our backyard we decided to use Earth Boxes.  We started small with tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, zucchini and cucumbers.  We are also growing four kinds of herbs and some strawberries.  Photos of the garden process will be posted soon!

Cooking has turned out to be my form of art and something I will continue to pursue!  It has also been a fun way to bond with my son.  We have baked and cooked together several times.  I delight in knowing that he will not be a single bachelor who can't cook when he grows up.  Instead he will be a great catch who can cook too!  (now now ladies he isn't grown yet!)