Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Food Challenge(s) #1

Since the cooking Adam is receiving isn't the best on the ship you know, I've been making new recipes and am always searching for new ones to add to my collection of meals that I will spoil Adam with when he comes home. I've been having a lot of fun finding recipes through the internet, usually via Pinterest or other food recipes like allrecipes.com or from an app on my iphone. Let me tell you that these websites are LIFESAVERS!! All of the recipes I have made from them have been successful! I It has definitely made cooking advance to one of my top 5 favorites things to do-really!! I also have been LOVING using my good ol' crockpot.

Because Adam doesn't get good cooking, and I am trying out new recipes, I decided on doing a series of blogs about the meals/dishes that I have made/am making. I am going to call the blogs that I post recipes in, Food Challenge, because I'm challenging myself to adventure out and having the guts to make recipes that I wouldn't otherwise feel like I could do. I am winning so far people! I'm going to start this new blog series off with the meals I made for my family during their Thanksgiving visit. One thing before I begin. What I like about all these recipes you will soon look over, is that they are pretty healthy. Being healthy has become a big part of my life, so it's been very important for me to find meals that have a good calorie count, healthy ingredients, and good flavor despite! THESE ARE FABULOUS, HEALTHY MEALS!! Ok, you can read on now. :D

Last week when I was giving an overview of their visit, I didn't get a chance to put in all the yummy meals I cooked for them, since it was already a long blog with all the pictures. It's your luck, because today's the day folks! Sorry it took me so long, but I finally got around to (a.k.a. felt like) posting a blong with the menu and the recipes. Let's begin with the menu plan.

Since I am only cooking for one these days, I don't really menu plan. I do plan to make certain meals, and plan for leftovers, but mostly I just stock up on my favorite go-to meals and stock up on produce to have a salad when I don't feel like something too heavy. However, you can't do that when you have a house of 6 people! Ya, that doesn't fly. Being that I recognized that before they came, I put together a tentative menu. I left it very tentative, because we didn't have a set schedule or a to-do list, so I wanted it to be flexible and not set in stone. With that said, here is what our menu looked like during that week and a half.

Saturday: Homemade Crockpot Chili and Cornbread
I have already posted this recipe on a previous blog post, but I did want to say that I made it again, and this time I made one pot with the full 3 Tb. of Chili Powder, and another pot with 1 1/2 Tb. of Chili Powder, so people got to choose what amount of spicey they wanted. That worked out well!

Sunday: Kale & Sausage Soup
Let me just say right off the bat, this is the BEST soup ever! It really is, and it's so easy to make, it makes it that much better!

Ingredients:
1 lb. Italian Sausage
2 large potatoes, sliced in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Kale, chopped
2 cans chicken broth
1 quart water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
(optional: 1/2 can bacon bits)
*Via Marcie Williams, with some twirks*
Cook sausage in a large pot; drain sausages and then damp with a papertowel. Using same pot (to get those yummy juices) Place onions, potatoes, broth, water, garlic in pot and cook on medium heat until potatoes are done. Add sausage (and bacon if choose). Simmer for 10 min. Turn to low heat. Add kale and cream. Heat through & serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday: Crockpot Veggie Lasagna
A couple months ago I tore this recipe out of a Familycircle magazine that my grandma had given me, and have been desparately been wanting to try it. The last couple of months I have made it, and it has been a hit! This is my favorite recipe for Lasagna right now! It's so easy, and it's super yummy, despite it being only veggie (but you could easily add meat to this recipe). What makes it that much better? It's prepared in a crockpot!!! Oh, and it's only 441 calories per serving! Yummy! :D

Ingredients:
2 small zucchini trimmed
1 package sliced mushrooms (8 oz)
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
1 container part-skim ricotta cheese (15 oz)
1 package reduced fat shredded mozarella or Italian-blend cheese
1/4 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 jar roasted garlic pasta sauce (or your own sauce)
8 traditional lasagna noodles (uncooked), broken in half (I use whole wheat lasagna noodles)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

First coat slow cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Next, thinly slice Zucchini. Transfer to a large bowl and add package of mushrooms and cut up red pepper. In medium-size bowl, combine rocotta, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, parsley, garlic and black pepper. NExt spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce over bottomof slow cooker. Top with 2 noodles (4 halves), overlapping is ok! Blend 3/4 cup pasta sauce with 1/2 up water and set aside. Stir remaining sauce and 2 Tb. of the Parmesan into zucchini mixture. Layer half of t he zucchini mixture over noodles. Top with 2 more noodles (4 halves). Spread with ricotta mixture and top with 2 more noodles. Finish layering with remaining zucchini mixture and remaining 2 noodles. Spread with reserved sauce-water mixture. Last, cover and cook on HIGH for 4 1/2 hours or on LOW for 6 1/2 hours, adding remining 1 cup shredded cheese and 2 Tb. grated Parmesan for last 10 minutes of cooking time. Let stand 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!) before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday: Crockpot Pork Chops & BBQ Beans, and Potato Salad
I got this recipe in my good ol' crockpot cook book that I've bragged about before. ;D It is super easy to make, and it's pretty tasty!! Let's just say it's a man's meal!

Ingredients:
2 16 1/2 oz. cans baked beans
6 rib pork chops, 1/2" thick
1 1/2 Tb. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tb. ketchup
6 onion slices
(I made my own BBQ sauce when I made this, just experimented with flavors, and it came out quite yummy. If you like onion, I would add in more.)

Pour baked beans into bottom of greased slow cooker. Layer the pork chops over beans. Spread mustard over pork chops. Sprinkle with brown sugar ad drizzle with ketchup. Top with onion slices. Cover and cook on high 4-6 hours. (yes, it is that simple!)

Wednesday: Crockpot Salsa Chicken over Baked Potatoes
Let me just say that this is A VERY GOOD MEAL!!! It was my mom's favorite! Also, since I had leftovers, I served it to my friend for dinner the other night and she is begging me for the recipe now. You need to try it!! It's so simple!

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup of salsa
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup sour cream
1 can black beans

Mix soup, salsa and taco seasoning in the bottom of a greased crockpot. Sink chicken breasts into the mixture covering completely. Cook on low for 5-6 hours, depending on size of chicken breasts. Remove chicken, shred and return to crockpot. Add sour cream and black beans and mix well. Heat until everthing is warmed through. Serve over baked potatoes. Leftover you can serve as nachos. ENJOY!!!

Thursday: Thanksgiving Dinner
I stated in this blog, that the ladies of the house hold made a traditional Cooney family Thanksgiving dinner (lunch). It included, Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, and stuffing. It was so yummy! OF course it gave us leftover for Friday's dinner and for the rest of winter for me!!

Friday: Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner

Saturday: Cheesy Baked Pasta with Vegetables
THIS WAS SO GOOD!!! I tore this recipe out of a Womansday magazine last year and have been dying to try it. I nervously gave it a whirl for the first time while my family was in town, and it came out as a big success!! It's also good, because it's only 394 calories!!

Ingredients:
12 oz pasta noodles (whatever shape you want to use: spiral, bow tie, etc.)
1 bag (12 oz) broccoli florets
1 Tb. unsalted butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 package (8oz) sliced mushrooms
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat flour)
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp ground pepper
1 bag (5 oz) baby spinach
5 oz fontina cheese, grated (I bought cheese, and then lost it some how-don't ask-and had to use mozarella, and it came out just fine!)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tb grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 425 F. Spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray. Cook the pasta according to package, adding the broccoli in during the last 3 minutes of cooking; drain and return the broccoli and pasta to the pot. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat and saute until tender, 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, sitrring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes; stir in spinach. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of fontina or mozarella cheese and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan. Pour sauce into pot with pasta and broccoli and toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining fontina and Parmesan. Bake until the cheese melts and is beginning to brown, about 10minutes.

Sunday: Leftovers
There was so much leftovers that I needed help eating, otherwise they would go bad with only one of me to eat them, that we had a variety of leftovers Sunday night. Nobody complained. :)

Monday: Crockpot Shepard's Pie
I have a recipe for Shepard's Pie already, but not for one in a crockpot!! This is SO easy, let me tell you!! I changed up this recipe a lot, because I used Thanksgiving leftovers in it, and it was SO yummy!! This is a great use-all-your-leftovers-in-one-meal-and-get-rid-of-them-all-at-once recipe!!

Ingredients:
3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 lb. ground turkey or beef (or just any kind of leftover meat- does NOT have to be ground. I used leftover Turkey from Thanksgiving, and it worked just fine!).
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups total frozen vegetables (corn, peas, green beans, carrots, you choose!)
1 medium onion, chopped finely, or 1 T onion flakes (I only had green onion on hand, and it worked just fine.)
1/2 Tsp seasoned salt
1/2 Tsp onion powder
1/4 Tsp black pepper
1/4 Tsp paprika (a bit more for garnish, too)
1 cup water
2 cups shredded cheese (any kind)

Brown your meat if you use ground meat. If using leftover meat skip this step. For both ways, spray crockpot dish, put meat in crockpot, along with spices and garlic. Stir in frozen vegetables and a cup of water. Add two cups of cheese on top. Press the mashed potatoes down on top of the cheese and meat. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours on HIGH or for 3 hours on LOW. Remove the lid and cook on high for 30 minutes to release the condensation (it will smell so yummy in your house!!). After the 30 minutes, enjoy!!!

As you can tell, most of the recipes required my crockpot. This came in SUPER handy when we went on day trips, because I didn't have to come home being tired and having to scramble to put together a dinner for 6. It was stress-free! Love that about the crockpot! For most of the recipes, you can look at the website that I attached, but I didn't follow the recipes to a T on all of them, so I wanted to share my version of the recipes with you.

I really hope that you add one of these recipes, or all of them, to your menu plan sometime soon. You honestly won't be disappointed! You will literally be blown away, trust me!! I am going to make all of these items when Adam comes home, because I know that he will enjoy all of them. Can't wait!!!

Happy cooking and eating!!

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