Monday, May 31, 2010

Menu: May 24-30

I hope you are all having a great Memorial Day. Today I've been to put flowers on my little brother's grave.
This wreath I made a few years ago to put at his headstone. It's been 11 years since he died. Typing that made me realize that its been longer since he died than he was alive. That makes me sad, so I'm moving on before my eyes start getting wet... We also stopped by my grandmother's grave and that was sad since my grandfather was with us... After taking my grandpa back home I headed back to a park with my mom to visit with some of her aunts and uncles. What do you usually do for Memorial Day?

Last Friday I posted about a date and posted a collage of birds that we saw.  I only had one guess about the birds listed... so I am tempted not to label these birds, but just in case some one is dying to know what they are:
1 - Gadwals
2 - Ruddy Duck
3 - Meadow Lark
4 - American White Pelican
5 - Readhead
6 - Cinnamon Teal
7 - Red Winged Blackbird
8 - Yellow Warbler (I agree it is a bad photo of this bird)
9 - Killdeer (on our first date we nicknamed this the oreo bird - if you see a front view you'd know why.)

Now finally on to the menu:

Monday: Confession: I forgot to make note of what we ate on this day and honestly cannot remember - I do not have a picture of it either (otherwise I'd know what we had...) Hubby cannot remember either - so it must have either been something we have a lot or something that did not stick out at all!

Tuesday: 5 cheese stuffed shells (Step By Step Pictures)

Wednesday: Spinach Pancakes (Final Photo Only)

Thursday: Mom made bbq sandwiches (no pictures)

Friday: Meatball Subs (Final Photo Only)

Saturday: Meatball Pizza - pizza sauce, bell pepper, onion, meatballs - chopped in half, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Recipe for Pizza Crust.

Sunday: Grilled Steak, Steamed Asparagus, Spinach & Mandarin Orange salad, and grilled corn on the cob. We had our Memorial Day dinner this day because my brother who was visiting had to leave earlier this morning to get back to work tonight. (Final Photo Only)

Vote for which recipe you want to see on Thursday!

Weekly Menu will be posted later

Due to Memorial Day activities I will be posting the menu later this evening.

Happy Memorial Day 

Be Safe!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Foodless Friday: On Dating and Birdwatching

Five years ago I was living in my parents basement for the summer... working and getting ready to start college again in the fall after taking a couple of years off. I was considering moving out during the summer to work in the same town that I would be attending classes in, but had not been able to find a job there. My parent's house is 6.5 miles away from a town of about 5500 people. In the previous 4 years I had grown use to living in a city and had grown to love it so moving back to such a small place was hard. I ended up staying the whole summer living with my parents.

Why? I met a guy who asked me on a date...
This is us yesterday. Same place where we went on our first date... 5 years later. However this platform we are standing on is new. Since I am living at the same place where I lived 5 years ago - yep my parent's basement... waiting on a thesis to be completed and to hear back from the jobs we've applied for, we've decided to relive our dating lives. Starting with yesterday, we went on our first date again (same day May 27th) - birdwatching at a wildlife refuge.
This is the bird that took us about 30 minutes to identify five years ago - we were both VERY new to the whole birding thing... and we thought we may have found a new species of duck at this refuge after only seeing one of them. Then we saw them EVERYWHERE! Yep, they are an abundant species.
This is an American Coot. The best way to identify them is by their feet - they have very distinguishable feet - but usually they are in the water so you never see them! We now laugh about how it took us so long to name this bird and smile at each other whenever we see them.

Yesterday we identified about 18 different birds. We did not get pictures of all of them, but here are some pictures that we did get:
For those of you that want to identify these birds, I numbered them 1-9 - however picture 5 has two different birds in it (You can click on the photo above to see it larger). If you leave a comment identifying the birds, I won't post it until Monday when I label all of the birds shown above. I hope you all have fun identifying these birds.

Funny story - five years ago on this date, I got a sunburn on my face because I forgot to put sunscreen on... same thing yesterday! My fave is just a tad red today. I guess five years has not made me any wiser!

Have a happy Friday! I'm taking off now.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pizza Crust

If there was one food item that I would choose if I could only have that, it would be pizza - there are so many ways to make a pizza and flavor combinations you can make! After years of searching for a great pizza dough, I think I have finally found one, I've used it the past few times and love it. Plus you can use it to make breadsticks as well - however I do advise using twice as much yeast if used for breadsticks. Pizza variations found below - Enjoy!

Pizza Crust

In a large bowl dissolve 1 Tablespoon sugar in 1-1/2 cups warm (105-115 degrees) water.
Add 1/2 Tablespoon yeast (remember to double to 1 Tbsp if making breadsticks.)
Wait 5-10 minutes until yeast is bubbly. Once yeast is bubbly add 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Add 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups all purpose flour.
Mix until combined
Next add 2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use only all purpose flour if you would rather.)
Stir until flour is mixed into the dough.
Dough will be sticky, but able to be manageable.
Place dough onto a floured surface and knead in 1/4-1/2 cup flour.
Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place into a large bowl that has been greased (I usually just spray with non-stick cooking spray.) Let rise until doubled in size. (Or if you are in a hurry you can skip this step.. I usually do.)
If you let the dough rise, punch down. Place on a flat surface sprinkled with flour and roll out.
I usually roll my dough onto my baking stone (it makes it easier!) If you rolled out on the counter, fold into fourths and place onto baking sheet or stone (grease and sprinkle with corn meal before placing pizza crust on baking pan.) Fold in edges.
Poke dough with a fork to prevent bubbles while cooking. I usually bake my dough for 8 minutes at 400 degrees before topping, but if you roll out a thin crust this step can be skipped. Crust should be baked for a total of 20 minutes.
Top with your favorite toppings.
Some of my favorites:
Chicken Soup Pizza

Chicken Fajita Pizza

Cordon Bleu Pizza

Pesto, Spinach, Feta Pizza
 Spinach Chicken Alfredo
 and the veggie pizza I just made - here's the crust variation and the basics of how I put together the veggie pizza:

Spinach Pizza Crust:
In a blender blend 1/2 cup water and 1 cup fresh spinach until spinach leaves are pureed. Reduce warm water to 1 cup before adding sugar and yeast. Add spinach with water after the oil. You will need to add a few tablespoons more flour.
For a really spinach crust, use 1 cup water (reduce the amount in the recipe to 1/2 cup before adding sugar and yeast), and blend in 4 cups of spinach. I blended in 1 cup at a time because I don't have a fancy juicing blender. 

Veggie Pizza:
I used a basic marinara sauce - except I added 1/2 cups carrots to the tomatoes in a blender before simmering.
For toppings: Add any veggies you wish, I used broccoli, onion, green bell peppers and tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goals - May 19-25

Here's my goals from this past week (exciting news at the end!):

Sugar Intake Reduction - I've done really well this past week, I did make an apple crisp for dinner one night, but that's about it - besides my eating of dark chocolate throughout the week.

One New recipe per week - Monday I made 5 cheese stuffed shells - they turned out really well.

Exercise  - I've been doing pretty well with exercise, yesterday I did some basic yoga and stretched out a lot more than usual because I was feeling tight but did not get my increased heart rate. I did take a class in flexibility in college and learned how important it is, so I'm thinking of doing a warm up and stretching day once per week.

Read 1 good book per month - Read Mary Poppins.

Now for my exciting news:
My wedding ring fits again!
I really love this ring, but there is one thing that makes it hard to wear when I gained weight:
It cuts into my finger and leaves behind an indentation so it is painful to wear when my finger is just a tad too fat.
Oh and I am back to what I weighed when I got pregnant!

How are your goals coming? Feel free to comment every week so we can help each other keep on track!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Menu: May 17-23

We had another great menu this past week. I honestly get hungry ever time I post these menus and pictures! I did somehow manage to forget to take pictures two nights this week! Most of the recipes only include final photos... only the pizza is step by step (for the pizza crust.) For those of you wondering about my diet, yes I can eat all the food below on eating plan - it is all about the portions. When we had tacos, I should have just done a taco salad because I had a cup of lettuce on it! Speaking of my diet, I have reached a great marker that I'll be telling you all on Wednesday with my goal report.

Here's my menu:

Final Photo Only (FPO) means I will only have a picture of the final product with the recipe.

Monday: Tacos (FPO)

Tuesday: Buttermilk Pancakes (FPO)

Wednesday: Fresh Salsa Pasta (FPO)

Thursday: Stir Fry (somehow I did not end up with a photo of this dish... It was just a basic stir fry with veggies and chicken served over rice.)

Friday: Beef Bacon Asparagus

Saturday: Beef Kabobs (somehow I ended up not getting any pictures of these - it was a hectic day.) When I make kabobs for my family I put all similar food on the same skewers instead of making them 'pretty' - I find they cook more evenly that way.

Sunday: Pizza - I made a veggie pizza with some vegetables we needed to use up - broccoli, bell pepper, tomato and I even added a veggie to the crust and hid an extra on in the spaghetti sauce. Turned out great!
Recipe for Pizza Crust.

Be sure to vote for which recipe you want to see on Thursday!
What did you have for dinner this past week? Anything you want to brag about?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Foodless Friday: Backyard

Growing up, I had the best back yard...
okay, so this wasn't technically my back yard... but it was behind my house and up until I was 9 or 10 my great uncle owned the land directly behind my house so we had permission to go off and explore it. There was a canal that ran down the hill on the right side of the photo - unfortunately you can't see it, but it is where the large group of trees are. It was always a fun treat to go exploring and playing in the water. We did not have close neighbors so most of the time the 'we' consisted of my older sister, older brother and myself. Back then we didn't have to have any expensive toys or gadgets to entertain ourselves, all we had to do was step outside.

What was your backyard like? Did you have a backyard?

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I really love Mexican food, there is just such a depth of flavor, yum! It's a good thing I just ate lunch or I'd be experiencing hunger pains as I remember eating this delicious meal! I do usually use mild versions as my stomach cannot handle spicy food (I had an ulcer when I was 8 - true story - and the beginning of one when I was 13 - since then I haven't been able to handle spicy food.) Sometimes I envy those people who can eat spicy food, but I actually enjoy taming down my dishes and tasting the subtly that otherwise would be overpowered.

This was my first experience with actually eating a Gordita, but I would have to say that I'm glad I tried them! I'm going to have to eat them again, and maybe try to find a different way to make them that does not require frying. If I can't, I will still eat these... I'm just not very big on fried foods - that started with getting pregnant. Greasy foods just don't have the same appeal they use to. Also because these are fried, you will want to serve them immediately after filling them. Gorditas are like fat corn tortillas that are fried and stuffed like a pita.

Recipe from Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups shredded beef,  1 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup chopped white onion, and 2 garlic cloves - peeled and finely chopped.
(If you don't have left over shredded beef, the actual recipe calls for using 1-1/4 lb boneless beef chuck steak cut into 4 pieces and combined with 2 quarts salted water and the above onion and garlic. Then simmering until meat is very tender - about 1.5-2 hours. Shred beef.)

In a medium saucepan heat 1 Tbsp oil, when hot add 1/2 cup diced onion and cook until golden, about 6-8 minutes, stir in 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add a 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice and 1-2 jalapenos- stemmed, seeded (you can leave the seeds in if you want it spicier - it also makes it look less appealing to have the seeds), and finely chopped. Cook for 3-5 minutes - until most of the juice is evaporated. Stir in shredded meat (be sure to drain the broth off before adding) and simmer for a few more minutes. Season to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt.)  Keep warm, or warm up before filling the gordita (as described below.)

Gordita (Corn Masa Pocket)
Combine 1-3/4 cup masa harina - finely ground corn flour, 1-1/8 cups warm water. Knead adding more water if necessary to achieve a cookie dough consistency. Knead in 1/3 cup all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt. Divide dough into 10 portions and roll into balls. Cover with damp towel to keep from drying out.
If you have a tortilla press, line each side with plastic wrap, and press dough ball to about 4 inch diameter discs. They will be about 1/4 inch thick.
If you do not have a tortilla press, place the ball between two pieces of plastic wrap and using a flat plate or small cutting board, press to flatten. Use a rolling pin to roll out the disk to about 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Being sure to keep the disc between two pieces of plastic wrap.
Peel off the top piece of plastic wrap and flip the disc uncovered side down onto your hand, carefully remove the top piece of plastic wrap.  Gently place disc onto a heavy skillet preheated over medium heat. Cook for 1.5-2 minutes then flip and cook for 1.5-2 more minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned on top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on sides and in the middle. Repeat this process for all 10 gorditas. I formed my next gordita while the previous one was cooking - if you do this be sure to set a timer so you do not lose track of time and burn them. ;)

After all the gorditas have been lightly browned, Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium to medium high. Oil should be hot enough to make the gorditas sizzle around the edges (or if you have a candy or deep frying thermometer, about 350 degrees.) Fry the gorditas one at a time for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Drain on paper towels.

Filling the Gordita: 
Use a small knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each gordita - make the cut to be about 1/3 of the circumference of the pocket. Fill each gordita with about 1/4 cup shredded meat mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh cilantro.
I served ours with sour cream and guacamole. 


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Here's my goals from this past week:

Sugar Intake Reduction - It was my husband's birthday during this past week, naturally I am not counting his birthday party sugar intake, but I did snitch the day before when I was making the cake... I've decided that it is near impossible to not eat some cake and frosting when making and decorating a cake.

One New recipe per week - The cake I made for my husband's birthday was a new recipe, unfortunately - it wasn't that great. It was suppose to be a malted milk cake but we couldn't taste the malted part of it. I'm going to have to try making one that tastes like malt!

Exercise  - Exercise has been going pretty well, except yesterday I only was able to get in about 10 minutes - I do have a good excuse though - our son is not feeling well and has diarrhea, so I was interrupted exercising to change a diaper and didn't get to continue.

Read 1 good book per month - Read Mary Poppins. I find it interesting the differences between the book and the movie. One example - the scene where they jump into the chalk pavement picture in the book actually only was Mary Poppins and Burt - it was on her day off so the children weren't with them.

How are your goals coming? Feel free to comment every week so we can help each other keep on track!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Menu: May 10-16

This week I loved the menu we had... As I was posting getting the pictures ready, I wish I could have all of them right now. Unfortunately that is not going to happen, but after I post this I'm going to go eat lunch.  As I looked over what we've eaten in the past 3 weeks, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian are definitely on the menus. I loved eating all of the different ethnic foods. Maybe next time I'll go with Mediterranean. We'll see.

Here's our menu:

Abbreviations: FPO - Final Photos of recipe only, SBS - Step by Step pictures of the recipe.

Monday: Gorditas (FPO)

Tuesday: French Bread Pizza (I was running late on this day and used canned spaghetti sauce on french bread and topped with some of my pizza favorite toppings, this is a really easy and delicious meal. I did lightly toast the bread on each side under the broiler before making.)

Wednesday: Home made Ravioli (FPO)

Thursday: Stuffed shells (FPO)

Friday: Mom Grilled (I really love grilled food!)

Saturday: Leftover day

Sunday: Macaroni & Cheese (SBS), watermelon and steamed broccoli

Be sure to vote for which recipe you want to see on Thursday - poll is in the left hand column.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Foodless Friday: On Dieting

Our Women's group at our church had a meeting about nutrition and exercise this past week. One of the ladies gave a great presentation on a diet - actually it is more like a life eating plan. It includes portion control and helps you make healthy choices... my problem with it? It does not allow sugar (except sugar that is baked into breads, etc - but you have to choose wisely because you only eat a certain amount per day.) It means that if I were to follow it exactly I would not eat any chocolate - what kind of a diet doesn't allow eating chocolate?!? It does allow sugar substitutes, but I'm not so keen on those - I'd rather eat something that grows naturally than that was developed by scientists - call me crazy, but that's me. My sugar substitute would be honey.

I have to admit that I don't really do diets, I can't stand the restrictions and I definitely do not do diets that tell me exactly what to eat each day and what recipes to use for each meal. They do not work for me, I cook what I feel like making and not some crazy recipe with 15 ingredients that is suppose to help you lose weight. Or some hot breakfast cereal that you have to cook for 30 minutes. As soon as I read something like that I know it won't work. Who has 30 minute in the morning to make cereal? However, I have been wanting to eat healthier lately and have been looking at some options.

So I decided that I wanted to try this portion control thing (it also requires 30 minutes of exercise per day) except I am still allowing myself one serving of chocolate/candy per week (plus a bite or two of my husbands desserts, but since they are not mine - I shouldn't have to count it, right?! I am also giving myself my 'guilt free' days - birthdays, holiday days, etc.) I feel that by doing this I will be better able to stick to eating healthier - even if I cheat! Today is only my third day of doing it, but so far it seems to be working. I feel better about myself and have more energy - I am also eating all the daily requirements of fruits and veggies.

I feel that I report my exercise every week, but I have 4 exercise DVDs that I rotate as well as walking sometimes in the afternoons.

My question for you: If you diet, do you cheat? If so, what is your justification? Also, what do you do for exercise that works for you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chinese Dumplings

A couple of weeks ago I was really craving Chinese food... I also wanted to avoid an all you can eat buffet, which is where I'd go here to actually enjoy Chinese food - the other places are not that great - one new place just opened this past week so I'll have to try that one out. I decided to bite the bullet and actually make some of the Chinese food I really love to get but have heard that it takes a lot of effort to make. It does take a lot of work, but when you're craving it... it can be worth it. I would suggest that if your local grocery store has dumpling skins it is a great way to simplify this, if not - then you'd be in my boat and have to make them by hand. Making them by and isn't that difficult, but time consuming - great bonding time with a rolling pin. If you have not made Chinese Dumplings or spring rolls, egg rolls or similar Chinese food - I would encourage you to do so at least once. But do it on a day when you have time and energy! Just trust me on that one.

Chinese Dumplings

Prepare Dumpling skins by mixing 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1-1/4 cups boiling water in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until it reaches a rough dough. Knead for 5 minutes (letting dough rest if it is too hot to handle before kneading) until smooth and elastic adding flour if dough is sticky. Cover dough with a towel and let it rest for 25 minutes.
Cut the dough into two equal portions and toll each half into a 1 inch log.

Cut each half into 20 pieces (the original recipe says 25, but I found that it made it a little to hard to roll them to the desired size.)
Press each cut piece into a circle and using a rolling pin, start to roll into a 3-inch circle.
Keep rolling, being sure to remove dough from surface periodically to prevent it from sticking.
If you want to have a perfect circle, I suggest rolling it out a little larger and cutting it into a perfect circle.
Unless you are a lot better at rolling exact circles than I am.
Repeat rolling action for all 50 pieces of dough.  Or you can just store bought dumpling skins to skip the above steps.

Meat Filling

(Sorry I don't have any pictures of the making the filling...) 

Before starting to roll out the skins, place 5 cups finely chopped cabbage (I used regular cabbage but it calls for Chinese or Napa Cabbage) tossed with 1 tsp salt in a bowl, set aside. If you are using dumpling skins - do this 30 minutes before you want to combine filling.
After the 30 minutes has passed, squeeze out excess water by taking handfuls of cabbage and squeezing. Squeeze out as much water as possible. I was actually surprised at how much water this actually brought out of the cabbage!
Mix the cabbage, with 3/4 lb ground pork (I used sausage), 2 cups finely minced leeks, and 1 Tbsp minced garlic. Mix until pork is broken into small pieces. 
Next add 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp Sesame oil, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp minced gingerroot, 1-1/2 tsp minced garlic and 1 tbsp cornstarch to the meat mixture.  If mixture seems loose, add more cornstarch. 
Take one dumpling skin in your hand (sorry blurry picture) and place 1 heaping teaspoonful into the skin.
Unless you bought the skins or cut out perfect 3-inch circles, you may have to adjust the amount of filling in each skin.
I found it helpful to rub a tiny bit of water around the edges of the dumpling skin before attempting the next steps.
Use the thumb and index finger of one hand to form small pleats along the outside edge of the skin.
Press to seal, continue making pleats until completely sealed. The inside edge of the dumpling should curve in a semicircular fashion to conform to the shape of the pleated edge. 
Place the sealed dumplings on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornstarch (or on the countertop if you are like me and do not want to dirty yet another dish!)
Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
Gently add the 5-10 dumplings to the pan of boiling water.
The water will turn a bit cloudy due to the flour and cornstarch.
Stir immediately after adding dumplings to prevent them from sticking together. Bring the water back to boiling.
Add 1/2 cup cold water and continue cooking over high heat until water boils again. 
Add 1/2 cup cold water again, and let it come to a boil.
And for a third time add 1/2 cup water to the pan. Cook until the water boils again. Remove dumplings from pan and drain. Cook the remaining dumplings in the same manner. (If you want a simpler method boil for 8 minutes uncovered over high heat - but be warned this method tends to tear apart the dumplings more than the traditional method.)
Serve with a dipping sauce of 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce and 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce.