May 16, 2012


This marinade used to be on my blog, but somewhere along the way I guess it got deleted so I'm re-posting it.  I'm not sure if soy sauce is technically "real food", but so many of my favorite recipes use it that I decided not to examine that too closely.  I've used this with chicken breast, chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in), flank steak, and even shrimp.  I have the best results when I pat my meat dry and allow it to come to room temperature before I grill it.  Squeeze a lime wedge over it right after you pull it off the grill.  Delicious every time!

1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour over chicken or steak in a bowl or ziploc bag.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Grill your meat and have at it!

May 12, 2012

Project Real Food: Week 2 Recap / Week 3 Meal Plan

I have a confession to make.  I cheated.  Sam has refused to be happy this week.  Teething + Runny Nose + Tummy Problems + General Angst About Life = Stressed Out Mommy and Baby.  Nothing worked.  Let me repeat - NOTHING worked.  So he whined and fussed and cried.  All. Day. Long.  For five days straight.  By Wednesday night I had pulled all my hair out and decided to stow away on the next boat to Australia.  So I had to go to Target and get ibuprofen for Sammy, and the candy aisle was directly between the pharmacy and the checkout counter.  The people who designed my Target are jerks.  I swear, those gummy bears jumped off the shelf and into my little handbasket.  No really.  They did.

Anyway, other than what shall henceforth be known as the Gummy Bear Incident, we had a good week.  Like I said last week, Thursdays are a "cheat day", so I'm not counting the fast food lunch I had with my Papa.  Since we started this I have lost five pounds, and I feel so much better without pumping my body full of caffeine, sugar, and additives.

I decided not to do a definite meal plan this week.  We bought into a food co-op for our produce this week, and the pick up day was Saturday.  I usually do my grocery shopping on Friday, and since I wouldn't know what produce I was getting it was hard to do a plan.  Instead, I just bought a few staples and supplemented with anything I didn't get in my basket by making a quick trip to Sprouts on Saturday after the pick up.  Here's the breakdown:

Produce $30  (The co-op was $15, and I supplemented with $15 for things I usually buy but didn't get in the co-op basket)
Grains/Bulk Items  $25
Dairy  $6
Meat  $12

Total  $73

The biggest frustration I have is trying to find nuts and grains at a decent price.  I can get large bags of raw nuts at Costco for a great price per pound, but if I spend $15 on a bag of pecans it makes a huge dent in the weekly budget.  I think next time I have some unexpected cash I'll make an investment at Costco, but until then I'll do the best I can at the Sprouts bulk bins.  The co-op was a great choice for us!  Yes, we spent $30 on produce (just like always) but we got almost double the food that we've been getting for the price.  Great bargain!

Hearty Man-Pleasing Lasagna

Earlier this week my husband requested lasagna.  I haven't made it in a long time because of the time required; plus, the calorie count is not exactly weight-loss friendly.  Since he's been a good sport about Project Real Food I decided yesterday morning to pick up a few things at the grocery store and make a lasagna for dinner.  He just finished his semester at school with two good grades, and I felt like he deserved a little something special.  I figured I'd just sub whole wheat noodles for regular noodles and replace the pork sausage with chicken sausage.  Everything else should work, right?  Ahem...

I realized once I got to the store that my typical lasagna recipe was not going to work.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for ricotta cheese?  Ruh roh.  So right there in the aisle at SuperTarget I put my thinking cap on and came up with this.  I served it with homemade garlic popovers, a tossed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and finished it up with a dessert that I'll blog about later.  

Anyway, this was a huge hit!  Such a hit, in fact, that while we were at Costco today I noticed he was lost in thought and when I asked him what was going on he said, "I'm just thinking about having leftover lasagna for lunch...".  Wife of the Year!  Yesssssss!

No, it is not low fat.  No, it is not simple and easy.  It's a special occasion, lazy rainy day kind of recipe.  And I think it's worth every calorie, fat gram, and dirty dish.

This is pre-baked. (ie. pre-cheese on top).  I was so excited about eating this that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  I was also distracted by the raging thunderstorm outside and the wimpy terrier that had taken root on my lap because of said storm.  Oh well...
For the tomato sauce:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage (I used Isernio's chicken sausage)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup red wine
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
handful chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
Dash of nutmeg, to taste
Freshly grated pepper, to taste

For assembling the lasagna
whole wheat lasagna noodles (mine were oven-ready)
freshly grated mozzarella cheese
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Brown the meat, drain, set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender and golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the meat and the wine.  Cook on medium high for a few minutes until the wine reduces a little bit.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook uncovered on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and the flavors have melded.  If the sauce gets too thick add a little chicken broth.  About 15 minutes before assembling the lasagna stir in the parsley and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until it sizzles.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Simmer over low heat until the mixture is thick and bubbly, 8-10 minutes.

To assemble spread a thin layer of béchamel on the bottom of a 13x9 pan.  Then layer as follows:  pasta, tomato sauce, béchamel, mozzarella.  Finish with pasta, tomato sauce, and béchamel.

Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes.  Uncover, top with mozzarella and Parmesan, and bake uncovered for 15 minutes more until the cheese is melted, the sauce is bubbling, and the noodles are tender. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

May 5, 2012

Lemon-Thyme Chicken with Garlic Rice Pilaf

One of my favorite blogs is Annie's Eats.  Her food is delicious and simple, and her photography is beautiful.  Last week I discovered two new recipes on her site and - lo' and behold - a new meal was inducted into the Dinner Hall of Fame.  I made two tiny tweaks to these recipes. Here are my versions with links to the original below the titles.  I served this with Oven Roasted Parmesan Green Beans.  The memory is making me drool.  Please forgive my badly lit photo, and make this soon!

Lemon-Thyme Chicken
from Annie's Eats

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful white whole-wheat flour
1½ tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
½ cup dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp. butter

Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Place the flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off the excess.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute until lightly golden, about 2-3 minutes per side, and an instant-read thermometer reads 160˚ F in the thickest part of the chicken.  (Keep in mind that pieces of different sizes will finish cooking at different times to avoid overcooking.)  Remove the chicken pieces to a plate, tent with foil, and set aside.

Add the garlic and thyme leaves to the pan and sauté  just until fragrant, about 1 minute.  (If necessary, add an additional small drizzle of olive oil if most of the oil was absorbed by the chicken.)  Off the heat, add the wine to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.  Return the pan to the heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.  Stir in the chicken broth.  Reduce until the sauce has thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the lemon juice to the pan.  Add in the butter and whisk until completely melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, spooning the sauce over the chicken.

Garlic Rice Pilaf
from Annie's Eats adapted from What's Cooking in the Orange Kitchen

1 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup brown white rice
2½ cups chicken broth, divided
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Pour the mixture into a covered casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes.  About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

May 4, 2012

Project Real Food: Week 1 Recap / Week 2 Meal Plan

It's been a week!  If you missed it, Aaron and I are eating only "real food" for the month of May.  The rules are from the 100 Days of Real Food blog:

  • No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  • No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  • Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label  (And none of those five ingredients can be refined sugars or grains)
  • No deep fried foods
  • No “fast foods”

We are not able to afford to eat all organic produce or all organic meat, but I do the best I can to find locally grown produce and meat with no hormones or additives.  We also do our best to purchase dairy products with no hormones.  Starting in June we'll reassess and decide which processed foods we'll reintroduce, but it won't be many and they'll be in moderation.

We both made it through the week with minimal cheating.  Monday afternoon we both had horrible headaches (it was a rotten day!), and so we decided to visit Sonic Happy Hour and get a medium Dr Pepper.  Typically we would've ordered a large or a 44 ounce.  Other than that, the only beverage we've put into our mouths this week is water.  Thursdays are a hard day for me to follow the rules because I meet my family for lunch, and my grandpa always picks a "fast food" joint.  This week's choice was Carl's Jr.  Oy.  I ate a garden side salad and a 3 piece chicken tenders.  Not ideal, but after consulting their website I decided it was the best I could do.  Since Thursdays are probably going to be a "cheat" day for me Aaron gets to cheat, too.  He had pizza yesterday.  It'll take awhile to get our pantry totally online with our goals.  I'm not going to throw out food because it doesn't fit these rules, so a few ingredients this week were not ideal.  We ate semi-sweet chocolate chips, regular pasta (sparingly in a soup), fat-free microwave popcorn, and bottled salad dressing.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the week went.  My body is definitely craving sugar, but it's not terrible, and the caffeine headaches are minimal as long as I drink plenty of water.  I'm sleeping better already, and I'm noticing that I feel full much faster and stay satisfied longer.  Not a surprise considering how often we hear people say those things, but it really hits home when you experience it yourself.  I also discovered a new recipe that knocked my socks off.  I'll be making it again this week so I can tweak it just a little, take some pictures, and share it with you.  AND I learned how to make corn tortillas.  They are so easy and they tasted fantastic!!

This week I'll be looking for a yummy vinaigrette that my husband will eat.  I'll also be trying several new things and, hopefully, will find time to blog about them.  Aaron needed the computer every night this week for school, so I wasn't able to get much computer time.  Here's the meal plan for Week 2:

Breakfast Tacos
Banana Nut Muffins
Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Mediterranean Tuna Lettuce Wraps
Turkey Sandwiches 

Spaghetti Bolognese; Tossed Green Salad  (tweaking this recipe)
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Italian Sausage; Tossed Green Salad
Pesto Spaghetti with Grilled Shrimp and Mushrooms
Lemon-Thyme Chicken; Garlic Rice Pilaf; Parmesan Green Beans
Black Beans & Rice

Homemade Granola Bars (Cherry Almond and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip)
Plain Greek Yogurt with Berry Sauce
Popcorn (popped the old fashioned way!)

I put the groceries away and forgot to take a picture, but here's the grocery breakdown (rounded):

Ezekial Bread $4.00
Bulk Grains & Nuts  $11.50
Canned Goods (Sprouts brand; no additives)  $8.00
Whole Wheat Pasta $2.50
Meat  $25.00
Produce  $18.50
Dairy  $5.50

Total:  $75.00

That total is still higher than I want our weekly budget to be, but we got a ton of food for the price, and I think at least two of our meals will make enough to freeze and use later this month.

Have a great weekend!

PS...I don't know what in the world is going on with the weird spacing in this post!