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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tasty vegan pasta dish

Last Friday I took out some tuna steaks to make for dinner, but they didn't thaw in time, so instead I made some egg drop soup, vegan pad thai that wasn't bad, but it wasn't as stellar as I thought it would be (it was a package sauce, served it over rice noodles with tofu), and had TONS of rice noodles leftover. As I tried to find ways to use the rice noodles, I went through my recipes and found this oldie, but goodie. I found it in a book called The Way it All Vegan.

Spicy Garlic Toss
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed (I mince them too)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c water
2 tsp soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried pepper
1/4 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper

In a small saucepan, saute garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil on medium-low heat until garlic is translucent, be careful not to burn. Add water, remaining oil, soy sauce, paprika, basil, thyme, pepper, salt, and cayenne and bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-15 minutes.

I tossed some noodles in the sauce, served it with some marinaded tofu I'd made (I only put half the block in with the pad thai), kimchee for Lana and myself (Lana LOVES the stuff!), peas, and grilled tuna steaks. No one else wanted the tofu, so it was all mine, muah ha ha ha! Kevin had drill and wasn't going to be home for dinner. If not for the tuna and the egg in the soup, it would have been completely vegan! (I know that sounds silly.) Here are some pictures of the dishes:

Egg drop soup. I made this with organic low sodium vegetable stock. It wasn't that good to me, but the girls loved it. Next time I'll probably go with organic low sodium chicken stock, it'll probably be more flavorful.

Vegan pad thai. The girls weren't that into it.

My plate, not enough room for peas, though I had them later. The tofu is the tofu I mentioned in my love of sesame oil post. We use salad plates for meals, so that's why the tuna looks so huge, it's actually only a 4 oz tuna steak.

And the verdict from Lana:

She likes it! Emily and Kevin liked it too. Score one for me against the picky eaters in the family! Woot!

(Btw, yes, that's a vacuum attachment in the pic next to her. We've never used it, and for some reason she loves to carry it with her a lot. She knows it's for the vacuum, but she likes it anyway!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Freebie I wanted to share!

On free pastry day at Starbucks and free cone day at Ben & Jerry's, both of which I can't or won't do (gave up Starbucks for Lent and B&J's is 30 miles away!) I figured I'd share a freebie that was good for you! Subway and the Biggest Loser have teamed up and released a FREE workout mix. So those of you looking for good music to work out to, here you go! Here's the list of songs:
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
Estelle w/ Kanye West - American Boy
Rihanna - Umbrella
Kanye West - Stronger
Madonna - 4 Minutes
Taylor Swift - Love Story
Daughtry - No Surprise
Flo Rida - Sugar
Lady Gaga - Paparazzi
Pussycat Dolls - When I Grow Up
Shinedown - Second Chance
Danity Kane - Damaged

I think most, if not all, aren't sung by the original artists (I know the Flo Rida one isn't, it's sung by a woman on this file!) It's a zip file of mp3s, so ready for putting on an Mp3 file.

Go HERE to download.

Thanks to The Thrifty Mama for posting this awesome freebie and others!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fishy, fishy, fishy!

We've always had a love of "Finding Nemo" in our house, it's a great movie if you haven't seen it (and where the heck have you been? OMG!) Emily, my oldest, had been talking for a long time about wanting a fish, so after a month of good behavior (she REALLY wanted that fish!) we got her a betta. His name was Boots (well, both of them, the first one died the first day) and he was passed on to a friend to care for when we moved cross country. When we were settled, Emily started talking about wanting a fish tank again. Well, we got this lovely Tetra 10 gallon half moon tank, it's pretty freaking cool. You can sit across the room and see the fish, even small ones, flitting around because of the magnifying effect. It was on sale at Petco when we got it, so it wasn't too expensive. We got it set up, and 5 days later got our fish, which Emily chose. We first got a Mickey Mouse platy (named "Oh Toodles"), a marigold swordtail ("Goldie"), and a sunset fire platy ("Blaze"). We get home, let the little fish bags bob around in the water for the 15 minutes, and then let them go at it.

4 hours later we were back at Petco... "Oh Toodles" had died. Emily wasn't too distressed. We got another Mickey Mouse platy (named "Toodles" this time), a Chinese algae eater (named "Doo doo boy"), and a black Molly (named "Molly", creatively enough.)

2 1/2 hours after that, we were back... Goldie was a bully. She was picking on all the fish, including the algae eater which was so not cool to me. We exchanged her for a red platy (named "Rocket").

4 days later, we were back, Molly died. We got a blue platy to replace her, which Emily named "Dora" (she's the culprit behind these names btw! I know, I know, you totally thought I was the one that came up with "Doo doo boy".) The Petco employee told us Dora was a girl, showed us how to tell the sex on the platys, and I was excited to use this knowledge. Well heck, all of our other fish are boys! Bow chicka wow wow, right? Wrong, Dora was already knocked up! I looked it up, and found that platys get a gravid spot when they're pregnant, and she had it ever since we had her. I have to wonder if this is some sick joke that God is playing on us because I said there would be a prego in our house again. Good one God, thank you that it's the fish and not me!

Anywho, fast forward to today, Toodles died. Emily was upset because he was sucked up against part of the filter, she was afraid he was stuck and scared (who knows, maybe he got stuck and had a heart attack?) I posted it on facebook and a friend from high school told me not to go back to Petco. Taking his advice, I went to Petsmart with a water sample, thinking it's either crap water, or crap fish (and all this time we'd been getting the water tested and Petco told us it was good!) Well, it was bad, really bad! Ammonia levels were high, nitrates and nitrites, the works. I was upset. The girls take the death of the fish rather well (too well sometimes), but I just don't like having them die all the time, it stinks!

I talked to the manager, and she told me that the ammonia problem could be from too many fish in the tank (not the case with 5 fish in a 10 gallon tank) or overfeeding. I blushed, Kevin's been on me saying I'm feeding them too much (once a day, but the amount is the problem.) She said to put in some food, let them eat for 2 minutes, then scoop out whatever hasn't been finished with the net. She said to do a 25% water change with the treated water (with special drops to neutralize the ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and other baddies in the water). Change the filter. We did all that, and she said we should see an improvement in a few days (the fish haven't been sluggish).

The water change went well, we scared the crap out of Rocket, but I think he's ok, he likes to hide in the plant. We're going to set up an air stone in a volcano, so we'll have our own Mount Wannahockaloogie just like on Finding Nemo (Sharkbait, Oh ah ha!) The manager said that the air can help raise the oxygen levels in the water, and my friend from high school (who's been breeding fish since 4th grade) said it "assists in the development of aerobic bacteria that digest waste". Ok, good to know I wasn't taken for a ride by the Petsmart manager (I'm totally gullible at automotive shops too, which is why the hubs takes the cars in for the major stuff!) I have to go back tomorrow and get an air pump because our tank didn't come with one (I already bought Mount Wannahockaloogie, the T valve and hosing for the pump. I called Petco while I was at Petsmart and asked if the air pump came in the tank, stating I wasn't at home and couldn't remember, and they said yes. Bung holes!)

So, anyway, pray for Dora, her fry, Blaze, Rocket, and Doo Doo Boy. We'll be adding a catfish as soon as the levels are good (great thing about Petsmart, they say you need to bring a sample of the water before you buy the fish, nice!) because they'll help keep the uneaten food at bay. Interestingly enough, platys are liverbearers, so they give birth to babies instead of laying eggs. Dora's belly will get very square shaped and she'll be sluggish and hang out at the bottom of the tank before giving birth (this will be my signal to put her in a tank by herself to have the babies to increase their chances of survival.) I thought that was pretty cool!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Are there really only two choices in Hollywood?

So, Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress for the Oscars (lost to Sandra Bullock), and people are all atwitter with the talk of the size in Hollywood on boards that I read. Someone said it's nice to have a change from the anorexic supermodel sized norm, but I don't think this is much better. Gabby is my age, yet she is so unhealthy looking. I agree that supermodel size norm is damaging to girls, but showing them morbidly obese alternatives is just as damaging. Instead, we need to be focusing on eating healthy, watching portion sizes, staying active, and not overindulging. It's not about hatred of fat people, it's not being sizist your mean, it's about wanting people to take care of themselves. I think telling people, "Oh, it's ok, yeah, go for that huge 1000 calorie piece of chocolate cake, and eat it all by yourself!" isn't right. It's setting people up in the worst way. It makes me sad that the average overweight peerson only sees 2 options, and since they "can't" (aka don't want to for the most part) eat healthy and exercise, they'd rather do nothing and stay overweight.

Kale chips

I, like most moms I'm sure, have a hard time getting my kids to eat their veggies. I puree them and add them to recipes, allow them to be dipped in organic ketchup (shudder!), ranch, whatever, just eat them. I found this recipe for kale chips and was intrigued. It's a simple recipe, oil, kale, vinegar, and the oven, but it had me wondering how good they could be. I bought some kale, and divided one bunch into 3 batches. 1 batch was olive oil and salt; 1 batch was olive oil, salt and apple cider vinegar; and the last batch was olive oil, salt, and garlic mustard aioli spread from Trader Joe's. They all came out pretty good, the girls went gaga for them, and I watched as they munched on kale with a little evil giggle going on inside. Emily asked what they were, I asked what she thought they were, and she said garlic chips. I said, ok, that's what they are. Do I regret it? Not really, I'm not sure if she would have decided against eating more if she had known it was kale (which she doesn't know what it is) but I wasn't taking the chance, this kid loves garlic! Today I'm making more, I'm going to try an Asian twist on it with garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and red pepper flakes. I'll let you know how they turn out. In the meantime, here's the recipe:

Fresh kale - at my grocery, 3 bunches weigh a pound
Olive oil - allow about 1 tablespoon per pound of kale
Apple cider vinegar or mustard - allow about 1 tablespoon per pound
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375F, 400F, up to about 450F. The higher the temperature, the faster the roasting. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Under running water, wash each kale leaf carefully, splaying the leaves to get into the crevasses. Arrange in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels. When the paper towels are completely covered, put another paper towel on top and press gently to remove as much water as possible. (See TIPS.)

In a bowl, mix the oil and vinegar or mustard. Add the kale and loosely swirl the leaves around to distribute the oil mixture. With your hands, rub the leaves together, the objective is to cover every bit of leaf with the oil and mustard/vinegar, working the oil into the leaves. Arrange the leaves in a single layer on the baking sheet. "Rain" with salt -- be generous!

Bake for 5 minutes to start, then stir around and bake for another 5 or 10 minutes. We like the kale best when it's still quite green but with some salty crispiness versus completely crispy. Tastes may vary so taste as you go along! Serve hot! Savor!

(How many calories in Kale Chips? How many Weight Watchers points in Kale Chips?) Assumes that 1 pound serves 8, Per serving: 44 Calories; 2g Protein; 2g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 6g Carb; 1g Fiber; 337mg Sodium; 0mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 1 point

A thought on eating healthy

I've heard so many people saying they can't eat healthy because it's so expensive. Ok, first off, it's not that expensive. If you start with just watching your portion size, you'll be amazed at how far your money can go! Most bagged chips, for example, have at least 18 servings in them. Instead of buying 100 calorie packs, get a $3 bag of the chips, some ziploc bags, and portion them yourself. I believe if you pay attention to how much you're eating, your food budget will go down, and you can then afford to buy better food.

(I realize that chips aren't healthy, but I firmly believe that you have to start somewhere when going on a diet or resolving to eat healthy, and portion control is a good place to start!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Trader Joe's

I'm falling head over heels for this store. I've made some really delightful product discoveries, and I hate to think what would happen if I couldn't get to one to get their graham crackers! Things I love from them:

I love that they have organic chocolate syrup (without creepy chemicals) for $3 (really, not that much more expensive than Hershey's, but it tastes amazing!)

I love their graham crackers, they're cinnamon, they taste like they were actually baked not too long ago, and if you don't eat them for awhile, they go a little soft, which tells me they don't have tons of creepy chemicals (and they don't have HFCS, which is almost impossible to find a regular grocery store! Wait no, it was impossible to find in Giant Eagle, Walmart, and Kuhn's back in Pittsburgh!)

They have this garlic mustard aioli that is so scrumptious! I like to put it in egg salad, in grilled cheese sandwiches, use it as coating for bread crumbs on chicken, in a regular old sandwich, it's quite versatile in my mind. Garlic is always welcome in my house!

They have these cheese straws that are phenominal. Have you ever put cheese on a baking sheet to make these little cheesy crispy chip like things? The edges are all browned and super cheesy tasting (it's like with the oil baked out, there's nothing but cheesy goodness!) They taste like that! So scrummy!

I do have one bone to pick. The one near us does not have rice noodles. I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some shampoo and other things, and was crushed because I needed them for dinner. I had to stop at the commissary on the way back home, which isn't too bad, but the kids were hungry, I was hungry, so we ended up tossing Snikiddy cheese puffs (gluten free, no HFCS, no MSG, no hydrogenated oils or preservatives and pretty tasty!) and Alexia onion strips along with the tofu and rice noodles we needed. I don't know how they can claim to have a proper gluten free section without rice noodles. Not break up worthy though!

Sesame oil - LOVE IT!

One of my fave ingredients to work with is sesame oil. It's funny because I don't particularly like sesame seeds in my food (unless it's furikake, then it's all good!), but I really love sesame oil. It lends a distinct flavor, you don't need to use too much, and it adds a bit of Asian flare to just about any dish.

Tonight I made vegan pad thai with tofu (the pad thai was a packaged sauce from Fresh & Easy) served over rice sticks, and egg drop soup for the girls. I only used half the block of tofu because the package of sauce was small and I wasn't sure the girls were going to like it (hence why I made the egg drop soup as well.) As I cubed up the tofu, I found myself wondering what to do with the other half, and then I decided to marinade it in soy sauce, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar (rice wine would have been more traditional Asian, but I didn't have any on hand), and chopped garlic (with a marinade you don't have to chop too much, I sliced it.) I did equal parts soy sauce (low sodium), sesame oil, and apple cider (2 tbsp each) and filled the rest of the jar with water. I snuck a few pieces (about 4 hours into the marinade) and it was delightful! I added some salt to it, and green onions and red pepper flakes would have just made it, but I don't have any green onion and I'm hoping Emily will want to try some of it, so I'm leaving the pepper flakes out.

You can use sesame oil in salad dressings, to fry food in, as an addition to crab rangoon mixture (which btw, are very easy to make, and you can actually have, gasp, crab in it! I do so love when a restaurant is honest and just calls them cream cheese puffs though!) Here's a delectable little recipe that I want to try very badly (leaving out the ginger, not a fan of that unless it's in a cookie!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Expensive carriers suck!

I'm a carrier afficiando. I love them, always have. Slings, soft structured carriers, pouches, oh I'm in heaven! I've often stopped moms in malls and corrected bad usage on bad carriers (Baby Bjorns, Infantinos, Snuglis, ALL SUCK!) It doesn't make them all that much better, but if it gets a kid out of their bucket seats and some contact with mom, I'm all for it. I want that experience to be a comfortable one so that mom won't chuck the carrier in the closet and forget about it's back tiring experience.

That said, there are a lot of craptastic slings that are way overpriced. Here's one for example:

First of all, let's start with the price. Last I saw, it was on sale for $60 from $100, but still, this is a carrier you can only use for 3 months. That's ridiculous! Add that to the bucket carseat price (which really isn't necessary, you can use a convertible carseat for a baby!**) and no wonder people think kids are super expensive!

Second of all, look at the people in the picture. Yes, I know they're models, but still, that woman has a look on her face like, "I'm trying not to look uncomfortable, put on a happy face!" Also, it seems she feels unsure because she has a hand behind the baby's head to support it (in spite of that huge head rest) and a cautious hand on her hip, ready to catch a falling baby. To me the baby looks uncomfortable, and a little lost in all that crap (could it have more buckles?)

Third of all, what's with the design of it? Crossing guard chic anyone? Is this to show that moms can have a career and bring baby with? It is so ugly.

** I realize that some babies are small and require infant carseats, but some, like my 2 girls, didn't, they were on the big side at 7 lbs 15 oz and 9 lbs 13 oz.

Ergo Carrier - LOVE IT!

I'm in love with a great many carriers, but if I had to pick just one out of my stash, this would be the one. I have a bad back from some car accidents when I was younger, and once my kids got to be a little weighty I required 2 shoulder carriers for longer trips (quick trip into the store for milk was ok with just a sling, but anything much longer needed 2 shoulders). I got the Ergo when I was pregnant with my youngest, pulled a muscle in my belly carrying my then 2 1/2 year old oldest, and my husband needed something to carry the oldest in (the mei tai I was using didn't fit him.) We bought the Ergo and it works great, I've stolen it for myself :)

One thing that's great about it is it's ergonomical, so those with bad backs can rock out in the carrier for a long time. We used this at Disney World with my 28 lbs 19 month old for a week and while my knees hurt from all the walking, my back was great (and the little one didn't want to be in the stroller AT ALL, so it's not like I got much of a break during that time.)

It's fairly easy to nurse in, check this pic out:

If you're not in a nursing top (or have a cardigan) you get a little side boob showing, but that's it.

You can pop the kid on your back or hip if you want, very easily. Only 2 buckles to worry about!

Here's their website for more info:

Chocolate Milk

My oldest loves chocolate milk (as I'm sure every child does), and I was recently looking at single serving chocolate milks for her to have as a treat. I looked at the ingredients on Nesquik and saw high fructose corn syrup, so I went off in search of a suitable alternative.

Inexpensive: Great Value is cheaper than Nesquik and has no HFCS.

Organic Cow Milk: Organic Valley and Horizon Organic both have organic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry milks that contain no HFCS.

Soy: Silk and Kirkland brands have single serving flavored soy milks that contain no HFCS. Zen Soy is another brand that has single serving flavored soy milks, but this brand has a screw top (no more squirting soy milk all over the place when they're walking around!)

Fancy: If you can find it, flavored (and unflavored) almond and rice milks (I've yet to find single serving sizes, although my 4 year old swears the big cartons ARE single serving sizes) are very delicious and contain no HFCS. I hear that Whole Foods sells single serving sizes of rice milk, not sure about almond milk though.

Whipped Cream

Whipped cream makes everything better, whether it's ice cream, pie, or even a simple cup of coffee. The last thing I want in my whipped cream are oils or corn syrup. You can easily make whipped cream at home with heavy whipping cream, a little powdered sugar (you get to decide how sweet it is that way!) and a mixer, but sometimes I just want to put a dollop, or give a little squirt on top, and not have it be a Martha Stewart day!

Cool Whip has both hydrogenated oils AND high fructose corn syrup, so it's doubly on my no-no list (I don't understand why it needs to have 2 kinds of corn syrup and oil as the third ingredient!) There's not even any cream in it!

Reddi Wip, on the other hand, has cream, no hydrogenated oils, and no high fructose corn syrup. It comes in regular and chocolate flavorings, so my coffee in the morning has endless possibilities!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snazzy new clothes for Dinosaur

I went to a resale shop recently, looking for preemie boy clothes to make Emily's roughly 13" newborn Cabbage Patch doll named Dinosaur (it was mine, and the new ones are a totally different size, so it's not like I can just go out and grab an outfit from Walmart!) I saw a tutorial on youtube about how to convert baby clothes into doll clothing and thought it was awesome! I made an outfit for Emily's 18" (not American Girl) doll named Zoe out of newborn clothes, and they turned out pretty well (I also made Zoe a pair of pajamas from the American Girl Molly pattern set I found for free online, so now she has 2 outfits and a pair of pajamas!) The resale shop wanted $10 an outfit for preemie clothes, and that just wasn't good enough of a deal to turn my head. We ended up going to an outlet mall yesterday and I looked in Carters at their clearance stuff. They had the cutest dinosaur themed preemie outfit set (2 onesies, pajamas, pants, and a bib... honestly, a bib for a preemie? WTF?) for $8.

Anyway, I got to work last night, resizing it. It was a challenging one, the sleeves had those fold over things (to protect baby's face), and I wanted to preserve the function of them, so I had to shorten the sleeves from the shoulder, without shortening the neckline. I made a couple mistakes that *I* know are there, but Emily does not. I cut the bottom off the onesie, hemmed the neckline, and it wasn't the hardest part. The hardest were the pants! They have these cute little dinosaur footies, and I didn't want to just cut those off. I thinned the legs out, and tried to shorten from the waist down, but the fabric was pulling and I didn't want to completely scrap the elastic that came with the pants, so I decided that Dinosaur could just pull his pants up really high like a grandpa. Emily's cool with that. Here are some pics:

I still need to work on the other onesie (cute dino print), pajamas (same dino print as the other onesie), but right now Emily is content with what he has on.

Here's a pic of the outfit I made for Zoe:

Baby clothes are a great way to make inexpensive clothing for dolls that are hard to find clothing for, or financially prohibitive. American Girl doll clothing is expensive, unless bought secondhand. Here's a link to the American Girl doll clothing patterns I mentioned before. The patterns are a little small according to sites I've seen, so add a seam allowance, and the instructions aren't the most complete, but you'll figure it out!

I love that they have period specific ones, especially Kirsten now that she's been retired!

Odd smells abound

So, tonight I decided to make zucchini bread because the attempt at getting the girls to eat zucchini didn't go so well. I gave them grated raw, a slice of raw, and a quarter slice of steamed with garlic. They tried it, but didn't opt for more, so I guess that's a good start! I also am on a soup making kick, and really digging my Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook, so I'm making Overnight Onion Soup in the crockpot for Friday. The house smells like cinnamon and onions, which is oddly good. The smells are coming from different parts of the kitchen, so they don't blend too much, and now that the bread is cooling, the cinnamon is making way to slow cooked onion smell.

Here's the recipe for zucchini bread:

Zucchini or carrot bread

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c oil
1/2 c honey
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c grated zucchini (or carrot)
1/2 c chopped walnuts (I omitted these because I didn't have any walnuts on hand, I'm also not a big fan of nuts in baked goods)

1/2 c raisins
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Sift dry ingredients together. Beat oil and honey in large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla, and zucchini. Stir in sifted dry ingredients; fold in walnuts. Pour into greased 5x9-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45 to 60 minutes or until loaf tests done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and chill or freeze. May substitute melted butter for oil, brown sugar or molasses for honey and 1 1/2 c grated carrots for zucchini, or use half of each. Yield: 12 servings.

Approx per serving: Cal 224; Prot 4g; Carbo 25g; Fiber 3g; T Fat 13g; 51% Calories from Fat; Chol 35mg; Sod 150mg.

Carrot-Walnut Bread: Use 1 1/2 c ground walnuts in place of 1/2 c chopped walnuts.

I think to get the fat down you could use apple sauce instead of oil as well, but it's a tasty delicious treat the kids couldn't wait to eat (unfortunately they were getting cranky and sent to bed before it cooled fully. They'll have some in the morning!) I don't have a loaf pan, so I used my 8x8 pan and it was done in 45 minutes. It might have benefited from a little less time, but it wasn't burned.

Here's a picture

Fresh from the oven. The edges are a little browner than they should be, but that's ok!

Cooling, I can't wait to taste it!

You might not be able to see the green in it, but it's there! Hopefully the kids won't notice.

It was tasty!

Here's the recipe for overnight onion soup, it's super easy!

4 large onions, thinly sliced
8 c chicken stock
1 small bay leaf (optional)
8 thick slices whole grain bread
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Place onions, stock, and bay leaf in slow-cooker. Cook, covered, on Low for 24 hours. Ladle into individual ovenproof soup bowls. Top each slice of bread with cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Float a slice of cheese toast in each bowl. May substitute beef stock for chicken stock or Parmesan cheese for Swiss cheese. Yield: 8 servings.

Approx Per Serving: Cal 196; Prot 13g; Carbo 22g; Fiber 3g; T Fat 7g; 30% calories from fat; Chol 12 mg; Sod 997 mg.

I used organic vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, I cut the onions in varying sizes, first small, but as my eyes began to water and it became increasingly hard to see, the chunks got bigger. I'm sure the sodium is so high simply because it calls for using canned stock, I think if you made your own you could get it down MUCH lower. We're going to be having vegetarian French onion soup on Friday for lunch! (Most French onion soup starts with a beef stock or broth, so if you're thinking of going veg, don't get this in cafes!)

Will post on Friday to let y'all know how it went!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yummy Lenten meal

I grew up Catholic, and while I don't go to church at the moment, old habits die hard. I find myself very focused on no meat on Fridays. If you go out to eat, especially in the Midwest, it's very common to see fish fries as the Friday special, most are all you can eat. I love a good grilled salmon fillet, or nice piece of rare-ish tuna (if it's of good quality) most of the time, but I found myself looking for inspiration this Friday for something that didn't cost too much to make. I had a bag of shrimp in my freezer, so I thawed that and tossed it with elbow macaroni in a parsley pesto recipe that I got from 30 Minute Meals' "Pop-sta Bar" episode. Having used this recipe before, I was pretty sure it was going to be good.

For the most part, parsley is very inexpensive, certainly much less expensive than basil (unless you grow your own.) Leaving out the pine nuts makes it even less expensive, and more allergen friendly. You can drizzle this sauce over chicken, fish, it's a great way to make a different kind of garlic bread (spread on the bread and bake until crispy), it's very versatile. It also whips up in a snap, so if you're pressed for time and want to wow someone with something a little more difficult than opening up a can or ordering take out, this is just the thing! Here's the recipe:

Parsley Pesto

2 cups parsley
3 oz jar or 1/4 c pignoli nuts (again, I leave these out)
1 clove garlic, cracked away from skin (I generally use 2, we love garlic in our house!)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Combine parsley, pignoli nuts, and garlic in food processor or blender. Process and stream in about 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Remove paste to a large serving bowl, stir in pepper and grated cheese. Add the rest of the olive oil, stir to combine.

Super easy! Now, there have been times that I've just dumped everything into the blender and it's turned out great, so don't worry so much about the steps, this is really a fuss free dish. It's done in the time it takes to boil the water for the noodles (unless you have a fancy induction cook top, in which case, it's done before the noodles are al dente!)

That's a shrimp there on the left. If you have a restaurant nearby called Noodles & Company, they have a dish called Pesto Cavatappi that can be easily replicated with this recipe, adding a little cream, some mushrooms, and tomato with cavatappi noodles. Personally, I'd leave out the cream, and any addition of veggies can only make it healthier.

Sorry for the unglamorous photo, it was a rushed dinner prep and I didn't get the chance to photo it before we ate, these are the leftovers. I'm surprised that little shrimpy made it for the leftovers ;)