Friday, September 7, 2012

Veggie Hiding Isn't Just For Toddlers Anymore

Although it was entirely too hot to summon happy thoughts of cozy fall weather and comfort food today, my husband is home for the week and he eats like most people complain their young children do. His ideal weekly meal plan includes tacos, spaghetti, pork chops and rice, and chicken wings. Literally the same foods day in and day out. Thankfully, Grayson is more willing to try new things and doesn't shy away from items that actually spring from the earth. If my hubby had his way, we would eat Hamburger Helper twice a week, no joke! Tonight, I decided to simulate a boxed dinner for him but slipped a little nutrition in there too.

This brings me to the greatest weapon of choice for sneaky cooks worldwide; the food processor. Now that I can actually get mine to work, I've had to implement it's vegetable crushing skills for the majority of meals I've cooked for my husband (and stepdaughter) over the past year or more. I can slip a grocery sack of fresh vegetables into a single meal without the two of them even noticing. They're on to me now but still manage to scarf down most things I put on the table. I have found that the easiest mixture to chop up and add to a variety of dishes includes garlic, onions, spinach, mushrooms, and carrots. These items are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive even in their organic state. They also take on the flavor of the seasonings you add to your meal instead of standing out. I've tried other vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, but they didn't pass the picky test in this household. I add this mixture to hamburgers, taco meat, casseroles, pasta dishes, etc, and it blends well. Tonight I made a super quick, one pot meal, that the husband ate a giant second helping of and was at least healthier than the shelf stable version. I also used actual ground beef which we have only a handful of times a year. I like to call it One Pot Slop because it wasn't terribly pretty but it filled the boys up with no complaints.

Throw it all in and pulse it until incorporated and as chunky as they'll eat it.

Brown up your meat with a crap load of garlic in a large pot with lid. Once browned, add your veggie mixture and reduce down.

Add your liquids to the meat and veggie mix. Tonight, I used what we always have on hand, milk and plain yogurt but you could easily add stock, cream, gravy, or even condensed soup if you're into that. Bring it all to a boil and throw in your noodles or rice, season and cover. Cook until noodles are tender and sauce has thickened.
This is baby boy's, he asked for a little cheese on top, daddy added sour cream to his own and I had a healthy dose of hot sauce on mine.'s so...brown! I was dying for some sweet peas and portabella chunks, at least, but knowing the veggies were in there somewhere made me feel a little better.

So, that's what made it onto our plates tonight. Hopefully in the next few weeks, the local Farmer's Markets will pick back up again and we can start working on pumpkin, squash, beet, and asparagus meals while hubby is working out of town! Plus, I snagged a few sweet potatoes from the garden I forgot I had even planted and some chia seeds on sale this week. Experimenting will resume shortly!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cooking For Two

I'm officially the worst blogger. Ever. I only blog when I am angry or annoyed which is passive aggressive silliness that makes me sound snarky and bossy. I have deleted said posts and will try to stick to happier subjects, i.e. my son and FOOD, mainly.

With that being said, I am not a great cook nor do I have much experience. Only since my sweet boy was born and I found out everything we eat is poison became more interested in what we put in our bodies, have I begun to experiment in the kitchen. I also found a real love for saving money and not producing food waste. Typically, I am cooking for just the two of us and my little man loves to cook and eat as well. He's the best sous chef a gal could ask for! 

We try to utilize the small yield from our garden, local farmer's markets, organic items from local grocery stores, and sometimes items that aren't necessarily the greatest option but will do in a pinch. Also, I love coming up with ideas for my leftovers. I rarely work from recipes and often stand in front of the refrigerator puzzling over what to make out of what is already in there so I can avoid grocery shopping with my toddler until the next open air market day. He tends to become supremely annoyed inside large grocery stores but is a willing participant at all the outdoor markets. That's my kid! 

I am going to try to remember to post a few meal ideas we've enjoyed every now and again. Most lean more towards the healthy-ish spectrum but all are simple and require very little time OR prowess in the kitchen arena. My definition of healthy will vary from other people's idea of healthy. We still eat lots of good fats, carbs, use real sugar and butter, and probably are a tad heavy handed with the dairy but I incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into our meals every day. We never eat food dye, HFCS, pesticides, or awful "low-fat" chemical laden crap at home.  Also, I don't have any recipes as I just use what we have on hand and rarely make the same meal the same exact way more than once. Use what you have and make it work for you!

Corn Chowder
1/2 a large onion
giant spoonful of chopped garlic
twice around the pot with EVOO
Cook until onions are transparent
Add a healthy amount of diced carrots
Add the kernels from 3 ears of fresh corn
Cover and cook until carrots are slightly tender
Add a ton of chopped greens (we only had spinach left) and fresh basil
Cook until greens are wilted
Add your thickening agents and liquids
(We had a ton of mashed potatoes leftover, whole milk, and plain Greek yogurt)
Season to taste (black pepper, sea salt and yummy smoked paprika for us)
Cook on Medium heat with lid off until desired consistency

Not exactly the healthiest or leanest meal out there but it utilized what was in the fridge and some leftovers too. Plus, we both went to bed with happy, warm tummies so that's what matters most nights! I didn't get a picture of it all finished because we gobbled it all up and both went to bed early.

Tonight, I am almost a week past due for the market and running on fumes. I even used the last of our milk for dinner last night! Still, a day at the park with sweet, new friends took precedence over the dreaded grocery shopping. I looked inside the fridge and found a pack of ground chicken (meh), some leftover black beans from taco night, a shriveling avocado and zucchini, salsa, and some shredded cheese. The garden offered up one puny, ripened tomato from within a sea of green. The cupboard contained a bag of brown rice (40 minuted cook time=no) and a box of wild rice (15 minute cook time= WINNER). I would have liked to have thrown some fresh peppers and onions into the mix but that would have required leaving the house again and I was feeling lazy tonight. I figured I could get two meals minimum out of those products so I went ahead and prepped for dinner tomorrow night too.

While the chicken browned up with a healthy dose of ever present garlic, and the rice quickly boiled, I chopped the tomato and scooped the middle out of the zucchini. I then combined the rice and chicken into one pan with the diced tomato, seasoned with salt and pepper and split the mixtures back between the two pans. 
Steamy pics are hard to get!

To the pan we ate for dinner tonight, I added salsa, cumin, and ancho chili pepper with a handful of shredded cheese and the leftover black beans. We ate this mess with whole wheat tortillas and sliced olives and avocados. It definitely needed some crunch and I wish I had some nice red and yellow peppers to add in there but it was decent and easy. Now, I have a big container in the freezer ready to be stuffed into some peppers or turned into "enchiladas" one night.

For tomorrow's meal, I added oregano, basil, and more garlic to the chicken and rice. I rubbed the zucchini down with olive oil, salt and pepper and stuffed it with the mixture. I would have liked to have added mushrooms and spinach to it but we'll make due with what we have on hand. Tomorrow, I will bake it covered until almost tender and then top it with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and brown up the top. I have the last bit of Romaine from the farmer's market, and the rest of the black olives from tonight's dinner, plus a cuke from our garden to make a nice salad with. Depending on how hungry we are, I can always whip up some angel hair pasta with either our own marinara sauce or lemons, capers, basil from the garden and Parmesan to go with it in less than 10 minutes.
I'll get a quick shot of dinner tomorrow to add!

So, there's a peek into how we do food around our house. Eating better doesn't have to be complicated or expensive but it does require some foresight and a certain degree of thriftiness. The more you learn to work with what you have and curb wastefulness, the easier and LESS expensive it becomes to cook a fairly healthy meal for your loved ones every night. Of course, this probably wouldn't work for larger families, dieters, families dealing with food allergies, etc. but my little guy is a great eater and very healthy. We like our carbs:) Happy eating!

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