Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eating Organic: Homemade Whipped Cream

Since we started eating officially organic in January, we have been eating solely organic dairy, meat/fish and veggies/fruits.  When we are eating at home, generally it's easy to convert regular dishes into organic, but there are also some ingredients that are difficult to come by.  This ends up in me usually going to TJ's/Whole Foods (20 minutes away) once a week, or going to multiple grocery stores in my own town.

One thing I can only get at TJ's or Whole Foods is organic whipping/heavy cream.  Although we don't use it often, I usually have a small container in the fridge for those creme brûlée/penne a la vodka nights.  And also, for those whipped cream cravings.

Homemade whipped cream is one of those things that, once you have it, you can't go back to it coming from a can or a plastic bin.  And it's oh so super easy.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

*this is just a slight cocoa taste, it's not overpowering.  It would be delightful in a cake or with fresh berries!

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon organic cocoa
1 tablespoon organic sugar

Mix all ingredients together on high until it comes together to stand it's own shape.  (just a few minutes).  Try not to eat entire serving out of the mixing bowl.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The next step

When we got married, one of the reasons we decided to have a smaller wedding was because we knew that on the horizon, we had another large project looming.

Ryan purchased our house before we met, and it was always in the plans that it was a "fixer upper".  Our house is on an amazing piece of property, a huge front yard, an amazing backyard (bordering on a river/marsh), and down the street from the beach.  All of those things make for an amazing home.

Except for the fact that our house is completely non-functional.  Right now, we live in about 500 square feet, and that's including a non-finished basement that we now use as our living space.  We have one bedroom, and there is no part of our house that you can stand it, and not hear someone talking loudly anywhere else in the house is.  Everything about it is outdated, and is screaming for renovations.  And that time has come...

For me, the renovation is bittersweet.  I grew up across town, and have never fallen in love with the area.  My career is an hour away, and I love the area.  But alas, marriage is compromise, and right now, our home is this little non-functional-soon-to-be-renovated-home.

This is a big undertaking.  Financially, time-wise, but it is something we need to do right now. And hopefully, the next step in our future.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eating Organic: Homemade granola

2014 has certainly been a year of healthy changes in my life, and in our household.  Some of these (exchanging my daily coffee for green tea, for example), have been harder than others.  One that hasn't:  this granola recipe.  I have whipped up a batch of this recipe almost weekly since Christmas, when I gave a similar recipe for gifts.  Since then, I've perfected a batch that we love, and gobble up before the week's end.  My family is also constantly asking me for more.  It's low on sugar, and without all of the add-ins of granola you find in the store.  I was given it by a coworker, and have evolved in to fit out taste buds perfectly.  I love it!

Everyday Granola

makes 6 cups

4 c. oats 
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 pecans, chopped
1/4 c. flax seeds
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. sunflower seed oil
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl, mix first 7 ingredients until combined.
3.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment, and pour oats into pan.
4.  In a saucepan, heat honey and oil, just until warm.  Add vanilla.
5.  Pour half of honey/oil mixture over oats, and stir.  Pour in rest and repeat.
6.  Cook in oven for 40 minutes, stirring to coat oats every 10 minutes.
7.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Enjoy!

This stuff is addictive, I'm just warning you.  I eat it pretty much daily on smoothies, plain, or anywhere I can justify.  Last week I had it with banana pancakes and almond butter!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Meal Planning: The Meals

When we left off, I shared with you my plans for my meal planning.  With all of the prep done, things worked out well, and we certainly had happily filled bellies all week long.

Here were the 5 main meals I cooked:
  • shrimp tostadas
  • shepard's pie
  • steak with veggies
  • terayaki chicken wraps
  • meatball subs

Without the prep, there was no way I could have cooked some of these.  Specifically, I don't make shepard's pie that often because it takes so long, and, making meatballs?  Not a weekday meal for a girl who gets home at 6.  So, I was happy to have these.  One of the best parts about meal planning was taking the "guess work" out of my drive home, where I typically spend half the ride deciding what to have for dinner.  This was easy!

shrimp tostadas-amazing!

I also needed up skipping out on the steak, mainly because of this:

That week was the start of a very long pattern of snow storms.  Snow days in elementary school = snow days and snow days = stir crazy.  I usually try to cook something special during these days, and wanted to have something warm for Ry to come home to, so I whipped up some homemade chili.

The best form of snow therapy
So, that was my week in meal planning.  Is it more work?  For sure.  Is it worth it?  Times a million.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meal Planning: The Prep

As I shared in my first post, I wasn't always crazy about meal planning.  While I think that the ladies who make 40 meals in one day and freeze them are ah-maz-ing, that route just isn't for me.  I love cooking, and to be honest, I don't love the taste of pre-freezed meals.

So, when I prep on Sundays for the meals ahead, I try to struck a balance between making recipes easier during the week, but not sacrificing too much flavor.  For example, here was my plan for this week:

  • shrimp tostadas
  • shepard's pie
  • steak with veggies
  • terayaki chicken wraps
  • meatball subs
I plan only 5 meals because I found that when I did more, I never made them all.  That's because we usually have one day a week where there are too many leftovers in the fridge to justify a new meal, and one day where we might be in the "mood" for something else, like chinese, or my go-to dinner: quesidillas and smoothies :)

I planned on making the tostadas that day, because they required a 3 hour marinade, and I never have that time after work.  So, along with those, my extra prep included:
  • brown rice 
  • mashed potatoes (for shepard's pie)
  • meatballs
  • homemade rolls for the "subs"
As you can see, it really isn't that extensive.  I basically just look at all of the prep time for my recipes, and see if there is anything "extra" in a recipe that would take me 30 minutes or more to make.  I really didn't want to have the whole shepard's pie sitting for a week in the freezer, so I decided mashed potatoes were a compromise.  The meatballs and rolls were an easier choice, as they are going to be smothered in sauce anyways.  And brown rice?  I love it, but the stuff takes an hour to make each time, so once a week, I usually made a huge batch and use it throughout the week.  

I enjoy Sunday cooking, and usually make a batch of granola for the week as well.  A significant amount ends up in our bellies.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meal Planning: Breakfast and Lunch

Last time, I talked about my weekly shopping trips, panty staples, and trying to start meal planning more.  Now that we have a stocked kitchen, I have a lot more freedom to cook things that both Ry and I like, on a whim.

While we have a lot of freedom with dinner, we stick to the same breakfasts and lunches during the weekdays.  While I thought we'd might get sick of the same 'ol meals, I think we change them up enough every day just enough to get it right.

For breakfast, every morning, I drag my half-away self to the kitchen, and immediately start the coffee maker.  Ry usually has a protein shake, or sometimes I make a breakfast sandwich in the morning (with egg and cheese, nothing crazy).  I, on the other hand, drink a smoothie for breakfast pretty much every day.  I always mix them up (see my post about smoothie ideas here), and if I don't have a smoothie, it's usually oatmeal or cereal.

On the weekends, anything goes, and if we are both not working, we usually make pancakes, or a quiche.  Quiche is pretty much one of my favorite breakfasts, and we usually have leftovers for the weekdays.

For lunch, Ry buys at work.  I, have been eating green salads, everyday, for a month now.  Very rarely, I will bring leftovers from dinner, but it's usually a salad.  I keep a bottle of dressing in our work fridge to keep things easy, and usually throw in some sort of protein, spinach/greens, and a veggie such as peppers or tomatoes, and I'm done.  For snacks, I usually stick with fruit, granola or baby carrots.  This usually carries me through the day.

Having the same "themes" for breakfast and lunch hasn't gotten boring, and has saved me so much time.  I no longer have to go through the fridge last minute to figure out what to bring for lunch, and always have all of the ingredients on hand.  

Any other clever breakfast or lunch ideas?  Anyone else with a system that works for them?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meal Planning: Pantry Staples

I have gone through stages on meal planning.  I've tried it, and liked not having to think about what to make for dinner, but I also didn't like it, because I wanted to be a little more spontaneous.

I'm thinking of trying to now again, due to one big change in my routine now.  I stopped going shopping on the weekdays.  It seems small, but for me, it was a significant change.  I did it for two reasons: the first, that Ry asked me to, and second, I started shopping mainly at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Both of these are on my way home from work, but easily at least 25 minutes away from our house, so it just didn't make sense.

Now, I think a lot more about what I need for the week on the weekends, and I don't shop unless it's milk, eggs or an "emergency" item we really can't live without.

I've also made the habit of making a weekly grocery list, and I basically make sure we have enough of each of these in stock every week:

  • organic milk
  • organic eggs
  • organic butter
  • organic cheese (one italian, one other)
  • parmesan cheese
  • organic yogurt-plain or greek
  • orange juice
  • seltzer
  • coffee!!
  • tea
  • espresso
  • Agave (for my coffee)
  • wheat Flour
  • cocoa Powder
  • organic White Sugar
  • brown Sugar
  • chocolate Chips
  • nuts (2 different kinds)
  • granola
  • cornmeal
Fruits/Veggies (all organic, always):
  • spinach or a greens mix with spinach in it
  • baby carrots
  • peppers (usually whatever is on sale)
  • potatoes
  • apples
  • bananas
  • oranges
  • canned tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • garlic
  • red and while onions
  • 2-3 types of frozen fruit for smoothies
Meats/Poultry/Other Protein (same, all organic, wild caught, grass fed, etc):
  • salmon, or at least 1 seafood
  • bacon
  • hamburgers
  • chicken
  • ground beef, or whatever else is on sale
  • beans ( I always have at least 2 kinds on hand)
  • canned tuna (for the hubby)
  • chicken and beef stock or broth (organic)
  • almond butter
  • flax seed
  • crackers, or something to snack on
  • whole Wheat Bread
  • whole Wheat wraps
  • salsa
  • whole wheat pasta
  • organic pasta sauce
  • honey
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil
  • sunflower seed oil
  • breadcrumbs (whole wheat and panko)
  • protein powder
Aside from these, I like to always keep up with my spices (purchasing whenever one is done),condiments (mustard, lemon/lime juice) and will add in a few other things depending on requests, or what we have planned (pizza dough, deli meats, etc), but for the most part, I have been relying on these staples this month, and it has really been working out, and making dinner much easier!

Up next…what to cook!

Any other staples I should add?

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