Archive for In the Kitchen

Easy Make-Ahead Grab-and-Go Breakfasts

We are always racing around in the mornings, trying to get to where we need to be. Yes, I know we should get up earlier, but that never sounds like a great idea the first time my alarm goes off, so we have tried to find ways to cut down on breakfast time. Of course it would be nice if we had time to make a nice sit-down breakfast, but I don’t see that in my future anytime soon. I typically eat a piece of fruit for breakfast, but it is also nice to have a little more than that when I have a long day to get through and most likely won’t have time for lunch.

1. Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies wpid-wp-1485264767214.jpg

We’ve been making these for awhile now. We found them on Skinnytaste.com and they are super easy. All you really need are over-ripe bananas, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. They take only a few minutes to whip up and about 15 minutes in the oven. We make a batch and make sure to put them in the refrigerator after a few days to keep them good for longer. They make good snacks and even desserts if you want something light.

2. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Balls 

We just discovered these a couple weeks ago. I kept seeing them come across my Facebookwpid-wp-1485264767225.jpg feed so I finally decided to try them. They contain oats, peanut butter, honey, flax seed, vanilla, and a few other things, but they aren’t hard at all to put together. The best part? They are no-bake. So you just mix all the ingredients and put them on a wax-covered cookie sheet and they sit in the freezer for at least an hour. Then you remove them and put them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. You can find the full recipe here. Like the cookies, these make good snacks.

3. Overnight Oatmeal

I honestly don’t remember where we got this idea, but from time to time, if we want something more substantial than just a piece of fruit or one of the other ideas mentioned above, we make this. It just involves putting oats in with water or milk and letting it sit in the refrigerator over night. I make sure the amount of liquid covers the oats by probably half an inch. After you make it a few times, you will get a feel for how much liquid to put in there, depending on if you like your oatmeal soupy or thick. Of course, you can put whatever you want to sweeten it. I prefer a little bit of honey, but the kids like to add peanut butter and raisins. This is a little messier than the other two, but still a somewhat healthy option that sustains you for a bit.

What do you usually have for breakfast when you are in a hurry?

Around the World: Spain

In August, we had planned to focus on Spanish food but our schedule was so crazy that we didn’t actually get to have this meal until September. That being said, it was still good!

We had goat cheese toasts with honey, gazpacho (a cold Spanish soup made of tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, and some other ingredients), paella, and flan for dessert. I’ve never been a huge fan of flan and I’d actually never made it before, but it turned out pretty good and it did taste pretty amazing. I know a guy who used to be a chef at a local tapas restaurant and he gave me his recipe for paella and flan, and they were both amazing.

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The meal made me miss Spain, but it was nice to have something authentically Spanish.

 

Check out what other meals we have tried:

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

Italy: Part 1

Italy: Part 2

Around the World: Italy, Part 2

We opted to try an authentic Italian lasagna dish with cannoli for dessert. I have made my own lasagna for years but I used a lightened up version that was supposed to be more authentically Italian. It included ground turkey and pancetta (Italian bacon), as well as ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. It turned out fairly well, but needed more sauce in our opinion.

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We served it with a side salad (European style with only vinaigrette dressing) and fresh Italian bread from a local bakery (we dipped this in a delicious mixture of olive oil and herbs).

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For dessert, I made cannoli. It was actually really easy to do. I made the filling earlier in the day, which consisted of ricotta cheese, mascarpone, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. I had to let it sit in the refrigerator for awhile and then filled the cannoli shells (which were bought from the store) and stored them once again in the refrigerator until it was time to eat them. I served them with powdered sugar and sprinkles on the top because I thought the kids would like that.

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Check out all the other dishes we have made!

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

Italy: Part 1

Around the World: Italy

This month we are focusing on Italian food. It sounds easy, I know, but I am trying to find recipes that are more authentically Italian. The first thing we made was a margherita pizza last week. Normally, we prefer lots of veggies on our pizza, so this was a very different sort of pizza for us to make. But, we got the good mozzarella, used home-grown basil and fresh tomatoes, and made the pizza dough from scratch and it did not disappoint!

 

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See what other foods we have tried:

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

 

 

Around the World: Jamaica, Part Two

I was hoping to make a Jamaican breakfast dish involving salted cod and ackee but I couldn’t find ackee anywhere. So we ended up making fried dumplins to have with breakfast. It is normally served with cod and/or ackee, but we had them with mandarin oranges and scrambled eggs.

They were pretty easy to do except for when you heat the oil too hot. It involves a mixture of flour, salt, sugar, and milk, and then you roll them into circles and throw them into hot oil. Ours turned out to be a little overcooked on the outside because the oil was too hot at first, but they weren’t too bad. We served them with butter and jelly.

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Check out our other international meals!

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica: Part 1

Around the World: Jamaica

We had Jamaican Jerk Pork with fried plantains over the weekend. We made the jerk sauce ourselves and made it the night before so we could marinade the pork tenderloin in it. There are lots of recipes for this but we used a lighter version that included a lot of green onions, which is why it ended up green. The habanero in it definitely spiced things up, though!

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So the pork tenderloin marinated overnight and we grilled it the following evening.

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Then we fried the plantains. I don’t know why I don’t cook with plantains more often because I really like them when we do.

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So what do you get when you add Jamaican Jerk Pork and fried plantains with a (European-style with only vinaigrette) salad?

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We also had to have rum and diet Coke since we drank a lot of Jamaican rum when we were in Jamaica. The last time we were there was for our 5-year anniversary and our 10-year anniversary is coming up this October, so I have been thinking a lot about it. Having this meal just makes me want to go back!

Check out what other food we have made in 2016?

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Around the World: Portugal, Part Two

In the same week that we had Piri Piri Chicken, we decided to have Bacalhau à las Brás. It is more of a brunch dish but looked really different, so we decided to give it a try. It includes eggs,potatoes, and cod and is supposed to have black olives in it, but we don’t like black olives so we omitted them. We managed to find salted cod at a local international grocery store. It takes a little bit of planning because you have to soak the cod in water for at least 24 hours to desalt it, and this also includes changing the water at least 4 times a day.

The meal actually turned out really well. Even Anya, my pickiest eater, said it was delicious! We served it with some good bread and butter. It reminded me a lot of having a breakfast bowl with potatoes, eggs, and sausage, except for it had cod instead of sausage.

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To read more about other international dishes we have made, check out these posts:

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Around the World: France

Part of my New Year’s Resolutions is to cook (and eat) 12 international meals this year. I put a bunch of country’s names on slips of paper and drew France out of the bag. We were in France in 2007 so it has been awhile, but I looked through numerous cookbooks and websites to figure out a menu, as well as to see how the French actually eat their meals.

I actually ended up coming up with 2 meals. One was more of a lunch menu and the other was a bigger meal. We ended up having the big meal this past weekend, and it was amazing. We did cheat and have Chilean wine with dinner instead of French wine, but only because we got snowed in on Sunday and decided to make the big meal that evening since we were home, instead of a week and a half later. We had planned to find some good French wine but we couldn’t buy wine on Sunday so we had to settle for what we had.

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We started out with an appetizer, which was just toasted French bread with olive oil and goat cheese. It was simple but really good. Anya said she liked it, but she didn’t love it, which only meant more for me!

 

 

 

The main course was Beef Bourguignon with Egg Noodles. We very rarely eat beef in our house, and this is not a dish I would have made otherwise, but it was really good. It wasn’t very hard to do but did take a lot of time because it had to simmer on the stove for quite awhile.

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The next course was salad with vinaigrette and cheese. We had Brie because that’s what I could find easily at the grocery store we shop at. Apparently, the French tend to eat their salad and cheese after the main course. They also don’t put much on their salads…just the greens with a little vinaigrette. It was a little different from what I am used to, but it was actually nice that way. I also could not stop eating the Brie…

Finally, the course my kids had been waiting for – dessert. We decided on crepes. We made the actual crepes while the main course was simmering and then filled them later with Nutella and warmed banana. We sprinkled some powdered sugar on top. They were delicious and the kids loved them.

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Homemade Pasta Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

We have been getting tons of tomatoes and sungolds at our CSA and from our garden and we have been struggling to use them all before they go bad. I have made seven batches of homemade pizza sauce that is now sitting in our freezer. I have been wanting to made pasta sauce to freeze so I gave it a shot. None of the recipes I could find called for exactly what I had, so I just made it up as I went and I think it turned out really well.

 

1. Saute whatever vegetables you have in olive oil or whatever cooking oil you prefer. I have made two different batches of this and used vegetables like green peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. I don’t have exact amounts that I used because I think that any vegetables you can add is an added bonus, as it makes the sauce that much healthier.

wpid-img_20140908_124610.jpg2. Put tomatoes in a pot on the stove. I used a ton of sungolds and diced any of the whole tomatoes I used so they would be juicy. I used any varieties of tomatoes that I had, but you could probably be picky about this if you wanted to be. I let them cook down until they were really juicy.

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3. Add the sautéed vegetables to the tomatoes.

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4. Once this has cooked for a bit, use an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes and vegetables. You could also transfer the mixture to a regular blender or a food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender. Puree it so that it is the texture you like. It can be smooth or chunky. We usually like ours somewhere in the middle. We also like to add fresh herbs at this point. Oregano and basil are our favorites to add to pasta sauce.

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5. I like to let the sauce cook down a bit so it is a little thicker. This also allows the herbs to flavor the sauce.

6. When you feel like the sauce has the taste you want, serve it over pasta or freeze it for later!

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Even though making pasta sauce does take a bit of time, the hardest part is cutting up the veggies. The rest involves a lot of waiting around for the sauce to cook down.

Have you ever made homemade pasta or marinara sauce from fresh tomatoes?

Weekly Meal Plan

One of the things I do to save time, money, and my sanity is plan our evening meals ahead of time. I try to look at what’s on sale and pair those things with items I already have at home to create my meal plan. We typically have sit-down dinners in the evenings because on the days I work, I typically don’t eat lunch due to time constraints; if I do, it’s typically a rushed one and I don’t have time to eat much. When planning, I also try to look at what we have going each night and choose easy dinners for nights that we have less time. We like to try new recipes as well, so it seems like we are always experimenting. For sides, I usually come up with something easy to throw together that day. Sides usually involve veggies, fruit, or bread.

I know I haven’t posted many recipes lately, but there have actually been a lot of things going on in our kitchen. I thought I would post our meal plan for the week in case anyone needs any inspiration!

Weekly Menu

Sunday: Hippie Hash

Monday: Spinach and Feta Pizza

Tuesday: Grilled Cheese and Vegetable Soup

Wednesday: Cheesy Zucchini Tomato Bake

Thursday: Pork Tenderloin with Peppers

Extras:

Vegetable Soup – I need to use up some of the veggies that I have been sitting in our fridge. I hope to make a big batch to freeze.

Raspberry Chocolate Ice Cream

Zucchini Brownies

What are your weekly meal plans?

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